Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Addicted to Diapers?!?!

I almost said "it's been a wild ride," but "wild" is just too exciting a term.  Expensive would certainly be appropriate.  Frustrating ... educational.  At times, very addicting.  In fact, so addicting that I've been distracted from the other aspects of my life.

Let's face it:  finding a way to altogether prevent my daughter's eczema has been consuming me.  So much so that my son has been getting the shaft.

I know I'm not alone ...
... when I visit Diaper Swappers, for instance, I read the guilty-pleasure posts of many a mother proclaiming to be addicted to CD'ing.

... addicted?!?!  Is that what I've become?
It really makes me wonder about my generation.  Grandma would be laughing ... or otherwise just shaking her head.  How, oh how did we become so obsessed with the scraps of fabric that catch our children's excrement?

Well, I'll tell you: it's this lovely thing called displacement.

In yesteryear, the ins and outs of marriage and raising a family were assumed by young women as they grew up.  Only the very wealthy could afford a luxury such as college; the rest prepared to be a helpmeet.  You were to be chief cook and bottlewasher.  Your mother's methods were passed down to you and (as long as you had a genuinely loving husband) you were overall content with your role.  Sure, they craved excitement; this is not a knock on these women.  More often than not, they were shrewd and ingenuitive.  Do not make the mistake of belittling your lady ancestors in your mind!  They could easily kick out tails.

Then, times changed.  Collegiate education became more mainstream.  Meanwhile, in an effort to drive up consumerism, advertising companies began to push a "you deserve" mentality.  They played our pride and greed to feed their own.  Things once considered luxuries became necessities in our country ... (and now we wonder why there's a recession).

As a result of this lovely evolution, women did get opportunities they once would have had to fight for.  I'm not saying this is a bad thing.  I loved college, and am grateful I was able to store my education for future use.  However, it came at a painful price: post-partum displacement.
It's not so bad when you first get married.  Many women are able to find careers related to their field.  Sadly, for every one that does, there seem to be at least two who are struggling to find employment beyond entry-level grunt work and feel trapped in the cycle of paying off their student loans (or their spouse's).  In any case, when baby comes, there is a tremendous shift.

Life, which had once revolved around self and/or spouse, now revolves around child.  At first I didn't even really notice the onset of the loss of my identity, but I noticed around my son's first birthday that I was depressed.  I had lost my "spark," and even when I looked in the mirror, I swear a woman ten years my senior stared dully back.  I don't think I read a book that entire year, and for me, that's saying quite a bit.  I know my son was at least 9 months before I spent even an hour away from him.

It was around the time he was 6-7 months that I first developed an interest in making my own cloth diapers.  Now, the efforts didn't turn out all that well.  Mind you, my son hardly napped and was a very extroverted and high-strung baby.  This made for a harried and distracted seamstress: not good.  I gave up.  In fact, since he was outgrowing infant covers and prefolds at an alarming rate, I gave up on CD'ing altogether!  For the sake of our finances, I wish I hadn't ...
But the point is, I was obsessed with this sewing project because I was the only one doing it.  As far as CD'ing went, I was one of two people I knew diapering my child that way.

Suddenly I had a sense of identity again.  Something I cold trick myself thinking I was an expert in (for my circle, anyways). 

With my daughter, I thought I had it all figured out.  Then there was a new puzzle to solve: her synthetic allergy.  Since I am by nature a problem solver, that obsession crept in again.  Only this time, it had a new element: addiction to luxury.  Even at Diaper Swappers, I saw comments flying around about ""diaper petters anonymous."

Yes, some of us like to pet (or at least gaze upon) our baby's diapers.  Before you smirk, tell me:  who doesn't like to stroke organic velour?
Yes,  velour.  100% organic cotton velour ... zorb (bamboo/cotton blend) ... cashmere/merino blend ... the luxury options are endless.  Why?   Quality, that's why.  These fabrics have superior absorbancy and durability to the comparatively "cheap" flannels that our ancestors used.  Consequently, even those of us on very tight budgets can legitimize dropping several hundred dollars on the practical use of these fabrics when we would never dream of buying ourselves a cashmere sweater (well, we might dream it, but ...)  Hey!  We'd be dropping at least $2000 on paper and silicone diapers over the next two years anyways, right?

