Six Zero Waste, Earth-Friendly Changes for Families

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Many families are looking into ways that they can change their habits to prevent waste and be more Earth-friendly. Here are some ideas to get you started on a path towards zero waste and a healthier planet!

A couple of notes – I recognize that accessibility is an issue for many when it comes to affordability and access to products and that each family has different priorities. Some of these options may not be available (or desirable) for everyone, and that is okay. I encourage each family to look at their own habits and lives and choose what works for them. I also recognize that a large part of the responsibility for the state of our planet lies on corporations. Some believe that changes put into place by individuals don’t matter. But I personally believe that anything I can do to reduce my waste, no matter how small, is worth it. Do what is comfortable and sustainable for you.

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Reduce food waste.

This is, in my opinion, one of the most accessible and important steps for anyone to take. In America, 40% of the food produced is wasted. Are you shocked? I know I was when I heard that number! In my area, food waste is the single largest category of items thrown in the trash. This is one of the best Earth-friendly habits to begin.

Here are some ways to reduce food waste:
Meal plan and use a shopping list.
Compost – in your backyard, or through other options available in your area. In my city, we have drop-off locations for organics recycling, as well as weekly curbside pickup.
Use or freeze your leftovers.
Keep an inventory of the food in your fridge, pantry, and freezer.
Eat what you have first before buying more food.
Come up with ways to use up the “bits and pieces” that you may have at the end of the week. Soup? Casserole? Pizza?
Plan to use up perishable items quickly, such as berries and greens.

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Reduce packaging waste.

Along with food waste, this is a big category of waste for many families. Reducing food waste and packaging are my two biggest goals on my journey towards less waste. Take a look in your trash and/or recycling bin – how many packages do you see? My guess is that there is a lot. There certainly is for my family!

Some ways to reduce packaging waste:
Buy in bulk. This can be done at grocery stores, warehouse stores such as Costco or Sam’s Club, or at local food co-ops.
Bring your own containers to buy items from bulk bins. At many food co-ops, you can buy items such as nuts, grains, coffee, and even maple syrup or liquid soap!
Cut down on single-use packaging. Although these are easy, they can create so much waste! It’s a lot better to buy in larger quantities and divide on your own. Oatmeal packages, applesauce pouches, individually wrapped snacks, etc all add up. This is a big one for us!
Choose recyclable or compostable packaging when possible. At least this way it won’t stay in the landfill forever, it can be broken down and reused.
Buy less packaged, processed foods and make your own at home.

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Know the options and rules in your area.

Do you know what is recyclable in your area? Do you need to sort your recycling individually or can you put it all together? Is there an option to compost food scraps? How should you dispose of paint, medicine, batteries, old furniture, etc? You might learn a lot by googling or looking these things up on your city/county website! There are so many Earth-friendly products out there now, but it’s also great to use what you have!

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Use reusable options whenever possible.

There are a lot of reusable alternatives out there these days! If you can think of a product, there is probably someone selling a reusable variety. For these I suggest you don’t jump in and buy 20 different products at once, but start slow and choose a few that you think will work for your family. You can always add more later! Decide what you’re comfortable with and go from there.

Some popular reusable options:
Reusable food storage, such as glass containers.
Non-disposable “Ziploc” bags for lunches or snacks.
Reusable water bottles instead of single-use plastic bottles.
Refillable applesauce pouches that you fill at home.
Reusable menstrual products – period underwear, cloth pads, menstrual cup.
Washable cloth breast pads instead of disposable.
Cloth diapers and wipes instead of disposable.
Breastfeed instead of formula feed.
Cloth napkins and towels/rags instead of paper.
Reusable coffee cups for both hot and cold drinks on the go.
Reusable shopping bags and produce bags.

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Avoid buying things new.

We live in a very waste-driven, consumer-based society where the ideal products are fast and cheap. It can be really easy to order something on Amazon or grab it from Target. Moving away from that can require intentional effort. If we avoid buying something new (or at all), we are cutting a lot of steps out of that product’s timeline. This is a great Earth-friendly habit to start with!

