Welcome blog #sponsor Cottonbabies: not JUST for babies!

Find out how 6 diapers can change your world! {free shipping on all US orders} Cottonbabies.com

Welcome a new blog sponsor, Cottonbabies! I actually cloth diapered both my children (consecutively and simultaneously) in BumGenius diapers, which is how I learned about Cottonbabies. You can find my posts on cloth diapering here. If you’ve been with me a while, you’ll know that I also wrote for the Cottonbabies blog for several years — definitely check it out, it’s a great resource for parents.

It might be tempting to think of Cottonbabies as a store only for mothers with babies, but it’s actually a great resource for parents of children of all ages. I want to list a few of my favorite products for children who are past the baby stage, like mine are.

We use Earth Mama Angel Baby body products a lot around here, actually. The nipple butter is ALL we use on chapped lips (I haven’t breastfed for over 3 years). It has the staying powder of Vaseline but none of the petroleum byproducts. And it stings less than most chapsticks, although my second favorite EMAB product is their lip balm. It doesn’t sting the kids at all. My son says he likes it because “it isn’t spicy”.

Eco-friendly period products. If you don’t have a tilted cervix like me and can use menstrual cups, Cottonbabies carries DivaCup. For the less adventurous, they also carry Lunapads cloth pads and organic tampons.

Piggy Paint. Little Lady is dreadfully obsessed with nail polish right now. It would be terribly toxic, if Cottonbabies didn’t carry Piggy Paint! Unlike some other eco-friendly non-toxic brands, Piggy Paint really stays put for a long time on little fingers.

All kinds of eco-friendly, educational toys. They have a whole section of Pretend Play – my kids use the tea set made from recycled plastic literally every day in their play kitchen. You can even get an eco-friendly telescope or microscope for your Big Kid from Cottonbabies!

And probably the thing you’ll be most excited about if you shop at Cottonbabies online store: FREE SHIPPING!

The Cottonbabies banner ad will be on the left column for the next 3 months, any time you need it. Visit Cottonbabies today and let me know what you think!

Changing Diapers: the end of my journey, the beginning of yours?

I reached a bittersweet milestone in my parenting journey in the last 2 weeks: I finally packed up all my cloth diapers! After consecutively and simultaneously cloth diapering two babies since 2009, it was my first time to start doing loads of tiny undies instead of cloth diapers.

Folding tiny undies
Folding tiny undies

I did, however, make sure to pack the cloth diapers safely after washing and stripping so they are more than ready for another baby that might come along…I am relatively sure that this is not the absolute end of my cloth diapering journey.

Storing cloth diapers for future baby
Storing cloth diapers for future baby?

As I look back on my time in the trenches of cloth diapering, I know that I’ve gained a lot of valuable experience. It was both harder and easier than I thought it would be. I never felt like the cloth diapers added more than I could handle to the challenges of raising two babies virtually at the same time, but there were also hiccups in leaking, washing, and repairing that I wouldn’t have envisioned when I started.

Out of all the advice I would give to parents who are looking into or just starting their cloth diapering journey, there is one resource that I would recommend above all others: a book by Kelly Wels, Changing Diapers: The Hip Mom’s Guide to Modern Cloth Diapering.

My #1 Recommendation for new cloth diapering parents: Changing Diapers by Kelly Wels

I received this book from Kelly after BlogHer 2011 and reviewed it here. I find it such a valuable resource that I still do not want to get rid of my copy. But, good news for all your cloth diapering parents: I received another copy this year as part of the EcoFab50 event in Chicago! Since hoarding two books is probably not cool, I am going to give away my second copy of this book to a family who is just at the beginning of their cloth diaper journey. It doesn’t have to be your first baby. You might have been cloth diapering for a few months and just now hit some snafus that this book can help you overcome (and it can!). Or you might be someone who works with young parents (a doula, a pregnancy resource worker, social worker, adoption advocate, etc.) who could give this to someone who needs it.

I’m going to run this contest for one week, ending Thursday, August 22.

In giveaway entry form, I’m asking newbies to share their #1 cloth diapering question and I’ll answer it. For those of you who are already on your cloth diapering journey, I want to know who you’re planning to give this book to!

