What you should know, what ingredients to look out for, and how to find the best products for baby
When I was pregnant with my first child, I thought about my health a lot. I followed all the dietary guidelines. I stopped drinking alcohol, quit my relationship with soft cheese, and said goodbye to sashimi (temporarily, thankfully)! I ate more organic fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and switched to herbal teas in place of coffee. I also drank lots of water, exercised, and actually listened when my body told me to sleep.
But as I read more and more about keeping my baby safe from harm, I learned that there was more to be concerned about than a wedge of unpasteurized brie every now and then. I read about BPA, a synthetic compound found in many plastics, like food containers and baby bottles. I learned about toxic dyes in toys, harmful chemicals used in baby (and adult) bath wash, and petroleum and alcohols in baby lotion.
I was completely taken aback. I wanted the best for my son, but how could I ensure that the products I bought him — everything from the diapers I put on his bottom to the spoons I used to feed him to the crib he would sleep in — were as safe as possible? It seemed like an insurmountable task.
And for a while, it was. I went to all the usual suspect big box stores and websites to find what I wanted: products that were made with as many natural, organic materials as possible, free from harmful toxins and chemicals. I came away with my hopes dashed. Sometimes I could find a few things I wanted, but there was no “one-stop” shop to find all the products I needed — pacifiers, high-quality toys, sleeping sacks, swaddles — that were also safe for my tot.
After yet another frustrating afternoon shopping, I realized that I had to do something about this problem myself. If I wanted a place where mothers could find non-toxic, organic, and safe products for themselves and their babies, I would have to create it. And so, The Tot was born. Since then, it’s evolved into an online shop, as well as a resource for learning why it’s so crucial to demand simple and safe products for your family.
But I know many moms are left wondering: Can I really afford to go non-toxic or BPA-free?
Although many products manufactured without these harmful chemicals are more expensive, you can still live a non-toxic lifestyle without blowing your budget.
Strategies for Saving Money on Natural Products
For starters, less is more. It’s easy to get caught up in either anxiety or excitement and overbuy for your baby. Planning and prioritizing your needs can help control the impulses and stress that comes along in the nesting stage.
By looking at the basics, you can mindfully choose products made with simple ingredients and that serve an immediate purpose. Focusing only on what you need now helps save a lot of money. Although it may seem wise to buy products six or eight months ahead of time, it can quickly become very expensive. Plus, it’s very hard to know what your particular baby will like or even need that far into the future.
Next, think elemental and purposeful. To start, buy glass products whenever possible. Yes, they are more expensive upfront, but they’ll last longer so your cost-per-use will be far lower in the long run. There are also great non-toxic casings to prevent breaks and to help with grip.
When it comes to prioritizing, think about the most important products that are used to feed your baby (like spoons, bottles, and bowls) and then those that are applied to their body (like lotions and soaps). The last category to target is the things that they play with (like toys, teethers, and play mats).
Don’t think that you have to buy everything non-toxic straight away. It’s OK to not go cold turkey. You can buy the most important items (as listed above) and then others as you need them.
Finally, remember that there are many other ways to cut down on harmful toxins. Avoid processed and packaged foods as much as possible, use an air purifier, and, if you can, grow your own fruit and vegetables to avoid pesticides. Every little bit helps.
Toxins to Look out for
At The Tot, we choose products that avoid toxins and harmful chemicals as much as possible. But what are those toxins and chemicals? And what’s so bad about them? Below is a list of the most common ones we like to avoid — and why.
BPAs – BPA stands for bisphenol A. It’s an industrial chemical that’s been used to make plastic since the ’60s, and evidence suggests that it seeps from plastic into our food or drink and that it can affect the healthy brain development of infants. There may also be a link between BPAs and increased heart pressure.
Phthalates – Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastic more flexible and durable. Research has shown they are harmful to the kidney, liver, lungs, and reproductive system (especially in little boys).
PVC – Polyvinyl chloride is thought to be the most widely used hazardous plastic. Vinyl chloride, the chemical used to manufacture PVC, is a human carcinogen. (In other words, it could cause cancer).
SLS – Sodium lauryl sulfate is a surfactant used in many toiletry and cleaning products, like shampoo, soap, and laundry detergent. This has been linked to irritated skin and eyes, and it can also harm marine life.
SLES – Sodium laureth sulfate is another surfactant used in toiletry and cleaning products. It’s frequently contaminated with a carcinogen called 1-4 dioxane in the manufacturing process.
How Can I Tell if My Products Are Toxin Free?
By now I’ve probably scared you into thinking that nothing is safe enough for your baby! Don’t worry! That’s not true. There are plenty of non-toxic products out there. You just have to look for them.
Always have a close look at the label of any product. For plastic items, look for language that indicates they are PVC-, phthalate-, and BPA-free. For laundry, cleaning, and bathroom products, look for natural ingredients (ingredients you recognize, not the names of chemicals) and keep an eye out for SLS- and SLES-free. The more ingredients you recognize, the better a product will usually be.