Earth Baby: A consumer guide for cruelty-free and eco-friendly pregnancy and parenting
Christa B. Martin
For nearly thirty years now, the environment has been an increasingly hot topic. It has featured in some form or another on every country’s global or local political agenda. Rock stars such as Sting and supermodels like Joanna Krupa have become involved activists on behalf of trees and animals everywhere. Even the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has done his bit as California’s governor, and there is no end to the controversy surrounding the issue of global warming.
As a whole, the world has become more environmentally conscious, even if it may not appear that way. Activism and non-profit groups abound and there are loads of petition sites on the internet to save something wild and endangered. This is a great step forward in the moral evolution of humanity.
When it comes down to the individual, however, things are a little different. “Green” or cruelty-free products are not cheap. Many are difficult to source without the right information. Everyone is struggling to make ends meet; some more than others, and a lot even more so. And of course, one cannot discount the “tried and trusted” ways used by the older generation. The social pressures which tell a parent what to use on their child or when pregnant are ingrained and very strong. So how does one person – or two – make an effective, conscientious choice to break from the norm and raise their child in harmony with the Mother Earth?
This was the challenge that Dion and I faced when we decided to have a baby. We have always felt strongly about animal rights and conserving the environment, but it was put into a whole different perspective when we looked at the statistics on disposable nappies, amongst other things. We wanted to have the baby as naturally as possible. We also wanted a chemical-free environment for our child, and one without blood on its conscience.
There was very little information for our ignorant selves to be found from the hospital – which expects that every pregnant woman will come in and have a caesarean with an epidural. No more was gleaned from the anti-cruelty or environmental websites we looked at, which were all, at the time, international, and thus not relevant to us in terms of products and services. There was no one central source of information on where to buy what we needed or whom to speak to about natural births and other related topics. Therefore, we embarked on our own research adventure, trawling sites and following links, speaking to people who knew of someone who had used this or that, and generally lots of footwork on shopping centres looking at products, phoning manufacturers and verifying claims.
We found information about baby cosmetics, vitamin supplements, baby foods, clothing, household cleaning products, nappies, accessories, home birthing and the hospital birthing processes – pros and cons – and a range of other things related to parenting and pregnancy.
It was admittedly all done in the dreamy, drifting cloud of pregnancy and expectant parenthood, and I never considered putting it all together into a guide until after Tala was born. This was for two reasons. The first was that we appeared to be what my friend Leila lovingly terms “fringemonkeys”, and I didn’t see how anyone else would want the information. The second is that after Tala was born, I realised how many of our friends – also fringemonkeys – were either new parents, expectant parents, or planning on having one. It was only after several different people commented on our use of the biodegradable disposables for Tala that I decided to create Earth Baby and make the information available to whoever needed it. My friend, Tanielle, cemented the decision by firmly encouraging me, and after reading the guide first, called me up to offer some incredibly positive feedback. I also have the distinct pleasure to note that I have not taken any incentives from any of the brands mentioned in this guide, (hence the self-publishing route), and so Earth Baby can be said to be written with one hundred per cent integrity, based entirely on a consumer’s search for the right products.
Earth baby is a fairly detailed guide not only to South African products and services which are cruelty-free and eco-friendly, but also includes anecdotal information on how I dealt with certain challenges, like the decision to have a home birth, the decision to have a chemical-free pregnancy, and other things. The guide is also full of snippets of research reports which justify the choices we made to opt out of the usual way things are done.
In the end, though, it comes down to one fact: when you bring a new life into the world, you are responsible for how it is formed inside you, how it grows outside of you, and how it perceives itself and the world around it once you are gone. Parenthood is a continuous succession of choices from the time that you fall pregnant. For us it began even before then. You need foresight and an open mind to determine which path is best at each crossroads. Earth Baby was created to simplify some of the more banal choices which may not seem as significant, but which may affect your child for life.
