Feed the Brain

Through my experiences as a therapist, a teacher, and a newborn care specialist, I’ve learned that a child’s environment plays a major role in a their brain development and behavior. Parents find themselves in a vicious cycle trying to correct their child’s behavior to no avail and they’re clueless about what’s actually causing the behavioral changes. Proactive parenting is far superior to reactive parenting. 

Consider the following…

Toys

The types of toys a child plays with have a major impact on their brain development and behavior. Technology and TV for example entertain the brain, meaning the brain is not having to work. There’s no problem solving, imagination, creativity, or thinking involved with technology or tv. Even “educational games” on an ipad have a negative effect on the brain because they limit possibilities to the software design. The brain; however, is limitless in its possibilities. Use of technology in children has been linked to aggression, sleep deprivation, violence, lack of empathy, detachment, and poor social skills. Ever notice agitation and tantrums more when you take away a tech device from your child? It’s not only because they lost the priviledge, they could be experiencing menal withdrawals.

Opt for open ended toys that inspire creativity, thinking, and imagination. Fat brain toys such as blocks, cars, dolls, play-doh, art supplies, magnetiles, role play items, and sensory play such as sand, water, or beads.

Food

Nutrition plays a major role in your child’s behavior. I always have to bite my tongue around my friends who complain about the terrible twos, having a “threenager,” or the frantic fours when often these are the same friends who fuel their children with sodas, gluten laden goodies, and sugary cereals. Sure, my kids will inevitably act up from time to time and I know I’ll have some disciplinary issues, but these things are far less in frequency as well as intensity when diet is considered. Major culprits to poor behavior include gluten, sugar, caffeine, low water intake, and dyes.

Opt for organic fruits, veggies, dairy, meats to avoid exposure to hormones and pesticides. Try not to allow your child to snack all day, but don’t allow them to go hungry. Schedule three solid meals of high protein, healthy fats, and high nutriton, but allow two smaller meals/snacks in betweek to keep sugar levels regulated. Avoid processed foods with artificial ingredients when you can and just say no to sugar and caffeine at all costs, especially if you’ve noticed a sensitivity.

Sleep

Adults need to take some responsibility for their child’s behavior when sleep deprivation could be the catalyst. If you allowed them to skip their nap, then it’s unfair to them for you to get angry when they throw a tantrum in the middle of Target. Were they up late because you wanted to finish your concersation on the phone before you started bedtime? Then, don’t get mad at them when they wake up cranky and start throwing food or spilling their juice. Children have crazy fast metabolisms, their mind is on constant overload and their body’s are growing rapidly. They need 10-12 hours of sleep a night depending on age and toddlers need naps (or at least downtime) in order to function optimally.

Envornmental Toxins

Numerous studies have shown a correlation between environmenal toxins and behavior. I recently saw that I can be found on google when you search “crunchy mom” or “granola mom” which totally cracks me up, because I’m far from crunchy, but I am green. I do not use toxic cleaners, detergents, soap or perfumes in my home. I refuse to eat nonorganic veggies, dairy, or meats. I wouldn’t accept a million dollars to vaccinate my children and I hold my breath, or sit in the car, when I’m pumping gas. Our environment is filled with carcinogens and neurotoxins that nnegatively affect our behavior. Top culprits include insecticides, pesticides, lead, paints, cleaners, mercury, formaldehyde and aluminum (found in vaccines), BPAs found in plastics, and parabens in lotions and soaps. These have been blamed for “silently eroding intelligence”

“Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity,” Grandjean and Landrigan write. “The presumption that new chemicals and technologies are safe until proven otherwise is a fundamental problem.” As in their 2006 review, the authors reiterate their concern “that children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognised toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviours, truncating future achievements, and damaging societies, perhaps most seriously in developing countries.” (LINK HERE)

Organic clothes by Finn & Emma

So, before you even attempt at correcting your child’s behavior, search for the source first! It would be unfair to punish the child for behavior beyond their control when their mind is greatly affected by the environment we’ve created for them.

