Category Archives: health

Clean Air For Our Kids: Mom’s Clean Air Force

Madhavi and I have made a lot of changes in our lives in order to have:

  • Better drinking water in our house.
  • No chemical/toxic cleaning products in our house.
  • Less pollutants tracked in from outside (by ditching our shoes at the door).
  • Local and organic foods for the most part.
  • No microwaved food for Anjali.
  • No flame-retardant-chemical mattresses.

So why would we want Anjali to play out side if we knew there were elevated levels of mercury and other toxins in the air?  We wouldn’t.

Unfortunately, at this very moment, pro-polluters are actively lobbying to dismantle government regulations such as the Clean Air Act.  This is at a time when more than 9 million children suffer from asthma and childhood cancer rates are rising dramatically.

Thank goodness Derek Markham, an activist who blogs at Natural Papa, got in touch with me about Moms Clean Air Force (MCAF).  MCAF is a growing community of moms, dads and others who are uniting to defend clean air for everybody, especially our kids.  The project aims to prevent Congress from limiting the EPA’s authority to ensure clean air for everybody, especially our kids.

If you want to find out more and support this important movement, just click Join the Force.

I also encourage any of you bloggers out there to write about this issue to let your readers know they can join too.  Just email me and let me know if you need more information.

Growing Our Own Food

Kale, collards, chard, tomatoes and squash picked just yesterday

We joined an awesome community garden more than 2 years ago, called “Seedy Acres.” :)

Last year there was no way we were able to do anything with our little 8X15 ft. plot, with Anjali being quite a newborn handful.  I managed to turn and amend the soil, and that was about it.  That was fertile ground for some healthy weeds!

This year we got in there and made it happen.  It has been super-rewarding, and Anjali is really enjoying being in there.  I like giving her an early sense of where food comes from, and being more connected with the earth and things that grow (okay, I am a hippie at heart (see previous post)).

But seriously, there is an unfortunate epidemic of kids, especially urban kids, being very disconnected with nature.

I see how easily it happens in our city.  It’s sad, really.  Madhavi and I are making an effort to get out into green more often, even if it means having to drive a little ways to get there.

I intuitively know how important having Anjali playing and exploring in natural, outdoor settings is.  Even the Journal of American Medicine agrees, as does the The Children & Nature Network (C&NN), which ”was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working nationally and internationally to reconnect children with nature.” [ 1. http://www.cnaturenet.org/02_rsrch_studies/PDFs/Burdette_LookingBeyond.pdf. ]

Some of the benefits of children being immersed in nature regularly:

  • Increased creativity, better problem solving skills, more focus, and better self discipline. [ 2. Eren Hays San Pedro, The Benefits Of Getting Into Nature With Your Kids, July 26, 2010, http://simpleorganic.net/the-benefits-of-getting-into-nature-with-your-kids/. ]
  • Social benefits like better cooperation in groups, greater flexibility, and self-awareness. [ 3. Eren Hays San Pedro, The Benefits Of Getting Into Nature With Your Kids, July 26, 2010, http://simpleorganic.net/the-benefits-of-getting-into-nature-with-your-kids/. ]
  • Stress reduction, reduced aggression and increased happiness.

Umm…Adults need to heed the message here.  It is my contention that we have such high rates of depression in our culture as a result of our increasingly sedentary, indoor lifestyle.

Others definitely agree.  In other words, we need to get out of our desk chairs, off our computers (ahem….okay.  I will, just after this post!), and into the great outdoors for a walk, a bike ride, a jog, gardening, swimming, whatever!

What We Are Picking

Every day, either first thing in the morning, or sometime just before sunset, I we walk to our little garden, just a block away.  We pick what’s ready to be picked, weed a tiny bit (less so with all the buggies attacking us these days) and water the plants.  There are 3 shared raspberry bushes that Anjali really loves.  I can’t pick them fast enough before she’s asking for more.

Satellite squash (I wish I were a better photographer 'cause this thing is sweet looking!)

Just about everyday I walk out of the garden with kale, collards and chard.  At this point, every other day we harvest a giant zucchini and some tomatoes (mostly cherry).  We’re also growing beans, purple peppers, lettuce, basil, cucumber (that plant recently bit the dust :( ) and this awesome satellite squash.

It doesn’t get fresher than picking veggies and eating them that day.

Maybe next year we’ll expand into our newly acquired plot of land behind our house!  Until then, let’s see how much our Seedy Acres plot will yield…

Homemade Deodorant: I Am Not A Hippie!

