Cloth diapering is easier

Having just hung up a load of cloth nappies to dry, I can firmly say that cloth diapering is easier than using disposables if you have a washing machine at home.

* No trip to the store: harder than it looks if you have a newborn and are too tired to get presentable, a little nervous about trekking out with a baby who could cry at any moment, and stores that close early like they do here in Belgium

* No taking out the extra rubbish while juggling a baby: just put in a load of laundry.

* No need to store enormous bulk packages of discounted diapers: where do you put those waist-high yellow and blue packages? It’s much easier to put 3 dozen nappies in a wicker basket next to yuor changing table, and that’s all that’s necessary, even for a prolific pooper.

* Natural fibre nappies = less nappy rash: the plastic outer coating of dispoables causes diaper rash. If you use cotton, hemp or bamboo diapers you won’t need to stock up on diaper creme. It’s full of chemicals that may or may not be good for your baby to metabolize through the skin. PEDIATRICS: Baby Care Products: Possible Sources of Infant Phthalate Exposure Besides, that stuff has an oily residue that builds up on cloth and you’d have to strip out of your diapers eventually to ensure they still absorb optimally.

* No lingering ‘baby product’ smell on your baby or in your house: not using nappy creme as much or at all means you won’t whiff that chemical scent we’ve come to associate with babies. This never occured to me before my daughter came home from the crèche with a nappy rash (they use disposables) and lots of rash creme on her bum. A visitor said, ‘oooh, now she smells like a baby!’. No, she smelled like zinc oxide and fish oils.

* They’re cheaper to use and launder than to buy disposables

* You save even more with subsequent children using the same diapers

* Fewer leaks = less time changing baby clothes = need fewer baby clothes: reusable fitted nappies have good elastic in them made to withstand hundreds of washes and wears, whereas disposables are made to work for 4 hours maximum. This hit me when the crèche kept asking for more one piece tee shirts to keep on hand–why? As long as we use bibs for eating DD stays clean in her clothes all day, but when she’s in disposables at the crèche there are diaper leaks and stains. A prefold or flat nappy (fabric rectangle or square) has no elastic, but the leg and waist coverage is tailored to fit when you fasten the nappy or cover over it, they’re also better at containing leaks than disposables ever can be.

* No guilt over putting your baby in paper and plastic underwear: you don’t wear it, cloth is more comfortable. Same for a baby.

* No guilt over the environment: the manufacture of cloth and its laundering at home are better for the environment than creating a mountain of paper, plastic and chemicals.

* No need to economize on diaper changes: you could put on a disposable and within minutes the little one soils it–‘there goes fifteen cents, if only I had changed it ten minutes later…’ Not with cloth. You’re going to wash them every two or three days anyway, one more nappy or one less makes no difference in cost.

* Cloth diapered children tend to learn to use the potty earlier: who

I just Googled ‘cloth diapering is easier’ and got a result that looked like an advertisement, so I thought I’d put this out there for the general audience since I’m not selling anything 🙂

What are your ideas/questions?

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Two under two preparation

Finished: two more wet bags, aka pail liners, for the nappy bin. Now we have a grand total of 4! There’s going to be a lot more cloth nappy washing in August when #2 arrives.

I just tore nylon in a big rectnagle, sewed French seams on the side and folded over the top by eyeballing it to make an elastic casing. A snug casing is key to keeping the bag in place in the bin. For the first two I measured the diameter of the inner plastic bin, but for these I roughly knew how big they needed to be. I wash the liners with clothes at 40C, although technically 30C is better, but we hardly ever have anything to wash for that temperature.

Vegan month of food #1: pumpkin porridge + roasted pumpkin seeds

Just for inspiration, I signed up for the Vegan Month of food (Vegan ‘MoFo’) event this month. The official guidelines suggest food blogging every weekday, but that is much too ambitious for a full-time working mother of a baby like I am. Que sera, sera!

First up: Aeri’s Kitchen Hobak juk / pumpkin porridge with rice balls, her Halloween special recipe. Don’t those rice balls lend themselves perfectly to becoming spooky floating eyeballs? The dish was meant to be made yesterday, but Madeline is sick so she kept us busy. Nevertheless, it’s just in time to start out Vegan Month of Food.

