Monday, February 24, 2014

How to Use a Neti Pot (Video)

Do you suffer from seasonal allergies? Sick of buying allergy medication? Give the Neti pot a try!  I've been using a Neti pot for several years now and before I started using it I was on several prescription allergy medications. Fed up with the feeling of dependence on prescription medication, I went in search of some natural alternatives...one of those being a Neti pot.


A tea pot? What did you say? I know it's strange right? Even stranger is what you do with it...pour water in one nostril and have it come out on the other side. Just lovely. But the concept is simple, by "washing out our nostrils" at least once a day, we are able to remove dust, allergens, and other environmental irritants that we may have "collected" throughout the day. With those "little nasties" gone you can breathe easier, not be hassled by sneezing and sniffling, and know that we've cleaned one of the most important parts of our bodies!  Now if you can get over the crazy way it looks and in the beginning, how it may feel, it will be so worth it.

Neti-what?

Since doing the neti pot, I've been able to cut out all my use of prescription allergy medication (with the help of also going vegan and cutting out dairy). Now I don't look ahead at the allergy forecast in fear, hoping it's not a "high pollen" day. I know that my neti pot has me covered.



On top of that, you kind of get hooked on the feeling. I mean, think about all the parts of our body that we wash daily, some even multiple times a day. But what about our nose? Doesn't it want to be clean too? Well, enough with the "dirty noses" it's time to clean them out and really breathe in the fresh air...oh by the way, we'll reduce some of those allergy symptoms too.

What you need to do the neti pot.

The big questions:
What kind of neti pot should I buy?  There are many types of neti pots on the market, some ceramic and some plastic. You can use what works for you. You can probably guess that since I'm a bit of a plastic-phobe that I went with the ceramic version and I love it.  They run about $10-12 and can be found online like here, or at local drugstores or health food stores.

What solution do you put in the neti pot?  I use a Neti-Salt from the same company as my neti pot, which is a non-iodized salt. They recommend using 1/4 tsp. of the salt per 1 cup of water. I found this for $3 at my local health food store.

What kind of water do you use for the neti pot? I use distilled water because it removes all of the impurities, bacteria, and other nasties usually found in traditional tap water. When I first started using neti pots, I used regular old tap water, but then I found out about
dangerous amoebas being passed into my sinuses and possibly killing me...seriously? I thought it was pretty bogus and blew it off. But, since doing this post about filtering your shower water, I learned more about the nasties that are in tap water. So to be safe, I started using distilled water, and I couldn't recommend it more. I got this gallon jug from Walgreens for under a dollar. And although it's a bit of a pain to buy, I appreciate the peace of mind I have with using it for my neti pot water. 

But if for some reason you have to use tap water, you'll want to boil it for several minutes to kill any possible bacteria or amoebas (among other things), and then let it cool to a temperature comfortable for rinsing your nose with.

This brings me to the last question....
How warm is the neti pot water? For me I relate it to bath/shower water. So while you want it to be warm enough to be comfortable for you, you don't it to be too warm that it will burn you. The same works for a neti pot, if it's too cold it will feel like you got pool water up your nose, but if it's too hot it will burn when it goes through...also not fun. So play around the temperature until you find what's just right for you and try to re-create that temperature each time you do the neti pot.

With all those details out of the way, let's take a look at how I use the neti pot: 




Here's a play-by-play of how I do the neti pot:

Gather what you need: 1 cup measuring cup, measuring spoon,
 neti salt, distilled water, and a neti pot.

1. Measure out 1 cup of the distilled water onto a
small saucepan on High. This warms
the water quickly and it usually takes 1-2 minutes max. 

2. In the meantime, add 1/4 tsp of the neti salt to the measuring
cup.
3. Once the water is warmed (I use my fingers to check the temp
of the water, so be careful it you do this too) and then pour it
into the measuring cup with the neti salt.  I find this helps mix
the salt and water easily.

