Ep. 136: Choosing Safer Baby Products

Fed & Fit
Fed & Fit

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On today's episode, we're talking with Vera Brown, owner and creator of Real Life, Baby! We're talking about how to choose safer baby products, where to start making swaps, and myths of sustainable fabrics.

Fed and Fit podcast graphic, episode 136 choosing safer products for baby with Cassy Joy

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Episode 136 Sponsors

Episode 136 Transcription

Today’s show is brought to you by Real Life Baby! Real Life Baby is a fabulous online resource where you will find a variety of tips on baby and toddler well-being in addition to the most thoughtfully sourced baby gear eco shop. Real Life Baby is a great resource for parents looking to surround their little ones with the safest, most nurturing materials available.

I’m personally a big fan of the humanely sourced wool products. You can explore the Real Life Baby shop by heading to their website at www. reallifebabyecoshop.com. And for a short period of time, you can even get 10% discount by using the code “Cricket10” all one word; discount code inspired by my own little bun in the oven.

Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. I am your host, Cassy Joy Garcia. And I am so thrilled to bring you today’s episode. You guys have been asking for; so we’re having a baby. For those of you who don’t know. My husband and I are expecting the birth of our first baby this coming January. She’s due January 13th, which happens to be my grandfather’s birthday. Who knows if she’ll actually come on that day, but it gave me really warm fuzzies when I saw that date.

So we have been researching constantly, trying to make sure. Because there’s a lot to get up to speed on when it comes to what kind of equipment do we need for this baby. What kind of medical decisions are we going to make. What kind of textiles do we want around the house. What kind of clothing do we want. What kind of crib? And the questions seem limitless.

Something that I went on the hunt for was trying to find some resources that kind of helped summarize, aligned with my core values in terms of reducing total toxic load. Right? Especially for such a young person, an infant, a newborn. But also one that kind of took into consideration comfort of the baby and ease of the family. And I’m thrilled today to introduce you to a lady who has become a friend. Her name is Vera Brown. And she is the owner and creator of Real Life Baby. You can find her on the web at www.RealLifeBabyEcoShop.com. Don’t worry; of course we’re going to link up to all of that in the show notes.

But I’m thrilled to invite her on the show today, because we’re going to hear a little bit about how she put together this incredible collection online. Why it’s important. Really what goes into her business. And I’ve really come to think of her as a trusted resource. So I hope that you guys find today’s episode helpful. I’m sure you will, and I’m sure that all of you moms out there and moms to be will love the website. Love the collection she’s put together. Welcome to the show, Vera! I’m so excited to have you today!

Vera Brown: Oh my goodness, thank you so much Cassy for this wonderful introduction. It really is my pleasure, and it’s such an honor to be on your show. I’m a long-time listener and a follower, and I love everything that you are doing so I'm very glad that we can do this together and I can provide some value to your new baby.

Cassy Joy: Oh, thank you. You're just; you guys, isn’t she the sweetest! I really adore you so much. I’m excited to jump in. I have some questions for you today that I’d love to run through. First off, I would love it if you could tell us a little bit about yourself, and then what inspired you to start Real Life Baby?

Vera Brown: Well, my name is Vera Brown, as you mentioned. I love in Oak Bank, Manitoba. I’m in Canada right now. And I live with my husband and two kids. I have a little baby boy; he’s 2.5, and a tiny little baby girl. She’s 5 months old. And I always had a passion for a natural lifestyle, all things crunchy, and healthy, and organic. Really, I was that vegan hippie girl with all the bracelets and the flowy skirts. Not vegan anymore; I’m following more of a paleo template. But I always loved natural things.

Ever since I was a teen, I always knew that I wanted to really help people live a bit of a more healthier and more wholesome, holistic lifestyle. I wanted to be more in medicine or just helping in that regard. And I knew that conventional medicine isn’t always the answer. So I always read books and researched healthy foods, herbs, aromatherapy, mediation. And when it was time to choose a career, I enrolled in a college of Chinese Medicine and became a doctor of acupuncture. So this was kind of my path of getting into more of a healthier lifestyle.

