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It’s not easy being green, especially when there’s a baby in the house. Our little ones may be small, but they often end up leaving a big carbon footprint. At the dinner table, baby can have a big impact on Mother Nature, and it is up to us, parents and eco-friendly consumers, to lower the environmental cost of having a tiny mouth to feed.

So what’s a mama to do? Four words: when possible, avoid plastic. Plastic is light and cheap, and there’s a lot of it in the baby feeding aisle. It is also durable and doesn’t just go away. It ends up in landfills, invades natural habitats, and injures wildlife. Plastic isn’t too kind to baby either. It contains chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA) – a plasticizer that is known to disrupt our hormone system and be linked to a long list of serious health problems. In 2012, the FDA banned the use of BPA in children’s food products. This move basically solidified a practice that many manufacturers had already adopted; and the regulation still doesn't guarantee that we are in the clear. In fact, studies have shown that BPA substitutions aren’t automatically safer.

It’s a lot to take in, but not to worry. There are many eco-friendly products out there that can help you green up your parenting act. Here are 12 picks that we think will allow you to feed your baby, sans toxin, while doing some good for the planet.

PREP & CLEAN

1. Stokke: Tripp Trapp Chair Stokke's Tripp Trapp has been an all-time mommy favorite since its launch in 1972, and for good reasons. While it is on the expensive side, the high chair is highly adjustable and designed to grow with baby. Once he is done using it, you can convert it into an adult chair or a stool. The Tripp Trapp is made of beech wood and comes in a variety of colors. The brand uses only water-based, nontoxic paint and BPA-, phthalate-free materials. The Tripp Trapp baby set, which allows your littlest one to join the family table, is made of environmentally friendly plastic and is recyclable.

2. The Laundress: Dish Detergent How can such a small human being contribute to so much of the yuck piling up in the sink? Luckily, you don’t have to fight dirty dishes alone. The Laundress has a dish detergent that you can use when you hand wash dishes or in the dishwasher. It is soft on our skin but is tough on all the gunk caked on baby’s dinnerware. The soap is unscented and doesn’t have any artificial coloring or dyes. It doesn’t contain any petroleum, chlorine bleach, ammonia and more; and like all of The Laundress’ detergents, it is biodegradable.

3. Baby Brezza: Glass One Step Baby Food Maker Even if cooking isn’t really your thing, Baby Brezza makes it easier to bring wholesome, homemade baby food at the dinner table. The brand recently launched its Glass One Step Baby Food Maker, which can automatically blend the food after steaming. All you need to do is prep and place the food in the container, wait for the nifty machine to finish its deed, and serve. Plus, the mixing bowl is made of glass, which minimizes food contact with plastic.

4. Modern Twist: Bucket-Bib Here’s a bib that puts up a good fight against mealtime messes. Modern Twist bucket bib sustains tantrums and actually catches food that misses baby's mouth. The brand uses food-grade silicone with no BPA, no PVC, no lead, no latex and no phthalates. All of Modern Twist’s products (bib included) are silky to touch, easy to clean, reusable and recyclable. The packaging, too, can be recycled, and the brand has a program to help you dispose of silicone properly.

5. Oxo: Mash Maker Baby Food Mill If you are on a tighter budget, Oxo offers an affordable and eco-friendly way to cook for baby. The Mash Maker can purée any grown-up food into a dinner for your wee one. Not so thrilled about plastic? The truth is, plastic is hard to avoid altogether since it’s everywhere on the market. But you can shop it and still be on the safe(r) side. Case and point: Oxo’s mash maker is made of Polypropylene (PP) and is free of BPA, phthalates and PVC, which makes it one of the safer plastics out there. Not to mention, it's much more ecological than having to continuously stock up on pre-packaged food. For advice on plastics and plastic use, go here.

6. Boon: The Forb, Silicone Bottle Brush This is a flower like no other. It’s called Forb, and it is made of sturdy silicone to clean baby’s bottles (and nipples) without a scratch! This is important because harmful chemicals may leach more easily if the plastic is worn down. Boon's products are BPA, PVC and phthalate free. This is a small investment that will last you a long time, without mold or rust, and that can even get cleaned in the dishwasher.

FEED

 

1. Bamboo Studio: Kids Dinnerware Set Turn over a new leaf in green eating with the ever popular bamboo dishware. With Bamboo Studio Kids Dinnerware Set, baby can have his cake and eat it too without feeding the waste stream. The reusable kid line, which features all sorts of fun animals, is lightweight and sturdy all at once. Handcrafted from the sheath of the growing bamboo plant, bamboo tableware is biodegradable, making it one of the most sustainable options out there. Do we need to add that it is dishwasher safe?

