31 January 2013

Madeleine - Week 31

Apologies for the late post; we had a little excitement last night that kept me from processing the photo until today.

After having something new just about every day last week, this week has been a little more of the same for Madeleine. She's still perfecting her clapping, getting a little better about using her "all done" sign at appropriate times, starting to pick up the "milk" sign, and showing great frustration when she wants to move forward but instead moves backwards. As I mentioned this weekend, she is patting me back when I pick her up and hug her - still melts my heart each and every time.

29 January 2013

Cloth Diapering: Getting Started & Daily Care

Cloth diapering is a confusing world, so I thought I'd share what I've learned over the last six months in hopes of helping others who are considering cloth diapering. My goal is not to proselytize (though I admit that I'm bound to fail at this from time to time); rather, I want to share an accurate look at the realities of diapering and make note of some pros and cons along the way.

Did you miss the first post in the series? Check out cloth diapering basics. Now, let's talk about it means to cloth diaper - both getting set up and keeping it going.

First, what do you need to get started? 

The supplies are pretty simple:
  • Diaper pail. Anything with a lid will work, and having a pedal or hands free way to open the lid is ideal. We use a standard rubbish bin. 
  • Diaper pail liners. Obviously, you'll want a size that corresponds with the size of your pail. We have two, and that seems to be enough. 
  • Trash bin (optional). You'll need a separate place to dispose of wipes if you're not doing cloth wipes as well. Make sure it has a lid.
  • Wet/Dry bag. This will keep your dirty diapers from contaminating the rest of the diaper bag when you're out and about.
  • Washing machine. 
  • Cloth diaper safe detergent. I found this chart and explanation helpful. 
  • Cloth diaper safe stain remover. 
  • Diapers. 

How do you know what diapers to buy to get started? Well, there are a few schools of thought on this. Many say to buy one or two of a bunch of types of diapers in order to find out what you like; many others suggest committing to one system and not looking back because you'll never know the difference once you've adjusted to your system. We initially did the latter (mostly), and I'd recommend the former with a few caveats. First of all, different diapers are ideal for different builds of baby. If you can stand to wait, I'd suggest waiting until baby's born. After seeing the baby's build, buy one or two of several types and combinations of diapers. Try a pocket diaper with snaps and in all-in-one with hook and loop. Try hemp inserts and bamboo prefolds. Mix it up to experience as many different features as possible. It will only take a couple of weeks to see what systems, closures, fabrics, and brands you prefer. Then, you can stock up on your preferred diapers and go on being a happy cloth diapering family. You'll still be able to use the "trial" diapers you started with, and you might even find that you like using something different from time to time.

How many do you need? To a point, it depends on how often you want to do laundry. A newborn will go through up to a dozen diapers in a day, though that number is nearly cut in half by the time the baby is into solids. To allow a bit of slack for wash and dry time, I'd say that 15 is probably a safe minimum number of diaper if you want to be in purely cloth and doing laundry often (daily with a newborn). Getting a few more than that will give you more flexibility and make it less likely that you need to use disposables when the diapers are all dirty and/or in the wash. Having a ton of diapers doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be doing significantly less laundry, however. I've found that letting dirty diapers sit for more than about two days before washing leads to odor; washing diapers every other day seems to work for me.

Our stash: 10 all-in-ones, 1 pocket, 10 snap-in-one outers, roughly 15 snap-in-one insert sets, and 1 swim diaper with prefold.

Once you're set, how do you care for cloth diapers?

First of all, I recommend "seasoning" your diapers before using them. Being able to do this in advance is one advantage to buying diapers before the baby's on the scene. Some diapers come with specific recommendations. Generally, I wash and dry diapers three times before the first use. For seasoning, I just use a short, cold cycle to use the least amount of water and energy possible.

Everyday care for diapers depends a little upon the baby's age. A caveat: I can't speak to care for cloth diapers for babies who are formula fed, though I doubt it's very different.

For breastfed babies, all waste is water soluble. I put soiled diapers into the lined diaper pail then straight into the washer. I found that spraying some stain remover (such as Biokleen Bac Out) on diapers before the wash helped to keep them smelling and looking their best. To avoid setting stains, I ran either a prewash or a short wash in cold water with just a tiny bit of powder. After that, I set the washer to its longest cycle on either hot (most of the time) or warm with half the amount of powder I'd normally use for a wash of the given size.

