Getting ready for baby—or pregnancy? Congratulations! Going green for your growing belly—or for when you bring that baby home—sounds good on paper, but is a natural pregnancy doable in reality? Yes! Here’s how:
1. Eat organic: The dangers of common pesticide exposure are equal to those of smoking during pregnancy: low birth weight and early labor. Studies have shown that eating organic for just five days can eliminate many of the pesticides—linked to cancer, among other health problems—in our bodies. Following the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen lists can reduce your family’s exposure by 80 percent.
Want a natural pregnancy? Just being aware of your options is a great first step towards becoming the best mom you can possibly be. 2. Peel away pesticides: Organic not an option? Opt for conventional fruits and veggies that you can peel, like oranges, watermelon, eggplant, avocados, corn, sweet peas and cabbage. Remove the outer skin, husk or leaves and you’re removing a significant amount of pesticide contamination.
3. Lose the nonstick: When a pan is heated to high temperatures non-stock coatings such as Teflon break apart into potentially carcinogenic substances that don’t taste so good in the long run. Stainless steel, iron or copper coated pans are a better bet—even if it means losing the 12-piece set.
4. Fish? Not so much: Fetal exposure to mercury has been linked to lower IQs and other negative effects on developing brains, and an estimated 300,000 newborns each year—one out of every 14—are exposed to mercury levels that exceed those set by the EPA as safe in pregnancy. Follow the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ recommendation to avoid swordfish, shark and tuna and if you do eat fish, check safety at Seafood Watch. Supplement with omega-3 fatty acids that your baby needs for healthy brain development.
5. BYOB: Most plastic bottles contain BPA, a hormone disruptor, which leaches into the water you drink. Plus, it may seem cleaner but bottled water has tested positive for heavy metals and even giardia—ick. Pour filtered water into a stainless steel reusable water bottle for on-the-go hydration and save your family $50 a month!
6. Don’t heat plastic: Sealing hot food in plastic or heating it in the microwave can cause the plastic to leach hormone-disrupting chemicals—like BPA—into your food. Glass or dishware is a better bet for food storage.
7. Clean greener: Most of us clean our houses with the products that we remember from childhood—if it was good enough for mom, it’s good enough for us. But in this case mom doesn’t necessarily know best: Some chemicals in those products have been linked to serious illnesses. Simple, chemical-free formulas based on tried-and-true cleaners like baking soda and vinegar mean you can clean your house for pennies!
8. Nesting? A 2011 study found 300 chemicals inside a new nursery, while only two outside the windows. Look for zero VOC paints and formaldehyde-free furniture: They won’t pollute the air you and your baby breathe with potentially dangerous chemicals.
9. Forego flame retardants: When you’re buying a crib mattress or nursing pillow, avoid those that show a TB 117 label, which means their foam has been treated with flame retardants. But what about your mattress? Since eco-friendly mattresses made from organic materials like wool or latex can be expensive, get a thick cotton—preferably organic and/or prewashed—mattress pad in lieu of a complete mattress overhaul.
10. Register organic: Most baby clothing and bedding is made of cotton, which is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world, accounting for 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of its pesticides. According to the EPA, five of the top nine pesticides used in conventional cotton production in the United States—like cyanide, propargite and trifluralin—are known cancer-causing chemicals; traces of these chemicals can end up on your baby’s bedding and clothes. Register for an organic layette and/or pre-wash essentials.
11. Treat your body like a temple: Make sure what you put on it is as free as possible of chemicals like parabens or “fragrance,” as your skin can absorb up to 60% of what you put on it. These rules apply to baby products, too: A great resource to find out what’s in products is the Skin Deep Database.
12. Lose the shoes: Taking off your shoes when you enter your home reduces the amount of pesticides, insecticides and dirt on surfaces and in the air by 85%. This is good practice for when you have a little crawler, too.
Try to follow these natural pregnancy tips as much as possible, but don’t beat yourself up when you can’t. We all do what we can, and just being aware of your options is a great first step towards becoming the best mom you can possibly be.