Toxic Chemicals: What to Avoid When Pregnant

reducing your toxic chemical exposure during pregnancy

When you’re researching how to have a healthy pregnancy you’ll probably see a lot of scary stuff. Unfortunately there can be a lot out there to worry about. We’re exposed to a lot of chemicals everyday, and that can mean exposure to a lot of toxins in pregnancy. Here’s how to know what to avoid when pregnant, so you can reduce the amount of toxins you and your baby are exposed to.

what to avoid when pregnant

We all know some of the things we’re not supposed to do: smoke (at all, but especially during pregnancy), drink alcohol and excessive caffeine or eat too much seafood, but there are lots of other things you may never have thought of.

Your baby shares your chemical exposure during pregnancy

Everything you’re exposed to, everything you eat and drink, goes into your baby’s developing body. Not only should you make an extra effort to eat wholesome, nutritious food, you need to keep an eye on your surroundings as well.

Chemicals can get into your bloodstream and cross the placental barrier, potentially causing problems for your developing baby. These toxins in pregnancy damage the brain and organs. They can also cause endocrine disruption. Your child’s reproductive organs can also be harmed, affecting future generations.

Maintaining a non toxic baby environment during pregnancy is a very important.

Here’s a quick list of common toxins and what to avoid when pregnant

Lead and pregnancy

Do you live in an old house? The vast majority of Australian drinking water is clean and safe to drink, but if your house was built before 1970 it may have lead piping or have been painted with lead paint that has contaminated the garden.

If you’re concerned about lead you can use a lead test kit to check, and call in professionals to deal with any problems you might find.

Nail polish and pregnancy

Yes, nail polish. Many nail polishes are highly toxic, containing chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate, which may affect baby’s lung, liver and kidney function.  The atmosphere in your average nail salon is a toxic chemical stew – the last thing you need during your pregnancy.

You can get your nails done during pregnancy – just ask your nail salon if they’re using non toxic nail polish. If they’re not, don’t despair. You can give yourself a nontoxic mani/pedi using safer nail polish and take care of your nails naturally.

The nursery: painting when pregnant

I know, I know – fixing up baby’s nursery is an ancient instinct. But that doesn’t mean that you have to do it yourself. Get your partner to do the painting while you’re pregnant, or call in the professionals.

Use non toxic paint in the nursery

First, don’t refinish any furniture, or do anything that requires dealing with paint thinner. Only water-based paint is safe, and even then it’s best to use natural paints that have low VOCs, and provide plenty of ventilation. There are several Australian companies that make lovely natural house paints for a very reasonable price.

Of course, the best way to avoid all toxin exposure is to pick the colours and then have someone else do the actual painting. You can supervise from another room.

Use safe, low VOC paints, and keep the doors and windows open for as long as you can to give the paint a chance to off-gas.

Choose your furniture carefully

Many furniture pieces have tons of chemicals:

  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) can interfere with thyroid function in children and adults. They’re used as flame retardants in electronics, upholstery and mattresses, so read the labels before you buy.
  • Perfluorinated organic compounds (PFAS) can cause reduced birth weight and a host of other problems. They’re used to make materials non stick and stain resistant, and can be found in pizza boxes, fast food containers, stain resistant clothes, carpeting and furniture, microwave popcorn bags and on non stick pots and pans.

Use natural furniture if you possibly can. Look for solid wood, rather than laminated plywood or chipboard. Avoid stain resistant clothing, bedding and upholstery. Don’t use any stain resistant spray treatments either. It would be better to use slipcovers for the furniture and easily laundered clothes for you and baby.

Use natural cleaners while you’re pregnant

Another important piece of the puzzle when maintaining a non toxic baby environment is using natural cleaning products around the home. Toxic chemicals can build up in the dust in your home, and regular cleaning helps keep the risk down. However, many cleaning products can contain harmful chemicals that you need to be aware of.

Use natural, plant based cleaning products from good brands like Ecostore, Abode, Resparkle, Organic Clean and Kin Kin Naturals, to name a few. They’ll help you clean up without inhaling toxic cleaning products while pregnant.

Personal care for a healthy pregnancy

Many skin and hair care products contain potentially toxic chemicals. There’s isn’t a lot of research about the safety of their ingredients for pregnant women (for obvious reasons). It’s better to err on the side of caution and go natural whenever you can.

Hair dye

Many hair dyes (even ‘natural’ ones) contain a chemical called PPD (paraphenylenediamine), which causes allergies and may damage the respiratory system.

You can use henna (or a natural dye without toxic chemicals) to colour your hair. If you absolutely must, go for streaks or foils that don’t touch your scalp.

Makeup and skincare during pregnancy

Read the labels on everything that touches your skin. You can have a look at the list of ingredients that we avoid here at Hello Charlie. There’s a whole heap of chemicals that shouldn’t be used by anybody, much less someone who wants a healthy pregnancy.

