Archive | Childhood eczema

Natural Lice Prevention

I discovered recently that my kids’ school has been experiencing regular outbreaks of lice over the past few months. My family hasn’t experienced lice, even though it seems to be regular occurrence in all schools, so after I checked all four kid’s hair and sighed with relief that we didn’t have it, I started thinking about prevention. From talking to many parents, it seems like chemical treatments and natural lice treatments both take a long time to remove lice 100%, so if that’s the case …why use the extra chemicals on children? And let’s think of some tips for prevention. As most readers know, since I have a daughter that has dry skin outbreaks from eczema flare ups, I only shampoo all of my kid’s hair once a month. Funny, because barbers, parents, and family look surprised when I mention that. And my children (I think) have gorgeous hair – everyone always wants to touch my older son’s hair because it’s thick and beautiful (see below). So only occasional washing is working well for our family. And when I do wash their hair, I use a teaspoon of baking soda mixed into a cup or warm water instead of store bought shampoo. On my sons especially, their hair feels amazing after it’s washed this way. But technically their hair is on the dirty side most days rather than the squeaky clean and funny enough, Jennifer from The Smart Mama confirmed for me that lice prefer clean hair! So one more bonus of not over washing children’s hair is it’s a deterrent for lice. Hooray for the hippies!

The most popular methods of DIY lice prevention include tea tree oil. This oil is natural antiseptic and can be a preventative tool against lice. Add 12 drops to ¼ pint water and put in a spray bottle. Mist hair each morning with this solution. A Mommy Footprint Facebook fan reported success with daily use of tree tea oil to prevent lice by using this method: “I put a couple of drops of tea tree oil on my hand and they get a hair rub-down (especially at nape of neck and behind ears) before we go to school (I leave the tea tree oil in a cupboard at our front door). Other Mom’s at the school put the tea tree oil with some H2O in a spray bottle and spritz their kids’ heads (and I can report that their kids have not had lice either)”. Hang onto that tea tree oil because if you do experience lice, you can add multiple drops into your wash along with detergent for bedding, blankets and clothes. Also use tea tree oil to rub around the interior of hats & helmets – kill the lice on the hat and it will rub off onto your child’s head!

Tiffany from Nature Moms Blog recently went through lice treatment with a child and had some great tips. Her full article is here, and her all natural lice shampoo treatment recipe is:

1 Quart size ball jar
1 Tablespoon (1 squirt) Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap
8-10 Drops tea tree oil (we use Trader Joe’s brand)
Fill jar to top with water, shake before each use.
Rinse with vinegar and let sit in hair for 5 minutes. Plastic wrap is optional
Comb hair with flea comb or lice comb

This recipe sounds much easier than the mayo or coconut oil treatments recommended to work. With these treatments you basically coat hair with a natural oil (coconut, olive, or mayonnaise) and try to smother the lice. Most treatments call for wrapping in plastic wrap and sleeping, then repeating 12-14 times. Wow – the more research I did on all natural lice treatments, the more determined I am to prevent it from happening. We’ve got the occasional hair washing already happening, next I will start daily tea tree oil squirts. With base ball season and ball caps, outbreaks at school, and Spring time being the season for lice, it was a timely discussion and I thank Tiffany and Jennifer for their advice!

And here’s the picture I snapped of my oldest son’s hair – I think it’s just gorgeous. He’s only 10 years old, but I hope he keeps the easy, no-poo hair care remedies and doesn’t start using gel or spray. When any of my kid’s ends feel dry we just use a bit of coconut oil to moisturize & for styling.

Related Posts:

No Poo Anyone?

All Natural Hair DIY Deep Conditioner

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Who Should Shop At Thrift Stores?

It’s a question I hadn’t really pondered until it was mentioned in a Facebook discussion last week. Should only people struggling with making end’s meet shop at thrift stores? I immediately felt a little ill because in the last year I’ve started shopping for clothes and books at our local thrift store. Is this wrong for me to do?

