It's Easy Being a Green Mama


Cooking for Your Baby Part 2: The Basics
August 4, 2012, 7:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Cooking for Your Baby Part 2: The Basics.



Cooking for Your Baby Part 2: The Basics

I learned a lot about feeding children from Bread and Jam for Frances.  If you’re not familiar with this classic, it was written in a time before organic yogurt melts and worrying about egg whites, but also before high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil.  The sack lunches these fictional kids from the 60s eat make them seem like gourmands compared to kids today.  In the story, Frances only wants to eat bread and jam, but she learns to love a variety of foods.  “I have a thermos bottle with cream of tomato soup,'” she said. ‘”And a lobster-salad sandwich on thin slices of white bread. I have celery, carrot sticks, and black olives, and a little cardboard shaker of salt for the celery. And two plums and a tiny basket of cherries. And vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles and a spoon to eat it with.”  By the end of the story, she’s enjoying all these wonderful meals, not just eating her favorite treat.

Frances has learned the secret to a happy and healthy life: everything in moderation.  Don’t skip your favorite foods, just include them with all these other foods.  And you don’t see Frances eating French fries or a Happy Meal.  For babies, getting them to eat healthy food should be a piece of cake.  When you first introduce food, give them something delicious and jam packed with nutrients, and build from there.  As a green mama, it seems hard to feed your family in a healthy way and still stick to a budget.  The key is to make it yourself.  To make first foods, it is so simple.  Make a big batch using a food processor, and store it in your freezer.

To make a wonderful first food,  sweet potatoes, peel a sweet potato, then steam it in a steamer basket over boiling water until it’s tender.  Next, Process it until smooth.  Finally, divide it up into a bpa-free ice cube tray and store it in your freezer.  Thaw them as needed.  For avocado it’s even easier: mash a ripe avocado.  Most early foods follow these steps.  And if you’re on the go, get yourself some small jars and a cooler, and bring it with you.  When you make it yourself, you know that no preservatives went in it.  When you start researching, you may find out how laden with extras your baby’s prepared food is.  If money is no object, you can buy organic baby food and most of it is preservative free.  But your organic baby food still has a shelf life of 3 years, meaning that it has been heated to an extreme degree.  Some people believe this means that many of the nutrients have been lost in the process.  I prefer not to have to worry about it.  I don’t mind spending a few minutes pureeing some bananas so that I know she’s eating only what I intend and nothing more.

It can be frustrating when I lovingly make her food and she rejects it without really trying it.  As a green mama, I hate wasting food, and I want my daughter to have a healthy attitude towards eating.  I follow the lesson of  Bread and Jam for Frances and keep offering it. In the beginning, eating is more of a learning experience than about nutrition.    Sometimes, the sensory experience of eating can be overwhelming; new textures, smells, and colors can be a lot to handle.  Follow their cues.  If they’re not ready, take a step back and wait.  Sometimes you may have a precocious eater who’s ready to move on to more complex foods, and that’s ok, too.  Just make sure you supervise your child at all times.  My daughter really didn’t eat baby food for very long before she was eating table food.  It may have been because she got her teeth so early or because she wanted what her parents had.
Which leads me to another very important point, perhaps the most important of all: be a good example.  Model the behavior you want your child to have.  This is so important in just about every facet of your role as a parent.  If you want your child to be green, you have to be green.  If you want your child to eat healthy, non-processed food, then you eat it, too.

Don’t wait for your child to be old enough to understand reason to start explaining why they need to eat an apple instead of a cookie.  It’s much harder to get them started on healthy habits then.  Get them full on the good stuff, and then give them a treat if they still have room.  For snacks, give them fruit or veggies.  Always have something healthy on hand, wherever you go.  If Frances can learn to love to eat good food, so can anyone.



Cooking for your Baby; Part 1. Learning the Hard Way

There’s a lot of pressure on parents and caretakers to properly feed infants.  Besides the fact that their brains and bodies are growing rapidly, they are forming lifelong tastes for food.  Like most parents, I wanted my daughter to enjoy eating, and learn to love healthy food.  I also want her to be open to trying new things.  I have learned that the hard way that the  experience of eating is not just about food, but also about textures.

Offering solids to an infant is fraught with peril.  When to offer, what to offer, how much, how frequently-there’s so much to take in.  And the answers to these questions is different for each child.

