Baby Care - Starting Out Right
Foundations for Health
Everyone knows the most important thing you can give a baby is love. Three other important foundations for a healthy life are breastfeeding, good nutrition and a healthy environment
All experts agree: breast-fed is best fed! Breast milk provides important anti-bodies which bolster the immune system, at a stage when babies are not yet able to make their own. Breast milk is easier for babies to digest, so they get more nutrients from it than from cow’s milk or formula. Because it is easier to digest, breast fed babies are less likely to have colic, gas and excessive spitting up. While one in 10 babies are allergic to cow's milk, there is much lower risk of allergy with breast milk. However, a baby may be allergic to something in the mother's diet, which is in her breast milk. Breast milk is the healthiest early food for a baby, even though few food sources, including breast milk, are free of environmental contamination. Expectant mothers who know or suspect that they have a high chemical load in their bodies should discuss breast feeding with their doctor, since chemicals in a mother's body may be found in breast milk.
TIP: If you are pumping breast milk for later use, it should be stored in glass bottles, not in plastic. Glass is easy to clean, sterilize and heat in warm water. Plastic bags may leach chemicals like phthalates into milk, especially when heated.
Nipple cracking is a common problem for women who are breastfeeding. Lactation consultants do not recommend using lotion on cracked nipples. Instead, they recommend spreading breast milk on the nipple and areola, and letting the area air dry. This will help prevent cracking, and will help nipples heal if cracking does occur, as breast milk contains healing ingredients
If you feel you must use a salve or lotion, ask for help from a LLL Leader, lactation consultant or heath care provider. They may recommend:
Aloe vera gel – food grade (wipe off before nursing)
Vitamin E oil – food grade (wipe off before nursing)
Olive oil (organic is best)
Lanolin cream (organic only) Note: lanolin is derived from sheep & is a common allergen.
*Earth Mama Angel Baby makes a wonderful organic product called “Nipple Butter”. This, along with other incredible Earth Mama Angel Baby Products, available through me personally.
**The use of salves other than Lanosh is not consistent with LLL’s guidelines.
Feeding your baby organic food is a good investment in your child's health. Children eat more food relative to body mass than adults, and they eat foods higher in pesticide residues—such as juices, fresh fruits and vegetables. A recent University of Washington study found that pre-school children aged 2-4 years who ate organic fruits and vegetables had 6 times less pesticide residues in their bodies than children who ate conventional produce.
Baby food is easy to make, and may even save you money. All you need is a blender and some cooked vegetables, fruits and meats. A little goes a long way with baby and you know exactly what is in the food you prepare. Babies do not miss salt and sugar so there is no need to add these seasonings. Baby food can be prepared and frozen in small quantities. You can freeze individual portions in a muffin tin, pop them out and store in a bag until needed, or freeze in small glass bottles. Organic produce is now readily available at most Atlantic Superstores and Farmers' Markets. Free-range meats, from animals which have not been fed antibiotics or growth hormones, are available at Farmers' Markets, some health food stores, and directly from producers.
Whether you are buying baby food or making your own, make sure its stored in glass jars. Plastic can leach hazardous chemicals like phthalates into food.
Experts advise starting a baby on vegetables and then adding fruit to the diet. By adding sweeter foods like fruit later, it is less likely that a baby will reject vegetables in favor of the sweeter foods.
A Clean Environment
Provide your child with a less toxic environment. An environment which is smoke free, free of pesticides, and free of fabric softeners, air fresheners, commercial disinfectants and anti-bacterial cleaners will decrease your child's exposure to many chemicals which have been linked to human health problems. Choosing less toxic baby care products is another important part of providing a healthy environment.
General tip: Avoid spray products, especially around small children. Sprays create very fine airborne particles which can be more easily and deeply inhaled, thus increasing exposure. Squirt don't spray is a good rule of thumb.
*See also the "Eco-friendly Cleaning" page on this site.
1/2 to 1 cup vinegar.
1/2 – 1 cup pickling salt. Do not soak in an enameled tub, as salt will cause tub to rust over time.
