Cloth Diaper Blog Carnival: What you wish you knew then that you know now

This past week cloth diaper bloggers threw a carnival on the subject “What you wish you knew then that you know now.” There were some great posts.

There are 23 posts in all on what cloth diaper users have learned, what they wish they had known, and what they now tell others about cloth diapers. Especially if you are new to cloth diapering, read their experiences and their conclusions as you decide how you will choose cloth diapers.

Another article that is not part of the cloth diaper blog carnival but summarizes a lot of great advice for new cloth diaper users is “10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Cloth Diapering” by Cathy Cagle posted on DiaperPin.com.

A lot of Parenting By Nature customers come to us confused because they’ve read so much information about cloth diapers. We send new parents to our cloth diaper systems article to help them make the choice that has the best chance of working for them. Even then, it is really important to let them know that there is no right or wrong in cloth diapers only a variety of personal needs and experiences.

The issue is simple (catch the pee and poop) and the solutions can be simple as well, which brings me to what I wish I knew when I first started cloth diapering my first child when she was born twelve years ago.

What Do I Wish I Knew Then?

What I wish I knew then that I know now about cloth diapers is simple, and it’s about keeping it simple.

I started out with flat terry/flannel diapers and made my own shaped flannel diapers. Things got more complicated from there as I diapered two children.

I wish I had known that no elaborate diaper is going keep my baby happier or do the job better than a simple diaper. The simplest of absorbent diapers will not only do the job well but will cost less money. If I had it to do all over, I would use organic cotton flat diapers or prefold diapers and wool soakers or 100% wool diaper covers and forget the rest.

Cool summer baby carriers

Maya Wrap all-cotton ring sling for summerAs summer temperatures have been flirting with 100 degrees the past week, I’ve been thinking about the best baby carrier for hot summer weather. Of course you are going to keep babywearing, but the hotter it gets, the more important it is to keep both you and your baby as cool as possible.

The best baby carrier for summer depends whether you will be out in the sun or just in hot shade.

If you are going to be in direct sun with a baby too young for sunscreen, use a Peekaru Ozone Sun Shade.

If you are going to be in occasional direct sun, the tail of a Maya Wrap ring sling can be used as a cover up for your child. This is no substitute for sunscreen, but the cotton tail can block some of the direct heat.

If you will be in the shade but it’s just hot everywhere, a baby carrier without extra layers like a Hotslings pouch-style baby sling is a great choice.

For me, the Maya Wrap ring sling wins as the cool summer baby carrier because it is lightweight, made from an airy fabric, and is a breathable 100% cotton. Hotslings came close, but it is a blend of 93% cotton and 3% lycra, so I went with the all-natural fabric with the more open weave.

Simple guidelines for a cool summer baby carrier:

  • Lightweight
  • Light colors reflect heat rather than absorbing it
  • All cotton
  • Loose weave for breeze and breathability

Also, dress your baby and yourself in light clothing. When the baby is in a carrier, there isn’t much need for anything more than a T-shirt and a great-looking cloth diaper.

5 Ways to Soften Cloth Diapers Dried on the Line

When you air dry or sun-bleach your cloth diapers, you may notice that the diapers are a little more stiff. Adding sun-drying to your cloth diaper washing routine is a great way to lower your overall impact and use the energy just waiting for you (the sun), and you don’t have to sacrifice your baby’s comfort in soft, cushy cloth diapers. You can easily soften up your diapers by trying these five ways to soften cloth diapers dried on the line.

Nellie's PVC-free dryer balls

1. Add vinegar to the rinse cycle. If your diapers are stiff because of hard water (alkaline) then vinegar (acidic) would reduce the alkalinity, lowering the pH. Vinegar can dissolve the hardness (carbonates) that have been deposited when the water evaporates.

2. Shake the diapers out. The rest of these steps involve flexing the fibers of the diapers. In this case, flex the fibers before you hang them on the line. Give them a hard shake. With prefolds, they make a nice SNAP! sound.

3. Hang the diapers back to back. If you hang two diapers back to back, the breeze will not only move the diaper around but hit the diapers together giving the fibers more chance to flex.

4. Rub the diapers together. After you take the diapers off the drying line, rub them together. This way, you are just doing the work that the breeze would do in knocking the diapers together on the line.

5. Toss in the dryer. The easiest way to soften up your stiff cloth diapers is to toss them in the dryer for finishing. I used to put an old hockey puck in a gym sock, tie the end, and add it to the mix. This is noisy. I have no doubt that it isn’t the best choice. As a matter of fact, there are now quieter dryer softeners that are actually made for this purpose, like Nellie’s PVC-free Dryer Balls.

Keep in mind that if your diapers are stiff for another reason, detergent or other residue for example, you need to tackle the cause of the residue before you can deal with the stiffness.

