Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cloth Confessions

1. When I change my little girl's diapers, I just drop them over the baby gate on the bathroom floor, and then I go set her down with her brother and toys and go back to wash the diaper out and put it away. But sometimes, I let the dirty diapers sit right where I drop them on the bathroom floor. All. Day. Long. And I just go in and wash them all out and put them in their respective hanging pails or wet pails after everyone is in bed. And the days that I do this, yes, my whole (small, ranch) house smells kind of gross.

2. More often than not, I don't fold the clean diaper laundry anymore. It just sits in a laundry basket in the living room or my daughter's room, and when it's time to change a dipey I fish through the basket and find what I need. This is kind of a pain because I can't really keep track of what I have to pull from for her, but for some reason, a lot of times I just don't want to take 20 minutes to fold up a basket of laundry. (Wow, that's embarrassing.) So then what ends up happening is that 2 or 3 times a month, I have an over-flowing basket of inserts, microfiber towels, cloth wipes, plus all the fitteds and pockets, and it takes me 45 minutes to fold it all.

3. It's really hard for me to remember that cloth is still the exception and not the rule when women hang over my shoulder in public restrooms while I'm changing a diaper. It's hard to give a patient and graceful answer to all the same questions that I hear time and time again!

4. But, at the same time, I secretly hope every time we're out and a diaper is visible or a change is needed that I'll get a chance to share some cloth love with a stranger. :o)

5. I get really frustrated that our church nursery won't change a cloth diaper, but our gym nursery will. (Yes, I use sposies for church, because at this time we don't feel led to pursue family corporate worship during the services, and 1 or 2 diapers per 3 services a week doesn't break us, but it's still more than I would be going through if our church would permit cloth.)

6. I don't really have a fluff addiction like a lot of CD parents do. Once I get comfortable with my stash, I don't even think about ordering more diapers. In fact, I'm so practical about things that it's hard for me to buy super cute, gender specific diapers. I have bought hardly any pink and purple little diapers and covers for my sweet little girl!

Okay, this last one is hard for me to share with you...

7. I love cloth diapering. I do, I really do. I mean, I write an entire blog about it. I have shared, educated, encouraged, and done multiple cloth demos just to get other parents to see the manifold wisdom of cloth. I love it. Except sometimes...

I hate it.

Sometimes, the laundry seems to multiply. And I can't get - or stay - caught up with the diapers, let alone our clothing, sheets, and towels. Sometimes I don't feel like folding, stuffing, snappi-ing, wrapping, covering, and finding clothes big enough to fit over a bulky bottom. Sometimes I dread washing out a nasty poopy diaper. Or getting ready to run errands, and taking up half the diaper bag with spare fluffies.

Sometimes, I keep the baby in sposies all day on Sunday, even after we get home from church. And when there's a stomach bug involved, you better believe I'm using sposies. Sometimes if I'm headed somewhere that would require a trip to the laundromat to wash the diapers, well then...you guessed it.

And the thing is, I don't really feel bad about it. I think it's okay - and I think it's important that I tell you guys that it's okay - to NOT love using cloth diapers 100% of the time. And there's no need to get all legalistic about it. If I'm having a rotten, no good, very bad day, and I feel like using fluffs - and washing them - is just more than I can handle that day, then I have given myself permission to not use them. Yes, it costs a little bit of money. But seriously, $4 worth of paper diapers for me to keep my sanity, and love and care for my family and home without a sense of grudge and drudgery? Totally worth it. And really, having given myself the freedom to do this every once in a while when I feel like I need to makes me feel like I want to FAR less frequently. So then, the 1 or 2 days a month that I just feel like stripping all my diapers and listing them on Craigslist, it's easy for me to just kind of buckle down and suck it up and push on with the cloth dipeys, knowing that if and when I have a really rough day, the fluffs can stay on the shelf and I can stay "Happy Mama."

Because besides - 99% of the time, I love it!

So what about you guys? Let me hear your cloth confessions!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

New Series: Crunchy cooking: Homemade Wheat Bread

** I don't know if I've mentioned on here or not, but I also have a family blog that we keep private, just for friends and family members. But I occasionally post things on the family blog that I have to wonder if my fellow-cloth mamas might be interested in? Things about frugality, natural living, more sustainable and less grocery-store dependent homes and kitchens, etc. So over the next few days I'm going to share some of those things. Because let's face it - cloth may have brought us together, but there's so much more to us as parents and families than just what goes on the babies' bums!! I hope you guys enjoy my new short series on Crunchy Cooking, starting today with homemade wheat bread.

