Why we won’t be wasting our holiday money on sun cream

SL270745I have always loved sun bathing, I could literally lie in the sun all day long. Luckily I rarely burn, but having Poppy has, once again, made me swot up on my knowledge, in this case with regards to sun exposure and what our safest and healthiest options are.

I already knew that I wouldn’t want to be using a regular high street brand sun cream on Poppy, due to the endless chemicals they were bound to contain. But for those of you who are unfamiliar with these chemicals I urge you to go and check the labels, and make better choices. That is, if you decide to use sun creams at all; I will explain why we will be using very little sun cream during our holiday to Italy and why we have only used it once or twice during the hot English weather we have been so lucky to have had recently.

What is the problem with regular sun creams?

Where do I start? Increasing research is indicating that rather than protect against skin cancers, sun creams can actually increase your chances of getting cancer. There is more than one reason for this.

IMG_0597First of all it is simply the chemicals that are used in sun creams, many of which have been found to form formaldehyde and other cancer causing substances when mixed with other ingredients. I am not going to list ingredients here or reference studies, but there is loads of info out there, so if you don’t believe me go and have a look yourself. Some ingredients in your sun creams may be linked to cancer and others produce free radicals when exposed to sunlight, which I am guessing is highly likely if you are applying SUN cream?! Vitamin A is in many sun creams, look out for retinyl palmitate and retinol, and when exposed to sunlight this speeds up the development of skin tumours and lesions. On top of this, considering the skin absorbs 60% of what is put on it, I don’t like the idea that sun cream contains parabens, which are not only suspected carcinogens but also disrupt hormones, increasing your risk of breast cancer and altering male sperm count. Artificial scents added to sun creams also contain hormone disruptors which can accumulate in breast milk! No thanks! All of the nasty ingredients in sun creams can be absorbed into the blood, as well as potentially causing allergic reactions and skin irritations.

Some creams are worse than others, and the next paragraph may surprise you. Hands up if you use higher SPF’s if you are going to hotter places? Or if you know you will be in the sun for a long period of time? I used to! Research shows that first of all a lot of these high SPF’s didn’t actually live up to their claims during testing, and offered much lower protection than they advertised. But, more interestingly, the SPF number is not a good indication of the UVA protection. To understand what this means you need to understand the science of the sun a bit better.

There are two types of rays which we are interested in; UVA and UVB. Both are capable of causing damage but we know less about the dangers of UVA rays. What we do know is that they penetrate much more deeply than UVB, and as I will talk about in a minute, UVB can actually be incredibly beneficial to us in that it is the best source of Vitamin D we can get. In fact until recently sun creams only offered protection against UVB rays, so we were blocking the good stuff (Vit D) and letting in the bad. Sounds pretty scary to me! So back to these high factor sun creams which we all assume offer higher protection. They actually still allow many UVA rays through, because these are very difficult to block. However, in order to increase the protection against UVB these creams must contain larger amounts of chemicals. So ultimately the increase in chemicals could increase your risk of skin cancer, and seeing as there is absolutely no evidence that high SPF’s reduce your chances of cancer at all compared to lower ones, surely you are better off choosing a lower concentration of chemicals to smother all over your skin, aka lower SPF creams. Better still, opt for a more natural sun cream, or only use one if you absolutely cannot avoid staying out in the sun without covering up. If you can avoid it, there are much better options.

Better protection against harmful rays:

Covering up with loose clothing provides very good protection against the suns harmful rays. We are planning on taking plenty of light clothing that we can cover Poppy up with whilst we are away, for the times that we feel she has either had enough sun or when we know we will be out in it for a long time. Of course there will definitely be a sun hat on that list too. As well as that, the most sensible thing to do is to seek shade when you feel you have had enough sun, which I admit is something I never used to see as an option. I wanted the best possible tan, but was unknowingly putting my health at risk because I felt safe with my high factor sun cream on. In fact, research suggests that people who use sun cream the most are more likely to develop skin cancer, perhaps because of this false sense of security. SPF 50 does NOT provide double the protection of SPF 25. Please don’t be tempted to stay exposed for twice as long, you are only letting more harmful UVA rays through and are more likely to burn because of your trust in the product that just can’t live up to expectation. Even if you don’t burn, do not assume that no damage has been done! You may find that your children will naturally seek shade and allowing your eyes to measure the strength of the sun accurately, i.e. without sunglasses may help you and your family instinctively know when it is time to get under the umbrella or go inside. For the time when we really cannot control sun exposure we do have a more natural sun cream, which we will apply to our faces and anything that cannot be covered up. However, this is the last resort rather than our number one essential. There are plenty of alternatives to sun cream, which I have not had the chance to research properly. Oils that have naturally high SPF’s, for example raspberry seed oil, can be an excellent, 100% safe alternative that I will definitely switch to in the future.