Introducing new foods has definitely not gone according to my plan.  As hard as it is, I’m glad I learned early on.  I had this idea, that I would introduce foods on a schedule, and that it would be predictable.  We started off so well.   She loved everything she tried, and would eat things like crazy.  My husband and I would make big batches of baby food, so we always had enough.  Then we hit a snag, when at seven months, my precious girl would not touch any solids at all.  It was back to square one.

I got creative.  I learned to be flexible.  I have learned a lot of tricks, which I would love to share someday.  One of the most important lessons for new parents to remember is what works for my child might not work for yours.   They’re individuals; mine is independent, stubborn, and sensitive.  Wonder where she got those traits from?

Throughout this process, I’ve been cooking for her.  It takes a few extra minutes, compared to buying ready-made food, but it’s so worth it.  I have control over what she’s eating, and I can ensure that what she’s getting is exactly what I’ve intended.   It seems like the next logical step, after breastfeeding.  I want to continue to offer her the best nutrition possible, and nothing more.  Plus, there’s the cost.  Buying organic jars of baby food is much more expensive than doing it yourself.  And it’s incredibly easy to make most purees.  My biggest example of this is yogurt intended for very young children.  Most of it is fruit flavored.  I would love it if the ingredients were yogurt and fruit, but there’s always “natural flavoring”.  So I buy plain yogurt and add my own fruit.   It really ends up being a heck of a lot cheaper too, and so easy.

I don’t like to eat natural or artificial flavors, so I try not to feed them to my rapidly growing child.  This is such a crucial time in her development.  Even before I became a mother, I had become something of a food nut.  I didn’t start out this way.  When I was a child, I pictured myself eating ice cream and french fries for three meals a day, with candy for snacks.  When I was in college, I ate the worst junk food in the world.  I have nothing to say for myself, except that I am reformed.  As I got out on my own, I gradually shifted away from processed food.  Today,  I follow Michael Pollan’s food rules for the most part, which means I eat a mostly vegetarian diet.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am constantly eating, and that I love to eat.  I really enjoy fresh, whole foods, and I am able to do it on a budget.

The hard part of eating well is making the time to do it, but I make it a priority.  Often, when my daughter is napping, I’m prepping food.  I spend Sundays making large batches of things for later on.  I also take her with me to farmers’ markets and produce stands.   Children learn by example, and I want her to eat real food. Part of eating well is being connected to your food; knowing where it comes from.   I can spend years talking about eating real food.  I just want to emphasize how important real food is to our lives.  Everyone needs to eat, no matter what your occupation or passion in life is.   Why not fill those meals up with healthy food?   I find that making food yourself, from whole ingredients, pretty much takes care of the healthy part.  You won’t need to worry about calories, cholesterol, or fat, if you make it yourself.  It’s true, just because you made the chocolate eclairs from 100% fair trade organic cacao doesn’t make it good for you.  But it takes quite a long time to make that eclair, so it’s a big treat.  And this green mama believes firmly in the motto, everything in moderation.

Green mamas definitely want to feed their families well.  We need to get our babies started on the right path, and that means, if it all possible, cooking from scratch.  And if you make it yourself, it’s so much easier to do it cheaply.  It’s especially easy in the beginning, and so next time, I’ll talk about first foods.



Worth every penny: Part 3 of Everything Cloth Diapers
May 21, 2012, 1:12 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Worth every penny: Part 3 of Everything Cloth Diapers.



Worth every penny: Part 3 of Everything Cloth Diapers
May 21, 2012, 1:11 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

In the beginning, I thought cloth diapering would be so expensive, but it really has been cheap. In fact, I recently had to overcome shock when I had to buy some disposables.  I went to our local warehouse store and bought a case, with coupon, and was out nearly $40.  This is really the first time I’ve ever had to buy disposables since my daughter was born, and I am so glad about it.

So what do cloth diapers cost?   Being blessed as I have been, it’s been next to nothing for our family.  We registered for our baby shower, and between friends and family, we were set up initially enough to diaper a newborn.  I have had friends who got disposables the same way, but I bet they have run out by now.  In our house, the only thing I’ve had to buy is more detergent.  We’ve asked, and received, more covers as our daughter gets bigger.  But we use the same prefolds, which is what you need the most of in the prefold and cover system.

In order to determine actual cost, you need to determine your needs.  We mostly use prefolds and covers, and have a few pocket diapers.   Half a dozen covers are enough, and two or three dozen prefolds.  For about $150, you can get set up.  They do make diapers that fit birth to potty training.  You probably will also need a few more items, such as a wet bag (a good thing to place dirty diapers in when on the go) and some snappis to hold the diapers in place, but you can live without these items.  We also use liners in case we need to use diaper rash cream to protect the diaper, and soakers for overnight.   We also used newborn sized covers and prefolds for when our daughter was first born, and then moved into standard sized prefolds when she got to be about 10 lbs.  Also, we have been getting bigger covers as she grows.

