Prepping our flat diapers

We got a variety of things to use as flat diapers:

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  • 12 OsoCozy birdseye flats from Amazon
  • 5 cotton flannel receiving blankets from Ross (which we may or may not use as diapers)
  • 12 Room Essentials flour sack towels from Target
  • 6 cotton receiving blankets from my mom (again, we may or may not use as diapers)
  • 5 handmade pieces (cotton/poly blend?) from Tommy’s mom

I’ve decided to hand wash and line dry our diapers to save money (we share one washer and dryer with 8 other units). I considered boiling the flats to prep them, but finally went with hand washing so I could establish a routine and see what worked well and what didn’t.

20150824_100142We bought a 5 gallon bucket and plunger from Home Depot, and Tommy drilled a hole in the lid so I could wash without get splashed. I didn’t bother with the lid during the prepping phase because the diapers are basically clean. When they are soiled with urine and poop that lid will be on securely! We are using the detergent brand, Foca (it has a white baby seal on the outside of the bag). Some cloth diapering families are strict about using cloth
diaper specific detergents, others aren’t. I read enough articles and discussion threads where people used regular detergent (as long as there were no fabric softeners in them) without any problems. We bought an 11 lb bag of Foca from Target for $8.59. Besides being inexpensive, Foca contains a water softener, which is great for us because we have very hard water.

Wash routine:

I looked at a variety of websites for wash routines, but I found this one from Fluff Love University (Krawford & Hecht, 2014-2015) to be the simplest and easiest to follow. To summarize:

  1. Cold water rinse: 50 plunges, wait 5 min, 50 more plunges, dump water (I skipped this step because the diapers were new)
  2. First hot water wash with detergent: 50 plunges, let the diapers sit for 10 min, 50 more plunges, dump water
  3. Second hot water wash with detergent: 50 plunges, let the diapers sit for 10 min, 50 more plunges, dump water
  4. Cold water rinse: 50 plunges, wait 5 min, 50 more plunges, dump water

What worked:

  • Load size of 12 flats:
    20150824_111401
    Drying flour sack towels on my rack from Costco ($25)

    This allowed me to fill the bucket maybe 3/4 full with water and diapers and gave me enough space to stir everything around with the plunger. This amount also fits perfectly on my drying rack.

  • Plunging wasn’t as difficult on my arms as I thought it would be! If anything, wringing out the clothes required the most work.
  • Overall the process required minimal time. I’d say a prepping load took about 25-30 min, but most of that time was letting the diapers soak in the hot water. Actively plunging, draining, and wringing out the diapers took about 5-10 minutes.

What didn’t work:

  • The detergent amount:
    20150824_101823
    Half cup of Foca = too many suds!

    According to the Foca bag, you should use ½ cup of detergent for about 2.5 gallons of water (half of my bucket). Well I used half a cup of detergent with 2/3 a bucket of water and it was still a suds explosion! I was so mad because I had to rinse out the diapers seven (yes seven) times to remove the detergent! On the next batch I only used 1/8 of a cup (2 Tbsp, as recommended by the Fluff Love article). This seemed to work a lot better! When in doubt, start out with too little detergent. You can always add more later!

  • I got lazy at the end and mixed the dark colored Ross receiving blankets with the light colored pieces from both of our moms. Mistake! The dark blue Ross blanket leaked dye everywhere. I’m thinking of using those blankets as burp cloths instead. I feel that more dye may leak out of them and I don’t want my baby to have a blue bottom. I hand rinsed each of these items to try to remove the blue dye and it seemed to come out fine.

I won’t know how well the diapers will work until our baby arrives. While I could test them for absorbency now, I can’t test how they will fit on my baby and how he reacts to them. I’m satisfied with the prep job that I did, and Tommy reminded me that the flats will get washed multiple times in the first couple of weeks anyway since babies go through so many diapers. So if the diapers aren’t at their peak absorbency yet, they will quickly get there!

