December 14, 2010

Cloth for a working mom: Follow up on diapering part time...

photo by Thirsties


Part-time cloth diapering is going well for us, I think. By part time, I mean that during the week, we are using a cloth diaper at night (rump-a-rooz). We upped our "stash" of these to 3 right after I returned to work. Occasionally there is a need for an additional diaper between coming home from daycare and going to bed, and then we use a cloth diaper here, too. Also we moved up a size in the Thirsties covers and prefolds. The latter are quite a bit bigger than the newborn-size ones we started with, so this has been a bit of a challenge. On the flip side of that, though, they certainly hold more moisture before needing to be changed. So now on the weekends, we have enough diapers to last all day, so we go all cloth starting Friday afternoon with his early pickup from "school".

The laundry situation is not all that daunting. Monday we start with all clean diapers. By Wednesday we are on the last overnight diaper, so we wash the two other dirty ones with a load of baby clothes that evening, and an extra rinse cycle on the end. The overnight diapers are usually only wet ones, so this work out perfectly. Then we hang them up to dry overnight (or the next morning if we forget). We are now in the winter months, and we keep the drying rack near an air vent, so they definitely are dry by the time we need them the next night. This was more of an issue in the warmer months, when we didn't have the heat going. But then we could hang them up outside without fear of diaper-sicles! Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings (after the babe's in bed) we generally do an entire load of diapers and dry overnight for the next day.

The husband involvement is going well. I can't say he is as into the idea of cloth diapering as I am, but he is resigned to the fact that I really want to do it. AND he has more confidence in a cloth diaper for containing poopy messes than a disposable. AND he actually defended the "ease" of diapering in a conversation recently. He is still skeptical about how to flush "real" poops, but we think they will be fewer over the course of the day when we get to that point, so maybe it won't be as inconvenient as initially thought...

Here is what I think cost-wise: cloth diapering is like going to Vegas with $5. if you don't have enough, you are surely going to loose. It does cost money to run the washing machine, so you want to have a full load when you wash (no pun intended). We only have enough to meet the smallest load setting (on an old-school washing machine). So when I have fewer than that to do, I try to sneak them in with some baby clothes, with an extra rinse. Also, there is a trade off in what kind of diaper to buy if you are only going to be doing this part time: the fancier types (all in ones or twos, pockets) are generally a little easier (if you aren't getting a ton of practice during the week, but they are also a good bit more expensive than prefolds and covers. For costs sake, we are holding onto all the ones we have tested, we purchased some additional, aforementioned, nighttime diapers and bigger covers/prefolds, and for the time being, not planning to order any more.I anticipate that they all will have paid for themselves over the course of a year. If we could get the daycare to use them, we'd be miles ahead of that (though we'd have to double the supply). For more on this idea, see this handy dandy cost spreadsheet I came across. Assuming the inputs are relevant to you, you must be able to wash at least 9 diapers at a time, to see a cost savings over disposable, so be able to go at least that far in.


Lastly, I have pondered investing in a wet/dry bag for evening and weekend outings. However we are currently using plastic baggies that we keep in the diaper bag for disposables anyway. I think if cloth outings become more of an issue, we'll make the leap. The bag is advertised as handy for carrying many other things as well.

October 18, 2010

Cloth Diapers for a Working Mom: The Pivotal Point...

So, they key issue here on these cloth diapers is can a working mom keep up with these. Thus far, I haven't really been working but a couple of days a week, and those have been from home. I am going back to work in a week or so full time. This means that my time here at the house (little one or no little one) will be greatly reduced. I anticipate this will make it more difficult to squeeze in a load of laundry (cloth diapers or otherwise), so we are nearing the moment of truth.

So far, I have really been impressed with the diapers. Each has endured being soaked and soiled to the max, and I can say that we've had no poopy leaks, just one wet diaper seepage where the thing was FULL and the contents reached out of the top of the waistband. I think that is pretty darn good compared to the messes we've cleaned from the disposables, whether we've needed to go up a size or not. I have been more than impressed with the sun's ability to remove stains from the diapers, and laundering is relatively quick (though I have had the luxury to just pop over to the washer any time, even mid-blog-post). I would feel better if I could run a more full load. And I've not tested having to cart these out-and-about with me much, as I haven't invested in a travel wetbag just yet.