With the plethora of options and lack of awareness in the general public, we also have the opportunity to flex our "expert" muscles.  We take other newbes to CD'ing under wing and for a brief moment, have a sense of self-worth.
Still, for some reason I can't help but thinking of Isaiah 64:6: "All our righteousness are as filthy rags."  Kind of a funky parallel, huh?
On the positive side, thanks to Etsy, moms also have the opportunity to exhibit Proverbs 31: "She seeks wool and flax, and works willingly with her hands ... she considers a field and buys it."  Many entrepaneuring and housebound mothers are converting their love of CD'ing to a profitible enterprise.  I confess that I am considering joining the WAHM ranks ... in good time.

To be honest, I really don't know where I'm going with this.  All I can ask is that, if you find yourself addicted to cloth diapers, take a good hard look in the mirror and deep into your heart, and ask yourself, "Why?"

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cloth Diapering-Getting Started

So, you've selected your CD system (or sample "pack") and are ready to make your first purchase.  Like all good web retailers, your store probably has special "accessory kits" or at the very least, a "diaper accessories" tab.  Is this just an add-on gimmick, or do you legitimately need these extras?  What, beyond the diapers themselves, do you genuinely need to cloth diaper?

1) Wipes.  If you're going to use cloth diapers, you may as well use cloth wipes as well.  Think about it: for the cost of one bulk warehouse case of wipes (which would last about 6 months), you can buy enough cloth wipes to last your baby from birth to potty training.  And, given the fact that they don't receive the wear and tear of your diapers, you'll probably be able to make them last through all your children ... depending on your textile of choice, anyways.  Hemp is extremely durable.  However, my Warmies Bamboo wipes are not so much -- they unravel easily.  As luxurious as I find them, I can't really recommend the brand.   I can, however, recommend:

2) Wipes warmer.  OK, this isn't so much a need, but after taking one baby from birth to potty with cold disposable wipes (not to mention midnight rushes to the bathroom to rinse a washcloth when I'd run out), I determined with baby #2 that a warmer was a justifiable luxury--especially with the shift to cloth.  Fortunately, the Prince Lionheart Warmies Wipes Warmer is specifically designed for cloth wipes.  Mix your solution (generally a blend of water, baby wash, and olive oil), saturate your wipes, ring out the excess, roll, and stack in the warmer.  This makes those midnight changes every bit as pain-free as using disposable.  Meanwhile, you don't have to worry about separate pails next to or under your changing table.  Just throw the wipe in your pail with the diaper.

3) Pail w/ liner.  Actually, many CD manufacturers are even making the pail optional.  I'll get back to that momentarily.  My mom actually introduced me to the "old school" wet pail method; but for the sake of your back, I recommend dry-pailing.  Translation: instead of filling a plastic pail with water and soaking your dipes continuously between use and laundering, line your pail (plastic is cheapest, but wicker has the most airflow and metal retains the least odors) with a PUL liner.  On diaper night, dump the whole thing in the wash (liner included!).  I do recommend two liners to rotate.
As for obsolete pails ... some manufacturers are making pail bags with straps or handles to hang on door nobs or over-the-door hooks.  Just think of the saved floor or storage space!

4) Wet bag.  This is a necessity for the diaper bag.  Just like the pail liner, it's made of PUL and more often than not, has a zip closure.  Even if you use sposies on the road, a wet bag for toting soiled clothing is a must!  Again, I recommend two so that you have one ready while the other launders.

5) Diaper pins or Snappis: flat, prefold, or contour users only.  While most snug-fitting wraps will hold your diaper on fastener-free, there are certain types of cover (especially wool soakers) that necessitate keeping a Snappi or pair of pins around.

