Healthy Products for a Healthy Baby

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WholeFoods Magazine Staff
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As a mother, you want to keep your little ones as healthy as possible. So, why not show how dedicated you are to their well-being by using the safest and purest baby products possible?

Fostering Good Health for Baby

The diaper dilemma. While some may think that using traditional diapers poses no risks to the environment, research shows the exact opposite. Case in point, a 1991 Landbank Report found that disposable diapers use 20 times more raw materials, produce 60 times more waste, three times more energy and two times more water than cloth diapers (1).

This report also showed that disposable diapers need between four and 30 times as much land for growing component materials compared to environmentally friendly diapers. You may be shocked to know that some 27 billion disposable diapers are used every year in the United States, which  results in “millions of tons of used diapers added to landfills each year” (1). Also, nearly all disposable diapers are made from petroleum-derived plastic and wood fiber.

There is another factor to consider when selecting disposable diapers: cotton. According to the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), traditional cotton contains the most pesticides of any crop grown throughout the world. How can this be harmful for baby? The chlorine bleach used in disposable diapers, can cause skin irritations and other  problems (1). But luckily, natural products stores offer alternatives to traditional diapers such as cloth diapers, reusable diapers (with flushable inserts) and unbleached cotton diapers (2). Don’t forget the non-chlorinated wipes!

Eat up! More and more families are opting to use organic baby food during feeding time because they want to promote good health early on. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food is labeled as “organic” if it is made without growth hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. And, organic farmers use fertilizers that do not contain synthetic ingredients or sludge from sewage (3). Moreover, irradiation and bioengineering are not allowed.

There are good reasons to choose organic for your children. The Environmental Working Group believes that pesticides are associated with harmful effects on the reproductive organs and nervous system. Babies eat more per pound of body weight than adults, which can make them particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticides (3). Plus, “toxins are stored in fat, and babies have a higher percentage of body fat than adults” (3).

Lactating mothers may wish to breastfeed in addition to using baby food. Breastfeeding is an excellent option because it provides essential fatty acids and helps build immunity (4). It also provides a special bonding period between mother and child. On the other hand, many moms choose to use formula. Some may prefer powdered formula over liquid formula because they have less chance of BPA (bisphenol A) leaching into the product. BPA is an industrial chemical that is used to make the lining of aluminum cans, which can transfer into the foods they are containing. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are investigating the dangers of BPA exposure in children such as reproductive health and behavioral problems (4, 5).

BPA is also used to make polycarbonate plastic, so be careful which plastic baby bottles and sippy cups you buy. Purchase cups and bottles that have the recycling symbol numbers 1, 2, 4 or 5 on the bottom and/or state that they are BPA free (5). Steer clear of hard plastic bottles marked with a 7 or those that say “PC” (polycarbonate), as they likely contain BPA. Glass bottles are also recommended for those who wish to avoid BPA.

When giving small children water, experts suggest using a reverse osmosis (RO) filter if your water is fluoridated to remove this additive. According to the American Dental Association, it is best to avoid fluoride when reconstituting formula. If water is not fluoridated, it is fine to simply use a carbon filter (pitcher style or one that attaches to a tap). And, if bottled water is chosen, it should be fluoride-free (4).

Soft as a baby’s bottom. When it comes to purchasing baby skin care products, all ingredients should be read carefully. Newborns need dye-free, fragrance-free products to protect their extremely delicate skin (6). Babies are highly susceptible to skin irritations, rashes and the like. And, although natural baby skin care products are safe for most infants, products that are made with chemicals, dyes and fragrances may be harmful. Keep in mind that when selecting products, purchase phthalate- and paraben-free items that are devoid of chemicals that may be harmful to babies. Some common ingredients in natural baby care products include castile soap, olive oil, aloe, shea butter calendula, vitamin E and other soothing ingredients. WF
 
References
1. W. Priesnitz, “Ask Natural Life: Which are Greener: Cloth or Single-Use Diapers?” Natural Life Magazine, www.naturallifemagazine.com/0910/which_are_greener_cloth_or_single-use_d..., accessed June 21, 2010.
2. New Hampshire Public Radio, “Are There Green Alternatives to Disposable Diapers?” www.nhpr.org/node/19987, accessed June 30, 2010.
3. J. Wohlgemuth, “Organic Food Facts: Your Shopping Guide,” Parents, www.parents.com/baby/feeding/solid-foods/organic-food-shopping-guide/, accessed June 21, 2010.
4. Environmental Working Group, “EWG’s Guide to Infant Formula and Baby Bottles: Safe Baby Bottle and Formula Guide,” www.ewg.org/babysafebottles, accessed June 21, 2010.
5. Consumers Union, Consumer Reports Health News, http://pressroom.consumerreports.org/pressroom/2009/07/consumer-reports-..., accessed June 21, 2010.
6. WebMD,  “What Baby Skin Care Products Does Your Newborn Need?” www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/what-baby-skin-care-products-do-you-need-yo..., accessed June 23, 2010.

 

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, Aug. 2010 (epub July 20, 2010)