4. Then I add half of the water/salt mixture to the neti pot.

4. Now tip your head to one side and insert the neti pot spout into your nostril.
Lift your elbow up and allow the neti pot water begin
to flow from one nostril to the other.
My catchphrase for using a neti pot is just to: "Let it flow!" You'll want to relax into the sensation, and just let the water flow from one nostril to the other.  I like to visualize that it's picking up all kinds of dust and allergens along the way, leaving my nasal passages nice, clean, and clear. Also, be sure to keep your mouth open as you'll be breathing through your mouth as you do this.

Once the water/salt mixture has ran out on this side, give your nose a good blow into the sink (or with the help of a cloth napkin) and then go onto the other side.

5. Time to repeat on the other side. Tilt head, insert neti pot
into nostril, lift elbow, and let it flow.

6. Once your done rinsing, blow your nose another time or two.
 You may notice it might still trickle out of your nose
a few minutes afterwards, that's normal.
7. If you're feeling like a clean-freak, you can use a clean
cloth napkin to wipe down your sink once you are done
so no one has to see what the neti pot cleaned out of your
nose!

Still have questions? Check out this interesting "Neti Pot Safety Guide" put out by the Himalayan Institute.  

So that's how I go green with my allergy routine by using the neti pot.  Have you ever used a neti pot before? Or do you have any questions about how I use mine? Share below!  

Oh and one final warning, if you have young kids, you can probably guarantee that they will see you doing the neti pot and have no problem acting it out for all to see any time they find a tea pot. Case in point: 

Avery at 22 months "practicing the neti pot". What can I say?
That's my girl!

Monday, February 17, 2014

My "Green" Pumping & Baby Bottle Routine (Video)

Well greenies, as if I haven't blogged about it enough, today I'm going to share about my "green" pumping and baby bottle routine. When I first started my journey as a working/pumping mom after Avery was born, I was a bit overwhelmed with the process (read here).  But after a lot of researching, trial and error, and of course, some spilled milk, I feel like I've settled into a routine that works for me and that is "green" as well.


As you know I'm onto my second child now, Mila, who is almost 4 months old and so after two years of pumping for Avery, I've tweaked a few things and this is the new routine I the one I currently use now that I'm back to work in my job as a preschool teacher.

Let's take a glimpse of what a day in the life of this pumping
mama is like...
Learn what supplies I use, how I make the routine work, and even how the milk is given to Mila in this week's video...



Now before we get started with my pumping routine, let me tell you a little bit about the supplies that make it work. Sorry to those long-time followers of my blog, as some of this information will be a repeat of what I've posted about before, but the pictures are new and if I'm still doing the same thing, then you know it must be working! 

The star player in this routine is obviously my pump. I ended up going with this pump by Hygeia, which is one of the greenest pumps around because after I'm done using it, I can return the mechanical portion of it to the company and they will reuse it with another mom or recycle it for you. No worries, all the parts that touched or were even remotely near my milk stay with me. The pump's official name is: Hygiea Enjoye LBI Rechargeable Battery Pump Deluxe Tote Set for $279. Another benefit is that all parts that come in contact with the milk are BPA/DEHP free.  You can read more here.

Okay so that now you know which pump I use, let me break it down for you:

Here's the pump, flanges, and tubing.

Here's where you turn it on and you can control
the speed and strength as well as where the tubing connects to the pump.

These are the flanges...you can probably figure out where
these bad boys go!
The tubing connects here in the back and it is what controls
the suction...the milk does not go through these!

Now since this pump is not hands-free, I needed something to make it that way, because this mama loves to multitask! So I purchased something called an Organic PumpEase Nursing Bra ($42) that can make my pump hands free and it's been awesome. Here's a PG-rated view of it in action...

It hooks around in the front like a strapless bra...with
little slits in it.

The slits hold the flanges, then BAM!
Hands-free pumping fun!
Now that you know the pumping supplies I use, here's how I make it work for me...

1. Before I leave in the morning for work I always feed Mila one last time.  Then about an hour later after I've dropped her off with our sitter (her grandma and my aunt alternate days), commuted to work, and got all my things put away, it's time for my first pump.

