Euphoria’s Blog for Green Mamas

advice, news & freebies

Enter to Win an Amber Teething Necklace! September 5, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler,Giveaways — Rachel @ 9:20 am
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mized necklaceOne day a few local moms came in to shop our cloth diapers and non-toxic finds at www.EuphoriaBaby.com.  They came with their adorable toddlers, and I couldn’t help but notice that both children wore necklaces.  The little girl wore a solid cognac amber beaded necklace, while the little dude sported a multi-colored version.  Both looked adorable!  As we talked, one of the moms decided to share the story behind the necklaces.

What I initially took for funky, crunchy kid’s jewelry were actually beneficial necklaces made of Baltic amber.  Have you heard about amber teething necklaces or amber nursing necklaces?  I didn’t think much of them, but I had never really given them a chance or done any research.  These two moms just raved about how helpful they are.  They said the necklaces really help with teething and general irritation.  In fact, they can absolutely tell the difference when the necklace isn’t on!  One mom had loaned her necklace to a friend round cognacwhose baby was really struggling with teething.  That baby did better and kept using the necklace… all the while the toddler was acting irritable.  Mom ordered another necklace to replace the one she’d loaned and her son improved immediately.  I know it sounds crazy, “weird” and unlikely, but if you do the research, it’s not actually strange at all.

amberBaltic amber is not really a stone, it’s fossilized tree resin.  Historically, Baltic Amber has been used in Europe as a natural and traditional remedy and curative for many ailments for centuries. Long ago it was considered one of the leading ‘medicines’ of its time. Baltic Amber is the most esteemed amber in the world, and the healing qualities of Baltic Amber make it unlike any other type of amber found in the world.

How does it work?  When baltic amber is worn on the skin, the skin’s warmth releases trace amounts of healing oils from the amber. These oils contain succinic acid and are absorbed into the skin.

Baltic Amber has some of the highest concentrations of Succinic Acid found in nature, and this is what makes it so special. Succinic Acid is a natural component of plant and animal tissues, and it’s presence in the human body is beneficial in many ways:

  • Pain relief – it has analgesic properties
  • Immune boost – naturally increased the body’s healing abilities
  • Restoring energy – the salt of succinic acid (succinate) is one of the most active substances in the processes of cellular respiration and intercellular energy creation. Succinic acid restores oxygen and energy supply to depleted cells and helps the body return to a normal, functioning state.
  • Maintaining wellness – enabling full oxygenation of cells
  • Anti-Inflammatory – helps break the cycle of chronic inflammation.  Inflammation is part of the disease cyle.

hazelwoodIf you have a chronically irritable child or one tortured by teething, you should try an amber teething necklace.  My kids are pretty well past that point, or I would!  You can purchase one from Inspired by Finn(the shop those friendly moms recommend) at 20% off with coupon code “blog.”  Inspired by Finn designs her necklaces with safety in mind, creating knots between each bead and offering necklaces with magnetic closure.  Check out the hazelwood necklaces too, which help in cases of acid reflux.  And, one lucky reader will win his or her choice of any 16″ necklace !  That’s just the right size for your little tike.

Enter to win! One lucky reader will win an Inspired by Finn amber necklace ($14.75-20.45 value) in the style of your choice, up to 16 inches long.  Enter now through September 30th (11:59 EST) by adding your comment to this blog post.  We’ll choose one random winner!

NOTE:  As of mid-Sept, our blog moved!  Please post your comment at the NEW POST.

Shipping included.  Winner will be notified by email, at which point a shipping address and preferred necklace  will be requested. Open to U.S. residents only.

For TWO extra entries, blog about this giveaway and link it back to my blog.  Make sure to leave a separate comment on this blog post for your two extra entries.

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“SafeMama Diaper Rash Cheat Sheet” August 22, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 8:06 am
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Diaper rash cream – it’s got to be effective, but what about toxic?  I’ve posted before on the evils of Balmex and Desitin.  I’ve also answered one common question, “Diaper Creams: What Can You Use with Cloth Diapers?”  But, SafeMama did one better.  She created a list of safe diaper creams, even separating out those that contain zinc and those that don’t (making them safe for cloth diapers). 

So, without further ado, see if your favorite diaper rash cream makes the SafeMama Diaper Rash Cheat Sheet.  And, if it doesn’t, run – don’t’ walk – over to the Cosmetic Database on Skin Deep to see if what you’re using to treat baby’s bum is causing more problems than it’s worth.  I’ve personally used Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Angel Baby Bottom Balm, which rates a ZERO on the toxicity scale at Skin Deep, with great results.