2. Lollaland: Glass Baby Bottle Lollaland glass bottles have a certain je ne sais quoi that takes us back to our childhood. Maybe it’s the old-school birds looking like they were taken out of a Nintendo video game. Or maybe it’s the glass, breaking us free from a world of plastic. Made of premium quality glass, Lollaland baby bottles are gentle on both baby and earth. They do not leach toxins, are thermal-shock resistant (you can heat them, even when they are cold), and are recyclable. Lollaland’s nipples are made of durable, medical-grade silicone.

3. ThinkBaby: The Complete BPA-Free Feeding Set If baby has graduated to solid foods, it’s time to invest in some sturdy, eco-friendly dinnerware. ThinkBaby strives to create safe products while having the least possible impact on the environment. The complete feeding set is lined with medical-grade stainless steel and wrapped in polypropylene plastic. The set is also free of BPA, phthalate, lead, PVC, Melamine and more (review here the complete list of chemicals that ThinkBaby has shunned). Stainless steel itself can last a long time and is 100 percent recyclable. Most stainless steel products are made of about 60 percent recycled material.

4. Green Sprouts: Glass Sip & Straw Cup The Sip & Straw Cup has glass on the inside, and plastic on the outside. This means that whatever baby drinks never touches plastic, which in this case is made of polypropylene. The cup is free of PVC and BPA and is hypoallergenic. It has two drinking options: a straw and a spout that are both made of silicone. Green Sprouts strives to maximize the life cycle of its products while minimizing the impact they have on the environment. With that in mind, they try, when possible, to use resources that are renewable and recycled. Buying products that are made of recycled materials saves natural resources, energy, and water.

5. Beaba: First Stage Silicone Spoon When it comes to baby’s first munchies, you want an ergonomic spoon that will keep mealtime stress free for everyone. Enter Béaba’s First Stage Silicone Spoon, which happens to go easy on baby’s gums and on the environment. Béaba’s spoons are BPA, phthalate and PVC free and dishwasher safe. For the most part, silicone is recyclable, although you’ll likely need to go through a private recycling facility (like this one).

6. Comotomo: Silicone Bottle Comotomo may be a little bit of a splurge compared to other brands, but it's worth it, especially if your little one is getting ready to transition from breast to bottles. The bottles and their extra-wide nipples are made of squeezable silicone that mimics mom’s skin, giving baby a close-to-nursing experience. What’s more, silicone – a synthetic material made of sand and oxygen – withstands heat without leaching harmful chemicals. Comotomo bottles do not break or crack and are safe in dishwasher, microwave and boiling water.

HONORABLE MENTION: MOMMY'S BOOBIES If you want to get baby off to a non-toxic, earth-friendly start, breast is best. For moms who can nurse, breast milk is the only food that provides baby all the nutrients he needs without having to worry about harmful chemicals. It also protects both mom and baby against a host of illnesses and diseases. Breastfeeding, which the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends we do for at least the first six months of baby’s life, is also kind to the environment. It’s a renewable resource that doesn’t need to be packaged or transported. It saves energy and is virtually waste free. How is that for reducing your carbon footprint?

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One of the hardest areas to declutter can be your children's toy closet. Does that beeping, singing firetruck spark joy for you? Well no, in fact, it might be the most frustrating toy, but then again, having an occupied, entertained child sparks more joy than all of your household items combined.

So do more toys really mean a more engaged child? Studies say no. Having fewer toys leads to a more ordered home and encourages your child to develop creativity, concentration and a sense of responsibility for taking care of their belongings. But how do you go about reducing the number of toys your child has when there are so many "must haves" on the market? Perhaps more importantly, how do you ensure you don't bring any more toys that will be quickly forgotten into your home?

The secret: Look for toys that are open-ended, toys that will last for years, toys that encourage creativity, and toys that benefit development.

Here are some of our favorite Montessori-inspired toys.

Open-ended construction


Toys that are open-ended, rather than have just one use, empower your child to be an active participant in their own play. An example of an open-ended toy is a set of blocks, while a more limited use toy might be a talking toy robot. Blocks are only fun if your child applies their own creative thinking skills to make them fun, while the robot is a much more passive type of entertainment.

Open-ended toys also tend to keep children's interest for much longer, as they grow with your child—as their skills develop, they can build increasingly complex structures and scenarios.

There are so many beautiful sets of blocks available, but here are a few good choices.

1. Wooden Blocks

2. Duplo Lego

3. Magnatiles

Pretend play


Beginning in early toddlerhood, many children begin to incorporate pretend play into their repertoire. They do this all on their own, without the aid of toys, turning mud into pies and sticks into hammers.

