Tuesday, December 20, 2011

With Age Comes Wisdom, and Tolerance

When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person

who can live at peace with others. - Peace Pilgrim

Perhaps it is age and experience that bring us wisdom indeed. As young, idealistic parents we are often on our soapboxes about what is "right" and how we should parent our children. We wear our passion on our sleeves and often become defensive in the face of opposition. We believe there is one way - our way. Whether our passion is expressed in our beliefs about childbirth, breastfeeding, our diet, or educational choices, we feel "right", others "wrong."

But some days down the road, the powers that be open us up. We discover a new path, perhaps due to health crisis or new information. Or we find ourselves in place where we are willing to make a change, and our edges start to soften. We have not lost our passion nor our ideals, but we have grown into the wisdom of tolerance.

At Holistic Moms, we struggle with the challenge each and every day. Our members are parents with many passions. Some new parents, some with adult children. What we share in is an interest in natural, holistic, and sustainable living. But what that means to each of us is not the same. Holistic living and parenting is a journey. We are each unique, with our own life experiences, knowledge, wisdom, and resources. There is not one "right" but what is "right" at this time, in this place, with this information. Understanding that and cultivating tolerance is essential for our very existence and for our mission and purpose of supporting parents and raising awareness. Attacking, criticizing, and making others feel guilty for their choices will not achieve these goals. Honoring diversity and treating each other with tolerance will.

When I was in graduate school, I spent several years living with a roommate I adored. We had much in common, and many differences. I was a vegetarian at the time, passionate about healthy foods and nutrition. She was a fan of drive-thrus. We never attacked each other about our eating habits, but chose to live in the same space with different choices. Many years later we reconnected and the tides had indeed turned - she was passionate about healthy living and she and her entire family had embraced a plant-based lifestyle. Peaceful co-existence had allowed her the space to discover another choice in a place that was safe and accepting. She found a path that worked for her and, ironically, I have since chosen another!

When we refuse to tolerate or even begin to understand the choices of others we close ourselves off from learning. The choice we have made in this time and this space may not be the choice that serves us well in the future. When we become rigid about being right, we fail to recognize when we ourselves our wrong. And when we demand that others change, we make them more steadfast in their positions rather than open to new possibilities.

It is not an easy road to travel. Critics on every side will find fault with us for not being "their" way. Holistic living is not a single issue. Indeed, the very nature of holism is a recognition that everything is connected and intertwined. One single choice does not exclude you from being a holistic parent, nor does any one choice make you one. You will never have arrived in the land of health or parenting perfection, but will always be on your way there. And what journey doesn't deserve some good company?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Antibiotic Overuse

One thing many Holistic Moms agree on is that our healthcare culture is quick to prescribe antibiotics for a wide variety of illnesses, even when their use is not warranted. Even the American Academy on Pediatrics (AAP) has backed off the use of antibiotics for such childhood ailments as ear infections, acknowledging that "concerns about the rising rates of antibacterial resistance and the growing costs of antibacterial prescriptions have focused the attention of the medical community and the general public on the need for judicious use of antibacterial agents."

Surprisingly, however, 80% of all antibiotics sold for use in the Unites States are used on animals, not on humans. In fact, most antibiotics are used in commercial farming as a result of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. While many consumers are concerned about humane treatment in agriculture and seek out local farms for their own purchases, the overuse of antibiotics in commercial agriculture is something we all need to be aware of, even if you don't consume animal products. Why? Because "bacteria resistant to antibiotics used in animals will also be resistant to antibiotics used in humans." What does that mean? That means that as these antibiotic-resistant bacteria spread, many diseases may become difficult - if not impossible - to treat.

Agricultural antibiotics impact all of us. Consuming undercooked meat contaminated by antibiotic resistant bacteria or touching raw meat juices is just one way we come in contact with this issue. But animals carrying these superbugs also shed them in their feces or milk, their byproducts may wind up as fertilizer for other crops, or runoff from factory farms can seep into our drinking water. Even airborne antibiotic resistant bacteria have been detected.

Citizens Against Superbugs, a grassroots campaign spearheaded by Applegate Farms and STOP Foodborne Illness, is calling on the President to end the overuse of antibiotics on animals. You can sign the petition and lend a hand to this effort by clicking here. Help support these efforts and make a difference!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

When a Jar of Tomato Sauce is Enough

The other day my 5 year old was beside himself. From the car ride home to pick up his older brother from school through the dinner hour, he would break into to crying/screaming jags that startled me. And all he wanted was mommy. He needed to be held and consoled. He would regroup and be fine and then an outburst or tantrum would ensue. It was back and forth, up and down. It was the witching hour - when homework needed to be overseen, dinner needed cooking, and the dogs were doing their "feed me" dances. But everything needed to take a back seat to the emotional chaos, including dinner.

When calm finally returned, it was dark and dinner was way past due. And that is when guilt started to rear its ugly head. The kids needed to eat but the time crunch and emotional drain of the day's events left me reaching for a jar of tomato sauce (albeit organic) and some pasta. On the one hand, I had nurtured and fed my child emotionally and yet that voice of perfection still rose up. How could this meal's "vegetable" be a a jar of tomato sauce? I found myself guiltily grating fresh carrots and onions into the sauce to assuage Ms. Perfect before I started the conversation about being "enough". It was enough that dinner was being made, regardless of its nutritional density. But why does this mama-guilt and demand for perfection always seem to arise? Couple that with some eco-guilt and holistic minded-moms are in for serious trouble.

Motherhood and guilt are so closely intertwined that we expect it to be a "natural part of mothering" according to Karen Kleiman, writing on "Guilt, Motherhood, and the Pursuit of Perfection" in Psychology Today magazine. We are always judging ourselves and others, fearing that we have scarred our children and failed on our parenting journey. And this persistent yardstick of perfection can lead moms down a path to anxiety and depression.

Instead, parents need to develop self-acceptance and understand that we are good enough, in this moment, with these resources, and with whatever energy and patience we can muster. Every single day is an opportunity to learn and grow as a parent and judging every imperfection - in ourselves and in others - creates a pattern of guilt and regret. As author and positive affirmation expert Louise Hay has said: "The bottom line for everyone is I’m not good enough. It’s only a thought, and a thought can be changed."

We need to change our self-talk and thoughts as mothers. This is no easy task. Self-talk is so automated we often don't even recognize when it is going on. Listening and being aware of what we tell ourselves is the first step in changing the conversation. Slowing down to pay attention, journaling, and meditation are all great tools for identifying our negative self-talk and learning to replace it with more positive statements and beliefs. We need to know that we are good enough and creating positive self-talk is a step in the right direction. As mothers, we need to forgive ourselves and know that we are doing our best. And we need to know that sometimes a jar of tomato sauce IS enough.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Being the Change: Green Gifting During the Holidays

Holidays are always a great excuse to all off the wagon. Whether it's not getting enough sleep or overindulging in holiday treats, the season often sends us out of our green and healthy routines. But it doesn't have to.

One way we continue to live greener and healthier this holiday is by example - by engaging in sustainable, nutritious, non-toxic gift giving for our family and friends. We can demonstrate our passion for natural living and share that passion with others by introducing them to new opportunities, products, and services that can begin to build a healthier foundation. Sure, there are plenty of naysayers who might scoff at your natural gifts, but there are so many wonderful choices out there that you can find something everyone will be happy with, even if they are not intending to make such changes in their own lifestyle. I have had many instances where simply living by example and not preaching about my personal holistic passions has had a profound impact on others. As Aeschylus said "From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow." You can plant that seed, literally and figuratively, by giving green and healthy this season. Here are a few of our favorite ideas - and things holistic moms and dads would love to receive:

A Plant a Tree Gift Set from PeopleTowels. This delightful set includes two organic reusable towels for everyday use with a handy eco-sack and a seed kit to plant your own tree (complete with an organic, biodegradable peat pot)! What's more, the purchase of this kit helps to support Trees for the Future!

