How We Cloth Diaper – Pros and Cons

by LizMarie_AK Used under C.C. 2.0 – by

 

Whenever I discuss cloth diapering with someone who is totally sold on disposables, they are always surprised to hear that I don’t think of it as extra effort at all. Maybe it is because this is our first baby and we don’t know any better!

All the same, I think there are several benefits to cloth diapers that actually save us time and effort:

  • I would have to get a part time job to support our diaper habit. According to Babycenter.com, we would have spent in two months on disposables what it cost us to buy our entire new cloth stash (including covers). I know that cloth diapering can get expensive too, but we made it work for under $150 at the outset.
  • We do not have to live with a mountain of diaper packages (or stinky garbage bags). In our neck of the woods, it is at least 35 minutes to get to our preferred grocery store – and 15 minutes to the dump. Needless to say, I try to minimize the frequency of these trips. The sheer mass of a month’s worth of disposable diapers (let alone wipes) would take up space that I’d rather use hoarding other things. And keeping that stinky garbage around is definitely not an option for us!
  • Wet pants awareness. We were floored that little bitty Miles was going through as many as 40 diapers a day when he was first born. Thankfully this number has consistently fallen as his bladder continues to grow, but he will still not sit quietly in a wet diaper. Our hope is that this will translate to easy potty training when he is ready to head down that path.

Over a year of cloth diapering, we have only experienced a few cons – but they are worth mentioning.  Happily, there are ways to mitigate each of these cons.  I have noted our workarounds here too :)

  • Supply and demand can be tricky business.  When Miles was going through our whole diaper stash every day, we had to be very careful not to run out!  We figured out that as long as we had six diapers left before starting the wash we were all set.  But a long day out (like our first hike) often left us planning to stop somewhere with a washer & dryer before heading home.  We made it through with 48 diapers, but you might need more depending on your travel plans.  You can read more about our traveling experience here.

Make it better: Order as many diapers as you can afford.  Covers are less important, but lots of covers is nice too.  For us, I think 60 flats and 10 covers would have been extravagantly wonderful – but there were a million other things to spend money on.  What we had (48 flats, 6 covers) was more than enough.

  • Folding diapers is a PAIN sometimes.  There are times (like tonight) where folding diapers is just not an exciting thought.  At the same time, it is not as time consuming as I thought.  In fact, like any repetitive task, it can be quite meditative.  The folding experience will depend on what kind of diaper system you choose.

Make it better: Try out a bunch of different folds until you find one that works for you.  Flat diapers require the most folding.  Buy prefolds and you may be able to avoid folding altogether!  We did not go with prefolds because of the cost involved, but they look like a great option.

  • All of a sudden, laundry is a science.  Hard water, high efficiency, enzymes, residues… the list goes on and on.  You can get diaper washing advice from an infinite number of sources, but the truth is this: like so many other aspects of parenting, the only right answer is the one that works for you.  So depending on your diapers, water, washing machine, laundry detergent, and baby, results may vary.

Make it better: As I mentioned previously, diaper washing advice is all over the internet.  The most helpful resource for me was the free info included with my first order from Green Mountain Diapers.  Wherever you might find your info, make sure you do some research on diaper stripping, laundry detergents, and the best method to use with your washing machine.  And keep some coconut oil on hand for the inevitable rash – though we have never had anything worse than a little redness!

So let’s face it – diapering (or not) can be a smelly business no matter how you slice it.  Disposables, cloth, AIO, EC, or any other solution to baby poo will make you wrinkle your nose at some point.  The best you can do is find a system that works for you.

What is your favorite (or least favorite) aspect of your diapering system?

Hiking with a One Year Old

This summer was all about noticing how much life has changed for us as a family over a year.  For Miles, of course, his years’ worth of growing opened up a whole new world of summer fun that was not quite accessible for him as a newborn.  For us as parents, we were able

Miles petting a treeto experience the joy of sharing more summer trips with a little one who is becoming more self sufficient by the day!  No more stopping ten times on the way to Rainier to breastfeed, for instance, made our longer distance driving this summer much more feasible.  Most of all, the joy of watching our son’s ever-increasing ability to marvel at the world has been a joy and a pleasure.

In my opinion, hiking one of the best ways to safely nourish Miles’s unrestricted desire to experience the world.  Strapped onto his daddy’s back or crawling around on the forest floor, there is so much for him to see, touch, and taste (yes, my son is a dirt eater).  When we enter the shadowy depths of old growth wilderness, he is peaceful and mesmerized – just like his mama and papa.

We started off hiking with our little guy when he was barely a month old.  At that age, he would mostly eat, taking short naps in between long snacks (this behavior was not exclusive to the trail).  Now that he is a year old, sleeping and eating take a backseat to exploration and wonder – so hiking is a perfect fit.  However, as with any activity at this age, you are at the mercy of the early toddler mood swings and individual needs and desires.  It is super important to be prepared for this (or other emergencies), especially if you are planning to put some considerable distance between you and the trailhead.  You do not want to be five miles out on a rough trail with a screaming little one (or a cranky mama, for that matter) and no more snacks.  Seriously.

We have a pretty standard packing list for these outings:

Kelty Backpack

A good backpack.  We started out with our tattered old daypack, which served us well when it was just the two of us.  Now that we have to haul diapers, our needs have changed.  I finally broke down and started shopping, thinking I would need to spend big bucks.  Much to my delight, Kelty came to the rescue.  The backpack holds a ton, comes with a hip belt, and has straps tapered for women.  I can fit the entire list to follow in this pack with room to spare – and the weight of is almost unnoticeable.  It is even hydration compatible – two three liter hydration packs fit snugly in the compartment.  I really have never been happier with a backpack – and my Osprey is a tough act to follow.

