Thursday, August 23, 2012

Preparing for the First Day of School

Bus.jpg So you might think we are talking pencils and erasers ..but we are talking about the emotions that come pouring out when you see your little one get on the bus for the first time. Everyone says "time flies" and you "won't believe how quickly it goes" but you never actually understand it until that first day of school. 

My daughter attended preschool from age 3 to 5 and then half day kindergarten last year so we still had a great majority of the day together seeing as how each only lasted about 2.5 hours. We still had time to eat lunch, play games, go the park and all those other things we have become so accustomed to doing over the last 6 years. Over the summer I found myself thinking "it will be really strange with no "MOM" being shouted from the living room to the upstairs all day ..everyday. 

So how do you prepare for this ? I think the best way to prepare yourself for the milestones where your children become more independent is to embrace every moment you have with them. As cliche as it might sound they are only little once. I can recall several hundred times of thinking ..I have to get this done and then I will play with you. But in reality all those "things" that seem so important really are not. Now that she is gone during the day there is plenty of time to vacuum and fold clothes ; and I miss hearing "MOM" at all hours of the day. 

So I made her a promise before the first day of school. When the bus drops her off I clock out of my work routine. I have 8 hours to get all the work done that I need to and the evenings are "our time". So as your little one grows and you start thinking about the days when you will be dropping them off at preschool or school remember to make the most of the days when you got to keep them home. 

Prepare yourself and your children for the first day of school by making each day leading up to it and after a memory to cherish. 

Written by Amber Scollick Mother & Owner of Beana Baby Boutique

Monday, August 6, 2012

Latex Allergies & Cloth Diapers

A few months ago I received an e-mail through my website from a customer who has a severe latex allergy asking me if I could tell her which cloth diapers she could use to avoid latex. I was at a loss as I knew nothing about latex, but, with a little research I got some great information I thought I'd pass along.

First thing, what exactly is latex? I found out that latex is a natural material that comes from trees.  It is commonly found in gloves, balloons, condoms, pacifiers/baby bottle nipples, elastic and spandex.  The concern here then would be diapers with exposed elastic at the waistbands or the leg area.

So I reached out to a few of my favorite manufacturers to find out which diapers are latex free. Here's what I found:

  1. Baby Kicks PUL and elastic bands are FREE of latex 
  2. Apple Cheeks products do contain latex in the elastic*
  3. Rumparooz products do contain latex in the leg elastic*
  4. Bummis products do contain latex in the elastic*
  5. Thirsties Duo Diaper, Duo Wrap & Diaper Covers, Inserts, Prefolds & Doublers are FREE of latex.  Their Duo Fabs & Duo AIOs do contain latex* 
*Though these products contain latex, the manufacturers said that the elastic is encased in fabric, so the use of these products remains at the discretion of the user.

For more information on Latex Allergies check out the American Latex Allergy Association.

I will reach out to my other manufacturers, and welcome input regarding any other products.  If you know of any other cloth diaper brands that are free of latex, please leave a comment so I can grow my list and help other folks!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cloth Diapering with a High Efficiency Washer

Laundering cloth diapers is of utmost concern to anyone who has decided to cloth diaper their child.  Besides the common questions about poop (How do I get it off? Will my clothes have poop on it? Etc.) the biggest question is "What does your wash routine look like?".  In my workshops I tell folks that water is the most important part of the wash routine - it needs to be at the right temperature, pH, and quantity.  By quantity I mean there needs to be a lot of it to properly rid the diapers of detergent that can cause build-up which will eventually lead to a cloth diapering mommy's worst nightmare - ammonia build-up and moisture repelling.

The first 2 years of my cloth diapering journey I had a great top loading machine - no HE here.  And it worked great!  So for those of you that have an old school top loader you're generally in the clear.  Recently I moved to a new home and we had to buy a new washing machine.  I was faced with the decision - do I buy a less efficient top loader just for my cloth diapers? Or, do I buy a high efficiency washer/dryer and get with the times already?  We decided to do the latter since we sure hope to have this washer & dryer for a lot longer than I'll be changing diapers.