If I had to try and pinpoint why I stopped buying bread at the grocery store, I'm not sure I could come up with one single, solid, definitive reason. Partly just because I enjoy baking; a great deal because I've become more label-conscious, and I just don't know much about all the preservatives in a lot of store-bought food; more recently because I think that $3 for a loaf of bread is reprehensible. Also, bought bread doesn't have a tremendous amount of flavor to me, unless you buy the $5 loaves. No, thank you.

I don't use a bread machine for our bread. For me, the enjoyment of making bread at home is, well, making it! I started baking all our bread while I was pregnant with Little Miss R, and I used a recipe from Cook's Illustrated that Big M and Little M liked a LOT, but I was never wild about it. (I did like, however, that it was a super quick rise recipe and made 2 loaves at a time.) Right before she was born, I made a bunch of loaves and froze them so that I wouldn't have to bake bread for a while. Well, something went wrong with those batches, and we ended up tossing all the bread. (Groan.) We went back to store-bought bread.

Then, in January, Deb from Smitten Kitchen posted this recipe. I think I made it that very same day. (That, by the way, is one of the huge perks of keeping a well-stocked pantry! I often impulsively decide to prepare a dessert to go with dinner, or need to make something to carry to a group function, or make a meal to carry to a family or friend. It's so wonderful to not have to run to the grocery store to buy 1 or 2 things.) Oh, my goodness. This bread. Is. Perfect. Seriously. The first time I made it, I was a little frustrated at the rise times, and that for all the work it made only one loaf. So over the past 3 months, I've tweaked and played with the recipe and got it to a more desirable and manageable recipe for me. I'm going to blog it the way I make it (produces 2 loaves), but please remember this is not my recipe! Follow the link above for the original recipe and credit.

(A few disclaimers: First, I know this is not the uber-healthy homemade bread that a lot of people are looking for. I use more bread (white) flour than wheat, I don't soak my grains, or use any add-ins like flax, wheat germ, or kefir. But it's tasty. And I know exactly what I'm putting in it. Second, this is not a "Bread 101" or "Bread for beginners" kind of post. All I know about baking bread is what I know from my own limited experience. And I tried - and failed - a lot at bread before it got to be second nature. You just have to be willing to try! Although I will share my little tips and tricks that I've picked up along the way and use. And, I don't know any of the fancy stuff about bread and gluten bonds, and the difference between weighed flour and flour measured by the cup or anything. You don't need to know this stuff, so don't get intimidated by cookbooks, magazines, and websites who talk all about it!)

Okay, so here's the cast of characters:

Salt, honey, shortening, active dry or rapid rise yeast (you can get it in envelopes, but I go through so much that I buy it by the jar), powdered milk, whole wheat flour, bread/high gluten flour, and warm water. (Not pictured, white granulated sugar, although you could probably use brown sugar instead, or eliminate it completely by increasing the honey portion by 50%.)

Whenever I cook or bake, I like to pre-measure everything so that once I'm ready to start mixing I can just grab stuff. It makes the process go more smoothly - especially if you have something that needs to be mixed or added right away - and it kind of makes you feel like you're on a cooking show! ;o) So, start out with 3 rounded (not heaping, not level) teaspoons of yeast. I like using rapid rise yeast because I'm sort of impatient with rising, but it's handy to have plain ol' active dry in the house too.

If you use jarred yeast, you're supposed to keep it refrigerated after opening. (Frankly, even if you purchase the envelopes, I recommend storing them in the fridge to prolong the life of the yeast.) So, go on and measure out your yeast into a small, shallow saucer (^) so that it can come to room temperature.

In a separate small bowl (^), measure out 4 T (tablespoons) of solid shortening and 2 T of honey. You can buy solid shortening by the stick, but it's cheaper to buy a tub, and I go through a bit of it between bread, biscuits, and other baking that I do. You can use any flavor of honey you prefer, but I just stick with clover.

Get out your flours. It's important to stir the flour to aerate it before measuring. Mama, don't freak out, but the most effective way is to stir it with a knife. See above (^); this is a brand new bag of flour. You can even see the imprint of where the sealed bag pressed on the flour. It's densely packed. But after you aerate it...

It's looser and looks fluffier. I don't think these pictures do it justice, because I'm not a skilled photographer and can't take photos the right way. So trust me on this one!

Into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, measure out your dry ingredients. Start with the flour first...

By dipping your measuring cup into your aerated flour...

And leveling off the top with a knife. You need 5 C of bread flour, 3 teaspoons of salt, 1 T of granulated sugar, 6 T of powdered milk, 3 C of whole wheat flour, and the 3 teaspoons of yeast you premeasured before.

