Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Convertible Car Seat Update

My son turns 5 months old today (yay!) and was 19.5 pounds last time I held him on the scale with me.  His great grandparents and great aunt stopped by today and marveled at how fast he's grown, and one of my best friends is developing an inferiority complex about how "undersized" her 7 month old is next to my son.

I'm still researching car seats, and the clock is ticking on my decision.  He is quickly approaching the 22 pound weight limit on his Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat, which by the way is one of the top rated infant car seats by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  They also make a newer model that has a 30 pound weight limit if anyone is looking for a great, easy-to-use car seat or travel system.  The Chicco Keyfit 30 also has a lower minimum 4 pound baby weight, so it's an ideal choice for preemies and small babies.  Just throwing that out there for my mommy-to-be readers!

So far, my favorite is still the Recaro convertible car seat.  Based on my continued research, they are by far the most safe, comfortable, and compact convertible car seat on the market; they have some of the highest weight limits available (70 pounds in the convertible car seat and 120 pounds in their other safety seats); and their new ProSERIES child safety seats are made right here in the USA and include a convertible car seat, a combination harness to booster seat, and a booster seat.  You can find a lot of discounts for their previous Signo/Signo G2 and Como/Como G2 convertible car seat models because they are closeout items.  The primary difference between the Signo and the Como models is that the Signo has an infinite adjust knob for the head rest and no re-thread shoulder harness, but the Como required manual adjustments.  The new ProRIDE convertible car seat has the infinite adjust and no re-thread harness as default features.

Be careful if you are purchasing a Signo or Como because there was a recall on car seats manufactured between February 1, 2008 and February 16, 2009.  The central harness adjuster had a manufacturing defect that caused it to sometimes slip and possibly not maintain the desired tightness.  Car seats not affected by this recall will have a green dot above the bar code on the model number sticker.  This problem was corrected in the G2 models, but I assume they changed the name completely in order to distance their newest model from the recall.

Despite the recall controversy, I'm still a dogged fan, especially since it wasn't a major flaw like harnesses that comes unbuckled under pressure, parts falling off, and things like that.  The price point, however, is always the issue with the Recaro.  Given how tall my son is and how ahead of the curve his weight usually is, I will most likely need to purchase a booster seat if only to give him more leg room in my Toyota Corolla.  I'm not sure I can justify the expenditure when I'll just need another seat in a couple years.

Some have suggested going straight to a toddler car seat, which would be front-facing.  But my son is so young that I want to keep him rear-facing for now, and Georgia law requires that all children 6 and under must be in a child safety seat appropriate for their age and height.  They go by the NHTSA guidelines, which say children must be at least 1 year old and 20 pounds before switching to a front-facing seat, toddlers 1-4 years old and under 40 pounds must be in a car seat, and children up to 12 years but under 80 pounds and 4'9" must use a booster.

For the sake of my immediate budget, I'm also looking at some convertible car seats by Evenflo.  They are the only convertible car seats with a weight limit over 40 lbs (it's 50 in the models I'm looking at) that I can consistently find under $100.  If I go this route, then maybe, just maybe, he'll slow down growing and stay in this seat long enough to transition straight into the ProBOOSTER, but that's probably just wishful thinking.

In order of price from lowest to highest the Evenflo contenders are the Titan Sport, Titan Elite, and the Triumph Advance LX, DLX, and Premier.  The main differences among these models is that they get plusher and cushier the more high end you go.  The higher end Triumph Advance models are usually over $100 but still much less expensive and more compact that than their competitors.  I've found really good sales and discounts at various places including Ebay.  Many Ebay sellers are even offering free shipping, so it's worth a look because I've found several auctions for the car seats mentioned  here brand new and cheaper than at other stores after shipping.

The main issue that's keeping me from being a huge fan is that many of the reviews for Evenflo car seats have stated that the children outgrew the height way before the manufacturer's stated limit.  My son is on the tall side, so that's a big turn off.  The maximum height is 50 inches on all of these, but I've read several reviews that complained of their children outgrowing the seat with heights in the 35-inch range.  It may be user error, but that means the seats may be difficult to adjust if that's the case.  At any rate, I find it hard to imagine a user error that would result in an infant or toddler outgrowing a car seat 15+ inches before the manufacturer's maximum height capacity.

Because my son is a big, fat, giant-sized baby (and I mean this in the most loving and adoring way possible), it looks like I'll have to go with the more expensive Recaro ProRide in order to save money long term.  For those of you who don't struggle with the issues of having a toddler-sized infant under 6 months old, be glad!  Meanwhile, it looks like we'll be going to the store to try out car seats before making a final decision.

Win a Smartipants Pocket Diaper from Diapers Etc

Yet another Smartipants giveaway!  Contest ends 7/8/2010.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Smartipants Diaper Giveaway

I know some of you are thinking about trying cloth diapers.  Enter this giveaway for a chance to win a Smartipants O/S pocket diaper.  Deadline July 16, 2010.

DDT 1 -- How to fold prefold diapers

This is my first installment of Diaper Duty Tuesday (DDT) where I'll be discuss cloth diapering how-to's, tips, patterns for sewing your own diapers and covers, and everything else related to cloth diapers!  Today I'm tackling the mysteries of the prefold which is simultaneously the simplest and most intimidating cloth diaper, but they are a wonderfully economical cloth diapering choice that can be adjusted to fit a wide range of sizes regardless of the size of the prefold.  In fact, I'm still using preemie size prefold diapers on my 20-pound, 5-month old son, and he still has some use left.  The biggest issue with them now is not the fit but that the amount of cloth is becoming insufficient for his super soaking capabilities.

Many people, especially grandparents and other part-time caregivers, are turned by prefolds because they don't understand how to make them fit the baby.  There are a few different approaches to putting on prefold diapers, and I've tried several.  Of the methods I've tried, this one gives the slimmest fit and most protection against dirty diaper blowouts.  I've leakage problems with other fold styles, but the only time I've ever had a mess with this one is when  he decided to go for round two during the diaper change!

Folding prefolds with a fastener

1)  Lay the cloth diaper flat under the baby with the top edge at the desired waist height.

