Baby & Toddler · Holidays · Pregnancy

Eco-friendly baby gifts

Sending a care package a new mom’s way, or putting together a gift for a new arrival this holiday season? Here are my fave picks for the eco-conscious, non-toxic and environmentally friendly baby and mama. These are all companies and products we use and love for our family. But first, Georgia’s first visit to Santa!

Now on to the gift ideas you came here for.

Under the Nile

underthenile.com

This company makes one of Georgia’s favorite loveys, the pink baby buddy. All of their products are organic, from apparel to toys, and they also use PVC-free dyes. None of their products include flame retardants, Formaldehyde or other chemical fabric finishings.

Baby Soy

babysoyusa.com

We love their kimono style outfits. This green clothing line is made from sustainable and organic soybean fiber, making them soft on baby and low impact on the planet. The kimono line is their signature, and makes for cozy sleepwear with easy diaper access and convenient fold-over sleeve mittens to prevent overnight face scratches from flailing little hands. We also love their soft, knotted hats, especially for sleep.

Georgia has this in purple with pink trim.
Georgia has this in purple with pink trim.

NaturePedic

NaturePedic.com

This is where we got Georgia’s mattress (and mattress pad). It is certified organic and Greenguard certified (meaning it’s been tested for chemical emissions) and free of allergens. It meets all crib regulations, also fits a toddler bed, and is made in the USA. Best of all, it’s comfortable and firm and she loves sleeping on it. A mattress and mattress pad weren’t things I was willing to compromise on, since she spends more than half her living hours breathing them in.

LifeFactory

lifefactory.com

Creators of shatterproof glass baby bottles with colorful silicone sleeves, LifeFactory designs their products to grow with your child, so you can add a sippy cup top for toddlers and eventually a regular flat cap. There are tons of colors to choose from.

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The Honest Company

honest.com

I love, love, LOVE their products. I started out using their laundry detergent because I’m sensitive to fragrances and other ingredients in commercial soap, and now that I’ve had a baby I use nothing else. We tried and loved their diapers & wipes, and now I purchase my household cleaning products from them, too. That way, I don’t have to worry about fumes or residue affecting Georgia (or me, as a breastfeeding mom) when I clean our counters, toilets and windows. In fact, their stain remover is so amazing that I was able to get a HUGE smear of black ink — from a dropped mascara wand — out of our white nursery carpet(!) Find their “welcome baby” gift package here. I also use their antibacterial hand gel at Georgia’s changing table and in my diaper bag, and at bath time their baby wash and body oil is all we use. I even use those two products on my own body so that I don’t put any toxic chemicals near her little mouth while nursing!

Honest makes a badass diaper cake with 92 newborn diapers and essential baby products in the center. What a shower gift!
The Honest Company makes a badass diaper cake with 92 newborn diapers and essential baby products tucked in the center. What a shower gift!

Anna Naturals Tea

drinkmamatea.com

Teas that are usually recommended for nursing moms are, in a word, nasty. Not these. With organic blends for preconception, childbirth recovery, nursing and weaning, there’s an option for every stage of pre- and postpartum life.

MightyNest.com

mightynest.com

The “mindful gifts” offered at this site are free of lead paint,  heavy metals, and Formaldehyde, and are hand-picked for any age range you’re looking to buy for. Parents of school-aged children can even donate a portion of their purchase to their own district’s classrooms.

Sophie the Giraffe

Georgia can’t get enough of this teether. She loved cuddling and nuzzling it before she was teething, and now it provides a safe, soothing surface to gnaw on when her gums are sore. Free of phthalates and BPA, Sophie features natural rubber and food-based paint that naturally wears away over time. Each one is hand-painted so they are all unique! Available at most baby stores, including Babies R’ Us and on Amazon.

Babies love to chew on her feet, nose, mouth, ears…

Aden + Anais

adenandanais.com

Their organic crib sheets, changing pad covers and easy swaddlers have a trusted place in our nursery. They are available at Babies R’ Us and Amazon. Read more about why I like them in this post about newborn essentials.

