Sunday, June 26, 2011

Baby Gifts

I'm taking a media vacation for the next week. So I leave you with this post as I enter my Sabbath away from technology and spend some time with my kiddies, husband and give my eyes and mind a break. And read a real book with real paper pages.

So I have some friends having babies. And I have been working on these little gifts. My teething gnomes! Aren't they so cute together. I think they are friends already. I think I like the one with legs more than the one's in the newborn sleeper. But both are cute.

I'm not really into wrapping paper, actually I just never remember to buy any and then a birthday comes up and I need some. So for this little gift I just made my wrapping out of a nursing blanket. I think I found 4 of these at my thrift store in their package for a buck.

And the little gnome and booties fit right inside. Todd is hand delivering this one so now we don't have to worry about the packaging getting a torn up in his bag. Fabric wrapping just holds together in a mans backpack just fine.

I found these cute little newborn pants at the thrift store (also seemed to be brand new) and so I made little set to match. The shirt has three little hearts (my favorite is the one on the sleeve) and then the bib and teething gnome.

All of my fabrics are recycled (except for the white chenille), and all the clothing was up-cycled into something cuter than what it was before. I bought the wooden teething rings from a wonderful little shop on Etsy, they are hand made, and have all organic bee's wax finish on them.

Even with a few bumps and misplaced threads up-cycled handmade gifts can still be cute, easy, fun to make, and special.

What are you creating this Summer?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Natural Cleaning... The End

What cleaning products are you going to use? Seriously this is what my house looks like right now so after this post I'm going to put all this to practice... or take the kids swimming and ignore the mess.

This is my last post about using chemicals in your home. While there are a few product that I make myself I also have some favorite products that I use. So I wanted to pass those on. I have used quite a few that are out there so I have been able to compare the different products.

Tub: I like this Seventh Generation Tub and Tile cleaner. My grocery store carries this line and every once in a while its on sale. I also get their online newsletter once a month and in it are several coupons. I print out the cleaning product coupon and get it with the store sale.

Toilet: I switch between Green Works and Bar Keepers Friend (the liquid one, not powder)

Mirrors: I normally just use water and then wipe dry it with a clean towel. And that's usually good enough. But once in a while I also use Trader Joe's Cleanliness is Godliness all purpose cleaner. LOVE IT. When ever I am in Atlanta I always stock up on this wonderful product. I use it for everything. And its only $1.99! And lasts for a long time.

Wood Floors

I alternate between hot water (as hot as my hands can handle) and Target's Method Squirt + Mop wood floor cleaner
(I love the almond scent).

Hot water and a fluffy dry towel

Counter Tops
Bar Keepers Friend if I need some scrubbing power (like around the stove area, or for a spill or stain) or my Cleanliness is Godliness.

Sinks, Random Messes, Pee on the floor, Sticky unknown's, and other mysterious messes.
Mrs. Myer's all natural all purpose cleaner Lavender scent!
This product is about $8 for 32 ounces. Which sounds like a lot but its concentrated, and will last you about a year or more. Seriously I think I bought mine about 2 years ago. And I use it all the time for my kitchen floor, and bathroom sink (and all the other things above too).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New Purpose for T-shirts

I have some favorite old t-shirts from college. I don't wear them all that much but I just can't get rid of them.

This is an old K-Life shirt, and a Gap shirt as the bias around the edges.

This was from our church back in Missouri. Each Summer's Kids Camp has a theme and this particular theme was Space. This was my Crew Member (volunteer) shirt. I used an old night shirt with giraffes as my bias for this one (that's the light blue fabric)

Superhero shirt handed down from a friend. I use a simple pattern. Recycled fleece from jackets I pick up at thrift stores. So far my favorite fleece is Land's End.

This one was a infant sleeper by Carter's. I love how soft their knit sleepers are. This one got some stain down the front so I couldn't pass it on... But it made a really cute diaper with no stains. I was able to use the snaps down the front of the sleeper as the snaps for the diaper.