It would be even faster to microwave pumpkin quarters, but I baked a pumpkin cut in fours (not halves like Aeri did) with pumpkin seeds on the lower cookie sheet level. No aluminum foil, but a generous drizzle of olive oil over the cut pieces and, of course, over the seeds (plus salt sprinkled on the seeds). I’m cooking Maangchi’s soybean side dish / Kongjang using black soybeans and the slow cooker with just a little bit of water, to transfer later to a saucepan on the stove with the rest of the ingredients. Slower cooking methods are perfect for distracted parents. Speaking of that, Madeline got into something!

Vegan month of food logo

Cloth nappies in practice

Cloth diapering is going well, but at three weeks little Madeline began soaking her flannel prefold diaper! Even during the daytime! She’s too young to have a ‘naptime’ that’s longer than anything else, her diaper gets changed every 2-2.5 hours during the day and even then, more often than not she’s soaked. I hate that about cotton, when it gets wet it stays wet. If I had a little time doing something other than mother duties I’d serge together some cut-up towels to make a soaker pad insert. Luckily we use wool ‘culottes’ (covers) which keep her clothing dry, but I’m not too happy about her being wet up to the waist!
Meanwhile, I found a bamboo fabric source in France. Anything special, and mail-order, is usually found in France. Or Germany, probably, but I don’t know any German. Belgium and the Netherlands are too small to support a niche mail-order market; I don’t even bother with Luxembourg. Anyhoo! Bamboo is apparently several notches up in absorbability to cotton, and hemp is very absorbant too. In the States I found bamboo-hemp mixes, but in France I’ve only found bamboo-poly. Yuck. Because poly retains smells, and oily stains (read: nappy rash cream) so obviously it’s a distant second choice. Madeline got a nappy rash from disposables within 4 days of life, so she’s very sensitive to diapers that don’t breathe. But the bamboo alone can’t ‘stand’ a 60C wash, so 100% bamboo is out of the question. Poly doesn’t breathe but at just a 15% blend it’s not gonna make a big diff. Anyway. When I get time to sew another batch of diapers… huh. These prefolds are size 0-6mos, but obviously they won’t be able to make it till 6 months. At least they can become serviceable doubler/inserts to beef up her new diapers.

Hey, I’m glad that I went the prefold route, because they were easy and cheap to sew, which made them perfect for a cloth nappy experiment, sewn while pregnant and working full-time. DH wants fitted nappies for the next batch, which means a nappy that’s like a disposable, but made from resuable cloth: contoured to the body instead of a rectangle, and with elastic on the legs and back waist.

For experimental purposes, we bought two terry cloth diapers, a fitted and a pocket diaper. The pocket means it has a removable pad insert; otherwise they are the same thing. I thought they were bamboo, but well–I hope they’re just cotton. Because she soaked through them too!

Madeline had her first wild night last night, she was restless and nothing settled her from 3:30 to 7 am. At least babies aren’t too complicated. She probably alternated between hunger and exhaustion, and wore herself (and me) out by wailing; which caused her to swallow a lot of air. Acid, bubbles of air–just like a volcano her tummy rumbled, and she spit up. Perhaps I ate something off yesterday ecause she had a lot of problems with gas. She drew her little legs up and squealed in pain from gas, but threw a fit if I stopped feeding her to burp her. Poor little mite, but at least she knows I was there and tried soothing her through her discomfort. By 6:30 though I was pretty worn out and my entire bag of tricks had been gone through. Thank GOODNESS it’s over now!

Flannel prefolds review

Ta-da!!!! Finally my little tester is out and about, and she has been dilligently providing plenty of nappy practice for her parents. Good girl! I have it down to less than 5 minutes, in and out of the bathroom changing area.

Cloth diapers are working out fantastically. Naysayers warned ‘they’re too hard’ but on the contrary, neither D nor I can fathom how parents slog around big packs of nappies, and run out to the store, and then there’s taking out the trash a lot more often too… it’s far, far easier to run a wash cycle and hang out the laundry than to deal with disposables.

