Adventures in Cloth Diapering

Nothing says “tree-hugging granola mom” like a baby wearing a cloth diaper.  Yes, we have fully transitioned to cloth diapers!  At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to deal with all the mess.  Then I came across this blog where a mother of twins is cloth diapering and decided to suck it up and do it.

What I found out is that it’s not as difficult as it seemed.  At least for now while we have breastmilk poops.

If you are thinking about cloth diapering, I say give it a go!   Here is what I learned along the way.

We decided to go with Applecheeks diapers because when I was at a cloth diapering workshop I was told they were the least prone to blow-outs.  SOLD.   I justified the greater cost of this brand by telling myself I would save money overall by using cloth diapers.  I have to admit, a small, irrational part of my decision to use Applecheeks had to do with the fact that they are so darn cute!!

Big Booty

Reasons to cloth diaper:

1. The environment: Less waste.  Disposables are bleached and processed and have an impact on the environment before they even hit the shelves.  Not to mention the packaging and fuel emissions to get them to stores.

2. Healthier:  I am worried about the chemicals used to bleach cloth diapers. There are a lot of unknowns since companies are not required to disclose what is in their diapers!  CRAZY.  These diapers are touching sensitive, absorbant skin ALL THE TIME!  Makes me nervous.

3. Getting out of diapers sooner.  Babies in cloth are more uncomfortable…therefore potty train earlier.  Bonus.

4. Cost…or so I thought.  I assumed I would be saving money, but realized that’s not really true:

Getting started with cloth diapers can cost up to $1000 depending on brand and quantity.   Then there is the cost of the flushable liners.  I can’t believe these cost 8 cents each!  I can get environmentally friendly disposable diapers for 15 cents each when they are on sale.  So cloth are only 7 cents cheaper per diaper. Then factor in the cost of laundry (water, special detergent and hydro) and the start-up cost of cloth diapering and you can see how there is not much savings.   The savings can be greater with each additional child in diapers, as long as the previous child is out of diapers.

Another thing to consider:  Cloth diapers are bulky so babies are in bigger clothes.  If you are switching between the sleeker disposables and the cloth diapers you are constantly changing sizes….not to mention having to adjust the straps on the car seat.  So it’s definitely best to stick to one type.

9 weeks old – wearing 12 month pants

Tips:

I bought fewer diaper covers than recommended.   Applecheeks recommends purchasing 12, and I have 8 and I am doing just fine. Even though our little rascal is a pooping machine (6-8 times a day).   That would probably be enough if you are doing laundry every 2-3 days.  I have about 24 cloth inserts and just change those regularly.  Maybe when she gets older and her poops get bigger, we will need more covers.  So be it.

The little rascal in her “purple rain” diaper

I decided that the applecheeks inserts were WAY too expensive.  They are about $9 each.  Sure they are bamboo and feel great, but really?  $9???  So, I bought some bummies organic cotton liners (6 for $17) and gave those a shot.  Turns out they are exactly the same size and they work great!  We fold them using the “basic fold”.  I figure I saved myself about $150 using the bummies liners in the applecheeks diapers (about $6 savings per insert for 24 inserts).  I could have saved even more if I decided not to go with organic cotton but I splurged in case it might make a difference.

After each wash, I fold them into thirds right away and put the viscose disposable liner on each insert before putting them away.  That way I am not fumbling with them at each diaper change.  I am embarrassed to say how many loads of laundry it took me to figure out this brilliant technique.

All folded and ready to go!

Some people have a diaper service to clean the inserts.  They cost about $100 a week.  I don’t think it’s worth it when you would just have to do 2-3 extra loads of laundry a week.  It’s really not that messy while baby is exclusively breast-fed.  You also wouldn’t have to buy the inserts, but they are not too pricey ($51 total).

Some people only use cloth diapers at home or during the day.  I decided that if it was going to be worth the investment I would try to use them all the time.  The little rascal doesn’t seem to mind them at night and doesn’t wake up just to be changed.  I haven’t even been using the fleece liners to wick away the moisture.  So far, we use about 1 disposable diaper every week…usually when we get desperate on outings.

If we ever go on vacation I will definitely bring disposables with me.

Not to get all preachy but I am surprised at how easy it has been so far.  I will report back when the poops are bigger and smellier.

