Sunday, March 27, 2016

How to Go Green with Cloth Diapers

So it probably doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess where I stand on the "diaper debate" between cloth and disposable diapers, since my blog is titled, "Ashley's GREEN Life". But honestly, it wasn't always that way. Before and during my pregnancy, I was pretty set on using a "greener" style of disposable diapers called gDiapers, which have a reusable cover and a biodegradable insert (which you can flush down the toilet or compost. 

But during one of my prenatal appointments with my midwife, she gave me a quick demo of the cloth diapers she uses and she told me about a local cloth diapering service...from that point on I was sold!  I contacted the local diapering service, Metro Cloth Diapering, and the owner came and did a quick and informative demo for Brandon and I, and we both agreed that it would be great fit for us. Then a few weeks before Avery's birth, I received all the supplies I needed to start cloth diapering once she was born, from the company.  The "inner nerd" in me wanted to start practicing right away with the cloth diapers, (I even considered bringing a pretend baby home from my preschool class, but I couldn't find one that was the right size!). But it wasn't long before Avery was born and I got all the practice I needed.  We started using the cloth diapers with Avery from day one and then when Mila was born as well and they have been amazing.  Brandon and I both picked right up on how it is done and we can't imagine using any other kind of diaper. (Note: This post was originally published here back in 2011, so if you've been reading my blog since then you may remember it. But since not much has changed, I'm going to share it again with a few updates as well.)

Little Avery in her cloth diaper.

In the past, I had stayed away from cloth diapers for the following reasons (maybe you can relate):

  1. I did not want to have to clean them.
  2. I had no idea where to get started in shopping for cloth diapers. There were so many decisions to make: pre-folds or pocket diapers, bumGenius or FuzziBunz, Velcro or snaps? Yikes!
  3. I worried that if I used a diaper cleaning service that they would use harsh detergents or chemicals to clean the diapers that would not be good for my baby's skin or the environment.
  4. On top of that, if I used a cleaning service, I worried it would be really expensive.
But the one thing that changed my mind about cloth diapers is the use of a diaper cleaning service.  As I mentioned above, I use Metro Cloth Diapering that serves the Kansas City Metro area.

"Like my cloth diapers?"

Here is how they calmed my "fears" of cloth diapering that I mentioned above:
  1. Cleaning the diapers? They clean them (score!).
  2. What cloth diapers to buy?  They provide the diapers, covers, and wipes meaning I don't have to do any shopping or make any large investment into buying my own supply of cloth diapers.
  3. Harsh detergents?  Nope, they use bio-degradable soaps and high efficiency laundry machines.
  4. Cost? It's about $22.50 a week for the service (or $120-130 per month) which includes a weekly pick up of dirty diapers and drop off of clean diapers.  Not bad if you figure the you'll probably be spending something close to that on disposables and wipes per week. Here's more about the cost on their website.
Here's a few more details about what I get with my diaper cleaning service.  Included in your weekly cost you receive the following supplies: a set of pre-fold cotton cloth diapers (this means it's like a flat piece of fabric with a thicker layer in the middle).

The pre-fold diapers. Here's similar ones on Amazon.

Sometimes they are even tie-dyed!
I store then in a dresser drawer by our bed where we change them.

As well as: a set of flannel wipes that are handmade and in fun patterns, 5 water-proof diaper covers (these keep the cloth diaper portion from getting the baby's clothes wet or dirty), and a Snappi (a little rubber/plastic piece that holds the cloth diaper together...basically takes the place of safety pins that were used back in the day to hold together cloth diapers).

The cloth wipes are also stored in a dresser drawer with our set of diaper
covers for the week. 
You can read more about these products on their website here.  Aside from this, Metro Cloth Diapering, obviously cleans the cloth diapers too. Once a week I put out the bag of dirty diapers/wipes, it is picked up, and clean ones are dropped off.  You can read a more in-depth description of their services here.

