Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Reduce a Baby’s Exposure to Chemicals, Toxins and Radiation

Everyone knows - becoming a parent for the first time is completely overwhelming. There is so much to learn and take in.  Add to that the desire to keep your new baby safe from harmful chemicals and radiation at every turn and a parent just might lose their marbles entirely. Certainly, we cannot protect our children from everything, but what we can do is start them off in the purest, most healthy environment possible by making simple, eco-conscious choices from day one. The Greener Baby Guide I put together below walks you through some of those choices:

Sheets and Linens: Go with organic 100% cotton crib sheets and/or family bed sheets because cotton crops use more pesticides than any other crop grown in America today.

Clothing and Sleepwear: Make sure all baby clothing is made from 100% cotton or 100% virgin wool  – no polyester, modal or bamboo (which is chemically treated when it is mashed into fabric – even if it came from “organic” bamboo) and no fire retardant treated sleepwear, ever, as studies are continuously linking fire retardant chemicals in clothings, furniture and electronics  to cancer and other health and development concerns.

Baby Shampoos, Washes and Lotions: Avoid anything with FRAGRANCE or PERFUME listed as an ingredient, as these will always contain phthalates, a known hormone disruptor associated with cancer. NO FRAGRANCE is best, but some all-natural fragrances are okay. This includes MANY popular baby washes, shampoos, soaps and lotions. Instead, buy only all-natural baby care products (available online or at Whole Foods or other health stores)

Natural Fragrances: Try to stick with natural citrus scents. Avoid the use of lavender and tea tree oil in soaps, detergents, lotions or anything that comes in contact with baby’s skin as these ingredients, while 100% natural, are hormone disruptors that have been linked to health issues.

Cradle Cap: To treat cradle cap (a totally normal baby scalp condition), massage a small amount of jojoba oil on the affected areas. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, then comb thru the scalp with a baby comb. The flakes will lift right off. Follow with an ALL-NATURAL shampoo.

Laundry Detergents: Use only all-natural, FRAGRANCE-FREE laundry detergents to wash baby’s clothes, linens and diapers (if cloth diapering). Infant skin is super sensitive and avoiding fragrances will almost guarantee you an eczema-free and skin-allergy-free child.

Bleach:  Stop using bleach completely. If you have something that needs to be bleached, soak in a powered hydrogen peroxide mixture (like fragrance-free OxyClean) which work just as well as bleach – without the highly toxic fumes and ingredients.

Sunscreen: avoid for the first 6 months, then only use an all-natural, zinc based, non-nano particle, fragrance-free brand such as BADGER (available online or at Whole Foods or other health stores)

Mattresses, Co-sleepers and Pack-n-Play pads: If you splurge on one thing – let it be this: an organic crib mattress (around $200) or family bed ($800 and up). Regular mattresses contain countless chemicals and fire retardants and take a long time to off-gas. If your baby will be sleeping at all in a co-sleeper or pack-n-play, then be sure to replace the vinyl, off-gassing mattress those products come with a natural latex alternative.

Mattress Pads: To keep baby’s crib or family bed dry (from pee, spit-up, etc.) invest in a wool mattress cover or puddle pad. Wool is 100% natural and wicks away ALL wetness so it never reaches the bed. (TIP: you can also just shrink an old woolen blanket for the same purpose)

Sugar: The only sugar babies should have during the first two years is whole fresh fruit. The longer you can hold off on giving a child refined sugar, the more you’ll develop their taste buds to desire and ENJOY real, unsweetened whole foods instead. Forgo the tradition of giving a baby cake on their first birthday. Wait for the 2nd birthday – and let them have at it then!

Juice:  Avoid all juice for the first 2 years. The body processes juice the same way it processes refined sugar. It is very harmful for baby’s teeth (more so than sugar, actually) and will spoil baby’s taste buds from desiring whole foods. Not to mention, several studies have recently found lead and arsenic in children’s grape and apple juice.

Baby Teeth and Cavities:  Crackers, dry fruit, raisons and night nursing (or night bottle feeding) can all lead to cavities. It’s easy to eliminate the food, but not so easy to eliminate the night feeding. Once a baby's teeth are coming in, just be sure to them (front and back) with a wet wash cloth after each night feeding or as soon as they wake up. It’s not the milk that causes cavities, but rather the pooling of the milk behind the teeth as it mixes with other food and bacteria in the mouth.

Soy, Corn and Sugar: These ingredients, unless the label specifies as organic or GMO-free, are almost all grown in genetically modified crops these days. This includes the soy in formula, the soybean oil or corn (in baby food, bread, crackers, etc), and the sugar in all sweetened foods and drinks (one exception to the latter is Pure Cane Sugar. If the label just says “sugar” chances are it comes from genetically modified sugar beet crops).

Baby Bottles: Plastic baby bottles leach chemicals into warm milk. Use glass (when they are too young to hold a bottle themselves) and stainless steel after 5 months.

Sippy Cups: Use ONLY stainless steel with silicone straws (like the Funtainer by Thermos). Babies can drink from straws as early as 9 months of age. Don’t use plastic OR aluminum sippies and nothing with an epoxy lining.

Pacifiers: Use only 100% silicon or 100% latex – with NO plastic parts, including the handle (Soothie, Nuk Soft OrthoStar, and Natursutten are all 100% plastic-free)

Diapers: Cloth is best for baby, the planet, AND the pocket book. Disposables expose baby’s bottom to harmful chemicals – do some research before deciding cloth is too much work. (It really isn’t – and BONUS - kids potty train much earlier in cloth!)