Children’s Travel Activities for Car Trips

When my family of four travels, we make sure we are prepared with plenty of children’s activities. Variety is the key. A few general rules will give you a start in the right direction, then consider what entertainments your children most enjoy.


General rules for Children’s Travel Games

  • Make the toys age appropriate. No small parts for babies.
  • Produce one new toy per hour.
  • Keep a carrier or bag for all of the child’s things.
  • Create play space.
  • Watch for signs of motion sickness.

Small Parts

Make sure your games and activities include no small parts if you have young children. Choose age-appropriate toys, and choose nothing that has parts that will slide around and fall on the floor. Movable parts that are all connected are great for babies.

For older children, you can choose magnetic games with small parts or games where the parts stick into a play board that holds the pieces tightly.

One Toy Per Hour

Especially for babies who aren’t into imaginative play yet, I always followed the one-toy-per-hour rule. I usually made sure these were new toys or toys the children hadn’t seen in a while. If you rotate toys out of use, even an old toy can be a new toy again. Between naps, chatting, and familiar toys, one new toy per hour usually got us through any trip. The colorful HABA teething toys, which are also rattles with movable parts, can be a great diversion for a baby.

Cross-country trips require more planning and a bigger variety of diversions. Now that my kids are older, we don’t need to follow the one-toy-per-hour rule any longer. I make sure they have plenty of open-ended materials –- pens and pencils, notebooks, and clay.

Pack the Games Together

We pack a picnic basket for long car trips. It is a big, rectangular soft box with two sections –- snacks and drinks in one section and games in the other. We put this between our children in the back seat creating not only the means to entertain themselves but also a barrier between them. My kids now carry their own backpacks with their own activities, but we still pack the picnic basket for long trips.

Place Space

I make sure each child had a large lap tray. That creates enough of a space for drawing or games or just creating a driving course for toy cars.

We also have suction cups with hooks that we attached to the windows. The children then hang toys and pens from the hooks. These give them more control of their space.

Grandma also made a cloth hanger with pockets that fits over the seat in front of each child. They tuck their extras into the pockets.


Watch for Signs of Motion Sickness

Pay attention to whether your children show signs of motion sickness. For those who do, encourage them to look out the front window of the car. If they don’t, no problem. My son, for example, says he likes to read in the car, but my daughter says no way. Every child can be different.


What Toys Work for Car Travel?

I asked my children to list all of their favorite travel toys and games. We have taken several very long driving trips in the past few years to see family or to get to festivals and events. My kids are car trip pros now. The following suggestions are based on their ideas. You can keep it a bit simpler for a baby or toddler.

Dolls should travel with their own travel equipment. A baby doll with her own sling or a Playmobil figure with its own car.

Think Fun games are among our favorites for travel and all of the time. We like River Crossing and Rush Hour especially. Both come in Junior versions, and Rush Hour has several variations as well. My kids like the Think Fun maze game, Amaze, for the car because the pen used to play the game is attached to the play board, which is perfect for travel.

The classic game Fifteen has fifteen numbered squares in a 4-square frame, which leaves one empty spot to shift all of the numbers around. My husband remembers playing with this game when he was young. The goal can vary, but most aim to put the numbers in forward or reverse order within the frame. This requires a lot of concentration, and the pieces can’t pop out or fly all over the car. The game is small and thin, so it works well when you are packing light.

A toy car is perfect for car travel, since the child can imitate what is happening on the trip. My son makes massive landscapes out of sweatshirts, door handles, picnic basket, and sister. When he really gets into his own car trip, it turns into telling himself stories that can come back over and over throughout a trip.

Magnet sets stick together well – always a good choice for travel.


Look Out the Windows

We encourage our children to look out the windows. This is not only important in order to avoid motion sickness, but we want them to see where they are going. This works for a while.

We got a pad of blank maps from a school supply store. We use these to track our long trips, so they can see their progress. This is also helpful when we look for license plates. This is Granny’s favorite game. Where she comes from in Britain, there is only one license plate. She loves to see and TRACK the variety. We mark found license plates on the maps. They don’t even realize that they are learning geography at the same time.

We have a bingo game that includes images of things they can see out the windows of the car. When they see a stop sign or big rig, they close the clear, red tab with that image. Because this has images instead of words, we’ve been using it for a long time. Again, no parts to lose.

We play I Spy, which works better when the kids are older enough to have a sense of spelling. Before they can spell, they can do I Spy by colors: “I spy with my little eye something that is purple.”

Guessing how far to the horizon is one of our games as we drive across our wide open landscape. We choose a spot that we will recognize when we reach it, like a huge tree, a hill, or a mountain peak. We each guess how far away it is, then we see how close we were. When we get to that point, we start over.

Both of my kids like hand games: rock paper scissors, slapping one another’s hands, and a game they made up that involves knocking knuckles and popping a finger up when that hand is hit. I have never quite understood the rules, but I love that they create games that make perfect sense to them. As I asked them about it, they started playing it in front of me, and I still don’t get it.