Having said that, there is another method of sun protection that can be very effective in preventing the damaging effects of the sun. A sun tan! So do not lose all hope, you can still come back from your holiday with a healthy, sun kissed glow. A sun tan is our bodies natural mechanism to protect its cells from UV radiation. But the way in which you get this sun tan is key. You must build it up gradually, which we have been doing ever since the sun decided to shine down on us this Spring. As soon as you are exposed to the sun, you produce melanin, the pigment that makes you darker, which collects on the sun-facing side of the cells, acting as efficient little umbrellas and protecting the cells against UV rays; in other words preventing mutations that could cause skin cancer. It makes perfect sense to me. Our bodies are amazing machines, and surely we are able to cope with being out in the sun, we used to be hunters and gatherers! Interestingly, people who work outdoors have a decreased risk of melanoma, compared to those who work inside and are exposed to sun rays through glass, which absorbs UVB and lets most UVA pass through. It is true that once you have a sun tan it is less likely that you will burn, at least that is certainly the case for me. But because we have less exposure to sun these days, it is important that you do not go from no sun at all to an exotic holiday where you stay out in it all day before your body has built up it’s protection. Even with a tan you must still be careful. The sun is stronger than ever and whilst there are many benefits to sun exposure, you must treat it with respect.

IMG_0729

Major benefits of sun exposure: 

As I have already mentioned, UVB rays are the best form of Vitamin D available to us. Unfortunately many people are severely lacking in Vitamin D, and Vitamin D deficiency is often found in sick children and associated with the worst outcomes. Vitamin D is good for balancing hormones, boosting your immune system, fighting disease and loosing weight. That’s right, loosing weight! Have you even noticed how you just don’t feel as hungry when you have been in the sun, like when you are on holiday? That is because Vitamin D regulates the hormone that is responsible for appetite control. By applying sun cream BEFORE we go out in the sun we are preventing ourselves from getting any of the amazing benefits of Vitamin D that we all so desperately need. In fact, we are making our bodies far less able to fight the very cancers that we are all so wary of getting in the first place. Higher levels of Vitamin D have been linked to better survival chances amongst cancer patients. For this reason, we have decided that we will expose Poppy, and indeed ourselves, to direct sunlight with no protection whatsoever for a certain amount of time at every opportunity. Now, the amount of Vitamin D you are able to produce will vary according to the time of day, where you live and your own body, so I cannot tell you how long you should stay in the sun unprotected. The best thing to do is cover up or seek shade as soon as you notice even the slightest hint of pink on your skin. This could be 5 minutes or it could be 45; everyone is different. After this point your body will not be able to produce any more Vitamin D. It is worth noting though, from what I have read, that it may be unwise to avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm as we are so often told to do, as this may mean you miss the window for optimum Vitamin D production.

Other benefits of sun exposure are probably more familiar to you. A release of endorphins, which may be particularly welcome if you suffer from SAD, an increase in energy and effective treatment of skin diseases (my eczema always clears up on holiday), amongst many other things. It seems backwards to me to believe that something that can make us all feel so healthy on so many levels is going to kill us. So whilst I will be much more careful than I was before, I will never stop worshipping the sun completely!

P1030187

Advertisements

Asparagus gaucamole and avocado sandwich

 photo(1)

Sorry about the photo, back to using my rubbish old phone camera for a little while! I saw this recipe for asparagus gaucamole in one of the free supermarket recipe magazines, and seeing as I had just bought 3 huge bunches of asparagus I thought it was worth a shot. I liked it because there weren’t too many ingredients and you didn’t need anything special that could only be bought in that particular supermarket…which is often the case!

I had to add avocado because, well, I just adore it, and the result was a very tasty, refreshing sandwich, perfect for a hot summer’s day!

