Simply Being A Mama

The Big 3 | Organic Living and Why It’s Important

Posted by in Guest Posts, Ideas for an Organic Life

The Big 3

Katy Lytal | Ethical Infant

So there I was, every bit of 12 months pregnant with my first child. Ok, a bit hyperbolic, but really, you should have seen me. After parking the car at my 7th stop of the morning, I breathlessly race-waddled into our local, groovy, world market and found the first customer service person that I could. As I approached him, I tried to muster up a pleasant smile, but I’m sure that the look I gave this young man was more like deranged and desperate.

Excuse me,” I said. “I’m having a bit of an emergency, do you happen to carry organic welcome mats here? I’ll take anything. Hemp… Wool… Bamboo… I’ve looked everywhere, and I really need to get one before the baby gets here.” I tried harder to squeeze my face into a smile, but I’m pretty sure that I just looked extra crazy.

Um, no.” said the young man. I could tell from his puzzled look, and the sound of his almost laugh, that he was doing his best to take me seriously. “Actually, I’ve never seen an organic welcome mat.” Defeat. “ But we do carry a number of organic items that might have a bigger impact on the health of your baby. You know, clothes, bedding, food… Do you have all of the important things already taken care of?” Genius. Leave it to the customer service guy to talk me out of my hysteria. With a sigh of relief, I paused. He was right. I needed to be focusing my mama energy on the things that were going to have the greatest impact on my little one.

the big 3Of course, in the perfect world, all things would be safely, sustainably, and organically produced. Needless to say though, our world is a work in progress. So, until we attain perfection, thoughtfulness will be key in maintaining ones sanity. As we strive to provide our kiddos with the absolute best, a good mama mantra to keep in mind is, “do your best, as often as you can, and remember what’s important.”

When it comes to buying organic products, lets remember what’s important. We mentioned in the last article, Pesticides Dirty Little Secret, that there are two avenues by which we can provide protections for little ones, against harmful toxins and chemicals; what goes on them, and what goes in them. Pretty simple right?

Let’s agree that foods, regardless of type, are important to buy in their cleanest form. You (and your baby) are what you eat. If you must pick and choose, or have limited organic availability, checking out a lists like, The Dirty Dozen”, can help you to decide which foods are must buy organic and which ones may contain fewer pesticides than others. This takes care of the “what goes in them” aspect of protection.

But what about what goes on them? When it comes to prioritizing which products are must buy organic for your little one, let’s break things down a little further. In order to make things simple, we have to first answer a few questions.

  1. What will your baby have the greatest skin contact with?
  2. Were will your baby spend most of their time?

By answering these two questions, we are able to determine which items in your home are organic “MUST HAVES”.

the big 3We like to call the Must Haves, “The Big Three”.

  • Clothing – Your little one will spend roughly 97% of their day in some form of clothing. If you’re like me however, you dream that this number would be more like 70% – I’m sort of a skin to skin junky.
  • Bedding – If you hit the mama lottery, and have a good sleeper, your baby could spend up to 75 % of their day in contact with some form of bedding.
  • Diapers – Just like clothing, your little one will spend the vast majority of their time with their skin in contact with their diaper.

Because of the unique way in which little ones interact with the world, and the length of time that they are in contact with particular items, we are presented with a distinct opportunity to do a great deal of good for them, with just a few decisions. Yes, of course, things like organic car seat covers are cool, but proportionate to the amount of time that they will be spending in contact with them, it is far more important to consider “splurging” on (VALUING), organic bedding, clothing, and diapers.

Here’s why:

We should think again about skin contact. In the same way that we think about their little systems processing nourishment, we too should think about what touches their skin. Remember, their skin is their body’s largest organ, and it too must process what it comes in contact with. This processing includes harmful chemicals that are present in non-organic textiles. Not that I am at all into scare tactics, but I am sure that you are familiar with horror stories that have been in the news; seen the pictures of terrible chemical burns that were left on babies who were exposed to harmful chemicals that were present in the tags of their clothing. So very sad.

