Saturday, July 30, 2011

Diaper Rash Cream Or Lack Thereof

I'm sticking with the toxicity theme from last week.  When Alison was just a few weeks old, she started getting some diaper rash and we did what we were told by everyone to do: use Desitin.  It works, what a great product!  EXCEPT if you're using cloth diapers.

It turns out Desitin, or any diaper cream that contains cod liver oils, can ruin cloth diapers.  The oil sticks to the cloth, staining it and repelling liquids, instead of allowing the diaper to do its job and absorb them.  We found this out the hard way.

What's more, unless you're shopping at Whole Foods, every single diaper cream in the baby section of a normal grocery store contains something that doesn't mesh well with cloth diapers.  So what are cloth diaper users to do?

Check out this site, which rates various brands of diaper creams based on their compatibility with cloth diapers:

I tried California Baby Diaper Rash Cream and straight up coconut oil.  The California Baby brand smells awesome, but it didn't do much for Alison and at $11-$16 for less than 3 oz, it's safe to say it was not worth the price.  The coconut oil didn't seem to work either.  I was about to try zinc oxide, which I'd heard good things about, when I went a completely different route entirely and found the solution.

For $2.44, I bought half a yard of microfleece from a fabric store.  I cut it into strips and lined each diaper with a new strip each diaper change.  The fleece did an awesome job of wicking moisture into the diaper and suddenly, the diaper rash disappeared.  No cream needed, no need to continually buy overpriced products.  I just wash the fleece with my diapers and enjoy a generally rash-free baby!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cosmetic & Hygiene Safety Database

The lack of environmental rating standards for most industries can be really frustrating when you're trying to purchase the safest products for yourself and kids.  No rating system is perfect.  That being said, I've found the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep site to be helpful in determining which hygiene products to buy.

They cover a lot of products and brands from make-up to baby bubble bath and have a specific Babies & Moms section.

 Photo Credit: EWG Skin Deep

Their recommendation?  Choose the products with low hazard scores and at least "fair" data availability.

 Photo Credit: EWG Skin Deep

How does the rating system work?

This I took directly from their FAQ section:

Skin Deep presents two ratings for products and ingredients, a hazard rating and a data availability rating.
•The hazard score, a 0-10 scale from low to high hazard, reflects known and suspected hazards. A product's hazard rating can be higher than the sum of its parts, if, for example, the product contains chemicals called "penetration enhancers" that increase the amounts of ingredients that soak through the skin.
•The data availability rating - none, limited, fair, good or robust -- reflects how much scientists know - or don't know - about an ingredient's safety.

Consumers should take both factors into account. EWG recommends products with low hazard scores and at least "fair" data availability.

How do they determine an ingredient to be hazardous?

I was really wondering how they figured out which ingredients we should be watching out for in the first place.  This page lists the studies they used to determine which ingredients are known carcinogens, reproductive, or developmental toxins.

Of course, we keep finding new carcinogens year after year.  This website is a nice reference based on what we know now, but probably shouldn't preclude our parental sixth sense.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

50 Lessons Learned from The Great Depression

Living in DC, I am still trying to wrap my head around paying $1500 for a decent two-bedroom apartment, and therefore am constantly looking for ways to save money.

In high school we were given an assignment to interview someone in our family who had lived through either The Great Depression or World War II.  I chose to interview my Great Grandma Tharp who had raised her kids through The Great Depression.  She was a vibrant woman from Wahoo, NE who loved to garden, took care of a huge house by herself and, at age 92, was not taking any drugs whatsoever!  I wish I saved the paper I wrote from our interview, because she died at the ripe old age of 94, but I only remember one tip from our conversation: they used to save the wrappers from sticks of butter and use them to cook their baked potatoes.

 Photo Credit: Business Week

My friend Danielle found a great article with 50 more tips like the one from my Great Grandma above.  There are countless good reminders and clever suggestions about how to live more simply, frugally, and responsibly.  Pick and choose, I think some of these are worth a try!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Breastfeeding & Kelly Mom

Alison is now 10 months old and still breastfeeding.  Before her birth, I thought breastfeeding would be extremely simple and natural.  Afterall, how could our species have survived this long if breastfeeding were difficult?  I have never been more wrong about something in my life. 

