Baby Bee, Cloth Diapers

To Cloth Diaper or Not To Cloth Diaper: THAT is the Question

Let’s be real for a minute here — when you have a baby, you are primarily concerned with two things: sleep and poop. Sleep is a whole other bag of worms that we can unpack at some distant point in the future when I have even the slightest insight to offer. Diapers, on the other hand, are something that I have pretty much mastered and could dish about forever. I actually LOVE to talk about diapers.

I entered motherhood with a general idea of what  wanted to do, diaper-wise, but was really open-minded about my options because, you know, dealing with 12-16 newborn poops a day is stressful. My hope was to use disposables for the first month or so, until we had survived the days of meconium (heads up — this newborn stuff is GROSS) and reached some sort of equilibrium with the poop situation; after that, I wanted to switch to cloth diapering. For me, this stemmed primarily from concerns over the environmental and health implications of using disposables, but I was also realistic in knowing that they wouldn’t always be practical for us.

To prepare myself, I stocked up on a few sizes and brands of disposables, and researched the shit out of cloth diapers to determine what type would work best for us. I’ll be the first to admit that, when you first enter the world of cloth diapering, it’s SUPER overwhelming. To save you from having to spend the next year of your life trying to decode the various types of cloth diapers, check out my summary post on the most common types of cloth diapers. Having had no experience with cloth, I got a small number of a few different brands and types of cloth diapers to test run, so we could figure out what we liked and add to the stash once we knew what the heck we were doing. Below is a pic of the majority of our diaper stash as it looks today — the original edition was a much, much smaller version of this that we added to over time.

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We made it through the first month with disposables and, at the 1-month mark, started to experiment with cloth diapers during the day. Slowly but surely, we moved to cloth diapering full-time – even at night – but we still use disposables from time to time (e.g., when we moved to a new city, when traveling, when battling cold/flu season). We’re over a year into this diapering adventure and have had a slew of positive and negative experiences with both. So what was our preference in the end? Honestly, it’s pretty mixed. I, hands down, prefer cloth diapers. My husband, on the other hand, always delights when the disposables come out but he’s coming around to the benefits of cloth.  Here’s our breakdown of the pros and cons of each.

Disposable Diapers

Pros

  • Pack more easily on-the-go
  • Don’t need to be toted around post-change
  • Easier to put on a squirmy bum
  • Don’t require any post-bum effort (i.e., washing)
  • Less likely to have pee leaks

Cons

  • Costly over the course of your diapering adventure
  • Not reusable, so you may find yourself in a panic if you run out
  • Have an environmental impact
  • Potential for health concerns
  • WAY more likely to have poop blowouts in the newborn stage (I’m still traumatized by a few poo-splosions I suffered in the early days)

Cloth Diapers

Pros

  • WAY cheaper over the long run, especially if you invest in one-size diapers that grow with your baby and use them for multiple babes
  • Reusable, so you never have to worry about running out
  • Customizable, meaning you can add or remove layers to suit your specific babe’s diapering needs
  • Kinder to the planet, especially if you opt for renewable fibers like hemp
  • Contain poo-splosions like no other — we literally had only one and I’m going to blame it on the fact that she was going to town in her bouncer at the time
  • More gentle on the bum — Bee’s skin was really sensitive to the additives in disposables as a newborn but her skin thrived in natural fiber cloth diapers
  • Come in some ridiculously cute prints

Cons

  • Require some effort — they need to be washed and some also need to be assembled before use
  • Require a fairly significant investment upfront — while it’s AMAZING that we spend literally no money on diapering stuff each month, our bank account did take a bit of a hit upfront
  • Can be prone to pee leaks as the baby grows and the “fit” changes — it just takes a bit of tweaking, but those initial few leaks can be annoying
  • Can be more difficult to put on / take off if you go with a snap-based option (this is particularly relevant for the dads out there, I’ve found)

 

At the end of the day, it really is such a personal choice. I absolutely love cloth diapering and have since the day we started using the them, while my husband took a long [long] time to warm up to them. I also have a few friends that started out with cloth but, for various reasons, ended up switching to disposables over time (mostly due to a fear of solid poop or because they had another babe and couldn’t handle two in cloth). In our home, we like to keep our options open and use both, depending on the situation. In the end, though, it’s honestly just about using whatever’s right for you.

