Ethical baby shower gift guide

Baby showers are a wonderful way to indulge your pregnant friends and celebrate their exciting new journey. Whether you choose to buy a unique baby shower gift for the expectant mum, their baby or both – the choice can feel a little daunting. There are some beautiful ethical gifts out there that are perfect for baby showers. Here is my pick of unusual gift options for mums-to-be:

Cloth nappy memory cards & pocket nappies from Baba+Boo

Beautifully made and with such personality and gorgeous designs. I’m a huge fan of Baba+Boo’s cloth nappies. Create a little bundle with their cloth nappy memory cards and a selection of their pocket nappies, for a gift that is as useful as it is ethical.

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For something different, Baba+Boo’s cloth nappy memory cards are a gentle, funny and adorable way to capture baby’s cloth nappy journey. Photo baby as she reaches milestones like her first poonami; or simply as a way of reminding mama that she’s doing her bit for the planet. Fourteen cards in total that are beautifully presented in a special gift box.

 

Reusable nappies aren’t just kinder to the planet, they’re kinder to your pocket too – something every mama cares about. And with designs like these, you’re giving a gift that’s on trend as well as useful. Baba+Boo’s designs are easy-to-use pocket nappies that are available as newborn and one size nappies; you can buy them as singles or in bundles of 3, 5,10 or 20.

Soothe Mama gift set from Ermana natural skincare

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If you’ve read my book then you’ll understand just how passionate I am about avoiding chemicals during pregnancy, which is why natural, chemical free products that nourish the skin and uplift the spirits make me so excited! This gift set from Ermana is not only beautifully presented in a chic presentation box but the products are absolutely beautiful too. It contains the Soothe Mama Body Balm and Soothe Mama Body Oil which are perfect for pampering pregnant mums.

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Combining cocoa, shea and coconut butters with almond oil and beeswax, the Soothe Mama Body Balm will help keep skin supple and nourished. It is also ideal for bump massage. Massaging your bump is a wonderful way to bond with your baby, as well as being relaxing.

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The Soothe Mama Body Oil is brimming with antioxidants and omega oils to feed and hydrate the skin, as well as helping protect against stretch marks. Apricot, macadamia, jojoba and vitamin E are all renowned for their nourishing and protective properties. Combined together they are the ideal luxurious and pampering body oil. Jojoba is very close in composition to your skin’s natural oils, meaning it is the perfect way to feed dry and dehydrated skin.

Online baby massage, language and connection course from Roots & Wings Parenting

Baby massage is a beautiful way to bond, connect and communicate with your little one. Taking an online course means that you can enjoy things at your own pace and both parents can be involved at a time that works with your family. This gift is delightfully ethical as it has no carbon footprint attached and is all based online.

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The video course will teach you how to massage your baby as you learn rhymes to correspond with different parts of the body. As well as six videos, this package includes 2 handouts, a how to guide and a colic sequence. Email support is available too and Alexia is immensely approachable and friendly, as well as highly knowledgeable.

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If you’d like to give your friend a unique baby shower gift in the form of an online baby massage course then all you need to do is buy the course from the Roots & Wings website and pass the login details on to your friend, or contact Alexia directly to arrange a personalised gift voucher.

Quarterly subscription box from Gentle Mamas

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If you are looking for safe and natural products then the girls at Gentle Mamas have selected some of the best out there for their subscription boxes. Offering the finest in natural and organics products, they pick 4-5 products each month which fit in perfectly with your non-toxic eco-friendly ethos. With gifts for mum and baby, these boxes are the ideal baby shower gift. Whether you buy a single box or an ongoing subscription, the boxes are curated according to the babies age. You can expect organic nipple butters, massage oils, natural toothpastes, silicone teethers, organic bodysuits, blankets, cardigans, natural perfumes, body washes, creams and so much more.

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They are also launching a brand new New Mama Luxury Box next week which includes a motivational planner, delicious chocolate and a wonderful array of luxurious natural beauty products. There are plenty of other gifts on their website which are ideal for pampering pregnant or new mums, as well as newborns.

