Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Green Alternative to Toxic Soap

It's beginning to look a lot like...cold and flu season, and you know what that means, time to really up your hand washing game. Or just get lectured by the news and advertisers as to why we MUST get a flu shot, but that's a whole other post in itself. But back to soap, most people probably think, "the stronger the better" when it comes to choosing a soap. "I want all those germs gone!" says a mother or a teacher or a doctor or anyone else who comes in contact with sickness/kids/or germs in general on a daily basis. But did you know the "germ-killing" properties of that soap may come at a price? Certain chemicals found in everyday products like the soap that is probably sitting in your bathroom right now have been shown to irritate the skin and respiratory systems, disrupt hormones, cause reproductive issues, and worst of all, lead to cancer.
"What's in my soap?"
You may be thinking, "How can this be possible? I buy it off the shelf at my local drug store, surely they wouldn't be selling me something that isn't safe...right?" I'm afraid that's wrong. I had the same "false reality" when it came to thinking that my cosmetics were safe, I figured that if it was on the shelf, then it must have been tested for safety. And if it could harm my body, my health, or my baby in anyway than there's no way it would be allowed to be produced, marketed, and sold. But as of now, there are no regulations in the world of personal care products.

Here's just a fraction of the "soap aisle" I found at Target.
What's in these products? Found out below...

Learn more about this in one of my favorite videos, "The Story of Cosmetics"...

So until that day comes, mothers, fathers, men, women, grandmas, grandpas, teens and even kids, we have to take responsibility for our own health and read the labels of the products we buy. We have to do our own research. We have to learn which kind of chemicals to avoid and what healthy alternatives we can use instead.  In the end, we can complain all we want to these companies to change their products and switch to safer ingredients, but if we continue to buy their toxic products we are contradicting ourselves.

Many food/farm advocates say, "We have to vote with our forks." I firmly believe in that idea as it relates to food, but also for our personal care products in how we can "Vote with our soap bottles...our lipstick tubes...our mascara wands, etc." You get the idea. Money is power, and where you spend your money, whether it be on toxic products or safe products, sends a message. Use that message to say we want and deserve, cleaner, greener, safer products.  Sooner or later they will get the message.

Wow, I got a little carried away there, excuse me as I step off my "soap box" and actually begin discussing soap with you...
Here's my favorite green soap...
Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap

Before I get into my favorite green soap, Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap, let me share some toxic ingredients you'll need to be on the lookout for in your quest to find a greener soap.

1. Triclosan (pronounced "try-clo-san") If you have any type of soap that claims to be "anti-bacterial" there's a pretty good chance that it has triclosan in it. Here's some facts about this toxic little gem...the EPA registers it as a PESTICIDE, it has a chemical structure similar to Agent Orange, it has been shown to disrupt the thyroid hormone in frogs and rats, alters sex hormones of laboratory animals, even worse it may be contributing to creating "antibiotic resistant super bugs". The fun doesn't stop there, in humans studies have shown it may be associated with reproductive hormones  impaired thyroid function, and liver toxicity  The kicker to it all is that studies have shown that triclosan-based soaps are no better at preventing illness than traditional soap and water.  (read more here)

Here's a funny video I found on YouTube that speaks to the truth of germ-killing chemicals called, "Disinfectants Horror Show" and although it is more about disinfectants in cleaning products, some of the chemicals are the same as what you will find in antibacterial soaps.

2. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)-This is what makes your toothpaste, shampoo, and body wash so nice and foamy.  Unfortunately, those soap bubbles aren't so innocent.  SLS can cause skin irritation, strips your skin of important oils, could affect eye sight, and possibly cause cancer.  SLS is has industrial uses too as engine degreasers...and you want me to put on your body or in your mouth, no way! (read more here)

3. Fragrance- This is one sneaky little ingredient because under the name "fragrance/parfume" manufactures can include a whole slew of ingredients, but not have to tell you because they are all part of the "fragrance"...not cool.  One common chemical used to preserve fragrance is phtalates,  (pronounced THAL-ates). Phtalates are a toxic petroleum-derivative that has been associated with cancer, disorders of sexual maturation in girls, and birth defects of the penis and desmasulinization in boys (when exposed to phtlates while in the womb).  Also causes asthma, liver and kidney damage.  Not to mention fertility problems in men.  Hmm...makes you wonder if that sweet little scented soap is worth it for all the health problems that might come from it. (read more here)