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Baby Bee, Mama Bear, Postpartum & Mama Care

Why I Decided to Stop Stressing About My Baby’s (lack of) Sleep Schedule

If I had a penny for every time someone asked me if my baby was sleeping well, I’d be a very wealthy woman. Sleep is perhaps the hottest topic when it comes to babies. Are they sleeping through the night? Do they nap well? Do they go down on their own? From day one, parents are under an enormous amount of pressure to coach their baby into being the perfect sleeper.

I myself fell prey to the constant barrage of questions about Baby Bee’s sleep and lost many nights of sleep over whether or not we were doing it right. I read all the recommended resources about how long your baby should be awake, how long they should sleep at each nap, and how you should be putting them down drowsy but awake. I tried the sleep schedules, tried keeping her up longer, putting her down sooner, but no matter what I did she would typically only nap for 30-60 minutes, tops. I took this as a sign that I was a terrible parent, and so I stressed some more.

And then, one day, I decided to stop stressing about it. After feeling like a failure for so long because my six month old wasn’t “on a schedule” yet and didn’t take long naps during the day, I decided that I didn’t care. At her age, babies should be getting an average of 11-12 hours of sleep at night and another 2-3 during the day. Even with our lack of strict daytime schedule, she is typically asleep for the night by 7:00-8:00pm and up by 6:00-7:00am. Sure, she has 1-3 night wakings depending on growth spurts and teething, and every once in a while she’ll be up for 2 hours in the middle of the night, but for the most part she gets her full 11 hours of sleep each night. And, yes, she still only naps for 30-45 minutes most days, but she does so 3-4 times a day.

What I realized is that it wasn’t that her sleeping pattern wasn’t working for her – it’s that it wasn’t convenient for me. Not being able to plan things out in advance because my baby naps at slightly different times everyday can make seeing friends really tricky. And not having more than 30 minutes to check things off my to-do list or just breathe can be really hard on me sometimes. But that is part of raising an infant – learning that it’s not all about you anymore.

So now we have a daily routine. Although our daily activities may unfold at slightly different times, we do the same things each day and in the same order. This helps her to know when naptime is coming and it helps me to cope with the lack of clock-based schedule. I still get to see friends (it’s just planned within a certain window of time as opposed to specific meeting time) and I still get chores done, with time blocked out for me each day.

Do I still envy moms who know exactly when they’ll be free because their children sleep at the same time everyday? Absolutely. Do I wish my baby would take 2-hour naps on occasion? For sure – I mean the house isn’t going to clean itself. But, when all is said and done, she wakes up happy and full of energy after each nap, and isn’t that really the whole goal behind getting your baby on a strict sleep schedule?

Baby Bee, Cloth Diapers

Cloth Diapers 101: Types of Diapers

Cloth diapers are pretty self-explanatory, right? I mean, they’re just diapers that you wash and reuse instead of tossing in the trash. How complicated could they be? As it turns out, there’s a lot to them, actually! When I decided that I wanted to use cloth diapers for my daughter, I knew literally nothing about them other than the fact that they were more environmentally friendly, less likely to cause diaper rash, and were more cost-effective. Perfect, I thought, let’s buy some cloth diapers!

And then I sat down to choose a few brands to do a test run before investing a lot in any particular one diaper. Boy, are there a lot more options out there than I expected! I was incredibly overwhelmed at first but, once I wrapped my head around all of my choices, I realized how amazing cloth is. There is literally something for everyone! The best way to approach them is to think about how much you want to interact with poop, how much laundry you want to do each week, and how much money you want to invest. So, with that in mind, here is an introduction to the five main types of cloth diapers.

