Meredith Tested: Favorite USA-Made Baby Items

ususa made baby

Time flies when you have a newborn to care for (and stare at, and play with, and snuggle!) We tried to stay minimal in terms of baby items but there’s no doubt about it: babies use a lot of stuff! Now that I have a few months under my belt I’m sharing a few of my current favorite baby items, all made in America.

    1. California Baby 8.5oz Super Sensitive Shampoo & Bodywash
      This brand is beloved by many parents (and us!) because of the natural ingredients as well as the fact that the line is widely available in stores and online.
    2. CJ’s BUTTer Spritz
      There is a lot of buzz about this brand on cloth diaper websites and forums but I didn’t try it until recently. It really is the best – helps with diaper area rash and is easy to apply (and not get all over your hands) since it’s a spray. The ingredients are simple and healthy for baby. Grab the unscented version if you are avoiding added fragrance.
    3. Cloth Diapering
      There are so many USA-made cloth diapers and diaper accessories from small makers and work-at-home-moms to larger companies. I’ve only scratched the surface of available brands, but my absolute favorites so far are: Thirsties (I used the duo wrap size 1 with a prefold when my daughter was a newborn), BumGenius (I mainly use BG 4.0 pocket diapers) and TinyTush (I like the Elite 2.0 pocket diapers) for diapers and Geffen Baby (check out this handy chart to figure out which ones you need) for absorbent inserts.
    4. Solly Baby Wrap Ox Blood
      This is a great “entry level” wrap that’s lightweight, easy to use and oh so comfy for you and your baby. I use it almost every day and wore her for the first time when she was 3 days old. Similar to the ever-popular Moby Wrap, this one is lighter, easier to transport and made in America by an adorable family. The brand has tutorials on their site but I found this tutorial with a stretchy wrap to be more helpful. Once you get into the “world” of babywearing, there are tons of other brands of structured carriers and wraps that are USA-made or responsibly manufactured. I’m just dipping my toe into this world, but I’ve got my eye on a woven wrap from the Poe Wovens company.
    5. Ultimate SwaddleThe “Happiest Baby on the Block” calming technique has worked well for our daughter so we use swaddle blankets every day. While my husband prefers the Halo wrap with velcro, I like a “double swaddle” with two of these blankets to make sure our little Houdini doesn’t pull out her arms and startle herself awake. Just make sure you focus the tight-ness on their arms and not their little hips as there’s mixed information out there about too-tight swaddles contributing to hip dysplasia.
    6. Logan and Lenora wet bags
      Every parent needs at least one wet bag – a bag that’s totally 100% water- (and smell-) proof for dirty clothing, diapers, etc. I have at least one in my diaper bag at all times. I love Logan and Lenora’s sophisticated prints and the quality/materials is wonderful.
    7. Madeline’s Box pacifier clip
      slide_1_alt.jpgThese clips are an adorable and more elegant solution to pacifiers, teethers or other toys your abe likes to chew on constantly falling out of their mouth and on the floor. While I have other clips, I now exclusively use Madeline’s Box clips because they are the perfect length, the clip stays put and they look great.
  1. Liberty Bottleworks bottle with straw top
    Okay, this isn’t for the baby but it will definitely benefit him/her! Breastfeeding mamas need to drink a LOT and having a bottle of water by my side all day long is the only way to stay properly hydrated. I like having a straw versus a glass because I’m less likely to spill. Liberty Bottleworks has two sizes (24oz and 32 oz) and lots of great designs. They are made in America of recycled aluminum, are high quality to last a long time, and I can slip the 24-ounce bottle into the side of my diaper bag on the go. I bought mine on Amazon and locally in Burlington, Vermont at Outdoor Gear Exchange.

Unique Gifts Under $40 for Women and Teens

Made in USA Fair Trade Gifts Under 40 Women Girls

The holidays are over but it seems like I have a never-ending calendar of special events and birthdays that require cute gifts. I’m always on the hunt for unique, high-quality pieces that I think the women in my life would be happy to receive. Keep a few of these gifts on hand and avoid the typical rush-out-to-a-random-store-and-buy-a-candle situation. All of these picks are Made in America or fair trade, natch.

Loren Hope Zoe Studs
Loren Hope Studs
, $32.
Dressed up or dressed down, these earrings would be perfect for your best pal, little sister, or niece with grown-up taste. Made in America.


Frosted Doily Dessert Plate
, $24ea.
Pretty enough to hang out on a vanity to catch rings and bracelets, or they can be used for their intended purpose: to serve delicious foods to special guests. Made in USA.

lilm16375
Set of 3 Olive Wood Condiment Bowls, $36.
For the gal who loves to cook! Or, for the gal who loves to store small items like jewelry and tchotchkes in beautiful petite bowls. …and then maybe learn to cook at a later date. Fair trade.
kari gran starter kit

Kari Gran Starter Kit
, $35.
It’s no secret that I love Kari Gran cleansing oil and this starter kit is incredibly luxurious and best of all, works really well! The oil cleansing method can work for women with all skin types so don’t worry if you don’t know her skin woes. Made in Seattle in small batches.

Pacifica Beauty Solid Perfume,
$9.
The scents of these solid perfumes are sumptuous and vivid. My favorites of late are Tuscan Blood Orange and California Star Jasmine. Holy wow. I love that I can usually find these at local shops and natural food stores, too. Plus, the EWG rating is low because these are made with natural ingredients unlike many fragrance products. USA made.

Organic Chocolate Bar Library

Organic & Fair Trade Chocolate Bar Library, $33.
Does this even need a description? This is the kind of gift you know will be a slam dunk. It’s perfect for dessert, as a snack on a hard day or maybe she’ll drop a square into her coffee to make mornings extra-special. Fair trade certification on chocolate is essential for lots of reasons. But I don’t need to tell you that, right?

If you want more ideas, check out the Meredith Tested Gift Guide for Women.

19 Baby-Friendly Jewelry Picks

What’s the best jewelry to wear with a baby? What’s a great gift to get a new mom?

It doesn’t take long for babies to start grabbing at everything. My daughter is only 2 months old and while she can’t control her hands and arms that well yet, when she does get a handful of something she clamps down with a vice grip so strong I think we might dealing with a Hulk-in-training. They are discovering their new world and want to touch it all. You can’t really blame them, though! Life is exciting and mama’s jewelry is especially fun.

The number one rule for “baby friendly” accessorizing is easy: choose pieces that can’t easily be grasped by tiny hands. …Or go the opposite direction (see the last category in this post, ‘Teething Jewelry’) and choose pieces that are designed to be touched, pulled and chewed on by babies without worry.

Check out these stylish jewelry picks for a gift for a new mom (or aunt, or friend, or anyone who knows they’ll be spending time with a baby!) And guess what? All of these gorgeous pieces are USA made!

baby friendly proof earrings

Earrings: Long dangling earrings or hoops can be painfully tugged on by baby hands! Opt for stylish studs instead.
OneTwoThreeFour

baby new mom bracelet present

BraceletsBangles or ‘stiff’ styles work best so babies can’t tug or pull. I like to stack ‘em up!
FiveSixSevenEightNineTen

baby friendly baby proof jewelry new mom gift RINGS

Rings: Dainty styles won’t get in the way day-to-day.
Eleven (currently on sale!) – TwelveThirteen

baby proof jewelry fashion new mom headband

Headbands: These picks have dual function: keep hair away from baby and add stylish visual interest also out of baby’s reach.
Fourteen - Fifteen - Sixteen

Teething jewelry best

Teething Jewelry: Designed to be handled and gummed on by babies. Durable yet beautiful!
Seventeen* – EighteenNineteen

I know I’d wear any of these pieces… baby or not! Which piece is your favorite?

Postpartum Essentials (for the “4th Trimester”)

Have you heard of the “4th trimester?” It’s the months following your baby’s birth when you and your body are still adjusting to not being pregnant. While most of your attention will be on your new beautiful baby and your new family unit, take care of yourself, too! This list isn’t extensive or complicated but will make those first few months all the more enjoyable.

Click here >>> My list of postpartum essentials is posted on the Burlington VT Moms Blog

4th Trimester Postpartum Essentials Meredith

You can also check out:

My top 7 first trimester pregnancy essentials

My top 5 second trimester pregnancy essentials

and

Unique essentials to get you through the third trimester

 

How to re-gift or gift used items + Poll

regifting

With the holidays behind us, you might be looking at a pile of gifts bestowed to you by wonderful friends and family. If you’re lucky, you received things that you need or are particularly special or significant. However, chances are you got some items that don’t fit your lifestyle or personality.

Re-gifting, giving hand-me-downs or gifting newly purchased but previously used items (like at a consignment or antique store) can be tricky, but not impossible. And let’s face it, you can’t get much more eco-friendly than gifting something that, uh, already exists. Living minimally and consciously can be difficult when faced with the culture of disposable clothing and other items. That’s why I love it when family and friends give me something they had on hand that they don’t use anymore (kitchen and home items, for example) or they shop secondhand for my gifts (especially for things like clothes for my daughter who grows out of sizes so quickly.)

Here are a few important guidelines to make sure the recipient is just as thrilled to receive your gift as you are to give it.

#1: Fit for recipient
Think carefully about the person you are gifting to. What is their living situation? What are their hobbies and interests? What are their practical needs? Be mindful that while re-gifting can be good for your wallet and the earth, it doesn’t do anyone any favors if the item isn’t useful or a good fit for the recipient. If the item isn’t a fit for anyone in your life, consider donating it or selling it online or at a local consignment shop.

#2: Occasion
What is the occasion? If it is a baby shower or wedding, you may want to take a look at their registry and make sure your gift aligns with their needs and wants. If you realize the item isn’t appropriate or the person may not use it, save it for another time or another recipient and shop off of their registry. If budget is an issue, consider teaming up with other family members or friends to go in on a higher-end gift for the recipients. One higher-quality item off a registry will most likely get more use than a few smaller items. If it’s a birthday or other holiday where there most likely isn’t a registry to refer to, just keep all of the other guidelines listed here in mind.

#3: Condition
If possible, pack the item in the original packaging. At the very least, make sure the item is freshly laundered and/or sparkling clean. The internet is a treasure trove of natural, non-toxic ways to clean almost any item. For example: check out my favorite DIY stain remover for clothing. This should be a no-brainer but do not under any circumstances gift someone an item that is dirty, torn or tattered in any way. Hand-me-down clothing or items with wear-and-tear can definitely be given to family or friends who ask for them and/or are aware of the condition, but they shouldn’t be considered a gift. This holds especially true for sports/outdoor gear and clothing for adults and kids and toys/play clothes for children.

#4: Wrapping
Take time to wrap the item carefully and beautifully. Use recyclable or eco-friendly wrapping paper or fabric, and add a nice big bow and creative gift tag. Even when I wrap with newsprint, I try to add a special touch by decorating the paper with colorful writing and ribbons. Or keep it simple with a beautiful (reusable) gift bag. Make sure the item inside is neat – meaning fold clothing and wrap small items individually.

#5: Additions
Make the gift extra-special, and possibly eliminate some of the anxiety you may have about gifting used (or re-gifting something new) by pairing your gift with something … else. Add a gift card or other items that relate to the gift. For example, include shelf-stable ingredients for a family recipe if you’re giving a baking item.

What do you think about re-gifting or giving used items? Yay or nay?

Happy New Year + Top Posts of 2014

happy new year 2014

How has 2014 been for you? For me it’s been hard to reflect because so much has happened! I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself to try and digest it all at once. I’m trying to take it in piece by piece. And above all else, I’m realizing that living in the moment is just as important as looking back.

Anyway, hope you’re having fun looking back at 2014. Here’s to a magnificent 2015!

Check out the top posts from Meredith Tested in 2014:

  1. Book Review: It Starts With Food (Whole30)
  2. Natural, Aluminum-Free Deodorant
  3. Five Simple Quotes to Contemplate
  4. Goodebox Subscription Box Review
  5. Best Hair and Makeup from the Academy Awards
  6. Green Beauty Inspiration from the Emmys
  7. 5 Easy DIY Skincare Recipes
  8. 7 First Trimester Pregnancy Essentials
    …and check out my essentials for the second and third trimesters, too!
  9. Graduation Gift Ideas
  10. Affordable, #MadeinUSA Wall Art

Cheers to 2015! Let me know in the comments or via email what you want to see on MeredithTested.wordpress.com in the new year!

How to write a natural birth plan that you’ll actually use

birth plan, birth preferences, hypnobirth, hypno birth plan, hypnosis birth preferences, wishes

Some people don’t want to write anything down and instead have another “plan”: have the baby safely. In some ways I love that attitude, but I also think it’s important to know a little bit about what to expect and decisions you may have to make so you aren’t making a pro/con list in the middle of labor. Or making quick decisions that you might be uncomfortable with after the fact. Even if you don’t give a document to your birthing team (at the hospital or wherever you may be having your baby), it’s a good exercise. Maybe just your birth partner keeps a copy in his/her bag for reference.

I did a lot of research on birth plans for natural birth and spoke to my birth class instructor and midwives about this. Whether or not you’re planning to write up a document, I just wanted to share my top tips for getting your thoughts and wishes on paper before the big day!

1. Think of the document as “Birth Preferences” or “Birth Wishes” vs. a Birth “Plan”
It was helpful for me to think of this as a document that shares preferences and wishes with your birth team – whomever they may be. Instead of creating a list of demands, keep your birth team in mind when you’re writing your document. They’ve had extensive training and attended hundreds of births. What specifically do you want them to know about you? Customize your birth preferences sheet to yourself but also your birth team. See #3 for how to gain more insight on your team.

2. Do some basic research
I read through several birth preferences documents that other moms had graciously shared online. It’s helpful to search based on your natural birth method (hypnobirthing, Bradley method, etc.) so you’re not getting bogged down by irrelevant info. Many birth books also have birth preferences templates.

3. Go straight to the source
Now, throw out all the stuff you learned in Step 2. Well, almost all of it. It’s good to have a foundation but your birth preferences will be most effected by YOU and YOUR hospital (or birth center, etc.), not some well-meaning mom in a different state (or country) on the internet.

Ask your birth team (midwives, doula, nurses, etc.) what they suggest including in your birth preferences sheet. Ask them to (briefly) walk you through how they like to approach a normal birth. Assume your birth will be normal – most are. If you want to cover “what ifs,” go ahead and ask but try not to dwell on these “potentials.”

For example: Does your birth team always bring the baby skin-to-skin with mom right after birth? Then you probably don’t need to request your baby is brought to your chest after birth. Find out what their standard practices are and include information in your birth preferences that may deviate slightly from their norm. Or include it if it’s really important to you and you want to make doubly sure the staff knows your wishes. We brought our birth preferences sheet to an appointment in the third trimester and went through it with one of our midwives so she could give us feedback. They can then pull the most pertinent info and add notes to your charts in addition to including a copy of your document.

Another great way to get information is from a hospital/birthing center tour. Ask questions of the nursing staff. Let them know what birth method you’re using and ask for advice tailored to that method. My biggest confidence booster was when I told the nurse on the tour that I was doing a hypnobirth and she squealed with delight “Oh, great! We love hypnobirthing moms!” What a relief that I now knew that (at least some) hospital staff were familiar with and supportive of my birth method. She mentioned that the hospital would try their best to match us up with nurses who are familiar with the method. We also got some great info about what to bring to the labor & delivery room and what to leave at home or in the car. Again, your hospital staff has been to hundreds of births and you (most likely) haven’t.

If you’re doing a tour with a bunch of other couples as part of a class and don’t feel comfortable cornering the nurse with your specific questions, ask if you can set up a time to come back, or hang back for a few minutes (if the nurse has time) to chat after the group has left.

4. Make two versions
We created a one-page document to be included in our file for the hospital staff and a different one for just my husband to keep on hand. The one-page document was in paragraph format (split into a few basic categories) and was more conversational. It included information about us, our preferences and other basic insight about our decisions. For example, I have had several not-so-great experiences with pain management through anesthesia and other pain medications (red heads unite!), which is one of the reasons I am choosing a natural birth sans medication. My midwife suggested adding instructions for what staff should do if I do ask for an epidural or other pain medication. Do they wait until I’ve asked more than once? More than twice? Even if you are fully committed to a natural birth, it’s a good idea to think in advance about how you want your birth partner and birth team to react if you all of a sudden ask to deviate from your method.

Another example: I have deep veins that can be difficult to find for drawing blood or placing an IV. However, I have no fear of needles so I mentioned that if an IV is medically necessary, staff can try multiple times in each arm without apology/explanation. This information was actually added to my charts as a “sticky note” in addition to being highlighted on my birth preferences document. It’s something the midwives wanted to make sure the nursing staff knew – whether they had the time to look at my birth preferences sheet or not.

The other version for my husband included bullets and way more decisions/details about potential medical interventions. This version is was basically just a super-helpful exercise for my husband and I to explore our options, and for him to pull out during my labor to reference only if necessary. Again, try to be educated on the potential things that may happen but do not dwell on them. I’m a huge believer in the power of positive thinking ;)

Do you want more details about what was on my document? Feel free to leave questions in the comments!