It’s difficult to maintain new hobbies in the early days of parenting, but cloth diapering can become pleasantly addictive. Do you love the cloth diapering experience, toilet dunking and all? We did.
For us, the thrill of experimenting with different styles, brands and laundering techniques was fascinating enough to begin this blog and devote a significant portion of our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide to cloth diapering. Have you crossed into the cloth-diapering-as-a-hobby phase yet? Take our short Cloth Diapering Quiz to find out.
1. You discuss cloth diapers
a. Rarely and only with people who ask about them.
b. With people who are obviously new parents.
c. With anyone, including complete strangers in their mid-seventies who try to avoid eye contact while backing away.
d. On your blog, in your book, and on your public access T.V show, “The Real Poop on Cloth.”
2. You constantly check your baby’s cloth diaper
a. To ensure that she’s comfortable.
b. Just to admire the snaps and elastic between changes.
c. Because you love flaunting the adorable fabric patterns to onlookers.
d. Because you’re looking forward to the next diaper change.
3. In your cloth diaper collection you have
a. A dozen used prefolds and about five simple covers.
b. Some of each type of cloth diaper along with cloth wipes.
c. More diapers than your child can possibly wear.
d. Cloth diapers in every size, allowing your child to avoid toilet training until his teen years.
4. You use cloth diapers because
a. You are perfectly happy laundering diapers every week if it saves you the 3am supermarket trips to buy Pampers.
b. You relish the eco-rightousness you experience while driving by landfills.
c. You would rather spend thousands of dollars on eco-friendly baby spa treatments (or organic applesauce) than disposable diapers.
d. All of the above.
If you answered mainly A and B, beware! You may quickly move into the deeper levels of cloth diapering devotion as the months tick by.
If you answered mainly C and D, welcome! There are many, many of us who are already card carrying members of the cloth diapering fan club. Stick around for a whole month of posts devoted to the art of cloth diapering. (And even a giveaway or two!)
Did your baby sleep in a drawer or a cardboard crib? (The latter item really does exist and is pictured below.) Did you even have a nursery or did you simply pull baby into bed with you? Did you manage to outfit your baby’s nursery entirely with hand-me-downs or gear from Freecycle?
Of course having a minimalist nursery (or none at all) isn’t the only way to go green, but there’s so much pressure to gear up that it’s nice to know how people manage to creatively raise their babies without all the newest gadgetry. In our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, we try to share a variety of money-saving options for going green with baby, but our favorite is to buy less and buy used.
My son’s nursery wasn’t exactly spartan, but most of its furnishings were either given to me or purchased secondhand (and that includes his cloth diapers). When we saw just how little he used some of the items we thought we “had to have,” we were thoroughly happy that we’d stuck with used gear. I’m sure we could have sold all of it for the same price we paid, but we preferred to pass it onto another local family who had read our book and was striving to get all their gear used.
What creative things did you do to simplify your nursery? Did you even have a nursery? Were there items you eliminated from your baby registry or did you opt to buy some things used?
In The Eco-nomical Baby Guide,we share that we felt pressured to purchase baby-oriented gizmos to be “prepared” for the transition to motherhood. When our babies actually arrived, we realized that no amount of gear could compensate for grueling work of caring for a newborn. Life wasn’t a hardship because we didn’t own wipe warmers, it was hard because living without sleep and showers for extended periods of time was an absolute shock.
In the months before my baby arrived, Rebecca’s input helped me bypass the baby aisle and look to consignment stores and craigslist. My husband and I also repurposed what we already had to outfit the nursery. In the end we purchased only one new piece of new furniture–a combination dresser and changing table from Ikea—and ended up with a beautiful nursery. It was outfitted with a used rocking chair with homemade seat covers, (which honestly turned out to creak annoyingly every night from 3-5am….) homemade curtains, a solid maple secondhand crib, a used boppy with a new cover, and art given to us at our baby shower. Stacks of gently used pre-folds purchased from a diaper service and a dozen secondhand diaper covers filled the shelves as we waited for baby.