I was going to my 2nd hand store days after reading this question and decided to walk in eyes wide open. I went solo, without kids, and once I could sit in the children’s book isle and pile up a stack of books I remembered why I’m so comfortable and why it feels good for me to shop this way. I like the fact when I look through the books I hear whisperings of where they’ve once lived. I remember when I went to look for Christmas books, I found a post-it note in the front of a book, hand-written from grandparents about why they thought the child would enjoy the book. It made me feel special that I was seeing the note and it reminded me that even these books had a story. They had already lived in multiple houses, been read to numerous children, they no longer smelled of fresh ink (which my sensitive nose appreciates), and I don’t have to worry about breaking the book in. I am recycling, I say in my head and feel proud.  I am taking something and making the decision to not purchase it new, rather to find it, contribute to a non-profit that helps other people, then when my children are finished we will donate it back to the store. A very good cycle of use I would say!

When it comes to the books, I would say I’m pleased to also see dollar savings. Because I’m donating these books back to the store after they’ve been well loved, it’s nice to pay $1, rather than the high cost of brand new books. But I would argue that point about purchasing clothes 2nd hand. I think you could probably find clothes for the same price that are brand new if you watch for deals at Walmart or other brand name shops.  But when it comes to clothes, I’m not there shopping for deals.  I simply LOVE used clothing.  I believe that new clothing can be toxic. Here are several reasons why:

~ plastic decals, appliques, and embellishments are everywhere on clothing. What do I mean? Check out your child’s t-shirt & PJ drawer and look at the front…you will find a graphic or character there. When I talk about making better choices with clothing and buying 100% cotton clothing over polyester, it’s crazy that the clothing is marked 100% cotton when there’s a huge plastic decal attached to the front of a t-shirt or PJ set. That is not 100% cotton and that decal will be subjected to high heat in the dryer, wash and is breaking down. In really cheap clothing, they are using clothing embellishments made from PVC that contain phthalates and off-gas. When you purchase clothing 2nd hand, these types of decals have been washed multiple times and there is less leaching of materials.

~ the toxic nature of producing cotton has been well documented. This is why organic clothing, especially for babies has been so popular over the last few years.  Organic options are readily available for babies and toddlers but difficult and expensive to source after these ages. I like to think that when clothing is washed over and over the pesticides are eliminated from clothing which is awesome when purchasing 2nd hand!

~ clothing that fits!  And won’t shrink!  I have really bad luck with pants and my 9 year old son. He’s on the above average size and we try on clothes at the store and everything fits him perfectly, after it’s washed they are instantly too small in the waist and leg for him. This has happened to me with every single pair of paints I’ve bought him in the last year. On my last shopping trip I got smart and visited the boy’s jeans section at the thrift store. I paid $5.99 for a pair of broken in jeans that will last him a long time. They fit awesome because they aren’t stiff and awkward, but the best part is I don’t have to worry about shrinkage!

~ if you are on a constant journey to only purchase locally manufactured clothing, it will be a difficult and expensive journey. I try really hard to source everything I can locally, especially for myself, but this is hard with 4 kids and a husband. I don’t shop at big box stores, especially Walmart and others where their business and purchasing methods are questionable…but by shopping at a Thrift store, I can say by recycling clothing, this is more earth friendly in my mind than even shopping locally because I’m not investing in anything ‘new’. Only new to us. And I’m lucky that I have 4 children that see clothing for what it is. Clothing.  There is not talk of brand labels yet which is a blessing, although I know even popular brands exist in thrift stores, you just need to invest the time to look.

~ in an article I wrote years ago, I featured a store determined to change clothing with using sustainable ink. I learned from this article how toxic ink can be and urge you to read the Little Inkers story. Whenever I can, I love to support screen printers that create prints with earth friendlier dye solutions that are free from phthalates and PVC. These designs on the clothing are also so much more original and safe! I also feel when purchasing clothes 2nd hand that many of the toxins in these dyes have been washed out, which reduces exposure. I know the focus is 2nd hand, but I love giving examples of stores doing things right so I want to introduce you to Wren Willow. This clothing store is dedicated to using environmentally friendly water based inks and no harsh chemicals AND the store owner sketches the design that is later screen printed onto the clothes ~ Wren Willow is a magical place to purchase special clothes. These clothes look different,  tell a great story, and what a better alternative to big box clothing? I’d much rather my girls wear this big strawberry than Dora any day!

