November 24, 2011

Diapering Deals for "Green" Friday :)

Black Friday can also be your Green Friday!
Take advantage of some good deals and stock up on cloth diapers and supplies!

You can get "buy 2 get one" GroVia diapers, get a free infant insert for your Ergo carrier, buy 4 get 1 Rump a rooz, and more!


Jillians Drawers - gift certificate giveaways, "green toys"
Sweetbottoms Baby Boutique - 10, 15% off, plus free gifts (which include free wetbags!) with your purchase!
Diapering Doula - their store is closed but they are open online, and are offering deals on their diaper service (if you are local), and more deals to be announced tomorrow!

A friend in Charlotte passed along this shop's sale at jack be natural (15% off! + other special deals)
Do you know of other good deals coming up? Share them please!!

November 21, 2011

Pumping Pitfalls

Workin' it!
via babygearcenterdotcom
As you take on pumping as a second job (third! you are now a Mom, too!), there are a few incidents you may be anxious about or want to avoid... Or want to commiserate about, if you've already experienced...

Finding time to pump. Regardless of how much time you take off from work, one thing you absolutely must do before returning to work if you plan to keep nursing, is schedule in your pumping sessions (and be mindful booking adjacent meetings). If you have some kind of a desk job, make regularly occurring meetings on your calendar for at least 20 minutes, probably 3 times per day, whenever you anticipate you would be feeding your little one. These breaks will vary as your baby consolidates feedings and eventually weans, but this is a good place to start. And don't forget to discuss this pumping with your boss. He or she has to allow you time to pump, but it is courteous to discuss your needs, and offer to work out a schedule that accommodates everyone. My boss actually had a baby a year before I did and she actually had lots of tips to offer, and was very supportive.
People knocking on your office door. Ugh! Especially when they should know what you are doing in there. Even as I have become comfortable with pumping at work (and other places), and breastfeeding just about anywhere, I still cannot bring myself to yell through my closed door, "Sorry I am busy right now!" C'mon people. The door is closed... you can hear the pump "whirrrring" in here... Ask me your question via the office instant messenger... or wait 10 minutes.

Crying over spilled milk. This is certainly a big risk from having to bottle the stuff and measure it out and cart it back and forth between work and home and daycare and other places out and about. I had a particularly frustrating day before returning to work, trying to build up a backup supply. My well-meaning hubby had given the baby our backup bottle, and I felt this overwhelming need to replace said bottle, even though it was bedtime. So after nursing (so I was pretty much on E, right?) I got out the pump and tried to see what I could get out. I was already stressed out about "needing" to pump, and it was late. So then to top it all off, when I finished pumping and had extracted a couple ounces (which felt sub-par, though was a decent amount, given all other circumstances), I promptly knocked over the uncapped container and spilled it all over the carpet. I definitely cried. Needless to say, the whole scenario could have been avoided, but I bring this up to say, that wastage of breast milk in any form is a feels like a personal hit. Take extra care when handling it to avoid the tears.

Not being able to pump enough. So I mentioned I am an IE, right? So I have a spreadsheet that I keep track of my pumping progress. I like to know if I have met my quota for the day; how today compares with yesterday, or last week; noticing that the left side has higher output than the right... etc. According to my sheet, I have pumped gallons of milk since returning to work. What a confidence booster!! But this also brings some stress, say, when I haven't made my daily quota, or if I notice a poor trend developing. The best advice I can give here, is know that you will have enough. And if you don't, it's OK. You can supplement with formula if you need to. Really.

the setup
via Medela
Not packing the supplies you need. You do not want to be caught without any of they key equipment needed to extract milk during the day, especially since you probably have a target (however much baby will need tomorrow with his caregiver!) and every ounce short induces panic (see above). One thing I have been short on before is enough milk receptacles. So I started packing several freezer bags just in case I forgot, or in case I had a great day, volume-wise and needed a place to put it all. This does actually happen, by the way and you definitely want to be able to capitalize on it. The apparatus - you definitely will need the pump and the "horns" and tubing, etc. I would recommend also having the AC adapter, of your pump is battery powered. At a La Leche League meeting, I learned that during the day I didn't need to do any cleaning between sessions since breast milk is basically magical enough to ward off bacteria for that short a time. They also advocated just a rinse in the evening, and a sterilization on the weekend. If you subscribe to this like I did then the only real opportunity to forget pieces if the setup is Sunday night/Monday morning, so be extra diligent that day. I kept the parts drying on a burp cloth together after cleaning preferably near the pump bag.  (see my pumping at work checklist for other items to pack).

Leaving the pump bag at work.  This is the worst feeling. If you live close and have time you can go back and get it. But it's a pain, and if you don't live close, you'll just cry. Again, try to keep it near things you won't - or better yet - can't forget, like your keys.

yummy muffin!
via dominosugardotcom
 Not eating or drinking enough. It is so easy to forget, especially as you start to get caught up in the day-to-day at work again. I recommend grabbing a big glass of water every time you go to pump. And pack snacks you'll look forward to, and that are portable. Also, our pediatrician recommended that I drink a glass or two of milk per day for the hydration and calories. I interpreted this as, 'you can drink all the chocolate milk you want'. So I packed a 9-oz baby bottle of skim milk and a couple tablespoons of Hershey's syrup, with a flat cap on top and kept it in the fridge at work to look forward to as a treat each day. I made big muffins on the weekend, and packed them as snacks (that I knew I would look forward to). I bought Luna bars by the caseload and kept them, and a water bottle, in my work bag at all times.

November 20, 2011

Tailgating with a Toddler

via bradsneeddotcom
Our family Alma mater was coming to town for an 'away' football game and my husband and I were excited to go see them play. We bought tickets and figured that we'd work out childcare details later, and heck, depending on what time kickoff was, we could bring our 15-month old with us... right? As game day neared we waffled back and forth: if we bring him, where and how will he nap? Because if he doesn't nap, it won't be fun for any of us, right? If we leave him with someone (likely unfamiliar to him, since our sitter was busy) we'll be spending the 6th day of the week away from him for 8 hours and will be worried how he is doing. Last year we brought him to another game, as an infant, which went well except for the heat, and this game had much more temperate weather. But last year he was pretty much a blob, and was content to be held and worn in a carrier...
So we finally decided to bring him, and actually it turned out pretty well.