Also, We have 4 diapers total. One of which is an overnight, and one is a pre-fold/cover combo, so that can last up to 3 diaper changes, depending on if the cover gets soiled since we have 3 pre-folds to swap out. This almost nearly has us covered for one day outside of daycare. At the moment, the hubby and I both agree that we like them enough not to send them back as we near our 30-day trial. However, we are going to give it a couple of weeks after I go back to work to evaluate the laundering situation (and the real crux of the working mom issue, in my opinion) to decide if we are going to order more to cover us more days of the week/weekend. We'll consult the math on the Dollars and Sense post to decide how many more we'll get if those weeks are successful. I think I would still like to order one more overnight diaper, regardless of the outcome, since I just feel so much better about the little guy hanging out in a cloth diaper as he is sleeping through the night more and more, rather than a  bloated disposable (I changed one pretty full disposable diaper recently, to find a few little gel beads on his skin, which rather freaked me out).

So stay tuned: in a couple of weeks we'll have our verdict!

ps: My husband has reminded me that there is another pivotal issue involved in all this cloth diapering, that we will not be able to evaluate for another 6 months or so: solid poop. At the moment, our breast milk-soiled diapers go right in the cloth diaper pail. I am unsure of the diaper changing logistics when there is solid poop to be disposed of (seeing as how our changing table is in the nursery which is an entirely separate room from where we keep the toilet...). I suspect that by then, our little guy's bowel movements will be fewer, and more predictable (and perhaps all being taken care of at daycare on weekdays), so we may be able to strategize a bit to minimize this issue, if it really is an issue. I'd be interested in feedback on this if you have it! And you can look forward to another post as we get to that point!!

October 12, 2010

Cloth Diapers for a Working Mom: Dollars and Sense

So, I did some quick math:

One disposable diaper is about $0.20 to $0.25.

A cloth diaper (not including pre-folds and wraps) is about $23-$25. So a hundred uses, makes it pay for itself (not including the cost of washing). The cost of washing is about $0.60 per load.

So I REALLY like the rump-a-rooz diaper for overnight. If I bought 2, to rotate evenings, They would pay themselves off in about 6 months. So 3 or 4 pay off in less than a year.

For the day diaper types (except pre-folds), if I am just using them in the mornings and afternoons, I would use about 3-4 a day, and maybe 6-7 a day on weekends. So if I invested in a dozen of one kind (or some combo of a couple kinds), That's about $300. So they would pay for themselves in just under a year (assuming a couple weeks of vacation in disposables, perhaps).

So... still the cost of the laundry, but that's $400 up front cost for nights and weekends, so if the little guy doesn't potty train at age one we'll be benefiting. If he does, well then, that is worth any difference in cost for sure!!

Also, if I could convince the daycare to use cloth... using the same numbers... I know my day care has to change him (by law) at least once every two hours. So let's assume (conservatively) 5 diapers during the day. 25 per week. So that's 55 diapers changes per week total (combined with those above), minimum. If you were willing to do laundry every other day... you could have, what? 12? 18? in the queue? Even if you bought 24, they would pay themselves off in a year! If you could get by with fewer (which if we say yes, we'll start on the low side, and add more as needed), then even sooner!

Now I say "excluding" prefolds, because at this point, my husband still thinks they are going to be kind of tough. However, they are definitely the least expensive, so if I can change his mind on them, those will be the best decision fiscally!

Additional items - other things to consider include wetbags (one for the nursery and one for the diaper bag, at a minimum... maybe a spare while washing?), snappi's (if you go with prefolds), and you can even go the cloth wipe route! Now that's advanced. Also, cloth diaper-ers recommend certain diaper creams when pairing with cloth to prevent affecting the absorbency of the diapers.

October 3, 2010

Cloth Diapers for a Working Mom: Day 3

So I had some good experiences today!

Laundry: I was worried that more poop had stained these brand new diapers. I wondered if I was washing them incorrectly? Or waiting too long before washing (1-2 days)? Then I remembered something I'd read a lot about in my research, that lots of mom's praised the power of the sun to fade staining. The rain had finally let up and it was sunny (though chilly), so I let them dry outside on the porch. Only a few short hours later they were dry and stain-free. Even the thirsties cover whose white piping had stained on the first wearing, and I thought was already a lost cause. And the best part - drying outside was faster and cheaper than running the dryer for 3 cycles!

