Toxic co-sleeping: the hidden dangers

Co-sleeping is currently controversial. There was a time when probably no one in the western world co-slept, and there have been MANY times throughout history when there was not one mother that DIDN’T co-sleep with her newborn. At the moment we’ve got a mix of both. Research will report all sorts of things, and there are definitely safe and unsafe co-sleeping practices, but ultimately it comes down to what you are comfortable with as a mom.

co-sleeping toxicI had no plan for newborn sleep. We didn’t even have a crib because I didn’t know if we would need it. We were given a hand-me-down bassinet and that was my backup. It turns out (much to the chagrin of my midwives) that I actually slept sitting up for the first couple of nights with my little munchkin secured to my chest in a Moby wrap. This is officially NOT a safe co-sleeping practice. However, it’s what worked for me. We had a home birth and no family around, so it was just the three of us to negotiate those first bleary-eyed days and nights. There was no one to pass the crying baby to, and she was only content in my arms (which seems fair considering her entire existence up to then was in my belly). So rather than risk falling asleep with her in my arms, I propped myself up safely, wrapped her securely to me (with airway open of course) and let myself lightly doze. I didn’t get any medication in labour so I do feel like I was as alert as a new mom needs to be, just as nature programmed us.

After those first couple of days, I was able to separate her from me by a few inches, swaddled and lying beside me on the floor mattress. As time went on we progressed further and further apart, with her migrating into her crib (yes we bought one!) full-time by the end of the fourth trimester.  I migrated back to my bedroom mostly because I felt all of my tossing and turning was waking her at night. With other healthy sleep hygiene practices we dedicated the effort into, she has very good sleep habits and I’m glad we put in the work so that she gently developed an independent sleep routine that she’ll carry with her throughout life. If she is sick or with travel we co-sleep still, but for the most part she is an independent woman, and is very happy to have her own sleep space in her own room.

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t protect her from the harmful chemicals most definitely leaching out of my standard big box store mattress. Mattresses are laden with fire retardants, sometimes antibacterials, and just generally off-gas VOCs from the materials used to fabricate them. My little kiddo was spending between 12-18 hours with her nose centimetres from the source. At least when I’m sleeping on that mattress there is a pillow barrier (assuming the pillow is of good origin). I’m sure she’ll have no long-term health impact from this toxic load, but I’m working so hard on all other fronts to minimize her exposure, that it seems crazy to have missed this intense dose.

Since then I’ve done my research, and here are the two best (and reasonable affordable options available in Canada).



Toxins – purging towards wellness

toxinsToxins are all around us. In the air, in our food, in most products we use on and around our bodies, and pretty much everywhere else. We have created hundreds-of-thousands of synthetic chemicals in short period of time, and many of these are toxins. We have not yet evolved to cope with this chemical burden. We must do our best to avoid them when we can, and improve our elimination of them when exposed.

When we are healthy, these toxins are naturally more easily eliminated from our body (although they do slowly accumulate). When we are sick, highly stressed or otherwise compromised the body is unable to eliminate these chemicals, and we sustain damage at a cellular level.

Though it seems obvious, taking care of ourselves means taking care of our environment, and by taking care of ourselves we incidentally reduce our burden on the environment. We buy products that won’t pollute our waters and landfills, we eat locally and reduce the fossil fuel cost of food, we spend more time in nature and connect more deeply with our ecosystem.

Living a low toxicity life is essential for all those wishing to live a truly healthy life.

Steps we take towards cleaning up:

  1. Awareness: we choose to make informed decisions about what we are putting on and in our bodies. We read labels, we ask vendors, and we look things up!
  2. Avoidance: the next step is to put in the effort to find a better alternative to products containing toxins.
  3. Elimination: we also need to purge our home of toxin containing items.
  4. Acceptance: we do our best, but it will be impossible to completely live without toxins, so once we’ve cleaned up as best as we can, we accept that chemicals are around us, and we’ll incorporate regular detoxification practices to reduce the toxic burden on our organs.


Most homes have poorer air quality than most factories. This is because of three reasons:

1: dust (which can contain toxic chemicals)

2: the large amount of synthetic materials we have in our houses which give off tiny amount of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s or toxic gas) and,

3: poor ventilation in getting dust and VOC’s out of the house.

  • Open your windows LOTS. At home, in the car, and at work. Indoor environments have way more airborne pollutants than outdoor air. This is usually from byproducts of “stuff” we bring into them, as well as from building materials.
  • Look into an IQ air filter for the bedroom (the dustiest place in the house). Most airborne chemicals are actually floating around attached to dust particles. Eliminate the dust particles and you significantly reduce your exposure.
  • Wash your sheets and pillowcases regularly.
  • Vacuum instead of sweep, and make sure your vacuum has a Hepa filter.
  • Get your air ducts cleaned, and install pleated electrostatic air filters.
  • Eliminate plastic food containers from your life, including water bottles and plastic wrap, and teflon too
  • Choose glass or stainless steel and cast iron instead
  • Reverse osmosis filter at home. Cost = $250
  • Microwaves reduce nutrient intake, heat up in the toaster oven or stovetop instead – DEFINITELY NEVER MICROWAVE IN PLASTIC!!!
  • Eliminate vinyl (a carcinogen and associated with birth defects) from your home as much as possible. Opt for cloth instead of vinyl shower curtain.
  • Get any carpet out of your home. A natural fiber rug that can be hung outside to air out periodically is fine.
  • indoor-plants-reduce-toxinsCarpets are either synthetic, or have been treated to make them more hard wearing and so give off large amounts of VOC’s (this also applies to their underlay or rubber backing).
  • Get indoor plants – these are good at taking the toxic chemicals out of your air and replacing them with oxygen.

