Are There Parabens in Your Shampoo?



If you’re in the habit of reading cosmetic labels, you may have noticed that a common ingredient in moisturizers, shampoos, body washes and makeup is one of the group of most-used parabens: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben or butylparaben. You may have also noticed other personal care products proudly labeled as paraben-free. So what’s the deal with parabens?

What Parabens Do

Parabens are a family of chemicals that act as preservatives, preventing mold and fungi from growing in lotions, creams and prepared foods, extending their shelf life and making it less likely that a consumer will find a crust of mold in her shampoo bottle. This seems like a good thing, right? While it’s important to protect prepared foods and body care products from spoilage, there is some evidence that parabens can cause disruption to the body’s hormone systems.

Parabens, Estrogen and Endocrine Disruption

One way parabens may be problematic when widely consumed in prepared foods and personal care products is due to the fact that parabens mimic the action of estrogen in the body. This effect is small – naturally produced estrogen is 100,000 times stronger than the estrogenic effect of parabens, but it’s there all the same. This kind of endocrine disruption has been linked to concerns about estrogen’s role in tumor growth, especially in breast cancers, and the disruption of sperm production in men.

Parabens are very widely used and have been added to foods and cosmetics for the past fifty years. The evidence against parabens is not exactly conclusive, with some studies only testing a handful of people and not properly balancing their research. However, the evidence that is there suggests that reducing our exposure to parabens would be a smart move. Eating a whole foods diet and choosing natural and paraben-free personal care products is a great place to start.

Shampoo Strategies for Toddlers



If there’s one thing almost all toddlers have in common, it’s a profound dislike of having a lot of water poured over their heads. Most of the time, that’s fine. We’ll avoid getting hit in the face by a spray of water at the waterpark and play more gently with the water balloons. But dealing with shampoo can be a tricky problem when you’ve got a toddler who doesn’t want any water coming near his head. Do you force the issue or let it go? Here’s how to decide.

How Dirty is Your Toddler’s Hair?

Unless your toddler has smeared spaghetti sauce through it, spread glue-covered glitter all along one side or dunked the ends in her soup, it’s probably fine to go without shampoo today. Unlike adults and older children, toddlers don’t produce enough oil and sweat to make daily hair washing a true necessity. Shampooing once a week or even less reduces the conflict around shampooing and allows her natural oils to condition her hair.

Use a Washcloth Instead

If you do need to wash something gunky out of your toddler’s hair, try using a wet washcloth with shampoo on it instead of pouring water over his entire head. The wet washcloth approach is less likely to get soap and water in his eyes and it’s also less frightening than a big surge of water. It can take a little more time to rinse the soap out with a washcloth than by pouring water, but if it means your tyke will cooperate instead of screaming bloody murder, then it may be worth the effort.

Let Him Pour the Water Himself

For toddlers who have figured out how to close their eyes to avoid having soap and water in them, letting them pour the rinse water themselves can be a good solution. Strong, independent little people love doing things themselves, especially things that are usually adult tasks. Again, letting your kid pour the water himself may take a little longer, but if you take turns you’ll teach sharing skills and eventually get the suds rinsed off.

Get it Over With Quickly

If you’ve got a kid who’s got seriously sticky hair and who refuses the washcloth, won’t pour the water herself and isn’t having anything to do with games involving water on her head, you may just need to get the washing over and done with quickly. Keeping bathtime fun means it’s best to use this approach as infrequently as possible, but sometimes you just need to wash her hair. Wet her hair with the wet washcloth, then apply a small amount of shampoo and rub out the gunk. Rinse with one or two well-aimed pours of water followed by a soft towel for the eyes and a comforting hug to help ease the frustration of having her hair washed against her will.

When it comes to dealing with toddlers, parental flexibility and playfuless go a long, long way towards smoothing the road and gaining their cooperation. Save the “we really have to wash your hair tonight whether you like it or not” for when you really need it, and let the majority of your baths be about having fun and keeping the rest of her body clean.

Baby Skincare: What You Need to Know About Scents and Pthalates



Nothing smells better than a freshly bathed baby, but did you know that certain ingredients used to create the scent in baby shampoos and skincare products can be harmful? Many synthetically produced scents, fragrances and perfumes found in cosmetics, lotions and shampoos contain a problematic ingredient known as pthalates (pronounced tha-lates), which are plasticizers used to create soft, flexible plastics and long lasting perfumes.