Indeed, I was once a Grateful-Dead-listening-long-hair-Birkenstock-wearing “hippie.”  That is no longer the case.  Well, maybe that’s only partially true.  I started wearing Birkenstocks again, and I wear completely natural, homemade deodorant.

Today I am making my first attempt at making my own deodorant.  I have been using this stuff for the past few years, but Madhavi has been making it for me.  Today I’m on my own.  I just walked with Anjali to Penn Herb, a local store that sells (as the name implies) herbs, homeopathic remedies and other things natural.

Why Would You Want To Do That?

Deodorant may not strike you as one of those things you want to make. The main reason we decided to make our own is to avoid Aluminum, and other chemicals (parabens mainly),  found in most deodorants and anti-perspirants.  Aluminum in deodorants has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease 1 and breast cancer. 2  Aluminum is the ingredient in anti-perspirants that blocks your sweat glands.  Doesn’t it seem a bit unhealthy to make yourself not sweat?

Both of us have tried all sorts of store-bought natural deodorants, only to find that most completely suck.  I realized I was better off using nothing than buying some of these products.

Then I read that baking soda worked incredibly well.  In fact, Arm and Hammer made a baking soda, aluminum-free deodorant, but discontinued it.  I guess not enough people were interested.  I thought about just mixing baking soda and water, as I read that some people do that.  But then Madhavi found this recipe at Angry Chicken.

The Ingredients 3

  • 3 Tbsp. Shea Butter
  • 3 Tbsp. Baking Soda
  • 2 Tbsp. Corn Starch
  • 2 Tbsp. Cocoa Butter
  • 2 Vitamin E Oil Gel Caps
  • a few drops of essential oil (we use lavender)

I’m leaving out the vitamin E.

This Is How Easy It Is

Madhavi melts all of the ingredients, mixes them in a little glass jar, and then lets them set in the fridge.  The jar we use looks like this (this is empty…I still have to make it today :) ):

This stuff works better than ANY deodorant I have ever used and is totally natural! It lasts a really long time too.  I think this jar will get me through 9 months or more.  I just take a pea-size amount in my fingers, mush it around a bit so it gets soft, and apply.

Madhavi found that it irritates her skin, so she is still left with less perfect solutions.  I have not had this problem at all.

Give it a try.  I’ll let you know how mine turns out.

  1. http://www.controlyourimpact.com/articles/deodorants-antiperspirants-and-your-health/.
  2. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/AP-Deo.
  3. Amy Karol, Homemade Deodorant (yup), http://angrychicken.typepad.com/angry_chicken/2008/07/homemade-deodor.html.

Excessive Cell Phone Use And Its Affect On Kids

I was at the park the other day, pushing Anjali on the swing.  I noticed a mom with her son, who was close in age to Anjali.  She was on the phone, and was quite adept at carrying on a conversation while helping her son play safely on the play-set/jungle-gym.  I have also displayed such adeptness at multitasking.

My phone buzzed in my pocket, telling me I had a call.  I had to make a conscious effort to ignore the buzzing, as it is almost reflexive for me to immediately pick up the phone, at least to see who it is.  I decided not to even look at it, let alone answer it.  You see, I’m trying to change my cell phone behavior.

I realize how addicted I am to this constant contact most of us experience daily, with a constant influx of phone calls, text messages, emails, facebook updates, tweets, instant messages, and on and on.

For the sake of this post I’m going to put aside the fact that excessive cell phone use is likely unhealthy for me (“a multinational study conducted by the World Health Organization found that heavy mobile phone usage significantly increases the risk of brain and salivary gland tumors,”) 1

I spent the last few days thinking about why my cell phone overuse might affect Anjali negatively.

  • As adept as I think I am while I’m multitasking, my divided attention puts Anjali in potential danger.  It only takes a few seconds for a preventable accident to happen.  It only takes a few seconds for her to wander off, or worse, be taken off.
  • Every moment I am on the phone, I am missing out on the full experience of truly being with my daughter.
  • Done repeatedly, I may be sending the message to Anjali that the phone is more important than her. It’s like saying, “I’ll play with you, but anytime that black rectangular thing “beeps,” (as she says it), it takes priority, not you.”
  • I am setting a strong pattern for her to model. For one, if she sees the importance I place on the phone, she will very quickly pick up on that.  What we’ll end up with is a 3 year old begging me to get her a cell phone.  Secondly, I am teaching her that being constantly distracted is normal behavior.  I know by know how these little ones imitate and integrate our behaviors, and being constantly distracted by a cell phone is not a behavior I want her to learn.
  • If cell phone use does in fact cause serious health risks, do I really want my daughter to place such high value on cell phones?  I started using a cell phone when I was in my late twenties.  Anjali, and kids her age, are still in a highly developmental period.  I can only guess that her exposure to cell phones poses a higher risk for long-term health problems.