Some ways we can avoid buying things new:
Borrow from a family, friend, or neighbor.
Join a library for books, toys, or tools.
Buy items secondhand. This is especially easy for babies and kids, as there are many parents selling their kids’ too small clothes, abandoned but like new toys, and furniture they’ve outgrown.
Think about it before you buy. Do you have a plan for it? Do you already have something that can serve that purpose? Will you actually use it?
Fix, repair, and mend items when possible.
Donate or sell your items when done with them, instead of just throwing them away.

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Drive as little as possible.

Driving is one of the worst things for the Earth, and yet most of us do it every day. In order to be more Earth-friendly, we will often have to make a sacrifice or change how we’ve been doing things. What can you do to reduce the amount you drive? What changes can you make in your life?

Carpool. Can you ride with your friends to the movies? Can you take turns driving the kids to school with your neighbor, or soccer practice with a teammate?

Walk, ride bikes, or take public transportation. These are all great ways to help the Earth and give yourself a boost as well. More time outside and connecting with others can’t be a bad thing, right?! Walking has the smallest carbon footprint, unsurprisingly. But the other options are great too! Replace your usual drive to the local park or library with a nice family walk or bike ride! 

Do any of these sound doable for your family? How do you plan to change your habits to be more Earth-friendly? Let me know in the comments! The Earth thanks you!

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Guide to the Minnesota State Fair with Kids

It’s that time of year again… time to load up the family and gorge ourselves on fried food with hundreds of thousands of our closest friends. That’s right, it’s time for the Minnesota State Fair! Although the fair is loved by many, it can seem a bit overwhelming to bring the kids. Here are some tips to make it fun for everyone!

Make a plan.

While showing up the fair with no agenda and going with the flow can be fun, now is not the time for that. There are many things to consider. How do you plan to get there? Will you drive, take the bus, or take a free shuttle from the park and ride? What day will you go, and how much time will you spend there? Are there any discounts on the day you plan to go? What do your kids like to do – and what is a must for you? Make sure to grab a map when you enter the Minnesota State Fair!

Think about how you’ll transport the kids.

My preferred method is babywearing. It’s simple, your kid can’t escape, and you don’t take up much more room than normal. You can bring your stroller or wagon to haul the kids around, but those take up a lot of space and can be annoying in crowds. The fair also has wagons and strollers you can rent for $15-$17 per day.

Write your information on your kids in case you get separated.

There are multiple ways to do this – some people just write on their kids arms with permanent marker. You can make a necklace/lanyard for them with your information on it. You can also get a free bracelet made specifically for this reason from the information booths. And make sure you have photos of your kid from that day in your phone. This is always our first step once we get into the fair.

You can bring food and (non-alcoholic) drinks into the fair!

Pack some of your kid’s favorite healthy snacks along with water bottles for everyone. Since a lot of the food at the fair is decadent, bring something healthy. Fruits and veggies are always a good option. Offer them to kids in between activities. You can even bring coolers into the fair – but not the grandstand. And be prepared for your bag and cooler to be searched when you enter the fair.


Photo by @mrs_rachdana ⁣

Make time for breaks.

The fair is fun, but it can also be too much if we go go go without taking the time to rest. Find a quiet, shaded bench to have a break and a snack. If your kid still naps, take that into account as well. Do you need to leave before they nap, or go in the evening after they nap? Can you leave and come back again later? Will they nap in the wagon or stroller?

Check out the myTalk 107.1 tent for a quiet place to pump or feed your baby.

This space is great! I used this space for 3 years of the fair and am so glad it exists! They have fans, toys for older siblings, places to plug in your pump, comfy seating, and a diaper changing area with supplies. It’s semi-private – there are no divided spaces. It’s just a big tent. There are also other areas around the fair that you can pump or feed if you need a calm, quiet space with electricity. Some also have space to change your baby’s diaper.

Lower your expectations.

High expectations can ruin any experience. You may think you’ll take your kids and everything will be perfect, but that’s not guaranteed. It can get hot, tiring, and overstimulation for little ones. The Minnesota State Fair is one of the most attended state fairs in the country! Large crowds, new foods, noises, and lots of walking can overwhelm anyone but especially our kids. If you go into the day expecting too much, you might be disappointed at the end. And don’t think you’ll get to do every single activity you have on the list, or eat all the foods you want to try. Keep it laidback and simple.

