Thursday, December 4, 2014

Diapers and Fragance Sensitivity. A Tilting Point in the Decision

I visited my sister's new home this summer. Gave her the big stroller and a suitcase full of baby clothes, the bottle sterilizer full of bottles and a baby toy.

Then we went downstairs and all hell broke loose. Not even in the last step, I got a strong scent of a cleaning product. I figured it would go away, it didn't. Spent the whole evening with a headache and stomachache, coughing and silently crying while Frozen was displayed on her TV. Once over, I went back upstairs to sanity thinking I was out of danger.

But no, even though I requested to sleep there, she brought sheets and pillow cases and I realized the source of my problems: laundry detergent. I was forced to sleep in a cold night with nothing but a polyester blanket that was used as box sheet, cover sheet AND blanket itself, for me and the 2 boys.On top of that, I had to use my diaper bag as a pillow (you never know when cloth diapers will fulfill vital functions) and the night was a cold one, very.

Funny thing is, nobody else noticed. My mom could not perceive it, and obviously my sister and husband couldn't either. That led me to investigate why I was so bothered by certain smells, to the point of despair, and that I, in fact, have taken several decisions in life based upon my intolerance to fragrances.

And, believe it or not, cloth diapering was one of them. When I had my first boy, I had diaper issues from the start, and it didn't help that they were expensive, so I bought the cheapest available, and those were heavily perfumed (and even the expensive ones bothered me).

So, when Tiny Guy came in, after opening a brand new bag of Luvs, I realized it was never going to happen. Managed to find a cheap brand that did not have perfume, but definitely opted for cloth at one point, to get rid of the perfumes altogether.

I couldn't believe what it did to the house. Not only did the nasty smell of plastic and perfume go away, but the poop too, since I had to rinse them rightaway, and would wash every day back then, the overall smell inside was my prefered one: nothing. I did have ammonia problems later on, but that is not as annoying as perfume for someone with my sensitivities (and was solved relatively fast).

I know a lot of people do not talk about that factor as a deciding one, but it is another advantage I needed to raise babies and not to die on the intent. If you have fragrance intolerance (commonly and erroneously known as perfume allergies), this might be an option for when you need diapers around.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Have I Become a Breast-feeding Nazi?

One of my best friends is pregnant, single and scared.

I've been talking to her through her process and tried to let her know that she is a suitable mother, despite the fact that she keeps complaining and saying that motherhood is not what she was born to do (I don't think anybody does, but specifically for her, I never thought she was going to stay childless forever)

But within all our conversations, I've found myself pushing her into breast-feeding. I've been very insistent with it and, even though she says she'll "try", she's not convinced at all. Says it's not her "hit".

And then I realized I was becoming one of those Nazi mothers that want to impose her own ways into others. And for women that work full time and think the best place for a baby is daycare,  it can push you away from them and you can end up being of little to no help.

Then I sat and wondered why I was being so pushy. I have never told her "it's the best for the baby" or "you would be a bad mother if you didn't". I'm more for the "it's best for you" and "the baby would be fine anyway, but breast just makes everything so much easier".

But the fact is, yes, I have gone way above the Mexican standards with my kids, mostly for convenience and practicality, but I do believe it's the best for the baby. And that's when my own life comes into play, that's what I'm really trying to keep them from: baby me.

I was born in the most artificial environment that there is. Evicted 10 days before due date for no medical reason other than ensuring "no labor would occur" and having been deemed "perfectly healthy", I couldn't have brought more problems to my mother if I had tried.

 And it all started with the breasts. I latched, I ate, there was milk. Too bad milk was just too much and my feeding needs were 10 days behind. As a result, my mom acquired Mastitis and got very, very sick. OF course, being a doctor, it never occurred to her to seek help, to manually remove the milk (she tried a nasty pump that would stimulate her even more and not get a drop out) or to feed me on demand instead of a rigid 3 hour schedule. It was 1970s Mexico and natural mothering was for poor country unsophisticated women.

What happened afterwards was a series of unfortunate events from which I barely survived, and not without lifelong consequences.

My mom got antibiotics, I was given a bottle and started giving back whatever came in. Yep, turns out I am one of those babies that were intolerant to cow's milk protein. Since we're talking about way before hydrolyzed formulas, somebody suggested soy. Well, it stayed in, so our adventure began. 2 months into it, it was clear that I was not gaining any weight, I had severe respiratory problems and I needed to be moved to a cleaner city. Still had to wait 4 months for that to happen (my mom had to keep working while my dad got his first paycheck).