Pregnancy is the perfect time to make the switch to natural beauty and skincare products.

Fragrances

Fragrances can contain toxic substances like phthalates. Perfume companies aren’t even required to list their ingredients, so you have no idea what’s in there – not the best thing for a healthy pregnancy.

In general it’s probably best not to use fragrances at all while pregnant (your sense of smell is probably super sensitive anyway). Even essential oils can be problematic, since many can be uterine stimulants.

Go plastic free

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used to make hard plastic water bottles, dishes, baby bottles, food storage containers – the list is practically endless. The problem with this wonder chemical is that it’s an endocrine disruptor, even in small doses. Exposure during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage. It may also harm the baby’s reproductive system, possibly even leading to cancer later in life.

The best solution (for many reasons) is to go plastic free, or at least choose safer plastics. Go with glass or stainless steel water bottles, reusable produce bags and plastic free food wraps.

It may seem overwhelming when you’re first pregnant, but every small step that you take can help you and your unborn baby to have a safe, non toxic pregnancy.

Want to get more tips on non toxic items you can use during pregnancy? You can also read on our pregnancy skincare article.

 

Main image credit: Deposit Photos

Like this? Why not Pin it?

Fluoride in Toothpaste: Yes or No?

fluoride in toothpaste

Do we really need fluoride in toothpaste? Many places in Australia have had fluoridated water since the 1950s (although it varies by region). The government has decided that this practice is safe and beneficial. If we’re already drinking fluoride in our water, why do we need to use more in our toothpaste?

fluoride in toothpaste

How does fluoride in toothpaste work?

Acids produced by plaque eat away at the minerals in your tooth enamel, causing little cavities. Your body can remineralise these spots, filling them in while they’re still small. Fluoride applied topically several times a day speeds up the process. It also helps form bigger mineral crystals that are more resistant to acids.

How does fluoride help protect teeth?

The fluoride in fluoridated water affects children’s tooth buds. While the teeth are still developing, the fluoride replaces some of the minerals. Instead of hydroxyapatite, which our teeth are normally made of, it creates fluoroapatite, which is more resistant to tooth decay.

There is some doubt about how well this process works, and whether drinking fluoridated water helps prevent tooth decay in adults at all. A 2015 review by the Cochrane Collaboration, a respected group of doctors and researchers, found that many studies supporting the effectiveness of fluoridated water were flawed. They only found three studies since 1975 that they considered any good. These studies showed that fluoridated water made no difference in the prevention of tooth decay.

And too much fluoride in your toothpaste and your drinking water can have side effects.

What is fluorosis?

Fluorosis is a mottling of tooth enamel caused by consuming too much fluoride. It’s not just cosmetically unpleasant. It’s a sign that your entire body has been over exposed to fluoride, which may be building up in your system. If you take in more than 10 mg of fluoride a day over a long period of time you’re at risk for skeletal fluorosis, a debilitating bone disease.

Fluoride and your health

Back in the early part of the 20th century fluoride was used to treat hyperthyroidism, since it depresses the thyroid. A 2018 study of 10,000 people shows a strong correlation between fluoride intake and lowered thyroid function, even at levels as low as 0.3 mg/L. For reference, the levels in Australian fluoridated water vary between 0.6 and 1.1 mg/L.

If you’re concerned about your thyroid health, or have any family history of thyroid disease, you might want to think about avoiding fluoride altogether. (A reverse osmosis filter can get it out of your drinking water.) Many foods contain fluoride too. Tea is the biggest culprit. It can have as much as 9 mg/L. Red wine, raisins and seafood like crab and prawns may also contain a lot of fluoride.

If you have a healthy thyroid, using fluoride toothpaste should be fine. Just don’t swallow any!

Is fluoride toothpaste safe for babies and toddlers?

Up until the age of five or six, always supervise your children when they’re brushing their teeth to make sure they spit it out properly. If you choose a children’s toothpaste with fluoride, only use a tiny amount, the size of a grain of rice. Fluoride in toothpaste is poisonous in large doses. More is not better in this case. With children under three, you should carefully wipe the toothpaste off their teeth and the inside of their mouth. Or just use fluoride free toothpaste instead.

When choosing your children’s toothpaste, try to go for something with a clean, simple flavour and packaging. Toothpaste that’s flavoured like lollies and decorated with cartoon animals can be almost irresistible. Kids think, ‘If it looks and tastes like lollies, why can’t I eat it?’

Do we really need fluoride?

The plaque germs that cause tooth decay love to feed on sugar and processed carbohydrates, like white flour. Cut down on your sugar intake and you’ll have less plaque. Sugary drinks are especially bad. You can prevent a lot of tooth problems by simply cutting out soft drinks and sweetened drinks. Even fruit juice can harm your teeth.

