Green living with a baby is important and there are easy ways to get started. (Maybe it’s not so bad using any old floor-cleaning product… until your baby starts crawling and then putting their hands in their mouth!)
In our Sage Woman Q+A series, wise women share their knowledge with Tenth Moon Mother Care in the spirit of empowerment and sisterhood. Here we connect with Emma Rohmann, an environmental engineer and founder of Green at Home, where she helps families sort through the maze of information around food and products in order to make the best choices for our health.
Read on to learn about hormone disrupters, tips for designing a green nursery and things to keep top-of-mind with a baby in your home…
Tell us about yourself:
I’m a mom of two kids – my daughter is 6 and my son is 3. Growing up, we spent a lot of time outdoors, and I think it helped instil an appreciation for our connection to the planet. Now with my own family, we get outside as much as possible. Last year spent 9 days portaging in Algonquin Park (and no, portaging with a 2 year old is not all fun and games!).
I did my undergraduate degree in environmental engineering, which is where I learned that the products we were putting down our drains were affecting our waterways. I started using green cleaners and eating organic, and my green living habits snowballed from there. I worked for 10 years as a green building consultant, where I gained an understanding of how our indoor environments impact our health.
It was on mat leave with my son that I started a deep-dive research project to learn whether eating organic and choosing non-toxic products was really necessary. I wanted to learn that I was wasting my time and money and could just go back to business as usual.
But what I learned just made me more passionate about what we did at home and introduced me to a little-known field – Environmental Health. It’s something few people are aware of, and yet it plays a role in such a wide range of common health concerns – from fertility to asthma to autoimmune disease and beyond. And so, Green at Home was born.
What are hormone disrupters? How do they affect our health and what are some easy ways to reduce exposure?
Hormone disruptors are a group of chemicals that are known or suspected to change the way our hormonal system works. And while many people think of hormones specifically for reproduction, they actually control every process in the body. Studies are showing that hormone disrupting chemicals in our homes are affecting our bodies at much lower concentrations than other chemicals. These include phthalates, BPA, parabens, flame retardants, pesticides, and more.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your exposure is to read labels on body care products to avoid hormone-disrupting chemicals that soak into your skin. I like the Think Dirty App or the Environmental Defence Toxic Ten list.
This is especially important for babies and children, as their bodies are undergoing changes very quickly and their detoxification and immune systems are immature. I recommend switching out laundry detergent to unscented and choosing non-toxic lotions and diaper creams to start.
“One of the easiest ways to reduce your exposure is to read labels on body care products to avoid hormone-disrupting chemicals that soak into your skin.”
What are your top tips for designing a healthy/green nursery?
This might not be a favourite tip, but I always revert back to “less is more”. We can get so caught up in the marketing and hype around baby products, but really, they need so little in the early days! So my advice is to keep it simple. Put your money towards healthier furniture, mattress, baby care products and clothes instead of loading up on extra toys and accessories.
If you’re renovating the room, like painting or replacing the floor, try to do this work as far away from baby occupying the room as possible. Choose a low-VOC paint, like Benjamin Moore’s Natura, and keep windows open to help flush the space from off-gassing. Choose a hard floor (hardwood or a GreenGuard certified laminate) over broadloom carpet, which traps dust and VOCs.
What are some other things to keep in mind with a baby in the home?
Babies have much different exposures than adults do. They eat and drink more for their size than we do, they crawl on the floor, and put EVERYTHING in their mouths. Prioritizing healthier products for babies and children can seem daunting, but start with one focus and work your way from there.
For example, if your baby is crawling on hard floors, consider running a microfibre cloth around a few times a week to reduce hormone disruptors that collect in dust. If they’re eating solids, prioritize the dirty dozen organic produce and organic meat and dairy. And if your nighttime routine includes applying lotion, check the ingredients and avoid synthetic fragrance, petrolatum, and parabens, and stick with more natural options.
Babies are vulnerable, but resilient. So if you’re reading this and thinking “I haven’t been making the right choices! don’t stress! Start making changes when you’re able and know that each step is moving towards a healthier home that will support them over the long term.
What are some of your favourite products that are safe for babies?
I’m a big fan of supporting not only healthier brands, but local as well. This is why I love the Ontario-made Green Beaver baby line. Check out your local health food store too, as they may have some small brands local to you (just be sure to still read the ingredients, since not all stores have strict standards).
Tenth Moon’s Mama + Baby care package is a great option for the early days, too!
For cribs, I’m a fan of Naturepedic mattresses and mattress pads. There are several gorgeous GreenGuard certified cribs (Natart is made-in-Canada), or simple Ikea solid wood cribs are good (and affordable) low-tox options.
Emma is an environmental engineer, mom of 2, and founder of Green at Home. Through online programs and consultations, she helps families create healthier homes and health professionals incorporate environmental health into their practices. She is a David Suzuki Foundation Queen of Green Coach and guest lecturer at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. Learn more at www.greenathome.ca.
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