 

Good luck, and I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I get some balls: a post about laundry

All the other green, crunchy people have been telling me lately that I need to get some balls.

You know, to help with the laundry.

Get Some Wool Dryer Balls | Living Consciously BlogSo when Brooke from Bogberry wool laundry balls was looking for bloggers to try out her wool dryer balls, I said sure!

What are wool dryer balls?

Balls of felted wool. You know how you don’t want to wash your wool sweaters in hot water or they will shrink up forever and become matted? Well, wool dryer balls have been shrunken and matted on purpose so they keep their lovely round shape. The better to pound your clothing in the dryer, my dear. You just pop them into the dryer with your wet clothes and they soften the clothing naturally, by pounding the heck out of them. You can also add a few drops of essential oils to the balls to provide a pleasant scent to your dried clothing without the toxic chemicals.

What do they do?

They are a great alternative to fabric softener. Liquid or sheet fabric softener chemicals are a fun combination of phthalates and other toxic chemicals that coat the fibers of our clothing so that we can then absorb directly into our skin throughout the day. Hooray! Except, not really. I stopped using fabric softener about 5 years ago and haven’t missed it at all. So really, I didn’t need the wool dryer balls for fabric softening purposes.

Remove static cling. If you live in a really dry climate (I don’t), the balls should reduce your static in the dryer. I wasn’t able to test this because it is humid as heck here in Texas despite the drought.

Shorten drying time. I was primarily interested for this reason, because we have a weird dryer setup. Our washer and dryer are in the garage in the middle of the room, not near an outside wall. Which means that the dryer vent hose snakes out and around, turns corners twice, and goes on for about 10 feet before venting outside. I’ve found, since moving into this house about a year and a half ago, that this setup has increased the drying time of everything.

What do you think?

I have to admit, I haven’t added essential oils to the balls yet, so I don’t know how that works with scenting the clothing. Honestly, it doesn’t occur to me to scent my clothing so I keep forgetting. I am also not sure how my husband would feel about his clothes smelling like ylang ylang and lavender.

When I got my first batch of dryer balls, I had 6. I promptly lost one somewhere. With 5 dryer balls, I definitely noticed softer clothing but not much difference in drying time for my cloth diapers. I still had to run two dry cycles. I emailed Brooke about this, and she gave me some very valuable advice that I just had to pass on to anyone else trying wool dryer balls:

The general rule is, the heavier the load of laundry ( diapers, towels, jeans, sweats etc) the more dryer balls you need to see a significant decrease in drying time.  6 will still do all of the regular dryer balls jobs…helping to soften clothes, helping things dry more evenly, helping to decrease static etc., but if someone’s main goal for using them was to decrease drying time, they’d need to be using a much higher number of balls…to see a few minutes shaved off of the drying time of diapers, you’d need considerably more. We cloth diapered and have a horrid, ancient dryer. With 10 extra large balls, we got our diapers down to once through the dryer.  They last indefinitely, so once you’ve got that magic number that works with the loads of laundry you’re doing and the dryer that you have —  you’re good to go!

I increased the number of dryer balls to 11 total and was finally able to see a difference in drying time for my cloth diapers. Unfortunately, my ridiculous vent situation is still working against me. I tested the dryer balls again by drying 3 heavy floor mats, disconnecting the dryer vent and using 11 balls. It only took about 1 1/2 cycles to dry the load! In the past I’d had to run as many as 3 drying cycles for those same mats, and even then had to air dry to finish. Success!

Where can I get some balls?

I got mine from Bogberry Handicraft Etsy store. She has some beautiful, bright colors and some more classic neutrals. I have both shades and they are all great. Tip: it’s a bit easier to find the brighter balls in your laundry if you wear a lot of boring colors like we do. All wool dryer balls are handmade, and this is great because you are supporting a skilled individual who is putting time and effort into these balls. I say, give them a try!

Here’s the best part:

You can get 10% off* wool dryer balls today using the coupon code “Conscientious” at Bogberry Handicraft’s Etsy store!

*10% off purchase of $29.50 or more. That’s a purchase of 6 dryer balls. Remember, these things literally last forever. You will never have to buy them again! Unless you lose one, like I did. The moral of that story is that you should probably not let one roll out of your garage and into your yard somewhere. 

