Updated: Feb 25, 2020
Recently (beginning of 2020), I shared an unfortunate discovery about Water Wipes... and then the toxicity of Dreft... asbestos in talc Johnson & Johnson baby powder... and people (mamas) were outraged.
I remember discovering how truly dangerous some larger brands and common ingredients were and the alarm and anger I had to work through. THIS IS NOT OKAY is all I kept thinking.
Additionally, there was a 2005 study done by the Environmental Working Group that found more than 200 chemicals in the blood of 10 minority newborns (our most vulnerable population). Proof that we need to start thinking about what goes on and in our body while pregnant, too!
Baby products, we think they are the safest on the market... but this is absolutely not the case! Our babies are so innocent, fresh, new and delicate... how can these companies sleep at night knowing what's in their products?
Honestly, I don't believe I'll ever have the answer to that question.
I've learned most of the information I'm going to share through my work as a clean beauty advocate. My hope is that one day these toxic options won't legally be allowed on our shelves and part of my job is advocating for this movement.
It's not usually my style to call out companies or brands for a couple of reasons. I don't find it classy or tasteful. I don't necessarily have all the information from their side since I don't work with them in any capacity (and most are not very transparent). I also NEVER want to make anyone feel sad/bad/guilt/shame if they have used these products in the past.
My motto is always "You do your best with the information you have. Make the next best choice."
However, I had a realization when I shared about Dreft. I've been shouting this information for literally years, like 5+ years... but when I only educate on what to look for or ingredients to avoid, readers assume "Oh, I use XXX product, which is safe because it's for babies" or they assume the due diligence was done by the company. It's not until they see THEIR toxic product showing up that they truly hear me. If you want to see some of the products I do not recommend, click here.
I'm going to also share the Environmental Working Group's rating for products as available so you have that information. If you do not know of this resource, I recommend it as a starting point. There is a website ewg.org/skindeep or an app called the "health living app" in which you can scan products (I use this in the store often!) The ratings are EWG VERIFIED (best) - 10 (worst) or A-F for home cleaning.
I have some affiliate (not all) links in this post. Transparently, these links contribute to running my blog and supporting our family. If you purchase through my link, it does not cost more to you, it's simply a "thank you" to me. I (we) truly appreciate when you choose to shop with me. Thank you!
Finally, this is obviously not a comprehensive list. There will be plenty of other great options out there in each category. I encourage you to share them in the comments of this post to help other mamas find safe, clean options for their families, too.
We are in this together xo.
I'm starting with Mom ingredients- recall, chemicals in newborn umbilical cords... let's try to start as early as possible and carry into our new lives as parents!
Every change matters.
This isn't about perfect, our bodies are resilient, but this is about lessening the load and controlling what we can!
Want an interactive guide with links to products I'm recommending?
Mom & Adult Products
Shower & Body Products
I'd consider using the same products as your baby during pregnancy and the early weeks! If not the baby items, definitely a safer option. Some kids react to essential oils and natural fragrances which is why I recommend sticking to the baby products postpartum for mom, baby, or anyone who will be with the baby often.
I actually really like Beautycounter's Kid's Line for Shampoo, Conditioner and Body Wash (EWG VERIFIED). They all smell really nice and are safe. You can also use the adult line (especially while pregnant).
If you've already been on the "clean train" for a while, you may have a difficult time with this category... I hear you! This goop G.Tox Salt Scrub Shampoo is fabulous. I only use 1x a week (and in winter I think it's a little drying for my hair, so I go by my how my hair feels)... but it actually cleans my hair and is awesome!
Deodorant is another big topic. I recommend Primally Pure's charcoal deodorant. It's the only natural option that has worked for me!
Cosmetics (especially lips! Don't kiss the baby with toxic ingredients!)
This is one of the areas I was really passionate about after I had Charlotte... I just realized HOW MUCH we have on and around our kids. "Control the controllable" and this is an area you can control.
I recommend Beautycounter cosmetics here because I know about their formulation, testing, sourcing, and transparency. I cannot confidently say the same about other brands.
I wore the Flawless in Five set (pictured below) for a daily postpartum look that made me feel more like "Kate" instead of "mom that was awake all night with a fussy baby."
If you'd like to chat more about Beautycounter cosmetics, email email@example.com.
Daily Baby Products
I want to start by saying I really wanted to be the mom that used cloth diapers and made her own wipes... but I am not. In fact, I think I made it one day with cloth diapers... so I'm going to be sharing about disposables and products we used with disposables because that's my experience.
This was one of the biggest struggles I had with my tiny baby (there are not a lot of premie diaper options out there!)
Unfortunately, by law, diaper manufacturers are not required to disclose what materials and ingredients are used in their diapers. This still blows my mind.
If you want to learn the best "clean" diaper for you, Mama Natural has a "Green Diaper Showdown" video + post. You can purchase some trials directly from companies instead of getting a full pack.
We primarily used Andy Pandy Diapers when she was little (here's an in-depth analysis of AP), but they are pricier than other options. We also used Hello Bello towards the end of diapering because they were affordable and touted themselves as a safer brand... however, I recently discovered they do not disclose their diaper ingredients anywhere, which is frustrating and begs the question "why not?" Honestly, this is still an area I don't feel like we "mastered" and I'd probably be searching again if we had another baby.