Make your own relaxing bath salts gift set from Naissance

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I love this gift set from Naissance as it combines a wonderfully relaxing beauty treat, with a lovely activity. Creating your own beauty products mean that you know exactly what goes into them and with this beautiful gift set that means it’s cruelty free, vegan friendly, no parabens, no microbeads, no GMO, no SLS, no additives. As well as being packaged using sustainable paper and cardboard.

 

This set includes Himalayan salt, organic lavender essential oil, bergamot oil, lavender petals, a jar and a wooden scoop. The lavender is sourced from the Rose Valley in Bulgaria and smells divine as well as being relaxing and calming. Bergamot is refreshing and antiseptic, as well as being a powerful antidepressant. Lavender is fantastic for easing fluid retention and soothing away aches and pains.

Please check with your medical practitioner prior to using aromatherapy oils, especially if you have any health concerns. It is also worth noting that during pregnancy a woman’s skin is much more sensitive so expectant mothers should be extra-vigilant when using citrus-based oils (such as bergamot) as they can make your skin even more sensitive to UV light and may accelerate sunburn.

Beautiful natural makeup from bareMinerals

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This radiant collection for eyes, lips and cheeks is the perfect way to make any girl feel glamorous and decadent. If you want to gift your friend with something that is chemical free and natural, and can be used throughout pregnancy and beyond then indulging in some quality makeup might be a welcome move. With a stunning quartet of eyecolours, blush, luminizer, mascara and lipgloss this collection also comes in a beautiful bag making it a lovely gift.

Elegant jewellery from People Tree

If you are confused by which developmental toy is trending or worried about buying the same pampering mum-to-be products as another friend, then you might decide to buy your pregnant friend a gift that isn’t an obvious choice for a baby shower. As well as their wonderful ethical clothes, People Tree also do some stunning jewellery. A beautiful bracelet would be a lovely choice as swapping it from wrist to wrist after each feed is a great way for breastfeeding mums to remember which side they last fed from.

This beautiful gold-plated Soko cuff was handcrafted by African artisans and will add a dash of intrigue to any outfit.

Why I’m a passionate parent & not a perfect one.

Many people hear the words holistic parenting and think of glowing, impossibly healthy families who are far stricter with their choices than they are with their kids. I want to challenge this perception. For me, holistic parenting is literally about raising your children with careful consideration to their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. It is also about making the best choices that you can possibly make without getting hung up on the things that you can’t manage. Don’t aim for perfection, I’ll tell you now that it doesn’t exist. Instead, aim to be the best that you can be.

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Nowadays with social media forming such an integral part of our culture, everyone seems intent on projecting their best side. Ultimately, many women are feeling overwhelmed with motherhood, simply because everyone else seems to be making it look so easy. Sam and I didn’t write The Natural Baby because we are perfect and flawless examples of motherhood, we wrote it because we are passionate about helping other mothers tackle the difficulties in an intuitive way. We found natural methods and complementary therapies to be hugely beneficial when raising our own children and coping with our pregnancies and wanted to share some of our little tips with others. We wanted to share stories, insight and experience and to cheer other parents on from the sidelines as they embark on one of the most exciting journeys possible. We are both so enthusiastic and passionate about natural birth, holistic parenting and complementary therapy that it has formed the basis of our professional lives as well as helping us through our own parenting journeys.

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So, before I go any further I’d like to let you in on a few home truths. I can humbly admit that I have contributed to the vast number of nappies in landfill. When my daughter, Jasmine, was born we couldn’t afford to buy reusable nappies and wraps and we were living in a very tiny flat with no means of drying them. It was a choice I made, something had to give. Although next time, I fully intend on using washable nappies. It’ll be much more manageable now that I’m living in a house with plenty of drying room (and a tumble dryer) and have more financial stability as well as a supportive husband to help out with the chores. Instead of washing nappies I spent my time breastfeeding, puréeing vegetables and interacting with my child. I don’t regret making that choice. I also stopped breastfeeding at four months when the mastitis made me seriously ill (I wish I had known Sam back then to help me out with some home remedies!). I took to breastfeeding without any help or support and enjoyed it immensely, I knew it was the best possible start for my daughter but I also knew when it was time to stop and knew not to beat myself up about not being able to continue. I also knew that I was fortunate to have those few months of being able to feed her myself, as many women are unable to feed their own babies.