So back to my visit to the thrift store, and by the time I finished sorting through the pile of books and feeling very comfortable and happy with my decisions to shop thrift, I decided that I’ll continue on the path of being proud of myself for shopping 2nd hand. It is a very earth friendly option with consumerism and when I purchase things for myself and children, I don’t feel the consumer guilt that normally follows shopping at a traditional store. I am recycling. I am reusing. And with spending over $4.99 on each piece I purchased (pair of jeans, 2 dresses for my twins) I realized it’s also not just about saving money. I see new clothes being blown-out on sales all the time for $5. It shows me the markups in these stores is beyond ridiculous and the price tag doesn’t dictate if a shopping trip was successful, it’s the feeling that comes with bringing something new into my home. And if the item has previously been worn, washed, and then donated, it makes me feel proud to have found it.

** For all the latest updates, conversations, and answers to many questions from parents looking for safer solutions in their home, please join our Mommy Footprint fan page. The page is updated with information daily and the questions we discuss are wonderful.

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Holistic Birth Plan Additions

After writing the article about Johnson & Johnson and their deception with using preservatives that contain carcinogens in their baby products, I started thinking of other places that might use J&J because of it’s long shelf life. I asked new moms on the Mommy Footprint fan page if anyone had a baby recently – what did the hospital use to bathe baby? Based from the feedback it seems (like everything) it’s not a regulated decision within hospitals and everyone uses something different. I wanted to write this article and tell expectant moms when you’re writing your birth plans or going to on hospital tours, these types of questions belong under your birth requests. Two items that might be not be talked about unless you have enlisted holistic professionals with your birth or mid-wives are:

Request “Do Not Wash” For Your Baby

The easiest way to get around the issue of washing your baby in the hospital is to request your baby not be washed. Many people in the holistic world will tell you the benefits of leaving the vernix coating on a newborn. This is the white coating babies are born with – this study suggests that antimicrobial properties of amniotic fluid and vernix caseosa are similar to those found in breast milk. A coating that is so rich in nutrients – what is our rush to wash it off? Treating a newborn’s skin is very different to ours…it is much weaker and is very absorbent with what is put on it. It’s very important to research and find all natural skin care for your baby – definitely without chemicals.

Delayed Cord Clamping:

While researching The Whiteout Movement for this article, I learned about Delayed Cord Clamping. I had never heard of this before!  Talk to your Dr. and see if this is another note for your birth plan!  The below quote has been taken from Dr. Greene’s Whiteout FAQ.

Unfortunately, in the 20th century it became vogue to quickly clamp the umbilical cord within 10-15 seconds after the head is delivered. If cord clamping isn’t rushed, and takes place when the umbilical cord stops pulsing (~60 to 180 seconds), the baby gets several tablespoons more blood, which could be enough iron to tide them over for an additional 3 months later on when they are starting solids. Thankfully, what the medical community calls “delayed” cord clamping is now becoming more common.

A picture says so many words. Here is a picture of one of my twins having her first hospital bath:

Two little notes that I only thought about recently that I think are wonderful additions to a birth plan or to discuss with the trusted birthing assistants you’ll have if you’re an expecting mom.  If you have birth plan addition that’s holistic in nature, please comment on this post.

 

Related Articles can be found in Baby’s Favorite Things category

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Johnson & Johnson – Building A Brand With Carcinogens

It became mainstream news today that Johnson & Johnson Baby Products contain carcinogenic chemicals (formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane) in their products sold on store shelves. We’ve talked about staying clear from Johnson & Johnson products at Mommy Footprint in this article, this article, and here. Here is the scoop on what’s gone down with Johnson and Johnson in the media today.