First of all for those of you who are still rocking your old school washer and have no idea what the differences are here's a quick lesson.  Non-HE top loader machines can potentially fill the drum to the top with water.  Your clothes are completely submerged in the water and the drum agitates to launder your clothes.  With a front-loading HE machine the drum will never fill to the top so you clothes are never completely submerged.  Instead using smart technology it senses the weight of your laundry load, brings in just enough water such that when the drum spins the clothes passes through the water sufficiently.  That is, the water just sits at the bottom of the drum hence uses significantly less water than its counterpart, the old school top loader.  This can pose a problem to a cloth diaper load if the way this machine works isn't totally understood.

With all this in mind I shopped cautiously for a front loader and found an LG washer/dryer combo.  I checked out the features and spoke with a customer service person online and was thrilled at the features.  First of all, the washer has a "sanitary" pre-set that, no joke, in the manual says, "for washing cloth diapers".  I said, "what?!?!".  This setting automatically does an extra hot wash and a cold rinse.  Then I have the option to add the cold pre-wash and an extra rinse.  Yay!  There's even a dispenser for the pre-wash so if I want to put some vinegar in there to help kill some odors then I can without having to come back and put in detergent.  Also the extra hot wash is awesome because the washer has an internal water heater that boosts the water temperature... so I don't have to mess with my water heater, I'll always be getting extremely hot water in my wash.  The cycle does take about 2 hours though so the water savings, I think, may be negated by the energy usage.  However, because the water uses such little water I have to use much less soap, otherwise I'll get build up.  This translates into a savings on detergent - good stuff!

So I took the plunge and bought this washer/dyer.  I've been using this machine now for 3 months and here's my opinion.  I love the pre-set as I think it's great that someone out there is thinking about us.  I'm thinking that I still haven't figured out the optimum quantity of soap so whenever I think I may be having some build up I do a "rinse + spin" cycle with another extra rinse once the wash is done just to be sure.  The quality of the wash is pretty much the same - diapers still look clean, even when I've put in my newborn's breastfed poopy diapers.  I especially love that the front-loader doesn't have that darned agitator in the middle of the drum that shredded a couple of my shirts in my old washer... I'm thinking that should be less stress on my cloth diapers too.

In summary, I wouldn't be afraid of buying a high-efficiency front-loader washer if you're upgrading.  It can work, and will work. And yes, I would totally recommend buying an LG washer for the awesome cycle pre-sets, especially the cool sanitary cycle.  Thanks for thinking of us LG!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Diaper Sprayer: How do I love thee, let me count the ways...

Most people's biggest concern about using cloth diapers is the poop.  I've discussed previously how to deal with poop using disposable liners and diaper sprayers.  I want to talk more about the diaper sprayer because I firmly believe this is one thing you should definitely invest in. Now remember, the diaper sprayer connects to the domestic water line on your toilet, and typically the toilet is right beside the bath tub.  So stick with me while I recount the many reasons I love my diaper sprayer:

  1. Infant Care: Everybody knows that babies' poop can sometimes be lethal - explosive, mushy and just plain gross.  And sometimes the poop is so lethal that you may just say to yourself, "we need to just hose down this kid".  In comes the diaper sprayer.  Trust me, I've had to do this a couple of times.  This is a two-man job - daddy can hold the baby over the tub while mommy sprays that poopy butt. And yes, the water may be a little cold, but, it's for a short moment in time - they'll survive.  
  2. Getting Poop off the Diaper: The reason you bought the diaper sprayer in the first place, to get the poop off the diaper prior to washing.  This becomes necessary once baby is done with breast milk.  So hold the diaper over the toilet and hit the diaper with the water at an angle.  The key here is to have the right water pressure.  If the pressure isn't high enough nothing is going to happen and you'll get frustrated.  If the pressure is too high you'll have water, and maybe some poop, everywhere.  So turn it up just enough for it to be effective. I usually get asked about the "splash back".  Once again, it's all about the water pressure.  And here's my tip on getting that poop off...if you can just set the poopy diaper aside for maybe half hour giving the poop some time to dry (if it's the mushy peanut-buttery poop) then it will harden up a bit making it much easier to get off.  The water will literally peel the poop off rather than getting even more mushy with the water.
  3. Potty Training: When you're child goes poopy in the potty how do you get it into the toilet? Ding ding ding - the good old diaper sprayer.  Having this thing makes it easy to rinse out the potty after a pee pee and especially after a poopy.
  4. Bidet: Turn down the pressure on the sprayer and it can double as a bidet.  Ladies, who needs it more than we do?
In summary I am really happy I bought my diaper sprayer even though I resisted it initially.  It has served me well for the past two years and I have a few more years to go with these kiddies.  I can't imagine cloth diapering without it, and every cloth diapering mommy that I've met who has bought one says the same thing.  
Click here to buy yours today.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: Eco Babies becomes Lilly's Diaper Pad