2)  Fold the portion in front of the baby in thirds so that the hugs baby's bottom snugly.

3)  Lift the folded part over the baby's front.

4)  Fan open the top of the diaper over your little one's belly.

5)  Fold down if there is too much excess cloth at the top.  If it's a little too high, you can tuck it down under the diaper cover.

6)  Fasten with pins or Snappi if desired.

7)  Put on the diaper cover.  Make sure all the diaper is tucked inside the cover or you'll end up with leaks.

It looks like a lot of steps, but it goes quickly once you've done it!

Folding prefolds without a fastener

It's easier to lay the cloth diaper and cover under the baby at the same time if you aren't using a pin.  Make sure the edges are even before you place them under baby's bottom (refer to picture #2 above) and follow the same steps as outlined above.

16 Hilarious Home Remedies

16 Hilarious Home Remedies - Nursing Link

Some interesting alternative treatments for common summer time ailments that are sure to bring a chuckle or two.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Finally-a natural shampoo I can love!

I'm one of those people who's been wanting to love an organic or natural shampoo and body wash for a long time.  But they made my hair and skin feel funny or didn't clean the way I wanted.  On closer inspection, many of these so called "natural" body products contain harmful chemicals such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), or sodium myreth sulfate (a newer derivative of SLS and SLES that companies use to get away with the "SLS-free" label).  SLS is a cheap, readily available chemical that makes soaps, detergents, toothpastes and other products foamy.  It is also valued as a commercial cleanser because of it's ability to strip oils from surfaces including skin and hair.  This is why sodium lauryl sulfate and other chemicals related to it are known to cause eye and skin irritations in concentrations as small as .5% and are considered dangerous in concentrations of 10-30% which is the level commonly found in many household products.  One of the other negative aspects is that dioxane, a known carcinogen, is one of the byproducts of creating SLES so dioxane contamination is possible in products made with SLES.

Since I couldn't find anything better, I was using the 365 brand of "natural" shampoo, conditioner, and lotion from Whole Foods.  They are inexpensive, dye free, paraben free, and use essential oils for fragrance, but they still contained SLS/SLES or related chemicals.  But I ran out about two weeks ago, and decided to give all-natural bath products another chance.
I stumbled upon a great shampoo at Vitacost that doesn't make my hair crazy, smells great, and is free of all the major toxic chemicals used in personal care products.  The chemicals mentioned (ethylhexylglycerin, sodium benzoate, and potassium sorbate) are preservatives with antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties that are either plant-derived, kosher, or naturally occuring, cause irritation/allergies only in rare instances, and are among the last on the ingredient list, which means they are the smallest concentrations.  The line is the Beauty Without Cruelty shampoos and conditioners.  For those interested, they also make facial cleansing products and cosmetics.

Another all natural bath product I'm loving is the Hugo Naturals shower gel in the Vanilla Orange fragrance.  It has a relaxing vanilla undertone, and the only ingredient I didn't immediately recognize as coming from nature was decyl glucoside.  It's an SLS alternative made from vegetable oil and sugar.  The Hugo Naturals line of products includes hand soaps, lotions, body scrubs, shower gels, and more in a variety of fragrance options including unscented.

I haven't decided on a final product for the baby, but here are a few I'm considering.  The Weleda Baby Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash, Burt's Bees Tear Free Shampoo and Wash, and Nature's Baby All Natural Shampoo and Body Wash are all economical choices that pass initial inspection.  They also all make natural baby lotions.  A few days ago, my aunt and uncle gave me the Aubrey Organics Natural Baby & Kids Body Lotion to try.  I used it on my son this evening after his bath.  It smells good, moisturizes well, and meets my expectations for an natural/organic product.  The downside is that it is on the more expensive side, a little greasy, and the fragrance is stronger than I like for a baby lotion.  I will probably try something else when this bottle is gone.

Other alternative household products free of harmful chemicals and additives are Earth Friendly Ultra Dishmate, Mrs. Meyer's Liquid Dish Soap, Biokleen Automatic Dish Powder, Tom's SLS-free Toothpaste, Kiss My Face Aloe Vera Toothpaste, and Charlie's Soap Laundry Powder.  For you Seventh Generation and Avalon Organics users, sorry!  They didn't make it to the "clean" list.

To learn more about the effects of sodium lauryl sulfate and its derivatives, click these links:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

Now that you've learned about the different kinds of cloth diapers available to modern moms and gotten ideas on how to choose the cloth diapering system that's best for you, you're wondering what to do with them between wash days and how to deodorize, disinfect, and keep them looking clean and bright.  Even after all the research, it was still a fairly lengthy trial and error process for me.  Here are a few insights and suggestions based on my experiences.


  • Gloves
  • Diaper bucket or waterproof bag
  • Cloth diaper friendly detergent
  • Diaper sprayer
You'll need a place to store dirty diapers between washes.  I have used 5 gallon paint buckets from the hardware store and a small, lidded trash can as my diaper buckets, but there are many other alternatives out there that may work better for you.  The Safety 1st Simple Step Diaper Pail is an affordable option with a handy foot pedal operated lid for hands free use, and this Swaddlebees Diaper Pail Liner is a multitasker that can also be used alone as a wet bag, laundry bag, or travel diaper pail.

The diaper sprayer and gloves are optional, but very useful to have.  I don't actually have a diaper sprayer because I have a "dirty" sink with a sprayer.  For those who don't have that luxury, my cloth diapering mom friends swear by their diaper sprayers because it allows them to spray the mess directly into the toilet before tossing the diaper in the pail or the wet bag.

Your choice of detergent is very important to the life and functionality of your diapers.  Most detergents leave a residue that will eventually build up on your diapers and cause skin irritation, interfere with the diaper's ability to wick away wetness, or both.  Cloth diaper makers do not recommend using regular commercial detergents such as Tide or Dreft, but some people have had success using 1/4 - 1/2 the recommended amount in their diaper washes.  I personally use Charlie's Soap because it is an all natural, residue free laundry powder.  I love that it's made in the USA and that I'm supporting American made products every time I purchase it.  It's also very economical.  Even though I do all my regular laundry with it in addition to the diapers (for diapers I usually double the amount of soap), one bag lasts over 3 months.  It is also not necessary to use fabric softener or static cling sheets with Charlie's soap as it is the chemical residues that stiffen clothes and cause static in the dryer.