Ingredients:

Big bunch asparagus

1 small red onion

1 red chilli (I used orange and used less, although in the end the freshness of the other ingredients meant it wasn’t as hot as I thought it would be)

1 clove garlic

Handful fresh corriander

Zest and juice 1 lime

Half 1 avocado

Spoonful of veganaise or mayo

Bread

Method:

Cut the asparagus into roughly 2cm and steam the tips and the rest of the stems seperately for about 3 mins (you can steam them together but will have to seperate afterwards)

Whilst the asparagus is cooling finely dice the onion, deseed and finely chop the chilli and the garlic and corriander.

Mix everything but the asparagus together in a mixing bowl with lime zest and juice, adding the asparagus tips when cooled.

Blitz the rest of the asparagus in a food processor into a lumpy paste, I added a drizzle of olive oil at this point too and a pinch of salt.

Spread the asparagus guacamole over a slice of bread and spread the other slice with mayo and avocado. Put it together in a sandwich and serve with vegetable crisps and a glass of elderflower cordial for an alfresco lunch!

 

Routines and responding respectfully

For those of you who missed my recent post, we decided that it was time to make a few changes to our night time parenting in order to ease the pressure on myself. Poppy is essentially being taught to self settle. It is tiring, but it is a gentle approach designed to respect Poppy, it is not a quick fix. We had a couple of wobbly nights but things are back on track. I said I would post about exactly what we have done to change Poppy’s sleeping habits so here goes (the “sleep training” element is at the end):

Routine: WP_20140604_023I know it is the oldest trick in the book, and considering the number of books I scanned through during pregnancy I really should have been a bit stricter with this one. I am talking about the bedtime routine; bath, massage, book, breastfeed, bed. We started off well, but gradually we dropped one thing at a time until it was just bath and feed to sleep. No wonder she was still pretty wired and wouldn’t instantly go to sleep! No more skipping steps. It has been amazing how quickly this took effect, and even when she still seems wide awake during the story, as soon as she is in my arms feeding she starts dropping off. Sometimes it takes longer than others, but she isn’t getting that second wind just as I think she is falling asleep, which seemed to be happening so often before.

Black out blinds: I told myself this was the reason for her difficulty in realising it was bedtime, and maybe it played a part, but I think the routine was more important. The blinds have helped, but they don’t quite cover our windows!! Even so, there is enough of a transition from lights on to lights off that helps reinforce that routine.

Introducing a lovely: Poppy now sleeps with the same teddy (cat actually) every night. I put it in her arms as she feeds, and she has started to grasp it, so I think it is working. The cat is currently nameless – ideas on a postcard please!

Moving her into her own room: This was the saddest change, as it came way before I thought it would. But realistically I knew that I was unlikely to make the other changes, like reducing her feeds, without it. We wanted her to learn to settle with Tim, and eventually alone, but when she is at arms length and we are half asleep I act on auto pilot. Tim wouldn’t have had the chance to even try to settle her, he probably would never have woken up at all. Amazingly she didn’t seem to protest to the move, I think she realised very quickly that we were still there for her, all she needed to do was ask.

P1030401

Cutting down the feeds: This was my main aim of the transition. I didn’t make a plan, not really. I told myself I would see how she reacted if I just didn’t feed her, and to my surprise it was really not that bad. She grizzled a little but then dropped back off. So I tried to resist a few times. I realised her cry was different when she was really hungry…more about that in a minute. I found she needed a feed at around 3am every morning, sometimes earlier, sometimes later, I am still being led by her in that regard. At the moment we are down to a feed to sleep at 6pm, a top up ‘dream feed’ before I go to bed (although I am sure she wakes up for this) and then the 3am fed.