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Now this may seem like a peculiar way to introduce myself as the author of a book on natural parenting, but it feels so important to me that I reassure and encourage you. You need to know right now that there is no perfect parent and that striving for false unreachable ideals will purely make you feel exhausted, inadequate and ultimately lousy as you admit defeat.

I’m not here to tell you what to do but more to guide, encourage and share with you the insight, knowledge and experience that I have picked up along the way.

As for my parenting journey and how I came to not only use the holistic approach through pregnancy and the baby years but also professionally. Here is my story:

When I was a child I was raised in a house where lavender oil was used to treat headaches, Arnica cream was used for burns and once in France when I had an ear infection so bad that it pushed me over the edge of delirium, my parents managed to find a homeopathic pharmacy and used Belladonna to treat it. Yes, my parents were products of the swinging sixties and remain proud hippies to this day.

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I picked up a few yoga poses and the basic concept of meditation on a yoga retreat at the age of nine where my Dad was performing as a musician. By the time I had reached high school my Mum’s yoga books had migrated to the well-stocked bookshelves in my room.

Aromatherapy got me through exam stress, Bach Flower Remedies were administered for my driving test and I was sent off to University with my very own bottle of that magical calming liquid. In fact, a glossy book with full colour pictures on Kundalini yoga was one of my very first purchases with my student loan and I’ll never forget the look on the University nurse’s face when I told her I didn’t drink, didn’t smoke and practised yoga for an hour a day. (Though I’m afraid that this saintly level of healthiness did eventually slip!)

When I became pregnant at 19, there was no question that I would do anything but what was best for my child. That meant leaving my University degree despite protests from my lecturers, it also meant moving 600 miles away so I could be back near my family again, as well as re-evaluating what I ate and considering that unborn child before everything else. Eating properly seemed logically simple, as did stopping caffeine and of course alcohol. I had been practising yoga before I got pregnant and was overjoyed to discover there was a local class for expectant mothers. I was looking for a way to keep my body supple and flexible through pregnancy and was hoping for some benefits for the birth too. I didn’t expect what actually happened. I met a group of remarkable women and their partners, one particular couple have become lifelong friends. I also met our inspirational teacher, Marilyn, who taught us all about natural birthing techniques. My labour was under six hours, I had no pain relief, not even gas and air and each moment was blissfully joyous. Jasmine was almost 8lbs 13 when she was born, so it wasn’t even as if she was a little one!

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I gave birth on my hands and knees and followed my instincts to guide me through the whole birthing process. My midwife was amazed and begged me to tell her what my secret was. She had never known such a speedy and uncomplicated first birth. I put it down to all the preparation and healthy choices I had made and educating myself in the ways of natural birthing and holistic pregnancy choices. I read, I listened, I absorbed everything and with professionals such as Marilyn to guide me, I was soon equipped with the right knowledge and insight to see me smoothly through an utterly exhilarating birthing experience.

I knew that I wanted to encourage and support other women in achieving the birth that they hoped for. I considered midwifery and becoming a doula, but realised that with my own daughter it would be hard to work such unpredictable hours. I became a single mother before my daughter was two.

When my daughter was old enough to attend nursery, I went back to college and studied a number of complementary therapies. Eventually, setting up my own massage therapy business and working with private clients as well as residents in old people’s homes and young people with learning difficulties. The work was incredibly rewarding. I have also practised massage therapy backstage at a few live rock concerts with some household names, which didn’t have the same level of job satisfaction somehow.