NOTE: Brooke gave me some dryer balls for free in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own!

Unconventional reuses for wire hangers

When we got married, my husband and I agreed that we hate wire hangers. Now that I am all crunchy and whatnot, I am sure that wire hangers are probably the most “green” choice, but I still hate them because they put weird dents on the clothes. Also, they look tacky. Which are very shallow reasons, but there you have it.

So we got rid of ALL our wire hangers and replaced them with wooden hangers. We bought huge packs of wood hangers from IKEA and from Bed, Bath & Beyond with coupons.

Occasionally, wire hangers would come back into our lives via consignment sale purchases and I would promptly donate them to Goodwill.

This week I realized that I probably shouldn’t have given all those wire hangers away.

First came the Pinterest project. Being our first year to decorate our house for Christmas, I figured that we probably needed a wreath. I was horrified to find that wreaths cost something like $70 at Hobby Lobby? What?!! So, of course I went to Pinterest and found that you can make a wreath out of Christmas ball ornaments and…a wire hanger. I dug around in the garage and actually found one that escaped Goodwill. The result:

Pinterest Christmas ornament wreath

Not too bad!

And then…

I managed to outdo myself in the “weird” department today by flushing and entire cloth diaper down the toilet. You may have seen this tweet.

The kids were napping, so my husband was all set to leave work and buy a toilet snake (whatever that is? we are definitely the least handy homeowners EVER) and/or call a plumber when Facebook and Twitter suggested that I try a wire clothes hanger.

Guess what?

Yes, that is the previously flushed cloth diaper, a wire clothes hanger, and a needlenose pliers.

And there you have my eco-friendly reuse ideas for wire coat hangers: wreaths and fishing things out of toilets. Let me also pass along a little advice: do not throw out ALL your wire clothes hangers, no matter how ugly or annoying they are!

*NOTE: I was not paid by anybody to mention IKEA, Bed, Bath & Beyond, or toilet snakes. 

Cloth diaper Thurs: BumGenius Freetime

After receiving a number of free cloth diapers at BlogHer 2011, I started a feature on the blog called “Cloth Diaper Thursdays” where I review cloth diapers that I have tried recently or talk more about my cloth diapering journey. For more cloth diapering posts, make sure you check out my contributing posts to CottonBabies blog as well.
~~~I have to admit that BumGenius is really my go-to brand for cloth diapers (and, disclaimer, I write for their blog). For the first year of my son’s life, our stash was exclusively BumGenius. We started out with what used to be called the BumGenius Organic All-In-One, which looked like this:

My main problem with this diaper was the drying time. I loved that there was no need to stuff inserts like pocket diapers but, due to the thickness of the organic cotton, it sometimes took up to 2 days for these diapers to fully line dry in humid North Texas weather! I could dry them in the dryer but that would shorten the life of the waterproofing PUL in the diaper. I found that I could reduce drying time somewhat by detaching one side of the Organic AIO, but eventually even that was cumbersome and I ended up selling all my Organic AIO’s on DiaperSwappers.com.

Recently, BumGenius took the Organic AIO off the market and has replaced it with the BumGenius Freetime. Same concept — an AIO diaper with no pocket-stuffing required, but this time the drying time is significantly reduced due to new materials, and now the inserts are “semi-attached”, meaning they are each only attached on one end only:

I love this diaper! The drying time is still more than the BumGenius 4.0 pocket diaper, but not much. Fit is the same, and it does great with both poop and pee. I’ve also added hemp or cotton doublers underneath the inserts for additional absorbency.

Pros:

  • No pocket stuffing
  • Great BumGenius fit (one-size diaper that sizes in the rise with snaps)
  • Double inserts provide a lot of absorbency
  • Reduced drying time
  • Super cute colors and patterns!

Cons:

  • Longer drying time than a pocket cover & insert

And one more note — right now CottonBabies is running a Buy 5, Get 1 Free sale on the Freetime diapers. So if you’re looking to set up your stash for a new baby (or a 2nd baby!), I’d highly recommend stocking up now!

Rating: 5 out of 5

*NOTE: I received the BumGenius Freetime diaper free from Cottonbabies as a writer for their blog. All opinions are my own. Also, I don’t receive any commission or affiliate fees if you buy from Cottonbabies 🙁

Cloth Diaper Thurs: Applecheeks

Last year after receiving a number of free cloth diapers at BlogHer 2011, I started a feature on the blog called “Cloth Diaper Thursdays” where I review cloth diapers that I have tried recently or talk more about my cloth diapering journey. For more cloth diapering posts, make sure you check out my contributing posts to CottonBabies blog as well.
~~~

