Breastfeeding Is the Smart, Healthy, Frugal Choice

Breastfeeding mother and baby

Research shows that breastfeeding is the right choice because it makes babies smarter, keeps mothers and babies healthier, and saves families and society money by avoiding higher future healthcare costs.

The Smart Choice

Developing infants use the fatty acids in their mothers’ milk for their brain development. Scientists have found that breastfed babies with particular genetic markers score three points higher than average on IQ tests.

“[A] person’s DNA is not really a blueprint, as it is commonly portrayed. ‘[Genes] are more like playbooks. . . . It’s not nature or nurture, but your genes operate frequently by making you more susceptible or less susceptible to certain environmental conditions.’ Hence, the withdrawal of breast milk from the diets of babies with a certain genetic predisposition resulted in a negative effect on intelligence.”

Nikhil Swaminathan,“Got Smarts? Mother’s Milk May Pump Up Baby’s IQ,” Scientific American, November 7, 2007.

The Healthy Choice

Breastfeeding is not only the perfectly balanced food for healthy babies, but the act of breastfeeding is the healthy choice for women. Breastfeeding helps break up fats the body builds up during pregnancy, keeps us blissed out on oxytocin, and helps us avoid many health risks later in life.

“[B]y not engaging in the process that the body prepares for during pregnancy, many crucial systems can go out of whack. And the effects can last for decades after children are weaned.”

Kathrine Harmon, “How Breastfeeding Benefits Mothers’ Health,” Scientific American, April 30, 2010.

The Frugal Choice

Breastfeeding saves a family money now, since it costs no more than some extra food or a few optional tools like a pump and bottle. Breastfeeding can also save money later as families and the larger society would save a significant amount of money in healthcare costs if all babies were exclusively breastfed for at least 6 months.

“If 90% of US families could comply with medical recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, the United States would save $13 billion per year and prevent an excess 911 deaths, nearly all of which would be in infants ($10.5 billion and 741 deaths at 80% compliance).”

M. Bartick and A. Reinhold, “The burden of suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: a pediatric cost analysis,” Pediatrics 2010 May:125(5):e1048-56. Epub 2010 Apr 5.

Your Breastfeeding Questions

Customers ask a lot of specific questions about breastfeeding. We’ve kept track of your questions, and we are looking to reliable sources to answer your questions each Wednesday this month. If you need answers now, breastfeeding support groups bring experienced mothers together with those who need help, and La Leche League always has reliable breastfeeding resources.

Image © Niderlander |

Blog to Inspire: Being Green Never Felt So Good

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This following post was an entry in our Blog to Inspire contest. The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and not necessarily those of Eco Baby Steps or Parenting By Nature.

Thrifty Mama Bee profileBlog to Inspire entrant Thifty Mama B’s is Shanaka B. She is a West Virginia coal miner’s daughter-in-law. She and her husband have two boys. She’s a stay-at-home mom. She started coupon clipping, cloth diapering, CVS’ing, and saving where she could in August 2008. Call it cheap, frugal, thrifty or whatever. Doing what she does has made it easier for them to be a family of four on one income.

If you’ve read my posts before y’all know I am obsessed with cloth diapers and the world that is cloth.

Why cloth diapers? I can give you a bunch of reasons why we chose cloth diapers but will only highlight a few. And just so you all know we were a disposables household, so I have nothing against parents who choose that way of life, I’m just making my case as to why we switched to cloth. I knew I wanted away from disposable diapers but didn’t know where to start.

Mama Bee 1

There was so much info out there about cloth, it is a lot to take in. I can say that switching to cloth diapers is one of the best things I have ever done (seriously). If I can help just one person understand and accept cloth diapering into their life I would be really happy. But I do understand that it is to each their own and I am not trying to push my lifestyle off on anyone. Really, though, cloth diapers are awesome. I’m about as girly girl as you can get and I have no problem washing cloth diapers. We are also a one income family of four and we could afford to buy more than half of our stash. If you truly want to make the switch to cloth you can do it! I’ve even given away 8 cloth diapers just so one person could start their diaper stash. Thats how strongly I feel about using cloth diapers.