1/4 – l cup baking soda. If using baking soda, rewash several times to remove residue
To remove some finishes, excess dyes or conventional detergents and fabric softeners, wash several times, or soak overnight a tub of water with ONE of the following:
Note: Many chemical treatments are designed not to wash out. Scented detergents and fabric softeners never completely wash out, but the above washing methods will decrease chemical residues and smells. The chemicals in mothballs are almost impossible to remove and are highly toxic.
Massage scalp area with pure olive oil, leave on for one hour, then comb with a fine toothed comb.
Many people prepare for a new child by painting, papering, and carpeting the baby's room with conventional products, never thinking that by doing so they may create an environment high in harmful chemicals.
It's now easy to find less toxic paints. Look for ones with low VOC's, or with the Ecologo or Envirodesic label. A good quality washable paint makes sense for a child's room.
New carpeting can contain toxic chemicals. Carpets carrying the industry's "green label" will contain fewer harmful ingredients. Carpets are traps for dust, dirt, bacteria, moulds, food scraps and urine. Although people tend to think a nice soft carpet will be best for a baby, an easily cleaned hard surface floor, with area rugs which can be washed in less toxic detergents makes a sensible choice for a baby's room.
These days, most wallpaper is made of vinyl, for easy cleaning. But vinyl off-gases plastic compounds. It also tends to trap moisture, which encourages hidden mould growth between the paper and wall, which can release mould spores into the air.
Metal blinds with baked on paint are a less toxic choice than blinds made of PVC plastic. Plastic blinds can give off chemicals, especially when exposed to the heat of the sun or radiators. If using fabric curtains, untreated natural fibers are the best option. When exposed to sunlight, all fabrics break down. When synthetic or treated fabrics break down, they release harmful particulates. Even when using safer products, a room which is being redecorated should be prepared several months in advance and aired out well, so that by the time the baby arrives the chemical load in the room is decreased.
TIPS: Dust and dust mites are common allergens. When decorating, consider limiting dust collectors, including plush
toys and frills on bed skirts or curtains. Having a toy box with a lid that can close, and a bookshelf with doors can help keep dust from collecting. Washing curtains and dusting blinds will help keep down dust and dust mites.
Harmful ingredients: dye, fragrance, plastic, toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene, dipentene.
Disposable diapers consist of a plastic exterior, an inner super-absorbent layer treated with chemicals, and a liner. One commonly used absorbent chemical, sodium polyacrylate, can trigger allergic reactions. Disposable diapers may also contain dyes and dioxin, a carcinogenic by-product of the chlorine bleaching process.
A study conducted by Anderson Laboratories in 1999 and published in the Archives of Environmental Health found that disposable diapers release volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), including toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and dipentene. All of these VOCs have been shown to have toxic health effects, such as cancer and brain damage, with long-term or high level exposure.
The researchers also discovered that mice exposed to the chemicals released by disposable diapers were more likely to experience irritated airways than mice exposed to emissions from cloth diapers. These effects were increased during repeat exposures. The authors suggested that disposable diapers may cause "asthma-like" reactions and urged more study into a possible link between diaper emissions and asthma.
BabyHemp - organic cotton diapers. www.babyhemp.com
Absolutely Diapers - cotton diapers and accessories. www.hipbaby.com
Born To Love - several dozen brands of cotton diapers and diaper covers, accessories, information. www.borntolove.com
Ecobaby Organics - organic cotton diapers. www.ecobaby.com
My L’il Miracle - cotton diapers, diaper covers, accessories. www.mylilmiracle.com Under the Nile - organic cotton diapers. www.underthenile.com
Seventh Generation - Chlorine-free Diapers (disposable unbleached diapers)
gDiapers - bio-degradable diapers
Purchase cotton flannel by the yard and make old-fashioned diapers by cutting into squares and hemming the edges. Old flannel sheets can also make good diapers. Patterns for diapers can be found at www.borntolove.com.
TIPS: Diaper rashes seem to be part of babyhood. Leaving the bum uncovered some of the time can help prevent diaper rashes. Some methods that have been proven useful in dealing with baby bum rashes are:
Air dry the bum
Powder the bum with cornstarch, arrowroot or rice flour
Apply vegetable oil (organic is best) or shortening
In cases of persistent or severe rashes, consult a doctor. In some cases, rashes can be symptoms of hidden food allergies, hidden reactions to contact with chemicals such as antimicrobials in diapers or scents in lotions or detergents, or other chemical sensitivities.
