We’re just discovering how important our choices are when it comes to deciding what we put inside and on our bodies, what we surround ourselves with, what we choose to spend our money on and what we apply to our skin – and how much that can impact our long-term health, not to mention the health of the planet. And once you know what’s good for your child, it’s hard to accept anything less than totally eco-friendly products for them.
When I first discovered a pack of WaterWipes two days after my second baby was born, after stumbling across them at the hospital pharmacy, I justified the Dh27 cost by promising myself I’d only try them out briefly and just for my baby’s first few months, when his newborn skin was extra sensitive and the idea of using anything with chemicals or fragrances on him left me wracked with guilt. “I’ll go back to regular, cheaper wipes when he’s older,” I said to myself.
The truth is, once you go “healthy,” it’s hard to go back. I have never been able to fall back into the habit of buying wipes with a long list of unpronounceable ingredients, cheap as they may be, even now that my child is approaching his second birthday. And I probably never will, because why should I use wipes saturated in chemicals and fragrances and who knows what else when I’ve found an alternative that’s made of only water and a miniscule drop of grapefruit extract — a natural skin conditioner.
Here’s how I see it: there’s more to being a healthy parent than opting for organic produce, or getting your kids to eat their broccoli and forsake their fries. Sourcing sustainable, non-toxic products for your children is part of making healthy choices in parenting and choosing to be a conscious — and conscientious — consumer. The products below are my “healthy” choices, because they are better for my child, they are better for the environment, and they just make me feel better about my parenting choices. In fact, most of them were invented by parents who care about the environment, or who are wary of harmful substances in the products they buy.
If, like me, you haven’t yet figured out sleep training nor how to get your children to touch an avocado, you can at least seek solace in knowing that you’re buying them — and the earth — better products.
I swear by these wipes, and I think they absolutely deserve their price tag. Every time I use them, it feels as if I’ve washed my baby’s face, hands or bottom with actual water; they’re that saturated with liquid – 99.99 per cent. I believe that claim completely: they have no fragrance, they leave no residue on the skin, they’re the only baby wipes approved by both Allergy UK and the National Eczema Association of America, and you wouldn’t believe how heavy each pack of wipes is compared to any other conventional brand. They’re so great that I have become immune to both their price tag and their added weight, and I heft them along with us when we travel. There’s something extremely satisfying about knowing that what you’re using on your baby’s skin is 100 percent safe, free of chemicals or toxins or anything at all that’s harmful — something gentle and safe. They were invented by a father who was trying to find a solution to his daughter’s repetitive diaper rash and hated using wipes full of chemicals on her sensitive skin. The WaterWipes worked a charm; they’re the closest thing to using just cotton wool and water.
To buy: You can find them at most Waitrose and Spinneys stores, but they are cheaper online from Mumzworld (Dh18.70 for one pack), as well as Baby Souk (Dh21), Sprii (Dh21) and Five Little Ducks (Dh23).
These diapers! I can wax lyrical about them all day long. Not only are they unbelievably cute — they come in leopard, palm and pineapple prints, or covered in kisses or watermelons or a collection of moons, stars and clouds, but they’re made out of sustainable bamboo and they are softer and more absorbent than any other product on the market. They even have wipes made of bamboo as well, and like the WaterWipes, they are also saturated with 99 percent water, as well as a little tea tree oil and coconut preservative. On top of all that, five percent of everything the company makes goes toward supporting children around the world through DubaiCares. They’re a UAE-based company that was launched just last year and they’ve honestly taken the diaper world by storm.
To buy: They’re now stocked in all BabyShop stores but you can buy them online from all the usual baby sites like Mumzworld, Sprii, Five Little Ducks and the like, as well as from www.pureborn.ae, Dh39 for a pack of 34 newborn diapers.
The Wobbel board
The Wobbel board is basically a balance board, described as a wooden toy that moves the young and the old. Its uses are endless; there’s no right or wrong way to play with it, there’s no instruction manual on how to use it. You can rock it, balance on it, push it, slide across the floor on it, spin it, flip it, sit on it, use it as a stool, a step ladder, a table, a tray for breakfast in bed, a seesaw with your siblings, a pretend boat or a resting place or a makeshift doll’s house. You can rest a newborn on it, or do yoga with it. You can watch your toddler cuddle up on it with a book and blanket, or use it as a slide, or turn it into a puppet stage, or crawl under it as if it were a tunnel. Just let your imagination, and that of your child’s, come up with endless possibilities on how to play with this versatile toy. Also, the quality is impeccable. A perfect example of Dutch design created by a mother and a father in the Netherlands, the wooden arch is made out of pressed sustainable European beech wood, treated with water-based paints and varnishes. Some options come covered in EKO wool felt, or sustainable cork – all-natural products – or pressed felt made of recycled PET bottles.
To buy: It’s available online from EcoSouk, starting at Dh520 for the smallest size.
Indie June organic cotton
Dutch mother-of-two Sanne Maarschalkerweerd named her small, Dubai-based business after her daughter, Indie June. She left a corporate job to sew children’s clothes made out of organic cotton; she sources all her fabric from Scandinavia and makes dresses, leggings, shorts and T-shirts for children. She started selling them online on Little Majlis, but can also be found at markets around town, especially the Ripe Market held Saturdays at Times Square. The clothes are a dream, printed with pandas, foxes, woodland animals, elephants, mice, monstera leaves, unicorns, hummingbirds – basically, anything super cute.