4. Parabens-These little guys are known hormone disruptors.  Basically meaning that they mimic our natural hormones, which disrupts our bodies natural hormone production.  This shift or alteration in hormone levels has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive problems in women, and decreased sperm count,  prostate and testicular cancer in men. Even more scary, a study even found parabens still intact in breast cancer tumors.  I don't know about you, but I want my hormones left alone!! (read more here)

Learn more about how I made the switch to a greener soap in this week's video...

With that said, let's take a look at the ingredients and claims of common soaps and see if we can find any of our little toxic friends from above:

First up is Dial Gold Antibacterial Soap:

The bottle claims: "Get a clean you can trust in a hand soap that's the gold standard for antibacterial protection. Enriched with moisturizer, this refreshingly scented liquid removes dirt and germs and rinses clean."

Let's check out the ingredients:
Active Ingredient: Triclosan
Inactive Ingredients: Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Chloride, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Glycerin, Fragrance, Polyquaternium-7, PPG-2 Hydroxyethyl Coco/Isoteramide, DMDM Hydantonin, Tetrasodium EDTA, Citric Acid, Yellow 5, Red 4.

See some offenders? What do you know...all three: SLS, Fragrance, and of course Triclosan.

Next up is for babies is Johnson & Johnson's Head-To-Toe Baby Wash

The bottle claims: 
"We've taken love and gentleness and bottled it. JOHNSON'S® HEAD-TO-TOE® Baby Wash is an ultra-mild cleanser for your baby's skin and hair that's gentle enough even for newborns. The #1 choice of hospitals. Milder than baby soap. NO MORE TEARS® formula is as gentle to the eyes as pure water. Soap-free, dye-free, hypoallergenic and allergy- and dermatologist-tested"

Let's check out the ingredients:
Ingredients: Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, PEG-150 Distearate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Chloride, Polyquaternium-10, Fragrance, Quaternium-15, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide.

Offenders: SLS...check, Fragrance....check, no triclosan, but don't worry, it was replaced with the lovely: Quaternium-15. Read about this nasty chemical here. On top of that, I don't understand how the bottle can claim to be so gentle, mild, and doctor approved, when there are ingredients in it that are known to cause cancer and other ill effects?! No wonder parents are confused. Why question the ingredient list, when it states that it is so gentle, soap-free, and hypoallergenic?

Last up is Johnson & Johnson Baby Bubble Bath & Wash

The bottle claims:
"Turn bath time into fun time! JOHNSON'S® Baby Bubble Bath & Wash is an all-new formula combining big, bubblin' fun with a hypoallergenic, extra gentle baby wash. No need to save bubbles for special occasions; this dermatologist and pediatrician tested formula is gentle enough to use everyday."

Let's check out the ingredients:

Ingredients: Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, Acrylates Copolymer, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Disodium Lauroamphodiacetate, Glycol Distearate, Fragrance, Tetrasodium EDTA, Laureth-4, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Polyquaternium-7, Citric Acid.

Now the ingredients are no surprise here, you'll find the standard Sodium "Trideceth" Sulfate, Fragrance, and many other chemicals listed.  But to me the shocker comes from the directions of use and safety precautions...

When to use: Use JOHNSON'S® Baby Bubble Bath & Wash in a warm bath, morning, day, or night, as often as you like.

Safety Tip: Use only as directed. Excessive use or prolonged exposure may cause irritation to skin and urinary tract. Discontinue use if rash, redness or itching occurs. Consult your physician if irritation persists. Keep out of reach of children, except under adult supervision.

Okay, so according to your "when to use," I can use the bubble bath morning, day, or night...but yet excessive or prolonged use may cause irritation to skin and urinary tract? Didn't you just give me the go-ahead to use whenever? So confusing. So contradicting. Anybody else mad?

Let's get green, get calm, and chill on out with my favorite green alternative... Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap.

