This is the first in a series of excerpts we’re running from the highly recommended, up-to-date, interactive guide to pregnancy and infancy, “Ready, Set, Baby!”
As a soon-to-be parent, you’ve probably spent a great deal of time arming yourself with the latest wisdom on child-rearing. While this kind of mental preparation is a crucial step, it’s equally important to physically prepare yourself for becoming a parent. That’s because ensuring a healthy baby starts with ensuring a healthy you. Here are a few important steps to get you started:
Clean Up Your Beauty Act
Pregnancy and early parenthood are the perfect times to swap your chemical-filled personal care products for safer ones. While in utero, your baby is exposed to everything that you are. According to a 2005 Environmental Working Group report, researchers who tested the blood, tissue, and cells in umbilical cords were surprised to find 248 different chemicals not normally present in the human body, including mercury, fossil fuels, and chemicals used to make flame retardants.
Personal care products can be a major source of chemical exposure. Once outside the womb, your infant will spend countless hours nuzzled against you, touching your face, hair, hands, lips, and the rest of your body. It’s fair to say whatever lipstick or cologne you’re wearing, your baby is pretty much wearing it too. The ingredients in these products are largely unregulated—the U.S. government doesn’t require health studies or pre-market testing for these products before marketing and selling them to consumers.
The Environmental Working Group provides a carefully researched list of ingredients to avoid, including oxybenzone in sunscreens, parabens and fragrances in hair products, formaldehyde in nail polish, triclosans in toothpastes and soaps, and retinyl palmitate in lipsticks and body lotions.
Clean Up Your Diet
What better time than pregnancy to clean up your diet? Limit processed foods and eat more organic fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Try to buy meats and poultry that are free-range, and are free from antibiotics. For the latter, look for labels that say “no antibiotics added,” “no antibiotics ever,” “no added antibiotics,” or “raised without the use of antibiotics.” According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the term “antibiotic-free” has no meaning when it appears on labels. If you plan to breastfeed, you should continue to avoid processed foods while nursing.
- • Shark
- • Swordfish
- • Shark
- • Tilefish
Safe to Eat
One Serving per Week
(6 ounces total)
- • Canned Albacore Tuna
- • Chunk White Tuna
- • Canned Albacore Tuna
Some locally caught fish can also pose a danger to your baby’s developing nervous system, so be sure to check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s fish advisories and the Mayo Clinic’s guide to foods to avoid during pregnancy.
Clean Your Hands
If you’re not a regular hand washer, you should become one. If you do, you can significantly reduce the number of illnesses your infant develops during his first year. You’re probably washing after you use the bathroom, but you should start scrubbing up once you return from work, before and after preparing food, after touching a pet, before holding your infant, after a diaper change, after taking out the trash … you get the idea.
Avoid using antibacterial soap and cleansers that contain triclosan—many do, so be sure to check the ingredients listed on the package. Hand sanitizers such as Purell generally do not contain triclosan and are fine for you to use before touching your baby.
Clean Up Your Cleaning Products
Do everyone in the house a favor, and swap chemical-laden products for greener vinegar- or citric acid-based options. Products with bleach create fumes that can be tough on an infant’s delicate respiratory system. One major complaint with green cleaning products is that they are not as effective as traditional ones. This is sometimes true, and you may need to experiment with a few products to find the ones that work for you. The Environmental Working Group has a list of more than 2,000 cleaning products ranked from least to most toxic.
It’s also a good idea to use perfume- and dye-free laundry detergent since you’re baby will spend a lot of time resting up against your clothes.
Clean Up Your Floors
Removing your shoes before you walk in the house will cut down on the number of chemicals and other pollutants you track into your home. Before you know it, your infant will be sitting, crawling, and walking across your floors, so why not get in the shoe-removal habit right now and encourage guests to do the same? Leave a couple of pairs of slippers in a basket by the door that are reserved for home use only.
Clean Up the Air
We’re not telling you anything you haven’t heard before, but it’s worth the reminder: If you smoke, you should quit, especially now that you’ll have a baby in the house. If you decide to continue smoking once your baby is born, never smoke around your baby or in your home. Secondhand smoke increases a child’s risk of respiratory infections, asthma, and certain cancers, including lung cancer, childhood leukemia, and cancers of the throat, brain, bladder, and rectum.
Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to being ready for your new baby.
This pregnancy advice post is an excerpt from Ready, Set, Baby! The Watch and Learn Guide to Your Baby’s First Year, written and produced by Maureen Connolly and published by Open Air Publishing. For more on the guide or to order your own interactive e-book, go to the Ready, Set, Baby! website.