Good luck and stay gold,

Chelsea Vail

The Case Against Toys

My mother texted me last week and asked me about a couple of gifts she was thinking about for my twins for Christmas (she shops early). I googled the items she was referring to and read about the products. When I read the words “teaches your child,” “educational,” and “your child will learn,” I knew the toys were not for us. Ironically, the toys that “teach” your child actually counteract learning and stunt development. Shocker, right?

I refuse to have toys in my home that teach my children.

IMG_8871

I texted my mom back and reminded her that I don’t allow toys that have batteries or electricity. In fact, I dont have toys in my home that “do” things. A toy that does for a child robs them of the opportunity to do. The play becomes limited by what the toy has been programmed to do. It does not require imagination, problem solving, creativity, exploration, or observation. It is entertaining the child, which is not what play is about. It’s not about entertainment or distraction.

Play is a child’s natural language. It is how they make sense of their world, how they communicate, how they express feelings, and how they process their experiemces. Play by definition is intrinsically motivated, therefore a toy that gives the same response each time a button is pushed, or a lever is pulled, trains the child to seek extrinsic reward, rather than introinsic. So, once again, play is negatively affected.

IMG_8194

As a Play Therapist I always felt saddened by the child who would come into the playroom filled with open-ended toys, pick up a toy and try to press a button. They’d search desperately for an off/on switch, something to push, pull, turn on somehow before finally looking at me and exclaiming, “It’s broken” or “What does it do?” This child has been programmed for toys to  do the work for him and he no longer knows how to play.

IMG_8291

Toys do not need names either. A toy that comes with a name, or a label, pulls the child from fantasy and anchors them to reality. This is not a good thing. I don’t want my children growing up thinking a stick is just a stick and a box is just a box. The possibilities for items like this should be endless to a child’s imagination. I once put a whisk on the play tray of my five month old son’s walker and my stepson said, “Why did you give him a whisk?” I told him it’s not a whisk to the baby, it could be anything the baby wants it to be. He looked at me like I’d lost my mind and said, “But what else could it be?” Again, how sad. This child has lost the ability to imagine.

So…what do they play with?

  • ribbons
  • tin foil
  • bubble wrap, corks, sponges
  • spatulas, whisks, ladels, egg beaters
  • Measuring cups
  • salad spinners, drainers, muffin tins
  • egg cartons, boxes
  • bags
  • blocks
  • balls
  • cars, trains, planes (wooden toys)
  • books
  • crayons, shaving cream, play doh
  • musical toys, wooden toys
  • blankets
  • bubbles
  • swings, slides, ladders, jungle gyms
  • hula hoops, jump ropes
  • figurines

IMG_8615

If you buy your children pop up tents how will they learn to build forts? If you buy them the bubble machine how will they learn to blow bubbles? If you buy hot wheels track you’re limiting how far and which direction the cars can go? Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did not grow up using iPads and tech toys…they grew up playing with what was around them and as a result they learned how to think and they became creators.

So, my children will not watch TV. They will not have ipads. They will not use smart phones until age appropriate and they will not play with toys that need batteries or need to be plugged in. They will learn to be resourceful, creative, and imaginative to play and to make sense of the world around them.

Stay gold,

That Girl

IMG_8560

Kangacare Lil Joey’s

A friend of mine had a baby a few weeks ago. I’d put both of us in the “green mom” category so when I started thinking what to bring to her when I visited her and sweet Ellory, I thought through what was in my “my boys are too little for” closet. No need to go spend money and waste resources, right? I spotted the bag of Lil Joey cloth diapers by Kangacare and my heart dropped a little bit. The teeny tiny diapers my brand new, sweet smelling babies wore the first few months of life would now only cover a thingh most likely. Sigh!

