Friday, January 28, 2011

Blinged Out Baby Bums: Cloth Diapering Accessories

Before I became a mother, I was all about finishing a look. I never left the house (even for a 9am class) without showering, doing my hair (that means washing, blow-drying, flat-ironing and spraying), doing my make-up and co-ordinating clothes, shoes and accessories. I have always loved accessories- earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, scarves, handbags, I have a hundred of everything and I was always on the look-out for something new and eye-catching. Even throughout my pregnancy, even though I gained 60 lbs (!!!) and couldn't wear regular shoes because my feet were so swollen- I was still accessorizing my maternity clothes and looking pretty fly...for a whale.


Then along came my baby and, of course, a shift in priorities. These days, I'm more interested in Bink Links than bangles and although I still love the smell of leather shoes- it's Robeez, not Nine West that I'm sniffing with glee. In my former life, my ultimate accessory indulgence was handbags. Oh, how I loved me some handbags. In my new life...I'm sure all of you have already's cloth diapers, of course!

With all of the patterns, prints, bright colours and funky stitching, cloth diapers are practically accessories unto themselves. I never could have imagined how excited I'd be about containing my dear baby's pee and poo. It's true, cloth diapers are a lot of fun. And what's more fun than fun? Accessorizing your fun! From exquisitely patterned travel wetbags to adorable and practical diaper covers, there is a lot of "extras" out there for a diaper mama looking to get her fix.

Here are a bunch of my faves:

Thirsties Duo Wrap Covers $15.50 ea.

These wraps come in snap or aplix (hook and loop) closure and the patterns/colours are ridiculously cute. You can use them with fitteds, pre-folds or the insert of your choice. The legs are gusseted which helps to keep everything in. One of these little cuties plus a t-shirt and you have a perfect summer outfit for your dear baby. I have a lime green print and an owl print and I love them both!

Bummis Fleece Liners $5 for 5

A common complaint about my newest love, the pre-fold, is that the cotton keeps the moisture against dear baby's skin. Bummis fleece liners are made from 100% recycled polyester and they wick the moisture away from baby's skin and into the pre-fold underneath. I started using pre-folds because they are made from all-natural, organic cotton and I was concerned that my dear baby had a sensitivity to polyester. Now that we know he is fine with polyester, I have added these liners to my stash to help keep his bum dry and my love of pre-folds going strong.

Planetwise Wetbag $24.50

I can't say enough about this wetbag. It comes in a multitude of patterns and every one of them is beautiful. I get so many compliments on mine and people are always surprised to find out what it is.

"What a lovely tote bag!"
"Thanks, it's where I keep dear baby's poopy diapers when I'm out!"
"Oh... cool?"

I consider these bags to be somewhat of a luxury item. At $24.50 a pop, I'm not sure I would have shelled out the dough, but I was lucky enough to win mine at The Baby Expo back in October. In combination with the JuJuBe diaper bag that I also got at the expo, it satisfies my handbag/accessory fetish nicely.

GroVia Magic Stick $16

I thought about doing an entire blog post dedicated to the GroVia Magic Stick, but then decided that stating, "I love it" over and over again might be a bit lean on content. This item was recommended to me by my diaper guru at The Little Bird to help with dear baby's mystery diaper rash. A nice alternative to harsher petroleum-based ointments, The Magic Stick is made with all-natural ingredients like grapseed oil, beeswax, meadowfoam, jojoba, rosehips and shea. It is one of my fave items because it's mess free- it looks like a giant tube of lip balm and you just rub it on dear baby's bum and go. No messy, oily hands to wash off.

Snappi Diaper Fastener $4.50 for 2

If you're planning on going old-school with your diapers and using the flats that our parents were diapered in, but you're nervous about using diaper pins, Snappis make a great alternative. I used these for my dear baby when we were using home-made diapers in his first weeks of life. If you are using a cotton flat or pre-fold diaper, they are perfect. For fleece diapers, pins will still be your best bet because the Snappis tend to yank at the fleece fibers and fall off. They come in lots of different cool colours too- so you can make your old-school diapers look hip and happening.

AppleCheeks Gentle Cleansing Spray $10

For those of you who are using re-usable wipes (commonly known as washcloths :-), you may find that from time to time you need a lil something extra to get dear baby's bottom clean. Also- if you're carrying dry wipes around with you, you may not always have access to a sink to wet them before use. The solution is all-natural and soothing for baby's bum. Word to the wise, it does have a tiny little cap which could be a choking hazard if left in tiny hands, so keep an eye on it or toss it out. This is an excellent cloth diaper accessory as it makes using cloth wipes on the go a breeze. Another good use for this product is to keep dear baby's hands clean. Babies touch EVERYTHING and then stick their nasty little fingers in their mouths. So a quick spritz and a little towelling off with a dry wipe and you're good to go.

So there you go, mamas. A few of my favourite cloth diapering accessories- they're practical and, of course, help to feed the need of this accessorholic-turned-cloth mama.

Diadima xoxo

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

There's something to be said for Mother's Intuition

January 12 was the day that I found out I was pregnant. On January 13, I hit the books.

