Monday, April 29, 2013

Baby Products and Cosmetics – how do they compare?

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Baby Products and Cosmetics – how do they compare?

When you hear the term Green NICU you automatically think the best possible products are being used to care for your child. After attending a webinar with we have learned about chemicals found in various cosmetics. How do cosmetics and baby products compare? The chemical components are the same. Some chemicals are unavoidable, BUT, you can take steps to minimize your exposure.

Why should you minimize your exposure? Did you know that each person has a body burden? This is the total amount of chemicals present in the human body at any given time. Each human has a unique chemical load depending on where you live, where you have traveled, what you eat, etc… We are exposed by our water supply, our air, and even things found in our home. One billion tons of chemicals are produced every year and approximately 700 of them are new each year.

It is also possible to pass chemicals onto a fetus since the placenta is unable to filter these chemicals. This means a fetus is contaminated BEFORE birth. A CDC report from 2009 found that Americans have on average 212 chemicals in them. A fetus was showing to have an average of 287 chemicals (found in cord blood) with 180 of these being linked to cancer, 217 were neurotoxins and 208 could cause birth defects.

Body care products, which we all use on ourselves and our family, are considered cosmetics. Cosmetics are not regulated by the FDA as thoroughly as drugs, biologics, and medical devices. In fact, cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority. “Due to holes in federal laws, it is perfectly legal for perfumes, colognes, body lotions, shampoos and other cosmetics and personal care products to contain sensitizers, hormone disrupters, reproductive toxicants, carcinogens and other toxic chemicals linked to harmful health defects.” Kathi Salley Randall, creator of There are several organizations that rally to strengthen FDA regulations on cosmetics and you can definitely be part of the voice if that is what moves you. For now though, I’d like to move on to the top silent dangers in baby care products.

The three silent dangers in baby care products are: Fragrances, Preservatives and Contaminants.

Did you ever notice that you never see the chemical make-up of any specific fragrance? On bottles it is simply labeled as “fragrance”. These are considered trade secrets and are protected hiding whether they were produced chemically, naturally or even derived from petroleum. In fragrances you will find phthalates. Phthalates are an additive and they are not bound to the things they are added to. This means they can seep out into the body. They are also considered an endocrine disruptor. Another endocrine disruptor is BPA which can be found in cans and bottles (although this is changing), which means it can leach out into our food. Endocrine disrupters are said to interfere with normal development of reproductive organs (especially in males).

Parabens are preservatives added to products to minimize microorganism growth (to preserve things). Parabens mimics estrogen in the body and is found in breast tumors. Parabens to look for: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, benzylparaben. You may even find several of these in one product. Another to look for is Q15 (Quaternium 15). This is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative (FRP) which slowly releases small amounts of formaldehyde to preserve the shelf life of a product.

The No More Toxic Tub Report (from March of 2009) found that many common products are contaminated with harmful chemicals that are not listed on the label. In particular, you should watch for 1,4 dioxane. This is found in products that create suds. I’m sure you thought those suds meant that the product was working and really cleaning, but in reality, it’s a chemical reaction. 1,4 dioxane is used quite often but not required to be listed on the label. There are over 48 common products which include 1,4 dioxine such as: Hello Kitty Bubble Bath, Huggies Baby Wash, Johnson’s Baby Wash, Seasame Street Bubble Bath, Clariol Herbal Essences shampoo, and Olay Complete Body Wash.

What can you do? Basically do whatever you can to minimize your exposure to these chemicals. The best suggestion is to do your research and inventory your products. In fact, here are your two new best friends. is a site where you can find a wealth of information on things we discussed and more. This would be a great site to learn how to take more action. has a database of more than 79,000 products. Each item is given a score which will arm you with the information you need to make the right choices for yourself and for your family. You can also choose to donate $5 and receive a free cosmetics guide.

Remember, chemicals absorb into the body faster when your skin is wet, so be extra careful with anything you’d apply on wet skin.