Gotta love Dr. Bronner's and their crazy bottles!

It's plant-based, all natural, organic, and it has no additives or foaming agents.  Also, no crazy safety tips or precautions with use other than the obvious of keeping it out of your eyes.

Let's check out the ingredients:
Water, Organic Coconut Oil*, Potassium Hydroxide**, Organic Olive Oil*, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol
*Certified Fair Trade Ingredients
**None remains after saponifying oils into soap and glycerin

Ahh...much better. No triclosan, no SLS, and no fragrance.

Even better, Dr. Bronner's has 18 different uses!  The main way I use Dr. Bronner's soap is as a hand soap, but the list doesn't stop there! I also use it to:
  • as a dish soap
  • as a body wash in the shower
  • as a body wash for Avery during bath time
  • to shave with
  • to make homemade cleaners (see my favorite recipes here)
While it doesn't bubble up like I'm sure Johnson & Johnson's
does...I like to rest assured knowing she's getting clean without
all the other side effects from traditional toxic soaps. 

Other uses I've read about online are:
  • to wash dogs
  • fruit and veggie rinse
  • ant spray
  • laundry detergent
  • for brushing teeth
  • and even as shampoo
(Follow the link here to see how to dilute and use the soap for these other uses that I personally haven't tried yet.

In order to make body wash, I fill about 1/3 to 1/2 of an empty 16 oz. bottle or soap dispenser with Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Castile Soap and then I fill the rest with water.

How I make my Dr. Bronner's diluted soap. All you need is
the castile soap, a soap dispenser, and a funnel (optional).

My diluted Dr. Bronner's soap, ready
for hand washing, dish washing, and
Don't have a fancy soap dispenser? Just use another small soap bottle. This is what I use for my body wash in the shower. Just fill half of an old soap bottle with the castile soap (sometimes only 1/3 full) and then fill the rest with water. Bam...body wash (toxin free).

How I make my body wash...

Other scents they have are: citrus, lavender, almond, and rose.  They Cost: $6 for 8 oz. bottle at local health food stores, or even Target. I typically get the 32 oz. bottle for $13-14 (and with diluting it, it will last several months). Trader Joe's also sells Dr. Bronner's soap for a few bucks cheaper too, if you have one close to you!

You can also find them online here...

So now that you know the low-down on your soap, do you think you will give Dr. Bronner's a try? They have some small bottles, so you could try one of those and just "ease" into it and give it a try.

Do you already use a favorite green soap? If so, share about it below!

"This is the one I'm sticking with!"

*Disclaimer: I purchased this product with my own money and this is my honest review of it.*

Recently this post was linked up to...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nursing & Pumping for a Toddler

So I'm sure the title of this post probably seems pretty odd to most of you to STILL be nursing Avery now that she is a toddler (at 17 months) . But for others maybe it seems perfectly normal, in fact not long at all. I can relate to you both because if you would have asked me back when I was pregnant if I would still be nursing Avery as a toddler, I probably would have thought you were crazy. Not that I was against breastfeeding that long or anything, but just that I didn't think Avery would still be interested in nursing. But, boy was I wrong, that girl loves her milk. As for me, I love the quality time I still get to spend with her and knowing that she's getting an extra dose of nutrition every time she nurses.

What it's like to nurse a 17-month-old...

 For those fact-lovers out there, here's some facts I've learned thanks to the website Kelly Mom in an article titled, "Breastfeeding Past Infancy" most of which applies to nursing babies until they are at least 2 years of age...which is my goal as of now, but who knows how long we'll go:

Benefits for toddlers:

  • less illnesses, shorter illness duration if they do occur
  • increased intellectual development (longer breastfed=higher IQ scores)
  • breast milk is a valuable source of nutrition (specially in connection to vitamin A, protein, and fat intake, just to name a few)
  • better protection from diseases
  • supports their social development (bonding with mother especially, as you can imagine)

Benefits for mothers:

  • decrease in breast cancer risk (significant associations have been made between the longer you breastfeed, the lower your chance of getting breast cancer)
  • decrease in ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancer
  • more protection from osteoporosis
  • increased postpartum weight loss (which I touched on in this post about my "Body After Birth")

Now those benefits are all nice and dandy, but seriously, "doesn't she bite you"? That's the question I get the most when people find out that I am still nursing Avery at 17 months. And to tell you the truth, I don't get bit. Now every once in a while I will get nipped, but it's usually because she's not paying attention, she looks away suddenly, or she's being ornery  If a bite does happen, I address it right then and there so she's aware of what she did and that it "hurt mommy."  But truly, it doesn't happen that often at all.

