Keeping Baby Natural

Keep your baby clean and smelling great with natural products and common sense.
Jenn Benson

Do you remember when your mom or grandmother urged you to smother your newborn baby in scented lotions or oils to get that baby fresh smell? Although that “fresh baby” smell may have made grandma feel good, what did those lotions or oils do to your baby? Traditional, off-the-shelf baby products may contain some of the same nasty ingredients that we suggest you avoid in your own body care products.

Many new parents might not be aware of this, but it is not necessary to bathe your baby every single day, as long as you are quick in changing diapers and use burp cloths and bibs. In fact, daily bathing can dry out your baby’s skin, which can lead you to overcompensate by using more lotions and oils than necessary. When you first bring your baby home from the hospital, a bath does not mean a full tub of water– the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends sponge baths for your infant until the remnant of the umbilical cord falls off. This area should remain dry until it has completely dried and fallen off in order to avoid infection.

There are several key safety points to consider when bathing your newborn. Find a warm place with a flat surface, such as a countertop or changing table to place your baby. Fill a sink or a basin with water. Before using the water, you should test it yourself to make sure it won’t be too hot. A quick trick is to place your elbow in the water—if it’s too hot on your elbow, it will be too hot for your baby. A good way to prevent the water being too hot is to set your hot water heater’s temperature to 120 degrees, which will also save energy.

As far as using soap: It isn’t necessary for newborns. Warm water and a soft washcloth can easily clean the crevices and folds in your baby’s skin. After the sponge bath you won’t need oils or lotions. In fact, these can often clog your baby’s pores and sweat glands, which in turn can result in unnecessary rashes.

And finally, the most important tip: If something comes up while you are bathing your baby and you need to step away, wrap the baby up and take him/her with you. Never leave your infant unattended for any reason.

As your baby grows into toddlerage, the bathing process will change. Toddlers will inevitably encounter dirt, messy foods, and occasionally incur messy bowel movements. In most of these cases, washing with just water will no longer work.

When looking for soaps and lotions for your toddler, use the same discerning eye that you would in searching for your own body-care products. The process for selecting safe soaps and lotions for your baby is really pretty simple. Use common sense and products made with natural ingredients and you can achieve that fresh baby smell grandma remembers from the good old days.

For a more detailed approach, the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) has a complete list of baby and toddler soaps, shampoos, lotions, and oils that are safe for your child. These products are divided into 11 categories depending on the type and use of the product. Each product listed is scored as far as the hazard of the product, with dozens of products scoring “0” (meaning low hazard). Look for products that contain natural ingredients. Many products contain Fragrance and/or DMDM Hydantoin, which have both been linked to allergies and skin irritation.

Teaching kids excellent personal hygiene is very important, and it’s never too soon to start. You can stress the importance of hand washing after using the bathroom by having them recite the ABCs while washing their hands—this is a fun trick to avoid a quick splash of water. It is also important that they become comfortable cleaning their own toys and books on a regular basis because they can transfer germs. Learning good sanitary skills as kids is an important task that will last a lifetime.