If parenting itself has about the biggest and fastest learning curve ever, figuring out how to parent as naturally as possible and keep your babies safe from all the toxins and junk in the world feels just as difficult.
It baffles me how little I knew when I first started this parenting gig and how much I’ve learned and changed my strategies and guidelines for products in our house since baby number one more than a decade ago.
If you’re about to have or are currently in the first six months of parenting your first baby, I have to preface this post by saying:
Don’t try to do it all at once.
And don’t beat yourself up for what you don’t know/didn’t know/can’t accomplish right this second. It’s a journey, one baby step at a time.
I thought I’d wrap up this little series on my own natural intentions for pregnancy, birth and infancy by sharing some of the steps we’ve taken in our home on the non-toxic journey over the years.
Here are the other posts in the series if you’d like to catch up:
- 5 Natural Prenatal Steps to Avoid some Unnatural Procedures
- How to Avoid the Orange Glucose Drink for your Prenatal Screen
- Natural Labor and Delivery: 5 More Procedures we Refuse
- 5 Natural Parenting Goals for Early Infancy
If you are a new mom or about to give birth, this post is one that I just re-read myself (and need to prepare for!!!) – Natural Remedies and Products for Postpartum Pain (which can be rough, and no one tells you about this stuff!!).
1. Reducing Toxic Chemicals Touching Baby
I think the first step to natural baths and baby safety is to reduce their number, period. Babies, amazingly, don’t get all that dirty.
Wipe their spit-up out of their neck with a wet washcloth and take care of their diaper area of course, but babies really don’t need daily baths. The water can dry their skin out and even good soap can too. It’s just unnecessary.
When you do want soap, it’s a really easy place to go natural because there are so many artisanal soap makers all around the country. You should recognize all the ingredients, basically.
Here is a review of four different “natural” baby soaps – two bars (happy thoughts), one foamy pump (excellent) and one body wash that was a big unnatural “oops.” You can read about what I use for our entire family from head to toe right HERE, and don’t miss my baby steps to reading personal care ingredients with the top 3 to avoid (one of which is in that last “oops” I mentioned…).
Also, Erin from the Humbled Homemaker shared a wonderful guest post when John was born on how to make homemade natural baby body wash, which also works for adults!
I had a tube of Desitin even with baby two, which does have zinc oxide (no problem) as its active ingredient but other less-than-natural things going on in the rest of the tube.
I did better for diaper rashes for number three and four, with a few options on hand from Earth Mama Organics and MadeOn. [Use code KITCHENSTEWARDSHIP at Earth Mama to get 20% off regularly priced purchases until 8/31/20! Does not include travel kits. US only.]
Read HERE for more thoughts on natural baby bottom care and check out my 2-minute process for making homemade baby wipes, mostly natural but for the paper towel (but this works for cloth wipes, too!).
I cannot tell you how many different laundry soaps we’ve tried over the years!
I started with doing special baby laundry loads with Dreft or All Free and Clear with baby number one (neither of which are much better than your average laundry detergent, but maybe a step up? Maybe not…).
With baby two, I dabbled in some “natural” detergents for baby that ended up being just a step above the normal baby laundry options.
By the time baby three came along, I had been blogging for a few years, tried out a number of options and had taken the natural step in the laundry room. I was using soap nuts for the whole family at that time, so I didn’t have to make any changes at all when baby joined us, and I didn’t have to do special “baby only” loads.
Now I use soap nuts, soap nut liquid (because it’s just easier, read my review here), Molly’s Suds, and a few other brands of natural laundry soap. I know what to look for on the ingredients now and only source fragrance-free or naturally scented soaps, for starters. I can’t stand the smell of scented laundry nowadays because my body just isn’t used to it (a good thing, until you’re in a room with someone with stronggggg fabric softener smell filling the space).
2. Safer Clothing and Fabrics for Baby
With baby number one, my clothing standards were simple:
- Easy to Wash
- In my House
If an item of clothing fit those descriptions, I’d put it on baby without a second thought.
Then I learned about flame retardants on pajamas, and everything changed.
