Recently I decided to ditch my shampoo and conditioner. When I first heard of the “no ‘poo” movement some time ago, I was under the mistaken impression that people were actually no longer washing their hair at all. Unfortunately my initial understanding (and accompanying reaction!) meant that I remained ignorant of the wonders of being shampoo-free! That all changed when I watched this video about creating your own “shampoo.” Go watch it!

Benefits of being shampoo free:

  • It’s pretty cheap.
  • It’s non-toxic (this was a big reason for me).
  • It means that I am reducing my plastic consumption.
  • I really think my hair looks better. It was dry and dull before and though I tried a few different products, nothing was helping. This makes sense in retrospect – shampoo strips hair of natural oils.

Things I didn’t expect:

  • I really like washing my hair with baking soda – it gives it a deep-clean feeling.
  • I sorta miss using conditioner – the ACV works just fine, but doesn’t have the slimy feel of conditioner.
  • It was very easy to make! The hardest part was finding suitable plastic bottles – I ended up finding some old water bottles that work just fine. Now I keep baking soda and ACV in my bathroom so I can quickly make more as needed.
  • I didn’t expect that I would go through it so fast. Since it mostly water and doesn’t lather much at all, my supplies dwindle quickly. But it’s no big deal – the ingredients are so cheap and it’s so easy to make.

If you need a little more convincing, check out Simple Mom’s article on How to Clean Your Hair Without Shampoo.

Final thought: This was such a painless transition. I should have done it a lot sooner.

Having a kid has made me much more conscious of the health of my family and of the environment. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to have a more natural-minded lifestyle, particularly in terms of my diet. But my willpower has always been weak. Even when I was pregnant, I wanted to eat a healthy diet but I often didn’t (Helllllloooo, Chick-fil-a!) That really began to change when I started feeding Calvin real food. The more I learn about food, the more I learn about the environment and the more I realize that the way I live is simply not healthy nor is it sustainable.

I am slowly changing that. I truly believe that for a change to stick, it has to be made slowly. Abrupt changes can be abruptly discarded, but a change that is slowly integrated and that becomes a part of you is going to stick around. Think of it this way: fighting many small battles is much easier than fighting one big war.

As part of this journey I’ve started reading wonderful blogs like Kitchen Stewardship, Keeper of the Home and Fake Plastic Fish. The plethora of information can quickly become overwhelming when there is so much that you want to do. I realize that I have a long way to go to revamp my life – especially if I want to make real change that will stick around.

A few things that I’ve been doing lately:

  • Giving up soda. This wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be – I usually drink tea instead, but if I want something carbonated I reach for mineral water. If you’re drinking bottled water – give that up too. Get a reusable container for your water, like the awesome Klean Kanteen.
  • Learning what is on the dirty dozen list and buying the organic version.
  • Cutting back on processed foods.
  • Buying organic cow’s milk – though I am thinking of either trying raw or giving it up completely.
  • Switching to non-toxic cleaners as I mentioned in my spring cleaning post.
  • Gardening – we’ve already had a vegetable garden for several years which supplies most of our summer produce.

All of these can be done relatively painlessly (well, giving up soda might be tough if you’re an addict – but try it for a few weeks and soon you’ll forget about it).

Ongoing/upcoming changes:

  • Curtailing the amount that we eat out. This is tough because we have an 11+ year precedent of eating out a lot. We lack willpower here.
  • Cutting back on plastics.
  • Creating a year-round garden.
  • Going shampoo-free.
  • Line-drying clothes/diapers.

I am really having fun learning about all of these things and implementing them into our family life. Please join me in implementing baby steps in your own life! What has recently inspired you and what changes do you hope to make?

Do any of these describe you:

  • Eco-conscious?
  • Frugal?
  • Do you search for products that hands-down offer the best performance?
  • Are you a woman, or do you know one?
  • Are you more than a little grossed out by this statisticThe average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of tampons and pads in her lifetime.

There is an alternative. It is greener. It is cheaper. It offers better protection. Enter… the menstrual cup!

There are many varieties, but I recently sprung for the DivaCup. I’ve been thinking about it for years, but when my crunchy little sister beat me to the punch I had to quickly join her in DivaCup land. The cup cost about $25 (I bought at Amazon.com) and it should last a really long time (I am hoping for 10 years at least – though the company says only one year as their own CYA measure – you can read about that here and here). Contrast the $25 to an estimated $4,200 you could otherwise spend on pads and tampons.

I haven’t been using it for too long, but already I’m totally sold. Women, do you remember when you first started using tampons and you couldn’t believe what you had been missing out on by using pads? Think of the cup as the next phase of this evolution – and I don’t see how it can get much better! As if the other benefits weren’t already enough, I find the cup to be much more comfortable than tampons.