To buy: Find her at markets or check out Little Majlis online. Shorts start at Dh80, leggings at Dh90 and dressed at Dh140, and Sanne also takes custom orders if you’d like to create matching outfits for your children, whatever their age. She is also stocked at Little Wren, Five Little Ducks (two stores in Dubai and one opening soon in Abu Dhabi in Al Wahdal Mall) and Eggs & Soldiers.
Desert Chomp teethers
These teethers, which you can customize with your child’s name, are made using only biodegradable, eco-friendly and FDA approved materials. Each one is made from 100 percent food-grade silky soft silicone beads and if the teether also includes a wooden piece, which some do, then the wood is natural, non-splintering beech. And of course, the teethers are free from chemicals and compounds including BPA, lead, cadmium, phthalates, PVC and latex. This combination of materials means that the teethers are antifungal and antibacterial. I’ve had mine for close to two years and it’s in the same exact condition it was in when we bought it; with no strange odors and no fading. The brand also makes pacifier clips that are just as safe. And everything comes packaged in a reusable cotton pouch and stamped with the Desert Chomps logo in non toxic permanent ink. It’s such a beautiful and mindful gift to give a newborn’s mother.
To buy: Order from all the usual baby sites mentioned above, and find in-store (and online) at Eggs and Soldiers. Most start at Dh115.
Moxilicious baby moccasins
These moccasins are made in Dubai out of Italian leather that’s non-toxic, buttery soft and perfect for babies and toddlers. They are soft-soled, which is imperative for babies learning to walk, and yet durable, so that toddlers can wear them safely and confidently. They were my baby’s first shoes, and I’ve bought countless pairs since. They are so easy to slip on, so safe and so stylish. And because of the natural leather, they look better the more they’re worn, and yet they are easy to wipe clean. Created by two mothers, these shoes are a solid favorite.
Both of my children have projectile vomited on our Bumpamat, not to mention spilt milk, paint and even had a potty-training accident. Clean up took mere seconds, and for that alone, this easy-to-clean product is a favorite. Add to that, this playmat is also non-toxic, free of any BPAs, super durable, soft on the knees, water-resistant and long-lasting. Each mat comes in two different patterns: one side is an understated adult style in chevron, stripes, stencils or stars in gorgeously neutral colors, and the flip side is a fun and colorful layout of a town, complete with tracks for toy trains and cars, or a tropical jungle for toy dinosaurs, or a fairytale land perfect for tiny princesses. That makes it perfect for use anywhere in the house.
Yum by Mum meals
Photo courtesy Yum By Mum
Free of preservatives, free of salt and sugar, made of seasonal, locally sourced and organic produce, cooked fresh by mothers and delivered fresh to your doorstep – these baby, toddler and children’s meals are made in Dubai by two mothers and delivered throughout the UAE. In the evenings, a cooler box of freshly cooked food is delivered to your door, for the next day’s meals, and you end up feeding your children healthy, well-balanced meals cooked from scratch. I’m not sure what’s not to love.
To buy: Meals start at Dh14 for the individual meal, but there is a variety of subscription options and different types of meals for children of different ages. Orders are placed online on the Yum By Mum website.
Fifi & Friends
Secret confession: although they’re made for children, I use these products on my own hair, because the smell is so good. Created last year by mother and Formula 1 heiress Tamara Ecclestone, these baby bath products are all-natural and hypoallergenic, vegetarian bordering on vegan and wheat-free, as well as devoid of anything nasty like parabens, sulphates and silicones. The packaging is cute and simple, and they are safe to use on newborns.
Jack & Jill toothpaste
This Australian product is one I’ve been buying since my first child was born six years ago. It might be time to switch her over to regular toothpaste, but, to be honest, I’m loathe to do that. Both my children use it because it’s safe to swallow, contains organic calendula to soothe sore teething gums, and is free of fluoride, which is harmful in high amounts for little ones. Also, it’s free of dyes, sugar, BPAs and contains no preservatives, as well as being sold in minimal, recyclable packaging. I feel good buying it, my kids feel good using it, and the flavors it comes in are all-natural and delicious.
To buy: It’s pretty much everywhere these days. Sold at Ripe Market shops and at Five Little Ducks, and available online from all the baby websites in the UAE. It starts at around Dh26.
Two Abu Dhabi moms, frustrated with the lack of eco-products, created this line of bamboo plates that are stylish and sustainably made. Each has detachable silicone bases that suction-cup to whatever surface is in front of your child. Kids love to play with them, too. Available in a range of colours, they are free from plastic, BPA, PVC, lead and phthalates. Bowls and plates each come with a spoon, ranging from Dhs109 to Dhs139. Eco Rascals has free delivery in the UAE. Order through their website.
Chubby Cheeks Organics
Weaning is an important milestone but it can be a challenge making sure that your child gets all the nutrients they need. Enter the new company Chubby Cheeks Organics, a meal delivery service for children between six months and three years. They offer a range of packages for different tastes and timeframes, too. Some of the meals on offer including chia seed pudding, cauliflower pizza and apple pancakes. Weekly packages are available from Dh370. Order via [email protected]
Featured image: Courtesy Wobbel board
Hala Khalaf is a freelance journalist and mom of two living in Dubai, who has written extensively about health and diabetes.