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What You SHOULD Spend Extra On When You Have a Baby

By Heather Levin

If you’ve just discovered you’re about to have a baby, then you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed, especially if it’s your first. You’ve got to get a stroller, a crib, a diaper bag, changing table, and about five million other things.

Having a baby is a wonderful experience for parents. But it’s also very expensive. New parents often scramble to save money wherever they can, and with good reason. Buying used items and hand-me-downs is a great way to lessen the cost of having a new baby. But sometimes spending mon

There are, however, some things you should spend extra on. And some of the reasons why might surprise you. Check it out:

1. Sheets and Clothing

Did you know that cotton is the world’s dirtiest crop?

Yep. Cotton requires more pesticides and fertilizer than any other crop in the world. For every pound of cotton that’s harvested, farmers have to use 1/3 of a pound of fertilizer and pesticides. And many of these pesticides, such as cyanazine and dicofol, are cancer-causing chemicals.

Once the cotton is harvested, it goes through an intense bleaching and dyeing process. And then much of it is treated with flame-retardant chemicals.

Now let’s switch gears for a second. Think about a baby’s skin. It’s ultra fine, soft, and almost translucent, right? A baby’s skin is incredibly sensitive and porous, far more so than adult skin.

The reason why it pays to spend extra on organic clothing and sheets is because these are garments that your baby touches all day, every day. Traditional bedding and clothing is created and processed with incredibly harmful chemicals. Because your baby’s skin is so sensitive and, most importantly, so porous, this chemical residue can be absorbed through their skin. They can also breathe in the offgassed chemicals from sheets and clothing.

Here’s what the Guide to Less Toxic Products, put out by Novia Scotia, has to say about it:

“It is very important to try to limit a baby’s exposure to harmful chemicals. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals than adults. Their immune systems and central nervous system are immature and still developing, which means their bodies are generally less capable of eliminating toxins. As well, children have roughly double the skin surface of adults per unit of body weight, so a child can absorb proportionally more chemicals. Babies and children breathe more air per body weight than adults do, which increases their exposure by inhalation. Decreasing a child’s exposure to chemicals from day one, and even in the womb, could mean a lower risk of allergies and chemical sensitivities, and lower risk of cancers and other illnesses.”

Organic cotton is completely safe for your baby because it’s grown and made without using any fertilizer or pesticides. There are also no harmful flame-retardant chemicals applied during processing.

Yes, organic clothing and sheets costs more. But many parents feel it’s worth the extra money because it prevents their baby from being exposed to harmful chemicals during this crucial stage in their growth and development, lowering the risk of future illnesses, diseases, and allergies. Moreover, by preventing future health issues, this upfront investment can actually save you money over the long run.

2. Cribs and Changing Tables

When your baby is born, she’s going to spend the majority of her time in her crib, sleeping.

Most inexpensive cribs these days are made with pressed wood (think IKEA-style). What many people don’t know is that pressed wood is pretty toxic. Pressed wood is made using volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and formaldehyde.

These chemicals emit gas, sometimes for a year or more, after they’re made. This means that there are oderless fumes constantly leaking out into your baby’s nursery.

VOCs are a combination of chemicals which are very toxic, especially for babies and young children. VOCs are found in traditional paints, waxes, varnishes, furniture, household cleaners, glue, and thousands of other products.

The EPA states that VOCs can cause a wide variety of health effects including headaches, loss of coordination, damage to the liver, central nervous system and kidneys, and they’re suspected to cause cancer in humans.

The EPA admits that formaldehyde has been known to cause cancer in animals, and may likely cause cancer in humans. It can also cause allergies, ear, nose and throat irritation, fatigue, wheezing and coughing.

Cribs and changing tables that are made with real wood are worth the extra money because you don’t have to worry about offgassing and your baby suffering from these terrible fumes. Again, upfront investment will save you a significant amount of money on health issues your baby may develop later in life.

Last Word…

I know it’s tempting to just head over to IKEA for some cheap, funky baby supplies. Or to hit up Target if you’re in a rush for some crib sheets or baby clothes.

But the truth is that these products can be incredibly harmful for your baby. Yes, we’re saving a few bucks when we shop here. But at what cost?

Spending extra to buy organic on heavily used items like clothing, sheets, and cribs will ensure your baby isn’t breathing in, or touching with their sensitive skin, products that might have negatives effects on her for years to come.

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a freelance writer based in Detroit, MI. She's passionately committed to living green, saving money, and helping others do the same in their life.

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  • http://www.brilang.com Brian Lang

    Don’t bother with a changing table. A piece of floor or a bed covered with a changing pad is good enough. And most diaper bags come with a changing pad. And will save you big bucks on an otherwise useless piece of furniture.

    • Anissa

      We just use the top of a long dresser w/ a changing pad, and then when we are done diapering we can still use it. Inexpensive and good for life!

  • Joy2b

    A low hardwood dresser with a contoured changing pad is not only beautiful, in a baby’s room it’s a smart and eco-friendly approach. You can get a new one made, or buy a vintage piece, over a year old. Vintage pieces can vary widely in price depending on how you like to shop, but are often better quality than those sold in the average store. (Furniture designed to last 2 years usually doesn’t get resold at all. Good craftsmanship lasts long enough to become an antique.)

    Cribs are one of the few things where a trustworthy manufacturer (or a maker who really understands modern safety recommendations) are important. If you buy new, choosing solid wood is worthwhile. Convertible crib-beds are common, and may be the most affordable in the long run. If you buy used, you can go with any material that’s in good shape, as long as you check the maker and model so you can check for safety recalls.

    If you get something made of manufactured wood, or that smells a bit of chemicals, you can let most of the gases be released harmlessly before giving it to the baby. This is just like airing out a new mattress pad, except you’ll probably have more than a day or two to do it. Take it out of the packaging, and store it in a ventilated space until the baby needs it. (With manufactured wood, be sure to protect it from wetness and wild temperature extremes, so it doesn’t distort or mold. With plastics, protect it from direct sunlight, wild temperature extremes, and extreme heat.)

    While you’re protecting your baby’s lungs, there’s a few other things to keep in mind:
    - Carpet : Oddly enough, the older your carpet is, the better it is for the baby. You won’t have to worry about the baby staining older carpet, or about formaldehyde. If it was bought in the last couple of years, make sure the room gets well aired out. If you get a rug, choose a nice fabric (such as wool, rags, organic cotton) and air it out on a sunny day.

    - Mold: If this is an issue, address it thoroughly and promptly. Black mold may be particularly dangerous to pregnant women and infants. It can also damage the value of your home, so insurance companies will often pay for professional remediation. Remember, the chemicals which effectively kill molds are often quite strong, so the warning label may recommend protective gear and ventilation, and you may want to take a weekend away.

    - Paint: If you’re painting, it’s really easy to find low VOC paint. If you’re painting while pregnant, even with a fan in the window, you’ll still want to be gentle with your lungs, and the less chemicals you’re breathing, the better.

    - When there’s suitable weather, let fresh air and sunlight into the room while you’re decorating, and for a day or so once you’re done.

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