Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dealing with the NO, NO, NO Days!

I LOVE my daughter with MY WHOLE HEART.  I have the best time with her!  We have such a good time reading books together, playing with stickers, telling stories, playing outside, taking walks....the works.  But like anyone, she has her days...

Days when she doesn't want to do what I ask her. Moments when she thinks NO is always the best answer.  Moments when she thinks that not looking at me means I cannot see what she is doing. Moments when I ask her to look at me, and she purposely turns and faces the opposite way. Moments when I say "1,2,3, sit down" and she responds "1,2,3, stand up." Moments where she thinks crying on the floor will get her what she wants.  Moments when no matter what I say or do, Mommy is the bad guy.  

I hate to say that we have entered into the "terrible two" age.  I truly DO NOT like this label...I've got too much educational training to not fully believe in the "self-fulling prophecy" and the idea that a child becomes what you expect of them.  So while I use the "it's just a phase" to comfort myself after a tough day, I always strive to address the situation at hand with an understanding heart and some level of reasoning (but I will not let the "terrible two" concept justify her behavior).



Prior to starting back to work this summer, my little lady was having a TOUGH day.  Everything was going bad according to her.  Nothing was right.  She didn't want to eat. Then she did.  While I fixed breakfast or lunch I wasn't "paying enough attention to her", then I was "touching her too much" (...I was giving her hugs...)...we weren't outside... we weren't reading the right book... we weren't swimming...we weren't swinging....it was endless.  I was about to lose it.... then we went to check the mail and you would never believe what book was waiting for us in the mailbox! (We get 1 book a month mailed to our house via the Dolly Parton Imagination Library) 

My No, No, No Day! By Rebecca Patterson

I hadn't actually checked the mail in a couple of days, so I'm sure this book was delivered earlier in the week, but for me, I felt like God was giving me a much needed gift.  As soon as we got back to the house we went in and read this book.  It was like reading about a parallel universe....this was the written form of how our day was going.  This is a wonderful book!---exceptional for those testy toddler days when your child needs to SEE what it looks like to act "badly" (and how other people see the behavior) and for you as a parent to try and reach a level of understanding rather than anger.  Lets just say, I ended the book in tears.... tears of guilt for being so frustrated with my little one when I know that we ALL have bad days sometimes.  When we ALL feel like things are just not going right and we have a domino effect that leads from grumpy to grumpier.  I felt guilty for showing too many signs of irritation and maybe giving her too many time out sessions rather than trying to comfort her during her trying moments.... guilty for not trying to truly understand why she was feeling this way.

[I even had a moment of giggles. In the book when the little girl says "nobody!" my little one contradicted her with "YESbody!"  AHHH!!!....a whole new level when you argue with a book itself]

I am certainly not saying that my girl doesn't still get "in trouble" often. We still discipline her often...it's part of how she learns what is acceptable and what is not.  What is right and wrong.  What is allowed in our home, and what is not.  BUT--I have also strived to take a step back after she throws herself on the floor in a fit of tears, or after she shouts "NO" about whatever and try to remember that she is only TWO.  She is still figuring out how to calmly and verbally describe her emotional state...and, just like with us, there are times that she doesn't even know why she's grumpy. She just is! 

Being a toddler is hard. They are still learning how to communicate their thoughts and emotions. They are developing their independence that at times, is strongly encouraged by parents, and other times strongly deterred.  For toddlers, it is hard to understand why we allow them to do one thing and not another.  AND there are times when a toddler's own capabilities are not at the level they want-- they just cannot understand why they aren't tall enough, or why their little fingers just can't get that puzzle piece in the right spot.  It gets frustrating! 

So on those days when you are on your last straw....when you are at your absolute limit...when if your spouse doesn't get home in the next ten minutes you are going to CRY.... remember that your little human or humans are just that...human.  They are not trying to make your day a living h***.  They are trying to sift through a whole array of emotions.  They are testing their boundaries. They are extra hungry, or sleepy, or just having a bad day for no apparent reason.  Try to be understanding.  Try to offer them the chance to explain why they feel the way they do, or why they are acting the way they are acting.  Try to respect their emotional outburst as being the only way they understand how to express the way they feel.... and then YOU EXPLAIN to them how YOU FEEL.

Tell them that you too are tired.  Tell them that their screaming is making your head hurt.  That if they keep acting this way, they may make you feel so bad that you will cry.  YOU TOO have emotions.  You too have a lot on your plate to deal with and they need to understand that their behaviors and actions can negatively impact other people and not just themselves.  Kids, even little two year olds can understand sooooo much more than we sometimes give them credit. They are excellent at learning cause and effect.  Our job as parents is to support them, love them, but also teach them (for my little one, the softer spoken my voice, the more receptive she is to stopping and listening).  They need to learn that crying doesn't equal getting a cookie. That asking nicely and saying please will get them a cookie.  As they get older, they learn that just because you ask nicely and say please STILL doesn't mean you will get that cookie!! A hard lesson to learn indeed.


So after the tantrum, and the tears (from mommy and child), the discipline, the conversations, the hugs, the kisses....everything that goes into these tough days, remind them of this:

We will all have bad days sometimes.  Our goal is to make every day the best day we can.  

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

One Phrase for an Eclectic Eater

So our little bird has always been a pretty good eater. She began by eating everything we gave her.  Then we hit a few bumps on the road to independence where she would say "no" just because she realized that she could!!

Noah and I agreed that we wanted to have a child that loved food and would make sitting down to eat an enjoyable time.  Personally, I didn't want to fix a separate meal for a picky little one and then make a "grown up" meal as well.  So what did we do?  We never made it an option for her to eat anything besides what I was cooking for supper.  In all honesty, I've actually incorporated more vegetables and more well-balanced options into my meals once we had our girl eating with us BECAUSE I wanted to ensure she was eating top notch healthy.