It won’t help to drink a can of soft drink and rush off to brush your teeth. When you eat or drink anything acidic, like soft drink, pickles or beer, your tooth enamel softens a bit. It’s a good idea to wait at least 30 minutes for your mouth to return to normal before you subject your teeth to the abrasiveness of brushing. Of course, you should brush after every meal, or at least twice a day. Just wait a little while if you had spaghetti bolognese and oranges for dinner.

Chewing sugar free gum can help protect your teeth as well. Xylitol, a low calorie sweetener made from plants, neutralises acid in your mouth and helps remineralise your teeth. Don’t use too much, though! (It can have a laxative effect.)

If you eat well, take care of your teeth and see your dentist regularly, there’s no reason you shouldn’t use fluoride free toothpaste if you want to. We have many brands to choose from. You’ll also find great natural toothpastes with fluoride, like these ones from Lavera and The Humble Co.

Want to learn more about natural dental care?  You can also read our shopping guide for all natural dental products.

Main image credit: Deposit Photos

Like this? Why not Pin it?

Ancient Minerals Magnesium: What is MSM? Should You Use Oil or Gel Form?

Ancient minerals magnesium

Postpartum Pelvic Floor Exercises for New Mums

postpartum pelvic floor exercises

Weakness of the pelvic floor muscle can occur during pregnancy as well as post delivery, therefore it is important to strengthen the muscle both whist pregnant and after delivery (both vaginal delivery and c-sections).

Pregnancy puts a strain on a woman’s body in lots of different ways. Carrying a child can put strain on the pelvic floor muscles causing them to weaken. Vaginal delivery can also cause trauma to the muscle especially if interventions such as forceps are used.

If you fail to strengthen the pelvic floor you increase the risk of developing problems like prolapses and incontinence. Our age and hormonal changes can also have an impact on the health of the pelvic floor too.

It is important to remember that when training the pelvic floor muscle you consider that you have two types of muscle fibres. We have fast twitch muscle fibres that activate when we cough, laugh and sneeze, and slow twitch muscle fibres that activate when we are desperate for the toilet! Training them takes two different methods.

Where to start with pelvic floor exercises

The first place to start it to work out where your pelvic floor muscle is and how it feels to contract it. If you really have no idea at all, try stopping your flow of urine next time you are at the toilet, that is your pelvic floor muscle! I would never suggest you practice your exercises this way but it is a good way to help you identify the muscle.

I would then advise you start building strength in the slow twitch fibres. Using feedback is a good way to build awareness of the pelvic floor and tactile sensation allows for a better technique. Sit on a chair or gym ball, tilt your pelvis forwards slightly so you can feel the pressure on the front genital area, now imagine there is a jellybean (or other small sweet!) underneath you, try to use your pelvic floor muscle to lift the jellybean up inside you, try and hold for 10 seconds, repeat 10 times.

Initially you might only be able to hold for a few seconds but build up over time. Once you have mastered this try and imagine lifting and lowering the jellybean to different heights (almost as though your pelvic floor is a lift with perhaps three floors, take it up to the top level then drop it down to level two and so on) this builds great control of the muscle as well as strength.

Postpartum pelvic floor exercises

Another exercise for your pelvic floor

My other top exercise it to lay on your back with your knees bent and a ball between your knees, ensure your lower back is slightly lifted from the floor to set your spine into neutral. Squeeze the ball between your thighs and engage the pelvic floor muscle. At the same time flatten your back down to the ground, you want to have a sensation of tightening around the pubic bone with this exercise.

By squeezing the ball you activate your adductor muscles (inner thigh) which when activated will help you engage deeper with the pelvic floor. You can progress this when able to hold 10 seconds 10 reps to lifting your bottom up into a bridge position.

This is a better exercise to perform post-partum. I wouldn’t recommend this during pregnancy.

postpartum pelvic floor exercises

Building strength in the fast twitch fibres requires you to quickly contract and relax the pelvic floor , 10 fast contractions three times a day is easy to fit in! Many women after having children find it impossible to jump or star jump without leaking, Once your strength has improved post partum with the above exercises try then building functional strength by performing pelvic floor exercises whist jumping!

Unfortunately pelvic floor strength doesn’t just happen it takes effort to build strength and tone back into the muscle, as it does with any muscle. Persevere and your efforts will pay off!

Image credits: Lyndsay Hirst

About our guest author: Lyndsay Hirst is a chartered physiotherapist and a clinical Pilates instructor with over 15 years experience at working in the musculoskeletal field. She runs a hugely successful physiotherapy practice in the UK as well as a website with online clinical Pilates classes.

Like this? Why not Pin it?

Shopping Guide: All The Natural Dental Products You Need For Healthy Gums And Teeth

natural toothpaste and dental products

When you’re making the switch to natural products, it can seem overwhelming. Where do you start?

Well, I think that you start with the products that you use most often. And you use dental products twice a day, so that’s a great place to start!

natural dental products

Think about toothpaste. You use it twice a day, every day. And yet toothpaste can be full of toxic ingredients. I wrote a post recently on what to look out for when you’re shopping for natural toothpaste, so that’s a good place to start.

