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Safe Skeeter Repellent

Happy Independence Day!  Along with your freedom to life, liberty, and property, may you also have freedom from bugs and bites.

As you spend today reflecting on our nation’s independence, enjoying BBQ, fireworks, and family time, there’s a strong possibility you’ll be fending off the bugs, especially the blood-sucking nasty mosquito-type.  If you live in Minnesota or Alaska, those skeeters are the size of birds, and very little will deter them because they can pierce through denim, wool, and even steel armor.

But, before you lather on whatever type of bug repellent is available at your nearest general goods retailer, consider the ingredients.  What’s in those lotions may be far worse than the ephemeral effects of an itchy mosquito bite.

Several bug repellents carry insecticides such as DEET, permethrin, and picaridin which cause many harmful side effects.

In an article recently published in ACA News (C Burke. Natural alternatives for mosquito management. ACA News. June 2008. p. 30-1.),

According to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Pesticide Information Profile Extension Toxicology Network, DEET has the potential to cause rashes, breathing difficulties, neurotoxic effects and even death, especially in susceptible individuals and those overusing the chemical.  Studies have also shown that the chemical is transported from the skin to all organs of the body,  [then, it ]enters the brain.  [It]  can be transferred to babies via breast milk, and [it] can even reach the fetus.

However, there are plenty of safer alternatives to insecticides and DEET, many of which revolve around one or two main ingredients that are easy and inexpensive to find.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), bug repellents using oil of lemon eucalyptus as the main ingredient were found to provide similar protection to those using low concentrations of DEET.

The following is a list, not by any means comprehensive, which provides natural alternatives to insecticides to help repel mosquitoes, flies, and ticks:

To enjoy a bug-free evening in your own backyard, there are simple measures you can take.

  1. Grow attractive insect-repelling plants in your garden: marigolds, geraniums, catnip, basil, citronella grass, peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary, thyme, and mosquito plants.  These plants naturally repel the hungry little beastly bugs while maintaining a lovely garden aesthetic.
  2. Make your OWN insect repelling spray by crushing the leaves of the aforementioned plants, thereby releasing their essential oils.  Mix them with isopropyl alcohol and create your own natural insect repellant.
  3. Burn sandalwood sticks in your yard (obviously keep curious little ones away).
  4. Eliminate standing/stagnant water in your yard, because this is the breeding and hatching ground for mosquito eggs.
  5. Avoid wearing lotions with fragrance, perfumes, and scented hair care products while playing outdoors.  These are mosquito and fly magnets.  It’s far better to smell of lemon and eucalyptus and to be bug bite-free!
  6. Burn citronella candles in outside areas with low wind such as on your patio table keeping bugs at bay from your BBQ.
  7. Maintain your door and window screens around the perimeter.  If those little buggers sneak into the cracks around those, then you’ve got ’em in your house.  And nothing’s worse than listening to a buzzing mosquito at 3 AM!

Read www.beyondpesticides.org for more info about protecting you and your backyard from mosquitos.

If, perchance, you still happen to get that little nagging nip that turns into a pimple-sized itchy nob, and you’re “itching” for a natural remedy to prevent you from scratching your skin off, I highly recommend the nectar directly from an aloe vera plant, or Sting Away which is an aloe vera based spray that you can find at your local pharmacy or health foods store.  I’ve used it for hornet stings as well as mosquito bites.  The label also advocates its use for sea lice and jellyfish stings.  The soothing aloe quickly takes the edge of a deeply itchy sting or bite.

BPA Found in Infant Formula Cans Harms Test Animals

An article published in the International Chiropractic Pediatrics Review (Spring 2008, p. 12) recently found that lab tests of canned infant formula conducted by the FDA and a certified commercial laboratory revealed that a plastics chemical, bis-phenol-A (BPA), leaches from the metal can linings into infant formula at levels which would expose some bottle-fed infants to BPA in excess of doses that caused serious adverse side effects in tests done on animals.

No government safety standards exist to limit the amount of BPA in infant formula.

Leading infant formula makers: Nestle and Mead-Johnson, may admit that there are risks in any material used for packaging, however, they firmly stand by their products and claim liquid infant formula in these cans is safe.