 

Reference:

Krawford, K. & Hecht, D. (2014-2015). Hand Washing Cloth Diapers. Fluff Love University. Retrieved from http://www.fluffloveuniversity.com/special-circumstances/handwashing-coin-op-and-portable-washers/hand-washing-cloth-diapers/

 

Why I still need date nights during pregnancy

All of my pregnancy phone apps say that a woman’s sex drive tends to increase when she is pregnant. Somehow my body missed that memo. As I’ve put on more weight, gotten aches and pains, and just want to sleep every chance I get, it’s become more challenging to spend quality time with my hubby. Not only that, but everyone else wants to hang out with us because they feel that it’s their last opportunity before the baby comes. Every week I check my calendar and it’s booked with activities. While a younger, more fit me would have been thrilled by this, I now find myself getting exhausted just trying to keep track of everything.

Since living together, Tommy and I have made an effort to have one date a week. Most of the time it has happened in the past. However, it has become more of a rarity now that I’m pregnant. I feel tired and he feels overwhelmed by baby preparations. The focus has shifted off of us and onto the baby boy we are going to meet in three months. While we haven’t been arguing more than usual, I noticed that our lack of quality time together was negatively affecting our relationship.

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This past Friday, we made it a point to have a date night. I wasn’t feeling up for it at first, but I knew that I would regret not putting in the effort. Our date nights aren’t anything fancy. We usually walk to a local (non-pricey!) restaurant, stuff our faces, walk home, and play some computer games together or watch a movie. While I’m sure that bores other people, we find it relaxing. For this date, we went to dinner at a small Japanese place about three blocks from us. We hadn’t been in a while, particularly because we always seem to want to go there when it’s closed. Luckily they were open this time. I don’t think I have seen Tommy that happy in a long time! I had him choose 2 dishes for us to eat (since we like to swap our food) and he gobbled up his portions so fast! If there’s one thing that will put Tommy in a good mood, it’s filling his stomach with tasty food that he didn’t have to cook. As we walked home, there was a bounce in his step. We then played some computer games, cuddled, and went to bed.

The next couple of days his brother was in town and Tommy and I were busy doing separate things. However, in the short times that we were together, we seemed much happier and more grateful for each other. I personally was able to enjoy spending time with others because I was happier. It no longer felt like a chore that was taking me away from my own relationship.

I’m sure date nights will become even more challenging to accomplish once we have a new baby, but they will also become more important. We need to remain a team, and spending a few hours each week go a long way to ensure that happens.
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Baby proofing: TV stand / media center

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A small sample of the mess of wires.

Before, our TV and (like 10 of) Tommy’s gadgets were on a simple TV stand that Tommy made. It worked very well and didn’t take up much space. The one problem: the massive amount of wires behind it – so I put a piece of black cloth between the two boards on the bottom to hide them. My mind felt so much better!

With a baby on the way, however, all of our things were still too accessible. I found a used media cabinet on craigslist for $40 (an Ikea Benno model). Although it is larger than our old stand, particular in width, it contains all of our gadgets nicely. We can even fit a computer inside! Now the last step we need to take is to secure the doors and the TV. I think the best solution will be to get one of those magnetic locks for the doors.

20150817_113934
Our “new” TV stand.

I didn’t want to get rid of the media stand that Tommy had built since it was still in perfect condition and holds some sentimental value. On Pinterest I saw a lot of ways in which people turned old bookcases into storage benches, and thought that would be the best use for this stand. While at the 99 cent store with my mom, I bought 2 bath mats and a fleece blanket (each was $2). I used the bath mats as a simple cushion and wrapped the fleece blanket around them as a cover. At first I tried to Velcro the mat edges down, but I quickly realized the adhesive was not strong enough to hold. However, the mats have non-slip material on the bottom and I just tucked the one edge of the mat between the bench and the wall to help keep it in place. Now we have more seating for our apartment and a shelf to store baby items that we plan on using in the living room.

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Our storage bench!