I read every book, magazine, blog, article and review that I could get my hands on. I had an insatiable appetite for information relating to pregnancy that continued right up to the day I gave birth. The first book that I sought out was the only one that I'd ever heard of...the legendary bible of pregnancy and birth: What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Hazel. However, after thumbing through a couple chapters, I politely slid the book back onto the shelf. First of all, it is American and so it contains a lot of information regarding hospital bills and American medical statistics that are totally irrelevant to me. Also- I knew immediately that I wanted to have my primary neo-natal care provided by a midwife and since midwifery is still just a shade above witchcraft in much of the American medical arena, there wasn't much information about it in this so-called pregnancy bible. The main thing that turned me off the book was the focus on what could go wrong. It's filled with headings and sidebars that read "Danger", "Warning" and "Watch out for...". While it's absolutely true that an expectant mother ought to be cautious, it's also important to focus on the positive. Although I believe it is also important that pregnant women educate themselves on common problems so that you're not face with a lot of medical jargon at an inopportune time (such as in the L&D room), I also know that the overwhelming majority of pregnancies are healthy, routine aspects of regular life.

Okay, so we all know I skipped the "bible" what was I reading then? A lot. "What to Expect..." is not the only book on the shelf, mamas. I've written some short reviews of books that really stood out to me for pregnancy, post-pardem and dads, too.

For Pregnancy:

1. Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper

This was the first book about pregnancy and birth that I read. Barbara Harper is a major advocate for midwifery, home birth and water birth- so this book was perfect for me because I was interested in all three things. What I especially enjoyed about this book was the history of midwifery and how birth was essentially taken away from women and handed over to the medical profession in the late 19th century. There are also a lot of startling statistics about the rate of cesarean sections in North America: about 1 in 4. My favourite passage in the book is where Harper comments that every woman alive today is a product of thousands of years of successful childbirth and as such, it is absurd to think that 25% of us can't deliver babies. The book also comes with a DVD film which documents the labour and delivery of several women at home, birthing centers and in hospital.

2. Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein.

Okay, so I didn't have high hopes for this book. I mean, come on, Ricki Lake?? Well, colour me surprised because I love love loved this book! I read it in a day and a half from cover to cover. Yes, it's American, but it covers natural and medical labours, home and hospital deliveries as well as vaginal and cesarean deliveries. The book relates to the documentary that Ricki and Abby made together regarding pregnancy and birth called "The Business of Being Born", which is an excellent film that I also recommend you check out.

3. The Birth Partner: Everything You Need to Know to Help a Woman through Childbirth by Penny Simkin

Penny Simkin is the stuff of legend. An author, birth coach and doula for over 40 years- she's right up there with Ina May Gaskin in terms of her wealth of knowledge and expertise in the field of midwifery. This book is not only for the birth partner (be it your doula, your mother, your baby's father) but it is also for the mother, herself. There is a ton of info on how to cope with labour pain, different positions to try, etc. This was my mother's fave book, she whipped through it in no time and was absolutely indispensable to me during my labour.

4. The Big Book of Birth by Erica Lyon

This was the last book that I read before I delivered and I couldn't have timed it better if I had planned it. I bought it for $5 from the bargain section at Indigo and it ended up being my favourite book on pregnancy and birth. It goes through every stage of labour in detail and includes personal accounts of women in labour. Any scenario you could imagine is included in this book- which I found very enlightening and inspiring. As I was only a few days away from delivering my son, my emotions were running wild and reading the stories of these women where they described the unimaginable love they felt for their babies had me shedding more than a couple tears. This was the book that I felt myself referencing back to when I was in labour. Perhaps it was because it was the last one I read, but more likely it was because it prepares a woman so well for labour, this was my favourite pregnancy book.

For Dads:

5. Don't Just Stand There: How to be Helpful, Clued-in, Supportive, Engaged and Relevant in the Delivery Room by Jon Lichtenstein and Elissa Stein

W read a few father-geared books during my pregnancy- mostly when he was in the bathroom. He wasn't crazy about the majority of them because they generally focus on how to "deal" with your emotional basket-case of a pregnant wife and what he was looking for was a check-list of things to do to make my life easier. He found it with this book. Literally. There is a check-list in the back pages where you fill in the music your wife wants to hear, phrases that will help her, things to never ever say when she is in labour, people she wants called after the birth, etc. He loved the book and we renewed it twice from the library. I enjoyed reading it as well- it was funny and helpful and focused more on the well-being of the pregnant mother than on the finances of the father-to-be, as so many other books do.

For Post-pardem/Parenthood

6. The Baby Book by Dr William Sears M.D and Martha Sears R.N

The Sears' hit another home run with this book. The subheading reads "Everything you need to know about your baby from birth to age two" and I have found myself referencing it almost daily. It's a huge book and covers everything from nursing positions to making your own baby food to choosing a diaper style and handling baby's first cold. There is a very handy quick reference guide for typical illnesses your baby may suffer from that lets you know what can be treated at home and what requires a visit to the family doc. The Sears' specialize in attachment parenting, which stresses contact and bonding with your baby as well as babywearing, co-sleep and never letting your baby "cry it out". So if that is what you're into, then this book is a keeper.

7. The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems: Sleeping, Feeding and Behaviour - Beyond the Basics from Infancy Through Toddlerhood by Tracy Hogg

This has to be the #1 most recommended book for me. Everyone I talked to about parenting my dear baby, especially in the early days, told me to read this book. The dearly departed Tracy Hogg knew babies and she knew how to get a routine set in place and make it work. The book teaches parents how to read a baby's cues to set up sleep and feeding schedules. I have found that a lot of her suggestions are very sensible and easy to follow although I personally find that getting overly attached to any schedule tends to set you up for disaster when it doesn't work out.