Let me welcome you to my pumping station, which is located in the bathroom in my classroom.  I feel so lucky to be able to have the convenience and privacy of this room, and although it's not all roses and butterflies...since it's a bathroom for preschoolers, I still love that I'm able to close the door and pump in privacy.

My pumping station...in the kid
bathroom of my classroom!

I use a simple TV tray to put my laptop
on and a chair to sit in while I pump.

It reads: "STOP.  It's Avery Time! (aka...I'm pumping!)
Come back in a few minutes." Avery's quote reads: "Yep, that
milk is for me!"
2.  When it's time for this first pump, I bring in my laptop and set it all on a TV tray while I pump.  Now it's time to put on the hands-free bra, hook up the flanges, and connect it to the pump.

Time to turn it on.

The pumping view from above. 

Here's the goods from my morning pump. Now it's time to transfer and store.


Now that I have the milk pumped, it's time to store it. My head was spinning originally when I was pumping for Avery because nearly all the breast milk storage I found was plastic, and just as Avery loves to say these days, "It's not my favorite!"  So that's when I got creative and called on a good friend...glass mason jars. Inspired by some "breast milk storage pots" I'd seen at Babies R'Us I figured why not just use some glass mason jars? So I got some half-pint mason jars from the store...a whopping $7 for 12 jars and they have really been great! I also use large mason jars for my day-to-day breast milk storage, which you'll see later.


If I ever need to freeze breast milk I use these smaller bottles. 

My little mason jars in action...holding some frozen milk in
freezer.
3.  Now that the milk is stored,  I break out this handy dandy little drawstring bag my aunt sewed for me (not for this purpose, but I've found it works great!) and I put the flanges and bottles in it.
My drawstring storage bag.
I keep these parts in this bag so that everyone doesn't have to see my breast pump parts every time they open the fridge in my room.  Another note, I do not wash the flanges or bottles from the pumping after each pump.  I read that by refrigerating them, you don't have to worry about bacteria growth, which works out great because I do not have time to wash them after each pump. Instead I just wash them when I get home.

Then I place the milk in the fridge and the pump parts
which are hidden from view in the bag. Don't worry vegan
friends, that Kraft Ranch dressing bottle is not mine-lol!
On a side note, usually once a week I try to remember and charge up the pump, otherwise the battery will die in the middle of the pump, which has happened way too many times already!


4. Then it's time to teach! Fast forward 4 hours later and it's time to pump again, this time during my lunch break.  So off I go to my pumping station with my laptop and lunch. Let the multitasking begin.  During this second pump at lunch, I pump for about 15-20 minutes

Milk from the lunch pumping session.

5. Next it's time to ...clean all the pump parts from the day.  I like to let them air dry on my favorite "grass drying rack"...I love it! So green and cute.  It's official name is: Boon Inc. Grass Countertop Drying Rack in Spring Green and White ($15) which you can find here.

I wash them with Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap.
My fun, green drying rack.
6.  Then I teach, teach, and teach some more.  If Mila was younger, I probably would pump one more time, but now that she's 4 months old these two pumps give me just the right amount of milk to get her through the next day.  When it's time to go home for the day, I pack up my milk and head home. Now back when I was first pumping for Avery, I would put it in an insulated bag to keep it fresh but these days, it's only out of the fridge for 20 minutes or so on my drive home so I just stick it in my bag and call it good...gotta love how laid back things get with a second kid!


7.  Next, I drive home, pick up the girls and then head home.  I unpack all my food/dishes from the day and transfer the pumped milk from the day to the fridge.


8.  The next morning, I stick the jar of pumped milk from the day before in Avery's diaper bag along with one glass bottle that milk will be put in throughout the day.  So every day she gets milk from the day before (on Tuesday, she gets Monday's milk, on Wednesday, she gets Tuesday's milk, etc.), except for Monday...for this day she gets the milk I pumped Friday and kept in the fridge over the weekend.
Can't forget to pack the milk in the diaper bag.