So how do you get a kid to eat broccoli, steamed cabbage, green and black olives, pickled okra, carrots, pintos, kidney beans, tomatoes, bruschetta, and the list goes on....

You provide your little one with a mini version of your own plate.  Of course you cut up things as necessary for their size.  You sit down and begin enjoying your wonderful meal.  You help your little one take bites as they need it, and whenever they say "NO" or "I don't like this" or "I don't want this" you say this:

ONE PHRASE: "That's fine.  You don't have to eat it...just leave it on your plate."  


Say nothing more.  Continue eating your food. Don't make their "no" and your "yes" into a power struggle.  Just keep enjoying your food.  If your little one said "no" to the carrots, make sure to talk to your spouse about how yummy your carrots are! Say they are your favorite! But don't talk about it with your child. He/She chose to not try it and you are letting them make that decision without argument.  BUT....let's be real.... they LOVE to be like mommy and daddy, and when you are eating carrots and daddy is eating carrots, and you are not pushing them to do something they don't want to do, suddenly it doesn't seem so bad.  He/She will suddenly pick up that carrot and eat it, and they will want you to see that they like it too!  Trust me!

We add the "just leave it on your plate" for two reasons.
1. Our little one use to drop food on the floor or take whatever she didn't want and put it on the table or try to put it on my plate.  I wasn't having that kind of mess....
2. It allows the food to remain an option for later when/if they change their mind

This one phrase has become a staple in our home, and it has always led to our little girl trying whatever it is that she thought she didn't want.  AND not just trying it, but liking it and eating most if not all of it off of her plate.

I know things could always change with a child's palate, but at 2 years and 3 months old, our little one eats everything that we eat.  She loves everything that I listed above and so much more (literally the only thing that she has consistently said no to, and hasn't changed her mind on is mashed potatoes or boiled potato chunks...she just doesn't care for it!).  Even when she doesn't care for certain things, she will at least want to try it, because she sees us eating and enjoying it.  Just like us, she will have her days when she's not in the mood for something and will say "no" but when I fix it a few days later, she's back to eating it at full speed.

So go fix supper! Try our the phrase and see how it goes!  You have to be consistent with it, but it does work.  It makes for a much more relaxing and enjoyable meal without having a power struggle or argument about what they are or are not eating.

One last piece of advice to help the process: make sure your child comes to the table hungry...not overly or course, but don't let them fill up on snacks pre-meal.  They need to be ready to eat, and look forward to food!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Baby-Led Weaning...with added Caution

Prior to having a little one, I never even thought about the transition from nursing to eating solids. Once my little one was was born, I began looking into it, and after speaking with the pediatrician, set my sights on beginning solids at 6 months.  At 4 months old, I started looking into baby foods and the proper process for transition.  I was actually looking forward to adding solids into her diet! Physically, I was literally getting drained trying to keep up with how much milk she was drinking... mainly due to the stress of starting back work and pumping. (Stress is a MAJOR milk-making killer...if you need some milk supply tips, check this blog post out !).

Ironically, once my little bird was 6 months old, I had found a new balance, and we were smooth sailing with exclusive breast milk.  Such smooth sailing, that I half-heartedly started solids.  I made three different kinds of homemade baby food: green bean, apple, and sweet potato.  I froze the baby food in ice cube trays.  This created perfect sized portions!--IF she had eaten it, that is.

Each night I would thaw one of the types, and she would try it, but without much appreciation.  Most of the meal, she spent watching our food go from plate to mouth.  Since she didn't seem interested in the baby food, I didn't push it...but since I didn't think she was prepared to handle anything with more substance, we pretty much kept exclusively nursing until she was about 7 months. Even then, she honestly wasn't relying on food as a true source of nutrients until she was closer to 9-10 months probably....breastmilk was just such an easy go-to and I knew it was certainly healthy!

Luckily, my baby food making efforts didn't go to waste, as my nephew loved baby food :)
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If you look up baby-led weaning online, you will, per usual, find a spectra of opinions. For the most part, TRUE baby-led weaning is when you immediately give them large pieces of regular food and they learn to feed themselves. While that sounds lovely in some respect, I was concerned about two key points:

1. It could get too messy for my style.  I've got enough to deal with besides a huge mess of food on her tray, in her seat, on the floor, in her lap, hair, clothes....

2. First time mom here!! Safety is always analyzed.  What if she didn't realize it was too big for her? What if she took too much at once and choked?!  That scared me...still does.


So here were the steps to OUR version of baby lead weaning. In my opinion, it's a good balance of baby-led weaning with some added caution

1. Provide her with what we are eating just mashed up a bit. (still has texture and lumps)
Some of this was mashed with a fork or spoon, others were literally chewed up a little in our mouths, and then passed on to her via spoon....Ok, I'll give you a moment to process what I've just described.   You are either thinking: A) Is that child abuse? B) That's weird...but ok  C) Are you a bird now?  D) HEY! That's what I did!

Regardless of where you are on the spectra...I understand.  If I had seen someone doing this prior to my own, I would have thought it was a bit gross myself.  Heck, even my family looked at us sometimes like we were going a bit too far.  But Noah and I thought nothing of it.  It seemed natural. Our little bird (no pun intended...ok, maybe a little) was enjoying her food, loved being a part of meal time, and greatly appreciated eating exactly what mama and daddy were eating! (Which let's be honest, is the easiest for everyone!!!...I am not about to fix a different meal for my kid....)