Eventually, I trained in pregnancy massage and went on to teach classes for pregnant women in children’s centres; my classes covered yoga, breathing exercises, relaxation and birthing techniques. It felt so right. Finally, I was able to pass on my knowledge and share my passion. Unfortunately, debilitating migraines meant that I couldn’t commit to the regular hours and had to give it up. While I was sorting my health out I wrote a few articles for magazines on natural pregnancy, parenting and health. Before I knew it I was writing for all sorts of publications and still enjoying the freedom of being around for my daughter. Writing has been the biggest part of who I am since I was very young, so carving a career from it was a dream come true. Although my profession shifted from being a complementary health practitioner to being a writer, my passion for massage, yoga, healthy eating and empowering women on their birthing journeys has never faltered.

When Sam approached me to help her write a book on holistic parenting I was overjoyed. I feel like I have such a lot to contribute. Like I said before, I’m by no means a perfect parent, but I am a passionate one and I really think that makes all the difference.

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This was taken from my book ‘The Natural Book: A gentle guide to conception, pregnancy, birth & beyond‘ which was co-authored by Samantha Quinn of Mumma Love Organics and was published by Green Books in February 2017. 

Father’s Day Gift Ideas: Let’s hear it for the boys!

I’m incredibly lucky, in that my dad is brilliant. Not only has he always been supportive, encouraging and loving but he is also fiercely creative and artistic. His love of books has without doubt been passed on to me, and I believe that it was him reading to us as kids – combined with his eloquence and love of language – that led to me becoming an author, columnist and performance poet. All that aside, he has been an incredible granddad to my daughter. She is following in his footsteps as a musician (although she is very much forging her own path). So as father’s day approaches, I’ve been thinking about what sort of gifts are ideal for the men who have shaped us, inspired us, challenged us and encouraged us. Environmentally-conscious gifts for guys who are a little left field, a touch unique and certainly worth celebrating.

Matching tops from Inkrocket

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I recently discovered Inkrocket, and I fell in love immediately. This company was founded after Clare’s daughter expressed her concerns for poverty in Africa and insisted on doing something to help. Not only do they make beautifully designed clothes (that are also ethically and responsibly produced) but they also donate 15% of their profit to their chosen causes. I love the personality in the unique designs, and so I couldn’t resist adding their Daddy & Me – Adventure is Calling set to this gift guide. With a long sleeved t-shirt for the little one and a chunky ‘hideaway’ hoodie for daddy – I think this is the perfect gift for adventurous dads and their wild offspring! I love how family sits at the heart of this business too.

A bespoke song from Songfinch

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When the guys at Songfinch heard that I was doing a Father’s Day Guide, they got in touch to offer one of my readers a bespoke song. Songfinch has a pool of professional musicians who will write, record and produce a radio quality song based on any stories or memories that you supply them with. So we set up a little comp and I got my daughter to pick the most deserving winner – based on their response to why they thought their dad deserved his own song! If you are looking for a gift with a difference then this is a really lovely way to celebrate your unique relationship with your dad, sum up some precious memories and give him a gift that he’ll treasure for life. I love how eco-friendly this gift is, with no postage involved as it is all done online. So even if your dad is the other side of the world you can send something meaningful to him. Get on this one quickly to allow the songwriters time to craft your song for you. 

Here is the song that was written for our competition winner: https://www.songfinch.com/stories/derek-papa-d-steele

Any design on a cake from Bakerdays

I’m a big believer in celebrating with cake; from big birthdays to small victories there should always be an excuse for cake. If your daddy lives far away, then a letterbox cake with a unique design could really make him smile. If you’re local, you can always share the cake with him yourself. As the team at Bakerdays can create a cake with any design of your choosing, you might decide to feature the image from your baby scan if you’re celebrating father’s day with a daddy-to-be or if you want to throw some nostalgia at your dad then a family photo could cause a few tears (or hoots of laughter).

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When I told the team at Bakerdays that I was going to feature them in my father’s day gift guide, they sent me a beautiful (and very delicious) cake with my book cover on!

