From ducks in the bath to baby lotion in the cabinet the arrival of a baby brings many new products into a bathroom, but which are the greenest?
Plastic ducks, boats and cups litter most children's baths, but the best option is to avoid plastic altogether. Failing that, look out for toys that are PVC free as the dangerous chemicals in PVC can leach into your baby if these toys are chewed regularly. The best option of all is to think creatively about what is already in your home - recycle plastic yogurt pots to make water scoops, for example.
Baby skincare is big business, and most products sell themselves as being the gentlest available. But if you take a look at the ingredients they often contain a long list of chemicals which are bad for the environment and completely unnecessary for babies.
Baths are fun and can help babies to relax before they go to bed, but most babies do not need bathing daily because they are not terribly dirty. Therefore, detergents and other strong cleaning agents are unnecessary. A splash around in lukewarm water will suffice or, as your baby gets older, you can use a natural olive-oil based soap or one of the increasing number of natural products for babies - but be sure to check the ingredients lists and look out for organic ingredients.
Equally, there is no need for special lotions and powders to care for your baby's skin, unless it is especially dry or if your child suffers from a particular problem such as eczema. In these cases seek out natural, plant-based products such as organic almond oil for dry skin. To heal nappy (diaper) rash, review how often you are changing nappies and let your baby go nappy free for as long as possible.
Nor is there a need for chemically saturated wipes in order to cleanse a baby's bottom when you are changing a nappy. Some warm water on organic cotton wool will do the job just as well, or make your own wipes using organic or undyed cotton squares (which can be bought from some cloth nappy companies). They can be dipped in a home-made solution of 50 ml (2 fl oz) distilled water mixed with 1 tbsp vinegar, 2 tbsp aloe vera gel, 1 tbsp calendula oil and a few drops of lavender and tea tree essential oil.
Your choice of nappy (diaper) can make a big difference to the environment. Disposable nappies can take between 200 and 500 years to decompose and in so doing they can emit noxious methane gas into the environment. They also contain all sorts of chemicals such as bleaches, perfumes, plastic and additives, which are not great for the environment either. In addition, 7 million trees are felled annually to meet the demand for the absorbent pulp in disposable nappies and some of these trees are from mature forests in Scandinavia, Canada and the Baltic States, rather than sustainably managed plantations.
There are plenty of alternatives to disposable nappies, including real washable nappies, nappies with a disposable inner liner and a washable outer, and greener versions of disposables - using recycled pulp, for example.
Many of these organic options will save you money and, if you decide to use a laundry service (look for a company that uses eco-friendly laundry detergents), will not generate any extra work for you, if this is a concern.
If you really cannot bear the though of giving up disposable nappies, then at least stop using plastic nappy sacks. With all those nappies filling our landfills the last thing we need is to have them all individually wrapped in their own plastic bags as well. Anyway, it is far better to keep soiled nappies outside in a bin (trash can) than to leave them inside the house in artificially fragranced bags that will lose the fight against smells within a few hours anyway.