Child safety is a mom’s number one priority. So, it can be really scary when we hear everyday products are laden with toxic chemicals. (As we were reminded by a recent New York Times piece. Yikes.)
One of the biggies to avoid is pesticide – and you know how to do that. Go organic! If you’re looking for a few ways to go organic with baby’s food and gear, here are some ideas.
While it’s still a debated topic, some studies suggest eating organic while pregnant is healthier for your baby. The USDA certifies food as organic, so look for their seal on any product to know that it was grown and/or raised with few pesticides.
“If mom is eating organic food and breastfeeding, the baby is not getting the pesticide residues that trace in nonorganic foods,” says registered dietitian and nutritionist Ilana Muhlstein.
If you’re not breastfeeding or you’re supplementing, consider an organic formula. If it’s certified organic by the USDA, 95 percent of the ingredients must not use pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics. “I definitely recommend getting organic formula,” says Muhlstein. “There are so many now.”
Before you choose a formula, check the label, she adds. Some – organic or not – could contain high amounts of high fructose corn syrup, processed fats, and added sugars. And talk over your choice with your baby’s pediatrician.
Organic Baby Food
You can buy organic baby food or prepare your own at home. Making baby food may sound daunting, but Muhlberg says, “it’s honestly the easiest thing to make. It’s just cooking the vegetable and blending it. You could really just start using the food you’re serving the rest of the family and just blend it to a healthy consistency.” Plus, homemade food tastes better -- more like the food the rest of us eat -- which, some say, could help your child not end up being as picky as he or she grows older.
Know that even organic produce can have some pesticide residue. So you may even want to consider growing your own. It’ll be pesticide free, cheaper than organic produce at the store, and a fun family activity.
“Focus on the things that are going to have the biggest impact. Definitely mattresses because babies spend so much time sleeping,” says Maia James, founder of Gimme the Good Stuff, a company helping parents avoid toxic products.
You can certainly choose an organic crib mattress, but even more important, says James, is to find one that hasn’t been treated with a flame retardant. Flame retardants have been linked to everything from birth defects to lower IQ scores. James says, “Make sure [the label] specifies that it has no flame retardant of any kind.”
The most organic and natural choice for diapering is cloth diapers made from organic materials. But generally any type of cloth diaper will be less likely to contain toxins than disposable diapers do. The biggest reason to go cloth though, says James, is to create less waste.
If you use cloth diapers and send them out to a laundering service, make sure that they use natural and non-chlorine cleaning agents. If you’re going to skip cloth diapers and go disposable, James recommends choosing chlorine-free diapers.
In almost every grocery store or pharmacy, you can find a section of natural bath products, and many major brands are coming out with new formulas that are organic or contain less harsh chemicals. But there are still some ingredients to watch out for when choosing baby’s bath products.
“If there’s one thing to avoid, it’s fragrance or ‘parfum,’” James says. “That is code for a blend of a bunch of chemicals going into making a scent, and the company doesn’t have to disclose them. One of them is usually a phthalate.” According to the CDC, phthalates could impact hormone production and reproductive development.
Confused? Read the ingredients list, says James. The more ingredients, the more likely that one or more may be harsh or toxic. An easy rule of thumb is to avoid products with ingredients you can’t pronounce.
Morgan Webb Battista is a working mom and lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and little girl. She spends weekends hiking, shopping for local food, and eating donuts.
Image via iStock.com/vgajic