Category Archives: Natural Parenting

A Breastfeeding Kit

I’ve been nesting lately, which is kind of fun.  This weekend, I’ve been putting together my breastfeeding kit, so I thought I’d share with you what all I’m putting in it.

Nursing Bras

Yep.  Gotta have some nursing bras.  I went to my local breastfeeding store (seriously, skip the mall), and got measured.  I came home with:

  • Bravado Original Nursing Bra - Here’s something to take note of: If you are large-chested, Bravado is the way to go from what I hear.  They specifically design nursing bras to fully support women with larger breasts.  Nice, eh?
  • Majamas Easy Bra - This bra is unbelievably comfortable and still very supportive.  It’s going to be a fantastic sleep bra.

Now the rule of thumb on nursing bras is this: Before you have your baby get a “transition” bra.  You don’t know what your size is really going to be until later.  After your milk comes in and your supply settles down a bit, go out and get a few regular nursing bras.   The Bravado bra I got will do double duty as a transition bra and a real nursing bra.  Later on, though, I want to get fitted for a Hotmilk bra!  Now, I’ve never worn one of these, so I can’t write with any sort of authority on whether or not they do a good job, but aren’t they gorgeous?  Wow!

Nursing Pillow

Thankfully, I’ve already got one of these.  All I have to do is wash the cover.  If you’re making your own breastfeeding kit, though, I can unreservedly recommend the My Brest Friend nursing pillow.  Okay, I know the name is really corny, but this pillow is hands down the best pillow out there.  I am not kidding when I say that if I hadn’t found this pillow, I probably would’ve given up nursing with Gabi.  The Boppy and the bed pillows were a squishy, sliding nightmare.  If you get one thing, get this pillow.  It’s awesome.

Breast Pads

Last time, I just used disposable pads.  This time, I want to be a little more environmentally (and financially!) savvy.  I got a free set of Bamboobies nursing pads as part of a World Breastfeeding Week promotion.  Supposedly, the bamboo is super absorbent and the heart-shape means less bulk under a bra.  The promotional pair came with a 20% off coupon, so I went ahead and got a few more.  They have multi-packs, so I got a pack with 3 regular + 1 overnight pairs and a pack with 3 regular + 3 overnight pairs.  I’ve never used reusable pads before.  I’m not sure if this will be enough or too many.  I’m not sure if I will love this particular brand.  This is all experimental, so please don’t take my mention of this brand as an endorsement because I just don’t know yet!  Hopefully, after I get the chance to use them for a while I’ll be able to tell you more about them.

Nipple Cream

Last time, I used lanolin nipple cream.  Unfortunately, I’ve recently come to understand that Lansinoh, the company that produces and sells most of the lanolin we find easily on the shelves here, is owned by a WHO Code violator.  I’ve mentioned in the past that this is a deal-breaker for me, so I’m seeking an alternative.  Aside from the WHO Code violations, I found the lanolin to be sticky and greasy.  It was difficult to put on and made peeling breast pads off my sore nipples to be quite painful.  Lanolin can also contain toxins, and that’s something I’d very much like to avoid.  With this in mind, I’ve opted for a nipple cream by Motherlove.  I’ve used their herbal supplements in the past and was pleased with the quality, so I opted to give their nipple cream a try.  Hopefully it works out!

Breast Pump

I’ve already got a Medela Pump in Style Advance from when I had Gabi.  Unfortunately, Medela has recently opted to violate the WHO Code in favor of marketing bottles to breastfeeding women (for an in depth look at the issue click here).  Because of this, I am not able to recommend Medela products to my friends and I am not comfortable spending money on Medela products.  To make things more difficult for socially conscious mamas, Evenflo, the owner of Ameda (another major breastpump manufacturer) has also chosen to violate the WHO Code.  At this point, to my knowledge, the only breastpump company that is not a code violator is Hygeia.  From what I hear, Hygeia makes fantastic pumps.  I haven’t ever used one, so I don’t know personally, but here’s a review that I found if you’re curious.  I had my old Medela pump suction tested yesterday, and we found that the suction is still just fine.  Because of this, there’s no reason for me to purchase another pump, so I’m stuck spending money on Medela parts.  It’s nice to save the money, but I wish Medela would comply with the WHO Code.  It wouldn’t be that difficult.

Milk Saver

Okay, this is a new one.  A few months ago, I visited a local breastfeeding store called The Pump Station, and my friend and I saw the My Milkies Milk Saver.  Initially, I thought it sounded weird.  Collecting milk while you’re breastfeeding?  Really?  Then Hobo Mama reviewed them on her blog (there’s a giveaway!), and I became intrigued.  So yesterday, I went to my local breastfeeding supply store (The Pump Station) and purchased one.  We’ll see how it works!

At this point, that’s what I’ve got in my breastfeeding kit.  Did you put together a breastfeeding kit for yourself or a friend?  If so, what did you include in it?

World Breastfeeding Week – Talking to my Daughter about Breastfeeding

Last night, at the dinner table, my daughter and I had a conversation that left me feeling so sad inside.  We were talking about expectations for the new baby, and, as I often do, I asked her, “What do babies eat again?”

