Even if you’ve never so much as read a product label before welcoming a baby into your home, becoming a parent will make you newly vigilant. There’s something about caring for a creature that can’t even hold up its own head without help that inspires you to think about what’s in your products, food, and environment.
When you start paying attention, you very quickly realize that parents have to be their own advocates: the FDA doesn’t regulate “products intended to cleanse or beautify,” and while some products, like sunscreens, are also classified as drugs and subject to FDA approval, others, like moisturizers, are not. Even labels can be misleading: the terms “green” or “natural” are not regulated by the FDA. Further, not all natural products are safe, and not all lab-sourced ones dangerous.
Add in a desire not only to minimize your child’s exposure to certain chemicals, but to safeguard the environment, and the process becomes even more complicated. An expecting first-time mother myself, I’ve spent many hours poring over the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, looking for safe baby shampoos and butt pastes…but probably an equal amount of time adding what may turn out to be useless, landfill-clogging baby equipment to our registry.
Realistically, most of us are not going to be able to make the “best choice” each and every time. But the good news is that it’s possible to make better choices, both for the earth and for your newest family member. It’s about minimizing exposure, not achieving perfection.
To get some insight into the worst baby products for the planet—plus some commonsense substitutes—I spoke with Margot White, health educator, green beauty advocate, and founder of The Choosy Chick, an online boutique that sells non-toxic personal care products.
“Today, there are too many choices,” White says. If you too find yourself bewildered by your choices, these guidelines can help.