Celebrating the New Mom, Naturally! Know a new mom? How about a Nurturing Life Gift set from Motherlove or a cloth diapering kit and DVD from The Willow Store? Motherlove's certified organic products, such as their popular Nipple Cream for breastfeeding moms, are must-haves for those early years. And making a switch to cloth diapers helps save money and the planet! Today's cloth diapers are easier than ever to use and the Diapering Today DVD will make it simple and accessible to make the change. If baby is graduating to solids, you might give them a great start with gourmet, organic baby food and a great cookbook on how to cook for the whole family and develop healthy tastebuds from Sprout Organic Baby Food.

Give the Gift of Real Food! Everyone has a foodie in the family who loves to cook (and eat)! New ingredients and quality products are at the top of every chef's list and there are many healthy, sustainable items every cook would love. Perhaps a sample of wild, sustainably fished salmon with a gourmet cookbook fits the bill, or an assortment of herbal-infused ghee flavors to explore culinary delights? Or look at the amazing spices, exotic salts, and delicious flavorings from Frontier Natural Products.

Give Less Stuff. Maybe stuff isn't what you want to give this year. How about an experience, a community, or information that will inspire you time and time again? You might give someone the opportunity to learn about natural healing with classes on homeopathy, to enjoy literary articles about motherhood, a workshop to learn about green, eco-conscious building, or the support and connection for their parenting journey?

Natural, sustainable options abound! Plant the seed and see what may grow. What will you give this holiday season?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Living in Gratitude

As we celebrate Thanksgiving we have an opportunity not only to indulge in the comfort of our families and the flavors of the season, but also experience a chance to cultivate gratitude and model the significance of gratitude for our children.

Living in gratitude matters on many levels, not the least of which is helping us to maintain a positive attitude. Being grateful for all that you have, and that you may experience, or the opportunities presented to you can help you to see the good in your life even when times are challenging. Feeling blessed also radiates positive energy through your day and, according to the law of attraction, brings more things to be grateful for into your life.

Practicing gratitude isn't always easy. When you hate your job, it's hard to feel thankful. But that is exactly the moment to be grateful for the fact that a job is had at all, even if it's not matching up to your expectations or ideals. Whether it is work, relationships, finances, or health, we can be grateful for what we have and are able to do, no matter how small. Refocusing our energy on the things that are right instead of wrong may take considerable effort some days, thus it is a practice of gratitude - something that you attempt each day, over and over, and get better at each time. And, remarkably, even the most difficult challenges are opportunities to be grateful for.

Here is a wonderful
gratitude prayer (thanks to zen habits) that can help you start or expand your gratitude practice. Enjoy!

Be Thankful

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.

GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.~ Author Unknown ~

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fair Trade Holidays

The holiday season is here and it is the season of giving - and giving back. This season offers a wonderful opportunity to teach our children many important family values and also to exercise the principles that are important to us. It is a great time to think about fairness and justice, about supporting local farmers, and about empowering others. How? Through fair trade.

What is Fair Trade? According to the Fair Trade Federation, fair trade "is a holistic approach to trade and development that aims to alter the ways in which commerce is conducted, so that trade can empower the poorest of the poor." The principles of fair trade are simple: create opportunities for disadvantaged producers, do not maximize profit at the expense of the producers, pay a fair price, abolish child and forced labor, and encourage sustainable technologies, among others.

Bearing a certification for fair trade means that a product has been produced according to fair trade standards which are designed to support the sustainable development of small-scale producers and agricultural workers in the poorest countries in the world. Buying Fair Trade products is a powerful way to support producers in developing countries. Fair trade helps workers and farmers to earn a decent living and secure a better life for themselves. To find fair trade products, look for a certification on some common household items including: bananas, cocoa/chocolate, coffee, cotton, flowers, honey, sugar, and rice.

Why should we support fair trade? According to Global Exchange, fair trade brings the benefits of trade into the hands of communities that need it most. It sets new social and environmental standards for international companies and demonstrates that trade can indeed be a vehicle for sustainable development. Unfortunately, the benefits of fair trade are not reaching all fair trade farmers because of insufficient demand for their crops. Producers sell an average of 20% of their crop at fair trade terms; the rest goes through the world market at much lower prices. The same story goes for artisans. That is why we need to build a market for fair trade though demand for these products.

How can you bring fair trade into your holiday season? Consider purchasing fair trade products (chocolate, coffee, tea, etc.) for your holiday gatherings and check out Fair Trade USA's Fair Trade Holiday Gift Guide for ideas and suggestions!

And you can win a bag of fair trade samples and treats from Fair Trade USA by helping to spread the word about fair trade! Tweet this blog and come share your tweet url in the comments section for a chance to in! A winner will be randomly chosen and notified on November 30th.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pinkwashing, Greenwashing: Creating a Culture of Distrust

As holistic-minded parents many of us are now familiar with the practice of "greenwashing" or efforts by a corporation to portray themselves publicly as eco-conscious and sustainable in order to better their bottom line. Equally deceptive is the practice of "pinkwashing". According to Breast Cancer Action, the founder of the "Think Before You Pink" campaign, a "pinkwasher" is "A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease." Among the outrageous examples of pinkwashing are corporations such as Estee Lauder and Promise Me perfume who display and distribute pink ribbons to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation and yet produce products that are toxic and hazardous, containing ingredients that themselves are contributing to rising cancer rates.

Particularly egregious are the actions of Eli Lilly, the sole manufacturer of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), an artificial growth hormone found in milk which has also been linked to breast cancer. Although rBGH is banned in many countries, here in the United States it is a profit-making enterprise. But even more alarming is that not only does Eli Lilly profit from the sales of rBGH but also from the sales of cancer drugs they produce used to treat women with breast cancer. In fact, "Eli Lilly’s cancer drugs made $2,683,000,000 for the company in 2008" according to Breast Cancer Action, inspiring their "Milking Cancer" campaign. (Fortunately, organic dairy products do not contain rBGH.)

These "washing" campaigns are intended to disillusion consumers and create a belief in corporate "caring" and "community" to build brand loyalty and, ultimately, to enrich one's bottom line. The consequence, however, is devastating for our entire business and commericial sector. What such practices have created is an alarming amount of corporate and organization distrust among consumers. My generation of parents are beyond skeptical. We have little or no faith in the claims made by corporations, organizations, and governments. We scorn advertising campaigns and corporate sponsored activities. We distrust ads and ties to companies. We shun institutions who align with brands and criticize magazines and even non-profit organizations for working hand-in-hand with businesses. And this culture of distrust leaves us so cynical that we have disengaged, become less participatory and more frustrated by the world around us.