I googled around for some tips, and the Internet suggested:
  -We packed his favorite 'sure thing' snacks (for us, that meant bananas, goldfish, steamed carrots, string cheese, cereal bars, cheerios, applesauce...) and lots of them.
  -We brought bottled water and milk.
  -We applied and re-applied sunscreen.
  -We picked up some chalk to draw on the paved area around the tailgate.
  -We toted our belongings from where we parked to the tailgate spot via the stroller, and wore the toddler in a carrier.

We finally made our final tailgate destination around 11AM. M was thrilled to get to run around once we made it to our spot. He wanted to 'throw' the football with the guys, who obliged him. He played the bean bag toss game by himself, and used the boards as his personal slide. He stacked washers in and out of the cups (another tailgating game). We offered him snacks regularly (at a higher frequency then he'd normally get, since he never did really sit down to a meal). We offered the milk and water (drinking out of a water bottle was such a treat!).

DH and I took turns entertaining him and socializing ourselves. Of course, we each wished our socializing stretches could go a little longer, but it really wasn't all that torturous. I think its a more poignant experience when in mixed company, and by 'mixed' I mean, those who have kids and those who don't (or maybe its more those who planned on kids being there, and those who didn't?) because it certainly highlights for me the difference between tailgating in college and tailgating as a parent. I have to be responsible for more than just myself!

We had thought he might nap in the 'way back' of someone's SUV, but we didn't end up with one at our tailgate spot. We rigged the backseat of a truck (meaning we filled in the foot area so he couldn't roll off the edge, and topped it with a soft blanket), but when it came to laying him down the interior was way too interesting, so eventually we just took a walk with the stroller until he passed out (just before 1PM). We reclined the stroller and he got in a good hour and a half nap. Normally he'd go a little longer, but we were OK with it, and hoped it would lead to some subdued behavior once inside the game.

M had woken up just in time to socialize a little more, then we packed up, and headed into the game for the 3:30 kickoff. He used some of that chalk but another toddler, about a year older, seemed to enjoy it more.
Inside the game, he was a little wiggly at first. However as soon as the crowd started to cheer (which was loud and often, since our team got crushed) M started to smile and cheer and clap along with them. He sat pretty still. Thankfully we sat next to friends so stray kicks were tolerated. We did take a break at halftime to get some 'dinner' (I repeat, we used the concept of meals loosely for the day) in the concourse and let him climb on a pedestal and stretch out a little. About the fourth quarter he was snuggling in and nearly falling asleep (and this was only about 6:30).

What are your toddler tailgating tips?
(Also, this does bring up another interesting topic for a future post: how to travel with cloth diapers?)

Pool fun with Swim Diapers

Surf's up!
via AppleCheeks
 I was recently asked about swim diapers...

I know it may not seem like swim weather, but if you have access to an indoor pool (or are in the southern hemisphere) you might think about cloth diapers for water fun, too!!

First, I would recommend checking with your pediatrician about what age they recommend for first water play (a quick call to the nurse line should do the trick). Even though M was born in the heat of August, our doc suggested waiting until 6 months old both because babies are better able to regulate their body temperature by then (which is why also we are advised to dress them in one more layer than we would dress ourselves given the weather) but even more she was concerned with the risk that M might swallow water (since baby bodies don't really know how to digest water until 6-12 months old)

That said, we bought a couple of the iPlay brand to try out. They were relatively inexpensive, especially if you think daytime disposable prices can add up, they go for about twice the price ( see this package of Little Swimmers on amazon). The iPlay came in gender-neutral white which was fine with us since it was going under a swimsuit anyway in our case, though I personally think babies in swim diapers + rash guards look super cute!!! The iPlay was readily available at our local BuyBuyBaby, and even said on the tag that it was approved for public pools, because, I admit, even I wondered if it was going to keep in poop, I certainly didn't want others questioning me. However, I am now firmly a believer and look forward to employing a cute print next year. Some popular brands include kushies, Imse Vimse, apple cheeks, bummis, and several others!

Here's what a swim diaper looks like
via kushies

One tip I might offer, for those who plan to get their wee one suited up and then walk to the neighborhood pool or local beach: put a prefold cloth diaper in the swim diaper for the commute. The cloth diaper has some absorbency when dry, but not a lot, and when we tried this trick, M made me glad I did! I hadn't packed a backup swim diaper (which was silly really, since the whole point is that I expect the first one might get soiled, right?)
In full disclosure, for water play days at daycare they still recommend a disposable (regular daytime one), so usually we send him in with a 'sposie and his swimsuit, slathered in sunscreen, and they change him back into cloth after Splash Day festivities conclude.

Also, in full disclosure, I have actually yet to experience the cloth diaper, er, doing its job, in the pool. I still have confidence in ours, and will continue to use it, since I can't see how a disposable version could possibly do any better a job at keeping solids in... I still worry. If you have put your cloth swim diaper to the test, can you share here?!

November 17, 2011

Baby Registry Musts!

via dooyoodotcodotuk
I have several friends expecting (or recently received) bundles of joy and they asked about ideas for their registries. I was so excited to put all the cool shiny objects on my registry, but I would have really appreciated someone telling me to focus my funds on the crucial things. Sure, registries are the place for both the 'nice to haves' and the 'must haves' but no one needs to end up with 6 strollers because each was slightly different then the other.

