web site white party

Many thanks to Beth for sharing Abe’s Market. You can get everything from gluten-free Thanksgiving stuff to this cool Benz Bench (nontoxic, 60% recycled materials) for storage and your kid’s bum.

They also have this chic white ‘paci-sitter’ which we never

thought we’d use/need but are finding invaluable.

Since we’re on a white theme, this is also a great gift for a bike lover – it comes in a t-shirt and a onesie.

Pair it with this white organic hat.

And for good measure, this polar bear, which we have and love from Dandelion (fantastic organic toys). Now you’re ready for P Diddy’s summer party in the Hamptons.


Used is the new black

Gwen Stefani’s kids Kingston and Zuma always look pretty badass. They even have their own fashion blogStefani is now launching a new kids clothing line, Harajuki Mini, that Target will carry as a featured designer, which promises to crash the web site again. Before you name your kid Hara (or Juki)  and rush out to buy a bunch of new, chemically treated clothes, consider your local thrift shop or parent swap web site. It’s more unique, green and less expensive.

We spied a posh little Kingston Rossdale look-a-like in Boston Common the other week and asked his mom where he got his cool ripped jeans. Turns out, they were just vintage baby gap that the little bugga wore in himself. Can’t get more authentic than that.

I happened to be in Maine (aka Heaven) this weekend and passed by a thift shop in Ellsworth called 2nd to None. It was a gold mine. Vintage LL Bean flannels, mini Carhartt pants, baby jeans, all worn to soft perfection. Those of you real greenies out there are laughing at me now since I’m just discovering this vast treasure trove of used clothes, carriers and gear. (Frugality has never been my strong suit.) However, everyone can relate to cool vintage stuff that has been washed so many times, most of the really bad chemicals it was made with have dissipated. And don’t look now, but you’re recycling. As my friend reminded me last night, antiques are green. Happy shopping!

Upcycled Onesies

Cool idea to ‘upcycle’ those old college tees – Tumblewee on Etsy will take them and make a hip little onesie out of it.

This idea thanks to my friend Charlie whose husband’s “Chemathon” tee shirt went from geek to chic on their baby boy Eric. She actually made it herself though, which is just out of my league.

Those of you thinking that you’ve finally found a justification for getting rid of your husband’s favorite tee shirt, shame on you. He may look like a homeless person wearing it but he’s your homeless person. Some things you just don’t mess with.


Halloween Hangover

Don’t throw that Halloween costume out just yet kids. You may have resigned yourself to buying your little one a PVC-laiden plastic super-suit but that doesn’t mean it must all be for not. Safemama had a great idea I’m passing on – next year, try a Costume Swap Party. This is not to be confused with an adult swap party. I went to one at Favela Chic in London a couple of years ago. Good clean fun.

It turns out there is even a national ‘green’ holiday dedicated to swapping costumes, October 8th. Who knew. This way, your child’s next alter ego has a chance to off-gas before he/she wears it and you are recycling. It’s also a great excuse for adults to get together with cocktails. So for you Martha Stewarts out there, calendar for next year!

Baby laundry solved

On the heals of the Bubble, bubble toil and trouble post, I’m happy to confidently recommend the following for baby laundry (and for your laundry for that matter). BabyGanics makes a fantastic safe and gentle laundry detergent with by far the shortest, simplest ingredient list I’ve found. No synthetics, chemicals or toxins – well done BabyGanics.


I’ve also just fallen deeply in love with Method Baby Squeaky Clean Dryer Cloths. They are essentially made from coconut oil and I can’t seem to find anything wrong with them (yet!). My little munchkin’s clothes came out softer and smelling ever so faintly of coconut. His swaddle blanket smelled good enough to eat (must try and eat lunch more often so I don’t develop Pica). Given that most dryer sheets are made from animal fat and contain toxins, I don’t see why adults can’t luxuriate in these coconut gems too so I’m getting more for our laundry .


Must have moisturizer

Hello Winter? If you live the in northeast, you’re probably starting to contemplate months of dry, cracked skin right now. Finding a decent moisturizer (or face wash for that matter) that isn’t loaded with chemicals has been a challenge, but I’m covering new territory now that I have a baby. There’s no reason big babies can’t use little baby products.

