We live in a world today that is far from natural. We spray our food with toxic chemicals, we add synthetic additives to skin care items, we heat our food with microwaves inside plastic packaging that is laden with chemicals. We wear clothes made from synthetic materials and many of us are immersed in cities surrounded by cars that emit hazardous air pollutants and we turn to phones, computers and TV instead of each other.
This is far from the lifestyle we once lived before technology and consumerism took over: the lifestyle where children were raised in villages, food was grown on the land, and people actually sat down, talked, and connected with each other. Unfortunately, the “unnatural” way of living that dominates our society today is causing many problems not only amongst adults, but babies as well.
You would hope that the baby product industry would be doing something to solve this dilemma, since babies are especially vulnerable to these unnatural ways of living, with their ultra-sensitive immune systems. Some non-organic baby foods and formulas are laden with pesticides and GMOs. Popular baby lotions, diaper creams, and shampoos contain harsh chemicals and dyes. Further, younger and younger kids are put in front of TVs teaching them to connect with a device rather than another human being.
What kinds of effects are these unnatural ways of living having not only on us, but also on our children, from the moment of conception through their development?
As a mom of 2 (and soon to be 3), I wasn’t about to find out personally. There is enough research to show that pesticides have harmful effects in both adults and children, sulfate manufacturing (often found in personal care products) produces carcinogenic by-products, and mothers who live closer to freeways may be at a higher risk for having kids who develop autism. Babies are sensitive little beings and if we are already seeing these documented negative effects in both adults and children, I have no question that the effect on babies would be magnified significantly.
We may not see immediate effects, but too much of any of these unnatural sources could result in epigenetic mechanisms, which may end up manifesting issues at any point further along in the life cycle such as cancers or mental health issues.
I’ve always been into a natural lifestyle (as much as possible, although I certainly am not perfect by any means!) but took the reins even further into my own hands when I found out I was pregnant and continue to do so while raising my 3 girls. Here is what I have done to live a more natural lifestyle and be a more eco-friendly parent and what you can do too.
8 Ways to be an Eco-Friendly Parent
- Eat organic as much as possible. Anything that is certified organic by law must also be Non-GMO (although this isn’t always the case unfortunately. Look for the Non-GMO Project certification for an extra layer of confidence that your product is truly GMO free). I used to be extreme about eating “all organic” but now I realize true health is what you do “most of the time”. However, it is important to be more “extreme” about the following fruits and vegetables (known as the “dirty dozen”) as they are more prone to pesticide exposure and do not have thicker skins to protect them from the sprays: strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines, blueberries, grapes, bell peppers, kale, cucumbers, cherries, grapes and celery.
- Only use shampoos, lotions, makeup and toothpastes (for both yourself and your baby) that do not contain harmful chemicals. Sodium laurel sulfates, parabens, and phthalates are ingredients of concern and something I make sure to stay away from wherever possible. If you have any questions about the product you are using please visit ewg.org and reference their cosmetic database to find products that are free from these (and any additional) harmful chemicals.
- Ditch the fragrances. I only use fragrances that contain natural essential oils. Synthetic perfumes, lotions, candles and air fresheners are a big no and often contain xenoestrogens that can interrupt hormones leading to cancers, as well as mood problems, and other health issues.
- No more harsh laundry detergents and no fabric softeners. Not only do those contain harsh fragrances, they are full of chemicals that are bad for your health (more hormone disruptors!) and hard on the environment. Use natural alternatives instead such as Seventh Generation natural laundry detergent.
- Unplug those cell phones and computers and put them on airplane mode, especially when baby is napping, or at night when baby is sleeping. There are some studies that have found the radio frequency radiation emitted from cell phones to be linked to tumor formation in rats. I know babies are not rats, but if the radiation can have that effect on an animal, I personally don’t question that it is having a negative effect on us humans and I don’t want to take the risk to find out how those radio waves are interacting with my babies’ brain development.
- Use organic diapers and unscented wipes or use a cloth diaper service. I’ll admit I was much better at this when I was a first-time parent and this is an area I can improve upon (too many last-minute runs to the store when I find out we are on the last diaper and then I’m faced with no organic choices. This is what happens sometimes when you run a business, have a family and wear all the other many hats we do as women in society. Time to re-commit here!) Using a cloth diaper service is an even better option. The EPA reports that about 20 billion disposable diapers are dumped in landfills each year. I know it can seem messy to use cloth, but cloth diaper services pick up, wash and redeliver the cleaned diapers at a reasonable cost.
- No TV before age 2. I know new research from the AAP has recently been released around age restriction and television (the new recommendation states that children under 18 months should only be limited to video chatting, and 18-24 months should only view “high quality” programming), but I still think it is important to limit screen time, and instead let kids connect with other children, play outside and explore the world around them so they learn to develop relationships, emotional intelligence, and appreciation for the world around them. This also saves energy and exposure to TV radiation.
- Use natural remedies whenever possible. I believe we need to take our health into our own hands. Too many of us rely on doctors to tell us what our bodies need. Instead of turning to western medicine every time there is an ailment, try a natural remedy instead or use them in conjunction with conventional medicine. Western medicine definitely has its place (and saved my second daughter’s life!) but I believe we need to do whatever possible to keep our bodies healthy in the first place, rather than waiting until something goes wrong to go in and fix it. For me, this means daily probiotics. We take them in my family religiously! I can’t recommend Inner-Eco probiotics enough. Prevention also means getting good sleep (I mean for your kids silly. Someone let me know when you actually get good sleep as a parent please?!) and prioritizing eating a healthy, balanced diet. Try alternatives before taking pills (think ginger tea with honey and lemon before children’s Benadryl). Finding balance between natural cures and western medicine is the key.
Raising an eco-conscious family goes far beyond the recycling bin. There are many factors that contribute to pollution. A more mindful approach to household items, food and waste output can make a huge difference not only for your family’s life but for future generations as well. Live by example and your children will benefit from your efforts!
– Written by Cassandra Curtis, Founder & COO, Once Upon a Farm
Cassandra is a mother of two girls Divinaka, age 5 and Skyla age 18 months. She lives in San Diego with her husband, 2 daughters (soon to be 3!), 2 cats and dog. Cassandra works full time as the founder and COO (still wearing many hats) of Once Upon a Farm and as a mom. In the rare free time that she does get, she loves to do Yoga (she is a certified yoga teacher), cook healthy meals, run, travel, and spend time with friends and family.