If anyone wants my pattern leave a comment and I will do my first ever tutorial! Whoot whoot! I'm not really going to turn this into a sewing blog. NOT AT ALL. I promise. (I actually love sewing blogs and visit a few of them on a regular basis but I'm sticking with natural living for now) But I have had a lot of fun with these little recycled diapers. Using recycled Land's End fleece jackets, fun old shirts, and re-used snaps and Velcro. Its a fun way to give purpose to those shirts.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Clean That Baby!

Kids get messy, how do you know what bath products you can trust?

Most kids love bath time, all the toys, all the splashing, all the bubbles. OH the joy of water. But not all bath products are really all that clean.

To continue on with natural cleaning month, today we are not going to throw our babies out with the bath water. What are you looking for when choosing a bath product that will be absorbed into your baby's soft skin?

According to the Washington, DC based group Environmental Working Group (EWG) after testing more than 14,000 personal care products they found one-third of the products we use on our skin contain at least one ingredient linked to cancer (such as carcinogens). So how do we know what is okay to use for our children, or ourselves? How do we know that things "recommended by a pediatrician" are safe?

Well the simple answer to this is, get to know your products. However as we all know that takes time and research. So while I have done a lot, there is so much more out there. But there are a few great places you can check to see if what you are using is safe.

Environmental Working Group has Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. You can enter any product into their search and see its rating.

FDA's Prohibited Ingredients and Related Safety Issues

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
this one has a fun video too.

A few tips you can follow:
1. Never use powders
2. Never use aerosols
3. Ask yourself do I really need this? When it come to babies, less really is more.
4. Don't believe the natural product label. Because under the cosmetics law there is not definition of "natural" thus it is left up to each company to determine what that means.
5. Look for products that are plant-based.
6. Go fragrance-free... but still read your ingredients because many companies will use even more chemicals to cover the smells.

Remember less is more and your family can always use less chemicals when cleaning up from those messy days.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Babies and Natural Chemical Month Have a Date

A few simple thoughts about using chemicals around children.

1. Used clothing is always better (New always has foreign chemicals on it)

2. Used crib mattresses are always better (they have already out-gassed. Unless you can afford to purchase an organic filling one)

3. When redecorating your baby's room use low VOC paints (or no VOC). While they might be a little more costly regular paint will continue to put out harmful fumes (that trigger things like asthma) for years after your baby's birthday.

4. Try to buy soaps and lotions from trusted natural companies, such as Burts Bees.

5. Read baby food labels, many of the snack foods (such as baby gummies) by Gerber and other common brands have more sugar in the "for baby" food than if you were to by the same item not marketed for babies. Another example of this is the Organic Yo Baby yogurt from Stonyfield. It has more sugar than their other yogurts, and there is nothing special about Yo Baby to make it different than the yogurt you buy for yourself. Also babies don't need sugar, they don't know yogurt is supposed to be sweet. Add some mashed bananas or blueberries and they things its an amazing treat.

6. The best product for a baby is lipstick kissed all over their face.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Second Letter about Postpartum

Meeting our first baby, for the first time, the most amazing moment in our lives... The New Family

When I teach my classes, aside from Bed Rest, Your Rights and Responsibilities, and breastfeeding, I cover a few more things. One is The New Family and the other is Celebration. There are other things but I am going to focus on these final two for my second post on Postpartum Readiness.

The New Family
When a couple is about to welcome a new baby there is a lot of excitement, joy, things to get done, people to contact, baby showers, preparing the nursery, all the "things" babies need... so much energy goes into preparing for the new member who is about to join the family. But there are a few things that often get left out. And once again most OB's don't suggest what I am about to suggest so take notes.

Your Marriage
Its time to get the dirt out from under the rug, clean out the closets and go out for a movie. What I mean is this is a good time (pregnancy) to do marriage care. Or just spend some time together talking about becoming parents together, saying I'm sorry for hurt feelings, and listening to one another. The best cared for baby is not the baby with the Pottery Barn crib (not that there is anything wrong with that brand) or the most high tec monitor, name brand clothing and best strollers. The best cared for baby is the baby who knows his mommy and daddy love each other and together love him.