Up until now, I’ve been a Burt’s Bees Radiance Cream user but it just isn’t cutting it and it’s only November 1. We’ve also been using Burt’s Baby Bee Fragrance Free Lotion which is okay but it doesn’t seem to do anything for the little one.

Happily, we were given this fabulous Mustela Newborn Set as a gift and have loved the products so far. They are paraben and phthalate free, which is a great start. The No-Rinse Cleansing Fluid as come in handy when my pumpkin drenches himself in his breakfast, lunch and dinner and we just can’t manage a bath.

Part of what we love, however, is that wonderful scent, which is regretfully in that vague and ominous category of “fragrance” and “parfum.” I have noticed my three week old’s skin getting a bit dry and irritated (the winter before Halloween didn’t help) and haven’t wanted to put parfumed products on him (shouldn’t really be putting any on him actually). Most of these things clear up on their own but if your looking for a safe(er), fragrance free, colorant free skin care line (that is also free of parabens and preservatives), try the Mustela Dermo Pediatrics Stelaprotect line for sensitive skin. Actually they call it the line for “intolerant and reactive skin” but that sounds sort of hostile. They also make paraben, phthalate, fragrance and colorant-free lines to treat Eczema, cradle cap, severe diaper rash, etc.

We just discovered the StelaProtect body milk and face cream (which I highly recommend buying for yourself as well). The regular body cream does have petroleum in it so read the ingredients for each product before you buy. So far, we’re fans.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble – dirty dishwashing liquids and the problem of “green-washing”

One would assume that “environmentally friendly” or “save for the planet” products would include safety and friendliness toward people but apparently not. Regretfully even “natural” or supposedly “organic” products contain toxins and it requires some vigilance as a consumer to avoid being lulled into a false sense of security by green packaging or claims. For example, most of us by now know to avoid Sodium Laurel Sulfate in shampoos, soaps and other skin products because it’s toxic. Beware of closely related cousins, however, like Sodium Laureth, which also contains two carcinogens.  Many products that now claim to be “SLS Free” contain the other SLS. The Mother Nature Network has a great post on this.

We were just dismayed to learn that we were blissfully washing bottle nipples and pacifiers in Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day liquid dish soap thinking that it’s 25% post-consumer plastic bottle and 97% naturally derived ingredients were acceptable. We were wrong – mea culpa for not checking the ingredients more closely. As it turns out that Mrs. Meyer’s liquid dish soap contains synthetic “fragrance” and toxic irritants such as Benzisothiazolinone. Seriously – I just almost went cross-eyed looking up these ingredients online. Who has time for this?!

It also contains sodium coco sulfate, which is simply a less purified version of sodium laurel sulfate. Both are coconut derivatives but go through the same process. Sodium coco sulfate hasn’t gone through as much testing and scrutiny and I’ve even found web sites that claim it’s safe enough. Here’s some more detailed chemistry on why that’s not true.

Out of pure frustration at the lack of suitable dish washing liquid readily available, I’m ordering good ol’ Dr. Bonner’s Organic Pure Castille Liquid Soap in Baby-Mild

A five year old could pronounce all ingredients and they are: Water, Saponified Coconut-Hemp-Olive Oils (with retained Glycerine), Aloe Vera, Olive Fatty Acids, Rosemary Extracts.

For the dishwasher, we’ve been using Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dishwasher Gel. The product claims:

