Expert guest post by Melissa Moog, one of America’s original baby planners and founder of Itsabelly, a green baby concierge service.
Over five years, ago I was given the most precious gift and miracle one could ever ask for. This gift was the ability to carry a little miracle inside my body for nine months and give birth to the most beautiful being I had ever laid eyes on, Isabella. She was the inspiration behind Itsabelly’s Guide to Going Green with Baby and our overall company mission.
Today Isabella, our newborn twins (Peyton and Paxton), my husband’s and mom’s fight with cancer remain my primary motivation to stick to my mission and help educate expectant and new parents on how to live a more non-toxic life style. I believe there is no better place to start than where your baby spends most of her time sleeping, playing and bonding with her caregivers – the nursery. I want to share the most important tips on how to create a healthy, non-toxic and green nursery which in turn can also carry over into the rest of your home.
First, the reason why you should create a toxin free environment for your baby is because chemical exposure for a baby's developing organs is ten more times more potent as compared to exposure for adults. With baby's developing tiny body it's crucial to protect your baby from toxic chemical exposure. As reported by EWG in 2005 after testing 10 samples of cord blood from unborn babies there were 287 chemicals found. Of the 287 chemicals detected it was found that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests (EWG’s Body Burden – The Pollution in Newborns, July 14, 2005). This data alone can really freak parents out but it's important to realize you can't raise your baby in a bubble. However, parents can take charge and control how much toxic exposure baby has by avoiding the most dangerous chemicals as I list below in each area of the nursery. Please note this article is not written to scare parents but is focused as an educational piece so that you can take baby steps and create a healthy nursery environment for your little one that gives you peace of mind.
As an Itsabelly Baby Planner, my key piece of advice when helping educate new or expectant parents that want to go toxin free and create a green nursery is to always have these primary questions at the forefront of your mind when purchasing baby products:
- What will go in your baby's mouth?
- What will touch your baby's skin?
- What will affect your baby's air quality?
If you start with these important questions as stated in our Itsabelly’s Guide to Going Green with Baby which is packed with valuable information and tips on going green you'll be able to narrow down where you'll gain the most impact and create the healthiest environment possible for your baby.
Nursery Furniture & Bedding
So, let's start where baby spends the most time sleeping and that's usually in her crib. As a budget conscious parent myself I'm not interested in spending $800 on a sustainably produced, non-toxic birch wood crib but what I am interested in is how to create the most toxin free environment possible where my baby will spend most of her time sleeping.
Consider these tips
- Toxins you should avoid in mattresses are polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and chemical fire retardants
- Purchase a toxin free, green crib mattress and bedding (ie. fitted sheet & mattress pad). Naturepedic carries a high quality and affordable line of mattresses and bedding that Itsabelly recommends.
- In bedding, you want to avoid dyes unless organic and chemical fire retardants
- If you buy a regular crib make sure its made out of solid wood and formaldehyde-free.
- When taking new furniture out of the box let it air out for at least a few weeks to allow it to off-gas.
- Look for furniture that have non-toxic finishes
- Do not purchase particle board furniture and instead make sure to use solid wood, wicker, metal, or formaldehyde-free furniture.
- Instead of buying new furniture re-use old furniture pieces. Sometimes your old dresser can be the one piece that becomes the inspiration for your design.
Layette & Sleep Wear
We all know purchasing organic clothing can be expensive and impractical especially when baby only wears onesies for a very short time. What Itsabelly suggests is to invest in just a few sleeping pieces such as organic sleepwear and sleep sacks since these items are what touches baby's skin most during her longer sleeping hours. Swaddle Designs has a beautiful organic sleep sack, swaddle blankets and crib bedding that Itsabelly loves. You can also purchase secondhand organic clothing if you don't want to break the bank.
When painting your baby's nursery it is very important to choose low or no-VOC paint and make sure the room is well ventilated which helps reduce your baby's exposure to inhaling toxic paint fumes. Itsabelly recommends that you look for paint brands with low or no VOCs that are less toxic by making sure they are certified by Green Seal and Scientific Certification Systems. The Soft Landing experts also refer to these green certification organizations and provide valuable tips in their article on the Pros and Cons of Low/No Voc Paint.
- Try to go carpet free if possible since new synthetic carpets can off-gas VOCs.
- If you have to install a new carpet make sure you go with more natural fibers like wool or hemp. FLOR and Nature's Carpet are two recommendations of company's who make natural fiber carpets.
- Instead of carpet 100% sustainable hardwood with a natural non-toxic sealant and no UV protection is a great option. Try an organic cotton or wool accent rug to soften up the room.
If you think about it diapers lay next to baby’s bottom consistently throughout the day and night. It's frightening to think about all of the toxic chemicals being absorbed by your baby's skin from a diaper, not to mention thousands of disposables piling up high in our landfill. Here are the following toxins which you want to avoid (quoted from Real Diaper Association Facts):
- Traces of Dioxin which is a carcinogenic chemical listed by the EPA as the most toxic cancer-linked chemical
- Tributyl–tin (TBT) which causes hormonal problems in humans in animals
- Sodium Polyacrylate which produces a gel-like substance when wet. A similar substance was revealed that the material used in super absorbency tampons in the early 1980's increased the risk of toxic shock syndrome.
There are so many healthier, non-toxic and stylish diaper options out on the market today but here are a few of Itsabelly's non-toxic favorites: Seventh Generation (free & clear diapers), gDiapers (hybrid & biodegradable diaper), GroVia (cloth and biodegradable diaper).
It's important to choose skincare products like shampoo, soap and diaper cream that don't contain the harmful chemicals noted below. Your baby will absorb whatever is put against her skin so make sure to read product labels carefully to avoid these chemicals. My rule of thumb is if you can't pronounce or eat the ingredient on the label then don't put it on your baby's skin or in her mouth until you've done your research!
- 1,4 Dioxane – This chemical is used as a foaming agent and found in many of the products that we use today, such as shampoos, liquid soaps, deodorants, laundry detergents, toothpastes and much more.
- Formaldehyde exposure occurs everyday in the air that we breath and in the food that we eat. Formaldehyde is a colorless, odorless gas which can cause throat, nose, skin, and eye irritation.
- Phthalates are another man-made chemical found in many of our personal care products. Phthalates are used to make plastics flexible and used in many fragrance oils to help prolong the fragrance's scent.
- Parabens are used as a preservative in many cosmetics, foods and pharmaceutical products. Parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen and when absorbed through the skin, parabens have been linked to breast cancer and male reproductive abnormalities.
Feeding, Teething & Toys
When your baby is feeding, teething or playing think about products and foods she's placing in her mouth that might contain toxic chemicals which can be absorbed into her tiny body. My quick tips are:
- Choose feeding/teething and toy products that are BPA, Phthalate, PVC , and Lead Free
- Review non-toxic feeding, teething and skincare research, informative articles and cheat sheets from experts like Safemama.com to understand what you’re trying to avoid and why.
- Choose organic foods so that you avoid toxic exposure to pesticides and hormones. EWG’s Dirty Dozen list is a great reference to use when your grocery shopping.
- Choose food containers that are BPA Free & Phthalate Free
- Make sure you check the recycle symbol on your food containers and avoid plastics with recycling codes #3, #6 and most containers with #7. Review The Soft Landing's article “Avoid Toxic Plastics Using Recycling Codes as a General Guide” for more detailed information on what containers to use and avoid.