Organic products for babies - why?
In starting an organic baby subscription box company, one of the most common questions I receive is why organic? (Jan 2018: Updating to state Wild & Free Boxes is also a pregnancy subscription box company, and supports natural businesses who are not always organic - however we strive to find you organic products when available).
We all innately know that infants and children are more vulnerable to the environment - chemicals, pollution, even medicines. It is common practice for parents to question and research everything they expose their baby to. But do you know why? Today I want to cover some in-depth physiological reasons why babies should be exposed to as few chemicals as possible.
Did you know that testing has been performed on the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies, to see what chemicals are found in there? A total of 287 chemicals have been found in cord blood, with 180 of them known to cause cancer in humans, 217 toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 known to cause birth defects or abnormal development. This is what is referred to as body burden - the level of toxic chemicals in our body. Our babies are born with an average of 287 dangerous chemicals already in their body. Can you believe it?
Think about what this means for not only our babies, but our pregnant bodies. Pregnant women "detox" their chemical burden into their babies. Not only does it make sense to ensure you're as healthy as possible before you're pregnant, but it also makes sense that you have a low chemical exposure while you're growing your beautiful little human. And let's not forget while breastfeeding too!
Children are more vulnerable due to both their high doses by body weight, their rapid development, and their incomplete defence and detox systems. Let's cover these points a little more below.
1. A child’s chemical exposures are greater by weight compared to adults. If you give a child the same dose an adult receives (eg. breathing in the air), by default they will have a higher dose because they have a significantly smaller weight. Generally speaking, a larger dose of any chemical, toxin, or by-product will be harder for the body to deal with, and will potentially cause more damage.
2. An immature blood brain barrier allows greater chemical exposures to the developing brain. The blood brain barrier prevents the passage of chemicals that find their way into the blood and body from entering the brain, and damaging sensitive brain neurons. In infants and small children, the blood brain barrier is more leaky than in an adult - so more unwanted chemicals and exposures can enter the brain. Often once chemicals and heavy metals enter the brain, it is difficult for them to be removed (though recent research has found how the brain "cleans" itself, and it mostly happens during deep sleep!). An example of chemicals affecting the brain is lead exposure during the first few years of life leading to a reduced future IQ.
3. Children have lower levels of some chemical-binding proteins (to inactivate and remove them from the body), allowing more of a chemical to reach “target organs”. Chemical-binding proteins float around in our bodies, with one job - to bind to any foreign or synthetic chemical. When they bind to the chemical, it means that the chemical can't bind to our organs or cells. These chemical-binding proteins then take the toxins to the liver to be processed and often excreted through the stool, urine, sweat, and in us mamas, breastmilk! Children, and in particular infants, have poorly developed detoxification systems which include low levels of these chemical-binding proteins. This means that compared to an adult, their blood cannot 'clean itself' as quickly.
4. Rapidly developing organs and systems of infants are more vulnerable to damage from toxic exposures. Our precious babies aren't born completely mature. They take on average 20 years to get to their full size! It's not just their bones and muscles that grow, but their organs need to mature as well. Rapid cell division and growth allows the opportunity for more things to go wrong! Imagine your baby's system is inundated with endocrine-disrupting chemicals (chemicals that act like hormones, and the body can't tell the difference between it's own hormones and these chemicals). Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are found in many cosmetics, baby wipes, and bath products - things you may unknowingly put on your baby. And through a time when their hormonal system is still learning how to function, exposure to chemicals that mimic hormones may product imbalances in your baby's system.
5. Systems that detoxify and excrete industrial chemicals are not fully developed. The gut, liver, and kidneys (the main detoxification systems) are still immature. As we now know, our babies' organs take time to mature and become capable to act like adult organs. Therefore the larger doses they receive (by body weight - point 1) are also a lot more difficult to remove from the body, because the detox pathways become saturated very quickly.
6. The longer future life-span of children compared to adults allows more time for adverse effects to arise – some take 20-30 years. The earlier these exposures start, the more chance there is of any adverse effect to occur. It may not be an instantaneous reaction; sometimes the period of time between exposures and adverse effects is so long you wouldn't piece the two together. However we know the rates of childhood diseases are on the rise, in part due to the environment we are now raising our children in. So reducing the stress on our babies' little bodies by reducing their chemical exposure may reduce the risk of long-term diseases.
Chemicals, air pollution, pesticides on food, residues in water - all of these chemicals work together in synergy to produce compounds that the body has great difficulty removing. Add in the exposure we get from products we put on our skin, in our bath tub, and even in our clothing. We are living in a world full of chemicals, and if it is difficult for an adult to detox, imagine how much more difficult it is for your children.
Here are some examples of the products we stock in Wild & Free Boxes. While about 80% of them are organic, we do also stock products that aren't organic but are made from natural fibres (such as cotton or bamboo). When products aren't organic, we ensure they have been created in an ethical manner.
So the question why organic? Is not a simple one to answer. There are many, many reasons why you should choose organic products for your pregnancy and baby (and your family!). The big picture for me is that - by choosing organic products, you are choosing to give your baby a healthier start to life, and you're choosing to love the earth a little too.
Would you like to see if one of our subscription boxes suits you? You can check them all out here!