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We Gotta Ditch the Baby Wipes

I know I sound like someone rocking a tinfoil hat sometimes when it comes to environmentally friendly choices in parenting, but the issues around baby wipes are ENORMOUS. Most families I work with go through several giant bulk boxes of wet wipes every month. The actual and environmental costs of using baby wipes for each diaper change (yep, even the “natural” ones) and for our own hygiene add up quickly.

Good thing there are some simple solutions to this growing problem. It’s easy to make the switch to reusable flannel pads for urine — for baby and adult — and the savings are HUGE. Read on to learn more.

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World Ocean Day

In honor of World Oceans Day, I’d like to share some actionable, easy, and budget-friendly ways for new parents to make decisions that are gentle on the oceans.

We don’t have to feel like we need to do everything or give up entirely. Each thing we do makes a difference in the overall health of our families and our planet over time. You have the opportunity to create systems that you instill in your children that will have an enormous lasting impact starting from the time they are infants. How cool is that?!

I’m going to take the Top 3 sources of ocean pollution and give one tip for how you can personally make a difference in your growing family.

Plastics


By every estimate, the amount of plastics in our oceans is by far the biggest risk to long term ocean health. New parents are bombarded with suggestions for what to purchase and many of these baby and parent items are made of soft, non-recyclable, non-biodegradable plastics.

The biggest way you can combat the increase of plastics in our oceans is to BUY LESS overall. Most of the items parents feel are necessary for their children in infancy we can do without. The plastic wipe warmer that you also have to plug in? ...Definitely not necessary. Twenty different “development” toys made of plastic? ...2-3 age-appropriate toys made from organic materials are plenty -- babies need your voice and love to develop, not a lot of plastic toys. If you do want to purchase more than less, you could get items second hand or focus on gathering non-plastic items that grow along with your child instead.

Another big way to limit plastics in infancy is to NOT BUY PLASTIC BOTTLES. I’ve written about how using glass and stainless steel bottles is not only good for the environment, but significantly better for your baby’s health before. Even if it says it’s “BPA free,” the materials used for children’s feeding items (in infancy and beyond) are full of many chemicals known to cause problems for long term health of children AND the ocean. Major bonus - you don’t need to sterilize glass and steel bottles, cutting out extra work and loads of extra plastics and other energy sources. This will save you a ton of time and money, too.

The cumulative amount of plastic produced since the mid-20th century is of the order of 5 billion tons, enough to wrap the Earth in a layer of plastic wrap. The amount projected by 2050, on current trends, is about 40 billion tons, which is enough to wrap 6 layers of plastic wrap around the planet.

source -  Saftey4Sea


Chemicals

Here’s another action I love sharing because it hits on three huge things parents care about - infant health, saving money, and being more ocean-friendly. DON’T BUY TWO SETS OF CLEANING SOLVENTS.

Run-off toxins in waterways is called “non-point source pollution.” Chemicals from land, including toxins from car gas, agricultural runoff, and chemicals from items in our homes enter our waterways and reach the ocean in enormous concentrations. They can cause areas of algae bloom or “dead zones” and wipe out marine life across huge patches of ocean.

Many families are rightly concerned about the chemicals touching their baby’s sensitive bodies. There are loads of companies which make gentle cleaning products for baby items and that area of the beauty and home cleaning industry has exploded in recent years.Where that may address some issues around chemical exposure in babies, in reality, this in isolation isn’t doing much for your infant’s health or the environment.

It’s two-fold : For one thing, it’s not environmentally friendly to purchase two sets of things -- One that’s okay for adults and one that’s okay for babies. That’s usually two sets of plastic containers, two sets of shipping emissions, two sets of production emissions, and so on. Secondly, your baby is exposed to the chemicals present throughout your home and your person. Even if you have separate cleaning materials for baby’s food containers, laundry, and room, if you use harsh chemicals to clean the rest of your home and personal items, your baby is being exposed to those chemicals at the same rate and so are the oceans through runoff.

Purchasing all home cleaning items in bulk, in glass containers, with low or no non-biodegradable chemicals, or making your own cleaning items with natural ingredients will go along way in improving the health of you and your baby.

Other Single Use Disposables

Living in Santa Cruz has given me a deeper appreciation for our seas and the human connection to this water.

Living in Santa Cruz has given me a deeper appreciation for our seas and the human connection to this water.

Our beaches are littered with trash from all over the world. Non-recyclable paper and cotton items are one of the largest contributors to global ocean waste.