For two years, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has been requesting that Johnson & Johnson reformulate their flagship products….you see them at every baby shower and I’m sure they are still in hospitals and are used for a baby’s first bath:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And every time I’ve seen them at a baby shower I’ve stumbled through an awkward speech of why they shouldn’t be used on a baby.  Me “that shampoo has chemicals that really irritate baby’s skin”.  It’s an argument that really isn’t remembered by many new moms. Well thank you to mainstream media today, Forbes magazine, Healthy Child Healthy World, The Campaign For Safer Cosmetics, etc. are all writing the scary facts about these products: they contain cancer causing chemicals. And the sickest part of this is Johnson & Johnson knows how to produce formaldehyde-free products because the products they sell in many European countries, Japan, and South Africa are without these carcinogens. Yup – the formaldehyde ingredient called Quaternium-15 is found in the products sold in the U.S., Canada, China, Indonesia and Australia. So here is fact number one they know how to not manufacture not using Formaldehyde and a second chemical, 1,4-dioxane, that is considered a likely carcinogen. 1,4 in short is dioxin and a byproduct of a process for making chemicals more soluble and gentler on the skin. Fact number two that Johnson & Johnson knows how to make a product without carcinogens is their brand “Johnson’s Natural”. This more natural version of the Johnson & Johnson products don’t contain these chemicals, but the products are double in cost.

Do you know that Aveeno is manufactured by Johnson & Johnson?  This is likely the brand your family Doctor will recommend when you tell them your baby or child’s skin is inflamed or they appear to have the onset of eczema.  Brands like Oatmeal Baby Wash, Moisture Care Baby Wash and Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Creamy Wash also contain 1,4-dioxane. It’s terrible that a known side effect of formaldehyde is also a skin irritant. Ask around parent groups and see how many babies, toddlers, and children suffer from eczema and asthma – the numbers are out of control.  So many toxic products targeting babies and the bottom line is money. Johnson & Johnson has proved it by creating a product that doesn’t contain formaldehyde but continues to sell the products 1/2 the price of the more natural version.  It’s sick.  And even once they remove these ingredients, know that it wouldn’t have been done without the watch dog groups I’ve listed at the start of this article. It is these groups looking out for our children – not the companies.

Bottom Line?  Reward the companies that do care with your consumer dollars. Do not allow one more bottle of this sub-par product come into your home or purchased as a gift. Pull that expectant mom aside at the baby shower and quietly mention that the yellow bottle of shampoo contains cancer causing chemicals. Be blunt because words like ‘skin irritant’ and ‘product with chemicals’ doesn’t get people’s attention. Over the years, I’ve mentioned many companies that are doing the right thing by our families with producing safer skin care products for our children. Most of these companies are listed under the category called Childhood Eczema. If you don’t have time to read through the tips in these articles – here are some great places to start:

My Little Green Shop – They are offering 10% discount for Mommy Footprint readers. Just type MF10 at checkout for a discount.

Nayla Natural Care
– One stop shopping for trusted advice and products.

Saffron Rouge – Many great products and they offer low shipping and free samples.

Lalabee Bathworks
– Goat Milk and Essential Oils.

Green Beaver – Canadian made and with trusted ingredients.

There are so many  small companies that deserve and have earned your consumer dollars with their research and product knowledge. Sad that the huge companies are not looking out for customers, even though they are aware of what is going into their products. I know my site has many green minded parents that don’t find this information to be new, but check out the Facebook Fan page for Johnson & Johnson and you’ll see the connection they have with new parents, grandparents, etc.  They are a brand that is trusted and there is a tradition that comes with shopping at Johnson & Johnson..you can see it in the consumer relationships they’ve built.

So like always I struggle with the fine line of stressing out expectant or new parents with information like this – but I’d want to know. Wouldn’t you?

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Choosing A Safe Sunscreen

I’m just back from Shoppers Drug mart (a very large Canadian drugstore) because I wanted to try an experiment. Using only a few tips in my memory, would I be able to find a sunscreen that didn’t contain ingredients I want to avoid? I know where to shop for organic, highly recommended sunscreen brands, but I distinctly remember the feeling of hopelessness when running out of sunscreen on vacation and having to purchase sunscreen in a rush, on the fly, without any notes in front of me. I can recommend sunscreen brands all day, but this article is being written to help empower you to find sunscreen based off ingredients – not brands. Even easier for mamas with iphones, etc., you can just Google Mommy Footprint Choosing A Safe Sunscreen and you’ll have these tips at your fingertips. But I’m winging it old school tonight and I was shocked to discover that only 1 brand met my criteria and it’s not one I would ever purchase because it was 30ml for $38. But the Lise Watier Sun Smart brand didn’t’ contain any of the below ingredients to avoid. BUT – out of the 50 of so brands on the shelves I did manage to narrow down a sunscreen brand I would purchase if I was stuck and really needed something for the kids. The Ombrelle Kids 30 SPF for sensitive skin sunscreen had 10.5% mineral based active ingredient, but did have 3 parabens listed in the ingredients. The bottle was large and under $18. This is what I would have chosen if stuck. Even with the parabens, it contained the least number of ingredients on the naughty list below. =(

