Once again, another scare-your-pants-off study has hit the news: Phthalates -- manmade chemicals that have been linked to adult reproductive issues, particularly in boys -- are turning up in baby pee-pee. Worse, researchers think they're coming from those sweet-smelling bath-time toiletries you lather on. But let us be the first to tell you to stop sweating it. For starters, the levels of phthalates found in the babies' urine have not yet been proven harmful (more research needs to be done). And the toiletry products parents used on their kids in the study were not tested themselves, so experts can't be totally sure that's where they came from. Seattle pediatrician and lead researcher on the study, Sheela Sathyanarayana, M.D., says all moms need do to avoid this scenario is use a little less of whatever you love, or switch to fragrance-free products. Because phthalates are used to stabilize fragrances, no scent often means there's no need for them.
Another finding of the study was that the younger the baby, the more likely they were to have higher levels of phthalates, probably due to their more delicate skin and overall vulnerability. The good news here: The younger the baby, the less you need to bathe him anyway. Most docs agree that about twice a week is usually enough. After all, little guys and gals who don't move much and are consuming liquid-only diets generally aren't going to get very dirty. And too much soap will only dry out that sensitive skin. So simply bathe your baby only as often as necessary and use just enough soap or shampoo when you do it.
Finally, two other culprits in the study -- baby lotion and baby powder -- aren't really necessary on a day-to-day basis anyway. Powder isn't recommended for infants so you can skip it entirely, and lotion can be reserved for the odd occasion when your baby is really bothered by dry skin or your doctor deems it medically necessary (to treat a rash, for instance). Still concerned? Beyond opting for fragrance-free, there are also phthalate-free baby toiletry lines out there (they're more expensive, of course, so they may not be worth it to you). Products labeled as organic may not necessarily be free of phthalates and other potential hazards.
A few of our favorite brands:
Eczema Baby Wash from Gentle Naturals ($6; at drugstores)
Tear-free Bubbly Wash and Smoothy Shampoo from Love Me Baby Me ($20 each; lovemebabyme.com)
Fine Herbal Cleanser from Farmaesthetics Organic Baby ($25; alchemistsapprentice.com)