Natural Alternatives Promote Healthy Kids
The birth of a child gives parents a very big and happy incentive to make organic choices. Business is booming for today’s growing contingent of environmentally responsive companies selling eco-healthy children’s products.
Perhaps the most natural—and healthiest—choice a new mom can make involves breastfeeding. And despite recent information about the contaminants transmitted through mother’s milk, most experts agree that it remains the best choice for baby. "When breastfeeding isn’t an option, parents can choose from certified organic formulas," says Lisa Rae Oshesky, owner of Organic Bebe.
Created without hormones, chemicals or fillers, the Nature’s One brand is a popular seller on the Organic Bebe website. When the time for solid food arrives, parents can shop for prepared organic fare, such as Earth’s Best Baby Food, in mainstream mega-stores, as well as at health-food retailers.
Moms and dads interested in an even more back-to-basics approach will find assistance in the form of books, supplies and tips at Fresh Baby’s website. Expert advice guides parents through the process of making homemade baby food. And the company’s Fresh Start Kit ($34.95) includes everything—instructions, recipes and materials—a parent needs to produce fresh, delicious and low-cost baby food in a mere 30 minutes per week. "By encouraging parents to feed their children through all-natural alternatives, families don’t use and toss scores of baby food jars," says Christina Kerley, spokesperson for Fresh Baby. "Rather, they are able to reuse the materials we supply."
Changing and Dressing Time
Another environmental trend sends parents back to the future. While there are heated arguments as to whether cloth or disposable diapers are more environmentally friendly, there are natural options for both.
"Cloth diapers come in contoured, prefolded and fitted varieties," says Oshesky. "One type even impersonates its disposable counterparts."
"Another textile choice for diapers is hemp," says Susie Little, founder of What’s Hempenin" Baby. She notes that sailors have long exploited this fiber for its durability and absorbency. The company’s signature product, Hempers ($28), shares a website with hemp clothing for mom and baby, as well as hemp-based powders and salves. The up-front investment for cloth diapering is substantial, but the people at Indigenous Babies offer a fiscal compromise. Through their exchange program, clients can swap outgrown diapers for larger-sized used diapers or trade-in used for new.
Tushies diapers ($7.99) are chlorine-free and gel-free disposables made without latex or perfume. And the same company manufactures disposable diaper wipes sans scents and alcohol.
Dressing babies in organic cotton clothing has less to do with inspiring infant fashionistas and more to do with children receiving positive attention, says Lynda Fassa, co-owner of Green Babies. "A happy, healthy baby generates a great deal of affirmation from adoring adults."
Organic cotton forms longer fibers, which makes a softer cloth. Fassa’s most popular seller is a romper ($32) with the slogan "Give Peas a Chance" printed across the front.
Bedtime, Playtime and Party Time
"Because infants spend so much time sleeping, their beds are important," says Oshesky. Organic crib mattresses ($279.99 to $379.99) prevent tender lungs from inhaling plastic and chemical fumes, while wool acts as a natural flame retardant. For even sweeter dreams, bedding made from 100 percent cotton—without permanent press and flame retardant substances—is the least-toxic alternative.
Parents should shun soft plastic and vinyl toys. For plastic children’s playthings, manufacturers often add a chemical as a softener. This chemical may leach from the object and, with toddlers" tendencies to put things in their mouths, young children are exposed to a substance that has been linked to cancer and reproductive harm.
Hard plastic toys or, better yet, wooden playthings coated with water-based lacquer are smarter purchases.
By their nature, baby showers are wasteful events. Typically, mountains of wrapping paper, single-use cardboard decorations and forgotten plastic favors litter the host’s house after the party. But these environmentally depleting celebrations can be transformed into eco-events with just a few simple alterations.
"Encourage guests to create wrapping from reusable items, such as receiving blankets or cloth diapers," says Fassa. That way, she says, your baby’s first effect on the planet will not be a negative one. At Baby Shower Central, an "Earth First" theme calls for hosts to give seed packages and baby trees as prizes. "As for gifts, I suggest cloth diapering and breastfeeding supplies," says Marsha Roberts, owner of Baby Shower Central. "Diaper cakes (not the edible kind) are practical, reusable and much nicer to look at than paper banners and streamers." Constructed with diapers, pacifiers, burp cloths, bibs, bottles, shoes, pins and receiving blankets, the multiple tiers present prospective parents with plenty of child-centered paraphernalia.
"A wonderful alternative to throwaway party favors is our set of Party! Bubble Baths ($3.49)," says Sue Farr, spokesperson for California Baby. "The bubbling agent in almost all of the commercial bubble baths strips the mucous membranes and thus promotes yeast or bladder infections," she adds. "Because we use a gentle, non-invasive bubbling agent, women and little girls of all ages can safely enjoy bubble baths again."
California Baby produces other lotions and potions for babies and people with sensitive skin, including a wide assortment of sun protectants and aromatherapy spritzers.
Straight Talk about SIDS
Although parents would rather focus on happier thoughts, Betty McEntire, executive director of the American SIDS Institute, points out that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death for children from one month to a year. Although many questions about this killer remain unanswered, McEntire points to a triple-risk model. First, the child must have a subtle nervous-system defect; second, the child enters a vulnerable stage in development; and third, the child is exposed to an unknown environmental factor or factors.
The good news is that the total of SIDS deaths has declined since the 1970s, when the syndrome claimed 11,000 infants per year. Today, that number hovers around 2,500.
To outsmart this killer, McEntire advises parents to purchase firm crib mattresses, strip the bed of blankets, pillows and stuffed animals, and dress babies in just enough clothing for comfort. A recent addition to McEntire’s "do" list involves moving cribs into parents" rooms. Although it’s unclear why, several European studies have found this strategy decreases crib deaths.
"We know maternal smoking increases the occurrence of SIDS, as does secondhand
smoke," says McEntire. Tummy sleeping is verboten, and children with colds bear special watching. Some recent evidence points to pacifiers as possible deterrents.
Organic vendors are often small family companies with an interest in promoting fair business practices, sustainable living and healthy existences. Those characteristics generate a better quality of life for all of us—young and old.
DIANE M. MARTY, a mother of two and grandmother of one, is a Colorado-based freelance writer.