Monday, August 19, 2013

Babycare: finding natural and vegan alternatives... in France

France may be one of the least veg*an-friendly places to raise a baby.  Vegans are widely regarded as dangerous extremists, or crazy folks.  (Guess which one I am.)  Nevertheless, it is possible to purchase vegan-friendly babycare products even here.

Whether or not you buy natural, cruelty-free products will depend partly on your ability to pay -- not everyone can afford €14.25 for 1 litre of gel wash, or €3.90 for a pack of 70 wipes that will all end up covered in poo.  You can regard these as a sort of selective luxury, however: for our family, it fits into the household budget, since we don't spend any money on booze, cigarettes, nights out, or new clothes (except for baby, that is -- the clothes, not the booze).  Who needs nights out when you can be up all night with a 1-month-old?

Why buy natural?  Not all vegan products are 100% natural, of course (and not all natural products are vegan!).  You can certainly buy cruelty-free without buying petroleum-free or paraben-free.  However, many non-natural products have off-putting effects on our health and on the environment (e.g., petroleum-based creams have been linked to breast cancer and lipoid pneumonia).

Here's my list of plant-based alternatives to common babycare products (and one mamacare item as well).

Natural / vegan babycare alternatives

All-in-one baby wash and shampoo: Douce Nature

This all-in-one soap-free wash leaves baby smelling of calendula and of her own sweet self.  Hypoallergenic and very gentle, so it's suitable for babies with mild eczema.  Bonus points for the brand, which avoids non-vegan ingredients and does not test on animals.

Available in France from bébé-au-naturel.

Babywipes: Alphanova Nature

The packaging specifies that these wipes are "100% végétal".

These are alcohol-free, so you might want to choose a different brand that does contain alcohol, such as Naty Babycare Sensitive Wipes, if your baby often gets bum-rash.  [N.B. I have not been able to verify whether Naty wipes are vegan.]

Oily jelly for bums and other dry spots: Lush Ultrabalm (or home-made blend)

When you need a really thick, oily moisturizer, Lush Ultrabalm does the trick.  We used it on baby's face when she got mild eczema.  It is an effective, earth-friendly (and skin-friendly) alternative to petroleum jelly.

For an excellent (and cheaper) home-made alternative, melt 4/5 measure cocoa butter or shea butter together with 1/5 measure olive oil or other vegetable oil in a bain-marie or microwave.  Store in an an extremely clean glass jar.  (The measures are approximate -- you can adjust to suit your preferred texture.)  This is softer and therefore more convenient to use than cocoa or shea butter alone.  And if you use cocoa butter, your baby will smell like chocolate (for reals).

Moisturizing cleanser for bum area: Gifrer Liniment Oléo-Calcaire

I'm a fan of really simple, effective products like Gifrer's liniment.

This liquid moisturizing cleanser consists of nothing but olive oil and calcium hydroxide -- natural and perfect for vegans.  It's fantastic for gently removing the sticky meconium that babies poo in the first few days of their lives.  And it's a good post-bath moisturizer if needed.

Vegan mothers' nipple cream of choice: pure cocoa butter

Nipple creams soothe sore nipples -- especially in the first few weeks of breastfeeding, when you're getting used to the experience.  Sadly, most commercial nipple creams contain lanolin, an ingredient derived from sheep's wool, and most definitely not vegan.

Cocoa butter does not have the same properties as lanolin; it will not protect your nipples to the same degree.  However, it is good enough for most common-or-garden varieties of sore nipples, keeps your skin supple, and is harmless for baby, according to several pediatricians that we consulted.

I recommend melting a small blob of cocoa butter in your palms and rubbing it on sore nipples after your shower, or more often if needed.  I found it necessary at the beginning, but didn't need it at all after a couple of months.

And no sheep were harmed in the making of these nipples.

That's the complete list of babycare products that I use on a daily basis.