 

Why you should take an infant CPR/safety class

The repetition helps you learn

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an infant dummy

As a toddler teacher, I had to maintain certification in infant and child CPR. Although each re-certification class was 95% the same (every once in a while there would be a minor change due to some new research) the repetitiveness really helped me to remember what to do. Does that mean in an actual emergency I will be calm enough to think rationally and perform CPR properly? Probably not. But I honestly don’t know how else to prepare for such a situation. Additionally, being able to practice on a dummy is very helpful. Doing 30 quick chest compressions on an infant dummy with two fingers is tougher than you might think!

I’m sure you can easily find a free CPR class online or in a book if you don’t need to be certified and just want the information. I’ve also heard that there are phone apps that walk you step by step through the CPR process if ever you need to perform it on someone. I would say the only downside of these compared with an in-person class is that you can’t get your questions answered easily (if you have any). It’s a personal preference.

Your partner will finally take your concerns seriously!

My husband and I took a class to prep for the arrival of our baby. The infant CPR/safety class was an in-person class offered by our hospital, UCLA Santa Monica. It cost us $75 to participate (that fee covered both of us), and it was not for a certification. Honestly, the biggest benefit of us taking this class was that Tommy finally took baby proofing before the baby arrives seriously! I’ve been nesting like crazy these past couple of months, and I felt that Tommy never believed me when I said we need to start baby proofing now. “Oh but the baby isn’t here yet” and “It won’t be able to open the cabinets for a long time” were common things he would say to me. Our CPR teacher, who also happened to be a volunteer firefighter, told us the complete opposite. Baby proof now! Especially while you still have the time and energy to do so. Sure your baby may not be able to open the cabinet under the sink right away, but he will be studying your every move and mentally understand how it is done. You always need to plan for the future and be a few steps ahead of your child. Children are so incredibly smart and yet easily underestimated. If your partner is dismissing your desire to baby proof before baby comes, make him or her go with you to a class!

On a side note, a similar incident happened to us a few months ago. Southern California means earthquakes. We had experienced a couple of minor earthquakes, so I wanted to assemble an emergency kit especially since Los Angeles is overdue for a large earthquake. Anyway, I was in the 99 cent store with Tommy and my sister. She and I were looking for supplies and of course Tommy didn’t feel like it was necessary. One of the other shoppers commented that my sis and I were being smart and recommended some items for us to get. It turns out he was a former firefighter for Los Angeles. Tommy quickly changed his tune and started to help us assemble a stash! He even asked the former firefighter a few questions as well! I’m not sure if this is more of a guy thing or what. Maybe they need someone more macho to give them the information. I’m sure saying, “a buff firefighter told me to do this” sounds a lot more impressive to his male friends than “yeah…my wife made me.”

20150817_104047[1]
My face shield is in the little red pouch.
*It may be a tad overkill, but I have a face shield that I carry around on my key chain in case I ever need to perform CPR on a stranger. The face shield has a one way valve on it so you can breathe air into the victim, but any of their bodily fluids can’t come into contact with you. I got my for free when I participated in a certification class through work, but they sell them on Amazon for a relatively low price. Just make sure you ordered a real face shield with a one way valve and not the practice ones they distribute during a CPR class. Often in a real emergency the person may vomit or have blood by his or her mouth. Seriously think about whether a stranger’s blood or vomit would deter you from performing CPR. If it might, consider getting a face shield. Odds are you will never need it. But in the rare event you do, you will feel better knowing that you protected yourself while trying to save someone else’s life, rather than compromising your own safety or choosing not to perform CPR when someone needed it.

Why use cloth diapers: Saving money

At first we were going to go the disposable route because that’s just what most people use and picture when they hear the word “diaper.” The cheapest and most convenient disposables we could find were at Costco (Kirkland brand). I love Costco and anything from Kirkland. The quality has always been great and the price has been good as well. I’ve changed a lot of children that use Kirkland diapers and wipes and they seem to hold. I’ve personally used Kirkland wipes on myself when I want to feel refreshed. They stay moist for a long time, have a nice mild scent, and the material is thick and soft. That being said, I’m an adult. A baby’s bottom is more sensitive.