Even though non-organic cotton only accounts for 3% of the world’s crops, it uses 25% of the world’s pesticides (Hae Now, 2010). It is the dirtiest crop on the planet! To put this into different terms, this means that proportionate to other crops, non-organic cotton contains 6 times the amount of chemicals per unit of volume. Eek! Even after multiple washes, petroleum based chemicals can be found in our little one’s garments.

the big 3All too often the, the ethics of textile production go unnoticed. For so many, it’s an “outa sight, outa mind”, kind of topic. After all, who the heck knows where, let alone how the garment they are wearing was made. The blankets on your bed? Your underpants? Yep, outa sight, outa mind. But tides are turning. There is a movement afoot. Rather than seeking out, “the best bargain” in town, mamas like you and I are seeking out the highest level of safety and quality. A gentle and holistic approach to purchasing is thankfully leading to a greater availability of organic goods.

As a young mother I remember feeling almost frozen by the decisions that I was making for the little person that I already loved so much. Buy a black and white mobile, or colored mobile? Sing to them, or play them classic music? Take a walk, or do prenatal yoga? Thinking back on it now, I am slightly amused. Yes, I have relaxed a bit, and have come have fully embraced the wisdom of the young salesman that I met those years ago. I have decided to focus my energy on that which will have the greatest impact on my child; on that which will make the biggest difference in their wellbeing. I know that I cannot protect them from every thing, but I also know that I can protect them from many things.

Although I would still love to find an organic doormat, for now, I will stick with buying organic for, “The Big Three”. Knowing that we have the power to protect is an amazing thought, and sometimes a seemingly daunting responsibility. But a few deep breaths, an evaluation of priorities, and sometimes the wisdom of a stranger can help us to restore the spirit of joy to our souls when it comes to providing protections to our little ones.

Be well. -Katy


ethical infant

Katy Lytal is a Mompreneur, and Co-founder of Ethical Infant: Organic, Fair Trade, Vegan Fashion for Infants. She’s inspired by thoughtful, crunchy living.

I adore every minute with my little loves. I truly believe that joy and health go hand in had. Most of the time I try not to drive my hubby crazy with crafts, creations, and chaos- he’s a good sport.”

Follow Katy on Twitter.




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Using Mindfulness to Overcome Postpartum Challenges

Posted by in 4th Trimester Support for Mama & Baby, Guest Posts

mindfulness to overcome postpartum challengesMindfulness & Postpartum 

Originally Posted on New Mama Project By: Fiona Griffin, MS

THE BIRTH OF MY DAUGHTER WAS A SHOCK.  Yes, I knew I was pregnant, and went into the experience as prepared as anyone could be, but it was still a surprising and, frankly, unsettling experience. Things didn’t go better or worse than I imagined, just different.

The postpartum period for me was also a shock.  It was much more challenging than I thought it would be, and I struggled to feel like a competent mother.  I had so many ideas in my head about what I should be doing and what was best for my baby.  I wasn’t sure what to do, and I was also working hard to recover from the strain of childbirth. Every day was full of ups and downs.  Each new day brought an opportunity to try to do things differently or better. After a series of perceivedusing mindfulness postpartum successes and failures throughout the day, I would reflect internally or process with my partner about how to make the next day better. Sometimes it would be better and sometimes it would be more challenging. During the immediate postpartum period I often felt like I was in a repetitive cycle of trying to be in the moment, becoming frustrated with how things were going, and resolving to do better next time.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

After several days stuck in my own cycle. Replaying an inner monologue over and over. Feeling defeated that things aren’t the way that I want them to be I began thinking on a deeper level that sounded like this: “So what is the key to breaking out of this cycle?  How can I measure success differently so that each day feels positive.  Or, should I change the game completely?  How could I exist in a way that allows me to escape a need to categorize moments or days as good or bad?”

