Becoming a mother – whether it’s your first time or your fourth pregnancy– is rightfully considered one of the most joyous, exciting and genuinely miraculous events spanning the scope of human experience. But, as I’ve learned in parenting my own three children, motherhood can also be unexpectedly expensive and overwhelming, a fact that’s only exacerbated by question of child safety. With the advent of pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals, what’s a mom to do? Research shows pesticides disrupt your endocrine system, may lead to ADHD and other neurobehavioral damage, impact semen quality, respiratory problems, Parkinson’s disease, autism, heart disease, suicidal thoughts, lower IQ, ALS, and cancer, to name a few.
To alleviate this problem, and deliver to my fellow mothers-in-arms and mothers-to-be all the pragmatic kernels of information I’ve garnered over the years: here is a comprehensive list of every secret, trick, strategy and gambit you’ll ever need to know when it comes to child rearing!
- Bedroom Changing Station – I found an old tea cart at an antique place and threw a changing pad on top and baskets on the serving trays below. You can also simply create a changing area on top of your current dresser, using one of the drawers for your diapers, water wipes etc. Honestly, you don’t need to buy an expensive table for this. You can find something that will work and it will be more unique and fun to put together anyway.
- Changing Pad – because many of these have toxic flame retardants (they enter a child’s body and research shows they are even found in baby’s urine!) I would recommend forgoing the pad entirely (again, no $$ spent!) and instead using a washable towel to create a soft surface. Make sure use organic material only – a newborn’s skin is exceptionally sensitive and pesticides make it through their skin!
- Glider/Rocking Chair – a must-have tool for mom to rock their little ones! A note of caution: most basic gliders contain large quantities of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which are dangerous for babies, so get an old fashioned straw or wood rocker (second-hand is best, visit your local goodwill!) or make sure to buy these early and leave them outside for airing out. This will help eliminate the risk of the baby inhaling any VOCs. And of course make sure they don’t have flame retardants (check the label, if it says compliant with TB117, stay away)
- Exercise Ball – for babies who prefer to bounce, this is an excellent alternative to a rocker.
- Crib – You won’t need it right away so save so money here too. Better yet, keep looking on Craigslist and get the one you want second hand – chances are the VOC’s will be mostly dissolved. Also, it’s important to recognize that a crib is not necessary until the baby is at least two to three months old or even a year – to avoid SIDS you want the baby sleeping in your room the first year, the Association of Pediatrics recommends, and you may not need a giant bed for that tiny tot at first. Give yourself time to make a decision – and relax! A
- Co-Sleeper – an item essential for the baby to be in the same room as you, this makes for immediate nursing the instant cries are first heard. Some can even be pulled by your bed and allow your hand to rest right by the child (just make sure the height is right for your particular bed). Dockatot and SnuggleMeOrganic are great options for implementing safe and effective co-sleeping.
- Mattress – be sure to get a mattress devoid of any flame retardants! Naturepedic is an excellent brand committed to non-toxicity
- Humidifier – pediatricians recommend that babies sleep with a humidifier or fan nearby for first year, in order to reduce any risk of SIDS.
- Car Seat- There is only one car seat that is devoid of flame retardants and it only just came out the spring of 2017: the Uppababy Henry. This seat actually has flame retardants, but it is completely natural, so there are no chemicals. It remains safe and tested, and makes my list!
Hygiene and Bathing
- Diapers – I recommend Bamboo and Poof brand. They don’t have any added ingredients and aren’t bleached, so your child will be safe from toxins and any skin reactions. Another option is Naty brand, they are biodegradable
- Wipes – even organic brands have chemicals in them, so I use WaterWipes.
- Diaper Rash Cream – again no need to spend money on expensive (chemical-laden) creams here. Look no further than organic coconut oil! It is antifungal, and some people use it for cradlecap. Moreover, coconut oil is a traditional Ayurvedic baby massage oil in the summer months (use organic sesame oil for the winter) to help your baby sleep.
- Moisturizer/Healing Balms – DO NOT invest in any baby balms or lotions; nearly ALL of them are saturated with alarming amounts of toxic chemicals.
- Baby Shampoo and Wash – brands on the shelf are full of chemicals, despite what labels might say. Remember that your baby is likely not dirty, no real need for soap on that delicate and new skin – especially at first. When you must, I recommend using a natural wash like Earth Mama Baby Angel.
- Bulb Syringe – this is for pulling out nasal mucus. But, here’s an added secret: while my child was breastfeeding I exclusively ate non-mucus forming foods – i.e. no meat, dairy, fish, gluten or soy, and very limited beans/lentils. These foods may cause excess mucus production for some people. For my family and clients, this has helped tremendously; my sons never encountered any issues with mucus or nasal congestion, and the bulb syringe went unused! That said, colds happen, so good to have on hand. Go with Nosefrieda.
- Nail Clippers – I recommend skipping this entirely and opting instead for a pair of small rounded scissors – compared to clippers, they’re much less likely to cut into your child.
- Breast Pump – having tried a variety of brands, I can safely say that Medela pumps are by far the best option.
- Bottle – I recommend Dr. Brown’s Glass bottles. According to recent research, plastic is much more harmful and toxic to babies than previously assumed; opt to use glass products whenever you get the chance.
- Bottle Sanitizer – this is useful to have as a precautionary measure, in case your child develops oral thrush during breastfeeding. But definitely not a must.
- Pacifier – the Smoothee Pacificer is the only one that newborns seem to universally enjoy; I recommend going for the unscented variety (less weird toxins). Of course natural rubber is even better, but it depends on what pacifier shape your child likes.