IMG_3718

If you read my birth story you know I didn’t have much control over what went down the first 11 days of life for my babies. When mom nearly dies on the operating table, the staff doesn’t call her to discuss her stance on cloth versus disposables. I’m aware how silly it makes me sound, but one of the hardest things for me as a new mom was meeting my babies for the first time in the NICU and smelling the powdery chemicals from the disposable diapers they were forced to wear. I could feel the plastic in my hand under their bums and it broke my heart that my precious newborns were sitting in sodium polyacralate, dioxins, propylene, tributyltin…blach! My baby born with a pneumo-thorax (hole in his lung) was being exposed to chemicals that cause respiratory distress?! My sweet twins, born to me after years of battling endometriosis and infertility issues were sitting in the very dioxins my fertility doctor told me were responsible for my struggles?!

My heart sank.

The nurse even gave me a toxic diaper as a koozie for the water she gave me in a BPA laden plastic container

The nurse even gave me a toxic diaper as a koozie for the water she gave me in a BPA laden plastic container

When the boys were released to me I put them in organic diapers right away. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough of the Lil Joeys to cloth them full time. But, when they started getting diaper rash and red, flaky, chapped booties from the ORGANIC disposable diapers, I knew cloth was the only way to go. I started putting coconut oil on the butts to fix the damage and putting them only in cloth and things cleared right up! I’ve never looked back.

Cloth is SO much better for your babies, but way better on your pocket book and mother earth. The Lil Joey’s come in 2pks for less than $30 so a good starter kit of these will run you about $200-300 depending on how often you want to do laundry, but they’ll wear these diapers everyday for about 12 weeks so you’ll save hundreds of dollars in the meantime.

Lil Joeys clyde Whole Heart

I loved the prints the Lil Joeys come in! My favorites were the Clyde and the TokiDoki. I wasn’t sure what TokiDoki even was until I visited the Kangacare booth at the ABC Expo and the moms there were acting like John Lennon had stopped by the booth. They were going nuts over this print! In fact, apparently I’d been living under a rock because these designs were in high demand in diaper bags, shopping cart covers, blankets. Everyone wanted some TokiDoki.

vail twins in toki doki

When friends and fans ask me what I consider a must have after having twins, cloth diapers, especially Lil Joeys, are in my top five! I’m so glad I was able to start cloth diapering them right away and limiting the pollutants entering their sweet new bodies. I am confident my babies are strong and healthy and will continue to be this way as long as I’m able to continue limiting their exposure to environmental toxins.

Stay green, 

That Girl

Baby on a Budget

It’s true I’m a wee bit obsessed with baby gear, and have been since WAY before my boys were born; however, most of this gear is not considered a necessity. I even had some mom-troll comment on one of my posts one day, “Seems like you have to be a millionaire to have a baby these days”. I chose not to respond at the time, but here’s what I would’ve liked to say, “Actually, all it takes to have a baby is an egg, sperm, and a vagina”. But, tthat may have been considered rude, even though it’s true, lol. 

You don’t have to be a millionaire to have a baby. Here’s how to avoid breaking the bank when you’re preggo.

Breastfeed.

IMG_5334

Formula is not only lacking in nourishment and high in unnecessary toxins, but in pales significantly in comparison to breastmilk and it’s expensive! The sticky, stinky powder will empty your pockets so fast it’ll make your head spin, plus you’ll need bottles, nipples, warmers, bottle cleaner, etc. Something like 97% of the female population can breastfeed successfully so only 3% of you may have trouble. No need for fancy nursing covers either. If you’re shy, say goodbye…and walk away to somewhere peaceful and private. Otherwise, sun’s out? Boobs out!

Babywear

breastfeed, sideline, that girl

A babywearing wrap can be as cheap as $40! Know what’s even cheaper? Fabric. It cracks me up when I’m out in public tying on my ACK Wrap or Happy Wrap and someone comments, “Wow, they didn’t have things like that when I had my babies.” Yes, they did! All over the world people have worn their babies using not much more than a bed sheet or cut of fabric. Tie your baby on and there’s no need for a fancy schmancy stroller.

