• Paula Gray

Our handsome little boy was born on August 30th at 10:10 AM at Kingston General Hospital. It was truly love at first sight. I was filled with an overwhelming calmness and gratitude in the days that followed, knowing this was going to be my last baby, feeling so thankful for the healthy and beautiful children I have, and so protective of this precious new life we’ve brought into the world during uncertain times.


What’s in a name? Fraser had little to no say in naming our last two daughters so I thought it would be only fair to let him lead the decision on naming our baby boy. We named him Ian Conan Byron Gray. Ian after Fraser’s father, Conan - a name he’s always liked, and Byron after one of my favourite poets. Ian has a wonderful temperament so far, and makes a lot of serious and discerning expressions so I think the name suits him quite well!

It’s astounding how with the birth of each child, our world completely changes. My life becomes distinctly divided by a time “before“ and “after.” I’ve been trying to force myself to write his birth story and share some candid photos. However, the truth is even though everything went well, I’m still in too much of a sleep-deprived daze to share much aside from the news that our perfect little baby is here, and I’ve been taking a short break from writing in this space until my exhaustion and brain fog subsides. Pregnancy and childbirth is a physical and hormonal roller coaster. This has been my calmest postpartum experience yet, as I not only feel more confident in looking after a newborn but also in doing what I need to look after myself during this time as well.


Writing is so therapeutic for me and this is a space I keep and hold for exploring my own voice, for healing and inspiration. I don’t ever want to fall into the trap of feeling pressure to keep up with updates. Although I have so much to share with you! And many blog posts planned (but each in their own good time).


On the topic of taking time and space to rest and recuperate - the first month after baby is born is known in traditional Chinese medicine as “the Golden Month”, and elsewhere as the “Fourth Trimester”. During the Golden Month, the mother is to get as much rest and nourishment as possible to replenish her vital energy which has been depleted by pregnancy and childbirth. While the “Fourth Trimester” is focused on helping the baby transition from a cocoon-like womb environment into the world, lying-in or observing a Golden Month places the focus as well on the healing and well-being of the mother (see my blog post on lying-in). The Golden Month is so crucial to a mother’s physical, emotional and spiritual healing, it is said a woman can either potentially heal or harm herself depending on her actions. In other words, remembering to nurture ourselves as well as our babies is the most important job we can do. And so, on that note, I will be taking a little more time to heal and rest.


I can hardly believe our family of five has become a family of six. We are healthy, we are well and I’ll be back soon.


Serenely,


Paula




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  • Paula Gray


We are less than 6 days away (at most) from having our baby, and I think we’re just about ready. Unfortunately, we’ve also been fighting a virus in our household this past weekend, so as long as our baby is content in there, I want him to stay in as long as possible.


I’ve wanted to make a natural nursery/baby essentials post, but it’s been repeatedly delayed because I haven’t had the energy recently to stage and photograph all the products I want to talk about - how silly is that? So putting my vanity aside, there are plenty of brand photos out there, and I think my readers are more interested in a fellow green mom’s honest review/recommendations. So here we go, and for the sake of consistency, I may swap out all the brand photos with our own when they’re all ready (including one of our set-up)...we’ll see! I'm approaching this more right now as a "here are some ideas for you" instead of a "look at our space!" post.

I remember as a first-time mom being a little overwhelmed at all the “baby stuff” out there and not really knowing what is necessary and what is not. Now, nearly 8 years later, I can confidently say we’ve streamlined our baby essentials, and I'm happy to share what works for us in hopes of giving others some ideas and inspiration as well!


How to be Mindful and Sustainable


Firstly, use what you have.


Seriously! It’s not about following the season’s aesthetic or getting the latest eco/boho baby trends “as seen on Instagram” (although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting inspired!). Now that being said, we gave away/donated most of our baby gear after Willow had outgrown them because we were so sure we wouldn’t be having another baby...but here we are. This post will cover some of my favourite products that I’ve used for my babies and some new products I’ve mindfully sourced from ethical and handmade businesses.


Design Dua Signature Bilia Bassinet


For baby’s first 0-4 or even 6 months, you’ll want to keep them close by because of frequent feedings, and also, it reduces their risk of SIDS. This bassinet from BIPOC-owned Design Dua is gorgeous and can be tucked in neatly beside your bed for easy access. It is handmade from natural elephant grass grown without pesticides in West Africa. They are woven, and steam cleaned under strict standards and are the only baby bassinet of its kind that is also tested by a US CPSC-approved laboratory for safety.