So there you have it folks- my book recommendations from pregnancy to birth and beyond. I'm going to share some words of wisdom that my midwife passed on to me. In the early days following the birth of my son, I was really, really struggling just to get from one day to the next. During one of my home visits, I was telling her how I never know when he's had enough to eat which was a constant source of anxiety for me and one book says to never time feedings and another one lists minimum feed times per breast and how confusing it all was. She told me that years and years ago, women used their intuition to care for their babies and while it is good to have resources like the Internet and books, relying on them too heavily is what has caused women to mistrust their own instincts. She said to me, "Listen, you may not be an expert on babies, but you are an expert on HIM". That one sentence is the best advice anyone has ever given me regarding parenthood. You can read every word ever published on the subject, but no one knows your baby as well as you do. No one knows your body as well as you do. No one can tell you how to be a mother; it is something you have to discover within yourself.

Happy reading, mamas. A pre-natal education IS a must- but remember that at the end of the day, no one knows dear baby quite like you do.

Diadima xo

Thursday, January 20, 2011

give peace (and pre-folds!) a chance

I'll admit, at first blush, I wasn't exactly knocked over by the pre-fold.

They lack a certain...shall we say...curb appeal. No patterns, no prints, no fancy packaging, no fanciness of any kind in fact. They're easily lost in the crowd, especially compared to the high-tech appearance of all-in-ones and fitteds.

Perhaps you've never noticed them. Perhaps you're even wondering, "What in the hell is a pre-fold?"

Well, a pre-fold is a square cloth diaper insert. It consists of several layers of organic, unbleached cotton with stitching that allows you to easily fold it into thirds along the seams. Once folded into thirds, you simply lay it in a diaper cover and put it on dear baby's bum. It's so simple it makes simple look complicated! I used to think pre-folds were so archaic looking that they just HAD to be a lot of work.

How did I end up a lover of the pre-fold?

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about my dear baby's rosy red rump. He had a lobster-esque rash all over his bum and I couldn't figure out why. At the time of the post, I thought I had solved the problem by switching to cloth wipes, however, a few days later the rash was back. It was suggested to me by my fabulous cloth diaper guru at ReDiaper that my dear baby may have a sensitivity to the polyester in my bG's and Flip inserts. She suggested that I try a natural-fiber insert and so she sold me a six-pack of Bummis 100% Certified Organic Cotton Infant-sized Pre-Folds for $16.50.

Yes, you read that correctly. Six all-natural, certified organic, maintenance free, beautifully absorbent diapers for about HALF the price of what I pay for a single organic bumGenius diaper. I am at once delighted and outraged. I mean, honestly, I've seen these pre-folds in diaper shops for ages and I've never thought twice about them because I assumed that the low price meant low quality.

So what's the verdict?

I totally love them. They are remarkably soft and absorbent. There is no pins, no stuffing, no rinsing, no fuss, no muss- just wash, fold and away you go. Dear baby's rash has cleared up (although I have also switched several other things, and therefore am yet to determine what caused the rash exactly). I am head-over-heels for pre-folds now. You can purchase your entire diapering system, from birth to potty training (including covers, wetbags, liners, boosters, 24 infant diapers and 18 toddler diapers) for $300! Now don't get me wrong, I do love my bG's and will continue to use them so long as they are not the cause of dear baby's red caboose, but I am kicking myself for not giving pre-folds a try sooner. I really have no excuse because my good friend and diaper papa, J, recommended them to me months ago but I was in designer-diaper snobland and didn't give pre-folds a second thought.

So there you have it, if you are looking for a truly economical cloth diapering system that gets the job done, give pre-folds a chance. I am still using my bG's (with an organic-cotton washable liner against dear baby's bottom) overnight, but I can't say enough about how great the pre-folds have been for day-time and, in particular, travel. I can easily fit a half-dozen pre-folds in my diaper bag whereas 6 pocket diapers would take up the whole darn thing. These diapers definitely have a permanent place in my stash and will be added to my list of top products that I use.

Diadima xo

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Get the funk out

There comes a time in every cloth mama and papa's adventure when you need to address a little thing known as "the stinkies".

Oh, yes.

The stinkies.

If you're wondering what the stinkies are, then you're still safe. Trust me, when it happens, you'll know. When dear baby wets his diaper, you'll notice it's quite smelly when you take it off. When you crack that diaper lid on wash day and your eyes start to water as if you're dicing an onion, you know you've got the stinkies. For whatever reason, it seems to be more of an issue for microfiber inserts. Not surprisingly, synthetic fibers trap the ammonia smell more intensely than organic cotton, hemp or bamboo fibers.

There are a few things you can do to get the ammonia out of your diapers. Washing them frequently, adding vinegar to the rinse cycle and storing your diaper pail in a relatively cool spot (warmth increases the intensity of the ammonia smell) will all help the problem.

