Non-toxic Postpartum Supplies

FAIR WARNING: This post is real life, guys! While I am tip-toeing into TMI territory, it is with the hopes it will be useful for someone. I had to scramble after my first birth to get these things, and the traditional product offerings often contain ingredients I’d rather avoid. It is so much easier to buy these things ahead of time.

This is my (very!) personal postpartum list. Everyone does things differently, but if you’d like some ideas, I hope these are helpful. While some of this might seem like overkill, taking care of our delicate bodies after a birth not only helps prevent infection but also makes things far more comfortable … and more apt to heal quickly. I recommend corralling all of these items in a convenient place in your bathroom so it is at the ready every time you need it. Here we go:

Non-toxic post partum supplies

Seventh Generation overnight pads and pantiliners. 2 packs of each. Traditional pads and pantiliners often contain questionable ingredients, including chlorine and fragrance.

Organic cotton rounds plus organic witch hazel in a glass spray bottle. These are to replace Tucks, which contain parabens.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Spray. This is to replace the Dermoplast numbing spray provided by the hospital, which feels amazing but isn’t the best in terms of ingredients.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm. This is to replace a traditional hemorrhoid cream, which often contains parabens.

Peri bottle. Although plastic is best avoided, I wouldn’t worry about it in this case. The hospital or birthing center will provide one, so definitely bring it home with you.

Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple cream. This is an alternative to lanolin. Although it has been used for generations, lanolin really is not a safe ingredient. The lanolin itself is not that bad, but the sheep are nearly always sprayed with toxic ingredients. Click here to learn more.

Stool softener. TMI, I know, but many women struggle with this after delivery. I hear Annie’s Organic Fruit Snacks is a great organic option (I have not tried it personally).

Prenatal vitamins. Continue with these. I like the ones from Rainbow.

Heating pad. Great for sore backs. This etsy seller did a custom cover for me in a plain natural cotton for no additional cost.

Underwear. And here it is: do yourself a favor and buy a pack or two of comfy white cotton underwear. These likely will end up in the garbage and that’s okay. Comfort and recovery are the key here. (And then treat yourself to something beautiful and organic when things are back on track!)

There. Now we are really friends.

Not on the list but something to consider: pain reliever. Many women forgo pain relief altogether due to concern about the ingredients. Although I avoid medicine whenever possible, after something this disruptive to the body, I wouldn’t hesitate to take Advil for a limited period if I needed it. For my son, I think I took it for two days, and with my daughter, I don’t remember taking it at all. Just be sure to take it with food, and limit it to what is genuinely needed.

No doubt this list is incomplete—every birth is different. For example, I did not need ice packs, but I know many women do. Here is a recipe for making your own … and if you use the products listed above, they will be even safer. If needing a sitz bath, Wellness Mama has a great herbal recipe.

And finally, I was still learning about toxins when I had my first baby, so I used some ingredients back then that I now regret. This list, while not perfect, is a huge improvement. Sending love and comfort to all expectant mamas!

EDIT: Soooo I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the pain relief. Our bodies are all very different and by all means I support however you need to cope and recuperate. If you need Advil for two weeks, go for it! If you need something stronger, I support you! I had epidurals with both deliveries, and I don’t regret it for one minute and would do it all over again the exact same way. Everyone’s experience is extremely personal and different. The goal is healthy babies, healthy moms … however you get there is amazing!

On Relaxing and Guilt (and why they don’t go together)

Magazines

It is so easy to hold ourselves to an unrealistic standard. Trying to do it all can be a slippery slope, and one that often leaves little time for self care. The tricky part is, many women—especially mothers—tell me they feel guilty when they take time for themselves. Of course we shouldn’t feel this way, but that doesn’t mean the feelings don’t exist. One way to alleviate the guilt is to be sure we are spending our down time thoughtfully.

So how do we know if we are doing this? For me, it all comes down to how I feel afterward. Do I feel good/recharged/energized? Or even more drained?

This is the difference between actually relaxing and aimlessly passing time (aimless in a lazy way). After relaxing, we know we’ve done something good for ourselves, even if it has taken time away from our other responsibilities. We know it was time well spent. Absentmindedly flipping on the TV, pulling up Facebook or shopping haphazardly usually leads to a down, lethargic feeling. And likely that dreaded guilt.