Jolly Jumper Wooden Base


You may want to pair the bassinet with a rocking base. Design Dua sells their own, or you can source more locally (as we did) and go with the Jolly Jumper Rocking Basket Stand. It is made from a lightweight yet sturdy hardwood frame that makes it easy to carry from one room to the next.

Snuggle Me Organic Lounger

Remember the popular dock-a-tot? Well, we never had one, but I’ve heard so many moms swear by them for nap time and lounging. The Snuggle Me Organic is a more natural alternative as it is hand-stitched from GOTS certified organic cotton. It’s basically a full-body pillow for the baby that gives them the sensation of being hugged/snuggled. These are meant for supervised rest, lounging, tummy time etc. *Please note it’s not meant to be used as a co-sleeper as there is a risk for suffocation. Be sure to pair this with an organic cover which is sold separately.


Tip: Rebelstork sells brand new overstock Snuggle Me Organic Loungers at 20% off.


Levo Wooden Rocker

A good baby bouncer/rocker is a must-have - up there with a bassinet/a safe sleeping device. During the day, I had our babies in their rockers most of the time if I wasn’t wearing them. We had a Coco Bloom Stylewood Lounger, which we loved...and passed on a few months before finding out I was pregnant. The stylewood lounger was very solid, heavy and quite frankly a pain to lug around the house. The Levo Rocker is quite similar but better in some ways. The cushion is made from organic cotton and is very comfortable. It’s also much more lightweight than the Coco Bloom, which I didn’t like at first but now appreciate because it’ll be so much easier to move around!


Non-Toxic Carseat: Nuna Pipa

This is an essential you will use right away as you’ll need a safe car seat to bring your baby home! Did you know, most of the popular car seat brands contain harmful chemicals such as flame retardants?

“Car seats with added flame retardants put babies and young children in close contact with chemical additives, some of which are known to be carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and developmental toxicants,” - Gillian Miller (Senior Scientist Ecology Center)

The Nuna PIPA, Pipa Lite and Lite LX are free of flame retardant chemicals and also have a privacy canopy which I love. It comes with a base, and while both are quite heavy, it feels well made, and we have peace of mind in its safety and reliability.


An Organic Layette


Transitioning from the warm, cozy comfort of the womb can’t be easy! I try to make it as comfortable as possible by choosing soft, organic materials to clothe the baby in. We love merino wool and silk for their ability to help regulate a baby’s body temperature (keeping him cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cool). You can see my recommendations here: organic baby capsule wardrobe.


Biodegradable Diapers and Wipes


While cloth diapering is the more sustainable option, sometimes it’s just not the right fit for your family for whatever reason, and also newborns go through so many diaper changes that even cloth diapering families go with disposables at some stage. And while some popular brands like Seventh Generation, Hello Bello and Honest Company Diapers are making better diapers in terms of fewer chemicals and being better for the health of our babies, they are still not biodegradable, which means they can take up to 500 years to decompose -- that’s a lot of diapers in the landfill. Did you know there are eco-friendly disposables alternatives?


We’ll be keeping both Nateen and Eco Pea Co diapers* on hand. They make soft and absorbent disposable diapers from bamboo, no chemicals, carbon-neutral shipping and are cruelty-free. Best of all, they decompose in 2-3 years!


They also come in biodegradable packaging, and you can save 10-20% off with a subscription and free shipping.

*I will write a review on both once we’ve had a chance to test them out.

Sakura Bloom Linen Ring Sling

I have a classic Sakura Bloom Linen Ring Sling in a rusty red colour, which I loved and used every day with Willow (I used hard carriers such as Baby Bjorn with my other two). For this ring sling, I chose linen because it’s a strong, natural and sustainable material that feels so good against the skin! And who am I kidding? My motto is pretty much to give me linen everything. Anyway, baby-wearing is a wonderful way to keep your baby close, feeling secure and also frees up your hands so you can tend to your other children or household chores.

There is a slight learning curve to using the ring sling. I recommend watching some videos if you’re a visual learner like me and then practicing with a doll before fumbling around with your newborn!



Other Recommendations for the Nursery


I feel like most of my recommendations above are pretty standard, so here are some other essentials I like to have in my space with the baby.

