Raising a Green Baby in a Toxic World

A friend recently called me to ask about raising a baby while ensuring a sustainable lifestyle.  In the course of eight months, I have slowly accumulated some wisdom on bringing up a Green-Eyed Baby.

1. Diapers: Who would have ever imagined cloth diapers would make a comeback? Here’s a point to ponder: your baby will use approximately 6,000 diapers before toilet training AND disposable diapers take 200-500 years to decompose.  I know this firsthand.  Notice how those nasty potty-filled nappies are always floating around while you are relaxing at the beach!  More than this, studies have shown that “disposable diapers do release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The main absorbent filler in disposable diapers is sodium polyacrylate, which could cause respiratory, as well as skin irritations.  Also, most diapers are bleached white with chlorine.”

Enter cloth diapers.  One study has found that home-washing cloth diapers has only 53% of the ecological footprint of disposables.  Do note that cloth diapers are not what they used to be (goodbye diaper pins!).  There are fitted cloth diapers with Velcro closures made of fleece.  These look like disposables but are just made of cloth. I searched for locally made cloth diapers and found Tussy Wussy by Next9. They sell these cute cloth diapers at P1,000 for a set of 3.  There’s also Terra Babies.  They sell Bumkins, Happy Heinys and Ipay cloth diapers.

Also, as you are aiming for sustainable, make sure that you use non-toxic detergent.  There is a local brand called Victoria at the supermarket.  It’s an herbal, non-toxic and biodegradable detergent.  Then there’s the old and reliable Perla White. And remember that you don’t have to iron the nappies.

I also found biodegradable diapers in Rustans/Shopwise.  These are called 7th Generation Diapers and made with plant-based plastics (non-petroleum based and are compostable.)  It’s about P700 for a set of 24 nappies.  I tried these and use the biodegradable diapers when we travel or during car trips. There is a local distributor for Earth’s Best diapers, which are chlorine free.  You can contact her 09178505766.  It’s P180 for 30 diapers and they deliver.

Some have gone to the extreme of “diaper freedom,” but I am not ready to venture into that.

2. Milk

Of course, breast is best!!!  Not only are you raising an ultra-healthy baby, it’s free and has no environmental footprint.  If you need breast-pads though, please remember you do not need the disposable ones.  Use cotton/cloth pads that you can reuse.  Also, your cracked or sore nipples do not need creams or ointments!  Really.  The medicine for the cracks or soreness is simple: just nurse some more.  It’s crazy but I swear by this method.  However, if you really really really think you need one, some say olive oil can do the job.

While we are on the subject of baby milk, let me add a few thoughts on bottle-feeding.  When you pump your milk, you will have to store the milk and feed your baby through baby bottles. If you still have not heard, mothers are concerned about toxic chemicals leaching from plastic bottles into milk.  I used Avent for both daughters (with no problem, yet) but Avent is labeled as #7 plastic, and thus has BPA.  I am now switching to BPA free bottles.  As I said in my old posts, #5 plastics are among the most recyclable and have not been found to leach potential hormone disruptors.  Off the web, I got the following information on #5 Baby bottles that you can try:

Rubbermaid Chuggables Bottles

Rubbermaid Sippin’ Sport Bottles

Evenflo Colored Baby Bottles

Evenflo Baby Bottles (opaque, pastel)

Gerber Baby Bottles (colors)

Medela Baby Bottles

Baby Bottles (Glass)

Lamby Glass Baby Bottles

Evenflo Glass Baby Bottles

While on the subject of milk, if you do not decide to breastfeed (please do) or have already weaned your child from the breast, I believe the next best milk is Goat’s Milk.  Since I weaned my daughter, I have given her Goat’s Milk.  Goat’s Milk is easier to digest than cow’s milk, higher in calcium.  A friend Hindy, sells Goat’s Milk and you can order by texting 0918-942-2611.

3. Solid food

Make your own!  Homemade Organic is best.  Buy local or organic veggies and fruits from the market, steam or mash them with a fork.  Simple!  You can also make brown rice cereal by cooking organic brown rice and putting it in a blender. What works for me are mangoes, squash, papaya, avocado, sayote, carrots,and bananas (limit the bananas though).  These are readily available and are locally grown.  For occasional situations when you need to buy baby food in jars for convenience, Rustans and Healthy Options carry organic baby food (from P50-100).

44. Clothing

Much as we love to dress our kids in the cutest, hard to resist ensembles, all they really need are a few comfortable fabrics.  I try to look for those that are made without toxic chemicals but sometimes the organic clothes are too pricey.  Kids grow out of their clothes amazingly fast.  What’s the most sustainable option?  Hand-me-downs!  I have to admit though, it is hard to resist and occasionally splurge on the new line of organic clothing.  A friend Donna Tumacder Esteban makes these cute organic onesies with One word on them like Hope, Faith, Love.  These are 100% natural unbleached, undyed cotton onesies and sells at P275. You can email her at dtesteban@yahoo.com. ALso, check out Cat in the Hat at Rustans.  These are so damn cute!