To those who are squeamish the cup probably seems “gross.” And if you think it’s gross then you probably haven’t even read this far… but I still have to tell you, using the cup is actually much cleaner than using tampons or pads. You stay cleaner and so does your bathroom trash can. I was surprised by this since I thought that tampons were as good as it gets, and I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

Dear readers, please tell me: have you ever heard of the DivaCup or a similar product? Is your initial reaction positive or negative, and why?

On Lactivism

April 17, 2010

Lactivism is the advocacy of breastfeeding. I consider myself a lactivist which should come as no surprise since I am nursing a toddler. Lactivists come in all forms and I try to remain mindful that I want to be the nice, helpful, non-judgemental kind of lactivist. I am unconvinced that militant lactivism is of benefit to anyone.

I wanted to share a few great lactivist links that I recently came across:

Newborn Breast Crawl – This is a really cool video of newborn babies crawling – yes, crawling! – up to the breast. Breasts shown, so you may not want to watch this one at work. Watching this I was reminded that babies are born to be breastfed.

Why Seeing Breastfeeding is Important – I’ve always nursed in public, though I find myself cutting back just a bit now that Calvin is getting older. I do believe that breastfeeding anywhere and everywhere is an important step in normalizing breastfeeding. I think nursing in public paints nursing in a very positive light: a content baby and a mom who can be anywhere she pleases.

Take the Risk and See – Give Extended Breastfeeding a Try – There probably aren’t too many first-time moms who plan to be in an extended nursing relationship. My personal set-in-stone nursing goal was to nurse exclusively for six months and to continue to nurse until the first birthday. After I made that goal, I would evaluate and move on from there. That was seven months ago and I haven’t even thought about weaning. Why would I stop giving him the perfect food? Why would I give up the ability to comfort and soothe him at the breast? And of course there is one of my favorite side benefits – why would I want to lose my ability to consume a little extra junk food?

If Calvin doesn’t show some interest in weaning soon, then I think I may end up tandem nursing. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about it. But I feel that the downsides to tandem nursing don’t even compare to the downsides of forcing a milkaholic toddler off the breast. The average human weaning age is somewhere between two and five years old. While I probably will not pursue a 100% child-led weaning method, I will certainly continue to use gentle techniques that show respect both to Calvin and to the nursing relationship that we have established.

The Cult of Crunchy

February 8, 2010

I was so thrilled last week when my post on SIDS was featured on one of my very favorite blogs, Peaceful Parenting. I’m really trying to get in the writing habit and being able to share something that I wrote has helped keep me motivated.

However, as I was waiting for my piece to post on the blog, I was consumed by a strange fear… Am I crunchy enough? What about the times when I have been far from the model AP model? What if someone found out that I was a fraud? Surely the PP readers were far crunchier than I was, and who was I to tell them anything?

I had to tell myself to get a grip. Yeah, I rarely co-sleep these days. I eat too much junk food. Sometimes I let Calvin watch cartoons in the very early morning while I lay passed out on the bed. I don’t babywear nearly as much as I did six months ago (did I mention that Calvin is closing in on 30 lbs?). These are just some of my sins. Do they negate my AP/crunchy status?

While I love AP philosophy, I think that one problem APers tend to face is that of groupthink. We become so focused on accepted methods that we tend to forget the underlying philosophy. There are those who will overthink the use of strollers. There are those who will act like co-sleeping is the only right way to sleep regardless of circumstances. There are some who will look down upon you for night weaning. These are just a few examples – there are certainly many more. We all have strong views and that truly is great, but we must be careful as we balance what is absolutely important (parenting our children in a respectful way, fostering an atmosphere of trust) with what are undeniably good things but may look different between individual families (co-sleeping, extended nursing) with what really is entirely preferential (unassisted birth, elimination communication). To quote one MDC poster: “I think there’s a lot of judgement about what is or isn’t AP, when in reality I think the main goal is to listen to our children while we try to make it through every day.”

I think that good AP philosophy should meet us where we are. AP isn’t a list of rules but is rather an attitude – an attitude that will slowly but surely permeate our family’s psyche. I’ve witnessed this transformation especially with my husband. (It started when he agreed to leave our son intact. It continued when he began to understand why I wanted a natural childbirth. And as of late he’s even become a bit of a lactivist!) We should never have to worry that we aren’t AP enough, as though parenting perfection is somehow within our grasp if we just use certain methods. We should be careful to not view natural living as a competition that we can somehow win; we’re all on this journey to varying degrees. 

The great thing about attachment parenting is that much of it is evidence-based. If we lose that and are instead AP just because it is the thing to be, then we have really lost the main justification of AP over other philosophies. If we start to succumb to this type of groupthink then all we’ve done is create another set of cultural norms that is based in certain methods rather than an all-encompassing philosophy.

So if I ever come across as crunchier-than-thou, then please accept my apologies. I assure you that I am not. Remember that some elements of AP / natural family living are a process and not an overnight goal. I’m still working on it and I hope you’ll join me.