I haven't written a post on this blog in 6 months, or done a whole lot with respect to my business for that matter.  I can definitely say that this period has re-affirmed to me the old adage about getting out what you put in - i.e. you reap what you sow.  I haven't been putting in as much time and effort as I had been in the first year, but there is a reason for that, so, here's a window into what has been going on with me, and a little bit of where the biz is headed.

First thing, I was very much pregnant for the first 6 months of 2012.  We welcomed our second beautiful baby girl, ZoĆ« Elizabeth, on June 8.  Meanwhile, back in October 2011 we put an offer on a house and the whole sale was quite a stressful one.  This consumed our lives till March as we had to do renovations, pack, move, find a tenant for our current home, etc,  And let's not forget I am still working my stressful full-time job.  It was as if everything that could happen just decided to happen at one time.  So, Eco Babies had to sit on the back burner for a bit.  During this time also we decided to change the business name so it could stand out from all the other "Eco" and "Baby" businesses out there.  So here I am with all this stuff going on and trying to conjure up a new business name.

Now that things are a little settled I am trying to get this business back on track.  We have a new name and a fancy new logo. We're going to continue doing cloth diapering workshops hosted by Holy Cross Hospital, and will be doing workshops in my home hopefully by next month.  That's right, it is a little weird, but, this new home has afforded me some space that I am going to take advantage of. And let's be real, the best place for a small home-based business to start is at home :)  I remember when I bought my first cloth diaper we went to a workshop at the Owner's home and they seem to be doing really well now.

The DC Metro area still does not have many conveniently located storefronts for cloth diapers.  Though I am not ready to open a storefront yet, I believe that my home in Bowie (15 minutes from Washington, DC), can possibly fill a gap and provide a convenient option for customers to come check out some diapers.

So, look out for Lilly's Diaper Pad. We're coming back HARD!

Monday, December 26, 2011

How long do cloth diapers last?

This is one of the most common questions I get from potential customers, and it's a good one. Before anyone makes an investment in anything this is definitely the right question to ask, but it's a tough question to answer with cloth diapering because there are several factors that contribute to the longevity of a diaper.  My daughter turned 2 years old a few weeks ago, and I'm expecting my second next summer so I'm starting to look at will my diapers last for baby #2.  Here are a few things to consider and a few of my observations:

Worn Hemp Doubler
  1. Quality of construction: Just like buying any other piece of clothing one should always check out how it's made. Does the construction look professional, or does the diaper or cover look flimsy?  Do you like the material used?  Check out the stitching and seams.  Many times this can be really difficult to ascertain, and to be honest, I haven't come across many diapers that have been so poorly constructed that it falls apart on you after a couple washes. I did have a problem a couple years ago with the older style Bum Genius AIO - the BG3.0 which has since been discontinued. The velcro tab on the body of the diaper came apart on a couple of the diapers.  But since then, I really can't say I have seen very much quality issues.
  2. Fasteners: This is where I've seen the biggest problem with the life of a diaper.  If you've read my blog post about Velcro vs. Snap Fasteners you know I'm a big proponent of velcro in the beginning and snaps for the long haul (4 months to potty training).  I've had a few covers where the velcro has failed a few months after first use (Happy Heinys OS Cover which I no longer carry, and Kushies Diaper Wrap which are currently on clearance at my website).  The Kushies, though the quality of the fabric used for their covers feels VERY cheap.... like a shower curtain, I've had NO problems with leakage.  The velcro though I think is good for a short haul so the size one's are great, but I wouldn't recommend them to go for the long-haul.  Their price point though may make it worth it.  Not all velcro is made equal though and I have come across a few good diapers where the velcro lasts - the Kushies AIO , I haven't had the velcro fail me; the velcro on the Bummis covers are pretty good, but by far the best velcro I've seen so far is on the Tots Bots Bamboozles (distributed by Bummis).  The other fastener to consider also is the Snappi.  If your baby is in a bigger size prefold (regular size) and they are in a fan fold for a year or so, and you're constantly putting the Snappi in virtually the same spot, don't be surprised if by year 2 or so that same spot gets worn.  
  3. Frequency of use: Like anything else, the more you use a product the more wear and tear you're going to have on that product.  Remember, diapers aren't like our clothes.  Yes, you may have the same old faithful t-shirt for 10 years and it's still going strong, but chances are you're not wearing and washing that t-shirt every 2-3 days right?  So don't expect miracles from your diapers.  The first set of diapers you get for your newborn may last forever because new baby is only in it for 4-6 months.  But that second set you buy - the size 2s and/or one-size-fits-all are going to be going for a while.  So ensure you choose good quality diapers with good fasteners, and if you have to replace one or two along the way don't be too upset.  
  4. Fabric: Do some fabrics wear better than others? I have had a particular brand of cotton fitteds that are not standing the test of time too well, and some of my cotton prefolds are starting to wear as well.  I haven't seen this in my other cotton products so I don't want to cast blame on the fabric here.  I haven't had any issues with the fleece liners on my pocket diapers.  What I have heard can be problems sometimes is the PUL de-laminating from covers.  I haven't personally had this problem with covers, and as of this week I just started to see my PUL de-laminating from the inside of my diaper pail... but it has been 2 years for the bag so I'm thinking I've gotten my money's worth there.
  5. Maintenance:  As I mentioned before the repetitive washing of the diapers can cause wear and tear, this is to be expected.  I have had problems with a few of my hemp doublers that have really taken a beating in the 2 years I have been using them (see pic above).  Since the doublers are stitched on in layers I have seen the top layer being shredded by my washing machine.  I simply cut away that top layer and kept on going.  Yes, I'm sure I've lost a bit of absorption there, but, I wasn't ready to give up on the doubler quite yet.  So how can one increase the life span of the diaper with all this washing? I'd say two things:
    1. Getting all the detergent out of the diapers is just as important to its absorbency as it is to its service life.  Soap stuck in the fabric will aid in its deterioration.
    2. To prevent PUL from de-laminating from covers and bags and such, avoid placing them in the direct heat of your dryer and line-dry them inside your home.
I'm praying that I can get my 2 year old potty trained in the next 6 months.  I've been using fitteds, prefolds, pocket diapers and AIOs with her for about a year and a half.  I think I may need to replace about 4 of the maybe 20 diapers I currently have in her rotation for baby #2.  I may get rid of a few more that aren't my favorites, but, they're still going strong for now.  The covers I'm using now are awesome (I have gone through several to find the ones I like) and I'm going to stick with my Gen-Y Universal and my Rumparooz One Size cover.  I have also been using my GroVia covers with their inserts, as well as with prefolds (tri-folded), and those work really well.  

When baby #2 gets here, I'll have his/her diapers prepped and ready from Becca's old stash.  This consists of infant-sized prefolds, Happy Hempies & Bummis covers.  I also have some BG3.0s in medium and regular prefolds which I used before deciding to go to one-size-fit all diapers.  The infant sized stuff are in mint condition - remember, I had an almost 8lb baby, so I didn't use those past about 4 months.  Hopefully I'll be able to give my big girl diapers a break before #2 is ready for them.  