Oh, and when washing the baby clothes, use pure soap and warm water. You can use Victoria or Perla White. Ilog Maria has clear liquid soap too but the scent is sometimes overpowering.

55. Bath

Your baby does not need a spa treatment!  All they need is water and soap.  A number of pediatricians even recommend just washing baby with water. Really.  For the soaps, I recommend a local brand called Baby Blue by Nature Handmade Soaps.  A mom especially made the soaps for her atopic baby. (Call 09273100808)  There are also a number of handmade organic soaps in the market.  I found quite a few at the Saturday Market of Salcedo and the Sunday Market of Barangay San Lorenzo, Eco Serendra and Eco Market. Ilog Maria also has a few handmade soaps.  And please, don’t get sucked into all the baby ads.  You don’t need baby powders, oils, lotions, and colognes.  If you can’t resist the urge to use lotion, you can actually use plain old olive oil. There is also Oasis by Planet Noah http://oneplanetnoah.multiply.com. I use their Baby Oil and it’s simply delightful.  Once your baby has grown, and you need to lather her up with shampoo, conditioner, lotion or cologne, you might want to try the organic line of Burt’s Bees, Badger, Jasons, or Aveeno. There are also a number of baby products such as Insect Repellants, Sunblock, and diaper rash creams made by Indigo Baby indigomanila.multiply.com.  A product I highly recommend is Weleda, and made available to us by Centro Natura (you can call 9285386).

6. Wipes

Diaper wipes and liners commonly include propylene glycol, parabens and perfume, which can be made from up to 600 different chemicals. So what should you use?  Plain old water on cotton! When we travel, I bring a spray bottle with water and use small cotton washcloths as my wipes.

7. Toys

I can’t stress this enough about toys. Less is more.  Get back to basics and try old fashioned wooden toys or homemade toys.  I know it’s hard to say no to the plastic toys as these are everywhere, look so appealing to our kids, and inexpensive too.  But plastic, especially PVC vinyl, may contain lead, a neurotoxin; cadmium, a carcinogen; and phthalates, which have been linked to liver and kidney damage and cancer in animals. Babies put most things in their mouths, so go as natural as possible.  Also aim for toys that helps build a child’s bond with nature and the natural world.   If you need wooden toys, they are starting to have more choices at Rustans.  Hobbes also carries Haba and Melissa and Doug.  Local wooden toys are made by Tess Sobeng or Kraftek Trading (gtuano@yahoo.com.ph) carries wooden blocks and puzzles.  There is also Tahanang Walang Hagdan at Market Market.  Better yet, learn to see toys from nature, shells, wood, twigs, and flowers (remember how we used to thread santan to make wreaths, or squeeze the oil out of the gumamela flower.)

8. Furniture and accessories

This stresses me out.  Babies don’t need all those bouncy seats, baby videos and diaper genies!  They actually don’t need much.  For me, the basic and essentials are: a place to sleep (no pillows or comforters), a car seat, a high chair, a sling (check out Next.9 or Indigo Manila indigomanila.multiply.com for the local slings) and a stroller. The best thing about this advice is that it makes having a baby so much cheaper!  Oh and if you are looking for nice blankets, I found local hand woven blankets made in Iligan.  Nenuca Syquia has made exquisite designs on these classics.  Visit http://www.inabelblankets.multiply.com for details.

9. Home

Studies have shown that children brought up in over-cleaned houses are more likely to develop allergies, asthma, or eczema.  So don’t stress out.  The best thing you can do for your baby is just make sure you don’t cover him or her in synthetic chemicals.  Avoid exposure to the chemicals contained in everyday products such as paints, carpet, furniture, cleaners, cosmetics and pesticides. (You can check my old post on Homemade Pesticides). Use natural and low-VOC paints for baby’s room.  Davies has low-VOC paints. Germs and dust on the other hand, (i.e. let her play in the sand and get dirty!) are occasionally alright. Messy Bessy has recently introduced a product called Handy Nanny.  It’s a chemical free spray bottle of almost pure water with oils that you can use as a disinfectant. www.messybessy.com

At the end of the day, raising a natural baby while minimizing our impact on the Earth has really less to do with buying certain products.  We should always be mindful of simplicity and not to be so engaged in the consumer culture.  So instead of buying the baby gadgets and accessories, getting sucked in by the baby couture movement, or keeping up with the Jones’ baby…try to respond to your baby’s needs with love, respect and sensitivity, breast-feed her, keep her close to you, nurture with the magic of touch, and strive for balance in your everyday life.   I am certain then that parenting will come naturally.

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