Everyone recharges differently. But the important thing is that this time is used intentionally—maybe not always, but more often than not. This doesn’t have to mean extravagant trips to the spa, hours in hot yoga or deep conversations with friends. Sometimes a pile of magazines and a cozy bed is all it takes. Or grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend. Simple pleasures are often the best.

How do you relax?

Wintertime Skin Favorites

Even in our part of sunny Florida, we still get our bursts of winter weather. Like many people, my skin is pretty sensitive to the combination of cold air outside and really warm air inside. The tricky part is choosing products that nourish our skin without harming our health. Here are the non-toxic products I rely on during the cold months:

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FACE: In addition to my normal evening routine, one to two times per week I use Beautycounter’s Nourishing Cleansing Balm as an overnight mask. Although not the product’s primary purpose, it is a wonderful use for it. Before bed, I apply a light layer all over my face and wake up super moisturized. It feels so amazingly luxurious too.

LIPS: I use a few things on my lips. For day time, SPF is still really important, so I use the totally wonderful Hurraw SPF lip balm. For night, Beautycounter’s calendula lip conditioner is fantastic.

NOSE: Does your nose get a bit runny in the winter even without a cold? Mine does. To avoid the dreaded rudolph look (happens to me so easily), I apply this organic shea butter to bottom of my nose at night when needed. Sounds strange and silly, but it clears up the redness and tenderness by morning!

HANDS: Nothing like a good hand cream. This one is brand new from Beautycounter and totally amazing. Apply throughout the day! [NOTE: this item is so popular it is temporarily out of stock! I’ll let you know when it returns!]

BODY: It depends on what kind of mood I am in, but for scented body oil, I use Beautycounter’s Lustro Body Oil in Rosemary + Citrus. For unscented, I use 365 organic refined coconut oil. After the shower is the best time to do this.

FEET: Shea butter to the rescue again here. I slather it on and then put on socks. [cue sexy music]

So nothing earth shattering here, but it is nice to know there are great non-toxic options available. Maybe one of these will come in handy for you!

Let’s Not Have It All

camellia copy

I am pretty confident that I don’t want it all. I have a feeling you might not want it all either.

I’ve talked before about the power of editing, and here is a terrific quote I just came across by the authors of Rework,

“Be a curator. You don’t make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room. That’s a warehouse. … it’s the stuff you leave out that matters.”

So, so true. All and more are not the answers.

If we really have it all, that means our homes are packed to the gills with stuff that someone else deemed worthy. And if we do it all, we might not be honoring how we actually want to spend our time.

Perhaps this is simplifying things a bit, but I think you know what I mean.

This year, maybe we can aim for something different—not less and not more, but right for me. If we ask ourselves with every purchase and every commitment, “is this really right for me and my family?” I think our lives will start to lead us down a beautiful path.

Right for me means identifying and embracing what brings us joy. And perhaps letting go of the rest.

Maybe this means backing off some commitments or cleaning out a closet or two. Maybe we need more time outside or maybe more time on the phone with our best friend who lives across the country. Whether we need more or less of something can only be determined by our own circumstances. But certainly it should be what’s right for us and what brings us joy—not what some magazine (or blog!) says we should be doing with our lives.

Happy 2015. Let’s make it a great year.

Photo by me. One of the first blooms from my new japonica. Nothing like a big, bright white flower on a gray winter day.

Finding Peace While Seeking Simplicity

looking at the trees in paris

There have been a rash of articles lately about the pressure on parents, particularly mothers. I won’t rehash their arguments (or whether I agree), but I do feel they have some fair points. Which got me thinking, “is this simplifying thing just another way for mothers compete?” And then I thought how silly that sounded because that would be the exact opposite of simplifying. And then again, I remembered we are all human.

Here’s the thing. Simplifying should not something else to worry about. Simplifying, at its best, is a solution to other problems … not a source of panic or guilt or obsession on its own.

No good deed goes unpunished, and anything can be criticized or made into a competition. For me, and I hope for you, simplifying won’t be seen as one more task to complete but rather a new way of viewing things. Stepping back. Taking a deep breath. Focusing on the things most important to us. And letting go of the rest.

Wishing everyone a peaceful, simple holiday season and a very happy new year.

Photo from traveling a few summers ago.

