If you think about it, from the very day our child is born, there are a host of toiletries we start using on them. Whether you are lovingly giving your little one an oil massage or allowing her a splash in her bathtub while soaping her or even after, when you sprinkle on some fragrant talcum powder, you may be lathering that little life with chemicals.
Did you know a baby’s skin is more permeable than an adult’s?
When my son was to be born over a year and a half ago, I had already decided to keep him as free of chemicals as I possibly could. Here are a few simple things I did that I would like to share with you. If you have or are bringing a baby into this world, you may want to keep your precious one as far from artificial things as possible. I hope some of the indicators here will set you on that path. Do share your own findings as well, I’d love to learn back from you.
If you are indeed looking to do away with chemicals as much as possible in your life, don’t miss my article on Going Natural: Replacing Chemicals on Our Bathroom Shelf.
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An oil massage for a baby is not just nice, it is recommended. Also, while soap is not really required in the first few days and weeks, as the child starts moving around and creating a mess, a thorough soaping is inevitable. If you’ve seen a toddler mess up her hair with food in her hands, you know you can’t live without shampoo.
But you can always choose to go for 100% natural toiletries. For instance, from the day my son was born, I have been a devoted follower of Himalaya baby products. The Himalaya Baby Massage Oil with olive oil and winter cherry has been a constant in my baby’s little life. It has the perfect light consistency to give your little one’s soft skin and hair a gentle massage. I have also been a fan of the Himalaya Gentle Baby Soap with olive oil and almond oil, as well as the Himalaya Gentle Baby Shampoo with hibiscus and chickpea. While Himalaya has a wide range of natural baby toiletries, I did not pick them all. Whatever was not absolutely essential stayed away from my baby.
2. No Talcum Powder- It Clogs Your Baby’s Lungs!
A lot of parents would find it unbelievable that I have never touched talcum powder to my child. In fact, my own mother and mother-in-law mention how they never let a single day go by without powdering their little ones after a bath. But the reason I shun it arises from an interesting episode with my baby’s paediatrician.
Our little one was just a few days old when we made our first visit to the paediatrician. A very senior doctor in one of South Delhi’s biggest hospitals, he was flooded with patients. We had just been called into his office when the previous patient’s mother, who was exiting with her newborn turned around to ask something about talcum powder. The doctor told her not to use it at all. “But I’ve already purchased a few bottles of talc!” she replied. With a straight face, the doctor told her to pull out her carom board and only use the talc there. On second thoughts, he added, “Just throw it away. It’s not even good for you.”
She rolled her eyes and left, and I can bet she did use the talc. But even though I had already purchased a bottle of Himalaya’s Baby Powder, I never used it. It clogs the baby’s lungs, the doctor told us. In fact, I too stopped using talc.
If diaper rash is a problem your baby faces now and then, you could apply a tad of Himalaya Diaper Rash Cream, again a 100% natural cream with almond oil and aloe vera that I have personally used on my baby.
3. No Lotions
Imagine a baby fresh out of its bath, followed by the application of a fragrant baby lotion all over the body to preserve the softness of the baby’s skin. Now turn that bottle around and read the list of ingredients. There’s a good chance that the list includes parabens, artificial colours and fragrances and chemical preservatives. If you’re giving your little one a good oil massage with a natural oil before her bath and not using harsh soaps, you wouldn’t need to apply anything after the bath.
4. Home-made Cereal
You can not only save your little one from chemicals on her skin, but from a lot of artificial food that goes into her. I am not against the usage of Cerelac for your baby or other cereals for toddlers, and in fact do use them now and then. But why give it to your child everyday if it is possible to give her natural substitutes?
I keep a row of bottles on my kitchen shelf, each with slightly roasted natural cereals. One has powdered wheat, another one has powdered oats, another one has ragi, yet another has semolina (suji), and then there is besan (chickpea flour). Every morning, I pick up any one of these bottles and cook a spoonful of its ingredients with some milk. Sometimes I mix and match. Add a spoonful of powdered almonds and a spoon of jaggery or honey and your little one is sure to love it.
So put away those sugary cornflakes and chocolate cereals and bring in these 100% fresh and natural alternatives, entirely free of preservatives.
Let me begin with a disclaimer that I am not one of those Mums who thinks that breastfeeding your baby is the only right thing to do. While I did it for a year, I know that formula milk can make life a lot easier and give you remarkable flexibility. In fact, I do suggest that you start your baby on a bottle or two of milk a day, even if you are breastfeeding. But if it works into your schedule and if it does not inconvenience you too much, do breastfeed at least a few times a day for as long as is comfortable for you and the child.
I will confess that for as long as my baby was on breastfeed (11 months), he almost never fell ill, he put on height and weight well and had great immunity. Moreover, for as many times as you are able to give your child natural milk, you are keeping him or her away from a tinned and artificial version.
6. Minimize Diapers
They make life easy, but they are also made with chemicals that absorb your child’s pee. Once again, I do use diapers, but only the very minimum. Here’s my advice. Buy a whole load of cotton pyjamas and during the day, just change them every time your child pees. At the end of the day, you can throw in the entire lot in the washing machine for a quick 30 minute run. Yes, the pyjamas will wear out super quick, but they are not very expensive and diapers do cost money too. In fact, a lot of money!
Also start toilet training early. Don’t go by internet articles based on American trends that tell you to start training at 2-3 years of age. We started at 6 months with a baby pot and by 10 months of age, we were catching most of our baby’s pee and almost all of his poo in the pot. By 12 months, he had gotten a good hold of the concept and would run to the pot whenever he needed to go. At 16 months, he graduated to the adult WC with a baby toilet seat. Yes, there are accidents, but there’s also been remarkable progress.
I also know of a couple that started toilet training from the very first day of their baby’s life, taking her to the toilet sink every thirty minutes and imitating the sound of pee, until she relieved herself. They also made her poo every morning. She is 9 years old today, has never used a diaper, has had very few accidents and goes to the toilet every morning before going to school.
It will take effort, but it is possible!
7. Screen Free
Talking of artificial things, we’ve kept our little one away from any kind of screens (phones, tabs, laptops etc). We don’t have a TV at home.
Some parents may think we are depriving him of educational videos and online learning. But he loves books, puzzles and playing in the garden. At 18 months, his vocabulary size is five times that of the average kid his age. Once again, I just want you to know, it is possible!
No, I am not saying my kid is perfect. I am sure we are making mistakes too. I would like to believe there are some things we are doing right and I shared them with you in the hope that you may like to try a few of them too. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
And I’ll be back next week on how we’re making our kitchen shelves free of artificial things!
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PIyushi Dhir is the author of the romantic novels, 'In Search of Love' (2014), 'I'm Yours, The Next Time' (2015) and 'Enmeshed Evermore' (2015). A voracious reader, a keen traveler and an ardent dog-lover, Piyushi currently resides in Ivory Coast, Africa. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.