Kaufmann Mercantile

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Nowadays, so much of society feels disposable; from packaging and flatpack furniture to relationships. Nothing feels built to last anymore, which is why I am so enamoured by the beautiful, artisanal creations from Kaufmann Mercantile. Every item is built to last, making their products highly sustainable gift options. There is so much to choose from, you could lose hours delving through their wares. Here are a couple of stand-out items that I think would make awesome father’s day gifts – a birch cutting board, a Japanese Porcelain Nesting Sake Set, a lock knife, a cast iron skillet… there are some beautiful and unusual gifts on offer. You can peruse the full collection here:

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Days out

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I always think that memories and experiences are a beautiful gift. When someone has been in your life for many years, it can often feel as if you’ve exhausted every gift option. So taking your dad somewhere new or engaging in an experience together is a lovely idea. Days out also mean you can include dads and granddads, building lots of memories. Take your camera, a homemade picnic and some supplies, then find somewhere exciting to explore!

A Father’s Day Meal

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A home-cooked meal is a fantastic way to show your dad some love. It’s also a lovely way to get the kids involved in making something special for daddy. Get the kids on board to help with a special breakfast or afternoon tea. If they are too tiny to bake they can make cards or decorations. For me, one of the best ways to show someone that you love them is by feeding them properly.

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I love Aveda’s natural and eco-friendly products, and they do a brilliant range for men too. The Pure-formance shampoo and conditioner smell incredible, leave your hair feeling silky and nourished and you don’t have to worry about chemicals! (Click on the images to zip straight to the Aveda shop).

The light elements shaping wax is lightweight but has a great hold and would be the ideal addition to this little haircare collection.

Neville Beard Care Kit

This trio of magic includes an exfoliate, beard oil and shave cream for the perfectly groomed beard. I love how these products are brimming with natural tastiness such as olive oil, cocoa butter and organic argan oil. The addition of volcanic ash sounds deliciously masculine. Nothing says “you’re the daddy” more than a facial scrub with fragments of the earth’s core! (Click on the image to nab the Neville Beard Care Kit for your beardy Papa). 

However you choose to celebrate your dad (or the father of your kids) there are plenty of ways to say thank you that are gentle on your wallet and the environment, and as delightfully unique as he is.

How to cure eczema naturally

I’ve always suffered from dry skin (especially on my face), which is often exacerbated by the use of synthetic products. In my book The Natural Baby, I guide you through recipes and solutions for creating natural skincare at home. I believe that limiting the use of chemicals is essential during pregnancy, and natural skincare solutions for babies are imperative. However, I am also passionate about using products on my own skin that are as natural as possible which means creating them myself from scratch or finding the purest natural skincare products out there. As much as I love knocking up my own skincare products, it can be an expensive and time-consuming hobby! The other obvious benefit of buying natural products is that they tend to keep better! Natural skincare products using fresh ingredients have a very short shelf life which is why recently I have found myself opting for bought products.

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During my massage therapy and anatomy and physiology training (and my years of running my own practice) I learnt a great deal about skin conditions such as eczema. I also learnt about the healing properties of natural oils and ingredients and saw for myself how effective they could be. So here is my round up of the simplest, most natural and most effective ways to treat eczema. I’ve also found these solutions to be fantastic on dry skin and other conditions and irritations such as psoriasis.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a skin condition that causes redness and itching. In many cases, the skin becomes crusty or scaly and thickens. It is common for blisters to form too. It most commonly presents itself as a dry, itchy rash on the face, in the elbow creases, behind the knees or on the hands and feet. This skin condition usually starts in early childhood (often in the first few months of life), and studies show that it affects around 10% of infants. Most children (75%) who suffer from eczema during their early years find that they grow out of it by their teens. However, many adults who suffered from eczema in childhood find that they still need to take special care of their skin and find that certain synthetic products can cause that horrible itchiness to start up again.

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What to avoid

High street and designer cosmetics are often packed with synthetic and chemical ingredients that have been linked to cancer as well as skin irritation and dryness. For the majority of eczema sufferers, these ingredients make their symptoms worse. Manufacturing products using these ingredients is easier and cheaper, which is why so many businesses opt for these products.