Gabi said, “Milk!”

“Milk from where?”

“A bottle!”

A bottle?  This from the kid who, up until a few months ago was nursing herself?  So I dug a little deeper.  I said, “Honey, babies drink milk from their mommies’ nipples.”  (This echoed the language she used to use when she would nurse.)

Her response broke my heart: “EEEEEEEEWWWWWWW!!!!!!!  Are you crazy?”

What on earth is going on here?  Did she forget our own nursing relationship so quickly?  Doesn’t she remember cuddling with me on the couch and in bed?  That was just a few months ago.  What happened?  Where on earth did she learn that nursing is something to go “EEW!” about?  Where did I go wrong?

We talk a lot about nursing in our house.  Gabi loves animals, and we have a book called Born Alive and Well that talks about mammals.  Whenever we see different animals we take the time to talk about them: 

Look!  There’s a bunny!  What kind of animal is that bunny?  A mammal.  That’s right!  What makes mammals special?  They have fur and they breathe air.  That’s right.  What do baby mammals eat?  They drink their mommy’s milk. 

And so forth.

Every day is a science lesson with Gabi.  When she plays with her toys, we talk about it: 

What does the baby horse eat?  I don’t know.  Is it a mammal?  Mommy’s milk!

I’ve worked hard to make sure that nursing is something that we talk about as being biologically normal.  It’s what mammals do.

We also have a book about new babies called What Baby Needs to help prepare her for what to expect after the baby is born.  It’s a Dr. Sears book, and it talks about new babies from an attachment parenting perspective.  Many of the images in the book (babywearing, nursing, sidecar cosleeping, etc.) are ones that Gabi will see when the baby is born.  I particularly like that the book talks about nursing and shows the mom nursing the new baby while she cuddles the older child.  Gabi chooses this book every few weeks at bedtime, so the concepts are ones that she’s become pretty familiar with.

One sticking point with the communicating about nursing is with her dolls.  She has a couple of dolls that came with bottles (don’t get me started on that!) and I haven’t gotten around to sneaking the bottles into the recycling bin.  She always insists on feeding the dolls with a bottle instead of nursing them.  I asked her why the other night and she said it was because she didn’t have any milk in her nipples.  I suggested she use her imagination but didn’t push the issue.  I’d rather nudge things along then push them.  I did point out to her that I’ve never fed her or any other baby with a bottle (truth), though.

I suspect a lot of this is what she sees at school.  There are a few babies at her daycare, but since the moms are away at work, she sees them eating from bottles.  She’s never really been exposed to breastfeeding outside of her own experience with it.

Could this simply be a case of her not making the connection between her nursing only a few months ago and a newborn baby (or horse or pig or manatee) nursing?  Could these be compartmentalized in her mind?

I certainly have plans and intentions for helping her to feel included in the care and feeding of the new baby:

  • I plan to get her a very nice baby doll as a “present from the baby” – one without a bottle
  • I’ve already gotten her a child-sized Ergo doll carrier so that she can carry her doll with her like Mama and Papa will carry the new baby
  • I’d like to get one of these nursing necklaces from my friend, and if I do, I plan to get a Gabi-sized one for her to use if she wants
  • If she asks to try nursing again after the baby is born, I’m more than willing to let her try

Will this help build within her mind the concept of breastfeeding as normal?  I certainly hope so.  I also hope that giving her some options on different activities to encourage her to mimic what we do with the baby will help her to view breastfeeding as a natural part of life.

Are there other ways that I can talk to her about breastfeeding?  How do you talk about breastfeeding with your children?

***

celebrate-wbw-npn-450

I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!

You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.

(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)

Birthing Positions and Water Birth Positions

I’m going to be sharing a full write-up of my birthing preferences a little later, but I wanted to take some time to talk about birthing positions.  This is a really important aspect of birth.

What you see in movies?  The woman flat on her back, legs up in the air, yelling her head off?  That’s a terrible way to push out a baby.  This position actually closes the pelvis off and forces the woman to push uphill.  No part of that is good for childbirth.  There’s only one reason to birth a baby in this position: to make it easier for the doctor.  You know, he doesn’t have to bend down that way.  He can sit on the chair or stand up.  Much more comfortable for him, right?  And that’s what’s most important after all: making sure your doctor is comfortable.

Before I go into this further, take a look at this article that lists the pros and cons of different birth positions.  Scroll down to the bottom to read the pros and cons of birthing on your back with your legs in the air.  Do you notice anything?  There are no pros for this!  That’s right.  There’s nothing good about this.  Only cons.

So you might gather from all of this that I want to push our baby out in a position other than flat on my back.  Honestly, I’m not sure how I will want to birth the baby.  On all fours?  Squatting?

I very much intend to use the birth pool.  So how does that work with birthing positions?  Honestly, I have no clue!  With Gabi, I had an epidural.  I was paralyzed from the waist down.  I was, you guessed it, flat on my back with my legs up in the air.