While much of the distrust is well earned, there are many corporations and organizations out there doing good work. There are still islands of integrity and transparency. There are companies who are not "washed" but who are sincerely, ethically, green and sustainable. Yes, they need to earn money to survive. Yes, they have products to sell. But they are doing so with honesty and integrity. As parents we need to discover the resources to locate these companies, organizations, and individuals. We need to be wary but open to the fact that there are still people out there trying to make an honest living. And we need to support those companies and organizations - wholeheartedly - who are truly working in our best interests.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Scariest Part of Halloween

Boo! Halloween is just around the corner. If ghosts and goblins don't scare you, consider what is in your kids' treat bags. There are some pretty frightening things lurking among the colorful wrappers and packaging. Here are just a few to consider.

Top 5 scariest things about Halloween candy:

1. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) or “Corn Sugar”. Parents are wising up to the dangers of HFCS, so the Corn Refiners Association is working hard to rename HFCS “corn sugar” as it sounds a whole lot less scary that way. Don’t be fooled. HFCS is everywhere and has been linked to obesity, rising rates of type-2 diabetes, and hypertension. Not to mention that high levels of mercury have been detected in HFCS as well!

2. TBHQ. Thanks to
Out of the Box Food for bringing this one to our attention at this week’s #holisticmoms Twitter Party! TBHQ, or tertiary butylhydroquinone, is a form of butane that is added as a preservative to a variety of foods, including popular Halloween candies Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Nestle Crunch.

3. Artificial Colors and Flavorings. Unless you’re a carrot or a sweet potato, chances are bright Halloween orange is not your natural color. From candy corns to marshmallow pumpkins, artificial colorings such as Blues 1 and 2, Red 3, Green 3 and Yellow no. 5 are ever-present and have been banned in many countries because of their link to cancer. (
Yellow 5 is currently under review and many artificial yellows and oranges have been banned already.)

4. Hydrogenated Fats. Think you’re doing better handing out chips and crackers instead of sweets this year? You may have to think again. Hydrogenated fats in many products, including chips, crackers, and chocolate, have long been recognized as dangerous for their link to heart disease. More recent research also links these trans fats to rising cancer rates throughout the US.

5. Refined Sugar. Americans consume an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, and considerably more during our spooky and scary Halloween season! What's wrong with a little sugar? It not only ruins your teeth, but strips your body of vital nutrients and
can damage your immune system. And, of course, we all know what too much sugar does to our children’s moods and behaviors!

Want to see the worst Halloween candy offenders? Check out
this list from the Daily Beast. Looking for ways to have a healthier, more holistic Halloween? Try some of our Green Mama Tips!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October is . . .

Here at HMN, October is Holistic Living Month – a month-long celebration of natural living choices that reflect our connectedness to each other and the planet through a holistic philosophy.

While holistic has taken on many different connotations, the underlying philosophy of holistic living and parenting revolves around simple principles such as making informed choices, taking responsibility for our health, and understanding the idea of wholeness for health and well-being. Under this broad concept of holistic or natural living, lie many paths and many choices. So we were thrilled to discover that not only is October Holistic Living Month, but it is also the month chosen for Attachment Parenting Month, Fair Trade Month, and Non-GMO Month, among others. As our approach to all things involves a cooperative, integrative approach, we encourage you to celebrate all of these aspects of natural living all month long!

Attachment Parenting International, a non-profit organization “with a mission to educate and support all parents in raising secure, joyful, and empathic children in order to strengthen families and create a more compassionate world” embraces a holistic approach to living and parenting and calls on parents to celebrate play with this year’s Attachment Parenting Month. “Families at Play” encourages healthy social-emotional child development and healthy parent-child relationships for healthier communities. Through play, we can connect with our children and form the nurturing bonds so vital to parenting success.

Fair Trade is also about consciously making connections between the products we buy and fairness in our exchanges. What is fair trade? According to Fair Trade USA: “Fair Trade goods are just that. Fair. From far-away farms to your shopping cart, products that bear our logo come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated. We help farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities.” This month you can choose to support fair trade by making simple changes, like starting your day with a cup of fair trade coffee or giving out fair trade chocolate or reverse trick-or-treating this Halloween.

Non-GMO Month was created by the Non-GMO Project in 2010 as a platform for raising awareness on the GMO issue. Citizens and organizations across North America are waking up to the failure of GMO technology, and discovering the risks GMOs pose to our health, our families, and our planet. The genetic alteration of our food supply impacts our health, wellness, and the planet on many levels. This month you can embrace non-GMO products by discovering new non-GMO certified products or attending an event to raise awareness (such as our #holisticmoms Twitter Party tonight at 10 pm with the Non-GMO Project!).

October is filled with great opportunities to celebrate the many choices we make as parents to live healthier, more sustainable lifestyles. Join us all month long for great opportunities and information – visit http://www.holisticlivingmonth.com/ for details and actions!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Conquering Holistic Moms Myths

It has been a busy few weeks here at the Holistic Moms Network, culminating in the Natural Living Conference held on October 1st in Irvine, CA.The day was amazing. There is absolutely nothing like connecting and sharing, personally and collectively, to inspire and empower parents to choose a natural living path. And this year's event and speakers really helped to highlight some of the myths that we often encounter here at HMN. So, for the record, let's address a few of these:

  • Holistic Moms are too granola/crunchy/hippie. If you visit any Holistic Moms Network Chapter across the country, you will find a diverse group of moms and dads. The stereotype of the eco-conscious/holistic moms as "granola" is far too narrow for our group. So many of us are "the mom next door". We are regular moms, professional moms, at-home moms, fashionistas, farmers, soccer moms, and everything else under the sun. We come together because we are on a path to choose natural living options for ourselves and our families. Some of us have been on this journey for many years, some of us are brand new to making green and natural changes for our family. We are here to support the journey, whatever that is and wherever you are on it.

  • Holistic Moms are "perfect" green moms. What is perfect? We don't know. We've never seen it. Our moms have virtues and vices. They are green, and not so much. They eat healthy and indulge. We drink wheatgrass juice and too much coffee. We practice positive parenting but sometimes yell at our kids. There is no perfection here. We are all trying to do the best we can with what we have. Keynote Speaker Robyn O'Brien was a fabulous example of this. She was feeding her kids blue tubes of yogurt until her daughter had a dangerous allergic reaction. Then she started a whole new path of living that included natural foods. She doesn't consider herself a holistic mom, and yet she is passionate about real food and educating parents.

  • If you do X, Y, or Z you can't be a Holistic Mom. Really? Does one single choice opt you out of an entire lifestyle? We don't think so. And we're not here to judge. Every person has their own journey. Some will embrace green and holistic changes, others will pick and choose what works for them. We're not here to judge. We don't know your personal story or the circumstances that have led up to any of your choices or experiences. Holistic Moms is about support, community, and education. Making an informed choice doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. Know your options and do what works best for your family, for your lifestyle, for the planet.

HMN Celebrity Spokesmama and Keynote Speaker Mayim Bialik (pictured with HMN Conference Director Nina DeSanto) really hit it home during her talk when she talked about not judging each when we have not walked in another mom's shoes. We do not know the circumstances that lead to any choices of another mom, so it's not our place to judge. It is our place to offer compassionate support and encouragement. We all know that parenting is hard work. We also know that being connected makes it easier. Support can make all the difference and that's what the Holistic Moms Network is all about at its core.

Don't let myths prevent you from connecting with our growing community. Especially this month,
Holistic Living Month, you can join and celebrate with us all month long. Take advantage of our special membership rate in October (save $10 with promo code HLM11) and discover other parents who are sharing the natural living journey!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mom Energy

Hey Holistic Moms! Want Energy???

Today, whether it’s food, supplements, or holistic practices, moms everywhere are clamoring for more energy to get done what they need to in a day. But is this pursuit one that will help achieve optimal health? No.

