Monthly Archives: January 2012

How To Cloth Diaper (No Pins Necessary)

In a previous post I listed the most significant factors in my decision to cloth diaper. So now that we’ve got the why out of the way, let’s do the how.

I think people assume that taking care of cloth diapers is more complicated than it really is. The two big things you’ll have to learn right away are (Thing One) how to change them and (Thing Two) how to wash them.

Thing One: Changing

This depends on the kind of diaper you’ve got. When I first started cloth diapering, I was so befuddled by the array of choices that I just dove into the only kind I had seen in real life – pocket diapers. (These are probably the easiest, but also the most expensive.) I sort of wish I’d explored a little more open-mindedly, though, because once I got a grip on how the different varieties work, I didn’t feel the least bit overwhelmed.

Anyway, though.

So some cloth diapers (pocket and AIO) change just like disposables – lay it under baby, pull through and fasten. Well, that’s cake. Then there are diapers which need covers (prefolds, contours, and fitteds). There will be the absorbent pad and a cover. It isn’t much different from putting on two thin diapers, one right on top of the other.

I think, if you’re going to cloth diaper, cloth wipes just make good sense. I have two reasons – one, price. It’s not like wipes are a bank-breaker, but why pay for them if you don’t need to and you’re already doing laundry? Second, and a bigger deal to me, is that once you’re cloth diapering, cloth wipes are such an easy transition. Some people make or buy cloth wipe mix, but I just run my wipes under a faucet and ring them out before changing. There is no additional care for cloth wipes. It’s all the same stuff (although maybe thirty extra seconds at the toilet).

You can buy cloth wipes, but I don't see the point - cut a standard flannel receiving blanket into sixteenths. Voila! Here they are after several weeks of use and washing.

After an on-the-go changing, a waterproof bag like this one is a must. This way you can carry the dirty diaper safely home. At home, if the diaper is just wet, take out any inserts and toss it in your diaper pail (which should be lined with a waterproof liner like this one).

If it’s poopy, you’ll have to get any solids off the diaper. This is The Big Bummer of cloth diapering – it’s not difficult, but it’s not fun either. You can get a toilet sprayer, which you install directly into the plumbing beneath your toilet tank, and which works kind of like a kitchen hose. Take out inserts, spray solids off of the diaper and the wipes, throw everything into the pail and wash your hands (as if I need to tell you that last part, right?). They say that breastfed poo is water-soluble and can go straight into your washer, but personally, I’d rather spray it off.

Thing Two: Laundry

Heck yes!

When it comes to laundry, you’re pretty much guaranteed that you’ll make tweaks to any process you find endorsed. The basics, though – four steps.

  • Run a cold rinse spin to prevent stains from baking on.
  • Run a regular wash with half the suggested amount of a cloth-diaper-friendly detergent (I use biokleen, but there are a lot of options.)
  • Run an extra spin to get out any residue. (You’ll probably have to strip your diapers from time to time, too, but more on that later.)
  • Dry. You can tumble dry everything on low, or you can just do the inserts and then line-dry anything with PUL, the waterproof material. The dryer can wear PUL down, but it dries quickly on a line. I live in a wet climate, so I usually can’t sun-dry, but I hang them from clothespins tied to the closet rod in my son’s room and they dry in two or three hours.

After your diapers are washed and dry, if you have pockets/AIOs, you’ll need to stuff the inserts (you can also do this at changing time, but it’s quick and easy, so I like to get it done all at once in the morning). As for storage, everyone has their own style. Some people use wicker baskets. Some people throw them in a drawer. Some people stuff, fold and fasten their diapers, to make them look tidy. Some people toss them in wherever they go. I have a drawer for diapers and wipes, and I keep wet bags and extra inserts in a little box which I made myself (flaunt, flaunt :P).

It’s really common, I’ve noticed, for moms to feel overwhelmed by all the Stuff that goes along with cloth diapering – everything you’ve got to learn, all the new work you’ll be doing, the supplies you have to buy. I know it held me back from cloth for months and months. I’m glad I finally caved, though. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I have ample opportunity to take care of them. But I was so surprised by how easy they are – I can confidently say that I believe even a working mom will have the time and resources she needs to adjust quickly to the cloth diapering lifestyle.

My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

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When Something is Really Real

A movie has to have a lot of merit before I’ll recommend it to a friend, and even more before I’ll recommend it to the general public. But this morning I found one that meets both standards.