Location, location, location!

When considering places to keep your dirty diaper pail, keep in mind that even with pre-rinsing, baking soda, and all the diaper odor tricks out there, it has been impossible in my experience to completely eliminate diaper bucket odors.  If you have space in your laundry room, I would recommend keeping the dirty diapers there since it will be out of the way.  If this is not an option, use a diaper pail with a tight fitting lid or a wet bag with a drawstring to seal in as much of the odor as possible.

To keep diaper odor to a minimum, I've found the rinsing all diapers, including the ones that only have pee, greatly reduces diaper pail smells.  You can also sprinkle the inside of your dirty diaper container with baking soda.  While I have had the best results using a dry diaper bucket, some have had success by keeping the diapers in water with a tablespoon of vinegar, but do not use bleach as this ruins the waterproof layers in your expensive AIOs and your waterproof covers.  If you do use bleach for your prefolds and other coverless diapers, make sure to rinse them thoroughly as the bleach residue can irritate your baby's skin.

The Wash Cycle

Pre-rinse wet diapers and remove solids from dirty diaper before putting them in the diaper bag or bucket.  Make sure all velcro tabs are secure so they do not snag other items.

Run your diapers through a rinse cycle first to get rid of any remaining solid waste.  This may be done with cold water.  You may do a short soak if you desire, but don't overdo it as this will breed bacteria.

After the pre-rinse, wash your diapers with your cloth friendly detergent on a cycle that uses hot water.  Hot water will serve to disinfect your diapers.  For extra whitening or deodorizing, you may add 2-4 tablespoons of baking soda.  If you are using a regular, commercial detergent for laundering your diapers, I would recommend using a bit of baking soda in the final rinse because it will help to remove the residues.  The added benefit is that baking soda is a natural fabric softener.

If you are laundering items with a hook & loop style closure such as Aplix or Velcro, make sure it is secured or it will stick to other garments and create snags and pulls or even ruin some fabrics.

Drying Cloth Diapers

Either line dry your cloth diapers or put them in the dryer on high heat WITHOUT fabric softener.  Fabric softener will make them less absorbent and cause repelling issues.  Using high heat or the sun will further disinfect your diapers for healthier reuse.  Drying in the sun is an energy efficient way to launder cloth diapers without increasing you utility bill that also naturally deodorizes without artificial fragrances that only mask unpleasant odors without treating the cause.  Line dried items are easily fluffed up by placing them in the dryer for a few minutes on a heatless setting.

Prewashing Pointers

All cloth diapers regardless of style or brand recommend prewashing up to 5 times before use in order to bring out the maximum absorbency of the fibers and fully preshrink the fabrics.  For most diapers prewashing with your regular laundry is fine as long as you use the appropriate detergent, remember to avoid fabric softener, and wash with like colors.

Certain fabrics, however, must be laundered separately.  The two main ones are wool and hemp.  Check the laundering instructions on your wool diaper covers to see if they're machine washable.  Most will be hand wash and line dry only.  Those items will shrink up to 50% or more if machine washed and/or dried.  Hemp has naturally occurring plant oils that will interfere with wicking, so it must be washed several times before use.  Do not wash hemp diapers with other fabrics until they have been completely stripped or the oils will transfer to them.

Up Next...

Now that you know the cloth diapering basics, come back to Cool Mom's Blog every week on Diaper Duty Tuesdays for an ongoing look at cloth diapering tips, how to's, and reviews!

For a look at all my cloth diaper information, go the the Cloth Diapering tab at the top of the page or click here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Technical Difficulties

We were having some issues with the internet connection.  I think it's fixed now.  The diaper series will resume tomorrow!  And I'll  also be sharing some great coupons for moms and moms to be.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Loveybums Organic Diaper Giveaway

Looking for new ways to recycle?

Choosing Cloth Diapers

What fabrics should I choose?

If you decide to use other types of diapers besides prefolds, you may be overwhelmed by the fabric options available.  Here are some things to keep in mind. 

Natural fabrics (cotton, flannel, bamboo, hemp, etc.) are going to be generally softer, more breathable, and less likely to cause skin irritation.  Flannel, bamboo, and hemp are very absorbent.  Bamboo even has antimicrobial properties.  Bamboo velour is probably the softest and most luxurious feeling while fleece made with bamboo and hemp offer great wicking and help to keep baby's bottom feeling drier.  Terry cloth (make sure it's French terry) is also a very soft and absorbent option.

Synthetic fabrics (polyester, microfiber, etc.) are going to be drier feeling and shrink less when washed.  Many people like to use polyester fleece as a nighttime diapering solution because of how well it wicks wetness away from the skin and how absorbent it is.  If your baby is prone to diaper rash, you may want to stay away from synthetics because they are warmer and may exacerbate skin irritations.

When it comes to waterproof covers, the only way around synthetic materials is to use wool, which is bulky and may be too warm depending the climate and time of year.

Pockets, and prefolds, and one-sizes, oh my!

No matter diapering solution you choose, you'll need more than one type of diaper and more than one size in order to go from birth to potty training.  You will also need a nighttime diapering plan once your little one starts sleeping longer.  Another thing to consider is how you want to approach cloth diapering for caretakers, especially if you're child will be in daycare or with a sitter while you work full-time.  You want to make sure your diapers are user friendly for full-time care takers to keep user errors and leaks to a minimum.

For newborns, prefolds or contours tend to fit the best, especially when paired with a well-fitted diaper cover.  The added benefit is that you'll be able to continue using them as your baby grows.  If you do prefer or need to use an AIO or fitted diaper for your newborn, keep in mind that your little one will outgrow the newborn size in 2 months or less.  Most newborn sizes accommodate up to around 10 pounds.  My son was over 12 pounds by his two-month check up.

