Greening Your Baby

Photo: istock Rosemarie Gearhart
Making the right choices for your children and their future.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2008 issue of Green Living magazine.

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to make you re-evaluate your life and take a look at the bigger picture. For me, it was the death of my first child, Marshall, just a few hours after he was born, that led me to question many things about life and how we live it. The fact that his death was due to an undeveloped diaphragm, a condition that may have been linked to environmental toxins, led me to question anew what we bring into our homes and how these things affect our health and the environment. When our second child, Julia, was born 18 months later, I decided to learn all I could about making healthy consumer choices as well as reducing our family's eco footprint.

Alternatives to dangerous bisphenol A-leaching plastic baby bottles are plentiful, such as glass versions from Evenflo and safe plastics from Green to Grow and Think Baby. Visit thinkbabybottles.com and greentogrow.com for retailers. For bowls and spoons, bamboo is a sustainable and healthy alternative to plastic. Shop at greenfeet.com or visit bambuhome.com for retailers.

Organic baby food reduces your baby's exposure to harmful pesticides, ensures he or she isn't eating genetically modified food and also supports sustainable farming methods. Making your own organic baby food is simple (just purchase and freeze in ice-cube trays) but you may not have the time or energy. A good alternative is Sweetpea Baby Food, which is committed to limiting its environmental impact with its preservative-free frozen baby food (see sweetpeababyfood.com for retailers). A more affordable option is President's Choice Organics baby food, which can be found at Superstores and many No Frills stores across the country. Loblaws carries the brand in Ontario and Quebec and so does Provigo in Quebec. It is also available from a number of independent grocers.

Getting dressed

Many of us are determined to dress our children in natural fibres. However, most cotton is grown using non-sustainable methods and pesticides - unless it's organic. My favourite organic cotton clothing is Cotton Ginny's Eco-ganic baby line: cool-looking and affordable. Another Canadian company that sells excellent organic basics is Parade (check parade.ca for stores). FIG, also Canadian, is pricier but super-stylish (visit figkids.com for retailers and online shopping options). Sprout Kids Clothing, a Canadian-owned line made from 70 percent bamboo and 30 percent organic cotton, has an online store with great basics (sproutkidsclothing.com). Diapers Even though green-bin programs in some municipalities include diapers, landfills are still packed with disposable diapers, since only parts of diapers can be composted. Fortunately, there are many alternatives. It's actually easy and economical to wash your own diapers, especially when your baby is an almost-toddler. Bummis sells cotton and fabric diapers and great waterproof diaper covers. Try Super Brite for the best fit. (Visit bummis.com for retailers.) Another option is a diaper service that will launder your diapers for you. Still needing disposables? Consider paying more for Seventh Generation diapers. The diapers and wipes are made without chlorine or fragrance and can be purchased online (seventhgeneration.com) or in stores. It's also easy to make your own reusable wipes by soaking infant washcloths in diluted wipe solution (I use Lyrae's Naturals; lyraesnaturals.com) or any organic baby wash.

Bath time

Look for bath and body products free of phthalates (often listed as "fragrance"), parabens and sodium laurel sulphates. These ingredients have been linked to a range of developmental disorders and cancer. Health-food stores usually carry a good range. You can find Burt's Bees natural products at Shoppers Drug Mart or you can order from burtsbees.ca. Love Me Baby Me, a superior line of organic products, has an online store that delivers in Canada (lovemebabyme.com).

Play time

It's hard to avoid plastic toys that all too often come in huge plastic packages. However, HABA Toys makes toys from non-toxic parts and paints and uses ecologically beneficial processes such as minimizing the use of raw materials, emissions and waste volumes. Babynaturopathics.com is a good source for HABA. Adorable miYim organic plush toys can be bought at naturalbeautycanada.com. Also look for toys by Brio and Chicco at your local toy store - they're PVC- and phthalate-free. And remember that you are by far your baby's favourite toy. A game of peekaboo or pat-a-cake or a knee-horsey ride costs nothing and can elicit more squeals of joy than any toy. No question that it's hard for new parents to fight the baby-needs marketing machine. But with just a little research, I've discovered it's pretty easy to buy quality stuff that isn't harmful to my family's health and contributes to my leaving behind a better environmental legacy for my daughter. Sometimes addressing the big picture begins with small steps.

Starting Out

As a new parent, I was shocked by the sheer amount of stuff we had to buy. Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products and Services in Canada by Adria Vasil (2007) was a book I turned to often to help me make healthy, environmental choices. greenmom.ca recommends ethical and sustainable options for consumers and provides articles and information. Two good shopping sites for all things natural and organic for your baby are ethicbaby.ca and naturalbeautycanada.com. The latter sells everything from crib mattresses to body products and plush toys.