How Do You Wash Cloth Diapers?

Do you have a complex system of soaking and pre-washing, or are you cloth diaper slackers like Rebecca and me?  How do you handle smells and stains?  Do you use hot or cold water?  What’s your favorite detergent?

Cloth diapers were a total mystery to me in those early days of parenting–as was cloth diaper laundering.  I didn’t have a copy of our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, to help me with selecting and caring for cloth diapers, so I was lost!  I have to confess that I even bleached our pre-folds a few times at first before a friend taught me that it’s unnecessary and also very tough on the fabric.

These days we are incredibly lax about our diaper washing system and are quite happy with the results. We use a dry pail and when it fills up, we simply toss them in the washer.  We use cold water most of the time and throw in a little Bac Out to help freshen them up.  We don’t hang up our diapers at this point, although summer is a different story.  Our diapers are no more complex than any other load of laundry and come out smelling great!

Please feel free to share your cloth diaper laundry struggles and victories!

When Did You Start Becoming a Green Parent?

My pregnancy moved my thrifty, green tendencies to a whole new level, but people discover this blog at different points in their parenting journeys.  Why are you considering eco-friendly, budget-friendly choices?  Was is economic necessity?  A newfound environmental awareness?  A friend or relative who blazed the trail?  (Rebecca was certainly a huge help for me since we were both pregnant at the same time and she tutored me in cloth diapering, buying used, and reducing purchases.)

Whether you’re just beginning to make frugal, green shifts, or were eco-conscious to begin with , you may want to read our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet.  Request it at your local library to read it for free or pick up a copy of The Eco-nomical Baby Guide on Amazon for less than ten bucks.  (That’s 60% off the cover price!)

Please share what helped you become a greener, more resourceful parent to inspire the rest of us. And don’t forget that today is the last day to enter our Hygeia EnJoye Professional Grade Breastpump giveaway!

What’s the Best Organic Formula Without Hexane or BPA?

In our research for The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, our favorite organic choice was Nature’s One Baby’s Only Organic Formula.  And in our recent exploration of hexane, Baby’s Only again stands out as the best choice.

So what is hexane anyway?  It’s a petroleum derivative that’s found in glue and gasoline and has recently been used in infant formula to help obtain the DHA and ARA fatty acids from fermented algae and fungus.  Since breast milk is packed with DHA and ARA, there has been a recent drive to get these components into formula.  (Don’t get us started on the advantages of breastfeeding.  If you possibly can breastfeed, there are a million reasons that it will provide you with better health, your baby with better immunity, and save you heaps of cash.  Since not everyone can, we want to be sure to share organic formula options. If you are breastfeeding, don’t forget to enter our Hygeia EnJoye Breastpump Giveaway!)

Similic Organic Formula and Earth’s Best Organic Formula both state that no trace of hexane is detectable in their formula and that it’s just used to process the DHA and ARA.  But Nature’s One Baby’s Only is the only organic formula to derive their DHA and ARA fatty acids without hexane.  They are also the only organic formula to have 100% BPA free packaging.

There’s just one problem with Baby’s Only Organic formula.  In an effort to encourage breastfeeding, the company recommends their formula as a follow up to a full year of breastfeeding.  However, they offer a nutritional chart comparing their formula to others on the market and recommend that you consult with your health care professional.  It’s clear from viewing the chart that Baby’s Only  meets or exceeds other brands with its nutritional components and would be more than adequate as an infant formula.

Baby’s Only Infant Formula isn’t even the most expensive option!  It comes in at $0.88/oz. while Earth’s Best Organic Formula costs $1.15/oz. and Similac Organic is a bit cheaper at $0.73/oz. (These are my current rough estimates based on buying from Amazon in large quantities)

What’s your favorite organic infant formula?  Any tips on finding the best prices on formula?

Creative Play Ideas: Without Toys!

Walking through the baby aisle in through any big box store, you’d think tots require blinking plastic playthings for constant entertainment.  As we point out in The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, parents need far less than they’re pressured to buy in those months leading up to baby’s arrival.  Plus, everyone knows the story of the child who receives a brand new gift only to end up playing with the ribbon and cardboard box.