I lived my passion until I immigrated to Canada from Israel, and I had to start in establishing my career all over again. So I got into sales in the local health food store, and shortly after I got into a career also in sales but working for a natural health food company. And that got me in touch with my entrepreneurial period. I always was a little bit entrepreneurial, from my mom started several businesses. I was always so inspired by her. And I think I was just waiting for the right time to get in touch with that side of me, as well.

And then the right time came when my son was born. When my little baby; when we were planning for our little boy, I just got really, really overwhelmed by all the stuff that comes with having a little baby. And when you think of shopping for a baby, you go to Toys R Us or other stores; there’s so much. It’s all colorful, and wonderful, and cute, and beautiful, but I felt like it’s too much. And maybe a little bit not necessary. Because really all our babies need is our presence, our love, and all the best things that come with that.

So I just wanted to create something that’s a little bit more clean, and safe, and maybe just a little bit less than what we see normally in stores.

Cassy Joy: I love that. That’s really wonderful. I think that it’s really; and that’s exactly the stage where you and I; I think that’s why we see so eye to eye on this stuff. You know, at the end of the day, I think when we first started talking, I said that we really wanted a minimalistic approach to stuff around the house for the baby. But of the stuff that we did have, we wanted to be really intention about how we were choosing it. So I know that a lot of thought and care goes into how you choose products for your online shop. So could you tell us a little bit about how you do choose those products that show up?

Vera Brown: Yes, absolutely. Well I started by creating my own line; it’s the Real Life Baby brand. And the name is Clear Canvas Collection. And it’s all mostly bamboo, which is super, super soft. It’s either just bamboo or bamboo and cotton blend. I outsourced a manufacturer that I really, really trusted to be as safe and as clean with all the certificates and all the credentials behind their claims. Unfortunately, there are many companies out there that claim to be safe, and claim to use sustainable fabrics, but when you start digging a little bit deeper, there’s really nothing to back up those claims. So I asked a lot of questions.

I finally found a manufacturer that is following organic and very sustainable practices. They are certified by RECH; it’s called R-E-C-H. It’s a European standard for use of chemicals and textile manufacturing. So I felt really, really comfortable with them. And I just made a couple of very basic essentials. A little nursing cover, a swaddle blanket, a crib sheet, bibs, and a sleep sack.

And I wanted no pattern. When the conversation started arising, and they started asking me if I wanted anything on the fabric, I really wanted nothing. I wanted something that would be super, super simple. Because I just felt it’s not necessarily needed. Why add extra chemicals when you can just avoid them. Babies are cute as they are; they don’t need any extra patterns.

Cassy Joy: Yeah.

Vera Brown: {laughs} So I started with that. That became my kind of core line. And then I started looking for some other items that I wanted to have in my shop that I would be needing for my baby. And then I found; I came across Holy Lamb Organics, which thanks actually to Liz Wolfe. She introduced me to; well, I was listening to her talk about them. And I started looking at the company. Oh my god, they’re just absolutely amazing. When I find a company, I really want to know what manufacturing practices they’re using. I really want to see that the company has a why behind their brand; why they’re doing the things that they’re doing. And Holy Lamb Organics is definitely one of them. They’re using organic wool, and eco wool. Which is very, very sustainable. Their manufacturing practices are; their mission is zero waste manufacturing, which is fantastic. It’s very eco-friendly. And the materials are just absolutely amazing. It really is a company with all the values.

Another brand that I found that I absolutely fell in love with is a company in Latvia, and they make organic cotton materials and also use the absolute highest standards of manufacturing, trying to reduce their environmental impact and all of their clothes are minimal dyes. If they’re using anything, it’s just all natural dyes. I think they just maybe use a little bit of one color, and that’s about it. Everything else is super, super clean. And just really, really safe. I felt really comfortable using them.

The third company that I work with right now is Lana Care Wool. They’re also a European company, and they’re certified with GOTS, which is G-O-T-S, it stands for Global Organic Textile Standards. And their wool is mulesing free. Which is very, very interesting to me. It’s also something that I’ve learned through my research. Apparently one of the issues with wool is the way you harvest it; I’m not sure if you can say harvest wool.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, that sounds right.