So here is my suggested list:

SUSAN diaper bag
from 1154 Lill

diaper bag  We initially bought a pretty big one (we designed our own SUSAN from 1154 Lill ... they have good deals out occasionally that we waited for). The side pockets were the perfect size for my nalgene bottle. However, now that we don't need to carry so many 'baby' things around (our guy is 1) we pretty much only use the free one we got from the hospital with formula samples. It's a one-shoulder black bag with side pockets that hold M's nalgene bottle and the camera perfectly. The diaper bag makes a pretty good carryon for me now, though.

breast pump  Medela Freestyle. It comes in its own relatively discrete bag (except for the dried milk droplets mine acquired, as one pal pointed out) and hands-free attachments (you can fondly refer to the whole getup as your 'robo-boobs'). If you go with this one, it mates well with the Gerber brand bottles (because you will need more than the 4 it comes with, and the Medela bottles are more expensive). Also you'll probably want breast milk freezer bags and our favorite were the Gerber brand as well.

via examinerdotcom
pacifiers we actually really only used the one they gave us in the hospital (a Soothie brand, which we bought a couple more of)... and we didn't think we even wanted to use one at all before he was here. He used it about 3 or 4 months and now occasionally finds it in the toy box, plays with it for a second and throws it back. But you'll probably want to have one or two handy when baby arrives.

swaddle blanket: I recommend your favorite pattern of the ones from aden & anais and you probably don't need to register for any other 'swaddle' or 'receiving' blankets, if you ask me.

miracle blanket this may be the exception to the swaddle blanket rule, but we only used it at night (though, thinking back on it, he may have been a better napper if we had used it during the day, too). It looks like a baby straight jacket, but it works like a charm (it was a gift to us from from a family member who also raved about it).
Halo sleepsacks  So for when baby outgrows the above (around 4 months) you'll still want him/her to be warm, but loose blankets are not allowed in the crib for a while. Our guy still sleeps in one at 15 months (in fact, any suggestions for transitioning to a blanket, now that its safe?)

Ergo Baby Carrier
via babyearthdotcom
baby carrier  So far, the ergobaby (with infant insert). I wish this was the first carrier I'd bought because I LOVE it now. I actually can't speak to how well it does with the really wee ones, since we just recently got it, but it is so comfortable for the wearer (really). We tried a Moby wrap (ridiculously too hard to manage a 10-foot piece of fabric), an Infantino carrier (just awkward to put on, and only holds up to 25 lbs) and a sling (which actually was great for a while, good for naps on the go, since baby can lay down, but M has outgrown it, too)

travel changing pad - we liked this one from First Years which holds everything you need, and we keep it stocked with wipes and a couple disposable diapers (we carry them around, 'just in case' though we primarily use cloth diapers.Tthe wipes and pad are always handy!).

video monitor - any brand is probably fine (we have the Summer Infant), but being able to SEE baby is so helpful, especially when you go the 'cry it out' route, you'll need the reassurance that they are OK. Plus, we've learned, if he's crying and not standing up, he'll likely go back to sleep. Once standing, nap is officially OVER.

car seat (+Snap n Go stroller) - All new car seats on the market pass crash test requirements, so this is mostly about style and budget, in my opinion. If you have the funds, go as crazy as you want. You definitely want the kind where the carrier can snap out of a base (which means you'll have to upgrade to a stationary one at a certain age/height/weight - around a year or so, and then to a booster seat even later - like 3 or 4). We went with the Chicco because it came in orange (the color of our alma mater). Also we got the matching stroller, but I wish we hadn't. It is cheaper and equally as functional, in my opinion, to get a Snap n Go that the carrier can fit into. When baby has outgrown the carrier they are officially big enough for an umbrella stroller, so spend your extra money on a more stylish, souped up one of those.

First Years travel changing pad + wipes case
via diapersdotcom
boppy for nursing, and helping baby sit up, and for tummy time, etc. boppy link some people swear by the 'my breast friend' brand.

diapers (disposable and/or cloth) we didn't do cloth until our son was about 3 months old. I think it is one less thing to have to master in the first few weeks (not to mention that even one-size cloth diapers are too big for newborns, so you'll need a different size for the new one) so you'll probably want some size N and 1's at least. Pampers brand (we tried an off-brand and they were awful). I have to say that cloth diapers actually held in big messes better than disposables, so that is reason enough to use them, as many times as I was pooped on...

crib bedding  At least sheets, 2-3 of them, the bumper isn't necessary, but is usually the cutest part of the set, though you don't use it very long. Maybe a crib skirt? The other parts in a set (including pillows) are really suffocation hazards until after baby can roll over, and has good head control.

crib mattress  This and bedding is pretty standard size, so I don't think you have to pick a crib first, and surprisingly they don't usually come with the crib.

car seat mirror  so you can see him from the front seat, since he'll be rear facing for a while?

changing pad and covers  You know, those curved foam pads you'll keep on the changing table in the nursery? The covers are like sheets for those... you'll probably want 2-3 covers.

umbrella stroller  as I mentioned above, Umbrella strollers fold down really small, and you can use them without the carseat/carrier as soon as baby has good head control. Baby can't really sleep in one (a toddler may, if you get one that reclines enough... the one we have - doesn't... but it DOES have cupholdlers)

via twoshirtsdotcom
clothing  Even if you don't know your baby's gender, you'll want some pjs for sure  and some onesies! At least a few in basic white. I'd put a few newborn sizes, 7 of them? You'll go through probably 3 per day, but also probably doing laundry once a day, and many 3-month sized ones, 10-15? I guess folks will give you some they picked out, too, so maybe just register for the basics and anything you absolutely fall in love with. definitely socks and hats.
high chair/shopping cart cover  if you fear germs, and I would for the tiny ones!

high chair booster seat  We have used this one from Fisher Price since his first food. I feel like its economical, and allows our son to sit at the table with us. It travels with us, too.
pack n play/play yard if you have a two-story house, this is nice to keep on the opposite floor as your real crib, for naps. And, of course, this is great for traveling to Grandma's or even just over at a friend's house while you watch a football game. here's one from Chicco, that may match your carseat :)

night lights  put them in the nursery, and the bathroom and the hall... for middle of the night navigation. (ones with autosensors)

bottles and nipples  Whatever bottles you chose, have the next flow-size up on hand. I never even thought of this until we got to this stage, but once babies get good at feeding, they don't want to wait on it. Bottles usually come with slow flow nipples on them. There's also medium and fast flow, and then you go to sippy cups. We bought the Gerber nipples to go with our Gerber bottles (see above). They aren't fancy, but you need a lot of them, and these are inexpensive, work great, and work with our breast pump directly.

bottle brush  for getting those nooks and crannies clean

baby bath tub  worth the backache for an inexpensive tub, for countertop baths

baby wash and lotion We have enjoyed Aveeno and Burts Bees

diaper ointment  we like the A&D ointment - not cream its more like vaseline than a lotion/cream, and is medicated. for cloth diapering we love CJ's BUTTer.

baby wash cloths and towels it's nice to have baby-sized versions of these, and the towels usually have a little pocket for junior's head. its cute, and useful :)

nursing cover  Can use to cover up when pumping, too, if you choose. I used one from Bebe Au Lait.