California Baby

californiababy.com

We use their calming natural and organic products, especially the diaper rash cream, on G before she does her overnights. It prevents rash from wetness when she’s sleeping the longest. It has a lovely peppermint scent that really is soothing. All their products are certified organic, made in the US, allergen tested and free of peanuts, soy and dairy, with no animal testing. You can find their products at Target or Amazon.

Angel Dear blankies

angeldear.net

Georgia has two of these: an elephant and a bear, both pink. (See her cuddling one of them in this post). This San Francisco-based company is committed to organic fibers and their products are luxuriously soft to the touch. I wish I had gotten G a curved pillow to match her blankies, because I think it would have come in so handy with tummy time!

Georgia loves cuddling this elephant blanket.

A Mighty Girl

amightygirl.com

This awesome site, dedicated to matching parents with empowering, educational and fun toys for girls, has lots to choose from — but I particularly think it’s cool that they have an entire guide to children’s books about the environment. Check it out.

Baby Gap Organics

We have a new baby coming into our extended family this year right after Christmas, and I’m loving some of Baby Gap’s organic cotton gift sets for the little guy or gal (it’s going to be a surprise). This collection takes gender-neutral baby clothing beyond the realm of green and yellow, which is one reason I love it!

I also love this handmade plush toy from ABCHome, and I really want this frame from Pottery Barn Kids to commemorate G’s first year. It’s so beautiful.

What are your favorite products and brands? Did I miss any?

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I am not affiliated with or endorsed by any of these companies. In some cases, clicking specific product links will earn me a small commission. I never recommend any brand or item I don’t believe in and personally use.

Baby & Toddler · Pregnancy · Tips and Tricks

Newborn Essentials

Miss Georgia Vivien is now two weeks old, and just beautiful. She’s got such a sweet, good-natured temperament, and we fall in love with her about twenty times a day. Expecting, delivering and breastfeeding her has been without a doubt the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life, and we are learning more about how to nurture her every day. I’ve been amazed at how effortlessly some aspects of parenting come to first-timers like us, and equally surprised at how difficult certain “perfectly natural” things have been (nursing comes to mind).

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The first few days home were overwhelming: she had her days and nights mixed up, she fed constantly, our cat was totally freaked out and we were zombies from lack of sleep. Thanks to the generosity of family & friends who brought over food, cleaned our house, or held Georgia while we showered, Mark and I survived. I don’t know how anyone does it alone, or with a partner who isn’t also your best friend — you need to divide, conquer, and laugh when things get crazy!

A few of the other key items we couldn’t live without in these first few weeks?

FOR SLEEP
The My Little Snugabunny Rock n’ Play sleeper by Fisher Price (it now comes with a vibrating feature; ours didn’t have that, and we wouldn’t have used it anyway).

We can’t imagine not having this. Georgia naps in it during the day in our living room, and she seems to prefer the slight incline and self-rocking motion of this to her flat bassinet or her co-sleeper. It keeps them hugged around the sides in a safe way, which newborns seem to prefer to a big crib or play yard. It’s also portable, so you can move it to another room (or another story, if you have an upstairs) or even take it to a friend’s house, and the center comes out for easy cleaning (we’ve already had one diaper blowout in it, and you’d never know). This is great for times when the baby falls asleep in the living room and you need to quickly move them to your bedroom or the nursery to sleep overnight without waking them.

We also use this Summer Infant sleeper on our couch and on the bed, and will likely take this with us when we fly to see relatives in a few weeks. Until she transitions to her crib, Georgia is sleeping nightly (sort of) in the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper, which is attached to the side of our bed (by a strap under our mattress) for easy access for 2 a.m. diaper changes and feedings. Later, it can convert to a four-sided bassinet or a play yard, and it’s portable for travel. We’ll see how well that works out because it seems kind of heavy and not-so-simple to break down so far. This comes with one sheet (though you can buy more on their website) and that sheet Velcros to the thin mattress on its underside, so there’s no SIDS risk.

The Arm’s Reach Mini Co-Sleeper.