Vera Brown: Yeah. So when you harvest wool, sometimes you can damage the skin of the sheep. It’s just a little controversial and we don’t want that. We don’t want to be wearing something and thinking of little sheep that got hurt from that. So if you're buying wool, try to see if it’s mulesing free. And also organic so there are no chemicals used in turning wool into textile, and it wasn’t washed with bleach. So very, very safe.

So so far, these are the companies that I’m using. I’m very happy with them. I think they really do have a very good practice, and they’re doing a great thing for families out there that are looking for something safer.

Cassy Joy: That’s wonderful. Yeah, Liz originally told me about Holy Lamb organics, as well. And when I saw them pop up on your shop, I was like; oh yeah! We align. {laughs} That’s awesome. You know, of course there is going to be; you're going to get gifts and things. You're not going to have; at least our baby. We know that we’re not going to have all entirely dye-free, organic wool products around our child. Just because it’s just real life, like we were saying earlier. I was running late to the podcast, and Vera responded back. She’s like, “That’s real life!” {laughs}

But, I would love it if we could talk about; if you could share a little bit about why it is important to avoid items that were treated with harmful chemicals or dyes. Because even though it may not be possible to do that across the board, it’s good for us, as parents I think, to just be aware of those things. So could you tell us a little bit why it’s important to avoid those things?

Vera Brown: Well, in my opinion, and this is just something that I made a decision of doing more in our family, and this is how I came up with the products that we have in our store. First of all, we don’t really need them. Those dyes and the colors, it’s not something that is absolutely a must to have in baby’s wardrobe. And what you actually said in the beginning; the idea is to reduce the total environmental toxic load. We’re surrounded by a lot of manmade materials; they are not natural, and the result, they’re a stressor for our body to deal with.

We know the skin is the largest organ, and it absorbs whatever it comes in contact with. And the liver is the organ that needs to eliminate those toxins from our systems. So surrounding ourselves with something that is safer is important to just not overload our system, and to reduce the total stress on our bodies. And when you think of babies, they’re really proportionally so much smaller than us. So it doesn’t take much to overload their little systems with extra things that they need to process. Why not, if we can give them something a little bit safer?

Cassy Joy: That makes a lot of sense. It really does. The why not, the way you phrase it, I think is great. As often as we can. Just like when we’re choosing the food that shows up on our plate; as often as we can, why not give our bodies the best possible foot forward, right? And the same would go for these little humans.

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Cassy Joy: So next question. If a parent is listening and wants to swap out a couple of items for potentially less toxic ones, where would you recommend they start? Because somebody might be listening and feel a little overwhelmed. So where would you recommend someone start?

Vera Brown: Oh my gosh, yeah. That is a very, very good question. Because once you know something, you can’t unknow, right?

Cassy Joy: Yeah! {laughs}

Vera Brown: Start trying to swap things and live a healthier lifestyle. There is really now end, and sometimes really ignorance is bliss. And sometimes it’s like; I don’t want to hear this! Because I don’t know what to do with this information.

Cassy Joy: Totally.

Vera Brown: But if you were to really take baby steps, no pun intended, I would suggest starting with bedding and clothes. And the reason is that babies spend so much time in their cribs, hopefully, if you choose to use a crib. Some families share a bed, as well. But babies just sleep a lot, wherever the sleeping surface is. And conventional mattresses, especially memory foam, are really the worst offenders when it comes to toxins. When they’re sleeping, they’re breathing a little bit deeper, so you want to make sure that the environment is quite safe.

It is also important because when they sleep, it’s harder for babies to regulate their body temperature. So you want a breathable fabric that will help them to regulate their body temperature. So I believe bedding is quite important. I know organic mattresses can be quite costly, so I really, really love; we have, Holy Lamb Organics makes mattress toppers. So you can just put it over your existing mattress if you don’t want to spend the money on an organic mattress. So that would be a really good option.