Sometimes when I am stuck I think about what I would counsel a client to do.  I am not a practitioner of mindfulness, but it is impossible to ignore the mindfulness movement if you work in the mental health field.  And for good reason. For me, using just a few mindfulness concepts helps me break out of my cycle. Countless others find mindfulness to be key in managing a variety of mental health issue. Even scientific research supports mindfulness.  So, if you haven’t discovered mindfulness, maybe now is the time to try.

Here are my top three practical mindfulness tools.

1. Be aware of what is happening around you, in the moment. Be present. As a new mom it is really challenging to be at ease with what is happening in the moment.  New mothers are often wondering if they’re doing the right thing, or worrying about how the rest of the day will go. It can also be difficult to adjust to the pace and schedule (or lack of schedule) of a newborn.  Finding a way to settle into the uncertainty of the moment and drink up those special moments with your newborn may help you enjoy the postpartum experience a little more. Read our blog post about the secret to unlocking postpartum wellness for some ideas on how to be in the moment with baby.

using mindfulness postpartum2. Let go of expectations and attachment to outcomes.  This is always a big challenge for me.  Since the day I got pregnant I’ve struggled to accept the unknowable about birth and parenting.  During the postpartum period, managing my expectations was a huge challenge. Letting go of how I expected things to go was something I really struggled with. There’s little chance things are going to go exactly as you expect, so the more you can allow yourself to go with the flow, the happier you will be.

3. Avoid judgement. You can’t control other people’s judgements – though they’re probably not judging you as much as you think they are. You can stop judging yourself though.  If you have a negative thought, notice it and let it go. If you use harsh words towards your baby, give her an extra hug and move on.  If your house is a mess, forgive yourself and pick up when you can.  It is often said that we are our harshest critics.  How can you be a little less harsh to yourself today?

You may be wondering where the pictures of babies and mamas are.  Given that our theme this week is mindfulness I wanted to post simple and beautiful pictures that represent peace, calm, and a quiet mind. I hope they have a soothing effect on you. Maybe they will even serve as a focal point for some deep breathing or meditation. Check out Mindful Motherhood for some ideas on guided meditation.

I have to admit I don’t usually set aside time to meditate, and my experience with mindfulness is pretty elementary, but I do use these three strategies often.  To me they lend themselves so well to parenting. Things are always popping up that I don’t expect.  I am constantly wishing I was doing stuff just a little better, and I struggle to settle into the simple activities of parenting without my mind wandering.  Every day is an opportunity to breathe deep and expand my heart to love myself and my baby a little more. When I take time to breathe and reflect I am sometimes able to be more at ease with what is. I hope you can find space in your life for some simple mindfulness practices to improve your postpartum experience.



Fiona Griffin MS New Mama Project

Fiona Griffin is a mental health counselor and the co-founder of New Mama Project, an online community offering support for postpartum mothers and space for real talk about the transition into motherhood.  The site offers a social supports guide and self-care quiz for new mamas that can be found here.  Fiona works with youth and families in Vermont where she lives with  her husband and daughter. You can learn more about Fiona at Fiona Griffin Counseling.

New Mama Project is an online community offeringnew mama project support for postpartum mothers and a space for real talk about the transition into motherhood. In addition to a weekly blog and newsletter, the site offers a social supports guide and self-care quiz for new mamas that can be found here: New Mama Project .  

Pesticides Dirty Little Secret

Posted by in Guest Posts

 Katy Lytal | Ethical Infant


LIKE SO MANY OF YOU GRANOLA GIRLS OUT THERE, for years, I have embraced and celebrated organic foods. You are what you eat, right? Well, it wasn’t until my first little one was on the way that I really started tuning into non-food based exposure to chemicals and pesticides. As mamas, protecting our little ones from chemical exposure really boils down to two factors; what goes in them, and what goes on them. I knew that I was going to nurse exclusively, and that I attempt to do my best in the food department; eating a mostly well-balanced, organic diet. But what about what was going to go on my baby? In prepping for babies arrival, I started to dig deeper into how items that my baby was going to use were made. It is my firm belief that when you know better, you do better. Agreed? Good.