But there are lots of other products that you use for good dental health.

Here’s what you’ll need for your new natural dental care regimen:

A new toothbrush

Your plastic toothbrush will end up sitting in landfill for hundreds of years. Replace it with one made from biodegradable bamboo or cornstarch. Eco friendly brushes are also better for you — they’re gentler on teeth and won’t hurt your gums.

Toothbrushes with activated charcoal bristles are also brilliant. The Binchotan charcoal-infused bristles on the one from Keeko help remove plaque and prevent the growth of bacteria on the toothbrush itself.

For a deeper clean, you might want to try Dr. Tung’s Ionic Toothbrush, which is clinically proven to remove more plaque than regular brushes. It also reduces gingivitis and hypersensitivity.

Tip: Did you know you’re not supposed to brush your teeth immediately after eating or drinking? According to this study, it’s best to wait at least 30 minutes.

Natural toothpaste

A good toothpaste is key to good oral health. But what if your toothpaste is doing more harm than good? Common toothpaste ingredients like triclosan, fluoride, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulphate, and parabens all have damaging effects on the body.

Instead of the usual supermarket brands, opt for natural toothpastes without synthetic foaming agents, artificial colours and preservatives, and other nasties. Grant’s, Dr. Brite, Miessence, and Dr Bronner’s toothpastes use natural antibacterial ingredients and breath fresheners like peppermint, clove, neem, activated charcoal, and organic coconut oil instead.

Dental floss

Flossing can actually be fun and eco friendly. Noosa Basics’ bamboo fibre dental floss is infused with activated charcoal and lightly flavoured with essential oils. There’s also Dr. Tung’s “smart” floss, which removes up to 55% more plaque and comes in a biodegradable dispenser. I cringe whenever I see dental floss picks (so much plastic waste!), but these ones from Pearlbar are fully biodegradable and are charcoal infused to boot!

Tongue scraper

Tongue cleaning is an ancient dental care practice recommended by both Ayurvedic practitioners and modern scientists. It’s a fast and easy way of getting rid of the food buildup and bad bacteria that can cause bad breath, gingivitis, cavities, plaque, and other dental issues. Do this before you go to sleep and you’ll wake up with fresher smelling breath and a fur free tongue. Try Dr. Tung’s classic tongue scraper, which has comfort grip handles, or the one from Keeko, which is made from copper.

Alcohol free mouthwash

Most of the mouthwashes you see on store shelves contain a frightening amount of alcohol. Apart from the unpleasant burning sensation and the dryness it leaves, you really don’t want alcohol in your mouthwash because it may harm the strength and appearance of teeth. It has also been linked to oral cancer. Fortunately, there are tons of natural mouthwashes that remove plaque, freshen breath, and reduce gum inflammation – all without alcohol.

Non toxic teeth whitening product

Mainstream teeth whitening kits contain harmful chemicals like carbamide peroxide, which can erode enamel and cause sensitivity over time. If staining or yellowing is a problem, there’s loads of natural teeth whitening products to try. The most effective are based on ingredients like activated charcoal, bicarb, bentonite clay, and organic coconut oil.

Breath freshener

For sweet smelling breath when you’re out and about, grab these natural breath freshener capsules or a bottle of mouth spray. Two of our favourites are the organic one from Riddells Creek and the one with activated charcoal from Dr. Brite. They’ll leave your mouth feeling — and smelling — minty fresh in an instant!

VCO for oil pulling

Coconut oil (VCO = virgin coconut oil) is a popular choice for oil pulling not only because it tastes good, but because it’s high in lauric acid that kills bacteria and reduces inflammation. Keeko’s pre-portioned and lightly flavoured coconut oil packets make oil pulling more fun and fuss-free, especially when on the go.

What are your biggest dental health challenges and what do you do to address them? Any natural dental care products you swear by? Share below!

Like this? Why not Pin it?

Silicones In Makeup and Skin Care: Should You Avoid Them?

Silicones in Makeup and Skin Care

A while back, I decided to stop stocking a ‘natural’ brand of skincare here at Hello Charlie because they reformulated and introduced silicones to their product formulations. I had lots of questions about why I don’t like silicones, so I thought it was about time to explain that. What are silicones, and how do they affect your skin?

Silicones in Makeup and Skin Care

What are silicones?

A silicone is a large molecule made up of repeating chains of alternating oxygen and silicon atoms, along with carbon and hydrogen. Silicon is a mineral. Over 90% of the Earth’s crust is silicone – it’s the primary element in sand.

Silicones are stable over a wide range of temperatures and have a generally low toxicity and chemical reactivity. They have a wide variety of applications, from the automotive and airline industries to cookware to personal care products.

The silicone compounds used in skin care are interesting. They are water repellent but gas permeable, which means they allow air to pass through. Because of the way the materials are formed – big molecules connected together in a sort of lattice with a lot of space in between. They stay on the surface, forming a water resistant barrier that still allows the skin to breathe. For this reason they don’t usually feel heavy or greasy.