2. As she got older, and we felt that she was handling pieces of food better, we simply decreased the amount of mashing or chewing, until she was getting small pieces of our fruits and vegetables.  I was still wary with meat so I continued to do a pre-chew on that.  What size are we at?  Think the little frozen mixed vegetables you get for soup?  This was cooked with a lot of my meals, because it was already a perfect size!



3. Continue allowing food pieces to get larger until you are not changing it at all!  This happens surprisingly quickly.  I know our little one began having her plate look like a miniature version of ours before she was 18 months old.  At age 2, I help her cut up meat or noodles, but that is about all we change.

With this process, my little one has become an excellent eater! Occasionally she has overfilled her mouth, and she will spit it out into her hand. For the most part, she has learned how much she can put in her mouth at a time, and she has never had a choking episode.


The following is a short clip of her eating right after she turned 19 months old:

video


2nd Birthday Dinner.  (And those are not grapes, but her favorite--black olives!)

No matter how you go about it, your child will become a successful self-feeder!  Just like your child will become successful with the potty, and sleeping through the night, and all the other big concerns that we have as parents.  We know our kids will get there, but that doesn't mean we won't try to help them in what we believe is the best way possible.

Upcoming Blog post??  How to raise an eclectic eater that enjoys their food... without the battles!  It just takes ONE Phrase and some time. I'm not saying it would work for every kid, but it certainly was the golden ticket for our little one!




Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sleeping...or the lack thereof

You hear about all of these parents that have the best sleepers.  Children that started sleeping through the night when they were only months old! You can read on pinterest, all of these wonderful how-tos regarding sleep training and getting your child to begin sleeping through the night almost immediately.  THIS is not that kind of post.  I may know what I'm doing when it comes to nursing, increasing milk supply, and cloth diapering, but I am no sleep whisperer.

This post is not a how-to.  This is not a fix-all.  This is a "oh my gosh, you are not alone" post.  An "I feel you...I understand what you are going through...I get why you are exhausted" post.  BUT, it is also, a "there is a light at the end of these sleepless nights" and "it will get better" post. Finally, it is a "here are the things I tried that kind-of worked" post.

So enter into my world... let's travel through the past two years of my little one's life, and explore the many ups and downs that we experienced.

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When our little bird arrived, we were still in the final stages of building our house! What was originally going to be finished pre-baby turned into a house that was not move-in ready until she was 6 weeks old!  Due to this hiccup, we did a couple things different than we would have if we were already in our home, but for the most part we maintained our expected sleeping plan.  

Sleeping Plan Goals (prebaby)
1. Our little angel would sleep in her own crib at night.  We would start her in the pack-n-play just because it is smaller, and then move her into the actual crib after the first few weeks.

2. Use a Levana Oma+ baby movement monitor with vibration and alarm.  Use a regular sound baby monitor, once baby was in another room

3. NO pillows or blankets. Footie onesies to stay warm

4.  Our little one would love sleeping flat on her back (... as stated by all doctors...)


What actually happened

**Levana monitor was used for almost a full year.  I love this monitor.  It vibrates to stimulate your baby if they stop breathing for a brief moment.  If they still haven't moved after a certain period of time, an alarm goes off.  The alarm went off a total of 3 times during its use.  Once, we believe it was because she stopped breathing for a short time (something that little ones tend to do while they are sleeping apparently).  The other two times, her monitor had actually gotten separated from her diaper.  Was this totally stressful to wake up to that alarm?? Yes.  Did it also make me feel good to know that the alarm would go off if no movement was felt? YES.

Our sweet little bird came home from the hospital one day old, and it was wonderful.  I had her little pack-n-play all set up in our bedroom.

Night 1: She slept well.  Too well... I actually had to wake her for her feedings every 3 hours.  

Night 2: She ended up spitting up some milk after one of her feedings.  I was scared to death.  How was she suppose to spit up safely while on her back?!?  I panicked, and she spent the rest of the night sleeping in her Rock'n'Play Sleeper, which elevates her back and head.  

Night 3-7: She continued sleeping in her Rock'n'Play Sleeper.  I woke her every 2-3 hours to nurse if she didn't wake first. 

Night 8: We began laying her flat in the Pack'n'Play again, after my pediatrician strongly encouraged me to get her comfortable with sleeping flat again. She did well, especially considering she was waking every 2-3 hours to nurse anyway.  At times she would stay latched for over an hour!  She wasn't getting milk, but she wanted to continue suckling.  I dug into the hospital bag and got the soothie (paci from hospital)--she took it! YAY!  Now mama could get a little more sleep. 

Fast forward to 6 weeks: We moved into the new house!!!! The only space that separates our bedroom from the nursery is our bathroom.  Beginning at 6 weeks, my little one began sleeping in her big crib in the nursery.  She continued to wake every 2-3 hours and I nursed in the nursing chair in her room. She would only accept the soothie paci during the day at this point. She's decided it's a no-go at night time...

Fast forward to 3 months: She continued to wake every 2 hours to nurse. I continued to offer her the soothie (paci from hospital). Sometimes she would take it, most times she would not.

Fast forward to 4 months: She continued to wake every 2 hours to nurse, and I was now back at work. I believe she began using nursing more as a pacifier at times than a true need to nurse for milk. Most attempts to lay her down in the crib resulted in her waking back up and I started the "nursing back to sleep" process all over. I began to buckle her into the baby swing in the living room to let the swinging motion keep her asleep longer....I was sleeping on the couch, just feet away from her.