And how much did all that cost? We spent less than a thousand dollars on my son’s entire first year..and relished every dime that we set aside for later. (Not to mention all the packaging that was saved by buying used instead of new.) We both sometimes reflect on baby gear that we could have splurged on, but at the time it was also fun to see just what we could live without.
So what all did we pass up? New baby clothes, a wipe warmer, a bottle sterilizer, lots of disposable diapers (although we did use them at night), and much, much more. What did we buy used? Almost everything!
What did you cross off your registry list and what did you buy used for baby? Did friends and family support your decision to limit your purchases? Did you even have a baby nursery or get creative with another room in your home?
In my life before kids, I was much too cool for furniture. I had been a world traveler and wanted to live out of my backpack for the rest of my adult existence, even when I moved back to Oregon. Eventually I settled in enough to buy a great quality used futon for $100. It was functional, it was uncomfortable, and it was going to be temporary. That was exactly fourteen years ago.
Later my husband and I waited to buy furniture because our house was small. Then because our kids came along and slid half chewed bananas along the surface of everything we owned. Our futon is still solidly sitting in our living room and has survived nauseous children, early potty training, and dozens of guests who have graciously attempted sleep on its lumpy surface. (My co-blogger and co-author Rebecca is one of them…)
At some point last week, I came down with a feverish desire for a couch. Now that our kids are a bit older, it suddenly seemed possible to move beyond combat furniture. I didn’t give a whit about style, I just desperately wanted a soft space on which to rest my 39 year old bones. For the last two years I have searched craigslist for the right fit, color and frame and haven’t been inspired. After a visit to a few local furniture stores during their January clearance events, we have opted to buy a new couch rather than wait for used.
If you have followed this blog, or read our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, you know just how shocking it is for me to splurge on anything new. But unlike baby furniture or clothing, this couch is going to sit in our living room for the next decade or more. (Remember how long that futon got stuck there?) Our favorite model is made by Stanton Sofas right here in the state of Oregon with a hardwood frame and an extensive lifetime warranty that will ensure our kids don’t destroy it within the first six months. (The picture below isn’t from Stanton, but it’s the type of small sectional we’re buying.)
Although I’m a bit shocked that we’re finally moving out of our spartan furniture phase, I have to say it feels great to have scrimped all those years so that we can finally appreciate owning a good piece of furniture. Having spent the last decade flopping down on a lumpy futon, it will be glorious appreciate the comfort of a soft sofa each and every time we collapse at the end of the day. The futon will be moved down to playroom to officially become “the jumping couch.” I think our kids may end up taking it to college in about fifteen years….
Some people avoid the futon phase altogether and buy a great couch before their children ever arrive. Maybe their offspring are much calmer than mine or perhaps better trained to respect fine furniture. What has your experience been? Do you have any couch advise for me? Are you still living in futon-land?
I jumped on the green bandwagon in the early 1990s after watching a celebrity-studded Earth Day special on television. I was an impressionable teen living in the not-so-eco-minded Nevada high desert. I was looking for something, and I found it in taking Navy showers, eschewing paper towels, and sorting out recyclables. That last effort was somewhat diminished by the fact that no recycling facilities existed at the time.
Me, in greener times, cherishing a prefold cloth diaper.
In 2006, I had a baby, and my passion for all-things eco only grew stronger. Bringing a new life into the world made me reflect on the burden I was placing on the planet—and the way the planet, with all that acid rain and air pollution—could harm this fragile new creature I’d brought into the world. My renewed devotion to Mother Earth had me buying organic produce and washing cloth diapers (in a front-loading washer).
It happened to my old college friend Joy, too, in almost the exact same way. Frugal and eco-minded since childhood, her enthusiasm for thrift stores and granola ramped up a notch when she had her baby boy. In 2007 we began talking about writing a book about raising babies with the environment in mind. We had so much to say about it, so many odes to so many cloth diapers to write, so many important thoughts on pureeing yams to express!
Now it’s 2012. Joy and I are entering our fifth year of blogging here at the Green Baby Guide. In 2010, our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, was published. This is our 940th post. Is it a surprise, then, that some of the rosy glow of my first Earth Day in 1990 has faded a bit?
