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Bringing Up Baby Organically

There's a new movement under way to go green – starting from the first days of life.

What Does Going Green Really Mean? continued...

But when it comes to other, even more pricey organic products like diapers, baby clothes, bedding, and furniture, the waters get a little murky. There are no established "organic" standards and no one to answer to when false claims are made.

Some manufacturers interchange the terms "organic" and "natural" -- sometimes leading parents to assume something is safer than it is. For example, bedding that is made from all cotton -- a natural fabric -- can be labeled as "natural" -- but it can still be grown using pesticides and processed using a variety of chemicals.

But even when a product is believably certifiable, the question remains, does it make a difference? The answer, it seems, depends a lot on whom you ask.

According to Frank Greer, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, going organic has no real advantages.

"I believe there is almost no evidence to document any real health advantages to using these products for children," says Greer, who is also spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Pediatrician Sophie Balk, MD, is more open to the idea, but she says studies are still too limited to know for sure. And she doesn't routinely advocate organics in her own practice.

"There are few, if any, scientifically proven health benefits to buying organic foods, or any other 'organic' products," says Balk, a pediatrician at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City and the former chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health.

Does Organics Equal Common Sense?

But even without hard science, other experts say going organic simply makes good sense. Pediatrician Lawrence Rosen, MD, says one reason is that anything that reduces baby's exposure to nasty chemicals of any kind will have important health benefits.

"There's still definitely a gap between what we know to be true scientifically and what we theoretically think is true, but either way, avoiding even potentially damaging compounds, particularly with babies, can never be a bad thing, and it simply makes good common sense," says Rosen. Rosen is section chief of the division of pediatric integrative medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center and medical advisor to Deirdre Imus Center for Pediatric Oncology.

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