Help, Please: Suzanne Price of Sprout San Francisco

Chief correspondent and new mom SuChin Pak finds out how other moms parent

I wish I had a degree in environmental science with an emphasis on child development and nutritional health. That would pretty much solve my anxiety whenever I’m walking down a grocery aisle or shopping for a crib sheet set. Thankfully, there is Sprout San Francisco, a retailer that meticulously evaluates every product to make sure it’s free of anything that could harm your baby. I tracked down founder Suzanne Price to thank her personally for the peace of mind — and get her take on when I really shouldn’t skimp. — SuChin Pak


Was there an aha moment for you when you realized why, especially as a mom, it’s important to create a nontoxic home environment?
If there was one real aha moment, it was when I learned that the average age of girls going through puberty has dropped by about two years within the last twenty years. (And there are correlations between early onset of puberty and breast cancer later in life, as well as other issues.) That proved to me that something is wrong in the environment in which we are raising our children.

And what was the moment when you decided that you wanted to start your own business?
My husband and I were thinking of getting pregnant, and I suddenly realized, I am so worried now about every product I use for myself, how am I going to feel when I have kids? Where am I going to shop? I realized there should be a place like Whole Foods for new moms where parents can go and know that every product has been vetted to be healthy for their children.

suzanne price!

You run a company and parent two girls. How do you manage the balancing act?
Often not very well, I think. In the beginning, when I first had Hannah, I believed I could be in two places at once mentally, but it turned out that I couldn’t. When Amber was born, one month after we opened our second store, I had to learn to better segment my time. I finally had to ask for help and admit that I couldn’t handle all of it … It took me a while to determine what choices to make between work and kids, and I am still figuring that out every day. I think, like many moms, I feel guilty no matter which decision I make.

You immerse yourself in research about chemicals and child safety. How do you keep from being overwhelmed by it all?
If I was extreme about every single thing my kids touched, I would never be able to keep it going. Hannah is pretty much in a princess dress every chance she gets, and those are not yet made in organic fabrics. And when we’re out, they eat whatever is convenient. I know that at home they are pretty much eating all organic, so I can let it go a little bit at restaurants or friends’ houses. There is a study about how when children were given an all-organic diet for 24 hours, it significantly reduced the amount of pesticide found in their urine. There was a similarly shocking study about some families that avoided plastics for just three days and the BPA levels in their blood dropped 70 percent! This just shows that you can make small changes that have a significant impact.

What baby/kid supplies would you say are absolutely worth spending extra for?
That’s easy. I believe that an organic mattress is the most important thing to invest in for your baby. Traditional crib mattresses are made of polyurethane foam, which releases VOCs into the air. Foam is also extremely flammable, so these mattresses are sprayed with flame-retardant chemicals in order to meet legal standards.

suzanne price!

And if we’re gonna cut corners somewhere, where should it be?
I would do it on clothing, especially for older children. I do believe that the pesticides in cotton, the U.S.’s most highly pesticided crop, can rub off on skin. I believe this matters for newborn basics. However, children grow so fast that many outfits they will wear only a couple of times.

What’s a common mistake families make when designing a nursery or kids’ room?
I think most people these days know not to paint right before the baby is born because those fumes stick around for a while. Also, many people believe carpet is the best option for their child’s room, but carpet can harbor allergens and dust, so leave your wood floors if you have them.

Which item now on Sprout are you most obsessed with?
Our organic fleece blankets. Mostly, I am obsessed with them because my girls are. They are instantly comforted by cuddling with these soft blankets when they are upset, and holding onto the silk edge is how they both like to fall asleep, either in the car or at home.

What was your “Whoa, I’m a parent” moment?
When Hannah was just a few days old. She was crying and crying and my mom couldn’t soothe her. When I picked her up, she calmed down right away. I thought, I don’t know what I am doing. Why am I a comfort to you? Then I realized that she knew I was her mom and that meant something to her. It was really an astonishing moment.

suzanne price!

What’s something you’ve learned from watching your partner parent?
My husband is amazing at treating our kids like little people. He is an engineer and is always explaining to them how everything works. He also is great about explaining where we are going and why, instead of just grabbing them and putting them in the car as I do sometimes when feeling rushed. They are constantly trying to make sense of their world, and taking time to explain things to them eliminates a lot of their frustration.

Who’s a mom you admire?
My mom always makes me feel like somebody out there loves me no matter what and will be there for me whenever I need her. Just knowing that helps me get through hard times in life. I think that if I can give my daughters that same confidence in my support for them, then I will be a success as a mother.

Your girls are writing a book about you, what’s the title? Silly Mommy.

One rule you never break: Don’t threaten a consequence you aren’t willing to follow through on.

Thing you miss most since having kids: Spending time with just my husband and our dog. Our poor dog, Cody, doesn’t get much attention anymore, and he really is the best dog. Also sleeping in on a weekend would be nice.

Thing you miss least: Wondering if I ever would [have kids]. After a couple of miscarriages, I was pretty worried that it wouldn’t work out. Then I worried about whether the kids would be healthy. I am so lucky to have two beautiful, healthy girls and to not have to wonder anymore.

Parenting habit you swore you would never do but now do frequently: Talk about my kids to everyone. I really try not to, but I can’t help it.

Favorite bedtime book: Anything by Sandra Boynton, especially The Going to Bed Book and Pajama Time! I also love Margaret Wise Brown’s Big Red Barn.

suzanne price!

Favorite baby bath soap: Earth Mama Angel Baby shampoo and body wash. It’s made of all organic ingredients, has no scent, and washes out easily.

Stroller of choice: The Orbit Baby travel system. I have gone back and forth across the country with it many times, and it is by far the easiest stroller and car seat to travel with.

Go-to family dinner: We try to have Shabbat dinner all together, with challah, organic roast chicken, and sauteed broccoli. Red wine for the parents and grape juice for the kids.

Favorite app: Peekaboo Barn. Somehow that entertains Amber for a good ten minutes at a time still.

Morning read: My email. When that’s done, it’s the afternoon.

TV shows you can’t live without: We actually don’t have a TV in our living room anymore and just watch shows days later on the iPad. I do love Scandal, The Newsroom, Homeland, and How I Met Your Mother.

On your bedside table: A picture of both girls; my Mom’s One Line a Day journal, in which I write something short about the kids every night; Kerouac’s On the Road, which I have read 50 times; a novel by Herman Wouk; and a food book by Michael Pollan.

Always in your bag: Somehow there are usually loose crayons, little girls’ hair clips, and one ballet slipper in whatever purse I grab. When I open it at work, it makes me smile.

Photos: Andi Hatch for DailyCandy