Yet, two separate groups of BPA experts expressed concerns about infant exposure to BPA.  Both panels were sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  One panel comprised of 38 BPA experts worldwide expressed grave concern that infant exposure levels are equal to or exceed the levels which caused harm in animal studies. The other panel, the National Toxicology Program’s Center for Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction, concluded there was “some risk” that infant exposure to BPA could harm brain development and adversely affect behavior.  Unfortunately, there’s lack of scientific consensus on the parameters of “some risk.”

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit advocacy and research group based in Washington, D.C., made notes in its executive summary regarding analyses of levels of BPA in ready-to-eat concentrated infant formual with government data on infant formula consumption indicating the following:

  • one out of every 16 infants fed ready-to-eat canned formula would be exposed to BPA at doses exceeding those which altered testosterone levels, affected neurodevelopment, and caused other permanent harm to male and female reproductive systems.
  • At the highest BPA levels found in formula, 17 parts per billion (ppb), nearly two-thirds of all infants fed ready to eat formula would be exposed above doses harmful in animal tests.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has not taken a formal stance on this issue.  The FDA acknowledges it’s actively reviewing safety data on BPA, but it is not banning or restricting its use in infant formula in the meantime.

The Toxic Substances Control Act, passed in 1976, is toxic law in the U.S. Thirty-one years later, it’s the only major public health and environmental statute in the U.S. that’s ever been updated.

Breastfeeding, on the other hand, is safe, nutritious, helps with immune system development, and it also promotes numerous other benefits for baby: physiological, neurological, and emotional.

Sweet Slumber with Medela’s Sleep Bra

I recently reviewed two nursing bras by Medela for daily and professional wear.  I love Medela’s bras, and I really enjoyed testing their Sleep Bra (Model 677).  Until about a month ago, I’ve been wearing sleep bras almost exclusively.  Some are definitely more comfortable than others!

I first started wearing sleep bras after Calvin was born to keep warm gel packs in place since I needed to prepare my breasts for nursing before each feeding.  Once that painful stage passed, I kept wearing nursing bras at night for breast support, because milk boobs are heavy and those delicate Cooper’s ligaments that support breast tissue don’t just spring back to life–you’ve gotta take care of them!

So, a sleep bra needs to be able to hold nursing pads in place.  Cups should easily pull aside for nursing access.  And, it should provide support yet be so comfortable that you forget you’re even wearing a bra.

Medela’s Sleep Bra achieves all those things that a nursing mom is looking for in a bra with a super comfy, combed-cotton sleep bra.  It features a 3/4″ wide elastic band that was actually a little snug on me in the recommended size based on my measurements.  I went with the next size up since I was actually between 2 sizes, and I LOVED it.  Sizes range from Small to Extra-Large.

The racerback offers great support.  The cups offer full coverage, and they easily draw to the side for nursing access.  There’s no scratchy tag to irritate you while you’re sleeping (YAY!).  The combed cotton is a major plus.  In comparison to other sleep bras I’ve tried, this one feels the best against my skin.  When you’re first nursing and your breasts/nipples are very tender and sore, they deserve as much royal treatment as they can get!

This fantastic sleep bra only comes in white (*yawn* BORING!).  But, if you’re only wearing it at home while your breasts are acting as workhorses for feeding your baby, it’s no big deal.  Although, I think it’d be fantastic if they offered different fabric color options (apple green, turquoise, polka dots) but then, of course, that would only drive up the cost.  This fully funtional bra gets-the-job-done and keeps your comfortable and happy.  Medela doesn’t sell these bras directly on their site, but through distributors.  Their Sleep Bra typically retails for $18-$20, and you can find it at JCPenney’s, Target, Amazon, or BabyCenter (to name a few retailers).

I’m Going to be a Bridesmaid, but I’m Still Breastfeeding . . . HELP!

I was honored to be asked to stand with my friend at her wedding this fall.

Then five seconds later, I realized, I have to wear a bridesmaid dress next to other women who haven’t had babies and who aren’t currently breastfeeding. Oh dear!

So, I ordered my J. Crew bridesmaid dress–a silk taffeta chocolate number that’s strapless, corseted, high waisted, and it has three-inch pleats around the skirt which hits just above the knee. When I placed my order, the super-friendly person on the other end of the phone kindly told me I was between two sizes for the bust measurements. Oh dear!

