5 steps to greener baby care
1. Grow your own
Not only is breastfeeding your baby’s protection against illness, it is the ultimate home grown, natural resource. Consider the fuel needed to produce infant formula – from producing milk and transporting it to be process into a finished packaged product and then transporting it to stores. Not to mention the chemicals used for sterilisation of feeding equipment as well as the disposal of packaging (which will inevitably become landfill). Breastfeeding saves food, resources, fuel and energy – no chemical treatment required and it comes in naturally sustainable packaging!
You can also save food miles and model healthy eating by growing your own vegetables free from harmful chemicals. Even if space is limited, you can grow many foods in pots – there’s nothing like picking and eating fresh foods grown with love. Otherwise buy fresh, seasonal and organic foods at farmers markets, where you can meet the growers and ask how the foods are produced.
2. If it’s on the skin, it goes in
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your baby is not only affected by what you eat and drink, but by what your skin eats. Our skin is our largest organ and around 60 percent of what we apply to our bodies is absorbed into our skin. The Chinese call our skin ‘the third lung’ because is it such a direct pathway to our bloodstream. It makes sense then, to choose skincare that is safe and as free from toxic chemicals as possible while you are pregnant and breastfeeding. And, when your baby is born, you will want to continue protecting your little one from potentially harmful chemicals being absorbed through delicate newborn skin.
Become a conscious consumer on your baby’s behalf and read labels, avoiding products that contain mineral oils (these are petroleum based) and chemicals such as parabens. The general rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t eat it, please don’t put it on your baby’s skin.
3. Buy buy baby
Although buying baby gear and clothing is a rite of passage, consider how your choices impact both your baby’s wellbeing and the environment. Choose natural fabrics for clothing, as synthetics don’t absorb perspiration and may irritate sensitive skin. Reusable nappies (cloth or bamboo) save on energy and money and they are very easy to launder.
Obviously the first criteria when buying baby equipment is safety, then consider, will this make my baby feel loved or will it create distance (for instance, too many ‘baby containers’ aren’t supportive of close connection between you and your baby). Ask yourself, will it help our baby’s development? (gear like baby walkers and many infant seats may hinder natural stages of development as well as contributing to landfill when they’re disposed of). Is it congruent with our parenting style and how will it impact the environment – does production waste precious resources? Does manufacture involve too many travel miles? Will it be useful or just become another piece of junk in landfill? Can we save resources by using a recycled product instead of buying new? Always buy a new mattress as there are risks from babies inhaling toxins from previously used mattresses that have become damp from vomit or urine and subsequently developed mould and gases.
4. Choose safe toys.
From lead paints to formaldehyde, phthalates in plastics and flame retardents, there are dangers lurking in some toys. Although there are Australian standards, many imported toys and products are not tested so imported wooden toys may contain lead-based paints; stuffed toys that contain foam are likely to contain flame retardants, formaldehyde and dyes, and soft plastic toys (think bath toys) made from PVC should be avoided as they contain plasticisers that can disrupt hormones.
Healthier toy choices include toys from op shops or hand-me- downs as these will contain fewer possibly harmful chemicals and will also help reduce landfill; toys made from natural materials such as wood, cotton, wool, bamboo or hemp; soft toys filled with natural fibres rather than foam. To reduce the amount of toxic chemicals in soft toys wash and dry them in sunshine before giving them to your baby.
As well as being made from non renewable resources and nasty chemicals, consider that plastic baby toys all smell, taste and feel the same so they really aren’t ‘educational’ from a sensory perspective. One safe play alternative for babies is to create a treasure basket of natural and household objects for baby to rummage in and explore – a cold teaspoon, a soft brush, a pine cone, a natural sponge, a silk scarf and small ‘bean’ bags made from various natural fabrics (velvet, cotton, silk, hessian) and filled with corn .
5. Eliminate cleaners and laundry products with nasty chemicals
Although you may be more concerned with keeping your environment clean now you have a baby, a bit of natural ‘dirt’ can be far less harmful than many cleaning products. Avoid exposing your tiny baby or small child to harmful chemicals in household cleaners and laundry products. These chemicals can affect his or her health now and in the longer term, cause allergic reactions and an upset nervous system as your baby processes some chemicals that have been inhaled or absorbed through her skin. Read labels carefully when you buy cleaning cloths and cleaning and laundry products. Choose cleaning, laundry and household products that have been produced without harmful chemicals, such as the ecostore range. Recycle rags for cleaning and consider if you can wear clothing one more time before wasting energy on unnecessary laundry.
An internationally certified lactation consultant and infant massage instructor, Pinky McKay is the best-selling author of Sleeping Like a Baby, Parenting By Heart, Toddler Tactics and 100 Ways to Calm the Crying. Check out Pinky’s books at her website www.pinkymckay.com