So, for my benefit, and for Anjali’s benefit (and at the risk of breaking our culture’s instant-reply-ettiquette!), here are some changes I am trying to make:

  1. I leave my phone at home as much as possible.  I think the world will survive if I don’t have my phone on me for an hour or so.
  2. I keep my phone on silent/vibrate, unless I am expecting an important call.  I also turned off beeps and boops that tell me I have a new email, text, etc.
  3. If I am at the park with Anjali, I try my hardest not to interrupt what we are doing to answer the phone.  I may screen a call, in case Madhavi is calling, or if I am expecting an important call.
  4. I try to batch phone calls, emails and texts, so that I am making most of my phone calls for the day in one chunk of time.  I try to do this when Anjali is napping.  I sometimes do it when I am with her, but I explain to her first that I have some important phone calls.
  5. To minimize potential health risks, I try to keep the phone out of my pocket as much as possible.  For example, when I am home, I keep the phone on the table, away from my body.

Interestingly, I find the less I make myself available on the phone, the less calls and messages I get.  I believe it’s called “cutting the fat.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to ignore people.  I do cherish valuable contact with friends and family.  I also have some calls that are high priority.  But there are only so many hours in a day.  Anjali is growing so fast, I don’t want to look back and feel like I missed out for a bunch of trivial phone calls.

  1. Anthony Gucciardi, “Study On Cell Phone Dangers Prompts Major Call For School Bans,” 2011, http://www.naturalnews.com/032480_cell_phones_human_health.html.

Does Baby Led Weaning Foster Earlier Independence? Radha’s Theory

I was thinking today about something my friend Radha said to me a little while back.  He was theorizing that baby led weaning (which we are doing with Anjali and he and his wife Sheila are doing with Uma) really fosters more independence in babies.

The idea is that you are letting your baby eat on their own.  They explore food when they are ready.  They develop eating skills as other skills develop (ie, when they can use a pincer grasp, they can eat smaller foods, like peas, and not choke).  You are generally not spoon-feeding them mashed foods (we do tend to spoon or finger feed oatmeal to Anjali in the mornings), and they are getting a sense of whole and individual foods, rather than a puree combination that may be unrecognizable as the original food.

Radha’s theory is that eating independence extends into other aspects of their lives.  In other words, because you are giving them independence to eat on their own, they are likely to be more exploratory, more willing to try things on their own and perhaps faster to develop new skills.

I think there is something to this notion.  But I only have the direct experience with Anjali, Uma and a few others, so what do I really know.  I do see them all thriving so much.  I’m curious what others think of this idea, or any related experiences you have had.

My Baby Doesn’t Eat Baby Food: Baby Led Weaning

It just dawned on me today that Anjali doesn’t eat baby food, nor has she ever eaten it.  It struck me as a bit strange, because you just figure a baby eats baby food.  But really, a baby can skip baby foodand just eat food. Admittedly, we planned it this way.  But after a few months of it, it just became normal.  It’s called Baby Led Weaning.

What is Baby Led Weaning

Baby led weaning is, according to wikipedia,  “a method of gradually weaning a baby from a milk diet onto solid foods. It allows a baby to control his solid food intake by self-feeding from the very beginning of the weaning process.”

Really, baby-led weaning is just a term, and the wikipedia definition is just a way more thorough way of saying that a baby will start to eat when they are ready.  When your baby starts reaching for your food, is able to pick it up and bring it to their mouth, they are ready to start exploring food.  Prior to that, their mother’s milk is just fine.  As long as you are giving your baby milk, eating does not have to start at some designated time (commonly taught now as 4 months).

As they explore they will develop the skill.  As they develop new skills, like the pincer grasp, they will have more control over what they eat.