Also add on any favorite books from your childhood. You can start reading to him/her now if you want (like, 'Guess How Much I Love You)! And textured links are the best $3 one will spend (you can attach any toy to the diaper bag, stroller, carrier, or make great toys themselves). Any keepsakes you especially want?

Maybe also a baby book? For recording milestones? We loved this baby tracker for minding our pees, poops and sleeps for the first couple of months home (it was a great gift).
You could think ahead, too, and put some sippy cups and toddler spoons/forks/plates on your registry. Our favorite first sippies are the Born Free, without the 'spill proof' parts in them (we just take them out, which is a shame since that is probably what makes them pricey... but all the other ones leak or are in some other way impractical). But after that, the Take n Toss are most practical, and what they use at daycare.

Have I left off anything essential, Mommas?

November 15, 2011

Cleaning Cloth Diapers

via raisingarrowsdotcom
So, besides poop (my husband's top concern), the next natural concern with cloth diapering is laundry.

You may ask: how should I wash my diapers? I will preface my response with this is what work for us. Keep in mind that each diaper brand has their own recommended washing instructions and not following these instructions may void any warranties those companies offer. Also keep in mind that every brand we use has different washing instructions, and I personally do not find it feasible to wash them in separate loads. So, this is what works for us:

Type of Soap: We use whatever dye/perfume-free detergent we use on the rest of our clothes and our baby's clothes (which is usually the cheapest and can change from month to month - this month, I think we are using All Free and Clear). Some folks swear by Charlie's Soap or Rockin' Green and even BumGenius (the maker of my favorite diaper) makes their own soap. I have tried samples of all three (free with my online diaper purchases!), but could never bring myself to spend the money on a full size product of them. I could just see this being one more thing to explain to my husband (how much to use per load, "remember, this is just for the diapers"...). And not to throw him under the bus, but I still have to remind him to adjust load size and temperature on our regular laundry loads. I do, however, squirrel away these samples to take with us when we travel, since you never know what kind of detergent will be available. You will want to avoid anything "oxy" or with anything extra included, since the former can break down the diaper materials and the latter can build up on the diapers, reducing their absorbency.

via naturalparentsnetworkdotcom
The load: You will use about a quarter of the detergent you would use for the same size load of laundry. Lots of brands recommend a cold rinse, then a hot wash, then an extra cold rinse. Again, I can't bring myself to do use that much water, or wait around to add the detergent, etc. I wash my diapers on warm, with an extra rinse. I generally round up the load size, too, just to make sure everything gets rinsed clean. You'll want to make sure the laundry tabs are secured. On aplix (Velcro) closure diapers, there is a place to stick the diaper tabs onto themselves, so you don't end up with one long chain of diapers all stuck to each other after a wash (this can make the tabs less sticky). Also, for pocket diapers, you'll want to make sure you have removed the insert before washing. Some diapers will claim that the inserts will agitate out during the wash. I haven't found this to be the case.

Extras: A couple of times a month I add a generous splash (</= 1/4 cup) of bleach to the water in my load of laundry to help with the smell when my nose starts to detect a wet diaper. I haven't seen any damage or fading. Also I have heard (and plan to employ this soon) that a couple drops of dish soap in the wash is one method for 'stripping' diapers. Generally, diapers become more absorbent the more you wash them, but depending on your water and what you are washing them in you may need to 'strip' the diapers of any build up (much like when you can tell you need to switch shampoos for a while...).

This is pretty much exactly what our laundry room
 looks like on diaper day.
via clothdiaperblogdotcom

Drying: Most of my diaper components can go in the dryer. The four Rump-a-Rooz pocket diaper outers (that I use for overnight) don't. Those I lay right on the drying rack. The inners do go in the dryer with all the other diapers. This is one rule I play according to the manufacturers' suggestions, since I don't want any precious pieces to melt (and, honestly, because it doesn't require any extra work to move some of the pieces to the drying rack versus the dryer as I unload the washer). I will say, that though the BumGenius Elementals are my favorite diapers to use, they do take the longest to dry (I think the FreeTime diapers coming out this December may be better on this point, but I'll elaborate on pros/cons of diaper types in another post). Depending on how much time I have I may run a second dryer cycle, or I may just hang up the diapers to air dry the rest of the way. If the weather is nice you may choose to do this outside in the sunshine, which will speed things up and take care of any pesky stains, too.

Frequency: We currently wash twice a week (usually Sunday and Wednesday). We washed 3-4 times per week before M was one, and going through many more diapers per day.

Trash can with a loose-fitting lid
via PlanetWisedotcom
Other equipment: To manage your laundry you are going to need a diaper pail with liner, and a wet bag. For a pail we use a 'dry' system which consists of a liner (like this one from Planet Wise) in an open top trash can (the alternative is a 'wet' system where you soak diapers until your next load. I can't think of a reason why this is actually necessary?). If I were starting from scratch I probably would get a trash can with a loose-fitting lid, but we sometimes put a drop of tea tree oil on a burp cloth and lay it over the top. You'll need the wet bag (like this) for when you are out and about (if you leave a wet diaper in a plastic bag for very long, it is likely to mildew). Perhaps you will want an extra of either of these, but we make do with one each.