You can also make your own of any of these things, including the whole cloth diapering system.   I don’t know if this is any cheaper than purchasing new.  There are plenty of DIY tutorials available online for free, such as http://www.diaperjungle.com/sewing-cloth-diapers.html.  Another way to save money on cloth diapers is to buy used.  Most well made cloth diapers should just quilt with more use and cleaning, and should still be in good condition.  Check craigslist or ebay.  Often your local children’s consignment store may have them for sale also.

The other big money saver with cloth diapers is that when your first child is done with them, save them for your second.  I recommend buying gender neutral diapers for this reason.  When you’re finally done with them, you may also be able to sell them to the next green mama.

Cloth diapers are different than disposables because they are an investment.  The initial setup cost of $150 may seem like a lot, but even if your child potty trains at two years old, you will easily have saved $1000.    If you do it the green mama way, it will be easy.

 



A Day in the Life of a Cloth Diapering Mama, Part 2 of Everything Cloth Diapers

Once I convinced my husband on the advantages of cloth diapers, he researched everything about it.   Thanks to the internet, there’s a lot of information on cloth diapers, and it can be overwhelming.  My husband was a bit hesitant because of the logistics.  For example, he wanted to know how to deal with the poop.  It wasn’t like with disposables that you could just toss the soiled diaper in the trash.  When I was solo, I couldn’t just leave the baby on the changing table while I rinsed out this diaper.  This may seem to be a small thing, but I really had no good answer.   There were so many variables in this cloth diapering process that I had to work out while on the job.

I would like you to be able to hit the ground running, and not have to deal with our comedy of errors.  This post will be about a day in the life of cloth diapering.

Like any other baby who wears diapers, our daughter has her own special diaper pail.  Except that instead of throwing her diapers in the trash, they get tossed in the washer.  First thing every morning, I grab this pail and toss the diapers in the washer.  I  rinse them in hot water first, to kill any germs and get rid of any solid waste.    Everyone’s washer is different; on ours, I set it to 2nd rinse, ultraclean, hot water. For detergent, we use Planet.  It is fairly inexpensive and locally available at a health food store.  I estimate we normally buy it once every two months.  Before I put them in the dryer, I check for stains. All the microbes have been killed with the hot water, so the stains cannot harm the diapers.

What I do to remove stains is so simple, eco-friendly, and frugal, it gives me shivers.  It is the epitome of green parenting.   Guess what it is? Hint: The prefolds are white.  Enough suspense?  Here it is: I take the stained diapers, and stick them in the sunshine.  That’s it! Sun both removes the stains and sterilizes the diapers once and for all.  On a sunny day, it’s pretty quick.  On a cloudy day, it takes a little longer.  No scrubbing, no spot treatment, no tricks.

After a little while, I go out and check the line and if they’re white again, I throw them in the dryer.  You could just leave all your diapers on the line and let them dry.  The more the diapers are used, the more they’re quilted.  Laundering them only reinforces their usefulness.  So you never have to hesitate about washing them.  If in doubt, change a diaper.  Throw it in the wash.  What’s the worst that can happen?

After the diapers are dry, I fold them so that when I take the diapers out to put them on they’re ready to go. When my daughter was a newborn, I did the liquid poo fold, or newspaper fold.  Here’s a link to a video to see how to do it for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrOk_JRUDX8

When my daughter’s poop frequency slowed down, I began using the girl fold, which is even faster to do. See this link: http://www.allaboutbabyboutique.com/pages/FoldingAPrefold.php

By the time I’ve gotten a wash going, my daughter is usually up for the day.  Of course, the first thing I do is change her diaper.  The whole thing goes in her diaper pail.  Then of course, I put on a clean diaper.  We have a mixture of different kinds of diapers: we mostly use pre-folds and covers, but we also have pocket diapers.  Usually I  use the pre-folds and covers, I find that they are more absorbent and versatile.  To put on a diaper, I put the pre-fold in first; and hold it in place using a snappi.  This isn’t necessary because the cover will keep the prefold in place.  It’s mostly for my peace of mind.  Then I put the cover on.  That’s it, in under a minute, she’s got a fresh diaper on and is ready to go.