Behold, Mom Energy:A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged (Hay House 9/2011), which seeks to explore the differences between more energy and better energy (the latter providing the path to optimal health). Like the airplane safety speech, we have to put on our own oxygen masks before putting on anyone else’s and Mom Energy is your oxygen mask.

Join Ashley Koff on the Holistic Mom’s Network Facebook wall Monday night 10/3 at 8pm EST to answer your Mom Energy questions.

Comment below about your need for energy before, during or after the chat on the Holistic Moms Network Facebook Page wall (https://www.facebook.com/HolisticMomsNetwork) on Monday night. Two winners will be announced on Tuesday to receive Mom Energy!

Congratulations to Chakra angel and Kase's Mom - you are our winners! Please email us your name and mailing address so that we can send you each a copy of Mom Energy. Email info[at]holisticmoms[dot]org.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What is Holistic Parenting?

What pops into your mind when you hear "holistic parent"? Granola? Hippie? Treehugger? Radical? Or something else?

Defining holistic parenting is no easy task. At the Holistic Moms Network, no stereotypes apply. Sure, some of us like tie-dye and Birkenstocks. But most of us look just like you. We're not so radical or different. You can find us eating fast food, shopping at the mall, and drinking coffee with friends. You can also find us growing organic gardens, recycling, and homeschooling our children. Maybe. Maybe not. There is no one definition for holistic parenting but more a philosophy and outlook on how we would like to live and raise our children. As Dr. Linda Folden Palmer explains in her recent article Growing a Holistic Parent,

"We’re all reading and discussing, learning and experimenting, and we’re all making choices, eliminating other choices, and putting some on the back-burner. Most of us have observed that mainstream, industry-promoted practices may not always be optimal for our collective health and planet preservation, while some simply crave a more instinctual and harmonious experience."

At our core, we are about "actively pursuing information and making purposeful decisions about how we engage with our bodies, our families and our world," explains HMN Chapter Leader Meredith Barth in the latest issue of The Wise Mom, the member magazine of the Holistic Moms Network. Holistic parenting is a journey for all of us. We make take different paths and make different choices, but we are headed in the same direction and we benefit from the company and support of others along the way. We teach each other, empower each other, and join our voices to make a difference.

We invite you to share in this issue of The Wise Mom and to explore holistic parenting for yourself. Join us, no matter where you are on your holistic parenting journey, and discover the beauty of connecting through community as you travel your parenting path.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Attachment Parent the Parents, Please

The following guest post is contributed by Dr. Linda Folden Palmer, author of The Baby Bond and HMN Advisory Board Member.

I occasionally come across highly judgmental sometimes even cruel comments toward one parenting choice of some “otherwise” wonderful mom.

I deeply believe that all of us mothers, trying to do our best with what needs, customs, and resources we have behind us, need to lovingly attachment parent each other too, and we can learn valuable things from every other mom on the planet. Many aspects of holistic parenting are controversial, but just as we need to put ourselves in another frame of mind when our little one does something rather evil-looking, we need to put ourselves into the frame that conventional parenting practices come from, rather than focusing so much on opposition. For example, the breast/bottle issue can become such a flammable, violent war at times but that polar attitude helps no one. We get so caught-up in promoting a cause today, that we totally forget our shared humanity.

Whatever your particular passion or cause as a holistic parent, I think it will take decades of gentle, loving tolerance and education to gradually create change in our country and the world. I believe that modeling is often the most powerful action we can engage. For example, after finding solace in an attachment parenting playgroup when my boy was little, I continued participating in the mainstream playgroup I was already involved in. I encountered many questions, looks, and comments there about my breastfeeding and non-vaxing, among other things. I would try to insert a very occasional educational response while mostly just smiling and going on with my own ways. I was pleasantly surprised to see maybe a 50% increase overall in the group breastfeeding as second babies came around. I didn't know much about the rest of their practices but I learned how effective teaching through gentle example could be. I also learned so much from all of those moms.

We know that any harsh negative attitudes toward us as children left lasting lessons that produced very different results from what was likely desired. Let’s remember this same thing as we co-parent the world’s children. Let’s attachment parent all other parents — give other parents a break, a thumbs-up, and warm acceptance for their efforts while we teach quietly through gentle example what we feel will work best for our children.

Linda Folden Palmer is a doctor of chiropractic, a consultant and speaker on pediatric nutrition and natural parenting challenges, a science writer, and a mother. She’s the author of Baby Matters, and the updated and embellished version, The Baby Bond, The New Science Behind What’s Really Important When Caring for Your Baby. She left her chiropractic practice shortly after the birth of her son, when she was confronted with his serious health challenges. For her son’s sake, she delved deeply into the scientific and medical literature to find answers – which led to further questions and some astonishing realizations and finally to her book. With 1,200 science journal references, The Baby Bond brings the solid evidence that supports natural parenting practices. Learn more at her website at www.thebabybond.com for more natural parenting information.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Value of Community in Crises

Here in the Northeast, Hurricane Irene wrecked havoc in many local communities. Families, neighbors, and local businesses have been destroyed by floods and high winds, many still without power.

Crises like this reveal the true beauty and power of community and connection. At these times we rise up together and lend a hand. We feel each other's pain, are grateful for what we have not lost, and find the time - and the drive - to help. But then, sadly, we retreat into our inner circles and forget the power of what we can create together.

One of our biggest challenges - and frustrations - here at the Holistic Moms Network is that we are all about building community. We understand how valuable community is, not only in crisis, but every single day. We recognize the power of connection, the energy behind being supported, and the difference that we can make collectively. We believe that communities are what make our culture successful - and that apathy and a lack of participation is what destroys it. And we see far too much of the latter. Online communities don't cut it. Facebook friends can't help you bail out your basement, remove the tree from your roof, or give you a safe place to stay in a storm. Virtual forums can't give you a hug, watch your kids while you clean up a mess, or cook you a hot meal in your time of need.

Real people can. Real communities can. And some of our proudest moments come during these times. Whether in illness or injury, or a life-changing event like having a new baby, Holistic Moms communities rise up to support their members. Many of our Chapters deliver meals and supplies to local member families during these times - give real support and meet critical needs. Our members encourage each other through the rough times - the sleepless nights, the breastfeeding challenges, the teen rebellions. And we work together to make widespread changes by supporting companies who share our mission, by empowering one another to make positive choices, and by sharing our experience and wisdom about how to live healthier and greener.

But overcoming apathy is an uphill battle. Constantly encouraging people to participate, to get involved, and to be active is not always easy. We are so insular in our daily lives that we forget how wonderful it is to have that group connection - not only when a crisis hits, but even in the good times. A simple conversation, a shared experience, or a helping hand can make the difference. Be part of it, in real life, in real time, every day. Find the time, create the opportunity, and be part of a community. Feed your soul, help another, and make a difference. It's up to you. If we all stop participating, we have no one but ourselves to blame when the communities we depend upon no longer exist.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Building a Sustainable Future

Due to a labor dispute, the Holistic Moms Network had to relocate our 2011 Natural Living Conference, on short notice, as described by Mothering Magazine founder and publisher, Peggy O'Mara in her recent editorial. Here, Emily E. LB. Twarog, Ph.D., a UNITE HERE member and fellow holistic mom, shares her guest post about supporting working-class mothers.