Many parents utilize several items of single use paper and cotton items in infant hygiene. Giant boxes of diaper wipes go by in a flash. Cotton swabs and Q-Tips start to be purchased in bulk. Plastic-covered absorbent pads suddenly enter your life as disposable on the go changing stations.

Though you might not think it’s possible to keep your baby clean easily without these things, they are very very recent developments in parenting and you can definitely use less or go without. Plus, going without can save you a ton of money in the long run.


Even supposedly biodegradable wipes that get flushed or taken to industrial landfills are rarely completely broken down, often clog waterways and drainage systems, and very often contain some plastics in the weave of the actual wipe and of course in the packaging.

It might not be realistic for many families to use cloth diapers, it is pretty easy to switch to reusable wipes for pee diapers and other baby hygiene purposes, saving the disposable wipes for poo diapers only. Since baby pee is rarely as smelly or concentrated as adult pee, it’s easy to throw these small washable wipes into a basket by your changing station and be thrown in with any load of laundry. This will save you a TON of money, stress about restocking your wipes, and it’s great for ocean health.

You can easily make your own from cotton flannel, or you can purchase them online. It’s great to have a few different sizes around. Once your baby is out of diapers, these make for great replacements for your cotton face wipes for removing makeup, cleaning small wounds, or cleaning up the constant debris on your growing child’s face.

You can purchase many of these items and more by visiting the Life Without Plastic store.


Hope you consider making one or more of these easy and ocean-friendly switches in your family. I see families implement these things all the time and can tell you they’re just as easy as the heavy polluting options, if not easier.


Buy less. Buy better. Buy better for the Ocean.

 

Plastic Free Periods

Hey friends, here again to complain about P L A S T I C.

I’m deep into some research on the plastic - hormone connection so I can be better informed for my clients on this topic. The evidence is compelling, long standing, and clear : Plastics contribute to our changing hormonal landscape for the worse.

super cute illustration with permission from @kissmyangst

super cute illustration with permission from @kissmyangst

There are loads of ways we can reduce our plastic consumption, everything from ditching the plastic water bottles and leftover containers to purchasing fewer items that come in plastic containers.

One huge way we can lower our environmental imprint and help adjust our hormones back to healthy levels is to swap out plastic period products for more sustainable and healthful options. Though studies have shown that the concern around dioxin in bleached tampons and pads might be minimally risky to most, the petrolum-based chemicals and plastics in the absorbant materials, fragrances, and other dyes and packaging has not been properly studied in regards to period products, but have been shown to be in dangerously high quantity in our everyday environment. Most period products are petroleum-based plastics through and through. The packaging they come in, the applicators, the sticky bits, the material they’re made from, the chemicals they’re soaked in...it all comes from petrol plastics and made by some of the worst corporate environmental companies around.

plastic free period via Natracare

An added bonus to switching to reusable period items -- many of these brands are run by progressive women and often have components of their business practices that focus on wider environmental impacts, ending period stigma, and creating more access to sanitary items for those who need it most. This feels like a win-win-win. Oh wait...there’s more! Reusable period products are more cost effective. Reusable period products help you get in touch with your own anatomy. Reusable period products reduce common infections and don’t come with the scary reality of toxic shock syndrome. So WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?


Here are a few great options :

  • Reusable period underwear from Thinx, Moon Undies, Sustain Natural, and more

  • Washable pads from loads of great companies like Luna Pads, Glad Rags, and about a million small vendors on Etsy and maybe at your local natural market.

  • Sea Sponge - Okay, this is usually the hardest sell, but I love mine for backpacking. You can trim this little guy down to the size that’s the most comfortable for you and there’s zero added anything to be concerned about.

  • Soft menstrual cups from Lunette (you can buy it from Zero Waste Shop and have it shipped plastic free, too!), a natural rubber one from Fair Squared, the XO cup from Glad Rags, the Keeper Cup, the Bella Cup, the Ruby Cup (they donate a cup for everyone you buy), the Zero Cup (their insta page is DOPE), the UltuCup, and a million others.


Not ready for a full conversion, Natracare uses organic cotton and low/no plastic in their products and packaging.


Without going on a total tirade, I also want to point out the issues around using baby wipes around your period both for your health (loads of toxins you’re just schmering directly into your vagina) and the environment, but I’ll let some of these articles do the work for me. If you want some ideas on how to make your own sustainable and healthy wet wipes, here are a few cool options.