- Storing Milk – for the milk you’re not freezing, I suggest using a set of 8 extra glass bottles for refrigerator storage. It’s also prudent to get tops with labeled dates, so you’re aware when the milk was expressed. For freezing, again use small glass jars, like these. You want to avoid plastic as much as possible!
- Go for Hand-Me-Downs – again, research shows that pesticides leak through the skin. Choose tried-and-true over fashion, and opt for clothing such as hand-me-downs that have already been thoroughly washed (every wash cycle reduces clothing pesticides).
- Avoid Flame Retardants – be watchful for anything and everything labeled “flame retardant” (unfortunately, this means basically every baby pajama). Chemicals implicated in flame retardation are increasingly being found in baby urine, and research on their long-term effects are inconclusive. Better, then, to stay on the safe side and avoid related products altogether.
- Swaddle – make sure you know how to swaddle – and keep the swaddle tight; it ensures the baby won’t be able to burst out of it unexpectedly, and ensures a better night’s sleep. Again, choose only organic!
- Burp Cloths – these are essential, and I recommend investing only in organic ones; anything else is likely to have used pesticides as solvents, which can easily invade the child’s skin barrier.
- Laundry Detergent – choosing a wrong detergent can lead to rashes all over your baby’s body, and organic and natural is, surprisingly, not good enough. I strongly recommend using Free and Clear 7th Generation to wash ALL your clothes!
Beds and Bags
- Baby Swing – this will free you from having to hold your child at all times, and give you the space to tend to your own basic needs, like using the bathroom, taking a shower and eating. Swings can also help your child fall asleep. Again check for flame retardants or cover it up with organic blankets so baby doesn’t touch the original material.
- Pre-3 Month Carrier – the organic Boba wrap is by far the best carrier, and extraordinarily comfortable for both mother and child. I credit this product with helping me fit in several casual outdoor walks during my baby’s first few months.
- Post-3 Month Carrier – I recommend the Baby Ergo 360 following your baby’s 3-month mark. This model is worth the investment: it’s ergonomically optimal and allows parents to shift the child’s facing (inward or outward). Personally, I’ve used it to great success on plane rides to help my infants fall asleep and even nurse.
- Infant Vibrate Seat – helps reduce gas, a common issue for most newborns. The seat can also serve as a great alternative to a baby swing on account of its greater mobility.
Things to Think About
- Books – If you’re looking for reading material, I recommend Happiest Baby on the Block – it’s full of great techniques to help put your child to sleep.
- Vaccination – with much conflicting information surrounding vaccination, it’s critical to get educated and make an informed decision. I encourage you to do your own thorough research to assist with your decision-making; for example, there are many recent comprehensive documentaries on the subject. You will definitely want to make a clear decision well before the child’s arrival, since certain vaccines are routinely administered at birth. You, as the parent, ultimately have the right to make this decision, not anyone in the medical field.
- What to Eat During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding – I learned from environmental toxicologists that GMOs and pesticides, both widely prevalent in modern food, can alter the fetus in utero, impacting their sexual development and neurodevelopment. I urge all expectant mothers to try as much as possible to go completely organic – it will pay major dividends in the form of your baby’s long-term health! An organic diet is also critical during breastfeeding, with recent studies revealing that harmful pesticides can even seep into breast milk. Read 15 ways to go organic on a budget here!
- Beauty products – Watch your own make-up and toiletries while pregnant, and also when you’re caring for your baby. Your child absorbs everything (see this research study). This has been written about in the news recently (see here and here). Commercial shampoos, make-up and creams have a lot of chemicals that go right through your skin and potentially into your bloodstream. But of course, we sometimes enjoy using beauty products. So, for make up, choose the brand 100% PURE is great. For shampoos, choose completely non-toxic ones (like SunFood). For lotions and creams, use natural organic oils or creams like this soft shea butter.
- Birthing Options – Natural or medicated? Midwife or hospital? Before you make these decisions, watch The Business of Being Born, a revealing documentary that details the body’s response to epidural administration, and provides insight into the monetary basis for the medicalization of delivery. No longer able to ignore the issues the film raised, I opted for the natural approach. If you’re concerned about pain, I encourage trying programs like Hypnobabies, proven to help delivering mothers relax and manage their pain.
- Baby’s Sleep – while many champion the “cry it out” method, research is revealing that this actually increases the baby’s stress levels and can even lead to learned helplessness. That said, crying-it-out does make a parent’s life significantly easier, so I recommend, again, weighing your options and making an informed decision!
- Toys – everyone will want to give you some, you’ll want to buy some. Here again, there is a shocking amount of toxins to be aware of (see this article for details). Again here, buy toxin-free and organic. Avoid plastics and only buy plush toys that are organically made in the US.
Now that you’ve hopefully made some important decisions, and fully prepped your car and home, it’s time to check off the itinerary for your baby’s birthday!
The Arrival Checklist
- Birthing Center Bag:
- Diaper Bag:
- take home outfit for baby (premie, newborn, and 0-3 months depends on size of baby)
- newborn size diapers
- baby wipes
- baby bottom balm/healing ointment/moisturizer
- changing mat
- hand sanitizer – again here you don’t want to get the chemical, over the counter ones – instead use a natural one based in essential oils. (I like to use this spray sanitize toys before baby plays with them)
- extra outfit
- burp cloths
With these safe products and healthy choices, you are already well on your way to raising a happy baby!
*Disclosure: These are affiliate links. At no cost to you, I may earn a small commission from the sale of these products. This assists my work in supporting others on their healing journey to health.