I have used vinegar in the rinse cycle a few times and it works well, especially for prefolds. However, if you have hard water, vinegar may not solve your problem. Also, microfiber can be a tough nut to crack when it comes to ammonia, so if you feel that you need something a little more aggressive, I would recommend that you try a product made by Rockin' Green detergent called Funk Rock Ammonia Blaster. I personally have had excellent results with this product. I've mentioned Rockin' Green in previous posts; their detergents are made with all-natural ingredients and THEY WORK. As I've said, they aren't cheap- but then again, neither are your cloth diapers and you want to keep them in good condition so that they will last from infancy to potty-training. The Rockin' Green website describes their products perfectly, so rather than losing some of the beauty through paraphrase, here is what they have to say about Funk Rock:

"This 100% natural compound is unlike anything you've tried before. It targets funk at the source and leaves no prisoners. Just four tablespoons is enough to de-funk up to 20 diapers in one sitting. Add a little to your pre-wash to keep the stinkies from coming back. That's right, one little bag will keep the diaper funk away for over a month!"

So there you have it, folks. You can attack the funk and stay green while doing it.

Diadima xo

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting Started With Cloth

A lot of parents are interested in using cloth to diaper their babies, but aren't exactly sure how to get started. If there's one thing that the world of cloth diapering isn't lacking, it's choice. Even just a tiny peek into cloth diaperland can be intimidating. There are so many different types of diapers and the culture-specific lingo can be a little dizzying. When I first started researching cloth diapers, I didn't know a pul from an ao1 and it seemed like many of the sites were offering information based on the assumption of pre-existing knowledge.

The fact is, whether you are looking to cloth diaper full-time from birth, part-time in combination with disposables, or switch from disposables, your basic set-up and equipment is the same.

What you need- The basics

A diaper pail - you need somewhere to toss your diapers until laundry day. Most stores that sell cloth diapers also sell diaper pails with special locking lids. It's not truly necessary to buy a special pail, a simple garbage can with locking lid from Walmart will do the trick.

2 Large Wetbags - A wetbag is a cloth sack with a waterproof, anti-odour lining and zipper or drawstring closure. You line the diaper pail with one and, on laundry day, turn it inside out and wash it with your diapers. I always recommend that people get two, so you've got one in the wash and one in the pail at all times. If you're cloth diapering part-time, one bag will probably be fine. They range from $18 - $35, depending on how fancy you go. I use a GroVia Pail Liner, which retails for $18.

Small Wetbag- This one is for travel. Whenever you leave the house, you need somewhere to keep your dirty diapers. You could always use a plastic bag in a pinch- but these small zippered bags keep the odour contained very well. They also have a lot of secondary uses- you can use them to store your wet swimwear or gym clothes once the diaper days are behind you. I use a Bummis small wetbag which retails for $12.99 as well as a PlanetWise medium wetbag which has a handy extra pouch for dirty clothes and retails for $25.99. Again, if you are only using cloth diapers at home and disposables when you go out, you can safely skip this item.

Diaper Liners - These are disposable liners that help extend the life of your diapers and make clean-up a breeze. They contain most of the poopy mess and protect your diapers from any creams or ointments you use on dear baby's bottom. There are quite a few brands to choose from. Bummis Biosoft Liners are a favourite of many- a roll of 100 liners costs $6. I personally found the Biosoft to be too flimsy and so I use AppleCheeks biodegradable/flushable liners, which retail for $8 for a roll of 100 liners. There's also the option of using washable liners- Kushies makes good-quality cotton liners- a pack of 10 liners will cost you $12.

Some Extras:

Diaper Detergent - Cloth diapers are a lot of things- but cheap ain't one of them. When you're spending hundreds of dollars on diapers, you want to protect your investment. While it is perfectly acceptable to use a small amount of regular detergent on your diapers, you may find that the chemicals deteriorate the fabric more rapidly and, over time, can cause a build-up that reduces the absorbency of your diapers. To extend the life of your diapers, I recommend that you invest in a detergent which is specially formulated for cloth diapers. The two most widely available brands are Rockin' Green and Claudia's Choices. Both brands are ultra concentrated detergent powders that get the diapers clean without the use of phosphates, bleach, dyes, sodium chloride, sodium sulphate or optical brighteners. Claudia's Choices is also fragrance-free and is hypoallergenic. A 3.5 kg pail will run you $30. CC has a pail recycling program (return the pail, get $2 off your next pail) that many retailers honour. Rockin' Green comes in many cool fragrances and is therefore more expensive- a 45 load bag will run you $20. If you have chosen to use wool diapers, that's a whole other culture that I unfortunately know very little of. I do, however, know that there is specific detergent available for wool diapers. Eucalan Wool Wash can be found at your local diaper retailer for $11 per 500ml bottle.

Dryer Balls - Ideally, cloth diapers should be hung to dry. However, in the real world, a cloth mama may sometimes find herself strapped for time and so her diapers will inevitably take a turn in the dryer. Fabric softeners (whether liquid, dryer sheets or stick-on dryer bars) are totally forbidden. Fabric softeners leave a filmy build-up that clog the pores of cloth fibers rendering your diapers completely useless. If you put your diapers in the dryer, a good alternative for taming static is tossing a few dryer balls in for the cycle. I use Nellie's PVC-free Dryer Balls, which retail for $24.99 for a pack of two.

Boosters/Doublers - If your baby is a heavy wetter, you may be interested in increasing the absorbency of your diapers by adding what is called a "booster" or "doubler". These are thick liners, usually made of hemp, bamboo or cotton and you just lay them across the diaper for added absorbency. I find them to be particularly useful for naps and overnight. Just about every cloth diaper brand out there makes a booster/doubler. I use GroVia Organic Cotton Boosters. A 2pk retails for $10.