  1. All-in-ones (AIOs) are the least involved cloth diapers out there and function pretty much like a disposable. There is an absorbent, waterproof cover with inserts sewn right in, so all you have to do at diaper-change time is toss the dirty diaper in the bin and put a new one on. This is a great option for people who want to opt for cloth but would like to keep it as simple as possible (read: dads and daycare). The down side is that they’re typically the priciest option, you have more to wash, and they can take longer to dry
  2. Fitteds are similar to AIOs but they lack a waterproof exterior. The diaper looks very similar to a disposable, in that it’s just one piece, but you need to add a cover to prevent moisture from wicking out. So, come diaper-change time, you need to put on the fitted diaper and then top it with a cover to keep the pee in. They tend to be super absorbent and breathable, so are often used as a long-nap or nighttime solution. Overall, not much more work than an AIO, but still one of the more expensive options and results in just as much laundry.
  3. Pockets are exactly what they sound like – a waterproof cover with an inner pocket that you stuff with whichever absorbent inserts you’d like. They work just like AIOs when it comes time to change diapers, but require more effort overall because you have to stuff them with inserts beforehand and often need to “unstuff” them prior to washing them. The upside is that they’re a lot more customizable than AIOs: you can choose the material, thickness, and number of inserts being used in each diaper. This helps to tailor the diaper to each baby’s needs and could potentially save some money, depending on which covers and inserts you opt to use.
  4. All-in-twos (AI2s) are made up of two pieces, a waterproof cover and an absorbent insert that is either placed or snapped on the cover. The great thing about this option is that, unless there is poop involved, diaper changes just involve swapping out the insert and reusing the cover, which significantly cuts down on the cost and amount of laundry involved. You can also customize the material and number of inserts that you use. The downside is that you need to touch the insert to swap it out and then wipe down the cover. This may not be for the squeamish but it can easily be done with a wipe to minimize direct contact.
  5. Prefolds are what most people picture when they think of cloth diapers – a piece of cloth folded in three, wrapped around the baby’s bottom, and secured with snaps. Like the fitted diaper, these aren’t waterproof so they need to be paired with a cover. While this option requires the most skill when it comes to learning the folds, it is also by far the most affordable option, cuts down on laundry, and is great for newborns.

Bonus Option- Hybrids! Hybrids are usually AI2s and involve pairing a reusable waterproof cover with a disposable insert. Many of the inserts are biodegradable, so they can be a great option when you’re traveling and need the convenience of disposables but still want to feel good about what you’re putting on baby’s bottom.

My advice? Before investing in one particular brand of cloth diaper, think long and hard about how involved you want to be with your diapering and how much money you’re willing to spend. Then, narrow it down to a few types of cloth diaper and give them a test run before investing in a whole stash. It will give you a chance to find the ones that fit your babe the best and you might be surprised by your willingness to touch a few pee-soaked inserts if it means you can do less laundry (I know I was!).

Breastfeeding, Mama Bear

Mom Guilt: You Can Run From It But You Can’t Hide

Before my daughter was born, I was an absolute wreck, convinced that we would be completely overwhelmed by and unprepared for the world of parenting. But when she arrived something amazing happened: the moment she was placed in my arms, all of my self-doubt disappeared and I was filled with a overwhelming sense that it would be okay. I was going to be a good mom, mistakes and all.

After announcing her birth, I received so many reassuring messages from other moms telling me that I should trust myself and try not to be too hard on myself. I wasn’t sure how to respond because, the thing was, I knew I was a good mom and that when I did mess up on occasion it was totally normal. I had pretty realistic expectations about motherhood and didn’t get down on myself when things didn’t go as planned (because when do they ever?). With the exception of a few sleep-deprived incidents, I had successfully avoided the infamous mom guilt that haunts so many new mothers.

And then we went to her 6-month check-up. My big baby girl – who had been in the 90th percentile for weight at her 2 & 4 month weigh-ins – had suddenly dropped down to the 80th percentile. The doctor was a bit surprised but she wasn’t concerned, attributing it to her becoming more mobile and starting solids. She suggested upping her solid food intake and said she would see us again in 3 months. All-in-all, a pretty uneventful check-up.

And yet what I heard during the appointment was “You’re an awful mom. How could you not have noticed? Your baby girl is wasting away right before your eyes! How did you let this happen?” You see, my baby is breastfed … so that food source that had – in my eyes – failed to fatten her up over the past 2 months? That was me. I went home, put my daughter down for her nap, and then proceeded to sob for 20 minutes straight. I was overcome with such an enormous sense of failure that I suddenly felt incredibly unworthy of the beautiful baby sleeping before me. In my mind, I had failed the most basic mom requirement. I apologized to her over and over again for letting her down and felt so awful that she had been given to me, instead of the wonderful mother that she deserved. The past six months of love, laughter, and successful check-ups completely vanished from my mind.

