Who doesn’t love a good shopping spree? One of the most exciting parts of preparing to bring a new baby home is the massive shopping spree that happens. Whether it’s zapping items onto a baby registry or shopping with daddy-to-be, there are some things that baby must have: onesies, burp cloths, diapers, bath products, and car seats.
It can be overwhelming, sure. But overall, shopping for new baby gear and products is a super exciting way for mom to pass the time during pregnancy.
Shopping for “baby stuff” reveals this fact: there are tons of things marketed to babies. Expectant moms are led to believe that if it’s marketed to a baby, then the product – whatever it may be – is totally safe.
Unfortunately, that’s not entirely true, and mom may have to do a little detective work to make sure she’s buying good products. This isn’t to shame any company that includes these hidden ingredients; the goal here is education. Armed with a little bit of knowledge, moms (and dads) can read labels, check ingredients, and make informed decisions about which baby products to buy for their little bundles of joy.
So take note: here are 20 things hiding in baby products that moms need to know about.
20 What’s Lurking In Your Bedtime Bath?
There’s a reason why moms joke about the incredible lack of sleep during the infancy stage of parenthood: it’s true. During the newborn phase, frequent feedings and the need for cuddles and fresh diapers can keep mama awake all night. Sometimes just getting to bed in the first place is half of the battle. So what do smart parents do? They start the bedtime cues with a warm cozy bath.
A lavender-scented bubble bath before bed seems like a great way to soothe a fussy or overtired baby, but what is really in that bubble bath? “Fragrance” is usually a harsh chemical and is linked to allergies and eczema. Opt for a natural product what lists real lavender essential oil as an ingredient – not just a synthetic lavender “fragrance.”
19 Daily Dose Of Vitamin A
While there are many vitamin brands available these days, many of us can remember taking a good old Flintstone vitamin when we were younger. Our mothers taught us to take our vitamins because “vitamins are good for growing bodies.” But there is one place that you don’t want a vitamin lurking and that is in your baby’s lotion.
How can a vitamin be bad? Synthetic vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) can cause skin tumors if the skin is exposed to the sun while wearing these products. This type of vitamin A is usually put into lotions. Babies need lotion, but lotions are not created equally.
In addition to this synthetic vitamin, many conventional baby lotions contain “fragrance” and other harsh preservatives. The best option for hydrating baby’s delicate skin is to opt for natural, nurturing oils such as olive oil, sweet almond oil, or coconut.
Hot tip: almond oil has the best neutral scent for baby.
18 Sunscreen That Does More Harm Than Good
Although most pediatricians don’t recommend using sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months old, many parents still stock up on sunscreen when they are purchasing their initial batch of baby products. Sadly, sunscreen isn’t as safe as we think it is or should be.
Oxybenzone is found in most sunscreens. Unfortunately, it is a known endocrine disruptor which means it can jazz up baby’s delicate hormone balance. It can also lead to endometriosis and reproductive issues in mom. Yikes!
What’s a mom to do? Nothing replaces a safe sun routine like covering up, wearing wide brimmed hats, and avoiding the sun at it’s most intense peak of the day. If you use a sunscreen, use non-nano zinc based sunscreen.
17 To Brush Or Not To Brush
Teething is one of those baby milestones that are bittersweet. As parents, we are happy to see baby’s first tooth pop up, but we also know that the teething road is a long and painful process for many babies.
Finally, after a few crabby days, there is good news - baby has sprouted a tooth! Now it’s time to take care of that tooth and wipe it down with toothpaste. But watch out! Even the baby formulated toothpastes contain sodium lauryl sulfate because it helps to clean things well and helps products get all bubbly and frothy. Although this sounds good – a product that cleans well and is frothy – this ingredient is not so good. SLS is a skin irritant… yet it’s going to touch baby’s mouth?? Some studies even link SLS with canker sores. It’s worth the effort to search for a toothpaste without this ingredient.
16 Lung Health Or Dry Bum?
Baby powder and diaper changes go together like PB&J. Not only do baby powders help baby smell powdery fresh, but baby powder serves a practical purpose. Baby powder helps absorb any moisture so that baby’s skin feels dry and comfortable. Once again, however, there are some hidden ingredients that mom needs to know about.
Talc is a drying agent in baby powder, but talc is also a lung irritant and is linked to cancers especially in girls. Some companies have taken out the talc but moms still have to read labels because not all baby powders are talc-free and many contain “fragrance.” The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests avoiding baby powder all together to keep baby from inhaling the powder particles – talc or not.
15 Wipe Off Poop, Wipe On Chemicals
Whether you’ve changed a hundred diapers or zero diapers, you’re going to need two basics items to change a diaper: the diaper (duh) and wipes. Even a pee-only diaper change requires some wipes to freshen baby up. Just grab a pack of scented wipes with aloe and you’re good to go, right? Not exactly.