Baby Carrier.  Unless you are planning to end your hike after a few yards, you will need to carry your baby some of the way!  We managed to make it through 14 months using our trusty Mei Tai, but our last (and longest) hike of 8 miles was too much for my husband’s shoulders.  We will soon upgrade to a proper carrier to avoid further injury.  But for now, I think the Mei Tai is still good for a few miles here and there.

Mei Tai in Action

Note that we need four hands to mount the carrier on my husband’s back.  I don’t think you could safely do it alone.

To minimize discomfort when carrying a heavier child in the Mei Tai, make sure the straps are wide and flat on the shoulder and that the baby’s butt does not dip below your waist.  This will prevent too much weight from sagging on the shoulders.   We have to adjust it every once in awhile to maintain comfort.  Still, eight miles with a 14-month old Miles caused some pain.  I suggest upgrading earlier than we did!

Diapers.  Yes, duh.  We try to bring as many diapers as will fit, just in case.  Also wipes and covers.  I do clip the wet bag to the outside of the backpack so it doesn’t mingle with the lunch ;).  One more essential diapering item – a simple oilcloth changing pad.  We lost ours that came with our diaper bag, and we definitely miss it.  For now, we spread the Mei Tai out on the ground.

Food.  Food is my favorite part of hiking!  There is something exponentially satisfying and delicious about food that is eaten outside – especially when you have hiked several miles to eat it!  Our go-to trail menu is made up of some items that Miles enjoys and some that are just for mama and papa.  For those readers in the Pacific Northwest, QFC almost always has everything on this list for about $20.  If you can’t find one (and you are a day away from the nearest TJ’s), I think Safeway might have some nitrate free meats.  It’s worth a look.

Our main course of choice is something like an inside out sandwich.

Hiking Picnic

  • Cold cuts, usually ham, usually Boars’ Head – but always nitrate free.
  • Cheese, usually white American, and again with the Boars’ Head.  Land ‘O Lakes is also acceptable.
  • Potato chips, Tim’s Cascade is our local favorite.  For this recipe, you actually want the potato chips to be pretty crushed.  To prepare ahead of time (and save room in my pack), I let the air out of the potato chip bag and then cram it in as unceremoniously as possible.
  • Espresso chocolate, my #1 way to avoid an adult-sized trail meltdown.  Quick energy and mood elevating deliciousness all in one convenient square.
  • Milk, for the boy.  Helps avoid pint-sized trail meltdowns pretty quickly.

To construct the inside out sandwich, the adult diner takes a piece of ham, tops it with a piece of cheese, and sprinkles the potato chip particles on top.   Roll and devour.  Repeat.  Follow up with espresso chocolate as needed.

Be sure to tear the baby up some pieces of cheese and ham as well.  We bring a flexible bowl for him to use.  He loves it!

All perishables are stored in an insulated lunch bag.  The one I linked to doesn’t even need a separate ice pack.  How awesome!

Sturdy Shoes and Hiking Poles.  Same as for backpacking, if you are carrying a big boy (or all his stuff) on your back, you need to support your feet and your joints.  Don’t tempt fate!  If you are just strolling on easy terrain for a few miles, go ahead and throw on your Keens and leave the poles in the car.  Personally, anything over 6 miles (or anything with substantial weight on my back) requires my Lowas and poles.

Toys.  While nature provides its own entertainment, there is also something to be said for having something handy that is 100% safe for little man to chew.  Much to his chagrin, dirt is not really on that list.  We usually bring a couple of small, outdoor friendly toys.

THE TEN ESSENTIALS.  Just as essential, if not more so, than they were a year ago.  Map, compass, sun protection (hats all around!), extra food, extra water (and your purifier if you like!), extra clothes and raingear (double the usual for the boy), headlamp, first aid kit, fire starter (not just a lighter), and a knife.  All mandatory, seriously.

Once you finally assemble your gear, the rest is a walk in the park!  (Couldn’t help myself).  Aim for a trail that will challenge you, but don’t overextend any member of your family, big or small.  Leave lots of time to sniff flowers, admire spiders, and enjoy the scenery.  Sing!  It keeps the bears away.  Most of all, bask in the amazing stage that nature sets for a family outing!

Family Hike

Farm Report, Vol 1

Farm Report July 2013

I am so proud to be writing our first farm report, even if there is not much to report!  The satisfaction of caring for our own land has been incredibly satisfying for us, even if much of theeffort so far this year has been spent on finding, getting funding for, and moving into the perfect spot.  Along with raising our little farmhand, our hands have been full without even getting (much) dirt under our fingernails.

Any farm purists out there (does such a thing even exist?) might suggest that our unused lawn, landscaping, and raised beds a “farm” is hardly a farm.  Please just squint and see what it will be many years down the road after our dreams materialize through early mornings, long weekends, and busy summers.

 

What we are munching on:

We were lucky to have inherited very mature berry bushes (and not just the invasive blackberry).  Raspberries are a favorite with farmhands big and small right now, and blueberries are impending if we can beat the birds to them.

And now on to the tasty food that we are actually responsible for planting!  During our big nursery visit, I picked out kale and Miles picked out sweet peas.  Those are both coming along nicely, with the lacinato kale consistently producing delicious leaves and stalks for cooking and the peas providing a tasty snack while the kale is being harvested.  We are both congratulating ourselves on excellent choices!

