When the U.S. CPSIA banned certain phthalates in children’s sleeping products, I think they had in mind primarily sucking products. Pajamas count here, too, since there could conceivably be soft plastics in surface decorations or in the skid-preventing patterns on footie pajamas. Kids can suck those, but they aren’t designed to be sucked. Basically, because very young children put so much in their mouths, everything made for children under 3 becomes a suckable item.
It’s not a bad thing to avoid plastics in pillows, blankets, and all of the other sleep products for kids, but it is just silly to consider that an organic cotton blanket is subject to testing for soft plastics. It is not difficult to see why manufacturers and retailers who are concerned about toxic chemicals in children’s products are still unhappy about the U.S. law.
Still, I’m using the CPSIA as my guide this week for switching from products that contain plastics to plastic-free products for feeding, sleeping, and toys for children.
Easy Plastic-free Changes
As with my plastic-free feeding recommendations, the easiest changes we can make are to switch to plastic-free products that do much the same thing as the plastic products. These are the painless changes.
Whatever our blankets and pillows breathe out, we breathe in all night. Because of the sweet, carcinogenic, endocrine-disrupting smell of vinyl chloride, it is particularly important to get vinyl out of bedding.
A lot of parents are concerned about leaking diapers and wet beds. There are a couple of ways to approach this problem. Use a diaper that doesn’t leak or use a mattress pad. A vinyl-free mattress pad is a start, but it isn’t necessarily plastic-free, since a lot of waterproof items still have microfibers or polyurethane laminate or both. The truly plastic-free, waterproof mattress pad is wool. A wool changing pad will work if your baby doesn’t move much during the night, or a larger wool blanket can but put under the sheets to prevent leaking into the mattress.
Baby blankets of 100% cotton or 100% soft, merino wool are naturally absorbent. They will keep your baby warm enough while still breathing to avoid the wrapped-in-plastic feeling in the morning.
As with blankets, natural materials are the least toxic choice for your sleeping child. You don’t need soft plastic printing or decorations on the pajamas, you don’t need microfiber for absorbency, you don’t need toxic fabric treatments. It isn’t easy to find untreated, natural fiber pajamas, but it is worth the effort.
A baby gets more than nutrition from breastfeeding. They suck for comfort. There are plastic breast-substitutes available, but letting a baby suck is the natural, stuff-free way to go. ByNature.ca held off stocking pacifiers for almost 5 years, but customers asked time and time again for an all-natural, non-toxic option they could trust. So, they stocked the Natursutten pacifier in natural rubber, the safest pacifier on the market. NOTE: If you are planning to breastfeed, it is highly recommended that no pacifier or bottle be introduced until you have a strong nursing relationship established.
Nighttime diapering is not mysterious. All it takes is enough absorbency and enough leak protection. Trying to use the same diapers for 8-12 hours that a baby wears during the day for 2-4 hours is asking for an accident, so don’t! It is easy to adjust absorbency of cloth diapers. You will need to adapt to your baby’s needs—how long does she sleep, when does she wet at night and how much. Start with 2-3 organic cotton prefolds and a nice, Canadian-made, 100% wool Aristocrats wool soaker and adjust from there.
That ammonia smell that can become very concentrated in a baby’s diaper by morning may cause chemical reactions in soft plastics. Polyester, polyurethane, and other polymers are broken down in the recycling (depolymerization) process with, among other chemical agents, ammonia. (Feedstock Recycling of Plastic Wastes, José Aguado and David P. Serrano, p55.) So, avoid plastics in diapers and diaper covers in order to avoid this particular science experiment.
Those are a few, simple first steps to take, but this is still a STUFF-oriented approach. After I finish by writing about toys tomorrow, I will follow with further steps at the end of June in our second week of focus on plastic.