For the most part, care gets easier when the baby is on solids. Wet diapers go straight to the lined diaper pail. Soiled diapers get the poo flushed in the toilet and then the diaper put in the pail. (You didn't think there was going to be a series about diapering without talking about poo, did you?) I rarely need stain remover and generally skip the cold wash unless there is a stain that concerns me. Instead, I go straight to the long, hot cycle with half the normal detergent. During times of softer poo, diaper liners (very, very thin sheets that sit between the diaper and the baby's bottom) are useful as you can generally flush the poo and the liner and leave minimal soil on the diaper.

Our favorites

Cloth diapers can be dried in a machine or on a line. Machine drying is harder on the diapers and the environment but much faster. This is what I do at home. (Tip: put a clean, dry towel in the drier with your diapers, and the dry time will decrease significantly.) Line drying takes a bit more effort and patience (and decent weather), but it yields spotless diapers with no impact on the environment. I really loved hanging diapers in New Zealand, and I'm already keeping my fingers crossed for a cloth line being installed in our backyard. (Yep, the New Zealand sun removed six months worth of stains, but that's a story for another day.)

It's really that simple - a few extra steps when diapering, a few extra supplies, and a little extra laundry. You have to decide for you and your family whether this is worth the benefits of cloth diapering - namely those darn cute soft bums!

Questions about getting set up for cloth diapering or caring for cloth diapers? Leave them in the comments. Come back soon to hear about the cloth diapering adventures of two different families.

Some additional cloth diapering resources:
Diaper Pin
Simple Mom
Kelly's Closet
Diaper Junction
Nicki's Diapers
Jillian's Drawers

The rest of the cloth diapering series:
   The Basics
   Kendra, Greg, & Kenley's Experience
   Our Experience & Product Reviews
   Traveling with Cloth Diapers

27 January 2013

Weekend in Photos

Even though I'm no longer doing weekend in photos posts as a regular feature, I do want to bring them back from time to time. On Saturday morning, I woke up inspired. And, although I discovered that I'm really out of practice at taking decent photos on my phone (especially of a very active seven month old), I'm sharing a few photos from the weekend.

On Friday, Misha and I ventured with Madeleine to Tacoma to meet John & Sherry of Young House Love.

Baby food making + stocking the freezer of a soon-to-be mama = lots of food scraps

Chillin' on Saturday afternoon

Saturday night date night at Japonessa

This girl is ready for the pool!

George made this amazing (and healthy) chicken tikka masala. 

Madeleine fell asleep with one of her tag blankets today. Happy mum.

It was a good weekend, and I won't soon forget Saturday morning, when Madeleine returned a hug for the first time. Sweet, sweet girl.

What did you do this weekend?

25 January 2013

Cloth Diapering: The Basics

Cloth diapering is a confusing world, so I thought I'd share what I've learned over the last six months in hopes of helping others who are considering cloth diapering. My goal is not to proselytize (though I admit that I'm bound to fail at this from time to time); rather, I want to share an accurate look at the realities of diapering and make note of some pros and cons along the way.

Let's break it down. For each diaper, at a minimum, you need to pick a type of diaper, whether you want it sized or one size, and a type of closure. Confused yet? I'll walk you through the options and jargon.

Diaper Systems and Related Gadgets

Prefold: This is what most people imagine when they think "cloth diaper." Prefold refers to the rectangle piece of layered cotton (or bamboo or hemp these days) with two lines sewed down the middle to "prefold" the cloth. It forms the absorbant part of the diaper and comes in different sizes and thicknesses that may or may not need to be increased as the baby grows, depending upon your tolerance for bulk. A prefold can be either bleached or unbleached. It must be paired with a cover (see below) for a complete diaper. This is generally the least expensive cloth diapering option. It also requires the most labor when putting the diaper on and is generally the least trim.

Prefolds (I love these ones.)

Fitted Diaper: This is an alternative to a prefold for the absorbant layer of a diaper. As the name suggests, it is fitted, providing a more trim experience but also needing to be replaced with larger sizes as the baby grows. It must be paired with a cover for a complete diaper.

Fitted Diaper

Snappi: Officially, this is a brand name, though it's also the common name for the gadget. A snappi is the modern version of diaper pins. It has three arms, with the longest two reaching to each side of the diaper and the short one connecting to the center of the diaper between the legs of the baby. It is used in conjunction with a prefold under a cover, though a prefold can be used with a cover without a snappi. Snappis come in different sizes, and the packages say they should not be used for any longer than six months.