For night diapers, be sure to choose something with plenty of room for extra soaker pads.  You want to start with a diaper that already has space because you don't want it to be tight after you add everything, and you want to make sure there's still room to grow.  Pocket diapers are usually best for this, but some AIO diapers can handle extra padding.  A handful of one-size diapers reserved for overnight use on a larger size setting can also be a good solution.

Soaker Pads, Liners, and Doublers

If you let a cloth diaper go too long without changing, leaks will be unavoidable no matter how well-fitted and absorbent your diapers are.  Most diapers will need a little something extra to hold the moisture.  You will definitely need more absorbency when your little one starts sleeping through the night no matter what you use.  Also, if you use petroleum based creams and ointments or any other treatments for baby's bottom that aren't made to be used with cloth diapers, the build up will make the diaper less absorbent or even repel moisture which will cause leakage.  Always use some sort of liner with these products.

You may need to add a liner to make diapers fit the newborn shape better.  My son's legs and bottom were too skinny at first to fill out his diapers, so we had a lot of leaks.  Adding extra padding helped.  When he plumped up, I was able to stop using them in some things.  In others, I had to keep using them because he started peeing a lot more.

Whether or not you choose soaker pads, liners, and/or doublers, will depend mainly on two things.  The first is what brand and style of diaper you are using.  Many diaper makers have a liner or soaker pad that is made to fit their specific diaper, and you will probably want to use these until you get a feel for what you can mix and match and how your preferences run.  The other thing that will influence your choice is the purpose of your extra lining.  If you are using it as a barrier for creams and ointments, a light liner will do.  If you are creating a nighttime anti-leak solution, you may need up to 3 additional inserts and might choose any combination of products in order to find what works best for you.

Snaps vs. Aplix

You may be wondering what kind of closures are best for your diapers and diaper covers.  The two main methods of self-fastening diapers and covers are snaps and Aplix.

Aplix closures are like velcro but softer.  Some people say that Applix doesn't seem durable, but I haven't noticed any problems with it so far.  It holds up well and hasn't lost its grip even though I have 2 diaper covers that I prefer and get almost daily use.  The one thing that does cause an issue is that my son is in a reach and grab phase.  He likes to pull the tabs on his diapers.  He's never actually undone his diaper yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if he did one day soon.  This is only an issue with certain closure styles.  I am able to leave him in just his diaper without problems in most styles.  When laundering, be careful about what you mix with Aplix fastened items.  If your diapers and covers don't have laundry tabs, you may find them sticking to other clothing items and causing snags.  This is also something to watch out for in bibs that close with velcro.

Snap closures are the most secure and most durable.  It is rare for baby to be able to open these by himself, but they lack the infinite adjust quality of Aplix.  Your baby might be best served by an in-between snap setting, and you will either have to wait until he grows into the next setting or let it be a little snug whereas you can make an exact fit every time with Aplix.

Diaper Fasteners

If you choose to go with prefolds and contour diapers, you will probably want to use some kind of fastener.  Diaper pins are still the most secure and durable options, but I can understand the aversion to trying to use a sharp pointy object on a wiggly baby.  

For those who don't want to use pins, there are Snappi fasteners.  They grip the fabric by rows of teeth on a plastic plate and stretch to fit.  They come in infant and toddler sizes.  The downside is that they don't grip certain fabrics like bamboo velour or birdseye because of the tight weave of the cloth.  Avoid Snappi knockoffs.  They don't have the same grip or durability.

Once you get used to cloth diapering, you may find that you don't even need a fastener anymore if you have a well-fitted cover.  I personally no longer use fasteners except on larger prefolds that require extra folding in front due to their size.  The fasteners keep them from shifting too much if my son is in an active mood.

Coming next...

Be sure to stay tuned for the next cloth diaper installment about cloth diaper care!

Miss the previous posts?  Find them and my growing collection of cloth diapering information by clicking the "Cloth Diapering" tab at the top of the page.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summertime Fun with Baby in Tow

Summertime Fun with Baby in Tow

Building Your Diaper Stash

When getting ready to stock your diaper stash, there are many things to consider.  Are you diapering part time or full time?  What is your budget?  Will you be cloth diapering mostly in your home or with caregivers?  Do you travel often?  The answers to these questions will have an impact on the solution you ultimately choose.

How many diapers do I actually need?

This is probably everyone's first question when they make the decision to use cloth.  Diapers can be expensive, so you want to make sure you're making the most of your investment.

Most other sources claim that 8-12 diapers a day is sufficient.  I this is a gross underestimate.  As a point of reference, my son uses 20-25 diapers a day.  This is more than twice the figures most give for daily diaper usage.  That means if I want his diapers to last without having to launder every day or two, I have to have at least 60 in my diaper stash for full time cloth diapering.

I have a small budget.  Can I still cloth diaper full time?

Absolutely!  If you start slowly building your diaper stash from early in your pregnancy, you can have a sizeable collection by the time your little one is born, especially if you start baby registries at your favorite cloth diaper stores or ask for cloth diaper gift certificates.

If you choose to go with prefolds, you can cloth diaper full-time for about $100.  For a current price reference, I just built my ideal prefold starter kit (2 newborn Proraps covers, 3 small Proraps cover, 50 preemie size Indian prefolds, 1 infant Snappi fastener pack) for $105.50 at, and they offer free shipping for orders over $100.  My son is 19 pounds and still wears preemie size prefolds.  I have seen babies over 20 pounds who are still able to wear size small diaper covers, so don't worry about your infant outgrowing these too quickly.  The weights given are general guidelines and every baby is different, so you may be surprised at how far you are able to go with a particular size.

For those who decide to move into the one-size or AIO diapers, starting with prefolds will give you more time to build your stash and allow you to use cloth while they grow into the other diapers.

If your budget is larger, I would still recommend starting with prefolds or contours since it can be difficult to get the right fit for a newborn in the AIOs and pocket diapers.  Most one size diapers don't even start fitting until about 10 pounds.  The prefolds and contours are also good to have around for those days when you put off laundry because your little one kept you awake all night.