So, let’s get started by learning a few new words together. Now repeat after me, Aldicarb…..Parathion…..Methamidophos….Acephate….Malathion… No, I am not reading the pesticides dirty little secretingredient label of Pop Rocks candy (although it may not be all together different), I am reading to you a list of the 5 most prevalent pesticides used in cotton farming – three of which the World Health Organization has deemed “Extremely Hazardous or Highly Hazardous”. Let’s continue.

When it comes to pesticides, children are among the most vulnerable. Infants in particular face unique exposure to dangerous chemicals because of how they interact with the world. They crawl on the ground and put things in their mouths. This would include, but certainly not be limited to, their hands, clothing, bedding, toys and pre-chewed gum found at the park (Was that only my kid?). Okay, continuing. sites that, “Pound for pound, they (infants and children) drink two and one-half times more water, eat three to four times more food, and breathe two times more air than adults. Therefore they absorb a higher concentration of pesticides than adults.”

Additionally, because they are growing so rapidly, infants are more susceptible to the effects of pesticide exposure than adults. From birth until early childhood and beyond, our little ones’ developing brains and bodies are in the midst of complex and fragile developmental processes. As noted by The Environmental Justice Foundation (2007), many developmental processes can be irreversibly derailed by pesticide exposure.

EJF research (2007), indicates that children exposed to pesticides either in utero or during other critical periods, face significant health risks including higher incidence of:

Birth defects

Neurodevelopmental delays & cognitive impairment

Childhood brain cancers

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)

Endocrine disruption

In looking into products that were available for my little one, I realized that most of them were made primarily from cotton. Taking this fact into consideration, I decided that cotton was the textile that I needed to focus my attention on. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Conventionally grown cotton occupies only 3% of the world’s farmland, but uses 25% of the world’spesticides dirty little secret chemical pesticides (HAE Now, 3013). Yes, cotton is considered the world’s dirtiest crop due to its heavy use of pesticides. It’s terrifying to think that Aldicarb, cotton’s second most used insecticide, is lethal to both humans and animals. A single drop of this pesticide, absorbed through the skin can kill an adult. Aldicarb is commonly used in cotton production in 25 countries world wide, including the U.S.

Moreover, many of the top 10 most commonly used pesticides in cotton farming, particularly those that are petroleum based, can be found in clothing, EVEN AFTER WASHING! In all honesty, I was horrified by all of the information that I was finding, regarding the dangers of conventionally grown cotton. The more I read and the more I learned, the more I was ready to just crank up the heat in my home and let my little one lay around in the buff. They’d be safer, and cute. I promise though, none of this is at all intended to scare you into creating a nudist colony. Remember, when you know better, you do better. Take a big deep breath. I promise good news is on the way.

But, before we get to the good news, here is a bit more that you might want to know about conventionally grown cotton. For the sake of time, I’ll just give you a few of the highlights, or lowlights, as they happen to be. According to both the EFJ and the Pesticide Action Network of North America:

  • 65% of conventional cotton production ends up in our food chain directly through food oils or indirectly through the milk and meats of animals feeding on cottonseed meal and cotton gin by-products.
  • The byproducts and leftovers from the ginning process consist of cottonseed, stalk, leaves, burrs, twigs, dirt and everything else that is not used in cotton textile production. Byproducts are frequently sold to food companies to undergo further processing to create cottonseed oil, additional additives and fillers in processed foods for livestock feed, and soil compost mix.
  • Cottonseed meal is routinely fed to animals for dairy and meat production.
  • Leftover cotton cellulose fibers that are too short to be spun into textiles are used as food additives. Cellulose is added to a wide range of foods as a thickening and stabilizing agent.
  • Cellulose, which is basically a plastic has migrated into numerous foods including cheese, cream, milk powder, flavored milks, ice cream, sherbet, whey products, processed fruits, cooked vegetables, canned beans, pre-cooked pastas, pre-cooked rice products, vinegars, mustard, soups, cider, salads, yeast, seasonings, sweeteners, soybean products, bakery items, breakfast cereals including rolled oats, sports drinks, and dietetic foods as a non-caloric filler.