Here is an excerpt from Earth Baby that deals with domestic cleaning products:
“When I was about eight weeks pregnant, I strolled into the house one day coming home from work, and the smell of chemicals smacked me so hard I nearly upended my lunch. I got rid of every stick of soap, every bottle of bleach, oven, floor, toilet and tile cleaner, window sprays, carpet sprays, and anything else that turned my stomach. Recently, I heard about studies that had revealed up to 500 man-made chemicals could be found in amniotic fluid and breast milk. You can actually absorb this stuff through your skin and lungs, and because it is foreign to your body, it just hangs around. Imagine how it can affect the child growing inside, or the baby relying on your milk for sustenance.  Of course, poisoning happens over a period of time, and with constant exposure. You don’t just wake up one day and have all of those things in your system. So the trick is not to use them at all.
When Dion and I discovered that I couldn’t live in the same house as the Handy Mandy and all her friends, we embarked on a long and involved search to find alternative cleaning products which were compatible with my new status. We ended up using three chemical products (dish washing liquid, Eco Soft and Pro Bac), and salt water and spirit vinegar for the rest of the stuff. This was a bit of a chore, especially since our domestic worker looked at me like I needed psychiatric intervention. It was an ongoing battle to get her to use the alternatives, and became a constant source of stress for all of us. You really can’t change fifty years of brainwashing in an instant.”
Here’s an excerpt which deals with home births:
“When I told my mother and step-sister that Dion and I were going to have a home birth, I was told how selfish and stupid I was being, and didn’t I know there are a million things that can (AND WILL!!!) go wrong during childbirth that only doctors can fix. Of course, I think we gave the impression that our decision had been made off-the-cuff, without any real thought or research. When Dion announced that he would be delivering the little one, my mom asked if he was aware of what childbirth was really like. I think his flip reply that yes, he had helped to deliver many sheep, was the topper. Yes, I laughed, which made it worse. They didn’t take us seriously and thought we were being youthfully foolish, but in a different set of words, I’m sure. In reality we had researched home births and we had made an informed decision.
Of course, the second she had finished her tirade about how thoughtless I really was, my step-sister, then recommended the only reliable home-birth midwife in the area, in her estimation. Having qualified and worked in nursing, my step-sister’s suggestion held weight with me, especially considering her feelings on the subject. I think my pregnancy could have been a hell of a lot worse had I not gone with the midwife she recommended. And I guess that’s really what family is about, at the end of it all: they may disagree with you and slam your choices, but if they are a good family, they will respect your choices – grudgingly – and help you to carry them out the best way possible.”
Of course, all the product information in Earth Baby is condensed into a few tables at the back of the book, which can be pulled out and folded up and stuck in the purse or wallet in anticipation of shopping days. There is also a list of books, sites, and groups, which can help to make things easier.
Feedback is always welcome. I have created a Facebook page for Earth Baby, too. Readers are invited to offer compliments, criticisms (no doubt I’ll get plenty of those), and to watch that space for news of the upcoming book launch and future book signings.
Earth Baby Edition 2011 is published by Just Done Publishing, and the book is featured in their online shop.
This is the only place the guide is currently available. I hope to have copies in Fascination Books in the Heritage Market, Hillcrest, KZN fairly soon. If any other outlets are interested in stocking Earth Baby, I can be contacted via the Earth Baby page on Facebook. If you order copies, I will then feature you on the page as a stockist.
Any parent, male or female, who wishes to raise their child in a gentler way which is more harmonious with the Great Mother Earth, should buy this guide. It also makes a great baby shower gift.
“As a mother of three and a new born I found this book to be extremely informative and I wish that I had all this knowledge before my eldest girl was born- it would have made such a difference!”
 Across the UK in 2006, 18,953 of all births (741,952) took place at home, compared with 17,277 in 2005. This is an encouraging rise of 9.7% – from New National Statistics: Big increase in home births across UK on www.nctpregnancyandbabycare.com