How to Create a Healthy, Non-Toxic Baby Registry

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The months leading up to having a baby are often filled with the anxiety-inducing task of putting together a baby registry. Not only are we trying to grasp the idea of our lives changing forever, but we’re also pressured to “prepare” by buying all the right gear before we’ve even met our little bundles of joy.

I still remember the confusion my husband and I felt after visiting a baby store for the first time. Do we get the infant car seat or the convertible one? The umbrella stroller or “travel system?” Infant bathtubs, bottle warmers, bouncers, play gyms . . . it all just seemed so superfluous. Yet, like many parents, we fell into the consumerism trap.

Given the obscene amount of money required to buy these things, we wanted to do this right. We spent countless hours researching products, reading reviews, consulting with friends and visiting stores to find the best and safest and healthiest products. In the spirit of saving others from burrowing down the research rabbit hole, I’d like to share what I learned to help other first-time parents navigate this complicated undertaking.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Contrary to what the baby products industry would like you to believe, babies actually don’t need much. They need to feel safe, nurtured and nourished. Products just help make our ability to meet these needs a little easier.

While many baby brands have good intentions, they focus on convenience rather than health.

Let me explain.

MANY BABY PRODUCTS CONTAIN TOXIC CHEMICALS

Yes, you read that correctly. I was shocked to learn this as well. Isn’t anyone looking out for our babies to ensure products on the market are safe? Unfortunately, government agencies are not nearly diligent enough. Of the 85,000 synthetic chemicals registered in the U.S., only a fraction have been tested for toxicity. The long-term effects these chemicals  – many of which are found in baby products – are unknown.

Why do companies allow these chemicals in their products? Because they have found a reliable and cheap way to make their products work effectively, often at the expense of our babies’ health. They make products that “do the job” with little regard to the negative health effects they can have on our babies.

THE SCARY FACTS

When I was pregnant, a stumbled upon a video called “ 10 Americans.” The video featured a study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that analyzed the blood of ten different Americans. When the blood samples were taken, 200 toxic chemicals were detected. The most alarming part, however, wasn’t just the mere number of chemicals found. It was that many of those chemicals found in their blood had been banned years prior to the study. How did this happen? Because the chemicals had been passed along to them from their mothers. They had these toxins in their bodies before they were born.

This is what led me to become a “Neurotically Green Mom.” This study forever changed my behavior. We need to do all we can to protect our babies from even more exposure to toxic chemicals.

Here are the scary facts about the impact of our toxic environment:

  • Cancer – Childhood cancer is up almost 27% since 1975. The American Cancer Society estimates that environmental factors cause 75% of cancers.
  • Asthma – The incidence of asthma has sky rocketed. About one in eleven children under age eighteen had asthma in 2005, up 200% since 1980. Even scarier, the rate is most rapidly increasing in preschool aged children. Indoor air quality is one of the guiltiest offenders.
  • Allergies – The number of children with allergies has increased dramatically over the past few decades. One of the most common is allergic dermatitis (itchy rash), which has increased 300% from 1960s to 1990s.
  • Mental development – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates at least 20,000 children born each year in the U.S. suffer loss of IQ points because of exposure to methylmercury during fetal development. Other studies have shown strong evidence for IQ lost from PCBs. (See more.)
  • Hormone disruption – Endocrine disruptors interrupt the normal function of hormones. They have also been shown to cause birth defects in lab animals. Evidence of human harm is currently unclear, but some types of birth defects appear to be increasing. Hormone disruptors are often found in plastics and cosmetics.
  • Obesity – Obesity is an epidemic in America. One in five American children between the ages of six and nineteen are considered overweight. Poor diet and lack of exercise are not the only causes. Studies have found that chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA) found in some plastics may interfere with normal hormone function, which increases the likelihood of obesity.

Have I gotten your attention yet? Read on.

WHAT WE CAN DO

Exposure to many of these chemicals is unavoidable due to their intrinsic presence in our everyday lives. We breathe in polluted air, we live in homes that release toxins and we eat foods the are grown with pesticides. However, we can take steps to minimize our exposure to unsafe chemicals.

So what can we do? Do our research. Choose safe products. Use our purchasing power to tell companies that we demand healthier products.

There’s no better time to start making smarter choices than when you’re bringing a new life into the world.

CHEMICALS TO AVOID

As you begin to develop your baby registry, you should become familiar with this list of harmful chemicals that are found in many baby products. Avoid these like the plague.

BPA canBisphenol A (BPA) – A commonly-used chemical found in some plastics and resins. BPA can mimic hormones in the body and interfere with reproductive growth. It has also been linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, breast and prostate cancer, fetal brain development and asthma (see recent article).

What is it in? Polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles. Epoxy resins are used to coat the inside of metal products, such as food cans, bottle tops and water supply lines. Many other products contain BPA, as well as store receipts, dental fillings and sealants, dental and medical devices, sports equipment, household electronics, CDs and DVDs.

How to avoid it:

  • Look for “BPA free” claims on foods and products
  • Avoid products that have a #7 symbol near the recycling symbol on the packaging
  • Buy and store foods in glass containers instead of plastic
  • Use fresh, frozen, or dried products versus canned
  • Avoid microwaving foods in plastic containers
  • Do not wash plastic containers in the dishwasher or use harsh detergents on them
  • Choose wooden toys instead of plastic
  • Breastfeed or use glass bottles

Graco-My-Size-65-Convertible-Car-SeatFlame retardants – Chemicals added to products to reduce flammability. Flame retardants can cause a number of adverse health effects, including lowered IQ in children, reduced fertility and hormone disruption. Studies have found that toddlers have three to four times the level of toxic flame retardants in their bodies compared to their parents. Flame retardants off-gas in our home and settle into dust that is ingested.

What are they in? Products containing polyurethane foam most likely contain them. Furniture, textiles, plastics and baby products such as car seats, changing table pads and many other baby products can carry flame retardants. (See: “These Chemicals Are in 80% of Baby Products”)

How to avoid them:

  • Use products that contain natural fibers like down, wool or cotton (preferably organic cotton)
  • Avoid foam products, especially those made before 2005
  • tb 117 labelLook for the TB 117 label, which indicates flame retardants are present. Products made in 2015 and after have a new flame retardant label that provides more information (see details).
  • Wash hands frequently
  • Minimize dust in your home by using a vacuum with a HEPA filter and a wet mop on floors
  • Research products when buying new to make sure they don’t contain flame retardants. Healthystuff.org is a great resource.

Tip: Before buying any gear, it’s worth checking out this study conducted by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH). It grades brands on their level of flame retardants in this flame retardants report card.

wood chips

Formaldehyde – A colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical that has been classified as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Studies have suggested formaldehyde exposure is associated with certain types of cancer, particularly of the nose and throat. Formaldehyde is most dangerous when inhaled.

What is it in?  Building materials (especially manufactured woods), furniture, cars, glues, stains/lacquers, household products, personal care products and cosmetics.

How to avoid it:

  • Look for furniture made of certified sustainable wood and solid wood only (no pressed or engineered wood – including particleboard, plywood, fiberboard, and medium density fiberboard)
  • Minimize exposure by letting materials “off-gas” outside, reducing humidity with A/C and increasing ventilation inside the home
  • For personal care products, look for those with “no formaldehyde,” “non-toxic,” “VOC free” or “biodegradable” on the packaging. Avoid this list of chemicals.

FragranceAccording to federal labelling laws, the word “fragrance” is a generic “catch all” term that includes 3,000 different ingredients. One of those ingredients, called styrene, has been identified as a probable cancer-causing substance according to the National Academy of Sciences. Currently, there is no way of knowing which products with “fragrance” contain styrene. When considering the number of household products that could contain styrene, the amount of exposures to a probable carcinogen is dangerously high. Products with fragrance may also contain phthalates. It is best to avoid fragrances whenever possible.

What is it in? Cosmetics, personal care products (e.g., lotions, shampoos, hand soaps, etc.) and household products (dish soap, laundry detergent, cleaning products, etc.).

How to avoid it:

  • Buy fragrance-free products
  • Avoid products that use synthetic fragrances

Lead – A heavy metal known as a neurotoxin. No level of lead is safe, especially for children. Studies have linked lead exposure to health problems, including permanent brain damage, lowered IQ, hearing loss, miscarriage, premature birth, high blood pressure and kidney damage. Lead passes through the lungs into the blood where it can harm many of the body’s organ systems. Lead can also enter the body through accidental ingestion (eating, drinking, and smoking) via contaminated hands, clothing, and surfaces).

What is it in? Industrial practices have contaminated our soil and water with lead, and some manufacturers add it to products we use daily. Lead can be found in soil, water, food, paint, jewelry, furniture, keys, toys (especially older toys and those made in China) and many other consumer products.

How to avoid it:

  • Wash your children’s hands after outdoor play, before eating and at bedtime to avoid hand-to-mouth transfer of contaminated soil and dust
  • Wash toys regularly
  • Remove shoes before entering the home
  • Have your water tested for lead, and run your water for at least a minute before using if you have older plumbing containing lead pipes or fillings
  • Do not allow children to play with keys
  • Avoid antique toys made before 1978 and those manufactured in China or India
  • Avoid contact with lead-based paint, which as banned in 1978

Sesame Street soapParabensPreservatives commonly used in cosmetics and personal care products, and occasionally used in prepared foods, beverages, and medications. Parabens can trigger skin allergy and irritation, and may be linked to hormone disruption and breast cancer.

What are they in? Cosmetics (make up, styling products, perfume, etc.), personal care products (moisturizers, shampoo, body wash, lotions, etc.), prepared foods, beverages and medications.

How to avoid them:

  • Look for paraben-free products
  • Use oil-based organic products that don’t contain water (which calls for a preservative)
  • Avoid these most commonly used parabens: methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben. These can be found on a product’s ingredient list.

Phthalates – A class of chemicals used as a softening agent that is often combined with PVCs. Studies have linked phthalates to a number of health impacts, including hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects, behavioral problems, premature birth, and respiratory difficulties in children. People are exposed to phthalates in two ways: 1) eating and drinking foods from containers that have come into contact with phthalates and 2) inhaling dust containing phthalates. Children are at higher risk of ingesting phthalates through dust because of their tendency to put their hands and objects in their mouths.

What is it in?  Plastic toys, household products, plastic bottles/containers, cosmetics, personal care products, building materials, vinyl flooring, medical devices, backpacks, shower curtains, adhesives, dyes, inks, insect repellents, cars, food and water.

How to avoid it:

  • Avoid plastic altogether whenever possible.bpa-free-plastic-guidelines
  • Choose safer plastics; look for those with a “2,” “4” or “5” on the packaging.
  • Choose products with “fragrance free” and “phthalate free” claims.
  • Do the “sniff test.” The “new car” or “plastic” smell usually comes from phthalates present in the product.
  • Do not use hand-me-down plastic toys, teethers, bottles and feeding products manufactured before 2009. Laws were put in place that year which banned several types of phthalates after that date.
  • Eat organic meats, produce and dairy. Conventional farming practices can cause phthalates to leach into our food chain.
  • Invest in a water filter to remove DEHP, which is the type of phthalate used in water pipes.

PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) – PVC is the most toxic plastic. It is made from the flammable gas, called vinyl chloride, which is a known human carcinogen. PVC releases vapors (called “off-gassing”) that can be inhaled. A softer, squishy form of PVC plastic is often combined with softening agents, called phthalates.

PVC’s manufacturing process also releases dioxins that enter our food chain through animals and accumulate in human fat when we eat meat and dairy products. These dioxins cause a wide range of health effects including cancer, birth defects, diabetes, learning and developmental delays, endometriosis and immune system abnormalities.

poison pvc

What is it in? Items ranging from pacifiers and water bottles to toys, shower curtains and vinyl flooring.

How to avoid it: Stay away from products containing a #3 or “PVC” near the recycling symbol on the packaging. Better yet, avoid plastics altogether whenever possible.

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound) – Gases that are emitted from certain solids or liquids. Some occur naturally in the environment, but others are synthetic and hazardous to our health. In the short-term, these chemicals can irritate the eyes and throat. The long term impact is more serious. One potential effect is cancer. Some commonly know VOCs are formaldehyde and benzene. Concentration levels of VOCs are up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors.

