Posts Tagged ‘eco-friendly’

Committed to Cloth, but….

Welcome to the “I’m a Natural Parent – BUT…” Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the carnival hosted by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. During this carnival our participants have focused on the many different forms and shapes Natural Parenting can take in our community.


Continuum Family side snap training pants

Cloth diapers. Cute. Eco-friendly. The frugal choice.

I love cloth diapers. Like baby slings, I can see how easy it is to slip into addiction, wanting to collect a wide range of prints, brands and styles. Modern cloth diapers are both stylish and functional; gone are the days of pins and plastic pants, we now have PUL and Velcro.

Everyone chooses cloth for different reasons. I committed myself to cloth diapering when my first was born because it seemed to make sense health-wise, for the child and the planet. I found myself doing hours of research online, weighing all of my choices. Should I go for natural fibers or synthetics? Prefolds, pockets or all-in-ones? Snaps or Velcro or Snappis? How well does a one-size diaper really fit? I embraced all the choices available for me with joy.

I tried a number of cloth diaper companies, getting a few of various styles. As my daughter grew and changed, so did our diapering needs. Continuum Family had the smallest diapers with snaps I could find (had a tiny first child and wanted to practice EC–elimination communication), and I fell in love with them for a long while. The Little Beetle wool covers from Better for Babies (who have now closed up shop) were a great nighttime choice for a time. By then we were really getting somewhere with EC, so we got a couple of Ecapants training pants through EC Wear. We even had her in prefolds with a prefold belt at one point. The longest lasting favorite, aside from the Continuum Family in the pictures, were the Imse Vimse wool covers.

Over time, I learned firsthand the stinky side of cloth diapers:

  • Continuum Family side snap training pants

    Cloth diapers are picky about what they want to be washed in.

  • Cloth diapers are like toddlers in that they will smell louder and louder till they get their way.
  • Cloth diapers prefer to take up a lot of room in a bag rather than share space with snacks, wipes, and spare clothes — it’s called a diaper bag for a reason.
  • Cloth diapers don’t wash themselves.
  • Cloth diapers flatter (or pinch!) each baby differently.

Still, I travelled happily along cloth diapering journey for well over a year, knowing I made the right choice, thinking there would never be a day…

Fast forward to the present.

Goodbye Better for Babies....

After months of battling ammonia diapers and irritated skin, I caved and got disposables for my daughter. They ended up not causing her the rashes that folks worry about with disposables. It was in this way that I found myself staring at the last diapers in the package wondering if I should get more. I ended up getting her some basic prefolds and Flip diaper covers, thinking I could use them with the second baby.

I found myself learning all over again with my son who is shaped completely differently from my daughter. My cutest of cute cloth diaper covers with prefolds leaked every time because he is too small yet and the prefolds would scootch down and scrunch up. I went to the all-in-one cloth diapers my daughter had used, but then we got hit with thrush and the wet fabric on his skin seemed to be on the side of the yeast. When my washer broke for a week and a half, to top it all off, I turned to disposables.

It was during this time that I realized that disposables have advantages I hadn’t considered.

  • Disposables don’t need to be washed.
  • Disposables are compact.
  • Disposables give a trim bum line.
  • Disposables come in a wider range of sizes for a more accurate fit.

Some parents use disposables to handle the sticky, staining meconium in the earliest newborn days before switching to cloth diapers. Some parents use disposables at night and cloth diaper during the day. Many parents find disposables more convenient during travel. Alternate caregivers might find disposables easier or more familiar. Thankfully, there are some brands that leave out the chemicals, dyes, perfumes and other unhealthy stuff.

Continuum Family pull up training pants

Honestly, I can now understand the allure of disposables.

In the end, though, cloth diapers are worth any special thought and care required. Perhaps the struggle is precisely what creates loyal cloth diaper users. What piece of plastic could accomplish that?

Despite any inconvenience, I persist in my cloth diapering. I have got my son back in plain prefolds (size up, big guy!) and a Snappi — simplest and best yet. I’m working on my daughter’s skin health so we’re mostly diaper and pants free (less accidents now!) with disposables at night. Trying to figure out what would be a good move for her to pull down on her own. The search for the next cloth diaper solution continues….