Other brands I've heard people love: Honest (my daughter hated the feel of these for whatever reason!), Bambo Nature (peanut was too thin for these), and Seventh Generation (these rolled on my daughter?). I recently discovered Earth + Eden Diapers, too, but have 0 experience with them.
Diapers can add up: here's a little cost comparison (at the time of writing this & for smallest size available):
Andy Pandy, Newborn = $0.51/diaper (range $0.40 - $0.61 a diaper)
Honest = $0.31/diaper (range $0.31 - $0.57 a diaper)
Bambo Nature = $0.38/diaper (range $0.35 - $0.56 a diaper)
Seventh Generation = $0.30/diaper (range $0.25 - $0.43 a diaper)
Earth + Eden = $0.22/diaper (range $0.20 - $0.52 a diaper)
What I would avoid: definitely fragranced diapers! If you open the package and it smells like flowers or fragrance, return it. And if your child is getting a repeated diaper rash (which can be common at the beginning anyway), possibly try another brand.
Wipes have me frustrated right now. We tried a couple of options through the years and mostly used Water Wipes because we (thought) they were "the safest" and they were the easiest to get.
Sadly, it recently came out that Water Wipes are not what we thought they were (here's a full explanation). Not beating myself up, just going for the next best that works for our budget and standards.
We did use Bets & Emy for a while, and I actually really, really liked them, they were just difficult to get at the time (only on their website no subscription option). They are available on Amazon Prime now! I do wonder if they will have the same issue as water wipes since the disclosed ingredients are similar (EWG VERIFIED)
We are currently trying Jackson Reese's Kind by Nature wipes, which we just got on Amazon. These are compostable, biodegradable, and plastic-free wipes. I'm happy with their performance, though I find them a little annoying to get out of the package. I also hate the cheesy packaging - just being honest! (Old formula ranked a 2, not seeing a new formula rating).
A brand that is popping up in my research is Attitude... they are EWG VERIFIED wipes & many of the categories on this list. It looks like they are a Canadian brand and available in stores in Canada, but definitely worth checking out (they have diapers, too!) (EWG Verified)
Pampers Pure Wipes are probably the easiest wipes to find, online and in-person, and have a rating of a 1 on the EWG. Although they do contain PEG-40, Sodium Benzoate, BIS-PEG/ PPG-16/ 16 PEG/ PPG-16/ 16 DIMETHICONE (all of these ingredients rate a 3)... I'm a little confused about how this ranks higher than the Kind by Nature, so choose what works best for you.
There are plenty of diaper creams out there, and luckily, there are some really safe options!
We used *Beautycounter's Calming Diaper Cream.. and it truly was calming for our daughter. She would literally stop squirming around when I put it on (EWG VERIFIED). One tube lastest us a LONG time (6+ months) even with frequent uses. Recently, at 2.5 years old, she had another rash. We used it every potty time and within 1.5 days it cleared up.
The Honest Company also has a diaper rash cream which is easy to find in stores and I know many of my girlfriends liked their products. It ranks a 1.
Boudreaux's Butt Paste (tub) rates a 2, but does have white petrolatum (rates a 4 for non-reproductive organ system toxicity and contamination concerns).
Just Say NO to Johnson & Johnson. They do have a newer "safer" line out, but I hate supporting these larger companies with my dollars after how much WRONG they have done (and continue to do) over the years!!!
We used Beautycounter's Gentle All-Over Baby Wash (1) throughout Charlotte's 1-2 years and I think I only had to buy 2 tubes because it's super concentrated. Also, we did not frequently use soap on her delicate skin or bath a lot in the beginning to allow natural exposure to germs.
We also love Alaffia Bubble Bath when the little one gets older!!
I didn't/don't use baby lotion on Charlotte (I prefer oil below). So this suggestion is mostly based on other reviews and ratings.
I prefer body oils to lotions.. just my preference so you may not have this on your radar, but I used Beautycounter's Soothing Baby Oil on my belly/skin when I was pregnant and continued on Charlotte when she was born. I used this to give her little baby massages and we would chat back and forth :) I also had Primally Pure's Baby Oil which was lovely.
I didn't understand what the difference was for the balm, lotion, diaper cream... and truthfully you could get away with not having it all.
We use the balm on little cuts or areas of irritation, during winter when we put on the heat and her little cheeks got red, under her nose when she gets a cold... similar to how you would use Aquaphor. Again, I preferred Beautycounter's Baby Balm here (it does have jojoba beads in it that dissolve when warm, just FYI!)
I also loved Primally Pure's Baby Balm as a nipple cream. OMG it was the only thing that saved my poor body during those early days of trying to nurse!!!
A popular brand is Aquaphor... the baby healing ointment rates a 2. While there are better options, not too bad!
As a general rule, be aware (aka read the ingredients or look up products) that use "free & clear" or similar language. Sometimes, (not always) they really aren't! Especially if a large-name brand.