What is it in? Cleaning supplies, pesticides, manufactured woods (pressed wood, particleboard/chipboard, plywood, MDF), building materials, paints and finishes, foam furniture, mattresses, cosmetics, vinyl, air fresheners and fuel.

particle-board-300x234

How to avoid it: 

  • Use low-VOC or VOC-free paint and water-based (vs. oil-based) polyurethane in homes
  • Choose solid wood over manufactured woods, including particleboard, plywood and MDF (medium density fiberboard)
  • Look for furniture made of certified sustainable wood and solid wood only
  • Select carpets made of natural materials and free of chemicals
  • Look for safer and healthier flooring options like ceramic tile, linoleum, hardwood sealed with water-based finishes (see tips here)
  • Avoid fragrances
  • Keep computers and other electronics away from children

Now let’s look at how all of this applies to your baby registry.

CREATING A HEALTHY, NON-TOXIC BABY REGISTRY

As parents, we are born with an intense primal instinct to protect our young. Knowledge about our toxic environment can cause us to go into protection mode and search relentlessly for safe baby products. We want to do all we can to protect our little treasures from unnecessary chemicals. I am here to help you with that quest.

Fortunately, companies are beginning to offering safer, healthier products to meet parents’ increasing demand. Unfortunately, these products come at a high cost. For this reason, you should prioritize your splurges based on what is most important to you (unless money is not a roadblock). Focus on where your baby will be spending the most time (e.g., bed, baby carrier, car seat, etc.) Quell your concerns by recognizing you’re making informed, thoughtful choices.

Mindful buying is also important. Before clicking that “Add to Registry” button, ask yourself if you really must have that product. While many of the baby items available are useful, others release harmful fumes/chemicals into our homes, collect dust, clutter our rooms and end up in landfills. “Buy less” and “buy better” is a smart rule of thumb.

Lastly, try not to let the “stuff” distract you from what truly matters – your nurturing love.

Now . . . on to the good stuff.

CLOTHING

Babies only need a few basics during the newborn stage. They will go through clothes so quickly during the first 6 months that you’ll barely even have time to enjoy them. Keep it simple and minimalist at this stage.

The essentials:

  • One-pieces (onsies) preferably with snaps or zippers down the front or side for easy dressing
  • Bodysuits in short sleeves and long sleeves
  • Leggings or pants
  • Pajamas (one-pieces)
  • Booties
  • A few hats

The number of each you buy depends on how often you intend to do laundry. I recommend a minimum of 2-3 of each type listed above.

 What to look for:

Ideally, all of these should be untreated, certified organic cotton. The purer the fabric, the better it is for their sensitive skin. The most eco-friendly choice, though it may not be the most glamorous, is hand-me-downs. Not only are they better for the environment, but they’re also healthier for your baby because repeated washings helps eliminate chemicals that may have been used in the manufacturing process.

When buying new clothes, organic cotton or wool is the best choice. Fabrics made of bamboo, hemp and flax are also good choices, but they tend to be more expensive and hard to find. These fabrics are typically made without chemical treatments.

Realistically, it’s hard to buy all organic clothing because it’s both expensive and scarce. Let’s face it, clothes from Gymboree and Target are adorable and cheap. That said, I recommend splurging on organic pajamas since babies spend the majority of their time in them. When buying “conventional” baby clothes, always wash them with eco-friendly fragrance-free detergent before wearing. This helps minimize the chemicals your baby could be exposed to.

Other certifications to look for:

  • 100% organic cotton
  • OEKO-TEX® Standard 100, an independent testing and certification system for textiles that ensures the materials and all its components are free of harmful substances.
  • The GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) certification. This certification ensures the product is free of toxins and made from fiber and fabrics certified by Europe’s National Organic Program. Products made according to this standard must be made from at least 70% certified organic natural fibers.

Avoid:

  • Polyester and polyester-blend clothing (many contain synthetic fabric finishes)
  • Harsh dyes

 Recommended Brands:burts-bees-screenshot

Burt’s Bees onsies ($25 for a set of two) – Soft, simple, affordable and practical infant clothes made of 100% organic cotton.

Under the Nile ($12) – Pure organic Egyptian cotton pieces that are GOTS certified. All clothing is made without harsh AZO dyes, flame retardants or formaldehyde. As an added bonus, they’re available in cute prints and patternsHanna Blue

Hanna Andersson ($20 – $40) – Adorable clothing that is certified by OEKO-TEX® Standard 100. Many pieces are also 100% organic cotton. If you feel compelled, you can buy matching pajamas for the entire family.

SLEEP

Babies spend most of their time sleeping, so a healthy bed should be a priority. Where and what your baby sleeps in is a very personal choice. Some parents co-sleep, others use a bassinet or portable crib in their bedroom, and some use a crib located in separate room. Most parents will opt for a combination of these options. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends sharing a room for 6 months to one year, although many parents choose to move their babies into a separate room at a younger age. Whatever you choose, below is what you’ll need.

The essentials:

  • A crib, cradle, bassinet, co-sleeper, portable crib or play yard that meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
  • A firm mattress
  • Fitted sheet designed for that particular product (organic cotton)

Personally, I recommend getting a small, portable crib/bassinet/co-sleeper to place next to your bed during the time you plan on sharing a room with your baby. When you’re getting two to four consecutive hours of sleep per night, wouldn’t you prefer to barely leave your bedside to feed your baby? Exactly. During the first few months, you will want your baby to be as close to you as possible for comfort, convenience and peace of mind. When your baby is older, you can place him/her in a crib in a separate room if that option is available.

CRIBS/BASSINETS/CRADLES/PORTABLE CRIBS

Most parents choose to have a bassinet, cradle or portable crib for at least the first few months.

Borrowing a bassinet or cradle is the more practical and eco-friendly option since you only need them for a short period of time. A crib is a longer-term item that can be used for up to 4 years.

What to look for:

  • Solid wood
  • A water-based, non-toxic finish that contains no VOCs (or, better yet, one that is unfinished)
  • Lead, phthalate and formaldehyde-free
  • Made in the USA or Europe. Imported cribs, especially those manufactured in Asia (i.e., China, Vietnam, etc.) are not subject to regular third-party oversight or government regulation, so they may not be up to our health and safety standards.

Avoid:

  • Engineered wood (also called “composite” wood), including particleboard, plywood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and veneers. All of these typically contain added formaldehyde as a bonding agent.
  • Glues that contain formaldehyde
  • VOCs found in paints, adhesives, lacquers and finishes used on cribs
  • Lead and phthalates commonly found in wood finishes and coatings
  • Polyurethane found in some wood finishes

See more details here. Also see Healthy Child Healthy World for healthy nursery tips.

Recommended Brands:

nuna-senaNuna Sena Playard ($300) – This was one of our most-used purchases. It can be used as both a portable crib as well as a “safe” spot to put your baby/toddler when you need some hands free time at home. All fabrics are OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certified and free of flame retardants and pesticides. It comes with an organic sheet that fits over a quilted mattress. The platform’s height can also be adjusted to grow with your baby. A bassinet can also be attached, so this is truly an all-in-one product (and less waste.)Baby Bjorn cradle

Baby Bjorn Cradle ($280 – $350) – Uses quality fabrics and materials that are OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certified for baby products. It is lightweight and easy to use.

Monte Design Ninna Nanna Bassinet ($395) – Handcrafted in Canada and made of eco-friendly materials including plant-based foam*, water-based and biodegradable ninna-nannaadhesives, OEKO-TEX® certified fabrics and FSC-certified wood. All of their products are free of flame retardants. (It is also a beautiful piece of furniture.)

*Note: “Plant-based” foam is still primarily made of petroleum, which can have adverse health effects. (See below explanation in “Mattress” section.)

nest cribNest Crib by Room & Board ($699) – A solid wood crib with a non-toxic lacquer finish that is free of lead, phthalates and VOCs. Wood is sustainably sourced and carbon negative. We own this crib and highly recommend it. The crib can be converted into a toddler bed, giving you at least 2-4 years of use per child.

(See this post for more info on cribs.)

MATTRESSES

Mattresses are often the most toxic item in homes. Many contain petroleum-based foams, formaldehyde, heavy metals and flame retardants that are used to meet safety standards. Since the majority of babies’ lives are spent sleeping, it is important to protect them from being exposed to these harmful toxins.

What to look for:

 Avoid:

  • Flame retardants
  • Waterproof mattress that contain a PVC/vinyl coating, which is a probable carcinogen. A better alternative is a Naturepedic Organic Non Waterproof Flannel Flat Crib Protector Pad.
  • Antibacterial or stain treatments, typically coated with PFCs, a chemical that is toxic to humans
  • Memory foam made of polyurethane, which disintegrates over time and emits VOCs
  • First- and second-party certifications that are made by either the mattress manufacturer or trade associations, such at CertiPUR-US (more on certifications here)

Note: “Plant-based foams” sound good, but often the amount of plant-based material in the foam is minimal (under 20%). These foams are still primarily made of petroleum which can affect the nervous and immune systems. Although these products are better than 100% polyurethane foam, be wary of these “greenwashing” claims.

Recommended Brand: 

Finding a “clean” mattress is extremely difficult. After an exhaustive search, Naturepedic is my mattress of choice (and this source agrees). They are the most awarded and certified brand than any other mattress company. Other brands worth considering are Savvy Rest and Soaring Hearts.

Naturepedic Crib MattressNaturepedic Organic Cotton Classic 2-Stage Crib Mattress ($299) – Naturepedic makes an organic cotton mattresses that is GOTS and GREENGUARD Gold certified. While the cost for an organic mattress is high, it’s worth its price in gold when you think about how much time your baby will spend on it. Naturepedic’s mattresses are flame resistant without the use of flame retardant chemicals. It also has an easy-to-clean 100% polyethylene waterproof surface to protect against accidents, which is pure enough to meet food standards, We’ve had this one for over three years and couldn’t be happier with it.

BEDDING

Your baby’s bed should have a fitted sheet that fits the mattress snuggly for safety reasons. Similar to the bed and mattress, bedding should be chosen carefully because of the high amount of time your baby will spend on it.

What to look for:

  • Organic fibers are best, followed by Oeko-Tex® certified fabrics, and then those produced according to Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
  • If you buy new conventionally grown cotton bedding, simply wash it a few times to get rid of any chemicals that have been applied to the fabric.

Avoid:

  • Textiles labelled “permanent press,” “stain resistant,” “antibacterial,” or any other type of signal word that implies the bedding has been treated.

Recommended Brands:

Burt’s Bees, Baby Bjorn, Under the Nile, or any of these options from Sprout.

under the nile beddingPerhaps the best choice (and budget-friendly) is gently used bedding made of natural fibers. It’s likely been washed enough to significantly reduce any chemical treatments and is better for the environment than buying new. Ebay is a great place to find used bedding.

GEAR

Gear is quite often the most overbought category. Many parents (including myself) buy gear we don’t actually need.

As a general rule, try to avoid bringing unnecessary plastic and foam that contain phthalates, flame retardants and heavy metals. Wise parents should do their research to help them determine whether the product is something they truly need or just a “nice-to-have” item. The next step is to find the healthiest, most responsible choice.

The essentials:

What do you actually need? A few items should definitely be on your list.

  • Car seat – This should be purchased before your baby is born so you can drive him/her home from the hospital and to pediatrician appointments.
  • Baby carrier or stroller – Either or both of these items are essential to safely and easily carrying your baby while in transit. Carrying your baby in your arms for long distances, up long stairwells or down uneven streets and sidewalks in not a wise decision. In my experience, a baby carrier was more important than a stroller at infancy. Not only is it easier to transport, but it also allows you to bond with your baby and provide comfort as he/she adjusts during the first few months. Our son preferred the carrier over the stroller until he outgrew it. Our carrier was used much more frequently than our ridiculously overpriced stroller during this time. (Note: The Bugaboo Bee is not recommended).

Nice-to-haves:

What gear is unnecessary? That depends on who you ask. Swings, bouncers, rockers and saucers provide convenience and “hands-free” time (which is a necessity). However, each baby has his/her own preferences. Our first son never liked the swing, which was a blessing because it brings in unnecessary plastics and chemicals into the home. Our second son, on the other hand, loved it. We borrowed swings, bouncers and seats from friends to minimize regrettable purchases that end up in landfills. If possible, try to borrow these items so you can get a sense of what works for your baby before buying them.

