Published on December 17th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans2
Baby Steps towards a Sustainable Future
The delights of babyhood, though incredibly rewarding, are not so easy to hold onto. After awaiting baby’s arrival for months you get caught up in the new challenges of day-to-day parenting, and before you know it, the first period of their life is over.
Babyhood is the best time to focus on infusing your child’s experience with green values. Help to green your baby’s initial encounter with the planet in every way by surrounding them with a green environment—take every opportunity to do so, because they will be up and out before you know it.
Throughout history, so much time has been focused around family and child-rearing that it is quite remarkable that babies have become such a target of consumerism. Catering to babies is now such a massive industry that maintaining green values in your consumer choices can often seem like sorting wheat from chaff. Even before your baby arrives, you will be pressured with lists of things to stock up on, from baby monitors and breast pumps to videos and push-button gadgets.
Watch out because once the baby is born, it only accelerates. You might find that your home has become a receptacle for all kinds of trendy toys that do not necessarily interest your baby. The truth is that babies need very little besides their mother’s love and nurturing to get through the first several months of life. An overabundance of external stimulus might even detract from the development of the early mother-and-baby relationship essential for the emotional security of the child as he or she goes through the various stages of life and growth.
Childbirth itself is a very low-tech affair, but the advent of various pain medications designed to “lessen” the painful experience for the mother make natural childbirth an increasingly rare phenomenon. Although some medications might lessen birthing pain, they generally have harmful toxic effects upon the unborn child—anything that physically or emotionally affects the mother also affects her tot. Research has not been able to provide us with all of the answers, but one thing is for sure—many babies are born with lower immunity as a result of suffering mild to major levels of toxicity in the pre-natal stage.
By the same token, giving babies toxic drugs to remedy illnesses after birth is not truly in keeping with green family values. Babies will, of course, go through several stages of growth-related discomfort and perhaps even illness in their first several months of life. Each mother dreads the days of colic, ear infections, and teething, or even tears and tantrums. Rather than drugging your baby with over-the-counter sedatives, pain relievers, and decongestants, consider more natural methods of treatment like aromatherapy, massage, naturopathy, Bach flower remedies, and homeopathy. Postural and development difficulties can be addressed and even prevented through craniosacral therapy. Diluted herbal teas can address sleep and digestive issues, and this provides a great way to incorporate herbals into baby’s early years.
Tactile and Visual TLC
The simple power of touch is profound. Massing your baby is an incredibly effective way to support physical and mental development, not to mention a wonderful opportunity for bonding. Baby massage is an integral part of nearly every old world culture. It can be a fun part of your baby’s routine and can even be extended to include exercises that help to strengthen and support the development of limbs and muscles—the use of herbal and aromatic oils only adds to the experience. Also consider keeping your baby close to your body as you go about daily tasks or errands, especially in the first few months of development, by placing them in a baby sling carrier.
The truth is that babies need very little besides their mother’s love and nurturing to get through the first several months of their life. An overabundance of external stimulus might even detract from the development of the early mother-and-baby relationship that is essential for the emotional security of the child as he or she goes through the various stages of life and growth.
Between three to four months of age, babies begin to explore the world. A green nursery that is well ventilated will ensure safe breathing patterns for your child. Natural color therapy is ideal to introduce at this phase of life—provide natural bedding and drapery, and decorate the nursery with no-VOC organic paint in greens and earth tones to enhance your baby’s vision. You can amplify and extend the health of your baby’s eyes by learning and applying techniques from the Bates method of eye strengthening exercises.
Natural Nourishment and Friendly Fibers
You probably already know that when it comes to feeding your baby, breast is best. All research points to the positive effects of breastfeeding on the nutritional, intellectual, and general health of babies. It has no impact on the environment and is the easiest method of nutrition, as it needs no prior preparation. If you must prepare bottles, it is best to express the milk rather than going for formula. If you cannot breastfeed for any reason, probiotic-containing infant formula is now available in the U.S. as a supplementary option. While it cannot rival breastmilk, the formula contains healthy, probiotic bacteria that is normally transferred from the mother to the infant, helping to cultivate a healthy digestive tract in the intially-sterile infant stomach. The fortified formula contains supplements with probiotic microorganisms that help to decrease diarrhea and food allergies. If your baby is allergic to cow’s milk, soy-based formulas containing predigested proteins are available. When it comes to providing solid foods, preparing your own is the best way to go—it is easy enough to mash up or puree the foods that you are preparing for yourself or for the rest of the family, and it will give you complete control over the quality and organic content of foods that you want to feed your baby.
Nappies, or reusable cloth diapers, have been almost entirely replaced by the disposable diaper. The use of disposable diapers is a source of widespread controversy, both in terms of how they affect the baby’s health as well as the environmental impact. A green baby is likely to be happier with the traditional method because cloth options like organic cotton are easier on the skin, helping to minimize rashes and diaper burns. What’s more, nappy-clothed babies are easier to potty train when the time comes. Nappies are easily washed and re-used, and if you do not want to go through the effort of constant washing at home, nappy-specific laundry services are available these days in most major cities. Search the National Association of Diaper Services by state to find a location near you.
When it comes to dressing your baby, consider clothing made from natural fibers—organic hemp, cotton, and wool are the best. Drapery and bedding made from these fibers will also reduce the incidence of allergies and rashes. There is nothing like the simplicity of old fashioned toys for your babies.
More often than not, toys go straight to the baby’s mouth so choose those that are as natural as possible—wooden toys or stuffed animals made from organic cotton. There are even lavender-filled stuffies to help your baby relax.
And above all, aim to get your baby out into the open for “natural play” in the true sense of the word. Sunshine, fresh air, and the natural scents of the plant world work in harmony to increase your baby’s vitality and good spirits. You cannot go greener that!
Article Contributors: Reenita Malhotra Hora