Some of our favorite activities for kids at the Minnesota State Fair…

Eat an apple cider freezie
Alphabet Forest and Math on a Stick
Great Big Sandbox
Little Farm Hands
Look at the tractors on Machinery Hill
DNR building
Giant Slide
Miracle of Birth Center
Animal buildings
Scavenger hunt (pick up at Alphabet Forest)
Sit on the horse in the Horse Barn
Nature Adventure Play Yard at the Eco Experience
Minnesota Farm Bureau
Rides at Kidway or Midway
Free live music
Education building
Watch the parade
Meet a PBS Kids character at the TPT booth

minnesota state fair
Photo by Jenelle Hill

What are YOUR favorite Minnesota State Fair tips or activities for kids? Let me know in the comments or contact me!

8 Common Breastfeeding Myths

With so much information floating around the internet about breastfeeding, it can be hard to know what is true and what is a myth. I’ll break down eight of the most common breastfeeding myths so you can tell fact from fiction! Keep reading for the bonus myth at the end.

It’s normal for breastfeeding to hurt.

This is a very popular myth. There are even ideas out there that you should “toughen up” your nipples during pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding. Rubbing your nipples with sandpaper is NOT necessary… really, please don’t do that!

Pain while breastfeeding may be common, but that doesn’t make it normal. It can be a new, sometimes uncomfortable feeling as you and your body adjusts to nursing (or pumping for) your new baby, but it shouldn’t be painful. If you’re experiencing pain while breastfeeding your baby, you might need some troubleshooting to make it more comfortable. And if you ever experience toe-curling, intense pain, please talk to an IBCLC or your medical provider!

You can’t eat onions (or garlic, broccoli, chocolate,etc…) while breastfeeding.

People say that you have to eat a bland diet while you’re breastfeeding. No onions, garlic, spicy food, chocolate, broccoli… But the truth is, breastmilk is made from your blood, not your stomach contents. And besides, your baby already got a taste of the foods you eat regularly in utero through the amniotic fluid. Science even says that your baby may like foods more that they taste through breast milk!

In some cases, babies have an allergy or intolerance to something in breast milk, such as dairy, soy, or wheat. If you suspect your baby isn’t reacting well to something in your milk, consult your medical provider and consider keeping track of your diet and baby’s symptoms.

Breastfeeding is “all or nothing.”

This myth is absolutely NOT true. Breastfeeding is an amazing thing and any amount that your baby receives is beneficial. But it is fine if you need or want to give your baby formula, supplement with donor milk, or pump and give your breast milk in bottles. It’s also okay if you breastfeed for a while and then stop – even one teaspoon of colostrum is shown to have benefits for babies. You are doing a great job, regardless. Breastfeeding does NOT have to be all or nothing.

Only people with large breasts can breastfeed.

Good news – breast size doesn’t affect whether or not you can breastfeed! Milk production is not based on the size of the breasts. Someone with an A cup can produce as much milk as someone with a DD cup. Having smaller breasts doesn’t mean you will not be able to make “enough” milk… and having larger breasts is not a guarantee that you will be an overproducer or make “too much” milk.

You can’t continue to breastfeed your baby if you go back to work/school.

You can absolutely continue to breastfeed if you’re planning to return to work, start a new job, go to school, or otherwise be away from your baby! Many parents pump and provide breast milk for their babies when they are apart. Some parents feed their baby with donor milk, formula, previously pumped milk, or a combination. Pumping to provide enough milk for your baby during the times you’re not together can be a lot of work, but people do it every day!

You shouldn’t breastfeed in public.

Personally, I think this is the silliest myth of the bunch. Do people think babies just don’t get hungry outside of their home?! Babies need to eat, just the same as everyone else. Don’t be afraid to feed your baby in public!