Personally, I believe the best investment is a soft padded blanket or activity gym. Placing babies on the floor allows them to move their arms and legs freely so they can build strength and mobility. If the floor isn’t working, then a “contraption” may be the next best option if you need some hands-free time. Having a few bouncers or seats in the house to offer relief when you need a moment to go to the bathroom, prepare a meal, get dressed, etc. is extremely helpful.

When buying gear, a list of “green” criteria should be considered. Third-party resources such as HealthyStuff.org, Center for Environmental Health and Healthy Child Healthy World are great resources for specific recommendations and reports.

CAR SEATS

The first decision to make is whether to buy an infant seat or a convertible car seat. Most people opt for an infant car seat because babies fit more snuggly in them and they can be removed from the car and attached to a “travel system” (e.g., stroller with an adapter.) Others see the advantage of purchasing a convertible car seat because it can grow with the child. The decision is a personal choice. Check out this buying guide for more recommendations on how to choose the best seat for your family.

From a health and safety perspective, safety ratings and toxicity are the main factors to consider when purchasing a car seat. Sadly, nearly all car seats currently on the market in the U.S. contain flame retardants due to government regulations. Most flame retardants fall into these three classes: brominated, chlorinated and phosphate-based. Brominated and chlorinated (also known as halogenated) are the most toxic. Some companies, such as Britax and Clek, have moved away from using this class of flame retardants. However, not all replacements that companies have chosen to use are necessarily healthier options.

HealthStuff.org publishes regular studies on the levels and type of flame retardants in popular car seat brands. The most recent study was conducted in 2016. According to this study, Britax and Maxi-Cosi had the lowest level of flame retardants of all the models tested. Clek and Orbit Baby are also recommended, although this article revealed some deceptive claims made by Orbit Baby. More on these issues can be found in this press release.

HealthyStuffCarSeats

UPPAbaby recently released the first flame retardant-free car seat (the MESA “Henry”). Some brands, such as Clek and Nuna, make car seats that use Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 or GREENGUARD® certified fabrics. Both the type of flame retardants present and the fabrics used should be considered when purchasing a car seat.

What to look for:

Avoid:

  • Toxic flame retardants (especially halogenated, as noted above)
  • Heavy metals like lead and arsenic
  • PVCs (used in the plastics)

Recommended Brands:Britax

Britax B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat ($150) – The seat is highly regarded because of its high safety ratings, value and low levels of flame retardants.

Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Seat  ($280) – This seat had the lowest level of flame retardants out of those tested in this study. It
also has the latest safety features and is easy to install.Maxi Cosi

Maxi-Cosi Pria 70  ($225) – This was also a highly recommended seat due to its low level of flame retardants. It is known for its optimal fit and side impact technology.

UPPAbaby MESA “Henry” ($350) – The only flame retardant-free car seat. The UPPABaby MESA “Henry” has a merino wool cover that is naturally flame resistant. Word has already been spreading across the car seat blogs. Big news!

Note: We bought the Chicco KeyFit 30 before doing proper research into the type and level of flame retardants used (see chart above). When I emailed the company to inquire about the flame retardants used, they said, “All Chicco products meet or exceed the stringent safety standards in the US and at an international level. Chicco is committed to constantly improving products and materials in order to provide state of the art items which meet the strictest safety standards and our consumers’ expectations.” I found that answer to be intentionally vague. They ignored my two follow up emails asking them to specify the type of flame retardants they use. We have a right to know what chemicals our babies are being exposed to. I don’t trust this brand.

STROLLERS 

A stroller is another piece of gear that is used frequently by most parents. Lifestyle, preference and usage should all be considered when making this purchase. For example, if you plan to primarily use your stroller to walk around the neighborhood, size and portability may be of less concern to you than to those who travel often. Something else to keep in mind is that many strollers are made for 6 months and up (due to lack of proper head support). If you plan to use a stroller starting at infancy, you will need to either find one that lays flat or purchase an adapter that allows you to attach your car seat to the stroller.

Finding reliable information on the toxicity of strollers is a difficult task. Some strollers contain flame retardants, and many also contain fabric with toxic coatings (i.e., stain resistance, waterproofing, etc.) and PVC. The only way to ensure many of these toxic chemicals are not in the stroller is to search for the criteria below.

What to look for:

  • OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 or GOTS certified fabrics
  • PVC-free materials

Avoid:

  • Flame retardants, especially polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) which are commonly used.
  • Polyurethane foam (most contain flame retardants)
  • Toxic fabric coatings often used in waterproof, stain resistant and antimicrobial treatments. Beware of PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals) being used in these treatments.
  • Plastics containing PVC, BPA and phthalates
  • Vinyl linings and covers (most contain PVC)

Recommended Brands:

This post also provides some findings and recommendations on “non-toxic” strollers, although it was published in 2014. That said, here are some recommendations based on current product offerings and descriptions:nuna pepp

Nuna Pepp ($250) – Made with OEKO-TEX® certified fabric. Lies flat and can be used from infancy to toddlerhood. Easy to maneuver.

Bumbleride ($529) – Made of OEKO-TEX® certified fabrics and PVC-free plastics. Can be used from birth to toddlerhood. Lightweight frame and easy to fold.

BOB strollerNote: We own the BOB Revolution ($380) stroller and it was truly the best purchases we ever made. BOB strollers are not treated with any flame retardants, although it is unclear if the materials are PVC-free. The suspension system is one of the best in class for a smooth ride. The front wheel can maneuver around tight turns or lock when running for extra stability. It has so many smart features like a handle brake and a peep window in the canopy. It’s a perfect running and “around town” stroller.

BABY CARRIERS

Baby carriers are not only convenient and portable, but they’re also a great way to bond with your baby while you move about “hands free.” Baby wearing has many benefits to both parents and babies. Most importantly, it gives babies the human contact they need to make them feel safe.

The type of carrier you choose depends on your personal preference. I recommend trying a handful of different ones so you can see what is most comfortable and appropriate for your lifestyle. If possible, borrow one or accept hand-me-downs. It takes time to figure out which one works best for you and your baby. This is a great guide on the latest carriers.

What to look for:

  • 100% organic cotton, OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 or GOTS-certified fabrics

Avoid:

  • Polyurethane foam found in some fillings, which can contain flame retardants
  • Harsh dyes (i.e., azo)

Recommended Brands:

Ergobaby BrownErgobaby Organic Baby Carrier ($100) A comfortable, stable carrier that supports the natural sitting position of babies and eliminates stress on the back and hips. Made of 100% organic cotton. This is my personal favorite. If you plan on using it right away, you’ll also need the organic infant insert ($36).

Note: The Ergobaby 360 ($135) is an amazing piece of gear. While pricey, it is the only carrier you will ever need. It can be adjusted to four different carry positions (two front positions, hip and back.) The downside is that it only comes in polyester fabric, but you can get an organic cotton infant insert ($35) to help reduce skin to skin contact with the polyester.Boba

Baby Boba Organic Wrap ($50) – This wrap is comfortable, soft, portable and easy once you get the hang of it. This one is 95% organic cotton.

SEATS, SWINGS, BOUNCERS AND BLANKETS

As mentioned above, a blanket on floor is typically the best place to put babies when they are awake. When babies are lying down, they can move around freely which builds their strength and mobility. That said, a “contraption” is sometimes necessary for when he/she wants to be in a more upright position. It’s nice to have several options because babies are often finicky about their positions.

What to look for:

  • 100% organic cotton, OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 or GOTS-certified fabrics
  • PVC-free
  • Products made after 2014. As mentioned above, many baby products manufactured after this date were exempted from the flammability regulations, and therefore, contain fewer or no flame retardants.

Avoid:

  • Flame retardants
  • Polyurethane foam
  • Plastics containing PVC, BPA and phthalates

Baby Bjorn bouncer

Recommended Brands:

Baby Bjorn Bouncer ($160) – This bouncer is made of organic cotton and OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certified fabrics. It naturally helps babies develop balance and motor skills by using their own movements. The design provides proper back and neck support by evenly distributing your baby’s weight. No batteries or plugs required, making this an even more eco-friendly option.

nuna leafNuna Leaf Lounger ($230) – This bouncer comes with an organic cotton insert and is made with OEKO-TEX® certified fabrics. It is a “natural” swing that sways on its own with a gentle push. No motor or sounds that require batteries and plugs. Holds up to 130 lbs. It’s a great product but extremely pricey for a chair. Try to find this used for a more reasonable price.

Nook LilyPad playmatLilyPad Play Mat ($120) – This play mat is OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certified and free of toxic chemicals. It is foam free and instead uses a non-toxic air spacer cushion.

jungleplaymatOrganic Jungle Play Mat my MiYim ($24.99) – This is my ultimate favorite product,but unfortunately it’s no longer available at giggle or Amazon. The play mat is made of 100% certified organic cotton and plant-based dyes that are gentle on your baby’s skin. This plush, super soft mat also comes with a pillow to place underneath your baby’s head or beneath the chest during tummy time. We used this every day when our sons were infants.

Etsy also has some nice options such as this organic padded round rug. More blankets and play mats like this can be found on Etsy.

HAPE ACTIVITY GYMHape My First Gym ($50) – This is a great way to spark your baby’s curiosity and encourage movement. It’s made of wood from FSC sustainable forests and all finishes are non-toxic and child safe.

NOTE: We used a few Fisher-Price bouncers that were handed down from friends. Because it was unclear whether the fillings contains flame retardants, we made sure to wash the covers a few times before using them and put an organic cotton blanket on top of the padding as a barrier.

DIAPERING

The essentials:

  • Diapers (cloth or disposable) to get you through the first month. Aim for 8-10 diapers a day.
  • Cotton pads or cloths for the first month. Wipes shouldn’t be used on newborns’ sensitive skin (unless you use Water Wipes).
  • A stash of wipes to use when your baby is older than one month.

DIAPERS

Since diapers are on to your baby 24/7, your choice should be carefully considered. No matter which option you choose – cloth or disposable – your decision will effect the environment and their health.

Babies will go through 5,000 – 8,000 diaper changes (yikes!). Both cloth and disposable diapers will leave a footprint, but disposables will have a longer-term impact on the environment. An estimated 20 billion diapers end up in our landfills each year, and studies have shown they take up to 500 years to degrade. Although cloth diapers also take their toll on the environment, they leave a lighter mark.

Health and safety factors should also be considered when choosing diapers. In addition to waste, some disposable diapers also contain harmful chemicals. However, few studies have been conducted on the effects these chemicals have on babies, and this article will make you feel a little better about conventional diapers’ safety. However, when it comes our “little treasures,” erring on the side of caution is the path I like to choose.

While cloth diapers are the more eco-friendly choice, most parents choose disposable diapers for practicality purposes. Fortunately, there are healthier and more eco-friendly options available to us these days.

What to look for (if using disposables):

Manufacturers are not required to reveal the ingredients used in their diapers. To avoid harmful chemicals, look for these claims that ensure what is not in them:

  • Chlorine-free
  • Fragrance, dye and lotion-free

Avoid:

These are the most commonly found, potentially harmful ingredients found in diapers:

  • Dioxin – A bi-product of the chlorine used to bleach diapers. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to dioxins may cause skin reactions and altered liver function and impairments to the immune system, nervous system, endocrine system and reproductive functions.
  • Sodium polyacrylate (SAP) – A super absorbent chemical compound that was banned from tampons in 1980. These chemicals can also emit gases like toluene, xylene and styrene.
  • Tributyl-tin (TBT) – This chemical is extremely toxic to aquatic life and causes endocrine disruptions. Some studies have also shown that they can trigger genes that promote the growth of fat cells, causing obesity in humans.
  • Fragrance, dyes and lotions – These are added to diapers for a variety of reasons. Some research has shown that up to 20% of diaper rashes could be caused by petroleum-based dyes used in diapers.

Recommended Brand:

After trying several “green” brands (Honest Company, Earth’s Best, Seventh Generation), Bambo Nature is by far my favorite brand. This Bambo natureguide gives a detailed comparison of several disposable diaper brands, with Bambo Nature listed as the top choice. Bambo Nature is also the top rated diaper in this blog. These diapers rarely leak, fit comfortably and are super absorbent. They are free of harmful chemicals and known allergens. Bambo Nature has several certifications to legitimize their claims, including a hypoallergenic and FSC certification.

Others worth trying:

Broody Chick

Broody Chick – Compostable diapers made with plant-based SAP. These diapers are chlorine free, hypo-allergenic, fragrance free and breathable.

