Happy Healthy Child- A DVD series for an informed pregnancy

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I want to start this post by saying that just because I opted for an all-natural home birth for the birth of my son, I do not believe that everyone should do the same.  I believe that women should give birth where they feel most safe.  If that means in a hospital setting, and in the care of a OBGYN/surgeon, then that is where they should give birth.  One thing I feel VERY strongly about though, no matter where you plan on giving birth, is that you should be educated about pregnancy, and the birthing process so that you can make all of your choices (where to birth, who you want in the room, epidural, vaccinating, vitamin k shot, circumcision, etc) from an informed place. This is what I like to call having an “informed pregnancy”.  There is so much power in it.  It is about understanding the miraculous process that your baby and body are going through, what the natural stages of labor are, and what your body is designed to do.  When you know what your body is doing and what to expect, it eliminates the fear that many women have around birth.   Now, some people might be thinking, “Why do I need to know all that?  My doctor knows what to do and I’ll just leave it all in their hands”.  Well, I believe that way of thinking leads to many unnecessary interventions (pitocin, epidural, episiotomy), unnecessary cesarean sections and most of all, it leaves many women feeling disconnected from and disappointed in their birth experience.  On the other hand, being educated on, not only pregnancy and labor/birth, but also on all of the options in the hospital (fetal monitoring, pain relief, routine newborn procedures, and more) empowers couples to be active participants in their birth experience.

For me to get to this place of knowledge with all things pregnancy, labor and birth, I read many books, watched dvds, went to multiple classes/workshops, and talked to many experts.  Well, I have just come across a DVD series that has all of this valuable info in one place and looks amazing.  It is called Healthy Happy Child.  I have not watched them yet, only the trailer, but I can tell based on the experts that are interviewed that it is totally on track with what I believe and that it’s number one goal is to educate couples in an effort for them to eliminate fear around pregnancy, labor and birth and to empower them to take an active role in the birthing process instead of a passive one.  And that, I am all for.

You can watch the trailer here and get information/buy the dvds here.

Safe Sunscreen!- EWG’s 2013 Sunscreen Guide

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The same organization that brought you the Guide to Healthy Cosmetics and the Guide to Healthy Cleaning, has now brought you a Guide to Safe Sunscreens! The Environmental Working Group is the nation’s leading environmental health research and advocacy organization.  Their mission is to serve as a watchdog to see that Americans get straight facts, unfiltered and unspun, so they can make healthier choices and enjoy a cleaner environment. I am so thankful for the work that they do.  So before you start slathering on the sunscreen this summer, search your products on EWG’s Guide to Safe Sunscreens to make sure what you are using is safe and non toxic!

The Greater Good- The truth about vaccines

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My husband and I watched an eye-opening and thought-provoking documentary last night called “The Greater Good”.  I got all fired up because I learned so many facts about vaccinations and vaccination policy in this country that I just didn’t know. First of all, did you know that in the 1980’s children were recommended to get 23 doses 7 different vaccines, and in the 2010’s children are now recommended to get 69 doses of 16 vaccines?!!  That is nearly three times more!!  I’m also not convinced that it’s a coincidence that during the same time period of this rise in vaccinations that there has been a huge rise in chronic disease and disabilities in children.  1 in 110 children has autism and 1 in 6 children has some form of neurodevelopmental disorder.  Something is not right here.  Now, I’m not saying that it is only vaccinations that are contributing to this, but as Barbara Loe Fisher (president of the National Vaccine Information Center) says in this quote, it would be silly to not consider it a possibility.

“Vaccine safety is not just about autism.  Autism is only one kind of brain and immune dysfunction that is associated with vaccinations.  Millions of children in America are chronically ill and disabled, and during this same time period that the numbers of doses of vaccines have more than tripled, we have seen this explosion of chronic disease and disability.  To take off the table the use of a pharmaceutical product, like a vaccines, as a potential cofactor in this explosion of chronic disease and disability among our children is irresponsible. ”

Unfortunately, just like many other industries in our country, the pharmaceutical industry is a revolving door with the policy makers in Washington.  On the board of the ACIP, the organization that approves vaccine policies in our country, sit several doctors who have a direct financial interest in these vaccines.  This is a huge conflict of interest!!!  Not to mention that the majority of vaccine research is paid for by the vaccine manufacturers themselves. So the people approving the vaccines are just taking the word of the vaccine companies that these products are safe.

