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Operation: Big Sister Prep

3 Jun

Married With Style

With less than two weeks to go until my due date, I’ve been ramping up final preparations for Baby Girl. Our newborn photographer is booked, my hospital bag is (almost) packed, and the essential newborn gear is (essentially) ready.

There is still so much I’d like to accomplish, like a top-to-bottom deep clean of the entire house, but I’m moving pretty slow these days and have to remind myself to take it easy. Still, one of the more fun projects we’ve been working on is “Operation: Big Sister Prep.” It has actually been really fun and has melted my heart a thousand times daily to witness her excitement over “Baby Sis-tah.”

1. Be aware of the words you’re using
Part of Operation: Big Sister Prep involved researching some fun ways to help Emilia not feel displaced in any of the transition that is about to happen. Lately I’ve been more aware of how I refer to her — less “my baby” and more “my big helper” and “my big girl” so there is less confusion when there is an actual baby on the scene here soon. She’s loved being my helper for everything from putting the groceries away to helping to make our bed in the morning to cooking dinner with me.

2. Utilize books to illustrate and explain
A great tip from my fellow mom and friend, Staci, that has proven true for us is that books are a great tool for helping with big transitions. After success with a Daniel Tiger potty training book, I was thrilled when Emilia went absolutely crazy for this My New Baby book by Rachel Fuller. I also purchased Fuller’s Waiting for Baby, but found that Emilia much prefers the book that highlights the big sister’s role. Since we bought it, she’s requested it nightly for story time and during the day, frequently points out all the ways she’s not a baby, but a big girl. For example: “Big girls no wear diapers,” is one of her favorites to say lately.

3. Talk about the hospital plan
Shortly after Emilia was born, I made a shadowbox with all our hospital bracelets, her hat, and nursery stat card, as well as a few photos of our first days as a new family. It hangs just above her light switch in her bedroom, so a few times a day, we’ll study it together and talk about how the pictures are of her when she was a “little baby” and daddy and I went to the hospital to have her. She loves to point to the various pictures and explains, “That’s me!” I a little baby!” Then she’ll recite the plan that we’ve been reviewing with her for a few weeks now, how mama and daddy will go to to the hospital to have baby sister, and she’ll go to Nana’s house with Skylar and May (my mom’s cat). Then Nana will bring her to visit at the hospital. She adores my mom and loves spending time at her house, so we feel good about how comfortable Emilia is with this plan.

4. Prepare a baby sister/big sister gift
I’ve picked up quite a few new goodies for the baby, but have also thought carefully about what the baby might “gift” to her new sister. Emilia absolutely loves the Little People School Bus toy at our gym’s play center, so I think that would be a huge hit in addition to another book about being a big sister and some sort of Big Sister shirt or ribbon to wear. I’ll probably also plan on some sort of chocolate as well as a disposable camera and little “brag book” photo album for the baby to “give” her as well.

I’ve also been toying with the idea of giving Emilia a special gift from her dad and I when we leave for the hospital. Like a Build-a-Bear with a special voice recording and some new pjs to wear while we’re at the hospital. She absolutely loves treats and trinkets, so “something special” as she says, will definitely be in the works.

5. Plan a “Big Sister Hospital Party”
When I initially heard this idea, it seemed like overkill to me. Then I saw the simple, sweet way that Melissa over at Fawn Over Baby put this together for her daughter and I was sold. The milk + donuts are especially significant since Emilia absolutely loves both and we frequently make an AM stop for both when we’re having special mom/daughter time. And you know I’m all about banners. Banners for ALL OCCASIONS I SAY! I can’t wait to work on this and start to scout for some sweet party plates and napkins. Considering that I just picked up a bottle of bubbly (prosecco, not champagne) to pack in my post-delivery hospital bag to drink in celebration with visitors, it’s really starting to feel like I’m planning a mini soiree!

Now, if only baby girl would shake a leg and make her debut! At 38 weeks+ now, I am more than ready to meet this little lady. I’m ready when you are, girl.