Another item is clothing. The entire mission of my shop is really to make these fabrics more accessible to most families. Because I think when we think organic and ecofriendly, it also comes with a dollar sign next to it. It usually means that it was more expensive. And it has to be, because those practices are a little bit more costly. But the goal of my shop is to really keep costs very accessible. So the line of organic clothing that I carry, it is organic cotton. And it’s almost on par with what you would get at a conventional store.

Cassy Joy: Awesome.

Vera Brown: Yeah, it is. I’m trying to carry things that will create that little capsule wardrobe so you can mix and match items, and they’re versatile so you don’t need a lot. And at the end of the day maybe you will have fewer items. But a little better quality. So at the end of the day, you won’t be breaking your budget that you set aside for your baby.

Cassy Joy: That’s really thoughtful. I really love that approach. I’m with you; I think bedding was definitely a priority for Austin and myself. And that mattress topper you referred to is one that we looked at, and we did get a nontoxic mattress for our crib. She won’t be in there for a little while, {laughs} but when you have a new baby on the way you just want to get everything set up right away.

Vera Brown: Yes.

Cassy Joy: But yeah, I think that’s wonderful. And that was definitely a priority of ours. We also have decided to go with more sustainable organic clothing fabrics, as well, for that very reason. I would love to know, if you could share a little bit. Because I know you’ve done an extensive amount of research. What are some of the myths of sustainable fabrics? I know there’s a few floating out there.

Vera Brown: Oh my god, it was such an eye-opening experience. I went in there as a consumer trying to come up with something, and all the little nuances of manufacturing a textile is just actually blew my mind a little bit.

The first thing I started with is bamboo, because I keep hearing about bamboo being so ecofriendly and such a good fabric. And it is; it is a very ecofriendly plant. It requires absolutely no treatment. It grows on its own. It takes way less water. It doesn’t require any spraying. It grows on its own a lot, in abundance. So we don’t need to farm it. It’s great for the environment.

But the problem is, when you try to convert the bamboo plant into a viscose, or a rayon, or a muslin; to fabric, it’s a little bit controversial the amount of chemicals that it requires to convert the bamboo plant, that is wonderful for the environment, into an actual textile.

This is one of the things that I was really looking at. So when you're shopping for bamboo, try to see, first of all, there’s no such thing as organic bamboo. Bamboo grows naturally, so it’s like maple syrup. There’s no need in spraying it, so it’s naturally organic. But you only see that the actual manufacturer, when they’re converting bamboo into fabric, is using safer practices. And that goes to; so the manufacturer that I found is certified by RECH, which is the European standard of certification. So we know that they don’t use these harsh chemicals into converting bamboo into fabric. So that’s one of the most really, a huge eye opener for me.

And another thing that I would suggest; you know, because you're very familiar with Beautycounter and how that is not very regulated. And companies, unfortunately, make claims that maybe are not backed up by a lot of research. But I think a little bit of the same goes into textiles. I came across it quite a bit when I would ask a question about dyes that are used when they’re treating textiles with. The answer I would receive is like; “Oh, they’re safe.” Ok. {laughs} I don’t think that is enough, I need a little bit more information about that.

Cassy Joy: Yeah.

Vera Brown: So I would definitely suggest looking for actual certification. So GOTS is one that I mentioned before; G-O-T-S. It’s for Global Organic Textile Standards. Look for non-GMO certifications. Those are great to look for. When you're shopping for wool, the mulesing free is one thing you want to be looking for, again, just to make sure that wool was harvested ethically and sheep were not hurting during that process. Fire retardant is another thing that, unfortunately, a lot of textiles are being treated with. So this is another thing to look for.

Just look for more certifications and be a little bit curious and maybe dig a little bit deeper and ask questions. Don’t be shy to ask them. If companies don’t have answer, then maybe dig a little bit deeper and do your own research.

Cassy Joy: That’s wonderful. Wonderful advice. When I was putting together our baby registry, by the time I finished it; my husband happened to have been out of town during that time. But I was {laughs} joking with him when he came back. I said, I’m kind of glad you weren’t here for that. {laughs}

Vera Brown: {laughing}

Cassy Joy: Because it was three, almost four solid days of essentially me not showering and just sitting there researching this stuff I mean, I walked away feeling like I had written a thesis paper.