When a promising drug comes forward, the FDA has a process that they call “fast tracking”.  This is what happened with Gardasil.  You know, the one you see ads for all over tv urging you to become “one less” cervical cancer death by getting the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine.  Merck, the maker of Gardasil had a 4 year safety trial scheduled, but after 15 months they went to the FDA and asked for it to be fast tracked.  The FDA said yes, and it was approved within 6 months.  As soon as this happened, Merck stopped their trial because their drug was already on the market.  Therefore, we do not know the long-term side effects of this vaccine.  In my opinion, no vaccine, particularly one that is meant for children should ever be fast tracked!!  Since Gardasil has been licensed, there have been more than 18,000 reactions and adverse events reported, with 85 of these being deaths….and the government’s response has been that all of these events are a coincidence.  What I find most fascinating about this vaccine in particular is that according to Dr. Diane Harper, one of the world’s top experts studying HPV, the death rate in the US from cervical cancer is 3 per 100,000, that is less than 1% of cancer deaths each year.  You have a higher chance of dying in a car accident.  So why are they pushing this drug on our children when it seems that the benefits do not outweigh the risks??  One thing comes to my mind: $$$

Now here is where it gets even more sick.  If you or your child were to get injured by a vaccine, you cannot sue the vaccine manufacturer.  Because it “wasn’t profitable” for the vaccine manufacturers to have to pay out lawsuits on vaccine injuries, the government stepped in, stopped all lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers, and created what’s called the Vaccine Compensation Program.  (This is where it gets crazy!!)  Guess who pays for the compensation that people get when they have a vaccine injury?  YOU!!!  Yup, the money that comes into this fund is from a tax that Americans pay every time they get a vaccine.  About 2 billion dollars has been paid out of this fund and there is about 3 billion dollars left.  So, the vaccine makers, who stand to generate $21.5 billion in annual sales, have zero accountability for the harm their products may cause to the public.  I don’t know about you, but that does not sit right with me.

These facts are just a taste of the information you will find in “The Greater Good”.  I recommend that everyone watch this film whether you have chosen to vaccinate or not!!  I am not intending to make anyone feel bad or guilty about the choices they have made, nor am I saying that I oppose vaccinations.  But I believe it is important for us all to understand what is really going on in our country, and that you (sadly) cannot always trust that the government agencies that were put in place to protect you are always right.  It is all about making informed decisions. We all deserve to have the full information about the benefits and risks of vaccines and the ability to make a voluntary choice on whether or not we want to accept those risks.   Vaccinating is a very personal decision and I think everyone needs to weigh out their own risks (risk of exposure to disease, family history, etc.) and do what they believe is best for their family. Part of doing that is understanding the risks and benefits of the vaccines themselves.  I urge you all to do your own due diligence when it comes to vaccinating so that you can feel confident about the decision you make for your family.  Below are some great resources…

The Parents’ Concise Guide to Childhood Vaccinations By: Dr. Lauren Feder

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The Vaccine Book By: Dr. Robert Sears

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The Greater Good

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You can’t be what you can’t see…

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I’ve had my sweet 12 year old niece with me all week during her spring break.  12 is such an interesting age.  On one hand they are mature and smart, and on the other hand they are still an impressionable kid looking to find their way in the world.  It just reminded me how much our kids are watching us.  They learn from watching what we do, how we respond to things, how we talk about others and what we think about ourselves.  They are learning how to move through this life and without the proper example they can really get lost.  So today, remind yourselves that you too are being watched and observed by the little ones in your life, and choose to show them how to be confident, conscious and kind.  Happy Friday!

“You can’t be what you can’t see.” – Marian Wright Edelman

Non toxic bath time: Healthy alternatives to vinyl bath mats and shower curtains

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When it came time for my son to take baths in the “big boy tub”, I needed to find a nice, big bath mat so that he wouldn’t be slippin’ and a slidin’ all over the place.  I started doing research and found that most bath mats are made of vinyl (or PVC) which I learned is completely toxic. It is made with chemicals that are linked to liver damage as well as damage to the central nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems and will off-gas and leach out into your bath water.  The same goes for vinyl shower curtains.   You know that “plastic-y” smell when you open it?  That is the off-gassing of toxic chemicals you’re smelling. Nice…

In this modern world we live in, we are constantly surrounded by toxic chemicals. But there are simple ways to limit your exposure, and this is one of them.  Buy a non toxic bath mat and shower curtain.  Below are a few options!