Natural Scents From Essential Oils vs Synthetically Produced Scents

Traditionally, perfumes were produced by extracting the essential oils from plants, such as lavender or sandalwood. Modern chemistry has allowed people to produce perfumes by synthesizing the chemical structures in a laboratory and mixing them with other chemicals, such as pthalates, that make the perfume last longer and hang in the air more effectively. Natural fragrances do sometimes cause allergic reactions or unexpected aromatherapy effects, but in general fragrances from natural essential oils are much safer than perfumes containing pthalates.

Health Risks Associated With Pthalates

Pthalates have been identified as a possible carcinogen, and have also been linked with hormone disruption and early puberty in girls. Pthalates are also dangerous because they are an ingredient in so many household products, including flooring, plumbing, soft plastic toys, shower curtains and skincare products. People may be exposed to pthalates many times a day from various sources, especially people who spend the majority of their time indoors where the air is exchanged less frequently.

Go Pthalate Free

Another troubling fact about pthalates is that children and women of childbearing age have the highest levels of pthalates in their blood. This may be because women and children use more synthetically scented skincare and cleaning products, or they spend a higher percentage of their time indoors at home. However, since children and fetuses have a smaller body size, and developing endocrine systems are especially sensitive to harmful substances in their early stages of development, it is a wise choice to reduce their exposure to pthalates wherever possible. Choosing skincare products that are pthalate free is a great place to start.

Going without synthetically produced perfume doesn’t have to mean you’re destined for a future of sweaty, smelly skin. To start with, simply bathing regularly keeps odor-causing bacteria at bay and reduces the likelihood of stinky skin in the first place. In addition to regular bathing, choose skincare products that make use of natural essential oils instead of synthetically produced fragrance. Skincare products are not required by law to state whether pthalates are used in their ingredients, so it’s best to look for “pthalate free” on the label, even if the product says Natural or even Organic.

10 Things To Do While Supervising Bath Time



Little kids need to be supervised while they’re having a bath, but as babies grow into toddlers and preschoolers, they no longer need to be actively held or within arm’s reach every moment they are in the tub. However, that time you need to spend supervising in the bathroom doesn’t have to be spent idly watching the bubbles dissipate from the bathwater. Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Floss your teeth. Flossing doesn’t have to be done just before going to bed or at any other particular time of day, so using the time that the kids are in the bath can help occasional flossers floss more regularly.

2. Clean the toilet. Bath time probably isn’t a good time to do a really thorough bathroom scrub down, but it’s the perfect time to clean one or two areas that need a tidy up. Just make sure that your cleaning supplies are stashed somewhere safe in the bathroom so you don’t need to dash out of the room to get them after the kids are in the tub.

3. Read a novel (either for yourself or aloud to your child). This is a great way for busy families to sneak in some extra reading time or to streamline the bedtime routine by getting bath and reading done at the same time.

4. Play pat-a-cake, this little piggy or other finger plays. Games and songs are especially fun for toddlers who can sit up solidly on their own but still need a fair amount of close supervision and engaged play.

5. Flip through a magazine. Taking a moment to read your favourite magazine while the kids play in the bath may seem like something you might do to pamper yourself, but research has shown that kids who see their parents reading are more likely to read for pleasure themselves. It’s a win-win!

6. Sort out the medicine cabinet. Bathroom decluttering can be done in those short 10-15 minute chunks if you pick a small area to focus on and ditch the expired medicines and cosmetics straight away.

7. Fold laundry. It needs to be done sometime, so why not do it while the kids are in the bath?

8. Do some crunches. As long as you have enough room to lie down on the bathroom floor, you can fit in the time to do a few crunches while the kids play in the bath. And if you’re put off by the bathroom floor itself, throw an old towel down first.

9. Practice kegels. You can even kegel while reading, playing pat-a-cake or folding laundry! As with flossing, linking kegels with bath time can help you form a healthy habit.

10. Knit. A few minutes here are there can add up to something beautiful and useful when they’re spent knitting.

What do you do while your kids are in the bath?

Dealing With a Reluctant Bather



Most of the time, little kids love baths. There’s bubbles and toys and parents and water! What’s not to love? Well, some kids don’t love baths for one reason or another, and helping them get over that aversion can take some creative parenting.