Since I’m expecting my bust to get smaller as opposed to larger five months from now, I went with the smaller size. BIG mistake.

The dress arrived and I snapped and zipped it up after sucking in my ribs, turning slightly blue, and wishing I hadn’t had that slice of carrot cake over the weekend. The look on Steve’s face told me how I looked before he actually opened his mouth and said, “Woah.” It wasn’t a good, “woah” as in “woah! She’s Hot!” It was as in “woah, you paid for that?!”

I quickly ran into the bathroom to look in the mirror which only revealed what I looked like from the waist up. The corset lines were bunchy, and I barely had enough bust to hold up the dress. But, I felt like I needed to fidget with it to keep hoisting it up. That’ll be a lovely image at a wedding: me grabbing the top edge of the dress, pulling it up, and wriggling around to stay put. Oh dear!

Then, I ran into another room that had a slightly bigger mirror to get the full effect of the dress in its entirety.

Oh . . . my . . . Goodness! Look at my butt! It looks sooooo BIG. Like a bumblebee butt. Like Calvin’s bohemoth cloth diapered bottom at nighttime.

Three-inch waistline pleats on someone who actually has curves, well, let’s just say they parachute and magnify exactly what you don’t want them to.

I actually called two girlfriends (both of whom are moms and former brides and bridesmaids).

What do I do? I don’t want to be bridesmaidzilla, but I really can’t be seen in this . . . in public (heck, I think it made Steve gag in the bedroom!) I don’t want to complain to the bride, but I don’t know what to say if she asks me what I think about it.

I’m typically a straight arrow when it comes to my opinion about something. If I don’t like something, it’s no mystery. I do my best to be diplomatic, but I felt like I was in the midst of a frock tragedy. Overwhelming encouragement from my girlfriends was unanimously the same:

Well, Dolly, the bride’s gonna look very beautiful standing next to you. After all, that’s what it’s all about . . . the bride!

I know that doesn’t sound like the best pick-me-up of encouragement, let’s face it, it was girlfriend-speak for “suck it up, sistah!”  But, it was actually what I needed to hear. I chuckled as one of my friends related her bridesmaid horror stories . . . from the ugly dress to the horrible haircut and dye job.  Perhaps I can have one of those funny stories to tell . . . one day soon!

On Saturday, I tried on the dress for my sis-in-law, a.k.a. seamstress extraordinaire.  When it comes to voicing her opinion, she’s like me and Steve. If it looks like I’m wearing a burlap sack that’s cinched too tight, then, she’ll tell me. She suggested I take a photo of myself in it and send it to the bride and tell her, “You want me to wear THIS?!?”. Interesting idea. I wasn’t about to take my chances having THAT PHOTO accessible on the internet. No way!

My nine-year-old niece was just as informative,

That dress does NOT look good on you. It’s so short and little. My [twelve-year-old] sister could wear it!

So, this is what I did. In a moment of desperation, I called the bride.  She didn’t answer her phone. “Whew!” I felt relieved, and I didn’t leave a message.  She called back later and immediately asked if I’d received the dress.

Me: “Yes”

Bride: “What do you think?”

Me: “Well . . . it’s kinda funny, actually. When I called, they said I was between sizes. I went with the smaller size thinking I’d be slimmer by September rather than fuller. That probably wasn’t the right decision.”

Bride: “My other bridesmaid is a size 0 or 2. She ordered a larger size . . . a 4, and it looks great on her!”

(Me thinking to myself) “Oh dear! I’m standing next to someone at the wedding who’s got the same waistline as my 7-month old!  She went up 1 to 2 sizes to get a 4. If I order a larger size, it may fit better, but I’ll look like I’m wearing a tent!”

Bride: “You know, that particular dress runs small. You could exchange it for the next size up and it would probably look great.”

(Me thinking to myself): “Doubtful, but I need to just go with the wedding flow and make the best of this situation”

Me: “Uhm. Okay. Yeah, I’ll call ’em.”

So, I called J. Crew and spoke with a God-send of a sales rep, Tina. She has 5 kids. While nursing, she was a bridesmaid in 3 weddings. Tina could totally relate to what I was going through.