Fast forward to 5 months: Nothing changed in her routine and needs. I'm getting exhausted from being up so much at night and having to function as a chemistry teacher during the day.  I need to start sleeping in a bed again!  I know she likes the comfort of the swing, the way it curves up around her body.  I begin letting her sleep in swing with no movement to get accustomed to that.  Then I try to simulate the experience in her crib:

Rolled up towels underneath the crib sheet create a little nest
Maybe two of the night time nurses are genuine needs of milk. All other times she is just using me as a pacifier to go to sleep (nurses for 5-10 minutes until she falls asleep). Once, asleep, she is staying asleep more often now that I have the "crib nest".  If she is still waking by 4am, I place her in the swing so I can get at least 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

6 Month Doctor Checkup: SHE IS FINALLY 12 Pounds (closer to 13) !!!! What does this mean?  She should officially be able to sleep for at least 4-6 hours without needing to nurse.  My doctor had not encouraged any form of "cry it out" method yet because she wanted my little one to reach the 12 lb mark first.   So, now it is time to break her nursing/pacifier needs.  SOOOOO much easier said than done....

My pediatrician encouraged me to nurse her before bed, and then not nurse again for at least 4-6 hours.  If she cried, I needed to let her.  She needed to learn to self-sooth.

I HATED THIS! I honestly knew she needed to learn to fall back asleep on her own.  I knew she truly didn't need any milk.  I knew, I knew, I knew... but it was still so hard.  I caved... I just couldn't hear her cry.  I continued on the path of self exhaustion.  Yes, I tried the paci...No, she wouldn't take it.  Yes, we tried letting Noah give her a breastmilk bottle..she would not cooperate.  She continued to cry until I held her.

Fast forward to 7 months:  I literally could not continue. She was now so dependent on nursing to put herself back to sleep that she cried to me every hour on the hour.  It had to stop.  I emotionally prepared for the crying.  I removed the "nest" so that she could fall asleep anywhere in the crib.

Night 1 of Crying it Out:  I nursed her to sleep per usual.  I laid her down for the night.  Like clockwork, she woke up one hour later.  We let her cry....after thirty minutes, I was crying.  I was literally humming hymns to deal with the guilt.  Noah was trying to soothe me. He hated it too but he saw the necessity in it.  She continued to cry... and cry... at 1 hour, the cries were quieter. At 1.5 hours, we just heard a few whimpers and then silence.  I peeked in the nursery, she was fast asleep.  She slept 6 hours straight!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I however, woke every 2 hours and checked on her to ensure she was breathing. (paranoid much?)

Night 2 of Crying it Out: I nursed her to sleep per usual.  I laid her down for the night.  Like clockwork, she woke up one hour later.  We let her cry...after 45 minutes- silence. I peeked in the nursery, she was fast asleep.  She slept 6 hours straight again!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This time I only woke once in the night to check on her.

Night 3 of Crying it Out:  I nursed her to sleep per usual.  I laid her down for the night.  Again, she woke up after one hour.  We let her cry...15 minutes later- silence. I peeked in the nursery, she was fast asleep.  She sleeps 6 hours straight again!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Night 4 of Crying it Out:  I nursed her to sleep.  As I laid her down for the night, she woke.  I left the room anyway.  She cried 5 minutes and then, she was asleep.  She sleeps for 6 hours.

At this point I was only waking up once around 3-4 am to nurse!  My sanity slowly but surely returned as this routine continued for several weeks.  We had a small set back around the 8 month and again at the 10 month mark.  According to several sources, these are common sleep regression ages.  Teething caused a few more minor setbacks.

Fast forward to 1 year: My little one was still "sleeping through the night".  Our schedule was:

              9pm- Final Nurse for the night
              3-4 am Nurse   (She now calls out "Mama!")
              6:30 am- Nurse
              Leave for work

At 18 months we hit another sleep regression, and  this one was pretty tough!  It is tough to ignore, "MAMA, Come get me!!!".  We had to do a mini "cry it out" series of nights again.



At 20 months, she continued to wake too much.  I went against other people's opinions, and decided to replace her crib with a toddler bed.  While others said this move should not be made until ages 3+, I decided her sleeping couldn't really get any worse--and if it truly did, I could bring the crib back.

So right before she was 21 months old. Noah built the toddler bed.  We also decided to add a sound machine (since her room is right by the living room---best purchase ever!!! Why I didn't start using one sooner?!?!?!?...) and a small light (I was fearful of her running into something now that she would be able to get out of her bed by herself). I had spoken with some BM friends and nurses, and they told me that at this age, I need to just cut out the night nursing all together.  I can't keep nursing her to sleep, because that continues to instill in her that she always needs me to fall asleep.  At this point, I agree.  The first night was tough.  She just did NOT understand why she couldn't have "Baba".  She got mad...upset... I felt guilty.  Noah and I finally got her in the bed and we sang songs.  She fell asleep.  Every few hours she would wake, and come to her door and knock as she called out to us.  Each time, I would go in, lay her back down, and sing until she fell asleep.

This continued for 3 weeks. Each night, bedtime got a little easier....she would sleep a little longer, and when she did wake and knock on the door, it would take me minutes to get her to lay back down and go to sleep.

Sometimes, she would fall asleep, but not in the bed... oh well :)
Note the folded quilt "bed pallet" I offer on the floor as well (I've spent some good sleep hours there :)


After about 6 weeks in the toddler bed, things became lovely. We would brush teeth, she would give hugs and kisses, and then she would walk herself to her room and climb in bed. I would sing one song, and she would be asleep.

Now, after 5 months. Corinna LOVES her toddler bed! Since we no longer nurse to sleep, she has learned to successfully go to sleep on her own if she wakes in the night.  If she ever has a bad dream, she simply comes and gets me.  She is able to navigate out of her room and into our bedroom.  She also quickly cooperates about going back to sleep in her own bed!  She prefers it! Our rule has become, if its not light outside, you have to go back to your own bed.