What we are drooling over:

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!  The little farmhand and I go to inspect and compliment our plants every day.  I am not sure whether to credit the early arrival of summer or the full day of sun enjoyed by my new tomato beds, but these are by far the nicest tomato plants I have ever had. Tomatoes to be Our usual Pacific Northwest climate usually produces some decent looking plants with abundant fruits that just never turn red.  Maybe this year will be the one!

In non-tomato news, the zucchini is flowering, the beans and corn are growing (though the seeds are not germinating as well as I had hoped – yet).  Acorn squash plants are gorgeous reminders that my favorite season is right around the corner.

And in the works…

We have so many future plans that I can’t possibly share them all in one post.  In the near term, visions of cabbages and chard are dancing on the fall horizon.  My small bed just off the kitchen will continue to house herbs and lettuce.  The radishes don’t seem to appreciate that bed for some reason – maybe it’s the mulch – but I am going to give them another try since I love them so!

It sure does seem smart to start slow and small, but I am also anxious to put some laying hens to work right away.  Not only would I like to wean us off of the delicious (but incredibly expensive) farm fresh eggs in our area, but having some clucking companions in the garden (not to mention their contributions to the compost effort) would really feel like good progress towards achieving some sort of food production around here.

Since we still have boxes to unpack and the aforementioned farmhand to keep occupied, I don’t want to stretch new projects too far in favor of making sure we get the basics done right.  As it is, the learning curve for said basics seems fairly steep sometimes!

A year from now…

I hope we are living out of our freezer and off of our land!

OK, that might be stretching it a little bit, though I truly believe we could eat eggs and veggies pretty much forever :)

Next year, I hope to expand our available gardening beds and shore up the ones we already have.  Soil cultivation is at the top of my list, of course.  Along with the chickens’ efforts to spruce up the soil, we think some worms would be fun to keep – especially for the little farmhand!

Once the task of building the chicken coop is behind us, a pig sty will be the next level of challenge (and then, of course, the pigs!)  We are still in the very early planning stages for this biiiig project, but the hope is that we can raise some of our own pastured pork.  A year from now, we will hopefully have a solid plan to raise our piggies.

My favorite thing to do on the farm right now…

I love the satisfaction of a fully weeded bed, even though (or perhaps especially because) I know they will only come back quickly.  Give me a good farm podcast and some garden gloves and I am good to go!

Snowflakes to fireworks – Returning to this space

I’ve missed you, space to write!  It has been far too long.

What have I been up to?  Well, let’s see… my last post was about moving and how I hoped to get back to regular blogging shortly afterwards.

HA!

Just around the time we moved (late March, but who’s counting?), our dear sweet boy started to shed his perfect schedule and mild temperament for something else entirely.  Top searches for many weeks were things like sleep regression, high needs child, and sometimes just plain old help.

My transition from the la la land of having a “perfect” baby into real motherhood was not at all as quick and relatively painless as Miles’ birth and first few months.  I kicked and screamed the whole way through this personal reckoning, spending most of the time convinced that I was not good enough and that motherhood was a horrible mistake.

Postpartum depression turned out to be the opposite of its distant cousin, regular old sit on the couch and do nothing depression.  Before I could realize what was happening, the shaky control I ever had over expressing emotions was gone.  Thankfully, PPD’s little sister – hormonal imbalance-related depression – is also a familiar foe, so I knew what I was dealing with.  I am still in the process of getting my own health back on track, but I can say to anyone reading this who is presently shadowed by this dark cloud – reach out, get help, and care for yourself so you can get better.

Since I did not have anything positive to contribute to the subject of balanced family life, I simply stayed away from this space.  I would think about the snowflake sitting at the top of the blog, a relic from a more peaceful time in our old house with our cluttered order and safe routines that allowed for seasonal banner updates.  I was tempted, at times, to change it in a vain effort to hide my shortcomings.  In the end, I left it up as some manner of a badge of honor.  Now the snowflake represents everything I don’t have time for because I am doing more important things – like playing blocks, pulling weeds, or pampering myself… or maybe just figuring out what to make for dinner.

At the same time, there have been many important projects and events that I am dying to write about!  Our new house is really feeling like home, the little guy is getting bigger by the day, and the personal growth that comes from weathering three months’ worth of a storm is pretty amazing.  If I can pause from this wonderful life to write about it, I will – and that will hopefully happen before I can get around to creating a new banner.  So enjoy the snowflake for now ;)

Our Montessori Life at Six Months

Our Montessori Life at Six Months

The last three months have added smiles, giggles, and a budding love of reading, among so many other joys, to the infinite well of love I feel for my son.  In a flurry of developmental activity, he has eaten his first solid food (egg yolk), learned to wield a spoon with amazing accuracy, found his way onto his hands and knees, and is so close to sitting up on his own!  Amidst the intensely positive moments, we have also been moving into a challenging period after a super easy six months.  Instead of contentedly wiggling around in (mostly) one place on the floor, little man is now rolling everywhere and wanting lots of stimulation.  So work schedules have shifted, activities have been added, and things are just getting interesting.

With the “baby schedule” fully integrated into our lives for awhile now, we were clearly due for a bit of upheaval.  No longer simply content to watch life happen before his eyes, Miles was showing us his readiness for new, more interactive activities.  Reading, singing, playing, and wielding all manner of objects is all part of the daily routine.

Of course, life is a bit more exciting with some variation.  Tuesdays are library day, Wednesdays I work in the evenings and get to just be Mama during the day.  Our weekends have a nice balance of relaxation and fun with a healthy dose of outdoor time thrown in for good measure.  After writing down our priorities and making sure we work them in regularly, my husband and I are both happier – and life is grand!

