Welcome to the first installment of Dear SafeMama! We received quite a few questions and they were all really good. So good in fact, that while we’re not going to be able to answer every single one of them, we’re going to answer a few more than three for the first edition, and file the rest away because some of these give us great ideas. But now, onto the questions.
Q: I can’t find anything on your site about safe toothpastes for babies/toddlers. I want one that doesn’t have parabens, SLS, phthalates, propylene glycol, fluoride, etc. Can you recommend any?
Welcome to our hell. We’ve been going back and forth for quite a few months trying to find a toothpaste that we deem safe enough for our kids. I bought Tom’s of Maine, and was using that for a little while until I found out the dangers of Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfates). I personally am pro-flouride (it’s a personal choice for my family, but I realize a lot of people want fluoride free) and was looking for something that didn’t have icky chemicals in it, but still had fluoride. I stumbled across The Natural Dentist, which is free of SLS’s and other chemicals. It contains xylitol, which is a natural sweetener, known to prevent cavities. They also make a flouride free version as well. My son loves it and helps to brush his own teeth now. Kathy uses Weleda Children’s tooth gel, which is also free of chemicals and works great. And her son loves the taste too.
Q: I am overwhelmed with information about going green. I don’t know where to start to rid my house and life of all these toxic products and plastic bottles and the BPA and phthalates!!! ahhhh…where do I start?
STOP! Take a deep breath. In………out………..iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin………….ooooooooooooooout. Ok, good. Now, we know as well as anyone else, that it can be entirely overwhelming. I went on a wild rampage, tossing everything in my house while my husband stood in the middle of the crazy tornado watching me with a worried look. When people come up to me and ask me where to start, I say, pick one thing. One thing that’s most important to you right this very minute and make the change. I realize that ALL of it is important to you, but doing it all at once is just too much for any one person (not to mention, expensive). Then, when you have a spare moment, make a list of all things you want to change, pick one thing a week (or however often it works for you) and change it. Cross it off the list. It might seem stupid, but I’m a list person. I get things done by making lists. Once you’ve made the major changes, you realize that it becomes easier, and eventually, becomes second nature. Before you know it you’re turning plastic bottles upside down to look at recycling codes and you become a toxic chemical rain man.
Q: Ok, after reading your dirty dozen list of chemicals that should be avoided, I went on a hunt in my house and checked labels on everything! Some of those listed are in almost everything that we have from hairspray to hand soap from BodyShop! Do I need to be as worried for everything? or primarily baby products? Is there any exceptions? It looks like I would need to throw out everything!!!!!!
We definitely don’t intend to alarm people. At all. When I made that glossary, it was mainly focused on kids products. Babies have really sensitive skin and will those ingredients hurt them on an individual basis? Most likely not. What about when they’re all mixed together? I really and truly don’t have the answer to that. You see, a lot of those chemicals have such limited studies done on them (as I had mentioned in my original report), that it’s hard to say for sure whether or not they’re truly bad for you. That said, it’s really up to you, as the parent to decide whether or not you want to use these products.
I personally feel that the less chemicals a person exposes their bodies (and their babies bodies) to, the better, but unfortunately, it’s unavoidable sometimes (and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it either). There are a lot of babies who have skin allergies, and maybe eliminating products (yes, even your household products and hairspray as they can linger in the air) might help. We always tell parents to proceed with caution and to also do their own research. My advice would be to ditch any of the truly harsh stuff, and slowly as you use up the other stuff with ingredients in question, replace them with products that are better for you and the environment.
Q: We wash our bottles and bottle parts in the dishwasher and use jet-dry, a rinse aid. It is recommended by the dishwasher manufacturer and the dishes do not dry well if we do not use it. Is jet-dry safe to use on the bottles?
I have a dirty little secret to confide. I have not yet made the switch over from my chemically laden, water and soil poisoning Cascade yet (see above RE: small changes). I KNOW. But, I’ve been doing my research on it, and am slowly mentally preparing myself for some alternative methods.
Harsh detergents can wear on plastics and we usually recommend hand washing baby’s bottles and cups with warm water and gentle soap, like Dapple. But if you need to use the dishwasher, use the top rack choose a gentle soap. If you’re looking for something store bought Ecover makes a rinsing agent. I haven’t tried it yet, but I hear it works rather well. The other alternative, is vinegar. Just plain old white vinegar. I will tell you, there is NOTHING that white vinegar cannot do. It makes my tub and shower sparkle like brand new, it kills germs on my counter tops and it takes grubby finger prints off my fridge. Vinegar is a miracle product and it’s also extremely cheap. A gallon costs about 3 bucks and will last you forever. You can put vinegar in your rinse section, or you can put it in your pre-wash section of your dishwasher with a little bit of dish soap, or baking soda, or even some lemon juice. Since every dishwasher is different, you may have to experiment to see what works best for you.