I have a hard time doing things if I can’t try it out ahead of time, or at least visualize it.  It’s why I never asked to use the squat bar at the hospital before getting the epidural with Gabi.  It’s why I asked my midwives to let me try out the birth stool during my second appointment.  It’s why I really, really need a doula.  If I’m not sure how to do something, I just freeze up.  I’m not sure why.  I just do.  So this is why I’m trying to familiarize myself as much as possible with water birth and various birth positions.

Like they say in my hypnobabies course, I’m having to retrain my mind to remove the flat-on-the-back, legs-in-the-air positioning from my concept of “normal” and replace it with a new normal which includes movement and various different positions.

To find out what birthing in the water looks like, I did some YouTube searching.  I’m going to post some links to some videos that helped me get some ideas on some of the different positions you can use if you’re in the water.

These are birth videos.  There is some potential for nudity.  I found the videos to be empowering and inspiring, but if you don’t want to see women giving birth, just don’t click the links.  And if you don’t want to see woman giving birth, but you click the links anyway?  Don’t come whining to me about it!

  • Here’s the first video I found.  It’s a home birth and a Hypnobabies birth (yay!), and she spends most of her birthing time outside the tub and only enters the tub to push.  Right around the 4:50-5:00 mark, you can really see the position that she is using to push her baby out.  She’s resting on her knees, leaning forward.  She actually partially stands up for the time when he was born.
  • Here’s one that is a photo montage.  She gets in the water at around 45 seconds in and from the look of it she’s on all fours, leaning forward against the side of the tub.  It’s difficult to tell, but it looks like she pushed her baby out in a seated position, leaning back against the side of the tub for support.
  • Here’s a third one.  This one is a hospital birth.  The dad wasn’t allowed to film during the pushing, but there are still photos and starting around 1:36, you can see that she’s seated, leaning back.  I also want to say that I love this dad.  He is so completely chilled out during this whole thing.  Completely calm and just allowing his wife to have a quiet, peaceful environment for her birth.
  • Here is a fourth and final one.  The thing that I find interesting about this one is how much the mother can move in the water.  She’s moving the entire time!

There seems to be an incredible variety in how women choose to birth in a tub.  I have to wonder if the water helps facilitate that.  I’m only 31 weeks, and already I feel huge and awkward.  I have to wonder if the weightlessness of the water allows them to move their bodies more easily for greater comfort during birth.

Seeing people actually giving birth in the water helps me so much to visualize what I want.  I think I may ever fill up our bathtub here at home at some point and do some of my Hypnobabies practicing in the water.  I really hope doing this kind of visualization and practice will help me to feel more confident during my birthing time.  I plan to talk to my doula and let her know that I do tend to freeze up.  I want her to be able to watch for this and give me a nudge if she sees this happening.  But I also want to find some empowerment on my own, and watching the women in these videos give birth really helps me to find that within myself.

Gabi’s trip to the Natural History Museum

Saturday, we took a short road trip north to visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History with Gabi and her Grandma and Grandpa.

Gabi had a great time.  We let her lead the way and explore the museum as she felt inclined.  As she encountered different exhibits, we talked to her about them by asking a series of questions.  We’ve found that, for her, this is a good way for her to learn.

For example, the museum has a blue whale skeleton at the entrance that you can walk into and touch.  She loved this and wanted to be right up in the bones.  This gave us the opportunity to talk to her about bones.  Understand that about half of the books we read together are science-related, so she’s been building on this knowledge for a while.  This is a chance for her to see the things we’ve read about up close.

What do bones do? Help us stand up.  Can you find the whale’s ribs (she’s been talking about ribs lately)?  That’s right!  What do our ribs do?  Protect my heart.  Where is your heart?  Where do you think this whale’s heart was?  I think you’re right?  Do you think it was a big heart or a little heart?  Biiiiiiiig heart!  I think you’re right!  Do you remember if a whale is a mammal or a fish?  I don’t know.  Well… let’s think about it.  Do whales breathe fresh air in their lungs?  Uh-huh.  …  Mammal!  That’s right Gabi!  What do you think baby whales eat?  Do you think they eat fish?  mmmmm…. No, they drink their mommy’s milk.  That’s right!  Do they drink a lot or a little do you think?  Remember, a baby whale is bigger than Papa!  A lot!  I bet you’re right!  I bet it takes a lot of milk for a baby whale to grow up big and strong. 

Then she ran to the whale’s head and had Grandpa lift her up into the head.

Gabi, do you see teeth in this whale’s mouth?  No. No teeth.  What do you think it uses to eat?  I don’t know.  It uses a special kind of part in its mouth called baleen to eat a teeny-tiny animal called krill.  Do you want to know how baleen works?  It’s like when Mommy makes pasta.  You know at the end how Mommy pours the pasta through the strainer in the sink and the water flows out through the holes, but the pasta stays in the strainer so we can eat it?  It works just like that.

And so forth. 