 

How to Swaddle an Infant: Tips & Blankets August 11, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 6:30 pm
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Every new parent should learn how to swaddle.  Swaddling calms fussy babies and helps them to sleep longer and to stay on their backs, reducing the risk of SIDS.  Plus, it creates a bedtime cue that’s easy for mom, dad, grandma or babysitter to recreate anywhere. 

Don’t be intimidated.  Anyone can swaddle.  If you’re pregnant, plan to ask your nurse or a relative to show you how to swaddle your newborn.  There’s nothing better than learning in person.  If you don’t have a good teacher, take 6 minutes to watch this YouTube video:  Swaddling Methods.  The video very clearly teaches two methods of swaddling, the “basic” method (which is the one I always used) and the Aussie method (which is ideal for older babies).  Showing real babies being swaddled and demonstrating with a doll, this video is the clearest, most helpful tutorial I’ve found. 

When swaddling is not working, you’ve probably either used the wrong type of blanket or are wrapping too loosely.  First of all, get the right blanket.  A good swaddling blanket is large and square.  Many receiving blankets are 40″ square, which will swaddle a newborn.  For a larger baby, you  need a larger blanket.  Buy large 47″ square receiving blankets, which can swaddle a newborn and a 10 month old.  A good swaddling blanket is also thin and stretchy.  It should be thin, because a thick blanket will not tuck in securely.  It should be stretchy so that you can make a tight swaddle, without making baby uncomfortable.  I really loved using my Aden & Anais swaddling blankets.   Now we also offer an organic version that’s cut in the same ideal dimensions.  Having the right blanket makes it easier to swaddle tightly.  A swaddled baby should look like a little burrito!

Nervous that baby will overheat?  With what we know about SIDS, you’re right to be concerned about swaddling baby in a warm blanket.  But, an ideal swaddling blanket is thin, remember?  Those made of cotton muslin are extremely breathable.  Whether it’s summer or winter, dress baby as the weather requires and swaddle, knowing that the blanket adds little additional heat.  If your baby’s ears are hot or red, or if she’s sweating, unwrap her and remove her clothing.   Then, re-swaddle in just a diaper!

Swaddling does take practice. But, in a few days you’ll be able to swaddle like a pro.  Dads, especially, are often superb swaddlers.  They don’t shy away from pulling that blanket tight!

 

Probiotics for Infants and Toddlers August 4, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 7:00 pm
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Doctors are quick to prescribe antibiotics and other western medications, but slow to remember healthy supplements that work naturally with the body.  Besides breastfeeding, eating healthy and staying active, did you know that you may want to add probiotics to your baby’s “get better” strategy? 

My sister’s baby is only a few months old, but she’s been hospitalized twice for a kidney infection.  We’re trying to think of anything that may help baby Shyla to maintain good health.  Since the doctors put her on antibiotics each time she has an infection, I wondered if it would be wise to have her take a probiotic too. 

Probiotics are “good” bacteria that are ingested in some fermented foods (like yogurt) or via pill, powder or liquid supplement.  These health-promoting, live bacteria take up residence in the stomach to keep bad bacteria in check.  Breastfeeding automatically promotes the development of healthy bacteria.   But… taking antibiotics pretty much wipes everything out – the good, bad, and ugly.  That’s why progressive pediatricians are starting to prescribe probiotics along with antibiotics, as a balance.   Probiotics have been shown to boost immunity, combat yeast infection, shorten bouts of diarrhea, help colicky babies (even breastfed ones!) and even lessen some effects eczema, asthma and allergies (see this article at “Pediatric Views” and dramatic colic results in this article in “Pediatrics”).

You may wonder if it’s really safe to give tiny babies “good” bacteria.  In doing some research, I did find some concern with giving them to immuno-compromised people.  It’s definitely something you’ll want to discuss with your doctor first, if your child has a standing healthy condition.  However, the above article published in “Pediatric Views” (which is hardly natural-oriented) suggested they would be safe for babies over 1 month old.  Here is an infant probiotic made by Udo’s Choice, a well-respected name in health supplements.  This powder version can be mixed into milk or water.  A liquid infant probiotic  may be more convenient for breastfeeding moms.  However, the only one I found only serves 100 million cells per serving.  That may sound like a lot, but you really want to be measuring in the billions, when it comes to taking a probiotic.  I recommend using the powder – Udo’s Choice has 3 billion cells per serving!

