You know that what you eat, the self-care products you use, and even the products you use to clean your house, can affect your health—and the health of Mama Earth. When you're pregnant or breastfeeding, the impact of your purchasing decisions feels even more significant. How can you make choices that are good for your body, your baby, and the planet … without spending a fortune?
With help from our Mamava moms, Nikkie Kent and Annie Ode, we offer you a list of things you can do, today, to tread just a little bit more softly on this beautiful planet. And when these things are also better for you and your family, and easy on your wallet, it’s a win for everyone.
1) Rethink your personal care and beauty products.
Most personal care products are designed to be absorbed directly into your skin. Which may be good for moisturizing—but with more than 10,500 chemical ingredients used to make skincare products, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate what you’re using. Especially when you’re breastfeeding and chemicals in your body can pass into your breast milk.
You can drive yourself crazy trying to overhaul all of your products. So start with one or two small changes. For our Mamava Moms, Nikkie and Annie, switching to a more natural deodorant was top priority because “it’s next to your boob!” Nikkie’s a huge fan of Native (great scents!), and Annie uses Schmidt’s (super effective!). Lip products are also a good thing to evaluate carefully, says Annie, “because you end up consuming it.” For information on personal care and beauty products (search by brand), Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep® cosmetics database.
And don’t forget: you can cut costs and your exposure to chemicals using less product. There: a solid reason to skip the shower. You’re welcome.
2) Prioritize your food purchases.
Organic food tend to have lower levels of pesticides. And because breastfeeding mamas are eating for two, it’s a good time to consider choosing organic.
But buying everything organic can get expensive. The Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen”and “Clean 15” lists outline the produce with the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residues so you know when it counts most to buy organic (hello, strawberries!), and when you can save your money (avocados!).
Talk with local growers about their agricultural practices. Although they may not have the resources for the USDA organic certification, many small farmers are committed to sustainable farming methods. And remember: if you’re on a tight budget, it’s better to eat a conventional apple than no apple at all.
3) Start a little garden.
If you have access to dirt, water, and sun you can grow something. We’re not suggesting you go all “victory gardens,” but even a few lettuce greens or tomato plants will supply you with home-grown organic vegetables that cost a fraction of the price of produce at the grocery story. Easy-growing veggies for beginner gardeners include lettuce, radishes (plant early!), cucumbers, and handy everyday herbs like basil and parsley. Plus, you can earn bragging rights for producing milk and veggies for your baby because you’re practically a walking Whole Foods.
4) Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Buy less stuff and embrace borrowing, shopping second-hand, and purchasing in bulk when possible (rice and beans are a great place to start). There’s already too much plastic in the world, so reducing the amount of packaging you bring into your home in the first place can mean sending less to the landfill. The pay off? No more overflowing recycling bins and a greener planet for your kids (and their kids). Bring your own bags to the store, buy the big yogurt tub instead of the small ones whenever possible, and reuse containers when you can. We’re huge fans of simple Mason jars for leftovers and lunches.
5) Green up your cleaning products.
With so many cleaning products out there it’s hard to know what works and what’s worth it. Many companies, including Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, are working hard to reduce their use of toxic chemicals and increase transparency in labeling. But we also love the idea of relying on simple home remedies that can be made with kitchen staples you already have: baking soda, white vinegar, and lemons. And if you’re not a fan of the vinegar smell, try adding a few drops of fresh lemon juice or your favorite essential oil into the vinegar and you’re good to go.
Making these 5 changes can go a long way to reducing your family’s exposure to a wide range of harsh chemicals. If each of us can make these small shifts in our own lives and households, collectively we can have a positive impact on the planet. And by simplifying your self-care routine, taking shorter showers, and reducing your cleaning supplies, you’ll have more time (and money) to spend on things that matter most to you.