How you feed your baby in public is really up to you – it’s a personal preference. Some people prefer to find a private space, such as a nursing room or the car. (Don’t assume you just have to do it in the bathroom – there are better options!) Others prefer to use a lightweight blanket or nursing cover/scarf. Sometimes people buy clothes designed for breastfeeding that provide easy access and generally keep it somewhat covered. Another option is to use the “two shirt method” of having one shirt underneath and pulling the other up to give baby access to the breast, leaving your breast mostly covered. And others are totally fine breastfeeding with no cover at all. There are some people who prefer to give baby a bottle in public so they don’t have to deal with breastfeeding.

All of these options – and any others that you come up with – are totally valid, and totally okay. Do what you’re comfortable with and need to do to make sure your baby is fed and happy!

You can’t breastfeed your baby if you take medications.

The majority of medications are safe for breastfeeding. There are some that are contraindicated, but if your plan is to breastfeed, be sure to talk to a medical professional or IBCLC about any medications you’re taking. LactMed (website & app) and Infant Risk (website, app, & hotline) are great options for learning about how medications interact with breastfeeding.

You should only breastfeed your baby until… (enter milestone here.)

Everybody has an opinion about breastfeeding and is more than willing to offer it up. Some people say that you should only breastfeed your baby until they can talk, until they eat “real” foods, until they can walk, until their first birthday…and the list goes on.

The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends “exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”

What do I think? I think that breastfeeding is a relationship between you and your child. You should breastfeed for as long as it is mutually beneficial. Sometimes that simply means providing colostrum for your baby for the first hour after birth. It could mean breastfeeding until your baby turns one. Or it may mean breastfeeding into toddlerhood and beyond. It is a decision for you to make, and nobody else.

Bonus myth: You’re a bad parent if you don’t breastfeed.

I know sometimes it feels like you can’t do anything right, especially if you can’t or don’t breastfeed your baby. There’s a lot of shaming out there. But it’s not true. You’re a great parent, no matter how you feed your baby.

What do you think of these breastfeeding myths?
Contact me if you have questions!

BRAIN – The Best Acronym for Making Informed Choices!

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The BRAIN acronym

There are times when choices or situations come up that we might night know how to approach. We don’t always know the right answer, and making a decision can feel overwhelming. If you take the time to look at your options and ask some intentional questions, you can make an informed choice! This is a great acronym for any time you need to make a choice, but I’m introducing it to you today as it can be especially helpful during your pregnancy, postpartum, and birthing time. If you’re faced with a decision that has you feeling unsure, overwhelmed, confused… first, take a second to pause for a deep breath.
Then, use your B.R.A.I.N:

1) What are the benefits? If you decide to do the procedure, have the test, make the choice… what are the advantages? Why should you choose to say yes? What are the pros of this choice? How will it positive impact yourself, your baby, and/or your labor?

2) What are the risks? The opposite of the above question – what can happen? What are the disadvantages or the cons? How will it negatively impact yourself, your baby, and/or your labor?

3) Are there any alternatives? What other options do you have? Is there a similar test or procedure? Are there other choices that could have similar results?

4) What does your intuition say? Listen to your gut. What is it telling you? How does your partner or support person feel? Does this choice fit in with your values? Does it make sense for you?

5) What if you do nothing or you say NO? What will happen if you decide not to do it, or if you decide to wait? Can it be delayed? Can you take some time to think about it and talk it over with your partner or support person?

Contact me to learn more about how I support families during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum!

Quotes for International Women’s Day

In honor of International Women’s Day, I put together a list of some of my favorite quotes that celebrate and empower women. As someone who supports women as they add to their families, as well as a mother, daughter, and friend, I believe we should celebrate and empower women everyday. I am thankful to know many incredible, strong, brave women who strive everyday to create equality for all. We have accomplished a lot but there is still much to be done.

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Affirmations for a Positive, Powerful Birth

Birth is a time of intense feelings, both physical and emotional. There are big changes happening in your body as you prepare to welcome your baby into the world. It can feel overwhelming and scary, but having some positive sayings or mantras can help you to feel more prepared and confident. There are so many birth affirmations on Google and Pinterest, and I used Canva to create some of my own. Some women print them to display in the room while in labor, others read them as inspiration and motivation during their pregnancy. Having positive phrases that remind you of your strength and power will definitely help you stay positive!

Here are some of my favorite birth affirmations:

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