The newborn-6 mos. size is good on her. She’s 48,5cm as of Monday at the pediatrician’s. However, I fold down the front a bit to keep it from chafing her belly button. Otherwise, she gets a little bit of dried blood in her navel and complains slightly when I rinse it off at nappy changes.

Flannel is soft, but the centre soaker pad is a bit stiff from all of those layers. That’s not necessarily bad, as the stiffness provides plenty of air to her little tush. Madeline had a fungal diaper rash by the time she was 4 days old, in hospital Pampers. It cleared up here at home with the cloth nappies, knitted wool diaper covers from Disana, and a bit of zinc oxide-based nappy cream. Zinc oxide isn’t recommended for CD, and it has made a few cream-coloured stains, but her health and comfort are more important than some CD! Our pediatrician said he was in flannel nappies when he was a baby, and they are soft enough. However. DH made a ‘useful’ comment the very first day that the nappies weren’t soft enough for her, he has memories of the softness of his own cloth nappies, these are sub-standard… Gotta love that man. Well, flannel was all I could find, and buy. I can’t find birdseye twill cotton, bamboo or hemp at local fabric stores, and I darn well wasn’t going to shell out €€€ for those fabrics online if the CD experiment didn’t work. It’s working now, so if I locate the fabric, and the time!–I would make some more. Seems to me, though, it’s a good idea to make a wardrobe of nappies and try a few other styles to round out the selection. We bought two fitted nappies to test-drive the style, but haven’t used them yet.

Those knit wool covers take FOREVER to dry–at least 3 days when they’re lanolized. I fixed that by running them through the spin cycle before air drying, so they now dry overnight like everything else.

DH is okay with the prefold and pins setup, but he would prefer a Snappi-able fabric if not built-in Aplix or snaps. I think he’d also like a fitted nappy, with elasticated back waist and legs. I am not going to use Aplix (heavy-duty velcro) because it makes diaper chains in the washing machine.

The removable soaker pad was a great idea, because they do dry faster that way. Madeline is only two weeks but from the dampness overnight, I can foresee the need to add some terry towelling doublers/inserts to increase the absorbancy. DH will have to identify old towels for me to cut up.

Cleaning: every other night, first a rinse cycle of 16 minutes, followed by a 60C cycle with 1/3 the usual detergent called for. The best detergent I could find was Ecover, and Madeline has no reaction to it, so we’re carrying on. Phew! Then they’re line-dried.

Bath milk review

DH is ‘le chef du bain’ and he gave our LO her first milk bath last night, using the recipe from Rookie Moms: organic baby wash. OK, said this before but I’m not sure why they call it ‘organic’ as there is no organic ingredient called for. Semantics, people! Perhaps they call it ‘organic’ as a search term.

Not wanting to waste a lot of ingredients if the cleanser didn’t turn out right, I just mixed a little by eyeballing the proportions in a glass shaker. The oats are organically grown quick oatmeal, but I didn’t whizz the half tablespoon I used in the blender to make them even more fine. I sprinkled in a little until the bathwater was slightly cloudy. I didn’t add any essential oils, of course.

Thanks to Olivier (‘Pipeau’) and Laureline for giving us an upright baby bath! It had its maiden voyage foray into cleaning babies last night. Wonderful pressie. Plus it’s chartruese green, what could be better?

Plus: Madeline smells fantastic. The best she has ever smelled.
Minus: DH said the mixture clumped. That was probably the cornstarch. Still, I prefer a clumpy bath cleanser to using anti-caking chemicals, and a good mechanical de-clump (sifting!) could help. This morning there are traces on her cheeks like dry skin, but a drop of water showed it was just dried milk cleanser. Huh! Must use less next time. Bruno will figure it out.

Conclusion: going to use it again! Use less to avoid the milk traces effect–use oat flour instead of finely ground oatmeal (blender) & sift together to make the mixture very fine.

DIY natural baby care

Here are some links to make your own natural baby care products.  Know of any more?

And does anyone know what is this apparent trend from sites Stateside to call everything ‘organic’ when I don’t see any requirement that at least one ingredient be organically grown?  Looks more like ‘natural’, ‘DIY’ or ‘homemade’ to me, but the organic label was slapped on to make it sexier.  What is up with that?

