Monday, September 10, 2012

Out with the old, in with the simplified

Once upon a time... in January of 2010... I discovered that life, as I knew it, was about to change.

I was pregnant!

In those nine, glorious months, I found myself becoming very conscious of chemicals in my life and  I started the process of eliminating many of them. The first and biggest change, of course, was quitting smoking. On the day I discovered that I was pregnant, I quit instantly. It was surprisingly easy- I just threw away my cigarettes and never gave them a second thought. Following that I chose to use cloth diapers, wanting to reduce my new little bundle's exposure to nasty chemicals. Cloth diapers got me thinking about the mountain of waste I was sending to the landfill every month with feminine hygiene products and so I gave washable feminine pads a whirl (Thanks Fuzzibunz!) That led me to the endless joy that I call The Diva Cup, the virtues of which I extol in great length on my Facebook page every month. I also started eliminating chemical cleaners from our household. It was around that time that I stumbled upon the hero of natural cleaning: Baking Soda. Oh Baking Soda, how I love thee! Baking Soda has a seemingly endless number of uses- you can read about 75 of them here. Over these past two years, I've whittled down my arsenal of cleaning products to just four ingredients: baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and tea tree oil. I love being able to scrub the tub with a baking soda-vin combo and just a quick rinse later, I can fill up the tub for my son's bath without having to worry about some residue in there that's going to give him a rash. Using natural, gentle ingredients to clean my home gives me peace of mind. Having said that, I can't believe how long it has taken me to discover and embrace the use of baking soda as a shampoo. My sister was the first to tell me about it. She casually mentioned that she was no longer shampooing her hair and my response was:

Ew. Disgusting.

I have to admit, "Ew. Disgusting" is my classic response. It is my catch-phrase. My famous last words, uttered right before I jump on that very band wagon that had me saying "Ew. Disgusting" in the first place. I said "Ew. Disgusting" about cloth diaper pails and spoonfuls of Apple Cider Vinegar as a pregnancy-safe cure for heart burn. I said "Ew. Disgusting" about cabbage leaves in my bra to relieve clogged milk ducts and I even said it about (don't judge me) extended nursing. I definitely said "Ew. Disgusting" about Fuzzibunz and The Diva Cup (no wait, that was "OH HELL NO!"). I guess I'm just wildly reactionary like that, first I'm grossed out, then I'm intrigued, then I'm a diehard fan.

So it went with baking soda shampoo.

I held out for a long time, mainly because I didn't think it was possible for me. I have fine, thin hair that demands to be shampooed every single day otherwise I tend to look like I just combed my hair with the deck of an oil rig. I just didn't think that baking soda stood a chance against my greasy, disgusting hair.

Well, I was wrong.

I have not shampooed my hair in seven days and I probably never will again. I followed the instructions found on Tea for Tamara's blog here

1 tbsp baking soda, dissolved in warm water to cleanse.
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, diluted in warm water to condition.

It's just that easy. I've spent the last week trying out different variations and tweaking the measurements based on my own hair history. For those with oily hair (like me), use more baking soda and less vinegar in your rinse. For those with dry hair, use less baking soda and more vinegar in your rinse. I love the apple cider vinegar- although it stinks to high heaven when you're in the shower, it leaves your hair feeling absolutely silky and, once dry, there is no odour whatsoever. As my hair is on the oily side, I just use it on the ends of my hair. I've read that it also is used as a remedy for dandruff. For those who experience itchy scalp, a few drops of tea tree oil added to your baking soda mixture will solve the problem. For those who miss the sweet fragrance of store-bought shampoo, try adding a few drops of lavender oil. For a truly invigorating shower experience, add a few drops of peppermint oil, rosemary oil or BOTH! Why not? For a deep conditioning experience, skip your vinegar rinse and opt for smoothing a little coconut oil over the ends of your hair instead. The beauty of this natural method is that it is fully customizable. Whatever your hair needs, mother nature has it. It's out with the old and in with the simplified, people.

Can I get an amen?