Other Considerations

Most covers do not come in a one size option, and some people choose not go with one size diapers since it can be hard to get the right fit.  Honestly, there is no true "one size fits all" diaper because they do not fit very small or very large babies and there differences in body shape/type that affect a diaper's fit even when your little one is in the optimal weight range to use one size diapers.  If this is where you find yourself and you're trying to decide what sizes should make up the bulk of your diaper stash, your baby will wear mostly smalls and mediums during the course of his or her diaper wearing days.  Another option to consider if you're not a fan of the one size diapers is the Thirsties Duo line of diapers and covers.  They have a nice selection of color options and are specially designed for maximum adjustability so that you only need two sizes from birth to potty training.  I made a diaper cover that works similarly to the Thirsties Duo, and it is the cover that has fit best ever since my son was a newborn.

I would stay away from fitted diapers regardless of your budget because they are like AIOs but without the built in waterproof cover but not significantly less expensive.  In fact, they can actually be more expensive than AIOs when you factor in the added cost of diaper covers and the fact that you can get such great bulk discounts on AIOs.  With the bulk pricing of an AIO set, you might be able to get them for less than some fitted diapers.  Spend the extra couple of dollars and get the AIO or save a lot with prefolds/contours and buy a good set of diaper pins or Snappis.  If you're handy with a needle and thread or own a sewing machine, you can even add your own Aplix closures to your contour diaper collection if it's the convenience you're after.

Next time...

I'll be covering how to choose your cloth diapers and decide which features and styles are best for you.    If you haven't already subscribed, be sure to do it now so you don't miss any of this series!

To read more about cloth diapers, go to the "Cloth Diapering" tab at the top of the page or click here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cloth Diapering 101

As promised, this is the first installment in my cloth diapering series.  In this post, I'll cover the basics of cloth diapering including the different styles of diapers and pros and cons of each one.  For quick reference, you'll find links to this series and future articles in the "Cloth Diapering" tab.


The most simple and basic way to approach cloth diapering is by using prefolds.  They come in different sizes from preemie to toddler, launder easily, and can be bleached as needed.  Obviously, you need a separate waterproof cover in order to use prefolds.  You may also want to use some type of fastener to keep it in position, especially if you have a looser fitting style of diaper cover.

As far as sizing, I have been using the preemie size (9.5"x13").  The suggest weight range is 4-10 pounds, but when I first started using them my son was over 10 pounds and I still had to fold the tops down so they wouldn't stick out of the diaper cover.  He is now 19 pounds and they still have a lot of use left in them.

There are two main kinds of prefolds--Chinese and Indian.  Both are 100%  cotton twill, highly absorbent, and easy to use.  Indian prefolds are softer, fluffier, slightly smaller, and tend to shrink a bit more on the first wash.  Chinese prefolds are more durable, handle the frequent laundering better, and are less bulky.  I personally use Indian prefolds because I like the softness.  I've used both kinds on different babies, however, and they both work well.  

There is a third type of prefold that is harder to find in bulk but that many like to use for traveling, camping, and outdoors activities because they are absorbent without the bulk of Chinese and Indian prefolds and dry quickly for those on the go.  This is the cotton birdseye flat weave prefold.  It is much larger in dimensions than Chinese or Indian prefolds.  Your mother or grandmother probably used used these.  Because most people don't use these as their primary diaper option, I will not discuss this type further in this article.

Before you begin using your prefolds, wash and dry them on high heat a few times to fully shrink and fluff them.

·      Inexpensive--Preemie size is $14/dozen at several suppliers
·      Can be bleached
·      Can be used as inserts in All-in-One or Pocket Diapers
·      May be used from birth as there are sizes to accommodate the smallest babies
·      No special laundering needs

·       Need for separate covers and diaper fasteners
·      Takes time and practice to figure out how to fold and fasten them
·      Hard to teach others how to use them

Contour Diapers

Contour diapers are the descendents of prefolds.  They are a basic coverless diaper that have been contoured to fit baby without having to fold them first.  They can have leg gussets or not.  The gusseted version will have a more tailored fit and hold in messes more effectively.  Some contour diapers come made with built in fasteners or in one size fits all options.

·      Easy to make your own
·      Can be bleached, depending on type of fabric
·      No special laundering instructions depending on fabric
·      May be used as inserts for AIO/pocket diapers
·      Fit  a wider weight range than prefolds
·      Bigger selection of fabrics than prefolds
·      More user friendly than prefolds
·      Sizes for newborns available

·      Much pricier than prefolds starting around $5/each when not on sale
·      Not usually as absorbent as prefolds and may need additional inserts 

 All-in-One/Pocket Diapers

All-in-One (AIO) diapers and pocket diapers have a built in waterproof shell and soaker pad for added absorbency where you need it.  They are very easy to use because they work like disposables.  If you need extra absorbency, you can lay an extra liner inside of it. of either style

AIOs come in a variety of colors, patterns and styles so you can coordinate outfits and baby accessories with your diapers as well as choose gender specific color schemes.

Unless you invest in a one size fits all style, you'll need a full set in every size as your baby grows.

·      Easy to use
·      No separate cover or fasteners needed
·      Many colors and styles to choose from
·      Easy to add extra absorbency without too a lot of extra bulk
·      Premie size prefolds are the perfect size to add absorbency to pocket diapers

·      Expensive--AIOs and pocket diapers are anywhere from $15-30 a piece
·      Must be replaced as your baby outgrows each size
·      Cannot be bleached as it will destroy the waterproof lining and/or ruin the colors
·      Must use care when laundering the velcro/applix fastened styles
·      May not fit newborns right away even in the smallest sizes

One Size Fits All

Many cloth diaper manufacturers offer a one-size fits all style of AIO/pocket diapers/diaper covers.  These are an attractive option because it removes the necessity to restock for each size as your baby grows and they still come with many color options.

There are several one-size kits  and multipacks on the market right now such as the Econobum diapering system which is a prefold and diaper cover solution or the package sets by Fuzzi Buns, bumGenius, and others.  The kits and multipack sets are the most economical solutions, but they will be bulky on babies at the smaller range of the spectrum.  This is especially true of the Econobum since larger prefolds are included in order to accommodate baby's growth.

