What is the highest concern of expectant mothers and nursing mothers? The health of their babies. Of course, they also want to get back into their pre pregnant shape and fitness. Let’s concentrate on the health of the babies.
It is well known that the two biggest factors affecting the health of babies are 1), a fetal stage free of toxic chemicals, such as alcohol, tobacco chemicals, and environmental contaminants; and 2), toxic-free milk and foods during the first several months. Hazards during the fetal stage were discussed in my blogs of December 15 (First Stage of Life) and February 9 (Vulnerability of the Fetus). So let’s talk about the baby stage.
You probably know about the risk from Bisphenol-A (BPA) that is found in polycarbonate nursing bottles and canned baby foods. (Note: some companies are now producing BPA-free plastic nursing bottles.) By paying attention to what your buy, it is easy to avoid these sources of toxics.
If you are bottle-feeding your baby, you certainly want to want to use infant formula that is free of potentially toxic substances. The easiest and surest way is to use only certified organic formula. My only concern about non organic formula is the vegetable oils: coconut, soy, and safflower – with soy oil the main concern. Why? Because soybeans are a crop that is heavily sprayed with pesticides, which are absorbed into the plant structure and the beans, and hence, into the soybean oil.
Then there is breast feeding. Medical professionals say that, in spite of some toxic contaminants in breast milk, it is still the preferred source of nutrients for nursing infants because it contains valuable hormones and antibodies. Reports in the 1970s and 1980s showed that levels of pesticides and PCBs in human milk were comparable to or larger than the FDA limits for these substances in cow’s milk. Shocking but true. Fortunately, the National Resources Defense Council published a report (March 2005), “Healthy Milk, Healthy Baby” that gives a bases for optimism. The highlight of the report is a study of breast milk in Sweden. Since 1975 the level of DDT (metabolites) decreased from 2000 ppb to less than 200 ppb, and the level of PCBs decreased from1000 ppb to less than 500 ppb. This change occurred because DDT and PCBs were banned in the early 1970s. The disturbing finding is that the level of PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) flame retardants increased from essentially zero in the 1970s to over 2500 ppb in the late 1990s. Why was it increasing? Because it began to be added to numerous products in order to meet flammability requirements. Now for the good part of the story. After a reported public outcry about PBDEs, they were banned in Sweden, and the levels in breast milk began to drop precipitously. (The latest reported data was for the year 2000.)
If you have read my blog of April 7 on flame retardants you will know the source of PBDEs and therefore, how to avoid them. Replace foam-containing bedding (mattresses and pillows) made between about 1980 and 2004. Buy new bedding and furniture that either contains no foam cushioning, or is certified to not contain flame retardants. Vacuum your home frequently to eliminate dust that contains PBDEs from plastic electronic products.
With just a modest amount of attention and care, it is possible for mothers to largely keep BPA and PBDEs out of their bodies, out of their breast milk, and therefore, out of their baby’s bodies.