Mama Bee 2

  1. They help save our environment. Every child that uses disposable diapers adds a minimum of about 6,500 disposable diapers (30% which are non biodegradable) to our landfills and in all those disposables are many lbs. of raw fecal matter that can spread viruses to our water supply should a crack show up in a landfill. The manufacturing of disposables also poses another threat to the environment. They require large amounts of wood pulp (aka trees) and dangerous chemical substances which can leave behind harmful byproducts. It makes me feel good that I know I’m doing my part to help save the Earth for my children.
  2. They help you save money. Yes, when you look at the initial cost of a cloth diaper you may feel that it is a bit much. I did at first. Then I sat down and did some number crunching. On average you can spend $2,000 on disposable diapers per child. That compared to the average $700 spent on cloth diapering your first child. A good thing about that $700? You can use it on the children you have after your first. Making the cost of diapering even less than disposables. The $700 mentioned may even be less than that depending on the cloth diaper system you choose to use.
  3. They are easier on the skin (babies and mine). They don’t contain any of the chemicals that disposables do. They are made of natural, chemical-free materials. Most babies have less to no diaper rash when using cloth compared to disposables because the cloth diapers are more breathable than disposables. I have hand eczema, and disposables made my eczema flare up badly.
  4. They are easy to use. These aren’t your grandma’s cloth diapers with rubber pants and diaper pins. You have a plethora of options when it comes to cloth. Velcro or snaps and your done. You can show your fashion taste on your little one’s bum. I’ve been asked, “Isn’t washing cloth diapers nasty?” My answer? “No!” Washing our cloth diapers is no different from washing clothes that got poo on them from a blow out disposable diaper or washing clothes that your little one has thrown up on. It’s all the same to your washing machine. Use the flushable diaper liners and you don’t have to mess with much of the poo. Cloth diapering can be adapted to fit any lifestyle even if you aren’t a stay-at-home parent. To me the added effort of doing a couple extra loads of laundry a week (I wash our diapers twice a week) is worth the multiple benefits to your children, the environment and your pocketbook.

Mama Bee 3

If you already use cloth diapers then you agree with my points, yes? If you don’t cloth diaper and are interested or are intrigued to make the switch, you can contact me and I can do my best to answer the cloth diaper questions you have or direct you to someone who can answer them if I can’t. I’ve already converted a family member to cloth and four friends, so I’m confident I can help you, too. Why would you not want to use cloth diapers? For every reason you have to not use cloth diapers I can give you a reason why you should. Using cloth diapers has also opened my eyes to other eco-friendly things.

Being green has never felt so good!

Read about the Blog to Inspire contest and read posts by the finalists and by the rest of the entrants. Forty-four bloggers reached out to inspire on the topics of cloth diapers, babywearing, breastfeeding, and natural parenting.

Save Green: Add Energy Savings to Green Your Cloth Diapers

Dry your diapers for free

Dry your diapers for free

A lot of people use cloth diapers to save money. When you are saving money, you squeeze everything you can whenever you can. Last week I wrote about saving money on your initial cloth diaper purchase. Keep squeezing and see what you can do to save money washing and drying your cloth diapers.

Lessons from Our Grandmothers

I hear a lot of people talk about “modern cloth diapering.” I find this very funny. Based on my own questions to cloth diaper users at public events, I know that most families use very simple cloth diapers not unlike those used by my mother and my grandmother. I often think that the phrase “modern cloth diapering” is used to try to appease those who want to believe they can get out of the mundane job of taking care of their babies’ waste, similar to the marketing of the mid-twentieth century that tried to convince women that time-saving devices would make their perfect lives sparkle.

It’s just poop, and it’s sooo not a big deal. It’s easy with prefold diapers; it’s easy with all-in-one diapers; it’s easy with fitted diapers. Cloth diapers are just easy.

I think our grandmothers were right about the diapers themselves, so I find myself wondering what I might learn from them about caring for diapers.

Save Money Washing Diapers

First, I’m glad I don’t have to boil diapers on the stove like my grandmother did. When I was very young, my mother had a hand-crank, non-electric washer. Maybe she was just being stubbornly anti-electric, but I thought it was fun. It ran on kid energy.

While I could probably opt for either of these washing solutions out of my inherited stubbornness, I know that we parents today have some excellent energy-efficient washing options available to us with Energy Star machines. These are both more energy-efficient and more water-efficient. Cutting down on both of these does save money—not so much that you would notice a drastically reduced utility bill, but they do save a bit. The idea is to squeeze anywhere you can, right?

Check the Energy Star websites for statistics on washing machines, and you will realize how easy it is to make all of your clothes washing more efficient.

The other place to squeeze in savings is in the water temperature. You can save energy (and a bit of money) by washing diapers at 140 degrees F. Some have their water temperature set hotter, which isn’t necessary.

Save Money Drying Diapers

Then, how can we save money on drying the diapers? Please tell me you saw this coming. Use the free energy of the sun and the wind, of course. Dry and bleach those diapers naturally outdoors. You could even dry your diapers on a rack indoors, though I found that it can be more difficult to get diapers feeling completely dry in a humid climate when you don’t have the extra boost of the sun. And, yes, you can even dry diapers on the line when it is freezing out, but it helps to get them most of the way dry indoors first.

