Green cleaning products

I love that most of the cleaning products I use are made of edible ingredients, are cheap, and are free of scary chemicals!

Here are some products we use that I really like:

Mixture of 1/2 white vinegar and 1/2 water in a spray bottle

  • Smells like vinegar but the smell leaves very quickly after you spray something
  • Great for cleaning basically anything except granite
  • Use for bathrooms, mirrors, glass, kitchen appliances
  • Kills viruses, bacteria, and even the flu
  • Vinegar is good for using in laundry to remove stains

Mixture of 1/2 rubbing alcohol and 1/2 water in spay bottle

  • Safe for granite (counter tops in kitchens, bathrooms, tables) because it’s not acidic
  • My husband uses this spray to de-wrinkle his work shirts. He just sprays them and hangs them up and they are ready to wear in the morning
  • The smell seems to linger a little longer than the vinegar
  • Kills viruses and bacteria (especially if you don’t dilute it more than 50%)

I like to make a paste of baking soda and vinegar to clean water glasses which makes the really sparkling clean. Baking soda can be used anytime you need something grainy to get particles off, like if there is residue in your tub.

I also use a mixture of 1/2 rubbing alcohol, 1/2 water, and a few drops of orange extract in a spray bottle as deodorant. The alcohol kills bacteria that make bad smells. I just use the orange because I like the smell of it.

I love that after I clean, it’s safe for the dog to roll around on the floor, and once Jack is crawling I don’t have to worry about him either!

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Introducing Solids

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Jack turned 6 months old the other day so we started giving him solid food! We are doing baby-led weaning and the first food we have been giving him is baked sweet potato fries. I peeled a sweet potato from the farmer’s market and cut it into long thick fry shapes and baked them for about 30 minutes. Jack loves to put everything in his mouth, but over a few days he seems to mainly just be licking the food so far and eating very little of it which I think is normal.

We are using the Tripp Trapp high chair which I love so far. Jack has been playing with spoons and sitting in it for a few weeks now, and he really enjoys it. He seems comfortable and likes to be able to reach things and watch me in the kitchen. We got the espresso color which was on sale here and are using the baby seat that I found on craigslist. You can apparently use the harness and don’t need the baby seat, but it seems to really secure him in there (it’s a tiny bit hard for me to even get him in/out) so I like it. eating also gets messy, so I like that I can just wipe the seat off. The chair is REALLY easy to clean and is made of eco-friendly wood, so I love it. It’s also ergonomic so the child’s feet can always be resting on something as they grow. I was able to put it together by myself while wearing the baby!

We decided not to buy the tray which is really expensive but got this silicone placemat instead. It sort of sticks to our glass table although Jack can pull it off if he wants to.

We’re going to avoid dairy because of possible allergies and likely most other allergy-causing foods. Our doctor recommended we start with vegetables and then move to fruits which are sweeter, so I’m going to try to think of some other options. I think the sweet potato may have been too mushy and stringy, so I may try something more firm and easy to hold that he can suck on like broccoli, or just give him an avocado I have… Hopefully he continues to be interested and starts actually eating some food soon!

For now, our dog Bear is the main one enjoying the sweet potatoes

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Our cloth diapering experience

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I have always wanted to use cloth diapers to avoid putting all those diapers in landfills and exposing my baby to chemicals. My husband and I live in an apartment where we have to pay for laundry, so we decided to try a local diaper service.  The service is $20 a week, so I think buying the cheapest diapers possible would have been cheaper, but we are likely breaking even if we compare to using Whole Foods brand diapers or some less toxic one.

We had to use prefolds and covers because the service provides organic cotton prefolds. I looked into all the adorable cover options and settled on using mostly organic wool ones because they don’t have the polyurethane layer. I also got a couple of Imse Vimse diapers as backup if I’m washing the wool. They are organic cotton on the outside but PUL on the inside.

Wool diaper cover pros:

  • Really cute, and look adorable in picures
  • No chemicals at all if you get organic
  • Something in the wool neutralizes urine, so you only need to wash if poop gets on them
  • They can absorb a lot naturally
  • I only lanolize mine every 2 months or so, and they’re fine
  • You need fewer because you don’t wash them as much (we are fine with 3 plus 2 cotton backups)

Wool diaper covers cons:

  • Need to wash by hand. I’ve found the best is to wash immediately if they get poop on them with this which is way better than normal soap. Otherwise, the stains seem hard to get out.
  • Are more expensive (but you need fewer)
  • Are a little more bulky, but that could just be the size we have
  • Can’t get as many design options

Our method with using the prefolds (which is basically just a square of cotton) is to be lazy and just lay it flat on the cover and put it on, and then tuck the extra into the leg holes. If I think the baby will be pooping soon I’ll fold over the sides to contain it more. I honestly think that the cloth diapers are just as fast to change as disposables, or faster. I always have trouble unsticking the tabs on disposables. The few times we used disposables I also noticed how much worse they smell too (I guess the chemicals react with the urine).