On a normal day…

5:00 am – Now Mama and Daddy both wake up together…most days.  Sometimes I need an extra half hour (or two).  Miles is starting to sleep later in the mornings, sometimes until 7:30!

6:15 am – Family breakfast.  When he is able to support himself, Miles will join us in his high chair.  For now, he either sits on one of our laps (and does his best to nom whatever he can) or plays on the floor.  We take a moment to go over the schedule for the day while we enjoy a delicious homemade breakfast courtesy of, well, not me.  Let’s just say that I am lucky to be married to my favorite short order cook.

7:00 am – After Daddy leaves for work, Mama and Miles roll out their yoga mats (his is a quilt, for now).  Mama reads aloud from her yoga book while Miles looks through a board book (Inch by Inch is the current favorite), then we wiggle around for awhile to wake up our muscles and find some balance to start the day.  One day a week, Miles wiggles while Mama chants a bit and then blogs.  This space needs nurturing too!

8:00 am – Time for work!  I have to to put my nose to the grindstone most days, but one day per week is set aside for Mama and Miles.  Either way, we get started with work or play.

Miles at Play

11:00 am – When Miles starts to rub his eyes, we head into his room for a morning nap.  Sometimes he goes down early and sleeps for hours, sometimes he doesn’t want to sleep at all.  Whenever he settles down for some sleep, lunch is also a priority for Mama.  It is so easier to eat without an adventurous eater trying to get at my tasty (but baby unfriendly) midday meal.

12:30 pm – We try to go for a walk.  The winter weather here is not nearly as harsh as other places I’ve lived, but sometimes we can only get out for ten minutes or so before his cheeks get too cold.  Still, it is so important to get outside every day.  Now I am extra excited for the slightly warmer weather that is around the corner.  After our walk, it’s back to work!

3:30 pm – Daddy gets home!  We all gather on the couch to snuggle and talk about our day.  Miles usually gets a little wriggly, so it’s more tummy time while Mama and Daddy unwind.

4:30 pm – Dinner time at the weaning table.  We are using meals as a way to practice proper sequence – for all of us.  Put on the bib, push in the chair, spread out the placemat.  From his first bite, Miles has been insistent on feeding himself.  Although an extra hand tends to follow the spoon into his mouth, he has the grip and the aim down pat!

5:00 pm – Time to get Miles ready for bed.  After a nice warm bath and some cozy jums, we settle in on the couch for a story together.  Most nights he wants to nurse to sleep, but he is also getting pretty good at falling asleep on his own.  The only constant requirement is a short reading from the Book of Children’s Verse.

From about 5:30 pm to 10, we adults scurry get everything done that we used to have all day to do… like blogging!  And sewing! And, every once in awhile, resting.  Oh yeah, and dishes.  My kingdom for a dishwasher.

The predictable schedule is essential for us, especially so I can adequately juggle working and motherhood.

Do you keep a set schedule every day, or do you make it up as you go?

Mama’s Library for Pregnancy – Before, During, and After

Like most any other major (or minor) event in life, I prepared for motherhood by reading everything I could on the subject.  From the mainstream to the “woo-woo,” I am now the proud owner of a stack of books that will most likely collect dust until my next pregnancy.  Ironically, my attention has been so tied up since the baby was born that I rarely crack any of the volumes I thought for sure would be essential.  So it is definitely not essential that you buy all of these books.  Maybe one (or two) from each category would do ;)

I was fortunate to have found something useful in each book I read, though some resonated with me more than others.  Even so, I’ve included my entire reading list in the likely event that someone with a slightly different opinion might find something worthwhile.

It being the digital age, I’ve also mentioned some of my favorite digital pregnancy and parenting resources here as well.  A full list of the blogs and other helpful sites is too big to include – I will leave that for another day.

Preconception:

Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler, MPH

It is so empowering to understand the hormonal cycle of the female body.  Though the Fertility Awareness Method is dependent on several factors to be effective, it worked very well for us when it came to pregnancy achievement with PCOS.  I’m glad to have this book on hand postpartum too, since it includes tips on what to expect while breastfeeding and beyond.

What to Expect Before You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff

Yes, I bought this book.  It was actually my first purchase right after my husband and I decided to start “trying.”  The purchase felt like a rite of passage, though I didn’t have high hopes for it.  After reading it from cover to cover, I found myself pretty put off by the silly tone of the language – it felt like it was written for a teenager, which hopefully it wasn’t.  That being said, it does contain some basic information that you should know before you conceive.  A lot of it, in my opinion, could be much better learned from TCOYF (pictured above).


FemCal

FemCal iPhone App

The thought of tracking my cycle without an iPhone app is a bit scary to me.  After trying many others, this app won out because of the flexibility of features and the details you can record.  It is worth the $3.99 for the full version, something I rarely say about an app.  Now that I’ve switched to an Android phone, I’m having a hard time finding an app I like as much.  Suggestions are appreciated!

Pregnancy:


Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives by Deepak Chopra, M.D., David Simon, M.D., and Vicki Abrams, C.C.E., I.B.C.L.C

I was so excited by the idea of this book, but in the end it didn’t work for me.  The information in the beginning about what your baby could sense in the womb was terrific and helped me bond better with the idea of the baby before I could feel him wiggling around in there.  After that, I started to feel lured in by the all-too-common trap of perfection or failure hawked by so many holistic preachers.  I think it was the ever growing list of “must dos” at the end of every chapter that finally made me put down the book.  This was also the first of many books that alienated my husband with insultingly simple (“Don’t tell your wife she’s fat,”) information.

The Secret Life of the Unborn Child: How You Can Prepare Your Baby for a Happy, Healthy Life by Thomas Verny, M.D.