The series of illnesses and diseases that happened in that period, and the 8 months afterwards is so big that I cannot name them all, but apparently, I don't need a lot of vaccination: I'm already immune (well, I had a measles shot, and got the disease the next week). Viral and bacterial infections became the norm, and within 6 months after birth, I had only gained one pound. I survived on having been a "big healthy baby" from the start. My immune system was so weak that germs had just targeted me and made my body their favorite habitat.

Then another doctor recommended ultra-pasteurized milk, which was new at that time, and it stayed in. Finally I started to gain some strength and weight, but infections did not stop for another 6 months. Turning 1 year of age, and after 6 months of breathing better and getting real food, I started to be a normal child for the first time. But I wasn't growing and my energy levels were still low. I would go to daycare, come back and sleep all afternoon and evening. Wake up, have dinner and sleep again.

2 years later, my father nailed it. A TSH test was done and a diagnosis became evident. My thyroid had stopped working. Of course, knowing the problem leads to treat it, and thanks to a magical pill I have become a healthy adult, with enough energy to deal even with 2 little monsters and a sick husband, work at home and even wash diapers. But at a high cost. I've been taking medications all my life, and it will stop the day I die.

It was much later on in life that I found out there is a huge link between soy and thyroid diseases, and there was even a study correlating soy fed babies with early hypothyroidism (that several sources say it was not conducted properly). My parents always told me it had been one of the multiple infections I had had. But even if that was the culprit, why did the germs not attack other organs, or why other organs resisted attacks better? Yes, I had a genetic disposition, but it was supposed to happen when I turned 40, not before I turned 1.

My parents feel that I blame them for it. How could I? They have taken care of me always, even now. I have no resentment whatsoever for them, specially since I know she tried. I still question the doctor's call to have a programmed c.section at 38 weeks when I was obviously not ready to come out, but that was common practice with a prior c.sec. Maybe that's why I waited until 41 weeks to evict Tiny Guy from the womb.

Certainly, there are several options now for intolerant babies that do not involve soy, which has been discouraged. My dad recommends rice milk before hydrolyzed, it is cheaper and healthier. But it is no breast or comes close to it. There are no antibodies, no allergy protection, no micro-exposure to allergens, no cannabinoids, no oligo-saccharides to help the intestinal flora grow.

Maybe that explains my pushiness. I don't want other babies and mothers to go through what my mom and I went and have gone. Not all diseases can be avoided, not all situations can be prevented. But breast does reduce the probability of them happening in your own kids, so, for easiness, for convenience, for fashion or for fun, give breasts a try.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Flats and Handwashing Challenge 2014 Day 7 #notoveryet

Today is officially the last day of the challenge, but the deal is not over, you see, it includes tonight's diapering and then hand washing those, which can occur either tomorrow or even Monday, so it still feels like I'm only half way through
. Yet today is the last day of posting about the challenge in DDL and conclusions  need to be made.


Well, I'd say the most important thing is that I'm still learning different approaches to footwashing. It works great with both boys in the bathtub, my husband's bath chair helps tremendously, and I may even consider doing it for other items. My biggest limitation is the space I have for hanging.

I also learned a lot by checking on the Facebook group, which has become a small community on its own. Found out that dollar plungers are a waste of money, that I could fold the flats ahead of time, that tye dye diapers look extraordinarily cute and that a challenge becomes easier by the day if you have a backup in the form of amazing moms jumping in to help.

I also learned different ways to use rags for diapering purposes and the advantages and disadvantages over big squares of fabric, commonly used as flats (receiving blankets, flour sack towels, etc.), and how cheap a mom could get diapering material by just getting scraps from seamstresses, fabric stores or even ebay.

If Tiny Guy is not potty trained yet by next year, my next goal will be to use non PUL covers, which is still my biggest fear, since I would have never made the switch without those.


No. I love my system, I love my AIOs, my prefolds, my minky FB, cotton/bamboo and cotton/hemp inserts. I know I can use liners for stay dry, so that wouldn't be a problem if I switched, but I have a nice routine for washing, haven't had rash or stinky problems for a long time and a wonderful tiny washer that I miss when being away. But, I'll certainly consider using the drags as doublers, since they wash well and dry fast. And I may do more footwashing, as long as I don't have to wring the clothes and I toss them in the spin dryer, it can even help me catch up on back laundry later on.