Now last year around this time I posted ("How I Go Green With My Pumping & Baby Bottle Routine") and what it was like for me to nurse and pump when I had to go back to school at my teaching job, but Avery was only 4 months old at the time.  Fast forward a year later, when I went back to school again this August, and things changed a bit. Even though I was still breastfeeding Avery, the amount I was producing decreased quite a bit (since I'm not her only food source thanks to her gluten-free, vegan diet, which you can usually see in my "What I Ate Wednesday" posts), and so my pumping routine changed a bit too.

Follow along as I share and compare the changes that have taken place from last year to this year with our pumping and breastfeeding routine.

A Day in the Life of Pumping and Nursing for Avery (my not-so-little-anymore 17-month-old)

1. When she wakes up around 7:30 or so, I nurse her before leaving for work for about 10 minutes.

2. When I get to school, I no longer have a morning pumping session. I attempted this when I first went back in August and I got maybe 1 teaspoon full from both sides combined, after 15 minutes or so. On top of that it seemed to decrease my "lunchtime pump" as well, so I dropped that pumping time.

Instead, I wait until around noon and pump then. The result? More work time in the morning, and more milk at lunch. Win-win!

Here's my lovely pumping station
in the bathroom of my preschool

I keep the TV tray in there and just bring my chair, laptop, and usually lunch, in when it's time to pump.

As I mentioned in the post last year, I am a proud owner of a Hygeia pump (EnJoye LBI Breast Pump with Deluxe Tote Set $329) . It's still doing it's thing and I  have been nothing but pleased with it. Read more details and see more pictures of this pump back in this post.

Time to crank this baby up...

I couldn't do it without my Organic PumpEase Nurisng Bra ($42) . This allows me to pump hands-free...did you hear that HANDS-FREE! I think I would probably lose my mind if I had to hold the pump bottles while I pumped. Instead, I eat my lunch, work on my laptop, make phone calls, and write in my planner. Pregnant or nursing mamas, I highly recommend you try this!

Here's what it looks like on and
how it make the pump hands-free....

3. During this lunchtime pump, I usually go for about 20-25 minutes. Back in last year's post I used to set the timer on my watch to see how long I was pumping for, but not anymore. I don't really feel the need to be so watchful of it. I basically go in around the same time every day, and come out at the same time a few minutes before my afternoon group of students is starting to come in. Can you tell I'm much more relaxed about it this year?
In case you don't know, those "cords" are where the suction
comes from. No milk goes in them, the milk just goes
right into the bottle.

My usual set up on the TV tray: my
laptop, lunch (today it was spaghetti
with veggies), water, and my phone.

Curious what's on my laptop? We do yoga in my preschool class and I was making some tweaks to it. ( :

Here's the sign outside of my bathroom
door to give everyone a head's up as
to where I'm at when the door is closed.
Avery is saying, "Hey, that's my milk!"

Here's where you can really start to see the changes from last year to this year...

Here is the milk I pumped from one 25 minute session this year...

 Just like I did last year, I am still utilizing these 8 oz. glass mason jars for my breast milk storage.  Granted last year I used the bigger jars, but this year the 8 oz. ones work perfect.

4. I then transfer the pumped milk into the mason jar and store it in a mini-fridge in my classroom.

I got 12 of these jars for $8 at Wal-Mart.

Today's milk is tomorrow's milk for Avery. If it's a Friday,
I store it in the fridge over the weekend and she gets it on

Staying cool in the fridge.

A little bit of a change compared to last
year's "mega milk"!

Just as I did last year, I'm still keeping my pump parts
(flanges/bottle) in this cute little drawstring bag once I'm
done with them.

