When I first started researching baby gear I was appalled… I cannot believe how much toxic crap baby items are filled with! From flame retardants to BPA to formaldehyde, everything from baby clothes to car seats are basically chemical laden, toxic disasters. Not only do these products seem horrible for the environment, but horrible for a tiny pure baby to be exposed to constantly and from all directions. No thank you.
So, I spent hours pouring over the internet, geeking out on manufactures’ websites and reading wonderful lists and guides compiled by other eco mama bloggers (see lists of references below). What I came up with was my non-toxic baby registry list. This by no means is an exhaustive list, but it includes the items that we determined best fit our needs and were as healthy as possible for our baby and the planet.
Of course, buying new baby gear (and new anything for that matter) is going to come with a hefty footprint. The best way to make a low impact on the environment is to get second-hand products. But if you’re also concerned with toxins, it can be more difficult to find safe alternatives through second hand stores and hand me downs. For us, living in a small town and being the first of our friends to have kids, we chose to purchase most of our big items new and as non-toxic as possible from responsible manufacturers.
Note – I am not a scientist. Not even CLOSE. I’m also not an expert on all of the chemicals discussed. But I’ve done my fair share of research and that’s what I’m passing along. I’ve included some references at the end of the post that go further into the the technical aspects of the toxins addressed.
Let’s start with the big guys… the larger ticket items that are (mostly) must haves.
Car Seats are expensive, a non-negotiable item, and not recommended to be purchased second-hand (although I would feel totally comfortable accepting a gift from a close friend or relative who vouched for it). Which means this is an item you’ll want to put quite a bit of thought into. All car seats sold in the USA have flame retardants (and legally must have). But, some flame retardants are worse than others.
I found this chart from Healthy Stuff that describes the concerns related to each type of flame retardant found in car seats. They show the different classes of flame retardant by color. Blue and Yellow are the most concerning. I highly recommend reading their blog post in entirety as it is full of great information on the topic.
Pink = Melamine Blue = Brominated Yellow = Chlorinated Green = Halogen-Free Phosphates
If you travel often or have long commutes, a car seat is something that your baby will spend a lot of time in, so chemicals could be a big factor in your decision. But if you don’t spend too much time in a car, this might be one of those items you feel ok going standard with to save on money. The non-toxic brands are about twice the amount as mainstream.
Image via Nuna
While I think the seats that baby can grow with (one seat from infancy through toddler that adapts to your child’s size) are the best option for the environment from a consumerism perspective, we really wanted a car seat that was removable from the base and able to be used for air and city travel so we could carry baby in it while sleeping and not have to rent car seats when away from home (we travel a lot). The All-in-One car seats don’t serve that function, so we decided they wouldn’t work for us.
The Nuna Pipa seat uses “safer” flame retardants (ammonium polyphosphate, APP, a halogen-free phosphate) and Oeko-Certifed fabrics, which prohibits the use of 100 chemicals. Overall, they are are an eco-conscious and responsible company that utilizes solar energy and a water recycling program. It’s expensive, $300 for the seat (including base, SPF 50 canopy, and other accessories), but we take frequent trips which will require baby to be nestled in his seat for long periods of time, so it’s worth it for us.
Clek, which we’ll look into later, is probably the most eco-friendly and non-toxic on the market but it’s very expensive and not safe for babies until they are 14 pounds, so unless you have a huge baby (and then my condolences:)) it won’t work for newborns.
- Of the mainstream manufactures, Britax seems to be the best. They don’t use bromine or chlorine. Here’s information on their chemical compliance: https://us.britax.com/why-britax/safety-standards/.
- Orbit Baby is supposed to be free of all brominated chemicals and was long considered a great non-toxin option, but testing of their products found they actually do use them. Considering the lack of transparency on the issue, I wouldn’t recommend them as a trust worthy brand.
I found a ton of fantastic resources on my research on car seats. Here are couple that I recommend for further reading and more information on other brands I didn’t touch on:
- Healthy Org http://www.ecocenter.org/healthy-stuff/reports/childrens-car-seat-study/report_summary
- Natural Baby Mama https://naturalbabymama.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/a-safe-but-non-toxic-car-seat/
Without getting into the whole co-sleeping debate, I’m on the paranoid side and don’t want to squish my baby so we’re getting a bedside bassinet for the first 6 months or so:). If you opt for a bed of some sort, this is something I think is critical to get to get as clean as possible. Your little one will spend a lot of time here!
Our Choice: Drumroll please…. the Guava Family Lotus Bundle is our bed-to-be!
Image via Guava Family
We absolutely LOVE this bassinet/play pen combo. Not only is it free of chemicals (no flame retardants, PVC, lead, phthalates, formaldehyde, or heavy metals), it’s GreenGuard Gold Certified and offers custom fitted organic sheets.
Not to mention we will use this for many years to come. Once our little one outgrows the bassinet, this nifty set up converts to a play pen style crib. This greatly extends the use of this product and eliminates our need to buy a separate play pen.