It took a few years, but I’ve finally convinced all the gift-givers in our family that I will not allow my kids to wear PJs with flame retardants, so they know to look for tags that warn “not flame resistant.” I just put some more flame retardant PJs in our give away box, and I’m working on safe sleep all around – we have some organic crib sheets and organic waterproof crib mattress pads that weren’t too expensive (and some that are not organic), and I got a nice safe-material crib mattress for number three (while number two slept on an old, torn, hand-me-down mattress made of who-knows-what, gah!! I can’t do everything at once either…)
This series I posted about how to get healthy sleep details my hours and hours of safe sleep research (many of which have happened through bleary eyes) as I looked into options for using old mattresses and avoiding off-gassing junk, new mattresses for big kid beds and what to use to keep kid puddles from hurting the mattresses we already have.
While you’re looking into safe materials for sleep, which is important because an infant can spend 2/3 of its entire first year in a crib (not mine, ha! We have terrible sleepers…), it’s a good idea to check into flame retardant chemicals and other toxins that are used in the production of and sprayed onto infant carseats. Here are the best choices from a few years ago and I’ll need to update that research someday.
I also have some organic clothing for the kids and babies, although I admit I’m far from 100% on that, even though in an ideal world, I’d love all my kids covered in organic cotton all the time. I just have a few token pieces and put them on the babies every single time they’re clean!!
3. No Baby Cereal
As with everything else, our babes have had quite a progression as far as what they’ve been fed the first year of life, from quite standard baby cereal beginnings to no grains until 12 months and no gluten until 18+ months.
You can read a little more about our feeding strategies as they were before baby no. three got going with food right HERE, and that post has a lot of great links to other resources as well.
With John, number three, I don’t know that I ever made a blended puree for him. I don’t remember freezing anything in ice cube trays, which was the hallmark of baby feeding for child number one. Big change!
His first foods included:
- homemade chicken broth
- egg yolk, usually soft-fried from my plate, sometimes hard-boiled and mashed
- some banana
- very soft meat, chicken and beef
- canned salmon (a little older, not exactly 6 mos!)
- homemade yogurt
We did stick to no grains for the first 12 months, because grains are very hard (if not impossible) for them to digest at that age because they are not yet producing the proper enzymes. Although I do believe that food is mostly for the experience the first 12 months and not exactly for nourishment, I’m still not going to give baby something that will purposely pass right through, potentially doing some damage to the lining of the gut on the way.
There’s research that claims that feeding your baby earlier rather than later is beneficial.
The no gluten thing was a personal choice for our family since my husband has some sort of gluten intolerance along with his Crohn’s Disease. Many sources say that babies’ guts are “sealed” until about 18 months and that things like gluten can sneak into the bloodstream and contribute to allergies and sensitivities.
Whether any of it is true or malarky, honestly, I don’t care. In our “gluten light” household, it was exceedingly simple to keep a baby gluten-free and I was happy to do it, even if it was a longshot “just in case.” Even up until age two, he probably only had gluten five times total, and he’s definitely the most “gluten-light” person in our entire family now at age three.
Here’s the post I wrote in the midst of figuring out how to feed number three, detailing our early choices and reasoning as well as some info on baby led feeding/weaning.
4. No Plastic for Feeding
Okay, if you just look at the photo, clearly we still had some plastic. But not as much!
My first two babies used plastic sippy cups, bowls, spoons, everything. Number three got to test out a bunch of safer sippy options in stainless steel, and we worked harder to get his food into stainless steel bowls, glass bowls, or even small teacups with supervision or parental feeding.
We have about 8 of our favorite lunchtime stainless steel yogurt containers now, so when baby’s food needs to travel, that will be my first choice of container. (These are pricey but seriously worth the bucks if you send anything like yogurt, applesauce, etc. in a packable fashion regularly. We’ve had one for over four years and it’s in GREAT shape. I love love love them!)
I also grabbed some non-lidded stainless bowls and have about 4 stainless tumblers now because although I’m a huge proponent of kids using real glass glasses at an early age, there’s still a little span of time when the child is still in a high chair and really needs a non-breakable drinking option.
5. Cloth Diapers
This was the one HUGE change we made with baby number three – he was about 5 months old when we started cloth since I was living with my in-laws (between houses) when he was born. I’d never cloth diapered a newborn before baby number four, so I had some learning to do when he came around!
Cloth diapering is good…good for the environment, good for our budget, and hopefully easier on the little bum.
I did some massive, massive cloth diaper reviews that are a must-read if you’re considering or already using cloth at all, and here’s my single favorite brand of cloth diaper.
