Just like adults, the way a baby eats, plays and lives affects their overall wellness. Whether you are a first-time or experienced parent, bringing up a baby is a whole lot different than the previous generation. New research and technology affect not only our lives, but the decisions we make as parents in general. The green (non-toxic), eco-friendly, or organic lifestyle, adopted by many families has many names, but ultimately expresses the desire people have to lead lives that are more conscious to their health and the environment.
Making “Green” Decisions
There is no right or wrong with the whole parenting thing. Every family has a variety of terms and factors to consider before choosing what works best for them, their baby, and the environment. The choice usually rests on individual health issues such as their baby's sensitivity to certain food additives or reactions to pesticides. The choice may also come from an overall concern for using products or methods that they feel are less harsh to the environment. Regardless, going “green” does not have to be all-or-nothing and there are plenty of ways you can incorporate this mindfulness into your lifestyle.
Here are a few ways to get you started.
Breast-feeding, by default, is the most eco-friendly and nutritional option as it offers zero environmental impact. However, the containers, bags and bottles used to pump milk usually are not. And while breastfeeding is highly encouraged, it is not attainable for all women. For formula users, buying a big container of powder can cut back on packaging. In either situation, keeping milk in glass bottles or BPA-free plastic bottles keeps milk safe from toxins often associated with common plastics — and they are usually recyclable, too!
When your 6-month old is ready to incorporate solids into their diet, homemade baby food can help save you money by cutting down on store costs and eliminated waste of unused product. The best part is you know exactly what foods your baby is eating and what they react well to or not. If you are out and prepared food is not feasible, there are a variety of natural and organic brands available in many stores these days.
Choosing organic fruits, vegetables, grains or other products, prepared or home-made, can lower potentially harmful pesticide consumption by nearly 80%. If organic foods are pricey in your area, do some research on what foods carry the most pesticides and do as you can.
Laundry & Messes
Babies bring on lots and lots of laundry, there is no way around that. If possible, try to run full loads with only the amount of cold water you need and hang things to dry so that less energy is wasted. Also, read the labels of the detergents, soaps and cleaning products you use to make sure it’s the choice that best fits your needs. There are many baby-specific products out there that are less harsh and damaging to their sensitive skin and lungs.
The choice between cloth or boxed diapers is usually one of the biggest a family has to make. Since diapers are usually worn until the age of 3, they can be costly or a lot of work depending on the route you choose. If you choose cloth, cleaning them as we mentioned above is the best way to go. When cloth is not an option, try earth-friendly disposables, which are nontoxic, hypoallergenic, and chlorine-free. The same thing goes for wipes, diaper bags, and changing mats.
Since most sleep and play time happens in the nursery, there are a lot of items to be mindful of. Everything from the paint on the walls to flooring and furniture contains some sort of chemical or allergen that your baby may or may not be sensitive to. Don’t let this overwhelm you! If you can, seek out organic bedding options, avoid carpet, and steer clear of plastics that are not BPA-free. An air purifier or choosing a room with good ventilation can help with a lot of worries you might have here.
Grooming & Skin Care Products
It’s easy to get sucked into the array of products found in the baby aisle at your favorite store. There’s always something new and more appealing than when you were there for your last visit. Yes, your baby has sensitive skin – all the products will tell you that. More importantly is that skin absorbs about 70% of what you put on it, sending all kinds of products into the body. For babies and children with skin conditions, allergies and immune issues, the type of product you choose will matter. Look for products without dyes, fragrance, parabens, and phthalates and stick to natural and organic if you can. Instead of baby oil, opt for unscented olive or coconut oil. Also, avoid sunscreens with the ingredient oxybenzone, which is not advised for children.
There is nothing eco-friendly about the amount of stuff babies accumulate. If you can upcycle or have access to hand-me-downs, you’ll feel less guilty about not using something when your baby quickly grows out of. Just make sure to check for the status of product recalls and remember that car seats have expiration dates. Skip on soft, plastic toys, which before 2009 were made with materials that could contain harmful chemicals.
Walking and fresh air are good for the environment as well as the health of the whole family. If you prefer biking, wait until your baby is at least 12 months, so that their head and neck muscles can support the weight of a helmet.
At Good Samaritan Hospital and Regional Medical Center of San Jose – hospitals of the Good Samaritan Health System, we know there are a lot of choices to make when preparing for a new baby. That’s why we have designed our birthing centers to meet the individual needs of you and your family. Our compassionate, highly-trained staff are ready for any type of birth. With two locations, you can count on us to provide the ultimate in maternity services in San Jose.