This is probably the one topic of this pregnancy that I have driven my hubby the most nuts over. The majority of the last part of this pregnancy I have spent in a mild panic about all the possible toxins that are present in baby supplies.
We all want the best for our babies, so how do we best provide that without going overboard?
It all started when I got a lot of toys for my baby at numerous showers and I learned how much lead can be in the toys made outside of the US (a good majority of toys that are made in China that are sold at stores like Target and Walmart). I wanted to test all of them for lead, throw away all the stuffed animals due to them being treated with flame retardants, and it went on and on.
I am really not all about being eco-friendly for saving the planet. Not that I don’t care, but my hubby still goes behind me all over the house turning off lights, etc. I am all about being eco-friendly to keep as many toxins out of my life as possible for health reasons. The more I looked into creating my baby’s first home, the more I read about all the hidden dangers and toxins hiding everywhere.
How could I create a toxin-free (or minimized) zone while staying within our small budget?
I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that I can’t protect my baby from every little toxin. However, I can focus on the most important areas to choose healthier alternatives.
Each little swap means a little healthier environment to bring baby home to.
So, the following points are what I came up with for my “as healthy as I can get it on my tiny budget”.
In researching paint that would be healthy for me to use while pregnant and for bringing baby home to, I wanted no-VOC, but due to living in a small town, I had to settle for low-VOC. VOC, or volatile organic compounds have been shown to cause cancer, damage to kidneys, liver, and central nervous system as well as cause headaches, eye irritation, difficulty breathing and many more adverse health effects. So, after my midwife approved, we painted the nursery a few months in advance of baby’s arrival so it has time to air out. We were sure to keep the windows open as much as we could so it had time to “off-gas”.
We didn’t have the budget to replace floors and I particularly like having carpet in the bedrooms. If you are replacing the floors, choose an eco-friendly carpet choice that will not have the VOCs and other chemicals that will release toxins into the nursery’s air. It would be better to put in eco-friendly floor choices such as sustainable wood, bamboo, cork, etc. Also, be sure to stay away from vinyl which may cause cancer, endocrine disruption, birth defects, child development issues, neurological damage, etc.
Because we were sticking with carpet and it can harbor all sorts of nasties, I used a HEPA vacuum a few dozen times and sprinkled baking soda before vacuuming to get rid of odors. We borrowed a steam carpet cleaner from a friend. If you do get your carpets shampooed, be wary of commercial products because they contain all sorts of not-so-baby friendly ingredients.
What we found that worked well was using ½ c. of distilled white vinegar with a gallon of hot water. Worked like a charm! It’s also a great way to disinfect the carpets. If you don’t like the smell of vinegar, it disappears when dry.
If you have the money for a solid wood crib, choose one that hasn’t been treated with toxic finishes or paints. Otherwise, the majority of cribs out there are pressed wood. Make sure formaldehyde hasn’t been used (found in the glue) and give it plenty of time before baby’s arrival to off-gas. To me, it was more important to spend more on a healthy mattress because baby is closer to it and breathes in any off-gassing from the mattress more than the crib.
Another way to lower crib toxins you bring into your nursery is to buy a crib 2nd hand (just make sure it meets current safety regulations).
This was more important to me because of the amount of time babies spend sleeping and breathing in any off-gassing from the mattress. Here you will want to avoid flame retardants, polyurethane foam filling (contains the nasty formaldehyde and tolune), PVC/vinyl and phthalates that can be in the covers (linked with asthma, cancer, and reproductive issues). On our budget, we couldn’t spend the $500+ on an organic crib mattress. There are some cheaper than that in regular stores but are not completely toxic-free. So I checked what materials to avoid and found one that met Green Guard standards.
Green Guard certified means the product was evaluated to meet certain health standards in regards to eco-friendliness and low off-gassing. So, if you can’t afford organic, choose products that have the Green Guard certification.
Cotton is the most heavily sprayed crop. The fertilizers and pesticides used for growing cotton shows up even one made into linens. These linens are also often treated with nasty flame retardants. Choose organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, or wool for baby linen as much as you can. On our limited budget, I chose to focus on the linen and mattress cover as being 100% organic cotton without toxic ingredients. Although the mattress was Green Guard certified and the low level of off-gassing diminishes the risk of SIDS, I still chose an organic protective cover (I am a huge fan of Naturepedic) to block allergens and any other possible off-gassing or nasty ingredients. Fitted crib sheets are also important to buy organic.