Our Baby Nicknames

We spent so much time trying to decide on a name for our baby, and we rarely ever use it.  Most of the time we use nicknames for our little one.  Here is a list of my favourite ones:

The Lump

The little rascal – my favourite one when I was pregnant

Munchkin

Popcorn head – her dad gave her this one when she would pop around inside my belly

Milk face – usually has some dried milk somewhere on her face

Jabba the Hutt or just “Jabba” for short – both he and our little one have no neck

Jabba

Jabba junior

Bubble Bobble – apparently a hit arcade game in the 80′s – one of hubs’ faves.  The big eyes and the hair do…. enough said.

Bubble Bobble

 

BB2

 

I am sure as she grows her nicknames will evolve.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for our little munchkin.

My Favourite Baby Gear – Top Ten List

Before having kids it’s hard to imagine how your life will change.  For that reason, it’s also hard to imagine what you will need for the little one.  There are certain things we have bought or acquired that I never thought would be so valuable…and other items that I feel have been overrated.

It’s been seven weeks since our lump has arrived.  Here is a list of ten things I can’t imagine having lived without.  In reverse order for added effect:

Number 10:  My Brest Friend – Truly.

This is a breast feeding pillow that really stands out from the rest.  It was given to me by a friend, and I honestly don’t think I would have paid the money for it (cost is $65 here in Canada).  I take issue with paying $65 for a pillow of any kind.  Having said that, here are the reasons I love it:

- it’s firm and helps support baby’s weight, and maintains the feeding position…good for the nipples
- has elevations to support baby’s head
- has lumbar support for me
- has a pocket where I store washclothes to wipe the lump’s milk face when she is finished feeding
- if baby falls asleep while nursing, you can lift pillow and baby in one fell swoop and take over to crib with minimal disruption (clip holds the pillow in place around your waist).
- cover can be removed and washed (for those inevitable milk stains and food stains that are acquired by eating with one hand)

Knowing what I know now, I would definitely splurge for this pillow. In fact, I wish I had two…one for downstairs and one for upstairs.

Still, it should be a bit cheaper for what it is.  A piece of foam and a fabric cover.  I wish I invented it myself!

My Brest Friend

Number 9: A good bath time towel

I received a baby wrapper as a gift from my neighbour.  I didn’t even know I needed one and now I don’t know what I would do without it!  It is a towel that you can tie around your neck and comfortably use two hands to dry off baby.  Love it!  I wash it 1-2 times a week as lump inevitably pees or poos in it almost every time.

Baby wrapper

Number 8: Lanolin cream

Most people say they have breastfeeding figured out by six weeks.  I guess I am just a late bloomer.  It’s been more than seven weeks and my nipples are as sore as ever.  I am also having some circulation issues that are extremely painful.  Lanolin has saved breastfeeding!  I have a tube in every room and one in my diaper bag.  It’s the fatty sweat of wooly animals.  I really don’t care because it’s awesome.   Reasons I love it:

- it goes on nice and thick and helps moisturize when your nipples feel like sandpaper
- it’s said to be safe for baby
- I like putting it on right before my shower to protect my nipples from the stinging rays of water

Number 7: Netflix

Who knew I would watch so may movies with a newborn??  One of the best kept secrets of motherhood!   In the early days, while sitting and healing, there was a lot of movie watching.  Now, I watch movies and other content while breastfeeding.  I hear that the TV watching goes down when baby gets older.

I watch the content on my TV with apple TV and on our iPad when feeding in the middle of the night.  I have caught up on a lot of good stuff.

Reasons I love it:

- helps me to forget about the pain searing through my nipples while feeding :)
- helps me to catch up on tons of TV shows and movies I have missed out on over the past few years
- good for reliving my youth – Beverly Hills 90210!

Number 6: Car seat attachment to stroller

Who knew??  We bought a thingy that attaches our car seat to our stroller.  I actually got it for $35 in the US instead of paying $70 here in Canada….crazy.

Anyway, I never thought I would use this attachment so much!  We use our car a lot, and even more now with a baby.  I use the car seat more than any other stroller attachement so far.  I am guessing that when the winter rolls around, I will be using it even more.