Aside from the whale bones, the other big highlight (for all of us!) was the butterfly exhibit.  I’ve been to a lot of butterfly exhibits.  Usually, they’re huge, glass pyramids with exotic greenery and lush waterfalls.  This exhibit was a simple building with net ceiling and walls to contain the butterflies.  Inside were plants that can grow happily in the local environment.  It was the smallest butterfly exhibit I’ve ever been to.  It was also by far the best one I’ve ever seen.  Gabi was able to have many close encounters with the butterflies.  She even found one that landed on my back!  And another tried to land on her pink shoe!  It was very exciting.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History isn’t a child-oriented museum, but by letting Gabi lead and explaining things in ways that she can understand, we were able to bring her into the experience and make it enjoyable for her.  Sure, we didn’t get to see the hall of minerals, which I was actually pretty interested in.  We also spent way more time looking at dioramas than I probably would have.  But that doesn’t really matter.  By letting her lead and teaching to what she was interested in, she learned much more and had a much better time than she otherwise would have.  We all did!

Here are some pictures from the day in no particular order. 

Green Disposable Diapers – Part 3

Okay, folks.  My parents are in town from Texas for a visit, so I’m going to take the lazy way out of today’s post.  Actually, I really lucked into this.

Janet, over at A Pregnancy With Hyperemesis Gravidarum, did my homework for me today!  How cool is that?

She has done a fantastic write up of different green diaper comparisons.  She tried out all four of the ones I’ve looked at:

  • Earth’s Best
  • Nature Babycare
  • Huggies Pure and Natural
  • 7th Generation
Read this post!  It’s awesome!
Thanks so much Janet!  You’ve given me some fantastic information the help narrow down my diaper hunt!

Cloth Diapering – Part 2

I have mentioned before that my family doesn’t cloth diaper, but I do love the idea of cloth diapering.  It’s a great way to reduce your impact on the environment.  Because of this, I asked several of my friends to write guest posts about cloth diapering for my Green Sunday segment.  This is the second post in my cloth diaper series.  It was written by my good friend Jessica who owns Top to Bottom Baby Boutique in Omaha, Nebraska.  If you’re ever in the area, check out her new storefront!  She’s a fun lady and a great businesswoman.

Owning a natural parenting and cloth diapering store usually garnishes a lot of questions:  What started me cloth diapering?  Why did we decide to open the business?  And what do I find the most challenging?  Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of stories from moms and dads on why they started or what stopped them.  These stories, always intrigue me, because I love seeing what cloth diapering means to families.  One of the most popular questions I get is “How in the world am I suppose to use cloth when both my husband and I work full-time”.  This one always makes me chuckle, because it is my favorite topic!

Let me warn you, this always starts me on the discussion of laundry.  And just so we are clear, I hate laundry.  I’m not even sure that hate is a strong enough word.  Luckily, early on, I was able to convince Justin that it should be one of his tasks!  And I have dealt with shrunken clothes, things that have turned blue, etc in order to avoid laundry.  But diaper laundry I will do!  I love diaper laundry because I don’t have to sort, fold, or put away…though my good friend Maia does all of those for her diapers!

Justin and I have always both worked, and for the longest times we were on opposite shifts to avoid full-time daycare.  It made it very hard to avoid laundry duty.  When we began cloth diapering, we used a local diaper service.  After a couple of weeks we were having issues with leaks and I started looking for other options.  What I found was the wonderful world of fitteds, beautiful covers, and all around cute diapers.  Cuter than Cadence was wearing at that point.  As my research continued, we decided to move away from using the service and begin washing our own.  Two kids and three years later we opened our own store because there were no local options that allowed me to play with diapers (and as my husband tells everyone, I’m just not patient enough to wait for the mail to arrive).

With both kids in diapers, we knew we needed enough diapers to get through about two days.  Our diapers weren’t always pretty, but they were functional.  I would throw them in the wash after the kids went to bed and then into the drier before I went to sleep.  And inevitably, they ended up in a basket the next morning and that is where they stayed (I warned you, I don’t fold them!)  Diaper wash, in case you are wondering, is easy peasy–throw in everything, rinse, add soap (I love Rockin Green) and wash on hot, toss in the drier (or like our partner Robyn, hang up to dry).  I always warn everyone that it is a good idea to have a couple extra prefolds and a cover around for the inevitable time that you forget to do laundry until you put the last diaper on the kids (or when you are taking that last diaper OFF!).  Justin and I once had to fashion a diaper out of his t-shirt because I had managed to forget to switch the diapers to the dryer.  I’m not sure he found it as amusing as I did.

I’m sure at this point you are wondering about daycare.  We used two different daycares during our last 3 years and numerous trips to grandmas, so I have learned a very important lesson–most people think prefolds and plastic pants when you tell them you are going to cloth diaper.  We realized early on that it was easier to show them the types of diapers we planned to use then hope they knew what we were talking about.  I always tell moms it is important to take a diaper with you when you go meet a new daycare.  I usually also recommend using a Pocket or an All in One diaper because they are the most like disposables.  I am not a big fan of pockets, because it requires stuffing the inserts in the diapers.  I lose inserts like I lose socks (ie my hatred for laundry) so I tend to steer clear of these!  If I could, I would redo my stash in Bummis Tot Bots and Itti Bitti Tuttos but at this point with 2 kids who are potty trained except at night I am having a hard time convincing Justin that I need all new diapers!