One day I calculated the average cost of using Costco diapers. It came out to $1336.33 for 2 years, and that’s without factoring in the cost of wipes. I thought that number was ridiculous, especially for diapers that are used once and then thrown away. It’s like paying rent on your space in the landfill. I’m fortunate enough to be in a situation where I plan on staying home with our baby for at least the first year. I know being a mom a full time job, but I also want to cut our expenses since I will not be bringing in any additional income. That’s where cloth diapering comes in.

Cloth Diapering Supplies

Most websites about cloth diapers say that for a newborn, you want to have a stash of at minimum 24 diapers, assuming you will wash the diapers every other day (newborns need between 10-12 diaper changes per day). Cloth diapering can get a bit pricey if you buy the fancy ones and use fancy detergent and have a coin laundry machine like we do. But it can also be really inexpensive. The cheapest option, which I will be trying out, is to use flat diapers with diaper covers.

flat diapers from amazon website
OsoCozy flats
osocozy prefolds from toys r us website
Osocozy prefolds

Based on dozens of websites I’ve looked at on cloth diapering, you really want to go for flat diapers that are made out of all cotton, bamboo, or hemp. Cotton seems to be the cheapest and easiest to find. At first I was going to go with prefolds (the same as flats basically but they’ve already been prefolded and sewn together somewhat so you have less folding to do yourself). Prefolds are thicker in the middle and thinner on the sides, but the length and width dimensions of a prefold are much smaller than that of a flat. I’ve decided to try flats first for a few reasons:

  1. Flats are more versatile in terms of the types of folds I can make and what I can use them for after diapering
  2. Flats are easier to wash and dry quicker than prefolds because they open up to a single layer and
  3. The same flats can be used from birth through potty training (prefolds often come in at least two sizes).

Some flat diaper options include:

  • OsoCozy Birdseye Flat Unbleached Diapers off of Amazon ($19.25/12 pack)
  • Flour sack towels (100% cotton, about 27” x 27” to 30” x 30”…We looked all over and finally found them for $1 each at Target in-store.)
  • Receiving blankets (again all cotton, somewhere between 27” x 27” to 30” x 30”)
flip diaper cover from amazon
“flip” brand diaper cover

I expect that I will be trying all three at some point. Both my mom and Tommy’s mom have given us old cloth diapers and a few receiving blankets. Our first order of Osocozy flat diapers also arrived in the mail today! I haven’t personally tested out any of these options to compare them yet. When I’ve assembled our stash of flats I will post an update on how to prep them and how our baby likes them!

Now flat diapers are good at absorbing urine and poop, but they are not waterproof, so you will want some diaper covers. I’ve heard that 4-6 covers is the minimum you want to go with for a newborn. The cover can hold the flat diaper in place, or you can buy a Snappi or diaper pins to hold the flat diaper together. Many companies make waterproof covers out of PUL (polyurethane laminate), but you can also find covers made out of wool which tend to be pricier but are made out of all natural materials. Anyway, if you go for the covers made out of PUL then you can wipe them clean with a diaper wipe in between changes (unless poop gets on them). That way, you can use the same cover a few times before giving it a thorough wash. We will be trying out a little bit of both. I’m looking into Alva, Thirsties, and Flip covers at the moment since they all have pretty good ratings on Amazon. Tommy’s mom is also giving us one of his old wool diaper covers so we can see how that goes as well!

Cost Breakdown

Assuming you get the minimum recommended amount of supplies…

  • 24 flat diapers (say we get two packs of the OsoCozy flats at $19.25/dozen)
  • 6 Flip diaper covers ($14.95/cover)
  • 1 set of Snappis (Tommy found a pack of 3 Snappis on ebay for $2!)

Cost: $130.20

Obviously, with cloth diapers you have to wash them and store them, so that can cause the cost to rise by a little or a lot, depending on how you want to go about cleaning them. I will be hand washing ours and hanging them to dry. We live in an apartment where our water and trash is paid for, so the only extra costs for me would be more laundry detergent and some accessories.