With pre-folds and covers, the pre-fold always goes in the wash after each use, but the cover can be aired out and reused several times.  My rule of thumb is that if she poops or her gets completely soaked that equals a cleaning.  Also, at the end of the day, all the covers that were used that day get washed.

So here’s the super awesome thing about breastfed babies: their poop is water soluble.  It’s really exciting for cloth diapering mamas because it’s so easy to clean their poopy diapers.   Before my daughter started eating solids, I would toss her poopy diapers directly into the wash and know that they would come clean.   Now that my daughter eats solids, her diapers get rinsed out before they get washed.  After I change her diaper, I use our sprayer to rinse off the diaper.

One of the great features of cloth diapers are the options.  Now that my daughter usually sleeps through the night, I try not to change her diaper.  So at bedtime, I put a soaker pad inside her prefold, and put a cover over it. We’ve never had leakage issues.

So that’s my typical routine, and it is super easy.  For me, one extra load of laundry equals less expense and waste for our family.    It means I’m not throwing disposable diapers into a landfill.   It means I’m not exposing my daughter to harsh chemicals.  I spend about five extra minutes a day to get this reward.  If you need extra convincing, my next post will really break down the expense.



The Beauty of Cloth Diapering, Part 1 of everything cloth diapers
April 11, 2012, 12:44 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,

When I first told my mother I wanted to use cloth diapers for my baby, she was skeptical.  She had used cloth for her first baby, and given up after her second baby (me) was born.  They were too much work, definitely not as convenient as disposable.   She tried to talk me out of it.   They leak.  They take so much time and energy to get clean and sterile.    Those pins!  The smells!  It wouldn’t last very long before I’d hate them too.   The upfront cost is intimidating, too.

That may have been true thirty years ago, but cloth diapers have come a long way since then.    In my experience with them, they are more convenient than disposables.  They are a prime example of how to be a green mama.  They are green, and they save green.

It’s true: there is an initial investment getting started, but most cloth diapers last for at least two children.  It’s been estimated that from birth to potty training cloth costs a tenth of disposables.  And you will never hesitate to change a diaper when you know that you will never have to run out in the middle of the night because you’ve run out of diapers. Whether it’s the breathable fabrics used or the lack of chemicals against delicate skin, most babies get diaper rash less frequently with cloth.

When you’re done with your diapers, you can usually sell them.  I had a friend tell me she was surprised by how much people were willing to pay for a used diaper.  You also might be able to find used diapers for sale on Craigslist or at consignment shops.

It can be intimidating trying to decide between all the options.  We have a few of each, and later on I’ll let you know which one I prefer.  There are several options for cloth diapers.    The three big categories are: pre-fold diapers with a cover, pocket diapers, and all-in-one diapers.    No matter the option, there are two layers involved:  an absorbent fabric layer (the diaper itself) that goes next to baby’s skin.  The outer layer is waterproof to keep fluids from leaking out.

The other big choice may be whether or not to use a diaper service.  A diaper service typically picks up soiled diapers and delivers clean ones.   While an added convenience, it also adds an expense and a carbon footprint to cloth diapering.   Cloth diapers can be easy to clean, and I’ll talk about that more in my next post.

All-in-one diapers are probably the most convenient of cloth diapers.  They come as one piece.  Like disposables, you put them on the baby without having to fold them or put them in place, and when soiled, take them off and throw them in the wash in one step.  The cons of this system can be that they’re more expensive, and that they are less absorbent.

Pocket diapers are similar to all-in-ones, except that the absorbent layer (essentially the diaper) can be removed.  They are less convenient for washing, but they can be more versatile for absorbency.  It is easy to add layers if you need to go some time without changing your child, such as overnight. However, the most economical choice is usually covers and prefolds.  The covers go over the diaper, and pads can be added for extra absorbency.

The choices may seem overwhelming.    It can be especially hard if you have no way of trying them out in person before buying.   I was lucky enough to get someone to demonstrate the different options before I committed to anything. Diaper Junction, along with other companies, will let you test drive their diapers.

The environmental reasons are also huge.   Most disposable diapers end up in landfills, where they linger for hundreds of years.  To make them uses much more materials and energy than making cloth.    And while the manufacturers recommend disposing of fecal matter in the toilet, most parents dispose of them in the trash.

The best reason to pick cloth diapers is because they are the best choice for your child.  My daughter had horrible diaper rash when we used disposables because we were traveling.  We’ve never had leakage issues, never had laundry pile up, never had an explosion that could not be contained.   In my next post I’ll go into the minutiae of cloth diapers, and how they fit into our lives.




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.