Your Family
This is the beginning of your new family. You are adding a member and you need to protect this time together. Because mom is on bed rest anyways dad its time for your rest too. While you might need to help around the house more, pick up a few extra tasks while mom is recovering, you do get some rest. But its a specific kind of rest. It is very important that the new family spends time together laying in bed. This is a great time for baby to be skin to skin with daddy (as baby is skin to skin with mama all day when nursing). Some people call this time a Baby-moon, like a honeymoon. Its the time when you lay together looking at your baby, smelling your baby, laughing together when he gets the hiccups, counting his toes, sleeping together, listening to your favorite music, being quiet, watching baby sleep and his eyes flutter and his chest rise with each breath. And all this time baby is breathing in your smells, laying on your chest and learning the rhythm of your heartbeat, and listening to the familiar sound of your voices. This is called falling in love. Many people don't know that's what its called, but its falling in love.

One of the wonderful things about having a baby is seeing your community of friends come in and surround you with meals and gifts, running errands or staying with mom if dad needs to leave for something. Having family around meeting your new little person and kissing and hugging your baby. This is all really great. BUT don't let it take over the time you need as a family to be together. Visitors are VERY draining on mom. I have a friend who has had several kids. With each kid she hangs a sign on the front door that says, "We love visitors thanks for stopping by to meet our new baby. If you plan on staying longer than 15 minutes know you will be asked to help with laundry, dishes or cooking." I love this because it lets people know, we are glad you came by, but please either be helping or understand that mama and baby might leave to be in bed. I think that a lot of new mamas and daddies think that when visitors come by they need to entertain them, be hospitable you know that sort of nice thing. Nope you do not. In fact if someone calls just as mama and baby are about to take a nap and says, "Hey we are in the neighborhood can we stop by and see baby?" you can say, "Mom is about to lay down can you come by in 2 hours we would love to see you." In those first few days baby is not on a schedule, everyone is on baby's schedule. If baby needs to nurse and mom wants privacy and needs to be in her room to calm herself and baby she has every right to do that. She does not need to feel like she is disappointing her visitors because she is protecting herself and meeting the needs of her baby. This is her job and only job, not being a good host.

You family might come to help. This is great think of jobs they can to ahead of time, and don't be afraid to ask them to do specific things. Here are ways family can help out.
*Cleaning (I asked my mom to detail my bathrooms after both babies were born--Awesome!)
*Laundry (get all those work shirts ironed! My grandma is really really good at this I saved this job for her)
*Organize that closet you never got to before baby was born
*Run Errands (this give you baby-moon time)
*Hold baby so mom can shower
*Hold baby so mom and dad can sit on the porch alone before the next feeding
(grandmas and grandpas don't see holding baby as a job really)
*Grocery Shopping

These are all things you can ask for help with. My grandma took me to get sized for nursing bras. It was a huge gift and help to have someone with me to hold baby, and drive and know I needed to move slow and nurse (note I did this at 8 weeks postpartum so don't you go rushing out to get bras at the mall... the mall is the worst place to take a baby under a month... under 4 months... ever really).

Now this is another area you need to be able to stand up for yourself. This is the beginning of your family. Its okay if the new family needs time alone in bed away from grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles. Its okay to take baby to bed and have alone time with your baby. In fact many babies NEED this because its too over stimulating. Imagine, you are new to the world, your senses are having all their "firsts", first smells, first shades of lights, first sounds, and its all so bright and loud its not muffled by the fluid and belly. This is very exhausting for baby and baby needs a break.

and finally...


Happy Birthday little Owen Thomas!