  • A full how-to for making and using reusable wipes

  • “Wet bags” for portability and all natural spray for wetting the wipes from Bum Genius

  • More info on the chemicals in baby wipes along with a super easy how to for DIY natural and reusable wipes


Hope this helps you have a safer, healthier, happier period free of plastic. I give $5 off every hour of consulting services if you bring period products to our appointments for me to donate. Reusable items are tricky for those who need it most (I usually donate items to a women’s shelter in SF) so anything is welcome, but if you can swing it, organic items with minimal packaging would be awesome!

 

Pick up many Plastic Free Period products at Life Without Plastic

Plastic Free Breast Feeding

I’m on a plastic-free kick lately. Wanting to share so much more with the folks I work with, both expectant families and folks I see about general health care concerns.

Freezing-Breast-Milk-Mason-Jars.jpg

I was here thinking, probably like many of you, that switching to silicone was a good step. However, I got schooled a bit on silicone today by my work pal, Friday Apaliski, The Sustainability Concierge, and she helped me realize a few key details about certain storage options for breast milk. Turns out, glass and stainless steel are still the way to go, from start to finish if you’re going to be pumping, storing, and feeding through bottles. Silicone is a bit better than the thin plastics used in most baby items, but new research is showing how silicone items might also be leeching chemicals (and most silicone-based storage item and bottle have plastic fillers in them) when heated AND when frozen.

Some elements of switching to glass or steel take some effort, but mostly, you won’t notice a difference. Here are a few easy options :

plastic free ice cube storage
  • Stainless steel ice cube trays are more expensive than plastic or silicone, but are much more durable, just as easy (or easier) to use, don’t have any of the harmful chemicals that can get into your precious milk, and will last a lifetime. An investment in two trays should cover a good supply of milk and will carry over to freezing prepared foods for your baby when they’re eating solids or just as regular old ice cube trays. See the advice below on grease pencils for labeling…You can buy stainless steel ice cube trays for milk storage on Life Without Plastic and the Plastic Free Shop and probably loads of local stores.


  • If you want to store milk in glass jars in the freezer, you have to buy glass jars that run straight up and down. This means 12oz jam jars, pint jars, and 1.5 pint jars only. One case of any of these should suit you. Hopefully, you’ve picked some up for homemade broth and quick pickles to help fight off GBS in pregnancy so you already have some, but if not, you can find them at most hardware and grocery stores and all over the place online (I suggest NOT Amazon, if you can help it). Friday suggested putting the jarred milk in the freezer with the lid off till it’s frozen to ensure it can easily expand without cracking the glass. She used to mark the flat part of the lids with a grease pencil with the date of pumping. You can use any type of glass jar, including this Mason Bottle, if you are leaving the milk in the fridge.


  • You can fit your glass bottles right on to your breast pump! No need to pump into plastic and fiddle with transporting it into something else, unless you are freezing what you are pumping. Easy-peasy. No need to ever purchase ANY plastic bottles for babe. Here’s the rundown of the Best Glass Bottles according to The Bump. Ideally, you can switch away from plastic nipples, too, like these natural rubber nipples from EcoViking.

Image via Friday Apaliski

Image via Friday Apaliski

Well, there they are…just a few easy steps and for the same cost and ease as the plastic alternatives. I’m happy to help you set up this plastic-free system through some postpartum consultations or through a separate consultations focused primarily on how to have a plastic-free, environmentally considerate, and healthier plan for postpartum. I can do these in-person in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley or online anywhere. You can also check in with Friday if you want someone to do your green baby registry for you! How cool is that?

If you want more information on why you should switch away from plastics for your baby’s milk storage, check out these links :

 

Many of the items mentioned above can be found at Life Without Plastic. Follow the link above to shop the plastic free store.

Make a Green Baby Shower Gift Basket for about $100

Okay okay okay, I have to admit it -- I’m the baby shower buzz kill. I’m just frankly no fun when it comes to baby gifts. I have my reasons though, so hear me out.

I’ve been working in childcare for almost 15 years, 10 of which as a birth and postpartum doula and parent educator. I am by nature a fairly minimalist person. Blame it on my Swedish grandmother. The amount of baby stuff has tripled in the past few years, and I have to tell you all, IT’S MOSTLY CRAP. Worthless, plastic, expensive, crap. Sometimes dangerous, worthless, expensive, plastic, crap.

