Harsh Chemicals in Your Laundry

When my daughter, Hailey, was 2 years old, we spent many nights listening to her cough so hard she started to sound out of breath.  It was the winter so we thought it was a bad virus at first, but when it persisted we became concerned.  We brought her to her pediatrician and described her nightly coughing fits, and he told us she had asthma. She was put on a medication for allergies and asthma, and we were given steroids to be used in a nebulizer. Wow. What just happened?

My daughter is very sensitive and tends to experience every side effect possible, so I was a little alarmed by this new and sudden medication regimen.  I respect the use of medicine in health care, but I am always cautious when it’s not addressing the root cause of the issue, and I felt like this was one of those times.

I started to research and read that there are many household toxins that can be inducing and/or contributing to a child’s respiratory ailments.  I was a bit skeptical when I found that the most basic household products, such as my laundry detergent, could be causing my daughters respiratory problems.  It’s not sprayed in the air, so how could this be such an irritant that it could cause my daughter to cough so bad that she needed steroids to open her airways? Then I was horrified when I read about the ingredients in such products and the dangers associated.  Common sense told me that Clorox bleach is a potentially dangerous irritant, but I never would have thought the same of my basic laundry soap.

You know those pretty scents you love to smell coming from your laundry room? Well the artificial fragrances are made from petroleum and are linked to allergies and irritation.  Many laundry detergents also use Ethanol, which is linked to damage to the lungs, amongst other health problems–absolutely horrifying. You can find anything you want on the internet, good or bad, so I made sure my research was always through valid sources, including a government website—the Environmental Protection Agency. It doesn’t get anymore legit than that. If the EPA is telling me that bleach is a registered pesticide, and I keep my children away from that when outdoors, I know I don’t want it introduced inside my home.

That very day I went and bought an organic laundry detergent free of artificial fragrances and dangerous irritants. I used a little drop of lavender essential oil to get that nice scent I can’t go without. I started washing everyone’s clothes and linens in it until everything was safe.  At the same time, my daughter had already been on her steroid and anti-histamine regimen.  While we did see a drastic decrease in her coughing fits/breathing episodes, behavior changes including hyperactivity, anxiety and restlessness came with it. Now it was time to put it to the test. I slowly weaned her off all of her medications, and we still had a cough-free Hailey. If she caught a cold, we would see a few breathing episodes, but they were few and far between and nothing compared to the nightly hacking she had been enduring.

As a bonus, as soon as she got off all of those medications that were merely putting a Band-Aid on the problem, she resumed her typical demeanor as well.  As a second unintentional test, upon accidental re-exposure to a basic laundry product, she immediately began coughing at night again.  I never thought about the impact of what chemicals she was exposed to at night when she was sleeping, but it made sense, since she always pulls her blankets up to her face and buries her face in her pillow.

I had so much guilt for what I had caused her, but it was not my fault.  Cleaning products have changed drastically from the baking soda using days of our grandmas.  And now with all the large conglomerates in competition with one another, a quick, inexpensive way to make a cleaning product is to pack a bunch of harsh chemicals into the recipe. They work, they clean, but they also work on our systems to break them down.  I used to feel a certain amount of guilt in passing this information on to the unsuspecting mom, but not anymore.  As moms, we should support each other by sharing our knowledge.  Not one of us knows everything, but if we all unite to exchange information we are a wealth of knowledge amongst us. I don’t judge moms for the products they use, because I was once there. I didn’t know. But now I do, and my children’s health is much better off because of it.

How do your products stack up?

Visit the Environmental Working Group to get a score based on toxicity. They tested more than 600 brands of laundry detergents and additives, and give an easy-to-digest score of A through F to rank them. You can also search for products by name, if you want to see how the items in your laundry room add up, or by ranking if you need to find an alternative product to what you are using now.

You can also find a range of green, eco-friendly and non-toxic laundry alternatives at Mom’s Milk Boutique.

Michele Ogniewski is a part-time social worker and full-time mom to 3 children.  She lives and writes in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
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The Ultimate Car Seat Checklist

Editor’s Note: A while back, I wrote a post on when to turn the car seat. I was the worst possible person to write this post since I find the whole topic confusing, but that’s why I wanted to write it. The rules have changed between each one of my three kids, and on top of that, you get folks both in person and on the Internet giving out wrong information regularly. So the car seat authority from Mom’s Milk Boutique offered to set me straight and help our readers cut through the confusing info since they also sell car seats and are kind of experts on the topic. And so we bring you Car Seat Redux:

Did you know that 73% of car seats are not used or properly installed?