This is my favorite part. You need to find a way to celebrate the birth of your baby. This is your baby's first birthday. So... celebrate it! This makes the whole thing fun and exciting. We did birthday cakes for both babies. I also made a special meal for Marin's birth (I froze it a few weeks before her due date) and we took our cake and meal to the birth center and after she got pushed out we had a party. I was of course laying in bed but eating my own food was so very comforting (if you are going to the hospital its likely you will not get to eat during labor and so you are going to be FAMISHED after labor). This can be something you ask grandma to do, "can you bring us dinner/breakfast/lunch we just had our baby?" This is one of my favorite birth stories ever. While there is some heartbreak in it (that is overcome with joy later, but its still a tear jerker of a story), I love seeing how this family was so prepared to celebrate their daughters birth. I love the room full of friends toasting her arrival, I love that amidst the shock of what is going on, there are friends and family there after the birth to celebrate and drink Champagne together. I have been to births where the older siblings come running in wearing birthday hats and sing to the new baby. There are so many things you can do to celebrate the birth of your baby. DO IT, THINK ABOUT IT. How will you celebrate the birth of your baby?

Here is another video, its a knock off of the Reflections of Motherhood from the last post.

Hope you all have a good Sunday, get some rest!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Letter to a Friend

I have two friends about to give birth to their first baby. I always feel sad when my friends live far away and they have babies. I'm not sad about them having babies obviously, but because I love taking care of postpartum families, I want to be close to and care for my loved one's when they are having babies.

So as I was thinking about these special people in our lives experiencing the joy of meeting this new little human, together, the beginning of a journey. I love new babies, I love seeing mommies become mommies and daddies become daddies and mommies and daddies coming together to love and protect this new little complete person. And I get all teary thinking about people I love saying, "Hello little one, I knew it was you inside this whole time." I wanted send them an email saying, "Here's what you need to know for postpartum that they don't tell you when you leave the hospital."

But then I realized that I have never made a post about this and so instead of sending out two emails or letters I thought it was about time to make this a post. So I share with you all what I teach in my postpartum classes. I put the class together over a year ago and have been teaching it for a while. What I teach is not new in the postpartum doula world, but every time I teach a class my parents who have had babies before always say, "Why did no one tell me this before? My OB never said this stuff."

So here is what your OB will never tell you as you prepare to have a baby:

Your Rights
You have rights as a patient in the hospital. Thanks to Bill Clinton and his administration all people entering any hospital in the US has Rights and Responsibilities. When giving birth here are yours:
1. The right to completely understand what is being done to you. You have the RIGHT TO ASK QUESTIONS before any procedure is done to you.

2. The right to know the risks and benefits of these procedures.

3. The right to know about other options.

4. To be with your baby at all times. This also includes if your baby is in the nursery, the dad can go with that baby. AND YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO HOLD YOUR CRYING BABY. If your baby is laying in the little warmer, or cradle waiting for an exam or something, and getting upset you have the right to hold your baby (and your baby should be held, skin to skin always). **Obviously if your baby is needing some life-saving procedure you will know the Doc's need to be examining your baby. But you can continue to speak to the baby which is one of the most calming ways to care for your new baby.

OK on to the other things I want to share with you:

Bed Rest
When you give birth you MUST submit yourself to FIVE days (this is the minimum) of bed rest. Five days is not a random number, and if you had any "trauma" (i.e. c-section, forceps, tears/stitches) add 2 more days. You are on bed rest for five days because of what your body is doing in those five days.

1. Recovering from pregnancy. During pregnancy all the nutrients and energy of your body goes into the health and survival of the baby. This is the way all female mammal bodies work (this is why the "pregnancy cold" lasts so long).

2. Recovering from birth.

3. Stop bleeding. The longer you bleed the less energy you have to produce milk.

4. MILK PRODUCTION! As a first time mom your milk will come in between days 3-5 and as late as day 7. You need a lot of rest and nutrition and water to make this process work.

HEY DAD-- this is the best way you can care for mom during her first few days home. Protect her by making her rest. If she moves from the bed to couch, you bring baby-water-snack-pillow-blankets whatever she needs. Every time she sits down bring her a snack and glass of water. In those first five days home she needs someone taking care of her. The more she is cared and the greater her support system, the quicker she will heal, recover and have greater success breastfeeding. And the less she will experience "baby blues" or worse postpartum depression.