Earth’s Best – These diapers are also chlorine free, hypo-allergenic, fragrance free, dye free and latex free. The absorbent material is made out of corn and wheat. We had some leakage problems with this brand.

honest diapersHonest Company – As much as I wanted to like the Honest Company diapers, they just didn’t work for us. They constantly leaked and ran small. Too bad, because those designs are adorable. Like the other diapers above, these also use plant-based materials in place of some petroleum-based chemicals.

WIPES

Wipes are generally not recommended to be used until your baby is over one month old. Cotton or cloth should be used instead to avoid irritating their sensitive skin during this period. When your baby is ready, wipes are typically the most convenient and efficacious option.

Many mainstream wipes are full of harmful chemicals like fragrance, alcohol and other irritants. Below are some general guidelines for choosing wipes free of harmful chemicals.

What to look for:

  • Fragrance free
  • Hypo-allergenic
  • Alcohol free

Avoid:

Recommended Brands:

water wipesWater Wipes – These chemical free wipes contain 99.9% purified water and a drop of fruit extract. They’re so gentle that they can be used from birth. Highest rated wipes by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database.

Honest Company Wipes – Biodegradable and plant-based, these wipes are made without alcohol, fragrance and chlorine. They’re infused with pomegranate, chamomile, cucumber & masterwort leaf which makes them smell yummy, too.

Babyganics – Made with plant-based, no-allergenic ingredients without alcohol, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, artificial dyes or fragrances.

FEEDING

Feeding is something you’ll spend the majority of your time doing during the first few months. The right preparation will give you the confidence and resources you need if any issues arise.

The essentials:

  • Bottles
  • A breast pump
  • Formula if needed

Nice-to-haves:

  • Nursing pillow
  • Highchair
  • Bibs

BOTTLES

Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, you will want to have bottles and a breast pump on hand for a number of reasons (e.g., low birth weight, latching issues, time away, etc.). It is best to be prepared for any scenario ahead of time.

When purchasing bottles, glass is the cleanest, purest choice. Silicone sleeves can be purchased for most bottles that makes them easier to grip and less likely to shatter. Plastic can also be a safe option, but not all plastics are created equal. “Cloudy” plastics (see below) are safer choices that are typically BPA-free. Nipples should be made of silicone, which is safer and more stable than yellow rubber or latex.

What to look for:

  • Glass
  • If buying plastic, choose polyethylene (#1), polyethersulfone (PES) polyamide (PA) or polypropylene (#5)
  • Silicone nipples

Avoid:

  • Plastics containing BPA or phthalates
  • Synthetic rubber (petroleum-based) or latex nipples

Recommended Brands:Born Free

Born Free Breeze ($16) – These bottles are available in both glass and BPA-free plastic. They have a modern design, anti-colic vent and breastfeeding-like nipple, but what people love most about is it’s is easy to clean. The nipple is all one piece, so you only need to clean the bottle and top without taking apart a bunch of tiny pieces.

thinkbabyThinkbaby ($10) – These BPA-free polypropylene bottles have a patented venting system that helps reduce colic. They also have an hourglass shape that make them easy to grip.

lifefactory bottleLifefactory ($15) – These no-frills glass bottles come with a silicone sleeve to help prevent breakage.

dr. brownsDr. Brown’s ($20) – These have been the notorious anti-colic bottles for decades. They have a vent system that helps prevent colic, spit up, burping and gas. Available in both BPA-free plastic and glass.

More “green” recommendations here and innovative bottle recommendations here.

BREAST PUMPS

When choosing a pump, look for BPA and phthalate free options.

Tip: Most insurance plans will cover certain “approved” breast pumps. Although they may not be the top-of-the-line product, they are typically fine and serve their purpose. Purchasing or renting may become necessary if you’re not satisfied with your options or need a stronger, more efficient pump.

Recommended Brand:

medela pumpMedela offers BPA-free pumps, bags, accessories and storage sets. This pump comes with everything you need.

This blog shares a list of BPA and phthalate free pumps.

HIGH CHAIRS

Highchairs are not a necessity, but they help make feeding a bit easier and cleaner when babies begin eating solids (usually anywhere between 4 – 6 months.) Holding your baby in your lap is another option, but it can get messy when they’re eating purees. A highchair that can grow with your baby is ideal. The same chair can last many years.

What to look for:

  • Solid wood
  • Water-based stains and/or non-toxic paints that are formaldehyde and VOC-free

Avoid:

  • BPA, PVC and phthalates found in many plastics

Recommended Brands:

StokkeStokke Tripp Trapp ($249) – Non-toxic, sustainable and made of solid beech wood. The chair is adjustable and grows with your child. It doesn’t have a tray, so your baby is able to sit with the rest of the family at the dinner table (we love this feature).

OXO tot sproutOXO Tot Sprout ($199) – This chair is designed to grow with your child  from 6 months to 5 years. Made of wood, foam cushion, and plastic that are free of PVC, phthalates, and BPA.

KeekarooKeekaroo ($190) – Solid wood chair with a wood tray and BPA-free plastic cover. The chair is suitable for 6 month olds to adults up to 250 lbs.

Note: We had the “award-winning” Svan Signet chair for our first son. Despite all it’s attractive product features, we were extremely disappointed in the quality and ease-of-use. We’re currently borrowing the Stokke from a friend and could not be more pleased with it.

NURSING PILLOWS

Nursing pillows are an ingenious invention. They help make breastfeeding more comfortable (and enjoyable) for you and your baby. The last thing you want is to have tense shoulders and sore arms from breastfeeding. Nursing pillows are great to have at home, especially if you’re trying to eat, drink or just relax and stare in awe at your baby while you’re breastfeeding. Most pillows can also be used to help support your baby in a seated position once they have enough core strength to do so.

What to look for:

  • !00% organic, GOTS or OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certified materials
  • Filled with natural (e.g., wool, cotton, buckwheat, etc.) and/or organic materials

Avoid:

  • Flame retardants
  • Polyurethane and polystyrene foam – these contain VOCs and other chemicals that are suspected carcinogens and neurotoxins
  • PVC/vinyl waterproofing

Recommended Brands:

niche nursing pillowNiche Nursing Pillow ($100) – Made of organic kapok fill and treated with natural zinc to make it anti-mite, anti-mold, anti-fungal and hypoallergenic.

Holy Lamb nursing pillowHoly Lamb Organics Organic Nursing Pillow ($115) – This pillow is made with pure organic wool filling and an organic cotton cloth cover. Wool has many benefits. It helps regulate temperature regulation and is naturally antibacterial and flame resistant. This is a lot to spend on a nursing pillow, so I would only get this if you plan to get plenty of use out of it.

boppyBoppy Nursing Pillow ($30) – This is the most cost-effective option. Boppy is the most popular and mainstream option. Although the filling is made of polyester and cotton, you can get an organic cotton slipcover for it. My concerns about toxins were quelled by washing the pillow several times before using it and knowing that my arm was typically a barrier between my baby’s head and the pillow. (Note: Boppy has never used flame retardants in their pillows. See FAQs.)

This blog has more information on organic nursing pillow and recommended brands.

SOOTHING

There are different schools of thought on how to best sooth a baby. If you have not already heard of Harvey Karp, you should quickly become acquainted with the “5 S’s.” I highly recommend watching the Happiest Baby on the Block before your baby is born. These tips will come in handy on a daily basis.

PACIFIERS

Pacifiers can be controversial among parents and pediatricians. Some studies have shown that pacifiers can help reduce the risks of SIDS. Others are concerned that they might interfere with breast-feeding or become habitual. The Mayo Clinic offers some pros and cons.

Sucking is one of the best ways to soothe a baby, whether through breast-feeding, bottle feeding or a pacifier. Many fussy babies will relax instantaneously once they begin to suck. Pacifiers make this calming method easier. Personally, I’m a huge fan of pacifiers.

Silicone or natural rubber pacifiers should be chosen over latex, which may contain harmful chemicals. Look for pacifiers that are BPA and phthalate free. Despite the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s request for American manufacturers to remove phthalates from pacifiers and teethers for children under three, many have not complied. (These companies are seriously sneaky.)

Before buying a bunch of pacifiers, make sure your baby actually likes a pacifier. Babies may have a certain preference, so it is best to try out a few different types before committing to a specific brand.

What to look for:

  • Silicone or natural rubber

Avoid:

  • BPA, PVC and phthalates
  • Chemical softeners
  • Artificial coloring

Tip: It’s often hard to know if these chemicals are in pacifiers, so to be sure they are not, seek out brands that specifically state their pacifiers do NOT contain them.

Recommended Brands:

natursuttenNatursutten ($10) – These pacifiers are made of 100% rubber and contain no BPA, PVC, phthalates, chemical softeners, or artificial coloring. Conforms to pacifier-safety requirements as determined by European standards (which we all know are more stringent than American standards.)

Hevea ($9) – These are also made of 100% natural rubber and are PVC, BPA, phthalates & artificial color free. Their shape gives space for babies’ nose and chin and is soft and gentle on their faces.

More natural rubber options can be found here.

avent soothiePhillips Avent Soothie ($3) – A personal favorite in our family. These BPA-free silicone pacifiers are used by most hospitals. Although they do contain artificial coloring, they fit little mouths perfectly and tend to be favored by picky babies. Phillips has had some issues in the past, so be sure to stay apprised of the latest product recalls. Both our sons preferred this brand.

SWADDLES

When done correctly, swaddling is a great way to calm a baby and help them sleep. Be sure to read and understand all the safety tips for swaddling to get the best results. Once you’re done using them as swaddles, they will continue to come in handy. They can be used as floor blankets, sun shades, breastfeeding cover-ups, spit up rags . . . you name it.

What to look for:

  • !00% organic, GOTS or OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certified materials
  • Natural fibers like bamboo, cotton or hemp

Avoid:

  • Synthetic fabrics such as polyester, elastane, spandex, etc.

Recommended Brands:

aden & anaisAden & Anais organic swaddles ($54.95)- These soft, large and breathable swaddles will be the most versatile pieces you will own. They’re also made of GOTS certified organic cotton. The swaddles can also be used as covers, floor blankets, breastfeeding shields, bolsters, burp cloths, and an organic barrier on any surface. Never leave the house without at least two of them.

Halo sleep sackHalo Organic Sleep Sacks ($22) – We used these every night! The sleep sack provides a way to swaddle your baby’s upper body while allowing some freedom for the legs to move. They stay secure throughout the night so your baby can sleep comfortably. We loved how easy these were to put on.

GROOMING

Grooming your baby can be intimidating at first. And reasonably so because their bodies are so small and delicate. I was so nervous the first time I bathed both of my sons. Having a safe, supportive infant tub can help ease your fears and allow the experience to be enjoyable for both of you. Although it’s not a “necessity,” it does make bath time safer and easier.

Babies’ bodies should not be submerged in water until the umbilical cord stump falls off (and the circumcision has healed if your son had the procedure), which typically takes about two weeks. Sponge baths using soft, organic washcloths should be given to your baby during that time.

Gentle, non-toxic soaps and creams should be used on your baby’s delicate skin. Much of what is placed on our skin is absorbed into the bloodstream, and babies are especially vulnerable to the chemicals come into contact with their skin.  Products should be chosen carefully.

Nails will also need to be maintained to prevent scratching. Babies’ nails grow like weeds and can get very sharp. Emory boards from any drug store will do.

The essentials:

  • Washcloths and towels
  • Gentle soap/shampoo
  • Healing balm or cream
  • Emory boards

 Nice-to-haves

  • Infant bathtub

WASHCLOTHES & TOWELS

Washcloths can be used for bath time, dinner time and wiping mouths and noses. 100% organic, GOTS or OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified materials are best. Below are a few options:burts bees washcloths

Burt’s Bees washcloths ($5.99 for 3) – 100% organic cotton

Organic Cotton washcloths from Sprout ($16 for 10) – 100% organic cotton in medium weight terry.

This blog has more recommendations (but not all are organic.)

Hooded towels make drying off your baby easier and more efficient (plus, babies look adorable in them). They also help keep your baby warm as you carry him/her into another room. Some good options are:

burts bees hooded towel

Burt’s Bees Single Ply Hooded Towel ($12.95) – 100% organic cotton

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 9.10.08 PMSea Lion Hooded Towel from Sprout ($38) – Made with certified organic French terry for a super-soft feel

SOAPS & SHAMPOOS

Gentle, non-toxic soap and shampoo are a must. Not only can chemicals be absorbed by the skin and penetrate into the body, but they can also irritate babies’ sensitive skin.