Here's the mixing bowl, full of all the ingredients! Now, I layer the dry ingredients in the order I listed them above. This is because when I used to use a bread machine, the directions said to never put the salt against the yeast because it can "deactivate" it somehow. And sometimes, I measure out all my ingredients and don't start mixing up the bread right away. It probably doesn't matter, but that's just how I do it.

Next, you'll need 2.5 C of warm water. I know it's a little anal retentive, but I use my digital kitchen thermometer and take the temperature of the water. That way, I know that the water is not so cool that it fails to activate the yeast, and not so hot that it kills it. For the approximately 10 seconds that it takes, it gives me a tremendous amount of security! The labels on your yeast jar or envelope should tell you the temperature to use, but pretty generally, anything between 110*F and 130*F is good.

See? 120.9*F. Just right! I start with hot water right out of the tap, take the temp, and then warm it in the microwave from there. Go slowly - you can always keep heating it, but if it gets too hot then you have to start all over or wait for it to cool.

Okay, so I use my stand mixer for the initial mix, but you can also just do it by hand in a large mixing bowl. If you're using a mixer, fit it with a paddle attachment, and turn it on low (for those of you with a KitchenAid mixer, I never turn it above "stir" for this bread) to mix the dry ingredients together. If you're doing it by hand, then the only alternate direction you need is "stir." :o)

Add your shortening and honey, still mixing on low (i.e., "stir").

In a slow and steady stream, add your warm water (^). Can you see how thin a thread of water I'm pouring out in the above pic? This is how slowly I add the entire 2.5 C. Adding the water slowly prevents lumpy clumps of wet flour in your dough - yuck. You're probably going to want to lock down the head of your mixer (if that's an option for you) so it doesn't start bumping around. The dough will slowly begin to come together and leave the sides of the bowl.

After you have added all water, if any flour remains dry on the bottom of the bowl, sprinkle in additional water.

Can you see that little bit of dry flour (^)? I think I added about .5-1 teaspoon of water.

Mix just until dough comes together. It will be lumpy and sticky, but soft and pliable. Scrape the dough off the mixer paddle, and dump dough out onto floured (either wheat or bread flour) surface...

(In the above pic (^), that's not something nasty on the counter at the bottom of the pic, it's a nick in the laminate counter top. Just wanted to make sure you know I didn't knead a bug into our bread!)

Sprinkle the top with more flour...

Dust your hands with flour...

And let's get started! I tried my hardest to take pictures of the kneading process, but it's tough to take pictures one-handed by yourself. But, nevertheless, here's my little "Kneading for Novices"! Kneading scares a lot of people, but it is really, really simple; it's basically just pushing, folding, and rotating the dough to mix and incorporate all ingredients well. It starts out sticky, and it takes some time and patience, but by the time the dough is ready to rise, it should no longer be sticking to your hands or the counter. There is no one single right way to knead, but here's what I do:

Start by (^) pushing the dough away from you.

Grab the elongated "point" you just pushed out (^), and pick it up...

...Folding it on top (^) of the rest of the lump. Rotate your dough about 60-90* clockwise or counter-clockwise...

...And repeat! That's it! That's all there is to it! Do this about 1,000 times - haha, just kidding. Kneading for this particular recipe takes around 10 to 12 minutes. Just keep sprinkling flour on top of the dough, your kneading surface, or your hands as needed. Remember, the dough should be tacky, but not sticky. Pliable, but not goopy and NOT tough. If your dough is tough while you're kneading it...well, frankly, I would probably just chunk it and start over. People who know more about bread than I do might know a way to redeem it, though.

The above photo (^) is about 5 or 6 minutes into kneading. You can already see how it's looking smoother, but it's not quite there yet.

Okay, so the above photo (^) was about 12 minutes after I began kneading. You can see it's significantly smoother (however, wheat dough will never look as smooth as white bread dough). So what do you do if you think it's ready, but you're not positive? You can do a windowpane test! Pull off a golf-ball sized hunk of dough...

And gently stretch it, holding it up to the light. You should be able to see light through the dough (^) before it tears, like a window! If it tears before thinning, then the dough is not ready, and needs more kneading. If it passes the windowpane test, you're ready to let it rise. Reincorporate your windowpane test hunk of dough, and gently shape your dough into a round. Place in a lightly oiled or sprayed large bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel...

...And put it somewhere to let it rise until doubled. I usually rise things on the stovetop for a few reasons. First, because I'm ridiculously impatient, and I cheat-rise things by placing them on the stovetop with the oven turned on to create a warm and cozy environment. Second, the stovetop is not my countertop and workspace, so things are out of the way!