Baby wipes have had a bad rap lately because of the mold issues; hence the litany of baby wipe recalls over the past few years. But there is a bigger danger hiding in those wipes: propylene glycol. Looking at the word doesn’t exactly clue you in on what it is or what it does, but here’s a hint: propylene glycol is also an ingredient in wiper fluid, and it is also used to de-ice airplanes. Although this ingredient is classified as “generally safe,” there is a list of unsavory dangers including skin irritant, a potential threat to liver and kidneys, and increased respiratory issues.
14 Dapper Diaper Butts
Speaking of wipes and diapers: what’s cuter than a diaper butt? Not much. But not every diaper out there is a good diaper. Why should you care about a piece of absorbent paper designed to hold… poop? You’re just going to throw it away, right? Well, here’s what’s hiding in most diapers: VOC, dioxins, polyurethane, adhesives, lotions, inks, fragrance, and pesticide residue. Once you look at those ingredients, it’s hard to think about letting that concoction touch baby’s skin.
You obviously still need diapers so what’s the solution to avoiding these hidden dangers? Luckily, there are a lot of eco-friendly disposable diapers available; these diapers tend to have less of these unsavory ingredients. Another option: go cloth (and bonus: cloth diapers are much, much cheaper in the long run!)
13 Soap That Makes You Dirty
Between the spit up and the diaper explosions, the baby is absolutely going to need to be bathed, but you already knew that because you bought the cute little hooded towels (I know, it’s hard to pass those up!) and the baby soap, baby shampoo, and the oh-so-cute baby-sized wash clothes. But let’s look a little closer at that soap.
Most (57%) of baby soaps have a hidden ingredient 1,4-dioxane but it’s not even listed as an ingredient. How can something in a soap not be listed? This ingredient is a by-product (by-products don’t have to be listed) of certain ingredients like polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, sodium laureth sulfate, PEG, or any that end in –eth. And this by-product is nothing to joke around with as it’s a carcinogen.
Hot tip: Use organic olive oil soap or goat milk soap instead.
12 Gas That Baby Up
Hydrating a baby’s skin after a bath has been a common practice for ages! The warm skin and open pores help absorb the oil better and soak into baby’s skin easily. In fact, it’s so common to oil up a baby that “baby oil” became a household term. However, most products named “baby oil” are actually just pure mineral oil. Minerals can be good for us so what is wrong with mineral oil? It sounds healthy, but it’s not. Mineral oil is not the way to go. It is actually a byproduct of petroleum – and no one wants to be slathered in that!
You don’t have to give up on an oil for the baby though. Opt instead for natural and cold pressed oils such as sweet almond oil or coconut oil. If you can dig the smell, some moms even swear by olive oil.
11 Just A Little Lead
We’ve had it drilled into us that babies shouldn’t gnaw on painted window sills because of the risk of lead poisoning. Some states even require mandatory blood tests in children to routinely check lead levels. During these appointments, we are asked about lead paint in the house and are reminded to avoid old painted items, but lead isn’t confined to just painted walls and window sills. Baby toys can have lead in the paint – especially blocks.
Why would a company use lead-based paint in a baby toy that will most likely be chewed upon? Believe it or not, some companies have recalled their toys lately because of lead safety. Lead can sneak into toys easily during the manufacturing process, especially if production occurs overseas. Even in 2007, Mattel recalled 967,000 toys due to lead paint issues.
10 Sophie’s Got It Going On
Babies need to teethe and chew on stuff, right? Babies like to chew on items because it feels good on teething gums, but babies also use their mouths to explore their world around them. They wonder what something might taste like so they just stick in their mouth as part of the discovery process. For these reasons, it’s nice to give baby toys she can chew on.
But what is baby chewing on? Some toys are made with low-grade plastic (and probably have some BPA and worse) so chewing on those would be bad, bad, bad. The toxic chemicals that compose many types of plastic have been linked to cancer, immunity issues, and endocrine disruptions. Yep, plastic is cheap and easy to buy, but a closer look at what plastic is made of can be a little scary for parents.
Look for chew toys made of natural rubber (like Sophie the Giraffe) or food grade silicone.
9 No Tooth Pain, But…
Okay, so you found a safe teething toy for your baby to chew on, but teething is still ramping up, and your baby is not a happy camper. As parents we want to take away our baby’s pain – it’s our natural reaction. A walk down the oral care aisle in the store suggests that numbing teething gels might be the solution to a baby’s pain. Most numbing gels contain benzocaine, which is a mild numbing ingredient. So a teething gel might take away baby’s tooth pain, but it’s going to increase her risk of some other scary things…
For instance, the main ingredient in baby Orajel, which is benzocaine, can cause serious problems including a reduction of oxygen in the blood. This severity of reaction was listed in the FDA’s consumer updates.
8 Mouthful Of Nips And Pesticides
So you’ve decided to breastfeed your baby? That’s great! If you’re still waiting for your baby to be born, you probably already have aunts and sisters reminding you to stock up on nipple cream as your power through your first week of breastfeeding. No one wants cracked nips, so it’s wise to absolutely stock up on cream… but which cream?
