Healthy Shopping Tips for a New Baby
January 25, 2023
By Megan Boyle, Editorial Director
Getting ready for a new baby can involve a long to-do list: paint the nursery, install the car seat, stock up on supplies. For many families, it means a whole lot of shopping.
It seems that modern babies need plenty of stuff. Registry lists and buying guides are full of all the essential (and not-so-essential) things you might need to keep baby clean, warm, safe and fed.
The choices you make will play a big role in determining whether your newborn will be exposed to potentially harmful chemicals in common baby products.
While hand-me-down items can be a lifesaver for eco- and budget-minded parents, some baby things wear out, break down and should be purchased new.
Whether planning for your own child or buying a gift, give baby the best start possible with these healthy shopping tips:
Bottles and food. The average newborn eats between eight and 12 times a day, so most babies will need a stock of bottles for expressed breast milk or formula. When buying bottles, limit plastic when possible. Choose glass, which is durable, and skip wasteful disposable plastic liners.
Breast-fed infants need vitamin D supplements.
Some parents like the convenience of bottle warmers, while others think they’re an unnecessary expense. If you choose not to buy a warmer, placing a bottle in a bowl of warm water will safely bring baby’s milk up to body temperature. Never microwave it.
When baby is ready for solids, some parents like the convenience of prepared foods, but homemade options can be more affordable and nutritious. Soft fruits and vegetables such as avocados, sweet potatoes and bananas; finely-chopped meat; and whole grain and oat cereals all make healthy first foods for baby. Buy organic when you can. Do not give your baby rice cereal. It contains traces of arsenic and they add up fast.
New to preparing food at home for baby? You might be tempted to buy a specialized machine, but a normal blender or food processor works just as well. (For some foods, all you need is a fork.) Click here for some resources to help you get started.
Bath products, sunscreens, lotions and creams. Kids are more vulnerable than adults to harmful ingredients, and their skin is more sensitive to allergens. Fragrance can contain hundreds of chemicals and trigger allergic reactions. Skip heavily-scented products and moisturizers on newborns and any other products with “fragrance” on the label.
Other harmful chemicals to avoid include methylisothiazolinone, parabens, PEG, ceteareth, polyethylene glycol and DMDM hydantoin. Click here to read about the 5 worst ingredients in kids’ body care products.
- Baby powder: Don’t. Loose powder can lodge in baby’s lungs.
- Diaper cream: no boric acid
- Baby wipes: no 2 bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bronopol)
- Sunscreen: no retinyl palmitate or oxybenzone (look for zinc or titanium as the active ingredient)
- Soap: gentle soaps only. No antibacterial products.
Furniture. Choose furniture made of real wood. Pressboard and medium density fiberboard can contain traces of formaldehyde, used in glues that hold wood fibers together. Wood cabinets, chests, bureaus and tables can be heavy, so follow these steps to prevent dangerous tip-overs.
Car seat. A properly installed car seat is essential and in most places, legally required. Put safety first, then find one without fire retardant chemicals. Babies breathe in these chemicals, get them on their hands and put their hands in their mouths. Click here for more information on fire retardant chemicals in specific car seat models.
Pads and pillows. Fire retardant chemicals are also a problem in some changing pads, nursing pillows and other padded products. Polyurethane foam may contain them; look for fire retardant free foam. Acceptable products have labels that say they meet “Technical Bulletin 117-2023” and an “X” next to the line that reads: “The upholstery materials in this product contain NO added flame retardant chemicals.” Learn more about fire retardants in children’s products.
Crib Mattresses. Look for mattresses made of natural materials such as cotton or wool. Like pads and pillows, mattresses can contain fire retardant chemicals. Check labels and ask manufacturers about the mattress’s foam and covering. Don’t buy products with a vinyl cover. Read more tips for choosing a crib mattress. Already have a mattress? Here’s advice on choosing a crib from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Clothing, blankets and carriers. Look for soft, natural fibers like cotton and wool, and choose organic when possible. Hats are important year-round: they keep babies warm and protect them from the sun. Parents should always wash these items in baby-friendly detergent before using them for the first time.
Choose wood toys over plastic when possible. If you do buy plastic toys, avoid those made with PVC by checking the label for the #3 recycling code or the symbol for PVC. Some products say “no PVC” on the label.
Buying teethers? Look for those made of silicone.
Feeling overwhelmed? When in doubt, simplify. Stick to the essentials.
And remember: baby’s health and safety is top priority. Always read labels and instructions, and follow safety guidelines for any product that comes in contact with a child.