Hemp shower curtain-  These are pricey, but apparently well worth it.  Hemp is a strong and durable fabric, is water-resistant (ships sails are often of hemp canvas), and is naturally resistant to bacteria and fungi. These will air-dry quickly in a well ventilated bathroom, and can be used alone or as a liner.  http://www.arenaturals.com/Hemp-Shower-Curtain_p_216.html

EVA shower curtain- This shower curtain liner is made of EVA, which is a type of vinyl that does not contain chlorine.  supposedly, it is non toxic and does not off-gas like PVC.  I still would prefer a natural material, like hemp, but this would be a good option if budget is an issue.  http://amzn.to/XjAqCH

100% natural rubber bath mat- These are non vinyl, non chlorine, non-phthalate, made from 100% natural rubber.  Rubber will have a smell to it, but rest assured it isn’t toxic. It is also machine washable. http://www.vitafutura.com/mats/details.asp?fam=00301

TPE bath mat- This bath mat is made from TPE (Thermo Plastic Elastomer), which is a type of plastic that supposedly does not leach toxins and is safe.  Again, I would prefer the all natural rubber option, but this is definitely better than using a vinyl mat.  http://amzn.to/ZM6O0Z

Paper Culture- Buy 30 get 10 free now!

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I’m always looking to support companies that are socially and environmentally responsible.  So when it came to my holiday cards last year, I wanted to find a company that used recycled paper.  Well, I found something even better.  Paper Culture.  They are an online printing service that not only uses 100% recycled paper for their cards and envelopes, but recycled paper products for their packaging, the company is carbon free AND they plant a tree in your honor with every order.  I ordered pretty last minute and they arrived before the new year.  Plus, at no added charge except for the stamp, they printed the addresses on the envelopes and sent them out for me!  I think they are awesome and our holiday card looked great.  They do everything from beautiful invitations to adorable announcements and right now they are having a sale: buy 30 get 10 free.  Check ’em out!

http://www.paperculture.com/

Must-haves for your 1 year old+

By special request, I am following up my baby registry must-have list with this must-have list for your baby who is 1+.  As your little one starts growing, eating on his own and running around, your needs are gonna change.  My guy is 18 months now, and below is a list of things that are tried and true.

Stroller: We love our City Mini GT.  I have friends who love their regular City Minis too, but I chose the GT (even though it is a little heavier) because the bigger wheels are better for different terrains.  I have found it to be perfect for our needs.  He seems comfortable, it lies flat, blocks the sun well, rolls smooth, travels well and isn’t too heavy to take in and out of the car myself. Done. http://amzn.to/Z1qHSw

Car Seat:  Pretty much any car seat that is on the market is good.  They all have to meet certain safety requirements, so I would just choose one you like that is in your price range.  We have the Britax Boulevard and it is great.  I like the ones that have the side impact safety feature.  http://amzn.to/12yI4Az

Jammies:  I have found that Old Navy’s one piece jammies work great.  They aren’t super soft, but my son seems comfortable in them and they get softer with washing and wearing.  They are pretty cheap, which is good for us, cause we need to go up a size every few months!  Plus they are cute and have good grips on the feet. http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=303766&locale=en_US&kwid=1&sem=false&sdReferer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.oldnavy.com          %2Fproducts%2Fbaby-boy-sleepers.jsp

 

Bowls and plates:  Toddlers can really make a mess while eating.  These bowls by Sugarbooger have a suction cup bottom and are non toxic.  They keep the bowl in place so that your little one can’t flip it over.  I bought the plates as well, but unfortunately they didn’t stick well and were a pain in the ass.  We started using them again recently without the suction cup bottom part (now that my son doesn’t throw the plate) and they work great. http://amzn.to/10oo3ez and http://amzn.to/X0OupU