I personally couldn't afford to invest upfront in the amount of one-size AIOs needed for full-time use, so I use them as my night time solution and stuff a prefold into it for extra absorbency.

·      Most economical way to cloth diaper with AIO/pocket diapers
·      Grows with baby
·      No separate fasteners or covers required for the one-size AIO/pocket diapers
·      Requires less diapers over time

·      Don't fit newborns
·      Can still be quite costly
·      Cannot be bleached
·      Must use care when laundering the velcro/applix fastened styles
·      Bulky on smaller babies, especially the Econobum

Up Next...

Stay tuned to my diaper series by subscribing to my feed.  Tomorrow we'll be covering how to stock your cloth diaper stash!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day Lesson: Travel Do's and Don'ts

In the recovery period of an exhausting family activity day, I realized I still have some things to learn about taking my baby out.  I've done several shorter or less involved outings that went pretty smoothly, so I thought I had this covered.  But there were a few differences that made it a whole different ball game.  First, I'd never done cloth diapers on a long day away from home.  My son started getting a rash from wearing disposables while the cloth diapers were in the wash, so I decided to bite the bullet use cloth.  Second, I'd never spent a day out that wasn't primarily at someone else's home, especially not at a large, crowded, noisy restaurant with a long wait for everything because of the holiday.  Next time I'll be ready!

Do expect to take 2-3 times as long as anticipated.  Our impromptu Father's Day gathering involved the meeting of several of my extended family members and their children for a mini family reunion with a total of 14 people.  The wait at the restaurant pushed us 30 minutes past our reservation.  Even though we sat at two separate tables, the high business volume made all of our courses run 10-15 minutes later than usual.  The talk between our two tables and oohing and aahing over the baby made everyone eat slower than usual.  It took three times longer than was typical to close out our tabs because of the busyness at the restaurant.  Then there was the after meal catch up session at my uncle and aunt's house during which almost everyone got caught up in watching Avatar, a 2.5 hour movie, on my Uncle's big screen HDTV.

Do bring more outfits than you think you'll need.  I almost didn't do this.  I thought for sure the most he could possibly need was 2 extra outfits, so I almost put the third one back in the drawer.  He spit up all over the first one at the restaurant.  Then while visiting with my family, my son decided to bathe himself in his own drool.  So I ended up using the third outfit, which I originally believed superfluous.

Don't wear the heels.  You know all the walking around you do at home to offer comfort and succor to your fussy baby while you wait for his bottle to warm up, to convince him that he's sleepy, or when he's randomly upset for reasons unbeknownst to you?  Enough said.

Do invest in a wet/dry bag.  If you plan to cloth diaper full-time, this is the way to go.  I used the little green dirty diaper sacks which are basically mini plastic bags.  I don't have a sack dispenser, so I had to search for the wad of bags every time I did a diaper change.  Only 2-3 cloth diapers fit in each, and you have to knot them off to make sure they don't escape in your diaper bag.  After a full day out, I ended up with 4 tightly knotted sacks floating around which I had to rip open when I got home.  Do yourself a favor.  Get the wet/dry bag.  They come in a dizzying array of sizes, styles, and patterns.  You can use one side for all your clean diapers and changing items while keeping the dirty diapers safely sealed off in the other compartment.  It's more organized, convenient, and less waste.  They also double as great swim bags, so you'll be using it long after your child is out of diapers.

Do bring extra diapers, formula, and other basics.  When it comes to diapers and food, it's always better to have more and not need it than not enough.  I brought much more than I needed because I expected that we would take longer than everyone insisted was the maximum.  Because we took longer than even I anticipated, however, I used every single cloth diaper and diaper cover I brought then had to use the emergency disposables and I used almost all the formula I brought with me.

Do bring the travel bottle warmer.  If you bottle feed and you're driving longer than about an hour, these are absolutely indispensable, especially if you drive these kinds of distances regularly.  I live in a rural area, so this is definitely true for me.  You can find good travel warmers for under $15, and I'll definitely be getting one before my next road trip (4 hour drive to a wedding in July).  Use the bottle warmer to keep the water heated up for the next meal.  When baby gets ready to eat, just add formula, dissolve, and feed.  Easy!

Don't be shy to tell people when it's time to leave.  No one knows your baby like you do.  You know her routine, and you know when she's had enough socializing.  Leave before your baby reaches her limit.  It's better to cut the visit short than to have a long drive home with a crying, hungry, sleepy baby who's too cranky to eat or fall asleep.  Once you're on the road, it's not as easy to comfort your little one. Drive separately if that's what it takes to avoid staying out too late.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Convertible Car Seats?

I got an email this morning from an online baby supplies store saying that my 5 month old was ready to "graduate from an infant car seat to a convertible one".  After I recovered from the initial indignation of some commercial interest prematurely aging my baby (he's not going to be 5 months until the 30th!), I said to myself, "Here I was thinking that his car seat was good for another 10 it really time to be shopping for a convertible car seat?"

So I did a little research, and this is what I've found.

What is the weight limit on infant car seats?

I double checked mine, and it said 22 pounds.  My son is 18.5 pounds , so good thing I looked.  When I was car seat shopping during my pregnancy, I saw infant car seats that went up to 35 pounds and I was considering starting with a convertible car seat so that I wouldn't have to get another for while.  I would have gotten one of those, but ended up receiving this one as a gift.  It's been a great car seat!  If my son wasn't such a little fatty, he'd definitely get a lot of use out of it.

What is a convertible car seat anyway?

A convertible car seat can be positioned in the vehicle to be rear-facing for infants and forward-facing for toddlers.  They should still have a 5 point harness for safety.  They are also secured the same way as infant car seats.

Are the weight limits different for convertible and infant car seats?