I feel like I'm forgetting something...
Something important...

Oh yes, the diapers!

Of course, you will need to choose a brand and style of cloth diaper. Here is VERY brief run-through of the styles.

Sized vs One-size: Sized diapers offer the benefit of a perfect fit as they are designed for specific weights. Sized diapers are remarkably trim and have the best fit under clothes. If you go this route, you will need to purchase 20-25 newborn sizes, 15-20 infant sizes and 10-15 toddler sizes, which can get pretty pricey. With one-size diapers- the rise and waist are adjustable to grow with your baby. The benefit is that you only need to buy one bunch of diapers to last your baby from birth to potty-training (usually 8lbs-35lbs). As many cloth mamas will tell you, those estimates vary greatly and, as a general rule, one-size diapers are far too big for babies until they are about 10lbs. BumGenius, which is the brand that I use, offers BOTH sized and one-size diapers. Go to their website, for a comparison.

Snaps vs. Aplix (velcro): Most cloth diapers fasten with either snap closures or velcro closures. Nowadays, many brands offer both options. It's up to you what you prefer. Velcro has greater adjustability, however, they tend to lose their "stick" after a couple months in the dryer. I personally prefer snaps because when I used velcro on my dear baby, I found that the edges scratched his delicate skin and irritated his cord. Also, in the dryer, those darn velcro tabs stuck to everything but the dryer tabs that were supposed to keep them tamed.

All-in-one: Just as the name indicates, this diaper has it all going on. Layers of absorbent cloth, with a waterproof (PUL - polyurethane laminate) lining contain even the messiest of baby messes. AO1's are by far the most daddy-friendly style on the market, there's nothing to them- you simply put it on baby just as you would a disposable with no muss, no fuss. The downside of AO1's, typically, is that because everything is sewn into the diaper, they usually take quite a long time to dry and can be overly bulky under newborn clothes. BumGenius All-in-one's range from $20 for their sized diaper to $29 for their organic one-size.

Fitteds: This is the same idea as an AO1, minus the waterproof (PUL) lining and therefore much cheaper. As they are generally made of 100% absorbent materials, you need to use a cover over them. Covers are a lot of fun because they come a seemingly unlimited amount of colour and pattern. Fitteds come in both sized and one-size. I used fitteds for my dear baby when he was a newborn and still too small to fit into his BumGenius. He wore Kissaluv's fitted cotton fleece diapers in size 0 with Bummis Super Whisper Wrap diaper covers, Bummis Super Brite diaper covers and Thirsties Duo Wrap diaper covers. Motherease is a local Canadian company that has perfected the one-size fitted diaper and their products are incredibly economical.

Pockets: Pocket style diapers are very convenient for the cloth mama who doesn't have time to wait all day for her diapers to dry. The diapers consist of a waterproof outer layer with a microfleece lining. At the back of the diaper, a pocket is sewn in the lining and you stuff the pocket with an absorbent insert (generally made out of hemp, bamboo or microfiber). BumGenius and AppleCheeks are examples of pocket style diapers. The upside, as mentioned, is quick drying time as the diapers are washed and dried apart from the inserts. The downside is that you have to pull the dirty, stinky insert out of the wet, poopy diaper before you toss it in the wash. AppleCheeks solved this problem with their "envelope-style" pocket diaper. The pocket is strategically placed in the center of the diaper and the inserts magically pop out during agitation in the washer. For my dear baby, I use BumGenius 4.0 Snap Closure diapers so we are definitely a pocket-style household.

Cover + Insert Hybrid: This is the best way I could think of to describe the Flip Hybrid diaper. Made by the same company as BumGenius, Flip diapers look almost identical to BG's, minus the microfleece lining. Instead of having a lining stitched into the diaper, the fleece is stitched onto one side of the insert, which you lay across the cover instead of stuffing into a pocket. The upside here is that you can re-use the covers multiple times before tossing them in the wash. The Flip diaper system is called "hybrid" because it bridges cloth and disposable. Flip diaper covers are sold bundled with either Microfiber or Organic inserts and packages of disposable inserts are sold separately. This system appeals to people who are travelling or simply on the go because you can use cloth inserts at home and disposable inserts when you are out.

Flats and pre-folds: This is the old school. Your nana's flat cotton diaper that is folded to fit baby and fastened with pins. These days, there's something that has knocked pins right out of the park and it's known as a "Snappi". Operating on the same principle as a tensor bandage closure, Snappi's are t-shaped closures with little "claws" that stretch to fit over cotton flats and keep them together. Pre-folds are essentially the same as flats, only they conveniently fold into thirds and can be easily laid across a cover and used like an insert. Pre-folds also come in different sizes according to your baby's weight, but they are so darn affordable that you won't mind purchasing all different sizes. Bummis brand pre-folds are pretty much dominating the market and they use an excellent quality organic cotton fiber. Kushies also makes flat diapers which you can buy for a song at their factory outlet store in Stoney Creek, Ontario. Keep in mind that pre-folds and flats are made from 100% absorbant fibers and therefore require diaper covers as well.

Once you have your diapers picked out and purchased, you will want to wash them several times before use. Cotton and other natural fibers become softer and more absorbent over time. Depending on the brand that you purchase, you will want to wash your cloth diapers 4-7 times to really boost their absorbency before you put them on dear baby's tush.