So what do you have around the house that might fascinate your baby and toddler?

Cereal boxes, egg cartons, and toilet paper tubes. Young children bat them around and sit on them while older kids can use them to construct castles, caterpillars and many other three dimensional art projects.

Paper sacks and measuring cups. I love seeing how many hours a six-month-old can spend observing a paper bag.  It crinkles, it has an inside and outside, and it collapses.  What a fantastic device!  My children spent many hours nesting measuring cups and clanking them together.  Plus, the fact that these are obviously real adult objects that parents use regularly makes them extra appealing to tots.

Real pots and pans, wooden spoons, and grains or pasta. Sit your child at the table with a bowl of dry noodles or rice, several measuring spoons, and various bowls and cups.  They’ll be entranced by their cooking experiments and you may just get time to prepare a meal.

Keys were another hot item that parents listed when we solicited info for the The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, but then they aren’t always safe.  What are the favorite non-toys that your baby loves to play with at home?  Is your child chewing on Tupperware at this very moment?


The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: 60% off on Amazon!

As frugal souls, we love that you can get our book for free at your local library. It’s even more exciting when the price of The Eco-nomical Baby Guide randomly falls to below eight bucks on Amazon! You can now score a copy for just $7.98, which is sixty percent off the original price of $19.99.  Considering that our little gem can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars, it’s worth the meager investment in a green baby guide that’s infused with humor and humility.  These price dips usually last just a few days so you might want to pick up a few for gifts while the sale lasts. Good luck!

What Should You Do With Drop-Side Cribs?

For many expectant families the new The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) ban on the manufacture of drop side cribs won’t be an issue. It’s easy to pick out a non-drop side crib and there are several eco-friendly option including the DaVinci Kalani Convertible Baby Crib or the DaVinci Richmond 4-in-1 Crib each of which go for just under $250.

Still, what about those of us who bought used cribs, or are still using drop side cribs that we bought for our first child? In The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, we suggest that families consider buying a used crib if it’s in excellent condition. Is that advice suddenly outdated? Should we all turn our cribs into sweet pea trellises and invest in another piece of furniture? What about cribs that we’re done using? Are they safe enough to be passed on to another family?

Happily, families can now get a free crib immobilizer kit that will make any drop side crib into a safe, stationary sleeping space for baby. Most manufacturers offer them at no charge, but if your company is not listed on the previous link you can also buy the crib immobilizer hardware for about ten bucks online and install it in under an hour. Even though we never bought this device, early on I simply stopped using the drop side option for our crib. The intensity of sleep deprivation made my sad memory even worse than ever and I was worried that I’d forget to put the side back up while stumbling out of my baby’s room after a late night feeding.

I will be passing our used Childcraft drop-side model on and sharing the information about a crib immobilizer kit with the next family to use our sturdy baby bed. It hardly seems worthwhile for every family in America to trash their cribs and buy new ones, but I do want parents to feel safe about their baby cribs.

What’s your take on drop side crib recycling or reusing? Do you know of any other resources for green-minded families?

What Were Your Favorite Baby Guide Books?

During all nine months of my first pregnancy, our home was littered with books instructing me on how to gracefully cruise into motherhood.  Many of them simply freaked me out while others seemed utterly unrealistic.

None urged me to trust myself, buy less stuff, use cloth diapers and opt for used gear–all of which we emphasize in our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide.  In fact, back in 2006 I could not find a single book on green pregnancy or parenting!  That was part of the reason Rebecca and I were so inspired to write The Eco-nomical Baby Guide.  During the months that we wrote and re-wrote the text, green baby books started to pop onto the market, but none of them had the frugal emphasis that was essential to our eco-friendly message.  We were also surprised to see that none of the green baby guides had an in-depth section about cloth diaper usage and we were careful to dedicate two detailed chapters to cloth diapering, although we could have filled an entire book with our cloth diaper wisdom.  (If you don’t already know, we are rather ardent cloth diaper fans who strike up conversations with total strangers about Fuzzibunz and flushable diaper liners.)

