Natural Baby Care

Baby soap

Commercial soaps, bubbles or talc are not necessary and in fact can prove to be quite toxic. If anything, purchase a non-toxic, natural bar of baby soap. A variety of products are on the market – see Recommended Goods for suppliers. A lovely baby soap/liquid – which is very gentle and natural – can be used for washing body and hair for the first six months and beyond. However plain water is fine and is the only thing needed in the early weeks. Keep it pure, natural and simple, it will save you money and is better for baby’s health and the environment. After the bath, try a baby massage (books and classes are available) if baby is happy to go along with this.

Natural Nappies

There are three types of nappies that are better for your baby’s health and the environment than standard disposables, they are: traditional terry toweling squares, modern cloth nappies and eco-disposables. The key is to find which ones work for you and your baby, remembering that there is not one nappy that suits all body types and all situations. You may find you use a variety of all three types at different times.

Why not use standard disposables found in supermarkets? They contain chemicals, bleaches and gels that can cause a skin reaction in your baby (which may be passed off as nappy rash); they are more expensive than cloth nappies; and they create tonnes of non biodegradable rubbish. In her article, “Kindred’s Ultimate Nappy Guide”, Jannine Barron states that:

According to My Planet recycling, an estimated 91 per cent of Australian parents choose disposables nappies, with 800 million of them taking up 145,000 cubic metres of landfill each year. Given that conventional disposables can take as long as 500 years to break down, the environment and public health implications are immense.[1]

Cloth nappies

In the first few weeks flannelette nappies are soft and not too bulky for the small baby. Fitted cloth nappies made up with press studs/Velcro are very popular. Nappy suppliers for easy shopping and ordering online are in the Recommended Goods section. Do your own research, hemp and bamboo are now available as well as organic cotton, and are great options for the environment.

Using cloth nappies eliminates the use of paper and therefore trees for nappies; chemicals and excessive water used in the nappy making process; and the landfill required afterwards. It is best to buy a big nappy bin with a lid; you can then place the soiled nappies in there, after dropping the faeces down the toilet. All faeces should end up in the toilet whether using cloth or disposables! A “Little Squirt”, (see Recommended Goods) or paper liners help with this part. Try adding bicarbonate of soda and a few drops of tea tree oil in the bucket, to produce lovely smells from then on! You can fill the bucket with nappies (either with or without added water) and put them through your normal wash with your other washing or on half load by themselves. If you are using a biodegradable nappy liner, then ‘dry-pailing’, placing the nappy in a bucket without water is made easy. This ensures that not much extra water is used, especially if you can plumb your washing machine water (grey water) to go to the garden afterwards.

An initial outlay of money is required to buy your complete set of fitted cloth nappies and/or squares but over the course of the first two years much more money would be spent on ‘disposable’ nappies. It has been worked out that approximately $2000 would be saved if you use cloth nappies, this is good incentive. The savings continue with each child born.

Cloth nappies are easier to use in a nurturing and slow home environment, if you are not busy and out in the world. This gives you time to soak, wash, dry and fold which can be a lovely experience if done with consciousness.

If you can’t fold a nappy, do not dismay! Look up www.thenappylady.uk.co for easy to figure out diagrams and photos. Nappy folding is an art form and can be creative and relaxing in a funny sort of way!

New nappies that are friendlier to bottoms and the earth

If you are very time tight and are using disposable nappies there are companies now that are creating biodegradable nappies with recycled materials. There has been some concern that some of the biodegradable  nappies do not breakdown in landfill. Check the labels for information on how they biodegrade, and do not put them in plastic bags when soiled, as this will hinder the breaking down process. This style of environmentally conscious nappy is a step in the right direction and I am sure we will see tighter regulations on using the word ‘biodegradable’ in the future. At present you need to find them on the internet as they are not stocked in regular supermarkets or shops.

Nappy soak and wet wipes: choices available

Using alternatives to nappy soaking solutions, such as bicarbonate of soda and tea tree oil is good for reducing chemical toxins in our water and earth.  The same applies to wet wipes. There are now on offer environmentally friendly wet wipes that are chemical-free and made using recycled paper. Wet wipes are so cold on the skin. Old towels or flannelette sheets cut into squares and rinsed in warm water (taken out in reusable plastic bags) are a good alternative. They are warmer and nicer on the baby’s skin. You can then put them into the nappy soaking bucket. If at home, you can just wash the bottom under the tap in the sink with warm water and pat dry. Alternately, sponge down, especially in the creases with warm water and cotton wool or the flannelette pieces. No wet wipes are really needed.

Nappy rash treatments

Pawpaw ointment, aloe vera or a Weleda nappy rash cream can work well for nappy rash. Washing the baby’s bottom under the warm tap often also helps, as well as exposing it to the fresh air. For nappy rash, Anne suggests Zinc and Vitamin A cream, she says it stinks of fish but works wonders.

Colic

A tip from a Naturopath: colic can be treated with dill water, buy dill seeds, boil for five minutes and cool. Then put the water on a spoon and feed to baby, suitable for all ages.

Teething

Some babies pop teeth through without a peep of irritation, others suffer discomfort with unsettled nights; sometimes a rash or red cheeks; a slight fever, runny nose and general fussiness; extra dribbling and drool; and they may reject the breast or need to suck more. If you look in the mouth of your baby, it can be swollen or bumpy as the tooth pushes through.

Teething ideas

There are wonderful organic hard finger biscuits, specifically designed for teething babies. I also found that vegetable sticks, cold from the fridge, are very soothing for teething babies to bite down on (make sure you assist and watch incase a bit breaks off). Also a cold, wet flannel to bite on can be soothing. A friend of mine uses frozen bananas for her teething baby; she says they work a treat! There are wooden, PVC free and fabric teething rings, which babies will enjoy whilst teething. Natural teething creams and gels, the Weleda range has teething products (available from Great Goods section). A homeopath can give teething remedies, Chamomilla 30. Anne Digby (naturopath) suggests liquid Vitamin C 100mg a day, squirt into the baby’s mouth or mix with food. Remember to create a slowed down pace to help baby through teething times.

Once teeth are through, clean with water and your little finger. When you start to use toothpaste again your little finger or a tiny brush can be used.

Sunscreen

The best sunscreen is to cover your baby up in a hat and suitable clothing and to sit in the shade. If you require a sunscreen, along with toothpastes, the Recommended Goods section has natural suppliers, free from the chemical minefield of many brands.


[1] Barron, Jannine; “Kindred’s Ultimate Nappy Guide” Kindred Magazine, no.23, Sept-Nov 2007. p.18.