Our Experience With BLW

Just to give you an idea.  Sometime during her 5th month, Anjali started exploring food.  This was mainly raw veggies cut into holdable pieces–things like cucumber, carrot and zucchini sticks.  She was pretty much “playing” at this point.  Eventually, she could break pieces off with her gums (those teeth hiding in there are no joke!), and she started to eat the food.  Keep in mind, Anjali continued to nurse and drink mama’s milk.  Milk continued to be her main source of food, nutrition, protection and comfort for several months.

Ikea Antilop High Chair

By 6 or 7 months, Anjali was really eating all kind of things–raw, steamed and cooked every which way.  Well, we kept her away from foods that were fried and salty.  Also, no refined sugar or dairy.  We stuck to veggies mostly.  Fruit and some meats and fish next.  Raw egg was a good one too.  We would put her in her Ikea Antilop chair with her food, and let her go to it.  Often we would just give her food while she was on our laps, or on the floor.  We would try to give her whole foods mostly.    We would make some things especially for her, like the occasional applesauce.  We would also try to cut things into shapes that she could handle easier.  But, in general, she would eat what we were eating.

Now, at 10 months, Anjali is eating so many things.  I just shared my rice with kale, eggplant, bok choy and tofu with her.  She simply drops what she doesn’t want on the floor and goes for the rest. Now that she has a good pincer grasp, she can pick up the smallest pieces of rice, beans, oats, etc.  We continue to keep her sugar and salt intake down.  She has a bit of dairy–yogurt and things cooked with butter.  No peanuts.

Helpful Tools For BLW

  • A good, easy-to-clean high chair, like the Antelop.
  • Good, water-proof bibs.
  • Lots of inexpensive sheets (ours are also care of Ikea for $2 a piece) to put on the floor, under the high chair.  This can get messy.
  • Soft cloth for wiping baby’s mouth (they don’t like the wipe down, so try to ease their discomfort).

BLW Helps You Re-evaluate What You’re Eating

Well, I can’t say I have changed my eating habits.  We already eat pretty healthily consciously.  But watching Anjali’s salt and sugar intake, while letting her eat the same food we are eating, has made us think twice about those things in our diet.

There’s a great photo-time line post for BLW at ALivingFamily.com.

Shoes Off Policy

A while back I wrote about taking your shoes off at the door.  If you check out the comments there, you’ll see one from Celestial Fundy.  I was tickled that she hosts a blog called Shoes Off at the Door, Please.

I found it fascinating, somewhat hilarious, and perhaps perplexing that someone would have a blog devoted entirely to the subject of taking shoes off inside.  But she really keeps it interesting, comical and informative.  Check it out.

Why We Choose Organic Shampoo For Babies

OUR TOP SELLING ORGANIC SHAMPOOS FOR BABIES

CLICK HERE To Browse The Full Range

Of the many organic items we have chosen for our daughter, organic baby bath products are among them.  We feel strongly that products like shampoo, body wash, sunscreen, creams and lotions–really, any product that gets put directly on her skin–should at least be natural, and better that they are organic.

Interestingly enough, neither Madhavi nor I use organic shampoo ourselves.  I myself don’t have a ton of hair to speak of, so only shampoo about 2 times a week.  Sometimes I’ll even use Dr. Bronners all in one, which is a natural product.  I hear it dries out your hair though.  I don’t use it too often however, since I only shampoo twice a week.   For Anjali, we use several California Baby Products. The Calendula Cream is amazing. Great for dryness and cradle-cap. We use the Calming lotion for after baths. And the shampoo and body wash is great, and has lasted well over a year so far.

California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo & Bodywash – 19 oz. California Baby Calendula Cream California Baby Everyday Lotion – Calming, 6.5 Ounce

It is important that our daughter has better products than I would use myself.  Her skin is way more sensitive.  Knowing the types of chemicals that would touch her beautiful hair and scalp from most commercial shampoos just skives me out.

Some Of The Common Chemicals In Many Commercial Shampoos

  • Propylene Glycol – This is the stuff that makes shampoo all slippery and slidy (if I may use such a non-word).  They use this stuff in antifreeze!
  • Diethanolamine or DEA – This is a known carcinogen
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate - It’s a detergent chemical commonly found in industrial engine degreasers.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – Another detergent chemical.  This one is  known to cause cataracts in adults and improper eye development in children.  Despite this knowledge, this ingredient is commonly used in most store-bought shampoos and conditioners.