Dyson Air Purifier


As someone who is sensitive to environmental pollutants and allergens, I seriously couldn't live/sleep without this. And now, with all the *cough* viruses going around, having a high-quality air purifier in your baby's room is (in my opinion) an essential investment.


We have the Dyson Air Purifier, which "automatically senses and captures pollutants and purifies the whole room. It uses an advanced filtration HEPA system that captures gases and 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns. It also has a charcoal filter that removes odours from the room. Seriously, our bedroom smells ridiculously fresh.



Essential Oil Diffuser + Lavender Essential Oil


Keeping a diffuser in the nursery is a great way to add moisture to the air and create a soothing atmosphere. However, be super careful with using essential oils around newborns. Despite what you may hear or read from some essential oil advocates, I personally only recommend diffusing lavender essential oil when they are at least 3 months old and diluted heavily (1-2 drops per 300 ml of water etc.). And please, only use the pure, high-quality stuff because the last thing you want to do is diffuse adulterated oils that contain additives and other chemicals around your baby!


What we didn't need:


This list may surprise you, but 3 (almost 4) babies later, this is the list of some common nursery essentials that we didn't end up using/needing:

  • A Change Table: we did have one but used it more for storing diapers etc. I was too mobile to be constantly going back to a changing table to do the job, and instead, I would change them wherever we were: on my lap, on the bed, on a pad on the floor, on the couch etc.

  • Nursing/Rocking Chair and Ottoman: pretty much every photo of a nursery has one, and for a first-time mom, this may be useful -- but again, I found with so many kids to look after, it was challenging to leave whatever I'm doing to sit in a room that has a designated nursing chair. I would nurse my babies everywhere and anywhere!


Remember to keep it simple


Of course, a quintessential item you’ll need is a good baby stroller. Honestly, I don’t know where I would start with recommending one because it really depends on where you live (urban vs. rural) and how you intend to use it (sidewalk strolling or trekking on trails). Personally, we have the City Select Baby Jogger, and it’s been perfect for our needs of doing all of the above. I would recommend doing some research online, reading mom reviews on different strollers and then trying them out in person. It’s similar to driving a car; you’ll know when you’ve found “the one” by how well it handles and pushes.

My last bit of advice for purchasing baby gear is to keep it simple and minimal. If there’s one phrase that’s true, it’s that babies don’t keep. They really grow so quickly that before you know it, it’ll be a different set of needs to address. I will do a post about choosing a good crib, organic mattress, natural playpen etc., with my 6-12 month baby essentials update.

Of course, in this post, I also focused exclusively on baby; I’ll try to make a new mama essentials post next or maybe it'll be a birth story — hang on tight (this mama is!)


Serenely,

Paula


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Updated: Aug 20



The spotlight and scrutiny are rightfully so on fast fashion again this week as Greta Thunberg called out "Ethical Fast Fashion" as being "pure greenwashing." I sure hope it is getting people's attention because fast fashion is an incredibly important issue to anyone who is wanting to live more sustainably and do their part to combat climate change.


What I find so troubling is not only corporate greenwashing but the media supporting their efforts to assuage people's guilt and encourage them to continue their "fast fashion" ways under the guise of "conscious" or "sustainable" initiatives.


Spoiler: You should shop guilt-free! - not really


Let's backtrack for a few minutes so I can demonstrate to you what I mean. I want to share a letter I wrote in response to an incredibly misleading "investigative" article in the Toronto Star back in June entitled: "What is the most ethical way to purchase clothes?"


Hi Robert,


I’m a Kingston-based digital marketer and former digital editor of EcoParent magazine. It's great to see more mainstream media/publications address the importance of sustainable and ethically made clothing. As you know, “fast fashion” is the second biggest polluting industry, a significant contributor to microplastics in the ocean and, of course, human suffering and exploitation. So, thank you for the article. However, for a piece entitled “what is the most ethical way to purchase clothing?” I found it confusing and deflating that it contained quotes such as the following:

“ I don’t have any delusions that one brand is better than the others, and I don’t count any ‘voting with my dollar’ or purchasing anything as a contribution now. I absolve everyone of all that guilt.”