Now that Jack is 6 months old and just starting solid food, we are considering stopping the diaper service and washing the diapers at home. I’m hoping his poop will get less liquidy and easier to put into the toilet, and maybe stain less? We’ll see… I’ve also looked up biodegradable liners which we could use in the mornings when he mostly poops.

I’m so glad we chose cloth diapers! Jack has never had a rash (and he has really sensitive skin). We just use coconut oil on him a couple of times a day. The cloth also looks so much more comfortable, soft, and breathable than disposables. Oh, and you can sell back cloth diapers for a pretty good amount, or use them for your next baby!

Favorite eco toys

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Everyone seems to want to give toys as baby gifts, so we have more than I would have expected. Why doesn’t anyone want to buy people useful presents like weeks of a diaper service, haha?  Luckily most people gave us eco-friendly toys since they know that is important to me. When people ask about something to buy, I generally suggest the brands Plan Toys and Haba which are available online or some stores.

Here are some of Jack’s favorite (and not so favorite) toys so far, at 6 months old:

1. Wooden spoons! He LOVES to chew on them now that he is teething. I have the spoon from this set but I’m sure any is fine. I like the shorter ones so it’s less likely that he can push it too far in his mouth. Also doubles as a drumstick against the table!

2. Wooden rattles like this. He likes the circle-shaped things that he can easily grasp and fit in his mouth. I think the hard wood feels good against his gums, because he likes biting on the wood toys more than stuffed animals or most rubber ones.

3. Wooden blocks. We have these from Plan Toys (which is an amazing company that uses great natural materials and nontoxic paint). Jack loves when I build a tower and he knocks it down, and also likes to chew on the blocks. I’m sure as he gets older he will be able to actually build and do even more.

4. He likes the natural rubber teethers too, but generally less then wooden toys. He likes the different textures of this panda which FYI is a lot darker than it looks on the picture. We also chose to get the baby sofie giraffe because it doesn’t have the squeaker inside like the big version, and it’s legs are connected so the baby won’t shove a single leg too far down their mouth.

In terms of toys that have been least useful so far, Jack has not really been interested in stuffed toys as much.  Starting at 4 months he has been trying to chew on anything, so a washcloth (possibly put in the freezer beforehand) seems more interesting to him than an expensive organic stuffed toy.

We also read baby books to Jack, but he doesn’t seem all that interested yet (at 6 months). I also couldn’t find any really non-toxic books, and he always wants to chew on them, so I think he’d rather play with things I let him put in his mouth.

Let me know if you have any other natural toy suggestions!

Using coconut oil

I’m so thankful for my baby for a lot of reasons, and one of them is that having him introduced me to a bunch of healthy things. I never bought a jar of coconut oil before I had Jack, but I decided to because I wanted to find the most natural diaper cream to use on him, and using something that you can eat seemed like a safe bet!

I found organic coconut oil for pretty cheap at Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods is pretty cheap too. I store it at room temperature because it gets pretty rock-solid in the fridge.

Here is what I do with it:

  • Slather it on baby’s diaper area to prevent rashes (we haven’t had any diaper rash in 6 months so far!) I keep it in a little glass jar by the changing area
  • Put it all over baby’s skin after bath time as a moisturizer (it even has some ability to act as sunscreen)
  • Use it as moisturizer for my skin, although I have to be careful to only use a little or it looks oily. It’s supposed to help prevent wrinkles due to the antioxidants
  • Use it on my hair instead of gel
  • Use it instead of butter or oil for baking. It works really well because it is a solid at cool temperatures, so it holds baked goods together well unlike other oils which stay liquid
  • Use it to make vegan chocolate sauce which also acts like magic shell in that it hardens when it touches ice cream or gets cold
  • For some reason I think it works really well to oil a baking sheet or a muffin pan

A random note: my dog usually wasn’t interested in eating the oil in a jar I had out by the diaper area, but one day I spilled a bunch and the dog ate it all! (He’s a super fast eater!). I called the vet who said it should be fine, and he will throw it up which luckily he did. So don’t feed a whole cup of this stuff to a pet…

Birth story

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I was lucky and had a pretty easy pregnancy with Jack. I didn’t have much nausea but preferred to eat more bland foods in the first trimester. I ate a lot of eggs, soy bacon, and spinach. I had some bleeding all throughout the pregnancy so we had more ultrasounds than normal. At the last few weeks of pregnancy Jack was really low, so they were a little worried he wasn’t growing enough because my stomach was small, but he was right on target in the ultrasounds. I kept exercising and walking with Bear (our dog) until the end of the pregnancy, as well as working.

