Thursday, April 12, 2012

Diaper Review: Covers

We've tried a few different cloth diapers, but prefolds with covers are what we've settled on as our daily go-to (overnight is a different story, I'll save a whole post for that). We've tried a variety of different covers, so I thought I'd give a rundown of all of them for anyone trying to decide:

Thirsties Duo Wrap, Size One - These were my favorites when E was a newborn. We started out with these and Blueberries, and looking back at the photos the Blueberries were just comically large on him. Even the Thirsties were bulky at first, but that's how it goes with prefolds. But they did fit his skinny little frame until he was 5 months, at which point he grew out of the rise. Amazingly, though, we were still snapping them as tight as they'd go! I especially like that they have a double gusset at the leg - this makes it much easier to keep the prefold contained, and cloth sticking out is the surest way to get a leak. They come in a good assortment of colors and a few fun patterns, and we had almost all of them. In the summer, E was often wearing just his diaper or diaper + shirt, so his covers were part of his wardrobe! The big downside is that because he grew out of the rise but not the width, he won't fit into Size Twos for quite a while. So the Thirsties are now put away in the outgrown clothing box, and we've moved on to other brands. But these were my favorite while they fit him.

Blueberries One Size - Like I said, we had these from the start, and they were huge and bulky on him at first. They continued to be a bit bulky for my liking for quite a while (I do have a VERY skinny baby, mind you), but around nine months he finally really grew into them, and at the moment (10 months) they're my favorites. They have a double gusset like the Thirsties, but unlike the Thirsties they have two rows of snaps - this wasn't so important when he was a newborn, but I'm finding it works much better than a single row now that he's bigger.

Flip and Econobum - These are the two covers made by Cotton Babies, who also make BumGenius pockets and AIOs. They are very similar, with two main differences: The Flip covers have two rows of snaps while Econobum only has one, and Econobums are made of thinner, cheaper material (which makes sense, since they're meant to be budget covers). Both come only in one-size. I didn't buy any of these until E was a few months old, so I'm not sure how well they would fit on a newborn, but I suspect they would be bigger than Thirsties Size One but not as bulky as Blueberries. I like the fit now, but the big downside is the lack of a double leg gusset. I can understand this oversight in the Flips, since really they're meant to be used with the Flip inserts rather than prefolds. We use the inserts for overnight thanks to their stay-dry layer, and the lack of a gusset is no problem then because they don't come close to sticking out. But the Econobums are made for prefolds (they even sell Econobum prefolds); I assume this is another cost-saving measure. On both brands, this makes it annoying to tuck the prefold in at the leg and leads to the occasional leak when some fabric pokes out and wicks liquid onto clothes. Now, if you want to use the Flip inserts, or prefer a pure newspaper fold (folded into thirds and laid in the cover) for your prefolds, these covers are great. But I'm considering selling mine and buying more Blueberries.

Best Bottoms One Size - I just bought one of these recently. They're very similar to Blueberries in size, although they have one more rise snap so there's more flexibility there. The main difference is that the material is thicker and stiffer - this might mean that they'll last longer, but it also makes them a bit bulkier. Probably even worse than Blueberries for newborns, but for bigger babies they're fine. I haven't tried the inserts that are supposed to go in them. They do have only one line of snaps, but that hasn't really been a problem for us.

Overall, after trying these I think that I consider the double leg gusset to be the most important feature to look for in a cover in terms of ease of putting it on and leak prevention, assuming you use prefolds. Beyond that, it's going to depend on the build of your baby - for a peanut like mine, Thirsties were the clear winner until about 4-5 months, and Blueberries fit the best now at 9-10 months. Between 5-9 months, honestly I was having trouble finding covers that fit him well. That was when I bought the Flips, Econobums, and Best Baby, and none of them fit him that well until more recently (but the Flips were better than the other two). A chubbier baby will probably have less problem with bulky covers, and a shorter baby (E is always right on 50th percentile length) will be able to stay in the Thirsties longer.

My suggestion if you're starting out, especially if the baby isn't born yet, is to start with a few Thirsties for the newborn stage (they also come in sized rather than the two-size duos), and then buy one of each of a few other brands and see what fits your baby best!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Are breastfed babies crankier? Well, a tiny bit.

There was a study people were talking about a couple weeks ago that claimed to show that breastfed babies are fussier than formula-fed babies. Or at least, that's what the news articles about the study said - and science journalism is nothing if not sensationalistic (do I really need the qualifier "science" there?).