What to look for:

  • Certified organic ingredients
  • Non-toxic
  • Biodegradable
  • Environmental Working Group (EWG) Verified™ or a score of 0 or 1 (use their Skin Deep database)

Avoid:

Recommended Brands:

Baby mantraBaby Mantra 3-in-1 Natural Bubble Bath, Shampoo and Soap ($12.99) – This all in one soap and shampoo is made with organic and non-toxic ingredients. It is an EWG Verified™ product, which means it meets EWG’s strict criteria and avoids all of their “restricted” chemicals. The light lavender scent and aloe vera calms your baby and leaves their skin feeling soft and moisturized.

Earth Mama Angel babyEarth Mama Angel Baby ($8) – The name says it all. This gentle, castile foaming shampoo and body wash is non-toxic, vegan, certified organic and cruelty-free. It’s not a tear-free formula, so you’ll have to be extra careful washing around your baby’s sensitive eyes. I’m a huge fan of this soap, especially the sweet orange and vanilla scent.

HEALING CREAMS & BALMS

Diaper creams and healing balms should be on-hand to treat diaper rashes and skin irritations. Products should be made with organic ingredients and be free of fragrances, parabens and petroleum.

Recommended Brands:

Earth Mama diaper balmEarth Mama Angel Baby ($10) – This product is made with organic herbs and oils that smell scrumptious. It helps prevent diaper rash and clear up minor skin irritations. This was one of my favorite products. It has a “1” EWG rating.

Honest diaper creamHonest Company Honest Diaper Rash Cream ($10) – This product is made with organic ingredients (sheaf butter, jojoba, tamandua, and coconut oils) and is hypoallergenic. It works by forming a protective barrier to help soothe irritated skin and reduces the severity of diaper rash. This is another great product that you can feel good about putting on your baby’s skin, and it’s available at many grocery and drug stores.

INFANT TUBS

An infant bathtub can turn a stressful task into an enjoyable bonding activity. When you’re worried about your baby slipping or flopping around, it’s difficult to revel in the playful spirit of a clean, happy baby. That’s why it’s important to get the right tub.

What to look for:

  • Safe plastics, such as polypropylene (PP)

Avoid:

  • BPA, phthalates, PVC

Recommended Brands:

Primo EurobathPRIMO EuroBath ($26) – This is one of my favorite purchases because of its smart design. The tub gently reclines on one side to support infants’ heads and prevent them from slipping. When babies are able sit, the tub can be turned around so they can bathe in a seated position. This tub is BPA, phthalate and lead-free. Made in the USA.

Boon Naked Infant Tub.jpgBoon Naked Collapsible Baby Bathtub ($48) – This tub can grow with your baby from newborn to toddlerhood. Its recline position cradles newborns and keeps their heads above water. The basin can then be fully-expanded to accommodate toddlers. It is BPA, phthalate and lead-free.

Both of these tubs are built to last at least two years, unlike some that are only designed for infants. Buying less is always is always the eco-friendlier option.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Don’t fret. Preparing for a baby can be extremely daunting and expensive, but your life will get richer in so many ways. Try not to let the “stuff” distract from what truly matters – your nurturing love.

Choose carefully, buy sparingly and reuse whenever possible. The more discerning we become about choosing safe products, the more companies will need to offer products that meet our demands. Our choices and voices can help make change and lead to safer products for everyone!

Sources:

Note: Healthy Child Healthy World is undergoing a relaunch. Please note that some links within this post are not currently working due to their website upgrade.

 

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The Big Decision: The tough choices we make as mothers

The toughest decision most of us have to make after our babies are born is whether or not to go back to work. The “having it all” myth has thankfully been debunked. The truth is that no matter whic…

Source: The Big Decision: The tough choices we make as mothers

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Big Decision: The tough choices we make as mothers

The toughest decision most of us have to make after our babies are born is whether or not to go back to work. The “having it all” myth has thankfully been debunked. The truth is that no matter which path we choose, we will need to make some sacrifices.

Many would argue that we’re lucky to live in the “post-feminism era.” The generation of women before us has fought hard to create a balance of power in the workplace, but this has led to making our decision even more difficult because we have more responsibilities and expectations. If we leave our jobs to be with our babies, we risk derailing our career trajectory and feeling as though we’re not living up to our potential. If we go back to work, we may experience sadness and guilt when we’re away from our babies and feel pressured to stay committed to our jobs despite new priorities at home.Working and stay at home mom

The conundrum has left me wondering how women have come so far in the workforce, yet so little has been done to help support our equally important job as a mother. The fact that the United States is the only developed country that doesn’t require paid maternity or paternity leave sends us a discouraging message about our culture’s values. We are faced with pressure and expectations from society, our spouses, our families, our peers and ourselves to make the “best decision.”

As more women have begun to have babies after we’ve established our careers, we struggle to balance our individual ambitions with our new responsibilities, desires and intense emotions that come with motherhood. This is my honest account of the decision I made, and my reflection on how I feel eight months later.

My Career, My Identity

Before my son was born, a large part of my identity had been tied to work. I evaluated my success in life by my career accomplishments and salary.

My reputation was also closely tied to my career. I met my husband and the majority of my closest friends at work, so their initial impressions of me were based on our interactions at the office. I was Kelly, the reliable, hard-working and amiable account executive. I was proud of the reputation I had established and worked hard to maintain it.

As my passions and ambitions changed, my career path followed. After 8 years in advertising, I moved into the non-profit sector, sacrificing salary and upward mobility for a stronger sense of purpose and fulfillment. I wanted my job and career path to reflect who I was and what was important to me.

But, Is This Really It?

Although I was generally happy at my job, my career was leaving me with a sense of emptiness. Something was missing. My desire to nurture, support and connect with others was not being met by my long hours in front of a computer screen. I was having a bit of a “mid” mid-life crisis. Anxiety roused from the feeling of “is this really it?”

My husband and I had been talking about having a baby for a few years, but we hadn’t felt compelled to take action until we both reached this point. We were ready to focus on something other than ourselves, our careers, and our frivolous lifestyle. We were ready to give up those things that didn’t matter as much anymore so we could have a life with more meaning. It was time for us to start a family.

The Unknown Life Ahead

When I got pregnant, it was hard to grasp how much my life was about to change. The idea of becoming a mom and sharing this new life with my husband was exciting, scary and surreal. I put any decisions about my career and childcare on hold because I felt unequipped to make them before experiencing motherhood.

I was often asked the question, “Are you planning on going back to work after your baby is born?” I was honestly torn. I felt like I should say yes, but I had so many questions needed to be answered before I could make that decision. Would I thrive as a mom or miss my sense of independence and productivity at the workplace? My future life ahead left me with many uncertainties.

Enter Connor

 The Overwhelming Emotions

The day Connor came into our lives, everything changed. When the nurse placed his warm little body on my chest, I felt a wave of intense emotions take over me. All I wanted to do was love and protect Connor with every ounce of affection I had to give. Suddenly, nothing else mattered more.

The Adjustment Period

The first two months with Connor were a hurricane of emotions. Initially, the focus was on survival. Simple necessities like eating and sleeping seemed complicated and draining. At times, my husband and I felt like we were straight out of “The Walking Dead.” Three consecutive hours of sleep became a luxury. It must have been the “love adrenaline” that fueled our run-down bodies each day.

In spite of the utter exhaustion, life had never been so rich. The love we felt for Connor was so intense. With all the challenges came an insane amount of joy unlike anything we’d ever experienced. Our hearts were willingly exposed as we watched him grow, change, and respond to us. People say that being a parent is like wearing your heart on the outside of IMG_0748 - Version 3your body. Now I know what they mean. We were so emotionally invested in Connor’s every move. As we learned and discovered more about him, our love for him grew deeper and stronger.

This time was filled with both highs and lows. Feelings of joy, love and gratitude were paired with feelings of uncertainty, isolation and loneliness. The adjustment period was just as shocking to us as it was to Connor. However, we were facing this challenge together, and our bond grew stronger as the three of us acclimated to the changes.

The Turning Point

As month 3 rolled around, something changed. It was no longer just about survival. It was about harmony. I was becoming more responsive and aware of Connor’s needs. Each day seemed to reveal a new aspect of his personality. He was responding and interacting with us in ways we could understand. We were finally starting to “get” this parenting thing.

IMG_1052Three months is the time that most of us are required to leave our maternal duties to go back to work. Physically, I was ready. But emotionally, I was deeply invested in my relationship with Connor. We had established a rhythm and a newfound understanding of each other. Connor and I were growing closer and closer every day. He was my sunshine, my little buddy, and the center of my world.

When the end of my maternity leave approached, I realized that I hadn’t thought about work. Not once. I was so deeply engrossed in my new “job” as mom and had no intention of leaving. However, I had responsibilities and relationships at my job that I needed to consider.

The Conundrum

I liked what being a “career woman” stood for. I had worked hard and felt pressure from society and myself to stay on that path. Working diligently and focusing on my career was what I was supposed to do.

However, my world had changed significantly over those last 3 months. My rational brain told me that I should return to work so I wouldn’t disrupt my “career path.” However, the thought of leaving Connor and disrupting the path that we were on together was heartbreaking. It seemed so unnatural and disruptive to stop in our tracks and never be able to return to this place again. He needed me, and I needed him. My emotions and my career goals had come to a head.

Go Back to Work or Stay Home?

The time came when I needed to discuss my return date to work. My heart was telling me that I shouldn’t go back, but my rational side was telling me to carefully think through my options before making a decision. I knew that the choice I made would impact my family, my baby and myself.

This post is meant to help other women feel that they are not alone in making this difficult decision. This is in no way meant to preach or advocate for staying at home or returning to work. It is an honest account of how I made my decision with the intent of helping others navigate through this difficult process.

Factors We Considered

  1. Financial situation

Having financial stability is a necessity for a baby, so we evaluated this situation first. We considered how much net income my job would bring in with the additional costs of having a baby and then determined whether we could live off of one income for an indefinite period of time.

My net income

Let’s just say that I wasn’t “raking in the dough” at my current job. My salary would barely cover my working expenses and childcare, so the financial benefit of returning to my job in the short term was trivial.

Living off of one income

That said, we knew that we still needed to look at the implication of living off of one income with the additional costs of having a baby. We took a hard look at our “needs” versus “wants” when we assessed our finances.

The “needs” included all of the expenses that we couldn’t cut. We used a family financing calculator and some other online resources that helped us get a realistic idea of our post-Connor financial situation.

The “wants” included all of our other arbitrary expenses, including meals out, shopping, gym memberships, vacations, entertainment and other splurges. We asked ourselves, “Are these things still important to us now that Connor is here?” This exercise forced us to take a look at our lifestyle and recognize that we could still live happily and comfortably without many of these “wants.” It turned out that what we really “wanted” most was to spend time with Connor.

  1. Childcare and family values

The next factor we considered was childcare. My husband and I had the conversation about my career and childcare early on in my pregnancy. We both felt more comfortable with me staying home with Connor versus hiring a nanny or putting him in daycare. We wanted to be the primary caretakers so we could witness all the special moments in his early years and influence the person he would become.

On the other hand, we also believed that Connor would thrive in a childcare situation that we felt comfortable with and trusted. My husband respected my career drive and said he would support whatever decision I made. He knew how important it was for me to be a happy, fulfilled mother so I could be a positive influence on our son. Smart man.

Having this honest conversation with my husband early on in my pregnancy helped mitigate any uncertainties we had about our expectations of each other. I knew where he stood, but I was also felt confident that he would support whatever decision I made.

  1. Career aspirations

The truth is, women are forced to make a choice that comes with sacrificing either your role as mom or career. Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCO, revealed this truth in her candid interview about motherhood. It’s possible to give time and attention to both, but inevitably, most of us are likely to feel like we’re not giving enough to one of these roles.

Successful career women like Sheryl Sandberg preach that women should not just think about the short-term financial impact of leaving their job to be with their babies, but also the opportunity costs that will set us back on our long-term career path.