In some cases, yeast infections in breast fed babies can be related to the mother restarting oral birth control pills.
Harmful ingredients: composite wood products, formaldehyde, glue, paint, plastic
Choose solid wood furniture with a non-toxic finish. New dressers and cribs may be made of particleboard, chipboard or pressboard, which are notorious sources of formaldehyde and other chemicals. These compressed wood products are made with small bits of wood mixed with glue and compressed into sheets or boards. The glue can off-gas for years.
Metal furniture is an excellent less toxic option. Used furniture is also a good choice because it will have less off-gassing, but be sure paint or varnish is non-toxic and not peeling or chipping. Older painted furniture (before 1960) probably has lead paint, which should not be anywhere that babies can chew it. Make sure cribs meet up to date safety standards.
Harmful ingredients: PEG, TEA, DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15, parabens, lanolin (unless organic), 1,4-dioxane, fragrance, coal tar colors, ammonia, propylene glycol, mineral oil, sodium lauryl sulfate.
Lotions are basically a mixture of water and oil, with an emulsifier added to keep the product from separating. PEG is the most common emulsifier in hand lotions. It can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen. TEA is also used and has been found to be a frequent sensitizer, and cause of contact dermatitis. TEA, DMDM hydantoin and quaternium-15 can release carcinogenic formaldehyde. Parabens, which are estrogen mimics, are commonly used as preservatives. Lanolin is often found in lotions. An animal product it can be contaminated with pesticides and it is a common allergen.
Aubrey Organics - Natural Baby and Kids Body Lotion
Avalon - Un-Petroleum Multi-Purpose Jelly
Burt’s Bees - Baby Bee Diaper Ointment
Kiss My Face – non-petroleum jelly
*Earth Mama Angel Baby makes incredible diaper rash care and prevention products. These, along with other incredible Earth Mama Angel Baby Products, available through me personally.
Weleda - Calendula Baby Cream (contains lanolin)
Weleda - Diaper Care (contains lanolin)
Aveeno - Diaper Rash Cream; Daily Baby Lotion
Eucerine- Glycerin Water or Cream
TIPS: You can reduce the need for lotions and oils if you don’t remove the natural oils on a baby’s skin by bathing more than necessary or using harsh soaps.
Harmful ingredients: mineral oil, fragrance
There is no need to use petroleum products like mineral oil on a baby's skin. There are less toxic products available, and home-made alternatives are safe and inexpensive.
Weleda - Calendula Baby Oil
*I recommend Earth Mama Angel Baby
Little Forest - Baby Oil
Use a mild oil or combination of oils like safflower, grapeseed, coconut, wheat germ, sesame, apricot kernel, almond, jojoba or vitamin E. Organic is best.
Harmful ingredients: talc, perfume, dye
Use any powder with caution. It can become airborne and irritate the respiratory system. Talc is a naturally occurring mineral which is carcinogenic when inhaled. Talcum powder is reported to cause coughing, vomiting, and even pneumonia. Many pediatricians now tell parents to avoid using talc on babies as it can cause respiratory distress, sometimes resulting in death.
Little Forest - Baby Powder
Use rice starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder.
Shampoos cause the most number of adverse reactions of all hair care products. They frequently contain harsh detergents, chemical fragrances and numerous irritating and carcinogenic compounds. Some of the most common are sodium lauryl sulfate/sodium laureth sulfate, an irritant which can form carcinogenic nitrosamines, DEA, TEA, and MEA which are hormone disruptors and can release carcinogenic nitrosamines, quaternium-15, DMDM hydratoin which can release carcinogenic nitrosamines, polyethylene glycol, an irritant, coal tar, a carcinogen, propylene glycol, a neurotoxin which can cause dermatitis, liver and kidney damage, and EDTA, an irritant.
“Tear free” shampoos are made with a pH (acidity level) the same as a baby’s tears, which is why they don’t sting. But a neutral pH is less irritating to the scalp and skin. The best option is to use a less toxic shampoo with a neutral pH, and make sure to keep it out of eyes.