Georgia was born at 7 lbs 7 oz, which is very average; nevertheless, we still found ourselves without enough newborn-size outfits for daytime, so we made a run to Babies R’ Us after her first pediatrician appointment to pick up some Carter’s onesies on sale. We also grabbed more sleep outfits — in particular the Halo Sleepsack, and some Gerber Sleep n’ Plays which kept her feet warm. I found those little mittens utterly useless, so if you’ve got a face scratcher, just get outfits that have fold-over cuffs on them instead. We also got these fabulous swaddling blankets by Aden and Anais as a shower gift, and I can’t say enough about how indispensable they are. You can swaddle them during the day for comfort, tuck them tightly into their crib or bassinet, cover them up in the car seat and stroller, wipe spit-up, block the sun in the car, use as an emergency diaper-changing pad if you forget yours, and drape over yourself while nursing in public. I used this so much more than my nursing cover, stylish though it is! They are SO soft and get more so with each washing. If you’re ever in need of a shower present, these should be tops on the list. You can never have too many! (Well, you probably need a max of about six).

Aden + Anais Swaddle Plus Wrap Blankets.
FOR FEEDING

OK, I am going to level with you — breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Despite my baby having what the doctors and nurses called “a perfect latch,” I still found the first week and a half to be constantly painful. AND WHEN I SAY PAINFUL, I MEAN REALLY PAINFUL. Newborns feed even more frequently than I could have imagined, especially overnight, and often want to nurse for comfort when they get startled, overtired or over-stimulated. I feel like I’m finally turning a corner in terms of the pain now that she’s two weeks old, but I find it very psychologically trying to  be the only source of food and soothing for such a tiny being. It makes recovering from labor and delivery that much harder, too, and because you’re not supposed to pump for the first few weeks, nobody else can step in to give you relief  unless you decide to supplement with formula. Add to all this the fact that society is super judgmental about the choice to breastfeed or not, and moms can be left feeling guilty, inadequate and exhausted. If I said I hadn’t considered giving up in the first few days, I’d be completely lying. Thanks to the kind words of many moms in my life, I am trying to keep going. Here’s what’s helped.

The “My Brest Friend” pillow. Essential.

Screw the Boppy, this is the best breastfeeding pillow around. It straps around your waist and perfectly positions the baby in your lap so you don’t have to hold her up against your tummy to latch. It offers back support and has a little pouch for your water bottle, cell phone, snack, lanolin cream, etc. I use it on the couch, in bed, in the rocking chair, you name it. What you don’t need: extra covers. They sell them, and they’re very pretty, but use your money on something else. Like diapers.

$21.98 nursing camisoles at Motherhood Maternity. Comes in six colors.

Good nursing tanks and bras will make you the most comfortable while breastfeeding. A friend sent me these from Motherhood Maternity, and I really like the snap-down front. I also bought this bra for day and this one for night at Target, and wear both with regular shirts (although having a v-neck or button-down neckline helps when baby’s frantic and you’re in a hurry to nurse). I’m only wearing leggings, yoga pants and cotton skirts on bottom, since I still have sutures that need to heal and comfort is paramount. Nursing tanks are great because you can layer them with a pretty cardigan if you have to leave the house or have visitors over and want to look human. Other great options for colder weather include hoodies, soft cotton button-downs, henleys that can be undone, and scoop-neck shirts that can be pulled down in front.

A super comfy and stylish henley from LL Bean.
A super comfy and stylish henley from LL Bean.

What else do you need for nursing? Snacks are key, as is lots of water. Breastfeeding is dehydrating and also requires between 300 and 500 extra calories per day, so I even leave granola bars, dried fruit and oatmeal raisin cookies on the nightstand for middle-of-the-night feedings. Most babies vary between 10 and 40 minutes per feeding, and those long sessions can really leave you starving and shaky if you don’t stay ahead of your appetite. I also like to keep my Nook, some fluff reading (think People magazine) and my iPad handy. Sometimes I play music to relax us both, or I catch up on Netflix if I need to keep my hands free to help her latch.