Still crying, I made some tea and sat down to eat lunch. After refueling and taking a few deep breaths, I stopped crying and started researching some new nutrient-dense purees to make for my sweet babe. Slowly but surely, I started to feel like myself again. The good memories and knowledge that I am, in fact, a good mama bear slowly crept back into my mind. When my baby woke, I showered her with hugs and kisses – as I do every time she wakes up – and I breathed her in deeply.

A few hours later, when it had fully passed, it struck me that what I had just experienced full-blown Mom Guilt. Sure, I’d been hit by it before – but never this hard. This was like being brainwashed – I completely lost sight of the bigger picture and was consumed by the idea that I was the world’s worst mother. It’s something that happens to all moms at one point or another and I know, without a doubt, it will happen to me again. My hope for my future self and all moms out there is that, when it does strike again, I’m able to take a step back and put things in context. And, above all, to remember that one misstep does not a bad mother make. Because life will always have its ups and downs – and its imperfect check-ups – but, at the end of the day, I’m still a great mama with a baby bee that wants nothing more than to be showered with my hugs and kisses.

Baby Bee, Nursery & Gear

5 Ways to Create a More Eco-Friendly Nursery

I think we can all agree that, second only to getting adorable baby clothes, setting up a nursery is the best part about preparing for a new baby. All those colour choices, baby themes (hello, woodland animals!), and new baby furniture, oh my! As a first-time parent, it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in it all and duped into believing that you need way more than you actually do. When I first started planning for our nursery, I was overwhelmed by all of the options and hefty price tags. But after many months of research and planning, we were able to put together a great nursery that was both affordable and safe for our babe and the environment. The key to our success? Instead of losing sleep over every single item in the nursery, we focused our energy on 5 main areas to help us make sure that we made eco-friendly choices while staying on budget. So, without further ado, here they are…

1. Re-purpose existing furniture

I guarantee you that someone will tell you that you need to get a change table. I can also guarantee you that once your baby is mobile, you will never use that change table again. Instead of buying baby-specific furniture, just take a look around the house and see what you can reuse. We ended up taking an old dresser and attaching a change pad to the top of it. For the time being, it makes a great change station but when she outgrows it we will still be able to use it as a dresser. We also took the bedside table and lamp from the old guest room and now use them next to the rocking chair as a nursing station, which has been a huge help.

2. Invest in sustainable sleep

Babies sleep a lot during the first year of their lives. If you’re going to invest in one or two new items for the nursery, make it the crib and mattress. Thankfully, environmentally-friendly cribs and mattresses are widely available now and at (more) affordable prices too. When buying a crib, look for ones that are made of sustainably-sourced wood and are either untreated or finished with non-toxic, food grade paint. At the low end of the range, Ikea’s Sniglar crib is a good option, made from 100% untreated solid beech and ringing in at just under $100. For our nursery, we ended up choosing the mid-range Jenny Lind crib, which is a bit more stylish, made from sustainably-harvested wood and non-toxic paint, converts into a toddler bed, and is available for around $300. Six months in, I’m still madly in love with it.

Mattresses are a little trickier. There are a LOT of options out there – and even more opinions on which are better for baby and the environment. Really, it comes down to wanting natural materials and as few chemicals as possible. The two main options are natural latex and organic cotton spring mattresses. The first can run a bit expensive here in Canada but Obasan makes a great one, if you can afford it. The second was more realistic for us in terms of cost and is available at just about any baby retailer (aka, you can use all of the gift cards you receive to pay for it!). Naturepedic is the gold standard at $300-400 but you can also get Simmons BeautyRest ones at Toys R Us for as little as $100.

3. Choose non-toxic flooring

Second only to their bed, babies spend the most time cruising around on the floor. While you usually can’t control what your floors themselves are made of, you can choose non-toxic and environmentally friendly floor coverings (think rugs and floor mats). In terms of natural fibers, wool and organic cotton are great choices and are super easy to care for. Under the Nile makes great organic cotton rugs with material leftover from their clothing production (how cool is that?) that cost $50-100 depending on the size. The great thing about opting for a rug over play mat is that you can reuse it in another room of the house once baby has outgrown their nursery.