I thought about those opportunity costs. I was honest with myself and finally admitted that I was okay with setting my career ambitions aside and veering off my career path during this time in my life. The truth was, I was less concerned with the setbacks I would face by putting my career on hold and more concerned about the opportunity costs of losing time with Connor during his early years. Time with him was worth more to me than a raise or promotion, gaining respect from colleagues and climbing up the corporate ladder. I didn’t believe that taking time off was career suicide; instead, I believed it would benefit my career by giving me a new, fresh perspective on life and naturally lead me to reassess my goals and ambitions.

  1. Innate personality traits and priorities

Priorities and Passions 

Aside from the financial and opportunistic impact of a career hiatus, I also knew it was important to consider what decision would make me the best version of myself. Would I be more fulfilled at home with my baby or at my job? Where would I feel the most present and engaged with what I was doing? I knew I needed to be fully committed wherever I was, because only being partially present wasn’t fair to any of the parties involved.

My personality is nurturing and people-focused (a typical ENFJ), so motherhood naturally fit my inherent traits. Being with Connor made me realized that I get my greatest sense of fulfillment through helping others. I loved giving to him and responding to his needs. My emotions were deeply invested in caring for him.

My desire to connect with others also motivated me to meet other moms, join groups and form a network of friends. Having a community was critical in helping me overcome the feelings of isolation that often come with the first few months of motherhood.

Although I enjoy being around people, I also need some solitude to center myself. My alone time with Connor gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate my values and purpose. It was lonely at times, but for the most part, it was refreshing. I savored those special moments and enjoyed “just being” instead of constantly producing. Boredom was nourishing to the soul.

Some of my other strengths were unexpectedly beneficial to motherhood. Being organized helped me build a daily eating and sleeping schedule for Connor (which was meticulously documented). I work well with structure, but I wouldn’t get bent out of shape if our schedule fluctuated to fit our needs. I let Connor take the lead and adjusted our days based on what was working best for him.

My patience also proved to be a virtue. I was able to spend long days doing monotonous tasks and stayed even-keeled in stressful situations. It was amazing to see how much sleep deprivation mellowed me out! I didn’t have the energy to sweat the small things.

Most importantly, I felt happy and fulfilled during my time with Connor. I stopped comparing myself to others and succumbing to the pressure of “doing more.” Instead, I did less. By slowing down, I could see all the beautiful things that were right in front of me.

  1. Studies on the Early Years

Importance of Bonding

Brain RulesRight after Connor was born, I vigorously read “Brain Rules for Baby” while I nursed him. The book was fascinating. A certain section of the book stuck with me and guided the way I interacted and responded to him. The author explained a how the brain’s main priority is survival, and finding safety is how a baby meets this need. Who do they look to for that safety? Their parents. Babies are intensely attuned to how responsive we are to their needs from the moment they come into the world. If their needs are being met, their brain will be able to focus on things other than survival (e.g., learning). If they don’t create bonds or establish perceptions of safety, they could be permanently damaged. This sounds extreme, but the point is that babies need to feel safe, secure and loved either by their parents or a caretaker.

Along similar lines, I also spent quite a bit of time reading about “attachment parenting” which focuses on the nurturing connection that parents can develop with their children. This philosophy, made famous by Dr. Sears, stresses the importance of parents being sensitive and emotionally available to their children’s needs during the critical early stages of their lives. The idea behind attachment parenting is that babies learn to trust and thrive when their needs are consistently met by a caregiver. Conversely, children who never experience this attachment may not learn to form healthy attachments later in life and often suffer from insecurity, lack of empathy and sometimes even anger and attachment disorders. According to attachment theory, the “critical period” to form this attachment is from 6 months to 2 or 3 years, the time when babies begin to look to particular people for security, comfort and protection.

These studies made me realize that the bond I formed with Connor during his first year would affect him forever. Working would certainly not prevent me from forming this bond (quality of time is much more important than quantity), but I knew that being with him all day would allow me to become a more responsive mother. As I learned to accurately read Connor’s cues, my consistent responsiveness began to motivate him to keep sending me signals, resulting in us forming a strong attachment to each other. An amazing nanny or daycare could also learn to read his cues, but their responsiveness wouldn’t be coupled with the type of love and affection that I could give to him. This was the most important factor in my decision.

An Honest Look at Staying At Home

When my maternity leave came to an end, I decided to leave my job to stay home with Connor. To be honest, my heart told me that was the best decision all along. I knew I would be wishing I was with him the whole time I was at work, and that wouldn’t benefit any of us.

How do I feel 8 months later? Here it goes . . .

Each day is filled with so much joy, yet so many challenges. Sometimes I feel like it would be easier to put on my work clothes and live part of my day the same way I did before Connor was born, but deep down I know that my job would never bring me the amount of happiness and gratitude that Connor has brought into my life. These past 8 months have been filled with a flurry of emotions, and I’ve often felt conflicted. At times, I feel so happy and grateful to be able to spend this special time with Connor, and other times I feel isolated and exhausted. I sometimes feel guilty that I’m able to experience so much joy every day playing with Connor, living life simply and freely, while my husband is bound to his job working long hours to support our family. At the same time, I find myself envying his daily social interactions at the office in an environment that rewards his hard work and accomplishments. Being a mother is the hardest and most important job I’ve ever had, and it’s truly the most fulfilling and gratifying experience to be able to spend so many special moments with Connor.

Connor has given me just as much as I’ve given him. He’s opened my eyes to the world around us. We stop to feel tree bark, look at a purple flower or watch a butterfly flying in a yard. We talk about the birds, the squirrels and the dogs in the park. We’ll sit on a blanket underneath a tree and talk about the grass, or we’ll sit in silence while I cuddle with him. As we poke around the park, I’m reminded that we are just one of the millions of species on this earth. I have a new appreciation and respect for life now that I’ve brought one into the world.

I have not once regretted my decision to stay home with Connor. I feel a deep sense of happiness when I’m with him, and the special moments that we’ve experienced together have forever changed my perspective on both myself and the world around us. I’m grateful not only the milestones I’ve witnessed, like the first time he crawled, but also for the everyday moments, like the cuddles before his naps or the sporadic smiles I get throughout the day. It’s those moments that will be will me for the rest of my life. Those memories are worth their weight in gold.

 The Next Chapter

When I decide to re-enter the workforce, I will return as a new person. I have a fresh perspective on life and new appreciation for our world. I am more confident and balanced as a mother. Knowing that I’m responsible for another life has giving me a renewed sense of purpose. I have learned, grown and changed more than I ever could have in the office. That’s why I believe my decision will not be detrimental to my career. I am a better person because of the decision I made.

In This Together

Having a baby changes everything. A move across the country, career change and marriage didn’t even compare to the changes that occurred when my son was born. I guess that’s why some people call it a “life shift.”

No matter what friends tell you, or how many babies you have been around, no one can possibly prepare you for your baby or predict how you will feel when he/she comes into your life. The intensity of the emotions most of us experience is unfathomable until we become parents.

This is why we all need to support each other and the decisions we make. No decision we make is an easy one, and no decision is the best for everyone. It involves determining what is best for your family, yourself and your baby.

I wish that someday it will be easier for women who have established careers to have the option to take a break from our jobs for up to a year during our babies’ highly critical development period. Far too few part time jobs are available, and too little is being done to help give women any option at all. (Read this perspective on corporations’ treatment of women/mothers.)

Until then, let’s support each other and the tough decisions we have to make. That’s what being a mom is all about – doing the best that we can.

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My Labor Story: Sharing and reflecting on the life-changing event

IMG_0748 - Version 3My son, Connor, is now 11 weeks old. I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed in spite of how long some days feel. Now that I have a few minutes to reflect, I’d like to share my labor story so I can record the memory, commiserate with others who’ve been through it, and provide some insights to those who haven’t.

THE PREPARATION

Parenting is something that many of us enter into blindly. Although we’ve all been “parented” and have witnessed many of our friends and family members do it firsthand, it’s still a role that seems so foreign before we become one ourselves. Pregnancy and labor mark the beginning of this mystifying role. Although giving birth is a natural part of life, it somehow seems like such a mysterious, ominous, unforeseeable series of events that cannot be predicted even by the world’s most renown experts. To many of us (myself included), this is terrifying!

In order to deal with the stress of this unknown territory, I decided to take every birth and labor class I could get my hands on. Breastfeeding, stages of labor, pregnant mama support groups – you name it! I deal with stress by neurotically preparing, and pregnancy was no different.

I had a vision of how my labor would transpire. I envisioned an empowering experience that would bring my husband and me closer together and culminate with the natural birth of our healthy son. My labor classes preached about the benefits of having a minimally-invasive birth experience to avoid the “cascade effect” caused by medical interventions, and I agreed with their advice. I had a relatively high pain threshold, so surely I could endure the labor “sensations” and ride the contraction “waves” (we were told to avoid negative words like “pain.”) I was mentally and physically prepared to conquer labor! 

Now this is what really happened . . .

THE AGONY OF WAITING

When my due date passed, each day felt like a ticking time bomb that could explode at any moment. We felt mixed emotions – mostly excitement, but we also felt anxious about the unchartered road ahead of us.

We had an appointment with my OBGYN two days past my due date so she could check my progress. Up to that point, it appeared that our son was going to make us wait for his grand debut. My OBGYN performed the dreaded “cervix examination,” and to our surprise, I was one centimeter dilated and almost completely effaced. “You could go into labor this weekend,” she told us with a smile. When she left the room, Noel (my husband) jumped up and gave me a big enthusiastic hug. His excitement helped assuage my anxiety. Unknown territory always rattles my nerves.

After the appointment, we went out for coffee to celebrate what was ahead of us. Looking back, it’s funny how clueless we were about the degree to which our lives were about to change.Broadway coffee

THE FINAL HOURS OF “LIFE BEFORE BABY”

Since our housekeeper was coming that day (I neurotically planned ahead in preparation for labor), I wanted to stay out of the house for a few hours. This gave me a great excuse to embrace the final hours of my pre-baby life.

My day proceeded with the following acts of self-indulgence: shopping, a bikini wax at Queen Bee, lunch at my favorite restaurant A Votre Sante, acupuncture, a car wash and a gas tank refill. I crammed as much as I possibly could into those five hours. If you have the luxury of setting aside a day for yourself, DO IT! I knew that I would soon be leaving this part of my life behind. 

giggle montana ave waxing a votre sante

AM I IN LABOR?

In the midst of all the morning activities, I felt a sensation similar to mild period cramps. Was I in the early stages of labor? It was difficult to tell. I always thought the onset of labor would be obvious, but it was actually subtle and ambiguous. The “cramps” continued to get stronger and stronger throughout the day. When I went in for my afternoon acupuncture appointment with Danica (the “miracle worker” acupuncturist at Well Women Acupuncture), I told her about the sensations I was feeling. She smiled, gave me a foretelling look and said that she could do something that would help induce labor. She came back with a small apparatus that rhythmically tapped my ankle and did her acupuncture magic on the rest of my body. WOW, did it work! As soon as I stepped out the door, the cramps turned into full on contractions. I swear by acupuncture. It helped me get pregnant, and now I can say with confidence that it induced my labor.

When I got into my car, I called Noel at work and told him the exciting (and terrifying!) news about the contractions. Without hesitation, he said “I’m leaving now!” in an eager and somewhat panicked tone. He rushed out of his meeting and received a standing ovation from his colleagues.

tea candles

When I got home, I went straight upstairs and prepared a warm bath surrounded by tea candles and played some new age music on my iPad. I tried to fool myself with the Zen setting, but both the excitement and anxiety made relaxing an impossible endeavor.

As the evening progressed, the contractions started to become more frequent and intense. I also realized that I was starting to feel hungry. Since we expected a long night ahead of us, we decided to order a hearty dinner to help us store up some energy for the looming marathon. Kale pizza and salad was probably not the best choice. Let’s just say that I won’t be having that meal again anytime in the near future.

I’M DEFINITELY IN LABOR

Right after dinner, I could no longer carry on a conversation. The contractions were coming on sporadically and increasing in intensity. My labor instructor’s voice kept telling me to go to bed so I could save my energy for the long road ahead. It felt strange to try to sleep right before I was about to enter the into the most monumental experience of my entire life, but I followed her advice and did it.

And then . . . holy shit! I was rudely awakened by a monster contraction. So this is what labor feels like. Okay, I was no longer uncertain if this was the real deal. Labor is no joke. 