Our baby doesn’t seem to respond to pacifiers yet, but the pediatrician told us it’s fine to give them one if they’ve been fed and are demanding the breast for comfort soon after. It’s more important to preserve your tender skin for the next session and not let them use you as a pacifier, as long as you know they’re full. We got lots of brands as gifts, but have been told Soothies are the best for breastfed babies to minimize nipple confusion. I’ll update this post in the future when I know what we ended up using. Along those same lines, we bought Phillips Avent bottles designed to have a slower flow that mimics the way milk “lets down” from the breast, so you can offer pumped milk to your newborn and not cause them to reject your nipple. So far we are using the newborn nipples but they have a wide range of “flows” so that you can keep increasing as the baby gets older. We based our bottle decision off the top-rated brand in the Bible (by which I mean the Baby Bargains book, a.k.a the only book you need when you’re pregnant). The top-rated bottles in there were Phillips Avent and Dr. Brown’s, and it comes down to personal preference on which to choose between those two. I know of folks who swear by Dr. Brown’s for fussy babies, but honestly, they have about fifty bazillion pieces to dissemble and wash, and with a 100-year-old house, we have no dishwasher (plus a dad who’s often gone 12 hours a day and not able to help wash bottles). Maybe if you’re a stay-at-home parent or have a dishwasher (mechanical or human), but otherwise, ain’t nobody got time for that. I also have friends who have loved Tommee Tippee and Playtex bottles, so those come highly recommended as well. If you’re interested, here is the Medela hands-free pump I bought. It’s the fastest and most hands-free/portable option short of a hospital grade pump. Sadly insurance does not pay for this one (at least not public employee insurance like we have), so you’ll have to pony up for this one if it’s important to you to be able to do other things while pumping, and to do it as quickly and quietly as possible.

The Medela Freestyle, a hands-free double electric hospital-grade pump.

Last but not least, if you find yourself with bleeding, cracked or burning nipples, it can’t hurt to keep a ready-to-feed bottle of newborn formula on the nightstand. If it can buy you 4 or 5 hours to heal, it might make all the difference in you continuing to breastfeed your baby long term, even exclusively. Two things I found useful for soothing wrecked nipples: reusable cooling gel pads, and Lansinoh lanolin cream.  The cream is particularly nice because you don’t have to wash it off before feedings.

I also found it helpful to have a reference book on breastfeeding handy, and the bible on this seems to be The Nursing Mother’s Companion. I read it before having Georgia, and found it twice as useful after she came home when I was having a lot of trouble.

FOR BATHING

Talk about scary — bathing a newborn?! Luckily they don’t get that dirty so you only have to give them a “bath” 1 or 2 times a week. And until their umbilical stump falls off, it can only be a sponge bath. All you really need here are some soft washcloths (I find homemade has been best), a couple hooded bath towels, and baby hair & body cleanser. The hospital gave us Johnson’s Baby Wash but we are not wild about its ingredients, so we have purchased natural products from The Honest Company, BabyGanics and California Baby. In my opinion, the softest, best-sized hooded towels come from Pottery Barn Kids. We registered for a set of Winnie the Pooh towels and washcloths from Babies R’ Us, but they fell apart after just a couple washes, and were scratchier than we’d hoped they would be. Save your money — spending more up front really does make a difference!

Pottery Barn’s Gingham bath set.
FOR POOPING

Changing diapers: probably the least difficult newborn skill to master. Mark did the first few in the hospital and now he does the lion’s share of changes at home, too, since I’m on 24/7 boobie duty. My top suggestion here is to buy plenty of diapers and wipes before you go into labor, because you’ll go through them faster than you can imagine when baby is home. Dozens a day at least. We explored the option of cloth diapers, both the kind you wash yourself and the kind you send out with a service, but for a variety of reasons we decided it wasn’t right for us. If you want to know more about my reasons, I’m happy to share, but I know people feel passionately about this issue (as with all things baby-related). If you are committed to cloth, MamaNatural has a great guide to selecting the right option, plus tutorials for cleaning them. If you’re in the Boston area, Diaper Lab is the best in-person resource. So, we are trying all the eco-friendly, non-petroleum-based brands available, and at this stage are sticking with the ones that fit her best physically to prevent messy blowouts. I’ve already had to put all three bassinet pads and her changing pad in the wash due to bad blowouts with ill-fitting diapers, so fit is critical — brand be damned! As for wipes, we are also buying the “sensitive” and eco-friendly versions of each brand, and so far we like The Honest Company and Seventh Generation Free & Clear, available at Target or online, as well as Costco’s Kirkland brand wipes. We bought a changing pad that we mounted to her dresser, but to be honest we only end up using the portable changing pad that came with my diaper bag because you can slap it down on the couch, the guest bed, the back seat of the car, wherever.