  • Now contains enzymes for more cleaning power
  • Chlorine free
  • Phosphate free
  • Non-toxic
  • Plant-derived enzymes
  • Biodegradable formula
  • Scent derived from whole essential oils & botanical extracts (Lemon)
However, it’s ingredients also include methylisothiazolinone and benzisothiazolinone (synthetic preservatives), as well as well as PPG-10-Laureth-7 which is listed as having low to moderate toxicity. Sigh. It seems both Method Smarty Dish Dishwasher Tabs and Ecover Automatic Dishwashing Powder also contain a certain amount of synthetics but any of these three are better than the conventional options. By the way, I’m linking to Soap.com because the site has a 15% off coupon now for 1st and 2nd orders (codes are SOSOAP1 and SOSOAP2) + Free Shipping on orders of $25 or more. If anyone has a better recommendation for automatic dishwasher soap, please share!
POST SCRIPT: BabyGanics Dish Dazzler looks promising with a short list of natural (no, really) ingredients: Natural water softeners, Naturally derived water conditioners, Natural hydrogen peroxide source, Natural salts, Non toxic polymer and rinse aid, Non animal derived enzymes.
P.P.S. a friend from a new mom’s class I’m taking suggested Dapple automatic dishwasher gel, which is okay but has two concerning ingredients. The first is Acrylic Acid Polymer, which is classified as expected to be toxic or harmful according to Environment Canada Domestic Substance List. Is is listed as a moderate risk vis-a-vis Organ System Toxicity according to EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. The other ingredient is Lauramine Oxide, typically found in hair products, which is a mild irritant according to the International Journal of Toxicology. However, the safety of Lauramine and Stearamine Oxides have been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The CIR Expert Panel evaluated scientific data and concluded that Lauramine Oxide and Stearamine Oxide were safe as cosmetic ingredients for rinse-off products under the present conditions of use. For use in leave-on products, the CIR Expert Panel concluded that Lauramine Oxide should be limited to 3.7% and Stearamine Oxide to 5%. How much does Dapple use? No idea. I’m sticking with the ingredient list a 5 year old can read and using BabyGanics.

BPA Tied to Behavior Problems in Girls

A quick note on this new BPA study highlighted by Fox News regarding BPA exposure in utero and its effect on girls. As noted in prior posts, BPA is thought to be an “endocrine disruptor.” While the EU and Canada ban its use in baby bottles, it’s still all too prevalent in consumer products and therefore our bodies. The study’s findings don’t prove that BPA exposure in utero causes these problems. The study’s author Joe Braun, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston said that ”[i]t might be that women who are consuming more processed and packaged foods and more canned foods are also consuming less nutrients that are important for brain development,” for example.

However, the article states that “[t]here’s a growing body of evidence… that really seems to suggest what you’re exposed to and what happens during gestation can set you up on your life course,” according to Braun.

“The brain begins developing from very, very early in pregnancy. Disruption in development could have lasting effects across childhood and the lifetime.” Read more here.

Hospital hospitality

Apologies for the hiatus dear readers but I have a good excuse. Weighing in at 7 pounds, world please welcome Angus!

We couldn’t be more thrilled to have a happy, healthy baby. Our hospital stay was interesting – the nurses were amazing but when it came to the products, fabrics and gear we were surrounded by, we were a bit surprised at how archaic some of the practices were. The one nurse hip to our non-toxic goals rightly commented that the hospital simply strikes deals with the Enfamils and Pampers of the world to hook you on their stuff for the next 3 years or 3 kids.

If you’d like to avoid slathering your newborn in petroleum, wrapping him or her in polyester blankets and then taking a swig from your chemical laden plastic cup before nursing, then here are my top picks for suggested packing items. The hospital staff should comply with any requests you have regarding the care of your infant – you might find yourself educating a few nurses and doctors too! (Oh, and take a walk with the baby when the cleaning staff drenches your hospital room floor in bleach and consider opting for every other day on the toxic cleaning products.)

First, there is the famous “water jug” that all my girlfriends advised I pinch from the hospital to accommodate the ravenous thirst one feels post-delivery and while nursing. NOT BPA-free ladies! The studies regarding the negative effects of BPA on pregnant and nursing women are becoming more widely accepted and shared in mainstream media (see post on new study relating BPA exposure to Autism). Happily I had already ordered a few of these fantastic Copco water tumblers

These are great for hydrating and your favorite iced drink. BPA-free and environmentally friendly – the Starbucks people will thank you!

When your little tiger is born, the hospital staff immediately wants to slather petroleum all over his or her pristine little bottom. Instead, we love using Burts Bees Diaper Ointment

It’s phthalate, petrochemical and paraben-free and had the ladies in the hospital nursery a buzz asking why our little one smelled so good (it works well too!).

You’ll want to bring your own clothes and swaddle blankets. At 7 pounds, our baby was actually too small for many of the organic newborn outfits I had for him. We ended up stocking up on Petit Bateau’s new Bio line of organic cotton onesies. They come in newborn sizes 46cm and 50cm. 