And there you have it! I know it's a lot of information, but the bulk of it is really in picking out the diaper style that best suits you and your baby's needs. Once you have that figured out, it's just a matter of acquiring a few accessories to make life easier and that's it!

Next time on Natural Mama...tackling the dreaded microfiber stink...Stay tuned!

Diadima xo

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Tale of Breastfeeding woes and success (at long last)

Long before I was anywhere near to the road of motherhood, I always knew I would breastfeed my child. It seemed counter-intuitive to choose to spend time and money on formula, waiting for bottles to warm up, washing and sterilizing nipples in the middle of the night and so on. Who would choose formula when you were fully equipped with the perfect food for your baby?

Bad mothers, I thought.

Lazy people, I thought.

Women who didn't truly love their babies, I thought.

Women who weren't willing to make sacrifices for their babies, I thought.

Oh, those good old days of ignorance. You know that saying about not judging a person until you walk a mile in their shoes? Well... I wore the soles out finding out just how difficult breastfeeding could be.

During my pregnancy, I read every book, magazine, review, blog and forum I could get my hands on. Before I decided on home birth, I researched. Before I decided on water birth, I researched. Before I decided on midwifery, I researched. I researched the pros and cons of epidurals, the best breast pumps, the highchair I would buy, the diaper liners even the right kind of socks that would say on my newborn's tiny feet. The only thing I didn't prepare for was what to do if breastfeeding failed. I skimmed over the "troubleshooting" sections of the books. I didn't look much into bottle systems or alternative feeding methods. I just assumed I would put baby to breast and away we would go. I mean, what could be more natural?

As it turns out, breastfeeding, like motherhood itself, doesn't always come so naturally. Within two days of my son's birth, I was cracked and bleeding. I was exhausted and traumatized by my 25 hour, drug free, posterior labour. When I wasn't laying on the nursery floor crying, I was sitting in the office of a lactation consultant crying. I felt like a failure as a mother and as a woman. I tried every position known to humankind: football, cradle, cross-cradle, side-lying. I even tried laying my son on his changing table and leaning over him to nurse. I also tried every gadget known to humankind: nipple shields, lactation aids, breast shells, soothies, tendercare pads, cabbage leaves. I also used lansinoh, olive oil, aloe vera straight from the plant, Dr Jack Newman's all-purpose nipple ointment. I tried alternative feeding methods such as bottle feeding, paced bottle feeding, cup feeding and finger feeding. I was given calcium-channel blockers as treatment for Reynaud's syndrome, gentian violet as treatment for Candida infections, pectoral massage as treatment for poor circulation . I went to six lactation consultants in my area as well as Dr Jack Newman's clinic in Toronto. I used nursing pillows, rolled up receiving blankets, back supports and I attempted nursing in every single chair in my house.

You name it, I tried it. Every lactation consultant that saw me was impressed by my knowledge of breastfeeding solutions, and yet none of them could determine what the problem was. There was not a single day in the first twelve weeks of my son's life that I was not in pain. In the early weeks, I could not nurse by myself. Either W or my mother would help me latch him while my whole body clenched in pain, tears streaming down my cheeks. I would look into his eyes and say over and over again "I do this for you. I do this for you. I do this for you".

In between feedings, I would get the chance to sleep while my mother took my son downstairs and cared for him. Often I would lie there, completely tense, fearing the next feeding. I would hear her steps coming up to my room and I would already be crying by the time she opened the door. I dreaded feeding him. I dreaded holding him because he would only root at me for breastmilk. I felt inconsolably guilty about not wanting to feed him, but the pain was just so excruciating. I was devastated by my inability to get through a breastfeeding session without having to take him off and go pump out the milk. I felt as though I had been lied to. I felt as though my midwife, the nurses, all of those book authors had been dishonest about how hard it could be. The truth is that the information was there for me, but I chose not to acknowledge it. In fact, a few days before I delivered, I tagged along with my sister to a get-together at a friend's house. She was six months pregnant with her second child and at some point the subject of breastfeeding came up. She told my sister (who was also two months pregnant) and I about her struggle with breastfeeding. In detail, she described her feelings of failure, her many trips to doctors and lactation consultants, the permanent damage to her nipples and how, after her son failed to gain weight after six weeks of life, she switched to formula. Even as I listened to her speak, I was thinking "Maybe for you...but not for me". I am ashamed to say I judged her then, just as I judged every woman before her.

It's no surprise then, that the universe saw fit to teach me a lesson. There were many times in the 12 weeks that I struggled with breastfeeding that I wanted to quit. Every time I put my son to my breast, I wanted to quit. Even though everyone around me told me they supported whatever I chose, I still felt as though I would somehow be "less". I kept giving myself deadliness. "If things don't improve by two four six weeks...eight weeks, then I'm switching". I went to the store to buy formula several times, but as I read all of the labels on the tins, I'd be overwhelmed with guilt and shame. I'd lean back against the aisles and sob because the ingredients all seemed so clinical. Then I'd get myself together and decide to fully commit to breastfeeding. Again. For real. Of course, an hour later, I'd be back on the nursery floor, unable to get through another feeding.