Yes, I may have strayed to disposables, but I remain committed to cloth.




I'm a Natural Parent — But … Blog CarnivalThis carnival was created by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. We recognize that “natural parenting” means different things to different families, and we are dedicated to providing a safe place for all families, regardless of where they are in their parenting journeys.

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Planting Seeds for New Life

It’s gardening time! We’re a bit behind where we want to be, but ahead of where we were last year. This year, Uma is walking and talking. My parenting philosophy encourages me to “let” her do what I do. Since we are planting seeds, I thought it would be sweet for her to plant some seeds and to watch them grow as she grows. I set up a little space (on a trashbag) for her to plant a few little pots for seedlings.

Scoop some dirt

Plant a Seed

Water Generously

Give lovin'

EC: Beyond Diapers

The Beginning: 1 month

Recently my daughter went three days without a potty “accident.” Another way of saying it might be that we, my husband and I, went three days without a miss. Yes, we practice Elimination Communication (EC).

I can see why people call EC infant or early potty training, but I don’t like the implications of the word “training.” I think this is why some people who aren’t familiar with EC might assume it involves a level of force or authority. I prefer the term EC because it clearly mentions my main goal, which is simply to communicate with my daughter about her natural functions and needs.

What is EC?

EC is a traditional cultural practice worldwide.

Tribal Baby is an in-depth/how-to resource, but the communication piece is about three main things:

  • talking to the child (saying “Do you need to go potty?” or using sign language — potty is generally a shaken “t” for toilet)
  • timing potty opportunities (peeing after waking or before leaving house)
  • watching for the particular cues (squirms, squeaks, red noses, hiding in corners, squatting — each child has their own set of cues)

Steady on the Path: 7 months

Aside from the communication, there is the actually taking her to the potty and allowing the her to go diaper-free. Everyone practices EC differently, but I like the way the Diaper Free Baby site gives a range of possibility for everyone to find a comfort zone:

  • Full Time — diaper-free  majority of the time (often including at nighttime), potty opportunities when out of the house
  • Part Time — diaper as a backup (particularly when out of the house), diaper free on and off
  • Occasional — potty opportunities might be focused around nighttime or day time or timing (such as after baby wakes up or before a bath), diaper-free time once in a while

The amount we do both opportunities and diaper free has changed many times since we started at a month old. Our journey, cataloged from the beginning on Life and Times of Uma Pai, and Stay at Home Papa‘s posts offer a view into two experiences of EC.

EC language uses the terms catches and misses:

  • Catch — You, the adult or even an older sibling, caught the cues, used timing or “got a feeling” and got the child to the potty to pee or poop.
  • Miss — You missed the cues. ….. : )

Rather than focusing on building a child’s awareness of body and self, some people, when traditionally potty training or ECing, focus their goal on having the child eliminating in the potty. Our goal, as I said, is communication. We are easy going when it comes to misses (wood floors?). I honestly find it to be a cleaner and healthier for my child to be as diaper-free as I can stand her to be. Sometimes she doesn’t want to go in the potty; we still talk to her, naming and signing so she can gain more understanding about things.

Grandparents can EC, too!

Finding a (local) support group can be helpful. Things can be up and down and get frustrating, especially if outsiders are judging or calculating your “success.” When she was 3 months old, we went 3 days without a miss. She was cueing in obvious ways and beginning to “wait” or be in step with the timed opportunities we gave her. Obviously, though, she wasn’t going without diapers from the age of three months. Due to a bitter winter and her screaming, a year later we were barely offering opportunities and didn’t have too much diaper free time. Then, at 16 months, came these last few weeks of warmer weather, lots of diaper free time, and the recent 3-day streak without a miss.

The lessons for us? Observe, trust, listen, communicate and relax. All will develop in its own time and rhythm.



Drinking Chocolate: For Your Happiness and Health

One of my Project goals included trying to make my own goodies rather than buying them. Recently, I found out that drinking chocolate is easy to make at home. What a revelation! This a mood-enhancing, heart-helping chocolatey goodness is one of my favorite ways to enjoy chocolate. I will be trying this for sure.

