My name is Lisa Tsakos, Registered Holistic Nutritional Consultant, corporate speaker and author. This blog provides professional advice from a nutrition and weight loss expert (me!) about corporate and family health. Here you'll find recipes and articles that address work-related challenges like eating on-the-go and maximizing your productivity with the right foods. You'll also find out about how you can help your children develop strong immune systems and healthy bodies. As a nutrition instructor, I often found myself thinking, "When I have kids, this is how I will feed them." With two toddlers, I have the opportunity to practice what I have been preaching and to try out my theories. So far, they seem to be working! Follow me on my journey and also on Twitter @NuVitalityHW.

12 Aug 2012

A Green Nursery for Baby

As Kermit the Frog admits, "It's not easy being green," but creating a healthy space for your infant is easier today than ever before.

Paint: Paint the walls of your nursery and furniture with VOC-free paint. Paints can produce significant off-gassing in your home. Most VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are released while the paint is drying (about three days if the temperature and humidity is moderate). Naturally-derived paints, like milk paints and whitewashes are eco-friendly and the safest option but they aren't very durable.

Linens: Crib sheets, mattress covers, basinette covers, and changing pad covers made from organic fibers are now available almost everywhere, including at Babies 'r' Us. Purchase un-dyed linens that aren't made with chemical dyes or other chemicals.

Mattress: A regular crib mattress will off-gas. An organic mattress costs at least $75 more than a conventional mattress (some brands are much more expensive), but an organic mattress cover is even more important than the mattress itself (and is less costly). Organic mattress covers are available at Babies 'r' Us and many on-line retailers.

Whichever type of mattress you opt for, air it out by an open window or fan for several weeks before it's used by baby. An organic mattress is typically made of rubber on the inside with organic wool as a fiber barrier, and is covered in organic cotton. 

Sling: Look for a baby sling made from organic cotton. Try it on for size (with baby in tow) before you buy, and give your baby at least a week to get used to it.

Feeding Supplies: Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used to harden plastic, is an endocrine disruptor that can affect hormones and the healthy development of fetuses, infants, and children of all ages. It's been linked to cancer, poor brain development, heart problems, asthma, and even obesity. Avoiding BPA may not be enough, though. Phthalates and other dangers also lurk in plastics. It's best to steer clear of plastic altogether, and instead, opt for stainless steel or glass bottles and sippy cups. Glass bottles are a hazard (we've broken several). At home, we use glass bottles, but outside the home, we use Born Free plastic bottles and replace them every couple of months. Never clean plastic bottles (or any containers that will hole liquid) in the dishwasher. The intense heat and steam degrades the plastic even faster, leaching even more dangerous ingredients into the contents. Stainless steel sippy cups are now sold at most retailers and are getting less expensive every year.
Toys, Teethers & Pacifiers: Look for BPA-free products. Teethers and stuffed animals made from organic materials are available at most stores nowadays.
Body Care Products: A wide range of safe and natural products are available for infants. Purchase petroleum- and paraben-free body wash, shampoo, and diaper cream. We use Seventh Generation body wash but alternate with a different natural brand every few days. You never know if a baby will develop a sensitivity or allergy to an ingredient (or combination of ingredients) - it can happen at any time and without warning.

Cleaning Products: Cleaning products are among the most toxic substances that can be found in the average home. Toxic chemicals used in cleaning agents have been implicated in the rising incidence of asthma, autism, childhood cancer, and leukemia. At our house, we've been using natural cleaning products since long before our kids were born. Our kitten came to us with severe allergies and we noticed right away that her symptoms were much worse on housecleaning days. 

Select products made with biodegradable and natural ingredients, or clean the nursery - make that your entire living space - and furniture with gentler products such as baking soda, vinegar, and liquid soap. Wash baby's clothes with a mild, natural and fragrance-free cleanser, and skip the chemical dryer sheets.

Diapers & Wipes: Diapers made with organic cotton are available at many retailers now.
Seventh Generation does a pretty good job by using only natural, unbleached materials. (While other bloggers have said they're babies don't ever get a rash with these diapers, I have not found that to be true.) Take it one step further and purchase compostable diapers. American manufacturers haven't quite caught up to Europe when it comes to making a "green" diaper.

One of the most eco-friendly brands is Delora. You can find them at some health food stores or order on-line. (We tried Delora several times but the brand was one of our least favourites.) Sadly, conventional diaper wipes are full of chemicals that are unsafe for the baby's skin. Wipes made with natural ingredients are widely available and only slightly more expensive. (Our kids would only allow Seventh Generation wipes to be used on them. The other natural brands were too cold or stung.)

First published on Naturally Savvy and Tribune Media in 2010 but updated and personalized in July 2013