For more tips on simplifying your life at home, check out

Friday, March 9, 2012

bumGenius Review: How my 4.0's are holding up 18 months later

As many of you already know, the bumGenius 4.0 snap closure diaper is my go-to diaper of choice. I love, love, love them. Did I mention I love them?
During pregnancy, I did painstaking research on cloth diapers and at the end of the day I knew I wanted a pocket diaper that was high quality, affordable and readily available in local stores. I decided on the bG and I've never regretted it. The claim from bG is that their one-size diapers fit from 8lbs to 35lbs, but as many connoisseurs of one-size diapers know, the reality as that they don't start fitting well until about 10lbs and tend to top out before the 35lb mark. This was true for my son as well, the diapers started to fit really well when he was about a month old and have continued to be wonderfully trim and cozy through to his current weight of 24lbs. Sweet baby is tall and skinny as a rail, therefore he is on the the last rise but still has a lot of room left in the diaper.

A few months back, I started to notice a few signs of wear on my diapers. For one thing, they were sagging around the legs. In fact, at one point, I noticed sweet baby playing on the floor in just his t-shirt and diaper and I could see his little baby bits rolling around through the gap in the leg. Secondly, I started experiencing problems with leaking which has NEVER happened in the past. I noticed that the leaking was happening in strange areas. For example, the whole seat of my son's pants would be wet, rather than around the edges of the diaper where one would expect any leaking to occur. It didn't take long to figure out the culprit: cracked PUL. I was truly shocked! I felt that I had taken immaculate care of my diapers: only washing with Claudia's Choices diaper detergent, stripping with Rockin' Green Funk Rock and using only natural laundry additives like vinegar and baking soda. Well as I mentioned in the previous post, it helps when a girl does her homework- and I did not do my homework. The Cotton Babies website recommends using a cloth safe detergent (check!) and refraining from using any laundry additives (fail!) and absolutely no baking soda or vinegar (double fail!) because it WEARS OUT THE LEG ELASTIC. Additionally, they recommend that you use 1/4 cup of bleach once per month which I had previously thought was verboten in the cloth diapering realm. Furthermore, I must admit to soaking the diapers, both inserts and covers together as well as - brace yourselves- putting the covers in the dryer. At the end of the day, it was beginning to look like I had unwittingly ruined my beloved diapers, which were six months outside of their warranty. With my emotions and pocketbook threatened by despair, I sent an email to Cotton Babies. As mentioned in my last point, they basically saved me from myself and shipped me brand new replacement diapers. I was thrilled! Just thinking it over again now, I'm still thrilled! Seeing the brand new diapers gave me an opportunity to do some comparing and contrasting and gave me a lot of insight as to how they hold up to the test of time. I was pleased with what I saw.

From the outside, they look exactly the same. Brand new dipe is on the left and the 18 month old dipe is on the right

Another side by side view. You can see how fluffy the brand new microfiber is! After hundreds of washes, you can expect your microfiber to flatten out but the good news is that with every wash, the cloth becomes even more absorbent.

Side by side view of the diapers opened up. You can see here how stretched out the elastic is on the right. Cotton Babies sent me a dozen of their refresher kits which contain fresh elastic so as soon as I get myself to a sewing machine, you won't be able to tell the difference between these two diapers.

Placing the new diaper on top of the old diaper gives a good sense of the elastic situation. The new dipe is about an inch shorter in length.

Even diapers need vitamin D. Okay... so the inserts have grown a little bit dingy. What can I say... it's winter!

Side by side fluff. Yes, the new inserts are ridiculously fluffy, but keep in mind that fluffier doesn't mean more absorbent. A few more turns in the wash cycle and that fluffy insert will flatten right out.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Then and Now: 18 Months of cloth diapering in review

This morning, as I was sitting at the kitchen table stuffing diapers, I got to thinking about when I first decided to use cloth diapers. Back before my son was even a glimmer in my eye, I always knew I'd use cloth. My mother has always told me how she had to use cloth with me because I was horribly allergic to disposable diapers. I'd just always assumed that if I had been allergic, my child would probably be allergic as well, so it made more sense to start with cloth instead of risking a nasty reaction.

At some stage, W and I were chatting about kids and I mentioned my cloth diapering inclinations. W, having two daughters from a previous marriage that he had seen through diapers and toilet training, raised an eyebrow and let out a somewhat patronizing chuckle.

"They don't work", he stated, simply.

"Oh no? What were people using up until 30 years ago then?", I said.

"Yeah, exactly- so let's be thankful for progress. I just don't see how they can be absorbent. The pee and poo will just get everywhere", he said.

"I just don't see how you can think that a few layers of paper and plastic could be more absorbent than CLOTH!", I sort of shouted.

"Ok baby- you use cloth and I'll use disposable. I guarantee that after one week you'll be over it", he said, chuckling away.