Still, these toys will encourage their budding imaginations and also allow them to process things they experience in their own lives through role-playing and pretend play.

4. Doll

5. Farm

6. People figures

7. Train set

Music


Music provides a great deal of joy to most children, and can also aid in brain development.

Providing regular opportunities for your young child to both create and listen to music will encourage him to develop an appreciation for music, an understanding of rhythm, and an outlet for creative expression.

8. Musical instrument set

9. Simple music player with headphones

Movement


Giving young children opportunities for movement is so important, both for their gross motor development and for giving them a daily outlet for their boundless energy. Children who spend plenty of time running around generally sleep better and are often better able to concentrate on quieter activities like reading.

Encouraging plenty of unstructured time outside is the best way to ensure your child gets enough daily movement. These toys though can help your child develop muscle coordination and strength, while also providing plenty of fun.

10. Balance bike

11. Pedal bike

12. Climbing structure

13. Wagon

14. Balls

Puzzles


Puzzles are wonderful toys for helping children develop spatial understanding, problem-solving skills, resilience and new vocabulary. Bonus, they also provide a quiet activity that can engage even young children for an extended period of time!

15. Peg puzzles

16. Jigsawpuzzles

17. Layered puzzles

Games



Games encourage your child to develop social skills such as taking turns and winning and losing gracefully.

Many games for young children also have educational benefits such as building memory or practicing counting.

18. Memory game

19. Bingo

20. Simple board game

Taking the plunge and reducing your children's toy collection can be scary. If you're uncertain whether your child will miss a certain toy, try putting it away in a closet for a month to see if they notice. Take some time to observe your child with their reduced toy collection and notice how their play changes.

Once you commit to fewer toys, you'll find you can truly be intentional with what you provide your child and can also choose higher quality toys when you're only purchasing a few. There will also be far fewer little objects strewn around the house to trip over, which is a huge bonus!

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For so many parents, finding and funding childcare is a constant struggle. How would your life change if you didn't have to worry about finding and paying for quality childcare? Would you go back to work? Work more hours? Or just take the four figures you'd save each month and pay off your student loans faster?

These hypothetical scenarios have been playing in the minds of many American parents this week as presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled her plan for free or affordable "high-quality child care and early education for every child in America."

Universal childcare will be a cornerstone of Warren's campaign for 2020. It's a lofty goal, and one many parents can get behind, but is it doable?

Supporters note it's been done in other countries for decades. In Finland, for example, every child has had access to free universal day care since the early 1990s. Sweden, too, has been building its universal childcare system for decades.

Critics of Warren's plan worry about the price tag and potential for ballooning bureaucracy, and some are concerned that subsidizing childcare could actually make it more expensive for those who have a government-funded spot, as it could result in fewer private childcare providers.

But subsidized childcare had lowered prices in other places. In Sweden, parents pay less than $140 USD to send children to preschool. In Finland, the cost per child varies by municipality, household income and family size. A parent on the lower end of the income spectrum might pay as little as the equivalent of $30 USD, and the maximum fee is about $330 a month.

But Finland's population is on par with Minnesota's. Sweden is comparable to Michigan.

So could the Nordic model scale to serve the hundreds of millions of families in America?

As Eeva Penttila, speaking as the head of international relations for Helsinki, Finland's education department once told The Globe and Mail, "you can't take one element out and transfer it to your own country. Education is the result of culture, history and the society of a nation."

Right now America spends less on early childhood education than most other developed countries (only Turkey, Latvia, and Croatia spend less), but that wasn't always the case. This nation does have a history of investing in childcare, if we look back far enough.

Back in World War II, when women needed to step into the workforce as men fought overseas, America invested in a network of childcare to the tune of $1 billion (adjusted to today's money) and served hundreds of thousands of families in almost every state through center-based care. Parents paid between $0.50 and $0.75 per child per day (the equivalent of about $10 in today's money).

So America does have a historical and cultural precedent, not to mention a current model of universal preschool that is working, right now, in the nation's capital. In D.C. In Washington, D.C., 90% of 4-year-olds attend a full-day preschool program for free, according to the Center for American Progress. Seventy percent of 3-year-old are going too, and the program has increased the city's maternal workforce participation rate by more than 10%.

It won't happen overnight

While some American parents might be daydreaming of a life without a four-figure day care bill in 2020, the road to true universal childcare for all children in America would be a long one. Peter Moss, a researcher at the University of London's Institute of Education, previously told The Globe and Mail it took Sweden "many years to get it right."