Disclaimer: This book was released  in 1982, so the research it’s based on is out of date.  This was another in a stack of gifted secondhand books, so I gave it a glance while I was on the couch one day.  I didn’t make it very far in, but it seems like a pretty interesting starting point if you want to know some of the science behind perception in the womb.

Childbirth:


Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England CNM, MA & Rob Horowitz, Ph.D.

This was my favorite childbirth preparation book because the message was mostly – “You can do it.”  Unlike Hypnobirthing, the philosophy here is that birth was going to hurt – and that I would be woman enough to handle it.  The availability of positive birth stories here is really nice as an alternative perspective to the medicalized and fear based experiences that so many family members (and complete strangers) seem to share in abundance with mamas to be.  I wasn’t into the art therapy aspect, but that’s just me.  My husband also found  that this book actually had helpful information for dads without assuming they were clueless or uninterested.

Hypnobirthing: The breakthrough natural approach to safer, easier, more comfortable birthing – The Mongan Method, 3rd Edition by Marie Mongan

This was one of the first actual childbirth books I picked up, and I only did so because it was given to me by a friend.  I wasn’t looking for a birthing technique (and in the end didn’t have time for one), but this book contained such wonderfully empowering language that my whole perspective on childbirth shifted.  Instead of preparing pain management techniques, my focus became opening to the experience and letting go.

Postpartum and Baby Care:

After the Baby's Birth

After the Baby’s Birth: A Complete Guide for Postpartum Women by Robin Lim (Available via abebooks.com – the book is out of print, but some editions can be purchased for as low as $20.  )

My naturopath/midwife recommended this book to me as I was lamenting the lack of books specifically geared towards the postpartum experience.  By this point (as you see), I had digested plenty on the subject of pregnancy and birth, but I was still a bit clueless when it came to the whole having a baby thing.  Little did I know, instinct is a powerful thing – but before birth it helped immensely to have this resource to pour through.  The powerful message to allow sufficient time after birth to bond and recover with your baby hit home for me.  I think I might have pushed myself were it not for the beautiful picture Lim paints of the postpartum bed.  After living that marvelous dream, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.


The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, and Teresa Pittman

During the home visit right before Miles made his grand entrance, my chiropractor asked me if I had read any books about breastfeeding.  I felt that I had, since my childbirth books all gave a mention to the rooting instinct that I assumed would instantly and perfectly happen.  She gently recommended this book to me, and I’m so glad she did.  Because Miles did not latch on perfectly right away.  Or even within the first 24 hours of life.  Thanks to the guidance of this book (and the knowledge that a La Leche League leader was just a phone call away), we made it through to a wonderful feeding relationship.  If you have a question and aren’t physically present in an LLL meeting, this is the next best thing.


Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by Karen Maezen Miller

This book totally changed my life, and I can’t wait to read it over and over.  Truthfully, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find the selflessness needed to be a good mother.  This book put the path of motherhood into perspective – it is a practice in being the most selfless and wonderful human being you can possibly be.  When I started to view the path ahead of me in this way, the future started to look a lot brighter.  I highly recommend this book.

Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen

This is one of the only Montessori resources in print that covers the Montessori philosophy from birth, and is certainly the most in depth on the subject.  The authors share the tools to prepare an ideal Montessori environment from the start in a clear and manageable way.  Although most of my research was on the internet (see: my list of resources), this book really helped piece it all together (and helped populate the baby registry!).  So far, I think we are doing really well with our “curriculum,” thanks in large part to this resource.

Montessori Today: A Comprehensive Approach to Education from Birth to Adulthood by Paula Polk Lillard

OK, this goes a bit beyond “Postpartum and Baby Care,” but I said I was a planner, didn’t I?  The first Montessori book I purchased, this resource lays out the blueprint of Montessori learning from birth to high school and beyond.  Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down – Lillard is an engaging writer who grounds her information in concrete examples throughout her writing.  If you are considering Montessori, start here!


The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care by Sally Fallon Morell and Thomas S. Cowen

I can’t wait for this book to come out!  Though the nutritional philosophy of the Weston A. Price Foundation is controversial in some circles, I know I would not have found wellness (and thus gotten pregnant) without following this way of eating.  Almost two years after first reading Nourishing Traditions, I have a beautiful, healthy, family that visits our local dairy farm more than the grocery store and always has something fermenting in the fridge.  I can’t wait to read this that is volume specifically geared towards babies and kids!

Before, During, and After (Complete Guides):

Mothering Magazine’s Having a Baby, Naturally: The Mothering Magazine Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Peggy O’Mara

This was the favorite overall for both my husband and I.  We loved the depth of information that was presented clearly – both “natural” and “conventional” treatments were covered with the level of detail and expertise that I have come to expect from Mothering magazine through their website, another wonderful resource.  He especially liked the section for dads, one of the only of its kind that presents useful information for the father who wants to be informed and involved from the start.  If I had to pick only one book to keep, it would be this one.


Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn (4th Edition): The Complete Guide by Penny Simkin, P.T., Janet Whalley, R.N., B.S.N., and Ann Keppler, R.N., M.N.

Of course Penny Simkin’s book is amazing!  I liked this book for its tables detailing the stages of pregnancy and labor, and the scientific yet heart centered view of the entire path towards motherhood.  Although this book echoed a lot of what Having a Baby, Naturally had to say, there was some extra helpful information from a midwife’s perspective that prepared me on a mental level, especially for the birth process.