Are silicones natural?

Can you still use silicones if you’re committed to natural skincare? They’re obviously not found in nature. (Although a silicone molecule with a carbon component might be known as an ‘organic compound’, that doesn’t mean it’s plant or animal derived.)

Silicones are not included in any organic skincare products, since they’re not certified by Ecocert or any other organisation.

Are they toxic?

Silicones are generally regarded as safe, at least for application to the skin and hair. They’re considered hypoallergenic, non comedogenic, and non sensitising.

However, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that silicones can cause reactions for people with sensitive or acne prone skin, so you might want to be careful if you have this skin type.

via GIPHY

Leaky silicone breast implants caused a lot of controversy a few years ago when they were implicated in cancer and autoimmune disorders. According to the U.S. FDA, recent research has found them generally safe, except for a very slight increase in the risk of anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a type of white blood cell cancer. But this isn’t the same as putting them on your skin.

Silicones in makeup and skincare

Silicones are so popular because they add slip to cosmetic formulations, allowing them to glide on smoothly, giving the product a silky feel. In hair care products, they coat the cuticle, detangle and add shine. They also protect hair from heat.

Silicones are also popular with manufacturers because they’re cheap.

Makeup primers use silicones to cover enlarged pores, minor wrinkles and scarring, creating a smooth finish as well as forming a base for foundation to stick to. A silicone-heavy foundation can give the skin the smooth and glowing look that is so on trend right now.

Makeup settings sprays are usually chock-full of silicones, since silicones can form a protective barrier over your eye shadow and contouring artistry that keeps it all in place.

via GIPHY

Some types of silicones actually increase the penetration of other substances in the product. This can be a problem if you’re sensitive to anything in the formula. If the products contains potentially irritating ingredients, such as hydroquinone (a skin bleaching compound), you can end up with a concentration of that substance underneath the silicone layer.

Who should avoid silicones?

Those with sensitive and acne prone skin should stay away. A good natural skincare product will treat your skin gently and nourish it rather than simply forming a layer over the top. Silicones provide a temporary smoothing effect, but they don’t actually help the skin heal on its own.

One of the most worrying things about silicones for the environmentally aware person is that heavier silicones are not biodegradable. Siloxane D4 is currently being investigated over concerns of a toxic build up in the environment and may be banned in the future.

Considering how much silicone we’re producing nowadays, all this is a real cause for concern. At least with organic skincare you don’t have to worry that your face wash is destroying the environment.

How can I recognize silicones in the products I buy?

The word ‘silicone’ is probably not going to show up on the ingredients list. It’s an umbrella term that refers to a variety of substances. In general, look for terms ending in ‘cone’, ‘conol or ‘siloxane’. Here are some examples:

  • Amodimethicone: often found in hair care products. It sticks to your hair, so it’s a great conditioner but can build up over time.
  • Cyclopentasiloxane: this is a water-based silicone that evaporates quickly. It adds slip to cosmetics and skin and hair care products so that they glide on smoothly.
  • Dimethicone: a very heavy silicone, dimethicone is an efficient detangler and frizz buster. It doesn’t evaporate at all and will definitely build up over time without thorough cleansing.
  • Dimethiconol: a very fluid silicone that acts as an anti-foaming agent. It also works as an emollient, plumping up fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Dimethicone copolyol: works as an emulsifier, keeping the oil and water components from separating.
  • Trimethylsilylamodimethicone: often used as a detangler in hair care products.

However, some silicones are sneaky:

  • Polymethylsilsesquioxane: a resin that is often used in tiny little spheres that act as anti-caking and water-repelling agents.

In fact, if you’re in doubt about an ingredient in skin and hair care products or cosmetics, there’s a good chance it’s a silicone.

Which skincare products contain silicones?

Short answer: All of them can contain silicones. If it’s not an organic skincare line it probably contains silicones. These compounds do so many useful things and are generally safe for most people.

Adding silicones gives products that cosmetically elegant texture that we’ve all come to know and love. You know – that silky light and fast drying, yet emollient, lotion that feels so pleasant as you spread it over your face. Or maybe it’s the hair conditioner that provides instant detangling, or the serum that applies smoothly without foaming or pilling.

As you move away from silicones towards natural and organic skincare you’ll find that the products may feel heavier or stickier than you’re used to. However, as silicone-free formulations improve this issue will only get better.

Silicone substitutes

Cosmetic and skincare companies are investing a lot into researching natural silicone replacements. Some substances to look for are:

  • dicaprylyl ether
  • dicaprylyl carbonate
  • coco-caprylate
  • dicaprylyl ether
  • decyl glucoside
  • glyceryl oleate

Many others will become available as more people look for silicone free products.

Silicones, while useful, don’t have any part in an organic lifestyle. With a little effort you can find natural skincare products that are just as good for your skin, but much better for the environment.