Warning to any expecting moms out there: babies require a LOT of laundry, whether you are using cloth diapers or not. The first few weeks we had our little guy home we must have done a load of laundry every day as we all changed outfits often (which is probably the next best thing to the showers we didn't have time for). And its true that cloth diaper laundry is additional to do a couple times a week. I would say that we really have it in our routine at this point, and don't notice it at all. Occasionally, we forget to do it, so we use our back-up disposables with only minor guilt.

Wow: looking back on the length of this post, you might think that caring for cloth diapers is difficult, but really it isn't. Spending a few minutes on mini-research for how to care for your diapers up front is worth it... as it similarly would be for any new garment you purchase. They'll last longer and perform better. And once you know, you won't spend a second more on this load than you would any other load of laundry.

November 14, 2011

The Real Poop: Diaper Liners

roll of liners

So let's face it: the most daunting thing about cloth diapers is the thought of having to deal with poop any more than you have to with disposables. There are lots of reasons that this isn't really an issue, but the biggest is the use of diaper liners.

Diaper liners are biodegradable sheets, much like a dryer sheet, that you lay between diaper and baby (our favorite is the AppleCheeks brand). If she poops, it mostly sticks to the liner and the combo can easily be plopped in the potty, and flushed. If the diaper is just wet it has been suggested that you can reuse a liner. I don't, unless I am in a pinch and don't have a new one to replace. It gets wet. Some people wash and reuse. I have washed them by accident, and they don't seem like they would lend themselves well to reuse, but leave a comment here and let me know if you do this successfully!

Just lay the liner on top of your diaper
photo via

Liners are made by various companies, and come in different sizes and prices. I think price is key, since you go through a good number of them. Also you want a size and shape that will collect the majority of the diaper's contents without sticking out the sides. And you definitely don't want to add anything scratchy or rough to negate the softness of the cloth against baby's sensitive skin.
Another option for dealing with poop is a diaper sprayer. In the long run, I suppose, this is the cheaper option since a roll of 100 liners can cost $5-10. I think I prefer the liner option, though since the idea of poopy water ricochet doesn't sound fun, and you really can throw more in your washer than you might think. In fact, for exclusively breastfed babies, everything is water soluble so you can just throw it all in the wash, no liner needed. I don't actually know what the rules are for formula fed babies... I searched online some, and my conclusion is that you should use your judgement based on, well, consistency and volume. I welcome feedback on this subject as well!!

A friend recently raised concern about putting poop in the washer. I replied that I didn't think it was really a big deal, but I could understand the concern. I justified it in my mind, because we frequently put clothes with poop on them in the wash. In full disclosure, though, we do find blueberry skins and corn in the washer after a diaper load but there is usually a rogue diaper liner in the wash that I use to scoop them all up and toss in the trash can.

One final thought: don't forget the power of the sun! I mentioned in an earlier post how surprised I was at how well the sun bleached out any stains that lingered on diapers. I've stuck other organic stains on regular clothes out in the sun, too!

November 13, 2011

Cloth Diapers for a Working Mom: in action

So I realized that I have left you hanging in the saga of the Cloth Diapers for a Working Mom:

When I last posted (about 10 months ago), I mentioned that daycare was warming up to cloth diapers. The director called me back 2 weeks later and said she had checked in with their sister location to get the skinny on cloth diapers in the daycare setting. She said also that the director there told her how cool and "modern" cloth diapers have gotten. Even they can't resist the cuteness.

PlanetWise Wet/Dry bag
It turns out that all we needed to do was provide a place to keep the soiled ones, "double-sealed," and take said dirty diapers home every day. For us this meant we would buy a plastic container a little bigger than a shoebox (like this one, but with a handle, which seems convenient, though we don't really carry it around ever). We would also get a wet/dry bag (we use one from PlanetWise), which we bring empty every day and keep it in the plastic container at school, and then bring the full bag home at the end of the day and empty into our pail in the nursery (or right in the washer, if it is diaper-washing day). And I also bring a fresh load of diapers a couple of times a week.
Of course there were some issues, too: they were worried about space in the classroom. The plastic container is stored on a shelf behind a locked cabinet (it was required that dirties be stored out of reach of babies) where there just happened to be extra space. Since each child has an allotted amount of space to keep their diapers, extra clothes, etc., if all the kids wanted to do cloth diapers, there just wouldn't be enough space. However, we have since changed daycares (for a totally unrelated reason) and they just ask us to keep the box outside a door that opens to a courtyard (side note here, too: when we previously asked our current daycare about cloth diapering before our baby was born, they'd said no, but by the time we transferred over they didn't bat an eyelash at our question).

Another drawback to cloth diapering full time is that there are more opportunities to forget stuff. We no longer just bring in a jumbo pack of diapers and wipes and forget about it for a few weeks. I have to keep tabs on how many clean ones are left each day, and wash when I need to. If I forget, we keep a handful of disposables there, too, for backup. However, I no longer have to work in a trip to the store on a school night, or have an emergency order shipped to the house, stat. I just do a load of laundry.

How clean diapers are stored at daycare

Now that our boy is 1, he seems to use fewer per day, which means our bare bones "stash" (I'll elaborate on this in a future post exactly what our working stash contains) lets us just wash on Wednesday and Sunday. It isn't recommended to go much longer between washings, since the dirty diapers can start to mold.
A short time after we started using cloth I started noticing another little box next to ours on the shelf at school, and another basket stuffed with candy-colored diapers. Yay!

Of course We still use some disposables. As I mentioned, we keep 5-6 as backup at daycare. They are so infrequently used, however, that I just noticed this week that they are a size behind what he currently would wear. I was checking, because we had brought in disposables that day, because M was going to spend an extended weekend with his grandparents, and would be using disposables with them. They feel more comfortable with it, the visit was longer than a fully clean stash would last, and I didn't want to worry them with washing instructions.

PS. I don't want to scare you that I haven't posted in 10 months because cloth diapering is so overwhelming :) At a friend's suggestion, I decided to follow up where I'd left off!