The Whole Pregnancy Handbook: An Obstetrician’s Guide to Integrating Conventional and Alternative Medicine Before, During, and After Pregnancy by Joel M. Evans, M.D. OBGYN

This was one of the two books I read that had more of a conventional medical slant to it.  Like the other (mentioned below), this one contained helpful information about some of the tests and procedures that were available, and how to have the best experience possible in the hospital with a birth plan.  Unlike the other book, it did give some advice about home birth (other than “don’t have one”).  So it is a bit higher on my list in that regard.  There are quotes interspersed throughout the book that provide perspectives from different mothers, which I found helpful.


Body, Soul, and Baby: A Doctor’s Guide to the Complete Pregnancy Experience, From Preconception to Postpartum by Tracy W. Gaudet, M.D.

Written by the Director of the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine, this book espouses a more mainstream view of childbirth than I do – but I found some aspects very useful all the same.  I do not agree with her view that home birth is irresponsible, but I found her ideas for meditation and regular self check ins to be quite helpful.  I think this would be a great book for someone who wants to integrate a more wellness-based approach into the standard OBGYN care.  There is no daddy section of this book, which is probably for the best.

Nourishing Biscuits

Nourishing Biscuits

My memories of making biscuits by my grandmother’s side are purely sensory – the feel (and taste) of the raw dough, the magic of watching them rise in the oven, and the smell of the fresh biscuit as it was heading towards my mouth.  She would patiently coach me on the rolling technique and scold me when I’d eat too much raw biscuit dough (even though she would sneak a little too).

The recipe was recorded in her hands, which knew exactly how much flour to start with, exactly how crumbly the mixture should look when the fat was added, and exactly how much buttermilk was needed to achieve perfectly tender dough that was easy to roll and would rise just right. My many attempts over the years would inevitably meet one mark but fall short on the others.  The dough would feel right but wouldn’t rise.  The smell wafting out of the oven would be just right but the texture would be off.  And sometimes everything was just plain wrong.  So after eschewing grains almost completely, I totally forgot about my seemingly impossible quest…

…until I found myself with too much leftover ham.

You see, the ham biscuit is one of those combinations that far surpasses the sum of its parts – and when your parts are delicious Christmas ham and homemade biscuits, the end result is nothing short of miraculous.  So, armed with renewed determination, I gave the humble yet cosmic biscuit game one last chance.  My nourishing pantry no longer includes ingredients like Crisco and store-bought buttermilk, so I crossed my fingers and substituted coconut oil and kefir.  I cheated on the flour a bit and just used King Arthur’s white whole wheat.

Please note that you will not get amazing biscuits if you use straight whole wheat flour.  But you can inch closer to whole grain perfection by substituting whole wheat pastry flour for half of the more “refined” flour.  Experimenting with spelt/kamut would be interesting too.  I am no gluten free expert, but if you are I encourage you to give these a shot – and share your flour blend secret!

I am working on finding a source/method for sprouted flour, which one day I hope to use in this recipe.  Soaking the flour is possible, although tricky – you would have to add the baking powder the next day, which would involve a bit of heavy handed dough handling to ensure proper incorporation.  My plan is to experiment with this, but until then sprouted flour is your best bet for maximum nutrition.

The trick a tender, flaky end result is that the structure should be as delicate as possible (hence all of this flour talk).  If start out with flour that is too heavy for the baking powder or you overwork the dough, you will end up with some hybrid cookie/hockey puck.  No good.  So lay off the hippie flour in favor of a compromise ;)

Then all you need is good fat.  Crisco was my grandmother’s choice (but she was a victim of the times).  Her mother most certainly used rendered leaf lard for her biscuits, as did her mother’s mother and so on.  I have access to leaf lard at the grocery store, but I am not sure of its origin so I don’t use it often.  Instead, my go to “shortening” is coconut oil.  So far, it has passed every test – and here it exceeded expectations.  If you live in an area where coconut oil is liquid at room temperature, stick it in the fridge to solidify before using here – and send me a plane ticket so I can come visit your tropical paradise.

With all of the nourishing food makeover stuff out of the way, the only secret left to tell you is to handle the dough as little as possible.  You must use your hands to mix in the buttermilk, pulling flour from the sides of the bowl into the well of liquid in the middle like you are just doing it for fun and don’t care if the mixture comes together at all.  Once almost all of the flour is incorporated, I like to add just a bit of extra buttermilk (or water) if necessary to get the last bit of flour incorporated.  Then it’s a matter of massaging it on a floured surface just a few times to create a smooth and easily rollable dough.  Kneading would be too rough and tumble for these refined Southern belles.

Why did I just take seven hundred words to describe what I will now tell you is one of the easiest bread products you can make?  Because any old biscuit will be edible, but a sensationally simple biscuit represents the expert touch of generations of cooks who needed something reliable, cheap, nutritious, and delicious to feed their families.  For those generations of experience, seven hundred words seems short.

Print Recipe

Nourishing Biscuits

Import to Plan to Eat: Add to Plan to Eat

Inspired by a time-tested recipe but restored to its original glory with whole food ingredients. Only something so simple could be so amazing.

Makes 1 dozen (or a baker’s dozen if you’re lucky)

Ingredients

  • 3 c flour I used white whole wheat, a mix of that and whole wheat pastry flour could work
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup rendered lard or coconut oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk or kefir

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 475 F and lightly grease a cookie sheet with a bit of fat.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt together. Using your fingers, incorporate the lard until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center. Add buttermilk and mix with your hands just until the ingredients are just combined. Add a teeny bit of buttermilk or cold water if you can’t incorporate all of the flour. Then turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few times so the dough is fully incorporated. Do not overwork the dough unless you need a dozen extra hockey pucks!
  3. Roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thick. Using whatever’s handy (glass/mason jar/biscuit cutter/?), cut as many biscuits out as you can and place them on the cookie sheet. If you have leftover dough, re-roll it to make more biscuits. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes until the tops are golden and the biscuits sound hollow when you tap the bottoms. Serve right away for maximum warm delicious flakiness.