The BEST part in my opinion? The entire thing packs up into a compact, carry-on size backpack making this the perfect travel companion as a bassinet or a play pen. When we visit grandma, we can bring baby’s bed with us!
Other Choices: The other option we considered was the Nuna Sena, which is a play pen with a bassinet insert that sits on top of the pen. But it seemed awkward for our primary sleeping. But it’s free of flame retardants and the fabrics are Oeko-Certified.
We love the idea of carrying our baby around. We walk often, both at home and abroad, so having carriers is a must have for us. I really wanted a sling and chose the K’Tan which is super soft and easy to put on/take off. But it fits by size and isn’t as versatile as some others. But we also wanted an ergonomic carrier,which both mom and dad, and anyone else for that matter, can use.
Our Choice: After a lot of indecisiveness, we opted for the Beco Gemini Organic Carrier.
Image via Beco Baby Carrier
My husband REALLY wanted a carrier that offered a front facing option for baby. Like, this was THE most important decision in ALL of our baby purchases to him. 🙂 So, I made it a priority while doing my research. I wanted one that was made out of non-toxic materials, had great safety ratings, and was easy to use. What I love about the Beco, aside from being organic (an obvious plus) is that the front-facing option is designed to be ergonomic for the baby and it also works as a side and back facing carrier, so it’s really versatile. The buckles feel VERY secure compared to others. It’s machine washable AND has a nifty front pocket for easy access to keys, baby wipes, etc. And I love that they feature a large bearded man snuggling a tiny baby 🙂 I love companies that recognize dad! Please note, these carriers DO use PUR foam for the padding in the straps, but because it’s contained in thick, organic fabric I felt ok with this option. This product has no flame retardants.
- BabyBjorn – the Baby Carrier One is a great option. Transitions for four carrying positions (like the Beco), made from Oeko-Certified fabrics blending cotton with polyester with a polyester/PUR foam padding. It’s free of flame retardants.
- Ergobaby Four Position 360 – Another 4 position carrier from a reputable brand. What I didn’t like about this one was in addition to using a polyester/PUR foam fill it includes Ethylene Vinyl Acetate foam which contains Formamide which is considered carcinogenic. It is free of flame retardants.
- Tula – honestly if front facing wasn’t a must have, I think I would have gone with this brand. The carriers are made out of Oeko-Certified cotton without toxic foams (that I can find at least). And there are tons of cute patterns.
Flame retardants, BPA, LEAD… the list goes on and on for strollers. Because we are going to be primarily carrying, we’re opting to not get a street stroller and only get a jogging stroller at this point, at least until baby is too big to carry all the time:) I can’t wait to start running with our little guy once he’s big enough! And since I’m an avid runner, going this route makes the most sense for us. Strollers (especially joggers) are another one of those that are EXPENSIVE so it’s really important to consider how much it will be used and in what functions. Finding these second hand, especially if not brand-specific, is a great idea.
Our Choice: The Mountain Buggy Terrain Jogging Stroller.
Image via Mountain Buggy
I decided on the Mountain Buggy because it is a highly rated jogging stroller that has no flame retardants and has interchangeable wheels for easier city use (if we decide we DO want a daytime stroller this could in theory serve that function, although bulkily, but reduce our needs for another purchase) It also fully reclines so it is usable for younger babies (not for running but walking) before the recommended 6 months to run with. Non-toxic wise, it’s no better or worse than some of the others I listed below, but it does seem to be the best and most stable for running out of all of them, which is why I chose it. This sucker is super $$. If you’re not going to be running with your little one several times a week, I don’t think I’d recommend this.
- Phil and Ted’s (not to be confused with Bill and Ted’s ;)) use no flame retardants in products sold in the US
- BOB – really a not an option for us… No flame retardants but do have lead. Yikes!
Check out this very thorough series of posts from Organic Baby University with information on most stroller manufacturers including great options for non-joggers: http://organicbabyuniversity.com/blog/2011/07/toxic-flame-retardants-in-your-home-strollers-part-1/
We’re not using a changing table (seems like an unnecessary use of space and piece of furniture) so we have a changing pad to put on top of our baby’s dresser. Surprise, surprise!!! Most of them are filled with toxic foams and flame retardants. Of COURSE!! Even with an organic cotton cover, it seems like the cover would be too thin to offer much protection.
Our Choice: Oeuf Changing Pad
Image via Oeuf
We chose the Oeuf because it is a great option at a (relatively) affordable price. And because it’s one of my favorite French words (ok, that’s not really an argument to purchase it, but I do love the word.) Not the best of the best, but at $50 is much less expensive than the 100% wool versions. However, it is made out of plant based, CertiPUR-US certified foams and the waterproof materials is made with food grade polyurethane. It’s free of lead, PVC, BPA, phthalates, BPA, formaldehyde, and other toxins.
- Naturepedic – Also made with food grade polyurethane and non toxic, this is also filled with organic cotton. A little spendier at $100.
- Holy Lamb Organic – 100% organic wool pad filling with 100% organic cotton cover. It’s not waterproof, so separate liners need to be purchased. It’s also $175, so while I consider it to be the most non-toxic for baby and best option for the environment, it’s a splurge.
