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20 Easy Ways to Raise a Natural Baby

Jade Albert

1. Breastfeed as much as you can. It's not only good for your baby, but you get to eat more too (up to 500 more calories)! If you use formula, buy powdered formulas in large containers to cut back on packaging.

2. Treat baby's cold with saline nasal drops (like Simply Saline Baby Sterile Nasal Mist for Baby) and a cool-mist humidifier, like those from Kids Line (pictured) or Crane. Most cold meds aren't recommended for babies anyway.

3. Use less canned food. Most have a resin-based lining that contains the potentially harmful chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Cook dry beans and freeze portions. It's easy in a slow cooker, lower in sodium and saves cash. But, just so you know, most canned goods by Eden Organic are BPA-free. (Go go inspirationgreen.com to find other BPA-free brands and products.)

4. Use a water pitcher with a filter as soon as you see the positive sign on the stick. It not only reduces the toxins and additives in drinking water, it saves you money on purified bottled water and reduces waste.

5. Weed out the plastic from your kitchen so you don't have to guess which containers are “safe.” Store food in glass (a great way to reuse baby-food, pickle and tomato sauce jars) and pack on-the-go snacks and lunches in reusable bags. We love the cute patterns on snack bags from Itzy Ritzy. (itzyritzy.com)

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6. Can't part with all your plastic? Keep your family safe with this one rule of thumb: Don't heat it. Avoid warming food in plastic containers, and always wash by hand. Heat can increase the leaching of potentially harmful chemicals.

7. Use seasonal fruits and veggies when making your own baby food. They taste best because they're at their peak of freshness, plus they're richer in nutrients and less expensive (it's a supply and demand thing). Fruits and veggies from the freezer are mostly flash frozen after being picked, so they're good choices too.

8. Reduce. reuse. recycle. It's not only about saving money but reducing waste too. Websites dedicated to lending, renting and swapping have become increasingly prevalent. Freecycle.net, NeighBorrow.com, Rentalic.com and Zilok.com make it easy to find whatever you need — from highchairs to play yards — in your area. Etsy.com also has a vibrant green community: Find these vendors by using tags such as “recycled,” “upcycled,” “repurposed” and, of course, “eco-friendly” and “organic.”

9. Buy organic when you can, prioritizing your purchases to save money. Worth the splurge: Fruits and veggies on the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) “Dirty Dozen” list contain the most pesticides, so the organic ones are worth buying. Where to save: The EWG's “Clean 15” contain the fewest pesticides and are safe bets for bargains. Find the list at foodnews.org.

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10. Give cloth a chance.

Families that opt for disposable diapers will spend $2,500 to $3,000 diapering one child until age 3.* It makes cloth look a little more appealing, right? Here's a look at your options:

  • Prefolds

A flat, rectangular diaper with more layers in the middle that can be fastened with pins or a more modern device called the Snappi is secured inside a waterproof cover.

Price tag: $400*
Pro: Inexpensive.
Con: Folding and pinning can be befuddling.
Try: Cloth-eez Prefolds at greenmountaindiapers.com

  • Fitteds

Fluffy, soft and absorbent, fitteds look like other cloth diapers, but there's no waterproof lining. They close with snaps or Velcro and have elastic legs for extra protection.

Price tag: $1,260*
Pro: Great breathability for baby's bum.
Con: Without covers, you'll likely have leaks.
Try: Kissa's cotton fleece fitteds at kissaluvs.com

  •  All-in-Ones

Functionwise, this is the closest to a disposable. All-in-ones close with Velcro or snaps, but unlike fitteds and prefolds, they have waterproof linings to prevent leaks.

Price tag: $1,500*
Pro: Low learning curve.
Con: Takes a long time to dry after washing.
Try: bumGenius Freetime at cottonbabies.com

  •  Pockets

Similar to all-in-ones but pockets have absorbent liners inserted into an opening in the back, and they dry faster than all-in-ones when laundered.

Price tag: $1,700*
Pro: Great for overnight, you can stuff it as thick as you want.
Con: Some assembly required.
Try: FuzziBunz one-size at fuzzibunz.com

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11. Use natural air fresheners. Squeeze a lemon into your diaper pail to help eliminate odor.

12. Skip the soft plastic toys in the hand-me-down pile: Think squeaky bath toys and pliable alphabet letters. Toys like this were sold before stricter safety laws were passed in 2009 and likely contain harmful chemicals used to soften the plastic.

13. Skip a bath or two. It will save water, a few dollars and even baby's smooth skin — just opt in-stead for a sponge bath of his bottom. Check out the EWG's Skin Deep database (cosmeticsdatabase.com) for skin-care ingredients alongside toxicity ratings on a scale of zero to 10, with zero being the best.

14. Stick to a natural mineral sunscreen using zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, such as those from California Baby (californiababy.com) or Aveeno Baby (aveeno.com). Make sure it blocks both UVA and UVB rays and doesn't include the ingredient oxybenzone, which is not advised for use on children.

15. GOOD GUIDE Scan bar codes to find out the “greenness” of more than 12,000 food, personal care and household products. Customize settings to prioritize the chemicals you're most concerned about.

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16. Buy a crib mattress made from organic natural fibers such as cotton and wool. (Munchkin's ComfortSafe Organic Crib Mattress is only $130 at Target!) Babies spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping, so it makes sense not to expose them to the off-gassing of synthetic materials.

17. Buy bottles that convert to sippy cups, like those from Thinkbaby (thinkbabybottles.com) and Born Free (newbornfree.com). You'll save space, money and landfills.

18. Skip wall-to-wall carpeting in the nursery — its fibers trap allergens. Stick with floors made from material like wood, bamboo or cork and finish with a nontoxic sealant, says Alan Greene M.D., author of Raising Baby Green.

19. Make the most of baking soda. At about $1 a box, it's powerful, natural and versatile. Three effective uses:

  • Sprinkle a few spoonfuls into baby's bath water to help relieve diaper rash.
  • Mix baking soda and baby oil into a paste and gently rub into baby's scalp to wash away cradle caps' flaky skin.
  • Combine 4 tablespoons of baking soda with 1 quart of warm water to clean toys, then rinse and dry.

20. Be picky about paint

The fumes in traditional paints have been linked to respiratory illnesses, says Parenting/Babytalk contributing editor Dr. Greene. Opt instead for low-VOC paints (volatile organic compounds).

The price is comparible to high-quality brand paints. You can also save by thinking long-term and choosing a gender-neutral color in case a sib joins the family or a color that'll take her to tweenhood.

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