Q: I checked the list of BPA free sippy cups. My question is that although I own some for these “safe” cups, I have put them through my dishwasher numerous times. I have read that the hot temperature causes them to leach. Now that this has been done, should I throw them out and start over?
We believe that all plastics have leaching qualities and health affects when heated on some level (which is why we recommend to never heat any sort of plastic in the microwave, ever. Use ceramic or glass and then transfer it to a plastic dish once it cools a bit). Once your plastic ware becomes looking scratched, dull and worn, it’s time to toss it into the recycling bin and get new ones. Even if you hand wash them. They’re just not meant to last forever. Not all BPA Free cups are expensive. Avent Magic Cups are a great affordable option.
Q: I am very concerned about my 21 month old son’s safety when it comes to sippy cups, storage, etc., but am on an extremely tight budget. I know I cannot afford to do it all, but if you had to pick the top 5 or 10 things that I should be doing or buying, what would you suggest?
Thankfully, there are plenty of great and inexpensive options out there for you to replace your wares with BPA free options. If I had to pick a top five:
- Replace your sippy cups, bottles and dishes. We always recommend The Soft Landing for the latest in what’s BPA free. You can save 10% off your order by using the code SAFEMAMA2. They have products available for every budget and you can rest easy knowing Alicia has done extensive research to make sure that the products she sells are BPA free.
- Replace your house cleaners. You don’t have to go out and buy expensive organic or eco friendly cleaners just to be green. As I mentioned above, vinegar. Buy yourself a gallon of vinegar, straight up lemon juice (not from concentrate) and a big box of baking soda. The whole thing will probably cost you less than $10 and will last you forever. You can clean almost your entire house with those three things.
- Get rid of your chemical beauty products (for both you and your baby). You may have to do these in small steps, but You can even find them in Target. Burt’s Bee’s and Giovanni to name a few. And they’re also not highway robbery.
- Stop buying individual bottled water and replace them with a reusable one. ThinkSport, Thermos and Camelbak all make great safe water bottles for adults. The kids have a reusable cup, why shouldn’t we? If water quality is a concern, check into a tap filter for the sink.
- Freecycle, Craigslist, Garage Sales and Ebay. We know people buy too much STUFF. Just look in any closet in your home… or our homes. We’re guilty too. Buying used instead of new helps to lengthen the life of items that aren’t ready for the landfill and reduce how much we buy. You’ll save money (or make it if you sell) and you’ll be doing your part to eliminate extra waste.
Q: Hi there. I was wondering if you had any information on vaccines and their (so called) relation to autism. there has been a lot of hype in the media about this and I am due to start getting my son his shots and I am very concerned about what to do and what is the right thing to do. any information you have can help. thank you in advance.
This is a big can of worms, and I’m only going to try to pry the lid off here, just a little, to peek and make sure they’re still breathing. No doubt you’re worried. You read all of these studies that are conflicting with each other. Yes it’s fine, no wait, it’s not. Vaccinate!! No, DON’T vaccinate!! I’ve done a lot of research on this because my son has displayed very minor autistic behaviors, and of course, I freaked out. What if it’s the vaccines? There’s a lot of debate on the whole issue, and here’s my disclaimer: This is my own personal thought about the whole thing. I am NOT a doctor. Do your own research and discuss any concerns you have with your pediatrician.
I don’t believe that vaccines themselves cause autism. What I believe is that on some level, Autism Spectrum Disorder (and a very broad spectrum it is) is hereditary, and that children who are at risk for having autism get aggravated by the metals that are used in the vaccines. And it’s not just the MMR vaccine which most people seem to believe. There are children who seem to be fine, developing at a normal rate and maybe they ended up missing a vaccine somewhere, and falling behind, only to have to go in and get five or six vaccines at once, and then the problems started. Which could lead to the metal poisoning theory. People are always quick to blame the vaccines themselves as the sole cause for causing autism. But I believe there’s a certain level of pre-wiring there, just as with any other disease or disorder. I definitely think that there should be greener vaccines available and there are people lobbying for them all the time. Until then, if it’s a real concern for you, or if Autism runs in your family, talk to your pediatrician about spacing vaccines out on a schedule that you’re comfortable with. This is definitely not a subject where you should just take our word for it. The more research that you become armed with, the better.
Thanks so much for your questions. Keep submitting and we’ll see you back here next week.