I’m ashamed to admit that the thrill has gone from green living. I once bought fourteen pounds of overripe organic bananas for a dollar and spent hours running them through a food mill and divvying up the mush to store in the freezer. Think of all the baby food I’d make, the banana breads I’d bake! (Strangely, Joy has a similar tale of doing the same thing with an overabundance of pumpkins.) While this sounds like an awful lot of effort for little payback, I thought it was fun. No, more than fun: exhilarating! I didn’t just put up with some of the inconvenient parts of green living, I actively enjoyed them.
I’m sure that compared to many Americans, I still qualify as a tree-hugging hippie. I compost and recycle and keep my thermostat at 64 degrees during the day. Maybe that should be enough. But the thing is . . . I don’t love it anymore. I’ve lost that righteous sense of superiority (okay, that’s for the best!). I’m not scouring the neighborhood for dandelion greens to make into a salad or constructing doll houses out of cardboard boxes like I used to. I don’t hang my laundry to dry; it got moldy anyway. I succumbed to the elicit pleasure of warm laundry straight from the dryer.
Once the thrill has gone, how do I get it back?
This is our third holiday season here at Greenbabyguide.com. Our first Christmas posts had a following of a dozen readers, most of them family members. Since then we’ve published our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, and increased our web traffic to about 50,000 unique users each month. Whew!
Despite our modest fame, nothing much has changed for our families. This morning we finished untying our fabric gift bags and have spent the day playing, snacking and reading.
After the crush of preparation and anxiety, there is such relief in just sitting in our toy-strewn living room and enjoying the kids. They aren’t sporting BPA-free bibs or chubby cloth diaper bums this year, but are rapidly leaving babyhood behind at 5 years and 2 years old.
For all of you today, I hope that you have the chance to smell the top of your baby’s head, to get a nap, and to maybe just enjoy this incredibly fleeting (and grueling) era of parenthood. May your milk supply be incredible, your cloth diapers be absorbent, your laundry be minimal, and your sleep tonight be long and luxurious. Most of all, I hope you celebrate yourself as a hard working, green-minded parent!
I have experienced the joys of pregnancy (and the swollen ankles, back pain, and cravings.) And I remember the things I so longed for on a daily basis. On the whole they weren’t material items, but rather support. And the best news is that “gifts of service” are utterly eco-friendly, thoughtful and very low cost.
A bottle of The Naked Bee Green Tea Lotion and a free coupon for regular foot massages. The lotion is made from organic ingredients that will nourish her itchy, stretching skin. Husband alert: She will LOVE this! (I would love this, and I’m not even currently pregnant…) If a partner is attentive enough, foot massages could be delivered on a daily basis.
A Hamilton Beach Half Pint Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker and a promise to whip up a batch of butter brickel at a moment’s notice. I’m convinced that in the late stages of pregnancy I needed ice cream as a nutritional supplement. An ice cream maker allows you to whip up mango sorbet or mint chocolate chip without climbing into the car. And the fact that this one only makes a half pint can help limit those late pregnancy scarfings.
A copy of our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, along with a gift certificate to a consignment shop or green baby boutique. Our masterpiece will give her everything she needs to know about cloth diapering, buying secondhand gear, and saving money while going green. She can use that gift certificate to buy maternity clothes, baby gear, and heaps of onesies before baby arrives.
A Pyrex Storage 10 Piece Set filled with homemade spaghetti, vegetable curries, and brownies. After all, why wait until the baby arrives to support an exhausted woman in the third trimester of pregnancy? You can (and should) always bring her more food in a few months.
Are you currently pregnant? What are you hoping to receive this holiday season? What was the best gift you ever received during your pregnancy? (For me, it has always been, and will always be, food.) Sigh…
First, let me clarify. I am still on the the outer fringes of frugality when it comes to mainstream culture. We buy almost all our clothes and housewares at thrift stores, usually at their monthly half off sales. I get my hair cut for four dollars at the beauty school and cut my husband and children’s hair myself. Some of the resourceful green strategies we’ve used while cloth diapering and clothing our children has saved us thousands of dollars, which we carefully document in our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide.
Still, I have to say that there are some money saving strategies I just can’t commit to:
-I don’t make homemade crackers, bars or other substitutes for packaged snacks.
