Healthy living and other lies.

Cartoon found here. Original source shoeboxblog.com, by Brian

And now for a little detour into my recent adventures in creating a healthier home...

I've posted before about my attempts to phase out various chemicals from my skin care regimen and our home. I'm not particularly trying to take a moral stand for eco-friendliness or even trying to be one of those weird all-natural people. I just hate being itchy, breaking out, sneezing and dealing with mysterious rashes all the time. (Call me crazy!) I can't imagine our baby-on-the-way will enjoy itchy rashes any more than I do, so I am preparing as though our baby will inherit my sensitive skin (and S's sensitive nose). I know I cannot possibly eliminate all potentially harmful chemicals from our child's existence, but I would like to be as mindful as possible as to what I slather on or rest against our baby's skin for long periods.

Fragrance, for example, which is in nearly every bath and beauty product, is known to cause neurotoxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity according to the Environmental Working Group. We already buy fragrance-free products and detergents for ourselves, and it makes a difference. (Beware of "sensitive skin" products that say they are "unscented" but actually contain masking fragrance so that it appears to be fragrance-free. Jerks!) There are other chemicals I know very little about, though, so my tactic is to just look up any product I'm considering buying in the EWP's Cosmetics Database and choose things with the lowest hazard ratings when possible. It's easy, and so far I've been happy with the products I've chosen this way.

Linens are a whole other story. Organic cotton sounds good in theory--but if you're going to buy organic, what I don't understand is why you then have it dunked in artificial dyes to give it those adorably nauseating baby colors and prints. A lot of dyes--and companies aren't usually clear about what kind they use--contain formaldehyde and other potentially icky substances. Who cares if an item was produced without using pesticides if it's coated in other toxins? It's like buying low-fat diet foots that replace the fat with extra sugar--the classic bait and switch.

So with that in mind, I decided I'd register for undyed, organic, as-chemical-free-as-possible linens (if I could find some affordable ones), since babies spend a lot of time sleeping on them. So after striking out at Target and Amazon, I googled and found that Flannelplanet.com was offering organic, chemical-free, dye-free baby bedding for just $10 per fitted sheet--SO CHEAP compared to everything else out there, let alone these elusive dye-free sheets that I was looking for. But since the website still said they were "coming soon" I decided to email them to find out when they'd be restocked. I got back this kind email from the owner:
Hi Emily,
I have to admit that I got only tepid interest in this. I was really disappointed because I thought it was a great product. It certainly isn’t a new idea and flannelplanet is certainly not the pinnacle of marketing prowess, but relative to other products we choose to carry it was sort of a dud. Our 1 ½ year old sleeps on the prototypes each night and my wife has noted that they get softer and softer with each washing. I am bummed, but I can’t afford to hold products that only my baby and wife like. Do you have any ideas?
So I guess maybe I am one of those all-natural weirdos after all, since there aren't many people as interested in this as I am--except this one guy and his family. So my search continues. I have read that diluted bleach solutions are actually quite beneficial to eczema sufferers, so maybe bleached white cotton would be fine. But it's just the principle of the thing, you know?

My conclusion after this little foray into creating a healthier home is that, overall, healthy-sounding things like "organic" products seem to be all about marketing and status and not actual health. Bummer.

Does anyone have any advice for raising a happy, rash-free baby in a world full of chemical irritants?


  1. Interesting blog post! Hey just a little tidbit- for a good long while, you may be using blankets to swaddle baby up in rather than bed linens. Even if you plan to put baby in his/her crib early on... (speaking as someone who planned to do so) it has NOT worked out that way at all. Our lil one has BAD acid reflux and has to be positioned at an angle at all times, so he almost always sleeps on his boppy pillow wrapped up in a blanket. You just never know! So before crib time becomes essential- some MUCH needed chemical-free baby blankets may be very useful!!

  2. Oh yeah, good point Linds! Thanks for the tip. I've been looking at those too. I've been thinking of just buying some unbleached cotton muslin fabric and making our own swaddling blankets. Way cheaper I think!

  3. you're not weird. i think there are people out there just like you (i'm one of them) but feel overwhelmed. i'm looking forward to seeing how things go with your own search - i'll be taking notes!

  4. Good idea! Oh yeah, that will be much cheaper! I'm such a sucker for the, "I love mommy" and "Daddys boy" baby items :)Not to mention clothing with anything football related on it haha. Oh which makes me think (you have probably already thought of this so I promise I am not insulting your process of thinking things through ahah) BUT the people coming to your baby shower are going to need to know about this direction you are moving in, otherwise you will get a gigantic pile of stuff you might not want!

  5. Just don't start making your own clothes for you your kid. I really don't want him to get beat up in school.

  6. Thanks Jen -- I'll keep you posted on my discoveries!

    Good point Lindsey. I guess I'm going to be one of those snobby moms whose baby shower guests balk at their registry list. (Sorry family!) But so far everything I'm registering for is pretty inexpensive... it's just not the normal, expected stuff I guess. I liked your family's shower idea about brings books for your little guy (still sad I couldn't come).

  7. GOOD I'm glad you are able to register for some good items that go along with what you are looking for. It's so exciting isn't it??

  8. I will be following this (I am 14 weeks)! We are a bit hippy around our house.

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Thanks for reading! I love your thoughts, feedback and suggestions. Keep 'em coming!