  • Laundry detergent: $70 for a 2 year supply
  • Wet bag: $7.99
  • Pail liner: $15.99
  • Bucket: $10?
  • (Optional) Diaper sprayer: $44.95

Total cost of cloth diapering with hand washing and line drying for 2 years: $279.13
Total cost of disposable diapers for 2 years: $1336.33
Savings: $1057.20 over 2 years!!!

Ways to further save include using cloth wipes, reusing your cloth diapers for subsequent children, and even buying gently used cloth diapers online. It may sound gross to some people, but most cloth diapering families have very strict washing routines and of course you can wash them again once you buy them. We also saw some new diaper covers made in China on ebay for about $4 each. We ordered one to check out the quality and see how it holds up compared to the rest of our diaper cover stash. It is the Alva brand. Even if you buy all new supplies, cloth diapering is a sweet deal! Ultimately, the monetary savings are what sold me on cloth diapering.

Bottom line: If you want to save a ton of money, use cloth diapers!

 

Why use cloth diapers: The environment

Many people will say that cloth diapers are more eco-friendly because you are using something once, throwing it into a landfill, and letting it sit there for the next 500 years to decompose. Others argue that the water and power used to clean cloth diapers has the same negative impact on the environment as disposables. Honestly, I’m sure both arguments are true to an extent. I plan to make cloth diapering eco-friendly for my family by hand washing and line drying the diapers. For busy families however, this isn’t always an option, and that’s ok! When I was a toddler teacher, I spent at least a third of my day (probably closer to half actually) changing diapers, mopping the floor, and picking up toys. I would come home, plop on the couch, and literally not move while my hubby would want to do something active since he had a desk job. Our place was also a mess because the last thing I wanted to do was think about cleaning when I got home. I get it. If hand washing isn’t for you then don’t do it. You’re not going to impress anyone by saying you hand wash your diapers. If anything people will look at you like you’re from another planet. (And in the off chance you do end up impressing someone by your hand washing, you might want to re-evaluate that person’s sanity!)

If you do decide to hand wash, or at least line-dry (that part doesn’t usually require extra work!), then cloth diapering is arguably more eco-friendly. You will probably use less water, your diapers will get clean faster since you don’t have to wait for an entire machine load of them to pile up, and the sunlight will naturally bleach your diapers to help keep stains at bay. Personally, hand washing will save me a few extra trips up and down the stairs to get to our apartment complex’s one shared washer and dryer. With hand washing, I can do it on my own time and not be worried that a neighbor is waiting to yank my wet things out the second the wash is done so they can put their dirty laundry into the machine (sadly, I speak from experience). Also, when your baby becomes a toddler, he or she can get involved by helping you to hang the freshly washed diapers. Children love to help out around the house. Anything you are doing, they want to do as well!

Bottom line: If you are doing cloth diapering solely to be eco-friendly, then consider hand washing and/or line drying. Otherwise, don’t stress yourself out.

 

Why use cloth diapers: Better for your baby’s bum

(I just noticed that people use a lot of “B” words for that area, “Butt”, “Bottom”, “Bum”, and “Behind.” Maybe the “B” reminds them of butt cheeks?)

Are cloth diapers actually better for your baby than disposables? I personally think this answer is both yes and no.

You should check your baby’s diaper at least every two hours while he or she is awake! This has been a rule at every early childhood center that I have worked for or visited. If you discover that your child has peed or pooped before the two hour mark, then change the diaper (cloth or disposable), even if you are positive the diaper can hold more urine without leaking. In this respect, cloth diapering is better for your baby because the baby feels the wetness and the diaper will probably not be as absorbent as a disposable, sort of holding you accountable to the two hour diaper change rule.

Another argument many people make is that disposable diapers have chemicals in them which aren’t good for your baby. I haven’t researched all of the scientific evidence though so I can’t comment on what chemicals are in disposable diapers and if they put your baby at risk in any way. There are disposable brands such as the Honest Company, Seventh Generation, and Earth’s Best that claim to be free of chlorine, dyes, and other additives.