Eventually, my mother sat me down and told me that the thing that was truly bringing me down was expectation. Just when I would get to a point where I was semi-okay with my breastfeeding routine, I would go to a clinic expecting them to magically solve the problem and when they had no answers for me, I would be devastated all over again. I wasn't happy with my routine, but I wasn't totally unhappy with it either because I really felt that if I could just stick it out for long enough, dear baby's mouth would get bigger or his suckling instincts would get sharper. So, for ten weeks, I breastfed once a day (twice on a really good day) for as long as I could stand (usually no more than 5-6 min) in order to keep the milk flowing. I would probably have just pumped exclusively, but I found that every time I pumped, I would get less milk than the time before. I'm not sure why, but the pump seemed to be much less effective than my son. Of course, baby is the best pump of all. Also- I was concerned that he would forget how to breastfeed if he was bottle-fed exclusively. My hope was that, at some point, I would be able to breastfeed twice a day, then three times a day, four times a day and then exclusively.

It's important to mention that this pumping/bottle-feeding of breastmilk situation was only possible because I had an abundance of milk. It was really the only thing I had going for me in the breastfeeding game. In fact, more than one lactation consultant pointed out to me that flow was certainly not an issue as I had enough milk to feed five babies. I have talked to many women who had a problem with supply from the very beginning. Many of them would be hooked up to their pumps for 45 minutes to an hour and still have less than two ounces total from both breasts. For those of you with low supply, there are a few things you can do to boost supply. As far as herbal remedies go, fenugreek and blessed thistle are among the first recommended. Mother's Milk (also sometimes called Milkmaid) tea is also frequently recommended. The herbal remedies are very effective, although the level of success often depends on how many weeks postpartum you are. If your baby is over four weeks old, you may want to consider prescription medication to boost supply. Even though I had no problem with supply, one of my lactation consultants wrote me a prescription for Domperidone to increase my flow. The theory was that if the flow was faster, my son wouldn't need to nurse as long and therefore wouldn't inflict as much damage to my nipples. I had the script filled and I'm glad I did because there have definitely been periods where I felt my supply was low and so I take the Dom for a few days until I feel confident about supply again. Another happy side effect of it is that I was able to put away over 150 ounces of extra milk in the freezer.

So where are we now with breastfeeding?

Well, at sixteen weeks, I am finally feeling like I'm where I want to be in terms of my nursing routine. I breastfeed dear baby almost exclusively- I pump and bottle-feed only when I am going out because I'm incredibly clumsy and not very skilled at breastfeeding with a nursing cover. It's amazing how much I've learned about nourishing a baby in such a short amount of time. What kept me on the nursing track was the fact that I had enough milk to pump and bottle-feed while I was biding my time, waiting for nursing to finally work. Had it been necessary to supplement with formula, I would have switched. Had I not been lucky enough to have my mother give me a top of the line Medela double electric pump, I would have switched. Had my son's health been jeopardized in any way (ie: failure to thrive/gain weight), I would have switched. The most important thing is that dear baby never goes hungry. Whether nourishment is received via breast milk or formula is not the issue. Your child will bond with you and grow, regardless of whether you are able to breastfeed successfully or not. My biggest regret is that I spent so much of his babyhood crying and withdrawing myself from him because I was stressed, depressed and in pain. I'll never get that time back. It was my choice to continue nursing just as it would have been my choice to switch to formula. I chose to continue breastfeeding at the cost of not being able to fully enjoy my son's first weeks of life. I will never judge another woman's choice to nurse or bottle-feed her baby again- the decision is much more complex and personal than I ever realized.

During my struggles, the sister of a friend of mine contacted me via Facebook. She had been a baby nurse for years and helped many women who had difficulties with breastfeeding. She had one client who delivered at the hospital where she worked that was having a rough time with breastfeeding from the first latch. On the day that she was discharged from the hospital, she was gathering up all of her breastfeeding gadgets: finger feeding tubes, bottles, lactation aids, etc. She said to the nurse, "Can you tell me what benefit all of this will have for my son when he has to come visit me in a mental institution, because that's where I'm headed if I have to use all of these contraptions every day!". I think the message here is that it's important to not lose sight. Yes, in terms of health benefits for the baby, breast is best. But here in the real world, being able to mother your child with strength and confidence is what is truly best. Mamas, we have to stop judging and pressuring one another and realize that success in breastfeeding is more of a lottery than anything.

Like my mother always says, "you can only do as much as you can do".

Diadima xo

Friday, January 7, 2011

Unexplained bum rash?

Okay Mamas, so you've chosen cloth diapering. You've thought long and hard and chosen a beautifully soft and eco-friendly cloth diaper to put on your dear little baby's bottom. You've read and heard all about the benefits of using cloth, most notably the rarity of a diaper rash due to the superior breathable quality of cotton.

But then...

One morning...

You go to change dear baby's diaper and you see redness all over the place. So you change him, apply some Bum Bum Balm and assume it will clear up. To your dismay, it does not. In fact, it seems to worsen at each diaper change. You give dear baby a bath, and things improve. However, as the next day goes on, it continues to worsen at each diaper change. You know dear baby is not allergic to BB balm or Vaseline. You know it's not the diapers- as you use only a small amount of specially formulated diaper detergent.

So what is going on here?

There is always an explanation for these "unexplained" occurrences, as my mother says. I was out shopping with her yesterday and told her about this strange diaper rash thing going on with my son.

Her first question: "What have you changed?"

"Nothing!", I say, with due exasperation.

"You must have changed something. It's worsening at each change...what wipes are you using?"