As mothers we have a million and a half decisions to make every day and this is only adding to your list. Ultimately it’s your decision how involved you want to get into minimizing chemicals in your body burden (and that of your family’s). We have given you enough information to get started and to understand how baby products and cosmetics compare. It’s up to you on how Green you want to be.

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Remembrance Plantings Serve as Connection Between Angel Parents and Their Children

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Remembrance Plantings Serve as Connection
 Between Angel Parents and Their Children

When parents lose a child – no matter what age, friends and family want to know how they can best help the grief-stricken. Some offer homemade meals, an ear to listen or shoulder to cry on, or make a donation to an organization in the child’s memory. Although none of these gestures can ever bring the beloved child back to its family, the gestures show love and a commitment to keeping the child’s life/memory alive.

One of the most touching gestures for Theresa Gill Wellman, a Project Sweet Peas project leader who lost her son Donny after six days as the result of a rare birth defect (congenital diaphragmatic hernia), was a garden that a friend offered to plant in Donny’s memory. Wellman spent that spring with her friend on this labor of love – watering the flowers, meditating beside it and contemplating how she would best navigate life without her son.

“I’ve been comforted by this simple gesture – and by the knowledge that my son had touched others’ hearts,” Wellman said.

Wellman then decided to plant a memory garden at her own house – something that she could cultivate and nurture as often as she wanted. Although she and her family no longer live there, she hopes to establish one again soon at her next permanent residence.

“A memorial garden is very therapeutic because it helps establish a connection to your child,” she said. “It is so hard to learn how to parent your angel. The garden provides a gateway; it provides a pathway for grief and healing. It gives a newly grieving parent something to do that is directly related to their child.”

PSP writing volunteer Erin Hart is also a proponent of remembrance plantings. After her twin sons Ethan Patrick and Casey Lawrence passed after being born prematurely at 22w5d gestation, she received two blue hydrangeas that she promptly planted. A family member also purchased plants of her choosing (two hibiscus) that she potted the same day she received them. The gestures were touching – giving life when lives were lost.

But the most healing activity was planting her own memory garden – one that, coincidentally, surrounds a tree with twin trunks, something she didn’t notice until a co-worker pointed it out in a picture Hart had taken.

“I needed something outside of the cemetery – a beautiful place where I could sit, think and talk to my sons. Each spring when I’m planting the garden, I feel their presence. When I’m digging the holes for their gerbera daisies and the windchime above me tinkles in the breeze, I know they are with me. It is one of the very few things I can still do for them, and I imagine they are giddy with excitement to know how much love I pour into this.”
Not everyone has a green thumb for memory plantings they do themselves, so they or their loved ones may opt to purchase a plant or a tree in the child’s name. When Shannon Mason, PSP’s bereavement and writing director, lost her babies, her aunt and uncle dedicated a magnolia tree along a highway in Mississippi under the Keep Mississippi Beautiful “Avenue of the Magnolias” program. According to the program website, a $25 contribution will dedicate a specific newly planted tree in honor or memory of your designee.1

There are many other similar organizations that allow families to purchase or dedicate plantings:
  • Rowan Tree Foundation (RTF), Parker, Colo. – An organization that provides support after the death of a child, RTF initiated plans for an Angel Memorial Healing Ground in the town of Parker. Families can sponsor a tree, other plants or landscaping materials from RTF’s landscaping wishlist.2 The completed garden will be a reflective, healing location for grieving families to visit and feel connected to their children.
  • TreeGivers, Littleton, N.H. – TreeGivers offers customized packages that contain a sympathy letter and card, as well as an official certificate of planting. Trees are planted on public lands all across the country.3
  • The Comfort Company, Geneva, Ill. – The Comfort Company offers boxed memorial gift trees that honor loved ones. Families can select a memory tree online, which are then placed into decorative boxes for shipping.4    

Plants will never replace our precious angels, but they offer a way for family and friends to stay connected to the grieving family – and honor the life of a child who was taken much too soon.

“Even though my son died, his spirit lives on,” Wellman said. “When I plant these flowers, water them and take care of them – I think of how Donny continues to live. When I watch the flowers grow and bloom, I can feel his love growing and blooming within my heart. Nature is one of my connections with Donny – and it is through nature and spending time within it that he communicates with me, and I can be a mommy to my angel.”