Ok, are you thoroughly freaked out now? Me too. But I did tell you that good news was on its way. Here it goes.

pesticides dirty little secret

Shop Organic

Let’s get back to the really important part – our little ones. Knowing what we now know, how can we protect them and ensure that the products that we put on them are not causing them harm? The answer is to shop organic. Thankfully, numerous companies, organizations, and individuals have begun to call for a stop to dangerous farming and production practices. There is a movement to return to safe and sustainable cotton. No, organic textiles are not just the next groovy thing for granola lovers to gravitate to; they are a matter of health and safety for us all. Our personal choice to support organic agriculture is critical.

The dangers to human and environmental health that exist with conventionally grown cotton are not present with organically grown cotton. It’s true, finding organic items for your little one might take a bit of extra searching on the Internet, and putting in requests with your local shops, but it’s worth it. Protecting our little ones can seem like one of life’s greatest struggles, but it can also be one of life’s greatest joys. Personally, I’ve decided to ditch the dread and focus on the good that I can do for my precious little people. I hope that you will join me. Remember, our shopping choices affect the cotton industry by increasing grower and manufacturer demand for pure, safe, organic products. Together, as a community of conscientious mamas, we can set an example by choosing certified organic products for our food, clothing, and other cotton textile needs. The next time you are shopping for clothing, bedding, or personal care products, I hope that you can think back to this article. When we know better, we do better. When it comes to cotton, a wise choice is to shop certified organic for your family’s health and for the protection of our planet.

In our next installment of the blog, we will discuss priority setting. We’ll talk about making critical mama decisions, learn how to evaluate products based on their relationship to our babies, and find out what “The Big 3” are.


Katy Lytal


ethical infant

Katy Lytal is a Mompreneur, and Co-founder of Ethical InfantOrganic, Fair Trade, Vegan Fashion for InfantsShe’s inspired by thoughtful, crunchy living. “I adore every minute with my little loves. I truly believe that joy and health go hand in had. Most of the time I try not to drive my hubby crazy with crafts, creations, and chaos- he’s a good sport.” Follow Katy on Twitter.




EJF, 2007, The Deadly Chemicals in Cotton, Environmental Justice Foundation in collaboration with Pesticide Action Network UK, London, UK United Natural Foods Incorporated (UNFI)

How To Breathe | Anders Olsson

Posted by in A Natural Lifestyle, Guest Posts

ORIGINAL SOURCE: Elephant Journal By Anders Olsson | How to Breathe..


Featured Writer | Anders Olsson

How to breathe by Anders Olsson

How to Breathe

THERE IS NOTHING NEW ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF BREATHING —just a few minutes of oxygen deprivation is enough to destroy the brain’s ability to process incoming information forever—but few of us realize that how we breathe affects every single aspect of our life.

Poor breathing habits, such as breathing too much, too shallowly, holding our breath or feeling as if we are not breathing at all, can cause major stress to our body, resulting in oxygen depletion and energy shortage.

Many feel that yoga helps them to reduce stress and improve their overall health. There’s two main reasons for this: a) the focus on breathing and b) the different postures that many times are aimed at creating open airways and well functioning breathing muscles. But just because we breathe in a certain way during a yoga exercise doesn’t mean that we shall breathe like that in our daily life.

Even though it’s highly likely that yogis have better breathing habits outside the yoga mat than other people, my experience is that the power of our breath in our daily life is usually either overlooked or has room for improvement, even amongst yogis. As the well known spiritual teacher Ram Dass said after doing breathing retraining for a few weeks, “It has helped me magically, magically.”