Now, the original recipe over at Smitten Kitchen calls for instant yeast, but I used rapid rise. I also used slightly more yeast than the recipe calls for. So even though the original recipe says to let rise for nearly 2 hours, when I checked on my dough last night, it was nearly doubled after just 14 minutes! So I...

...tossed it in the fridge (^) to slow down the rising...

...And tossed the kiddos in the bathtub so I could get them to bed.

Anyway, so once the kids were in bed, I checked on my dough again. Well...

...It had risen far more than double (^). No sweat. The second rise is the one to be careful on. Anyway, dump your risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface again. (I'll be honest - I don't even clean the countertop from the kneading to this step.) Separate your dough into 2 halves...

...and press - by hand - each half into a rectangle about 6 inches wide by 10 inches long (^). Perfection is not key here! You can also use a rolling pin if you like, but it's not necessary, and why wash something if you don't need to?

Start rolling the rectangle up (^) by starting at the short end. When you get to the end, roll it over so that the seam side is up...

...and pinch (^) the seam closed...

...and I also like to pull the ends over to the seam side (^) and pinch all that together too.

Place rolled up loaf, seam side down (^), into lightly oiled or sprayed bread loaf pan.

Repeat with remaining half of dough. Lightly mist the top of each loaf with cooking spray, or rub gently with oil...

...cover loosely (^) and let rise.

Be careful on this second rise - if dough rises too much, then either during or immediately after baking, it can fall. This is both unattractive and un-delicious. I generally let them rise until they've crested over the edge of the pan, or maybe even a little more.

See above (^): the dough has risen just a little over an inch above the lip of the pan. Time to go into the oven! Preheat your oven to 350*F (or you can preheat it during the second rise so that as soon as the dough rises to perfection you can get it in the oven right away).

Bake the bread at 350*F, rotating your pans frequently to avoid the hot spots in your oven. I generally rotate each individual pan and/or swap the pans around every 15 minutes. But then, I'm the Type-A poster child. :o) Either way, total bake is between 45 minutes and an hour.

Look at those lovely loaves! But are they done? There are a few ways to check! First, you can dump a loaf out into an oven-mitted hand, and knock on the bottom. It should sound/feel hollow. I know this sounds ambiguous, but you'll know it when you hear it.

The other way is by temperature! Grab your digital kitchen thermometer...

...and take the bread's baby temperature (ahem, in the bottom). Finished bread should register between 190* and 205*F.

Dump loaves out onto wire cooling racks to let cool. I like to use a little trick I picked up from Big M's mom and rub some butter - REAL butter, unsalted - on the outside of the loaf.

I use about 3 T per loaf (^). This just softens the crust, which is really great if you're planning to use the bread for sandwiches, especially for kids. Take especial care to rub the butter into the corners and any spots that feel particularly...crusty.

Let the bread cool completely before slicing to prevent gumminess. Then slice each loaf. I pre-slice the loaves because then it's already done, and you can just grab a piece (or 2) whenever you want it! I like to slice the bread as thin as possible, because homemade bread tends to be a little denser than store-bought bread, and thinner slices are just more pleasant for sandwiches.

Slicing is kind of tough to get used to, but I'm getting better at it (^)! The key is using a really good quality knife specifically intended for bread slicing. I love my Cutco 9.75" slicer that I got from my best bud's husband Isaac.

So, slice both loaves. I put one loaf into the freezer, and we keep one loaf out at room temperature for munching on for the next few days. For the loaf that goes into the freezer...

I separate the loaf into 2 halves, and bag each half separately (^). This is mostly because an entire loaf won't fit into a standard gallon-size storage bag.

The loaf that we're going to eat also goes into 2 storage bags, and then into our bread box (^)! That's the remains of a loaf of banana bread beside it, yum. I don't like putting bread in the fridge, because it makes it hard and tough. If you don't think you'll use an entire loaf before it gets moldy or stale, then freeze half of it, and just leave half out at room temperature.

Ta-da! So that's it! I really hope that you give bread-baking a try. It's not nearly as time-consuming or difficult as a lot of people tend to think that it is. (In case you didn't pick up on it, I mixed and kneaded the dough AND photographed the entire process while the kids were eating supper and playing!) And if you have only ever eaten store-bought bread and you try this, let me warn you that you may not love it at first. We're so accustomed to the ways things taste (and feel, the texture is quite different) that it takes a while for our tastes to adjust. But give it a shot - I bet you'll enjoy it! (Remember, if you want to make a single loaf or check the original recipe or instructions, head on over to the recipe on the Smitten Kitchen.