Look for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium as the only active ingredient. I prefer zinc vs. titanium because Gwen from Nayla told me that zinc stops UVA1 and UVA2 while titanium only reflects UVA2. Both of these ingredients are known as physical blocks rather than chemical blocks which stops harmful rays at the skin level, rather than having them penetrate the skin. Another tip from Gwen is that Zinc is a counter irritant that is ideal for people with sensitive skin (another bonus for Zinc) which is why this ingredient is used in diaper creams. While we are talking about diaper creams I received an interesting opinion from the pharmacist I was working with tonight at the drugstore. I was explaining to her the scenario of being ‘stuck’ for a sunscreen and wanting a zinc, non-chemical brand when shopping in a big box store. She pointed out that diaper cream could work for this purpose. I went and looked at some brands and with zinc being listed as the only ingredient – she’s right! If you needed something to cover small parts (neck, face, ears) for a smaller child or baby, a zinc based diaper cream would go on very thick but would be an excellent block of harmful rays.

Parabens – may mimic estrogen; therefore this preservative is really not ideal for women or children. Paraben chemicals can also can trigger inflammation for people with sensitive skin. The ingredient may have a butyl, ethyl, mthyl, and propyl at the beginning of the word paraben (e.g. butylparaben) – so just look for the word paraben. If it’s embedding within a word on the ingredient list – this sunscreen contains parabens.

SPF numbers – just stick with SPF 30 and 30+ sunscreens. A perfect example of the greenwashing out there is Coppertone 90 SPF for Babies. First of all – babies aren’t supposed to use sunscreen and the 30 level of SPF protection is just as effective as inflated numbers since these super high numbers give sunscreen users a false feeling of protection causing them to reapply less.

Avoid 3 ingredients octinoxate, oxybenzone, and avobenzone.

Oxybenzone is also known as Benzophenone-3 and is known to cause estrogenic activity; these chemicals are also linked to development of the brain and reproductive organs. This is a chemical that you usually see listed in the ‘old-school type’ brands of sunscreen – watch for this ingredient.

The sunscreen that the pharmacist recommended to me had octinoxate in the active ingredients. When octinoxate is in a sunscreen that contains avobenzone, they destabilize each other causing the skin damage. Octinoxate even on it’s own is not a stable chemical block and it does not filter UVA rays. The side effects of octinoxate is it can product estrogen like effects and should not be used by women or children.

Avobenzone can produce free radicals in your body because it’s a chemical that absorbs ultraviolet radiation energy. Also in sunlight, avobenzone degrades and becomes ineffective within 1 hour. To summarize, while ingredient reading – stay clear from octinoxate, oxybenzone, and avobenzone.

Just by ingredient reading and sticking to titanium or zinc based sunscreen brands and avoiding parabens, octinoxate, oxybenzone and avobenzone I was able to quickly shortlist all of the sunscreens (which will save you and the nice sales person helping you a lot of time). Words like mineral based sunscreen, physical block sunscreen, nanoparticle free sunscreen, and zinc based sunscreen will also assist you with finding a safer brand for your family.

My best tips would also include not relying solely on sunscreen for your sun protection needs. If you have a baby – don’t use sunscreen. Instead use sun shirts, hats, and possibly a UV protectant tent at the beach. I still put sun suits and shirts on my children so that we only need limited sunscreen on their neck, ears, and face which helps prevent using massive amounts of sunscreen. Also, shopping online for sunscreen is a great way to find safer sunscreens since you have the information at your finger tips for top rated brands. So far this season I’ve used Badger sunscreen and Green Beaver – I’m very happy with both brands. To read my review on Green Beaver sunscreen click here.

Hang in there parents! There have never been a larger selection of safer sunscreen brands out there – we just need to continue to weed out the chemical filled brands and this can be done by ingredient reading. If you have any questions on sunscreen or personal care products, simply post on the Mommy Footprint Fan Page.

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