There are three very efficient ways to increase stress and imbalance in our body by changing the way we breathe: we can breathe fast and shallow through our mouth, we can hold our breath and finally we can tighten our airways. If we do any of these things, which are pretty much the opposite of the five principles of conscious breathing listed below, we will set our body on red alert, moving to fight or flight and increase stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

One important aspect which is often forgotten is that we have to distinguish between whether we’re talking about good breathing habits outside the yoga mat or if it’s an exercise on the yoga mat aimed at creating a specific result, for example:

• Breath of fire to increase energy.
• Alternate nostril breathing to balance the autonomic nervous system.
• Count to 4 on the inhale, hold for 7 and then count to 8 on the exhale to increase relaxation.
• Inhale through the nose and exhale through pursed lips to increase lung pressure and muscle relaxation.

When I trained to become a yoga instructor in Medical Yoga, which is based on Kundalini Yoga, we used our breathing in many different ways. I found it fascinating how we could change the state of our body just by altering our breathing. However, soon I realized that there seemed to be a lack of knowledge or even misunderstanding amongst yogis on how to breathe outside the yoga class.

Nose, Low, Slow, Rhythmic, Quiet

Nose, Low, Slow, Rhythmic, Quiet

I decided to learn more about what constitutes good breathing habits in our daily life. The result of over five years of studying available literature and several hundred scientific researches reports on breathing as well as experimenting with my own body, is the book The Power of Your Breath. It contains more than 120 scientific references and is based on five simple principles for better breathing in your everyday life, away from the yoga mat:

1. Nose.

Good breathing starts in the nose where the inhaled air is humidified, warmed and cleansed of bacteria and other particles in the air before reaching the airways and lungs. On the exhale the nose is rewarmed and remoistened and the particles that get trapped on the inhale are blown out on the exhale.

When we breathe through our mouth we take in unprepared air that is cold, dry and full of particles, making our airways irritated, inflamed and narrow which is why we should both inhale and exhale through the nose.

2. Low.

Our breath should reach deep down in the lower part of our lungs, using our diaphragm—our most important breathing muscle. However deep is not the same as big, so the second principle means that our breath is deep while at the same time the amount of air drawn in is small. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle, like an umbrella and with an inhale, the diaphragm moves down and expands in all directions—forward, to the sides and back. Hence, it’s not only about “stomach out” on the inhale and “stomach in” on the exhale.

3. Slow.

 A healthy breathing rate at rest is only about 8 to 12 breaths per minute. When I count the number of breaths on people, without them knowing it, most of them over breathe severely, taking between 18 and 25 breaths per minute.

4. Rhythmic.

How do you breathe when concentrating, writing a text message or sitting in front of the computer? It is very common that we hold our breath in these situations. At night, we call it sleep apnea and it has a severe negative impact on our sleep and overall health. At daytime, I call it concentration apnea or fight/flight apnea, and it can be linked to a very bumpy car ride where we first have the foot on the gas pedal and the next second we have the foot on the brake.

5. Quiet.

When we huff and puff, sniffle, clear our throat, sigh or snore we are actually breathing. Every time we make a sound air is moved in and out of our lungs and these breaths are very inefficient, creating an unnecessary strain on our body.

We take 1,000 breaths per hour and by following these simple tips you will not only improve your everyday breathing habits but also your overall health and harmony.

Anders Olsson is a passionate Swedish breathing nerd who thinks he can change the world into a more loving community by inspiring people to improve their breathing habits. He loves to exercise and once ran a half-marathon with duct tape over his mouth, just to show that it’s possible to run while only breathing through the nose. Anders is the founder of Conscious Breathing, a method he teaches in online seminars to individuals, sport coaches, therapists, doctors etc. You can connect with Anders on his Facebook page, on Twitter and via his website.

Originally created and shared for/on Elephant Journal, by Anders Olsson