Reasons I love it:

- it turns out I use the car more than I expected
- don’t have to wake sleeping baby when taking her out of the car
- when travelling by car, I don’t have to haul the stroller base AND another attachment around (bassinet or stroller seat)

Car Seat Adaptor for stroller

Number 5: A good swaddle 

We have two great swaddles that we use at everynight for bedtime.  We used to just use muslin clothes, which I feel are overrated.  Then around 4 weeks I started to notice that she could thrash about and get herself out of her swaddle.  This started to worry me.  I am much more comfortable using swaddles that have velcro and won’t come undone.  We use the summer infant swaddle blankets as well as the halo sleep sacks with swaddle. I think we really could get by with only two of these, but have about 4.  Reasons I love them:

- as I mentioned, I feel they are safer because lump can’t get herself out of them and there is no extra fabric floating around while she is asleep
- you can swaddle with arms in or out
- you can swaddle nice and tight with the velcro…although sometimes it’s a bit loud to unfasten and she can usually get her arms out
- she sleeps better swaddled tightly since she doesn’t wake herself with her startle reflex
- the halo sleep sack makes diaper changes a breeze – there is a zipper that can be undone from the bottom, slightly trickier but doable with the summer infant version
- can be used in the car seat, although I haven’t tried this yet
-LOVE the zebra print…goes well with the baby faux hawk

Summer Infant swaddleme

Number 4: A smart phone with a great camera and video recorder 

So crucial.  I love taking photos and videos of our lump, even with one hand while nursing.  I have even used the voice recorder to record various cries and coos.  I upgraded my iPhone 3GS to an iPhone 4S after baby came.  I justified it because the 4S has a better camera.  Reasons I love it:

- all the apps help me stay occupied while nursing (I can use it with one hand – crucial)
- Siri is my new best friend.  Not to be confused with my new Brest friend (see number 10).  She helps me write emails and text messages quickly when I only have the use of one thumb to type.  She is so polite and helpful.  Siri, I hope you will be able to search Canadian maps soon.
- I use the camera everyday
- with my iPhone and evernote I can stay super-organized – I have taken to categorizing my whole life into various notebooks

Number 3: Amazing Nursing Bras

I chose the Bravado Silk Seamless Bras.  I have three in three different colours and rotate them as needed.  These were recommended to me by a friend early in my pregnancy so I decided to risk it and buy them late in my first trimester since I needed new bras to accomodate my growing bust.  I hoped that they would still fit when my milk came in, and they did!  I think this is because they have a decent amount of give in the fabric.

Reasons I love them:

- no underwire – as with most nursing bras
- material is very comfortable and stretchy
- a thick foam liner in the cup, helps prevent leaks and keeps nipples warm…good for my vaso-spastic nipples :(  This is also useful when applying nipple ointment as it doesn’t leak through to clothes.
- they really are seamless…although not so silky…. The lack of seams is more flattering.
- decently thick straps – supportive but not so thick they look orthopedic
- I can undo the clip with one hand
- when cup is folded down, there is no fabric, just a single band of elastic…less stuff to get milk all over and less obtrusive while nursing
- I tried the bravado basic bras  with seams…not recommended

Love the black one! Barely feels like a nursing bra.

Number 2: A good carrier

After doing some research, I chose the Beco Gemini.  I find that the days I wear my lump, she is calmer and happier and goes to sleep easier.  I also find that I am happier to have had more contact with her.  Reasons I love this carrier:

- my lump is comfortable in it
- it doesn’t require an additional newborn insert
- it has head support, and a hood-like thing that I use on sunny days
- it has a thick waist strap that helps distribute the weight
-  you can wear it in different positions – side, back and front
- baby can face either in or out – this was the main reason that I chose this over the Ergo Baby carrier
- you can nurse baby while wearing it!!!!  That means I can nurse while out and about!!! AMAZING.
- it has magical powers and causes lump to fall asleep in it every time
- I swear she is calmer in the evenings when I have carried her that day

Beco Gemini

Number 1: My Nursing Chair 

My big comfy chair.  It’s a Dutailier glider that also reclines.  A gift from my mother.  It’s the most useful gift ever!!!  I use it several times a day.  Reasons I love it:

- although it’s not the most attractive thing, it’s not your traditional nursery glider so it can be used later as regular furniture
- it is upholstered in leather and resistant to stains – especially of the milk-squirting variety
- I can use it to rock baby to sleep
- Flat arm rests so I can rest the remote control and other goodies

Best Nursing Chair EVER!