I have seen descriptions of Energy Star washers suggest that with the money you save on washing you can buy the dryer, but what if you just saved that money and skipped the electric dryer altogether?

If you find the diapers a little stiff after drying, toss them in the clothes dryer with a hockey puck for just a few minutes. If you skipped the dryer, roll the diapers around in your hands to loosen the fibers and soften the diapers.

If by “modern cloth diapering” people mean simple cloth diapers that can be washed easily and inexpensively in energy-efficient machines, I’m all for it.

Today is day #11 of my new Save Green Habit: run the stairs every day.

I’ve stopped finding this fun, but I’m still running. Maybe tomorrow will be a breakthrough, and I’ll experience runners’ high before I experience muscle exhaustion.

Image © Péter Gudella |

Save Green: Save Money (and work out) through Babywearing

The Babywearing Work Out

Did you set a resolution to work out more this year? If so, congratulations! That is the top New Year’s resolution on 43 Things this year and seems to top most lists most years.

If you have a baby or toddler, how will you fit in time to work out? The answer is usually that having a baby or toddler IS the work out.

So, here is my lazy way to work out: wear your baby. If you are doing simple, upright stretches or even a bit of dancing, you can entertain your baby and do yourself some good at the same time.

Save Money by Babywearing

The prescribed buncha-gear lists for new parents include a stroller. If you don’t buy a stroller and you do buy a baby carrier instead, you could save a few dollars or several hundred dollars.

A low-end stroller is about the same cost as a medium-cost baby carrier. The high-end strollers, the jaw-dropping $300-500 jogging strollers not just the $1,000 triplet strollers, quickly leave even the most expensive baby carriers behind.

I bought a folding umbrella stroller anyway, though. Where else would I have put my shopping bags? These are not expensive, so, even with this stroller, you would stay on the inexpensive end of the total combined baby moving price range.

Spend Calories, Save Money

To be honest, I suspect it’s easier physically to wear a baby, spreading that weight through your strong back, than to hold a baby in your arms for much of the day. It sounds great, though, doesn’t it, to save money AND have help reaching your New Year’s resolution.

Today is day #9 of my new Save Green Habit: run the stairs every day.

Still running up and down the stairs. I wish my report was about how I’ve mastered the habit and I’m running for 30 minutes a day. I’m not. It’s hard! I am still pushing each day, but I really can’t keep going up for more than a few minutes at a time. I’m feeling good, moving faster, and just improving slowly upon slowly.

Save Green: Cloth Diapers Save Money

Day #4 of Save Green.

Today’s savings: DIAPERS.

Cloth diapers are such an easy way to save both money and resources. Save both as you buy and as you care for your diapers.

Save Money Buying Diapers

Buy your diapers in bulk. Cloth diaper packages can save you money by giving you a discount on the diapers themselves and by saving on shipping. Think about it. If you buy only two dozen cloth diapers but you buy them 2 or 3 at a time with more shipping each time you buy, you are spending a huge amount on shipping and your dozen or so packages have a much bigger environmental footprint than one larger package would. Buy your diapers all at once to save money and energy.

Choose simple diapers. Anything absorbent can be a diaper. You don’t need expensive, high-tech fabrics to keep your baby happy. Using simple prefold cloth diapers is a great way to save money because your diapers can be used throughout your baby’s diapering career. Use the larger diapers as a changing table cover for a newborn. Use the smaller diapers as a doubler for a toddler.

Buy quality products. When you buy diapers and diaper covers that will stand up to hundreds of washes, you save having to buy replacement diapers. If you care for the diapers well, you can even save by reusing the same diapers for another child.

Getting Down to the Numbers

Our most economical option is the Bummis Prefold Kit with organic cotton diapers. The kit costs $174.99 CDN. You will need two sizes to cover your baby from birth to potty learning, so the total cost will be $350 CDN plus shipping. The average parent spends $2,400-$3,000 on disposable diapers for one baby. That leaves you with a savings of $2,050-$2,650 AND you are saving green in the environmentally sense by using organic cloth diapers.

If you want to put together your own kit and compare diaper costs, try our cloth diaper calculator.

Today is Day #4 of my new Save Green Habit: run the stairs every day.

I’m running up and down stairs to avoid using a treadmill or stair climber. I can see that I’m going to have to put my short runs much closer together in order to have any aerobic effect. I have to work up to doing it more than a dozen times before I can start timing it. Maybe I’ll make it to 30 minutes by Day #21. For now, I feel the BURN, but it’s a good burn.