Like infant car seats, the weight limits vary for different models of convertible car seats.  The weight limit is also different for when the car seat is facing the front or back.  According to baby products guide Heather Corley, the limit is about 30 pounds rear facing and 40 pounds front facing.  Some new models go up to 65 pounds.  I've even seen a few convertible/3-1 car seat options go as high as 100 pounds.  But something to remember is that the higher the weight limit, the bigger the car seat.  Make sure your vehicle can handle it before making the purchase.

How long should baby use a rear-facing car seat model?

Child passenger safety experts recommend at least 1 year and a weight of at least 20 pounds before switching to a forward-facing model.  It's best to keep your child rear-facing for as long as the weight limit allows on your car seat model.  The new recommendation is to keep your child rear-facing until 2 years old if at all possible.

Thinking ahead:  How long should I use a car seat for my child?

The current recommendation is that children should be restrained in a car seat or booster seat until they are at least 4 years old or 40 pounds.  The longer the better.  Because of how fragile small children's bone structures are, staying rear-facing as long as possible is safest as it greatly reduces the inertial impact of a collision.  Seat belts in vehicles are designed for adults (3 point rather than 5 point restraints) and can cause serious injury in an accident including but not limited to spinal cord injury, intestinal stricture, and bone fractures.  Even in an appropriate child safety seat, serious injury can occur during accidents if the harness is not appropriately fitted to the child.

The Verdict

Yes!  It's time to start shopping for a new car seat.  My son is 3.5 pounds away from the maximum weight limit and will very likely outgrow his current model by the time he's 6 months old.  For those who can, I am definitely in favor of starting with a convertible car seat for newborns so that you get longest use out of it.  Going through all the transitions as your baby grows can mean buying as many as 3-4 child safety seats.  If you can buy one that does more, you'll be saving money in the long run and decreasing your consumer waste.

My Car Seat Picks

Most economical:  Cosco Scenera ($39-60 new)

Weight limits: 5-35 pounds rear-facing, 22-40 pounds front-facing.  Features a removable cup holder and 4 harness locations for maximum adjustability as your child grows.  It comes in a variety of color options.  Available at most retailers.  Online prices vary by color.  Lowest price found was $39.99 in Meridian pattern (charcoal grey) at Baby Depot.

Best Value:  Evenflo Titan Sport ($67.54 and up)

Weight limits: 5-35 pounds rear-facing, 20-50 pounds front facing.  Features include removable cup holder and storage compartment, 2-position recline, and multiple harness slots to accommodate growth.  This model is affordable, compact, and easy to install with the LATCH system.  Lowest price $67.54 in Stonehill color option at  A Titan Elite model is also available with more features.  The Evenflo Triumph line also offers some good choices.

Most versatile:  Recaro brand convertible carseats

Weight limits: 5-35 pounds rear-facing, 20-70 pounds forward facing.  May be used for children up to 8 years old.  Features include side impact protection, ergonomic shape, infinite adjustable headrest, double wall head support, and ventilation system to keep baby cool, approved for airplane use.  Some features vary by model, so check the specific model an accurate list.  I was impressed by their long history as an automotive seat designer for over 100 years and manufacturers of the first child safety seat.  Recaros are on the pricey side, running between $200-300 brand new, but no one else comes close in safety and comfort features, and they have the highest maximum weight limits, which means you'll be able to keep your child in a car seat style safety restraint (the safest) for as long as possible.  They come in a variety of colors and styles. has many Recaro closeouts available for up to 50% off.

If you're looking for a booster seat, Recaro makes a great, affordable model.  For $90, you can get a booster seat for children up to 100 pounds complete with side impact protection unlike other booster seat models.

Best All-Around:  The First Years True Fit Convertible Car Seat C630 ($147 and up)

Weight limits:  5-35 pounds rear-facing, 20-65 pounds forward-facing.  The C630 model was given 4 out of 5 stars by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Aministration (NHTSA) for ease of use in both forward- and rear-facing positions.  The C670 rated a full 5 stars in both forward- and rear-facing..  They were the only ones to be rated this highly in both the rear-facing and forward-facing categories.  Features include no-rethread harnesses for easy height adjustment, removable headrest, side impact tested, built in lock offs, low center of gravity allows deeper, wider, and taller seating area with increasing the outer dimensions, and multi-position buckle.  One draw back is that this a very wide seat.  It may not be a great option if you have a smaller vehicle.

Note:  All car seats sold in the USA are considered safe as they meet a minimum safety requirement required by law.  The ease of use, however, increases overall safety as the easier a product is to use and install properly, the less room for user error which may lead to death or injury in the event of an accident.  Others rated 4 and above were the Recaro Signo (FF), Graco My Ride 65 (RF), Safety 1st Complete Air (FF).

Current Sales and Discounts

Free shipping on all order $49 and up at

Free shipping on orders over $49 and 15% off select car seats and strollers at  Use code SCGEAR at checkout.

Free two-day shipping for Amazon Prime members.  Free one-month trial available.

Friday, June 18, 2010

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Baby Clothing Size and Selection Guide

I learned my first lesson about baby clothes while I was still pregnant:  there is no real standard when it comes to newborn clothes sizes.  The other lesson (always always always allow for shrinking), I learned with the first wash.  Within a few days of giving birth, I learned my third lesson:  zippered pajamas and one piece pullovers that snap shut as opposed to 2-piece top and bottom outfits are most convenient for the 20ish diaper changes I do every day.

Some brands ran very oversized swallowing my infant son though they were labeled 0-3 months or even newborn!  Others claimed to be 0-3 months but were barely larger than some premie sized clothing I had.  Yet another strange scenario I encountered was the occasional discrepancy of size within a brand.  For instance, the striped 0-3 months size Faded Glory organic footy pajamas were significantly larger than the ABC pattern in the same size and line.  My son wore the ABC's for weeks before the striped ones fit.  As my son has grown, this problem has not decreased.  To complicate matters, almost all baby clothing regardless of brand shrinks significantly after laundering.  I have seen a few items decrease by nearly half!