4. Opt for a low- or zero-VOC paint

This one seems simple but it makes a huge difference. Anyone who’s had to paint during the winter knows first hand that paint fumes are overwhelming and linger for an incredibly long time. We once lived in an apartment that smelled of paint fumes for 5 months. Obviously, that’s not something that you want to expose your newborn baby to. Instead, opt for a low- or zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint that will not only be safer for your baby, it will make the whole painting experience much more enjoyable for parents too. My favourite is the Natura line by Benjamin Moore – it has the same great quality and colour selection but with absolutely no emissions. Win!

5. Get baby gear that does the work for you

There will always be some things that you can’t avoid buying. In those cases, just make sure that you opt for smart technology whenever possible to help reduce your environmental impact. In our house, it was a humidifier because the air gets incredibly dry in the winter. After looking at what felt like a hundred different humidifiers, we went with one that has a built-in sensor, so it only turns on when the humidity levels drop below a certain point (which we could set) and ended up saving us both electricity and water.

 

At the end of the day, setting up your baby’s new nursery should be an exciting and joyous activity. Don’t lose sleep over feeling like you need to have the newest and best of everything – just focus on having what works for your family. Limiting what you buy and getting gently used things when you can will save you a lot of money and ensure that you create a space that’s safe for baby. Once you accept that, the whole process becomes a lot less stressful and, hopefully, a whole lot of fun!

Breastfeeding, Mama Bear

Why Breastfeeding is Still Insanely Hard Even When It’s “Problem-Free”

Breastfeeding is one of the few things in life that – like parenting in general – is hard even when it isn’t hard. Even if everything goes according to plan (and that’s a big if), it’s still insanely tough. It involves so many working parts and requires so many things to go smoothly: at the very least, you need to have a decent latch, a good milk supply, cooperative nipples, and an affinity for sitting still for a very, very long time. Despite having all (or most) of these things, my first two weeks of breastfeeding were, without any exaggeration, the hardest two weeks of my life.

From the start, we were really lucky with Baby Bee; she was a champion latcher right out of the gate. I remember the lactation consultant coming to see us after she was born, once we had settled into our hospital room, and saying “Oh, wow! Did you take breastfeeding courses while pregnant? You guys are doing really well!” Nope, I hadn’t. I mean, there had been a fifteen minute segment at the end of one of the birthing classes we took, which I paid moderate attention to, but this amazing display of newborn nursing was all her. This was the one and only aspect of nursing that came pain-free. Good latch: check.

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When we got home, everything was still going smoothly. She was still latching well and nursing regularly. And then something happened that I had read about endless but, it would turn out, was no where near prepared for: my milk came in. And, when I say came in, I mean it came in. Imagine, if you will, lying down for a nap in the early evening and waking up an hour later to find that your boobs have exploded to the point that you suddenly have stretch mark on your nipples (sorry for the overshare). In the matter of an hour, you have become a porn star with the biggest, hardest boobs in the history of boobs, you’ve spiked a low-grade fever, and you feel like you’re going to be sick to your stomach. Welcome to the world of breastfeeding.

I immediately ran into the living room screaming “Fix it! FIIIX IIIT!!” at my husband who, having never had milk come in himself, was at a complete loss. After a quick google search, he had me sitting on the couch with warm compresses on my breasts (these were amazing), the breast pump hooked up and ready to go (we use a double electric one, which gloriously emptied both breasts in no time), a cold cloth on my neck, and a giant glass of ice water in my hand. It was brutal, but after that first pump-and-dump session, everything became manageable again. It took a few more of those pumping sessions – and lots of cold compresses after nursing – but my milk supply leveled out and, after a day or so, we were back on the path to smooth sailing. Good milk supply: check, check, check.

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That was until what I like to refer to as the Great Nipple Destruction of 2016. After my milk came in, we became a nursing powerhouse, with the Baby Bee nursing every hour and a half, often cluster feeding for hours on end in the evenings. Luckily, I didn’t have any issues related to the shape/size of my nipples but I did discover that I have insanely wimpy nipples. There was massive chafing, some bleeding, and even scabbing. If it hadn’t been for my beloved nipple butter and lanolin, I may not have made it through the week alive. But after a few intense days of nipple boot camp and constantly applying my arsenal of boob creams (and, let’s be honest, pain killers), my nipples toughened up and I was finally able to breastfeed pain free. Nipples of steel: check.