Tina: “I’ve been there. You get all frustrated about the number of the size because it’s a number bigger than what you used to wear, and then you get self-consious about it.  And, you feel like you never really know when you’re going to lose the rest of that baby weight. Also, while you’re nursing, you don’t know if your breasts will get smaller later. It’s so hard to figure out what you need to buy now (while it’s available) that will look beautiful on you several months down the road.”

Tina had somehow managed to read my mind.

OK, so I won’t relate the entire 30 minute phone-order-exchange conversation. But, I will mention that Tina should be recognized as J. Crew’s Sales Representative of the Year because of her amazing ability to read the mind of a breastfeeding woman who’s trying to buy a bridesmaid dress.  Nursing women who are in weddings need an empathetic ear paired with sales knowledge.  Need a bridesmaid dress?  Call J. Crew.  Ask for Tina, because she’s THE WOMAN! She got me through this.

I ordered the next size up because 2 sizes up would just swallow me. She told me what strapless bra to buy, where to buy it, and when it would go on sale (this particular bra company is not co-owned by J. Crew . . . she was just being extremely helpful). Tina even mentioned that if I leaked, since I’m a nursing mom, that milk stains would look like grease spots on the breast areas of the silk taffeta. She recommended nursing pads. She was even going to allow me to keep both dress sizes until right before the wedding, and then simply return the other and get credited back the amount (typical returns must be done within 60 days–she was extending it for 5 months). This was a super mom making my life and dress decisions so much easier.

I’ll receive the dress tomorrow. The exchange was done and J. Crew is eating the shipping. I haven’t even received it yet, however, after speaking with Tina, I’m full of hope and promise that perhaps even I can pull off this dress at the wedding and look . . . GOOD!

Weekly Baby Health News

A Breastfeeding Hero

A Chinese policewoman in Chengdu is breastfeeding 9 babies according to The Citizen.  She recently had her own baby, but she’s also helping to feed the babies of 3 women who were too traumatized from the earthquake to continue nursing, and she’s feeding 5 orphaned babies who don’t have access to powdered milk in the orphanage. 

Infant Vaccines Produce Autism Symptoms in Primates (U of Pittsburgh Study)

According to Medical News Today, when giving infant primates the same vaccines recommended for human newborns by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), autism-like symptoms were exhibited.  This article revealed that vaccine-safety studies are usually conducted prior to use in humans.  However, the current childhood regimen has never been done.  In this case, generations of American children have been unwilling subjects for future generations of children.  I hope shedding more light on vaccines and their effects just increases parents awareness so that they don’t blindly follow recommendations for introducing foreign substances into the body (especially of a young infant) without first doing some research.  On that end, I hope public awareness about vaccines increases tremendously.  These findings most certainly have made the CDC and AAP aware and concerned about the effects of their vaccine recommendations in the past few decades.

Posts Soon to Post

A couple nights ago, I was awake in the wee hours of the morning (imagine that?!) and I started thinking about different topics I wanted to write about.  I’ve had post ideas before, but somehow the daily requisites of mommydom prevent me from ever actualizing those writings.  But, I’ll jot them down now as more of an outline from which I hope to refer in the near future . . . because to me, this is exciting stuff.

  • Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding and prematurely introducing solid foods and the correlation with adult onset food allergies, obesity, and other trends in health problems.  This is more of a hypothesis rather than the basis for an article (thus far), but at least I’d be interested in writing about the psychology and cultural trends of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding over the past 4 generations of moms
  • Traveling with a baby: what’s a safety concern and what’s really unnecessary worry because it won’t matter anyway when the metal hits the tarmac.
  • Baby foods: do they really put secret flour-based fillers in those manufactured baby foods?  If you make your own food at home, do you really need to add oils and vitamins to the foods?  How can you be sure your baby is getting the best and recommended nutrition?
  • My birth story.  It’s 5 months past due, but I thought now might be a great time to share it, especially since Mother’s Day is coming soon.

So, stay tuned as I tease out these ideas in my mind, do some research and fact-finding, and I’ll tell it like it is.

Peace in the Middle East.

Breastfeeding Awareness

An article featured in Medical News Today discusses why breastfeeding within the first hour of life is important for the baby’s survival and health. Read more here.

Additionally, Pediatrics Journal published an article on how delayed breastfeeding increases risk of infant mortality. Read the abstract here.