I actually managed to dig up the article, and here is their graph showing this supposed difference between the two:

See that difference? It's there, sure, but do you care? On a scale of 0-6, the differences are around .2-.3. Meaning that this study found that breastfed babies are 3-5% fussier than formula-fed babies. 3-5%, and that is on a very subjective scale as reported by their mothers. It could just as easily mean that mothers who breastfeed are 5% more likely to notice their baby's fussy behaviors, or to interpret the same behaviors negatively vs mothers who feed formula.

This is an excellent lesson in the difference between statistical significance and practical significance. When you read a news article about a study involving human subjects, you'll often see the phrase "significantly more" or "significantly less." To a lay person, significant means - well, significant! This difference must be pretty big and/or important! If you think that, you are thinking in terms of practical significance, or whether a result actually matters in the real world.

What the study likely actually reported was statistical significance. If a finding is statistically significant, that basically means that there is only a 1% chance (or 5% in some studies, .1% in others) that the results are random chance. Another way of thinking about it is that if you did the study again, there is a 99% chance you'd get the same results. Even if those results show only a tiny, practically insignificant difference.

The results of this study are statistically significant. But whether they have any practical significance depends on whether you think a 5% difference actually matters - personally, I doubt you'd be able to tell the difference between two babies with those two scores.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Scrapbooking and the Normalization of Breastfeeding

Back in college, I got into scrapbooking. I can't draw or sculpt or paint, but I've done layout in some of my jobs and I feel like I'm halfway decent at arranging things on a page to look nice, so it's the closest to the visual arts I'm likely to get. I haven't done any in years, but having a baby seems like the perfect time to start back up.

On a recent visit to a scrapbooking store to find fun stickers and embellishments for E's first pages, I quickly realized that my life doesn't resemble that of the average scrapbooker. Now, I'm not too surprised to find stroller stickers but nothing for babywearing. Or "first foods" sets that have nothing but jars of baby food. I'm not even surprised at the number of bottles everywhere - it's a typical symbol of babyhood, and even most breastfed babies like E get bottles of expressed milk while mommy's working or away.

What really took me by surprise was the presence of explicit references to formula, but absolutely zero references to breastfeeding. The word "nursing" was nowhere to be found in all of the cute or touching phrases relating to babies, but you can get a sticker of a can of "Formulac."

I was further dismayed by the response when I brought this up on a scrapbooking message board. Women likened a scrapbook page about breastfeeding to one about poop or even wet dreams. These women later assured me they were "just joking," but how many times have you seen entirely serious arguments against nursing in public that use the same comparisons? And even so, you know what they did have at that store? Tons of stickers showing diapers and even phrases like "Poo Happens" - apparently scrapbooking about poop IS more acceptable than scrapbooking about feeding your baby naturally.

Some responders asked sarcastically if I expected stickers of bare boobs, even though I had specifically said all I was expecting was a phrase or two here and there, "Nursling" or "Mama's Milk." They said clearly there's not enough of a market for breastfeeding embellishments, or they'd be sold. Honestly, I wasn't even envisioning a breastfeeding-themed pack - and that's the thing. Formula and bottles don't get their own special packs; they don't need their own "market" beyond "people who have babies." They're just naturally worked in to general baby themes, because they are considered a normal part of having and being a baby. Breastfeeding clearly is not. It has no place in the decorations used to memorialize babyhood. It would be embarrassing to remind your grown child that once you fed him from your own body - and if it's embarrassing, the implication is that it is at best abnormal and at worst wrong.

This kind of omission is both a symptom of the problem and an aggravator. It's a clear sign that breastfeeding is not considered normal, of course. But it also sends its own message, one that perpetuates the problem: Hide the fact that you breastfeed. Make layouts about dirty diapers and baby's first tooth, but don't you dare make anyone think about how you fed him for the first six months of his life - an activity that probably took up the majority of your waking hours for several weeks! Only photos of those other few hours are acceptable. Breastfeeding is your dirty little secret.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cloth Diapers for the Total n00b - Part 2

The Players
aka, Is This a Diaper or a Cover?

The first step in getting a handle on the world of cloth diapers is working out what is what. But terminology by itself only gets you so far, so I'm including some info on the differences and when you might choose each of these options. As usual, this is all my opinion, and what works for me might not work for you!

Diapers that need covers
Prefolds - These are the classic that most people picture when you say "cloth diaper." Several layers of cotton folded on top of each other. I will be honest, I know there is Indian and Chinese cotton, but I've never gotten the differences straight and I have no clue which I own. Not convinced it matters. These require a cover, as the pee will soak right through them. You can lay them in the cover then put it on the baby, or fold the diaper and use pins or a snappi to put it on the baby and then put the cover over it. I find that the latter gives me less leaks, but others swear by the former. Prefolds are cheap - as little as a dollar each, though commonly more like $2.