They make it pretty simple don't they? Now why turn to cloth diapers in the first place? Clearly cloth diapers are great for the environment in how they decrease landfill waste, but one might argue that you have to use an awful lot of water to wash and reuse them.  That's true, but a key word in that statement is reuse!  You can get many uses over many years out of a single cloth diaper, whereas with a disposable it's just use it once and then you dispose of it.  And on top of this, disposable diapers take years and years to breakdown (if ever).  I read once that if the children who came over with Christopher Columbus wore disposable diapers, those diapers would still be around today...since they plastic would never break down!!

Check out this video about the breakdown of a disposable diaper (or lack there of).  This video also highlights the gDiapers I mentioned above, which are still a great option if cloth is not something you want to attempt.

Aside from the environmental affect, disposable diapers also contain a number of harmful chemicals and dyes that may be making diaper changes easier on parents (because they are super absorbent), but they sure aren't helping babies.  One chemical called, sodium polyacrylate, is added to disposable diapers to make them "super absorbent" but it can also cause skin irritations and rashes, and it was banned from tampons back in the 80's because of it's link to Toxic Shock Syndrome (read more here).  Another little chemical in diapers is dioxin, a by-product of them being bleached.  Dioxin is a cancer-causing chemical and is banned in most countries (obviously not the US).  Last is chlorine, which gets them nice and bright...and at the same time is "particularly threatening to infants." Although some may say the effect of these chemicals is small, it was not something I was willing to take my chances on with my girls, which is why I chose to use cloth diapers.

Okay, okay, time for me to get off my "soap box" or "diaper box" I should say.  Let's get past the facts and the debate and onto the real deal.

Let me show you just how easy cloth diapers can be and how we make them work for us in this week's video....

Here are the steps of a typical "green" cloth diaper change...

1. Gather your supplies.
Fabric wipe, cloth diaper, diaper cover, and Snappi.
2.  Place a clean cloth diaper down on the changing surface.  Sometimes this is needed, other times it isn't, but it's better to have something down in case she decides to go again...which happens quite often when she talks to her buddy Panda!

This is Avery back when she was around 2 months old!

3.  Next I take off the diaper cover, and then the dirty diaper.

4.  The dirty diaper now goes in the medium-size wet bag that I keep and am in charge of washing each week.  If it's a solid poop we flush it down the toilet. If it's a softer poop we shake or wipe off what will come off. 

5.  Next, I grab a cloth wipe.  I use this Prince Lionheart Wipes's pretty awesome!  I don't necessarily care for the fact that the wipes are warm (although I bet the girls did), I just like that I have a stash of already WET wipes.  All I do with these fabric wipes is run a stack of them under some water, wring them out a bit, then stick them in the wipe warmer...then they are already to go!  Again, all I use on these cloth wipes is WATER! No chemicals, lotions, perfumes, anything!!!

Prince Lionheart Wipes Warmer with cloth wipes

Getting the wipes wet with water.

6.  Now I give her a nice clean wipe, and then place the dirty wipe in the medium wet bag with the dirty diaper.  I usually takes about one wipe per diaper change, sometimes two if she has a BM.  When she was first born, we actually used to use 3 for each diaper change! Why? I have no idea. Guess we just thought we had to get her really clean.  Now we're more experienced with it and one sure seems to do the job.  During this time I also I give her a minute or two to air out  (if I'm not in a hurry), I find it helps keep her rash-free.

7.  Now it's time to put on the clean diaper.  This is where the one she's been laying on comes in handy.  I simply fold the sides in a bit and pull it up towards her belly button.

 8.  Pull the back corners of the diaper to the front and hold them there.

This is the part she doesn't like sometimes.  If she had it her way, she'd be naked all day!

"Oh Mom! Not another diaper!"

9.  Next, I use the Snappi to connect the two sides of the diaper together.

You can see the Snappi connects the left and right sides of the diaper.
 10.  Time to put on the diaper cover.  Some diaper covers that we have use Velcro, others use snaps, and they come in a variety of colors.  Here's some similar on Amazon. Just a note, we are in charge of washing these covers (they are not included in our pick up and drop off...the same goes for the medium-size wet bag).  But if that's all I have to clean, I don't mind one bit!

