When you have a new baby on the way, you probably have babyproofing on the mind. But while basic modifications are important to make sure they don’t fall down the stairs and to protect them from sharp corners, there’s something else you might be forgetting: chronic disease prevention. Yes, you should be healthproofing your home for baby too. You can create a healthier home by getting rid of the things in your home that have been linked with allergies, asthma, cancer, obesity, learning disabilities, and more.
Let’s take a look at how your home can impact your baby’s health, and what you can do to help reduce the risk.
Babies Are More Susceptible to Toxins
Babies and children are more susceptible to toxic chemicals in our homes because of a few different factors, according to the World Health Organization:
- Children have different exposure pathways. They crawl around on the ground and put everything in their mouth – not things adults tend to do!
- Children’s immune and detoxification systems are immature. They are not fully developed to handle toxins as well as fully-grown adults.
- Children’s bodies change and mature in phases, called developmental windows. These “critical windows of vulnerability” have no parallel in adults and create unique risks for children exposed to toxins that can change the way they develop.
How Children are Being Affected
Research suggests that 5% of all childhood cancers, 30% of childhood asthma, and 10% of neurological disorders are due to man-made toxins in our environment.
Here are some of the ways our homes are contributing to these statistics:
- Prenatal exposure to BPA, phthalate and triclosan is linked with ADHD, relationship and emotional problems. These are all commonly found in household items from canned goods and receipt paper to body care and cleaners.
- Children in homes with vinyl floors and couches with flame retardants have increased concentrations of hormone-disrupting phthalates and PBDE, linked with cancer and cognitive problems.
- Children missing certain bacteria in their gut are more likely to develop asthma and allergies. Antibacterial soaps and cleaners are contributing to this.
How to Healthproof Your Home for Baby
Now, obviously, I’m not recommending you undergo a complete home make-over before bringing baby home. But there are definitely some simple changes you can make to help create a healthier space for your little bundle of joy.
- Quit the fragrance. I might sound like a broken record to those of you who have been following me for a while, but I really can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting rid of synthetic fragrance. This includes in your cleaners, laundry products, body care products, and room sprays. Babies don’t need lotions and creams at first, so skip those altogether in the early days. If you feel like you need to get some later on, make sure they are truly fragrance free (you have to read ingredients to figure this out). Learn how to read labels and which brands are healthier options here.
- Create a healthy registry. Babies really need very little. So skip the stuff that’s really not needed (like wipe warmers), and instead ask for non-toxic change pads, nursing pillows, mattresses, cribs, onesies, etc. I’ve put together a Guide to Creating a Healthy Baby Registry, which you can get here.
- Don’t wait to paint. If you’re planning to remodel the nursery, do it sooner rather than later. Even low-VOC paints still off-gas chemicals so it’s important to do what you can as soon as you can. You can read more about clearing the air after remodeling here.
- Get used to dusting. As baby starts to explore the world, they will inevitably be putting their hands everywhere and them promptly in their mouths. Get in the habit of dusting to reduce their exposure to the high concentration of flame retardants and other toxins that have been found in household dust.
Setting your home up for your baby should really be more than adding baby gates, outlet protectors, and corner bumpers. I hope this helps you put some changes in place to help support the long-term health of your baby!