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Welcome, Maria!

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Project Sweet Peas would like to officially welcome our new Project Coordinator, Maria Bentin. As of this month, Maria has assumed responsibility for the Precious Kisses division.

Precious Kisses is a division of Project Sweet Peas that is based in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Christine Tyson started the Precious Kisses division in 2011 after her boy/girl twins were born at 26 weeks gestation. Christine's twins are now 2 1/2 years old and doing wonderful. Christine and her family have since moved out of state. However, she still remains a Project Sweet Peas volunteer.

Maria and her husband have three children, including twin girls, named Maci and Mia, who were born in June 2012 at 25 weeks gestation and spent nearly 4 months in the Bryn Mawr Hospital NICU. Here is their story:

Maria's Story

My husband and I were married in September 2006. We wanted children, but decided to wait a couple of years for what we thought would be the perfect time. In 2008, after months of trying, we were overjoyed when we found out we were pregnant. However, at just six weeks, I was diagnosed with a uterine abnormality; a congenital condition often associated with recurrent pregnancy loss and preterm labor (among other complications). At our 10-week ultrasound we were devastated to learn that we had lost our first baby.

Over the next year+, I underwent two uterine surgeries to correct the abnormality, experienced another miscarriage, and per our doctor's advice opted for fertility treatments to increase our chances of a healthy pregnancy.

We got pregnant in early 2009 and at 15 weeks I was diagnosed with yet another rare and dangerous condition (succenturiate placenta and vasa previa). The baby's placenta was in two pieces connected by fragile fetal vessels, which if ruptured, could be fatal. In November 2009, after receiving surfactant to mature his lungs, we were blessed with a healthy baby boy, Nico Alexander, delivered via scheduled c-section at 37 1/2 weeks.

When it came time to try for another child, our doctor recommended doing "what worked the last time." This time we were blessed with twins! Again at just 15 weeks, our Perinatologist told me that my cervix was funneling and shortening, indicating a very high probability of miscarriage or preterm labor. I was put on very strict bed rest until 23 weeks and 6 days when I thought my water broke, but it was blood, and a lot of it! I was rushed to Bryn Mawr Hospital via ambulance. Doctors suspected a placental abruption. I spent 1 week 1 day in the hospital with continuous bleeding and contractions. Doctors again gave me surfactant to mature the babies' lungs. The Neonatologist came to visit a few times to talk to my husband and I about the risks, survival rates and ultimately needed us to tell him what resuscitation measures should be taken in certain situations since we were on the threshold of viability. Each day, the babies' odds improved but there was no question that the probability of serious complications was very high. Despite all the risks, we wanted doctors to do whatever they could to save our girls.

At 25 weeks and 1 day, after another huge bleed and more contractions, I started dilating. Thirty minutes later, Maci Nicole and Mia Victoria were delivered via emergency c-section. They each weighed 1 lb. 11 oz. and were about 13 inches long.

Maci, Day 1

I remember hearing Maci cry, but there were no sounds from Mia. I couldn't see anything, but I could hear the teams working hard to stabilize both girls as I lay there on the table being (physically) put back together. I didn't know it at the time, but my little baby Mia was not breathing, was bradycardic, and being resuscitated. All I knew was that they were having difficulty stabilizing her and eventually got her intubated. We had no idea if our precious girls would make it past delivery and I couldn't even see them.

The moments that followed are pretty blurry, but I do clearly remember the nurses wheeling my bed into the NICU and letting me put my hand in each isolette so I could see and touch my girls for the first time. Mia's paper-thin skin was black and swollen on one side of her body due to severe bruising and her eyes were still fused shut (and remained that way for her first 11 days). Both girls were on mechanical ventilators and being kept alive by machines with tons of wires and tubes connected to their fragile little bodies.

 Mia, Day One

This was the scariest day of our lives. Our twins were given a 10% chance of survival, as well as a long list of other scary potential complications. The next day I asked the Neonatologist about survival percentages and if they had improved. What he told me that day really changed our whole perspective. Our daughters had either a 0% or 100% chance of survival and none of the numbers in between meant anything. From that moment we prayed like never before and forgot about the odds. Our girls were going to survive.

