Toxins. They are everywhere... from flame retardants in crib mattresses that may cause cancer to harmful chemicals such as BPA and even alternatives to BPA that may disrupt hormone receptors. All parents want to keep their children safe and non-toxic, but it's not possible to raise them in a glass bubble and buying everything organic might break the bank. What's a concerned parent to do?
Dr. Jack Maypole, a pediatrician and member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School, director of the SPARK center, and assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine and practices in the Department of Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center offers some sage advice.
Dr. Maypole often receives questions from parents about how to identify and avoid toxins in nearly everything their children come into contact with from food to toys to clothing. Dr. Maypole responds that :
While more and more providers are recognizing the upside to having babies eat organic food whenever possible to decrease pesticide exposure, there has been a subsequent movement to create what we might call an organic/toxin free life space for infants and toddlers. ... That is a worthwhile but elusive goal, given the ubiquitousness of many of these substances in the marketplace. ... Further, there may be conflicting information on the safety of certain materials. ... The truth is, their tiny size and developmental ways make kids vulnerable to what they eat, play with, wear or move about on. Exposure to potentially toxic substances may have bigger impacts in kids' smaller bodies. When it comes to toys, when you can, go natural.
So, what can a parent do? Dr. Maypole makes several recommendations when it comes to choosing the best products for young children, but takes care to stress that the inability to afford everything organic and natural in no way reflects upon their choices as parents or love for their child.
• Baby or infant toys made from bamboo, unfinished wood or wood toys with water-based stains are the healthiest options.
• For baby to snuggle, mouth or explore, I recommend blankets, clothing or stuffed toys made with so-called "natural" cotton or wool.
• Parents should consider items that are ideally Bisphenol A (BPA)-free, phthalate-free and PVC-free. Plastics stamped with 1, 2, 4 or 5 are considered safe to use, and traditional approaches to cleaning and storing them should suffice.
Many companies, several founded by concerned parents themselves, have taken great care to develop non-toxic products for the young children who are most susceptible to the effects of chemicals in their environment.
Silikids: Silikids produces kid-friendly feeding items made from natural silicone or glass with silicone covers. They make everything from toddler-sized glasses with colorful, sensory-friendly silicone covers to adorable silicone wipe-off placemats so that your messy eater can safely eat any crumbs that fall off her plate.
Naturalmat: Naturalmat makes all-natural, organic crib mattress, mattress covers, and a mattress topper. While these mattresses are not cheap, given how much time babies spend sleeping many consider an organic crib mattress (which can later be used in a toddler bed) a splurge-worthy investment. If an organic mattress is not in the budget, consider a less expensive organic mattress topper which ensures that your baby will not come into contact with potentially harmful chemicals found in most crib mattresses.
Finn + Emma: Finn + Emma produces 100 percent organic just about everything for baby. Their 100 percent organic cotton clothing is not just adorable but super-soft as well. They also produce a line of harder-to-find wooden and organic toys, including wooden and organic cotton teething rings. Although most will not be able to splurge for an all-organic toy line for their little ones it just makes sense to ensure that something designed to spend as much time in a baby's mouth as a teether be as safe as possible.
Catbird Baby: Many Moms (and even Dads) like to carry their babies. Not only do baby carriers come in direct contact with baby's skin and frequently serve as a favorite napping spot, but before too long babies inevitably start to chew on the straps. Catbird Baby makes a gorgeous, versatile, and very comfortable Mei Tai out of 100 percent organic cotton. It's only nominally more expensive than non-organic Mei Tais and the simplicity of the design makes it easy to use from babyhood through the toddler years.
Woombie: Woombie makes several organic items for little ones ranging from blankets to towels. Many babies like to sleep swaddled for the first couple of months so organic swaddling blankets may be a good choice to help keep your baby's environment toxin-free during the many hours babies spend sleeping. Woombie organic swaddle blankets have the added bonus of having a breathable "air wrap" design created by a nurse to help reduce the possible risk of SIDS from overheating. Since babies really only need a couple of towels, it is feasible to spring for organic made towels, such as the cute animal-themed ones from Woombie, that will spend a lot of time in contact with baby's freshly washed skin.
Green Toys: Green Toys are not just good for your child but they are good for the environment as well. They are made from recycled milk jugs and reprocessed into high-density polyethylene (or HDPE), one of the safest, cleanest plastics around. What's more, Green Toys are made in California, which has some of the strictest environmental, health, and safety laws in the country.
Rockin' Green Detergent: No matter what your baby wears, it has to be washed. Rockin' Green was created by a Mom who searched for a toxin-free detergent that worked and couldn't find one. It's free from toxins commonly found in detergents, such as phosphates, parabens, and SLS so there is no need to worry about harmful residue rubbing off on baby's skin. This also makes it a great choice for sensitive skin and cloth diapers. Rockin' Green is priced comparably to other detergents so it won't break the bank.
Naartjie Kids: Naartjie Kids clothing is made from 100 percent natural cotton that is soft and durable. While not organic, it is an affordable option to dress your kids in a natural fabric. Naartjie Kids has adorable coordinating patterns and also uses an unusual garment dying process that helps prevent fading so clothes last longer.
San Diego Baby Nursing Pillow: Nursing babies spend a lot of time on their nursing pillows and some have been known to become quite attached to their nursing pillows, dragging it over to Mom whenever they want to feed. Because babies will uin se their nursing pillows the most when they are very little a good choice is San Diego Baby's Eco-Nursing pillow that is odor, glue, foam, lead, and phthalate-free. Importantly, the pillows are also free of the flame retardant chemicals. As a bonus, the pillows have a detachable back support pillow for Mom and a built-in privacy cover.
WeeUrban Baby: WeeUrban Baby makes adorable "bring me home" sets featuring organic newborn sets of a romper/gown, cap, and socks. These make great gifts for the non-toxic minded Mom to be or you can pick up one up for yourself to ensure your newborn make its debut in style and safety.