One glass bottle makes it's way to the diaper bag as well.
In case you're wondering why I use glass baby bottles I feel like it's safer.  I can trust that no pesky chemical is going to come leaking out or I don't have to worry about the properties changing of the food inside of it if the temperature changes.  Plus, after months and even years of using it, it can still come out looking sparkly clean; not cloudy and scratched like plastic.

Now if you look on the "green market" of bottles there are some pretty fancy, schmancy glass bottles out there, some of which cost $15-20 per bottle! Ouch. I love being green, but not that much! That's when I began to research again and I came upon some bottles that I always kept seeing on my bottle shopping expeditions, but I always brushed aside...Evenflo Classic Glass bottles.  These little bottles are simple enough, they don't have any fancy claims about mimicking the breast, or more preferred by new moms, but they are called "classic" for a reason, they've been around for 60 years! Also, I found some rocking reviews of them on Amazon.com that really encouraged me to give them a try.  *Update in 2015: Looks like they might have discontinued the original bottle I posted about here and replaced it with a "twist glass bottle" you can find the 4 oz. bottles here (6 for $17) and 8 oz. bottles here (6 for $17). Not sure why they are the same cost, but different size? Or why you can only get them in packs of 6, but either way, still a good glass alternative.*  These are the bottles I used for Avery and they're still holding strong for Mila, and I continue to enjoy knowing I don't have to worry about any chemicals leaking into the milk.

Curious how long pumped milk stays fresh? Here's the guide that taught me, and here's the cliff notes:
Room temperature: 3-6 hours
Refrigerated milk: 8 days
Just thawed refrigerator milk: 24 hours
Frozen milk: 3-6 months

One last thing about milk...how do you thaw it? This part baffled me for awhile.  I obviously knew never to microwave the breast milk, but I was confused as to how I (or Avery's sitters) would warm it up quickly and safely? I thought for sure I needed a bottle warmer, but after talking with others and experimenting, I learned that you so do not! Well, if you have a plastic bottle maybe you could try one, but here's an easy, green, and cheap way that I warmed up a bottle for Mila.
My easy, green "bottle warming method".
Just bring a 1/2 cup of water to a light simmer on the stove top (or in the microwave for 1 minute) in and then pour it into a glass measuring cup.  I then place the fridge-temperature bottle in the warmed water and allow it to warm to desired temperature, making sure it's not too hot or too cold.

"It's just right! Thanks mom...but by the way, why
are you taking my picture and not giving me milk?!"
One last thing, if I ever need to use some frozen breast milk, I thaw it out by placing it in the fridge the night before.  Usually it's thawed and ready to go the next day.

Well there you have it, my entire green pumping and baby bottle routine!  I probably went on and on with lots of details, but when I was entering the vast world of bottles and pumps my head was literally spinning and I wanted nothing more than to find mama who was going through the same thing who I could learn from.  So I hope this helps someone out there.  Got any other pumping tricks or favorite green bottles? Post them below, we're all still learning in this...

Nursing or pumping for a toddler? Here's a post I did when Avery was a toddler... "Nursing & Pumping for a Toddler"...

Nursing a 17-month-old= a whole new ball game! ( :

Friday, February 7, 2014

How to Diffuse Essential Oils

These days it seems like the grocery store is full of candles, air fresheners, room sprays, and plug-ins all with the purpose of changing the air we breathe (and smell) in our home. Now those are all fine and dandy, but when we start to look at the ingredients that's when things get a little "stinky".


Phthalates (cause cancer, hormonal abnormalaties, reproductive problems, and birth defects) petroleum, lead, formaldehyde and other artificial fragrances are not exactly what I want myself or my family to be breathing in on a daily basis. (source 1, source 2) Now while I'm sure there are some green alternatives out there like beeswax or soy candles, my favorite alternative is a diffuser with essential oils. A diffuser basically runs off water and a few drops of essential oils. These are then turned into a fine mist that is sprayed into the air.  The result is cleaner, greener, nicer smelling air...naturally. Now aside from improving the smell of the room, the molecules of the essential oils are also suspended in the air and can have numerous health benefits for those that breathe them in.