Our 7 pounder has been in the 50 cm ones from birth through the last 3 weeks and still has room to grow. Finding these can be tricky so don’t be afraid to call your local store too. They’re made with organic cotton and vegetable dyes according to the company. Do yourself a favor and splurge on the kimono style ones for easy changing.

We found our aiden + anais  swaddle blankets indispensable, as well as the company’s burpy bibs that double as cloths. I also recommend Under the Nile’s organic burb cloths and wash cloths, which can be used as protection while changing boys, who generally like to hose you down whenever naked.

Finally, our favorite diapers (after trying Huggies Free & Clear and the heavily fragranced junk the hospital had) are Seventh Generation diapers for newborns. These diapers are free of chlorine processing, fragrances, latex and petroleum-based lotions. They fit wonderfully and we like to think of our little guy as cool for rocking the nondescript beige color while others are covered in Winnie the Poo or other company endorsements they haven’t been paid to advertise. 

Most importantly, don’t let anyone tell you how to take care of your own baby. Solicit advise if need be. However, nobody knows how to care for your little one better than you so follow your instincts!

On toxic plastics and baby gear

What are Phthalates?

Plastics permeate just about every facet of life for us now. Plastic is cheap and useful. It also creates dioxin when burned (= highly toxic, causing reproductive, developmental and immune system problems in addition to cancer), never breaks down and use huge amounts of natural resources.

Unfortunately, plastics have invaded our bodies too. Plasticizers are chemicals added to plastic for flexibility and durability. The main type of plasticizer is a group of chemicals called phthalates (pronounced “THA-lates”). In addition to being found in your mascara, nail polish and perfume, phthalates are mainly found in a plastic know as polyvinyl chloride or “PVC.” PVC is used in a myriad of products including baby toys, teething rings (!), food packaging and storage containers (those with the “Number 3” recycling designation). The chemicals can come off in your baby’s mouth or in the food stored in the container.

Why are they bad?

Phthalates are toxic chemicals classified by the US EPA as probable carcinogens. A carcinogen, of course, is something that by definition causes cancer. Recent studies have also shown that phthalates also have a hormone-disrupting effect. In both males (including in utero and newborns), they combat male hormones stunting the release of testosterone and the development of male characteristics, affecting things like penis size and the descension of testicles. (See What’s Toxic, What’s Not in References). In females, high phthalate levels have been linked to premature breast development. (See Super Natural Home in References).

What can I do about PVC in Baby Products?

The main source of PVC exposure to infants is likely teething rings, soft “vinyl” toys and crib mattresses. Look for toys that are labeled “PVC-free” or look for wood toys with non-toxic coloring. I’ve included a number of safe options in the Registry section. For teethers, I like Life Factory, Dandelion and the ubiquitous Sophie the Giraffe.

The Wooden Wagon has cute wooden baby toys that are finished with nontoxic colors.

One of the toughest categories for me to find safe products in was “activities.” After emailing a few manufacturers, including the popular and highly recommended Tiny Love regarding their playmats, bouncers and gymini, Tiny Love was the only one that gave me comfort. The company confirmed via email to me on 8/16/2011 that:

Our products meet all of the current regulations set forth by the CPSC, US and EU governments. Our products are free of BPA, PVC and Ph[th]alates. We also adhere to the new lead limit of 90ppm. Because our business is children we’ve made sure that our testing standards are higher than even the new California laws require, which are the strictest in the world.  I hope this alleviates any concerns you may have.”

Fisher Price (a division of Mattel), for the record, never responded and doesn’t list materials. I expect more from the maker of Barbie. I’ve included some favorite Tiny Love products (mobile, gymini, tummy time mat) in the Registry section.

For crib mattresses, I highly recommend spending the money for a 100% organic one like Naturepedic or the Serena and Lily organic crib mattress. These are not only free from phthalates but also chemical fire retardants frequently used, such as formaldehyde.

If you already own a crib mattress and can’t afford to replace it, try this Serendipity Crib Mattress Protector, designed to prevent the off-gassing of toxic gasses from mattresse, which has been linked to the origin of SIDS, Autism, Asthma and allergies.

More on PVC and safe alternatives in cosmetics and food storage coming soon!