Choosing an organic (chemical-free) crib mattress

5 Feb

Naturepedic Organic Cotton Crib Mattress

At the risk of sounding all hippy/crunchy…we finally found a chemical-free crib mattress. Our winner was the Naturepedic No Compromise Organic Cotton Classic Dual Firmness Crib Mattress. It only took blood, sweat and tears (and cost almost as much as the crib), but let me start at the beginning.

I‘m pretty crunchy when it comes to keeping chemicals out of our home, from our food to our cleaning supplies, to my beauty products. But long before getting pregnant, I was shocked to read about the toxicity of conventional mattresses over on my favorite blog, Young House Love. I’d never given much thought to my mattress, you know? So I knew early-on that we’d seek alternative mattress options for our baby when the time came.

Finding that mattress was a production which is why it languished on my to do list until I was 32-weeks along in my pregnancy! A cursory search for “organic crib mattress” quickly demonstrated that there is no regulation or certification for “organic mattresses” in the mattress world right now, so we’d need to do some sleuthing to make an informed decision. At the time of this writing, only consumers in California benefit from regulation requiring notification about flame retardants.

So what did I learn?

I quickly learned that most crib mattresses are made of polyurethane foam which is derived from petroleum and is highly flammable. Often it contains various chemical additives, including formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and other toxic chemicals.

Potential health effects of exposure to these chemicals include “cardiac arrhythmias, breathlessness, chest discomfort, irritation of mucous membranes, headache, coughing, asthma-like allergic reaction, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, nausea, blurred vision, and reduced pulmonary function” (source). Horrifying, right? Although not frequently mentioned, “certified foams” free of many of these chemicals do exist and are gaining popularity as more manufacturers wise-up to consumer’s health concerns, but you have to be diligent and educate yourself on CentiPur-US certification.

In addition to the contents of the mattress, I needed to watch out for the flame retardants required by law.  The four most commonly used chemicals in flame retardation include Firemaster 550, TCPP, TDCPP (chlorinated Tris) and Butylated Triphenyl Phosphate; each with its own host of health hazards you can read about here.

After a LOT of study, it became clear that I wasn’t looking for an “organic crib mattress” but a chemical-free one and that the criteria for that was entirely up to me. So I pulled together a prioritized wish list for our baby’s mattress based on what I’d learned.

My criteria included:

– No polyurethane foam
– No potentially harmful fire retardant chemicals (like brominated or chlorinated chemicals, PBDEs, antimony, modacrylic, PAN, or boric acid)
– No Vinyl/ PVC, phthalates, lead, or biocides
– No latex, coir, wool or other potential high allergy materials
– GREENGUARD certification
– Organic cotton (Ideally)

Then I looked at mattresses, polled friends, and read labels until I learned about the Naturepedic line. Check it out — it is exactly what I’d been looking for. Although I wasn’t specifically set on an organic crib mattress, it IS actually certified “organic,” which is a nice plus so I’m very confident with the decision to purchase this brand for our daughter.

If you’re interested in learning more, here are some of the resources I relied on:

Toxic Chemicals in Baby Crib Mattresses? (Healthy Child)
Toxic Dreams: Crib Mattresses May Release Risky Fumes (Environmental Working Group)
Why you should buy an organic crib mattress  (The Baby Bed)
Safe Mattress Guide (Gimme the Good Stuff)
Flame Retardants (Green Policy Guide)
Flame Retardants, not always a good idea  (Earth Talk)
Furniture firms shun flame retardants but some toxic couches still for sale (Chicago Tribune)
The 7 best crib mattresses (The Baby Bed)

Illustrating just how tricky navigating this mattress world is, the Sealy Soybean Foam-Core Crib Mattress mentioned at #4 on this last list was highly recommended by a friend who meticulously researched for allergens, but the misleading label still hid the fact that 73% of the mattress is made of Polyurethane foam and 27% cotton felt. How is this OK??! Luckily it is made with “certified foam” and has Certi-Pur certification, but I think this really demonstrates how complex mattress shopping has become when you’re concerned about chemicals and how diligent you need to be about educating yourself on options. It’s frustrating, but hopefully this is a jumping off point to help you get started.