 

Autism: Its the Environment, Not Just Doctors Diagnosing More Disease July 28, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 12:47 pm
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California’s sevenfold increase in autism cannot be explained by changes in doctors’ diagnoses and most likely is due to environmental exposures, University of California scientists reported.

The scientists who authored the new study advocate a nationwide shift in autism research to focus on an array of potential factors in the environment that babies and fetuses are exposed to, including pesticides, viruses and chemicals in household products.

“It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiology professor at University of California, Davis who led the study.

Throughout the nation, the numbers of autistic children have increased dramatically over the past 15 years. Autistic children have problems communicating and interacting socially; the symptoms usually are evident by the time the child is a toddler.

More than 3,000 new cases of autism were reported in California in 2006, compared with 205 in 1990. In 1990, 6.2 of every 10,000 children born in the state were diagnosed with autism by the age of five, compared with 42.5 in 10,000 born in 2001, according to the study, published in the journal Epidemiology. The numbers have continued to rise since then.

To nail down the causes, scientists must unravel a mystery: What in the environment has changed since the early 1990s that could account for such an enormous rise in the brain disorder?

For years, many medical officials have suspected that the trend is artificial — due to changes in diagnoses or migration patterns rather than a real rise in the disorder.

But the new study concludes that those factors cannot explain most of the increase in autism.

Hertz-Picciotto and Lora Delwiche of the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences analyzed 17 years of state data that tracks developmental disabilities, and used birth records and Census Bureau data to calculate the rate of autism and age of diagnosis.

The results: Migration to the state had no effect. And changes in how and when doctors diagnose the disorder and when state officials report it can explain less than half of the increase.

Dr. Bernard Weiss, a professor of environmental medicine and pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center who was not involved in the new research, said the autism rate reported in the study “seems astonishing.” He agreed that environmental causes should be getting more attention.

The California researchers concluded that doctors are diagnosing autism at a younger age because of increased awareness. But that change is responsible for only about a 24% increase in children reported to be autistic by the age of five, according to the report.

“A shift toward younger age at diagnosis was clear but not huge,” the report says.

Also, a shift in doctors diagnosing milder cases explains another 56% increase. And changes in state reporting of the disorder could account for around a 120% increase.

Combined, Hertz-Picciotto said those factors “don’t get us close” to the 600% to 700% increase in diagnosed cases.

That means the rest is unexplained and likely caused by something that pregnant women or infants are exposed to, or a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

“There’s genetics and there’s environment. And genetics don’t change in such short periods of time,” Hertz-Picciotto, a researcher at UC Davis’ M.I.N.D. Institute, a leading autism research facility, said in an interview Thursday.

Many researchers have theorized that a pregnant woman’s exposure to chemical pollutants, particularly metals and pesticides, could be altering a developing baby’s brain structure, triggering autism.

Many parent groups believe that childhood vaccines are responsible because they contained thimerosal, a mercury compound used as a preservative. But thimerosal was removed from most vaccines in 1999, and autism rates are still rising.

Dozens of chemicals in the environment are neurodevelopmental toxins, which means they alter how the brain grows. Mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, lead, brominated flame retardants and pesticides are examples. While exposure to some — such as PCBs — has declined in recent decades, others — including flame retardants used in furniture and electronics, and pyrethroid insecticides — have increased.

Household products such as antibacterial soaps also could have ingredients that harm the brain by changing immune systems, Hertz-Picciotto said.

In addition, fetuses and infants might be exposed to a fairly new infectious microbe, such as a virus or bacterium, that could be altering the immune system or brain structure. In the 1970s, autism rates increased due to the rubella virus.

The culprits, Hertz-Picciotto said, could be “in the microbial world and in the chemical world.”Marla Cone is the Executive Editor of Environmental Health News, which compiles media and original reporting on health and environmental topics.

“I don’t think there’s going to be one smoking gun in this autism problem,” she said. “It’s such a big world out there and we know so little at this point.”

But she added, scientists expect to develop “quite a few leads in a year or so.”

The UC Davis researchers have been studying autistic children’s exposure to flame retardants and pesticides to see if there is a connection. The results have not yet been published.