January 18, 2011

Cloth Diapers for a Working Mom: Perhaps at Daycare Afterall

So... I mustered up some courage and took advantage of our most recent monthly Parent Call at our Daycare to ask about cloth diapers again. I sent an email to the director, who hosts the call, ahead of time to ask if that was the appropriate forum for such a question. I wanted to probe for any definite no's first. I also included a few links to some of the types of diapers we were using from the website we ordered from. I am not sure that she looked at them, but she replied to my email saying that I could bring it up, but she was pretty sure that the state of NC didn't allow child care centers to use cloth diapers. I replied by saying that other facilities in the same chain, in our same city were using them right now.

So I did log into the call later that day. At the end of the agenda, I got my chance to ask if the center had reconsidered their stance on cloth, restating that other centers in our area were using them. The director again said that for a fact, NC had outlawed them in the past, but that she would look back into it. One of the other moms said that another nearby center ONLY used cloth, and changed kids into them when they got there, and would put on a disposable to go home in, if the parents wanted. Wow!

Also, one of the other staff said that a possibility in the meantime would be to pack one cloth diaper for our little one to change into as his last for the day, to come home in. At first I thought this wasn't really only a drop in the bucket, but that to show that I was interested I should at least make the effort. And the next day, his teacher had no problem with it, and said that in fact at least one other baby (and her older brother before her) did the same thing. I felt relieved, and excited that this was catching on! And later I realized that he is only going through 5 or 6 during the day there, so 1 more to be cloth would be a 15-20% improvement. And what a great way to see if we can keep up with laundry every other day.

AND to top it off, while we were discussing this during pickup, one of the other moms asked, "Oh are you doing cloth?" which sparked a conversation about how we were doing them "after hours", and how she had bought some before her daughter was born, but hadn't really gotten around to using them yet.

Needless to say, I feel relieved, and not like a crazy hippie (at least not the only crazy hippie). And actually a little hopeful that we can do this more. We have at least a year's worth of diapering to go (or two, if my mother is right about boys and potty training...) so that would at least break even. I am shopping around for deals now!! I am going to need some of those travel wet bags...

January 10, 2011

Learning to Breastfeed in Public - the Mommy Group

About the third week home, I decided the baby and I were ready for our first field trip. The hospital where we delivered offered a mommy group that met once a week, to let moms bond with each other and compare notes, and to ask questions to the lactation consultant and pediatrician that also attended. I was pretty stoked to get out and about. I didn't have any questions, but I was dying for (adult) human contact. It took us pretty much all morning to both get dressed, pack the diaper bag and car and to almost make it on time. We planned to blend in with the wallpaper and just listen to the others speak. But of course, the little guy was due to eat right in the middle of the meeting. This was a mom-and-baby-only (no men allowed) so that detailed questions could be asked, but also so breastfeeding could go on, uninhibited. I wouldn't fully appreciate this aspect until several weeks later.

I first was mortified that my baby was crying and "interrupting" this meeting. I immediately started to get hot and flustered. New mothers everywhere: do not feel embarrassed by this. Especially newborns, whose cries are nothing compared to what comes later. Especially not at a new mom's meeting offered by your hospital, where the fully expect such behavior and where you will not be the only one in this position in the room. I tried to be super-covert as I tried to position him on my lap, lift my shirt, undo my nursing bra, get him latched on (and at this point we were still using a nipple shield, so this was yet another thing to try to orchestrate), and all under the cover of a lightweight swaddling blanket so, God forbid, no one saw my breast. This was an utter disaster (no pun intended). I felt so embarrassed! One of the facilitators came over and offered me some pillows to get more comfortable. I thanked her, but really couldn't handle trying to manipulate one more object. I was literally sweating, and luckily my guy figured out how to latch on long enough to get some milk and be satiated and quiet. I really have no idea what the topic of conversation was that day.

I tell this story because 1) it really wasn't as big of a deal as I was imagining it to be at the time, so if you find yourself in a similar situation, please know that it really is OK, and absolutely nothing to be embarrassed by, and 2) these meetings are the perfect place to learn how to breastfeed in public. I assumed you already have the hang of feeding your kid in the privacy and safety of your own home. There you can walk around all day with no shirt on and feel perfectly normal. Not to mention you have a handy dandy Boppy pillow, and a comfy rocking chair. If you don't, though, these meetings are great to ask questions about how to do this better, too. Really, its why they even bother holding them in the first place.

Our second outing was a La Leche League "cafe". This was an informal meeting at a cloth diapering boutique in town. Similarly, there were several new moms and babies in attendance. There was prime emphasis on babies and chatting, and some highlighting of the official LLL stance on the answers to some of the questions going around, and no pushing of the boutique's merchandise, whatsoever. Here is where I got over the initial breakout of sweat and embarrassment and started watching what the other moms were doing. I was fortunate that my little guy slept through this whole meeting, and another mom was feeding her daughter lunch. I watched how she nestled her baby's head in the crook of the elbow of one arm, and used the other hand to aim her breast into the baby's mouth. Baby's bum rested in her lap. Aha! To cover it all she had this nursing cover, which is really just a glorified cooking apron, sans strings. If you have any sewing talent at all, make yourself one before you have the baby and save yourself $30. If you don't, just add it to the registry, because its pretty danged handy. While you're at either this meeting or the hospital-sponsored one, ask all the questions you can think of. Invaluable resource. And once you go back to work, you'll likely not be able to attend these anymore :(

So, once you have found a couple of groups to frequent, keep going! Practice your new skills. Trust me you'll learn many more tips from the other new moms and you'll give yourself plenty of opportunities for dealing with other new challenges, including 8 ways to recover from a poopy diaper explosion. Our son pretty much only has two poop speeds: not pooping, or explosion. You'll become a regular James Bond making due with pieces of outfits or swaddling blankets in the bottom of the diaper bag (because you have already used the 2 actual outfits you'd packed). Or you can practice eating your lunch while holding a baby. Or practice entertaining baby while carrying on a conversation. Or at the very least, it is practice for trying to get somewhere on time, with a baby in tow. And of course, getting comfortable with breastfeeding in front of someone other than your husband or mother. I begged for suggestions on how to get good at this, and I actually got several responses telling me to just give up on it, and give the kid a bottle (of expressed milk, but still!!), since at some point he'd have to learn to take a bottle anyway. I quickly found this to be a ridiculous suggestion. Sure, maybe in the middle of a wedding or funeral isn't the best time to whip it out, but nearly all other options are OK (in my opinion) And hiding out in the car to nurse is always an option, if you need a little privacy. Why forgo the convenience of carrying your baby's food around with you everywhere? I promise, you will soon tire of having to think ahead to pump a bottle, and then give your kid said bottle, when you can just skip the middle man and nurse him. With a little practice, soon you'll be able to do this at tailgates and restaurants, so nonchalant-ly that folks will hardly realize you are even doing it!