Disposable Place Mats:  The Green Sprouts disposable placemats have been a godsend for us!  We love to go out to eat as a family on the weekends and these keep my son’s mouth off the (probably not so clean) table and contain his food mess.  We chose this particular brand because they are biodegradable, non toxic and come with non toxic soy crayons. We stick it on the table first thing and he either colors on it or just plays with his toys on it, then I place his food directly on it to eat off of, then when he’s done I just wrap it all up and voila!  Love.  http://amzn.to/ZkytWy

Catch all bibs:  The Baby Bjorn bibs are seriously genius.  They catch the food my son drops while eating and then he picks it back out and eats it!  It keeps him clean, prevents wasting food and helps keep food off the floor.  Super easy to clean too.  They come in a two pack and really that is all you need.  Seriously don’t even try another brand, these rock.  http://amzn.to/13KaJCk

Sippy cups:  Now that your baby is drinking water more you’ll wanna have sippy cups readily available.  I wanted to find spill proof, non toxic ones that were easy for him to hold and the Green Sprouts straw sippy cups were perfect.  Exactly what you want out of a sippy cup.  http://amzn.to/YFKtEh

Books:  Around the age of one you’ll want to encourage talking in your child by reading them first words books.  This was one of my sons favorite books.  It’s filled with pictures of things from common household items to animals to shapes and colors.  When we read it together, he’ll just point to things in the book and want me to tell him what they are.  I usually give this as part of my gift when I go to a first birthday party.  http://amzn.to/XWzOG8

Toys:  The toys that I have found the most useful since my son as been a little older are A) toys that occupy him when we are at a restaurant, B) toys that occupy him while we are in the car, and C) toys to take to the park.  For the restaurant (and this will be different for every kid) , my son loves playing with little cars that he can roll on the table.  For the car, my son’s favorite toy is the Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes.  We call it his “iPod” and it keeps him occupied forever.  Highly recommend this one!  http://amzn.to/XWAnQh For the park, you want to get cheap toys that you won’t mind losing, getting dirty and letting other kids playing with.  It is inevitable that your kid will wanna play with other kids toys so you should bring something to trade.  Your kid will play with another kids truck while a different kid plays with the toys you brought, it’s just the way it goes.  Some good park toys are: balls, shovels, buckets, trucks and cars, and push toys.  TIP: Write your child’s name on your park toys in permanent marker so they don’t get confused for someone elses.

Clothes:  As your baby starts to walk and go to the park more often, the thing you want to look for most in clothes is comfort and versatility.  I rarely put my son in denim, because I feel like it restricts his movement.  Instead I look for pants that are cotton, yet still stylish, like these ones from Gap: http://www.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=7143&vid=1&pid=377801002 and these http://www.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=7143&vid=1&pid=303134012. Then I get tee shirts, long sleeve tees, a few hoodies and one or two jackets for really cold days.

Shoes: When my son first started walking we put him in these great thin leather shoes that were easy to get on.  http://www.bobuxusa.com/site/index.html.  Also, I find these baby moccasins freakin’ adorable for new walkers. http://shop.freshly-picked.com/collections/moccasins.  Now that he is running around outside, we needed to find something a little more sturdy.  The most important thing to look for is that the sole is still somewhat flexible and that they are easy to get on.  Our favorite right now are a pair from H&M that my cousin gave us as a gift when he was born (thanks Lori!).  They look like little high top converse, but are velcro and open really wide to easily slip his foot in.  http://www.hm.com/us/product/06913?article=06913-A

I think that covers it!  I will update this list as my son grows and I find new things to share.

Real food for mother and baby

I recently started reading a wonderful book called “Real Food for Mother and Baby” By: Nina Planck (link to buy at the bottom of this post), and I highly recommend it for anyone who is pregnant or has a young child.  A lot of it is stuff I already know and practice, but it is so nice to have found a book that is modern, easy to read and right on track with how I believe we should all eat and feed our children. A lot of my friends come to me for advice on first foods for their baby.  We have been taught that babies have to eat certain “baby foods”.  This really makes no sense.  Babies are humans, and can eat human food, they do not need special “baby food”.  Now sure, you want to use common sense here.  You wouldn’t want to feed your baby a carne asada burrito as their first food, you wanna take it slow and start with foods that can be pureed to have a smooth texture and are nutritionally balanced.  You want to feed your baby whole, unprocessed foods that are easy to digest.