It’s called Arranged, and it tells the story of an unlikely friendship – between Rochel, an Orthodox Jew, and Nasira, a Muslim, who both live in Brooklyn and teach in a public school. To everyone’s surprise, and several people’s indignation, the two girls find that they understand each other, and soon they realize that there is one weighty common ground between them – arranged marriages which haven’t yet come to fruition.

Zoe Lister Jones as Rochel, and Francis Benhamou as Nasira

This isn’t intended to be a movie review, but I have to tell you – go watch this film. It’s not a Christian movie (which I think is implied if you just read the previous paragraph) but it’s poignant and sweet and investing. I’d be hard-pressed to name a better-acted movie from recent years.

The movie’s tagline is “Friendship has no religion.” It makes a valid and much-needed point about loving others, even when you don’t agree with them. The two girls respect each other unconditionally, even in the face of ignorance and disdain, and their commitment is touching.

That said, it made me think about something.

In one scene, Nasira accompanies Rochel to a cemetery, where she prays for guidance and speaks to a passed relative, presumably a grandparent. As she sways on the spot and whispers, holding her scriptures, Nasira stands behind, respectful and quiet.

I wondered to myself, “What is Nasira thinking, right now?”

If she really believes that her beliefs are true, then she believes that Rochel’s are wrong. If they are friends, then Nasira cares about her. And if she cares about her, she cares about her eternal standing.

If that’s all true, then there’s a logical disparity; Nasira is respectfully sitting back, watching her friend engage in activities which she believes are wrong and which lead away from eternal peace.

Maybe she is open to the possibility that Rochel’s religious concepts are right, and her own are wrong. But if she’s not sure, then why is she submitting to an arranged marriage? Why is she wearing a hijab?

It doesn’t make sense.

A person who believes that salvation only comes one way cannot have peace about a loved one not believing in that way. They can love that person – and in fact, they must. But that is something different. When Rochel prayed over a grave, it wasn’t the right time for Nasira to pipe up and correct her. That wouldn’t have been loving.

But there should have been a time when the girls expressed how they really felt about each other’s religions. People of opposing beliefs can easily have respectful, meaningful, and loving conversations about those beliefs. I know. I’ve done it. In fact, to not bring up that conversation is the opposite of loving.

I am not saying that Nasira should be hounding Rochel until she gives in, or vice versa. Let’s say Rochel and Nasira had a heart-to-heart about what they believed, each hoping the other would convert, but not pressing, and both girls decided to stay committed to their religions. Okay. Maybe you have had a conversation like that. Okay. Cause here’s the thing; it’s their choice.

But it’s a choice that we can offer in a concrete way. Maybe they’ve been searching, in their hearts, for years, and when we say God’s name, it lights up for them. Maybe they haven’t been searching, or maybe they are intentionally not searching. Still, what does it hurt to mention it? It’s an awful disservice to the Lord who saved us to think that He’s not worth mention when we have nothing to lose (and we usually don’t).

One of my pastors likes to ask, “Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?” A person who really believes there is a chair in the room will not hesitate to sit on it. And if we see a person getting ready to sit down on a chair that doesn’t exist, shouldn’t we say something?

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The Adventure of Homemade Stuff

It is not gross to never use shampoo.

Really, though! I have been shampoo free for a few weeks now, and so far I’m enjoying it. I wash with baking soda and then rinse with apple cider vinegar. I read about the concept on a few blogs and decided it was worth a shot. (The ones I kept going back to were at A Sonoma Garden and Simple Mom.)

Shampoo isn’t a make-it or break-it expense, of course. So, unlike cloth diapering, my reason for making the switch wasn’t my wallet. Rather, it had to do with knowing what’s going on my hair, and aiming to simplify my process (because, really, what’s the point of all those products?).

Well, I wound up in a vortex. I bet you’ve never thought of all the things in your bathroom that you could make yourself. I was shocked! Did you know you can make your own lotion? Chapstick? Toothpaste? Deodorant?

I’ve never thought twice about the ingredients in these products. They’re FDA approved, and that’s good enough for me. Did you know the active ingredient in antiperspirants is aluminum? I didn’t.

I don’t know anything about the pros and cons of rubbing aluminum in your armpits. (Although I sure am glad I found occasion to use that sentence.) That’s not my point. My point is, I was doing it for something like fifteen years without ever knowing what was in it. Maybe aluminum is perfectly safe – but I should know, shouldn’t I? Before I use the stuff?