Natural diapering is an option for everyone, working or stay at home parents.  Some parents go for the full cloth diaper experience, others use a mixture of cloth with disposable inserts (Gro-Via and Flip both make disposable inserts that can be used with the cloth covers), or the eco-friendly disposables (G-Diapers or Gro-Via bio diapers).  All of these are great options for parents.  There are so many options out there that everyone can find something they enjoy!

Update on the Green Disposable Diaper Search

A few weeks ago, I told you all how we are searching for a more earth-friendly/baby-friendly disposable diaper option.  You can read that post here: Green Disposable Diapers?

As a part of that search, I wanted to see, in person, the different diapers and wipes sold by the main producers of “green” disposable diapers.  To that end, I emailed the four companies requesting samples of their diapers:

At this point, almost two weeks have passed, and here’s where things stand:

I heard almost immediately from 7th Generation.  The emailed me right away to thank me for my interest and let me know that they had mailed me some samples.  Sure enough, within a few days, a large envelope arrived in my mailbox (hand addressed I might add) with 2 newborn size diapers, 2 size 1 diapers, and a small package of 3 wipes.  Perfect!  This is exactly what I needed!  This lets me get my hands right on the diapers and wipes to feel them, smell them, see if there’s a scent or fragrance that bothers me, and just generally get to know the product!  They included a few coupons for diapers and other 7th Generation products.

Thanks 7th Generation!  This really helps me!  I appreciate the quick response and I appreciate your willingness to go further than what I requested to try to accommodate and win a potential new customer.  As someone who works in customer service myself, I appreciate this.  It’s good salesmanship, and it predisposes me to feel favorably about the product.

I also heard back from the Nature Babycare folks.  Here is the email they sent me:

Thanks for taking the time to contact us.  We certainly appreciate your interest in Nature babycare as we do have the “greenest” diapers on the market.  (See attached FAQ’s)

We receive hundreds of emails from people requesting free samples.  We have limited resources as we are a very small company and want to keep the costs to a minimum so that we can pass that savings on to you.  The best and most environmentally friendly way “to try” Nature babycare is to purchase from one of our online retailers who offer our items at a very reasonable price, some offer additional discounts/specials and free shipping with qualifying orders.  Visit www.Diapers.com, www.Amazon.com or www.Naturebabycare.com as well as others.

Please feel free to sign up at our website www.naturebabycare.com (envelope icon, use your email address) for postings regarding product announcements, upcoming news, specials and coupons

In the interest of brevity and privacy, I omitted the signature.  It was signed by an actual person.  I just don’t want to plaster her name all over the internet without her permission because that doesn’t seem like a very nice thing to do.

So, okay.  I can understand this.  I get that they’re a small company.  Totally respect that.  On the other hand, part of me is thinking, “Really?  You don’t have one diaper sitting around there that you could pop into an envelope?”

Let’s be real, though.  I am writing these companies asking for free stuff.  I’m not asking for a ton of free diapers (just one!), but still, it’s a rough economy, so I respect that a company can’t necessarily afford to send a diaper to every single person.  It does annoy me–in that slightly unreasonable, customer is not always right kind of way–that basically told me I’m going to have to go out and buy a whole big pack of these diapers.

But, check out what I did manage to find just this very moment as I was writing this post:  You can go to diapers.com and buy a sample of the Nature Babycare diapers!  For $0.99!  Who knew?  I wish the customer service rep from Nature Babycare had mentioned that in her email.  When I got her email, I imagined that I would have to get a whole pack of 70+ diapers.  Imagine my relief now in seeing that I can just get a little sample here!  Good news!  If she had said that in the first place, it would have been a lot more helpful.

I have not heard from the Huggies or the Earth’s Best folks, which annoys me slightly.  The good news again, is that I can pick up $0.99 Earth’s Best diaper sample from the sample area at diapers.com.  It comes with a free sample of their rice cereal.  We very adamantly do not do rice cereal, so that’ll get donated.  No biggie.  The bad news is that for the Huggies, I don’t see a sample option.  I’m not through looking, but it’s just not apparent at this point. 

The lack of a sample from Huggies doesn’t break my heart, but I don’t want to have to buy 30 diapers just so I can look at one.  I know if I hate them I can just donate them, but we disliked Huggies so much when Gabi was a baby, I’m not sure I’m interested in going out of my way to try these out.

Right now, I want to wait to get the diaper samples in before I really start trying them out.  I want to be able to look at them all side-by-side to see how they compare.  I want to do things like put them on one of Gabi’s dolls to see how they fit, pour water into them, and just generally mess around with them to get a better idea of how they work.

Of course, I will keep you all posted, so stay tuned for the continuing saga!

Green Disposable Diapers?

I’m feeling a bit crummy today from overdoing it yesterday walking all over UCLA and the La Brea Tar Pits.  So this post may be short.  And not particularly well researched.

I think I’ve mentioned before that we do not cloth diaper.  I’d like to talk a little more about that and share my thoughts with you on reducing our diaper footprint.

Let me start by saying that I love cloth diapers.  The fabrics are not only beautiful, but they’re so incredibly soft.  The thought of that cushy organic bamboo velour cradling my baby’s tiny, delicate rump just makes my heart go pitter pat.  Cloth diapering is very, very doable, even for families where both parents work outside the home.  It just means a little extra laundry.  But here’s the deal:  I don’t do the laundry.  Juan does the laundry in our house (God bless him), and this means that ultimately the decision is his.

