"As you journey to take your place among the lineage of women as mother, we encourage you to 'mother' yourself.
As you do so we join with you in celebration of the healing power of nature both within and all around you."
I've discussed here so many times before my desire to use natural and organic products in my home and for my family. When Sonia Walker, co-founder of Baobag contacted me about her business, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to share it with you.
In Australia, when a woman births in a hospital or birth centre, she is usually given a 'bounty bag' - a collection of pamphlets and samples of products to take home. I received one with Che and can't recall using any of the products supplied - they all contained far too may chemicals for my liking.
But the Baobag is different. A beautifully designed calico bag that can be used to carry nappies, a change of clothes, toiletries etc, it is brimming with products from some of Australia's leading natural and organic companies including Jurlique, WotNot, Blackmores, Eco Store, Madame Flavour and Cushie Tushies. Over 70,000 new mums in Australia will be given a Baobag by their obstetrician, birth centre or yoga studio each year; an introduction to the world of organic and natural products for baby and the home.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sonia, a passionate and considerate woman (and mother) about the Baobag and her desire to see Australian families embrace a more natural way of living. She has also given me a Baobag to give away to one of you. Simply leave a comment on this post and I will draw a winner on Friday afternoon. Read on for an inspiring look into the life of Sonia Walker and Baobag.
Jodi: What inspired you to create the Baobag?Sonia: I grew up in outback Australia, and although I ended up in the corporate world and living in the big smoke, I have always been inspired by and drawn energy from nature.
After the birth of my kids in my early 30s, I started a bit of a personal investigation into ways for us to live a more natural and less toxic life. I was shocked when I discovered that the average woman applies 126 different chemicals to her face, body and hair via 12 different products before leaving the house each morning!
The more I learned, the more I decided to start going through our home to see how we could make changes to minimise our exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals. When chatting to my girlfriends, I realised I wasn’t alone in my concerns and started thinking about ways to help women make the shift to a more natural way of being and living, while still enjoying the things they love in everyday life. I know that during pregnancy, so many women start giving some serious thought to what they’re putting onto and into their bodies – so I wanted to find a way to help them through this process.
A glass of wine and a brainstorming session with a girlfriend lead to the idea of the BaoBag – and 18 months later, we now reach over 70,000 new Mums per annum nationwide!
Jodi: Where does the name come from?
Sonia: It's inspired by the mighty baobab trees that are indigenous to northern Australia and Africa (also known as the 'Boab' in Australia). They are renowned for their generous, abundant, and healing properties, providing life-giving shelter, water, food and medicine in the harshest of environments. Traditional Aboriginal women also bury their newborn child's placenta in the bowels of the tree to symbolise the child growing mighty and strong. They're the most amazing trees!
Jodi: How does your lifestyle and your ideals affect the way you run your company?
Sonia: They are one and the same. The company was inspired by the lifestyle and ideals we were pursuing in our own lives. Obviously I am no Robinson Crusoe in wanting to provide a healthy lifestyle for my family that minimises exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, and as I researched the options for us to adopt in our own lives I realised that there was a real gap here.
There are plenty of beautiful natural and organic products and services out there, but it can be hard to identify them amongst all the other products on the shelf. A new Mum is particularly receptive to reassessing her choice of product, but she is also particularly time poor and simply doesn't have time to go to 3 different shops and try out 3 different brands! There needed to be a vehicle that made it easy for busy Mums to find these alternatives, and research and try them out for themselves in the comfort of their own home.
Jodi: How important are organic skin products for mum & bub?
Sonia: There are two really good reasons to go organic.
The first is the imperative to minimise exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. There is enough evidence out there now to be really concerned about the prolonged use of many commonly used synthetic chemicals and ingredients, with consequences ranging from skin irritations, to respiratory ailments, to disrupted hormonal development and even to cancer. Why risk it when there are wonderful natural alternatives available, based on ingredients used throughout the history of mankind, and that are proven to be effective and safe?
The second reason is less scary and far more enjoyable. It is simply that organic = best quality ingredients. If you've ever slept on organic cotton sheets followed by non-organic you'll understand the difference. The same with taking a bite out of an organic apple versus non organic. The quality of the product is so superior. It is exactly the same with skincare ingredients - you're getting the highest quality ingredients at their freshest and most powerful. Once you've converted you don't go back.
Jodi: What's in the bag?Sonia: The BaoBag is designed to be presented as a gift for Mum’s enjoyment, with useful items contained within, (as opposed to just another bag full of advertising and reading material).
The products represented are usually within the following categories:
Natural & organic skincare and consumable items for Mums and Bubs. In this category the aim is to avoid known or contentious ‘nasties’ such as Sulfates, PEGs, Parabens and Mineral Oils, where there are safer alternatives available. We use Bill Statham’s “The Chemical Maze” as a reference point to identify these ingredients. We hope to eventually include products for Dad in this category as well; it is just a matter of finding some good products that are effective and a provider who is willing to invest in this category.
This is very much a category of pampering and may also include items such as a tea or chocolate that is sourced ethically and contains no artificial ingredients.
- Health Foods / Supplements - This category would include pregnancy specific supplements from a respected provider. From time to time we would also include an organic baby food range so that Mums can be aware that there are some wonderful alternatives to commercial baby food available for when their little one is ready to go on to solids.
- Non toxic products & services for the home - This area is of particular concern considering the many harmful chemicals in most household cleaning products and the fact that babies spend so much time on the floor and putting things in their mouths. There are many plant based alternatives out there that are effective, much less irritating on sensitive skin, and far less toxic.
- Nursery items - In this category we promote items such as ethically produced designer modern cloth nappies which offer a far more environmentally sound alternative to the disposables that are piling up in landfills across the planet. We also include eco friendly disposable nappies and all natural wipes. Other great items include sleeping bags and clothing items made out of natural fibres such as bamboo and merino wool. These fibres are known for their superior breathe-ability properties (in comparison to their synthetic counterparts), and as such for their effectiveness in helping to regulate body temperature.
Jodi: What is your criteria when selecting brands for the Baobag?
Sonia: Everything in the bag has to be something of value. They are not always pregnancy related - we remember Mum is still her own person and requires nourishment of her own body and spirits as well. The manufacturers and service providers we partner with all share a commitment towards using as natural and organic ingredients as possible and utilising sustainable and eco-friendly manufacturing processes. In addition they earn their place in the BaoBag because they are relevant, beautiful and useful.
Jodi: How does it make you feel, knowing that you are giving a new mum, one that you have never met, such a beautiful and nourishing product?
Sonia: Becoming a new Mum is such a life-changing stage, and I feel humbled and privileged to be able to contribute in some small way to such a powerful time of life for so many Mums around Australia. I remember my own journey of trying to find the best natural products for myself and my family and it was very time consuming! I’m thrilled to be able to make this process a bit easier for Mums-to-Be through the BaoBag.
At the end of the day though, it's really not about me. It's the wonderful product partners we work with who have generously provided quality samples at their own expense, so that we are able to provide a true free gift with no strings attached. BaoBag acts as a connection between these fantastic natural products and Aussie Mums looking to make a positive impact on the health of themselves, their baby and the planet. Everybody wins!
Jodi: No doubt Baobag will grow...but what are your greatest dreams for it?
Sonia: My dream is to inspire households around the whole of Australia to detoxify their lives one step at a time. I believe this is entirely achievable if we make it easy and enjoyable for them to do so. If we can pull that off, then we could collectively raise a whole generation of toxic free kids and leave them with a healthier planet while we're at it. Now we're talking about making a real difference!
UPDATE: Comments now closed. Winner of the baobag is cityhippyfarmgirl.