And quite frankly, having recently tapped this mine of information about homemade toiletries, I’d rather give that a go than sit online doing research on aluminum and methyl parabens and cancer.

So here’s my breakdown. Sometime in the next several months, I will be making my own:

  • Toothpaste
  • Lotion
  • Chapstick
  • Deodorant
  • Exfoliating scrub (a necessity, on my skin)
  • Lavender astringent
  • Hair treatment
  • … and maybe more!
As I go, I’ll post my favorite recipes (mostly from other blogs) and reviews of how they worked for me.

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God is infinitesimal.

It’s late at night and I should go to sleep, but I just read something in Jeremiah that jumped at me. So now you get to read about it, you lucky ducks!

Okay, being serious now.

Jeremiah 10:13
When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain,
and he brings forth the winds from his storehouses.

When this passage talks about God pushing wind out of his storehouses, I picture him opening the double doors on some great hangar, walking in behind his stash of wind, and  using both hands to push all of it out. Now, of course, he’s God, so it’s not like he has to push hard. But, you know, for the sake of the picture, it’s definitely a shove. He stretches the sinews in his upper arms and maybe groans just a little, expressing his strength. It’s awesome, in the literal sense of creating awe.

It’s just an image, of course. I know that in order for God to access his wind stash, he doesn’t have to open up his wind hangar. He doesn’t have to get a good angle on it by stepping behind it. He doesn’t have to push and he doesn’t have to groan and he doesn’t have to flick his arm in command and he doesn’t even have to speak. All he has to do is will it to be so, and the winds pour over the mountains.

And that makes him incomprehensibly big. Seriously. Can you really, genuinely imagine that? When he had to get into his wind hangar in my mind, he was huge. He was like this massive, titanic, colossal thing, and he took up the whole countryside and nothing had ever compared to his strength.

That kind of strength blows me away, but it doesn’t boggle my mind. Our god is infinitely bigger than that. So much bigger, we can’t even understand it. There is no picture for us to process that would make it clear. Imagine two of those titanic beasts.

Now three.
Now seven.
It’s getting hard to grasp, right? But God is infinitely bigger than that.

So we’ve established that God is huge. Just totally massive. Big enough to make your brain hurt, if you wrestle with it for too long.

Well, that makes me think of God as this huge Thing that’s too far away and too cosmic and too knowledgable for us to have any sort of relationship with. Maybe the same way an ant in an ant farm would conceptualize his owner, if he had the brainpower to do it.

God’s power isn’t limited to or defined by bigness. He has power over the wind that rushes through the trees, but doesn’t mean that his fingers are too big to fit into a human heart.

God is big, but He is also infinitesimal. God holds together the ridiculously tiny electrons and protons and neutrons that make up our atoms that make up our cells that make up our organs that make up our bodies. God is just as strong and just as effective in the world that’s so small we can’t see it as he is in the world that is so big we can’t see it. And he fits everywhere in between, too.

He is just the right size to hold a universe, just the right size to control the ocean, just the right size to break and heal a human heart, just the right size to make plankton, just the right size to hold a cell together.

He’s not just big. He’s perfect.

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Why I Cloth Diaper (No, It’s Not Weird)

What People Picture When They Think Of Cloth Diapers

What It’s Actually Like

Seriously, guys, the cloth diapers on the market today are one of the best-kept secrets in parenthood. They are not your grandma’s diapers.

I could break down my cloth diaper routine, but I think I’ll save that for a later post. This time around, I’m going to clarify why I cloth diaper. These are the pros and cons that I’ve noticed most (starting with the pros, so you won’t get burnt out on the cons and stop reading).

Pro Number One: Moolah

This is by far the most compelling reason, for me, to cloth diaper. I’ve never found a decent disposable diaper for less than a quarter apiece. (I found a brand that went for 13 cents apiece – but honestly, I may as well have used a piece of cardboard for all the comfort and absorbency that thing offered.) You can find a used cloth diaper on eBay or diaper swap forums for as cheap as $5. This means, in order for a cloth diaper to be as cost-efficient as a disposable, it needs to make it through at least twenty diaper changes. That’s gonna take two weeks, max. If you buy a more high-end brand like FuzziBunz, BumGenius or Charlie Banana, you might pay as much as $25 per diaper. Yeah, that number sounds outrageous (and it is a little steep), but it’s a hundred changes. You’re still saving buckets of dough.

