In the last Journey to Motherhood article, we covered how to keep the baby’s first residence–the mother’s body, clean and healthy so that the baby grow and develop. What happens after that? There are far more toxins and dangers outside of the womb than inside; and the baby is still growing and developing. No time is a good time to inundate a baby with toxins, but especially not right out of the womb.
That is why, when preparing for Baby–setting up the nursery and gift registries–we have to be careful with the products we surround our babies with.
Beware of Plastic
A multitude of the things we come in contact with every day contain plastic–even hidden sources of plastic like cash register receipts, canned goods, and cosmetics. While babies likely won’t be interacting with those sources of plastics, you don’t have to look far to find plastic on the normal baby registry–baby bottles, pacifiers, and more.
Unfortunately, plastic is a hotbed for toxins like BPA and phthalates. The CDC defines phthalates as:
A group of chemicals used to make plastics more durable. They are often called plasticizers. Some phthalates are used to help dissolve other materials. Phthalates are in hundreds of products, such as vinyl flooring, lubricating oils, and personal-care products (soaps, shampoos, hair sprays). … People are exposed to phthalates by eating and drinking foods that have contacted products containing phthalates. Some exposure can occur from breathing phthalate particles in the air. Children crawl around and touch many things, then put their hands in their mouths. Because of that hand-to-mouth behavior, phthalate particles in dust might be a greater risk for children than for adults.
The CDC also defines BPA as:
Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to manufacture polycarbonate plastics. This type of plastic is used to make some types of beverage containers, compact disks, plastic dinnerware, impact-resistant safety equipment, automobile parts, and toys. BPA epoxy resins are used in the protective linings of food cans, in dental sealants, and in other products. … General exposure to BPA at low levels comes from eating food or drinking water stored in containers that have BPA. Small children may be exposed by hand-to-mouth and direct oral (mouth) contact with materials containing BPA. Dental treatment with BPA-containing sealants also results in short-term exposure.
According to the CDC, both phthalates and BPA has had effects on the reproductive systems of animals.
Specify on your registry that you’re looking glass or stainless-steel baby bottles. Take it a step further and use glass food storage for the entire family to help limit everyone’s exposure to toxins.
Play, Baby, Play!
What baby registry is complete without toys? Unfortunately, you don’t have to look far to see the evidence that toys can be dangerous. Trouble in Toyland puts out an annual toy safety report. Toysafety.org annually comes out with a “top ten worst toys” list around the time that people start looking for gifts for the holidays.
Does this mean that there aren’t toys that are safe and nontoxic? Absolutely not; they’re just a bit harder to find. Unfortunately, in the rush to buy cute little toys while preparing for a cute little baby, most people don’t stop to really research what is in those toys.
Some simple keywords to look for when toy shopping—or to make sure is clear on your registry—are “nontoxic” and “organic.” Also keep an eye out for things saying their toys do not contain any BPA, phthalates, PVC, latex, or toxic materials.
Depending on what the toy is made of, there are a few other things to look for as well.
With wooden toys, you want to look for plant- or water- based paint. This could also show up as natural or vegetable oils for the finish—no lacquer or staining. You also want to look for either organic or non-toxic wood.
For fabric toys, you will again want to stay with “organic” materials. Both the fabric and any dyes they may use should be organic.
As far as plastic toys goes, a good rule of thumb is to just avoid them altogether. Admittedly, that can be very difficult. If you need to get plastic toys, ABS plastic is one of the least-toxic plastics out there.
Not all Fabrics are Equal
Babies put everything in their mouths—including their bibs, clothes, blankets, and toys. Unfortunately, fabrics can be hidden sources of plastic and toxins, not to mention all the dyes that give those sheets and burp rags their pretty colors. Using as much organic cotton as possible when preparing for Baby will help reduce the number of toxins. This includes bed sheets, burp rags, clothes, mobiles, and diapers, if you’re taking the route of cloth diapers.
Be Mindful When Redecorating
Many paints and new carpets contain toxins called VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOCs are defined by the EPA as:
Volatile organic compounds are compounds that have a high vapor pressure and low water solubility. … Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.
If you are redecorating a room to become a nursery, look for VOC-free paints, and let any rugs or carpets air out outside before bringing them inside. That way, not only will you not be breathing in chemicals, but the carpets and/or rugs will smell like good, clean air when you bring them in.
What’s the Point of Washing if it Comes out Dirtier?
Laundry detergents can contain large numbers of toxins including, once again, VOCs. Do your homework to make sure the laundry detergent you’re using is clean and toxin-free before you wash something Baby’s skin is going to come into contact with or they may put in their mouth.
Disinfectant sprays, too, are full of toxins. How can they not be—the job of the spray is to kill pathogens. These toxins aren’t safe or healthy for people to breathe in. In fact, WebMD says:
“Exposures to cleaners and disinfectants reported to NPDS [the National Poison Data System] increased substantially in early March 2020,” noted a team led by Dr. Arthur Chang, a researcher at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In fact, there’s been a more than 20% spike in the number of such poisoning emergencies reported to the NPDS, compared to the same time last year, the report found. While cleaning products and disinfectants can be toxic to germs, they can also prove toxic to people when mixed or used improperly, experts noted.
In 2020–especially early March–people were desperately trying to keep their homes and workspaces clean and COVID-free, resulting in an increase of toxins floating around. An overexposure to toxins causes the immune system to work harder and tire out. When your immune system gets fatigued, it can’t fight its attackers as well, leaving you open to more illnesses and diseases.
Be More Like Baby, Start Small!
While all of the brightly colored, newest gadgets might try to lure you in, remember that babies don’t need all that much to start with. While the list above may seem overwhelming, start somewhere and get what you need as you need it. You have time to prepare for Baby. Use the recommendations above to start that journey safely!
For more tips on how to prepare for Baby, check out The Wellness Way’s New Mom Monday playlist on YouTube, or contact a Wellness Way clinic today.