Cloth diapers, elimination communication, breast pumps … it can be so overwhelming when you’re trying to raise your baby (in general) -- much less a more natural way.
Canadian director Min Sook Lee dives into the subject of green parenting with her documentary My Toxic Baby, now on DVD. During her personal journey as a first time mother, she discovers many unpleasant things about toxins in baby clothes, baby toys, baby food and baby vaccines.
As part of her journey, we get to meet some interesting characters, such as a family that lives in a yurt, moms who choose not to vaccinate their children, and moms who avoid diapers. She unloads some heavy facts, such as that each kid uses a whopping 6000 diapers in their lifetime. And each disposable diaper takes around 300 years to decompose!
Lee, a Korean immigrant, questions mainstream Canadian and US parenting practices throughout the film, but not in a preachy fashion. Instead, she gives us a lens into an alternative way of living, beyond the Pampers and diaper-industrial-complex. Many of the characters are Asian Canadian moms and other moms of color.
You’ll see images of a mom breastfeeding and pumping milk, which you’d never see in mainstream media. (More of these images should exist, I believe). You’ll see a young baby peeing in the toilet. In most parts of the world, it’s common not to wear diapers; here, that practice been given the fancy moniker of “elimination communication,” a toilet training process that begins during infancy.
Lee asks good questions, such as why there are “kids’ meals” when most of the time, they are heavily processed and unhealthy. In most countries, kids just eat what their parents eat -- aka, family style. We meet a mother who takes the issue into her own hands by starting a catering company for preschools, made of fresh and mostly organic ingredients.
But the fear that comes with new knowledge and a quest to be the perfect parent to protect our little ones can be stressful and downright paralyzing. “When you start questioning the toxicity of ordinary things and practices around you, it’s like stepping into a rabbit hole. At some point, you have to ask yourself, how far down the hole do you want to go?” Lee asks in the film.
The film is more personal than activist. Lee is portrayed as a new mom discovering some ugly truths, which makes her a likeable character. We see her get her hair and blood tested for toxins, as well as her house for lead. Some of the results are shocking.
While the topic can be a downer, it’s better to go in with your eyes wide open. The filmmakers don’t go a step further to talk to government officials, to ask why there aren't stricter regulations on baby items, or delve into the truth behind vaccines. The changes shown in the film are made on a micro level, family by family. The question remains, what would it take for things to change on a bigger scale for everyone’s benefit?