I use GreenAir Spa Vapor Ultrasonic Oil Diffuser ($30 on Amazon.com) There are a variety of difusers on the market, some are very expensive, and this is one of the cheaper ones...but it is a good little diffuser. It's an ultrasonic diffuser which disperses oils into a microfine vapor that allows them to be suspended in the air for extended periods of time and to be better inhaled. And since the diffuser does not heat the oils, it's purity and properties remain in tact.


Here's some other benefits of this diffuser:
  • Doesn't use much oil, just 5 drops of an essential oil gives you several hours of diffused oils
  • Cleans and purifies the air
  • Moisturizes the air
  • Improves your mood and focus
  • Reduce stress
Other features:
  • BPA-free
  • automatic shut off when water is getting low
  • energy efficient
  • has a soothing light that changes colors every 5 seconds, this light can be turned off and the diffuser can  just run "plain" without any lights (which makes it nice at night).
  • quiet

Now let's see the diffuser in action in this week's video...


Directions for Use:
So my main motivation to do this video/post is because this is actually the second diffuser I've bought...I broke the first one! It was my own fault, I didn't have the directions for it and was doing it all wrong. So when I got the new one, I read and re-read the instructions, and it turns out there were a lot of rules I was breaking with my first diffuser, so I was determined this time around to get it right.

Now this diffuser isn't too complicated, but it does have a lot of little details that you can't overlook, like filling it up, because if you get too close to the fill line it won't spray out much mist. Or if the water is too cold, it won't work.  So here's my instructions, with pictures to hopefully help you use, know, and love your diffuser...without breaking it!

1. Add 1/2 cup lukewarm tap water to the diffuser with a
 measuring cup.


2. Now place the vapor insert onto the diffuser.
3. Now drop 5 drops of your favorite essential oil onto the
vapor insert "well". Some things I have read say to put it
directly in the water, while I like to actually put it on the
vapor insert.

4. Now place the dome on top.

5. Now place the mist nozzle on top, this will be how you direct
the mist.

6. Make sure the unit is plugged in and then you can press
the power button on the right side to get the mist going.
If you want the changing lights, press the button on the
left side to turn those on.

7. Now you're good to go, breathe in the mist and feel good!

Directions for Cleaning:
Okay so now that you've used your diffuser, it's time to clean it. Now to me the instructions are a bit confusing, because on one part it says to wash it after every use, but in another section it says to wash it after every 10 hours of use. So here's how I do it...if I can after every use, I will do the following steps.

1. Spray all the pieces with a vinegar/water solution
(1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup vinegar) that is recommended in the
 instruction manual. 

2. Then I spray inside the basin of the diffuser.

3. Then I use this little brush that came with the diffuser
to help remove any oil residue. Then I carefully
rinse it with water and wipe it dry.

4. Next I rinse all the pieces with water and place them on
a cloth napkin to dry.


I let them dry until I'm ready to use them again...

Here's when I run the diffuser...

I love to run this one in the mornings when I'm getting ready or just anytime when I need a little energy boost. 

Cooking in the kitchen? Citrus oils are my go-to. 

After bath time, our bed becomes the hangout for Avery to read books
and watch a few of her favorite videos on the
iPad, you can bet I keep some oils going to chill things out
before bedtime.
If someone is sick I will run some oil in the diffuser
right next to their bed. Usually I turn the light off, so it
won't disrupt my sleep, but I left it on for you to see here.

Cold and flu season? I plug in the diffuser and run it with some
immune boosting oils when I get home from my job as a teacher to keep
our home smelling good and keep them germs away.

Sometimes I'll put it in our living room so we can all breathe it in
and fight off the germs while we are playing, reading
books, or watching Disney princess movies.  ( :
So that's my diffuser in a nutshell, as you can tell I love it and use it daily. Have you ever used a diffuser? If so, which one? What were your favorite oils to use with it? Or do you have the Green Air Spa Vapor diffuser like I do, but have some questions? Post it all below!  Here's to some happy, healthy, sweet smelling green homes.

*Disclaimer: I purchased this product with my own money and this is my honest opinion of it.*

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