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 stimulated, causing your blood pressure to drop and you to feel faint.

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

Making room for baby

During my psycho nesting phase I completely rearranged and cleaned the bedroom. Well almost, the closet is still a mess, but it’s only on the sides where no one goes anyway. Since we live in a one bedroom apartment and don’t plan on moving to a larger place anytime soon, I wanted to find a way to make space for the baby without Tommy and I feeling cramped.

Basically, I divided the room in half. The far wall is for the baby and the closer side near the hallway and restroom is for the adults.

The baby’s side of the room.

I’ve slowly been saving small plastic bottles and empty Kleenex boxes to make sensory toys for the baby. It’s a bit premature, but I’m hoping that by having things ready I will be less tempted to spend money on overpriced toys from a store. Tommy found the Baby Einstein board book in Goodwill for $2 the other day. It looked brand new. I just wiped it down with a baby wipe when I brought it home and let it air dry. I also found this shoe rack in our alley (4 of them actually)! I cleaned them and will use one to store the baby’s toys.

The baby’s play space.

Our Ikea dresser used to be where the pack ‘n play is now. I was excited to discover that it fit in our closet as long as I rearranged some things and donated a few clothes that I no longer wear. I bought the Summer Infant Four-Sided Changing Pad off of Amazon for $17. I would have liked one of those Keekaroo Peanut changing pads, but those cost about $100 so it wasn’t practical for us. I’m hoping the pad I bought is actually waterproof and easy to clean as promised. I will not be using any changing pad covers because I don’t need the added laundry. I thought about just putting out a towel on our bed for diaper changes, but I’m pretty messy and klutzy so I think that would result in poop getting on our bed and me having to wash the bed sheets more often.

Our diaper changing station.

Anyway, at the head of the changing pad I have a space for diapers and wipes. We may go the cloth diaper route because it’s cheaper, but we aren’t 100% sure yet. Tommy no longer wanted this black and white hat so I tied it to the closet bar. I will use it to store diaper cream and sunblock for the baby. I will probably store more baby essentials (spare onesies, socks, etc.) in the cloth pouches hanging from the bar on the right side in case the baby needs a quick change of clothes due to an explosive diaper. We received two Threshold duvet cover sets from Target as wedding gifts last year, and these pouches contained the pillow cases. On top of the pad but under the top closet shelf I attached a loofah and a small mirror. When I was a toddler teacher my old center had a mirror on top of the changing tables so the children could see themselves. I think it’s a nice way to interact with your child while changing his or her diaper, and hopefully it makes the baby a bit less upset during the process. I plan on putting a small trash can/used diaper bin at the foot of the changing pad.