Let me mention two more things: 1) my husband was resistant to breastfeeding in public at first. He wasn't fond of the idea that my boobs could be in plain view to the public. However, as I practiced, he got more comfortable with my skills, and confident that said boobs would remained covered. 2) There will be times where it is worth it to pump milk instead of nurse. This includes the night shift. If you get good at squeezing in a pumping session for your freezer supply, you might keep an extra bottle in the fridge to give you baby in the middle of the night, if s/he needs it. This way you don't always have to be the one to get up. And this will then leave you with some extra milk in the morning, that you can then pump and save. Its a nice cycle.

Freezer Stock

If you are breastfeeding, it is true that it is pretty handy to have some back up milk in the freezer.

If you ever plan to be away from your baby for more than a few hours (let me just say that if you don't plan to get away some, you will likely go insane, so just plan on it now), someone else will have to feed your kid. And if/when you are going to back to work, get sick, going on vacation, any of these things can disrupt your schedule (and your eating/hydration schedule, too) and might cause your milk supply to dip, so its great to have some backup on hand, of for nothing else, then peace of mind. Not to mention if your baby hits a growth spurt and you haven't enough fresh milk on hand to keep up. Our little guy hit a spurt right around 3 months, which is when he started at daycare and I started back to work. Trifecta for us. I took some pressure off myself because I had a pretty good supply in the freezer for just this case.

OK, OK, you say. So I'll get to work on my freezer stock... but how? I wondered this myself. When I was about 6 or 7 months pregnant, I recall asking one of my new-momma friends how she ever "got ahead" to be able to build up a freezer stock of milk. She thought back to her first "daze" on the job and said, "you know, I don't remember". So I made a conscious effort to pay attention. At first, you do not work on this supply. Depending on how well breastfeeding is going for you, you just work on that, and bonding with your baby. Once you start to get the hang of things (maybe a couple weeks? You'll know because you'll have a split second to think: wow, a free moment - what should I do? If you even think you might be tired, though, just take a nap instead.), I suggest pumping sometime after the first feeding of the day, maybe when the little one goes down for their first nap, maybe for 15 minutes or so. There always seems to be extra milk in the morning. And I would wager that this is a good strategy to up your supply in general. Lactation is all about supply and demand, so keep demanding. The supply built up because until the baby was 3 months old, I wasn't away from him much at mealtimes, and I was getting an extra few ounces of milk nearly every day.

I read in a couple of sources that folks recommended freezing milk in one or two ounce portions, so that this was more flexible for you to use. But I just found this wasteful. Once you thaw one of those little baggies, there is all kinds of milk still clinging to the sides, so why do this 2 or 3 times just to get a full bottle? By the time I was pumping to freeze, my guy was drinking 3-4 ounces per feeding anyway, so I reasoned that there was no reason to freeze any less than that. Now that he can down an 8 or 9 oz bottle, I only freeze in 6 oz portions. In both cases would just top off whatever I'd thawed with refrigerated milk, and voila, a full bottle is good to go.

January 7, 2011

Pumping at Work

In case you didn't know this, I am an Industrial Engineer by background, which means I am always trying to streamline processes, even in my personal life. Now that I have this new baby, it is more important than ever for me to optimize my time. And this is especially true at work, since I look forward to 5:00 when I can run to daycare and snuggle the little one as soon as possible. This being said, I am also still nursing said little one, which means I am also pumping at work. For any other mama's planning to do the same, I would like to offer a few tips:

 First and foremost, make sure your employer is aware of your need to pump and what this means. You will need a clean private place to do this, and some flexibility in your day to take breaks to do so. It doesn't mean you won't be working during these time periods, but it may, even if you have the best of intentions of staying productive. Know that if you have a desk job, it is likely that you can still get some things done while utilizing a hands-free pump, but you may also need to focus on getting yourself in the "baby zone" (see below) or have some technical difficulties to contend with that might preclude work during these pump breaks.

Secondly, as you are planning to be out (and for sure before you return) go ahead and block out some planned pumping time on your calendar.  This prevents you (or others if they can see this calendar) from over-scheduling  you. Its not fool proof: of course there will be those meetings that  you really can't negotiate. So you'll have to adjust forward or back some. Don't stress about this too much. Your milk will still be there. And if you can at all have a store in the freezer before you come back, this takes the pressure off, too.

How many breaks per day should you plan on? Ideally you should pump when your little one will be eating (with the caregiver you have entrusted). Before I had the baby I envisioned that would get it all in with only two breaks per day, but by the time I was actually returning to work, I figured I'd better play it safe and go with 3 (and occasionally he was actually eating 4 times!). This proved to be successful. I did find that the first pump of the day (after having only nursed on one side in the AM) yielded the most and the other two, significantly less. Eventually, as the little guy's feeding schedule changed, I dropped down to two pumping sessions.