In the morning we always toss the cover from the day before (that they wore
to bed) into the laundry to wash.
Here's a tip: make sure none of the cloth part is sticking out of the sides of the cover because when the cloth part gets wet it will leak out to the sides.

Bad Idea! The diaper is sticking out and will probably leak.

Good idea! No diaper is sticking out=less likely to leak.
11.  Now we're all done! Would you look at that little Avery, so tiny.  I can't believe she's about to turn 5 in a month.
All done!
12.  What to do from here? Usually once the medium-size wet bag gets full (about once a day), I empty it into my large wet bag (which I keep in our garage).

All full and ready to be emptied.

I keep the large wet bag in my garage. It doesn't smell too horribly bad, but
it's not something I'd want right next to my bed. 

 13.  When "Diaper Day" rolls around once a week, I place the large wet bag on my front porch to be picked up.

I'm smiling because I don't have to
clean these diapers!
 14.  Later that day, the clean diapers and fabric wipes arrive.  I then unpack them and put them in  drawers by our diaper changing area and we're all set for the week.

One last tip we've learned in the years of doing cloth diapering is to do a "double up diaper" at nighttime. This is where we put two cloth diapers on instead of one, which helps keep them from getting too wet at night. Obviously if they poop during the night, we change them, but if it's just pee we wait until morning. 

Sometimes we fold one in the middle so it won't be as bulky.
It still makes it pretty big though, but it is much more absorbent than just one.

We've always joked that it gives them a "big booty
diaper" as we call it.
Also, in case you're wondering what we do when swim season rolls around, here's a post I did about how we use a reusable swim diaper

Reusable Swim Diaper for Kids

So that's how we go cloth diaper change at a time.  I hope this helped you learn the benefits of cloth diapers, how easy they are to use, and what it's like to use a diaper cleaning service.  Again, if you live in the Kansas City metro area, I highly suggest Metro Cloth Diapering, the company I use.  They make my life so much easier and I am so thankful to have found them!

Has anyone else ever used cloth diapers or a diapering service before? What was your experience like? Do you have any favorite types of cloth diapers, tips or tricks? Feel free to post below!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

My Healthy & Green Bedtime Routine

Now I get pretty excited to talk about my Morning Routine like I did last week, because most aspects of it have been in place for years. My Bedtime Routine is a little different. Before having kids it was simple. Eat dinner, watch TV, brush my teeth, go to bed. These days, I have two young kids and a higher awareness of the sleep-inducing habits to be incorporated so my routine has changed quite a bit and continues to change as my girls get older.

Just as my girls like a consistent routine each night to help lull them to sleep or at least get them to stop jumping on the bed, I also have a standard bedtime routine that helps me turn off from my world, connect with those I love, and make time for rest a bigger priority than ever before. Join me as we take a look into my bedtime routine that incorporates a number of the healthy and green tips I've learned about and posted on here over the past few years.

Let's get started with my Bedtime Routine...

For our family, "Bedtime" starts after dinner is finished. Usually Brandon head's up to get my girls started with their bath time while I prepare the leftovers for the next day's lunch. I find that by getting the leftovers ready now it makes it much faster to just grab the containers in the morning.

Also this is when I stop eating for the day. I have my dinner and a small dessert and then by about 7:00 PM I'm done eating for the day. I find that I sleep better when I have an hour or two without eating anything before I go to bed.

Then I join them upstairs for bath time. This is a funny time to me because it's all four of us just hanging out, usually getting splashed by my two crazy girls. Some nights they are best friends and play together, other nights all they do is argue and we have to place the toy divider in between them just to keep the peace.

From there Brandon usually takes Mila out first, gets her nighttime diaper on, and some PJs.  Then Avery and I join them and she gets her PJs on too.

Brandon then goes downstairs to clean up the kitchen after dinner and I take on the task of finishing getting the girls ready for bed. Thank you Brandon!

They each get 10-15 minutes to watch their Kindles while I do a number of things. In case you're wondering they both have these cool Amazon Fire Kid's Edition that come with these Kid Proof Cases and we use the app Amazon Free Time Unlimited which has over 10,000 kid-friendly videos, educational games and books. The best part is they can't leave this App.