Just 7 weeks in.  That’s my top ten list for now. I am sure it will evolve as the lump grows.  I will post an update in a few months.

Our lump is here!

While I was pregnant, it was sometimes hard to imagine that there was actually a person living inside of me.  I tried so hard to picture what she might look like, but never came close.

Well, here she is:

The lump with a full head of hair

She arrived at the end of April.  She is affectionately known to us as “the lump”.

We are in love.

My $28 Winter-Coat-Solution

We live in Canada.  Winter tends to be chilly, but we have been so lucky this winter in Toronto.  We have had only a few very cold days and one “major” snow fall.  Really at about 10 cm, it was a minor one.

Since the Fall, I have been thinking about what I should do about my winter coat this year.  I have an amazingly toasty winter coat that I invested in about 5 years ago and I still love it.  It has a cinched waist so it was going to be pretty much off-limits for the bigger months.  I will be 6-9 months pregnant throughout the coldest part of the winter, so I really did need a good solution.

I am 26 weeks pregnant now, and finally can’t do up my beloved coat.  :(

The first realistic option was to wear my husband’s big warm coat.  Now let’s face it, he’s not a big man, so although this is a great solution for now, it will only last so long.

Another option was the M-coat. If you have never heard of it, it’s a coat that you can wear during pregnancy, afterwards when carrying the baby and just as a regular old coat. The M coat will have set me back $400…and although it’s nice enough and can be worn after pregnancy with a few minor adjustments, I just couldn’t justify it to myself.  Especially since I love my winter coat and I know I won’t really wear it when I am not preggers.  Also, with any big purchase, I always try to remind myself that we are talking $400 of my after tax dollars….makes me cringe to think how much I have to earn to pay for it.

So finally, my solution came in the form of an annoying Old Navy promotional email that I didn’t even sign up for. Did you know they can get your email address from your credit card????  Without consent??? And they just start sending you emails???? The GAP did the same thing to me and I complained to their privacy department. Anyway, this breach of my privacy seemed to work in my favour, because one day I received an email from Old Navy saying that outerwear was 60% off.  I happened to be downtown that day, and went to the store with the (small and underwhelming) maternity section.  I found the one-and-only maternity coat they carry and bought it in both small and medium.  I was undecided as to what size I would need in my later months.   The regular price was $70 and with the discount it came to $28!! (before tax).

I have to say, I was really proud of myself for holding out and finding this deal!

Now mind you, it’s not the warmest thing, but nothing a big, thick wool sweater worn underneath can’t take care of.  And for $28, so what if it bears a slight resemblance to a garbage bag?  It’s only for one winter, and since I am going to be a mom soon, I figure it’s only downhill from here.

After consultation with my mother, I returned the medium one.

I have been lucky that it’s been the mildest winter I can remember!  Otherwise, it would be back to my husband’s Michelin-man coat, worn partially done up.

Don’t you just LOVE a good deal!!  It’s exhilarating!

Shiny garbage-baglike maternity coat

The Mommy Email has Saved us Thousands!

A friend of mine at work is 14 weeks ahead of me in her pregnancy.  When I was about 13 weeks pregnant, she sent me a list of all the stuff we would need to get before having our bundle of joy.  I opened the spreadsheet and felt so overwhelmed that I promptly closed it.  I didn’t even know what half the stuff was! (I still don’t know what a wearable blanket or a sleep sac is…).

Now, I have come to terms with the list and have been slowly and steadily accumulating the stuff we need.

One of the first things I did was send an email to 6 close friends with kids.  I let them know what was on the list and what we needed.  I let them know that we are perfectly happy with hand me downs and will even take boys’ clothes (we are pretty sure we are having a girl).  Besides, jeans are jeans, and since when can only boys wear blue?

Slowly but surely, the offers started coming in.

We got a baby gate from a friend who has older kids in the house, we got offers for a few cribs, car seats, a play mat, bassinets, clothing and lots of other stuff. We even received diapers!  I have been adding the things we have accumulated to the list.  It has felt so rewarding to check things off the list and know we don’t need to buy anything new.  It also helps keep friends items out of landfills.