This month the Holistic Moms Network took a huge step in support of working-class mothers that could ultimately mean the financial ruin of the organization. They moved their Natural Living Conference from a boycotted hotel (the Hilton Long Beach) to the Irvine Marriott. In 2008, the workers at the Hilton Long Beach signed union cards and joined UNITE HERE Local 11, the union that represents workers in the hospitality industry in the U.S. and Canada. With poverty level wages (average yearly income of Long Beach hospitality workers is $19,000), a high cost of living (housing for Long Beach area hotel workers average 57.54% of their income), and limited access to affordable healthcare, the workers at the Hilton Long Beach believe that by joining a union their standard of living will significantly improve as they transform poverty jobs into middle-class jobs through collective bargaining.

Does this sound like an overstatement to you?

For me and many of my coworkers, it was reality. In 2002, I got a job as a waitress at an upscale hotel in downtown Chicago to support myself while I returned to graduate school. I joined the union – UNITE HERE Local 1. But our union contract was weak. Compared to other cities like New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and San Francisco, we made only a fraction of their wages and paid much more for health insurance. Under new union leadership, the members of Local 1 organized a citywide campaign to increase our wages and lower the cost of health insurance. And, we won. Almost overnight, hotel workers throughout Chicago saw the quality of their lives improve. For me, it meant that when I had my first son, I was paid short-term disability leave during the three months I stayed home after his birth. When I returned to work, I was able to demand time and space to pump so that I could continue to breastfeed my son. And, with contract language that required management to provide a regular work schedule, I was not scrambling to find childcare like so many other working mothers.

But for workers at the Hilton Long Beach this is not the case. In a survey conducted by the union, in one hotel 38% of the workers have used some form of public assistance, 39% did not have health insurance, and 24 % worked in more than one job. In fact, Long Beach residents experience two very different realities. For service workers like hotel workers, it is a reality filled with financial insecurity, housing shortages, and reliance on public aid.

Does this sound like a sustainable future to you?

The mission of the HMN is “to build a healthier and more sustainable future.” By respecting the boycott and supporting the workers at the Hilton Long Beach, HMN has done exactly that! What are you going to do? How are you going to build a sustainable future? Without your support, HMN will loose thousands of dollars because of their commitment to this mission, consider donating to HMN to help offset this loss. And, please respect hotel workers by not patronizing boycotted hotels. Next time you plan your trip, go to UNITE HERE’s hotel guide to see which hotels are keeping us from building a sustainable future.

Emily E. LB. Twarog lives in Chicago. She is a professor at the University of Illinois's School of Labor and Employment Relations, a union member, and a committed holistic mother of two very busy boys.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Unhealthy Food

According to GMO Compass, one in five people believe they suffer from a food allergy/intolerance. Rates of Celiac Disease,an intolerance of gluten, has been on the rise. "Since 1974, in the U.S., the incidence of the disorder has doubled every 15 years. Using blood samples from more than 3,500 adults, the researchers found that the number of people with blood markers for celiac disease increased steadily from one in 501 in 1974 to one in 219 in 1989. In 2003, a widely cited study conducted by the celiac research center placed the number of people with celiac disease in the U.S. at one in 133," according to Science Blog. The rate of childhood peanut allergies has also more than tripled since 1997, according to Science Daily.

What is going on? It's not an easy question to answer but more and more researchers are wondering about what is happening to the safety of our food supply. One such researcher is mom and activist, Robyn O'Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truth. A Houston native from a conservative family, this MBA and married mother of four was not someone who gave much thought to what went on inside government agencies or about the additives and chemicals in our food. Until the day her youngest daughter had a violent allergic reaction to eggs, and everything changed. Robyn explains in her book:

"The more I learned, the more overwhelming the problem came to seem. I was stunned at how prevalent food allergies had become in the last ten years - at least one out of every seventeen children under the age of three suffers from them, more than double the number a decade ago. I was even more shocked to realize how little information there was about this rapidly growing condition and to discover corporations with vested interests in the issue were funding - and skewing - what little research was being done. It floored me to learn that the system that was supposed to guarantee us and our families safe, healthy food had broken down a long time ago and had been replaced by a revolving door between the FDA and the very corporations that it's supposed to regulate. In the course of my journey, I've learned a lot. I've discovered that one out of every three U.S. kids currently suffers from allergies, asthma, ADHD, or autism and that the number of children with peanut allergies actually doubled between 1997 and 2002."

What causes these allergies? Proteins in foods that are not recognized by the body are a fundamental cause for allergic reactions. Some have theorized that the increasing genetic modification of our food supply may be a contributing factor - and that allergies will continue to increase in record numbers as these techno-foods flood our supermarkets. According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, soon after GM soy was introduced. In fact, cooked GM soy contains as much as 7-times the amount of a known soy allergen.

We all need to learn more about GMOs and how they are impacting our health and the health of our children. We are honored to have Robyn O'Brien as a speaker at the 2011 Natural Living Conference coming up on October 1st in Irvine, CA. We will also have representatives from the Institute for Responsible Technology and Label GMOs on-hand to help answer questions for parents. Join us to learn more and to show your support for food safety!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Today I Feel Lonely

Just this week we posted a simple status on our Facebook page asking: Today, I am feeling so ________________ !

What caught my attention was how many fellow mamas were exhausted, stressed, and lonely. Having children is joyful – an experience of unparalleled change and love. But the side of motherhood we don’t talk about is the one that rocks our world. The one that turns us inside out, filled with confusion and frustration. The side that leaves us exhausted, depleted, and alone. And it’s time we stopped hiding it.

Motherhood isn’t always joyful. It can be overwhelming and disorienting. For many of us, motherhood is one of many life ambitions we have but when we get there, we lose ourselves. We lose our professional identities, our personal time, and our social connections. We feel alienated within the walls of our homes, struggling with little or big challenges, like sleep, showering, and eating. We love and adore our children – we carry them and wear them, breastfeed them and cuddle them – and then we feel guilty for wanting some space and needing “me” time. So we forge ahead and often let ourselves fall by the wayside.

And we believe that we are the only ones in the world who feel this way. We wonder why other moms seem to be managing so beautifully, with such ease and grace. We wish we could do better, feel better, be better. We beat ourselves up. We shut down. And we feel tired, depleted, and alone.

And this is exactly why we need support. This is what community is all about. Real community. Connecting with others who understand our journey. Who can walk in our shoes – even a for a little while. We can spend hours on discussion forums, poring over Facebook statuses, or Tweeting our dilemmas, and sometimes that helps. But we don’t feel that surge of energy, share a laugh, cry or hug, or feel empowered without personal connection. We can watch girlfriends getting together for coffee on TV, but it’s not nearly as fulfilling as doing it ourselves. Even for a moment, an hour, a few hours – personal connection feels good. It can inspire us for days to feel better about ourselves and our parenting. We can be assured that we are “normal” and that the challenges we have are not unique. We can enjoy the company of another adult, some mom-to-mom conversation, and a shift in our routine. And it fills us up.

Whatever your community - whether Holistic Moms or another moms group – value and treasure it. Participate and be active – find the support and connection that can get you through the hard times, as well as rejoice with you through the happy ones. It is so easy to feel lonely in this digital age and so hard to remember the power of personal engagement. Finding your way to connection and community is that HMN is all about. We wish all mothers could feel empowered and connected each and every day.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mom Bloggers: A Chance to Win!

