By Michelle LaRowe
I am always thrilled when I can call on my peers to share insight and information about childcare and the nanny world. Today is no different. Recently, I had a had a chance to catch up with Tonya Sakowicz, nanny turned mom, turned newborn care specialist, turned owner of Baby Go Green, a company dedicated to helping new moms and moms-to-be lower their toxic exposure. As a credentialed nanny and certified eco-maternity consultant, greenproofer and green birth educator, Tonya provides parents and parents-to-be with personalized consultations and recommendations to help them make healthier choices for their families.
eNannySource: What does going green mean with regards to baby care?
Tonya: Going green in regards to baby care is looking at a product and evaluating if it has been produced from non-toxic ingredients and/or in an earth-friendly manner. This is really dependent on the goals of the parents. For some parents, they are concerned with the environment. They are concerned with how the things they use are produced and how they impact the world around them. These parents, for example, may only products that are ‘fair-trade’. But for most parents, their greater concern is for whether or not the products used on and around their baby are organic and non-toxic. Since so many things that are available and marketed for the care of babies, particularly in the US, contain ingredients that are toxic and are linked to endocrine disruption, neurological disorders and cancer, parents are right to be aware and concerned about the products they use.
eNannySource: What are the most toxic things in our baby’s environment?
Tonya: Nearly everything in our environment *can* be toxic, but one of the first two things we consider is air quality and products for consumption because these are things going INTO our babies bodies and because they are so small, their hearts beat faster and they breathe faster than adults, their exposure risk is much greater. So we look at the air they breathe in the home and in their nursery and we look at what things are going into their mouth–either via mother’s milk, formula or foods, depending on their age. Directly related are those things that are regularly put into or can be put into babies’ mouths, since that is what babies do with nearly everything, right?
eNannySource: Right. So what are the easiest things parents and caregivers can change?
Tonya: Some of the simplest things you can do to make your life greener is to improve air quality (open a window!), reduce what you bring in from the outside (take off your shoes at the door–your shoes carry toxins, animal feces, pesticides and other contaminants into the home) and consider the foods you eat (switching to organic dairy alone makes a HUGE difference; add in organic produce by following the www.ewg.org ‘dirty dozen’ recommendations and you are making a tremendous impact on the amount of toxins you and your baby are exposed to).
eNannySource: What about fruits and first foods?
Tonya: Look up the “dirty dozen” list provided by the Environmental Working Group–www.ewg.org– and at the very least, keep those foods organic to minimize toxic exposure. Ideally, of course, as much of your food (dairy, produce, meats, grains and eggs) would be organic, but that is not always practical or affordable for everyone. I always tell my clients if you can only make one change, make it dairy. However, for babies, I also strongly recommend organic produce for their first foods–particularly those on the “dirty dozen” list, since many baby “firsts” (like apples) are on that list.
Remember that going green does not have to be an all or nothing proposition– you do not have to turn into a ‘crunchy’ mom (or nanny) to make a significant impact. Even small changes make a big difference in reducing a child’s toxic exposure and those changes are worth the effort. Each family and nanny should evaluate what their personal goals are, seek help if they need it and then move forward towards those goals, one practical step at a time.
Parents and nannies are always welcome to contact Tonya at firstname.lastname@example.org for a personal consultation.