Cloth Diaper

IMG_4858

Yes, there’s some money up front and it’s suggested to have about 24 diapers to start with, but you could get by with less than that at first and build your way up to more. You’ll just have to do laundry a bit more until baby is using less diapers per day, but the upfront costs of cloth will save you thousands down the road. Get a starter kit of 24 diapers plus diaper pail liners and wet bags from ShopWholeHeart.com

Feed the Baby What You Eat

Jarred baby food costs about $.50 for one little jar, but you may go through 3-5 per day, which adds up to $1.50-2.50 a day, or averaging about $40-60 a month. Yikes! Make your own for a third of that price or, even better, just feed baby from your plate. Around six months baby can start eating soft foods and doesn’t need purees. Mash up that banana, potatoes, avocado, egg yolk, or bone marrow delicacy you’re spreading onto your toast points! Studies show babies who ate what the family ate before two years of age are far less likely to be picky eaters.

Clothes

Hand me downs from...somewhere

Hand me downs from…somewhere

Facebook is your friend! Join local garage sale pages, or swap sites, and post every few months asking for hand me downs. Trust me-people don’t want to go through that big box marked for Goodwill and price everything out to sell you individually. They just want it out of their house. I’ve gotten stuff from Baby Gap, Janie and Jack, even Feather4Arrow for FREE!!!

Bathtime 

IMG_5794

You do NOT need expensive organic soaps and lotions. Babies aren’t dirty and their skin produces natural oils to moisturize and protect. For bath, fold up a towel in the kitchen sink, fill it a little ways with warm water and wash baby off with a washcloth and natural oil (such as coconut oil or almond oil) every few days.

Toys

The best toys for babies and toddlers are “real world” items found around the house. Commercial toys are often overstimulating, which can actually stunt imagination and development rather than enhance it.

  • Create a sensory board using plywood and attach things such as sandpaper, buttons, locks, zippers, old calculators, ribbons, cotton, or various fabrics with different colors and textures.
  • Create a “sandbox” with a large rubbermaid container and cornmeal (safe to injest).
  • Use kitchen utensils like spatulas, ladles, measuring cups, or measuring spoons to play in sand or water.
  • Make shakers with old pill bottles and fill with beans, rice, coins, or beads.
  • Save toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, ribbon, bubble wrap, yarn, egg cartons, and milk jugs. All of these things allow for open ended, creative play.

IMG_6216

I won’t lie to you and say I didn’t splurge on the top of the line baby gear for my babies. I did. My stroller cost more than most people’s first cars (I’m embarassed to admit that); however, at the end of the day it’s not about the stroller, the diaper bag, or the clothes a baby had. It’s all about the love they received!

Stay Gold, 

That Girl

IMG_6180

The Tranquilizing Tranquilo Mat

I won’t lie. I’ve totally been guilty of jiggling a stroller, or bouncy chair, to calm a baby with one hand while quickly trying to jam half a sandwich in my mouth with the other hand. I’m the mom running  around HEB wearing a baby and bouncing while pushing the other in the stroller, refusing to stop as I grab groceries and toss them into my cart. I probably look like I’m auditioning for Supermarket Sweep circa 1993. And, my phone battery is almost always drained since I toss it into the carseat next to my babies with a white noise app on. Whatever works, right? Wrong.

I’m desperate for a Tranquilo Mat!

I first spotted this unicorn at the baby gear expo I attend every year in Vegas and everyone was buzzing about it. In fact, after returning from the expo and contacting the designer, I learned they were so hot they couldn’t keep up with production at that time. But now (FINALLY), they’re available to desperate mamas like you and me who get lady boners for products that calm fussy babies quickly.

Here’s why the Tranquilo Mat is my jam!

Tranquilo1

  1. Vibration

Most parents find themselves gently jiggling babies instinctively to keep them calm, but did you ever wonder why that works? When babies are inutero, being toted around day and night, they’re being gently jostled and vibrated when mom walks, climbs stairs, drinks water, eats, breathes, etc. The Tranquilo Mat gently vibrates to mimic the feeling of the womb, which sends baby instantly into a hypnotic state, triggering the calming reflex.