Frankly, I don't understand why web-retailers don't include both pail liners AND wipes in newborn starter packages (generally it's one or the other) -- perhaps we should spam them.  For that matter, would it be too much to include a couple of pairs of pins and a snappi with a prefold and cover package?  All those in agreement, say "Aarrrrgh!"
(For the record, I have no idea why I just felt the need to release my inner pirate, but there you go.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Benefit Alert! The Cloth Diaper Foundation

One of my big frustrations when I first began cloth diapering was the start-up costs.  With my first child, the up-front price tag for serious CD'ing gave me serious sticker shock.  As we fell under the poverty line, it just wasn't feasible.  That's why I was really excited to find The Cloth Diaper Foundation on Facebook.

"The Cloth Diaper Foundation was founded as Miracle Diapers in Oregon in January of 2005 to fill a need. There were many families who wanted to cloth diaper their children for health, economical, and environmental reasons but could not due to financial restrictions. After an overwhelming response, two more chapters were opened by the end of that year. With the same great goals in mind, our fifth anniversary as cloth diapering charity brought about a complete overhaul and makeover of the Foundation from management to practices all to better serve our recipients and the cloth diapering community nationwide. Everyone here at the Cloth Diaper Foundation looks forward to a brighter future for our charity and continuing to assist those in need with getting a jump start on cloth diapering.

Our goal is to someday have representatives all over the United States. Through this we hope to not only be able to serve thousands of families in need, but to be able to educate the public on today’s cloth diapers and therefore helping cloth become more mainstream." 

Since this is a mission that I'd really like to support, I was delighted to discover that they are holding a benefit auction to raise funds for their foundation.  All the items they auction are eco-mommy-friendly; and the proceeds will go towards getting financially-challenged families started on their cloth diaper stash.

One of the products up for auction is a set consisting of a Bumgenius Organic AIO and Wahmies Wetbag.  This is a nice opportunity to sample these items.  I've had the opportunity to try a BG Organic AIO (with Aplix), and they are indeed a very trim-fitting diaper.  The jersey is quite soft and breathable-my daughter seemed to enjoy the change in pace from the usual routine.  I will warn that BG's do run on the smaller side (at a roley-poley 26" and 20 lbs, my daughter was on the largest setting).  However, the BG up for auction is the new model with snaps!
Included with the BG AIO is a Wahmies Wetbag.  Wetbags are essential to a full-time cloth-diapering system, for they give you a reusable waterproof and sealable tote for your dirty duds in the diaper bag.  Even if you choose to not CD on your errands, these totes are invaluable for carrying clothes soiled by those inevitable disposable diaper explosions!  Don't leave home without one ... :-p  Please check out the following link:

Green Mama Benefit Item - Banana Peels Diapers - bumGenius Oraganic AIO/Wahmies Wetbag 

Please, if you're up for sampling new products and want to support their efforts, visit the auction for the Cloth Diaper Foundation!
For more information on the Cloth Diaper Foundation, please visit their website at

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cloth Diapering-My Evolution

I know some of you are probably wondering, "what does learning how to 'just breathe' have to do with cloth diapering?"  Well, I'm about to start addressing that issue ... just needed a little prep and set-up first. ;-)  Originally, this was going to be "Part II," but I realized that since my recommendations were based on experience, it might be better to give my story for context.
Oh, and as a side note to all of you who (like me) appreciate visual aids: I will be adding pictures shortly.

So!  The biggest questions for those of us launching the USS Cloth Diaper is (or HMS, if you prefer), "How do I choose?"  I thought the answer to this was simple with my firstborn.  Fitteds and covers can be cheaper than AIO's but easier than prefolds.  Supposedly, the brand I tried (Kushies) would fit an infant from birth to 12 months.  I was so naive ...
After making a comparatively small investment (about $100, which seemed huge to me at the time for part-time CD'ing), I was dismayed when the infant size only fit him until he was about five months.  Little did I know with baby #1 that manufacturer's "sizes" were nothing more than averages.  With my children (then child) doubling the national average their first year of life, trusting those guidelines was going to leave me high and dry.  This was one major reason I gave up on cloth with my dear son.