Ultimately though, it depends on the parent. If you’re the type of parent that uses cloth diapers but doesn’t wash them properly (either by hand or machine), then your baby will probably get a rash and would be better off in disposables. On the other hand, because disposable diapers tend to leave the baby feeling dry for longer, you might be tempted to change your baby’s diaper less often, also encouraging a rash to develop. Personally, I’m lazy when it comes to changing things like the trash bag (Tommy nags me about it all the time. Honestly, if the trash bothers you so much, just take it out yourself!). Anyway, I often won’t do something unless it’s an impending necessity. Will I change my baby’s disposable diaper every two hours even though I know it can last me 4 hours? Maybe, maybe not. Will I hand wash his stash of cloth diapers when I see I only have a few left? You bet I will! I only do laundry when I’m running low on my own underwear, so it only makes sense for me to wash my babies things when his stash gets low as well.

Bottom line: Go with the diapering option that will cause you to put a clean diaper on your baby as often as possible!

 

Bad body odor and other smells

Pregnancy is a miracle, a beautiful stinky miracle filled with all sorts of unladylike bodily functions. You can’t be pregnant without throwing up at least once, or farting in front of a family member or close friend. (I personally lucked out in the morning sickness department. For about 3 weeks every bit of food seemed disgusting, except my sourdough toast with butter and jelly. It was quite depressing actually since I love to eat. Anyway, I only threw up once when my appetite came back, and that’s because I ate half a bag of Doritos and 8 hot peppers.)

What hit me hard was heartburn and gas. I can’t even begin to explain how uncomfortable it was to be bloated, or how glorious it felt to pass some very loud gas. My husband was shocked. His eyes would bug out as I would belch or fart and let out a sigh of relief. He couldn’t believe it. Now honestly, everyone burps, farts, poops, etc…I just usually did it alone in the restroom. I now do these things freely at home, regardless of what room I’m in or whether or not my husband is around, unless we have company over of course. And I still try to control myself in public as much as possible.

At this point I’m 26 weeks into my pregnancy. While the gassiness has eased up a bit, I’m now being plagued with really bad body odor. Again, everyone sweats and smells to a certain degree, unless you’re like my husband who miraculously never stinks when he sweats, even without deodorant. Anyway, I normally have a certain odor when I sweat, and the average deodorant leaves me smelling fresh. However, the crazy pregnancy hormones mixed with some extra hot and humid weather has left me smelling repulsive. Even right after I shower I can smell my stinky self. Not only is the odor stronger than it was pre-pregnancy, but it actually smells completely different (and not in a good way)!

My deodorant doesn’t help and if anything, it makes me feel ickier. I found a variety of recipes online that people have come up with for deodorants you can make at home baking soda as an ingredient. Personally, the baking soda recipes left me with a rash (it wasn’t painful at all, just unsightly), so I had to go deodorant free for about a week until the rash cleared up. I’ve now resorted to putting baby powder under my arms (something I discovered in one of my online mommy groups, though I can’t remember which one it was). This has helped me to control the smell and also leaves me feeling dry. Although the body odor is still there, it’s strength has been greatly reduced!

I expect there will be an interesting follow up post to this one as I near the end of my pregnancy and go through labor and delivery. Apparently heartburn and nausea can come back, diarrhea may be a sign that you are beginning labor, and it’s common to poop (yes poop!) during delivery. All smelly and all 100% natural! Somehow I don’t think cleaning poopy cloth diapers will bother me at all now…

How to pick a convertible carseat

TLDR: Just buy a Diono Rainier from Amazon. You’ll be making a fine choice at 1% of the effort.

Since we are getting ready to receive a newborn, I volunteered to look into carseats. Hospitals won’t discharge a baby to you until you have one installed and inspected, so this is a required task.

Infant vs. convertible

If you just Google “infant carseat”, you’ll get infant-only carseats. These do have benefits. They are cheaper, lightweight, and can double as a napper in a pinch. Unfortunately your baby will also outgrow these in a year.