Most nursing pillows are made of foam. Several are free of flame retardants, but still potentially off gas. And with baby’s head right there so often I don’t think a thin organic cover will offer much protection for that. The wool options are much more expensive than the mainstream pillows, but this one seemed like a very important purchase to me since it is part of such an intimate and important part of our day and literally in between both mine and my baby’s skins, so I splurged on a wool option.
Our Choice: Pure Rest Organics Nursing Pillow
Image via Pure Rest Organics
100% organic wool fill with 100% organic cotton cover. The only reason I chose this over Holy Lamb is because I found it for $10 cheaper on Amazon and could bundle with some other items I was getting to save on shipping costs and footprint. I also got a Burt’s Bees organic cotton cover.
Holy Lamb Organic – 100% organic wool with a 100% organic cotton cover.
Ok, I’ll just put it out there, no shame – I am NOT going to cloth diaper my baby. Its not that I have anything against it, I just know that I will inevitably not have the time or energy to do it and switch to disposables. Probably in like, three days. Laundry is already the bane of my existence and I know it’s about to quadruple in size. I don’t need to add poopy diapers to that heap.
So, rather than feel any sort of guilt, I jumped right into researching the best option for disposable. Because let’s be real… disposable diapers are disgusting! They are filled with chemicals and plastics and are thrown away in massive quantities, creating TONS of waste! In the USA we throw away 27.4 billion single use diapers a year! (Ok, I feel tremendous amounts of guilt for contributing to this). Most disposable diapers are treated with chlorine, formaldehyde, BPA, phthalates and have perfumes, toxic dyes, and latex which babies are sensitive too. They are also made out of plastic, which is obviously bad in so many ways. Here’s a great post on the horrors of disposables… this might make you go with cloth!
The good news is there are options out there that are better or baby and the environment. While not AS good as cloth, there are disposables that are much better than the mainstream.
Even if you ARE going to go cloth, having a more responsible disposable for babysitters, travel, etc is a good idea.
Surprisingly, 7th Generation diapers, while free of chlorine and made partially from FSC materials (pulp), they use several types of plastics and don’t have any compostable/biodegradable qualities.
Our Choice: Bambo Nature
Image via Amazon
These rate very highly for absorption, better than any other eco-diaper on Baby Gear Lab. They are also 80% compostable, which was a HUGE selling point. They are free of formaldehyde, chlorine, perfumes, and lotions, uses no latex or phthalates. The inner fluff is made from sustainably-harvested forests and the dyes are free of heavy metals. The (Denmark based) company is very eco-conscious in its operations and is very transparent. They even have list of all of their ingredients for you to see.
- Broody Chick – Fully compostable, no chlorine and other toxins. We chose Bambo over these because they were said to be more absorbent.
- G Diapers – The disposable/cloth hybrid with a flushable insert. We were this close to going this route. Maybe once we get a hold of this parenting thing…
- Cloth diapers! Obviously.
Okay, this is another one of those not-really-necessary items that I’m getting because I’m a Nervous Nellie. I distinctly remember the fear or giving my now 7 year old nephew a bath when he was a newborn… he was SO slippery! And the metal sink faucet loomed over his tiny soft head like a death trap waiting to happen. So, I’m getting a bathtub instead of facing my fears.
Could you believe most baby tubs are made with BPA-filled plastics?!? By now, of course you can!
Our Choice: Stokke Flexi Bath with Infant Insert
Image via Stokke
There are several things I love about this tub. First and foremost, it’s non-toxic. Free of BPA, lead, phthalate, PVC, formaldehyde, and heavy metals. It’s also compact (folds flat) and easy to transport if needed (although I’m not sure that will be needed). AND it has potential to be used for decades! Once little one has graduated to the big kid bath (even though this can be used through toddler age, I think bigger kids will have way more fun in a bigger bath) it’s the perfect size to store toys in and use as a bin (I am a total bin organizer freak). So even though a bathtub isn’t a necessary purchase, I feel like I’m buying a 2-in-1 product that I’ll use for a long time to come.
Puj Tub – If I wasn’t so scared of the sink this would be great 😉 Made from BPA and PVC free foam, it’s very compact.
The Original Tummy Tub – but then you might as well just use a bucket. BPA free and fully recyclable, but seems like a tight fit!
- Changing Pad Liners by Nursery Necessities. Bamboo Fiber is raised organically. Waterproof layer made with non-toxic TPU, no vinyl or PVC.
- Wipes by Honest Company. Biodegradable, Oeko-Certified fibers, no chlorine, alcohol, phthalates, formaldehyde, or parabans.
- Bottles by Comotomo. No phthalate, latex, BPA, or lead.
- Pacifiers by Jollypop. No phthalate, BPA, latex.
- Utensils by OXO. Won’t need these for several months, but when we do these are BPA, phthalate, and PVC free.
These are some miscellaneous resources that cover several different product categories with great info!
Hopefully this helps all you other mamas and mamas-to-be narrow down your options! I’ll be posting more on other baby items like bum creams, shampoos, etc sooner than later.