Feeding, clothing, and caring for your baby has evolved a great deal in the last few years. There is a plethora of information out there, especially as you're trying to green your baby's environment but wading through it all can be quite cumbersome. The one thing you want to do in maintaining a green environment for your baby is reduce your baby's exposure to toxins. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
1. Paint room using low- to no-VOC paints. This is the one thing that every new parent does to get ready for their new addition. If you're pregnant, do not paint the room yourself. Have someone paint it for us and choose either milk-based paints or low- to no-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds). Paint at least one month before baby is due so the paint has time to cure.
2. Avoid new carpeting. That "new" carpet smell that you often smell is actually toxic chemicals off-gassing. Leverage existing flooring you already have but if you really need to put in new flooring, choose floors made of natural materials such as natural linoleum, sustainable hardwoods NOT treated with chemicals or cork. If you really like the warmth of carpet, choose natural area rugs made of wool.
3. Look for furniture made of sustainable solid wood. When looking for furniture and cribs for baby's nursery, choose pieces made from sustainable wood or wood untreated with formaldehyde and finished with non-toxic stains or paints. New items which you are unsure whether it is treated with formaldehyde or not should be left outside for a few days to off-gas.
4. Invest in natural fibers and organic materials for bedding and clothing. Your baby will be spending all their time either wearing, being swaddled, or sleeping on ... so make sure you choose natural materials that are not grown or treated with pesticides or other chemicals. Cotton is a crop that attracts a wide range of insects so conventional cotton crop depends heavily on pesticides and chemicals throughout its growing process whereas organic cotton uses methods both safer for environment as well as people.
5. Eliminate mattress covers and diaper changing mats coated with PVC's and latex. These items are often overlooked in green homes, yet can contain some of the highest levels of toxic chemicals. If vinyl is difficult to avoid, make sure you leave it outside for a few days to air out before bringing inside the home.
6. Avoid bottles, sippy cups, teethers, and toys containing BPA and phthalates, and PVC. For bottles choose either glass or safer plastics such as polyethersulfone (PES) or polypropylene. These materials do not leach the hormone disruptor BPA. For teethers and toys, opt for ones made of organic cotton, natural wood, or inert materials such as silicone.
7. Choose the right diapers. There are many good options available on the market today so whether you choose to go with cloth or disposable, you have options. Reusable diapers are not what they used to be. When choosing cloth, go for fitted diapers made from eco-friendly material such as hemp, bamboo, or organic cotton with either velcro or snap closures for convenience. For covers, choose organic wool since it is warm yet breathable and helps minimize diaper rash. If opting for disposable ones, choose those that are non-petroleum based and compostable.
8. Go natural for skincare. For babies, less is more when it comes to skin care. Avoid items with ingredients such as petroleum, paraben, sodium laurel sulfate, and phthalates. Instead look for items that are natural, organic, and fragrance-free. Olive oil is a great baby lotion -- natural and unperfumed.
9. Green naturally with plants. Plants not only add color and visual value to a home, but they also work as a natural air pollutant reducer. Some even absorb formaldehyde that seeps into the air from existing furniture and paint. The best plants are Areca Palm, Boston Fern, Chinese Evergreen, Dracaena, English Ivy, Spider Plan, and Peace Lilies.
10. Wipe out chemical cleaners. Clean all nursery's surfaces, furniture, bedding, and clothing with gentle, natural, non-toxic cleaning products which are now readily available at your local retailer.