The annual Natural Living Conference of the Holistic Moms Network is rapidly approaching! This is the first year we have taken the event to the West Coast - to Irvine, CA to be more specific - and if you have never attended, you will want to! The event is packed with amazing Keynote Speakers, workshops, holistic living resources from Holistic Moms Network Sponsors and Exhibitors, plus hundreds of moms and dads who are passionate about holistic living. The one day event will give you plenty to blog about and now you have an opportunity to win a free admission!

We’re giving away TWO FREE ADMISSIONS to the Natural Living Conference!

Follow the contest rules listed below and blog about the upcoming Natural Living Conference, highlighting any of the interesting topics being featured, our speakers, workshops, and more! When your blog post is live, fill out the form with your blog link and upon verification, you’ll be entered for a chance to win!

All blogs will be listed (with link) on the Holistic Moms Network website (a great way to share your blog, too!!!) in the order in which they’re entered.

Two blog posts will be chosen at random from all eligible entries to win one free admission to the 2011 Natural Living Conference. Visit our website at the following link for details:


We've even got topic ideas, images, and more that you can use!

Don’t have a blog yet? Now is a great time to get started! You can even blog live from the Conference if you're a winner!

Not a blogger? You can register for the Natural Living Conference online (use code 15OFF from Aug 15-17th to save $15 off registration, too!).

Thursday, August 4, 2011

#BigBFParty: Tweeting About Support - Press Release

Founding sponsor Holistic Moms Network, along with co-sponsors Motherlove Herbal Company, The Leaky Boob, The Willow Store, Bamboobies, Hygeia, PumpEase, Best for Babes, and Mama Pear Designs announced today the success of the World’s Largest Breastfeeding Twitter Party, which took place on August 2nd, at 10 pm EST, hashtag #BigBFParty.

"Our intent in hosting the party was to highlight how important support and community are for breastfeeding success," said Dr. Nancy Massotto, Ph.D., founder of Holistic Moms Network. "Together with our co-sponsors, we hosted what we believe is the largest Twitter party ever about breastfeeding. We look forward to doing it again next year and including even more parents and breastfeeding supporters."

The party, held for one hour during World Breastfeeding Week (www.worldbreastfeedingweek.org), included 562 participants and generated 5.6 million impressions. Participants answered the question, "I support breastfeeding because…" and talked as a group about sources of support and why finding a community is vital to meeting breastfeeding goals. In the 24 hours surrounding the party, over 760 participants generated almost 8 million impressions.

World Breastfeeding Week (www.worldbreastfeedingweek.org) is celebrated the first week of August in more than 170 countries worldwide. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), founder of World Breastfeeding Week, is a global network of individuals and organisations concerned with the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding worldwide. WABA action is based on the Innocenti Declaration, the Ten Links for Nurturing the Future and the Global Strategy for Infant & Young Child Feeding. Its core partners are IBFAN, LLLI, ILCA, Wellstart International and ABM. Find out more at the WABA website.

"Communities that support breastfeeding are everywhere," said Massotto “but new moms and moms who are struggling can have trouble reaching out or finding the right specialized support. Social media and online communities have stepped in to fill the need for 24/7 encouragement and information, but also vital are in-person opportunities to meet with like-minded parents."

About the Holistic Moms Network:

The Holistic Moms Network is a national, membership-based and managed, non-profit organization with more than 100 chapters across the US and Canada. The organization is headquartered in Caldwell, New Jersey and launched its first chapter in 2003 in Essex County, NJ. The purpose of the Holistic Moms Network is to provide awareness, education, and support for holistic parenting and to offer a nurturing, open-minded and respectful community for parents to share these ideals. Members’ interests include: natural health and wellness, nutrition and organic whole foods, integrative/alternative medicine, natural childbirth and breastfeeding, positive parenting, and non-toxic, eco-friendly living. Members can participate in educational meetings, local playgroups, and social events in local chapters across the United States. For more information, please visit: www.holisticmoms.org or contact HMN at 877-HOL-MOMS.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Support: The Missing Link

The Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) 2010 Breastfeeding Report Card is out. There are wonderful tidbits of good news to be had - 3 out of 4 American mothers now start out breastfeeding and "more babies in the United States are now born at Baby-Friendly™ facilities than ever before." But - and there are more than a few "buts" here - breastfeeding rates by 6 to 12 months are low and stagnant and even though more births are at Baby-Friendly™ facilities, these still account for less than 4% of all births.

And here is one of the most important keys:

"High breastfeeding initiation rates show that most mothers in the United States want to breastfeed and are trying to do so. However, even from the very start, mothers may not be getting the breastfeeding support they need. "

Mothers need support. Real life, personal, interactive, connective support. Parenting is intense. Breastfeeding isn't always easy. And nothing you read or hear is as critical to breastfeeding as being surrounded by support. Having a spouse or partner who is a champion of breastfeeding is essential and amazing, but if there is no community, if there are no other mothers who can share your breastfeeding bootcamp stories with, if there aren't others who can show you, help you, and "get" you and your challenges, it doesn't stick.

Support comes in many forms and from many different outlets. And breastfeeding has more than a few champions. They are out there, but not necessarily where new moms are looking or where they can be found. From local networks to national organizations, the resources are plentiful but disconnected.

The Holistic Moms Network is, at our core, all about support. Whatever choices a mother makes and whatever her parenting journey, we believe moms need and deserve support along the way. Being a Holistic Mom is not about being perfect and is not without its challenges, but it is about making natural, healthy, and sustainable choices for yourself and for your family. Having a supportive community around you is the key to empowering mothers to make these choices and that is how and why the Holistic Moms Network was formed.

We agree with the CDC that many mothers want to breastfeed their babes but lack the support to continue through the challenges or uncertainties. We want to connect mothers with the resources that are out there and that can help them achieve their breastfeeding goals. That is why we are organizing what we hope will be the World's Biggest Breastfeeding Twitter Party on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011, 10 pm Eastern. We are inviting moms, breastfeeding supporters, organizations, companies, and everyone who advocates breastfeeding to join us and highlight all the offerings of the breastfeeding community.

We hope this opportunity will highlight the value of support and connect mothers with the resources they need. To join us, visit our Facebook page at:


You may be asking yourself: How do I attend a Twitter party?

Well, you’ve come to the right place for answers!

What is a Twitter Party?

A Twitter party is a gathering of individuals on Twitter who follow a single conversation or subject using something called a hashtag.

Where do I start?

Begin by setting up an account at Twitter. Once you’re up and running, you’re ready to join in the fun!

How to Attend a Twitter Party

Refreshing your home page at Twitter.com just won’t cut it… Twitter parties go fast — and can be hard to follow when there are many people chatting all at once! We recommend using TweetChat for party participation – we think it is the most useful and user friendly application we’ve found so far. When you get to TweetChat, you add the hashtag for the party you’ll be attending (#BigBFParty) at the top and then follow the prompts to connect to your Twitter user name.

The benefit of TweetChat is that you can keep an eye on every post with the #BigBFParty hashtag and scroll up and down to go back to see what you may have missed (when it scrolls fast!) and when you post through TweetChat, it puts the #BigBFParty hashtag in for you so you can type your tweet and it’ll remember to add #BigBFParty for you! As you type your tweet, there is a gray box telling you how many characters you’ve used. If your tweet gets too long… the box will turn red — alerting you that you’ll need to shorten it before sending.

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is the # sign. The hashtag for this party is #BigBFParty. Whenever you tweet during the World's Biggest Breastfeeding Twitter Party to ask a question, make a comment, or participate in a prize giveaway, simply add #BigBFParty at the beginning or end of your tweet. Remember, if you’re using TweetChat it adds the hashtag for you!