Pack n’ Play
Everyone I have talked to loves their pack n’ plays for their babies. Again, due to the limited budget, we bought a popular brand’s pack n’ play. Because we have a split floor plan, we wanted to use it as a bassinet. The pads in these pack n’ plays, as you probably guessed it, do contain some not-so-baby friendly materials. So, I am using 100% organic fitted sheets.
The company Naturepedic will make custom organic protective covers (that actually fits my budget) which will help lower the off-gassing my baby will have to breathe in at night. Finally, I set up the pack n’ play months before baby’s arrival to give it plenty of time to off-gas.
Blankets and Clothing
With all the showers that we had, it was impossible to go completely organic. I had so many people make baby quilts and receiving blankets (I feel I could provide for an army of babies) that I just washed them well with toxic-free laundry detergent. Clothing was the same. However, if it was made outside of the US and had a painted graphic on it (instead of embroidered) I tried to return them.
Most paint, if the baby item was made in Asia, contains lead. I am purchasing organic for all sleepers, plain onesies, swaddlers (whatever he will have next to his skin the majority of the time). I will use the outfits he received for when we go out and about, etc.
Our skin is our largest organ and it is very good at absorbing whatever we put on it. This is why I have chosen to go organic with the majority of what we put next to baby. Their bodies are not as efficient as ours to detoxifying all these chemicals we bombard them with on a daily basis which brings me to my next area of going as eco-friendly/healthy as I can.
Bath Products/Lotions/Laundry Detergent
The skin is very good at absorbing whatever we put on it. Don’t be gullible to that “baby smell” lotions, etc. because they are really just full of artificial chemicals that are not healthy for your baby’s skin at all. Many of these have shown to cause cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities, endocrine disruption, etc. Some ingredients to watch out for are petroleum, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and Polyethylene Glycol (foaming agents that also cause kidney, neurological, and respiratory issues). Did you know bubble bath contains formaldehyde and 1, 4-dioxane? Steer clear!
This was an area I was going back and forth about. Cloth diapers are just not practical for our lifestyle. Disposable diapers contain some ingredients I am not crazy about having right up next to baby’s skin all day long. There are a lot of hybrid options out there that have some great reviews, however, because I will be working full time, disposable just are what work best for us.
I highly recommend choosing the healthier disposable option if you choose that route. Look especially for gel-free and chlorine-free diapers if nothing else. If you don’t mind ordering online and getting monthly shipments, the best eco-friendly/healthy disposable diaper I have found is from the Honest Company.
For diapers sold in stores, I like seventh generation the best.
Conventional diapers contain dioxins (EPA lists as one of the most toxic chemicals known to science and can cause cancer and issues to the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems), tributyl-tin (endocrine disruption), and sodium polycarbonate (the gel in the diapers that can cause skin irritation and respiratory issues; was removed from tampons because of toxic shock syndrome).
I recommend doing some research about what toxic ingredients to avoid in disposable diapers and make a decision that is best for your family and budget.
There are a lot of toxins that are still found in baby toys. Did you know that toys manufactured outside the US can contain lead and still be sold in our stores? Products made in the US are required to be lead free.
The majority of bath toys contain PVC (which I covered earlier in this post). All those rubber duckes and squishy plastic toys? Yep, PVC. When it comes to bath toys, stick to bowls, spoons, etc. that are PVC free. Look for #3 on the bottom which would be a healthier plastic. Skip the inflatables which can contain lead or phthalates (endocrine disruptor). Lego, Gerber, and Little Tikes have cut these nasties out of their products.
Stuffed animals contain flame retardants and foam that off-gas. I recommend purchasing 1 or 2 made of organic cotton, hemp, or wool that your child can use to cuddle and sleep with.
When it comes to toys, many companies are coming out with eco-friendly, toxic-free options. Remember, less is more! You will save money and cut down on clutter. Look for untreated wood toys or toys stuffed with organic cotton, hemp, or bamboo.
Choose higher quality and lower quantity of toys for your child. You will find kids are perfectly happy playing with bowls, spoons, pots, pans, etc. and leave the heaps of fancy toys untouched. Choose what will work best for your family.
The key with creating a healthy nursery is to pick what is important to you.
In this day and age it is virtually impossible to avoid all chemicals, but we can greatly decrease our baby’s exposure to a quite a few toxins.
Remember, products that your parents used on you are not necessarily the same formulations that make up those products today. Do your research.
I have to keep reminding myself that each small swap I make will help baby be a little healthier. I can’t be perfect, but every little bit helps!
How did you choose what to buy for your baby’s nursery? What was the most important to you? Leave a comment below…
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