So, at 25 months.... at 2 years old, I finally feel like I have the sleeper that others have had since infancy (mild exaggeration lol).  My little one is a consistent 9:30pm-6:30/7am child who takes one 1-2 hour nap midday.  I know of little ones who have slept this long and longer since they were months old.  My child just wasn't that one.  Did my nursing hinder her sleep progress....probably some...maybe quite a bit... but that was our journey.  I don't think I could have done much differently in hindsight.  When you have to nurse on demand until they are 6 months old due to weight, its hard to break those habits.  That child is already at a cognitive age to know what is going on and what they want.

Loves her bed! Loves having a little (pretty flat) pillow and blankie.
She has ownership of her space, and shes enjoying every minute. 


Do I hope for a better "sleeper" next time? Of course.  It would certainly make life easier.  Am I prepared to do a replay of what I did with my first little one? Yes, but certainly with some changes.  I will begin the sound machine right away--it just helps to drown out the other noises in the house considering our nursery is in the center of our home. While I will nurse as long as it is wanted by my child and myself, I will cut out the "nurse to sleep" bedtime method much sooner than 21 months!!

While there were some serious months of pure exhaustion and emotional trials, in hindsight, it truly does pass quickly. There will be various causes such as teething, sickness, a vacation, etc. that will cause your little one's sleep habits to backslide, but know that with a little time, things will return to an ideal state.  Your little one will continue to grow, they will sleep better, they will still need you for something....and we will be there. With love, open arms, and understanding.









Friday, June 9, 2017

YUMMY DIY Yogurt Smoothies

My little one LOVES the Danimals Smoothie Yogurt Drinks, but when they aren't on sale, they are pricey when you consider how fast she can go through them.  Per usual, I began looking for a way to provide my little one with what she loves, but for a better price, and better nutrition.

Since my little bird likes the Strawberry Danimals best, I experimented with a few things before I found the winning ticket.  Check it out!!


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Purchase:
Whole Milk PLAIN Greek Yogurt (Purchase the largest container so it's cheaper overall)
2% Milk (or any kind of milk)
Nesquik Strawberry Powder (has a lot more vitamins and nutrients than I thought!)
Reusable Squeeze Pouches
       There are several styles and sizes options both online and in stores.


In a small bowl, mix:

2-3 Tablespoons Greek Yogurt
1/2 Tablespoon of Powder (or more if you want a richer strawberry taste)
Milk (depends on how thick or thin you want your smoothie!)
**As she gets older, and eats more, I'll up my recipe batch 😊

Once mixed, place it into your reusable pouch and enjoy!!



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My little one loves that she is able to feed herself the yogurt (mess free) and a mobility with the pouches that I would never allow if she was eating with a bowl and spoon.  She loves the taste, and asks for this almost daily!  It's the perfect after school snack that has good nutrition, while not over filling to hinder dinner time.

This is just too easy to not try it! Trust me, it is delicious! I even sneak a few little spoonfuls myself...ok, fine, I've even been caught by my husband licking the extra yogurt mix out of the bowl....😉

Make it today! Let me now what you think! Do you have a similar recipe that your little ones enjoy?  I would love to hear.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Cloth Diapering 101- The Complete Guide For Success

There are so many different diaper options!! I was completely overwhelmed when I first began looking.  My mama cloth diapered me when I was a baby—she used Gerber prefolds, safety pins, and giant plastic pants.  While these are still available for mamas to use today, there are also new fastening tools, more form fitting covers...there are pocket diapers, and all-in-ones... the list goes on and on.

I chose to follow a very similar path as my mother.  I decided to use prefolds, covers, and snappis.  This decision was made for two reasons:

   1. Financially, prefolds and covers are the cheapest route!  The all-in-ones are rather expensive and like the name implies, you will throw the entire diaper into the dirty pail once it has been used.  Therefore, you must have enough diapers to last you until you are ready to wash!  Most websites strongly encourage you to have around 30+ diapers.  The cost goes up quickly!!

       2. Personally, I felt that prefolds would be the easiest to keep clean over a long period.  While the all-in-ones sound great I was very concerned with how well the diapers would wash…I could be wrong, but it seemed like it would be hard to get all the poo or pee out of these thick diapers since the outer waterproof shell is sewn on to the cloth part.  I also read that it takes quite a while for them to dry….
As a working-away-from-home mom, it was imperative that I chose an option that would be easy, fast, and of course affordable. 

In this post, I will discuss the following:
  • Prefolds
  • Snappis
  • Covers
  • Folding Techniques
  • DIY Cloth Wipes
  • Organization/Packing Diaper Bag
  • Cleaning
  • COST BREAKDOWN: Cloth vs. Disposable



PREFOLDS

Prefolds are literally squares of fabric that are sewn together.  So just like you can easily wash a very dirty washcloth, you can wash a prefold.  My favorite prefolds, and the only I use come from greenmountaindiapers.com and are the Cloth eez brand.  These prefolds are made in a way that provides a thicker middle which supports the absorption of pee and poo better than other prefolds. (Layering: 4-8-4)  Don't be fooled! While Gerber cloth diapers and other brands are available for cheaper, these are thinner, less absorbent, and not the same quality.  Gerber diapers are used by most parents for burp cloths rather than actual diapers these days.

Nothing like snuggling in some warm out-of-the-dryer clean prefolds!


Initially I didn’t like that I would be buying different sizes of the prefolds, because I wanted to get all one size to save money, but the different sizes are a MUST!!!!  The prefolds come in several sizes and are all color coordinated (each size has a different color stitching!): preemie, newbie, newborn, small, medium, large, etc.  On the website they provide the average age and weight of the child for each size.  I strongly encourage you to go by WEIGHT!