Getting Organized With … Ann Evans of Cypress Floral Design

Arranging flowers is one of my favorite aspects of entertaining at home, but there are many occasions when it is more appropriate to call in the pros. Lucky for Jacksonville, we have Ann Evans, owner of Cypress Floral Design. Ann is a beautiful person inside and out, and her flowers are equally stunning. I’ve worked with her on both personal and professional levels many times and she never fails to delight. In addition to designing numerous weddings throughout the South, Ann has created the floral designs for the Cummer Ball and the Art & Antiques Show. Knowing many people will be pulling out their vases during the next few weeks, I asked Ann to share her best organizing tips with us. Here she is:

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Ann with a selection of her vase collection

What are the few, key vases everyone should own?
I’ll start with the vases you should not own and then suggest ones that you should.  There are a few factors  that go into choosing a great vase. The most important  is whether or not it can be easily cleaned! If the mouth of a vase is the size of a quarter and the vase is over 12″ tall, it is almost impossible to clean. Additionally, I prefer translucent or opaque vessels over clear ones because the water typically turns before the flowers. Also make sure the vessel is water-tight—you don’t want any leaky vases. To answer your question, besides water-tight translucent or opaque vessels,  I think everyone should own a set of really beautiful silver mint julep cups. They are versatile and can be dotted around the house or placed collectively on a dining room table mixed with votive candles. They are traditional and classic, but they take on the life of whatever flowers you put in them—from soft hydrangeas with mixed greenery to edgier deep red roses. Same vessel, different look.

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shallow cabinets, perfect for storage vases

Do you have any tips for storing these delicate, sometimes bulky items?
You know that saying “if you can’t see it, it isn’t there”?—well, that’s how I feel about vase storage. I store my vases so that I can see nearly all of them at a glance. Some are stacked together with felt in between them for protection, but I know they are there. I also have a lot of stainless steel wire racks. I often suggest clients put these racks in their garages or utility closets for storing vases (as well as many other items). It is amazing how much they hold and everything remains visible. Another idea is to have a carpenter shorten the depth of a cabinet by putting a wood panel inside—this makes for shallow shelves and allows easy access to vases. Then you can put valuable or seasonal items behind the panel and out of the way.

In terms of vases or floral supplies, what do you see too much of in people’s home?
I see too many unused vases! If you never use it, take it to goodwill, recycle it or have a garage sale.

Are there any tools that really make life easier for you that we should consider using?
I just bought a pair of Corona snippers at Philips Garden Store and I love them! They are really tough and sharp but not bulky. They cut everything from woody hydrangea stems to soft tulips. I highly recommend them.

Ann Evans - floral 2a bridal bouquet by Ann Evans

How do you stay organized before really big events?
Lists! I have checklists for every event. Always typed and printed. I have terrible handwriting and creating lists on my phone or iPad doesn’t seem real to me. I list every piece and part of every floral creation and tablescape I design. Then I check off every supply and each completed design.

Ann Evans - floral 1table and flowers by Ann Evans

What are some simple tips for keeping more fresh flowers around the house?
Call me! Ha :) I love designing flowers for people whether it be on occasion or each week—but I completely understand if you see some beautiful blooms at the grocery store and want to brighten up your home. Go for it! Flowers are such a treat. Just be sure to give the stems a fresh cut and put them in water immediately.

A Simple Addition for Cold Nights

woolino sleep sack

Colder nights mean layering up at our house. Even with the heat blasting, our daughter’s nursery is still cold at night. Wanting to keep her in natural fibers (sorry, fleece!), it took some researching to find the right solution. I discovered the Woolino Four Season Sleep Bag and so far we are loving it.

I finally landed on this particular sleep sack for a few reasons:
– 100% natural Australian merino wool inner lining and GOTS certified organic cotton outer (the wool was key).
– No flame retardants (because this is sleep-ware, many companies still put flame retardant chemicals on their sleep sacks.)
– Machine washable (It washes well. I hung it to dry.)
– Easy to snap on. It also has a zipper for nighttime diaper changes.
– The material is extremely soft and comfortable—far softer than I expected.
– Certainly least important, but there are several nice colors to choose from (we got the beige, shown above).

I started by purchasing the 2-4 year size since our daughter is just shy of two years and taller for her age. However, it was comically large. I exchanged it for the 2 months-2 years size and it is perfect, with room to grow (although it might be far too long for a two month old). I imagine by the time she outgrows it, she will be old enough to have blankets in bed.

On really cold nights, we dress her in two sets of long cotton pjs, two pairs of socks plus this sleep sack and never hear a peep.