While most hospitals offer a breastfeeding class, there are a few things most leave out.

Breast Production
1. The breast needs to be stimulated at least 8 times in the first day. This will establish your milk supply. If your baby does not have a good latch, the mother can use a pump or hand to stimulate some of the colostrum to come out.

2. You Are ENOUGH for your baby. Your baby needs NOTHING but you. YOU ARE ENOUGH!!!!

3. Ask your nurses to not give your baby a pacifier until you and baby have learned how to successfully latch. (That is usually a few days into nursing). The reason for this is that the rigid-ness of the pacifier will teach the baby how to suck the breast nipple incorrectly. Both of my babies are paci-babies. So I am not judging anyone who chooses to use a paci. But for the sake nursing success don't use the paci until you and baby have learned to latch.

Owen Thomas learning how to nurse

4. When you deliver at a hospital you will be given IV fluids. While there are many benefits to these fluids there is one that is very negative. To be crass it will shrink your nipples. Yep, its true. It will swell up your breasts and cause your nipples to invert. Thus you can see the problem arising for an infant. There are two solutions to this potential problem; the most common is the breast shield. However once again you are dealing with a rigid nipple that will teach your baby how to suck improperly (not all, but most women who are shown how to nurse with a shield have low supply because the baby never learns how to draw the nipple into the back of his mouth and thus it does not properly stimulate the milk responders). The second solution is to warm your hands and press on the breast around the nipple and the nipple will come back out. That easy.

5. Natural does not equal easy. Both mama and baby have to learn how to nurse. Its an awkward little dance in the beginning and there can be complications, like tongue tie, or like my first child being born with TEETH! I always hand out all the phone number of every lactation consultant in our town. You need to find out who your's is. Not the one that the hospital offers because you have to go in for an appointment. Its better to pay a local lactation consultant to come and see mama and baby in your home. It is worth every penny you will pay to have her come in your home and work with mama and baby and help them nurse together. Its the best investment you can make. Find your lactation consultant today and write her number on a slip of paper and put it on the fridge. This goes the same for your local Le Leche Legue leader. Know her number, give her a call and chat over the phone about your questions. The number one reason I say this is because every LLL leader is also a mother and has nursed therefore she is a peer and understands what you are going through. She really does. When it seems no one else understands what you are going through your LLL leader does and she is an advocate for you too.

6. Most nurses have never been taught how to teach breastfeeding to new moms. If your nurse is not being helpful you have the right to ask for another nurse who knows how to teach you how to do this. Or better yet ask for the lactation consultant. If mom is getting frustrated, flustered, scared, or upset she needs someone to help her calm down and remember that she can do this, that she is ENOUGH for that baby. Sometimes nursing is fun and easy and sometimes mom's cry a lot, and baby cries a lot and its not so fun. But it can become a wonderful and beautiful experience and of course the benefits of breastmilk cannot be matched. It is your responsibility to know your resources, very few hospitals do. Visit a LLL meeting before you have a baby. Seeing other mamas nursing and hearing their stories is soooooooooo helpful to a new mama.

HEY DAD!--- you can help with breastfeeding too. You can bring baby to mama, help her situate pillows, bring her a glass of water each time she nurses, she needs snacks too. Another way dad can help is to learn how to calm baby while baby is waiting (secret, use your pinky finger. Turn the bottom of your pinky up and touch the roof of your baby's mouth with it. Ohhhhh baby's love this, usually).

OK this will be two parts I'll do another post another date. Taking a two hour class and putting it into writing is too difficult and too long. I covered my two big topics.

More soon. Man now I'm in the middle of my Natural Cleaning Month and Postpartum Readiness. That's a lot!


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Household Chemicals for Babies

The largest chemical exposure that babies have is right under our nose... or more like right under their bottoms. Disposable diapers contain a cocktail of chemicals that many parents are completely unaware of. And many of us believe that if the word "baby" is on the packaging than its safe for baby. This is not always the case.

