Before they had a baby, Jackie Just and her husband didn’t seek out organic products, but the Minneapolis couple reconsidered that stance once they became parents. They decided to feed their son organic foods because they had many unanswered questions about autism. “We feel that organic food eliminates one possible factor,” Just says.
She also attributes her son’s good health to his organic diet. “He’s had only a handful of minor illnesses,” Just says. “I suppose there is no way to measure this officially, but having him eat organic food definitely gives us peace of mind.”
“Going green” is a popular trend in all aspects of life, and it has now trickled down to the way parents approach caring for their new baby. Along with organic fruits and vegetables found at the grocery store or specialty market, baby food manufacturers now sell pre-packaged, pre-processed organic foods.
But food choices aren’t the only way parents can go organic. Other options include cloth diapers over disposable, types of clothing the child wears, bathing and cleaning products and even toys.
Overall, we live in a toxic environment. What we eat, what we breathe, what we wear or what we rest on is filled with toxins. “We need to reduce the toxic load for babies,” says Annie B. Bond, executive producer for Care2’s Green Living channels. Luckily, she adds that you can get just about anything that is organic.
Dr. Natalie Geary, a pediatrician in New York, N.Y., says there are two reasons why organic is better for babies: pesticides and preservatives. “Pesticides are the chemicals designed to poison the nervous systems of insects so they can’t eat food while it’s growing,” she says. These pesticides are especially dangerous to children because “many organ systems can be subtly damaged by exposure to toxic substances.”
Dr. Geary adds that preservatives are readily absorbed into the intestinal tract and are difficult for the body to clear. Small children are especially more vulnerable as their bodies are growing rapidly and they absorb more of the preservatives for their size than do adults.
Dr. Kaayla Daniel, a nutritionist in Albuquerque, N.M., says that organic food is generally richer in nutrient content and free from toxic residue. “I recommend that parents feed their babies organic foods because of the lower levels of pesticides and herbicides,” Dr. Daniel says.
If you are looking for organic products for your baby, Dr. Daniel says you should look for items with the Certified Organic seal. “Note the PLU code found on those pesky little stickers that we have to dig off produce,” she says. “If it is organic, it should begin with a nine, followed by four other numbers. The freshest and best quality products generally come from local organic farmers. When buying locally, [it’s] best to buy from farmers you know personally and can trust, given the fact many small farmers do not get their produce officially certified.”
When most people think organic, they think food. However, there are a number of other organic options available. They include the following:
- Skincare products for babies, although parents should carefully read labels. According to Dr. Geary, look for oils rather than fragrances, and watch for ingredients like methyl and propyl parabens.
- Diapers, beddng and clothing (organic cotton is most popular).
- Plush toys.
- Tooth gels.
- Baby furniture.
A quick Google search will provide links to hundreds of stores that sell organic baby supplies. But again, the experts repeat the need to read the labels carefully.
A Good Organic Lifestyle
Deciding to provide an organic lifestyle for your baby requires some understanding on what “organic” actually means. Organic is a product free of unnatural toxins.
“Many parents are under the impression that the best way to avoid environmental toxins is to eliminate animal fat,” Dr. Daniel says. “However, animal fats are essential to growth, reproduction and overall health. It is important to seek out organic meats, milk, eggs and butter, as well as organic vegetables and grains.”
Dr. Daniel says that many parents mistakenly think of organic soy milk for infants as a good organic substitute for formula, even soy formula. “Soy milk grossly lacks the nutrients needed for babies,” she says. “It can put the baby’s life in jeopardy from malnutrition.”
Weighing the Cost
One look at the produce shelf while shopping shows that organic is usually more expensive than regular products and foods. While some parents might want to provide an organic lifestyle for their child, the costs may be prohibitive.
While it may not be easy to save money with food products, Bond says there are other ways parents can give their baby a “green” life while saving money. “Green products tend to be cheaper,” she says.
For example, here’s a simple diaper rash salve:
4 ounces oil infused with calendula and chamomile
1 ounce beeswax
1/4 teaspoon grapefruit seed extract
Infuse the oil and herbs in a Crock Pot on low heat for six hours. Strain. Combine the oil and beeswax in a double boiler and place over medium heat until the wax is melted. Remove from heat, add the grapefruit seed extract and mix with a hand or electric mixer until creamy. Makes 1/2 cup.
Or, if the baby has cradle cap, Bond suggests using cocoa butter rather than the salves on the market. She also suggests to save money on “organic” toys and buy used rather than new. “The toxins disappear over time,” she says, making them safer over time.
“Babies are so pure that you want to be safer rather than sorry when it comes to caring for them,” Bond says.
Attitudes Toward Organic Products
Umbria, a marketing firm that analyzes online social behaviors, has discovered the following information about parents’ attitudes toward organic foods and products:
- Organic baby food is becoming a hot topic of discussion, particularly among moms.
- Parents who are feeding their children an organic diet are blogging about making food themselves rather than purchasing store brands. Popular starter foods for babies are bananas, avocados, peas and carrots.
- Moms who blog about organic eating place a high importance on frugality and saving money.
- Cloth diapers are experiencing a relative surge among “organic moms.”