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Cloth Diapers – On the Road

I find that cloth diapering is just as easy at the grocery store (or on an airplane, or a trail, or anywhere!) as it is at home.  Since you don’t need a trash can, you can stop just about anywhere and change a diaper, weather permitting.  Our summer baby’s bottom did not come near a public changing table for the first three months of his life – the back of the Subaru was all we needed.

Of course, as with everything else parenting-related, a little forethought goes a long way.  So here’s a tour of our diaper bag:

Cloth Diapering

This is not our diaper bag – but it looks awesome! Photo by shannatheshedevil, used under Creative Commons License

  • Flat diapers – the amount we think we will need (which fluctuates depending on little man’s intake) plus at least half that amount more just in case. 
  • Snappi(s) – at least one extra.  This is most often the item I forget, but the thought of cleaning a soiled Snappi in a public restroom more than once should be reminder enough.
  • Diaper covers – at least two, more if we will be gone all day or overnight
  • Extra outfit(s) – Not exclusive to cloth diapering, for sure, but worth mentioning.  We usually have two extra outfits on hand, but usually one is plenty.  Also, having a tiny amount of poo on my son’s onesie is not the end of the world in my eyes – as long as it is not obvious to the general public ;)
  • Changing pad – Our diaper bag came with a supercute matching one.  I’m sure you could very easily make a custom one out of some cute DIY oilcloth.  Or just… buy one.
  • Wipes – Another oft-forgotten item.  A wet paper towel will do in a pinch, but I am so spoiled by our cloth wipes!
  • Wet bag – I have an adorable small wet bag that I take on shorter trips (holds about 12 dirty diapers) and a larger one for longer trips (holds 24 or so).

All of this is contained in a diaper bag (or my relatively large purse).  Most commercially available diaper bags are designed with disposables and bottles in mind, so I really had to weed through the available options to find one that would meet my needs.  In the end, I’m not sure it was even worth it to buy a specific “diaper bag” in favor of another type of durable bag with good interior storage.  I ended up choosing this one because it did not scream “I gave up my eyes and all sense of taste when I had a baby” at me.

The aforementioned matching changing pad is nice and the bag is durable.  The pockets on the inside are useful for wipes, covers, clothing, and such, but storage of the actual diapers is a bit awkward.  In order to fit as many diapers as possible in our bag, we fold as usual, then tuck in the points of the “wings” towards the center so the whole package is a bit more rectangular.  Then it is just a matter of rolling the diaper as tightly as possible to create a small, quite packable cylinder.  We can fit about 16 max with the rest of the accessories packed in as well.  If we will need more than that, a paper garbage bag (or the large wet bag we use at home) contains the rest of the folded stash quite nicely.

Getting everything folded, packed, and out of the house is the hard part.  Once you are out and about, it is just a matter of finding a flat spot with a relatively pleasant ambient temperature.  Other than the back of the Subaru and the usual semi-shady public restrooms, our changing “tables” have included a forest trail, my lap, washing machines, beds, floors, you name it!  So far, we have only had to use one disposable diaper when we completely forgot the diaper bag at home.

I promise, it is possible to cloth diaper without compromise, no matter how long you will be out.  But hey, maybe we just don’t know any better.  How do you handle diapering when you are away from home?

Mama Meltdowns

And now we’ll take a brief break from cloth diapers to bring you the latest edition of… Mama Meltdowns!

photo by Lawrence Rayner, used under Creative Commons License

The month of November has been pretty stressful.  Our beloved kitty has fallen ill with some mysterious ailment that is preventing her from eating and drinking off and on.  Work came to a messy crescendo for both my husband and I.  And my energy level is way down due to the increased frequency of middle-of-the-night requests from the little guy.  Combined with the slight worry of a house purchase looming on the horizon, my sanity is starting to show a bit of fraying at the ends.

In the wee hours of the morning today, the last ball finally dropped.  I am a heavy sleeper, so it is hard to wake me up – and I am generally not in a great mood when I am finally awakened.  In response, Miles has figured out that pinching me is the best way to get what he wants almost immediately.  It can be unbearably painful.  After being woken up for the fourth time in three hours, I lost it.

It was like the Incredible Hulk had been unleashed, only I was awash in overwhelming emotions rather than nuclear waste.  My words and actions were certainly not winning any parenting awards.  Although most of my harshest words were directed at my husband, my feelings were directed at my son.  In the moment, I felt completely separate from – and even resentful of – my child.  I stormed out of the room, flung myself on the couch, and cried.  After letting out three weeks’ worth of raw emotion, I had no more tears to shed, but I didn’t feel better.  I felt empty, guilty and like the worst mom in the world.

Why am I sharing this unflattering moment in a public forum?  Other than a bit of catharsis, there really is a point:

Every strong feeling is a chance to stay present, breathe, and learn something new.  The trick is to catch the moment between emotion (involuntary) and reacting (voluntary).  If you feel angry at your child for waking you up with a painful pinch at 3 am, that is acceptable.  But then there is a choice: react or watch.  Even just a brief pause to ponder this choice can provide a glimpse into what is truly happening.  Did I think it was productive or even logical to get upset with a baby?  Of course not!  But I didn’t give myself a chance to reflect and gracefully handle the situation – I just reacted.

