The trend towards eating organic foods and using organic products is constantly on the rise, with more and more people choosing an organic lifestyle for personal health and eco-conscious reasons. Parents of babies and toddlers, in particular, are jumping on this bandwagon, purely because they — quite rightly — want only the best for their little ones.
What Does Organic Mean?
Organic agriculture involves adhering to a set of production standards from growing to shipping. These include no human sewage sludge fertilisers, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, genetically modified organisms or irradiation used in the cultivation of plants or feed of animals.
Also, farmland has to have been free from prohibited synthetic chemicals for three or more years and organic produce has to be kept strictly separated from non-certified products.
Sounds good, but how do we know that the products we buy are truly organic? As there is still no organic certification system in Singapore, our best bet is to go with internationally accepted standards from countries such as the USA, EU, Australia, Japan, Canada, which have established certification systems.
For example, products made entirely with certified organic ingredients and methods can be labelled “100% organic”, while products with at least 95 per cent organic ingredients may be labelled “organic”, with both categories displaying the USDA Organic seal.
Products containing a minimum of 70 per cent organic ingredients can be labelled “made with organic ingredients” but may not display the USDA Organic seal.
Now that we know what it means, the question then becomes, is it necessary for our babies to grow up eating organic food? Sigrid Grobys, N.D, responds: “A baby can get receive all nutritional requirements and achieve adequate growth without eating organic foods. That being said, organic foods are beneficial in a baby’s nutrition as they avoid exposing the baby to toxic components (pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, synthetic fertilisers, etc) that are typically found in conventionally obtained foods.”
Ms Grobys, who is also a consultant with leading organic store SuperNature, adds, “Studies have shown that babies and kids whose diets consists of 80 per cent or more of organic foods have four to nine times fewer pesticides in their urine. This is significant, as a growing body of evidence has shown a link between toxic exposure and cancer development and other chronic illnesses later in life. Pesticides and other toxic compounds commonly found in non-certified organic goods are difficult for the body to detoxify and eliminate and this more so in a baby’s immature digestive system.”
Suggested organic baby foods:
Baby’s first primary source of nutrition is milk, with breast milk being the best choice. If supplementation is necessary, you can choose organic goat, cow or soy milks from brands such as Holle Organic Infant Formulas.
Further on, choose organic rusks, purees, baby cereals, snacks and juices from brands including Organix and Whole Kids.
Of course, nothing beats home cooking; you can purchase certified organic fruits, veggies, meats and grains from the supermarkets.
The organic umbrella extends beyond baby’s diet and into the realm of baby care products, toiletries and even clothing and bedding. Again, while ensuring that everything that baby comes into contact with is organic is not considered a necessity, the idea definitely has its merits.
Ms Grobys offers her opinion: “Anything we put on our skin has the potential of getting absorbed into our bloodstream. Studies have shown that component molecules of sunscreens applied on the skin end up in our liver and urine. Babies’ skin is much thinner than that of adults, and as such, tend to absorb more of the substances we apply on their skin (soaps, creams, etc). Using certified organic toiletries and skin care products for baby means reducing the amount of toxins that enters their bodies.”
Most conventional baby care products contain at least trace amounts of synthetic and artificial ingredients, including chemical preservatives, artificial fragrances, and foaming agents, which at the very least, are a common cause of allergic reactions to baby’s sensitive skin.
According to Michelle Vogrinec, founder of renowned organic toiletries maker GAIA, “Research suggests that organic ingredients are less likely to cause irritation as they do not contain residues of pesticides that can irritate baby’s skin. In addition, a cocktail effect can also occur when pollutants that are not significantly toxic on their own create a toxic effect when combined. Choosing organic minimises the risk of the toxic effect and the likelihood of irritation.”
Suggested organic baby care products:
Brands like GAIA Natural Baby, Estelle & Thild, Coslys, Earth Friendly and California Baby all offer organic alternatives to regular baby shampoos, body wash, moisturisers, nappy creams and wet wipes.
When it comes to clothing, diapers, bedding and the like, it is similarly about trying to keep things as close to nature as possible, using only organically-farmed fibres with no toxic dyes around baby.
In addition, most companies that produce organic apparel and accessories also tend to have environmentally-friendly practices, adding a feel-good factor to your shopping choices.
Of course, if you’ve made the choice to go organic with baby’s clothing, diapers and bed linen, it only makes sense to use natural and eco-friendly alternatives to conventional laundry detergents and household cleaners. Many of these are botanically-derived and do not contain unnecessarily toxic components.
“A number of household products can produce toxic fumes in the air – in particular toilet cleaners,” warns Ms Grobys. “Inhalation of these fumes can further ‘burden’ baby’s delicate body with toxic compounds. Using organic household sanitation products helps minimise this risk, which is also important when there is a crawling toddler in the household, as they tend to bring many objects into their mouths and potentially absorb residues of cleaning products.”
Suggested organic apparel and household products:
Opt for chlorine-fee and unbleached diapers from the likes of Moltex Eco Nappy and Seventh Generation, and choose organic cotton clothing , accessories and bedding from brands including Nuumi Baby, Belle & Dean and Coosh Baby.
For organic household cleaners such as laundry detergents, dishwashing liquids, floor disinfectants and toilet cleaners, try those from Murchison Hume, Seventh Generation and Ecover.
We asked some mothers who use organic products on their children for their thoughts:
Dina Cheng is a 34-year-old stay-at-home mum to two girls aged three years and 10 months respectively. She says, “I insist on cooking all my family’s meals myself and I use as much organic produce as possible. It may be slightly more expensive, but I won’t take the chance with their health. I also purchase organic fruits, rusks and other organic snacks for the kids.”
Joy Wong, a 36-year-old mother of a two-year-old, had this to say: “As a newborn, Nigel had bad reactions to most regular brands of formula milk and only this organic milk worked, so we’ve kept him on it since. I avoid harsh products on the skin, so his shampoo-cum-body wash is also organic. I personally believe in more natural and less chemical, but I haven’t gone to the extent of even detergents and diapers. Just doing the best that we can, I guess.”
At the end of the day, it is up to each parent to decide whether to choose organic for their baby — and themselves — and to what extent. There is no absolute right or wrong, only what feels right for you and your little bundle of joy.