It's Easy Being a Green Mama


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.



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 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
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.