Cover: This is (more or less) the product that was called plastic pants a generation ago and is generally made out of polyurethane laminate (PLU) or some other waterproof fabric. It goes outside of an absorbant layer to form the waterproof layer of a diaper.

Covers - hook and eye on left; snaps on right (Thirsties Duo Wrap)
Covers - hook and eye on left; snaps on right (Thirsties Duo Wrap)
This is how a prefold sits inside a cover without Snappis.  
This is a wool cover. They're supposed to be good because they absorb liquid when the absorbant layer is full (rather than PLU, which continues wicking and tends to leak when capacity is reached). I've never used it.

Pocket Diaper: This has some soft material (cotton, bamboo, hemp) sewn into the waterproof outer, creating a pocket. In the pocket, you insert an absorbant pad to do the heavy lifting. Some pocket diapers have the insert sewn into the diaper on one end so that it's always attached but will come out of the pocket in the wash; others use a completely separate, detached insert. A pocket diaper, when used with its designated insert, is a complete diaper.

Empty pocket diaper with insert (Charlie Banana)
Insert going into the pocket (Charlie Banana)
Complete pocket diaper (Charlie Banana)

All-in-One Diaper: Like the name suggests, the waterproof outer and absorbant inner are all sewn together to create one complete diaper. This gives you an experience as close to disposable diapering as you'll get with cloth diapers...at least as far as taking the diaper on and off. Many all-in-ones accommodate additional inserts to boost absorbancy. This is generally the most expensive route for cloth diapering, though not always significantly more expensive.

All in One (Thirsties Duo All in One)
All in One (Thirsties Duo All in One)

Hybrid Diaper: There are many variations between pocket diapers and all-in-ones in which multiple pieces come together to form a complete diaper. (In many ways, a pocket diaper is just a type of a hybrid diaper.) A hybrid diaper is generally more trim and less complex than the prefold/cover combination but not as simple as an all-in-one. One example of a hybrid is the snap-in-one, in which pads of varying absorbancy can be snapped into a waterproof outer layer to create custom absorbancy.

Hybrid (itti bitti d'lish snap in one)
Hybrid (itti bitti d'lish snap in one)

Booster: These "pads" can be made of a variety of material, including bamboo, hemp, and cotton. They are added to a complete diaper of whatever variety in order to enhance the absorbancy. Because they're super absorbant, I've found that they take a long time to dry.

Booster (Thirsties hemp)

Diaper Sizing

One Size Diaper: This is the diaper equivalent of one size fits all. These diapers generally come with a bunch of snaps along the middle of the outside of the diaper or around the legs to customize the fit as the baby gets bigger. Some diapers claim to be one size from newborn to toddler, though I'm skeptical that anything can fit well the whole time. Of note, covers, pocket diapers, all-in-ones, and hybrids can all be one size diapers.

One size cover snapped down to its smallest (Rumparooz)
Same one size cover expanded to its largest (Rumparooz)

Sized Diaper: This is the opposite of a one size diaper in that it comes in various sizes, each meant to fit a child within a specific range of weights. Therefore, sized items have to be replaced by larger ones as the child grows. Covers, fitted diapers, pocket diapers, all-in-ones, and hybrids can all be sized.

This is a medium, which replaced the small and will eventually need replaced by a large. (itti bitti d'lish snap in one)

Diaper Closures

Hook and Loop: This is more commonly called Velcro. This is one option for closure of covers, pocket diapers, all-in-ones, and hybrid diapers. It allows for the most customized sizing but may wear out and get stuck on other things in the laundry. Note that most diapering products that use hook and loop come with a place to secure the hooks in the laundry; I've had mixed results with these staying closed in the washer/dryer.

Hook and eye on the left. Because the tabs are double sided with Velcro, the tabs can overlap and provide a tight fit. 
This is how the hook and eye should be secured when not in use.
But it often comes open anyway and collects fuzz.

Snaps: This is the other option for closure of covers, pocket diapers, all-in-ones, and hybrid diapers. When baby's size is between snaps, the fit becomes imperfect. In general, it's more secure than hook and loop, thus harder for little ones to remove on their own when they get to an age where they want free of a diaper. They also tend to last a little longer than hook and loop.