I started to do some serious homework as I prepared for the arrival of my daughter.  A friend had gone through one CD'ing web retailer that offered a variety of start-up packages; so that sounded good to me.  Initially wanting to go the economical route with some allowance for convenience, I chose a package that consisted of 3 dozen prefolds, 5 covers, and 4 pocket diapers.
Now, I was able to ride on this friend's experience (her firstborn was 6 months younger than mine)  She had gone with the basic prefold-and-cover package with him, incorporating newborn/size 1 prefolds with XS and S covers.  Despite her son's low birthweight and slow growth rate, he had still outgrown this system by the time he was about 4 months old.  She new I was considering the system for my daughter, and strongly advised I select Standard prefolds (the same dimensions as Infant/Size 2, but with a 6-ply soaker instead of 8-ply, which makes for smaller folding).  Meanwhile, my son's growth rate had already tipped me off to look for OS covers and pockets.  My experience with Kushies had moreover taught me that I detest having Velcro in my wash, so I looked for snaps.  I submitted my order for 2 dozen Chinese prefolds (the "most durable" option), 1 dozen Indian prefolds (the more luxurious option); 5 Blueberry one-size covers; and 6 OS FuzziBunz pocket diapers.  (Note: I threw in an additional 2 pockets to insure I had enough for nighttime diaper changes on a newborn; and I had already received 2 covers as a gift).

Not a bad start.  The standards were a bit bulky, but creative folding succeeded in containing them within the Blueberrys even on the smallest setting.  The Chinese prefolds indeed quilted up nicely and were very absorbent.  The Indians were softer and trimmer, though they neither shrunk or quilted as much as the Chinese.  Meanwhile, I absolutely fell in love with the FuzziBunz.  They were both a trimmer and easier option than the prefolds; and she preferred the "stay-dry" feel of the microfleece to the woven cotton (which announced her wetness to her like a trumpet).  I determined to shift to them exclusively at first available opportunity.
Thanks to some sales on discontinued FuzziBunz, I was able to make that switch sooner than planned.  I resold the half of my prefolds and covers (I sent three covers plus the Indians to keep at my mom's and kept a half dozen Chinese for super-burpcloths) and purchased a dozen and a half sized FuzziBunz.  In my opinion, my stash was perfect.

Then it happened.  About two weeks into making the shift, my baby began to develop a diaper rash such as I haven't seen since the hospital put her in Pampers.  I fretted as one isn't supposed to use diaper rash creams with a cloth system (it inhibits both wicking properties and water-resistance) and determined to change her more frequently.  This helped only marginally.
Now, eczema runs in the family, so the first person I spoke to was my mom (who suffered horrendously from eczema as a child).  She told me to keep the skin cool, dry, and moisturized -- with lots of airflow.  She highly recommended cotton.  Then she added ruefully that my grandmother as never able to control her rashes.

My wheels really started turning.  I cast out for ideas from one CD'ing friend while googling everything from "most breathable covers" to "diaper eczema."  I tried California Baby skin care products, which did help considerably--but what I wanted was eczema prevention, not eczema treatment.  My friend (we'll call her Birthday Mama--she has her own blog, "Vintage Childhood," should you care to look her up in the blogs I follow) suggested my daughter might be sensitive to synthetic fabrics.  She recommended I return to cotton prefolds and experiment with wool covers.
Wool?!   Like most people, my association with wool is hot, rough, and irritating ... not to mention my mom has a true allergy to wool, so I've always automatically avoided it.  Birthday Mama referred me to the owner of Green Mountain Diapers, who educated me on the "truth about wool."
Apparently what so many of us find so irritating about wool is not the wool itself, but the chemicals involved in the industrial processing of wool.  Diaper wool, in contrast, is processed gently and more "traditionally."  This makes for a fabric that's softer than jersey.  Meanwhile, wool is naturally water-resistant; insulative in a good way (it can keep the skin 2-5 degrees cooler than air temperature!); and actually the most breathable cover-fabric available.