I received the Applecheeks 2-size envelope cover and insert in Size 2 from Beth from Me as a Mommy while at BlogHer 2012 this year, and am just now getting around to writing a review! I’d heard a lot about this brand, which is made by a small company in Canada. The envelope diaper works just like a pocket, with the pocket opening in the middle instead of at the front or back (see picture, above).

First impression: the Applecheeks diaper is so plush and soft! The leg elastic is significantly gentler than other diapers I have tried as well. Not sure how this will wear in the long term, would it make the leg openings looser?

One major difference between this diaper and the other diapers I’ve tried: the pocket opening being in the middle. I didn’t think much about it until Little Lady pooped in the diaper. As you might know, I am a HUGE fan of my diaper sprayer. When I went to spray the poop, the location of the opening caused me to be spraying poop INTO the pocket half the time. I was a little taken aback by this and asked Amy Appleton, founder of Applecheeks, what they recommend to resolve this issue.

Here’s some more info about the Applecheeks diaper and poop spraying from Amy:

We strongly recommend using our fantastic flushable liners with the AppleCheeks envelope cover. Not only is this less messy than a sprayer but it also ensures the diapers does not sit totally saturated until wash day. If you feel you must use a sprayer, be sure to hold the diaper from the FRONT of the cover so that the overlap is such that the cover will remain closed. If you hold it from the back it will indeed just open right up.

Make sense? In my case, this means I just need to make sure I always use a liner with the Applecheeks diaper because I was unable to figure out how to spray effectively to avoid spraying poop back into the diaper.

In summary:

Pros:
Very soft!
Gentle leg elastic
Well made, high quality diaper
Snaps – always love snaps!
Insert is very thick & absorbent
You could use any brand insert in the pocket, versatile

Cons:
The pocket opening being in the middle (only for me – not everyone will see this as a disadvantage)
Cost of flushable liners add to the cost of the diaper

Regarding the “cons”, you can also make your own liners out of old t-shirts, old kitchen towels, etc., spray the poop off and wash with your diapers, which completely eliminates the cost and waste factor associated with flushable liners. I have made some reusable liners of my own out of an old jersey material pillowcase and they work great.

Overall, I will still be putting this diaper in regular rotation and it looks super cute on Little Lady’s little bum!

Rating: 4 out of 5

#clothdiapers: GoGreen Champ vs BumGenius elastic replacement

It’s not even Thursday and I’m talking cloth diapers! I had to post because I have some interesting info for cloth diaper pros: last night I found one major differences between my favorite cloth diapers, the GoGreen Champ and the BumGenius 4.0 One-Size. As you may or may not remember, I’ve been cloth diapering now for a little over 2 years, and during the last year I’ve had two babies in cloth diapers simultaneously. This is, of course, quite a beating on the diapers – the PUL, the hook and loop, and the elastic. Fortunately, both these brands of diapers have held up great as far as PUL. I have had to replace all the hook and loop on the BumGenius (which were fully 2 years old or more), but it really wasn’t too difficult – just time-consuming.

Minor differences first: for a while, the GoGreen Champ was one of my favorite diapers because a) they have double leg gussets, and b) they were my first diapers with snaps. Now that I’ve started acquiring some BumGenius snaps, though, I find that the BG snaps are actually less intimidating to childcare/daycare/relatives than the typical cloth diaper snaps because there are only 2 snaps instead of 3, and they are placed in a location on the diaper that is similar to hook and loop placement (and therefore, similar to disposables). That’s definitely a score in favor of the BumGenius – snaps last longer than hook and loop and I can bring them to childcare/Mother’s Day Out. However, the two diaper brands were still on pretty much equal footing until last night.