The Problems With Non Organic Shampoo For Babies

Some of the issues with non organic shampoo for babies is include things like skin and scalp problems, eczema and hair damage.  Worse yet, several of these chemical are known to cause immune system deficiencies and even cancer.  I should rethink my own hair care, as should my wife…

Solutions

CLICK HERE For Great Organic Baby Shampoos


Here’s the simple solution: Be willing to spend a little more on things like baby organic shampoo and body wash.  Another solution is to learn how to make your own organic baby shampoo.  Perhaps you should try learning to make organic shampoo for yourself while you’re at it. Making your own care products will save you a good deal of money, and give you peace of mind.  You’ll know exactly what’s in it!

Benefits Of Organic Baby Shampoo

An obvious benefit is, uh, to avoid cancer causing chemicals.  Is that enough to stop you from buying commercial shampoos?  If not, how about the fact that natural products like organic shampoo and conditioner can actually revive your hair and scalp from years of harsh, chemical-ridden hair treatment.

Remember,  we have made certain choices for ourselves over the years.  Some were good for us, some not so good.  But we have the responsibility as parents to make healthy choices for our children, especially when they are so young they cannot decide for themselves.  Also, it is probable that more things are chemical-laden now than they were when we were kids.

Give Your Baby Raw Egg-Yolk: The Truth About The Yolk

Remember that egg-white omelets diet fad? Why did people think that the egg-whites were the “healthy” part and regard (or discard) the yolk as cholesterol-laden and heart-disease-causing. Need I say, the yolk’s on them (sorry).

I guess the egg-white fad was a derivative of the all fat is bad crap that gave us lab tested (and failed, though they won’t admit it) margarine and fat free Snackwell cookies (read: chemical, food-like cookies).

Hello?! Two-thirds of our brain are fats. We need these essential fatty acids in things like egg yolks. Egg yolks contain iron that infants and toddlers are often deficient in. Additionally, those yolks are good sources of magnesium and calcium…And they are one of the few food sources of vitamin D.

So, why do we give our 8 month old Anjali raw egg yolk, from fresh, local, free-range chickens, as recommended by our doctor? Surprisingly, in spite of the bad press raw eggs have gotten over the years, the best egg nutrition is in the raw yolk. Cooking the egg changes the nature of the proteins and fats, thus leaving you with a less than ideal egg.

And in case you are worried about the salmonella risks with raw eggs, keep in mind: one, that those stories have been exaggerated; two, “The bulk of these [eggs contaminated with salmonella] come from battery chicken eggs and chickens kept in unhealthy conditions – only sick chickens lay salmonella contaminated eggs. If only healthy chicken eggs (organic and free range ideally) are consumed, then far less than one in 30,000 eggs are contaminated. ” (From Regenerative Nutrition).

Baby Led Weaning: No Teeth? No Problem.


Prior to Anjali’s birth, we saw this book called Baby Led Weaning. Maybe it’s just in our nature to do things “differently,” like with EC, sign-language, homebirth, etc. But this seemed fascinating. As we read the book it seemed only logical.

The idea is that we let Anjali explore food on her own and we just supervise. This means that we don’t puree everything and shovel it into her mouth with a spoon. Instead, once she expressed interest in food, by reaching for food on our plates for example, we gave her chunks of food so she could “play” with it. The idea here is that she continued to get nutrition from breast milk, and at the same time she could explore the taste and texture of solid food. Check out Anjali eating a pear with no teeth.

There are many benefits of Baby Led Weaning. Here are some I thought of:

  • Good for fine motor development as baby handles food using hands, fingers and mouth.
  • Baby develops chewing skills, even before teeth. We were amazed at first, but Anjali, toothless at 8 months, is eating plenty of solid foods: chunks of apples, pieces of chicken, cucumbers, etc.
  • Baby develops skills to avoid gagging. When we first started baby led weaning with Anjali (around 6 months), she gagged (not choked; there’s a difference!) a bunch. Now she’s a pro.
  • Baby eats very independently which fosters independence in other areas of development. I–and other friends who do baby led weaning with their kids–believe Anjali is more independent in play, crawling, etc in part due to the independence we allow her when eating.
  • A carrot is a carrot. Baby enjoys the actual shape and texture of a food, rather than a mashed up version of it. Sure, Anjali likes applesauce (which she manages very adeptly with her hands!), but she knows an apple for an apple.
  • Less work for parents: We let Anjali enjoy the same meal we are eating, for the most part. We don’t tons of time pureeing foods or buying purees at the market. It also helps us re-assess what we are eating. For example, since we don’t want Anjali to eat salty foods, we have to cut down ourselves.