Looking for silicone free makeup? You can find a wide variety of natural makeup here at Hello Charlie.

Main image credit: Deposit Photos

Kangaroo Care: Is There Such Thing As Holding Your Baby Too Much?

kangaroo care skin to skin contact with baby

Have you ever been told that you’re picking your baby up too much? Has a well meaning neighbour or family member pooh-poohed the mother baby attachment and said that you need to put that baby down or you’ll spoil him? Well, science shows that there’s no such thing as holding your baby too much! Let’s talk about the concept of kangaroo care.

kangaroo care skin to skin contact with baby

What is kangaroo care?

The term was first coined in Colombia in the 1970s by neonatologists Edgar Rey and Hector Martinez. Their wards didn’t have enough incubators for all the sick babies. So they took a page from nature and sent the infants home to be cuddled. The mothers were instructed to hold the babies (in nappies but otherwise bare) upright between their bare breasts. Also, to breastfeed whenever possible.

The doctors were surprised to find that their desperate plan actually reduced the babies’ reliance on incubators and decreased the mortality rate from 70% to 30%.

The importance of mother baby attachment

Especially for newborns, skin to skin contact with their mothers has incredibly beneficial effects, even twenty years later. Research shows that not only do these babies have a better bond with their parents, they were significantly healthier, and showing better brain function. They are even earning higher wages!

The way to healthier, happier babies

The first few months of premature infants’ lives are really rough. They’re isolated in an incubator, poked and prodded, with doctors sticking tubes in them all the time. All this stress can make them less responsive to gentle touch. It seems as though they feel their environments as painful and withdraw.

However, premmies who experienced regular gentle touch, whether from parents or hospital caregivers, were more sensitive to touch and showed improved brain development.

Even as little as one hour a day of skin to skin contact with their mothers led to better sleep, better hormonal responses to stress, and better cognitive function – 10 years later. And it isn’t just mum – dads and babies benefit from cuddle time too!

The sacred hours

The first couple of hours after a baby is born are so important for a new baby. Wherever possible, baby needs a warm welcome to the world. And how better than skin to skin with someone who cares for him?

Newborns (assuming they’re not in urgent need of immediate medical care) should spend their first few hours lying skin to skin on their mothers’ chests. Not only is it calming for both mother and baby, it allows the baby’s breastfeeding instincts to kick in. Newborns will actually find the nipple, latch on and start suckling all by themselves if left in peace to follow their instincts.

So the next time someone tells you that you’re ‘spoiling’ your baby, tell them they don’t know what they’re talking about! All the scientific research supports you and you can cuddle your baby as much as you want.

Looking for more articles about motherhood? You can see our tips on feeding your baby on the first year here.

 

Main image credit: Deposit Photos

Like this? Why not Pin it?

Natural Chest Rubs And Balms: The Natural Way To Clearing Up Your Chest

natural chest rubs

Winter weather is here. We’re all stuck inside, and the coughs and colds are getting shared around amongst the family.

When you’re feeling chesty and stuffy, a vapour balm can feel great. It can help clear your head, your chest, and your stuffy nose. But before you reach for the blue jar of Vicks VapoRub, you might want to think again.

Studies have shown that it may actually increase mucous, rather than clearing your chest up.  Not only that, but the synthetic camphor used in Vicks VapoRub can be highly toxic to small children, so it’s definitely not recommended for children under 2. And if you choose not to use petroleum based products like I do, that’s another strike against it.

There are natural alternatives, though. To help you choose, I’ve listed the ingredients and the recommended ages next to all these natural chest rubs and balms.

https://cdn.nourishedlife.com.au/images/large/variant_52864.jpg

Natural Chest Rubs

Badger Chest Rub

A lovely choice with calming and soothing oils, which are also warming and will help clear your head.

Age: from newborn (essential oils are at less than 2% concentration)

Ingredients: *Olea Europaea (Extra Virgin Olive) Oil, *Ricinus Communis (Castor) Oil, *Cera Alba (Beeswax), Essential Oils of *Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus), *Eucalyptus Staigeriana (Eucalyptus), *Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender), *Mentha Piperita (Peppermint), *Ravensara Aromatica (Ravensara), *Citrus Tangerina (Tangerine), *Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree), *Thymus Mastichina (Wild Marjoram), and CO2 Extracts of *Zingiber Officinale (Ginger), and *Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary). * Certified Organic – USDA

 

Little Innoscents Winter Blues Balm

A bestseller here at Hello Charlie, and it’s perfect for really little ones.