-We buy some pre-made dinner and lunch items at Trader Joes.
-Once a week we go out for a meal.
Growing up, store bought bread, yogurt and cookies were utterly out of the question, so I feel a bit like an underachiever when I seek out prepared foods. And I only started to lean on prepared items once my babies entered the scene.
There was a point (before children) where my thriftiness was so hard core that I would never have considered crazy extravagances like cheese sticks. (I once got a half dozen pumpkins free from a grocery store on the day after Halloween just so that I could sort out the seeds and roast them for free food. It took me three hours, I burned half of them, and we quickly tired of the crazy amount of pumpkin seeds I had acquired.)
But parenting has helped me realize that my time is precious. If I’m spending it doing things that I don’t really enjoy and that stress me out, I’m missing out on moments with my children. Also, if I don’t preplan by buying snacks and convenience foods, we end up going out to eat more often than we should–which is more expensive and less healthy than stocking up on sauces, macaroni and cheese, and even frozen lasagna for those tough evenings a few times a month.
Have you found that parenthood has caused you to slack in your thriftiness? What is your favorite splurge? Or has being a parent caused you to be more careful with money than you were before? Do you prepare all your family’s snacks and meals or indulge in some convenience foods?
On these bright autumn mornings some of us to strap our babies into the running stroller and tromp our way to an endorphin rush. How do we keep our tots warm when we manage to scoot out of the house and enjoy some cold, bright weather?
Although it can be a bit awkward for diaper changes, bodysuits like this Columbia Unisex-Baby Tiny Bear Bunting Bodysuit, are a great way to keep a baby covered for just under 36 dollars. The sleeves and pant legs come with convenient flip over pockets for tiny hands and feet.
Nothing beats wool for natural warmth and LANACare’s Organic Wool Coverall is a beautiful heirloom piece of gear that would be worth it if you live in a very cold area and want to use it on a daily basis. It costs $133.50 which is quite an investment. But if it allows you to get out of the house and you are able to use it with multiple babies, you may be happy you spent the money. I would buy big and add additional layers so that you could get the most possible use out of it.
If you’d still love a quality wool product, but want a lower price with more flexibility, you may like the LANACare Organic Merino Wool Baby Sweater. It’s a little less than half of the price of the bodysuit at $55 and will work for slightly warmer weather as well.
Those of you who live in mild climates may be able to just get away with a few blankets and a really good hat. iPlay Origins Ecofleece Earwarmer Hat is just thirteen dollars and provides great coverage for baby’s neck and ears.
We must also add that all of these products, (and more) can be found for 50-90% less at consignment shops and thrift stores. As we emphasize in our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, many babies hardly have time to use all the clothing they receive in their first twelve months of life. If you have the time to hit resale shops or even Ebay, you can get top quality items at great prices.
However you end up keeping baby warm, we hope you get a chance to be outside this fall to appreciate the outdoors–and escape from those mounting piles of laundry for a short while.
We’ve had many brushes with fame in our four years of blogging, but were honored to be quoted in a Huffington Post article on BPA Monday. I was interviewed about the delicate balance between fear and ignorance in the midst of recent BPA studies. (The quote and link are in the last few paragraphs of the article.)
It was also a delight to see that our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, was favorably reviewed in Eugene Magazine. Through all of the three years that we wrote and rewrote that manuscript, we tried to keep the tone educational, humorous, and humble. It was a quite validating that Emily Grosvenor’s review agreed with our intentions. She writes, “The authors tackle some of the hairiest topics of green babying–cloth diapering, making your own baby food, and buying recycled baby furniture and gear–while avoiding the kind of language that can easily turn conversations on these subjects into Mommy Wars.” How lovely to be recognized for writing a book that focuses on green progress instead of perfection.
It may seem a bit arrogant to share all our recent press, but about 99% of our efforts are unheralded. The thousands of hours that we have invested in writing the book and the blog happen during naptime, or with our child tucked into our lap while the laundry spins in the washer and the pumpkin bread burns in the oven. It’s a lot of slogging, with only brief moments of semi-fame. Thanks for celebrating with us when they (very rarely) occur!