2-Loaf Wheat Bread

5 cups high gluten/bread flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons powdered milk
3 rounded teaspoons active dry or rapid rise yeast
4 tablespoons solid shortening
2 tablespoons honey
2.5 cups warm water

In large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all dry ingredients. Add shortening and honey, and then slowly add warm water. Mix until just combined, dribbling in additional water if necessary.

Place dough on surface dusted with bread or wheat flour, and knead for 10-12 minutes or until passes windowpane test, adding flour to surface, dough, and hands as needed. Place dough in lightly oiled, large bowl and turn to coat. Cover loosely and let sit to rise until doubled.

Place risen dough on lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 2 halves. Press each half into rectangle, and roll up, closing seams. Place dough, seam side down, into 2 lightly oiled bread loaf pans. Cover loosely and let rise until dough crests top of pans.

Place loaf pans in 350*F preheated oven, and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, rotating as needed.

Remove loaves immediately to wire cooling racks. Rub loaves with unsalted butter to soften crust (optional), and let cool completely.

Slice, store, enjoy!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What is repelling?

Repelling, like wicking, is another term that I felt like I was seeing lots of places when I first began doing my diaper research. I didn't really quite understand what it meant, and I never found what I thought to be an adequate and comprehensive explanation of it. So I'll give it the ol' college try!

Repelling is when a diaper - usually a fleece lining of a pocket, in my experience - develops a build-up, residue, or coating that causes urine to just run off instead of absorb or pass through the way it's intended. Think about how tents or camping jackets are sometimes described as having repelling or repellant properties. Good for tents, bad for diapers!

Let me give you a specific example. I've had several pockets (all the same brand) develop a repelling issue. What would happen is that I would notice that my daughter's onesie or pants were wet at the leg or top of the stomach of her diaper. I would be bewildered and think, "How on earth did she already pee out that insert?" and go to change her. I would take the diaper off, and the insert in the pocket was entirely or nearly bone dry. The fleece had some kind of build up or defect that caused the urine to run off, either out her thigh (if she was playing) or her tummy (if sleeping), rather than soak through the fleece to the absorbant insert.

So what causes repelling? Well, repelling can be traced back to several different things.

The first is easy to determine if it's your particular problem: Using commercial diaper rash creams (desitin, aquaphor, triple paste, etc) on cloth diapers without using a barrier (disposable rice paper liner, silk or fleece liners that you must wash separately from your other diaper laundry) will cause a build up on your diapers. Here's why: most diaper rash creams contain petroleum or petrolatum. The function of this is to create a waterproof barrier between your child's skin and the urine to prevent further irritation to a rash. So, of course it stands to reason that it will leave the same waterproofing barrier on your diapers! Check out this post I wrote a long time ago about using rash creams with cloth nappies, and alternative ways to heal a diaper rash.

The other main thing that can cause repelling is a build-up on the diapers caused by using (usually) a mainstream laundry detergent.

Something else that can cause build-up is using - gasp! - not enough of the right kind of detergent. I'm sure that if you've done any amount of research you've probably read to use detergent sparingly. And that's true! I use 2 tablespoons of liquid Charlie's Soap per large load of diapers; 2 Tbsp is not much! But I've read about people recommending using a little as one teaspoon of an appropriate kind of detergent per extra-large wash load. Diapers simply will not get clean that way!! And you're left with incompletely clean diapers, with urine and fecal residue, as well as dead skin cells and natural skin oils, not to mention any residue of baby lotions or oils.

Fortunately, if you have a repelling issue with your diapers, the solution is pretty simple: strip those suckers! And do it quickly, because the residue can affect "healthy" diapers if you continue to wash all diapers together. Check out the "Special Occasion Cleaning" section of this post for stripping instructions if you have a top-loading washing machine. Check out this post for stripping advice if you have a front-loader, and the corresponding comments.

If you still have problems, you can try hand-stripping clean diapers in the bathroom sink. Get a bristle brush (like the kind you use to clean a bathtub or dishes, but I don't recommend just grabbing one out of the kitchen! At least, if you do that, don't put it back), and some rubber gloves. The gloves are so that you can use hot, hot, hot water! Heat it on the stove if you need to. Scrub vigorously the top and inside of the fleece lining on the offending pocket diapers*, using the brush and a grease-cutting dish soap (Dawn). Rinse in cold water until all bubble are gone, and water poured on the fleece passes through rather than pooling on top. Repeat the scrub and rinse if necessary. Then launder as usual.

** Remember, if you begin noticing a problem with a diaper - or several - but are having a hard time remembering which diapers, make a very small but distinguishable mark with a permanent marker on the tag, or put a safety pin through the tag of the offending diapers as soon as you take the diaper off the child. That way, you can keep track over the next few days to see if it's just 1 or 2 diapers of the same color, or many diapers in your stash!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What is wicking?