Furniture is actually quite toxic. They are coated in fire retardants and are often made of chemical product that off-gas toxins. We can’t replace all of our furniture, but new items can be purchased from shops that have stopped application of fire retardants.

  • Buy furniture that is made out of natural materials if you can. Plastic gives off a high rate of VOC’s and should be avoided if possible. Wood, wool and leather are good.
  • Mattress options:
  • For your towels, curtains, sheets, etc., use natural fibres. This is worth it, particularly with your bedding and pillows as you spend so much of your time wrapped up in it.

Get rid of your toxic cleaning products. All of them. There are many homemade options or store bought earth-friendly ones too. Cleaning products are not required to list the ingredients in Canada, so even if it’s says bio/eco/ or whatever, we still have no idea what’s in there, and what harm it can do to us over time.

  • cleaning-without-toxinsWater
  • “Elbow grease” (muscle power)
  • Baking soda – great for absorbing smells and is good in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Vinegar – good for polishing glass, tiles, metal, mirrors, ceramic surfaces and floors. It is also a good if you have burned on cooking stains on your stainless steel cookware, soak them with vinegar for several hours, then scrub.
  • Lemon juice mixed with table or sea salt makes a good abrasive scrub for chopping boards and other rugged surfaces.
  • Eucalyptus Oil – removes stains and grease, is a mild antiseptic and an insect repellent
  • Cleaners made from citrus fruits (Orange and Lemon). These work really well for stubborn stains.
  • Borax (use this sparingly) – is a mildly abrasive cleaner, a water softener and an insect repellent.
  • Raw sea salt – a great bleach and stain remover.
  • There are a large number of microfibre cloths available now that clean very well without harsh chemicals. They are especially good for cleaning bathrooms, timber floors and dusting (which is very helpful for asthmatics and those with a dust allergy).
  • Avoid bleach at all costs, it is very neuro-toxic.
  • Dust more often, using a micro fibre cloth. Keep two or three cloths discretely stored around the house so you can whisk dust away before it accumulates. It is easier to dust one room while you’re there than to tackle a whole house once or twice a week.
  • A real bonus in cleaning your home in this way is that you will spend a lot less on cleaning products.
  • No chemical air freshners! Use aromatic essential oils instead.

Instead of looking for a healthier version of a personal care product, consider not using it at all anymore. You don’t need makeup, perfumes or anything else to shine yourself up. Nourish from the inside out. You’re clean and beautiful just as you are ☺

  • Get rid of anything that you don’t feel good about after looking it up on the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetic database.
  • makeup-without-toxinsOpt for buffed nails instead of polish.
  • Opt for coconut oil instead of moisturizers with two paragraphs of ingredients. Even the ones that imply healthy usually aren’t.
  • No chemical hair removal.
  • Only use natural deodorant. Showering with a strong tea tree soap will help kill the bacteria that cause stinky pits, thereby allowing a natural deodorant to do the trick.
  • Use natural toothpaste, and make sure you have wax coated dental floss (the fancier kinds can be coated with teflon).
  • Instead of mouthwash, do coconut oil pulling with a drop of antibacterial clove oil. Not only does it kill bacteria and freshen your breath, but it also nourishes your gums and can reverse receeding gums.
    • Coconut oil pulling: 1 tbsp + 1 drop clove oil for 10-20 mins daily (spit out, don’t swallow), following thorough brushing (3 mins) and flossing

GARDENING – Be careful not to expose yourself to toxic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides in the garden.

WORK – Do what you can to protect yourself from obvious chemicals in the workplace, and get fresh air as much as possible.

CAR – Open the windows LOTS! Car interiors have some of the highest levels of inhaled chemicals.


Research about EM frequency radiation is scarce, but better to be safe than sorry later on. There’s no harm in adopting some electromagnetic hygiene practices around the house —

  • Put all electronics (especially wifi router) on timer/power bar that you can turn off when not in use
  • Use headphones when talking on cellphone
  • If you use your phone as an alarm, turn it on airplane mode at night

sudbury naturopathSmall steps really add up. It might be hard to drastically overhaul your routines all at once, so instead pop some of these toxin hygiene practices into your calendar a month apart. There’s no rush to get started, but the sooner you’re living a toxin-reduced lifestyle, the longer the compounding benefit! And don’t forget do see your Naturopathic Doctor about your semi-annual cleansing program to clear your detox pathways, in order to better remove toxins that have already accumulated, and those that are unavoidable.