2. White Noise

I’m a bit of a white noise nut! I have THE Cadillac of white noise machines in my bedroom (curtesy of my best friend who knows me well), a white noise machine in the nursery, white noise apps on my phone and I’ll be damned if I’m caught traveling without a machine as well. I’ve always slept better when background noises are drowned out and babies are no different. Ever notice how they can sleep in a noisy restaurant with no problem, but a dog barking or car horn can wake them up instantly? White noise tends to drown out those startling, sudden sounds, but also mimics the womb, which is super comforting for the first three months of life especially.

3. Flexible & Portable

A mat like this is worthless if it can only be used one way because, let’s be honest, babies are unpredictable and moms need multipurpose devices cause our diaper bags be overflowin’ as it is. If it’s goin’ in my bag, it better play many roles. The Tranquilo Mat is super duper thin, folds up easy and can be thrown into a diaper bag or purse without taking up coveted space. It’s flexible too so you could wrap it around your babies lap in a carseat or stroller, or wrap it around baby’s back while they’re in a carrier or sling. Does your baby need tummy time, but fuss constantly throughout? Try sliding the Tranquilo Mat underneath the activity mat or blanket you’re using and watch baby calm with the push of a button.

Tranquilo Mat - Gersin 0045

4. Machine Washable

The cover on the outside can be tossed into your washer/dryer for convenient cleaning and sanitizing and the inner cover is water resistant and wipeable so your baby’s spit up or accidents won’t leak through!

Tranquilo Mat - Gersin 0043

Use the Tranquilo Mat for:

  • car rides
  • strollers
  • tummy time
  • bouncers/rockers
  • reading
  • sleep/naps
  • babywearing
  • visits to the doctor
  • colic/gas
  • fussiness for who the hell knows why

Get your Tranquilo Mat here and tell us why you love it.

Stay gold, 

That Girl

Mimijumi Bottles: Best Next to Breast

How many of you have heard of “nipple confusion”? It’s one of those phrases that moms use that either crack dads up or confuse the hell out of them, but it’s a real thing. Especially if you talk to a nurse or lactation consultant…or an anxious mother who knows her maternity leave is almost up and her baby still won’t take a bottle. 

IMG_3121

Nipple confusion is when a baby who has been exclusively breast fed has trouble taking a bottle or pacifier because the anatomy is different than mom’s. Let’s be honest, where our babies are concerned, nothing is as good as mom. But, what about when mom is exhausted and someone else needs to feed the baby? What about when it’s time to go back to work? What about getting a babysitter? What do you do when there’s a growth spurt and baby wants to eat round the clock? You get online and you order the Mimijumi!

It’s specially designed to look and feel like the breast. This bottle is THE perfect substitute for when there’s no breast around.

IMG_3175

I have twins and I’ve breastfed both of them since birth. I may have two breasts, but it’s not an easy feat to latch on two 8-10lb babies! When we’re at home I can nurse them both simultaneously with the help of about 400 pillows and my headboard to support my back, but in public? Nah, that’s not something anyone wants to see. It resembles a dairy cow with her calves far too much to be appetizing during a luncheon with friends. So, I pack my “not so hungry” Mimijumi bottles and a few bags of pumped milk. If I’m on my own I’ll feed one before they start crying and am usually done just in time to catch the other as he starts wailing. If I’m with my husband or friends, then I’ll let them give a bottle while I eat or enjoy some hands free time!

IMG_3410

But, my baby gets gas with a bottle? It won’t with the Mimijumi! If they do get gas it may be from using formula, but it wont be from the bottle. The Mimjumi’s design reduces signs of gas and colic. My babies slurp things down like ravenous wolves and never even need to burp!

IMG_3684

My favorite feature of this bottle though is the assembly because there is none. It’s literally just screwing the nipple onto the bottle. It’s SO easy! There’s no washing a million pieces, no assembly a babysitter can’t figure out, no searching for missing parts in the dark of night, and no leaking because it wasn’t put together correctly.

Let’s keep it simple, y’all!

That Girl

Not-so-hungry-mimijumi-bottle