At birth you’ll need about eighteen diapers (and may end up doing the laundry daily sometimes). If you buy a solid one-size diaper, that stash will get you through potty training. Say you buy Charlie Banana (my personal favorite) in six-packs. That will cost about three hundred dollars.

You’ll need at least two waterproof diaper pail liners (we use this one), and at least two portable wetbags (this one). A toilet bidet makes cleaning up the poopy diapers much, much easier (trust me on this). This BumGenius model goes for about fifty bucks – we installed our own and paid about the same, but I have a friend who did her own and spent $10. Another good addition is cloth wipes (why not, if you’re using cloth diapers?). I didn’t spend a penny – I cut two old receiving blankets and one old shirt into pieces. Then there’s the cost of laundering – I’ve heard from fifty cents to a dollar per load. Plan on doing the laundry at least once every two days.

At most you’ll spend about $700, from birth to potty training. That includes a batch of brand-new high-end diapers, a toilet bidet, wetbags and liners, and laundry expenses.

Disposables run, on average, about $60 to $85 a month. So if your child potty trains at two and a half years old, you’re looking at about $2200, total.

That’s three times as much!

… Why don’t more parents know this?!??

Pro Number Two: Garbage (Or The Lack Thereof)

I don’t need to elaborate on this, I’m sure. It’s not uncommon for a newborn to have five to ten poopy diapers a day, and that’s not considering the ones that are just wet. Even now, my eighteen-month-old goes through at least five diapers each day and often many more. Picture the pile of diapers accrued in two and a half years. It would be nice not to have to throw all that away, right? Even if it’s just for the slight benefit of extra space in your trash can (and less trips to the curb).

Pro Number Three: No Diaper Rash (That’s Right – NONE!)

In the six months before starting cloth, my son has annihilated no less than ten bottles of diaper cream. The poor guy’s bottom was nearly always red and sore, often with open sores and often with serious pain. The magic bullet? Cloth diapers. When I found out I couldn’t rely on diaper cream, it was almost frightening enough that I backed out. Thank heavens I didn’t. My baby’s bottom is blissfully smooth since the switch.

Con Number One: Reluctant Babysitters (And Some Reluctant Daddies)

I have yet to find a babysitter who’s been excited to face cloth diapering. It’s pretty easy to explain, though – at changing time, a cloth diaper isn’t very different from a disposable, and with the waterproof bag, it’s no more difficult. An added kick: if it’s an older woman (or man) watching Kiddo, they’ll often claim to know exactly what they’re doing (they have done it before, after all) – only to be totally flabbergasted by the cushy new models. This always ends with a fun conversation. “It’s all one piece? No pins? They can do that?”

Con Number Two: Maintenance

In my book, this applies mostly to velcro. I hate taking care of velcro, even though some moms swear by it. I use diapers with snaps. There’s also the need for cloth diaper safe detergent. You can’t use diaper rash ointment with cloth diapers, and in time your diapers will of course wear out – holes, thinning, elastic breakage, stitching ripping out. Just like with clothing. Two months in, I’ve already taken a sewing machine to one of my diapers. (I did buy used – and it’s worth the price break.)

Con Number Three: Yes, You Have To Clean Up The Doo-Doo

There’s no getting around the cleaning factor. It’s not as gross as most people figure, so give me a chance on this! But … yeah, washing them isn’t my favorite way to pass twenty minutes. Here’s the breakdown: change it just like a regular diaper, then take the yucky one to the bathroom. If it’s just wet, take out the insert (more on diaper construction later) and dump it in the pail with your wipes. If it’s … you know, the other kind of yucky, spray it down with your bidet, which is no fun and takes some practice, but is far more efficient than dunking (that’s what Grandma did, poor gal). Then into the pail. On wash day, the whole pail liner comes out, you empty it into the washer and throw it on top. A cold rinse-spin, then a regular cycle. You can line dry or use your dryer – if you use your dryer, take the outer parts out fifteen minutes into the cycle. They’ll be dry by then.

A quick breakdown:

If I’m willing to launder diapers, bother with maintaining them and deal with the weird stigma people have about cloth diapers, I can drastically reduce my garbage output, eliminate diaper rash entirely and spend a third of what I would have on disposables.

And that’s no contest, in my book.

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