In Planck’s book, she talks about a study that was done in the 1920’s and 1930’s by a pioneering midwestern pediatrician, Clara Davis.  Davis and her team of nurses provided a group of babies with a huge selection of foods (including ground beef, lamb, chicken, liver, brains (yup!), kidneys, bone marrow, raw and poached eggs, steel-cut oats, ground whole wheat, cornmeal, rye crackers, raw apples, bananas, oranges, pineapple, peaches, steamed apples, baked banana, raw tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, cabbage, peas, steamed beets, carrots, peas, turnips, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach and baked potatoes. The babies could drink water, whole milk, cultured milk, and sometimes fresh orange juice and each baby got his own small dish of sea salt) and let them eat whatever they wanted, every day for months.  Now at this time, doctors were in charge of children’s nutrition, they had recommendations for a strict schedule of what foods babies should eat and when.  Davis was unable to find any research to justify that diet and so set about collecting her own data about baby food.  What she found was that the babies had varied and good appetites, although sometimes their choices were quite extreme.  For days, some babies would eat the same few foods.  At a meal, one baby would eat seven eggs and another four bananas, while one occasionally took handfuls of salt.  But over time, all the babies ate a varied diet, including much more meat than doctors recommended, and despite these odd meals, the babies didn’t get stomach aches or otherwise suffer in any way.  The lesson here is to offer your baby healthy options and you will have a healthy child.  Remember that sometimes you need to offer something many, many times before your baby will like something.  Don’t give up on the first try!  Also, listen to your baby and don’t get discouraged if your baby loves broccoli for months and then one day won’t eat it for weeks.   Babies and their nutritional needs change constantly and you can trust that as long as you are offering a balanced (protein, good fat, fruits and veggies) and unprocessed variety of foods, that your baby will get exactly what it needs.   A word of advice that one of my favorite doctors told me was: don’t look at what your baby eats in a day, look at what your baby eats in a week.  This really helped me not to stress if my son didn’t want his veggies one day, as long as he got enough in a week, I knew he was fine.

I always recommend avocado as the perfect first food for baby, it is full of healthy fat, protein and vitamin E.  I strongly discourage friends from feeding their babies rice cereal, or any cereals for that matter.  Cereal has very little to no nutritional value, and is starchy and constipating. Even the organic cereals are highly processed and usually contain sugar.  Babies just do not need it.  Babies don’t produce an enzyme called amylase, which breaks down starch, for the first year or two, so any carbohydrate must be easy to digest and prepared properly.  Gluten, the protein in wheat, is especially hard to digest.  Also, doctors say that an early emphasis on starch contributes to both a preference for white foods (white rice, pasta, potatoes, etc) and the acquisition of a sweet tooth later on.  What I recommend, and what we did for my son, is not to start grains until your baby is 13-15 months old, and at that time gluten-free grains only.  The best grain for babies is brown rice, but it should be soaked overnight in filtered water before cooking.  The process of soaking breaks down the hard to digest components of the rice and jump starts the enzymes within it making it even easier to digest.

I think that most people would find it hard to believe that my 18 month old son has never had any cereals or puffed cereal snacks.  They might be thinking, what does her son snack on if he doesn’t eat Cheerios, rice cakes, gold fish crackers??  The answer is simple: whole, organic, unprocessed foods.  He snacks on cheese, yogurt, berries and other fruits, steamed veggies, humus and avocado.  Because he has never been offered cereal, bread, crackers or sugar, he does not crave it or ask for it.  That is why I think the key is to keep those things away from your baby as long as you can. It is obviously inevitable, my son will eat pizza at a birthday party one day and snack on chips at a friend’s house, and that is fine.  But as long as he is still a baby and what he eats is in my control, I will continue to offer him the most nutrient rich foods I can and hope that when he can make his own dietary choices that this good start will influence his decisions.

So just remember, you want to give your baby whole, unprocessed, food.  Stay away from white flour and sugar and leave out the empty calorie foods like cereal.  Your baby and his/her body will thank you!!

For more information on feeding your baby, buy Nina Planck’s book, “Real Food for Mother and Baby” here: http://amzn.to/13GJZCA