The following chemicals are present in almost all of the non-natural (huggies, papmers).

Dioxin (your friendly carcinogen byproduct of bleaching/chlorine)

Toluene (found in glues, and harmful when "out-gassing". Meaning when baby is breathing the fumes from their diaper)

Sodium Polyacrylate (the absorbent beads, not so much a hazard in diapers that are changed regularly... but it makes you wonder about the overnight diapers)

Toxic Waste that is non-Biodegradable. This is our biggest landfill problem in current history. The average baby puts one ton, that's two thousand pounds, of non-biodegradable toxic material into the landfill by the time they are two years old. These diapers will still be in the landfill when they are putting their first grandchild into a diaper (and their great grandchild too). Why is this a problem? Because as the plastics and chemicals in the diaper break down they leak those chemicals into our ground water.

What are the solutions? The first solution and the least expensive is cloth. I know I have said this before but, cloth diapers no longer are pins and folding. They are way cuter than disposable one (not to brag, but once you start using those cute colors and prints you can't go back, you get a little snobby about it actually. I mean look how cute that recycled K-Life t-shirt diaper is!).

Another option would be to use natural diapers such as the one's I mentioned above, Seventh Generation and Gdiapers. They use more natural paper products and no bleaching. They are more biodegradable and breakdown in a few years (vs. 500). Many of these diapers are the same price as the other disposable diapers if you have them "drop shipped" from Amazon, print the coupons, or go to places like

My new hobby (like the hobby of the week) is making Owen cloth diapers out of our old t-shirts that we loved at one time. In the picture above I used one of my old K-Life shirts from when I was a youth mentor. I used to love this shirt and its really cute as a diaper as it has Arnold on it saying, "whatchu lookin' at". Which is really cute on a baby's bottom.

***I am going to post my pattern for making cloth diapers out of 100% recycled fabrics (Including the snaps!) keep posted for my first tutorial!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Making Your Own Cleaners

Many people think that switching to natural cleaners is expensive. And they can be if you buy top brands from your local health market. But you probably have all the ingredients in your house already to make your own natural cleaners. You can make them out of things you already use. You can also find all sorts of recipes online for making your own cleaners for specific projects. Sometimes I treat myself to something special like a jug of Mrs. Myers (I like the all purpose cleaner) it makes my bathroom smell sooooo good. Oh wait that's not the point, you don't need expensive cleaners you can make your own.

I will post other recipes throughout this month and post other things about cleaners and other products we use in our homes. But for now I am short on time and will give you just a few to start with.

Kitchen Sink Cleaner:
2 ingredients
Baking Soda
Boiling Water

Directions: 1 fill tea pot with water and heat. 2. Sprinkle baking soda and scrub out sink. (you will find that the most stained sinks will return to white, or silver with a little baking soda--if your sink is particularly stained you can use Barkeepers Friend). 3. Rinse sink out with boiling water.

***so your baking soda will clean your sink, and the boiling water will disinfect it.

Toilet Cleaner:
1 Ingredient

I love borax, you can sprinkle a little of it in your toilet and scrub away. You can also use borax for all sorts of things, like washing your cloth diapers, pouring it on ant hills, you can remove rust if you mix it with lemon juice...

OK more to come and more exciting things in store.

Keep it simple and enjoy the beginning of Summer! We just went blueberry picking this morning for the first time of the season. We met some friends out at the farm and picked a whole two pounds... Owen ate two pounds of green berries and sand, and Marin ate another pound of actual blue berries so I threw an extra dollar in the can.

this was taken last year I'll post some this year pictures of Owen eating sand and Marin collecting berries


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Old Post

I came across this post I never published... its from New Year's Eve.
You are a parent when...

You have friends over for New Year's Eve and you find this on the table...

Check list:
local cheese-check
bread from favorite bakery-check
homemade toffee and salsa-thanks friends
baby monitor-check
sippy cup-check...