I didn’t want to buy another one in a year, and I doubted we were going to remove the carseat very frequently (we live in a city with narrow parking spaces), so we decided to focus our search on convertible carseats.

These carseats are heavier, bigger, and more expensive, but are designed to take your child from infancy through early childhood.

Which convertible carseat?

There’s hundreds of different models, and hundreds of variables you could optimize. But there’s one factor that should make your choice very simple:

Rear facing is 5 times safer than forward facing. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends keeping children rear-facing until at least two years of age. In Sweden, children are kept rear facing until age 4 by law, and they have near zero fatality rates for 0-6  year old children.

Swedish carseats are designed to be rear-facing for much longer, and have weight limits of up to 55lbs. But the vast majority of convertible American carseats are only designed to carry a child up to 40lbs in rear-facing.

Even if you could import a Swedish carseat, they would not be legal to use in the U.S., since they have not passed the American NHTSA safety tests.

Extended Rear Facing in the U.S.

Thankfully there are two brands that make carseats for the American market with high rear facing weight limits. They are Clek and Diono, and they make a few models that allow rear-facing until 50lbs.

The Clek carseats are more expensive, made in Canada (a good thing), and require an expensive infant insert to work for newborns. They also have a lower upper weight limit (for eventual forward facing). If money no object I might buy that and also the infant insert.

The Diono carseats are more affordable, made in China (eh), but do fit newborns without any additional accessories. They also have a higher upper weight limit for eventual forward facing. It overall seemed to be a better compromise for us, and we bought that. Specifically, we got a purple one.

Did we make the right choice? I’m not sure. After all, you have to decide before your child is even born, and probably before you have any experience with children or carseats. But I can sleep at night knowing I did through research to prioritize my child’s safety.

Vasovagal syncope during pregnancy

What is vasovagal syncope?

According to my OB, Amy Stoddard, vasovagal syncope is not very common during pregnancy but is still considered a normal symptom. It is something that is easily managed and the phase should pass unless you have experienced episodes before pregnancy. Episodes can occur when you need to use the restroom, cough, or experience stress. Your vasovagal nerve becomes stimulate, causing your blood pressure to drop and you to feel faint. (personal communication, July 13, 2015)

The Pregnancy Corner website states:

Vasovagal syncope: A common cause of fainting episodes, vasovagal syncope is caused by a chemical imbalance. The vagus nerve is a cranial nerve that runs from the brain to the abdomen. Stimulating the vagus nerve releases a chemical that slows the heartbeat and dilates the blood vessels. When this happens the brain does not receive enough blood, and this can cause a pregnant woman to faint. Vasovagal syncope can be brought on by pain, stress, straining during urination or bowel movement, , dehydration or anemia. Symptoms of vasovagal syncope include nausea; feeling warm or lightheaded; sweating; become pale; and hyperventilating. This condition is more common in pregnant women. Sitting down and putting the head between the knees can help prevent fainting when the symptoms of vasovagal syncope begin. (Lee, 2015).

How to take care of yourself during an episode

Soon after I reached the halfway point in my pregnancy, I began to experience vasovagal episodes. Thinking about it, this makes sense because your blood pressure is lowest during mid-pregnancy due to the increase in blood volume in your body. Therefore, episodes are more likely. For me, they usually occurred within an hour or so of eating breakfast (maybe 2-3 hours after waking up). I would suddenly get hot and sweaty, very uncomfortable in my chest and abdomen area, lightheaded, and have tunnel vision. The frequency of my episodes peaked around the 5th month of pregnancy. I had about 3 per week.

The most important thing you can do is listen to your body, especially during pregnancy. As soon as you begin to feel faint, hot, tired, etc. do something that will make you feel better, and do it immediately. Now is not the time to push yourself or to keep up with other people. During my episodes, all I could think about was lying down, so that’s what I did. I had to take care of myself in that moment before I could ask my doctor about it or try to find an explanation elsewhere. Lying down on your left side is the best position to maximize blood flow to your brain and to your baby, the same position you should try to sleep in as pregnancy progresses! You want to try to prevent falling down and potentially injuring yourself or your baby. If you can’t lie down, sit with your head between your knees or ask for help.

