Researching Baby Products
When it comes to products for your baby — lotion that will go on her skin, toys she’ll love to chew, or car seats to keep her safe — you may feel the need to be more discerning about your purchases than you might otherwise be for yourself. But researching products can be time consuming and it may be hard to know where to start. We’ve compiled a list of resources and a few tips to get you started.
General Resources & Tips
As a new mom, creating a baby registry can be overwhelming. For each item that you may need, there can be tens or even hundreds of choices. But just because a product is on the market does not mean that it’s safe. For example, many concerning chemicals have been grandfathered into EPA manufacturing policies that make them essentially “innocent until proven guilty.” So, where does a concerned parent start?
- Start by getting an idea of the selection available to you. Don’t limit yourself to the major chain stores like Babies R Us. Search on-line for products as well. Many high quality baby products can be from companies too small to have a presence in stores or on Amazon, so be open to purchasing from on-line boutiques.
- Determine what’s important to you, such as the integrity of the company, that the product not contain plastics, and so on.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to the company by calling or e-mailing them with your questions or concerns.
- Read as many customer reviews about a particular product as you can. Some sites such as Amazon let you search reviews for keywords which may help answer your questions about a product.
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, for searching recalls; also includes safety guides on various topics
- Consumer Reports
- WA Department of Ecology Children’s Safe Product Acts Report, a searchable database on chemicals in children’s products. Check out their report on chemicals of concern.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Household Products Database, contains section on bath products as well as arts & crafts supplies
- Good Guide, a site that rates products on their health, environmental, and social performance
- HealthyStuff, a site where you can research chemicals in products
- KidsHealth.org’s Choosing Safe Baby Products guides
Toys & Baby Gear
Toys for your little one should be enriching and educational, not toxic. Unfortunately, many plastics contain toxic chemicals including phthalates and BPA.
Chemicals & Metals to Avoid
- Mercury (often listed as thimerosal)
- Choose wooden over plastic toys.
- Make sure plastic toys are age-appropriate; Toys designed for older children, who presumably won’t mouth the toy, are more likely to contain phthalates.
- Phthalates are likely to be in vinyl.
- Avoid #3 plastics (vinyl, PVC).
- Look for products labeled as BPA-free, but know that the labeling is not regulated.
- Avoid cheap children’s jewelry which is a big offender frequently containing lead and cadmium.
Bath & Body Products
A baby’s skin is delicate, and usually pretty perfect as is! Not much is needed and what you do use on your baby’s skin should be as safe as possible.
Ingredients to Avoid
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfates (SLS)
- “Natural” and “organic” are not regulated terms, so research the product beyond these labels. The same goes for “green,” “non-toxic,” and “eco-friendly.”
- Fragrances (which may be for you, but are breathed in by baby) are considered trade secrets, so makers do not have to disclose chemicals in their ingredient list.
- Phthalates are likely to be in products with “fragrance” or “parfum” listed on the ingredients.
- Avoid products using nanotechnology or nano ingredients, which has not been adequately studied yet.
Like lotions, clothes can also irritate sensitive baby skin. Many people are surprised to learn that formaldehyde, that stinky fixative you used in high school biology class, is used on many clothes and textiles! Fire retardants are often made of the pervasive and toxic PDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) and found in clothes, foams, and plastics.
- Choose clothes with natural fibers when possible, and choose organic.
- Look for items that are flame retardant by virtue of natural fibers such as wool rather than PDEs.
- Be aware that products can be marketed to be organic just by containing organic materials. However, the final product may still contain toxic chemicals added during the manufacturing. The GOTS certification covers both the components and production.
- Look for certification by third parties, which are usually non-profit and/or government organizations with no financial interest.
- Finishes on textiles containing formaldehyde are used as anti-wrinkle agents and are likely to be in items marked as wrinkle-free and permanent press.
- DMDM Hydantoin, Quaternium 15 or Bronopol are preservatives likely to release formaldehyde.
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