Fitteds - A fitted diaper is like a prefold, but is precut to fit the baby with no folding, has elastic in the legs and waist, and closes with snaps or aplix (a version of velcro common on cloth diapers). They are also often made with a cool fabric on the outside layer, which leads to some brands (ie, Goodmamas) being highly sought-after as collectible. Like prefolds, these require covers; there is no waterproof layer in a fitted. Personally, I don't really get fitteds. They are far more expensive than prefolds - you might get a few for $5 each used, but new they're anywhere from $10-$40 each. And then you have to put a cover over the cool pattern anyhow! But again, some people swear by them. They cite the convenience and the elastic holding more poop in to keep covers clean longer, and many people enjoy the patterns even though they get covered up.

Contours - Like prefolds, but shaped to fit the baby without extra folding. Both conceptually and price-wise in between prefolds and fitteds. These do require a cover. I really don't see these mentioned much on the cloth diapering boards I read, so I get the feeling most people go fully to either the prefold end or the fitted end rather than taking this middle ground.

Covers - You'll need to put one of these over any of the above types of diapers. A cover is not a diaper itself, and generally has no absorbent material, only a layer of waterproof material to go over the absorber of your choice. Many commercial covers use PUL as the waterproof material, but there are also covers that use fleece or wool. You can usually use one cover repeatedly until it gets poop (or a lot of pee) on it. They range in price from about $8-20 each new, and for a newborn 5-8 of them will get you through laundry every other day. They come in every color and pattern possible, especially if you start looking at handmade ones on Etsy or Hyena Cart, and close with either snaps or aplix.

Diapers that don't need covers
Pockets - A pocket is a diaper that does not require a cover. It has the same kind of waterproof material (generally PUL) on the outside as a cover, a minimal layer of absorbent material on the inside (sometimes a material that wicks moisture away from the baby's skin), and a pocket between them to put more absorbent material into in the form of inserts, doublers, or even a trifolded prefold. Personally, I find stuffing pockets - then having to pull out the wet inserts - to be annoying enough that I've sold the few that I owned, but plenty of cloth diaperers use them exclusively. These are generally more expensive than prefolds + covers, though there are cheap brands sold mostly on eBay.

All-in-Ones - As the name implies, this is the whole shebang. A waterproof outer layer with all the absorbent materials you need attached. AIOs are the most expensive option, but many people keep a few around for use by babysitters or family who don't want to mess with snappis or pocket-stuffing; using an AIO is just as easy as a disposable. I like them better than pockets, but only have a few for overnights (with hemp doublers) because of the cost. Because of all the fabric, they often dry more slowly than other diapers.

All-in-Twos - What? Wouldn't that be a pocket? That was my initial reaction to the existence of AI2s, but the difference seems to be that the material snaps into place rather than going into a pocket. So I guess you can pull it off for faster drying, while not having to fish anything out of a soggy pocket.

Other bits and pieces
Inserts - These are what go into pockets. They are long, thin rectangles of absorbent material; microfiber, cotton, hemp, and bamboo are most common. Generally one will get you normal absorbency and two will do overnight duty. You can also lay them into a cover instead of a prefold - but remember that microfiber shouldn't touch a baby's skin directly and can cause rashes if it does.

Doublers - Are basically the same as inserts, though they may be thinner. The point of a doubler is to lay over another diaper to increase absorbency for overnight or heavy wetters.

Liners - These are there to act as a barrier between the diaper and something. You might use liners if you need to use a non-cloth-friendly diaper cream, or to make it easier to shake poop off into the toilet. There are both flushable paper and fabric liners; if you are washing liners to reuse that have diaper cream on them, don't put them in with your other diaper laundry.

Soakers/Longies/Woolies/Skirties - Various names for wool covers. Longies are pants-length, and skirties (duh) include a skirt. I honestly don't know much about how wool works; it's not actually waterproof, instead it somehow lets the moisture evaporate out slowly instead of leaking out. (I think.) Plenty of people swear by it even though a single soaker can cost $20-50.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Six months!

Happy six month birthday to E!

A natural birth began six months of breastfeeding, baby wearing, and cloth diapering, yet I still don't do it to be crunchy. I do it because the research supports it, or because it's what works for our family. Breastfeeding has definitely been the biggest challenge, but things have gotten much easier.