A good way to tell if you're  legitimately allergic to wool is the "lanolin test."  Lanolin is the wax-like substance secreted by the sweat-glands of wool-bearing animals.  Don't be disgusted; this is what gives wool it's water-resistant properties and protects the skin of the animal from free-radical irritants.  Once purified, its healing properties can yield near-miraculous results on cracked and bleeding skin.  Chances are, if you're not allergic to lanolin, you're not allergic to wool.

I decided to risk it and try a test patch of Lansinoh's lanolin-based diaper-rash cream on her arm.  Result (12 hours later): zero irritation.  Next, the rash (which was by then lobster-red, rough, weepy, and climbing beyond her diaper region).  Result: 75% improvement in 24 hours.  Clearly this child is not allergic to wool.

Like all good mothers, I swallowed my teeth over the costs (diaper wool ain't cheap!) and placed my first orders.  I'll be sampling two different wool covers; one type of PUL cover that maximizes air circulation; and two AIO's plus one pocket that, while still bearing synthetic covers, sport lofted organic natural-fiber interiors and soakers. I'm now awaiting my first packages in the mail, and will release names, photos, and reviews in subsequent blogs once I've played with them.
Meanwhile, my daughter's eczema is spotty--the creams are controlling it for now, but her flair-ups are recurring and at this rate I swear I'll be using a $10 tube every two weeks to giver her relief! Fortunately, if these new systems work, that shouldn't be necessary.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Beautiful Minds: Intro

OK, so maybe that title is a little cliche', but I can't help it.
Because they are!

The "they" I speak of are divergent-thinking children.  They are ascribed  as "the Edison Trait," "visual-spatial learners," and in some rarer cases, as having "the Einstein Syndrome."  (Please note that while these terms are all related, they are not interchangeable.)  Sadly, far too many of these children are also diagnosed as "ADD" or "ADHD".  Children with the Einstein Syndrome are also at risk to be misdiagnosed with autism.  Granted, a smaller percentage of the population (all of them divergent thinking) legitimately do have attention-deficit disorder; however, it is important to note the difference between an actual "disorder" (i.e., something that prevents them from functioning adequately in society) and a different thinking process.

My son is a supernova.  I know no other way to describe him.  The first time I held him, I knew he was different.  He gazed at me with the wisdom of the ages, those deep blue eyes seeming to hold the soul of a very old man.  And yet, he was not tired.  Quite the opposite, in fact ...
Everyone (and every piece of literature on babies I read) told me that my newborn would be sleeping a minimum of 15 hours a day those first few weeks.  You can imagine my dismay when my little man only appeared to need about 8-10 hours of sleep.  In total.  Of course, like all newborns, he did this in 2-3 hour blocks ... and then was up for 4-5.  As I was recovering from a very long and difficult labor (and subsequent c-section), I was both delighted that apparently there was no damage from him being stuck in my pelvis for four hours (listlessness was definitely NOT a descriptor for this child), and distressed that my healing time was significantly extending due to lack of rest.  "Sleep when your baby sleeps," they told me. 

  Yeah, right.  He never sleeps!  I comforted myself that I could sleep when he graduated.
Now, my son was--and is--a fairly large child compared to his peers.  Mind you, he's not fat.  He's just big.  He was born the larger end of average with a head that was off the charts (literally--hence the "stuck" issue during delivery).  By 2 months he was 99th percentile and continued there for his first year.  So, even his ped thought nothing of his inability to hit certain milestones.  Lifting his head, rolling over, crawling--his delays in all these areas were attributed to his massive size.
Meanwhile, he developed normally if not ahead of his peers in terms of hand-eye coordination and rhythm.  Music seemed to pour out of him.  By eighteen months you could hand him a wooden spoon, put on the Tran-Siberian Orchestra, and he could beat in time with the music.  And, although he could not walk until 13 months, by 15 months he could run like a preschooler and kick a soccer ball.  (I also frequently caught him "surfing" on our gliding ottoman.)  By 30 months, he had a 0.33 batting average.  We aren't talking t-ball, folks.  These were underhand throws from 8-10 feet.