Next, there is a good chance that after a few episodes, you will get nervous and want to ask your doctor. Do it. That’s what they are there for. It can be very helpful to think about your episodes and see if you can identify a pattern. Are you always doing the same activity when the episodes begin? Is it a particular time of day? For me, my episodes happened around the same time of day, particularly when I was about to have a bowel movement. (TMI? Maybe. But if you’re pregnant or know a pregnant person, then things such as passing gas, belching, stretch marks, and bad body odor become commonplace. You’re growing another person, so cut yourself some slack!) Anyway, although my OB couldn’t give me medicine or an exact date when my episodes would pass, her reassurance that everything was ok made me feel loads better. I wasn’t crazy, I just needed to identify my trigger and be prepared to lie down at the onset of an episode.

My craziest episodes…

Most of my episodes happened while I was still at home, so they never amounted to much. However, the few episodes that did occur when I was out were definitely more severe. I think in these situations I was more anxious because I wasn’t at home, so the intensity and duration was greater than my usual experiences.

  • Tommy and I were in the car (thankfully he was driving), when I started to get uncomfortable. At first I thought it was the car seat, but then I quickly experienced light sensitivity, tunnel vision, and of course I felt hot and sweaty. This episode made me panic because it came on so quickly. It probably lasted for 5-10 minutes until I was able to get home and lie down. At the time it felt like much longer. The anxiety definitely made things worse, but Tommy was extremely calm and supportive of me. He immediately took me home, helped me up the stairs, and called my sister to “babysit” me just in case when he had to leave for work. After lying down I felt fine, just very tired. I probably stayed in bed for the next few hours. I was physically and emotionally drained.
  • I had just dropped Tommy off at work and was driving home alone when I became uncomfortable again, as I had in the previous episode. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it home unless I addressed the situation first, so I pulled into a Rite Aid parking lot, blasted the AC, reclined my seat, and lied down on my left side. I stayed there for about five minutes when I realized I had to make it to the restroom or go in my pants. As I was hurrying out of the car to the store I had to stop and sit briefly with my head between my legs. At this time I felt embarrassed in case anyone was watching my sweaty, smelly self. This embarrassment actually made me feel better. I realized that if I could feel embarrassed in this moment instead of asking for help, then I was able to take care of myself. It kept me calm. I then went to the restroom and felt much better. I sat in there for another 10 minutes until I felt safe enough to drive home.
The dreaded “glu-cola.” Drinking it cold helps!
  • At 24 weeks I had to go in for my glucose screen, which tests for gestational diabetes. Basically, you fast for 2 hours, drink this really sugary drink, wait and hour, and then have your blood drawn. My drink tasted like flat orange soda mixed with mouthwash. My tummy wasn’t happy, but at least it tasted like familiar stuff that you would normally put in your mouth! Anyway, as I was waiting to have my blood drawn, I of course had to have an episode. Luckily, it was fairly empty in there and I was quiet so no one really paid attention went I put my hair up and my head down. Luckily I had a thin tank top on under my sweater so I didn’t have to be too exposed to cool myself off! Although it lasted for about 10-15 minutes, I again felt that sense of embarrassment so I was able to stay calm. Also, I was surrounded by medical professionals anyway. If I had to faint, this would be the safest place to do it.

I’m now 6 months pregnant and the episodes have waned. I did experience a mild one yesterday, but that was the first one in almost 2 weeks! At this point, my blood pressure should be on the rise again, so hopefully the worst of these episodes is behind me.

Reference:

Lee, D. (2015). Dizziness During Pregnancy. Pregnancy Corner: Your Complete Pregnancy Guide. Retrieved from http://www.pregnancycorner.com/pregnant/pregnancy-symptoms/dizziness.html