Vera Brown: Yeah. My god.

Cassy Joy: And I’m not saying that people need to go through that same level of effort. But I was starting from scratch; I really knew nothing. And that’s part of the reason why I’m so thrilled to bring you to the audience today. Because those kinds of tips; I think it wasn’t until I was reading my 200th review on Amazon that I realized; these are the certifications that actually mean something. So that’s just such valuable information. That’s wonderful.

Ok, so last question I have for you today, before I let you go. I would love to know; just because I want to round this out on an encouraging note. Because it can be difficult to listen to a conversation like this. Especially if you’re already done having babies, and you're thinking; I did my best! You know, I didn’t know. Like you said before. What advice do you have for moms out there who are doing their best, and maybe they feel like they’re having a hard time just making great choices across the board?

Vera Brown: Oh gosh. This is a very; yeah, we can talk about this for hours. Becoming a mom, again, it was just such an eye-opening experience to this whole new world of motherhood and feelings and emotions and everything attached to this. But really, my biggest advice; and that’s what I tell all my mom friends. Just worry less. Don’t worry about things. Because I dabbled in nutrition a little bit. I do have that background. And I’m not an expert, and this is really just my opinion. But the stress that we put on ourselves is way worse than anything else. Than any nontoxic or toxic mattresses, or dyes, or anything. Just worry less, and be there for your babies. That’s all they need. They need our presence, they need our love, they need us to be there for them, and just don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about things. You're doing a fantastic job just showing up. Just try to avoid mother’s guilt. It’s a nasty thing. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: It is. That’s so sweet. I remember, even when I was a teenager talking with my mom about things. And she would say; well, I didn’t do a great job. I’m like, what are you talking about? You did a fantastic job. She raised three strong, strong women and we’re all healthy and doing great things. And mother’s guilt haunted her for a while for things that really didn’t matter. I love that message, Vera. I think that’s really wonderful. At the end of the day, when we know better, we do better.

Vera Brown: Exactly.

Cassy Joy: Until then, like you said; just stress less and know that your baby needs you, and your love, and you're doing an amazing job.

Vera Brown: Yeah. It’s so funny because I had the same conversation with my mom, and I was, I think, talking to her about something that I feel guilty about. Being a working mom, and starting a business when I have a baby, and why would I even do this. And she’s like; you know, mother’s guilt doesn’t go away. You learn to live with it, and try to really stress less over things. Because babies know when they’re loved, and that’s all they need.

Cassy Joy: Oh, that’s so sweet. What a sweet message, I love it. Oh man, thank you so much for coming on the show today, Vera. It has been such a treat. I appreciate it. And like I said, I’m going to link to everything in the show notes over at www.FedandFit.com. But just in case you're driving, or you're sitting at your computer right now, rather, you can head over to www. RealLifeBabyEcoShop.com and we’ll link to that in the show notes.

Vera, thank you so much!

Vera Brown: Not a problem. Thank you so, so much for having me on the show Cassy. Really, it’s an honor. It’s a pleasure. Thank you.

Cassy Joy: Oh my goodness, the honor is truly mine. Thank you everybody for joining us. As always, we’ll be back again next week.


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  1. Michelle says:

    Have you shared your registry yet?

    1. Cassy says:

      I haven’t! It’s coming soon …I’m making sure it’s nice and thorough.

  2. Richelle says:

    Am I missing something on Vera’s shop.. I know you guys talked about the baby clothing in her shop being similarly priced to stuff we can find in stores, but all i see are $20-$30 for one onesie, pair of pants, or sleeper, which is definitely not close at all to typical store prices. No way could I or anyone in my peer group afford to buy enough clothes for my baby in her store at those prices – what am I missing? Thanks!!

    1. Cassy says:

      I grabbed items here to help augment my little one’s wardrobe, not stock completely. The prices also reflect the quality of material and craftsmanship.