That’s a newborn. I am no medical professional, but I am a mom. I’ve had my own unfinished – though “full term” – bundles handed to me in the hospital bed, and I’ve desperately wanted to shout, “Put it back! This one’s not done yet!”
Yes, I know. They don’t fit.
But they’re really not done yet.
Babies’ systems still have so far to develop long after they’ve left the more ideal environment of the womb. One way we can help them is by keeping baby care products simple so their tiny bodies have less to process. Pause a moment before you load up on the baby wash, shampoo, bubble bath, lotion, oil, powder, cream, and think of the sheer number of ingredients contained in that lot. Because the personal care industry, even in baby care, is largely unregulated, among those products with endless ingredients are often allergens, sensitizers, hormone disruptors, and even carcinogens.
Here are some tips for what to skip to reduce chemical exposure and what to choose instead. Many of these tips necessitate reading the ingredient lists. They may look scary, but the Skin Deep Database can help you wade through.
Skip artificial “fragrance.”
Choose… unscented or scented lightly with essential oils.
Whether its baby wipes, soap, laundry detergent, or diaper cream, “fragrance” is unnecessary to getting the job done. Because “fragrance” is actually a category and not a specific ingredient, the term can hide a range of actual ingredients, excused as proprietary trade secrets. Among the possibilities are sensitizers, allergens, and phthalates, which studies are starting to link to everything from male infertility to neurological disorders.
Choose… a simple balm to prevent chafing.
I know I’m battling nostalgia here, but powder poses an inhalation risk. It is so easily airborne. When you smell it, you’re actually taking in particles of the powder into your lungs, and baby is too. Their fragile lungs are ill-equipped to handle a steady influx of particulates.
Skip Parabens, Urea, Quaterniums.
Choose… products with tocopherols (vitamin E).
These are preservatives, in part. Certain parabens are being linked to hormone disruption and are showing up in breast cancer tumors. Both Urea and Quaterniums compounds release formaldehyde, which causes cancer.
Skip the “Tear Free.”
Choose… a mild soap, and use only pure water to clean baby’s face.
“Tear Free” is a matter of pH, and many cleansers that have the lower pH which makes them “tear free” are actually synthetic detergents which are not the best for baby’s skin. Some can be drying or irritating, and others, such as sodium laureth sulfate or polyethylene glycol (PEG), can even be contaminated with cancer causing 1,4 Dioxane.
Skip the sunscreen on newborns.
Choose… shade and light coverings until 6 months. Afterwards, use mineral-based sunscreens.
Consider how powerful the sun is, and then consider how truly powerful sunscreen must be to fend it off, while at the same time being invisible. Both the sun and sunscreen are too potent for newborns to face, and many common sunscreen active ingredients – such as oxybenzone and octinoxate – aren’t safe for anyone.
Skip “Baby” laundry detergents and any fabric softeners.
Choose… a clean rinsing, dye-free, scent-free soap or mild detergent. Add baking soda for extra scrubbing and deodorizing and/or pure white vinegar to the rinse cycle for fabric softening.
What is best to wash baby clothes is also what is best for adult clothes: tough on stains, exceedingly clean rinsing, dye-free, and scent-free. You don’t want one that leaves a fragrance, as said above, and you don’t want one that leaves behind softeners. Any such residue left on clothing comes in to lengthy contact with baby’s skin. Skin easily absorbs elements from its surroundings.
Babies must acclimate to so much in their new world – every noise, every smell, every sight, every touch, every taste – is all brand new to them. While the world around them is complex, baby’s personal care needs are simple. Instead go overboard on the love, laughter, and security. If we can just ignore the squalor of the baby marketing machine, our babies will be better off with low-key baby care products so they can finish the magical miracle of baby-building.