What does Avery do while I'm away at work?
Well it was so much easier not to have to search around for the perfect "green" bottle like I did last year when it was time for me to go back to school. All I had to do is get my 4 oz. Evenflo Glass Bottle from our cabinet and we were good to go. Shortly after I posted last year's post I upgraded to the bigger version of these bottles in the 8 oz. glass bottles, since Avery seemed to be drinking more milk. But as she started eating more solid food, she drank less milk, so this fall I brought her back down to the smaller bottle size.

Simple and cheap glass bottles I got
from Wal-Mart ($8 for 3 bottles).

Usually she will have 3 oz. before her morning nap, and 3 oz or whatever else is left before her afternoon nap. If she ever requests for more "milk" we supplement with Rice Dream Rice Milk, and she takes it cold in her bottle. 

Avery's favorite, "non-mommy milk"

Mommy's what?
Then in the late afternoon, I get home from work and the first thing Avery says to me is "Milk! Milk! Milk!" And usually I will go and nurse her right away. I know better than to make her wait!

Nursing on Avery's favorite couch.

Another change since last year is her position while nursing. As you can imagine, she's gotten bigger and the nice little cradle hold I used to use is not comfortable or feasible for either of us. So, around 12 months, we switched to this front-straddle type position and it works great. I think her favorite thing about this position is that she can switch from one side to the other whenever she wants. Not sure what's so fun about that, but she likes it. So you can see the PG-rated version of this position below, but usually my shirt is up and both sides are open and ready for Little Miss to eat. (Sorry probably TMI, but just wanted you to know one of the quirky things that come along with nursing a 17-month-old).

One of the many things I love about still nursing Avery:
having a few minutes to sit down, catch my breath, and
cuddle with my girl.

"Whoa...where did you come from Dad? No pictures during
nursing time!"

Trying to get this wiggle worm to

stay in one spot...easier said than done!
Our "just-got-home" nursing sessions only  last about 5 minutes, maybe 10 minutes case you were wondering. It's hard to think back to those early weeks when she would nurse for 45 minutes to an hour!

Concentrating hard on getting her milk!

End result: one happy, full, growing girl!

Then she's done with me and off to do fun big girl things like...

Eating frozen strawberries,

and sweeping the porch!

Until, next year, or whenever our nursing journey comes to an end, you know where to find me...washing pump parts.

When else does she nurse?
Avery nurses probably one to two more times before she goes to bed around 8. In case you're wondering, on the weekends and at night, I nurse Avery before she goes down for each nap or bedtime. As of now, she is sleeping through the night, so she usually doesn't nurse again until she wakes up in the morning.  But every once in a while she will wake up in the middle of the night and I love knowing that all I have to do is nurse her for a few minutes, put her back to bed and she's good to go. 

Well that wraps up the pumping and nursing routine I've got with my busy little toddler, and how I've tried to "green" it as much as I can. 

Do you have any experience with extended breastfeeding? How long did you nurse your baby/toddler? What tips/tricks/routines or products helped you with nursing your toddler?
Share below!

**Disclaimer: I purchased all these products with my own money and these are my honest opinions of them.**

Recently this post was linked up to a blog party called, "Tuesday Baby Link Up". This is where other bloggers can gather together and share their baby-related posts, such as: pregnancy & birth, adoption, newborn & baby, or toddler & child. You can find more of the "Tuesday Baby Link Up" over at the blog Satisfaction Through Christ, as well as a number of other blogs that are listed in the link above. So hop on over and check out some other fun baby posts!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Reduce Indoor Toxins By 60% With One Tip...

What's the tip you ask? Well let me give you some clues: it's cheap, easy, and effective. It has to do with your shoes, and best of all, it's something you may already be doing.  I'm sure you've guessed it by now (thank you picture icon below)

... it's to take off your shoes at the door! 

Simple enough right? Well, I was pretty good about it awhile back, but life got busy, I got lazy with it and before I knew it we had piles of shoes all over our house.  I figured that as long as there wasn't any obvious dirt or mud on the shoes that they were fine. But little did I know, I was tracking dust, pollutants, pesticides, and maybe lead into my house and even worse, around my baby.