“If we’re going to stop the rise in autism in California, we need to keep these studies going and expand them to the extent possible,” Hertz-Picciotto said.

Funding for studying genetic causes of autism is 10 to 20 times higher than funding for environmental causes, she said. “It’s very off-balance,” she said.

Weiss agreed, saying that “excessive emphasis has been placed on genetics as a cause. “The advances in molecular genetics have tended to obscure the principle that genes are always acting in and on a particular environment. This article, I think, will restore some balance to our thinking,” he said.

Some issues related to whether the increase is merely a reporting artifact remain unresolved. There could be other, unknown issues involving diagnosis and reporting, scientists say.

The surge in autism is similar to the rise in childhood asthma, which has reached epidemic proportions for unexplained reasons. Medical officials originally thought that, too, might be due to increased reporting of the disease, but now they acknowledge that many more children are asthmatic than in the past. Experts suspect that environmental pollutants or immune changes could be responsible.

Autism has serious effects, not just on an individual child’s health but on education, health care and the economy.

“Autism incidence in California shows no sign yet of plateauing,” Hertz-Picciotto and Delwiche said in their study.

 

healthychildhealthyworldNote: This was first published on Environmental Health News, one of Healthy Child’s trusted sources of information. It is reprinted with permission.

Courtesy of Healthy Child Healthy World: a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit inspiring parents to protect young children from harmful chemicals.

 

Washing Cloth Diapers in a Front Load Washing Machine July 23, 2009

bg basketEveryone knows that front loading washing machines are more efficient, using less water and less detergent to do the job.  So, if you plan to use cloth diapers (and wash them at home) you’ll want a front loader, right?

Maybe not.

While some mamas manage to make front loaders work, everyone seems to agree that they make washing diapers a bit more challenging – precisely because they use less water.  Think about it: you’re washing something lightweight that’s highly absorbent.  The machine automatically gives the load little water, and the diapers suck it up, with only a bit left over in the wash.  This can lead to stinky diapers, that aren’t fully clean, and detergent build-up, because of incomplete rinsing. 

I cloth diapered with BumGenius Pocket Diapers for about 6 months, washing in a top loading machine.  Then, I had to switch to a fancy, top-of-the-line front loader for about 9 months.  I immediately smelled a difference!  I tried using less detergent.  I also changed from doing a pre-rinse before my full hot/cold wash to doing a full cold wash before my hot/cold wash.  Neither change seemed to really make a difference.  When I was able to switch back to my top-loader, the smell significantly subsided. 

Well, I wondered if it was just me until I received an email from a customer who experienced the same smell-issue when she got a new front loading washing machine.  After some research online at DiaperSwappers.com, here are some tips for washing cloth diapers successfully with a front load machine:

  • Don’t use too much detergent – 1 tbsp is a standard, though you may need less
  • Switch to Tide HE powder detergent – mom’s with top loading machines say they see an immediate improvement when they switch to this product (especially an improvement over natural detergent brands)
  • Use options for extra rinse, extra water and presoak whenever possible.  Anything that puts more water in the load will help avoid the stinkies.
  • Do at least 2 full cycles (one cold, one hot – both with extra rinses).  If you’re still having troubles, try adding a 3rd cycle.  This can make a load take 3 hours to wash… which is why a top loader is more convenient.
  • Tricks for “tricking” the machine to put more water in each load
    • Use delicate or hand wash cycles, which automatically use more water
    • Manually shorten the spin between cycles (and never use spin max extract), because the water left in will make the diapers seem heavier to the machine.  The machine will respond by adding more water to the next cycle.
    • Pour a few gallons of water into the machine through the soap dispenser during the wash cycle.  This seems to be the last resort for those that are desperate!

If you have any tips to add, please share!

 

Choosing the Best Toys for Babies & Toddlers June 27, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 8:14 pm
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If you are pregnant with your first child, be warned that a mass of toys are soon to invade your life.  It starts off as a trickle, but by your child’s first birthday (let alone Christmas), you may be seeing stars (and flashing lights and garish colors and more plastic than you’ve ever owned).  Before you start investigating elaborate storage and rotation schemes… STOP!

The truth is children do not need a playroom full of toys.  In fact, a shopping spree at Toys R’ Us is not even in your child’s best interests.  Why does the average American house overflow with toys?  Because (a) Parents/Grandparents enjoy buying them (b) Stores profit by selling them and (c) Our culture insists that MORE is always better!  The toys we give our children create their world.  They send quite tangible messages regarding value, possessions, beauty, and possibility.  Is the point to be entertained?  To have the best?  To know the most?  Or, is it for the child to grow by creating, imagining and discovering?