BumGenius 4.0,
elastic easily accessible

Here is what swung the pendulum for me: GoGreen Champ diapers have the leg elastic literally sewn into the leg. As in, you cannot replace the leg elastic because there is stitching through the elastic, inside the casing. This is kind of a game changer for anyone who plans to use the diapers for more than 2 years. After 2 years, elastic on pretty much any cloth diaper loses it’s elasticity and the legs of your diapers will start to gape and therefore leak. When BumGenius released the 4.0 diaper, they made the leg elastic easily accessible without having to even open a seam. You just snip the old and sew on the new. I’ve done several replacements on BG 4.0’s and it’s a breeze! FuzziBunz are even easier, if you’re interested.

I did manage to sew new elastic over top of the old elastic on the GoGreen Champ, but it’s a messy job and isn’t seamless in any sense of the word. It yielded some bumpiness that I don’t love. You also have to cut through the PUL casing around the legs, which is going to cause some leakage and eventually will render the diapers unusable. This was a temporary solution for me and I would not recommend it. What most people would have to do is probably actually throw out a GoGreen Champ diaper when the leg elastic goes, or sell the used diaper to someone who wants to try and go through the trouble of adding new elastic.

The inner double leg gussets on the GoGreen Champ, while nice for containing poop, are another replacement issue. You can’t replace the leg gusset elastic either without damaging the PUL. Now that I’ve rigged a temporary replacement of the leg elastic, the inner leg gusset is much more saggy than the legs. All kinds of weirdness in fit now, and the leg gussets are rendered pretty much useless.

In conclusion, I used to recommend GoGreen Champ on equal, or sometimes better, footing than the BumGenius 4.0 but now I definitely won’t.

Have you found some way to replace the leg elastic on your GoGreen Champ? If so, I’d love to hear about it and be able to retract this post! It’s a great diaper otherwise.

NOTE: Obviously, I did not receive any free product in exchange for the mention of these brands and diapers. As you know, I do write for the CottonBabies blog, which I choose to do because I love and believe in their products.

 

Potty training and cloth diapers

I’ve been making a huge effort in the last week not to cover my blog in potty learning updates as we’ve been working with Little Sir to use the potty. However, if you follow me on Twitter you have definitely be inundated by updates. Sorry about that.

#pottytraining: guess who pooped in the potty & had NO pee accidents today?! This guy!

I’ll be doing a more in-depth outline of our methodology later – both on this blog and on the CottonBabies blog. Suffice it to say that we are not following any program exactly, it’s something we have kind of made up as we go along to fit Little Sir’s preferences and our family. I am sure it’s a very AP-type tactic – go with your heart, blah blah blah. And I’m sure we’ll use completely different methodology when we start Little Lady on potty learning.

I do have one quick thing to say about potty training and cloth diapers. I was told back in the pre-baby days, as I researched cloth diapers, that cloth would help my child potty train earlier and easier because he or she can feel wetness when wearing cloth diapers. The logic is that the child isn’t going to like being wet and will therefore be more likely to want to learn to use the potty and less likely to have accidents in their underwear.

Unfortunately, the feeling-the-wetness aspect of cloth diapers kind of backfired on us.

It’s true that Little Sir could tell when he was wet. One of the ways I knew he was ready to use the potty is that he was starting to come to me and ask for diaper changes:
Him: “Need a diaper change!”
Me: “Do you have poop?”
Him: “No, just pee”

When we started the first potty-training day, he refused to go naked as most programs suggested. He insisted on wearing something on his lower half, and he was very enthusiastic about his “racecar underwear” which he had picked out at the store. This is where the wetness aspect didn’t help us.

Instead of being shocked and uncomfortable when he peed in the underwear, it was normal for him. He was accustomed to feeling wet! No biggie. Why would I stop playing and go sit on the potty when I always feel wet when I pee? Gah. We had to explain to him over and over that wet underwear is NOT OK. What we want is to have dry underwear. He was clearly seeing underwear as just another form of cloth diaper, because even when it was dry he wanted a new pair after going to the potty. He just saw it as a cloth diaper change. Awesome.

Most likely, this is not the norm. I know by now that Little Sir tends to be the exception and not the rule. Most kids will accept being naked. Most kids will not enjoy being wet. He is just never like “most kids”.