So back to the question at hand, how long do these diapers last? Is 2 kids for 2-1/2 years each good enough for you?  If I have a third, I'll let you know just how much further I can stretch my savings ;) 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cloth Diapering with a Community Washer/Dryer

In one of my recent private in-home consults I spoke to a lovely couple - the wife really wanted to cloth diaper their baby due in a couple of months, and the husband was a little skeptical, but wanted to support his wife.  They were brand new to cloth diapering so even though the husband kept asking me about laundering, I asked him to be patient as I went through my entire presentation which addresses laundering at the end.  At the end I found out why he was so concerned about laundry - they didn't have a washer/dryer in their condo and had to pay $1.25 per wash and dry cycle in the community washing machine that was at least 20 years old.  For the typical cold pre-rinse, hot wash, cold extra rinse, then dry cycles this meant one load of cloth diapers would cost them $5 each time.  This was an immediate deal breaker. :(  And for good reason.  But this doesn't rule out cloth diapering in a community washer/dryer.  Here are a couple of things that should be evaluated prior to embarking on this.

So, if you're like this couple and have to spend $5 per load then unfortunately, if cost is the driving factor for you using cloth diapers, then this will stop you dead in your tracks.  But, if your laundry facility charges maybe a third of this then cloth diapers still ends up being cheaper than disposables.  A simple Google search on "cost of cloth diapers vs disposables" will yield a variety of cost comparison analyses on the matter, including the cost of additional utilities all yielding the same results - cloth is cheaper than disposables.

Isn't That Inconsiderate for Other Users?
The biggest question I get from people with this problem is they think it inconsiderate to have their child's poopy diapers in the same washing machine as other people's clothes... or vice versa - they don't want to have their child's diapers mixing with whatever stuff might be in other people's clothes.  This is a pretty easy one to address. I liken this to washing clothes in a college dorm laundromat - we all did it and we had no clue what other people were doing in the privacy of their dorm room... I mean, it was college.  So what do you do? May I suggest a little vinegar.  Vinegar is a natural disinfectant.  So try wiping down the inside of the washing machine with a vinegar solution (50/50 vinegar/water solution) prior to, and maybe even after use.

What about Fabric Softeners & Dryer Sheets?
Yes, we all  know that fabric softeners and dryer sheets are a no-no for cloth diapers. And we can't control what others are putting into their wash loads.  This is a tricky one but the answer is simple - vinegar. Thoroughly wipe down the drum of the washer with a vinegar solution, and if the machine has a fabric softener dispenser put some of this solution in the dispenser to help break up any build up in the dispenser.  I would suggest doing this with your own clothes on a regular basis and not just with your baby's diapers.  As for dryer sheets I would so the same thing, wipe down the inside of the dryer prior to placing your clothes or baby's diapers to help eliminate any chemical build up caused by dryer sheets.  And as usual use dryer balls in everyone's clothes.

Here's a tip that will save you money and eliminate the dryer sheet issue - if your condo/apartment gets some sunlight on a balcony, and your neighbors or condo association won't be too annoyed, hang your cloth diapers out to dry.  The sun will dry your diapers for free while removing stains at the same time.

Don't you hate it when people come in and take your clothes out of the washer or dryer because they can't wait?  Cheap fix - Get an egg timer and be sure to beat those folks to the machine!

Diaper laundry service
Here's another option.  If the whole thing is just too much work, but you really want to cloth diaper for all the right reasons, then find a diaper laundry service in your area and get on their program.  Diaper laundry services are highly regulated and are subject to meeting compliance standards. Samples of diapers have to be tested on a regular basis for bacteria and fecal matter and are rated accordingly.

Bottom line, as usual, where there's a will there's a way.  So if you really want to cloth diaper, but don't have the convenience of your own washer & dryer, there is a way to get around that.  Weigh the pros and cons of cost and convenience for your family to see if cloth diapering will work for you.