Last fall my family underwent a A Waldorf Toy Revolution – a process that both simplified and enriched our play life.  If you’re looking to simplify your child’s playthings or hoping to choose the best toys for your baby or toddler the first time around, here are some general suggestions organized by age.  The idea is to avoid going overboard (you don’t need 5 rattles) and to have a wide variety of toys that gently stimulate all of your child’s senses.  The more simple and open-ended the toy, the greater possibility for creative use now and when he or she is older!

 Babies Newborn to 6 Months

  • 1-2 Cloth teethers (organic cotton would be ideal; definitely washable)
  • 1-2 Wooden teethers (one very simple, one with manipulative parts such as rings)
  • A bell (enclosed in a ball or teether)
  • A rattle
  • A crinkle toy (something with crinkle foil in it – could be a soft teether, book, or other toy)
  • 1-2 Cloth baby books with simple pictures or textures

Babies 6 Months to 12 Months

  • A few balls for rolling
  • A simple soft doll (small, without detachable clothes, gentle expression)
  • A stacking ring
  • A nesting toy
  • A wobbling toy
  • A squeaking toy (push button or squeeze)
  • A set of rainbow silks
  • 5 or so of your favorite board books.  For more variety, start visiting the library!

Toddlers 12 Months to 18 Months

  • A simple musical instrument such as maracas or a jingle bell stick (not battery operated)
  • A push toy that encourages a walker or helps a child that’s still learning
  • 2-3 wooden cars, trucks, buses and such
  • A wooden boat for the bath
  • A small set of wooden blocks with interesting shapes and surfaces

Toddlers 18 Months to 24 Months

  • Block crayons or crayon rocks
  • Eco-dough or homemade modeling play dough
  • A pull toy
  • A ride-on toy
  • A new musical instrument, such as a drum or tambourine
  • 5 or so beautiful picture books.  For more variety, keep visiting the library!

2 Years Old

  • Tempera paint, quality paper & a painting smock
  • Play food, pots and utensils
  • A child-sized broom and dust pan
  • A soft baby doll with more details
  • A large set of blocks (consider irregular shapes, such as tree blocks or extra large cardboard blocks)
  • Animal or people figures (natural brands such as Animalz, Plan dollhouse, etc)
  • A new musical instrument such as a harmonica or banjo
  • 2 or so manipulative toys such as Lacing beads and Plan’s Nuts & Bolts
  • A sturdy scooter (trikes are actually more challenging for most children)

In many cases, a child will still enjoy toys for younger children, if their playthings are carefully chosen.  The rainbow playsilks that baby simply loved to touch become rivers and meadows for the toddler’s toy animals.  The nesting blocks become homes and caves.  Granted, the infant teethers and such have a very limited use.  But, do NOT get a lot of those.  Infants are more comforted by familiarity than anything else.  Find something that works and stick with it.

Please notice what’s NOT suggested

  • Avoid electronic toys that flash, play canned music (that you will grow to hate), move by themselves, etc.  These toys encourage passive, entertainment-oriented play.  They also require batteries which are dangerous and expensive.  Think that plastic flashing toy is cheaper than the wooden alternative?  In some cases, it’s the batteries that cost the most!
  • Avoid buying lots of options for the 0-12 months stage.  At this age, your child needs so little in the way of stimulation over and above interaction with YOU and daily living.  If you wear your child while you cook, shop, etc. her mind will be fed with the stuff of real life. 
  • Avoid educational toys.  Your toddler does not desperately need to learn colors, numbers and letters from his toys.  These abstract concepts are simply not developmentally meaningful to a toddler.  And, they WILL come naturally without any special toys that can only be played in one correct way.  Your own words are more powerful than any Leapfrog Learning Toy.  The experience of painting is a truer introduction to color than a push-button teaching toy.  Educational toys limit play possibilities and set up standards of “correct” play that don’t encourage creativity or imagination.
  • Avoid toys you find unnattractive. Seriously.  A child’s toys do not (and should not) remain stuffed away in a playroom.  They become part of your home and your life.  Beautiful toys can actually add to your home environment.  Selecting toys made with natural materials, such as wood and cloth, brings the natural beauty and textures of the world right into your home.