My little bird was a little baby, and now a little toddler! She was able to fit in the newborn prefold for the first 3 months!! Online the newborn size said for 0-6 weeks, but the max weight (~10lbs) was exactly where she was at 3 months.

Since my little one was so little, I purchased:

12 newborn
24 small
42 medium

Why so few newborn? Firstly, I didn’t know how long she would actually be small enough to wear them. Secondly, I was at home with her at this size, and I was washing a small load of clothes about everyday anyway.  With any future children, I plan to get another dozen newborn simply because I will not be wanting to wash everyday!! 

Newborn, Small, Medium Prefold sizes
Look Closely at a single Prefold: 3 sections layered 4-8-4 (Double thickness in the middle section!)

Newborn Prefold. Jelly Roll Fold. Snappi Size 1


Once my little one was in the small size, she stayed in them for almost a year!  I was also able to use the medium by folding down the square to make it smaller before putting the diaper on.
We used only size medium for the past several months, but as of 23 months, my little one is DIAPER FREE!!!!!! (Well, during the day….we still wear a diaper at night just in case!)

Small Prefold with Snappi

Medium Prefold- Folded down in the back to make it smaller (like a small)


HEAVY Wetter? If you need some additional absorption when your little one gets a little older, take a newborn prefold and fold it into thirds to make a nice long rectangular pad. Place this in the middle of your larger prefold, and put the diaper on as usual!  This extra pad provides the perfect absorption to last a long night's sleep and also lets you get some extra use out of the outgrown sizes.😊


Newborn trifolded inside Medium Prefold. Perfect for night time diapering!




WHAT HOLDS THE PREFOLD IN PLACE????
SNAPPIS!!! These are an amazing invention, brought to you by a cloth diapering dad that hated using safety pins and the stabbing dangers to both child and parent. 
This is a great Y shaped “tool” that holds the prefold in place perfectly!  I love them, my husband loves them, they are one of the best inventions of all time! J 

Snappi 

COVERS!!

We purchased:

3 FLIP covers- 2 with snaps, 1 with velcro

The Mini Coveralls are perfect for when your little one is little! (no surprise there, right!?) These have snaps that allow the coverall to vary in size to fit a 6lb-18lb. baby.  I can 100% vouch for this statement. These covers were my favorite because they fit her so well, and they have a double elastic band at the legs.  This prevents 99% of the poo explosions from leaking out!   While the poo may get past the first elastic band, I think the poo only ever got past the second band 3-4 times EVER during my daughter’s diaper days. [Ask any disposable diapering parent how many times poo has gotten on their kids clothes!!]  Likewise, the regular size blueberry coveralls, also have this amazing double elastic band and this size fits for 15-40lb.  My little one again, is very little, so when she still wears her cloth diaper at night, at 22 lbs., there is still PLENTY of room for growth if you had a big boy/girl!

Mini Blueberry Coverall
Nursing/Aerobics in a Blueberry Coverall


I purchased my 3 flip covers when they were on sale for a great price.  While I really like how these fit more snugly on my little one (makes her pants fit a bit better), they only have a single elastic band, which means you have a much greater chance of having a potential leak.  This was much more of an issue when she was exclusively BM and in the early stages of table food when her poo was much more fluid.  Once her poo became a thicker consistency into toddlerhood, the single band works great for keeping the “package” in place.  I also decided to purchase a flip cover with Velcro so that whenever a grandparent was watching her, it would be a little easier for them to diaper her without messing with the multiple snaps.

Flip diaper with prefold (no insert)


AJUSTMENT FOR FUTURE CHILDREN: I will definitely purchase a couple more blueberry coveralls so that I don’t have to wash them as often for reuse. 

Helpful Hint for Clothing: Your little one will most likely end up wearing pants that are a size above their shirt size.  The cloth diapers are just more material than any disposable, so it will take a little bit bigger size to accommodate!  (Now that my little one is potty trained, her pants that were too small with the diaper, now fit her perfectly! WIN!)


Prefold FOLDING TECHNIQUES:
When it comes to folding your prefolds, it will take some practice!  The first time I tried to cloth diaper my little one it took me three prefolds before I got one on her securely that she hadn't already peed in!! Needless to say, 48 hours later, and several diaper changes, I felt like a pro… and I only got faster!

I have two favorite folding styles:

During the BM only stage (NO SOLIDS):  JELLY ROLL FOLD
This folding style provides a raised edge on either side of your little one’s bottom that creates a pocket to hold that lovely runny poo!  If I didn’t do a jelly roll fold, you better believe poo would be leaking out.  This fold takes a little time, and some practice, but once you have it down pat you will be good to go!  Besides, when they are newborns, they are only moving so much, so this will counteract your slow folding skills J





Once SOLIDS are fully in diet: ANGEL FOLD
This folding style is very simple, takes one second to do, and does the job well.  When you start using the Angel fold, your little one is already well on the move, and so speed becomes essential to your sanity.  This fold gets it done in the least amount of time.  This is the fold I taught grandparents and daycare!




Want to see these folds in action?  YouTube or Google the fold names and you will have plenty videos, how to’s, etc. to choose from.


DIY- Cloth Wipes!
Seriously, why go to the trouble of using cloth wipes?  Well, when you are already using cloth diapers, it actually becomes a hassle to use disposable wipes.  

WHY?  
Imagine you are changing your baby’s diaper.  If you are using a disposable diaper, when you are done with the disposable wipe you put the wipe in the diaper, wrap it up and throw it away.  

Now…if you are using a cloth diaper, when you are done with your cloth wipe, you put both the cloth wipe and dirty diaper in the diaper pail.  