ARRIVING AT THE HOSPITAL

Gaiam

A must-have for labor and parenthood

After the longest 10 minute drive of my life, we arrived at the hospital around 2am. One would think we were moving in for a month with the amount of stuff we had – a turquoise bouncy ball, my enormous tote bag filled with every single item on the list from BabyCenter.com, a diaper bag stuffed with items for Connor, my husband’s overnight bag, and a pillow. The following recollection is a bit of blur, so please excuse any embellishments or exaggerations (which I would never intentionally do, of course.)

THE 15 HOUR BLUR

By the time we arrived at the hospital, I was sure I was at least 6 or 7cm dilated. I labored at home as long as I possibly could with the intention of coming to the hospital at the “transition” stage and delivering within a few hours of our admittance. We were quickly struck with a harsh dose of reality. After we were taken to our room by an impressively cheerful night staff, the nurse checked my cervix. I was only 3cm dilated! WTF?! How could this possibly be? I was so confident that we only had a few more hours to go. We had an unexpected long haul ahead of us.

ginger candy

Great for labor; eat with caution

The next 14 hours consisted of roaming the halls, rolling back-and-forth on the bouncy ball, staring blankly out the window, lying on my side and receiving comforting massages from Noel. I’ve got to say, I never wanted to punch Noel in the face during labor as I’ve heard some women do. In fact, I’ve never loved him more. Oh, except when he blew his ginger candy breadth in my face and caused me to vomit. But I digress . . .

In the early morning hours of the next day, we were greeted by the morning nurse who I’m convinced was an angel sent from heaven. Her name was Ronnie, and she had an endearing British accent and a warm, loving demeanor. She took the time to get to know us and shared some of her personal stories with us as well. When I told her about my intention to have a medicated-free birth, she commended my decision and assured us she’d do her best to honor our “plan.” She then told us that she predicted I would give birth by sunset that day. That meant I still had 10 more hours to go! I felt deflated.

The pain increased as expected, but with every contraction, I felt an overwhelming throb in my lower back. My OBGYN came in mid-morning to check me and told me I was enduring the type of labor that made me cringe when we learned about it in our classes – I was having back labor! This meant that Connor was in a posterior position causing his head to press against the bony part of my spine each time I had a contraction. Back labor typically means that labor will be longer and more painful than average. It’s a brutal combination.

back labor

Back labor

I did my best to stay off my back by walking, standing on all fours, swaying my hips back and forth with my head resting on a counter, squatting, and lying on my side while Noel vigorously massaged my back. We sustained this routine for about 7 hours. My parents and Noel’s dad came to visit in us during this timeframe, and they all looked at me with sympathetic eyes. My mom gave me a sweet kiss on the cheek and asked, “How are you doing, sweetie?” I wanted to hug her – not just for comforting me – but also because I knew she had endured a similar experience for me. Having a child elevates your relationship with your parents to a whole new level.

THE ULTIMATE PAIN THRESHOLD TEST

Okay, so here’s the deal. I’ve always considered myself to be relatively tough. I’ve run several marathons, enjoy “feeling the burn” inflicted by intense workout, and don’t flinch when I see a needle (I had to give myself a shot in the stomach every day of my pregnancy). I know that this is nothing compared to hardships others have endured, but the point is that I have a high pain threshold.

That said, however, I had never experienced “sensations” like this before. The pain became so severe that I vomited several times. Thankfully, I didn’t scream in agony or cross the line into insanity. Instead, I internalized the pain and tried to calmly breathe through it. (I was determined to get my money’s worth from all those damn classes!) But it was excruciating.

THE TURNING POINT

 At that point, Ronnie came into our room and said to me in a concerned and empathetic tone, “Sweetie, you still have at least 4-5 hours to go. You’ve done such a great job but I can tell you’re exhausted. Our anesthesiologist is really good. Just think about it. That way, you can take a nap and restore your strength. Let me know if you want me to get him.” 

Noel and I looked at each other. I could tell Noel was having a difficult time watching me in so much pain. His eyes were glassy and tired, and I knew he was internally begging me to say “yes.” I paused for a minute and then surrendered. “I’ll get the epidural. Thanks, Ronnie.”

I caved. Although I had told others I was flexible and open to deviations from my “birth plan,” I desperately wanted to avoid getting an epidural. At that point, however, I couldn’t imagine sustaining that situation for another 5 hours. Each minute that went by seemed like an agonizing hour. I just wanted to be able to focus on my son and the experience rather than the pain.

The anesthesiologist came into our room and started preparing the drugs and needle. He was fascinated by my minor case of scoliosis. He said to Ronnie, “Wow, look at this! The point is here, but her spine is HERE!” Those were not exactly the words I wanted to hear when his error could result in paralysis for life. I looked at my husband who was unsuccessfully trying to conceal his terror. Then, I closed my eyes, wished for the best, and was whisked away into a new, wonderful place. . .

The rest of labor was blissful. I was happy, and dare I say, comfortable! See before and after pics below. Enough said.

IMG_0975

Before epidural

IMG_0976

After epidural

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the epidural, Noel and I both took a short nap and woke up feeling revived. I couldn’t believe how much better I felt after that brief rest. I looked at the clock and realized we only had three hours to go until my estimated delivery time.

The nurse came in and told me that my doctor wanted to break my water since it hadn’t happened on it’s own yet. I had already caved to the epidural; I didn’t want to surrender to more unnecessary interventions. “Is it okay if we wait a little longer and see if it happens on it’s own?” I meekly asked. “Of course!” said the nurse. “We can do whatever you want.” She was right. Why was I trying to be so accommodating? This was not the time to be a people-pleaser. Sure enough, my water broke within a half hour of that conversation and I began pushing an hour later.

The pushing stage lasted exactly one hour. I didn’t realize it would be so physically demanding. Thankfully the squats, lunges and yoga I had done during my pregnancy paid off. I had a team of coaches and cheerleaders by my side with and mirror in front of me for motivation. I couldn’t wait to see Connor’s little face!

THE LIFE-CHANGING MOMENT

And then came the moment that I will remember for the rest of my life. Dr. Vogel said, “I can see the crown of his head. You’re so close!” That was all she had to say. When I looked into the mirror and saw the top of Connor’s tiny head, I pushed with every ounce of energy I had remaining. I took one more deep breadth, forcefully exhaled into the last push, and Dr. Vogel started pulling him out.

At 5pm on December 13, 2013, Connor came into our life. I became a mom, Noel became a dad, and we were looking at our son for the first time. He was so beautiful – a perfectly smooth and fuzzy head, a round little nose, and wide, alert eyes. The nurse placed him on my chest and I immediately felt the warmth of his tiny body against mine. Then, he picked up his head, looked at Noel and me, and plopped it back down on my chest. We were amazed that he had that much strength after all that hard work!IMG_0989IMG_0985

Never in my life had I been so “present.”  I felt such an intense connection to the little person on my chest. The obscure living being that was gestating inside me for over 9 months had finally become a reality. The world stopped for that moment, and I knew that our lives had changed forever. Noel and I would love and care for Connor for the rest of our lives. Everything I did from this day forward would be for him.

Labor gave me a new appreciation and respect for myself and my body, deepened my bond with my husband, and marked the beginning of a new life. I don’t have any regrets about the decisions we made along the way – including getting the epidural. I was proud that I had endured 17 hours of labor without it and felt that the final hours of my labor were much more enjoyable because of it. Most importantly, our son was healthy and loved. I’ve made it to many finish lines in my life, but never before had the prize at the end been so rewarding.

That’s my labor story. It has a beautiful ending – and an even more beautiful beginning.

photo (13)

Connor William Sullivan; 1 hour old

IMG_0070 (1)

Postpardum room

A-cheeks

Our angel; 10 hours old

IMG_0550

Falling in love

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Creating a Healthy Home Environment

Our homes are our sanctuaries. We typically spend at least half of each day in our homes sleeping, eating, working, relaxing and spending time with our loved ones. But if we don’t pay attention to the environment we’re living in, we could be causing harm to the health of our families. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that over 80% of all chronic diseases could be prevented by improving our lifestyle in simple ways, like reducing our exposure to environmental pollutants. That’s why I want to share some small, easy changes that could make a big impact on our health. healthy home

The Epiphany

My “green neuroticism” can be attributed to my friend, Esther Ruurda-Drake (thanks, Esther). Esther’s interest in the subject stems from two major events – the death of her beloved mother (lost to brain cancer) and the birth of her daughter, Emilie. These two life-changers caused Esther to take a greater interest in how our environment affects our health. Through her research, she found that 30 years of environmental health studies have led to a growing consensus that chemicals are playing a role in the incidence and prevalence of many diseases and disorders (childhood leukemia, cancer, obesity, asthma, birth defects and autism). Even with this knowledge, many times she still chose “cheap & cheerful” or “handy & quick” over healthy because they were more convenient. I think all of us struggle with this on a daily basis. We want to do what’s best, but we also need a healthy balance of convenience to maintain our sanity.

Esther gets this, and that’s why she recently started a company called “Happy by Nature.” Happy by NatureThe mission of her company is to to empower conceiving couples, pregnant women and (new) parents to help reduce their family’s exposure to harmful environmental chemicals, starting with a few easy steps, to keep them safe and healthy. Lucky for us, my husband and I got be her first guinea pigs!

Tips for Creating a Healthier Home Environment

We were surprised by some of the things we learned during the home consultation. Below are a few of the easy ways you can clean up your home.

Indoor air quality:

This should be a top priority. Here are a few small things you can do to help with the air quality in your home.

  • Leave your shoes at the door.shoes at door They carry harmful bacteria that you want to keep out of your home.
  • Get plants in for house (including the nursery) as air purifiers to keep the air nice and clean. A few suggestions can be found here.
  • Vacuum every week and wet clean as often as possible on top of that (more important if baby starts crawling and touches the floor) to get rid of pet dander and toxins that attach to dust.
  • Double check your cleaning products’ ingredients. You can use the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning and/or Good Guide to see which products are the safest and healthiest.
  • If you’re interested in checking your indoor air quality at any point, you can have a test done.

Water:

  • Know when your water filter needs to be replaced.Water bottle
  • If you don’t have a whole-house water filter, consider a chlorine filter for the water you & baby will bath in. (Read about the dangers of chlorine.)
  • Consider the water you drink at the office. If your office provides a 5-gallon water bottle, check if it is a #7 (contains BPA). If it is, start bringing your own filtered water and/or use a filter (e.g., Britta) for your office’s tap water.

Body Care:

  • Avoid “fragrance” in all your body products. It’s one of the worst offenders in body care products. Fragrance from essential oils might be acceptable, but research the product well and ask questions when not convinced. no_perfume
  • Don’t use anti-bacterial products. They have no proven benefit and may even be harmful.
  • Read labels well and check the products on the Environmental Working Group’s Consumer Guides and/or Good Guide. Don’t fall for “green washing” that so many packaged goods companies use in their marketing. (I’m personally a huge fan of The Honest Company’s products.)

 Nursery/Registry

These are just a few easy places to start. It’s important to take baby steps so you don’t get discouraged. Being green actually isn’t as hard as it sounds!

To contact Esther for a home consultation, visit her Happy By Nature website.

Please feel free to share your comments, suggestions and questions about this post.

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These Chemicals are in 80% of Baby Products

At some point, one wonders if certain safety standards do more harm than good. A perfect example of this is the California flammability standard put in place in 1975 (Technical bulletin 117) . Since then, harmful flame retardants have been added to countless baby products, unnecessarily exposing them to dangerous chemicals. (Nice job, guys.)baby and flame retardants

WHY ARE THEY HARMFUL?

Flame retardants can cause a number of adverse health effects, including lowered IQ in children, reduced fertility and hormone disruption. Babies and toddlers are even more vulnerable to these chemicals. Studies have found that toddlers have three to four times the level of toxic flame retardants in their bodies compared to their parents. Oy vey!

WHAT ARE THEY IN?

A more appropriate question would be “what AREN’T they in?” Flame retardants can be found nursing pillows, changing table pads, baby carriers, car seats and the list goes on. The Green Science Policy Institute found flame retardants in 80% of the baby products tested in a recent study. changing pad

What does this mean? You guessed it. Parents must do their research to find products that don’t contain these chemicals. And it isn’t easy.

HOW TO REDUCE EXPOSURE

Before we get into specific brands, these are ways that you can reduce your overall exposure.