Not yet, laundry basket is still full. I started to see a little progress yesterday, but I did finish the back diapers until Tuesday, and I still will footwash today and tomorrow, so my goal of clearing the laundry basket can still be achieved. I am very limited by the space to dry clothes, and weather has not helped this week, but we'll see on Tuesday where we're standing.


That, in an on itself, is a silly question. Our grandmothers did it, some of our mothers as well, and in several other parts of the world it is still done. It would be more practical if access to water was easier, if women were thinking outside of the box and the rules and used whatever they found to diaper the child, if we just didn't care that much for clothing or accidents. Had I known what I know now, I may have used cloth with my first child, even without a washer.

I had only 3 minor leaks and all could have been prevented. I had much more leaks a day using disposables, so that would not be a reason for not considering it. As for vacation backup, I may think about it, depends on the situation. But I don't think it is affordable to buy a full stash of flats for going on vacation instead of an $8 disposable bag.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Flats and Handwashing Challenge 2014 Day 6 - Honoring Eva

Eva works for my parents. She has done so for more than 20 years. She is uneducated but very smart and extremely hardworking.

When we met her, she had just given birth to her 9th child!! I know I shouldn't be surprised, since my dad has 11 siblings, but it was a different era in Mexico when he grew up, and his dad could afford a cook, 3 nannies and 2 or 3 cleaning ladies. Eva, on the other hand, was raising her family mostly by herself, with an abusive and alcoholic husband that would only provide what would be now about $20 a week.

So, for her, cloth diapering, more specifically flats and handwashing was not a choice, or a week's challenge: it was the only way of diapering. And she would do that after a full day's work, with more than one baby at a time.

The thing is, it never occurred to me how women would diaper their children in Mexico until I went to the mountains and stayed in one of the typical country native communities: poverty like US has never seen. And why do I say the US has never seen it? because even when they didn't have money, their clothes were wasted down and a lot of times they would go without shoes, the basic food is always available, and they live in small houses made with bricks and wood, with tin roofs.

Being there, I saw babies crawling, undiapered. If they peed, they would just get into the floor and absorbed there. I felt these people were totally free from the burden that city people has to face.

But that's not Eva's background. She is from the city, and poverty is way tougher. When I went last year to visit my folks, she was only too happy to help with my diapering duties. She says her daughters won't do it, they are just using disposables for their little ones and spending fortunes on it. She says they are lazy, but I can't blame them.

Washing diapers for a week in a tiny apartment, when they are only rags, when neighbors won't be spying to see if I have a spot, and doing it in the shower with little helpers that take it as a game doesn't seem like a burden, or even a challenge, when you realize that, for some, that is not a choice, but the norm.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Flats and Handwashing Challenge 2014 - Day 5 No folds for me!!

Seems to me, and so did last year, that I am alone in this enterprise. While I see moms all enthusiastic about the challenge and showing off bums covered with tye dye designs and rocking t-shirts,I literally did not prepare, did not even attempt to use a T-shirt, am as lazy as it gets and did not stop using my highly convenient covers (and pockets a lot of the time).

I learned something very valuable for my sake last year:
 I am not good at folding!

So, for today's post and folds, I can safely say: there aren't any. If I was using regular flats, even T-shirts, it would at least require padfolding, which is not as bad and was highly used last year in my T-shirts and Handwashing in a utility sink challenge.

But this year, in my "Sleeves and other rags and Footwashing Challenge", the kicker comes in: I don't have to fold!!!!

As you can see in this last year's pic for the challenge, I am only so happy that I am in this situation. Another thing I was thinking about yesterday is that one of my weirdo quirks is not liking to change the baby like the usual lying down.
Almost always you will find me changing a diaper while Tiny Guy is standing. I don't have space for a changing station and I have to bend down to do it in a bed or a couch, so it's easier to slap a new one while he is coming to see me, or while he is sitting on my lap. This week, I've found myself doing it a lot, and of course, it's not my favorite part. Usually, the diaper is ready with the desired amount of pieces lying on a cover or already stuffed into a pocket, if I had to be doing origami magic on top of that, and have a squirmy toddler to deal with, I would have dropped out on Sunday noon.

So, does lying on top of another work? yep, only one leak and I should have changed the diaper sooner yesterday morning. No poop in the diapers as of yet (Yay for EC!!!)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Flats and Handwashing Challenge 2014 Day 4 #footwashingrocks

I think, for some of us, the challenge should be called "Flats and Footwashing Challenge"

So, for the casual reader learning about cloth diapers, or laundering in general, I took this week as a chance to test my abilities at such a task: doing laundry with my feet.