Now that you know, let’s check yours together:

1. Is your car seat expired or recalled?
Check the stickers on the car seat itself or call the manufacturer.

2. Are you using the proper car seat for your child?

  • Do they meet the height and weight requirements for the seat?
  • By weight AND age, should they be forward facing or rear facing?

It is recommended that a child be rear facing until age 2 AND 40 lbs. Children should be in a 5-point harness until they exceed the weight limit of their seat.

3. No children under age 12 should be in the front seat. No car seats should be in the front seat.

4. A list of NEVERS:

  • NEVER use aftermarket accessories.
  • NO covers.
  • NO mats unless tested with the car seat (Diono tests theirs).
  • NO hanging toys.
  • NOTHING between the baby and the car seat (unless it came with the car seat).
  • NOTHING between the car seat and the car’s seat.
  • NEVER submerge your car seat in water.
  • NEVER wash your harness straps–only wipe clean with a damp rag or towel.

5. A list of DO’S:

  • DO check the harness EVERY time you place your child in the car seat to ensure proper fit.
  • DO check the LATCH system or seat belt holding the car seat in EVERY time you use the seat.
  • DO check for visible sun damage, which can cause the plastic to break down.
  • DO check around the seat for choking hazards.(dropped food or toy items)
  • DO come up with a system which reminds you that your child is in the back seat of the vehicle: wallet, key fob, purse, phone, or any other item that you would not leave your car without.

6. With winter coming (already here in some places) please remember that coats and car seats don’t mix!

Monday, November 24, 2014
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Potty Training Dos and Don’ts

Potty Training Dos and Don’tsPotty training- intimidating, exciting, and a whole new ballgame. For me, it has been a definite adventure. From buying “Frozen” panties to sinking to new levels of bribery, potty training has been successful but definitely something I have learned a lot through. As your child approaches this adventure, here are some dos and don’ts I’ve learned along the way.

Do encourage potty training. Don’t push it.

Many moms see the signs that their little one is ready to start potty training from 18-24 months of age. For my daughter, this was the case. She began to tell me when she was wet and the first time I sat her down on the potty, she went. It’s great to encourage your child towards potty training at this age, but don’t push it.  Many 2 and 3 year olds are still wearing diapers. Pushing your child to potty train usually backfires. Stress, the need to please mommy, and anxiety can creep into your little one’s head and all of a sudden it’s not a fun adventure anymore for anyone.

Here are some signs your little one may be ready to start potty training:

  • They tell you when they are wet or dirty and seem bothered by wetness.
  • They can follow basic instructions and understand them, as well.
  • They seem interested in the potty.
  • They start to know how to pull their own pants up and down.

 

Do praise for good success in potty training. Don’t lose your cool when accidents occur.

Potty training opens up many opportunities for positive reinforcement with little ones. Stickers, treats like m&ms, and the opportunity to wash their hands like big girls and boys, are all great rewards. We’ve used them all. You can find fun, printable charts online to use to track your little one’s progress and get the whole family involved. As your little one starts to potty train, accidents will occur. My daughter had several accidents in the beginning of wearing panties. She knew she had to go, but she didn’t tell us she had to in time. Getting upset or frustrated is easy. Maintaining your cool and being calm with your child is not, but it is important. Make sure they know it’s okay and you still love them. We all make mistakes and move on. Don’t make too much of it. They make all kinds of carpet and sanitizing cleaners for a reason.

Do get your little one interested in their own success. Don’t worry or stress.

You can find fun, entertaining books about potty training online and at your local library. Some of my daughter’s favorites are My Big Girl Potty and Big Girl Panties.  Use potty training as a bonding experience. We read books, sing songs, and laugh a lot during potty time. Johanna looks forward to having our attention while she’s on the potty. Don’t worry if your little one doesn’t catch on right away. Several things can influence the timeline for potty training. For us, introducing a new baby in the middle of potty training was a roadblock. Johanna started losing interest and having accidents. Thankfully, that has passed and she is doing great now.

Remember, you are supermom. You are there to teach and build-up your child. Potty training is a new way to do this. So go get some fun panties and let the journey begin!

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of two in Northeast Indiana. Her daughter requests a pretzel after going potty these days.

 

Friday, November 21, 2014
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Holiday Events with More than One Child

IMG_3076I remember the first Christmas party we went to after becoming parents. My daughter was 4 months old. I found something to wear that I could nurse in and didn’t look totally frumpy, and we went to a friend’s house for a little cocktail party. When we got there, Maisie was asleep, so I carried in her baby bucket to the guest room where everyone had their coats. When she began to cry, I excused myself and shut the door so I could nurse her back to sleep. Then I rejoined the party.