Still, there was that niggling little voice in my head.  He should be talking by now.  Yes, by 2 years, he liked to speak complete jibberish.  He knew "Mommy", "Daddy," "Kitty," and a selection of food words.  But that was it.  His ped had asked about babbling at his 9M check-up, and he was behind then ... so she checked his tracking and responsiveness to being addressed.  His responses, to use her words, were "perfect."  She decided he was just quiet.
She didn't bring it up at 12 months, but at 18 months she asked again.  I worried.  I thought I wasn't engaging him enough.  Autism awareness was really picking up at the time, and I had a cold pit growing in my stomach.  Surely not my baby ...?
Again, she addressed him, played some of those "games" to see how he interacted.  Once again, "perfect."  In fact, even as a newborn he obsessed with having people interact WITH him.  He'd scream his head off  if you left the room or simply turned away.  He was happiest being held or given continuous eye-contact.  No, this isn't autism, it's something else.
I brought him in for a 3-year well-child check-up (we had moved and subsequently changed pediatricians).  Of course, he's into everything.  Not to say he's undisciplined.  He's really starting to learn to control his temper, and has impressed us with his efforts.  Like I said, Supernova.  Continuously bright, pulsing with energy ... and periodically prone to eruption.  We jokingly used to blame the red hair ...
His new doctor watched him shrewdly, taking in both his continuous motion and his responses to my corrections. 
"Is he generally this high-energied?"  Oh yes. 
"Does he seem to have trouble focusing?"  No, not if it's something that's of interest to him!  He's highly selective. 
"Do you see this pattern in the family?"  Definitely, although by the time they hit adulthood, they make this shift from "divided-attention" to "hyper-focus."
"What about preschool skills? Does he draw circles?"  Circles, squares, triangles ... he knows his colors, numbers, alphabet .... though does have this odd habit of reading everything backwards.
"How is he at reading people?"  Honestly?  More adept than most adults.
She smiles briefly, then purses her lips ...  "He is speech-delayed, but really that's the only thing we can address right now.  I'll refer him to speech pathology; their testing system is fairly holistic.  If there's an underlying cause (such as dyslexia or sensory-integrative disorder), they'll be able to spot and address it."

I received a call from the hospital nearly a week later confirming the referral.  "We have a waiting list.  I'm afraid it's going to be a while."

Now what?  I know the window of intervention is small, but after reading the therapy options through the local school district, my skin is crawling.  "If you think your child has a disability, please call us."  Disability? For the first time, I had an appreciation for those people I had once mocked for coining the term, "other-abled."
I began feverishly searching Google.  I don't even remember the search terms I used.  "Bright children with developmental delay"?  Something like that.  Somehow, by the grace of God, I stumbled across several pieces of literature.  I intend to share with you "unofficial" book reviews on these in future posts.

If the story of my son sounds familiar to you, please feel free to comment!  I am eager to hear from other parents who have been down this road.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Breathe deeply ...


... this is the name of the first woman. The first wife, the first mother ... yes, even the first daughter; although, unlike the rest of us, her Father was not flawed. You might say she had an advantage on the rest of us. Even so, she blew it. She lived the very existence we all crave so dearly: perfection. Perfect environment, perfect Parent, and even perhaps perfect spouse (or as close to perfect as human can get). Perfect love ... even so, she was hungry for more. She sought it, aimed for for it, and missed the mark. Quite literally, she sinned.

... kinda makes you feel better, doesn't it?

I've been thinking about starting a blog for years, but it took a friend sticking her neck out and beating me to it to motivate me. However, this blog is neither subject-specific nor completely general. This is about ... life.

Nothing could prepare me fully for this adventure called life. Marriage. Motherhood. Growth. The things my own mother tried to communicate to me, only to have well over half of her efforts fall on deaf ears. Oh, the things only experience can teach.

So, for those of you trying to live on a budget, or live green (or both) ... for those of you with children labeled "special needs," ... for those juggling family and ministry ... perhaps we can walk together for a while. I only ask that you be patient with my posts as I don't have as much time to write as I'd like. Like you, I'm simply learning to breathe deeply.

"How goes the world?"
"The world goes not well, but the Kingdom comes!"
-David and Karen Mains, The Tales of the Kingdom