If you used a disposable wipe, you have put it in the trashcan, then take the diaper to the pail…may seem like nothing, but when you are changing your child in a completely different room from either the pail or trashcan, it is nice to do a one-stop drop.  Besides, do you want to smell the dirty poo wipes in the trashcan? 😳

So what are the best cloth wipes? Go in your closet, or your parents closet, and find that flannel sheet set that you thought would be used (because won’t it be cold on winter nights?!) but instead it sits there.  If this is not the case for you, just go buy a flannel sheet or some flannel material. 

Folded flannel cloth. Note frayed edges
Now, are you ready for this?
1.   Cut the sheet up into several square of whatever size you want.  I cut my square into two different sizes.  
      2. Throw the squares into the washing machine. Wash and dry 2-3 times
      3. You will see that the flannel has unraveled quite a bit.  Cut this part off until there is just a small frayed edge left. 
      4.  The flannel will no longer unravel and you now have PLENTY of cloth wipes to use without any sewing or much effort at all!

What did I use to clean her bum?
My little one had very sensitive skin as a baby, so we would only use water in a spray bottle and the cloth wipes to clean her during diaper changes. 

If she got a rash, I would make a very dilute solution of baking soda and water to use with the wipes.


ORGANIZING:

You will find on Pinterest and other websites all of these nurseries where your diapers are displayed or you have a drawer for every little thing…and that can be wonderful! Beautiful! ...or it can be unrealistic.

My husband and I designed our house with a small little nursery! It is the cutest little space of heaven in our house.  It literally has space for a large cushioned rocking chair, a changing table (where I used an antique dresser) and a crib (where a toddler bed now rests).  My little  bird's closet is this cute little cube of space that has an angled roof line since it is built under our staircase. 

Why do I take the time to describe my space? To justify my choice of diaper organization!  I did not have a ton of space to display (which, let’s be honest, is going to become messy in the long run due to having a little one, a job away from home, etc) nor did I have a ton of storage space with only the changing table dresser and mini closet. 

What I found to be the easiest and worked best for me was to have a laundry basket that would fit under my crib that could store all of the cloth diapers. While I started out being super mom and folding the prefolds in half and laying then ever so nicely in the container, once back at work, this became just a dumping container for my prefolds [see picture at the beginning of the post!].  I did however keep my covers in this cute little metal basket on the floor by the changing table. 

How did I pack my diaper bag for daycare:

Rather than using a standard diaper bag for daycare, I found that a rectangular bag (like a Thirty-One bag) worked much better when you have the bulk of cloth diapers.  Inside the bag included:

-          8-10 cloth diapers (folded in half)
-          Spare cover
-          Spare Snappi (just in case)
-          Thirsties Travel Wet Bag (for the dirty diapers)  **PURCHASE 2: 1 for daycare, 1 for personal travel
-          Spare outfit with socks
**At daycare, I let them use sensitive disposable wipes, which I would restock for them as needed
-          SEPARATE BAG: The BM COOLER J 




CLEANING:

In my mudroom or laundry room, I have the perfect amount of space between my washer and dryer to hold a large metal trashcan with the foot petal for opening the lid.  Inside this trashcan is a Thirsties Pail liner.  **Many websites will suggest having two of these liners, to replace when one is being washed.  I have easily been able to manage with only one!

Each day, when I came home, I would empty the wet bag from daycare into the Diaper pail.  Keeping the wet bag unzipped overnight really kept any smells at bay.  During any diaper changes at home, I would just take the diapers and wipes straight to the pail.  If it was a poo diaper, we would take it to the pail after a quick preclean

Preclean:  Attached to our toilet, is a diaper sprayer. When your baby is exclusively on breastmilk, you are technically able to put the poo filled diaper straight into the pail.  However, my and husband and I were not too keen on this.  Rather, we would quickly spray the diaper off in the toilet and then drop the diaper in the pail.  As poo becomes solid, the diaper sprayer continues to work great.
**Helpful Hint: Remember that grey tub from the hospital that held all your supplies?  This was what we used to carry dirty diapers to the toilet for spraying, and then from the toilet to pail! As a plastic tub, if anything leaked inside, a quick water rinse and it was good as new!


What about covers?  Covers are different from prefolds.  When a prefold is dirty it must go straight to the pail. However, covers are a different story.  Covers are the waterproof shell.  So you can use the same cover over and over all day as long as no poo gets on the cloth edges!  If you ever want to take a wipe and do a quick cleaning of the interior shell you can.  If a little poo gets on the waterproof part, that can be wiped off as well and then reused (trust me, it’s clean enough J)  Now, if poo gets on the cloth part, it will stain, and that’s where I draw my line!—Into the pail it goes!  So I will let a cover be used for a full day if it doesn’t get anything on it.  After a hard day of work, the cover gets to retire into the diaper pail as well.


Twice a week, I would dump the diapers, covers, the travel wet bag, and pail liner into the wash! **To be smart, make sure you have a few fresh diapers and a cover still at your disposal to use while washing and drying your load!***


WASHING Instructions:

Following the instructions provided for you by the cloth diaper company.  However, you will probably need to make adjustments once you see how your cloth diapers do with your water (do you have city or well water, hard or soft water, etc)
We live out in the country and so we have well water.  This water is very hard and has a lot of iron.  When we first moved into the house I had a very hard time getting my diapers really clean smelling and looking!  We were able to improve the cleanliness of my diapers two ways.

1.  We put in a rather expensive but VERY necessary Salt Water Filtration system! This helped to remove the large amounts of Iron, sulfur, etc. in our water. 