And therein I discovered the problem. Since dear baby was born, we've changed wipes a few times. First, I wanted to use reusable wipes, but W was not into it. I had won him over with cloth diapers, and so decided to let cloth wipes slide. Hey, I said I was natural-ISH!
We have tried Huggies Sensitive (super thick and left little bits of wipe on dear baby's bum), Pampers Sensitive (loved them, but a bit expensive), Alvea Organic (expensive and ineffective) and Shoppers Drugmart in-house brand. We've stuck with the Shoppers Drugmart in-house brand because they work well. The last time I bought a pack, I noticed they've changed the name of their in-house brand. I didn't really think anything of it- since they look the same.

They are not the same, folks.

For dear baby's last few diaper changes, I have used a plain washcloth with warm water instead of a wipe and the rash has completely cleared up.

So there you have it, Mamas. Just when you think something is unexplained, an explanation is found. If you are worried about wipe sensitivity, there are a couple things you can do.

1. Switch to reusable wipes. They are generally made out of hemp or bamboo, which is antimicrobial and very hygienic for your dear baby. The greatest benefit is that you prepare the wipe solution yourself, so you can control the concentration for more sensitive babies.

2. Rinse out your wipe in a little warm water before use, as this will dilute the solution on the wipe.

3. If you use a wipe warmer, make SURE you are keeping it sanitized regularly. Things can build up quickly in those things and you want to make sure you are washing it out every couple of days and replacing the soaker pad ever few weeks.

4. A simple washcloth worked for me! When travelling, you'll need water of course. So either use a bit of warm water in the family washroom or keep a bottle of water handy in your diaper bag.

Diadima xo

Welcome to Natural Mama!

I am a twenty-something first-time mama. My little boy stepped onto the scene sixteen weeks ago and it's been a non-stop adventure ever since. Labour was...arduous to say the least. It took 25 hours of mind-numbing (unfortunately the ONLY thing that was numb) back labour- but, as every mother knows, it was more than worth it. We've cloth diapered since his first day of life, making many changes and learning a lot along the way.

I had made the decision to use cloth diapers well before my son was even a twinkle in my eye. I remember telling W years ago that the two things I knew I would do as a mother were cloth diapering and breastfeeding. I was cloth diapered as a baby and my mother had always sang its praises, so it seemed a natural choice for me. W was resistant in the beginning, having diapered his two daughters in disposables, he questioned their absorbency and convenience. On the question of absorbency: of course they are absorbent! I have no idea where this rumour of leaky cloth diapers came from... it's just plain silly to think that three layers of paper and gel is more absorbent than layers of cotton flannel. On the question of convenience: Today's cloth diapers are not the intimidating flat cloth and pin combos of yesteryear. There's no trick to it anymore. Most diapers have either snap or aplix (velcro) closures and have the same fitted look as disposables. The only real difference is that you toss one in the trash and the other in the washer.

Even though I always knew I'd do cloth diapers, I was in no way expecting the overwhelming number of options that I'd have to sort through. It was truly shocking! As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started researching and shopping around. I had no clue how many different brands, styles, sizes and systems there were. My first trip to the store had me standing in the aisle completely paralyzed by choice. It was like I'd just been sent to the store to pick out shampoo for the first time. There were fitteds, all-in-ones, pockets, envelopes, pre-folds, flats, organic, bamboo, stay-dry, microfiber, covers, wool, went on and on. Then on top of that were all of the accessories: diaper pails, pail liners, diaper liners, wet bags, special detergents, boosters, washable wipes, etc. In no time at all, I was completely obsessed with cloth diapers. It was the only thing that interested me. All I did all day was read reviews and watch how-to videos. I scoured websites for deals and sales. W often pointed out how it seemed that all of my nesting instincts had manifested in the form of my cloth diaper obsession.

Through the course of my pregnancy, I narrowed down the brands and styles that I wanted to try. After much consideration, I decided to use Kissaluvs Cotton Sherpa fitted diapers for my son's first weeks of life. Once he had outgrown his Kissa's, we switched to bumGenius and Flip which we have used exclusively ever since. It was a long, windy road to get here and I've learned a TONNE about CD's along the way, which is why I am here. Two weeks after I discovered I was pregnant, I found out that a friend of mine was also pregnant. Three months later, another friend became pregnant. Two months after that, another friend from University confided that she, too, was expecting. In my seventh month of pregnancy, my sister announced that she was pregnant! And now just a couple weeks ago, I received an email from a blogger-friend that she was a few weeks along and interested in cloth diapering. We're talking six pregnancies all falling in the same year! As the first of the group to deliver, I often find myself giving tips and advice, especially when it comes to the uncharted territory of cloth diapering.

So here we are now! I've started this blog so that I can share as much information about cloth diapering as possible. Anyone who has any questions that aren't addressed on the blog, feel free to email me and I will be happy to answer to the best of my ability. In addition to cloth diapering, I'll be addressing natural pregnancy and birth, as well as breastfeeding. As many of my friends and family know, breastfeeding has been a struggle for me from day 1. It took twelve weeks (yes, that's right!) to establish a breastfeeding routine that worked for me and I did just about every single possible thing to get there.

If there's one thing I've learned in the past sixteen weeks, it's that motherhood is one hell of a wild ride! At least with all these layers of cotton flannel and microfiber, I always have a soft landing.

Diadima xo