Reusable cover! Finally M only had a wet diaper in the Thirsties duo. Even though he was wet after only an hour, I finally got to try my hand at changing only the prefold. It really wasn't much different from changing a regular diaper, except I am not so graceful with the snappi yet, and I am super-paranoid about making sure all the edges of the prefold are tucked in. Also, I can't help but wonder if he wouldn't have felt wet in such a short time in a disposable, but then again, this is supposed to be the aspect that helps with potty training, right? This left me with the promise of a longer stretch of using cloth for the day!

Soon, I will sit down with the math to see how long it would take for a stash of cloth to pay for itself (in part time usage, that is)... this could be the real pivotal point for us...

October 2, 2010

Pumping out in the World?

So I am working from home two days a week, as I transition back to work. However today, I attended a planning retreat with my team at one of our local hotels. It was great to see the group! They asked about the baby (which I was more than happy to gush about), and expressed how much they have missed me! However this did pose a new challenge for me: pumping in public.

When going to your first all-day-away-from-the-baby event (or first day back to work!), feeding him is certainly one of the biggest concerns. By law, workplaces now have to provide a location specifically for pumping that is not the restroom, however not sure of the rules for other places. So here I am at this retreat, needing to pump every 3 hours. I brought along the usual equipment for pumping at work. I know that everyone has their own level of modesty with breastfeeding and pumping and all related activities. I have started getting more comfortable breastfeeding with a nursing cover (like this) while out and about, but pumping? So I found myself standing against the wall furthest from the door in the womens' restroom, pump attached, using my nursing cover, and flipping through baby photos on my phone. And every few minutes, a female from our group would come in to relieve themselves!

I was worried how it would go over with restroom visitors, but I kept reminding myself that this is just something that I have to do, that lots of people probably do, and that I was completely covered.To my surprise they were all very empathetic and used my awkward position to commiserate or reveille in their own new-mom experiences. It was actually like having my own personal mommy group, of one-on-ones. I got to hear about how they had competitions with other nursing moms when they returned to work about who could put out more volume in a day. I heard about the challenges of bringing home, and nursing, twins! I also got to talk about the newest pumping technology and gadgets for baby. And of course, I got to talk about and show off my pictures of the new baby.

I thought I'd share this, in case anyone else is nervous about getting out in the world with their new baby skills. I was nervous, too, but I think people are actually pretty receptive - especially other moms. They have been there too!

Cloth Diapers for a Working Mom: Day 2

First dirty wash: Last night we threw all the diapers, and the liner right into the wash. We ran a small load, with a small amt of detergent with the extra rinse cycle. All the poop was gone! Sadly, the prefold, showed a little staining, as did the gusset on the Thirsties wrap, and a small spot on the BumGenius. I ran those through again on a warm rinse. Still a little staining on the wrap and prefold. Threw everything in the dryer (except the cover, which I let air dry). After one dryer cycle,  the inserts and AIO were still damp, so I left them out to air dry overnight again, and again they needed another short cycle in the dryer. The AIO is still a little damp.

Yesterday evening, we used the wrap, a prefold, and a snappi and went out for dinner with a friend. We had an hour stop to make on the way, and again, we must've caught the little guy at a good time, because by the time we made the restaurant the cloth diaper combo was FULL. Again we couldn't reuse the cover, so we put a disposable on him.

For overnight, the Rumparooz insert was still damp, as I mentioned, so he was in a disposable. Again, M slept through the night (!), which means it wasn't cloth magic the previous night. But we are still happy.

This morning, after his regular post-breakfast poop, I put on the GrowVia. It only took him about 15 minutes to wet this one. It wasn't dripping wet, but it was wet, and he was fussy, so we changed him into a disposable as we waited for the AIO to finish drying. The cover was still spared (no poop though), which is a plus, since if we had an extra insert we could have just changed that part.

So far, I am not feeling overwhelming love for cloth diapers, but I do think that having more of them would make it better. I feel a little wasteful doing a whole laundry cycle for 4 diapers, and then having to keep switching back and forth from cloth to disposable. Also they don't seem to last quite as long as disposable (between changings) but to be fair, most mornings we go through 3 disposables in an hour, depending on how we time them with his digestive cycles. And disposables hold so much pee because of the chemicals in them, which is a bit of a bummer. Also, we haven't had any blowouts in them (but we haven't tested poop in all models yet, either).