This is a term that simply mystified me when I was first doing my research! Wicking, to me, meant something maybe possibly to do with candle making...? What on earth did 'wicking' mean when referring to diapers?

Frankly, even now, it's tough for me to think about defining "wicking" without using the word itself! But I'll give it my best shot.

Okay, wicking is when moisture seeps through the PUL or soaks onto the binding around diapers, and then wets the childs clothes. Now, I know you're probably thinking, "But PUL is supposed to be waterproof! How can the moisture seep through it?" Well...

PUL is not 100% waterproof. It's just not. And there are different weights of PUL, although I don't know enough about the differences. (Any WAHMs out there want to weigh in?) Sometimes if you're shopping on Etsy or Hyena Cart, you may see a diaper advertised as "2 mil PUL" or something, and that has to do with the weight/waterproofness of the PUL.

For example, the PUL on Haute Pockets is not terribly weighty. My son (when he was still in diapers, which he's not now, thank the Lord!) couldn't wear Hautes for very long because they wicked straight through. Covers, in my experience tend to be far weightier in PUL than pockets.

My hanging diaper pail (which is a Fuzzi Bunz/Mother of Eden) wicks moisture also. Obviously, it's a hanging bag, but when it's heavy with lots of dipeys, the snaps just can't hold it on the doorknob anymore, so it sits on the bathroom floor. And it wicks a bit of moisture on the floor. Not standing water (ew, urine) or anything, but it's enough that you can see a wet spot. Sort of like if you dropped a wet, wrung out washcloth on a tile floor. Nothing a Clorox wipe can't fix!

We also experience wicking problems with some pocket diapers where the fleece rolls out, like on Happy Heinys. That's really only when I leave a diaper on too long, though. I also have a few WAHM covers that I really love, except that they have a cotton-poly leg binding that tends to wick wetness onto my daughter's clothing. But as long as I have her diaper and cover on straight, and be sure not to let her sit too long - or nap - in those particular covers it's not a big deal.

So that's wicking. I hope I explained it clearly enough. And obviously, the explanation kind of spells out why it's a problem! For the most part, wicking is only a problem if you're not changing the child's diaper often enough! Stripping diapers will not help with a wicking problem. :o)

However, if you're experiencing wicking consistently with a pocket diaper, and you usually hang the pockets to dry, you might be able to "recharge" (for lack of a better word) the PUL by drying the diapers in the dryer on the hottest air possible for about 20 or 30 minutes. (You could also autoclave them if you have access to one, hahaha. Just kidding! Who has access to an autoclave?) Anyway, if you're still having problems after hot drying the diapers, particularly if it's only 1 or 2 diapers out of an entire lot*, then I recommend contacting the source where you purchased the diaper in the first place as well as contacting the manufacturer directly to see if they have any more specific advice, or can offer you to exchange the diaper.

** If you begin noticing a problem with a diaper - or several - but are having a hard time remembering which diapers, make a very small but distinguishable mark with a permanent marker on the tag, or put a safety pin through the tag of the offending diapers as soon as you take the diaper off the child. That way, you can keep track over the next few days to see if it's just 1 or 2 diapers of the same color, or many diapers in your stash!

Friday, March 20, 2009

What a deal!

This morning I got an email from Kissaluvs * about a special spring deal they've got going on right now! When you order a Bundle of Joy Starter Pack directly from the manufacturer website, you get a free Bummis Super Whisper Wrap cover! You don't get to choose the color of your cover, but you can order your starter pack in neutral, boy, or girl colors - woo-hoo! (And I feel pretty confident that if you order the boy colors, they're not going to send you a pink cover, you know?)


From March 20-25, enter the code "SPRING" in the comments section of your order to get free shipping! Happy shopping, all you cloth nappy parents!

** Okay, if I've never said this before, go to every single diaper manufacturer website and diaper e-store and sign up for their newsletter emails. You'll get email alerts about sales, clearances, etc. I'll post the alerts I get, but I've only signed up for emails from brands I prefer for my kids and e-stores where I shop regularly, so I can't cover everywhere! For Kissaluvs, they actually have an e-outlet sale every once in a while when you can purchase brand new factory seconds for a huge discount. Set up a separate email account if you don't want all the dipey emails clogging up your regular mailbox, but it's totally worth it!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why cloth?

When I was about three months pregnant with my daughter and my son was 16 months old, I suddenly began to think about the overwhelming cost of keeping two children in disposable diapers. “How will we ever be able to afford that on our budget??” I frantically wondered. So I turned back to something I had briefly mused on while pregnant with our son: cloth diapering. I was amazed to learn how many more reasons to cloth diaper there are than just concerns for your budget!