Seriously? Some brands ARE better than others. Some brands are made locally or made in Canada from sustainably sourced materials and by workers paid a living wage. Consumers, particularly millennial consumers (the largest generational cohort currently), are social media and tech-savvy with instant data at their fingers. With such access and convenience, they have a responsibility to do their research on the brands and products they purchase. Yes, there is a lot of clout and a lack of transparency in the clothing industry, particularly the mass producers. So perhaps the attention here should be on more consumer education instead of “absolving everyone of all that guilt.” That “guilt,” you know, just that voice that tells us we can and should do better. And then to end on this note:

“I generally tell people to not waste too much of their moral energy on their consumption decisions. If you feel you want to dedicate your dollars towards making ethical change, you can contribute to political campaigns or social movement organizations. I think that’s the way to go. I just don’t think the consumers are going to save us. They haven’t really before.”

I understand the need to incorporate varied and “expert” opinions, but that is just inaccurate and disempowering. What is that man an Associate Professor of? I hope not economics because consumer demand drives supply. Our purchase decisions absolutely count towards both ethical and political change. Although trends are changing, Mothers are still the primary purchasers in their households. As a mom of 4, I can tell you that most of us do not have the time or energy to contribute to political campaigns or social movement organizations, but we can “vote” with our dollars and our consumption choices. That final quote is undermining, disempowering, deflating and helps to “absolve guilt,” which I’m now assuming is the actual thesis of this puzzling article. So while I was initially pleased to see the headline on this subject matter, I think it will actually do more harm than good. I don’t know if this is sloppy journalism or poor editing, perhaps both. This is an incredibly important issue and an opportunity to educate the masses. Please know better and do better. Sincerely, Paula Gray


Anyone can fall for Greenwashing



OK, so it's one thing to read from Greta Thunberg:

“Many are making it look as if the fashion industry are starting to take responsibility, by spending fantasy amounts on campaigns where they portray themselves as ‘sustainable’, ‘ethical’, ‘green’, ‘climate neutral’ and ‘fair’,” Thunberg wrote. “But let’s be clear: This is almost never anything but pure greenwashing.

It's another to implement in practice. As a millennial mom of young children striving to live more sustainably and trying to inspire others to do the same - I'd like to shed some further insight and relatability to the issue.


I *almost* fell for some pretty blatant greenwashing recently. Yep.


We’ve been only shopping from small handmade shops for years, but I’m newly on maternity leave and facing more stringent budgetary restrictions. I needed to do some back-to-school shopping for my eldest, who has outgrown her clothes. I did 80% of it from our usual shops but needed some pairs of pants, and they are, of course, very pricey, so I was hesitating on pulling the trigger on my cart. A friend sent me a link to H&M’s “conscious” and “organic” clothing line, a company I haven't shopped from in over a decade, and my jaw dropped at the low prices.

And they had an entire page about their transparency and commitment to sustainability. So I made a cart and then stepped back and realized, what was I doing?! My brain tried to rationalize a way I could make these purchases and still adhere to our “slow fashion” values, mainly that they’re made from organic materials etc.


It’s one thing to recognize these companies are the antithesis to slow fashion but still choose to purchase for whatever personal reasons; it’s another to willingly pull the wool over one’s eyes and actually fall for their greenwashing tricks. Their organic pants are $12 each on sale — so cheap, right? But how much was the worker who made it paid for them to be able to sell that cheaply?


And even if they have a “conscious” line (clever marketing language there), it’s still H&M - one of the top three major fast-fashion companies in the world that have been responsible for untold human exploitation, suffering and pollution.


My dollars will NOT be going towards that company, and yet it just goes to show you that these greenwashing practices are so clever and tricky (developed by some of the very best minds in marketing!) that anyone can fall for them.


So what's a Green Parent to do?


Greta once again hits the nail on her head by pointing out simply that:

You cannot mass produce fashion or consume ‘sustainably’ as the world is shaped today. That is one of the many reasons why we will need a system change.”

Therefore, the most ethical way to purchase clothing is to consciously not purchase from mass producers. Instead, choose small shops, handmade (in Canada, or elsewhere) labels, secondhand stores, clothing swaps, or if you're handy with sewing - make it yourself! (aspiring in my mind to this category, but the time and commitment hasn't been practical for us...)


Even for small companies look for transparency in their supply chain. You should know: 1) Where the materials are sourced and 2) Who is making them. Also, familiarize yourself with ethical supplier organizations such as Sedex.


The point, in all this - is you do have options in the ethical ways you can purchase clothes and the choices you make matter so much more than we can possibly know.


Serenely,


Paula


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