Many over-the-counter eczema treatments may bring temporary relief, but they rarely solve the problem in the long-term. They are frequently crammed with chemical and synthetic nasties which strip our skin of its natural oils and can have a detrimental effect on our health. Even many of the products that are intended for use on sensitive skin are packed full of chemical ingredients. If you can avoid any products that contain parabens, steroids, cortisones and synthetic perfume then your skin will thank you for it. Whether you suffer from eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, sensitive skin or even have normal skin but care about what you put on it, avoiding these sorts of ingredients is imperative.

What is the best clothing material for eczema sufferers?

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When it comes to bedding fabric or clothing, cotton is often the best choice as it is breathable and helps the body to stop overheating. It is worth pre-washing any new clothes or bedding as loose traces of dye can irritate the skin as well as being carcinogenic. If you buy an item that is labelled as being 100% cotton but can only be washed at a low temperature, then it is likely to have been treated with a chemical finish which may cause irritation. Opt for untreated cotton where possible. Always use non-biological washing powder and skip the fabric conditioner (they are usually brimming with chemicals as well as being superfluous!) if you want to add a little fragrance then a few drops of essential oil (I tend to use lavender) added to the powder drawer is a nice touch.

What can trigger eczema?

Air conditioning and central heating can make eczema and dry skin conditions a lot worse. Unfortunately, these things can be unavoidable which is why it is so important to really consider your skincare routine. Eczema can also be triggered by chlorine, your washing powder or cleaning products or even a food allergy. If you suspect that any of these things are making your condition worse then you may consider a food elimination diet or a change in your cleaning products.

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The winter months can dry out our skin, but spring can also be stressful as allergens such as pollen effect so many people. This is why it is so important to take care of yourself all year round. Drink plenty of water, enjoy a balanced diet (with plenty of iron, omega 3, 6 & 9, protein, vitamins and minerals to help your skin stay healthy) and be sure to feed your skin from the outside too.

Natural ingredients

There are some wonderful natural ingredients that can really help relieve the symptoms of eczema. Jojoba oil is a great choice as it is very similar to the sebum that our skin naturally produces. This means that it hydrates the skin without being too greasy or oily. Since I first discovered jojoba oil during my massage training, I have made a concerted effort to add it to my skincare routine – either in the products I buy, the products I make for myself and sometimes I use it all by itself for instant hydration. Nourishing omegas such as sea buckthorn, linseed oil, safflower oil and borage oil are all fantastic ways to soothe and heal your skin.

Finding the right skincare for you

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Finding the right skincare products can feel like a quest for the holy grail, but once you discover a skincare range that works for you it can make a real difference to your self-esteem and your sense of wellbeing. I recently came across a brilliant range of natural skincare products from Salcura that combine all the sorts of natural ingredients that I like to include in my own skincare preparations. I’ve completely fallen in love with the DermaSerum which is beautifully lightweight but makes my skin feel instantly soothed, hydrated and deliciously soft. The Body Cleanser and Facial Cleanser smell divine and I have noticed a real difference in my skin since using them. I am also bowled over by the fact that their products range between 97-99% natural origin which matters a lot to me.

Treating eczema naturally

So in conclusion:

  • Avoid skincare products that contain chemicals and synthetic ingredients

  • Opt for 100% cotton breathable bedding and clothing

  • Consider how chlorine, washing powder and home cleaning products may be effecting your skin

  • Consider the possibility of food intolerances or allergies

  • Drink plenty of water

  • Feed your body from within with a healthy, balanced diet

  • Choose natural skincare products that nourish, soothe and protect the skin

Pregnancy yoga benefits for childbirth and beyond

Whether you choose yoga for pregnancy classes or decide to practise prenatal yoga from home using one of the growing series of pregnancy yoga videos that are available on YouTube; Yoga is a wonderful way to bond with your growing baby, keeping your body strong and flexible, prepare your body for the birth and develop a state of inner calmness. It is also a lovely way to meet new friends. Here is my pregnancy yoga story and the reasons why I am such an advocate of pregnancy yoga.