Keeping a No-Baths Kid Clean

Even if your toddler absolutely refuses to go in the tub you’ve still got to keep him or her reasonably clean. Maintain basic hygiene with regular hand and face wiping and a daily or every other day sponge bath. Fill a sink or basin with warm soapy water and wash your baby or toddler with a washcloth, starting at the top and working down to legs and feet, leaving the diaper area for last. You can even remove clothes gradually and replace them when that area is done if being fully undressed is part of what your child dislikes about bathing.

Let Them Play Bath

Play is a very effective strategy for helping children work through fears, anxieties, aversions and other difficult emotions. To help a child play through fears or a dislike of bath time, let her play with a baby bath filled part way with warm soapy water, placed either outside, if the weather is warm enough, or on a few towels on the bathroom or kitchen floor. She can play with stacking cups, set boats afloat or give a favourite dolly a bath, all from the safety of outside the bath. Eventually you can transfer bath play back to the big tub when your child is comfortable with baths again.

Comfort is Key

If your child is old enough to communicate, try to find out what he doesn’t like about baths. Is the soap going in his eyes? Feeling shivery when he gets out? Maybe it’s being scrubbed with a washcloth? If possible, try to do what you can to ensure your child is comfortable in the bath. Try washing his hair with a soapy washcloth instead of lathering up the shampoo and pouring water over his head to rinse it off. Maybe turning the thermostat up a degree or two makes a difference. Sometimes what seems like a little thing to adults can be a big deal to kids, so try to put yourself in your child’s perspective and sleuth out what might be causing the discomfort.

A child refusing to do what you’re asking them to do can be one of the most frustrating things about parenting, especially if you can’t understand why they’re refusing. In most cases though, refusals generally stem from a child wanting to feel loved, important and safe. She may want more of your presence and help getting dressed, or she may feel anxious about going down the drain when the water goes out. Whatever the case, try to help as much as you can while making sure she stays clean with regular sponge baths.

The Dirt on Sodium Lauryl Sulfate



Every personal care product that foams up needs to have an ingredient called a surfactant in order to produce that lather. Surfactants also help mix together oil and water, disperse ingredients throughout a product and maintain a product’s thickened consistency. Personal care products such as shampoos, toothpastes, bubble baths and body washes all contain some kind of surfactant, and since Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is the most inexpensive and effective, it’s also the most widely used.

However, there is some doubt about the safety claims around Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), and its close relative Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). While manufacturers claim these products are safe to use on the skin and even safe to ingest, they have also been found to produce skin irritation in some people. Some SLES samples tested in laboratories have also been found to contain 1, 4 dioxane, a probable human carcinogen and known irritant.

While the risks associated with SLS and SLES may be within the acceptable range for many adults, infants and young children may be at a higher risk of negative effects from these compounds. Babies have exceptionally sensitive skin and can absorb chemicals through their skin more easily than adults do. Babies and little kids also love to explore the world with their mouths, which means they are far more likely to accidentally ingest soap, shampoo, toothpaste and anything else they can get their hands on. Introducing harsh detergents and chemicals into a baby’s developing gut will probably give them a stomachache, potentially exposes them to toxic dioxane and can increase the chances of an allergic reaction.

Trying to keep kids safe in a world where there are environmental toxins in the food, air and water can be difficult and nerve-wracking for concerned parents. It’s impossible to totally protect children from all harm, but choosing personal care products that contain safer, gentler surfactants is one small change that can help reduce a child’s exposure to potentially harmful environmental toxins.

Yaletown Moms, You’re Covered



We’re thrilled to be part of Saf & Benjamin’s product lineup in their new Yaletown store. The hip baby boutique features eco-friendly products (like Coco & Tini!), clothing, furniture, and gifts and pride themselves on great service. Check them – and us – out on Marinaside Crescent.

Mom Café Mixer at Lusso Baby



We’re excited to be attending the Mom Café networking event at Lusso Baby on May 12 from 5-7 pm, meeting local moms through this great and growing business network. There will be door prizes, refreshments, and lots of laughs and inspiration.

