Within their detailed report, the governing body stated that parents are beginning to make their own baby wipes at home as a way of being frugal and health-conscious. While the intentions seem admirable, it appears that this could be causing babies more harm than good.
IFA, a registered UK charity, has voiced its concerns on the trend—particularly in reference to the addition of essential oils within many DIY wet wipe ‘recipes’. Essential oils are not suitable for young babies and can be potentially damaging to their skin. Homemade wet wipes are usually created using bamboo sheets or flannels that are soaked in sterilised water. Other substances are added for freshness and skin healing—witch-hazel and aloe vera are common additives. Finally, the wipes are finished with the inclusion of some essential oils such as lavender or orange blossom. Parents tend to keep them in an accessible airtight container.
IFA’s chairman, Colleen O’Flaherty-Hilder, stipulates that while parents’ intentions are good, they may not be aware of the chemical composition of essential oils or their potentially harmful effects.
Such trends have recently intensified in parenting circles, spread through online forums such as Mumsnet. The decision to copy commercial reusable wet wipes comes as a result of concerns on the amount of chemicals being used within consumer products. Top brands such as Huggies and Pampers have recently been criticised for their addition of various parabens and other possible irritating chemicals such as benzyl alcohol and phenoxyethanol. Under closer inspection, parents have discovered that some baby-focussed products have been given high hazard ratings—a concern to children and parents alike.
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Unfortunately, parents’ attempt to make safer alternatives from home has resulted in more confusion on the topic. O’Flaherty-Hilder comments: ‘Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils is a subject that takes a lot of studying to master and to fully understand the chemistry which defines an essential oil.
‘While it might have a pleasant odour, the chemical composition of the oil could be irritating to the skin, or even become toxic, as the oils are absorbed into the blood stream of the baby via the skin.’
The IFA recommends seeking professional advice for anyone with concerns or queries on the matter. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines suggest not using skincare products on newborns at all. Instead, they endorse using only plain water for the first month of a baby’s life—apart from the occasional use of a little nappy cream. This advice is mirrored by the Royal College of Midwives.
For parents who still wish to make their own reusable homemade wet wipes, the IFA urges them to consult an IFA-qualified aromatherapist first for detailed guidance.
It is important to check the label before purchasing any wet wipes for your child. While some brands include harsh chemicals and perfumes, there are others available with very few additives at all. Water Wipes are one such example, including only two ingredients—99.9 percent purified water and 0.1 percent grapefruit seed extract—they are a safer option for parents on the go.
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