Lanoline-based nipple creams work wonders for mom but they are loaded with pesticides and anti-parasite meds. (Lanolin comes from sheep’s wool, but the wool is treated with pesticides and anti-parasite meds before the lanoline is extracted.) Hmm, since the baby is most likely going to get some of the nipple cream in his mouth, this doesn’t sound like such a great idea.
Don’t fret though! There are plenty of herbal nipple creams out there that don’t contain lanolin or pesticides.
7 No Bacteria But Increased Risk Of Cancer? No Thanks
I’ll admit it: when my first son was born, I literally had a hand sanitizer attached to my belt loop whenever I was in public or at large family gatherings. I was so afraid of my baby getting sick that I was constantly sanitizing my hands – or the hands of any family member who wanted to hold him. I have since learned about the dangers of going overboard with hand sanitizer ( you know, the whole antibiotic resistance thing). But there was something else wrong with all of my beloved hand sanitizer: tricolosan.
Many anti-bacterial products (even ones marketed to babies) have tricolosan which is a known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor. Keep the baby clean the good old fashioned way with regular soap – no antibacterial soaps for baby.
6 The Breaking Down Bottle
Whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding, chances are pretty good that you’ll need a bottle or two or five. Choosing a bottle is hard enough, but have you ever wondered what components actually make up the bottle?
Plastic baby bottles can be a hazard – even ones without BPA. There are many chemical components of plastic that can start to leech into food especially when the plastic is warmed. And baby bottles definitely need to be warmed. Think: baby bottle warmer.
So what is a mama to do? She definitely needs bottles, but no one wants to willingly buy chemical-leaching plastic bottles. Check out the glass baby bottles (with silicone sleeves). It might sound scary at first, but trust me, those silicon sleeves really do work.
5 This Little Piggy Went And Got Formaldehyde
For expectant moms awaiting the birth of a little girl, she probably thinks of all the fun things she can do with her daughter. From girls’ only spa days to braiding each other’s hair, there is a special bond that mothers have with their daughters. I’m willing to bet that “mani-pedi” dates are high up on many expectant moms’ list of things to do. Some moms may even paint her baby’s toes before she can walk.
Before you paint your tiny baby’s toe nails, think twice. Formaldehyde is in a lot of nail polishes and has been linked to cancers like leukemia. This doesn’t have to nix your spa plans; simply splurge on formaldehyde-free versions.
4 Jammie Time!
There’s something so sweet about baby jammies. Perhaps it’s because the jammies are always cute and cozy or maybe it’s the sweet way all kids look angelic when they sleep. But even PJ’s have hidden dangers in them.
What could be lurking in jammies?? The flame-retardant in PJS have such good – oh so good- intentions but those chemicals have been linked to cancer sadly.
This is a tough call to make. Expose kids to chemicals or dress your children in “flammable” jammies… regardless of what you choose to do, keep basic fire safety guidelines. Keep smoke detectors in every room and check them monthly.
3 Wash Those Onesies!
Parents quickly learn how much laundry one child can produce. (It’s a lot.) From diaper leaks and spit up to food fights over pureed pees to dirty crib sheets, babies make a lot of laundry. And obviously all that laundry has to be washed. There are some laundry detergents designed for baby clothes, but what could be hiding in detergent?
Detergent can really cause problems for babies – especially babies with eczema. Most contain fragrances and other harsh irritants. Even though the detergent is technically rinsed out during the wash cycle, the detergent residue can irritate sensitive skin even after one washing.
Moms find that switching detergent or using the “free” versions of a detergent can help eliminate some of these skin reactions.
2 Baby’s Gotta Drink
“Are you breastfeeding or formula feeding” is a common question that is aimed at new or expectant moms. Most people who ask are just curious, but some will even go further to ask what kind of formula baby drinks. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but baby formula is another baby product with hidden things that mom needs to know about.
What? No, not the formula! Yep, even formula has some nasty ingredients floating around like corn syrup solids. Can you imagine feeding corn syrup to your baby? You wouldn’t. But somehow it’s made its’ way into many formulas.
All hope is not lost – just read your labels and spring for the organic ones if necessary.
1 Another Vitamin Let Down
Remember earlier when we talked about synthetic vitamin A causing skin issues? Well, there is another vitamin under scrutiny. This type is vitamin D drops.
Many babies – especially breastfed babies – are prescribed vitamin D drops. In this case, the vitamin itself is not bad, but the other ingredients in the vitamin drops are sketchy. Look carefully because not all products are the same. Some of the liquid drops contain artificial flavor and caramel color (a carcinogen). Who cares what the color is? A newborn baby certainly doesn’t care if his vitamin D drops are brown or pink or green. If prescribed drops, absolutely use them; just buy a brand without any unnecessary ingredients added. Choose wisely, mama!
Sources: fda.gov, draxe.com, cancer.org, ewg.org, nytimes.com, cdc.gov