After all, feet create the best wine, so, why not washing the best diapers?


First time I knew about this technique was due to another blogging mom, who did all her laundry in a small appartment without any equipment.

The technique is very simple: you turn your bathtub into a washing drum and your feet into agitators. That's it. Of course, since you get very wet, a bath comes with the package.

What I was not counting on, and I should have, is a couple of little helpers. Well, inf fact, a Tiny one. Apparently having small pieces of fabric inside the bathtub is just as fun as having rubber duckies, and he's old enough to be aware of water and not to try drinking it or lying face down, so I've allowed him to come in. What does he do? he plays! (and subsequently, agitates, hehe).

So, for the "washing" part, I start like any other shower, filling the washer with water, setting up a load, and having the water hot at that point, jumping in, the only difference is that I empty the wet bag first. Easy enough?

Tiny Guy follows and we do the usual shower routine, but I stop the drain, so the tub gets filled with the water I use for showering. After some 3 or 4 minutes of bath, I reach out for my Zote soap inside its baby sock and turn the handheld shower into "massage" mode, aiming it at the soap. Suds immediately start appearing in the surface of our little pool. Tiny Guy loves that. Bath continues as usual, but I constantly remind myself to "Stump my feet and mov'it to the beat". Tiny Guy is at this point doing the heaviest work (a.k.a. having fun!).

At some point, I pull up the drain stopper and start finishing the bath for both of us. Reach a towel and get out. Tiny Guy keeps playing and I have to stay there until the water is gone. Then comes the tough part. I try picking up all the pieces and placing them on top of the bath chair, but Tiny Guy keeps pulling them down, so I turn on the cold water and aim the shower towards 4 or 5 pieces, rinse them directly and wring them. They are very small, so that takes me no time. I go to the drying rack and hang them.

I do that 2 or 3 times until Tiny Guy has decided to finally come out, I wrap him in a towel and leave the rest of the pieces inside the washer (only as a bucket) soaking in water, for later rinse and wringing.

Now, that's when we get into trouble. Yesterday, I had left the remaining flats (mostly sleeves cut down from t-shirt) inside the washer that had been full with the bathroom mat. Came in the morning to do the rinsing and wringing and Tiny Guy followed. He started tossing them back in the bathtub, I started picking them up. This cycle continued until I simply lifted him and sat him on top of the washer. Little Guy came in, liked the idea, and climbed to sit besides his little brother. So this is what I had in front of me while rinsing and wringing:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Flats and Handwashing Challenge 2014 - Day 3

Today is an open topic, so I will talk about the principal component of this week's stash:


My husband is a rare entity, he's literally one in a million and it is easy to see why my prior relationships didn't last: those men (good people, all of them) were not him. ´

Among his countless singularities is the fact that, when he is home, he likes being extremely comfortable, and for some reasons, wearing sleeves does not enter into that category. Having been single for decades, he took it upon himself to cut the sleeves of old cotton T-shirts and turn them into "sleeveless T-shirts" (isn't that name super creative?).

Lately, we didn't even bother to get "old" ones. After he got sick, and overwhelmed with laundry piles and clothes gone to the laundromat for weeks at a time, I bought him several new T's and they became sleeveles from the go. All those cut out sleeves went into a "rag bag" inside a closet, to use for cleaning and such. And this week, they are being used as inserts.

I've never used regular flats, since we're living on a very limited budget and even an extra spending of 10 or 20 bucks can get me into trouble. and we had the same situation last year, so I used very very old sleeveless T-shirts, which are a little more rectangular than the typical square. But here's a comparison table between those two:

Size Huge Tiny
Pieces per change One 4-6
Wringing time 1 min 4 sec
Drying time ~18 hrs ~8 hrs
Trimness Disposable-like Falling pants
Easiness needs PHDHubby friendly
Cover versatility All types(and coverless) Needs cover to hold and fasten
Folding options Several None

As to which one I prefer, if I had more space, a utility sink and an outside rack for sunning, definitely I would go for the shirts (even though last year my hands suffered a lot during the challenge). But being in an apartment without such privileges, specially the space, makes the whole flat situation extremely hard, specially with Tiny Guy grabbing wet diapers constantly and tossing them in a wet environment.
Being able to wash the diapers while taking a shower and then rinsing and wringing them in less than 10 seconds each, plus being so small that I can hang them to dry in different spaces, makes the ordeal actually doable. On the other hand, it takes a lot of little squares for every change, and I already finished the entire bag, fortunately, they dry fast.