My son says he likes just talking. Talking about what, I asked. “Conversations about stuff,” he said. Conversations about stuff can take on a life of their own with older children. The more conversations about stuff, the fewer toys needed per hour.

We sing Girl Scout songs, both mine and my daughter’s. Sometimes we find that our generations of songs overlap. “My Big and Tall Hat,” was a car hit for a long while.


Recordings

Audio books are great for children and parents. Grandpa sent from England 50-60 of Richmal Crompton’s Just William stories; we’ve covered Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series right up to The Last Olympian; and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories always go over well. Younger children often enjoy following along turning pages of books while they listen to audio books.

We play iPod DJ, teaching our children about the music we’ve loved.

They listen to sing-along nursery rhymes and other familiar songs.

And, sometimes, when they just can’t settle, they borrow my phone and play Tetris.

Of course, if you time things right, you can usually get a good nap in during travelling, so that the kids are well rested when they arrive.

Good luck with your travel. If you have great ideas for children’s travel activities for trains, planes, or automobiles, please let us know.

Special Needs Babywearing

When you have a baby with special needs, the general advantages of babywearing – issues of development and comfort – are especially important to you.


Premature Babies

Baby carriers hold your baby close where they want to bePhysical Development. Touch, skin-to-skin contact, helps all newborn babies make the transition to life outside the womb. This is especially important for preterm (premature) babies. According to Dr. William Sears, touch and movement are a “biological regulator” that helps babies balance their irregular rhythms to the patterns of the adult’s regular rhythms.

http://www.askdrsears.com/html/5/t051100.asp

Kangaroo care for preemies. Premature babies in particular need closeness even outside the womb. Keeping a baby snug against bare skin is called “kangaroo care.” (1)(3)


Colic

Less crying. Studies have shown that babies who are carried cry less and that babywearing can effectively be used in colic therapy. (2)


Sensory Integration Disorder

Safe haven. If the world around you is very stimulating, this can cause stress in your baby. With the help of the baby carrier, your arms are your baby’s safe haven. Baby feels secure and calm near you. This is especially important for babies who are over-stimulated.

Soothing for baby. Your movement has a calming influence on your baby. Your baby knows and wants the sound of your voice nearby.

Comforted by people not things. As you become expert and your baby carrier becomes just another parenting tool, it is less about the carrier and more about you and your baby. Your baby will be comforted by people not things.


Developmental delays and special needs

Emotional development. Babies need to feel attached to you. Some may wonder if holding a baby close all of the time makes a baby more clingy. On the contrary, if they can see and touch you when they want to, they are reassured that you will be there when they need you. They will be more confident as it comes time to explore on their own. A toddler will tell you very clearly when it’s time to get down (and back up).

Mental development.
A baby who is distressed puts a lot of energy into letting you know. When a baby is busy crying or focusing on what they don’t have, they spend less time observing and learning about their world. A secure baby is quiet and alert, actively curious about whatever you are doing. This stimulation is exactly what babies need for brain development. (4)


Which baby carrier is best for special needs?

Of course, which carrier is best depends on your own baby’s particular needs.

For premature babies (preemies), they might need to be very close to you in kangaroo care. With a Moby Wrap, you might even find that you want to wear it around the house without a shirt. This gives the baby the skin-to-skin contact needed.

For an older baby or toddler, you might find that a structured carrier is best. From talking with the odd customer dealing with these issues, one thing that is usually an advantage is a baby carrier that caregivers can get a child in and out of in a hurry. A structured baby carrier would allow this. A structured carrier would also be the best choice with a big baby because it will provide the most support. Back carrying is generally accomplished successfully with a structured carrier, and parents may like to have this as an option just for more freedom.

For babies with low muscle tone, spinal stress can lead to development of spinal curves. Do no choose a carrier that supports the baby’s weight from the crotch. Choose a carrier that gives the baby full-body support.

Read about more babywearing advantages.

Sources for Medical Studies on Babywearing

  1. Tessier R, M Cristo, S Velez, M Giron, JG Ruiz-Palaez, Y Charpak and N Charpak. (1998) Kangaroo mother care and the bonding hypothesis. Pediatrics 102:e17.
  2. Barr RG, McMullan SJ, Spiess H, Leduc DG, Yaremko J, Barfield R, Francoeur TE, Hunziker UA. Carrying as colic “therapy”: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics. 1991 May;87(5):623-30.
  3. Ferber SG, Makhoul IR. (2004) The effect of skin-to-skin contact (kangaroo care) shortly after birth on the neurobehavioral responses of the term newborn: a randomized, controlled trial. Pediatrics 113(4):858-65.
  4. Pelaez-Nogueras M, Field TM, Hossain Z, Pickens J. (1996). Depressed mothers’ touching increases infants’ positive affect and attention in still-face interactions. Child Development, 67, 1780-92.