Our planet is on a fast track toward demise. Sorry to be gloomy here, but we all know it. The fires raging here in California, the hurricanes hitting our families and friends back East, conflicts in resource-rich parts of the world. We are literally on fire. Luckily, we can do something about it.

environmental baby

One of the big ways we can make change is in choices in parenting. Starting a new family is an awesome opportunity to make healthful and environmentally conscious changes that will spread through the lifetime of this new person. If you have someone in your life who is starting or expanding their family and want to give your warmth and love for them through gifts, you can help by making smart and “green” choices in your gift giving. We can all chip in bit by bit without having to go crazy on bespoke items or GOOP approved nonsense.

Here is a quick list of environmentally considerate items you can gather for a very sweet baby shower basket for about $100 dollars (please please please try and buy these in store and even second hand versus online if you can for double the green points!) :

Basket #1

Glass baby bottles $12 each or $36 for 4

Silicone breast milk freezer storage $10 for one

Herbal Sitz Baths $14 for a pack of 2

Organic cotton baby swaddles $40 for a set of 3

Basket #2

Full glass bottle set $60

Milky Mama lactation cookies $16 with shipping

Mrs. Patel’s Lactation Chai $16 with shipping

Basket #3

Glass baby bottles $18 for one 8oz bottle

Organic Cotton Moby Wrap $60

Organic herbal perineum balm $13

Basket #4


Glass baby bottle set of 4 $36

Washable wipes ~ $10 for a set of 12 (I recommend buying at least 2 packs of 12)

Scarlet Sage Lactation tea $16

Organic cotton burp cloths $16


Yep, all of them have glass bottles on the list. Plastic bottles are horrible for the environment, horrible for our health, and deprive infants of some of the essential fats and nutrients in exchange for pumping chemicals directly into their bodies (also this). Switching away from plastic toward glass and silicone (without plastic filler) or even better — stainless steel, is one of the biggest steps we can take in lessening the footprint and improving the health of our little ones. Glass bottles are easy to clean, last a lifetime, and can be placed directly on pumping equipment, too!  

More tips on “Green Gifting” and “Green Shopping” for new parents :


First off, you could not purchase anything. Take the money that would be spent on some useless gadget or yet another onesie and stock your cabinet with healthy postpartum snacks or hire a doula or put it toward your home birth kit. Ask your friends and family to chip in to a fund for these items that are proven to be helpful in birth and postpartum instead of wasting their money on Amazon purchases you don’t need. (See...buzz kill, but TRUST ME, this is so helpful.)

Secondly, you can purchase things second hand. There are loads of great local shops that specialize in maternity and infant items that are gently used, or even not used at all and consigned to them. Babies grow fast, someone’s great Aunt Marg insisted on buying them double of something, and lots of times families find that certain things just don’t work for them. That’s where these shops thrive. You can go in and take a peak at various items to pick up for yourselves or for a loved one expecting another little being. The price tag will be greatly changed, you’re supporting local businesses (many of them women-owned), you’re making less of a dent in your baby’s footprint, and you get to actually test drive some things before purchase.

Lastly, as much as it seems like a Herculean feat to leave your house in the first few weeks postpartum, I want to caution you to resist the lure of same-day shipping shopping sprees. (Buzzkill again...I’m not sorry about it.) This is multi-fold, friends. You will be less likely to bunch things into your cart you don’t need, fall privy to advertising of plastic garbage you didn’t know you didn’t even need that was irresistible during an infant tantrum at 3am, short shipping times are an absolute nightmare for the environment, and it’s more money and time spent away from getting hands-on supportive help and more money to the corporations making the biggest disasters in our environment. Your bestie really wants to help you in the first few weeks, so send them out to Natural Resources for those silicone breastmilk storage containers! Your dad doesn’t want to see your boobs, but wants to be helpful, you say? Great, send him over to Scarlet Sage for your herbal sitz bath then to Berkeley Bowl for some broth and mac & cheese.

Again, after more than a decade of observing families in the postpartum period, I can tell you that NO gadget or pile of clothing can replace putting your money and the time and effort of your loved ones like investments in lactations support, grocery store gift certificates, acupuncture appointments, postpartum massages, herbal support from a midwife, and postpartum doula care. Plus, all these things are much much more gentle on the environment.

Want to put together an environmentally friendly baby shower registry but don’t know where to begin, let Friday aka the Sustainability Concierge, do it for you! Or give me a call on all things postpartum and we can chat about it. I do phone consults starting at $45 an hour, or full packages for $380-450. These investments can save you a ton of time, money, increase confidence, and lower your carbon footprint all in one go! Let’s get to it.

If you do shop online for these products, one of the best resources out there is Life Without Plastic, which has pages and pages of baby and kiddo items which are plastic free so check them out!