Cloth Diapers for a Working Mom: Day 1

So, after I got home from SweetBottoms, I washed the Thirsties Duo wrap, prefolds (which had already been "prepped" and washed several times), the Rump-a-rooz parts, and the diaper pail liner (did I mention this yesterday?) with some towels from the dirty clothes basket (I figured this was OK since we haven't been using fabric softener or dryer sheets since the new addition to our family. I point this out because Beth wanted me to be sure not to contaminate the diapers with softeners because it can diminish their absorbency). I hung the cover and liner to dry, and threw the rest in the dryer. Next, I had to "prep" the Grow Via and the BumGenius AIO. This means you have to wash them on hot several times (since they are new natural products) to up their absorbency. These two had to go by themselves. I was home for the afternoon, so this wasn't too much of a pain. When the small load on the washer stopped, I just turned it on again. After 4 or 5 goes, I put them in the dryer (not the GrowVia shell... but the other parts). Now this took a while. One dry towel, and two diaper pieces. Two dry cycles. Then I threw them on the drying rack (inside) overnight. THEN in the AM I threw then back in the dryer and they were FINALLY dry. This could be a turnoff if it is going to take this much time. We shall see.

Meanwhile, the first two diapers were ready to use by the evening. M and I were headed to a mommy group, so I braved using a new cloth diaper. Just before I fed him, I put on the prefold with a snappi (using this rolling technique), and the Thirsties cover (size 1, on the largest setting). He ate (starting at about 5:45), and we headed out (6:15). He got fussy during the group around 7:00. I went to change him, as I'd packed an extra prefold. His diaper was LOADED up. In a couple of hours the prefold was soaked through, and he had pooped. It was all contained in the cover, but unfortunately the cover could not be re-used, so I had to put on a disposable. What did I do with the soiled cloth? I put in in a gallon ziploc bag, and then transferred it to the cloth-liner lined trash can back in the nursery when we got home. My opinion after test one: not sure if I have a "heavy wetter" or if I just got him at the right time to load up the diaper, but my hopes of just changing the prefold are a little bruised.

After we got back from the meeting, I sat down with the hubby and showed him the 4 diapers I'd gotten at Beth's. He (also very patiently) listened, and was genuinely interested. Good sign.

We fed the little guy for the last time before bed, and went to change him into the Rump-a-rooz for bed time. This was comical. The diaper was huge!!!! Beth had recommended this one for night time (since I think we'll primarily be able to use cloth for nights and weekends, this was a pivotal piece of the equation). It has a double soaker insert that adds a LOT of volume. But supposedly can hold a lot of volume, too. And the fleece lining should wick away moisture to the insert for storage. We adjusted to the middle row of snaps, for the best fit. We swaddled him up for the night, and I planned to see how well this was really going to work at our usual 2AM feeding. However, our baby slept through the night for the first time (!!!!), so he had a good 8 hours to really put this thing to the test. I picked him up, and I thought I felt moisture on his blanket, so I was worried. But it turns out all the pee was contained!! The inserts were pretty soaked, but the lining wasn't sopping, so I didn't feel like he had marinated in it all night. And clearly he was comfortable enough to go all night. I got him changed and undressed. I pulled the insert out and put both it and the cover in our diaper pail. I have to say that I am pretty pleased with this one so far. No poo in this one, so I am not sure yet how a poopy night would factor in. I did notice this morning that there were some red lines on his thighs, and they seemed to linger to the next day. Perhaps we put this on too tight?

The next morning, the other two diapers were dry and ready to go. First I tired the BumGenius. Put it on at 10, was pretty wet and ready to be changed by 12:30. Again no large dose of poop, but I was pretty happy with this one, too. Pretty easy to toss the whole thing in the diaper pail.

I wasn't changing him in the nursery, so I didn't have the last diaper handy, so I put on a disposable. But at the next change, I put the GrowVia on him. In just over an hour the insert was pretty wet up front, but there was some dry space in the back. In this case the cover was clean, so we left it out to reuse for next time. Beth recommended alternating covers of this type during the day, letting them air out between wearings, so this should work out.

So let me tell you about our make-shift diaper pail. We got a liner from Beth. Washed it. Put in in one of those retro metal trash cans. Over 24 hrs, 4 soiled diapers in. No lid. Not much smell. The contents are only breastfed poops and pees, but I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of odor.

October 1, 2010

Cloth Diapers for a Working Mom?