I had wished I could give birth in a birth center or at home, but my husband didn’t think it was safe, so we delivered at a hospital where you could have a midwife. They seemed to use fewer interventions which I liked, but it still really felt like a hospital setting. I really wanted to have a medication-free labor because I believed strongly in it, and I’m also very scared of needles. I took a hypnobirthing class, but admittedly didn’t really practice the meditations at all. I hoped to stay at home as long as possible and be in the shower to deal with the pain.

When I was 38 weeks and 3 days pregnant, I woke up at around 6am and my water had started breaking while I had been sleeping. I was really surprised and didn’t expect things to start that way, or to end up progressing pretty quickly afterwards. We went to the hospital because they wanted to make sure that’s what happened, and then they let us go back home for a while because the contractions were really light.

By 12 or 1pm the contractions had gone from nothing to intense very quickly so I was in the shower at home which helped a lot, and they were 3 minutes apart. Once they were 3 minutes apart for an hour and a half my husband said we should go back to the hospital as the midwife had suggested. We arrived around 2pm and luckily got a room. The nurse was really nice and we ended up barely seeing the midwife at all. The hospital rooms were remodeled and nice, but I really wish they had a birth tub. I alternated between being in the shower or having my husband put pressure on my lower back.

I threw up a few times and they were worried I was dehydrated and Jack’s heart rate was getting too high. They insisted on putting an IV with fluids in, and I was sad that I couldn’t go in the water anymore which had been my favorite way to deal with the pain. I had only progressed from 2-3cm to 3-4 during those 4 hours at the hospital, so I eventually decided to get an epidural. They put it in around 6pm, and by midnight I felt like I might have to push. It was really quick getting Jack near the exit, but then it took 45 minutes to get his head out! I thought I might not be able to get him out, but I finally did. I had 2nd degree tearing and asked the midwife to do the stitching instead of the resident, and I was surprised how much it still hurt even with lidocaine.  Jack cried right away and was healthy except for some jaundice. I was able to hold him and breastfeed within the first 20 minutes. I was also able to get up and walk soon because the epidural had worn off before the pushing, so I was moved into a recovery room pretty quickly. I really wanted to go home asap, so after a night of interrupted sleep by nurses etc we were able to leave by 5pm the next day. Thank goodness neither Jack nor I had any serious health complications. My stitches took a while (over 6 weeks) to heal, and his jaundice eventually got better.

If we (hopefully!) have another baby, some things I want to remember to try to do differently to achieve a natural birth:

  • Hire a doula (I thought it might be a waste of money, but I think it would really help)
  • Practice meditation and perineal massage more
  • Stay at home until I feel like I can’t handle the pain anymore instead of just going by the 3 minutes apart rule
  • Drink something after every single contraction
  • Get A LOT of coconut water and juice for home and to bring to the hospital, and have straws
  • If I need an IV, ask if they can wrap it in plastic so I can still go in the shower

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I’m so grateful that everything worked out in the end though!

Plastic-free baby?

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We try to minimize plastic in our house, especially for baby items, but in today’s society it can be really hard!

I won’t go into all the issues with plastic here because it’s easy to find good info online. One study I saw recently said that even BPA-free plastic  leaches endocrine-disrupting chemicals, so we really try to buy mostly wood, stainless steel, and glass items. If you need to buy plastic, silicone is supposed to be the safest as far as I know.

Here are some things we do to try to limit plastic exposure:

  • Use cloth diapers
  • No plastic baby toys
  • No “activity mat” type things
  • Use items we already have as toys (Jack loves wooden spoons, metal spoons, cups, pans, cardboard boxes)
  • Only cook with stainless steel pans or GreenPans (no toxic “nonstick” pans)
  • Use glass bottles or stainless steel ones (Jack likes the Pura steel ones, but they leak more than the Lifefactory glass ones)
  • Use this steel ice cube tray to freeze breast milk
  • Use glass tupperware to store frozen milk (and eventually food for baby). The lids on these Anchor ones are plastic, so eventually I’ll switch them for another brand.
  • Hand express instead of pump milk
  • Use a wooden high chair with no tray or get a silicone placemat (we have this one to contain messes)

Instead of an “activity mat,” you can buy a wood activity gym,  or make your own by tying a ribbon or string across a crib or under a table and hanging some toys. Jack enjoyed our home-made play center in his crib :) I later switched the string for a nicer looking ribbon

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Organic minimalistic baby registry

My husband and I decided to register on amazon because they had so many organic options, and you could link to items from other web pages as well.