2.  I began to adjust my cloth diaper cleaning detergent. 

When I first got the cloth diapers, I was all about using the safest, most gentle, detergent for the diapers. After about a month, I realized, cotton is strong, durable, and can handle some tougher love!  I stopped buying the expensive “cloth diaper” detergent and began using ALL Free and Clear.  A few months more, I kicked it up another notch after doing lots of reading and talking to other CD moms, and went for the Original Tide Powder.  A month of Tide Powder, and I was ready to go all the way with a DIY detergent that was just as effective, smelled great, and was SUPER CHEAP! **Detergent Recipe Coming Soon!**----DIY Powdered Detergent Recipe

MY Washing Routine:
1.   Place all diapers, covers, and bags in the washing machine.
2. With a HE machine, beware of too little water being used!  If your machine is super light on the water, pour a pitcher of water onto your diapers to add the extra needed water! J
3.  Using Warm or Hot water: Soak, Wash, Rinse Twice
4.  Dry on gentle tumble (too much heat makes the cloth diapers feel stiff and rough—doesn’t sound to appealing on your child’s sensitive bum)  This method will take more time, but it leaves a much softer feeling

NEED SOME SERIOUS STAIN REMOVAL? Use the POWER of the SUN. Simply lay our diapers out to dry on a line, on the bed of a truck (yes, this is what I did! J), anywhere you can find! A few hours in the hot sun, and those stains will be bleached away!


Many sites will also talk about stripping your diapers.  While I did a Sun bleach once or twice a year, I have actually never stripped my diapers in the two years I used them.

________________________________________________________________________

I know this is a lot of information, but know that the work involved is not nearly as expansive as it may first appear.  By using cloth diapers, you are saving SO MUCH MONEY while still providing your child with a comfortable and environmentally friendly alternative to disposable.

COST BREAKDOWN: Cloth vs Disposable

For all prefolds, covers, snappis, wet bags, pail liner, metal trash can, diaper sprayer...the works....the cost was approximately $500. This is a large sum upfront, but remember that these purchases can be registry gifts from others, or if you are paying yourself, it is a ONE TIME purchase.  All of my diapers are in excellent condition after two years, and will be perfect to continue with future baby #2.

 Cloth Diapering for 2 Years:  $500 for all diapers and materials
                                           $100 (electricity for washing/drying and detergent)
             TOTAL for Child #1: $600
             TOTAL for Child #2: $100 (electricity for washing/drying and detergent)

 Disposable Diapering for 2 Years: $1500 for all diapers ($750/yr. common estimate given online)
                     TOTAL for Child #1: $1500
                     TOTAL for Child #2: $1500

So if you have a "standard" two child family that is potty trained at 2 years of age, cloth diapering will cost you approximately $700 total, while disposable diapering will cost you $3000.  This difference will only increase if you consider diapering longer than two year (which is more common than not!) or have more than two children.

DIY Powdered Detergent-- Pennies per Wash!!!

If you have not recognized it yet, I'll give it to you straight! I'm a total penny pincher.  I save a dollar whenever possible—heck, I'll literally save a penny whenever possible.  A big spending regret since being out on my own has been the money wasted on clothes detergent.  Even when I got the super cheap liquid, I was spending more than I needed...and let's be honest, my clothes probably weren't as clean as I would like compared to the pricier brands.  

Even after being married a few years, and dealing with some serious grease, oil, mud, and everything else that my husband managed to get on his work clothes, I was still buying clothes detergent and lots of additives to make sure the stains were removed.

It was not until I actually began cloth diapering, that I decided to take that one extra step and begin making my own clothing detergent.  Yet again, I did my research. I compared the diy liquid and powder detergent recipes.  I researched which were conducive with HE washing machines, which were safe for cloth diapers, and which were strong enough to handle the serious stains that came my way.

I finally found the recipe I liked best and personally felt would be the easiest to make and store.  My first recipe batch lasted for OVER a YEAR!!!!!!!!  This was washing 4-5 loads a week!!!! AH-MAZING.

Now, after year one, there was still some area for improvement, and so I give you my most recent batch recipe (certainly not a new recipe on the internet, but the one I have found that I like best).  The one that has been the absolute best for my husband's grungy work clothes, our delicate church dress clothes, and my little one's cloth diapers!

The total cost for all detergent materials (no coupons) is: $22.62+tax (According to Walmart prices, 5/24/17).  **For me, this lasted about 260 loads, coming in at around $0.09 per washing load.  With coupons during my last batch, I was able to come out at $0.065 per washing load.

Powdered Detergent

4 lb. box Borax
55 oz. box Washing Soda
4 lb. box Baking Soda
5 lb. container OxyClean (This really helps with the stains. Great for keeping the CDs very fresh too)
4  bars Fels Naptha soap (Good smell J)


Additional Needs:
LARGE airtight lock-side storage container
1 Small airtight lock storage container (I upcycled a plastic gallon ice cream container)
1 Tablespoon measuring spoon
Grater
1 LARGE mixing bowl


  1. MOST TIME CONSUMING STEP: Grate bars of soap using a fine grater.  I literally use my cheese grater.  [Others mention buying a grater just for making detergent…but why??? It is SOAP!?  Literally wash the grater off with the remaining soap left on, and tada!! Clean grater that goes back in my kitchen 😊]
  2. Layer all ingredients and mix.  I strongly encourage you to do this in portions. 
    • For best mixing, I usually mix 1/3 of all ingredients in a large bowl. (usually use my hands to mix...its just easier with less mess)
    • Pour this into my Large storage container
    • Repeat, until all ingredients are mixed and placed in the large and small storage containers
  3. The Large storage container goes in my pantry.  My small storage container is used next to the washing machine for weekly use. 
Use 2 Tablespoons per Load! YES, use that little!  It's a very concentrated mixture! [ The most I have ever used is 3 Tablespoons for a full load of my husband's dirtiest work clothes]



Do you have a different recipe that you love?  Have you tried this recipe out? What are your thoughts?



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