Indeed, the 1990s saw long wait lists at Swedish day cares, but the growing pains of the '90s paved the way for the enviable system Swedes enjoy today.

According to Moss, governments in other countries look at the Nordic model and "tend to say, 'We can't do that.' But what they really mean is 'We can't suddenly do that.' In other countries, they just don't get to grips with what needs doing and actually plot a course."

Maybe America's starting point is found in its history books, or in the modern day preschools of the nation's capital, or in the conversations happening between now and 2020. It doesn't have to be Warren's plan, but America does need a plan for safer, more affordable childcare.

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It's so unfortunate that in the working world there are still those who believe mothers are more distracted and less productive than people without children.

Research proves that just isn't true—working moms are actually more engaged than working dads and fathers and equally committed—and plenty of working mothers will say that parenthood has actually made them more productive.

Ayesha Curry counts herself among those moms who become more efficient at work after becoming parents. The entrepreneurial mom of three seems unstoppable when it comes to expanding her career, which she launched as a lifestyle blog back when the oldest of her three children was still a baby.

"You don't realize how much you can get done in a day until you become a parent and you're like, 'what was I doing with my time before'?" she recently old Cheddar's Nora Ali.

Now less than seven years later she's built her own empire as a mom, not in spite of being one.


Now a New York Times best-selling cookbook author and restaurateur, Curry has also got her own brand, Homemade, and you can find her products bearing her name in places like Target and JC Penny. She's been promoting a partnership with GoDaddy and she's an ambassador for the Honest Company, too.

Curry says motherhood taught her how to multitask and manage her time.

"I have three children, so I've had to grow four invisible arms," she explains. "I've definitely learned efficiency through being a parent. It's helped me in my business tenfold."

As a celebrity, Curry's life experience is kind of unique, but her experience of becoming better at work because of motherhood isn't, according to experts.

Career coach Eileen Chadnick previously told Motherly that motherhood is an asset in the workplace, in part because it trains women to be both empathetic and assertive at the same time, a combo that makes for great leaders. "There are incredibly nice, compassionate women who are very strong and know how to take a stand," Chadmick said. "And they're trusted and admired by others even if they need to say 'no' to their employees."

That's something Curry agrees with. Because it's her name on that frying pan, cookbook or bedspread, she doesn't shy away from saying 'no' when she doesn't like something. "I'm really good about being forceful and putting my foot down," she explains.

It's easier to put your foot down when you've already grown four invisible arms. That's the balancing act of motherhood, and it's what makes this mama so good at business.

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It may seem like there are more recalls than ever these days, but that's actually a good thing for parents. It means fewer potentially dangerous products are making it to our dinner tables and medicine cabinets.

According to food safety experts, the spike in recall notices for everything from broccoli to baby toys in recent years suggests companies are doing a better job of self-reporting, and we're actually safer than we were in the days when recalls were rare.

"It reflects a food industry that takes contamination and foodborne illnesses seriously. Increasingly companies are willing to recall their products rather than expose customers to potential harm," Dr. William Hallman, professor and chair of Rutgers Department of Human Ecology, said in an interview with Food Drive."So more companies are taking a cautionary approach."

Here are the recalls parents need to know about this month:

Dollar General Baby Gripe Water

The FDA issued a recall notice for "DC Baby Gripe Water herbal supplement with organic ginger and fennel extracts" after the company received one report of a one-week old baby who had difficulty swallowing the product, and there were three other complaints "attributed to the undissolved citrus flavonoid."

The FDA says "the product should not be considered hazardous but could result in difficulty when swallowing the product for sensitive individuals."

Basically, it's not harmful if swallowed but the undissolved flavonoid makes it a choking hazard.

The gripe water was sold at Dollar General stores in four ounce bottles with the UPC code 8 5495400246 3.

Nature's Path Envirokidz gluten free cereals

If you've got a kiddo with celiac disease you're probably familiar with the EnviroKidz kine of gluten free cereals sold at Trader Joe's and other grocery stores. Unfortunately, Nature's Path, the maker of the cereals, is recalling more than 400,000 boxes of Envirokidz cereals in the U.S. and Canada due to potential gluten contamination.

Choco Chimp, Gorilla Munch and Jungle Munch are all impacted. The best before dates are: 08/01/2019, 08/24/2019, 08/27/2019, and 09/21/2019. The UPC codes are: 0 58449 86002 0, 0 5844987023 4, 0 5844987027 2, 0 5844987024 1 and 0 5844987028 9.

If you can handle gluten they are safe, but Nature's Path says "people who have a wheat allergy, celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten and wheat should not consume the cereals."

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