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Living GREEN & Organic For You and your Baby
Going green: Options for your baby
diapers or disposables? Regular baby food or organic? These issues
probably run through your mind often as you prepare to bring your new
baby into the world. Believe it or not, it takes some thought -- and a
few financial calculations --o figure out what' right for your family
budget and for your baby when you'e opting for "environmentally
friendly,"organic (pesticide-free) or natural products.
you are in your first trimester or your last, now is the time weigh
your options. Of course, you never know: Your baby could be allergic to
disposables or, later on, really dislike the organic baby food you
purchased by the case over the Internet. Planning helps to set your
mind at ease -- but it's smart to have alternatives in mind.
Cloth vs. disposables Today,
cloth diapers are priced competitively if you use a diaper service,
though buying a set of diapers and washing them yourself is much
cheaper. Many people use disposables for convenience. Others use cloth
(typically a cotton or cotton/hemp blend) because they feel it's better
for the environment and for their babies.
Mel Williams of
Atlanta, Georgia, uses cloth diapers and wipes not only for the
environment's sake but also for financial reasons. "I have always been
an avid recycler," says the mom of one. "Part of it is cost.
Disposables [are about] $50 a month for an average of three years.
That's $1,800 per child! I invested in some one-size-fits-all cloth
diapers -- they were a bit more expensive than others, and I spent
about $600. I intend to use them on all future children. I am saving a
huge amount of money!"
Lindsey Osterloh of San Diego agrees that
the low cost of cloth diapers is an important factor when you're
looking at diapering additional children. "After the initial
investment, it is much cheaper in the long run," she says. "A lot of
people are put off by cloth diapers like it's a lot of work. We don't
even own a washer or dryer. I thought it would be a big pain, but it's
no big deal."
The cost differences, however, aren't as
significant as you might think. Disposables do indeed cost about $50
per month, estimating five to seven diaper changes per day. (The amount
varies with the child's age: Infants need more changes than older
babies and toddlers.) The initial one-time investment for cloth
diapers, including diaper covers and diaper pail, is about $80, the
Ohio State University Extension reports. Home laundry, including
depreciation of equipment and washing one load per day, costs about $40
per month. According to the university, commercial diaper services with
weekly delivery and pickup of soiled diapers average $10 to $15 per
week, or $40 to $60 per month.
Other factors may influence your
decision, too. Amy Gault, of Indianapolis, Indiana, started using cloth
diapers when her first child was 11 months old. "We thought it might
help him potty train earlier," she says, adding that the cost was also
a consideration. "In fact, I make my own diapers because we can't
really afford to buy the ones I want."
Organic baby food Whether
to use organic (pesticide-free) baby food is a choice that often comes
with a little research. Often, organic baby foods cost a little more,
but experts and some moms agree: Keeping pesticides out of a baby's
diet is best.
"Babies and children need good food because their
bodies are developing and growing," says Lizzie Vann, founder of a
Great Britain's Baby Organix, and author of the Organic Baby and
Toddler Cookbook. "We use fully organic ingredients because young
bodies develop very quickly, needing large quantities of food at a time
when their eliminative organs -- blood, kidneys and liver -- are not
fully able to excrete complex substances. Clearly, it makes sense to
give them food that is pure as possible."
According to the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), infants and children may be
especially sensitive to health risks posed by pesticides for several
* Their internal organs are still developing and
maturing; in relation to their body weight, infants and children eat
and drink more than adults, possibly increasing their exposure to
pesticides in food and water. * Pesticides may harm a developing
child by blocking the absorption of important food nutrients necessary
for normal healthy growth. * There are "critical periods" in human
development when exposure to a toxin can permanently alter the way an
individual's biological system operates.
For these reasons, and
as specifically required under the Food Quality Protection Act (1996),
the EPA carefully evaluates children's exposure to pesticide residues
in and on foods they most commonly eat, i.e., apples and apple juice,
orange juice, potatoes, tomatoes, soybean oil, sugar, eggs, pork,
chicken and beef.