- A Cloth Diapering Rookie’s First Steps: The Routine, The Vocabulary, The Laundry
- 7 Tips for the Cloth Diapering Newbie
- Wet Bags and how much I love them
- How to Make Cloth Diaper Wipes
- Cloth diaper absorbency tests: how much do all those materials hold?
- What do I really recommend?
- 5 Cloth Diaper Problems that Haven’t Sent Me Running Back to Disposables (and One That Might) — some laundry problems you’ll want to know about
- How and when to Strip Cloth Diapers
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9 thoughts on “Keep Baby Safe and Healthy with 5 Simple Natural Parenting Goals”
I decided to come back to add how glad I am to see a mother expecting her 4th child writing about doing things BETTER with each child. During the years we had only one, we frequently heard snide comments about how we were doing these healthy, environmentally friendly, or otherwise careful things with him only because he was our first, and it’s just impossible to do these things even for a second child, let alone more. It makes me sad that these people are essentially saying, “I have too many kids to be a good parent or responsible citizen”! I mean, it’s one thing to admit that you had to cut yourself some slack because you were overwhelmed; it’s another to tell people what they can’t do and act like you can’t be expected to do the job well.
So it’s great to see that you are giving your 4th child not only the same concern and care as you did your first, but even more!
Great article! I’m with you on all this. I’ve made only small changes for my second baby (9 years after the first) but I had a head start on doing things pretty naturally because my parents did and because I had almost two years of trying-to-conceive and doing research.
Here’s our cloth diaper strategy for the current baby, including newborn diapers! I hope you find some you really like. We were very happy with ours, which we used from the very beginning, and managed to remove the meconium completely with oxygen bleach. (I know that oxygen bleach damages the fabric, but I figured once would be okay, and it was.)
I used cloth with my first and was all geared up to do it with my second, but she had (has) simply the narrowest crotch ever. That combined with a long rise (my babies are long skinnies), and no matter what she got the worst red marks on her groin and thighs. 🙁 So she’s been in disposables – the best I could find. I don’t like them but they are better for her. Fortunately where we live trash is incinerated and used to produce heat for housing, I don’t know what I would have done if it went to landfills.
Ah, I know how bad that can be. That is the worst downside of cloth diapers. I wonder, do moms still use A & D Ointment. It was a life saver for me. But it does have lanolin in it, so wouldn’t be suitable for Vegans. Zinc Oxide maybe?
A&D also has cod liver oil. When the sitter put it on my first baby, and then I washed the diapers, my entire basement smelled like dead fish!!!
We went with Balmex because it was fish-free. This time around, we got a gift of Burt’s Bees diaper cream, which has zinc oxide (a great moisture barrier) and no fish, and all the other ingredients are reasonable.
But my favorite for diaper area irritation is Kerry’s Herbals Miracle Salve. All-natural plant-based ingredients, smells good, and the medium size jar is a couple years’ supply. It doesn’t come in a handy tube, though, so I’m keeping the Burt’s Bees in the diaper bag.
Hoping and praying that all goes well with the arrival of nr. 4!
Hey, you go girl. My youngest is now 38 and both of my kids were raised with cloth diapers. Really, I think it only looks hard because there’s disposable diapers everywhere. But they were new when my kids were born and I would only use them if we traveled or sometimes at night. But that was to keep the babies comfortable mostly. Nothing fancy, just cotton diapers and a vinylish covering that fit over the cloth. No, probably not the best overall, but still a lot better than throwing millions of disposables into the earth. I wish you the best young mothers. It really is doable and not that hard to use cloth diapers. I have a nifty folding pattern for diapers for boys if anyone’s interested.
Thanks for the encouraging words, Claire. I was going to tell Katie I found fitteds with covers the easiest for the newborn days. I was thankfully able to borrow a newborn stash from a friend because they use SO MANY in one day and then outgrow them so quickly 🙂
I’ve read a couple things where you’ve mentioned that babies don’t have the enzymes to digest grains, but never seen a citation. Do you have a source for that? Our 6-month-old has just started solids and is so far eating just veggies (purees, we backed out of BLW but might go back to it later), but I’m trying to do some research, because unless there’s a reason to avoid it, we might try oatmeal soon. Also, we’re in a big Italian family, and although I know white pasta isn’t a health food, it’s really culturally significant and will be introduced some time in the first year unless I know that I shouldn’t.