Plan ahead for a healthy baby

by Laura Sussely-Pope

Plan Healthy BabyAny worthwhile project benefits from planning and making a baby is no exception.

Your choices right now can help ensure a healthy baby, even if a new family addition is only a future dream.

We've heard that our choices during pregnancy can affect our growing babies. Did you know that your lifestyle choices long before you get pregnant make a difference in your future child's long-term health?

Planning for a healthy baby

You'll want to minimize your risk of spina bifida. Start taking folic acid minimally three months before you conceive.

Stop smoking. Guys, did you know that your smoking now, months before baby-making, can change your baby's genes. Researchers suggest that you quit smoking three to six months before conceiving.

Protecting you and your baby

Do you live or work in an area that exposes you to hazard chemicals or radiation? Before your start your family, you may want to consider making changes. They can be as simple as talking with your boss or a new career.

Are you already committed to green living? Take a look at these top 10 living green bloopers." If you can relate to any of them, make those changes now. You and babe will be glad you did.

Eating safe foods

Chemicals in your food: Because the "dirty dozen," contain particular high pesticide levels, you might consider buying organic. On the flip side, some foods are quite low in residues. Going organic doesn't have to be all or nothing.

Mercury toxicity: While fish is among the healthiest food you can eat, some varieties like contain high levels of mercury that can harm brain development in young children.

Genetically mutated foods: Animal research has linked eating GM crops to problems for both mom and offspring. A significant list of countries has banned them. This fall, California will vote on whether or not to require labels on GM foods.

Food containers: Hormones in food and water container can mimic hormones in your body like estrogen. As much as possible avoid canned foods (the liners may leach BPA into the food) and clear water bottles labeled #7.

Create a safe haven for your baby

Removing toxins: Will you be remodeling? If your home was built before 1980, it's likely to contain lead paint or asbestos in ceiling applications or insulation. Hire a contractor certified in removal.

Putting together baby's room: You may have been planning your baby's dream room since your were little more than a babe yourself. In addition to comfortable, catching and colorful, you'll want it to be safe.

Are you unsure which materials are safest for your child's room? These simple steps cut down on toxins and create a safe nursery for your baby.

✓ Choose zero-or low-VOC latex paints and stains.
✓ Avoid carpet if possible. Solid wood, bamboo, cork and natural linoleum are the healthiest flooring choices.
✓ Steer clear of wallpaper, blind or shades made of vinyl.
✓ Look twice when choosing mattresses and furniture. Wool, cotton or latex mattresses without vinyl covers or stain-resistant coatings are safest. Avoid furniture that contains formaldehyde-based glues and toxic flame retardants.

Using less-toxic home supplies: Air conditioning traditionally means regulating the temperature and humidity. In light of the poor quality of most indoor air, perhaps it should focus on what we breathe.

You can improve the air in your home, both for you and for your future baby.

✓ Avoid bug killers, week killers and other pesticides in your home or garden. Focus on preventive techniques or use non-toxic options.
✓ Replace plastic shower curtains with fabric curtains and avoid vinyl mattress covers and blow up furniture.
✓ Get rid of foam furniture that is frayed or crumbling.
✓ Try green cleaning recipes that use liquid soap, baking soda or vinegar or use safer brands like Seventh Generation and Bi-O-Kleen.
✓ Leave your shoes at the door. You'll avoid spreading pollutant around the floor.
✓ Vacuum and dust once a week. Toxic chemical can build up on household dust.
✓ Open the windows. Airing out your home for just a few minutes a day can vastly improve your indoor air quality.

Choosing safer personal care products:
✓ Choose fragrance-free products. Consider giving up perfumes, hair dye and nail polish which may contain harmful chemicals.
✓ Choose cosmetics from companies committed to safer products. You can explore products and ingredients on the "Cosmetic Safety Database."
✓ Avoid hand soaps marketed as antibacterial.
✓ If you can, choose clothing, shoes and boots made with rubber and vinyl-free fabrics over Gore-Tex or other teflon chemicals.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.