Age: from newborn (essential oils are at less than 2% concentration)

Ingredients: Sunflower Oil (Helianthus Annuus)*, Shea Butter* (Butyrospermum Parkii)*, Beeswax (Cera Alba)*, Avocado Oil (Persea Gratissma Oil)*, Spearmint Oil (Menthas Virdis)*, Wintergreen Oil (Gaultheria Procumbens), Lemon Oil (Citrus Medica Limonum), Lavender Oil (Lavandula Angustifolia)*, Rosemary Oil (Rosmartinus Offcinalis), Eucalyptus Oil (Eucalyptus Globulus), Peppermint Oil (Mentha Piperita). *Denotes Australian Certified Organic

 

Phytocare Papaya Vapour Balm

Lovely smell, and works brilliantly.

Age: for children over 12 months

Ingredients: Cocos nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Butyrospermum parkii (Shea Butter), Beeswax, Eucalyptus radiata (Eucalyptus Australiana), Melaleuca ericifolia Smith (Lavender Tea Tree), Eucalyptus dives Schauer (Peppermint), Carica papaya (paw paw) ferment, Backhousia citrodora F.Muell, (Lemon Myrtle), d alpha tocopherol (Vitamin E).

 

Simple As That: Vapour Rub for Baby

A little goes a long way, and it smells gorgeous.

Age: suitable for use from newborn

Ingredients: Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Peppermint Oil, Lemon Oil, Rosemary Oil

 

The Physic Garden Eucalyptus Rub

Smells divine, and works a treat! And it’s very moisturising, too.

Age: use anywhere on body for children over 2, and on the soles of the feet only for children under 2.

Ingredients: Shea Butter*, Olive Oil infused with Elder Flower, Essential Oil (Eucalyptus, White Camphor, Peppermint & Rosemary), Candelilla Wax (*Certified Organic Ingredient)

Check out all the natural chest rubs and balms over at Hello Charlie.
Like this? Why not Pin it?

7 Natural Sleep Remedies To Help Your Child Get A Good Night’s Sleep

natural sleep remedies

Does your child have trouble falling or staying asleep? Don’t worry, it’s not at all uncommon. Most children will struggle with insomnia at some point in their young lives. Studies indicate that as many as 1 out of 5 will experience insomnia and about half will have some type of sleep issue.

natural sleep remedies

Sufficient restorative sleep is important for growth and overall health. If your child isn’t getting enough, his memory, mental health, and ability to learn and stay focused in school can be affected.

Doctors don’t recommend sleep medications for children (unless absolutely necessary), so it’s a good thing there’s loads of natural sleep remedies to try. Aside from establishing good sleep habits (going to bed at the same time every night, avoiding screens before bedtime, keeping a bedtime routine), here are our favourite natural remedies for insomnia.

Natural Sleep Remedies

Chamomile tea

It’s always a good idea to have some chamomile around when you have kids. It’s a great herb that treats a variety of ills: colic, colds, headache, irritability, indigestion, and more. It has a mild sedative effect, so if you give your child a cup of chamomile tea before bed, it’ll help ease her into sleep.

Magnesium oil wipes

Studies have found that having insufficient magnesium in the body can lead to a host of issues, including insomnia. Fortunately, you can boost your (and your child’s) magnesium levels with supplements, sprays, and these handy Sleepy Toes Towelettes. Infused with diluted magnesium oil, these are a perfect addition to your child’s bedtime routine. It helps relieve mild anxiety and restlessness, eases growing pains, and promotes restful sleep.

Relaxing bedtime bath

Speaking of bedtime routines, make bedtime baths more soothing by using a body wash with calming essential oils. The Base Collective’s Hair and Body Wash contains the sleep inducing combo of lavender and chamomile, and is infused with magnesium to soothe tired muscles and cramps. Jack N Jill’s Serenity Body Wash uses white cyprus and lavender for relaxation.

Aromatherapy

Amp up the bath’s relaxing effect with an aromatherapy balm like Badger’s Night Night Balm or The Base Collective’s Baby Balm. Night Night Balm has a sleep promoting blend of lavender, Roman chamomile, sandalwood, mandarin, and spearmint, while Baby Balm contains lavender, chamomile, and magnesium. Both smell divine and will have your child drifting off to sleep in minutes.

If you have a diffuser, add some lavender oil or this Child Calming Remedy blend to induce the zzz’s.

 

White noise machine or apps

Some children find it easier to sleep with a white noise machine that generates soothing sounds. If you don’t have one, use a fan or an app on your phone. You can also try playing calming nature sounds or instrumental music. Set the mood by dimming the lights half an hour before bedtime, turning off all distractions, and turning on the white noise. This can train your child’s brain into recognising when it’s time to sleep.

Sleep inducing foods

Certain foods support the production of melatonin and tryptophan, both of which are essential to a healthy sleep cycle. Rice, bananas, ginger, porridge oats, radishes, and tomatoes are rich in melatonin while chicken, fish, beans, pulses, eggs, dairy, and sprouted grains are rich in tryptophan. If your child is having trouble sleeping, try to give her these foods at night. But don’t push your child to eat more at dinner, as a heavy meal right before bed will actually make falling asleep more difficult.