Leaving the hospital without our baby girls was so incredibly difficult, but we knew that they were where they needed to be. The NICU became a second home, and the NICU team, like an extended family. They helped us to understand that we really had to take things a day at a time. We couldn't plan or worry about tomorrow, or next week because no one knew what was going to happen. We had to live in the moment, pray for the best and do everything we could to help our little babies fight for their lives. The doctors and nurses helped us to celebrate the tiniest milestones and spent hours talking us through the scary times too.

 Maria holding her girls for the first time

The early weeks were the most difficult. Little Maci and Mia kept their nurses jumping and developed a bit of a reputation for it too! There were scares with infections, problems digesting their tube feedings, distended bellies from being pumped with so much oxygen, stage 1 ROP, Mia's PDA (not knowing if she would need surgery) and countless apnea and bradycardia events that almost stopped my heart a few times. I still remember the first really bad event I experienced where Mia stopped breathing and went limp while I was holding her little hand. This happened to both girls because their lungs were not developed and their brains were not mature enough to remind them to keep breathing. Mia had the toughest time and was intubated 8 times over a 5-week period, some of which were due to her pulling the tube out herself!

Maci Nicole spent 88 days in the NICU and came home around 37 1/2 weeks. Mia Victoria stayed past her due date, for a total of 113 days, and came home on lots of medication, due to the open vavle in her heart (PDA). Both girls were on apnea and bradycardia monitors until they were 8 months old. At the time that I am writing this, they are 9 months old (5.5 months adjusted) and doing great. They receive early intervention - Occupational Therapy each week and are also followed by the Developmental Specialist at the NICU.

Spending almost 4 months in the NICU had such a big impact on my life and that of my family. Although our journey has not been easy, we realize that our girls have been extremely lucky. However, we could not have gotten through it without the support and prayers of our family, friends and especially the amazing Bryn Mawr Hospital NICU Team. They saved our daughter's lives and the gratitude we feel cannot be put into words. This experience has made me a different person and inspired me to do whatever I can to make a difference in the lives of others, especially those precious babies who are born before their time. When you have a baby or babies in the NICU, your whole world is turned upside-down. Our care packages are prepared with love from one NICU family to another, to provide comfort, let them know that they are not alone and to help the bond between parents and their preemies.

Very happy and healthy little girls! Mia (right) Maci (left) - 8 months old

I am honored to join such a wonderful organization and take over responsibility for the Precious Kisses division of Project Sweet Peas.

For more information on Precious Kisses, please email Maria at :
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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Mother's Day Giveaway

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Looking for the perfect Mother's Day gift for the special NICU mom in your life? Well look no further! Project Sweet Peas is giving away these beautiful silver tone European style bracelets with dangling footprint charm to 10 lucky moms! Each bracelet comes with a 15% off coupon code for Peek-A-Boo ICU's online store where you can purchase journey beads to commemorate your baby's time spent in the NICU.

The giveaway will end at the end of the month and the winners will receive their bracelets just in time for Mother's Day!" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, don't forget to shop Peek A Boo ICU's store throughout this promotion. They will be generously donating 15% of their sales to Project Sweet Peas!

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Adopt A NICU Mom 2013

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Being in the NICU is hard enough on its own but spending holidays there makes it even more difficult. You can help put a smile on a mother's face by donating TODAY!!

Just $7 will sponsor four moms who will be spending their Mother's Day in the NICU. We are also offering a special incentive while supplies last for donations of $14 or more - a free Project Sweet Peas' Sweetfully Yours cookbook!

Throughout the Project Sweet Peas family there are more than 1600 NICU beds being supported. That is 1600 moms (in our supported areas) who will be sitting beside a sick baby this year.

Won't you take just a moment to help them feel a little bit better by ensuring that each one will receive a Mother's Day bracelet? Your donation can be made securely through PayPal.

To Adopt a NICU Mom visit our website now!
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