As I posted, the first month was torture. I seriously did not know how I could possibly make it to a year like that. Big thanks to the breastfeeding community on LiveJournal for encouraging me to keep looking for answers, and to get his posterior tongue tie clipped even though both the LC and the ENT who clipped it thought it was too minor to matter. Two days after the clipping, the pain was gone! I honestly hated breastfeeding that first month and couldn't understand how people enjoy it - now it's great snuggle time and convenient on the go food!

We've also had thrush twice, and a dairy intolerance, so it's still not all sunshine and rainbows. But he can tolerate yogurt (including frozen!) now and small amounts of dairy-containing chocolate (not quite there on cheese, sadly), so I feel better when I can ave a few treats.

We've nursed in public just about everywhere. I started keeping a mental list when he was born, but it got too long to remember! Restaurants, churches, in dressing rooms, in the car, in the sling or mei tai while shopping, in my office, just about anywhere we go, and have yet to get a rude comment or look - though I know as he gets older people might get less tolerant.

My intention when he was born was a year and then we'll see how it goes after that. That's still sort of where I fall, but I don't feel like he's halfway done nursing. A third of the way, maybe, a fourth of the way, very likely. I'll just keep going (after a year) til either he weans himself or circumstances change and it no longer fits in our life. I'm still fully committed to doing whatever it takes for the first year, though - but I think the second six months will be much easier than the first!

Adventures in Baby-Led Weaning

We are skipping "baby food" (purees) and going straight to finger foods, an approach known as "baby-led weaning." I actually don't like the name much, since the process really has nothing to do with weaning him - I don't plan to do that til he's at least a year old, probably closer to two. It really should be called "baby-led solids" or something.

But anyhow.

We started last week. Today is his six month birthday, but he was showing all the readiness signs (sitting up unsupported, can easily grab things and put them in his mouth, constantly trying to grab our food) so we let him start a little early. And it is clearly a hit - he's been getting easily bored/frustrated by toys at his high chair, but a hunk of broccoli will keep him happy plenty long enough for us to eat in peace!

So far, he's had sweet potatoes, green beans, broccoli, celery, the lemon out of my drink, bananas, and a few little tastes of other things. Green veggies are MUCH easier to clean up after than banana or sweet potato. And baked sweet potato sticks led to enough gagging that the second time I mashed them with a little extra olive oil and almond milk, but still let him eat it himself. Gagging is a normal part of the process, but the gagging he does on the less starchy-sticky foods is just less likely to give mommy a heart attack. :) I'm sure his sweet potato gags were also perfectly normal, but for my sake we'll take it slow on those.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Babywearing

Don't get me wrong - I love babywearing. We would have bought a (non-broken) stroller long ago if I didn't. But there are advantages and disadvantages to any way of doing things, so I thought I'd lay out the pros and cons for anyone trying to decide on an Ergo vs a Peg Perego.

Pro: Never have to wrestle a stroller in and out of the car. Both of my carriers fit in the diaper bag (the sling better than the mei tai).
Con: Occasionally have to wrestle with the mei tai straps. They're long and there's just no good way to store them and get them in and out quickly. This is why I use the sling if I'll be making lots of stops.

Pro: Never have to drive a stroller through too-small aisles.
Con: It's much like being pregnant, in that sometimes you've got to squeeze yourself a bit. Also, nowhere to hang a diaper bag, so if you've got a huge one that adds heft. I recommend a small diaper bag or backpack to go with a carrier.

Pro: You can take the baby out and not be left trying to wrangle both a baby and an empty stroller.
Con: You look a little silly with an empty carrier hanging off you. At least with the sling I just look like a girl scout (my sling is solid khaki); we joke about the mei tai being my flak jacket. Also, no empty stroller to carry other things in.

Pro: If, like me, you're having trouble scheduling workouts post-baby, a good hour long shopping trip while wearing 10+ lbs of baby definitely counts as exercise! And with the mei tai, it's quite comfortable exercise, easy on the back.
Con: If you're really tired, it's still a workout.

Pro: Baby is right there, always kissable and it's easy to monitor where little hands are reaching.
Con: They might be reaching for your face or hair, though not too often because the rest of the world is so interesting.

Pro: It's possible (even easy for some people in the right carrier) to nurse while walking/hiking/shopping/etc.
Con: Once the baby knows this is an option, if they're hungry they may not take "later" for an answer. I usually have to turn him so he's facing out when he gets insistent at the wrong time.

Overall, for me the good outweighs the bad. For many, having both a stroller and a carrier available is best. And I'm sure there are some people that just weren't meant for babywearing. Good luck figuring out which is best for you!