Should I feel horrible?  No.  Three in the morning is not the easiest time to practice perfect mindfulness.  But there are plenty of opportunities during my day where I can sit with frustration, stare it in the face for a moment, and then proceed in a way that reflects a calm and balanced approach.  Just like any skill, practice makes progress (perfection is not necessary).

So last night was really a blessing in disguise.  After some reflection in the light of day, I was able to let go of judgement and find the motivation to practice patience and kindness during the periodic shrieks of delight that emanated over and over from my son today.  Rather than lose it and whimper about my headache, I was (mostly) able to breathe, laugh, and do my best to find a shrieking solution (apparently it’s called bedtime).

I know I will react mindlessly again, but I also know that I can face my emotions head on and maintain control of my reactions.  All it takes is a little pause.

Cloth Diapers – The Diaper Station

In my last post, I detailed the basic system we have for covering baby’s bottom.  However, much to the delight of many retailers, there is a bit more to any kind of diapering than the means you employ for containing the waste.  You need a place to change the baby and a strategy to keep that little butt happy and clean!

We elected to stick to the basics in an effort to keep our budget and the clutter in our small house under control.  Really, it is possible to avoid spending hundreds on diapering accessories.

Here is how we did it:

Our diapering station:

We have one diapering station in our house.  Since we have one floor and only two bedrooms, this makes the most sense for us.  You may want to consider more than one if you have a larger space.  Ours is currently in our bedroom because that is where he sleeps at night.  We will most likely transition this to his room when he starts sleeping there all night, but for now this is perfect.

Changing Pad

The central item of our diapering station is our changing pad.  We have it perched on a shelving unit under a window in our bedroom.  The pad comes with a kit to fasten it to any surface, so voilà – changing table!

Storage

Avoiding the cost and bulk of a traditional changing table does have its drawbacks – mostly storage!  The shelving unit we chose for the changing station does have room for some of his clothes, but the other space is taken up with plenty of other stuff.

Sadhana Mama - Cloth Diaper Storage

photo by AmySelleck, used under Creative Commons license

Unlike disposables, which come in their own box, cloth diapers need their own containment device.  We chose a shallow basket with a handle like this one for our flat diapers.  The handle contains a tall stack really well, although it doesn’t quite hold every single diaper we have.  We also bought a small (about 8 x 4) rectangular basket to store wipes, covers, and snappis.

Speaking of Wipes…

I did not cover wipes in the diapering basics because I don’t think they are a true necessity.  We generally use the dry bits of the diaper to dry him off if his diaper is only wet.  If the situation is more dire, we do use homemade wipes made of terry cloth (read: old towels) and leftover flannel scraps from a quilting project.  Minimal time and sewing skills required.  Tutorial to follow!  The wipes get washed right along with the diapers.

I spent lots of pregnant time searching for the best way to replicate the disposable wipes experience, but in the end I realized that none of that was really necessary.  Instead, we keep a stash of about 24 dry wipes in a basket.  At some point early in the day, one of us will usually wet four wipes under the bathroom faucet for use throughout the day, but Jewish mom spit works in a pinch (I’m sure spit of any ethnic background would be just fine).

If you would rather get a bit fancier, there are are oodles of cloth wipes solution recipes online.  In that case, I would recommend a spray bottle with a good, soaking mist (like a hairdresser would use to spritz your hair).  If that seems too complicated for you, don’t fret: we have gotten by perfectly with the water/spit combination.

Homemade wipes may not be for you.  If that’s the case, I’m sure a good quality paper towel would do the trick – although I think our flannel/terry cloth combination is a bit gentler on baby’s bum.  I highly suggest avoiding the commercially available baby wipes, as the chemicals that go into making them smell nice and stay mold and bacteria free are pretty heavy duty, too much so for baby (or mama) in my opinion.

Keeping Rashes at Bay

Baby butt cream is another heavily represented topic on the internet.  I myself bought some raw shea butter with the intention of creating a fancy concoction, but it is still sitting unopened in our bathroom cabinet.  Why?  Because coconut oil is awesome and we already use it all the time.  The amount needed is very small, so the residue does not get on the diapers and reduce absorbency. We have been vigilant in applying tiny amounts whenever we see a bit of redness crop up, and so far there have been no major rash events at all (five months and counting!)

I took an old screw-top face cream container and spooned some coconut oil in.  Since we live in a northern climate, the oil is hard year round.  A finger at body temperature is warm enough to melt just a little bit on the surface.  If you live in a warmer climate, the coconut oil will be slushy or even liquid for some or all of the year.  In that case, I would suggest a deeper jar and an applicator (like a Q-Tip) to minimize the mess and possible over-application.

Dirty Diapers

Yes, cloth diapering requires that you store dirty diapers for some period of time – but disposables carry the same burden!  Instead of heading to the dump at least twice a week with a pickup full of stinky trash, we are able to wash away the waste in the washing machine and live in a relatively poo free house.

Our “disposal” solution at home is quite simple.  I ordered a cloth pail liner with the intention of using it in a small pedal-operated trash can.  Once we realized how quickly that little thing filled up, the pail liner became its own receptacle on the floor.  The smell is a non-issue – my only concern is keeping the open bag away from curious little hands once mobility and curiosity become more of an issue.  So, for now, we have this bag sitting right on the floor.  When laundry time comes, we simply flip the bag inside out over the washing machine and then throw it in once the diapers have all fallen out.  Easy!

And that’s it.

Really.  Changing pad, diaper storage, wipes, cream, and a pail liner.  This is the basic make up of a cloth diapering station, whether we are at home or out and about.  Next time, I will go over our portable kit.

Our system is super bare bones.  Do you have more creature comforts when it comes to diapering?  What is on your must-have list?