Mum should be sleeping well, too

Your sleep habits also have an impact on your family’s well being. A recent study showed that children sleep more poorly if their mums suffer from insomnia symptoms. These children fall asleep later, don’t get enough sleep, and spend less time in the restorative deep sleep stage. Interestingly, whether or not the fathers also experienced insomnia didn’t seem to affect the children’s sleep habits. If you’re dealing with insomnia, we have some natural remedies for adults here.

While sleep problems are common among children and adolescents, chronic insomnia may be related to conditions like ADHD, depression, sleep apnoea, and thyroid disease. If something doesn’t feel right, check with your doctor right away.

Please note: Always consult your doctor before incorporating essential oils, herbs, and supplements into your or your family’s sleep routine.

Have you used a natural remedy to help with your child’s sleep? Let us know what works for you in the comments below.

Like this? Why not Pin it?

Main image credit: Big Stock

Postpartum Self Care: New Baby? How To Still Take Care Of Yourself

postpartum self care

The first 12 weeks are the toughest, they say. The learning curve was steep. My husband said that in the first week of our son’s life, he had learned more than in the past 10 years. I had to agree. But as we get to the end of those 12 weeks (and I listen to very loud and strange baby sleeping/groaning noises), I am feeling reflective. I want to reflect on the priorities I set out before the baby was born to look after myself, then the baby, then everyone else. Here is what I have observed about postpartum self care.

postpartum self care

There is no doubt that is hard to prioritise yourself when there is a newborn screaming to be fed. For example, this morning I wanted nothing more than to meet my friends and their babies for a swim and a chat. My son? He wanted nothing more than to feed for 1.5 hours and then sleep. That, was not the time for prioritising myself. But as I sat there with him, I planned what my self care would be once he fell asleep: tea and chocolate. It is small but it was enough.

The First 12 weeks of postpartum self care

So here are the top things I’ve learned about postpartum self care during those first 12 weeks.

Small is good

Aim for small. Focus on the small things that have a big impact for you e.g. 10 minutes of yoga while your partner has the baby, 5 minutes to drink a cup of tea with two hands, 5 minutes to have a dip in the pool. If you get more time, great, do more. But if you aim for small things that are likely to happen you don’t set yourself up for unrealistic expectations and resentment.

Housework will get done

Rather than sit with my tea, I was tempted to empty the dishwasher. I didn’t allow myself to do it. The dishwasher will eventually get emptied; this was my only window for tea. Priorities.

Take the toilet breaks when you get them

Feeding nearly constantly means that getting even two minutes to go to the bathroom at the time you need to might be a luxury. If you get a window, use it!

postnatal self care

Prioritise rest

To some people, it is ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ seems like wishful thinking (and it probably is if you have more than one child). I don’t sleep every time he sleeps. I listen to my body and decide whether I need sleep or something else to nourish me. But I always prioritise rest. Rest can be whatever you find restorative. Before I had a baby, I used to do this by saying, ‘two sessions; not three!’ This meant that if I did something in the morning and afternoon (two sessions), I rested in the evening (3rd session=rest). With a baby, for me, it’s more like ‘one session; not three!’ Find what works for you.

Get prepared

My son likes to feed (a lot!) which can mean hours on end looking at his little face with his eyes closed. He is happy and I enjoy watching him. To a point. Then, I get bored, thirsty, and hungry. I start prepping by putting things within a reaching distance: books, journals, computer, TV remotes, water, and food. It is a godsend.

Accept help

I wrote a whole post about this but I think it is so important that it needs repeating. Yesterday, I asked a stranger to help me get my purse out of my bag to pay for parking. I had a baby on boob, a baby carrier around my waist and a backpack on my back… yeah! Flustered (after nearly 2 hours of a screaming baby), my first reaction was to stop, put everything down, get my purse out, and hope there was $2 in there. In a split second, I thought of my word for the year ‘ask’ and realised there was an alternative. The stranger ended up paying the $2.

So, there you have it. I am amazed to say that postpartum self-care is possible with a newborn. I am not sure I believed it would be. But I think the core strand that runs through all of this is flexibility. I have tried not to compare what I used to do, to now. There is no comparison. I know that eventually I’ll get to go for a massage without worrying about the next feed. But in the meantime, tea, chocolate, and the odd bit of time to write is enough.

So, what can you do to prioritise yourself during pregnancy, and in those first 12 weeks, and beyond?

About the writer: Dr. Amanda McCullough from Not Just Mum

Amanda is a life coach, award-winning scientist, health professional and speaker at Not Just Mum. She coaches intelligent, brave and honest women through the transition from passionate career woman to motherhood and back again. A move to Australia in 2014, her two uteruses and expertise in behavior change and women’s leadership led her to create Not Just Mum where she offers workshops, one-to-one consults and coaching series to support women to maintain their sanity and identity in this challenging and joy-filled time of life.

Find Amanda on her website, on Facebook and on Instagram.

Article images credit: Dr. Amanda McCullough