Today, the little guy and I met with Beth at Sweetbottoms Baby Boutique to discuss a cloth diaper trial. I have been interested in cloth diapers since we found out we were pregnant. Yes, for the environmental benefit (in my research I found it is actually illegal to throw poop in a landfill! Yet that is exactly where disposables go! How do we all get away with it?), but mainly for the benefit to my wallet, and my baby's bottom. And also because of the promise of fewer-to-no blowouts and easier potty training (when that time comes) AND, honestly, because they are so darn cute!. With all the positives, the glaring negative, elephant in the room, is that surely they are more work, and potentially more gross, to deal with -- right? Especially for two parents who work full time outside the home? (For more pro's and con's see What To Expect's list)

As I mentioned, I scoured the internet in my research to see what this cloth is all about, but I couldn't find anything that proved that two working parents could successfully use cloth diapers to their benefit. So this is what I am setting out to test.

Beth's business offers a cloth diaper trial for 30 days. At the end of the trial, I can return the diapers (so long as we haven't destroyed them) if cloth isn't for us, or if it is, I can swap any particular ones I didn't like for ones that I preferred. Sounds like a deal to me. And also, even though I had looked everywhere online, I couldn't actually put my hands on any of the different models to get a feel for how they would attach to the baby, etc. So Beth also offers a demo at her place for the type-A's of the world. I took her up on both of these things.

I went over to Beth's this morning and she (very patiently) explained the different types of diapers to me, after she (very patiently) heard about my diapering situation. "The situation" is as follows: My husband and I both work full time, and in about a month, I will be returning to that full time job and sending my little guy off to daycare (also full time). So far, day care has said that they will not deal with cloth diapers, so I am really only looking at nights and weekends for this (unless I can convince day care to change their perspective...). Also, did I mention that my husband is not into this at all? If this trial can convince him, it should convince anyone. He thinks that afore-mentioned elephant is a deal breaker just thinking about it. My guy is 8 weeks today, about 12 lbs, and pretty tall, I think (his official stats from the pediatrician will be out next week).

After an hour with Beth (again, she was so patient with me!), to start we are trying one of each of the following:

Grow Via shell set
Thirsties duo (size one) + infant sized prefolds + snappi (or not)
BumGenius organic one size AIO (Elemental)
Rump-a-rooz G2 one size pocket

September 20, 2010

Miracle Blanket - Help Me (and my baby) Get a Good Night's Sleep!

Is the Miracle Blanket really that much of a Miracle? Why is such a contraption needed for a simple swaddle?

I have to say that this product came highly recommended to us from a family member who said it worked amazingly for their two children, and after knowing our son for 48 hours, I was skeptical that it would work for him. It seemed he really liked having his hands up by his face, and why not? He probably has had them there for the last nine months, and, truth be told, I like to have my hands up by my face when I sleep, too. However, on our first day or two home, we decided to give it a try.

The Miracle Blanket is pretty much like a straight jacket for babies. It keeps their arms down by their sides, feet tucked in a pocket at the bottom and overall, wrapped up snugly. The idea is that babies have only known life as being snuggled up in the womb, but now their little bodies have this new freedom to move. They have very little control over their limbs, and when they unknowingly flail they wake themselves up. Limiting that erratic moving keeps them asleep (or helps them get back to sleep more easily if they wake up) - and isn't that what we all want (within 48 hours of coming home from the hospital)?

It is different from a typical swaddling blanket because they can't wiggle out of it! I admit, we reserve this blanket for nighttime use only, and during the day, for naps, we use some lightweight swaddle blankets. These he can still wriggle out of, regardless of how I engineer them, but I don't mind because I am not looking for long stretches of sleep.

My husband is the swaddler in our nighttime routine, and our little guy looks like he's swaddled so tightly, that I was afraid that when I had to do this on my own, I wouldn't be able to bring myself to do it! However, I have come to know this blanket is worth its weight in gold, as we have been fortunate enough to get some really good stretches of sleep (I am talking about waking up only once a night, and we haven't reached the two month mark yet!), so I gave it my best shot. And you know what? It really doesn't have to be all that tight to keep the swaddle secure. I guess that is the genius in the design. And this doesn't hurt him at all - in fact, I feel like he expects and enjoys it as part of his bedtime routine!

I highly recommend putting this on your registry if you are expecting, or running out and getting one (or buying one online stat) if you are having trouble getting your little one to sleep.

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