There are three main reasons that people choose to cloth diaper: environmental concerns about the abundant waste caused by disposable diapers, the potential for adverse effects on a child’s health (including excessive or perpetual diaper rash) from using disposable diapers, and the tremendous expense of disposable diapers.

Environmental Factors

I’ve read some arguments that the water and energy used to clean cloth diapers makes them not all that much “greener” than disposable diapers. Funny thing is, when you read the fine print on these statements, I frequently discover that it was released by a parent company of a disposable diaper manufacturer! In fact, disposable diapers use 37% more water and 70% more energy per diaper change (in production) than cloth diapers, whether the cloth diapers are laundered at home or by a service! Click here for more details and fact credits.

It is estimated that disposable diapers make up about 3% of the total non-biodegradable contents of landfills. This may not sound like an awful lot to many of you, but the stunning number is this: conservative estimates say that disposable diapers make up over 70% of the non-biodegradable waste contributed to landfills since 1970. If you use exclusively disposable diapers, by the time your child is completely potty-trained, you will have tossed approximately 10,000 diapers, disposable swim pants, and training pants into your trash can! And, chances are pretty good that most people using disposable diapers are tossing the poo along with the diaper – I know I did when I was using sposies. The only place we’re instructed to dump solid wastes in the toilet is in the teeny-tiny fine print on the side of the plastic diaper package, and who ever reads that? Unfortunately, if you’re not emptying solid waste before disposing of the diaper, as soon as the diapers hit the landfill, so does the human waste, and from there it gets into ground water supply. Click here for more details and facts.

Health Factors

It’s hard in some respects to separate the environmental factors from the health factors, because so many of the reasons that diapers are not good for the earth are the same reasons they’re not good for your babies’ bums!

Disposable diapers contain PVCs and SAPs (super absorbent polymers; these are the gel crystals you’ve likely seen when a sposie has “exploded” on your baby). SAPs were removed from tampons during the 1980s because of their link to toxic shock syndrome, but are still used in disposable diapers. Both of these chemicals have been banned in the European market, but are still used in the United States. Disposable diapers also contain significant traces of dioxin, a carcinogen, as a result of the bleaching process. Dioxin winds up not only in the diapers, but also in the environment! Click here for more info on dioxin and other potential health risks associated with disposable diapering.

(Frankly, sposies come out of the package less than 1 inch thick...and yet a child can wear it for 12 hours overnight without leaking everywhere. Come on, y'all - we should be suspicious about this!)

Additionally, disposable diapers have been linked to male infertility and testicular cancer. Click here to read more. And on a less serious note, children who wear exclusively disposable diapers experience far more diaper rash than children who are cloth diapered. Now for some kids, this could simply be due to an irritant in the sposies. For example, my kids canNOT wear any sposies except Huggies, because any other brand of sposies will have their bottoms in flames within one diaper wear. But, for most children, sposies are more closely associated with diaper rash because they just hold so much, and most kids wear a single diaper for far longer than they should.

Finally, please take a moment and read these two wonderful articles. I found that I simply could not do them justice by summing them up. This article has a wealth of cited information regarding how disposable diapers are manufactured. This article gives detailed information about possible adverse health effects of disposable diapering, not only on the babies who wear them, but also on the people who work in the plants that produce them.


Now, I’ve heard my fair share of people dispute the validity of the environmental and health concerns. I, for one, say that if there’s even a chance that using sposies could adversely affect my children’s health, not to mention the planet which God has given into our care to steward, then I am willing to try the alternative!

However, people can-NOT argue that using cloth diapers will save you money. When you first begin to look at purchasing cloth diapers, you may think, “These are so expensive! There’s no way this is going to save me money!” But cloth diapering is 100% a front-loaded investment, meaning that after you purchase your “stash,” you no longer need to spend any money (other than detergent) to maintain your system!

Let’s go back to what I said earlier, about how the average sposie-diapered child will go through approximately 10,000 diapers/swim pants/training pants by the time they’re fully potty-trained. Disposable diapers, on average, cost approximately $0.24 per diaper. This translates to around $2,400 (per child) you will have spent on something that ends up almost immediately in the garbage, and that doesn’t even include the cost of disposable wipes and special liners for the diaper pail.