Listening to the cry NOT cry it out!: You know that study about how stress hormones wash over a crying baby’s brain? The one that makes us AP mums feel guilty every time we hear our pumpkins sob? Well did you know that when they are being held or even if they are next to you that the stress hormones could be almost non existent? Just being there through the tears makes your baby feel safe and by the end of that crying session they could have even learned a thing or two; that they are able to regulate their emotions and that their feelings valid because you stuck around and showed them love when they felt sad. That is very different to leaving them to cry themselves to exhaustion on their own and eventually give up on anyone coming to them. We knew that Poppy would cry to start with. She had no idea why she was suddenly not getting what she had been used to for 8 months! But I honestly thought it would be much worse than it was. We agreed to be with her when she cried and try to comfort her but not desperately try to fix it immediately. First we would listen to the type of cry and ask ourselves what Poppy really needs. Just like other stages in development learning to fall asleep on your own can be frustrating, and we would be there to support her through that. If this was the sort of emotion she was expressing, what does feeding really do? I am all for comfort feeding, but I can’t do it whenever Poppy faces something challenging or when things don’t go quite the way she had planned or hoped. We quickly learnt the difference between her cries and when it was frustration we lay with her, stroke her head and talk to her calmly and lovingly. She falls asleep within minutes. And if she doesn’t, we know that she really needs me instead of Tim or she needs a feed. If it is getting towards 3am and her cry is intense and builds I feed her straight away, and some nights she does still refuse to settle without feeding, but those nights have been few and far between. She is sometimes able to fall back to sleep during the night with no more than a quick rub on the back to know we are there, or even a ‘shh’ at the door. There are still times when she needs more and we are with her for 20 minutes or so, but the point is we know that she can do it. She is only waking once or twice, tops before her early morning feed, which is an improvement, and Tim is able to share the responsibility. I think this is good for their bond as well, although not so good for the dark circles under Tim’s eyes!

photo 2

There have been a few downsides to this change. The biggest being that for some reason she is waking up earlier, 5am most days, and I don’t really know why. I have even tried to feed her back to sleep despite my better judgement in a desperate plea for a lie in, but she enjoys the feed and then wakes up anyway! It means we have all started napping at about 7.30am, which is a nice way to make up for the lack of cosleeping. I am also finding it harder to switch off knowing that I might have to get up at any moment to go into her room. But it is getting easier to relax as time goes on. We are quite tired from going back and forth to her room, but it has lessened. Even if things stay as they are for the time being, it means I have my evenings without interruption, the nights are becoming more predictable, I probably have longer chunks of sleep even if the waking up is more effort, and Poppy has come a long way which is great. I have loose aims of what will happen as we go forward, but I am not going to put any pressure on Poppy or get my hopes up too much. I might try this weekend to drop the dream feed before my bedtime, because I don’t really know how long she would go into the night if I didn’t give it her. If it turns out she doesn’t really need it then that would be ideal because it would free up my entire evenings! (oops I said I wasn’t going to get my hopes up!) If that doesn’t work and she wakes up at midnight each night, hungry, then I will revert back to the original plan and perhaps aim to gradually push the 3am feed later and later, until she is going through from our bedtime until her ridiculously early waking up time. That sounds wonderful! Of course the biggest bonus would be if she decides that other than the hungry feeds, she doesn’t need us at all to help her settle, and we could go to sleep every night knowing that we will get ‘x’ amount of hours In before she wakes. But that sounds far too structured for otherwise chaotic lives, and I am sure those babies don’t really exist.

WP_20140605_018

 

The best thing since sliced bread!

WP_20140603_001

Recipe wanted for rye bread like this that is simple and healthy!

Poppy has gone from swallowing barely anything to an eating machine overnight! Ok that is a huge exaggeration, but it feels that way!

WP_20140603_002

We went shopping yesterday and I decided to try her on a couple of new things, and they have gone down a storm! The first was Biona organic rye bread. It is really dense so easier for her to hold than bread and probably a better texture for her to manage than toast. I spread avocado on it for her breakfast and she ate two whole squares! She also munched on a couple of strawberries.

This afternoon I gave her some Kallo organic rice cake with a teeny bit of peanut butter on top. She demolished it! I mean she ate half of a big rice cake, which is huge for her! She crammed way too much in her mouth which made me slightly nervous but she managed to figure it out herself. She also had a couple of bits of tomato which got squished and some melon which she liked gnawing on but nothing went down.

This evening she had some red pepper which wasn’t successful and some orange which she just loves to suck the juice out of. And a few organic alphabet biscuits we had leftover from the cafe. I don’t want to give her too much packaged food, even organic, but she absolutely loves these and puts the whole thing in her mouth then lets it go soggy. She at about 5 of them, again, loads compared to usual. She definitely prefers things that don’t squish in her hand but do squish in her mouth! Which is annoying because I guess she won’t be getting much fruit and veg for a while. But I will keep trying! She must have been pretty full after all of that…and she hasn’t woken up yet after going to bed at 6….wishful thinking?!