Register and join us:

Thursday May 12, 2011, 5 pm
Where: Lusso Baby, 1037 Marine Drive, North Vancouver, BC

Bath Safety for Babies and Toddlers



Bath time for little ones is a time to relax, have fun, play with some bubbles and sing songs.  Taking the time to remove potential hazards from the bathroom is an important step to making sure that bath time stays safe and fun.  Providing age-appropriate supervision is the other essential element of bath time safety for little kids.  Here are some steps you can take to avoid the main bath hazards: electrocution, drowning, burns, slips and falls.

Preventing Electrocution in the Bath

Bathrooms are often the room where families use small, handheld electrical appliances such as shavers, blowdryers, hair irons and radios.  However, using these appliances or storing them where they might accidentally fall into the bath water while plugged in is a risk for accidental electrocution.  If possible, move all electrical appliances to plugs in bedrooms instead of the bathroom.  If you must use an appliance in the bathroom, install a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlet and test it regularly.

Reduce Drowning Risk for Young Children

Keeping a baby or young child safe in the bath means that they must be supervised the entire time they are in the bath water.  Children can drown in a couple of inches of water and only a few moments of time, so it’s not worth it to take the risk by leaving your child unattended in the bath.  Even preschoolers and kindergartners still need some supervision, as they could slip while standing up, fall and knock themselves unconscious.  Supervision also helps prevent other injuries caused by slipping and falling, especially when getting in and out of the tub.

Water Temperature Safety

Burns and scalding may happen in the bath, either by a parent running a bath that’s too hot for their child’s skin, or by a child playing with the taps and accidentally turning on the hot water.  Preventing scalds and burns in the bath is relatively easy – just adjust your hot water heater’s thermostat so the water is no hotter than 120 degrees F, or 49 degrees C.

It may seem like a chore to sit with a 4 year old who seems old enough to stay upright in the bath on his own, but you don’t have to hover over the side of the tub the entire time unless you really want to play boats and patty cake.  Just being there in the bathroom and being aware of what your kids are doing in the bath may be enough supervision for their stage of development.  Supervision together with making small changes such as blowdrying your hair in the bedroom or turning your water heater down will help keep kids safe at bath time.

Newborn Bath Time Fun



Does your baby love his bath?  While many parents imagine that bath time will be an immediate hit, many babies seriously dislike having a bath, especially during the first three months.  Bath time often becomes more fun once babies can sit up and manipulate toys, but even in those early days parents can help their babies enjoy bath time by making sure it’s as comfortable as possible.  Here’s a few tips for making bath time fun for young babies.

Warmth is Essential

Many parents are worried about scalding their little baby’s delicate skin, so they make the bath water cooler than it needs to be.  While there is a legitimate danger in too-hot baths, too-cool baths are unpleasant and uncomfortable for babies.  Pour bathwater that would be a comfortable temperature for yourself to bathe in, and if you’re really unsure, check the temperature with a thermometer.  Baby baths should be around body temperature, 36 or 37 degrees Celcius.  Make sure the air temperature in the bathroom is comfortably warm too.  Getting out of a warm bath into a freezing cold bathroom isn’t fun for anyone.

Join Your Baby in the Bath

Newborn babies crave skin-to-skin contact, the security of being held close and the comfort of having a trusted caregiver nearby.  Bathing together meets all of these needs!  For safety, if you’re planning on bathing together with your baby, get into the tub yourself first and then have your partner pass the baby to you.

Choose Baby Skin Care Products Carefully

Babies have very delicate skin, digestion and respiratory systems, and harsh skincare products can be irritating.  Babies often ingest creams, lotions or soaps by accident by putting everything they possibly can in their mouths, including their own hands.  Anything that goes on baby’s body should be carefully chosen to be mild and free of irritants.

Bathe Newborns Quickly

Little babies have very short attention spans and get tired, hungry and overstimulated much more quickly than adults may expect.  Keep baths short and sweet for young babies.  Focus on getting into those creases and rolls, behind the ears and around the neck.  Extended playtime in the tub is more fun for older babies and toddlers.

Bath time for newborns is a very sensory experience.  Keep it enjoyable by making sure your baby is warm and comfortable, joining your baby in the bath, choosing natural, mild cleansers, and keeping bath time short.  If your baby really protests baths despite all these precautions, consider doing daily sponge baths with a warm washcloth instead.  Getting clean doesn’t always have to mean being immersed in the bath water.