Carter’s Zip Front Diaper Bag. Doubled as a hospital bag for me! $50 at Babies R’ Us, often marked down to $39.99. Mark has a more gender-neutral, messenger-style diaper bag from Skip Hop that is awesome.

To leave the house, all you need is the pad, a couple diapers, a spare outfit and a pack of travel wipes. If you want to use diaper cream with each change to prevent a rash and make cleanup easier, we recommend Butt Paste and California Baby. While I started out not wanting to use any product with oil refinery by-products, such as Aquaphor, a couple of multi-week bleeding diaper rashes forced me to adopt vaseline as a healing ointment, and it truly was the only thing that worked. So I’ve changed my tune. Last but not least, get a diaper pail such as Diaper Genie (what we have and like so far) or Ubbi. Ubbi is more stylish looking and doesn’t require special refill bags, but the Diaper Genie was taller — important to Mark — and had a foot pedal for hands-free operation.

FOR EVERYTHING ELSE

There are so many other little things. Such as: hand sanitizer for you and your guests to use before touching the baby and after diaper changes; newborn hats, even in summer; fragrance-free laundry detergent for baby’s clothing (we use Honest Company); and a nightlight for your hallway to make middle-of-the-night diaper changes and feedings easier (even if the little one is in your room, you’ll appreciate having this ambient light from the hallway instead of turning on your bedside lamp and waking everyone up completely). We haven’t used our baby carriers yet, but we got an Ergo Baby and a Moby wrap, and I’ve heard great things about the Baby K’Tan. If you’re interested in what we use for our car seat and carriage(s), we have the Chicco KeyFit (awesome) and caddy (BEYOND ESSENTIAL), and the City Mini GT (which has a height-adjustable handle to accommodate 5-foot-tall Mom and 6’4″ Dad!) We also considered the UppaBaby Vista or Cruz and the Bumbleride Indie, which are much pricier and (if I’m being honest) a little bit snobby and status-y, but ruled out both because they were significantly heavier and also — critically — too wide to fit on the MBTA (Boston’s 100-year-old subway system), so we stuck to the one everyone in the city seems to have. (Read a funny rant on this from another Boston mom blogger here). Friends seem to also love the Britax B-Agile and the Bob Revolution, so those might be worth checking out. We keep the fold-able caddy in the car, pop the car seat in for errands, and we’ll use the City Mini just around the neighborhood until she outgrows her infant seat. The City Mini also has an optional, affordable car seat bracket mounter.

The ErgoBaby carrier can be used from birth with the newborn insert. Baby can ride front, back or on the hip, always inward-facing. Newer versions, such as the Ergo 360, allow even more positions, including forward-facing when baby is worn on your front. Another popular brand is the Tula.

Last but not least, remember to take care of yourself, Mama. Minimize visitors (we learned this the hard way) so you don’t over-tire baby or miss out on naps yourself, and accept any and all requests for help in cleaning your house, doing your laundry, or bringing you food. The hospital will tell you to take home a supply of the maternity pads, mesh underwear and witch hazel wipes they provided during your stay, and you should take them up on this offer. In fact, ask for extras. If you are really uncomfortable healing from a tear, I can’t recommend Dermoplast spray highly enough for the pain and itching. It’ll help you sit and sleep while the stitches are dissolving and making your life impossible. And, call your doc to see if you’re allowed to take sitz baths, which can help tremendously (provided you can find someone to hold the baby for long enough to go take one). Healing takes time and every little bit helps. Take care of yourself. XOXO

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