The part that I found – and still find – the hardest about breastfeeding is the long hours of sitting that are required. Growing up, I’d only ever looked after formula and bottle-fed babies, so I had absolutely no exposure to breastfeeding or what it entailed during the first few weeks home. What I quickly discovered is that breastfeeding a baby takes a LOT longer than bottle feeding. Breastfed babies often cluster feed, which is when they nurse for extended periods of time without pause or nurse many times back-to-back. For the first six weeks of her life, Baby Bee LOVED to cluster feed. Every night. For up to four hours in a row. As someone who used to love to get out for long strolls every evening when I was pregnant, this killed me. It was the one of the only aspects of caring for a newborn that brought me to tears on multiple occasions.

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Over time, however, it became routine and I started to look forward to our evenings in because it meant quality time with my husband, hanging out on the couch and watching a movie together. To be honest, since bringing Baby Bee home, we hadn’t had very much (okay, any) time together and I was finding that really tough. Cluster feeding forced us to take a time out, relax, and enjoy a few hours together every night. So, while I still sometimes found it hard to be stuck inside on a beautiful night, I was also grateful to have that time with my husband back and learned to cherish it. Affinity for long hours on the couch: check.

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Mama Bear Recipes, Postpartum & Mama Care

Why Smoothies are a Morning Must-Have for Me

Mornings can be tough. Baby bee is teething (again) right now, so it’s not unusual for me to sleepwalk my way through the first half of the day. To be honest, I’d be quite happy to autopilot my way through meals or skip them all together if it weren’t for a pesky thing called hypoglycemia. Essentially, my body is a little too good at sucking the sugar out of my bloodstream so, if I’m not careful, I’m prone to extreme drops in blood sugar levels and some pretty trippy episodes complete with anxiety, dizziness, major irritability, and sweating from places you didn’t know you could sweat from. Not exactly ideal when you’re caring for and exclusively breastfeeding an infant.

The magical solution? … I wish! There isn’t one. I have to be really diligent about watching what I eat and being sure to eat more often. As all new moms and dads know, I don’t usually have time to do anything “more often” – let alone prep and eat a meal every 2 hours – so I opt for eating smarter when I do have time to eat. One of the ways that I do that is by making sure that I have a fully-loaded smoothie first thing every morning. The key to managing hypoglycemia is to make sure that you load up on fat and protein to give you long-term fuel, and fiber to help slow the absorption of sugars in the short term. So, I make sure to include lots of plant-based healthy fats and protein, as well as fruits relatively low in sugar and high in fiber.

While I change it up a bit everyday, the main ingredients stay the same. I always make sure to include some berries (low in sugar and packed with antioxidants to help my poor mom brain out), coconut oil (healthy fat to keep me going), protein (this week, it’s in the form of natural peanut butter and greek yogurt, but I also love chocolate Vega protein powder), and milk or a milk alternative. Depending on what ingredients I choose for the day, I may also add a sweetener (like stevia or a bit of raw honey), something creamy (like avocado or a banana), and greens (spinach is my favourite because it blends up really well).

This week’s recipe (in the image below) is fully-loaded with 500 calories, 18g of protein, 24g of (healthy) fats, 7g of dietary fiber, and loads of vitamins and minerals.

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Since adding these jam-packed smoothies to my morning routine, I’ve noticed a HUGE difference in my energy levels throughout the day: I don’t need to rely on coffee to kick off my day (okay, sometimes it’s still required!), I no longer have a mid-morning crash, and I’m more likely to keep my eating on-track for the rest of the day, with no more binge-eating to compensate for a mid-afternoon crash.

The amazing thing about smoothies is that – for all the benefits they deliver – they only take 5 minutes to make and clean up, you can toss in whatever you have lying around, they’re great for on the go, and they guarantee that – no matter what the day throws at you – at least you had a good breakfast! Here’s to making it through the morning in one piece!