1. Purchase safe baby products and furniture

  • Consider products that contain natural fibers like down, wool or cotton (organic cotton is best). Polyester is a better choice than anything containing polyurethane foam. Stay as far away from that stuff as possible!
  • Products that have the label below are a cause of concern. This most likely means that it contains flame retardants.

TB117 label

2. Reduce exposure to house dust

  • Vacuum often (at least once a week) and mop floors to help prevent dust build up
  • Wash hands frequently

3. Advocate for safer products

Your voice can help solve this problem. The Green Science Policy offers materials to help you contact the Chief of the California Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair or your state representatives and/or governor. Admittedly, this is still on my list of “to-do’s.”

BRANDS TO BUY

Now the part that you’ve been waiting for – what to actually buy. According to the Green Science Policy Institute and other credible sources, Baby Luxe Organic , BabyBjorn, Orbit Baby, and Boppy are manufacturers with products that meet the TB117 requirements without added flame retardants.

I also did a little more research on my own, and these are the products that have solid reputations and met our standards:

MATTRESS

Naturepedic – Naturepedic makes an organic mattresses free of harmful chemicals. While the cost for an organic mattress is high, it’s worth its price in gold when you think about how much time your baby will spend on it. Many conventional non-organic mattresses contain flame retardants, polyurethane foam (emits harmful VOCs) and formaldehyde. We’ve registered for this one. Naturepedic Mattress

Naturepedic No Compromise Organic Cotton Classic Lightweight Dual Firmness Crib Mattress ($259 on Amazon)

CHANGING PAD

Naturepedic (again) – Steer clear of changing pads that contain polyurethane foam and synthetic waterproof coatings. Instead, look for organic cotton or wool and a polyethylene food-grade waterproof coating. This Naturepedic changing pad has all of those qualities. A natural waterproof coating eliminates the need for a waterproof cover, which gives you more options (organic changing pad covers usually aren’t waterproof). It’s pricey, but worth it. Our babies spend a lot of time on these.naturepedic chaning pad

Naturepedic Organic Cotton Contoured Changing Pad ($99 on Amazon)

CHANGING PAD COVER

Burt’s Bees – Organic is the way to go when it comes to something that will be directly touching your baby’s skin. Burt’s Bees makes soft, stretchy organic changing pad covers in a few simple colors.

Burt’s Bees Honey Bee Changing Pad Cover ($17 on Amazon) Burts Bees Changing Pad

TRAVEL CRIB

nuna-sena-safari-600_2The Nuna Sena Travel Crib – A European brand that is Certifiably Green  with 100% Oeko-Tex certified organic fabric. Oeko-Tex is an independent certification and testing system that provides manufactures in the textile and clothing industry with a benchmark for evaluating harmful chemicals in textiles. I don’t know about you, but I trust a European brand’s safety standards much more than US standards. (Think about the artificial flavors, synthetic growth hormones and arsenic they allow in our foods. Enough said.)

CAR SEAT & STROLLER

While it’s nearly impossible to find a car seat and stroller free of flame retardants (unless you want to spend $440 on an Orbit car seat), there is a solution.

A few words on car seats and strollers. I commend Orbit for taking the lead in manufacturing chemically safe products for children. Part of the reason they’ve done this is because their products are sold internationally, so they must meet the minimum safety requirements of other countries (which are much more stringent than US standards – no surprise there). Apparently Britax also vowed to phase out harmful flame retardants by the end of 2012. If you’re confused like me and want to see how all the car seats stack up against each other, Healthystuff.org is a great resource that reported on the best and worst car seats in 2011. However, much of its info is outdated.

We decided to go with the Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat. It had top safety ratings and a Medium to Low score from Healthystuff.org (which is good).

LG_7079CHI~GRAP

Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base

The bottom line is that you have to do your research to keep flame retardant exposure to a minimum. I’m hopeful that one day, these companies will realize that their consumers want chemically safe products.

I hope this was helpful. Please respond with any comments, suggestions or new information that may contradict what I’ve found. We can all learn from each other!

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The Hunt for the Perfect Crib

baby cribI naively thought that buying a crib would be as easy as finding a new sweater. You try on a few different styles and colors, check what materials are used, consider the price and make a decision. Right? Not so much.

Sadly, most cribs on the market contain toxic materials. Since infants are especially vulnerable to toxins, this news is quite concerning. Studies have shown that toxins found in baby products can cause hormone disruption, lowered IQ, reduced fertility, immune dysfunction, cancer and more. These learnings are what inspired me to make a carefully-researched decision about our crib purchase since our baby will be spending most of his time in it during his first few years.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

First, let’s talk about what to look for in a crib.

Cribs should be:

  • Made of certified sustainable wood and hardwood only (no pressed or engineered wood – including particleboard, plywood, fiberboard and medium density fiberboard, all which typically contain added formaldehyde)
  • Finished or painted with a water-based, non-toxic substance that contains no VOCs (or better yet, get one that’s unfinished)
  • Lead and phthalate free

Seems simple enough, right? Unfortunately, this criteria is harder to find than you’d think.

baby and chemicals

Most cribs on the market are structurally safe due to government regulations. However, the government is doing very little to regulate toxins in furniture, mainly volatile organic compounds (VOCs). There are currently over 80,000 unregulated industrial chemicals on the market in the US; and the regulations that are in place are considered too lenient by many experts.

Scary, isn’t it?

WHAT TO AVOID

In general, these are the chemicals that should be avoided:

  • VOCs (volatile organic compounds)VOCs are gases emitted from certain solids or liquids, including paints, lacquer and finishes used on cribs. Concentration levels of VOCs are up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors, and can have both short- and long-term adverse health effects.
  • Lead – Scientists have found that no level of lead is considered “safe” for children. Even small amounts of lead can effect a child’s ability to learn. Lead is commonly found in wood finishes and coatings.
  • Phthalates – Studies show evidence that phthalates could affect the reproductive system. Phthalates are used in in hundreds of consumer and household products, including wood finishes.
  • Formaldehyde – Formaldehyde is often added to engineered wood as a bonding agent and is present in many glues used for crib construction. It has been classified as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It’s important to note that formaldehyde is a chemical that occurs naturally in the environment. The key is to look for no “added” formaldehyde.
  • Polyurethane – Polyurethane is notoriously toxic. This substance can be found in some wood finishes.

If you do happen to go with a crib that contains some of these chemicals, another option is to set it outside in the open air for several weeks to allow it to off-gas. You could also open the windows of the nursery, turn on some fans, and allow it to off-gas inside for several months. However, avoiding these chemicals altogether is the safest route.

COMMON PITFALLS AND MISCONCEPTIONS

Now let’s get into the common pitfalls of naïve crib shopping. While these claims may sound good, they don’t tell the full story.

  • The “non-toxic” finish claim. Contrary to the claim, non-toxic does not mean “no toxins.” This simply means that the manufacturer has met federal safety standards for the maximum allowable levels of certain toxins. However, those standards don’t prohibit the use of VOCs nor do they adequately regulate heavy metals and other harmful chemicals.
  • The “water-based” claim. Although water-based finishes are better than petroleum-based, they can still emit VOCs and contain carcinogens and heavy metals.
  • Lead and phthalate SAFE. “Safe” does not mean “free.” Again, this only means that the manufacturer has met the federal safety standards, but the product can still contain low levels of these toxins.

QUESTIONS TO ASK

Calling the manufacturer is the best way to get the most reliable answers. Product labels and descriptions are often not enough. When calling the manufacturer or a store, be weary of customer service representatives who are trying to please their customers. They often don’t know all the details and will tell you what they think will make you happy. Don’t trust these guys! Instead, you should contact the manufacturer directly and speak to a technical expert.

Information to get from the manufactures:

  • Directly ask if the wood and finish is lead, phthalate and formaldahyde free if it’s not obvious in the product description.
  • If a product claims to use a VOC free finish, ask the manufacturer about their testing protocols for heavy metals before being sold. Make sure they’re using a 3rd party testing lab.
  • Ensure that the manufacturer is testing the finishes on all their production runs. You do not want to end up with a black sheep that’s been contaminated.
  • Find out where they get their lumber and if they follow sustainable practices.
  • If they are using engineered wood or pressed wood, find out how it is manufactured. In some cases, they may be using recycled wood waste and a formaldehyde-free adhesive (this is okay).
  • Ask if their glues are formaldehyde free.

It’s also helpful to read the Q&As on the seller or manufacturer’s site carefully. Many times, you’ll find that other savvy parents have already asked these questions above.

RECOMMENDED CRIBS

Okay, so now you’re probably wondering what brands meet all of the criteria listed above. I wish I had a simple answer, but unfortunately I learned that finding a crib is a labor-intensive research project. Thankfully, some other diligent bloggers have already done some of the legwork.

A solid wood crib is the best way to go, but it will typically cost at least $500. While this is a big investment, it will be more durable than others made with engineered wood and will carry a higher resale value. You can also rest assured knowing that your baby isn’t surrounded by toxins.

PR crib

The Non-Toxic Nurse recommends the Pacific Rim (starts at $800). This is a pricey proposition, but it’s one of the only cribs that’s made of 100% solid wood with a finish that consists of food-grade tung oil and beeswax.

sniglar-crib__24122_PE109000_S4

A popular low-cost option is the Ikea Sniglar ($69.99), which is solid beech wood crib that comes unfinished. Although the mattress platform is made of pressboard, this is preferable to it being used throughout the crib.

The Daily Green also offers some good advice on buying non-toxic cribs, but many of the brands highlighted in the post are over $1,000.

Footprint-Slat-Solid-Wood-Crib-2T

Green Cradle is another brand that was frequently mentioned in many of the sources I came across. It’s made of solid wood and completely chemical free. Their transparency is also quite impressive (which scores them major points!).

Which cribs were our contenders? Here you go:

giggle cribGiggle Better Basics Harper Crib – We liked the style of this crib and it was within our price range ($595). Although the description says it’s made of engineered wood (typically a red flag), the Harper Collection uses only water-based and non-toxic (meaning no-VOC) paints and glues. This collection is also made from sustainably harvested timber and is manufactured in a facility that utilizes timber waste rather than electricity to heat their timber kilns and workshops with remaining waste used to make an eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels. I was impressed by their answers in the Q&A section. This is a reasonably-priced and attractive option.

NOT RECOMMENDED

skip_crib_walnutwhite_angle_regular_thumb

Babyletto Skip Crib  – The price and modern look was right ($395), but unfortunately this company was not. This is a popular brand that uses sustainable New Zealand pine wood, but it contains MDF and paints/finishes that are “lead and phthalate SAFE” (not FREE) with “undetectable levels of formaldehyde.” I thought we could do better than this, so our search continued.

Pottery BarnJust out of curiosity, I also contacted Pottery Barn about the Kendall Fixed Gate Crib ($599). While this is a popular choice, I found their answer to my product inquiry a bit suspicious. I asked is the finish was lead and pthalate free, and this was their response:

“All PBK products meet or exceed US, Canadian and recognized industry standards, as well as Williams-Sonoma testing standards, for safety and toxicity (including lead).  All PBK products are tested by an independent laboratory to ensure that your child is using products that meet our high PBK standards. We do not share specific test results, as they are a proprietary part of our development process.”

Really? Their safety test results are proprietary? No thank you.

OUR WINNER (MY RECOMMENDATION)Nest Crib from Room & Board ($699) Nest crib cherry

Not only did we love the solid look of this crib, but it also met all of our standards. El Greco Woodworking was one of the most transparent companies I’ve come across during this process. I spoke with the owner and learned that their cribs have NO lead or phthalates. They buy their lumber from the Appalachian Hardwood Manufactures, Inc, which is a sustainable and carbon negative company (verified by the U.S. Forest Service). All of their coatings are non-toxic and free of lead and phthalates. After their lacquer coating cures, which takes 30 days in warm, moving air, it no longer off-gases because the solvent has dissipated and the coating becomes chemically inert. Even the MDF they use on other cribs is Certified Green, meaning it has no added formaldehyde. Everything is crafted in their factories from rough lumber to the finished product. All made in the USA.

A FEW CLOSING THOUGHTS

Whatever decision you make, it should be based on your personal preference and needs. There are many factors to consider when buying a crib, including price, style, quality, durability, convertibility into a toddler bed, etc. I hope you find these suggestions helpful as you begin your crib hunting process. Good luck!

All comments are welcome and encouraged. We can all learn from each other.

See more on this topic in How to Create A Healthy, Non-Toxic Baby Registry

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