Teething: Avoid all plastic teethers. Buy wooden teething rings or dip a big corner of an organic wash cloth in water, twist into a popsicle cone shape, and freeze. Babies love to chew on these! Or, tie large pieces of frozen mango in a fine piece of mesh fabric and allow baby to chew on it (as you hold the other end).

Newborn Hospital Procedures: Baby’s should not be given chemicals on their first day of life unless it is an emergency situation. If you know for a fact that you do not have gonorrhea or syphilis (which women are tested for when pregnant anyhow), then you may choose to say NO to having antibiotics applied to baby’s eyes immediately after being born. You may also choose to forgo the Vitamin K shot given within minutes of life to ensure proper blood clotting (unless baby suffered a traumatic, bruise-inducing birth). It is true that newborn blood does not clot as well as an adults, but Vitamin K can be given orally in its natural form a few days after birth (at your pediatrician's office). The vitamin shot given at the hospital is actually a synthetic vitamin that contains chemical preservatives and alcohol. Hepatitis B Vaccine is also given on day one in many states. Unless you have the disease yourself or your baby will be with a drug-addicted caregiver, I would postpone this vaccine as well.

Immunization Schedule: Just know you have a choice, and that nothing bad will happen to your baby if you decide to WAIT and DELAY the vaccine schedule. Otherwise – your baby will receive – starting at just 2 months – the exact same dosage for multiple vaccines that a 200 pound man receives. Many researchers believe that is too much for a tiny baby’s system to handle. Give the baby’s body time to develop before dosing it with vaccines (which contain aluminum, formaldehyde, monkey brains and other interesting ingredients. Read the published ingredients on the CDC website before making this call).

Fevers: Infant fevers are scary – especially before the age of 6 months. Past the age of 6 months they are actually helpful in healing the body and in building the immune system. Fevers are nature’s way of burning off a virus. Let it burn. In most cases, if you fight it with Infant Ibuprofen or other medications, the virus will live longer.

Toys: Avoid plastic for as long as possible, especially when babies and toddlers are small and putting everything in their mouths. Better to have a few quality wooden and natural rubber toys than a house full of toxic, lead and/or phthalate leaching plastic toys

Bath Toys:  Avoid plastic toys and foam letters and numbers, which off gas harmful chemicals in the bath. Instead, go with cute washcloth puppets and cloth washcloth dolls and animals.

Bathtub Safety: Do NOT use an anti-slip vinyl bathmat in the tub. Vinyl off-gasses harmful chemicals its entire life. Instead, use removable fun removable rubber bathtub grippers which come in lots of fun kid designs and are super easy to clean. Likewise, do not use a vinyl spout protector. Instead, simply place a plastic cup over the spout when baby or child is bathing. Cute vinyl spout protectors off gas AND grow mold and mildew in every adorable crevice.

Shower Curtains: Never use a vinyl shower curtain in a bathroom where baby bathes, as the vinyl will off-gas heavily with every shower or bath. Go with hemp, cotton, nylon or pvc-free plastic.

Household Cleaners:  Stop using ALL chemical household cleaners (i.e, anything you would buy at the grocery store). There are natural alternatives at any health food store that work just as well without poisoning the air quality in your home and the oceans and rivers that our cleaners bleed out to.  Not to mention exposing baby to cancer-causing chemicals. Homemade products can save you a bundle. Almost anything in the home can be cleaned and disinfected if you own these 7 things: distilled vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, grain alcohol, tea tree oil, castile soap and lemon.

Smart Phones and Ipads: Do not give these to babies to sooth them or set them near them when sleeping as they emit constant radiation that is harmful to baby’s developing brain. In addition, when speaking on a cell phone, always use a corded head piece to reduce close radiation to the brain.

Cordless Phones: Cordless phones actually emit more radiation than cell phones. The base acts like a cell phone tower in your home – continuously communicating and sending radiation to the hand units. Do not keep these anywhere near where baby sleeps. Better yet, get a wired phone – and when you have to be cordless, use your cell instead with a corded headset.

Wireless Routers: Keep them on the other side of the house, away from where baby plays and sleeps. Shut off the router EVERY night and when not using for long periods during the day (as wireless routers emit constant radiation and radio signals).

Best Highchair: Stokke Wooden Highchair, which is made of solid wood and amazing quality. The chair is fully adjustable in height and will grow to become your child’s toddler chair and later their desk chair. Will fit them until they are 10 plus years old. And they look great too!

Cookware: To avoid exposure to aluminum (all stainless steel cookware pieces have aluminum bottoms), invest in a good iron set, such as Le Creuset. They are pricey, buy you can find deals at department stores, they will last you 30 plus years, AND they have a lifetime guarantee (so really – that is longer than 30 years). Avoid rice cookers, as those are usually 100% aluminum.

Food Storage: Glass only – no plastic. Buy in bulk sets from Costco or Bed, Bath and Beyond. Stainless steel is also great for salads and non-citrus storage. (Citrus can cause the nickel in the steel to leach into foods.)

Microwaves: Avoid if you possibly can. NEVER heat plastic in a microwave, EVER, not even in a “microwave safe” plastic container (as there is really no such thing –  ALL plastic leaches into food when heated). Microwaves produce more radiation in the home than any other device.

Plates, Cups and Utensils: Use only ceramic, wood, glass or stainless steel. Babies can start holding a small juice GLASS by 12 months with your supervised help. Plastic leaches – so do not use plastic for any food or drink at home. Small pyrex bowls are perfect for babies to feed themselves with. They rarely break when dropped, and when they do, they break in large pieces, not tiny shards. Do not use plastic plates – especially with warm food. Again, plastic + heat = chemicals in your food.

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