So what should you bring with you to pump?
You'll probably find your grove after a while, but initially I would plan to pack the following:
A really good, reliable, hands-free pump I am loving my Medela Freestyle. I am not sure of any other truly hands-free competitor out there. I really struggled with my decision, though. I felt guilty about spending so much $$ on a pump, when there were several options out there that were less expensive. I even had a friend that used one and said it worked "just fine." The one she had wasn't hands-free in-and-of-itself, she used one of  those hands-free bras. I just wasn't 100% convinced that would work, so I went this route, and don't have a single complaint. And I feel totally justified after I discussed the price of formula with another new mommy. This pump, as expensive as it was, paid for itself in just a couple months.  Until a friend asked me about it recently, I didn't realize how passionate I really was about my pump. But you go with what makes you feel comfortable.
...all the pieces that attach it to you, whether that means the straps and clips for the Freestyle, or a hands-free bra.
Burp cloth. I find this serves several purposes: it can be that thing that smells like your baby, if you need the reminder to put you in the lactation mood; it can be your pumping placemat, where you can lay out all your equipment, and still protect your workspace from potential drips or spills; and also it is great to wrap up the "horns," as some call them (the parts that attach to you, and might have milk still on them), and  put them back in your bag for next time.
Empty collection bottles (and lids!) If you do go with the Freestyle, know that Gerber bottles are compatible with the pump as well (which can really save some $$$ as those Medela sets are not cheap!). I also recommend looking into several sizes for milk collection. We were pumping from day one, since our little guy needed some time to learn to latch on. We started with some teeny 1 oz containers at the hospital, which really cut down on the intimidation factor of the 9oz bottles we had waiting at home. Just starting out, there was a pronounced progression from the 1oz, to the 2.5 oz to the 4 or 5 oz, and finally the 9oz-ers. each subsequent size really felt like an achievement for me, and a milestone for the little one. And if you are using the Medela cooler bag that comes with the pump, it neatly fits 4 of the 5oz bottles, but also two 5's and one 9oz (tilted sideways) and a full milk storage bag, when/if you get to needing that combination.
And while you're packing these, go ahead and slap labels on them. Our daycare requires that we use a specific color tape to label our bottles, and that we write our child's name, the date the milk was expressed, and when it will "expire". I go ahead and and label at least the first two when I pack them before pumping.
Wipes I keep these in the bag for wiping off the pump parts, but I honestly don't use them all that much. I went to a moms' group hosted by a La Leche League rep while I was on maternity leave. (I highly recommend mommy groups while on leave for a variety of reasons, by the way...). They really talked about the almost magical powers of breast milk, such that a thorough washing and sterilizing is not required between each use throughout the day. I do rinse the "horns" every evening during the week and let them air dry on my counter, and I sterilize them once over the weekend.
paper towels/napkins These are the mainstay of what I use to clean up after the pumping session. I usually grab a handful from our break room in the morning and keep them stashed in a desk drawer. As I am disconnecting myself from the horns, I have a napkin handy to catch any drips, and to wipe out the cup before I detach the collection bottle, so it doesn't drip on me. I do tilt it back some to see if I can get any of that milk to go into the bottle, but usually I can't, and be careful that you don't pour milk out of the backside of the bottle if its really full.
hand sanitizer I keep a pump of this at my desk and sanitize before opening my pump bag to pull out all my equipment. I am not a super-germaphobe, but its probably not a bad idea when handling my kid's food.
milk storage bags You will definitely need these if you are trying to rotate your freezer stock to keep the milk less than the recommended one month old. I also try to keep a few extra of these in the pocket of the pump bag. You never know when you are going to have a really good pumping day and need a little extra space for stashing milk. My favorite were the Nuk brand ones (I found the lansinoh bags to leak when I defrosted them... sad sad)
permanent marker for labeling the storage bags
nursing bra maybe this is obvious (because the hands-free attachments for your pump will clip to it, but just in case. Also make sure the ones you buy are compatible with said attachments. All of them are not. And you may not need one if you are going with the hand-free bra + not-so-hands-free pump option. One I love is the Bravado seamless silk.
cooler bag and ice pack(s) for storing pumped milk until you get home to the fridge
A/C adapter plug just in case the battery on the pump dies on you. Plus, its nice to keep all of the pump stuff together, so you don't have to hunt it down if you want to pack it for vacation, etc.
photos Or in this age of the Internet, have access to your personal web or Facebook page (via smartphone, computer, etc.) to view all those cute photos your are sharing with friends and family. Your baby's smiling mug will do a lot to get you in the mood for lactation.

Don't forget to also pack plenty of (healthy) snacks for the day, and drink lots of water (or milk, as I was advised by my child's pediatrician) to replace all those calories you are pumping out!!!

January 5, 2011

Homemade Baby Food

Very exciting, but bittersweet. My little teeny baby is growing up!

At 5 months he isn't going off to college or anything yet, but still... Also, at 5 months, he's going for the gusto a little earlier than usually recommended by pediatricians, so if you are out there reading this, be sure you check with yours, and check the million checklists that are out there to see if you think your kid is ready.

So far we started with about two weeks worth of rice cereal. My first thought was that it didn't sound very nutritious, but the Pediatrician assured me that it was really for more of the practice, but also that it was fortified with iron, which babies are in need of at this age, particularly if they are breastfed (ours is).
We started with a tablespoon once a day, to two, then three tablespoons once a day, and then we added a second meal at two tablespoons, then three. (Quick aside: we saw food being recommended in increments of tablespoons, but I wasn't sure if this meant the flakes or the mixed product. The hubby and I decided "they" meant flakes) of organic brown rice cereal. We went with this brand of cereal because it was organic, and because it came in a resealable bag, which was a good call by the husband. This stuff is pretty inexpensive, even organic, so we decided just to purchase this. If you make it yourself by pulverizing rice into a powder, it still requires cooking. So between the labor and the cost, I figured purchasing was the best route.
Don't let the packaging fool you: we didn't find that adding rice to his diet affected his sleep whatsoever, so if you are thinking of starting early so your little one will sleep longer, I would still say check with your doc first.

After getting to two meals a day, we started a third: breakfast. And this time it was with a "real" food. That we made ourselves!!

Sweet Potato
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/4 c water

Place cubes and water into a microwave (and baby!) safe container, and nuke until soft. It took us about 4 1-minute intervals. Puree until smooth (we used a stick blender or Magic bullet). Add water (or formula/breast milk) to the consistency that makes sense for your baby. I think I initially made this too thick and will add a little more liquid with his next meal.

A website for reference: WholesomeBabyFood by Momtastic (this link points to food suggestions for -6 month olds).