Snaps on the right
Two different snap systems, expanded to their largest.
Two different snap systems at their smallest waist
By having outward facing snaps on the tabs, the tabs can overlap to make the waist smaller if necessary.

Are you still there? Take a minute to congratulate yourself for taking the first step toward understanding the crazy world of cloth diapers and give yourself some time to absorb your many options. Check back soon to read about the logistics of getting started with cloth diapers and read the day-to-day reality of cloth diapering from some moms who've been there. (Yep, I said moms. I'm hosting my first guest!) In the mean time, feel free to leave questions in the comments.

The rest of the cloth diapering series:
   Getting Started & Daily Care
   Kendra, Greg, & Kenley's Experience
   Our Experience & Product Reviews
   Traveling with Cloth Diapers

23 January 2013

Madeleine - Week 30

I can't believe that our little girl is coming up on her seven month birthday in a few days! I'm firmly in denial that she's a day over six months.

Although I'm always saying that Madeleine is a fun age, she is a really fun age right now. Within the last week, she has started signing ("all done" - sometimes at the right times and other times just for fun) and is starting to clap a little bit (as you see in the photo). She is great at independently playing and seems equally happy to play with us or her friends; her laughs are contagious. Tonight, we went out for sushi, and Madeleine ate and played in a high chair while George and I had dinner. It seems like she's more of a kid and less of a baby all the time; I just want to soak up every minute of it!

I also want to share this outtake. She was clearly done as she's both signing "all done" and has her sleepy fingers firmly planted in her mouth...but she's still beautiful with her dark eyes and ruffles on her butt. Sweet girl.

Oh, and this week's fabric features pukeko.

19 January 2013

New Zealand Photo Dump

Remember me? The one who blogs more than once a week? While I apologize for being quieter than normal the last couple of weeks, I think I have a pretty good excuse: we were in New Zealand for a little over a month and have spent the last week getting readjusted at home. It was quite a shock to the system to go from 30C to 30F and to go from having lots of people around to just being Madeleine and me during the day, but we're coping.

It was a wonderful trip. We did very little in the way of touristy things (a museum, an aquarium, a few wineries, and the Hobbit at the Embassy) and a lot in the way of catching up with family and friends. We took 1000 photos and traveled more than 16,000 miles and made too many memories to count.

Here's just a glimpse of our time away:

Madeleine met her granddad upon landing in Auckland.

Pohutukawa were blooming. Gorgeous.
Madeleine and her "cousin" O checked each other out. 

Madeleine's "cousin," A, was very keen on entertaining her.

Uncle Heath dressed up Madeleine like a pirate.

Madeleine met Granny Pat, who taught her all about growing a beautiful garden.

Did I mention that the Pohutukawa were amazing?

Madeleine met her great grandmother, who will turn 93 next month.

Madeleine's Grandma Robyn is pretty taken with her as well.

Madeleine loved Granddad and Grandma's coffee table. (Sorry for all the hand, finger, and toe prints.)

Madeleine and Granddad and Grandma match! 

We took a Christmas Eve swim. It was HOT!

This is one of my favorite shots of Madeleine.

We listened to Polynesian Christmas carols until midnight on Christmas Eve.

Madeleine did pretty well opening her first present on Christmas morning.

Then she changed into her present and hung out with the wrapping paper for the rest of the morning.

After getting to Granny Pat's house on Christmas Day, we stripped off the clothes because it was such a hot day.

Uncle Heath taught Madeleine how to use her feet to operate an iPad.

George and I were honored to be official witnesses to our friends' legal marriage ceremony.

Madeleine caught up on a bit of reading.

We took a four generation photo...and everyone looked at the camera!

We caught up with George's first cousin and his daughter, who is six weeks younger than Madeleine.

We drove to the top of Te Mata Peak and were pleasantly surprised.

Madeleine enjoyed the breeze in her hair at Te Mata Peak in the Hawke's Bay.

We captured a family timer photo on the Peak as well (notice the shadow).

Madeleine loved the National Aquarium of New Zealand, and her parents loved that she loved it.

We visited Craggy Range for a bit of wine tasting.

We took some photos along the coast in Hawke's Bay before lunch at Clearview.

It was fun to see Madeleine and her cousins playing.
We captured six of the seven members of the newest generation on George's father's side of the family.

I know I say this every time we return from New Zealand, but I feel so fortunate to have married into George's family. They are some seriously fun, witty, and welcoming people. Thanks for the great time!