You know, we all have our hills that we are willing to die on:  Those aspects of life that are so important that they must be done the way you want.  For me, those hills include breastfeeding, solids, and child sleep.  I will breastfeed my children, I will make their own food and delay solids, and I will not leave them alone to cry it out.

That’s a whole lot of hills.

Juan doesn’t have as many hills.  He’s just a little bit more laid back than I am.  But cloth diapering is where he draws the line.  And quite honestly, as much as I fantasize about those beautiful and soft cloth diapers on my babies’ bottoms, I recognize that I need to be okay with this.  This is something that wouldn’t affect me in a huge way, but would have a terrific impact on the amount of work he has to do.  Considering how much hard work he does around the house anyway (the guy is a housework machine!), I respect his choice.

That leaves me wondering, though, what I can do to help “green up” diaper time for the newest member of our family.  In addition to wanting to be a little more green for diaper time, frankly, I’m mad at Pampers.  There is some controversy surrounding their new Dry Max technology, which I must accurately report has not as of yet been linked by the CPSC to the severe diaper rashes reported by some parents.

Aside from that, last week, Pampers took it upon themselves to email me an ad for formula.  This is not acceptable to me as it violates The International Code for Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes as laid out by the WHO.  Basically, it’s against the WHO code to advertise formula, and this is something I take pretty seriously.  So, sorry Pampers.  With one simple email advert, you lost my business.

Thankfully, environmentally friendly diaper options have started to become more and more available.  There are a couple of hybrid cloth/disposable options like the gDiaper, but having had friends who tried and didn’t like them, I think these might not be the best option for us.  Plus, these would still leave Juan doing diaper laundry.

At this point, I’m looking at three possible choices for us:

Now here’s the thing:  Natural and Eco-friendly is great and all, but these puppies have to perform.

We used the 7th Gen diapers a few times with Gabi when she got a bad diaper rash. They were pretty good, but they were a little stiff.  Juan did not like them.  I’ve never used the other kinds, but with the packaging it’s really impossible to tell much about the diapers.

I’ve emailed each of the three diaper companies to request that they send me a sample diaper.  I just want one of each.  I want to get the feel of it.  I want to see how stiff or how soft they are.  I want to pour some water into them to see how they react and absorb the fluid.  I do not expect any diaper to contain an honest-to-goodness poopsplosion, but I do expect them not to completely disintigrate when pee hits them.

I haven’t heard back from the companies as of yet on my request, so please stay tuned.  I’ll let you know if they’re willing to send me a sample or not.  I’d rather not have to shell out for packs of each.  These puppies aren’t cheap.

In the meantime, have any of you, dear readers used these natural disposable diapering options?  Does anyone out there in cyberspace have anything they can share with me about how these work out?

Exploring Farmer’s Markets

I love, love, love going to the farmer’s markets here in California.  I love wandering around and seeing all of the fresh fruits and veggies.  I love getting to taste samples of things.  I love the delicious tamales they sell there.  I love the people-watching, especially the free hugs guy and the poetry guy.  Most of all, though, I love going with my daughter.

At 3 years old, she’s so full of natural curiosity.  She enjoys the sensory experience of the market just as much as I do.  We hold hands and just wander around.  I let her take the lead.  We look at the strange things like the purple carrots and the fancy mushrooms.  I involve her directly in the shopping in a way that just isn’t possible at the grocery store.  I let her taste the samples and pick which item she wants.  We talk about the colors, the smells, the tastes.  We talk about where the food comes from and why we eat certain things.  There is something magical about experiencing a farmer’s market with a kiddo.  I heartily recommend it.

This morning, Gabi and I went to our local farmer’s market for fun and to see what interesting things we could find for the long weekend.  We each came home with our own treasures.  I chose swiss chard (so I can cook this), fresh white cheddar cheese (pasteurized so I can eat it!), fresh focaccia bread, and a Texas sweet onion.  Is it a Texas 1015 bred by Texas A&M?  WHOOP!  The fellow I bought it from wasn’t sure, but if it’s a Texas bred onion, that sounds good to me!  Gabi got to choose some treasures of her own as well: raisins and a bag of Ranier cherries that we will have to help her to eat in a careful way to avoid choking on pits.

I’ll be honest.  I’m not a serious Farmer’s Market shopper.  For my family, it’s more about the experience than the shopping.  Most of our food comes from the big store up the road, but there are some things I’ve found that I just prefer getting at the market.

I always get my honey there.  I eat local honey to help with my allergies, and at the market I can talk to the apiarist (beekeeper) to find out just what “local” means.  In this case, it means just up the road from my house!  I’ve even been able to find honey specific to my allergies.  Since I’m allergic to flowering weeds, I go for a wildflower honey as opposed to an orange or lemon honey.

I also like to treat my family with good cheese from the market.  It just tastes so much more flavorful when it hasn’t been made in a factory and sitting around a grocery store for a week or two.  It’s more expensive, so we eat it as a treat, and use the regular Tillamook for the sandwiches.  I also like to get Onions there.  The fresher the onion, the milder the flavor.  They just taste better.