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It came as no surprise that pregnancy yoga became such an important part of my natural childbirth story. Yoga has been part of my life since I was a child. I was fascinated by my mum’s yoga books and by the time I was a teenager they had migrated up to my bedroom. After my brother died, yoga classes were one of the few things that got me out of the house – there were very few yoga classes in my local area and so I had to join a class for over 40s (I was 17 at the time). At university, I surprised the admissions nurse when I told her I practised yoga every day for a full hour. I also fell in love with Bikram hot yoga, ashtanga and kundalini. During one of the Bikram classes, my instructor led us in a pelvic tilt – it didn’t feel right. He asked me if I was currently menstruating – I explained that I wasn’t. He suggested that I sit that exercise out. Within days a sudden bout of sickness paired with heavy, tender boobs prompted me to take a pregnancy test. It was positive, I was overjoyed… I was also unable to return to Bikram. In fact, I left Scotland and returned to England to be near my parents much to the chagrin of my university teachers.

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After a little research, I was able to find a yoga class within 10 miles of my house. I was hoping for some gentle exercise to keep me healthy throughout my pregnancy but what I actually got was so much more.

Through the classes I met a group of wonderful like-minded people who were all due to have babies at a similar time to myself. 13 years later and a couple of us are still firm friends. As a young mum, I found this support invaluable.

I also met our wonderful instructor, Marilyn who spoke so passionately about active birth, owning your birthing experience and tapping into your instincts to enjoy an intuitive birth. This wasn’t just some hippy-dippy mumbo jumbo. Marilyn used a full-sized model pelvis to demonstrate how lying flat on your back restricts the movement of the coccyx. Her methods were based on her own birthing experiences, attending the births of friends and family and years of devoted learning. Marilyn herself had been inspired by active birth educators such as Janet Balaskas and Sheila Kitzinger. Marilyn’s support, inspiration and encouragement meant that I had a joyous birthing experience myself and went on to teach pregnancy and childbirth classes in children’s centres and ultimately to devote years of my life to researching and writing my first non-fiction book The Natural Baby.

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Practising pregnancy yoga not only gave me a new found confidence in my body, in its strengths and abilities but it also made me feel completely in control. It allowed me to have a depth of faith in my own body, that I hadn’t felt before. I feel like modern life has so many of us trying to block out the signals that our body is telling us. If we are tired we caffeine it up, if we are in pain we knock back analgesics, we ignore hunger pangs and so many of us ignore the signs of ill health until they are out of control. Taking the time to slow down, to breathe and to truly connect with your body, to feel its limitations and strengths is such a wonderful experience. It is something that I truly believe we should practise for life. It really helped me to own my labour experience, but this love of yoga is something that has continued right through the healing of the post-partum period and as my daughter has grown. Now she is in her teens and we still have great friends who I met in that pregnancy yoga class. In fact, we went for a curry just a few weeks back and from nervous women with glorious bumps, it was joyful to see that we had evolved into a room full of families. The children are all beautiful and had their own table, their own conversations and plenty of laughter. I am still grateful to those pregnancy yoga classes for bringing this treasured friendships into our lives. There is something especially beautiful about friends you’ve known since birth.

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For pregnancy yoga videos so that you can practise pregnancy yoga at home in safety and comfort, there is a series of prenatal yoga routines on the Natural Mumma YouTube channel.

There are numerous benefits of prenatal yoga and preparing for labour is just one of them. Whether you opt for actual yoga for pregnancy classes or decide to practise pregnancy yoga at home, you should always consult your medical practitioner before doing any exercise. Opting to attend a class is a wonderful way to meet other expectant mums but it can prove costly. If you like to exercise alone, then there are lots of wonderful pregnancy yoga videos around.

You can read my story here: From teenage pregnancy to international author; how I turned my life around.

You can watch me sharing my story and tips for active birth here.

Self Discovery Through Birth – Thais Nye Derich

I’m delighted to welcome the inspirational author and activist Thais Nye Derich to the site. Thais’ new memoir Second Chance: A Mother’s Quest for a Natural Birth after a Cesarean  offers an honest and encouraging look at vaginal birth after c-section. Thais’ work really resounds with me because it is all about listening to your instincts. Through her wonderful blog and her upcoming book, she informs and inspires women, helping them to feel in control during childbirth. Here she talks about the delivery of her first child, and how childbirth can be a journey of self-discovery. 