Anti-bacterial soaps are not necessary for home use. Children do not have to be protected from all bacteria, in fact, some bacterial are beneficial. Scientists are concerned that antibacterial soaps kill beneficial bacteria and also contribute to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Not all bacteria will be killed by an anti-bacterial soap. The surviving bacteria are resistant to antibiotics and go on to produce a new generation of resistant bacteria. This means that when its really important, disease creating bacteria will be harder to kill. Antibacterial soaps can also be more drying and irritating.
Triclosan, one of the most popular antibacterial agents, is a derivative of the herbicide 2.4-D. It can create dioxin, a carcinogen, as a by-product. A Swedish study found high levels of this bactericide in human breast milk.
Aubrey Organics - Natural Baby and Kids Bath Soap
Dr. Bronner’s Aloe Vera Baby Mild
Weleda - Calendula Baby Soap
** I also make my own soap with organic ingredients. See elsewhere upon this site, or contact me personally, email@example.com 207-382-3126
Aveeno- Creamy Baby Cleanser
Harmful ingredients: fragrance, dye, mineral oil, antibacterial chemicals, ammonia, formaldehyde, glycols, phenol, BHA/BHT
Natural soap is easy to make and today there is a tremendous variety of good soap available, much of it produced locally by small crafters. Natural soap is made from either animal or vegetable fat, and an alkali such as lye. Most conventional soaps contain perfumes, dyes, mineral oil and other petroleum-based chemicals that can clog pores, irritate, and dry skin. Bubble baths contain irritants which should not be used on babies.
Babies’ skin contains natural oils. Washing too frequently can remove these oils, causing skin to be dry and irritated. Some dermatologists suggest bathing a baby only once or twice a week, and cleaning dirty body parts like bums, faces and hands as needed. Use plain warm water and a mild soap when needed.
Soothers are usually made of latex rubber or silicone. Latex rubber soothers can release nitrosamines, potent carcinogens, when babies suck on them. They also tend to break down faster than silicone soothers, which can cause cracks where bacteria can hide. If you are going to use a soother, choose one made from silicone.
Rub gums with ice cubes, or freeze a moistened cotton face cloth for baby to chew on.
Harmful ingredients: Dyes, plastics, glues. Stuffed toys can provide a haven for dust and dust mites.
Babies put everything into their mouths so be sure you provide less-toxic toys. Some plastic toys can leach hormone disrupting chemicals. Quality wood and cloth toys will not use toxic paints, glues, dyes or fabrics.
Internet or mail order sources of less toxic toys:
Ecobaby Organics - www.ecobaby.com
Fairywood Toys - www.fairywood.com/
Naturalplay (found on the "Shopping Links" page)
The Playstore - www.playstoretoys.com
**You will find links upon this site for companies offering healthy, safe natural toys
TIPS: To keep dust levels in stuffed toys down, toys can be put in a freezer for 24 hours, or put in a dryer on high heat for 30 minutes. If putting toys in a dryer, cover eyes with tape to prevent them losing their shine.
Harmful ingredients: alcohol, perfume, chlorine, dioxin
At home, simply use a cotton wash cloth and soap. For short trips away from home, put cotton wash cloths moistened with water and a less toxic liquid soap in a jar or plastic bag. Bring another container to store soiled cloths.
Keep a spray bottle of soapy water near your change table. Spray the dirty area and wipe with a cloth (washable) or tissue.
Seventh Generation - Baby Wipes (non-chlorine bleached, unscented, alcohol-free)
Huggies - Natural Care Baby Wipes, Supreme Care Baby Wipes. Look for the unscented ones.
Pampers - Natural Aloe Touch Wipes, unscented
Teddy’s- Unscented Baby Wipes (alcohol free)
(see also the receipes on the "Cloth Diapers2 page of this site)
Take a container with a tight fitting lid and fill it with cotton pads (the kind for removing make-up) or squares of old flannel or old diapers. Add a few squirts of vegetable oil and fill the container with warm water. Keep container closed until needed. Soiled cloth wipes can be washed with diapers.
Portions of this document have been excepted from “The Guide For Less Toxic Products“ (c) 2004 Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia