Best for Baby: Lavanila Baby Care

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Best for Baby, HEALTH, PRODUCTS


Today I bring to you a line of baby skin care products from Lavanila, a healthy skin care brand.

I was first introduced to it as a company that makes healthy fragrance. Most perfumes have parabens in them even if they are not listed (FDA allows manufacturers to not disclose the ingredients of the fragrance of their products due to trade law, so the listing that has “fragrance/perfum” as an ingredient can very well contain some of the worst chemicals).

Little did I know that they carry a small but amazing baby skincare line!

Babies don’t need much when it comes to personal care: a lotion, a wash, a diaper rash cream and maybe sunblock. It’s got it all.

What appeals to me the most is the fact that besides being 100% natural, it also delivers 30 essential vitamins and minerals that support the development of baby skin. However, many companies claim that their products  are “100% natural”, but it doesn’t always mean they’re harmless ( Hello, 7th generation cleaning products containing the 100% natural SLS!)

So I checked out the ingredients and I love it. See for yourselves:



The next test for me personally was the diaper rash cream. See, I’ve been striking out on diaper rash creams. When Alexis was first born, we used disposables and sorry to say, but we weren’t the greatest at changing her diaper promptly, because she never displayed any discomfort. So she developed a diaper rash and our pedi recommended A&D ointment or Destin. We immediately went to Walgreens to pick one of them up. I happened to glance at the ingredients of Destin and instantly put it back on the shelf: PARABENS! Seriously? They still TO THIS DAY put parabens into baby products???? That’s just ridiculous!

So we found A&D ointment. That one was better, however still contained a slew of known questionable chemicals. So I ordered an Earth Mama bottom balm, 100% natural ointment. The problem with it? No zinc oxide, which means no HEALING. The diaper rash would laugh in our faces when we put the Bottom Balm on it ( I’m sure it’s good for prevention, but not as a cure). So after some time I found a cream that both had zinc oxide  AND wasn’t too bad on the rest of the ingredients. It DID have mineral oil, which can dry out skin in the deeper layers of it, but I figured that beats parabens.

So (are you still with me?) when I saw the inredients for Lavanila Diaper Rash Cream, I did a happy dance! No parabens, no mineral oil, and YES to zinc oxide- hey these people know what they are doing! Needless to say our Lexi bottom has never looked so baby pink and smooth ( seriously!) and it took all of 2 days to clear it up. {I just had to stop writing and change Alexis’ diaper and I noticed how little of the Baby Bottom cream you need per diaper change, which is bonus}

Here’s what Lavanila’s promise is:
NO: Sulfates, Parabems, Phtalates, Silicone, Petrochemicals, Propylene Glycol, Mineral Oil, Formaldehyde, Synthetic Fragrances or dyes

I say yes to something like that!

I also love the smell of the Healthy Baby body wash and the fact that it’s a foam and not liquidy soap.

Anyways, I am personally sold on this company and their products. I know I’ll be back there when my products run out. I am looking forward to trying out the baby sunblock in months to come. It promises to be safe (and ingredients prove it), it smells mild and doesn’t leave your skin white like most physical sunscreens do.

I find it funny that I had to stop writing this post 3 times before I was done with it {A diaper change, a bath and a feeding and rocking to sleep}… Oh Lexi! I love you!

So if your baby struggles with diaper rash and you had no idea the conventional ointments have such harmful chemicals, or if you just want to have an awesome cream at hand, here’s how to get it:

BUY IT: Use this code  LAVELENA to get 40% OFF Baby products at ($15)  {till 3/30}

WIN IT: You can enter a giveaway below to win Healthy Baby Bottom Cream

and Mandatory Entries: {read carefully}

There are two mandatory entries, after which you will have additional entries available,
and 1 daily entry for which you can come back to enter daily.
The winning entry will be verified and the winner disqualified if the action is not found or if the mandatory items are not fullfilled.
Make sure to notate how you’re following the blog in the extra info field (entry #1). The entry won’t count if that information is missing.
Please make sure to visit Lavanila  Facebook Page and write on their wall which product you’d love to try.
The giveaway is open to US residents only. See the rafflecopter widget for additional terms and conditions.

If you have a blog, there’re 2 entries each worth 10 points ( post our button on your blog’s sidebar and blog about the giveaway)

{If you’re not sure how to use to enter, feel free to watch this video tutorial or email me at contact {at} prebabyblog {dot} com
Otherwise, make sure to read everything carefully. Click the DO IT link first, then ENTER once the action is completed}

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was not compensated by Lavanila. I received their products in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions represented here are 100% my own

Pregnancy Must Haves and Photo Recap (2nd Trimester Issue)

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in HEALTH, Health and Fitness, My Pregnancy, Other Recommendations, PREGNANCY, PRODUCTS

2nd trimester

As I continue musing on my 2nd trimester, I find it amazing how many more discoveries I’ve had since I got pregnant. Having been very prepared for pregnancy, there were still things I was finding out and figuring out in the first trimester, and just when I thought there was nothing new to find or learn, I’d stumble upon something else that is better or something I haven’t thought about, things that I wish I had known about in the 1st trimester.

So I thought it’d be fun to write a little bit about the 4 new items that I found very useful or helpful or better than anything else on the market during the 2nd trimester. And, our generous sponsors will actually give you an opportunity to win 3 out of 4 items I’ll be talking about, so don’t forget to enter when you’re done reading, if it’s something you like.

Mama Mio Skin Care

If you’ve been reading for a while, you might remember that I thoroughly researched pregnancy safe skin products and was going into pregnancy using only what I considered safe and having eliminated anything harmful. At that moment I was using Belli Skin Care line, which is a good and effective line of pregnancy products that is 100% teratogenically tested (teratogen= substance that causes birth defects) . Some time in my 1st trimester as I continued reading and researching chemicals in food and beauty products, I started realizing that what I was using previously, while teratogen free, is not exactly 100% safe and natural. The fact that something doesn’t cause birth defects doesn’t mean it won’t make other less obvious changes in your baby. Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) for example, isn’t considered a teratogen, however it mimics a hormone, called oestrogen, and may be responsible for health problems, such as menopause, PMS, breast cancers, low male fertility, aside from the fact that it can be contaminated with dioxane, a known carcinogen. And nothing that mimics hormones is a good idea to use during pregnancy since the whole pregnancy is lead and governed by the correct expression of hormones. Well, SLS is literally everywhere. If it’s some sort of cleaning or foaming product, like a face wash, you’ll see Sodium Laurel Sulfate as one of the top ingredients.

I don’t know how about you, but while pregnant, I really didn’t want to risk it. So I’d spend hours trying to find products that didn’t have these lesser known or not so obviously harmful chemicals.I did find a good product in each necessary category and you can see the line up here. However, the issue was while they were 100% safe and good for you, I wasn’t crazy about how well they worked or smelled. But I figured I’d survive with limp hair and stinky oily stomach until my baby is born! ( I couldn’t help but post this picture on the left. We took it for ourselves because we thought it was funny, but I think it really shows how big my belly has gotten, much more than you can see in a static picture. It amazes me sometimes: I have a big firm belly with our daughter inside!)

So that was until I bumped into Mama Mio products. By now you can tell, I am very serious about safety when it comes to pregnancy- any new product I buy, I dissect all the ingredients to make sure they’re acceptable to me. Their products clearly state that they are ALL paraben free, petroleum free, phthalates free, sodium laureth and sodium lauryl sulphate free, colourant free, synthetic fragrance free and xenoestrogen free. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? However, I was still concerned about the fragrance. See, the word “fragrance” is where most skin care companies can hide all the nasty stuff, since fragrances are protected by copyright law ( or whatever it’s called when it comes to beauty products). You’re not required to disclose the content of the fragrance(perfum). So whenever you see that on your bottle of cream, you could be slathering yourself with parabens, petroleum, carcinogens, etc, unless the package says otherwise. So after looking more into what Mama Mio’s fragrance was all about, I found the best answer I could expect. Gravida is Mama Mio’s “amazing essential oil fragrance; a blend of 10 pregnancy-safe, pregnancy-specific natural oils which smells gorgeous to even the most sensitive of noses”. Sounds great! I also didn’t stop there. Once I got the products, I went over the ingredient list to makes sure there was nothing else I didn’t like the sound of and everything was perfect.

So I’ve been using them for almost 2 months now and I gotta tell you, there’s No Natural Skin Care Line I’ve used that compares to their products! I am a customer for life!

I’ve been using the BBB Kit (Boobs, Bellies, Bottoms), that includes Tummy Rub Oil, Boob Tube and O-Mega Wonder-Full Balm.

Tummy Oil is by far my favorite! First of all the smell is HEAVENLY! Throw away your Mother’s Blend Oil, because it doesn’t stand a chance. I remember hating the smell of Mother’s Blend in the first trimester and putting up with it in the 2nd. With Tummy Rub Oil, I look forward to my nightly routine. Even my husband keeps commenting on how good I smell after I apply it and he’s not really a smell guy. I still don’t have a single stretchmark and my belly has been growing much faster this past month, going from almost nothing to a big baby belly. I’m almost out of the oil, but I know I’ll be ordering another bottle very soon. Sometimes, when I lie down to relax after a tiring day, I put a little bit of the oil on my wrists and pillow just to have the smell around me, it’s so calming!

Boob Tube smells just as good ( a slightly different fragrance) and I am not sure if I’m hallucinating but I could swear my boobs are firmer and have more tone. Even if it’s all my imagination, I know the skin around them has never looked better. I should probably start applying it around my upper chest and neck too, since it’s a Bust and Neck firmer (something I just realized lol)

Omega Wonder-Full Balm is a one stop rescue balm. I use it on my lips, my elbows, my knees, dry spots on my tummy, my belly button when it feels stretchy. It smells amazing (again), hydrates and heals the skin instantly. And the bottle lasts FOREVER.

Some other items worth trying are cooling Lucky Legs for tired legs relief ( don’t have problems with legs since I’m home most of the time, so I haven’t tried that yet), existing stretchmarks and scars remedies (will definitely buy those if it ever becomes an issue), cellulite cream ( A must for me after pregnancy, along with Toning Serum). You know how when you find the right company and the right products that work for you, you no longer care about the price, it just makes sense to continue using them- Mama Mio is that line for me. Luckily, their prices are reasonable.

I’ve been kind of neglecting the rest of my body, leaving it dry and unexfoliated, because I couldn’t find anything safe enough, but with my next order, I’ll be buying the Body Oil or Cream and the Exfoliator to take care my horribly dry skin in all places other than boobs and tummy. Will report later on how these worked out for me.

If you’d like to try some of these products, Mama Mio is giving away a full sized set of Mighty Moisture Day & Night Moisturizer, Goodbye Stretch Marks and a Boob Tube to 1 lucky reader ( enter at the end of this post)

MyBrestFriend Body Pillow

A few months ago as I was starting to have to sleep on my side and was feeling very uncomfortable, I started looking for a body pillow. I asked people on the blog, I read a few review on Amazon, I balked at the $100 price tag of some of the body pillows. So I slept with 5 different pillows for as long as I could until I got an actual pregnancy body pillow. One thing I was looking forward to in a body pillow is the little ledge for your belly. I felt like it was sagging down and pulling on my back, like it needed support. It made a HUGE difference to have the little wedge between the bed and my belly. It felt more supported and comfortable and the light dull backache disappeared almost overnight. Aside from that, I didn’t really know what to expect in a body pillow. It took me a few days to get used to it and find the perfect position for my body.

See, I like things between my legs (hahaha- that’s what got me into this pickle). No, seriously, when I sleep on my side I almost always need something between my knees and ankles. It started when I was modeling and was so thin, it was simply uncomfortable to have no padding (read: fat) between my bones when they lay atop of each other. At this point, I am not sure if I’m just used to hugging things with my legs or bones are still an issue, but I know I’ve always needed a pillow between my legs. I find that this pillow doesn’t give me enough surface area for my long legs when sleeping in a bent position, so I still have to have an additional standard pillow between my knees. However, if you’re the kind of sleeper who doesn’t like bulky things around you, this pillow will be utter perfection. What I do like is how it’s long enough to reach my ankles and support them and thin and light enough not to make me sweaty at night. It took me a few days to find a good position for my head and now I LOVE it. The little rounded pillow at the end is supposed to support your head and I find it so cuddly and comfortable.

So my current set up is as follows: big shapeless body pillow behind me to prevent me from turning over to sleep on my back at night. MyBrestFriend pillow up front with the rounded corner under my head, belly wedge under my tummy and the bottom end of the pillow supporting my ankles, plus an additional pillow between my knees. This is THE best set up I have found and the best sleep I’ve had. I rarely wake up with back pain and if I do, it’s mostly because I turned to the other side in my sleep and somehow didn’t bring the body pillow with me.

You can win a body pillow from MyBrestFriend by entering the giveaway below.

Belly Armor

I really really wish I knew about this particular item BEFORE I got pregnant, so that I had it with me from day 1.

You know how most of our lives are spent at our computers? You’re obviously sitting at one reading this. Or you might be reading the post on your cell phone. I’m sure more than half of you work at a computer. Either way, we’re constantly exposed to low levels of radiation from all the daily items we use. The information is now coming out that cell phones used without a headset cause tumors. I haven’t heard much about laptops and desktops but I know it’s not good to have one on your lap. This has bothered me for quite a while since all of my work and most of my hobbies involve a computer. Like I said before, I am ok with taking a small risk when it comes to my own health out of laziness or whatnot, but the second we knew we were pregnant, it changed completely, because everything that I am exposed to, even in low doses could harm that little human being inside me during sensitive periods of development.

Oh how I wish I knew about the company called Belly Armor in my first trimester. They make products that protect your belly from all the radiation that we’re exposed to daily. According to their website “the past 25 years of research has evidenced several potential health hazards during pregnancy from radiation, including birth defects and genetic disruptions, miscarriages, autism, childhood leukemia, and cancer. Because scientists have shown that cell growth and DNA replication are disrupted by radiation, pregnancy and early childhood represent the highest risk for exposure.” The funding for studies like this is limited, because the effects take years to show up, so it’s almost impossible to measure, just like most research in prenatal programming and exposure, but to me as a pregnant woman, bent on protecting my child while it’s in the womb, it is a definitely step to take. Belly Armor has three products: the Belly Blanket, the Belly Tee and the Belly Band. They are made out of cotton and a RadiaShield lining that protects you against 99.9% of radiation. I even tested that. I wrapped my cell phone in the blanket and it instantly lost signal. I have both the blanket and the band.

I find the blanket perfect to have around the house. Whenever I sit down with my laptop (which I always have on a special lap pillow), I put the blanket over my belly. EVERY TIME! It just feels so good to know that Alexis is protected from radiation, something that has always been in the back of my mind up until now. The blanket comes in cute colors and has a convenient pocket for a cell phone. Before I had the blanket, I also found myself “accidentally” putting my iphone on the top of my belly (using it as a shelf) when I needed my hands free for something and then instantly realizing that and putting it aside. Now with the blanket, I can actually rest it there for a couple of seconds while I’m reaching for a glass of water or clicking a link without freaking myself out. So almost every evening, after a long day, you can see me in this position, with my laptop and my Belly Blanket

The band on the other hand is ideal if you work at a computer and can’t or don’t want to bring your blanket with you. It’s much more comfortable to have a band on when you’re sitting at the desk. It also does the double duty of supporting your belly. Sometimes, when I know I’ll be on the go all day, I just put the band on and I don’t have to worry about bringing my blanket with me. The band fits perfectly under any maternity clothes and is very inconspicuous. So I figured, if you’re gonna buy a belly band, you might as well get one with protection. I got it in a slightly bigger size knowing that in the last two months my belly will have to catch up and grow quite a bit.

I am really happy I get to use these, even though I only have a few weeks left, but I know that with the next pregnancy, I will be using both from day one. My friend whose sister is pregnant instantly ordered one as soon as she saw mine. It’d make a great gift for a pregnant woman.

To win a BellyBand or Belly Blanket, enter the giveaway below.

Organized Pregnancy

The final item that I found very useful is this book: One Year to an Organized Life with a Baby. Again, in this case I wish I had found it sooner, but better late than never. It’s a book that takes you through a whole year week by week, starting from 9 weeks pregnant to postpartum, helping you prepare everything for the arrival of the baby and the changes that will take place.

The author goes over things that need to be bought, things that could wait, places, rooms and closets that need to be organized, space that needs to be made, preparations for maternity leave and returning back to work, financial preparations- basically everything that would ideally need to be taken care of before a baby comes, without cramming it all into the last few weeks of pregnancy like we all tend to do. Each week she gives a “project”, along with valuable tips and tricks of organization. I read through to 32 weeks and have been following her advice on many levels. The book is also an AMAZING motivational tool that will get your nesting butt off the couch and itching to properly prepare for a baby! Definitely a must read, especially if you lack organization or love organizing ( both apply to me :))

and Mandatory Entries: {read carefully}

There are two mandatory entries, after which you will have additional entries available,
and 1 daily entry for which you can come back to enter daily.
The winning entries will be verified and the winner disqualified if the action is not found or if the mandatory items are not fullfilled.
Make sure to notate how you’re following the blog in the extra info field (entry #1). The entry won’t count if that information is missing.
Please make sure to visit Mama Mio and/or MyBrestFriend and/or Belly Armor (or all three)and comment on what items you’d like to win is to be eligible to win (entry #2). The comment is to be posted to this blog post.
The giveaway is open to US residents only. See the rafflecopter widget for additional terms and conditions.
All comments will be moderated and will appear once approved.

If you have a blog, there’re 2 entries each worth 10 points ( post our button on your blog’s sidebar and blog about the giveaway)

{If you’re not sure how to use to enter, feel free to watch this video tutorial or email me at contact {at} prebabyblog {dot} com
Otherwise, make sure to read everything carefully. Click the DO IT link first, then I’VE DONE IT once the action is completed}

Disclosure: Some of the items above were sent to me for free in exchange for my honest opinion.

How To Protect Yourself From America’s ‘New’ Drinking Water Toxins

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in HEALTH

I  just read an article that I just couldn’t NOT share with you guys.

EPA is finally tackling our tap water supply. These chemicals left unregulated by the previous administration cause thyroid problems, pre-natal and post-natal developmental problems and a slew of other issues, including cancer. Because unless you regulate for profit companies to do a good job and be safe, we’re always going to end up with unwanted health side-effects from our overly chemicalized world.

I urge you to read the article, but in short, it talks about 3 dangerous chemicals out of 6000 of toxic unregulated ones. One  causes thyroid problems, another one causes stomach, lung and liver cancer and the levels of this particular chemicals are 10 times higher in the city of Chicago than the safe standard ( the one that allows 1 cancer per million due to the chemical alone), and finally well known carcinogenic VOCs.

And while you can’t run away from every danger, there are certain easy steps most people can make to reduce the negative effects.  The first two can be removed by a reverse osmosis system, the last one by carbon filter. And was exactly the reason why we picked out this particular water filtration system  (plus it’s not too expensive)

If you haven’t read my post about the Reverse Osmosis Water Filter system we installed before I got pregnant ( or what it after?…can’t remember), check it out here

The reason why I am writing this here is because for 8 years of my adult life I was oblivious to the common dangers, ignorant and thinking I am invinsible. And while I’d still like to believe I am invinsible, reading and meeting people, who weren’t so fortunate, and planning a pregnancy made me realize how truly poisonous our world is. I will not stress out about things I can’t change, but I will definetely do all I can to make things better for me and my family and will do what I can to alert other people so that they could hopefully make the same discovery I did and most importantly make informed decisions about their health.

Safe Skin Routine for Pregnancy

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in HEALTH, Health and Fitness, My Pregnancy, PREGNANCY

Let me tell you something, ladies!

It is a BITCH to find super natural, super safe things to use when you’re pregnant ( and not). You buy teratogenically  tested line of pregnancy products and then a few weeks later, after hours of research, you realize that while they might be free of teratogens ( substances that cause birth defects), they are DEFINITELY not free from other potentially harmful toxins that didn’t make it into the teratogen list (yet), or don’t necessarily cause birth defect but have been linked with cancer or such (yikes!).

What pregnant woman in her right mind, who possesses this information would say:”Potentially carcinogenic? That’s all right! I’ll be fine and my baby will too”

So after I discovered the Good Guide ( a website that rates products based on their safety) or EWG Skin Deep, I was introduced to a whole world of “causes toxicity” and “developmental problems” and this and that. It didn’t stop there though. Good Guide apparently thinks that some ingredients are just fine, while there’s information out there about these that contradicts that. EWG Skin Deep Database is a bit more reliable in my opinion.

So there I was… on a QUEST to find the safest products I could find.

I think everyone at this point knows that parabens are bad, so I instantly excluded any product that had parabens in them ( look for methylparaben, and other words containing “paraben”). They are preservatives used in a lot of products and it’s just really really bad ( don’t want to take my word for it? google it). The sneaky part is tat fragrance/perfum might contain parabens as well, but due to trade laws, companies don’t have to disclose it.
Then I learned about Sodium Laurel Sulfate ( SLS- a chemical so strong they use it to effectively clean oil grease off the engines) – so there went all the products that had SLS ( and that’s pretty much EVERYTHING – look at your hand soap, under the first or second ingredient)…

So there I was spending hours checking and for the best products according to good guide and then checking their ingredients against a few more lists.

Every time I’d think I found something, I would then discover another preservative that causes cancer or what not. And while I might be ok with a small amount of that product for myself, how could I possibly know what it could do to a tiny baby whose IMPORTANT cells are constantly dividing.

At one point I thought I found the perfect  line of products: Aubrey Organics, but the problem is they have vitamin A and as we all know, vitamin A toxicity is very much an issue. So since there’s no way for me to know HOW much vitamin A is in the product, it’s safer to avoid it. Though, as soon as vitamin A isn’t an issue ( after birth), I will definitely try Aubrey Organics – it’s a great company.

So finally, here’s what I came up with. It’s THE BEST line up I could put together. There were some other products that might have been just as good or maybe better, but they were $26-40 for a bottle of shampoo and that’s just ridiculous.
Also there were certain things I wasn’t concerned with, like warnings about ingredients that might be connected with some skin sensitivity or something like that. I basically went by what could possibly harm the baby, and not by the fact that “lemon oil makes you sneeze” ( joking of course).
Note: I also checked them against potentially harmful herbs during pregnancy.

So here is what I use now and where you can buy them:


Burt’s Bees Pre-Shampoo hair treatment

It’s a super nice smelling avocado pre-wash. Not sure if it helps but it doubles as a really good hair product to use in dry hair and for fly aways.


Alba Botanica Gardenia Hydrating Hair Conditioner

Smells DELICIOUS!!! Works really well, too, compared to other organic conditioners I’ve used.


Tom’s of Maine Natural Body Wash

Took me a while to find a reasonably cheap and safe wash. Lavender is very calming and the wash itself is, well, a good wash.


More recently I discovered the most amazing line of healthy skin care, Lavanila. They carry a healthy deodorant, healthy body wash, healthy body butter and even a healthy fragrance. I would definitely recommend that line over anything else that is non-pregnancy specific.


Mother’s Special Blend – body/stretchmark oil and moisturizer
At first I was SUPER turned off by the smell. To me, it didn’t smell like cookies AT ALL. Plus I don’t like oil based moisturizers.
But after 3 months of searching for a moisturizer that didn’t have every single bad ingredient in the book, I gave up. This has no preservative, no chemicals,nothing but oils.
That is until I found Mama Mio Tummy Oil. This is by far the best pregnancy product out there and it smells heavenly. You can read more about it here

5. Burt’s Bees More Moisture Raspberry & Brazil Nut Shampoo

6. Burt’s Bees Super Shiny Grapefruit & Sugar Beet Conditioner

7. Weleda Almond Soothing Facial Cream

Facial creams ( along with body creams) was the hardest category to find something safe in. If it doesn’t have some harmful chemicals, it will definitely have Aloe Vera. While I love Aloe Vera in general, for pregnancy it’s one of the herbs to be careful with ( an emmenagogue (mimics hormones), teratogen and muscle relaxant). I don’t know at which point it can cause harm, but like I said before, I am not taking any chances ( a small sacrifice to make). At first I got Dr Hauschka Rose cream, but I just didn’t get into its God-awful smell and too thick texture ( was impossible to spread it out). Weleda is perfect, light but rich, smells amazing and is perfectly safe.

8. Tom’s of Maine Clean and Gentle Care

Surprisingly, toothpaste, the one thing we put into our mouths, is full of SLS. That’s pretty much how it “cleans” and foams. So we both switched to a SLS free version. Doesn’t foam as well as a traditional toothpaste, but it makes me feel 100% better, not putting a chemical that they use to clean oil grease off the engines into my mouth.

9.  Breast Firming Cream

For anything else you might need check out the safest pregnancy skin care brand (I checked their ingredients personally)- Mama Mio. You can read my review here


We also changed our laundry detergent and dishwasher soap and detergent to a greener brand.

Hope this was helpful and will save you some agonizing over what to buy and hours of research.


Water Filter

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in HEALTH, My Pregnancy

I’ve been meaning to write about water quality during pregnancy and water filters for a while now.

One of the first steps we took to avoid any toxic products once we found out I was pregnant was buy a water filter. We spent a few days researching what was in our water and any risks those low levels of contaminants can pose to a fetus as well the best and cheapest water filters that would remove those contaminants.

See, most areas’ tap water contains THM ( by-product of disinfection, from what I remember), nitrates, and some even contain arsenic and lead. I pulled up the latest water quality report from our local water company ( you can also do that, or call them and they’d be happy to mail it to you). Everything seemed great in the report, the levels are well below the allow contaminant level. However there was enough there to make us want to take a precaution and buy a good water filter, rather than use an in-refrigerator one.

{to read about the effects of water contaiminants during pregnancy and in early childhood, go here}

After much searching hubby and I agreed on this one, since it removed everything, except for virus and bacteria, since it seems no filter that removes nitrates,arsenic,lead and such, also removes viruses and bacteria. It also removes cysts, chlorine and others.

It took hubby about an hour to install it. It comes with a faucet, so he had to drill the granite to install the faucet which was easier than expected, once he got a special diamond drill bit.

Of course, the water tastes fabulously, though the taste wasn’t our concern. Here are some of the photos from the install- we made a total mess in the kitchen while doing it, so don’t mind that.

I’m so glad we bought it and now we have it for life. I think if it wasn’t for this pregnancy, we would never do it. But apparently, the contaminants are pretty harmful to children as well, so we are happy to know it’s there for our new baby too.


Epigenetics and Prenatal Development

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in EVERYTHING ELSE, HEALTH, My Pregnancy, Pre-CONCEPTION

As I continue to seek out and read books about prenatal development and epigenetics ( in my words, a study of how genes get turned on and off without changing DNA during intra-uterine development), I am more and more amazed at how much we don’t know, our mothers didn’t know, and many doctors, who refuse to educate themselves, don’t know.

And in this case what we don’t know CAN hurt us and our babies.

My current read is Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives by Annie Murphy Paul, a scientific writer who set out to educate herself as she embarked on her second pregnancy.
I’m only on chapter 2, but it goes along the same lines Dr Verny followed in his Pre-Parenting: Nurturing Your Child from Conception.

Right now, I am reading about nutrition and how it affects the expression of genes and level of hormones. It’s actually not new to me. I read about it in my favorite pre-conception book Get Ready to Get Pregnant: Your Complete Prepregnancy Guide to Making a Smart and Healthy Baby.
It was a new concept to me at the time, that what we eat and how we eat can “program” the fetus by “turning the genes on and off”, but it turns out it’s not that uncommon of a concept in the scientific world. It’s just our real world is pretty slow to jump on the bang wagon ( as it has always been with any medical breakthrough that challenges the previous notions).

For those who are curious, just a quick example in short:

Nature made it so that the intrauterine environment “lets” the baby know of the world outside of us via hormones and a few other processes.
For example, if a mother is constantly stressed and the released cortisol crosses the placenta, the baby’s brain will be programmed for the flight-or-fight response, taking from it the fact that in the outside world, the baby will need to be quick and vigilant. The baby will come out of the womb ready for the environment that was “pre-programmed” into him, fast and unable to focus, possibly even predisposed to aggression. That’s how evolution helped our ancestors survive.
By eating lots of sugar and simple carbs that send our insulin skyrocketing (and doing it all the time), we’re “teaching” our unborn baby to become insulin resistant, so in the future he/she might have troubles keeping weight off (apparently, insulin also controls how our body stores fat). The same happens with leptin, the substance that tells us when we are full. I don’t remember the exact mechanism by which leptin resistance occurs in a unborn baby ( i think it was somehow connected with insulin as well), but it creates a human being who is unable to know when to stop eating.

On another hand, {i read in the new book} it turns out that low birth weight babies (due to malnutrition specifically, I don’t think that other reasons, like preterm birth, were included in that) suffer from the same problems as  babies born with insulin resistance- diabetes, obesity, heart disease. At first glance, it’s surprising, but before I even read the explanation for why it happens, it made perfect sense to me:

When the baby doesn’t receive enough nutrients, it learns to live on little, his body being “programmed” that food out in the real world is scare. However, when he’s born into the world of excess and processed foods, his body can’t handle it properly, having been “taught” to store every single nutrient received (kind of in the same way the fad starvation diets never work long term). I guess the effects were the worst for babies who were malnutritioned during the 2nd and 3rd trimester.
What baffled me, though, was why the heart disease? What would this have to do with the heart? The explanation was the following: by receiving few nutrients, the fetus “sends” them to the most important organ in our body, our brain, leaving other organs short of necessary food. That, later in life, came back to bite him. In addition, inability to properly control and process high fat, processed diets helped that too.  They did a study on the survivors of one winter during World War II, during which food was so scarce that most people had to live on 500 calories a day ( including pregnant women), and a tremendous amount of survivors born or conceived during that winter were obese,with diabetes and heart disease, compared to babies born during other times. Here the effects were stronger, if malnutrition happened during the first trimester, when the heart was developing {which isn’t really fair, because of morning sickness which is something that our body does to us)

There’s an amazing amount of information and studies brought up in all three books I mentioned, it’d be impossible to relay every single detail of even one example here. It’s definitely fascinating and opened my eyes on many things. Even if you’re sceptical, I’d recommend you read it, because the examples and studies brought up in the books are pretty convincing.

Either way, as I go through this, I find it slightly difficult to find a happy middle. Everywhere we turn there another advisory about what is good or bad during pregnancy. It seems like everything can influence the baby. Omegas-3s in fish are great for the brain and produces higher IQ scores, but at the same time, fish is high in mercury, exposure to which produces low IQ scores. It’s like we can’t do anything right. {btw, my personal answer to the fish dilemma are sardines- small fish that doesn’t accumulate much mercury at all and one of the best fatty fishes for Omega-3s. Canned sardines are tasty, safe and very nutritious}.

My personal dilemma has been Vitamin E. When I was preparing for pregnancy, I found one Prenatal Vitamins brand that fit what I wanted,which  was “no vitamin or mineral could exceed 100% of daily value” ( it’s amazing how many prenatal vitamins have mega doses). I was very happy about it, until I showed it to my OB, who liked it a lot too, until he saw vitamin E content- 100% of DV. Then he informed me that there have been studies that linked vitamin E consumption to heart defects. So he prescribed me a formula that had 50% of vitamin E. After I got home, I jumped online to try and research those claims. I did, in fact, find plenty of articles citing several studies in which vitamin E consumption before pregnancy and during pregnancy of as little as 2/3 of Daily Value was linked with 9 fold increased risk of heart defect.
Obviously, supplementing vitamin E was not something I wanted to do ( considering I was already eating at the point where I received everything at at least 100% from food). Vitamin E can be found in oil, nuts, but the truth is I don’t really consume oil, or products that contain oil ( processed foods), and I am not a fan of nuts ( though I do take them for their nutritional benefit).

For a bit, i wondered whether that increased risk was connected more with consumption of fatty, oily foods, rather than actual vitamin E. But of course I can’t completely discount the study based on a hunch. So I don’t supplement E, but I don’t really get much E from diet. I’m between a rock and a hard place. Hubby and I decided that we’d curb vitamin E consumption pre-pregnancy and during the 1st trimester when the heart is developing, and then ease up on that in the 2nd trimester. But I still feel uneasy about the whole situation….


Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in GET FIT, HEALTH, VIDEO


1. If you haven’t yet, join the challenge here: GET FIT and GET HEALTHY
2. Every Saturday come back to The Art of Making a Baby and ShutterMama to read the tips on how to be fitter, healthier and more confident.
3. Weekly write a post about your progress, following the questionnaire below, take a self-portrait (optional) and link up with us.
4. Don’t forget to grab the GET FIT challenge button on the sidebar and display it proudly on your blog or GET FIT post.
5. Link your post with
Selfie Saturdays if you took your week’s self-portrait.

My entry for week 15

1. Height: 5’11, weight: 136 lb

2. Your fitness challenge(s) for this week: Special exercises designed for pregnancy to increase flexibility (daily) + Kegels (twice daily). An hour of walking/running + 20 situps every hour of the day

3. Your health challenge(s) for this week: Continue eating whole grains, veggies and fruits only with a few servings of kefir and sardines daily (sardines are low in dioxins and mercury)

4. How well did it go:

Fitness: I wasn’t able to work out the whole week for for very good reasons. So i don’t feel too bad about it.
Water: Drinking 64 oz a day
Food: Still not eating any sweets for some reason. Even my granola cereal without any added sugar tastes too sweet. I have been going crazy when it comes to potato chips (kettle cooked salt and pepper only) and roasted potatoes. I’ve been good about not allowing too much of them. Also I’ve been entering all the food I eat into a tracking website and making sure that all my vitamins, minerals, omega 3s and protein were at 100% or above. And I can proudly say I’ve exceeded 100% on most nutrients (except for zinc) and protein.
5. Failures and slip-ups: I’d say kettle cooked potato chips. I tend to eat about a serving or two of them a day, which is fine since I don’t eat ANY sweets at all. Otherwise, no complaints.

7. Advice to fellow GET FIT members: Honestly, I think I’ve given everything I have for now.

8. Self Portrait: This week’s challenge was a STOP MOTION VIDEO and I had so much fun making it!

Pregnancy Safe Products – Face Wash, Exfoliator and Sunblock- LOVED ‘EM!

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in EVERYTHING ELSE, HEALTH, My Pregnancy, Pre-CONCEPTION

One of the first challenges I encountered while getting ready to get pregnant were the toxins and teratogens all around us. I mean, EVERYTHING is made out of chemicals nowadays. And since certain chemicals and toxins can adversly affect a fetus, it was important for me to switch to everything natural and toxin free.

It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
I started with cleaning supplies, which we switched to 7th generation ones –  they smelled interesting and strong (herbs and lemon) and cleaned decently but not as well as full on chemical stuff.
I went to organic shampoos – I loved the feel and the smell and the idea that they’re all natural, but to be honest, the shampoo just didn’t clean as well, and the conditioner didn’t make my hair as soft as the typical brands.
I bought a zinc oxide sunblock, but it only came in a white cream that was really hard to put on.

Let me just say I wasn’t too happy about these changes, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, right?

I was still looking for a good facial SPF, moisturizer,body wash, face wash,etc.

A few months ago I became a part of a new affiliate programs and as I was going through different online stores, I bumped into Belli Skin Care. I would have probably passed them by if not for  the word “teratology screened”.
“Oh!”- I thought.

I have never seen a skin care care line SPECIFICALLY tested against teratogens, phthalates, BPA, parabe, artificial dyes, etc. Before I knew about nsBelli, i had attempted to research this on my own, emailing my favorite brands for a list of ingredients and then cross checking them against known problem agents. eventually I gave up, because it was too much work. I knew just going natural and organic wasn’t going to do it, because there’re quite a few natural things that can cause birth defects, like aloe vera, rosemary, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, vitamin A. The problem with something as minor as personal care is it seems like it’s too much work for a relatively low risk. Some people think that there’s a placental barrier to protect the baby from toxins, however the barrier only keeps larger molecules away, like bacteria, but lets some others through with no problem.
So needless to say, I kept postponning ordering something for when I am pregnant, because it was just too hard.

After reading more about Belli products I was sold on the concept. They also carry maternity skin care lines, breastfeeding lines, and baby care, each specifically designed to protect us and our babies from toxins at different times of our lives. I will definitely be using other products when I breastfeed and for the baby. You can get a Stretch Mark Minimizing cream if you already have them, or Belly Oil, if you want to prevent them

So I placed an order for an Acne Wash, a SPF25 facial sunscreen and an Exfoliator. To be honest, I was expecting one of those organic products that might be safe for my baby, but does pretty much nothing for me. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. I got my package yesterday morning and last night I took a shower to try them out (oh come on! Don’t you get all excited when you buy new products? Except for I was expecting it to be something like that organic fragrance free soup I bought from Whole Foods- UGH!).


I soooooo didn’t expect this reaction, but I loved all three products!
1. Ache Wash smelled like lemons and cleaned my face so well, but without stripping it, that when I got out of the shower it looked like I applied one of those primers that you put under make up to make your skin smooth and soft. I couldn’t believe it!
2. The exfoliator was one of those super fine particle exfoliator and did an amazing job without irritating my skin
3. The Anti-Cloasma had a little bit of a tint to it ( which usually annoys me because it tends to be darker than my skin) and went on smooth and nice and didn’t look like I had anything on.

So I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I will be ordering shampoo and conditioner from Belli as well, in hopes of getting something that works better than other organic shampoos.

If any of you guys are interested, there’s a coupon for 15% OFF  right now. Just use the code: 15BELLI

Just wanted to mention that I wasn’t compensated in any way to write about these products, or anything like that. I just spent so many hours researching safe products and trying to decide what to buy that I hope this would make it easier for some of you who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, are breastfeeding or just want safe baby skin care.

Since Belli doesn’t carry any facial moisturizers, I will be ordering mine from, they have a massive section of natural skin care and make up, plus right now there’s 2 promotions going on that I want to take advantage of:
1.  New Customers – get $5 off $35 or $10 off $70 on your first order! and
2. Get a free Lela Rose Designer Bag + deluxe samples ($140 value!) with your $100 order! While supplies last.


On another personal note, I am feeling fabulous and happy and just having the best time of my life. So many things I want to be doing and never enough time to do it.
So right now I am off to make a salad, play some drums and maybe go for a walk. Hope your Sunday is just as relaxing.

Oh, two new things:
I got a Facebook Page for the blog, feel free to like it if you want
I might start taking pictures of the meals I make and posting them here. I way too impatient to actually write recipes, but I might be able to take  the time to post photos only. Too many people have requested that, so I think it’ll be helpful for those trying to eat healthy/vegetarian/vegan. Let me know what you think.


Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Cooking, EVERYTHING ELSE, GET FIT, HEALTH, PHOTO


1. If you haven’t yet, join the challenge here: GET FIT and GET HEALTHY
2. Every Saturday come back to The Art of Making a Baby and ShutterMama to read the tips on how to be fitter, healthier and more confident.
3. Weekly write a post about your progress, following the questionnaire below, take a self-portrait (optional) and link up with us.
4. Don’t forget to grab the GET FIT challenge button on the sidebar and display it proudly on your blog or GET FIT post.
5. Link your post with
Selfie Saturdays if you took your week’s self-portrait.


I’d like to share something I recently found out about nutrients of certain vegetables. I was always under the impression that if you cook vegetables, you basically effectively eliminating all the good nutrients and vitamins from them, so it’s best to eat msot vegetables raw or lightly sauteed. However, it turns out it’s not true for all the vegetables, actually quite the opposite for some of them.

Check out the nutrition breakdown:

Broccoli and spinach , if eaten raw your body will absorb less than 5% of the nutrition for which you are eating them . With the exception of lettuce all the green leafy veggies must be heated. This is the only way to release the vitamin E and the Iron for your body to get at it . If eaten raw your body will get neither of those and only a small portion of the flavonoids . The calcium can be retrieved without heating .
Tomatoes if eaten raw your body can only acquire the vitamin C . The main nutrition you eat a tomato for is the lycopene! This is the enzyme in the tomato that gives it the red color.”

So green leafy vegetables? HEAT! Kale, spinach, collard greens. have an amazing spicy kale stew recipe that I really need to share with you guys.

 My entry for week 15

1. Height: 5’11″, weight: 136 lb

2. Your fitness challenge(s) for this week: Special exercises designed for pregnancy to increase flexibility (daily) + Kegels (twice daily). An hour of walking/running + 20 situps every hour of the day 

3. Your health challenge(s) for this week: Continue eating whole grains, veggies and fruits only with a few servings of kefir and sardines daily (sardines are low in dioxins and mercury)

4. How well did it go:

  • Fitness: Did really good. I am feeling good and motivated, taking my time to do exercises rather than rush through them
  • Water: Drinking 64 oz a day
  • Food: I have this strange sweets aversion this week. I didn’t have ANYTHING sweet AT ALL. Eating really well otherwise: lots of beans, salads and vegetables with fruits.

5. Failures and slip-ups: Nothing really. I am very happy with this week6. Weekly challenge wisdom: Sometimes we get caught up and want to do things other than working out, but I found if you let yourself know that this hour is for exercising and that’s how it’s going to be, you take your time and actually enjoy it, rather than rush through it to be done for the day.

7. Advice to fellow GET FIT members
: Is your partner helping you and supporting you in your quest to be healthier and fitter? If not, you need to get him to be on the same page with you. it’s so much more fun to eat well and exercise when you don’t have to accomodate someone else in their eating or couch habits.

8. Self Portrait: This week Selfie challenge was  Collaborations. We were to hook up with one of our bloggy friends and do a photo together, even though we might be 3000 miles away from each other. Here’s what Teagan and I came up with. I think the tagline is really fitting :)


Supplements – Get Fit, Get Healthy Week 12

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in EVERYTHING ELSE, GET FIT, HEALTH


1. If you haven’t yet, join the challenge here: GET FIT and GET HEALTHY
2. Every Saturday come back to The Art of Making a Babyand ShutterMama to read the tips on how to be fitter, healthier and more confident.
3. Weekly write a post about your progress, following the questionnaire below, take a self-portrait (optional) and link up with us.
4. Don’t forget to grab the GET FIT challenge button on the sidebar and display it proudly on your blog or GET FIT post.
5. Link your post with
Selfie Saturdays if you took your week’s self-portrait.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.

In the course of my preparation for pregnancy, one of the topics I did extensive research on was vitamin and mineral supplements.

We all know the importance of taking daily vitamins, especially if our diet leaves something to be desired. Now supplementation it’s not as simple as pop a pill each morning if you want to do it right.

There’s vitamin toxicity to pay attention to, minerals mashing together in all the wrong ways and negating each other, proper absorption, etc etc…

Here’re a few important fact everyone taking a supplement needs to know. This is especially useful to pregnant women or those TTCing, because having proper nutrients in your body is crucial:

There are certain minerals and foods that prevent absoption of others and vitamins that aid in absoption. You need to know that to get the maximum  out of your vitamins.

  • Pretty much anything interferes with iron absorption, so if your goal is to make sure you have plenty of iron in your stores, read the following:
              -do NOT mix calcium rich foods with iron rich foods, the same goes for supplements. Take iron and calcium supplement at least 2 hours apart.
              -do NOT drink tea after eating an iron rich food or taking an iron supplement.
              -the easiest way is to make sure you take an iron supplement completely separate with iron rich food
              – take vitamin C with iron for best absorption.If you’re a vegetarian, great sources of iron include: beans/lentils,some nuts, spinach, collard greens. Make sure to add some of those at every meal.
  • If you’re taking an iron supplement, make sure to take zinc and copper with it. Iron supplements interfere with the absorption of copper, which in turn is very closely related to zinc. So if you’re taking copper, you need to supplement it with zinc and visa versa. Since excess of one will give you a deficiency of the other So since iron interferes with copper and copper interferes with zinc, you need to take all three to make sure you’re even. In nature it’s done automatically, most foods high in iron are also high in zinc and copper. Never exceed 100% of DV an any of these minerals, because of it’s close relation and intricate balance system.
  • Calcium is best absorbed with Vitamins D. Most  Calcium supplements have vitamin D in it, just make sure it doesn’t exceed 50% DV, since vitamin D has a toxicity level.
  • It’s hard to get enough DHA in a pill form and it’s pretty expensive so look for a morning cereal that is a good source of Omega-3s and load up on some avocado and walnuts.
  • FOLIC ACID: TAKE IT!!!! Please please please, if you are of childbearing age and not infertile, please take a folic acid supplement, even if you’re not “planning” any more kids. Neural tube develops during the first 27 days of pregnancy, well before most women even know they’re pregnant. Folic acid can prevent most neural tube defects in a baby as long as you take it before and during the first month of pregnancy. Unless you’re like me and plan pregnancies that meticulously, the last thing you’d want is to get pregnant, not know it for a month and miss that 30 day window.

If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant:

NEVER EVER (unless advised by a doctor) exceed 100% of DV on any supplement. It’s hard because most over the counter prenatals stuff 200-300%DV of vitamins in it to appeal to the less educated women thinking they’re getting a better value. You are NOT! You should be getting plenty from food, so all you need to do is create a safety net.

Fat soluble vitamins get packed away in your fat thus making it possible to create a toxicity hardful to a fetus if you don’t know what you’re doing.

-Do not take vitamin A in any form but beta-carotene, that includes milk and animal products that have a decent amount of vitamin A in retinoid form. High doses of vitamin A causes birth defect and it’s easy to go over board if you’re a meat eater and take supplements
-Watch your vitamin D intake.
– Vitamin E has been linked with heart defects at birth. That is even vitamin E taken before pregnancy at as low as 2/3 of recommended daily value (DV). Now since, oil has lot of vitamin E, I suspect those finding might have had something to do with women who ate lots of oily foods that are already bad for the baby. But we can’t know for sure, and these are my personal speculations. I am not taking any vitamin E supplement, since we get plenty through oil use and nuts.

Folic acid is a MUST before you’re even pregnant.
Supplemental iron is helpful taken before pregnancy so that you go into it with your stores full of iron.
Unless you eat lots of fruits and veggies ( and I do mean lots and varied, making up most of your meals), you might not need to supplement A,C or K vitamins, since you get plenty from fruits and veggies.

Since everything tend to interfere with everything and you can’t take more than 100% of the certain type of vitamin..bla bla bla… I found the best way to make it easy is to buy each supplement separately and take them in batches:

iron+C+zinc+copper= 1st batch
Calcium+D= 2nd batch
Folic+ B+DHA+other= 3rd batch

So there you have it!

Now, my entry for week 12

1. Height: 5’11″, weight: 134 lb

2. Your fitness challenge(s) for this week: 30 minutes of pilates every other day + 30 minutes of cardio ( rollerblading, running, swimming or treadmill) every other day+20 sit-ups every hour for 8 hours on cardio days. Special exercises designed for pregnancy to increase flexibility (daily) + Kegels (twice daily). A total of about an hour or more of physical activity a day.

3. Your health challenge(s) for this week: My eating habits are close to perfect, however I could improve on my water intake. My goal will be 8 glasses of water daily + continue eating the way I do now. Start snacking more during the day to prepare for the first trimester of morning sickness.

4. How well did it go:
  • Fitness: It was awesome. I did everything I set out to do. Worked out daily. I feel it’s starting to become a habit, one that I will not want to give up. Yesterday, hubby and I even did both strength and cardio and abs in one day, even though we’re supposed to do cardio/strength every other day.
  • Water: I’m back to my KleenKanteen bottle and being hydrated.
  • Food:Food intake was perfect. Nothing to complain about.
    5. Failures and slip-ups: Can’t say anything here. I’m getting in the groove and getting stronger.

6. Weekly challenge wisdom: It’s true that they say it takes a while to form a habit, but once that habit forms it becomes a joy to do the most mundane things.
7. Advice to fellow GET FIT members
: Stick with it! It will get better But if you give up now, it’ll NEVER get better. You will always start and stop and start and stop and get nowhere, or give up and continue living unhealthy and overweight.

8. Self Portrait: Magic Tricks
kind of creepy, huh?


{for more shots, go to my photography blog, Selfie Magic}