Berries are also a good bet from the market.  Strawberries at the grocery store always seem to be just on the verge of getting furry.  The fresh berries from the market keep a little longer so there’s not as much pressure to eat them same day.

At this point in the post, if I lived in another part of the country, I’d probably talk about eating seasonally.  I live in the heart of strawberry country in California.  I’m 2 blocks away from an avocado grove and 3 away from lemons.  Across the street from my office are fields where they grow broccoli, cabbage, celery, lettuce, and whatever else they happen to plant.  Let me tell you, we don’t eat lunch outside the day after the cabbage harvest!  PHEW!  My point is this, though:  Everything is in season all the time where I live.  I don’t know that much about seasonal eating because we just don’t have to out here.

If you aren’t so lucky to live in such a temperate climate, though, Farmer’s Markets can be a great way to eat more seasonal foods.  Eating seasonally means you’re eating closer to home, and eating locally not only supports your local economy, but it reduces your carbon footprint.  It’s amazing what it takes to get a vegetable from the field to your grocery store.  And here’s a hint: Most stuff you get even at Whole Foods had to come a long, long way.  Eating seasonally and locally means they didn’t have to spend the gas to truck it cross-country or worse across a continent.

To me, it’s much more important that a food be local than organic.  I’ll probably devote an entire post to this later, but for me, I would rather buy local grown conventional veggies than organic veggies that have been trucked cross-country or across the state.  Happily, at a farmer’s market, I can get food that is both local and organic.  I can also find out just what a grower means when they use buzz-words like “local,” “organic,” “free-range,” or “cruelty-free.”  These words carry a whole lot of connotation, but often very little specific substance.  “Local” at the grocery store might mean it came from the field up the road, but more probably, it simply means that it came from the same state or region.  “Free-range” sounds really good, but unless you know your chicken-farmer, it can mean anything from chickens happily frolicking in fields eating bugs and making love or it can mean the chickens were raised in those big chicken barns crammed in with a thousand other chickens.

At the market, I can ask the grower where their fields are, how they grow their food, and how they manage their animals.  For me, this face-to-face interaction with the growers is priceless.  It brings the food-cycle around full-circle.  More than that, with Gabi next to me, I can help the next generation learn where and how her food grows.

So if you haven’t been or if it’s just been a while, head out to your local farmer’s market.  See what’s there.  Explore the colors, the flavors, and the people.  You won’t regret it!

If you are a regular farmer’s market attendee, what are your favorite things to get there?  What kinds of things do you enjoy exploring?

Cloth Diapering – Part 1

I have mentioned before that my family doesn’t cloth diaper, but I do love the idea of cloth diapering.  It’s a great way to reduce your impact on the environment.  Because of this, I asked several of my friends to write guest posts about cloth diapering for my Green Sunday segment.  This first post in a multi-post series is by a dear, childhood friend of mine, Katie.

Before our little one was born, I decided to try cloth diapers because I believed that they would be a better use of both environmental and financial resources.   I just couldn’t justify all of those used disposable diapers piling up somewhere.  This feeling was potently strengthened after our little one arrived and we went through 1100 diapers in the first two months!   Despite the added energy and water consumption required to wash cloth diapers, they are still radically better for the environment and perhaps the most earth-conscious decision parents can make.

Once I began researching cloth diapers, I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer number of options and opinions.  There are many styles of diapers (and numerous manufacturers, each with subtle differences), laundry routines and trouble-shooting solutions.  And, like most things, the internet provides a wealth of conflicting information.  After a lot of research, I had really learned very little because like most baby gear, each individual has different preferences.  For example, some people prefer all-natural or organic fabrics, while others prefer the moisture-wicking and cost benefits of synthetic fabrics.  Most people now prefer the fastening options that do not require diaper pins.  There are also numerous opportunities to match various manufacturers’ styles to your little one’s body type, such as more generous leg openings or a longer rise.  The sheer number of options can be frustrating, but it also means that you have a lot of alternatives to try if you are dissatisfied.

There seems to be a growing recognition of how overwhelming the cloth diaper product line-up can be.  One prominent cloth diaper vendor, Jillian’s Drawers, offers a cloth diaper trial for a mere $10 (provided you return the items promptly if you choose to not pursue cloth diapering), as well as a variety of sample packages.

Of course, trying out a lot of cloth diapering products can eventually translate to a significant investment, especially if you prefer cloth diapers with more features and/or organic fabrics.  This has been a disappointment to me as I naively imagined that cloth diapering would represent substantial cost-savings.  I still believe that we will save a lot of money in the long run, but at only seven months into cloth diapers, the cost benefits have probably been fairly minimal.  A large part of that is that our little one has grown at an incredible rate and is very tall.  As a result, many of the cloth diapers and covers that we tried had to be “retired” early, typically due to the rise being too short for our little one.  For example, we tried and loved Thirsties Duo-Wrap Snap Size 1 which is advertised to last until about 9 months or 18 pounds, but our little one outgrew it around 4-5 months and 15-16 pounds.  As our little one’s growth slows down, I expect that each size of cloth diapers will last longer and thus be more cost-effective.   Of course, our real savings will come when we can reuse all of these diapers with our anticipated second child.