You may or may not know, but chocolate has many benefits for health and happiness. (You also may or may not know that milk decreases the benefits of chocolate, so it’s dark chocolate all the way.) I love the sumptuous depths of flavor and the smooth, sipping texture of drinking chocolate. Many people, myself included, flock to expensive chocolate cafes to enjoy such a delicacy.

Making my own drinking chocolate:

  • Saves gas for the car
  • Saves all kinds of emissions from oozing into the environment
  • Limits wear and tear on the car so it can (hopefully) run strong longer
  • Allows me to use wonderful local raw milk which supports small, family farms
  • Let’s me choose fair trade, organic cocoa
  • Allows me to switch the sugar source and level for even better health benefits
  • Means I can make a little batch drinking chocolate flavored however I like and store in the fridge (with only extra yummy benefits) and warm when I want a couple times in the week


  • Serve in small amounts, like an espresso would be served
  • If you substitute with hempmilk or soymilk, I would not let either boil. Get it as hot as can be without boiling– watch that milk! Both tend to separate in unpleasant ways if boiled, but this way they can continue heating with the chocolate to get to a nice consistency.

Flavor Ideas:

  • vanilla (extract or bean)
  • orange zest (added to top)
  • cinnamon (for circulation and warmth)
  • chile (for circulation and warmth)
  • and/or a touch of salt (for bolder flavor — salty and sweet)

Recipe for Drinking Chocolate:

Ingredients — SUBSTITUTE AT WILL  : )
2 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup water
1/4 generous cup of superfine Baker’s Sugar
1 3.5 ounce bar of bittersweet chocolate-at least 70% cacao, chop finely
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa loosely packed.

Combine milk, water and sugar In a medium saucepan. Heat mixture over medium until it reaches a rolling boil. Add the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder. Whisk these ingredients into milk mixture and return to rolling boil. Mixture will thicken. Reduce heat to very low.
Blend for 5 minutes with an immersion blender or in a regular blender for 1/2 minute or until drinking chocolate is thick and foamy.

Sharing a Living

Darla passed along this book title to me: The Sharing Solution by Janelle Orsi and Emily Doskow. Here’s all the other catchphrases on the cover:

How to save money, Simplify your life, and Build Community

  • Share ownership of a house, car, garden or boat
  • Own less and have more
  • Live more sustainably through sharing

I have been talking about sharing the garden ever since we thought about it. We don’t know much about gardening and working with the earth, but we have land enough for the four big beds and neither of us minds getting dirty. (I grew up in Kansas literally playing in the dirt.) Gardening is a lot of work, and it is an art. There are so many ways I have thought people could help share a garden. Really, I had an idea for a whole neighborhood to come together and decide who has the best land/space/skills for what or what each person can contribute to a shared community garden that wouldn’t require people sharing one space. I know now that other people have had both of these ideas, and there are people in the world living my vision.

I got a bookstore gift card from the parents at the school. Methinks I will have to put this on the “Consider Buying” list…..

Energy Efficiency: A Simple Question?

LIGHT BULBS: Can Leaving on Lights Be More Energy-Efficient?

So I was thinking about our Resource Consumption goals (use less gas and oil), and feeling like these were too vague for me to feel successful when we clearly need to learn to turn the lights off consistently and have others do that in our house as well. Then, in conversation, my husband and I were remembering that we heard something about turning lights on and off more frequently might actually use more energy due to the start up force needed. I decided to do a bit of research on line and see if there was any info or debate. Is it more or less efficient to turn off lights? I found that the question is not so simple as I thought it would be, but most things say something similar.

Here is a site with more details, but the gist is:

  • For Incandescents: Turn off the lights. Every time. “I” is for inexpensive to produce, but inefficient (only 10-15% of energy consumed actually becomes light!)
  • For fluorescents: In general, turn lights off if you will be out for 15 min or more. (5 min if peak time, high demand, or low supply)

ELECTRONICS:  When They Are Off, Are They Really Off?

I remembered a little fact yesterday and started looking around my house for all those little green/yellow lights that are on many of the electronics made today. These lights are on, even when the devices are off and waste an estimated 5% of electricity used in the US — I found them everywhere in my house!