The key to our mommy email success?

- email friends who are done having kids, but don’t have kids that are too old…youngest under 1 year of age is best

- email a few friends that have older kids, they may have some of the key items like baby gates, cribs, strollers etc…

- knowing your baby’s gender helps…one friend had a girl, bought everything pink, and then had a boy for her second…we have all of her first child’s things….

What I didn’t expect is that generally speaking friends have been so happy to get the crap out of their homes!  They are grateful that we are coming to take it away, and to give it to a friend who will appreciate it.

I think that once people think of you as an eager candidate for hand-me-downs, you have opened the floodgates.  You may just be the source of hand me downs for the rest of your kid’s childhood!

Some of our best scores: a beautiful, white crib (saved us $200), a baby swing (probably wouldn’t have bought one), a breast pump! (saved us $320), a play-mat (no idea!), and a breast-feeding pillow (saved us $70).

We have been so touched that friends have been thinking of us and setting stuff aside.  As a way to say thank-you to our friends for their generosity and for thinking of us, we made gingerbread Christmas trees and dropped them off to everyone during the holidays.   They were a hit!

The Building Blocks, Fresh out of the Oven

The Finished Product

Our Financial Goals for 2012

Being home for the holidays gave me time to reflect on our financial goals for the new year.  Having a baby on the way also helps with the process.

As I mentioned in previous posts, we have been living relatively comfortably for the past 4.5 years because of our rental income and lack of offspring.

When we first bought our house, and just started our careers we were extremely frugal.  As we became more comfortable we became more careless with our spending.  It’s not that we were reckless, but we took a couple trips a year and spent a decent amount of money on entertainment and eating meals at restaurants.  We lived well, but still managed to save.

Now, we need a bigger place to live and have a baby on the way.  That, combined with with a significant decrease in my income for 1 year (due to maternity leave) and we are back to being strapped for cash like in the early days.

I have had time to reflect on this predicament and have realized that we just have to  go back to being smarter about our money and more thoughtful in our spending.  The honeymoon is over.  Literally.

As a result, I have come up with the following financial goals for 2012:

- be more careful with our spending (take out library books, look for smarter ways to get the things we need – second hand, bargain hunting etc..)

- track cash flow on a monthly basis (I used to do this more diligently), and identify strengths and weaknesses

- plan more for big expenditures (such as computers, home renos etc…)

- continue to save money (although not at the same rate, continue to invest in our retirement through RRSPs, TFSA’s and non-registered investments).  I would like to save $1500/month (as a household).

I think our goals are achievable.  Originally, when planning for my maternity leave, our cash flow spreadsheets showed that we would be running a deficit each month.  Now, with the change of plans to move to our upstairs unit, I think the saving goal is do-able.

I will report back.

The First Four Weeks

Having a baby is like embarking onto a mysterious journey.  Although I see families and new moms all the time and I understand the concept of parenthood, it is almost impossible to understand what it is really like.

I found that the moment we were married (over 4 years ago), people started giving us parenting advice.  It all seemed to abstract and meaningless.  Now, even though I am more than 6 months pregnant, nothing much has changed.  I still don’t get what parenting is all about.

Most commonly, these are the things I have been hearing OVER and OVER for the past 4 years, but lack all meaning:

- “your life will change forever”

-”your priorities will change completely”

-”you won’t sleep for 20 years”

- “you won’t remember what life was like before being a parent”

- “don’t wait too long to have kids”

- “don’t have kids too soon”

and the most common and cheesy cliche of them all:

-”it’s the most difficult and rewarding thing I have ever done, I would never go back”

What I find the most mysterious about having a baby is what happens in “the first four weeks”.  Everyone says it is the most difficult time, but I just cannot comprehend what happens….  From what I understand, baby eats, poos and sleeps all day and all night.  You are sleep deprived and your house is a crazy mess.  I am sure it is more complicated than that, but I can’t figure out what all the commotion is about.

Am I missing something???

In the meantime, I am trying to prepare as best I know how.  I have started buying double-ingredients for recipes.  I am making double-batches and freezing.  So far, I have a meat sauce in the freezer.  Next will be a beef stew.  Now I just need some healthier ideas for freezing.  I was thinking soups, but they will just take up so much room.   Maybe, I will get around to buying a deep-freezer before the baby comes.

