It's Easy Being a Green Mama


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
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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.



The Ultimate Example of Green Parenting:Breastfeeding
April 1, 2012, 3:30 am
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The Ultimate Example of Green Parenting:Breastfeeding.



The Ultimate Example of Green Parenting:Breastfeeding
April 1, 2012, 3:27 am
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So far,breastfeeding my daughter has been the most worthwhile decision I’ve made yet as a green mama.  It’s true: breastfeeding isn’t for everyone, and despite what many people think, it’s not something that always comes naturally to every woman.     Believe me, the benefits far and away exceed the drawbacks.

Breastfeeding your baby is as green as it gets, both for the planet, and for your wallet.   Talk about eating local!   For nine months, you’ve nourished your baby, and it’s just continuing for a while longer.  You still get to make certain that no harmful chemicals are entering your child’s body.   It’s a win-win: your child will have the perfect food, created specifically for her needs; and you get benefits as well.   Producing milk consumes 500 extra calories per day, and helps your hormones adjust after giving birth.  Every time you nurse your child, your body releases oxytocin, which helps strengthen the maternal bond.  Other benefits for mothers include reduced risk of breast cancer, and a delay in the return of fertility (but don’t use that as  contraception, it’s not 100%).

Benefits to the baby are too numerous to count.  Breastfed babies receive their mamas’ antibodies and are less likely to develop infections.  Long term, they are at lower risk of becoming obese or developing diabetes.  Breastfed babies are less likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome, and it may even increase their IQ.  Breastmilk changes as infants grow, but there’s no need to have to change recipes.   In the beginning, mamas produce colostrum, also known as LIQUID GOLD.  This stuff is rich in protein and nutrients for a  newborn baby.   As baby matures, your milk changes naturally.  It even changes throughout the feedings, so that babies know when they’re full whereas formula is the same every time.  And when mama gets sick, she just keeps nursing, and her baby receives all the antibodies she produces.

Formula is derived from cow’s milk, and made to mimic breastmilk as closely as possible.  Many babies are sensitive to the ingredients in formula, such as soy and lactose.   None of that with breastmilk; it is much easier to digest, and so much gentler on baby’s tummy.    That’s why breastfed babies generally have fewer bowel movements than formula fed babies; there’s not much wasted in breastmilk.   Ease of digestion also means that breastfed  babies usually suffer less from colic and acid reflux.

Best of all for frugal mamas, breastfeeding is free.   I know, if you are going back to work, you’ll have to pump, and pumps cost money.   Even with the investment in a decent pump, you will come out ahead.  I was lucky enough to be given a very nice pump by my sister.   Replacing the tubing was easy and inexpensive, and sterilizing all the pieces is a snap.  Good pumps are getting more affordable, read reviews online.  You can try them out by renting them through hospitals and medical suppliers.  Most of the other costs involved in breastfeeding are minimal or optional, such as nursing bras.  An interesting calculator for formula vs breastfeeding is found here:  http://kellymom.com/pregnancy/bf-prep/bfcostbenefits/

Dads and other caretakers don’t get left out in a breastfed baby.  There’s so many ways they can bond with baby, too.  Diapers always need changing, they can give baby a bath and read her a story.  Honestly, when there’s lots of family and friends around who want to hold your sweet little one, breastfeeding can be a good excuse for one-on-one time with your child.

A lot of experienced mamas warned me before I gave birth that breastfeeding is a challenge.  I went to a breastfeeding class, and before she was born, found a support group.  I am so glad I did, and suggest both to everyone.  I’ve had a relatively easy time nursing my baby, but even I was tempted to give up in the beginning.  Because she was such a good eater early on, my milk came in so fast that I wasn’ t prepared.   I was engorged to the point that she couldn’t latch on.  That was the first setback.   After we got over that hurdle, she would feed for a few minutes and fall asleep, only to wake up starving about thirty minutes later.

She would want to nurse so frequently I felt like I would never sleep again, every two hours.  That really means that out of every two hours, I was not feeding her for about forty-five minutes.  She would “cluster feed” for hours before bedtime, althought it usually meant that she slept longer at night.  And of course, there were my furtive attempts at running errands with my infant daughter, only to run to the car after a breakdown twenty minutes into the grocery list.  There was my forceful letdown that caused her to spit up almost everything she swallowed, which was probably the most frustrating for me.  Sometimes I felt like I was just being used for food.

I thought, how am I ever going to get anything done?  How am I ever going to get out of the house again?  How am I ever going to get rest again?

But then, it got easier.  I adapted, and learned some tricks.  My daughter and I got into a routine, and she was able to go longer between feedings.  She started sleeping longer at night (partly due to cluster feeding, I think).  I learned to be more comfortable feeding her on the go.  I also got lots of help from a lactation consultant and my support group whenever I felt down.

By the time my daughter was six months old, I was devastated to have to go on a breastfeeding “pause”.  I developed a staph infection and was prescribed two very strong antibiotics.   I went home and breastfed my daughter one last time before taking the drugs, feeling like my heart was breaking.    I thought I was losing the bond I had developed with my daughter.  We had been two peas in a pod since the day she was born, and now our connection was being severed.

After two weeks of pumping every couple of hours to keep up my supply, and constant bottle feedings, we both breathed a sigh of relief when I was given the clear to start breastfeeding again.  My daughter returned to it like a duck to water.   Whereas before, I couldn’t imagine making it as long as six months, now, it had became hard to imagine weaning her.

Breastfeeding was a challenge, but I am so glad I did it.  It has helped my daughter be a healthy child in so many ways.  It certainly got me back into fighting shape quickly.  Our budget has certainly enjoyed it.  And because I breastfed, there’s been virtually no waste generated.  I cannot imagine it any other way now.   I cannot say enough good things about my experience with breastfeeding.   In a future post, I’ll tell you about why breastfeeding and cloth diapers are great together.