I want to emphasize though that it IS completely possible to save A LOT of money with cloth diapering.  The bare minimum supplies would only be about $200, plus laundry detergent & utilities.  I also made simple cloth wipes out of 2-ply 8-inch squares of cheap flannel which have been a significant savings.  And rather than using any kind of wipes solution or expensive cloth-approved diaper rash cream, I prefer nearly-free plain water for the former and completely-free indirect sun exposure for the latter.  Line-drying your diapers can also drastically reduce your cloth-diaper-dependent energy bill.  If you are fortunate to be able to dry them outside, sunlight also has amazing diaper-brightening properties!  In addition, depending on your sewing ability and/or your willingness to learn, you can make your own cloth diapers.

An unexpected benefit of choosing to use cloth diapers has been the fabulous customer service I have received from cloth diaper vendors.   My favorite detergent company (Rockin’ Green) offers free and prompt trouble-shooting assistance.  When I asked their advice on how to fine-tune my laundry routine when I was battling diaper rash, they sent me a free sample of the new formula they were developing.   They then offered to make me custom detergent until the new formula would be commercially available several months later.

When I inquired about the availability of one particular diaper style, a favorite diaper manufacturer (ESBaby) offered to send me a free prototype of a new pattern she was developing for that style, provided I gave her feedback on the redesign.   ESBaby will also further customize their patterns by adding or trimming inches in the rise or crotch width, and covering the diapers with customer selected prints (or even customer-provided fabrics).  As an added bonus, many of these vendors are either work-at-home moms or moms transitioning into full-time careers.  It is a huge frustration to me that there seems to be serious professional stigma attached to women who want to return to the workforce after choosing to stay home with their young kids so I love supporting these mom-driven businesses.

Finally, anyone who chooses cloth diapers seems more than willing to help others get started or trouble-shoot.   I have personally benefitted from some great advice and instruction in this way, including an incredibly helpful and clarifying email from the other cloth diaper guest blogger, arranged via an email introduction from PallasAthena here at Knocked Up – Knocked Over.

There are some mild disadvantages to cloth diapers.  The biggest issue for us has been battling diaper rash.  Most people advertise that cloth-diapered babies rarely have diaper rash because they are changed more often.  We changed our little one 16-20 times a day for the first two months and still struggled with diaper rash.  In fairness, we seem to have a family predisposition towards diaper rash.  We pretty much have this condition under control now due to the reduced frequency of output by our little one and routine preventative air and indirect-sun exposure.

Obviously, cloth diapers require you to spend more time with your diapers.  Dealing with soiled cloth diapers seems no worse to me than dealing with soiled disposable diapers (Disclaimer:  our little one is still in the very early phases of solid food, so perhaps this issue might become more unpleasant in the future).  It does take some time, every day so far, to wash and fold cloth diapers, although far less time and effort than I expected.  I am fortunate to be able to stay home with my little one and his diapers which makes this process even easier.   I believe that it would be possible to use cloth diapers while working outside of the home, but it would require more flexibility and commitment and would be undeniably harder to manage.  But even partial use of cloth diapers would make a huge impact on the environment!

Another minor inconvenience has been finding roomy enough clothes to accommodate the added bulk of cloth diapers.  Our little one is fairly slim too, so I imagine this must be really difficult if you have a more Rubenesque baby.  In particular, pajamas are a problem.  Federal law mandates that children’s sleepwear either be made out of a non-flammable material or have a slim-fit so as to minimize the danger of the clothes igniting in a fire.  As a result, the overwhelming majority of children’s sleepwear is not cloth diaper-friendly.  Skirts are pretty forgiving for little girls, while stretchy knits work best for other bottoms.  There are some brands that I’ve tried that have a more generous fit, like Zutano, Hanna Andersson and Wal-mart’s Garanimals.  Except for the latter, these brands are pretty pricey though which was another small disappointment to me.

We have used disposables while traveling and both my husband and I strongly prefer cloth diapers.  With cloth diapers, it is much easier to customize the fit and style to our little one.  In fact, perhaps “CD” should stand for “Customized Diapers” rather than “Cloth Diapers!”  Additionally, the materials are much softer and more comfortable (we imagine).  We have also experienced significantly fewer blow-outs and leaks with cloth diapers.  Finally, they seem more breathable and trap less overall moisture.

To briefly summarize, I’ve listed below the pros and cons of cloth diapers from my experience.

Cloth Diaper Pros:

  • Environmentally-friendly!
  • Customizable fit, materials & absorbency (cute prints can be an added bonus)
  • Can be much cheaper
  • Softer against the baby’s skin
  • Better containment of bodily waste & odor
  • Fabulous customer service & support while often supporting mom-driven businesses

Cloth Diaper Cons:

  • Time & energy to wash diapers
  • Diaper rash (this might be fairly unique to our situation)
  • Can have significant upfront costs, especially if choosing to use premium diapers
  • Requires roomier clothes that may be more difficult to find