Why do we use hashtags?

Hashtags allow Twitter and other applications to sort and bring together all tweets that are intended to be shared within the framework of the party or theme. A hashtag can be used any time, not just during a Twitter party, so your tweet will be seen by people who are searching for that phrase.

How do I win Twitter party prizes?

Because this will be such a huge party, we’re doing things a little different. If you want to win a prize, share information about support organizations or receive information about anything we talk about during the party, we’ll have a special link for you. Go and fill in the blanks, and give us a little info so we can send your prize or any info you request. We will not email you except by specific instruction from you.

Remember: You only have 140 characters to use! Keep it short and sweet.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Community is Vital to Breastfeeding. Period.

Although breastfeeding is absolutely natural and “normal”, I have yet to meet a mother who has had a completely uneventful, challenge-free breastfeeding experience – at least the first time around. Many successfully persist through the challenges, others find them too hard to surmount. And, some don't even try because the obstacles are too great.

What is consistent in all the stories I hear is the one thing that can make or break a breastfeeding relationship. It's not a product of any kind. It’s support. Finding your tribe. Getting an encouraging word. Receiving information from someone who cares. Sometimes it’s a hug, a casserole, or just empathy. That's what really matters – and what makes all the difference.

The potential for support is huge. There are non-profit organizations, support groups, consultants, authors, websites, and entire companies whose mission and purpose is dedicated to breastfeeding success. Of course, they each have their own passions, their own visions of what is “right” or “correct”, and they each serve mothers in their own unique ways. And, they don’t all necessarily all agree – or get along. But the potential to find support, to connect, and to gather resources to make your breastfeeding experience more successful for you and your baby is enormous.

To a new mother who is feeling alone and isolated, the breadth and depth of these resources isn’t always so evident. That's why, in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, the Holistic Moms Network is inviting everyone who supports breastfeeding to come together to highlight these resources. We want to showcase all the enthusiasm, passion, and resources available for moms – and dads. Support is the foundation for who we are as an organization. It is our mission to connect moms who need support on whatever issue they are facing as a parent, and especially to help them discover natural and holistic options. We believe that community is vital to breastfeeding success, whether your tribe is large or small, and whatever your breastfeeding goal.

Our goal is to host the World's Largest Breastfeeding Twitter Party during World Breastfeeding Week. Our event is planned for Tuesday, August 2nd, at 10 pm EST at hashtag #BigBFParty or #holisticmoms. Together with our co-hosts Motherlove Herbal Company, The Leaky Boob, Mama Pear Designs, Bamboobies, The Willow Store, Best for Babes, and other breastfeeding support organizations and companies, we invite everyone in the breastfeeding community (past and present) to join us in showing how much support is available.

Join the Facebook page to find out more information and ask questions:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Celebrating Community: 10,000 Strong on Facebook

Social networking has transformed our culture. Everyone, it seems, is buzzing on Facebook, chatting on Twitter, and linking in on any number of other websites, forums, and social networking sites.

At the Holistic Moms Network, we are thrilled to have attained a new level of interaction with more than 10,000 fans now connecting through our Facebook page. We are excited and honored to have so many people interacting through our page and finding a virtual community for holistic-minded parents.

At our core the Holistic Moms Network is about community building. We use virtual tools and see great value in them, but also think that there is a cultural shift that is pulling us further apart in real life. Social networking sites are great for reconnecting with people from our past and for staying in touch with those far away, as many have suggested, but paradoxically it can turn our friendships into screentime and pull us away from valuable face-to-face, in real life connections.

Additional challenges of virtual communities are permanency and trust. Virtual communities are transient and often short-lived. People come and go and communities themselves can easily dissolve. It is also difficult to grasp the true nature of a person, community, or organization simply by exploring their online presence. Innately we can often sense whether a person is trustworthy or not in a personal meeting, whether we align with them or our energies clash, simply by sensing their cues (consciously and unconsciously). It is easy for people (and companies) to misrepresent themselves online but not so much face-to-face. And a friend can say "I'm just fine" on Facebook, although the look their eyes or their facial expression can tell another story.

For parents, real life connections are invaluable. For many moms the journey to motherhood is disorienting and alienating. Going from a professional job outside the home to being an at-home parent changes everything, including your social interactions. The people you chat with at the coffee shop on the way to work, co-workers and others are suddenly operating in a different world. Finding a new social network - and one that embraces children - is essential on so many levels. For moms and dads who choose natural parenting, this can be a difficult task. Finding others who understand your choices and being able to see another parent breastfeeding, babywearing, buying organic foods, or seeking out non-toxic household products gives you a wealth of information and a sense of empowerment that you cannot always achieve by virtual connection.

Of course, virtual connections means you can expand your social circle and can raise awareness and build support for great causes in numbers that you could not do in real life. For this reason, social networking is a fabulous tool for building communities like the Holistic Moms Network, both locally and nationally. But we see it as just one component of a growing community - one that you can be part of locally, in real life, and grow with on many levels.

So to honor our new milestone of 10,000 Facebook fans, we want to offer everyone an opportunity to join the Holistic Moms Network community and reach out in real life to other parents and caregivers, locally, face-to-face, and virtually. In honor of this opportunity, we're offering a huge discount off our annual membership fee (nearly 25% off!) for ONE DAY ONLY on Tuesday, July 12th, 2011. From 12:01 am to 11:59 pm EST tomorrow, July 12th, you can join HMN (or renew your membership) for just $35 per year and connect with parents in your area, in real life and online, and find vital support for your parenting journey. Just use Coupon Code HMNFB10 to join or renew.

PLUS: One new or renewing member who signs up tomorrow (Tuesday, July 12th) will randomly be chosen to win a set of HMN's two cookbooks (one each) and one of our Holistic Moms Network organic cotton aprons to inspire your inner chef!

We want to thank all of our Facebook fans and supporters for helping us grow! As a 501(c)(3) non-profit community, every supporter, every voice, and every member matters!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sorry, Tom, But I'm Not Happy

It's summertime. That means hot, outdoors, and sweaty. And it means deodorant if we'd like our summer to be social. So, out on the road I needed some deodorant and found myself in a mainstream pharmacy looking for something "natural". My best option? Tom's of Maine. In a rush, with two impatient children awaiting our trip I grabbed it and ran. How bad could it be?

Then my armpits turned bright pink and started to peel. Yes, peel. No sunburn there so I decided it was time to look at the ingredients in the deodorant I picked up. The very first ingredient: propylene glycol. Hmmm. That could be it.

So what do we know about propylene glycol? Propylene glycol PG) is a chemical that is commonly used in coolants and de-icing solutions for cars, airplanes, and boats. According to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), "Hazardous in case of ingestion. Slightly hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant, permeator), of eye contact (irritant), of inhalation." Funny, in my world deodorant is actually applied to the skin. What to do in case of accidental skin contact? According to the MSDS "Skin Contact: In case of contact, immediately flush skin with plenty of water. Cover the irritated skin with an emollient. Remove contaminated clothing and shoes. Cold water may be used.Wash clothing before reuse. Thoroughly clean shoes before reuse. Get medical attention." While propylene glycol is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by government officials, high levels of exposure have been linked to seizures and cardiac arrythmia in infants. Breathing propylene glycol ethers in paint have also correlated with higher rates of asthma and eczema among children.