The books I did enjoy were Baby Bargains (which provides a wide range product information and does encourage buying secondhand gear) and Momma Zen, a book which kindly allows you to forgive your imperfection in those first challenging months of new parenting.  I haven’t read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, but it has gotten rave reviews from friends.

What are the books you would recommend to pregnant women?

Do You Have a Favorite Grocery Store?

Does your favorite supermarket or farmer’s market meet all your needs?  Mine doesn’t, but I love it nonetheless!

Trader Joe’s always delights me as a mother, an eater, a frugalista, and a tree hugger. The concept of a shop stocked with almost completely generic, high quality products is revolutionary!  Prices are usually reasonable, products are creative, but the abundance of packaging and the small serving sizes aren’t ideal.  Still, I do visit once a month or so to stock up on cereal, granola bars, and other prepared foods.  They aren’t always organic, but they aren’t packed with corn syrup and preservatives like other mainstream brands.

Although it isn’t ecologically perfect, I drive across town once a month to shop at Trader Joe’s.  I have to hit other grocery stores in the interim to pick up produce and household items, but it’s worth the extra trip for me travel to TJ’s. As we mention in our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, green living is all about progress, not perfection!


The Eco-nomical Baby Guide First Anniversary Giveaway!

Exactly one year ago yesterday, our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet, hit store shelves.  It took us three years of hands-on research and thousands of drafts before we were satisfied with our practical green guide for new parents.  We flavored the manuscript with humor, anecdotes, and lots of humility as we tried to convey what we wished we would have known before our babies arrived.  The cloth diaper information we provide is highly user friendly, but there ‘s also information on buying less, buying used and buying green that helped each of us save over five thousand dollars on our babies’ first year alone.

If you wish you had a copy in your hands right now, you’re in luck!  We’re giving away one copy on the anniversary of it’s publication.

Three Ways to Enter The Eco-nomical Baby Guide Book Giveaway:

1. Simply post a comment

2. Like us on Facebook (then tell us you did it in the comments)

3. Spread the news about the giveaway! Email someone, post it on Facebook, tweet it, blog it, or send someone a message about it via carrier pigeon. (And again, don’t forget to tell us all about it in the comments!)

This contest ends on March 10th and is only open to U.S. Residents.

Good luck!

Also, we have some gorgeous Eco-nomical Baby Guide bookmarks that we’d love to distribute in OB/GYN offices, midwifery clinics and other spots where green moms can find them.  If you have a location where you know they’d be snatched up, please email us your name and address and tell us where you’d like to distribute them.  Thanks in advance for all your help!

A Dreamy Green Consignment Find: The Frog Shop

While promoting our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, I have been on the phone with eco-friendly baby shops around the country.  Inevitably, this leads to an impassioned discussion about cloth diapering, but it’s even more exciting when I find an institution like The Frog Shop. Corinne and Heidi Britt have developed a thriving green business by selling secondhand clothes, cloth diapers, natural toys, and much more.  If you’ve ever thought about opening your own consignment shop or you’re a happy secondhand shopper, read on for inspiration!

What was your vision when you started The Frog Shop?

My partner Corinne and I have six kids between us. When our older kids were young, we used to buy and sell at consignment stores to save money, to recycle the items our children outgrew, and because it was fun – like treasure hunting.

In 2009, there were no children’s consignment stores in our current hometown, so it seemed like the right time to open one ourselves, but we wanted The Frog Shop to be more than just a store. We wanted it to be community hub for families.

How do you incorporate community service into your business plan?

The very nature of The Frog Shop is community service. All of the unsold consignment items that aren’t picked up by the seller are donated to one of about half a dozen local charities in town. These include clothing closets and organizations for teen moms.

Our biggest community service effort, of course, was our creation of the Parent Resource Association of Merced (PRAM). Through PRAM we refer families to various resources in the community, and we hold events for kids from low-income families (like our annual free pictures with Santa event in December, and free face painting during any downtown events).

Even though I’ve never been there, I love imagining what the atmosphere must be in The Frog Shop.  Some women breastfeeding, families searching for recycled garments, others discussing the details of cloth diapering.  Do you have such a place in your city?  Stay tuned for our second post on The Frog Shop later this week.