Organic Parenting… or You and Your Earth-Friendly Baby!

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Become fanatically PC to ask people if they recycle before throwing anything away in their homes. It seems impossible to drive anywhere without seeing a row of green, industrial, triangularly arrowed recycling bins.

Papers go in here, but only newspapers; regular white paper goes in here, as long as there’s no plastic attached to it; glass goes in here and aluminum goes in there, but only if its been rinsed out; and if it’s a jar, exclude the lid because it goes somewhere completely different, perhaps in the bin that reads “Lids Only.”

I, for one, find it more difficult to separate my trash than to separate myself from the issue of trash separation! And now, with a baby, any glimmer of hope there may have been for me to start this Earth-friendly habit of recycling has been completely snuffed out.

However (and that’s a really big however), I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel some sort of obligation to at least try to do my part. So, I started doing research and found that there are many alternatives to everyday items that are not only good for the earth, but actually better for my baby. So if you even remotely identify with my situation, you may be interested in what I’ve learned.

BABY CARE

The last month or so, I’ve been living with Psychobaby. Perhaps you’re familiar with his kind. He’ll be fine one minute and the next he’s wailing. You try to put him down only to hear shrill cries interrupted by silences during which aforementioned Psychobaby expells every last bit of air in his lungs only to refill and begin the process again until, of course, you pick him up and are met with a smile and a look like, “Who? Me?”

A couple of days after this behavior started, I noticed a sharp, white protrusion coming from his bottom gum. Alas, he has finally entered the teething stage, making the age-old combo of teethers and Tylenol more important than ever.

Ironically, in my eco-research, I found a lot of websites advertising hemp teethers. Hemp — known for its ability to resist mold and bacteria growth — is a natural material, meaning it comes from the earth. Hemp teethers, unlike traditional plastic teethers, are chemical free. Though they’re difficult to find locally, most merchants I spoke with agreed that they sounded great. You can find hemp teethers at alternativebaby.com where they’re sold at a starting price of $12.

In the nursery, the most obvious earth-friendly option would be cloth diapers. However, if I can’t bring myself to separate my trash, I definitely won’t be separating diapers and covers, and soaking and rinsing and all that business. I was delighted to find that there are several brands of “natural” disposables offering an altenative to both cloth diapers and regular disposables.

Lisa Carter, marketing director of Wild Oats Market, says that the store carries “biodegradeable diapers that are also hypoallergenic.” Tushies — one such brand — are available at local natural-living stores and claim to do the same job as regular diapers but don’t contain chemicals and gels that other brands use to fight wetness. They go for roughly $11 for about 30 diapers.

From time to time you may find yourself in the vicinity of a fiercely offensive, fire-engine red diaper rash. When I last encountered one, I decided to try an organic rash cream. I found a product called Boudreaux’s Butt Paste (starting at $3.50 for one ounce at alternativebaby.com) that contains Peruvian balsam to heal the rash “virtually overnight” and promote cell regeneration.

It sounds a little lavish for a baby’s bottom, but then again, if we could recall the pain of a diaper rash, we might think differently. An alternative to Boudreaux’s is Burt’s Bees, an increasingly popular line of “earth-friendly personal care products” whose baby product line is called Baby Bee.

Burt’s diaper ointment is hypoallergenic, chemical free and comprised of natural ingredients like lavender oil and chamomille. It soothes just as well as Balmex or Desitin and is au naturel. Burt’s is rapidly expanding its purchase points, so now it’s really no sweat to swing by a drugstore or grocery and pick up a tube. It is a little pricey, though, at $7 for a one-and-three-quarter-ounce tube.


CLOTHING

In my research, it was inevitable that I would come across “scare-facts” intended to bully me into this whole “natural living” phenomenon. “Like what?” you ask. Well, if you want the truth, the “fabric of our lives” actually can harm our lives unless, of course, it’s organically grown. “Organically grown,” in the case of cotton, means a product is raised without the use of chemicals like formaldehyde and coloring dyes.

According to flutterbyegarden.com, “Twenty-five percent of all perticides used globally are used on cotton crops.” Organic cotton is also softer, breathes easier and lasts longer than standard cotton. The cost of organic cotton linens averages $18 for a bath towel, $9 for a hand towel and around $4 for a wash cloth. The price of organic cotton clothing tends to be a bit higher depending on where you purchase.

Even more attractive than organic cotton is organic wool. For those of you uneducated in the wool department, it has a natural ability to stay cleaner than most materials and therefore requires less laundering. It was news to me that wool is a natural fire retardant (something to be said for tucking in a little one).

If wool is organic, it means that it has been sheared from sheep that are spared the insecticide dip that regular sheep endure. Oddly enough, most people who think they are allergic to wool are actually allergic to the chemicals found on wool as a result of the insecticide dip. Organic clothes and linens are available locally at places like Wild Animals and Scarlet Begonia as well as online at earthsake.com, grenculture.com and organic-clothing.com. Prices are all comparable and the websites tend to offer deals for higher quantity orders.

FOOD

I’ve made some changes around the house which are supposed to be better for the family and the earth, but it seems that the odds of me ever seeing a real difference as a result are little to none. There is one area, however, that could potentially display the fruits of my labor: organic foods. All the foods that are marketed towards kids, like Lunchables, Fruit Rool-Ups, Oreo Cereal and any other brightly colored, cartoon-mascoted food, are packed with artifical additives and preservatives.

For many, “additives and preservatives” is just a catch phrase that has become a food-advertising standard used to lure consumers toward or away from a product. We’re taught that it’s good for you if there are “no artificial additives or preservatives.” The general population may never know the exact definition of these words — but perhaps they should. When I learned about a study conducted by Pediatrics, the online journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the words took on new meaning for me.

The study found that “more than 50 percent of hyperactive children showed fewer behavior problems and had less trouble sleeping when put on a restricted diet free of all artifical and chemical food additives, chocolate, monosodium glutamate (MSG), preservatives, and caffeine.” It also stated that “refined foods can lead to hyperactivity.”

There has also been a lot of research on the connection between refined foods and asthma, skin rashes and various other evils that society has come to accept as part of childhood. Carter comments that most parents who come to Wild Oats are looking for “baby foods that are GMO (genetically modified organisms) free. There’s also a large interest in the low-sugar teethers and additive- and preservative-free baby foods.”

As a result of my findings, I have become a more aggressive label reader. I try to steer clear of the ingredient lists that seem to go on forever and include things like benzoic acid, propionic acid and nitrites. I’m hoping that in making an effort to curb my own appetite for products containing these things, I’ll be able to extend healthy and consequently earth-friendly nutritional habits to my son as he begins to eat more “big kid” foods.

Carter has seen this trend. “Parents shift their own habits when they have children,” she says. “They’re looking for things that are good for the children and then it carries over into their own eating habits.”

I know I’ll never be an environmental guru, largely because I opt for ease and immediate gratification. But while the changes I am making are seemingly minor, I will revel in the fact that they do count. The bottom line is that all parents want what’s best for their children, and, if we happen to save the earth while loving our child, more power to us all.

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