The good news is, he’s really doing well so far. He understood after about a day that dry underwear is preferable (also there were bribes involved). He goes in the potty several times a day and has only a few accidents.

We’re having a lot of trouble with going in unfamiliar pottys when we’re out, though, so if you have any advice there – I’m all ears!

Cloth diaper Thurs: washing for two in cloth

It’s a been a while since I did an update on our cloth diaper washing routine. I thought I’d post our most recent iteration for those of you wondering about cloth diapering two children at the same time. It’s true that our routine for two in cloth diapers is different than just one. For one thing, I only had to strip our diapers about every 6-8 weeks when I had only one child. Now that there are two of them, I have to strip them about every 3 weeks. If you aren’t sure what I mean by stripping, please read my post about how we all need to be stripping.

So I’ll skip the stuff about stripping the diapers, which happens only occasionally, and go straight to the everyday washing.

When the diaper comes off the child, I spray the poop (if there is any) and put the diaper into a dry Mommy’s Touch or PlanetWise wet bag in a regular trash can. I also throw our cloth wipes in there. These are the same 2 wet bags and the same trash can that I started out with 2.5 years ago. Nothing wrong with any of them, still working great! For the most part, there is really no odor in the pail. I do keep an Arm and Hammer baking soda pouch in the pail, which I have rigged to be refillable. If the pail itself gets stinky, I spray it with a mixture of tea tree oil and water and set it out in the sunlight. The only smell problem I ever have is the trash can I keep next to the diaper pail, which holds disposables. I do not understand how people can throw away disposables inside their house – those things STINK!

When the diaper pail/wet bag is full (about every other day since I have around 25 diapers in my stash), I take the whole thing out and dump it directly into our front-loading HE washing machine. I do not really ever touch the diapers themselves, unless one starts to slide back out the door (ew!).

I am still using Charlie’s Soap, which I get on Subscribe And Save through Amazon. I do love Rockin’ Green, but it’s just too much more expensive than Charlie’s, and we’ve never had any trouble with Charlie’s. I also use it for all our clothes.

It goes like this: one “Quick Wash” Hot/Cold cycle, which I use as a pre-rinse. Then a full Heavy-Duty Hot/Cold cycle with Charlie’s Soap. Every other load, I add a half scoop of Bio Kleen Oxygen Bleach Plus. I started doing this because it turns out that my HE machine water does not get hot enough to fully sanitize the diapers.

That’s it for washing! I line dry the covers, either outside on our clothesline or on a rack indoors in our garage. I throw the inserts, wet bag(s) and cloth wipes into the dryer.

So it’s actually really fast and easy! The most tedious part is re-folding all the diapers afterward. Just like folding any laundry, really.

How do you wash your diapers?

We should all be stripping!

We should be stripping clothdiapers more

Cloth diapering parents, I had no idea that so many of you were dealing with stink issues that I can solve for you! The first thing I ask when someone tells me they’re dealing with stinky diapers is: how often do you strip your diapers?

I have been shocked lately how many have responded with some variation of “Um, never?”.
Parents!! What are you doing?!! We need to be stripping regularly!!

Why do you need to strip?
Here’s the lowdown: even cloth diaper-approved detergents leave some degree of residue on cloth fibers. Considering how often your diapers are washed, after several weeks (maybe as long as a few months if you’re diapering only one child or have a large stash) that buildup is sitting on top of the cloth fibers. The result is 1) leaking because the fibers are coated with residue and cannot absorb, and 2) stink, because basically the stink is trapped inside the coated fibers. YUCK!

Stripping is easy!
There are several ways to do it, but I prefer the Dawn method. By this, I mean Dawn dish detergent, the Original formula. All you do is wash your diapers as usual, and then run an additional wash cycle with Dawn instead of laundry detergent. For a top loading (old school) machine, you’d use 1-2 tablespoons of Dawn. For an HE machine, 1-2 teaspoons. My HE machine only requires 1 teaspoon. After you’ve run the cycle, stick your head inside the washing machine. If you still smell Dawn, run another rinse cycle (for an HE machine that doesn’t have a rinse cycle, just run a short cycle without adding anything) until you don’t smell it anymore. The diapers should smell completely neutral.

That’s it! See how easy it is?

Go! Do it NOW!