 Kale Stems: Not as easy to eat as milk!

Breastfeeding can be one of the hardest things you stick to as a green mom.  I found the rockiest part to be the first few weeks as you and the baby learn to breastfeed (yes, there is a pretty substantial learning curve), but later, just when you feel you've got everything figured out, something new crops up.  What's worse is that everyone seems to have different experiences and problems and some solutions aren't always cut and dried.  I'll narrate my experience below, but the point of this post is to point you towards the Kelly Mom site.  Any time I had a really, really tough problem and either couldn't find the answer or found only conflicting answers, Kelly Mom came through with the right explanation and suggestions.  Bookmark this site, it is the best of the best when it comes to breastfeeding questions and issues.

There's nothing like solving a major problem to make you feel like the smartest mom in the world.  I had two major problems and a minor, recurring problem in the last ten months.  Fair warning: by nature of this subject, this can become "graphic" (that is, unless you're a breastfeeding mom - in that case this is perfectly normal literature).

First Major Issue

At around 4 weeks, Alison became very, very upset after each feeding and burped a lot (when we could get her to).  There were signs that she wasn't getting enough hindmilk (based on "output") and I just couldn't figure out why.  I tried block feeding.  I tried holding her more upright during feedings and for another 30 minutes after she ate (which is tough to do when the baby doesn't have full control of her head).  The problem ended up being an overactive letdown reflex and possibly oversupply.  Imagine getting your water delivered to you through a firehose and there's no wonder why a baby would have gas and be generally irritated.  It took us several weeks to figure that out, but the fix was simple: just stop feeding for a few seconds after letdown, let the flow calm down, then continue.

Reoccurring Issue

I feel lucky that I've never had to deal with mastitis.  I do occasionally get a blocked duct.  I find that if I apply heat, massage, and feed the baby directly (instead of pumping) for 24 hours, that's all it usually takes to fix the duct.

Worst Issue Ever

At around six months, I started having soreness, then eventually shooting pains in my breasts.  These were not benign shooting pains, they felt like a giant fireball pulsing through me like lightening every few seconds during and after feedings.  To make a very looooong story short, doctors, in spite of lack of visual evidence, deduced that it must be a fungal infection (like thrush).  The medicine we got, however, wasn't working.  In fact, the only time I'd get real relief was when I pumped.  To me, this meant it was something Allie was doing.  I decided to take some time off and pump exclusively for a week and a half to let things heal.  My supply dropped and I used up all of the back-up I had in the freezer - right down to the last bag, before I started breastfeeding again.  I also concentrated on correcting the latch process, which had gone downhill in the past few weeks.  The time off fixed the problem and we've been good to go ever since.  I hadn't figured out what the problem was until a friend sent me this link.  Vasospasm, that one scary little word, describes exactly what I was going through.  It doesn't seem to be very common because most breastfeeding forums concentrate on mastitis and thrush.  Here's hoping this doesn't happen to you, but if it does, try pumping!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

House Plants - Best Purifiers & Toxicity Table

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

House plants are a great way to bring nature inside.  I like to have the option to travel, so I have a rule that if the plant can't survive for 2-3 weeks without being watered, then it can't live in my house.  I've had really good luck with peace lilies, spider plants, a giant bird of paradise, and "snake plant" (pictured above).  Basil does not fair well without water.  I have killed many a basil plant.

Plants as Air Purifiers

NASA did a study and found that some plants not only look nice, they also help purify the air in your home. Here is the list of "best plant purifiers".

Plant Toxicity

After Alison started moving around and sticking things in her mouth, I became curious whether I should move the plants up higher or let her rip off and taste some of the leaves (it's just like a salad, right?).  The University of Nebraska has published a great site on plant toxicity.  It's good to know that the plants you have won't be a problem for your smallest family members.