Here are the things we found most helpful:

loveybums organic wool cloth diaper

  • Organic wool diaper covers- this company is one of the only ones I found that has organic wool in cute colors. They are adorable and worked well with organic cotton prefolds from our diaper service. We had mostly velcro ones because they are easier to remove for EC. We have 3 in each size which is usually fine, and two backup Imse Vimse organic cotton ones (that have PUL on the inside)
  • Once Jack got older and we stopped the diaper service we started using Bumgenius pocket diapers which are really easy to put on. They are not organic, but are made in the USA and keep the baby feeling dry like a disposable diaper. We found that snaps worked better once Jack was older because he couldn’t pull them off
  • Baby carriers! At 6 months I still use my organic moby wrap for hours every day, and it’s so comfortable. We also like the organic Beco (my husband and parents find it easier to wear). Carriers were the only way to keep Jack happy and let me get things done (or even eat) so they are one of the most useful items I got!

organic beco baby carrier

  • A few bottles if you’re pumping. We liked the Lifefactory glass ones

life factory nontoxic baby bottle glass

  • We have 8 organic cotton bibs which seems like a lot, but helps up be able to have fewer clothes because they get less dirty with drool or spit up. Some days Jack drools so much now that we go through multiple bibs! I liked snaps because the velcro irritated his skin. Non white colors also are better because they look less dirty.
  • Since we are doing elimination communication, we prefer separate tops and bottoms to make using the toilet easier.  Burt’s bees has cute (slightly small sized) things, as does Under the Nile and baby soy on amazon.
  • We had about 5 swaddle blankets. My favorite because they were a little bigger and cheap (and organic) was the Hudson brand. We had one with the velcro which was easier for a few weeks, but then can’t be used after your baby grows.
  • I love this organic nursing/sports bra. I got some organic clothes for myself because Jack got some red spots on his face after sleeping on me while I had synthetic fabrics on. This bra is really comfortable and easy. I used organic cloth wipes as absorbent pads inside.
  • I got the Lansinoh manual pump because I’ve only ever been away from the baby for a few hours at a time. It was ok, but I found that hand expressing is actually easier, just as fast, and doesn’t involve any clean-up.
  • I used threads for thoughts tank tops because they are organic and cheap. Jack stretched a lot of them out now, but that’s ok as I’m usually wearing them under something else or under the Moby.

Since we co-slept, we didn’t really need a crib although we did get one and use it more like a play yard. I think the list above is really all our essential items!

Elimination diet

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Since Jack was a few months old I’ve been cutting things out of my diet because of possible allergies. For the last few weeks that’s included the 8 causes of 90% of infant allergies:

  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts

Also, for the last 2 weeks I’ve tried cutting out corn as well!

I’ve been eating a lot of rice and potatoes! As well as fruits and vegetables of course. It’s extra hard because I was already a vegetarian (who ate fish). To get omega-3s, I’ve been putting ground flax seeds in baked goods and eating seaweed mixed in with my leafy greens. I’ve also been eating Trader Joe’s calcium chews which are really good.

Some dishes I’ve been eating include:

  • Butternut squash soup (puree roasted squash, a few potatoes, vegetable broth, and garlic)
  • Tomato soup (Puree peeled tomatoes, coconut milk, spices, and broth)
  • Vegetables with rice
  • Vegetables with potatoes

Snacks:

  • Baked sweet potato fries
  • Frozen french fries with ketchup or mustard
  • Oatmeal
  • Oatmeal muffins
  • Oat pancakes
  • Coconut chips from Trader Joe’s
  • Potato chips (sometimes dipped in nutritional yeast)
  • Potato balls
  • Tapioca pudding
  • Coconut yogurt from whole foods
  • Olives
  • Guacamole and veggies
  • Fried rice cakes using “flax egg” to hold it together
  • Coconut milk ice cream from whole foods (really good!)
  • Dried fruit as a snack
  • Banana and frozen fruit smoothie in coconut milk
  • Chocolate/chocolate sauce

In general, here are replacements I’ve used:

  • Instead of butter for baking: coconut oil (coconut is a seed, not a tree nut)
  • Instead of flour: oats ground in the food processor
  • Baking chocolate or cacao nibs instead of chocolate
  • Sunbutter instead of peanut butter
  • Coconut milk instead of milk or cream (watch out for using too many American-grown rice products like rice milk due to arsenic)
  • A “flax egg” instead of eggs in baked goods (mix 1 tablespoon flax and 1 tablespoon water and let it sit a few min)
  • I’ve eaten the oatmeal muffins instead of granola bars or as a snack I can eat in the car