Here, again, are some details, but the gist on the electronics is:

  • Unplug devices you aren’t using, OR
  • Use power strips and shut them off when finished.
  • Turn off TVs and game systems. They can waste as much as leaving on three to six light bulbs!

Resource Consumption:

Through December:  Use Less Electricity

  • Change bulbs to more conscious choice
  • Turn off lights!
  • Check power strip situation to make things easier.
  • Turn off electronics.

Initial Reflection: On Starting Out

Domestic Infrastructure

Through December: Weatherproofing

  • Insulation in attic and basement
  • Door replacement (in motion already)
  • Windows — something on some of them at least

This house is drafty. I can’t wait for some of these doors to actually keep cold air out. All of these things will make use heat, which we keep low anyway, more efficiently. This will help us keep our costs and energy usage down. Win-win!

Household Economy:

Through December: Reduce discretionary spending on food

  • Eat out less
    • Take lunches to school
    • Make meals/food in bigger batches
    • Use less canned foods and more dry goods
  • Buy fewer goodies
  • Waste less food
  • Get to Bryn Athyn Organic Produce Cooperative for groceries and bulk items at least once a month

This always seems easier for my husband than me. Food is the thing we like to spend money on. Being more conscious and frugal here will make a big overall difference I believe.

Resource Consumption:

Through December:  Use Less

  • Above goals apply to this — more motivation to focus on those
  • Gasoline and Oil
    • Seal A/C vents
    • Drive less by being conscious of consolidating trips

This seems kind of vague and small, but I want to focus on some of the other bigger, broader goals and intentionally kept this doable for us.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence:

Through December:  Homestead Preparation

  • Clear garden beds
  • Begin stocking goods
    • Decide on and clean a space for food storage
    • Look into companies to order from through Coop
    • Order beans, chickpeas, quinoa, rice

I am guessing we will be up to the December deadline on this one, for the garden clearing mostly. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was out there New Year’s Day getting something done just to not feel guilty for not having completed this garden goal to some small degree before going back to teaching.

Family and Community:

Through December:  Consciously Create Family

  • More face-to-face time (See Time and Happiness)
  • Organize monthly Family Fest with Darla and Jen
    • at our house — food and sleepover
    • one couple each month goes on a date at some point in the sleepover

Needless to say, as a working, breastfeeding attachment parenting mother this one goes straight to my heart. These are my feeble attempts to assuage my Mother’s Guilt and help us all remember who we are as adults and who we married.

Outside Work:

Through December

  • Sheila: Put together Life Restructuring Plan
  • Radha: Winter House Concert

It felt more realistic to have separate goals on this one.

The plan, this plan and other currently (somewhat) secret parts of my future plans, require time and energy. I felt it was important to acknowledge that time within the plan. Another part of Living Family is to not make my life and work so separate or my time so compartmentalized or vague. These blog posts, the discussions I have and notes I take are important to me and my family. I need to recognize the role they play and the time they take in my life.

Gopinath has had the idea of a seasonal concerts at our house. This winter I hope to have an “expanded family” gathering/concert with his group ONE.

Time and Happiness: Those things without which there’s really no point.

Through December: More face to face time

  • Sheila — Take one night a week completely off from work
  • Radha Gopinath — Less computer time

I thought I’d start with something I thought would be difficult enough but significant. One night a week off from work means I have to try to control the wandering and wheel turns of my mind as well. So far, if I was trying to make myself feel better, I could focus on how well I’ve done with this goal. I took the whole Thanksgiving break off from work to a large degree.

Gopinath’s goal of less computer time will surely rub off on me…..

Health and Fitness:

Through December:

  • Sheila — Drink as much water as humanly possible to support breastfeeding as long as possible and winter health and immunity
  • Radha Gopinath — Walk each day with the dogs.
  • Family — Walk with whole family, including dogs, once a week

I added this category, but my husband readily agreed and instantly thought of his goal. I think my goal is doable but illogically difficult for me in general. Water is vital for life, health and breastfeeding. Gopinath’s goal is actually necessary, but it is a past goal that has eluded us so I’m waiting to see what my role will be in that.

That’s it for now. I feel excited, even in the face of these somewhat daunting goals. Go Living Family!

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