That's when I knew it was time for a change.

Now before I get into how I went about making a change to reducing these toxins in my home, let me tell you about WHY you would want to do it in the first place.

Why take off your shoes at the door?

One main study shed a lot of light about the amount of toxins we drag into our home on a daily basis, called "The Door Mat Study". It's small and often unheard of study, but it deserves to be mentioned because the results were rather startling. The study set out to investigate the amount of lead dust brought into homes (most often from lead-contaminated soil) and what could be done to reduce it. The results found that by simply taking shoes off at the door, reduced lead dust by 60%! Better yet, a doormat, cut lead in the home by 50%. But lead wasn't the only thing reduced, other toxins that have the potential to be stopped at the door include..."pesticides (from lawns), wood smoke and industrial toxins, dust mites and allergens." (source)

It's kind of crazy when you think about all the different places your shoes go in a day right? What do you think you're shoes are picking up as you go there? There's no telling.
Simple grass seems pretty harmless, especially since we don't
use toxic fertilizers or pesticides on our lawn..
but there's no telling if chemicals from other yards have blown
into ours.

Good ol' Vibram Five Fingers out for a walk on the sidewalk.

When you think of germs/toxins on your shoes this place
probably comes to mind...Wal-Mart. Gotta love it.

What list wouldn't be complete without the gas station.
Can you imagine what's on your shoes after leaving here? Eww!

These are just a few of the places I visit on a weekly, if not daily basis, not counting work or other errands I do. But, no matter where you go or what you step's better to be safe and just drop off at the door when you get home.

My Shoes-Off & Doormat Routine
So back in this post, I did a little "Mudroom Makeover" to this nook by our laundry room and garage door and as part of the makeover I got some "shoe trays" from Bed, Bath, & Beyond for around $8 each. I loved how the shoes finally had a place to go and it held some of the dust and dirt in the tray and off my floors.

Fast forward several months later and I read more about the benefits of taking your shoes off at the door, as well as how you could crank up that "toxin reducing" potential by also using a doormat on the outside of each exterior door. So, being the little greenie that I am, I ran out and got some doormats to go on the outside of our doors.
The exterior rug outside of our back porch. I've got a second
one at the front door of our house as well.

I didn't think they would do much, but after a week or so, I lifted them up to shake them off and what do you know...dust, dirt, and who knows what else came falling off. Wow, I was convinced there was something to this doormat idea.

From there I took it one step further and got an additional doormat for the inside of each external door, to catch anything the first rug may not have caught. I found these "Kitchen Rugs" from Wal-Mart for $8-10 and I love them because:

  •  they have a little grip on the bottom that keeps them from sliding all over 
  • they are nice and flat. I've tried a few puffy ones in the past, but my door always got stuck on them. 
  • You can wash them up to 100 times (as stated on the label)

I have one on the inside of our porch door.
A second one is placed at our garage door.
Here's the full view of my "toxin trap"
with the first rug on the garage floor,
and second rug when you open the door.

Here's a third indoor rug that sits by
our front door. 

So now that you know science and setup of how we reduce toxins in our home by taking off our shoes and using a doormat, let's bring it all to life with a video of the process.  Be sure to watch for my "green assistant" Avery!

What's the shoe routine like at your house? Are you strict about taking your shoes off? Or are you more relaxed about it? Does this study change your mind at all? Share below!

Recently this post was linked up to Frugally Sustainable as part of the "Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Blog Hop." So check it out and find more ways you can green your plate, your body, and your home!

This post was also linked up to "Your Green Resource" where a variety of bloggers get together and share their green ideas, solutions and resources. You can check out the link up party on any one of their four hosting sites: Stacy at A Delightful Home, Emily at Live Renewed, or Megan at Sorta Crunchy. There's a plethora of amazing green ideas and tips on these blogs and links so go check it out!

Also linked up to "Living Green Tuesdays Link Up" where you can learn about more cool green tips on the blog Green Idea Reviews or Like a Mustard Seed. What ways will you learn to go green from these links? Plenty, I'm sure! ( :

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