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Your life will never be the same after kids.” I heard this at least once while I was pregnant with my first child. There’s always one brave person willing to stick their neck out and speak this cliché. What I didn’t realize was that my life would change the most not because of the child but because of the birth.

You’re fine, your baby is fine, but it’s time, it’s time to get this baby out,” the Obstetrician had said, the clipboard resting in her lap and the pen steadied between her fingers.

During my first delivery, I had a cesarean, which meant I didn’t get to hold my baby. I was separated from my husband, child, and family, for hours after giving birth.

Unconscious, I had been rolled into a recovery closet where I stayed to rest until I could speak again. A nurse watched over me while she sorted and unpacked boxes. A broom tilted against the wall between the door and upper cabinets. I remember her looking over at my half-closed eyes, and for a brief second, I thought I saw a look of pity in her. What she might have seen in that moment, but would take me years to discover, was the amount of trauma that had already begun to set in since the moment I was wheeled into the operating room to surgically deliver my child.

In my drug-induced slumber, I asked the nurse, “When can I see my baby?”

Once the nurse delivered my baby to me like a wrapped present in a tight hospital swaddle, I never let go of him. I couldn’t stop crying, even with my baby safe in my arms. Someone would simply have to ask, “How was the birth?” and the tears would come, followed by an awkward redirection of the conversation. When I cried in the company of one hundred women staring down at me during a Q&A session after a screening of The Business of Being Born, I realized something has got to change. I couldn’t go on like this. I needed to do something or something bad was going to happen.

I tried traditional therapy, but it didn’t work, not sensitive enough. I found a healer hidden away in an unmarked flat in San Francisco. She happened to be a retired midwife of thirty years from the University California San Francisco Medical Center (UCSF). She believed my sadness was grounded in evidence. My birth records said that the reason for my cesarean was, “failure to progress.”

I asked, “How could I have avoided the cesarean?”

Tapping on her computer’s keyboard, my nurse said, “Well I guess you could have pushed longer.”

Speechless. A silence.

I’m surprised the doctor even had you push once for her before the surgery,” she said.

Then a women’s circle formed, then I meditated, then I trusted that my feelings were real. I accepted and I loved and I changed quickly because healing was hard work, time-consuming work. I quit my job because it overwhelmed me. I wrote, and I wrote through my depression.

Two years later, a friend asked, “Tell me your birth story,” and I told her without crying. Next time would be different.

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The new memoir Second Chance: A Mother’s Quest for a Natural Birth after a Cesarean (She Writes Press, May 9, 2017) by Thais Nye Derich weaves together two narratives of two very different birth experiences. Thais tells a universal story about betrayal, trust, and listening to one’s instincts. The writing is propelling and forthright as it sheds light on the gaping holes in mainstream maternity healthcare, and—at the heart of it—provides a voice for all the mothers who have walked away from their hospital-based delivery experience wondering what in the hell really happened.

Read more from Thais on her website.

Connect with her on facebook, instagram and twitter.

  • SECOND CHANCE WAS A FINALIST for Creative Nonfiction Magazine’s Baby Anthology.
  • AMY GRAFF—NEWS PRODUCER FOR SFGATE.COM—PRAISED THE BOOK AND AUTHOR, SAYING: “In a beautiful telling of her own experience, she proves that standing strong to have a VBAC after a C-Section is worth it! Her empowering story shows that women really can do anything.”
  • AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF PIECES OF MY MOTHER—MELISSA CISTARO—CALLED THE BOOK: “an important and timely story – a memoir full of heartache, resilience, and joy.”
  • DERICH’S PREVIOUS WORK HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN Salon, BlogHer, BabyCenter, Literary Mama, Wild Violet Literary Magazine, Forge Journal, SFGate, and the San Francisco Examiner.