Another breakdown comes from my own experience. When my son was still in diapers (fully daytime potty trained before he was even 2 and ½, thank you cloth diapering!), I was spending approximately $13 per month on the increased utility bills plus the cost of detergent to have my children in cloth diapers full time. Had I still been using disposables, I would have been spending about $105 a month on diapers alone, not counting the cost of wipes. So for us, disposables = $105+/month, cloth = $13/month. Now, I’m not a math whiz, but you just can’t argue with that! Who couldn’t use an extra $92 each month?

Here is an AWESOME math breakdown that shows the cost of diapering your child with different "systems" versus the cost of diapering your child in disposables.

Finally, the average age that a cloth-diapered child will potty train is placed somewhere between 18 and 24 months. A child in disposable diapers will, on average, not potty train until 36 months! And anyone who has spent time in second and third world countries where cloth is used exclusively will tell you that mothers start potty training their children – successfully! – as soon as they begin walking. On a similar note, many cloth diapering mothers practice elimination communication with great success!

So there you have it! The big reasons to choose cloth over disposables. In this age, most of us probably never even thought twice about using sposies, but there is such a better option out there! And, I won't even play - my biggest reason for choosing cloth was the money, honey. But as I said before, when I began my research, I discovered more and more information about disposables than I was comfortable with. And don't forget - CLOTH DIPEYS ARE ABOUT A MILLION TIMES CUTER THAN PLAIN OL' PLASTIC SPOSIES!

Guest Post!

Today and tomorrow I'm guest posting on one of my favorite websites, Passionate Homemaking, while the author adjusts to life with her newest little one! Some of you may have wandered over here from there in the first place, but I have no way to know since my SiteMeter is apparently not working.

Anyway, Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking is a believer who loves the Lord, and delights in serving her family in ways that are healthful, frugal, and honor our Creator. I figured some of the frugal, green, and crunchy-minded people who might stumble across this blog would be interested in that!

Here is the permalink for the first part of the post, where I discuss why to use cloth.

Here is the permalink for the second part of the post, where I give a VERY general and broad overview of cloth diapering. Perfect for newbies, beginners, and just starting to research!

Troubleshooting tips

Today I got a question from a mom who was having some problems with her BG diapers and her front loading washing machine. To read her original post detailing her wash routine, click here.

Here are the tips I shared with her, but I think that there are others who might benefit from hearing them! :o)

- First, 14 diapers and their inserts is a LOT of diapers to wash at once in a FL machine, because it doesn't use as much water. You could try washing a load with fewer diapers, but still using the highest water setting.

- Let's talk about a routine wash: you should do one cold rinse first (to get the waste out); one long hot wash with a cloth diaper safe detergent; 2 cold rinses. Either line/sun dry, or tumble dry. NEVER, EVER, EVER use liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets!!

- You might also try a wet pail system for a while. That way, the diapers are never sitting soiled (and it eliminates your time-consuming task of scrubbing them in the laundry sink!). If I'm lazy one day and let diapers sit unrinsed on the bathroom floor until my kids are in bed, those diapers will invariably have stains on them! I have been safely wet-pailing my PUL pockets (including BG diapers) with no problems with wicking for at least 6 months now.

- For stains, take a clean, wet diaper, and saturate the stain with lemon juice, and then place in the sun until dry. Repeat as necessary until the stain is gone, and then launder the diaper as usual.

- As far as lingering smells, you could try stripping them, which is hard in a FL machine. Try turning your water heater up as high as it will go for one hour, and then run a long wash cycle on hot with NO detergent. (Don't forget to turn the water heater back down after the first wash cycle.)

- A quick note about vinegar: vinegar will soften and help freshen the smell of *clean* diapers. If your diapers have a lingering odor and need to be stripped, vinegar can actually make the smell worse. Remember, clean diapers (and the washing machine after cleaning them) should smell like nothing at all, except maybe wet fabric! ;o)

- For detergent, I love and recommend Charlie's Soap, and it is HE safe. You can purchase it at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, EarthFare, or mom-and-pop natural foods stores. If no stores sell it locally for you, you can always order it online. I have never used Country Save personally, but I would probably stay away from the Oxy, because it likely has enzymes in it, which leave a residue on the diapers that will bind with the urine, causing unpleasant odors when the diapers are wetted, and creating a funky skunky buildup.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm still here!!

My deepest apologies for the 5 month hiatus! Since my last post, I've been potty-training a toddler, my daughter had a terrible UTI and several resultant procedures, then it was Christmas and New Year's...frankly in between all the normal life (and not so normal things that pop up from time to time) I simply forgot to post for a while!

I'll get back to my reviews soon to wrap up that series by reviewing my pockets and AIOs. After which...I'm gonna need some direction from the cloth diapering families and newbies as to what to blog about next! I feel like I'm running out of ideas for the things I've learned along the way, so any specific questions would be really helpful!