So perhaps my Tom's of Maine Deodorant needs to come with a warning label? I guess that couldn't fit on the product. Instead what I found was some great marketing. Their label asks "What makes a product good?" In their book, no animal testing, no artificial colors, and sustainable practices are among the great reasons why their products are "good". Although PG is considered to be relatively non-toxic in the environment, the USDA's own studies show that PG vapors may be toxic to corn and soybean plants. And while the risk levels are touted as safe by the chemical industry and government, many of the environmental watchdogs have chimed in on the dangers of PG and possible alternatives.

I applaud Tom's of Maine for their efforts and their cited commitment to "natural" (albeit an unregulated term) products, sustainability, and their support of environmental causes and of their employees' volunteer efforts. But let's raise the bar a bit here and make products that shouldn't need a warning table and truly reflect a commitment to safety and eco-conscious living.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Iron and Fatigue

Fatigue and motherhood go together like cookies and milk. Whether you have a newborn or a teen, it seems keeping up with our kids and sleepless nights are common fodder for mom-to-mom conversations. But fatigue can come from a wide variety of sources and one that we often overlook is iron deficiency. Just this week the Holistic Moms Network hosted a Twitter Party with one of our new Sponsors, Floradix, and the information shared bears repeating.

An estimated 26% of women or 7.8 million women between the ages of 15 and 45 are iron deficient. The symptoms sound familiar to mamas: "fatigue, decreased ability to concentrate, decreased endurance during exercise, increased frequency of infection, paleness, dark circles under the eyes, brittle hair and nails, and cold hands and feet." The demands of pregnancy and nursing exacerbate iron deficiency for many parents. According to Dr. Cathy Carlson-Rink, a licensed naturopathic physician and registered midwife, “Many women enter pregnancy with low iron stores and, in fact, it is estimated that only one in five women enter a pregnancy with adequate iron levels. And since it can take up to six months to replenish low iron stores, I recommend regular low dose iron supplementation in the childbearing years to ensure that iron levels are adequate around the time a pregnancy is planned.”

Even long before starting a family, many young women suffer from iron deficiency. Adolescents are at risk for iron deficiency due to rapid growth rates, the onset of menses, and other factors including the certain birth control options. According to a 2001 study, three-quarters of adolescent girls do not reach daily dietary requirements for iron. Building iron stores early can help alleviate some of the common symptoms of iron deficiency and may help with learning and the ability to concentrate.

Dietary iron sources include meat, fish and poultry, lentils, dried beans, grain products, vegetables, dried fruit, and molasses. Unfortunately, a number of foods can also interfere with the absorption of iron in the body, including dairy products, some cereals, and a motherhood staple - coffee. Flora also manufactures as popular natural liquid iron supplement, Floradix, that has been shown to rapidly increase ferritin levels within a short period of supplementation. For young women suffering from fatigue, a simple blood test that includes ferritin levels can be a valuable tool to identifying iron deficiency.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Making the Connection: Food and Behavior

As a population, we have a glaring blind spot when it comes to food. We don't want to know what's in it, where it comes from, or how it affects us. We just want to enjoy it. Or we want convenience.

Yes, the real food movement is growing. But in places where you might expect the greatest change, the progress is slower than molasses. It has always been baffling to me why schools are not the first ones to embrace positive dietary changes. I have not personally taught young children, only college, but I have heard many teachers lament the post-lunch hyperactivity or drag of their classes. At what point do we start to open our eyes and understand that what we eat affects not only our health but how we behave? And that the foods our children eat impact how well they can learn and how their actions are judged by their teachers and peers?

Although I am an avid fan of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, every episode shocks me. It's less startling to me to learn what's in our food and our schools, and more shocking to see the lack of interest from the school systems and administrators - and sometimes even the parents. My younger son's end of the year school picnic was last week and parents joined our little ones for some fun in park. Kids brought their own lunches from home and there we were at snack time with green Jell-o, goldfish crackers, and gummies. All packed from home. And to add fuel to the fire, this was a special needs program. While the children have many diagnoses, they are developmentally delayed, on the autism spectrum, and many have ADHD. Research has shown, time and again, the links between diet and learning, behavior or health impacts for sensitive people.

The Feingold Association, founded 35 years ago, is "dedicated to helping children and adults apply proven dietary techniques for better behavior, learning and health, and to generating public awareness of the potential role of foods and synthetic additives in behavior, learning and health problems." Their success has been remarkable on many levels, simply by teaching parents how to avoid food additives that may contribute to their child's ADHD, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, asthma, and more. Taking it a step further, Time Magazine published a story in 2010 showing that even minimal exposure to pesticides in foods can increase the odds of developing ADHD. While the study is not indicative of causation, there is good reason for additional research on organophosphates, which "are known to cause damage to the nerve connections in the brain — that's how they kill agricultural pests, after all. The chemical works by disrupting a specific neurotransmitter, acetylcholinesterase, a defect that has been implicated in children diagnosed with ADHD."

But we don't want to know. Our kids "only like" X, Y, and Z. Or we trust in the powers that be who are charged with making sure our food supply is safe. Dietary changes aren't always easy. But neither is hyperactivity or ADHD. Real food makes a real difference. We need to begin with the recognition of a connection and an acknowledgement of the challenge before us. But until we take that first step and break through our blind spots, we continue to create even more difficulties for ourselves and our families.

We are also honored to have Trudy Scott as a Workshop Speaker at our 2011 Natural Living Conference, a food and mood expert focusing on women's health. We hope you can join us!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Starting Fresh - and Delicious!

Banana, pineapple, and avocado pudding. Roasted golden beets with quinoa and feta. Ginger chicken with coconut. This is definitely not your mother's baby food. But what else would you expect from chef, Food Network star, cookbook author, and Sprout Organic Baby Food co-founder Tyler Florence?

Dad Tyler has just released his new cookbook, Start Fresh: Your Child's Jump Start to Lifelong Healthy Eating. His commitment to real, healthy food for kids (his and yours) is evident through Sprout Organic Baby Food, a Sponsor of the Holistic Moms Network, whose gourmet flavors and upcycled packaging are just what green and healthy moms are looking for when you don't have time to make your own. But when you do, this fabulous new cookbook is just the ticket to a delicious and healthy food experience.

"As parents, we are bombarded by marketing intent on convincing us that we don't know how to feed our children," writes Tyler Florence in his new book. "Food producers would have us believe that the Big 5 (pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, french fries, and burgers) are the only things kids will eat, and that chicken nuggets pressed itno the shape of a dinosaur are a healthy part of a meal. It's insulting." Amen! Real kids will eat real food and treating them to some of these delicious creations is a great way to get the ball rolling.

But Start Fresh is not just about tasty baby food. Recipes in the Toddler section include great family meals such as Roast Turkey with Sweet Potato, Brown Rice, and Cranberries and Maple Roasted Pork Chops with Butternut Squash and Beets that will satify mom or dad, while also making delicious purees or chopped meals for the kids. Stage 4 brings Everyone to the Table with Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese, Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, and an original, fun savory cupcake dish of Barbeque Turkey Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Potato Frosting.

Navigating the road to starting solids can be confusing. This great book will give you some inspiration. Holistic Moms can help give you support! Connect with your Local Chapter and share your story with other holistic moms and dads - discover what worked, how to keep your milk supply up, or how to deal with food allergies.

This is a cookbook you won't want to miss and Holistic Moms is giving away THREE autographed copies to some lucky winners! You can be entered into our random drawing by posting a comment on this blog. Tell us what was your child's/children's first food and his/her/their favorite food(s) now. Leave your comment and we'll pick three winners on June 15th!