First I take out my contacts from the day and put on my glasses...ahhh my eyes feel better now after a long day!  Then I throw my hair up in a messy bun and wash my face. Followed by some toner and face lotion.

You can find it here

Then I put on some lotion for the rest of my body, with my favorite Desert Essence Fragrance-Free Body Lotion.

You can find it here

Then I check my social media one last time, and by about 7:50 and then I completely turn off my phone. I try to turn this off at least an hour or two before I go to bed. I find that it helps me relax and not lay in bed thinking of emails I need to send or people's Facebook posts.

Then about that time my girl's Kindle timers are going off and we head over to all brush our teeth.  Then from there Brandon comes up and we do a song or two as a family, we call it "Bedtime Circle Time" as inspired by Conscious Discipline.  Here's a youtube video explaining some of the meaning behind the "I Love You Rituals" (the songs we sing) to connect each day.

Then it's time to divide and conquer again. Brandon takes Avery to her room to read books and wait for me.

And I take Mila to her room to read 1-2 books.  She then nurses for about 5 minutes max (she's almost 2 1/2 so there's not much milk these days) but she still likes to do it for comfort, then I put her to bed.

Next I go into Avery's room and sing a bedtime song to her and tuck her in for bed usually it's about 8:20 by this point.

Then if everyone goes to sleep as expected, then Brandon and I hang out together. We either catch up on a favorite show or just head to bed.

In the past few months I've deemed this as a no-technoglogy time....for myself. I have no problem turning my phone off, but laptop is easier said than done. I used to spend this time editing videos, checking comments, and getting one last blog thing done for the day, but it was not a healthy balance for my family life.

So instead I usually work on my videos during my girls' nap times, on the evenings we go to my parent's house for dinner, or in the mornings before school. And during my evenings, I spend time with Brandon.

From there we start getting ready for bed around 9:25 PM...which sounds kind of lame I'm sure but it helps ensure that I meet my 7 hours of sleep per night goal, with a little wiggle room. I get up at 4:45 so 7 hours from that is 9:45, but I build that extra time in because Mila will sometimes get up once per night, and sometimes that keeps me up in the middle of the night, thus messing up my 7 hour goal. But with a 20 minute bonus, I can still meet my goal.

Now don't get me wrong I don't freak out if I don't make my 7 hours, if I miss it, I just try to self-correct the next day and make up for it if I can. Life goes on. Just a goal to shoot for.

My sleep graph. 7 is my goal, anything over is bonus, anything under, is a
sign to re-correct the next day. 

But before I tuck into bed I do a few more little things. The first of which is to check my journal quickly and mark off how I did on my Rhythm Register that you may remember me mentioning from last week's "Morning Routine" post on how I keep track of a variety of habits each day help keep me on track to reaching my goals both at home, in my teaching job, with my blog, and even with my health.

This is my daily check in time to see how I did for the day. I also note any ideas that are on my mind and things to think about or add to my to-do list the next day.

Then I do my "Daily Stretch" the same routine I did when I woke up.

Next I change into my specific pajamas that I only wear for sleeping and climb into bed.  While in bed I have Mila's monitor nearby and charging and I turn on my Sound Machine.

I also have my Earthing mat plugged in and ready to go on my bed. Earthing has been one of the most helpful things I've done to improve my sleep these days, so if you're interested in learning more about Earthing click here.

As well as my Spoonk mat nearby if I need it. Sometimes it's helpful if I've been woken up in the middle of the night.

I try to keep my room as dark as possible in addition to my eye mask and I make sure there all technological devices are either turned off or on Airplane mode. Then I grab my eye mask and try to fall asleep.

So there you have it,  my slightly high-matienence, bedtime routine. What's your bedtime routine like? Do you any of the same things that I do? Or do you have a favorite part of your routine you'd like to share? Post below. Also, how do you distance yourself from technology before bed? I'd love to hear how you disconnect, something I've been trying to do much more of lately, especially in the evenings before bed.

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