My favourite–all the natural baby product recipes from one site! MomFuse blog: Make your own natural baby products including wipe solution, baby shampoo, baby powder, baby bath milk & baby oil.  Great place to start, the other sites offer more variations.

Big ol’ list of baby wipes solutions for cloth wipes: Zany Zebra Cloth Wipes Solution Recipes

Make Baby Stuff: Baby Wipe Solution for Cloth Wipes or Disposable 2 recipes for cloth or disposable wipes (think cut-up paper towels)

A lot of those recipes call for baby shampoo or baby cleanser, which is one of the two baby care things in the research article identified as a possible source of potentially harmful chemicals for babies.  Two birds with one stone!

eHow: Baby shampoo recipe

Soapmakers might start with the real basics (if you will), like oil and lye, but I’m not so crafty.  I’m gonna buy.  A pity that liquid Castille soap like Dr Bronner’s isn’t sold here in Belgium, but it is easy to find French Marseille soap, which is a solid, handcrafted soap from natural, traditional ingredients.

Report: Homemade baby & cleaning products best

How about some motivation to make your own baby care and household cleaning products? Like baby shampoo and baby powder, or lemon-juice based glass cleaners. You’ll know exactly what’s in them, the ingredients are usually food-grade or traditional artisanal products like olive oil and lye soap. Hey, I need some encouragement, because shaking watery shampoo that doesn’t foam well at every bath time and trawling all over town for ingredients and containers are turn-offs. Like I need more work with less payoff. But baby stuff is right there on the shelf at the grocery store! And my changing table won’t be full of a wonky collection of spice jars. It’ll look classic and tranquil, right out of a catalogue with matching Johnson & Johnson containers lined up in an orderly row.

So how about this to convince you, or give a loving nudge to a skeptical caregiver? The American Journal of Pediatrics, February 2008 Baby Care Products: Possible Sources of Infant Phthalate Exposure. Check it out, the full article is free to download as a PDF.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not getting alarmist. I’m just glad to find this article to nudge me and keep my partner motivated in making and using natural products.

Ottobre playclothes & more diaper wipes

Here’s the Ottobre 6/07 # 6 wraparound jacket & Ottobre 3/09 #7 Lola leggings, both in size 62, which will be worn over a RTW tee shirt or onesie. The stash has just feminine colours, but if it’s a boy he will wear this just at home. (Re-dying? Ha!) I fussed with the tab fasteners for the first version, in periwinkle jersey. It was my first snap-sewing experience. It’s okay, but a good thing that TLO will grow out of it quickly because my lining-up skills leave something to be desired. But no way was I going to rip out snaps and re-sew just for an outfit whose lifespan will probably be 3 weeks. TLO is blorping around in my belly to show her or his agreement 🙂
Unfortunately sew-in and hammer-in snaps are pretty expensive here. Sure, one could rip out snaps and recycle, but let’s not exaggerate, shall we? It’s why I got interested in two-piece playclothes in the first place, because one-piece rompers need lots of snaps and they add up. It’s cheaper to buy RTW made in sweatshops than to DIY with snaps, now what kind of Faustian bargain is that? So I love this legging pattern, and in theory wrap-style kimono tops are supposed to be good for the early days with an umbilical cord.

Made too many? Nope! Green Mountain Diapers recommends 50 reusable cloth diaper wipes, so I can stop feeling like I’ve made too many from remnants of diaper sewing. I was just hemming up fringed edge burp cloths (tutorial) this morning and found a small pile of 4 wipes, waiting to be serged. There are 30 in the diaper stash already. Oh, guilt for using up flannel like that? Should I be saving the remnants for making flannel baby shoes (pattern & tutorial)? Nope! In fact, as the prefold stash is just 24 in the Newborn – 6 months size, and almost everyone on the Net recommends 36 diapers for a basic stash, I should cut some more diapers, and make more wipes. If that isn’t enough to encourage me, GMD says that fathers tend to use more wipes than mothers do, so plan for extra if Dad is going to take part in changing. Oh yeah! So I rounded out the night by making more and now there are 40 diaper wipes and 30 prefolds on stand-by for January. Flannel’s out of stock in my stash, so next week, incredible as it seems to me, I have to buy more.