Well, as anyone who knows me can attest, the best way to get me to do something is to tell me that I won't, or worse, can't do it. Yes, I do love a challenge. Truthfully, I was a bit surprised and annoyed by W's reaction. It wasn't until I got pregnant about a year later that I realized how common his viewpoint actually is. A lot of people seem to scoff at cloth. I hate to point a finger, but the majority of scoffers were already parents. Parents. Man, they used to really get on my nerves back before I became one of them. During pregnancy, there were a lot of instances where I started a sentence with the phrase, "When I'm a parent, I will NEVER ". Nothing seems to irk an experienced parent more than when a soon-to-be parent makes all sorts of lofty assertions in front them. There was a lot of, "Ok honey, you'll see" followed by knowing chuckles and smarmy smirks. It seemed to me that the smarmiest of smirks were garnered by talking about cloth diapering ("You're going to touch the POOP?!", "You think you're going to have time to wash diapers?!", "Yeah...that'll last..."). No one seemed to really think it was realistic, except my mother, who came from the pins and rubber pants era and STILL thought it was a breeze. Looking back, I have definitely had to eat my words on a few things- but not cloth. A load of dirty cloth diapers is truly the only load of laundry that I'm NOT annoyed to have to do. In my household, laundry needs to be done every day, so I really don't find washing diapers to be an extra task- it's just part of the mix. I really love cloth diapering my son. I love the money that I've saved (literally thousands), I love the community of cloth diapering in Hamilton that I've become part of, I love how incredibly cute the darn things are and I LOVE that W has transformed from nay-sayer to unwavering advocate.

By the time my due date was looming, W was pretty much on board with the cloth thing. He struggled a bit with the newborn diapers (as we used flannel fitteds that were secured by pins with a cover over top- a bit daunting for me as well), but by the time sweet baby was four weeks old, we were into the bumGenius pockets and it was smooth sailing from there on out. A couple months in, sweet baby developped a rash on his bottom. It took forever to figure out that he was sensitive to vaseline and our diapers needed to be stripped, so in the mean-time, we used up a stash of disposables that had been given to us. A few days in, sweet baby had a major blowout of a poop. It was all up his back and down into the legs of his sleeper. W was cursing away under his breath and as he was cleaning up sweet baby, he said to me, "Baby, we have to get the cloth thing sorted out because these things are just...CRAP!".

Oh, sweet, SWEET victory.

Now here we are, 18 months down the road and still loving our bumGenius. About a month ago, I noticed some cracking in the PUL and was really concerned that the diapers were wearing out and I was going to have to replace my stash. Twelve of my sixteen diapers appeared to be affected and that adds up to roughly $300- so it was looking pretty grim. I sent off an email to Cotton Babies (the makers of bG) and they responded immediately informing me that although my diapers were past their one year warranty, they would do me a one-time customer service of replacing all affected diapers. Joy of joys! I sent away my damaged diapers and my new ones arrived this past week. Nothing gets a cloth-loving mama more excited than fresh, fluffy new diapers. Cotton Babies also sent me ten of their Refresher Kits to replace the worn elastic in the legs of my older diapers so I can spruce up my existing stash. Comparing the diapers side by side has prompted this then and now post. I actually had no idea how worn the elastic had become until I compared my new and old diapers. The good news is that even though the diapers are pretty dingy and the elastic was pretty worn in the legs, I've never had any issues with the absorbency. In fact, they were still working perfectly. Reading over the information that Cotton Babies had sent me, I realized that I've committed just about every crime on the "Do not" list. Adding vinegar or baking soda to the rinse? Check. Soaking the covers? Check. Even the most heinous of crimes, putting the covers in the dryer? Sadly yes, I did it for months before I figured out that it was bad for them. I'm not sure why it never occurred to me to ask Cotton Babies directly about how to care for the diapers- I'm a little embarrassed to say that I truly never thought of it and instead went onto various diaper forums to ask my questions. Diaper forums are enormously helpful, of course, but the fact is that not everyone is using the same diapers and therefore the care regime is different for all the different types.

Well, lesson learned. I've got a second change with these new diapers and I'm confident that they'll last through to the next baby. W and I made the trip out to Ikea to pick up some stand-alone potties for sweet baby and we hope to have him out of diapers in the next six months.

Stay tuned for my next photo-post comparing a brand new bG diaper to one that's been beaten up for eighteen months.