Oh, those were the days.

Now we have three girls, and honestly I wanted to write one line for his post: Get a sitter! The end. Taking small children–especially toddlers–to a party can be stressful. You don’t know if they will have a meltdown or not. You have no idea what they will say to people. You don’t know if they will decide that this is the time to find out what happens when we jump on the couch. But it can be done.

1. Know the layout. Who’s hosting the party? Do they have kids? Do they collect Faberge Eggs and keep them on display throughout their home? People who have kids or are totally devoted grandparents are going to be much more understanding when your toddler goes crazy. If you know others who are coming, ask them what they are doing with their kids. Sometimes having other kids there makes it easier, sometimes it might make things harder depending on the age and number of little ones. Outdoor events can be equally as daunting–if you are doing a walk-through light display or activity, make sure you bring enough carriers or wheels for all the kids–even big kids get tired–and extra coats or blankets.

2. Make sure they have something to do. Whether they have toys and games for little ones, or you need to bring them with you, make sure the kids have something to do while you chat with the grownups. Many stores have $1 coloring books, sticker books, and holiday crafts for little ones this time of year. You can also give them a job, like decorating cookies, if the host is willing.

3. Feed them before you go. We still do this even when we go out to eat. It ensures no one will get hangry while you’re out, and you can avoid battles over food since everything is basically desert at this point. Maybe you’ll even get to eat something without sharing!

4. Be ready to bail if you have to. My rule of thumb when taking my kids anywhere is not to go anywhere or do anything that I am not prepared to bail out of. Sometimes this means not being mad that I just spent money on something, like a movie ticket or entrance to an event, and sometimes this means not being disappointed that I have to leave a party. I just always try to stay mentally prepared for the nuclear option.

The most important thing you can do as a parent is set yourself up for success. Don’t take your kids into a situation where you are going to feel self-conscious, stressed out, or like people are judging you the whole night. There’s just no reason to do that to yourself or your children. For me, if I can’t go somewhere and relax and have a good time while I am there, it’s not worth going.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.

Thursday, November 20, 2014
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Staying Warm While Babywearing

Babywearing can seem  like a labor of love in the summertime, when it’s hot and muggy out and you are wrapped up tight together when you really just want to have cool air blowing on every pore of your body. But in the wintertime, it’s warm and cozy.

Staying Warm While BabywearingIn some parts of the country, and for our good friends in Canada (Eh?) even having that tiny ball of heat pressed up against your ribs isn’t quite warm enough. It can be hard for even the most experienced babywearers to enjoy wearing when you are constantly having to take off your carrier to put on a coat. So how do you manage outerwear while rocking that fabulous wrap?

Here are a few creative ideas for staying warm while babywearing:

  1. Coats made for babywearing. Etsy has a great selection of coats that are literally made for babywearing. A huge plus is they are also cute as maternity coats, or even just wrap jackets! There’s also this softshell version that lets you front or back carry and will also keep you dry.
  2. Poncho. A poncho is the easiest solution since it’s easy to throw on and off, and it’s not size specific if you’re still in the process of shedding pounds post-partum. You can even make a no-sew version if you aren’t picky—microfleece and polar fleece don’t have to be sewn. A few slits for your heads and maybe a little fringe if you’re feeling fancy, and you’re done.  The benefit to these is they are cheap and you can wear it with any kind of carry.
  3. Staying Warm While BabywearingCoat extender. These are also easy to make or have someone make for you. If you know someone whoknits or crochets, just take your favorite jacket, strap on your baby, and measure the length from buttonholes to buttons, and from top button to bottom button. Have them whip up a coat-extender panel  (and matching hat, of course!) in that size with the buttons where your buttonholes are, and vice versa. It will keep your coat nice and snug and baby wrapped in woolly goodness.
  4. Infintity sweater. If you don’t live somewhere terribly cold, a stretchy, knit infinity sweater will probablywork just fine for you. The perfect kind for baby wearing will be one with lots of draping in the front, or a large cowl neck, and preferably long ends that you can wrap around you and tie.

Remember: Don’t ever put your baby in his or her car seat while bundled up in a heavy coat. Heavy coats will compress on impact in a collision, which will affect seatbelt function.

Hopefully these ideas keep you and baby warm while enjoying some time outside in the beautiful winter weather.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer, mother of three girls, and Texas native who recently moved to upstate New York.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
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