Even though organic foods cost more, Erin Kirk
of Athens, Georgia, says it is worth it. "I feel that the more pure a
food is, the healthier it is," she says. "I know I can't shield my
daughter from bad food forever, but I hope to give her a healthy start
Dr Peter Degnan of Equinox Health and Healing in
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a health organization that integrates
conventional and alternative medicine, encourages parents to use
organic baby food. "Although there are no head-to-head research studies
comparing outcomes of organic versus nonorganic foods, it makes good
sense to think that a small, rapidly growing and developing body should
benefit the most by foods that are not contaminated by pesticides or
toxins," he says.
On the other hand, Dr Andy Spooner,
pediatrician at Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center in Memphis,
Tennessee, says pesticides, antibiotics and food additives serve
important purposes. "Remember, one of the reasons foods are exposed to
pesticides, additives, antibiotics and 'unnatural' processes is to make
them more healthful -- to reduce the risk of diseases like botulism in
honey, E.coli in meat, listeria in dairy products, and naturally
occurring toxins in just about anything," he says.
Taste is a
factor, too. Spooner says, "Organic baby food, in some cases, tastes
different. One might find that one's child detests 'regular' green
beans, but loves a certain brand of organic beans. But that has less to
do with the 'organic-ness' of the food than a baby's personal tastes."
Van Kats of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada isn't so sure about organic
foods. "To put only organic foods into your body or your baby's is to
become used to this perfect, untouched food," she says. "However, in
all reality, not everyone does this, and the daycare you send your
child to or the relatives who babysit him/her will not always have
organic foods on hand. What happens then? Why not just minimize
exposure to preservatives instead?"
Natural remedies and household cleansers Some
parents choose alternative and natural health remedies and household
cleansers. Osterloh says she uses all-natural soaps and detergents
because they're better for the environment as well as sensitive skin.
She also uses alternative health remedies, such as homeopathic teething
tablets. "When [the baby] gets bites or rashes, we use calendula oil
(known for its pain-relieving properties) instead of diaper cream," she
says. "If it doesn't clear his skin up the first time, it will the
second." So what led her down this route? Osterloh says she and her
husband did a lot of research before their son was born. "We wanted
things to be as natural as possible."
Lynn Siprelle, a Portland,
Oregon-based homemaking activist and publisher of NewHomemaker.com,
says she is of the "if it can't hurt not to use it, don't" school. She
says everyone in the household, not just babies, benefits from using
natural cleansers. "All those fumes aren't good for anyone," she says.
She also notes that natural products steer away from the antibacterial
ingredients flooding the marketplace. "Scientists are warning about
overuse of anti-bacterial products," she says. "The concern is that
continued use will lead to 'superbugs' -- bacteria that resist
antimicrobials and antibiotics."
Siprelle says not all natural
cleansers are as effective or as strong as regular, chemical cleansers,
and they may be more expensive overall. But she points out that some of
the best natural cleaners are the least expensive. "Baking soda and
plain white vinegar can do 99 percent of the cleaning in your home and
are dirt cheap -- even cheaper than chemical cleaners."
Degnan warns that "natural" doesn't necessarily equal "safer." He does
say, however, that infants may have less of a sensitivity reaction to
natural-based products, and avoidance of chemical-based products may
reduce the chance of a toxic reaction. No matter what kind of cleaning
products you use, be extra careful in play areas (particularly with
carpets and flooring) and when washing toys and baby clothing.
So many choices Going
green doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You can ease
into new buying habits, and make decisions over time to meet your
changing needs. For example, cloth diapers may be what you use at home,
but disposables could be handy when you're out for the day. You might
want to make your own baby food when fresh produce is available, and
use store-bought brands for additional variety. You can also start
experimenting with safer household cleaners on the baby-friendly areas
of your home to see how effective you think they are.
decisions to make when having a baby are many -- so are the available
options. Ultimately, you will discover what works best for your family,
and what keeps your child healthy and happy.