Gifts for the Natural Parent
Have you noticed that there are two types of parents when it comes to baby gear? Thereís the mainstream parent who uses Johnson & Johnson products and has a changing table full of disposables and a room full of plastic toys, and thereís the all natural parent who never totes their baby around in his car seat and may not even own a crib. Then there are people like me who are somewhere in the middle. We have wooden toys and plastic ones; we own cribs but sometimes practice safe cosleeping; we have no needs for bottles but occasionally present our children with pacifiers; we baby wear a good portion of the time, but also donít mind putting the baby in the Bumbo seat or the crib and letting them cry for a few minutes. Presents are presents and I always appreciate them even if they arenít what I would have bought myself, but I especially appreciate things bought for my kids that are more geared towards an organic, minimalistic lifestyle. The thing is, parents can decide to go all natural and organic with their kids, but ultimately their house is going to be filled with things that others gift to the precious grandkids/nieces/nephews/cousins. Unless parents are super vocal about it (which Iím not because I donít like to be pushy about the presents others buy for us), theyíre going to have non≠organic baby washes, bleached cotton onesies, and plastic toys that light up and make noise. But even if they donít say it, they donít prefer those things.
So, then, what do parents like me prefer you gift our babies?
Baby CarriersWe like baby carriers: ones that are designed to promote healthy baby hips such as slings; a Boba, Beco, or Ergo carrier; or a Moby Wrap, Kítan, or Mei Tai. Donít the popular brands usually found in the local Walmart or Babies R Us such as the Snugli brand. Theyíre not actually good for babiesóespecially for those babies who will spend a good portion of their day being worn. A good baby carrier has a nice, wide seat for the babyís bum to rest and doesnít forward carry (though Iíve heard that Ergo has come out with a forward carry carrier that actually doesnít cause hip dysplasia). We have car seats, of course, but we prefer not to use them outside of the car. We wear our babies in places such as church or the grocery store, and while washing dishes and folding laundry. Itís definitely preferable to have that little, fuzzy head up close to our lips where we can constantly kiss it as we shop or worship, and to feel the even ebb and flow of baby breaths as they move against our hearts. And even if we have a baby carrier, we love them so much, we wouldnít mind another of a different brand or even just another color.
Cloth DiapersMost of us prefer cloth, usually full time. Some of us do use disposables, such as when we go out of the house, for day care, or if we need a break from laundry, but frankly cloth diapers are a safer bet because we might never get to finishing that bag of disposables that was given to us at the baby shower. No matter the ratio of disposables to cloth in our house, cloth diapers will always get used. Theyíre economical, of course, but also super gentle on the babyís bum, and we donít have to worry about harmful chemicals against baby skin doing who knows what kind of long term damage. If weíre going the cloth diaper route, you can go ahead and look at gifting some cloth wipes, cloth diaper safe rash creams, and wet bags as well. You almost canít go wrong when getting most of us cloth diapers, but it wouldnít hurt to ask first just to be sure because not all of us are into this. Using cloth diapers is more of a lifestyle change than, say, organic soaps or wooden toys. If we are going for disposables, though, check to make sure we donít want a more environmentally friendly option such as Seventh Generation.
Skin CareWe prefer to stay away from steroid creams and petroleum products. Also, many of us are wary of the ever popular Johnson & Johnson brand because of the possible side effects of some of the questionable ingredients. We could always use any organic baby washes or lotions and we prefer things like lanolin and calendula cream to moisturize the babyís skin. Coconut oil is pretty much the basic essential when it comes to all natural skin care and we can never have enough of it so go ahead and get us lots and lots.
TeethingTwo words: Baltic Amber. It comes in necklaces or bracelets and we swear by it to soothe the common malaise associated with new teeth (and no, the babies donít actually put them in their mouths, so donít worry). You may think itís hocus pocus, but we donít so buy the jewelry anyway, if you feel so inclined because weíll be thrilled with it. Just make sure you get it from a reputable source because there is lots of fake stuff floating around out there.
There are also teething jewelry for moms to wear with large beads and rings for babies to grab and chew. These come in handy when our little ones need or want to be on our laps for a longer period of time and will want to be entertained. It will also keep them from grabbing earrings and hair or trying to lift our shirts, well, for a little while anyway. As far as baby teethers and rattles go, we really prefer the organic stuff. Wood, wool, organic cotton, and even silicone are all great options for the kids. Frankly, Sophie the Giraffe is our favorite as well as any of her rubber counterparts. Weíre also really cool with hand made and/or upcycled stuff. Anything to keep things minimal and help maintain our planetís resources.
ToysMinimalism is key when it comes to the toys we give our kids. We prefer quality to quantity. We want classic stuff that will last forever. Wooden toys are the best. Keep in mind brands like Melissa & Doug, Plan, and Hape. We love that stuff. We also love Waldorf and Montessori type toys for their quality and simplicity. We prefer you stay away from popular Disney characters, plastic (unless you go for the recycled Green Toys brand), and anything that requires batteries, with a few exceptions. We also like to limit screen time so video games and movies arenít always welcome either. And if itís educational, weíre usually all in. Anything sensory and tactile that our kids can manipulate in order to learn about the world such as map puzzles, letter blocks, or sorting games. We might even make an exception to the no electricity/screens rule if itís gonna help teach our kids to read, write, or problem solve.
FeedingWe will all try to breastfeed so if you want to help chip in to buy the hospital grade breast pump, we wouldnít complain. Breast feeding pillows are also helpful as well as reusable breast pads, and teas that help increase milk production. Also lanolin. Lots of this. Weíll use this on our babies, but weíll also use it on ourselves to help ease those tender nipples during the first few weeks or months of nursing. If weíre going to back to work, then yes, go ahead and get some bottlesópreferably glass or metal, please and with rubber nipples if you can find them so we can avoid questionable ingredients found in plastic. If we plan to stay at home with the kids, the bottles will rarely if ever get any use so donít even worry about it.
When it comes time for the little one to eat solids, weíre going to want to make the food ourselves so a food processor, blender, or tray for freezing home made baby food would be really handy. As for baby dishes, it is again best to stay away from plastic if possible.
Metal and silicone dishes are great alternatives.
Summary: We all natural parents arenít really a weird bunch, though it may seem that way to you, we may just have a different way of doing whatís best for our kids than you do. We donít think youíre a bad parent if you use J&J products or have a room full of toys that light up and sing, so please donít feel judged. Youíre still an awesome parent if you choose the more mainstream, modern options for raising your kids. We just like the idea of going back to a simpler time when the earth provided what we needed and chemists and scientists, bless their hearts, didnít try to improve what God already provided for us by modifying what was already perfect. And we like the earth so weíre doing our best to keep her the way she is without leaving a huge path of garbage and empty forest behind us when we leave. Presents are presents and weíre not trying to micromanage the joy that comes with giving from the heart. But we are really concerned about what our kids are exposed to and some of us wonít use those plastic teething rings for our babies no matter the thought behind it because weíre more concerned about the long≠term damage that comes with chemically altered materials.
If you know someone whoís like meóeither to one extreme or the other, then donít be offended by these suggestions. You might really want to take the time to consider some of them in order to make life easier on the all natural parent who is bending over backwards to protect her children. Because itís not a mainstream lifestyle, itís already difficult to maintain as it is. It would be so great if he or she had a little extra help.