We've been using Branch Basics + Oxygen Boost. (use code MOTHERHOODGRACE for 10% off Starter Sets until 2/29/2020)
We've experimented with many different laundry detergents trying to find the best safer option. I do think everyone has their own preferences, so here's a list of some clean options you can easily find in stores: Molly's Suds (I'm actually curious to try this one because people do love it! - rates A), biokleen Free & Clear (A), and Attitude (A).
Others you may like and support another family: doTERRA OnGuard, Norwex Laundry Detergent, Young Living Thieves (we tried this last one for a bottle, I just wasn't a fan of the consistency!)
If you decide to use anything, use wool balls here. Honestly, I've used wool balls a couple of times and have opted for nothing in our dryer.
This is definitely a "first-world" problem and in my opinion, money not worth spending given the toxicity risk. Most dryer sheets rate C - F.
Kitchen & Home
For basically all of these, we again use Branch Basics (unless noted). Because its a concentrate, you can mix in different ratios for all over your home!!
Worth noting: you also don't have to BUY anything specific and you can DIY with vinegar, lemon, castile soap, baking soda (Pinterest these recipes!) Dr. Bronner's also has a great unscented baby soap that can be used to create everything in the kitchen (like a concentrate!)
When people come to your home to visit the baby, you'll want them to wash their hands, hopefully with a soap that will be safe residue!
Hand Soaps to Avoid: Mrs. Meyers (4), Method (4), Bath & Body Works (most at 7), Dial (5).
You'll be cleaning a lot of bottles if you pump or use formula for your little one, so make sure this is safe too! ECOS (A) is an earth-friendly brand that makes a great dish soap. Aunt Fannie's (A) is another option that is actually a probiotic formula.
For the dishwasher, Seventh Generation (A) has some pod formulas that rank A on EWG. I've tried several other options and they didn't get our dishes clean (even with a new dishwasher).
Dish Soaps to Avoid: Cascade (C-F), FINISH (D-F).
Aunt Fannie's has a full cleaning line that is vinegar-based that gets good reviews, though I've mostly just used my Branch Basics! I'm talking about multi-surface, bathroom, kitchen, etc cleaners here!
This is a hard one because SO many items are made with flame retardants, from our furniture and rugs to our clothes and mattresses. I made the decision to get a flame retardant free mattress (or anything baby was going to sleep directly on), rugs, pajamas, and car-seat. Anything that was going to be a super frequent user or on the baby for many hours. Wool is a great natural flame retardant.
If you really want to get into the weeds about mattresses, check out this article. We ended up with a Naturepedic for our crib mattress and an Avocado wool topper and pillows for our bed for now (a full mattress wasn't in the budget!)
Here is a link to check out car-seats for 2020 (time of writing this). Babies don't need a huge wardrobe. We wore a lot of Hanna Andersson pjs & clothing (still do!)... HA is definitely pricey, but holds up really well against washing - great quality! Look for sales.
Gosh, this is a scary one. I won't dive too deep incase this is already overwhelming (I imagine it is, sorry!) but there is a documentary called "The Devil We Know" which speaks about the dangers of Teflon.
I use cast iron 90% of the time. We are all low in iron over here, so it helps that as well and food always seem to taste better. I also recently won a set of Green Pan cookware, so I'm interested to get that! I believe GreenLife is a less expensive option to Green Pan, and does not contain Teflon.
BPA + Alternatives
Get rid of the plastic bottles. I have to admit, we still struggle with this one because we do not have a great filtering system in our home yet!!
Switching out storage containers to glass, using glass bottles for baby (if you can, I couldn't control Charlotte's silent reflux with the glass bottle options).
We had our eye on the Berkey system, but truthfully I'm not a fan of water from stainless steel containers. We just ordered an Aquagear Water Filter Pitcher (+ glass container to keep filtered water). Other systems that came up in my research: Aquasana, ProPur.
Sunscreen / Sun Protection
You should not use sun protection on a baby until at least 6 months of age, but after this look for physical sunscreens that sit on top of the skin vs. chemical sprays.
I used Beautycounter's Countersun on Charlotte, but also discovered some great safer options, BUT there is SUCH a range between brand and product on rating! I recommend looking up these products on ewg.org/skindeep -- but even this can be tricky because some products are rating poorly because of potential allergies.
No surprise, Attitude has a safe sunscreen and another brand I like for this is section is Goddess Garden. It's affordable, easy to find (available at. Walmart) and reef-safe. They helped to pass the legislation in Hawaii with Beautycounter.
Regardless, some of the worst offenders:
Equate (7), Babyganics (some are a 6), Banana Boat (some are a 6), Neutrogena (3).
I was asked to put supplements/medications in here, but I do believe this is a highly individualized category and deserves it's own full post. I felt comfortable using homeopathy and essential oils (very diluted and sparing... not all essential oils can be used on babies), plus some targeted supplements like Vitamin D3 and probiotics. Read your kid. Some kids have very sensitive skin and react to essential oils. I aired on the side of caution here.
Use code MOTHERHOODGRACE until February 29, 2020 for 10% off all Starter Sets with Branch Basics. This link will get you $10 off your first order all the time.
For a curated round-up of products available on Amazon, click here.