We have bought diapers and baby wipes (they were recently on sale).

I will also start asking friends how to prepare for these mysterious “first four weeks”.

I thought being pregnant would help me understand the world of parenting a bit better, but sadly, I am still in the dark.  I guess I won’t be able to comprehend the emotions and day-to-day life until I am a parent myself.  We are getting closer and closer to the edge of parenthood, and I am getting nervous about what to expect.

Time will tell.

I will report back from the trenches.

Finally, a place to call our own!

The holidays were nice.  My husband and I had about a week off from work.  It wasn’t the most relaxing week, but it was nice to have time away from work to break up the routine a bit.  The holidays were slightly overshadowed by the fact that we didn’t know where we were going to live when the baby came in less than 4 months!

For the past three years, at this time of year, we have been somewhere hot, in the middle of a long, winter vacation.

This year, considering how much we have to do to plan for the baby, we decided to stay home.  Part of the decision was because we really had no idea where we were going to live come March 1st, the other part was because we decided we couldn’t spend the money.

There were some nice things about being home this year:

- spending time with family

- planning and preparing for baby

- seeing family and friends (especially friends who live out of town who come back home for the holidays)

- having a Christmas tree for the first time since 2007!

Our tree!

After giving our living arrangements much thought, we finally decided to move to the upper unit of the triplex we own. The upper unit has 3 bedrooms and although it is not perfect it will be the best option for us.  By continuing to live in our house, we can rent out the lower two units and cover the mortgage as well as some of the house-related expenses.

I analyzed our cash-flow spreadsheets and realized that we will be saving tons of money over the next two years if we manage to stay in our house.

Here is the breakdown:

Scenario 1: Keeping our house and moving upstairs VS. keeping our house and buying a single family home saves us $30K over two years. Of course this doesn’t take into account the money we would be accumulating by paying down two mortgages, but cash flow works our much better.  We think this is the better choice for now, because although we could be accumulating more equity by carrying two homes, we end up with a negative cash flow situation, which means we actually can’t afford to do that.

Scenario 2: Keeping our house and moving upstairs VS.  selling our house and buying a single family home saves us $45K over two years.  Again, negative cash flow.

Of course there are other options: selling and renting, keeping and renting, or keeping and buying a home with rental income.  None of these options are out of the question, and we have decided to consider some of these options if we are unhappy in our living situation once baby comes.

Although the place is not perfect, we are trying to make it better.  As soon as we made the decision to move upstairs, I entered into full-on nesting mode.  I am getting excited about moving up there and have started planning each room!  As for the kitchen, we feel it is necessary to have a dishwasher.  Especially if we want to eat at home more often.  We originally rushed out and decided to get something on sale during boxing week.  We were so proud of ourselves when we got a fantastic price on a floor model.  Then, we realized we could get one for free from my mother who is renovating her kitchen.  It won’t match the current appliances, but who cares!  It’s free!

Although I may not have accomplished everything on my to-do list for the holidays, having a place to live when baby comes gives me so much peace of mind, so it was worth staying home.

Taking down the tree is always less fun.

Sound Parenting Advice

We have lots of friends who have already embarked on the mysterious journey of parenthood.

We have received quite a bit of unsolicited, yet much appreciated, advice from these friends.

Here is a sampling of some of the best:

- Use fluoride toothpaste from the beginning.   Avoid the natural stuff, or it could end up costing you thousands of dollars down the road.

- Each of you should take some personal time each week to get out and exercise.  Even if it’s only once a week.

- Get diapers early – you never know when the baby might come.

- You can never have too many receiving blankets (I am still confused by all the types of baby blankets that exist, I have yet to figure this all out….)

- Corn starch makes the cheapest, best baby powder.

- Catch up on your sleep now. (I never understood this one, can sleeping now really save up enough rest to make up for years of sleeplessness??? Don’t think so).

And my all time favourite:

- Trust your instincts.  Parenting is programmed in our genes.

I love this one because it helps relieve my anxieties about being a parent.  We won’t be perfect at it, but we will make it work.

Thanks friends!  We appreciate the heartfelt advice.