Above: 5 days, 5 lbs. 10 oz., wearing Carter's premie size long sleeved onesie with newborn size socks

Right: 2 weeks, 6 lbs, wearing Gerber Newborn size pajama

Below: 2 weeks, 6 lbs, wearing Faded Glory Organic 0-3 months size pajama in ABC print

As you can see, even the newborn size was large on my little guy, and the empty legs are splayed out as he bends his knees.  While it is hard to tell in the picture of the Faded Glory, it's actually much larger than the Gerber.  The Faded Glory was cut very generously for width, which I appreciated as he grew.  I've found Gerber brand clothing to run the smallest of any clothing line for babies that I've encountered.

Faded Glory Pros:  Organic 100% cotton, conveniently available at WalMart, Organic pajamas and two-piece clothing sets for $5, soft fabric, comfort features like padded zippers
Faded Glory Cons:  Inconsistent sizing, some styles/color selections ran too big to fit newborns, some styles/color selections (stripes again, specifically the blue stripes...tan stripes were large but didn't pill) had a bad problem with pilling in the wash

Gerber Pros:   Best fit for newborns, variety of cute patterns, and designs, available at almost all baby stores, almost always come in multi-packs with a mix of colors, comfort features
Gerber Cons:  Thin material, don't seem as durable as other brands, are outgrown quickly since they are so small (my son wore them comfortably for about two weeks and outgrew them within 4 weeks of receiving them)

Now my son is 4 months old and about 18.5 lbs and 25.5 inches long at his 4 month check up.  For the most part, he wears 12 month sizes or larger.  We have started stocking up on 24 month sizes as they go to clearance.

Left:  6 weeks, 12 lbs, Carter's 3 Month size.  Fits very well, and was tight by the time he turned 3 months old.

Right:  4 months, 18.5 lbs, Gerber 3-6 month sleeveless onesie.  I should note that this onesie seems to run slightly larger than sleeved versions in the same size.  As you can see, he won't be wearing this much longer.

Now for the shrinkage problem:

On the left side is a 9 month pair of jeans from the Genuine Baby line by OshKosh pre wash.  On the right is post wash.  No more folding necessary!  I actually bought several 9 months Genuine Baby clothes on clearance at Target while I was pregnant.  What I did not anticipate is that he would outgrow them before the fall, which is when I intended to use them!  It was too late to return them because Target has a 60 day policy, so I used them for the purpose of this article.  These pictures are from this week--one before laundry day and one after.  For the record, the jeans did not shrink much in the width.  Most of the shrinkage was in the length, which worked out well since they were way too lon.  The other Genuine Baby items (2 piece hoodie and pants set, cotton knit sweater, and long sleeve onesie) did not shrink significantly unlike every other brand he's worn.

To the left, he's sporting a long sleeved 12 month Carter's onesie.  The picture was taken about 3 weeks ago.  Notice how it is roomy but not too huge on my 4 month old?  Also take note of how his socks fit now.  And, yes, he is quite pleased with his attempts to denude himself!  On the right, he's wearing a 12 month Carter's again, but in the short sleeved variety.  This was taken about the same time, but for some reason the 12 month short sleeve onesies fit more snugly in both length and girth than the long sleeve.  The material is thicker too in the short sleeved version.

Above we have 3 different brands of 24 month sized onesies.  From left to right we have Gerber, Toughskins, and Faded Glory Organic.  As you can see, the Gerber still runs the smallest and fits very well, but the length makes it more like a play romper than a traditional onesie.  It is also still the flimsiest material compared with the other 2 onesies.  The Toughskins, which I found at Sears, is a very well-made brand made with high quality fabric.  It runs the largest of the 3.  The organic Faded Glory onesie is the softest.  All three were very economical choices.  The Gerber came in a 5-pack for $9.99, the Faded Glory was $3 at WalMart (not bad for organic), and the Toughskins were on sale for $4.  It is the thickest, most durable, and roomiest of the 3 choices so I don't mind that it costs a little more since he'll also be wearing it the longest.

Here are some pictures of my son in 18 months clothing.  Can you believe it?  My 4 month old can wear 18 month sized baby clothes!  On the left, he's wearing an 18 month Carter's Romper, which was on sale at Sears this week for $4.  As you can see, it an overall good fit.  It's a little long in the crotch, but that's good because it leaves him plenty of room for his diapers.  He wears mostly cloth, so he needs the space.  Even here though, there is some disparity of size.  I have another 18 month romper purchased previously from Beall's Outlet (another place to find great deals on baby clothing and those dot discounts!), but it is bigger than this romper.  It may possibly be because the romper from Beall's snaps up all the way.  This one is a pullover style.  FYI, I love rompers because they have the convenience of onesies but with more substance for cooler temperatures or going out.

In photo to the right, he's wearing an 18 month shirt and shorts set by Circo from Target.  The t-shirt is roomy, but the shorts fit comfortably without being too loose.  These were on clearance for under $5 last month along with a number of other prints, colors and sizes going up to 5T.

Here are some mix and match shirts and pants.  Both of those pictures were taken within the past 2 days.  The yellow shirt is a 9 month size by Bon BeBe paired with Carter's 12 month size pants.  The shirt is a nice fit right now and does stretch out a lot after being worn, so he has plenty more use left in that.  The pants are on the long side to allow for growth and comfortably sized in the waist.  In the other picture, he's wearing an Okie Dokie brand, 18 month shirt with Faded Glory's organic 0-3 month pants.  The pants came as a set with a matching striped hoodie for $5 regular price.  They still fit well because of the roomy cut, but they are a little short now.  And the shirt has plenty of room without being ridiculously big.

There you have it!  I hope this helps a few moms pick the clothing styles that make diaper changes easy in sizes that will allow the most comfortable fit and longest use for their babies.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

5 Must Have Baby Travel Accessories

School is out and families are getting ready for their summer vacation plans.  For many, including myself, this is will be the first time traveling with baby.  Figuring out what you need is overwhelming.  It may take several short practice runs before you feel comfortable for the big road trip.  If you need help getting started, Cool Mom has 5 suggestions to make your travel plans, whether by car, plane, or train, more streamlined and infant friendly.

1) The First Years Fast Heating Travel Warmer by Learning Curve - Nothing beats a cup of super hot water for reheating a bottle, but when you're on a road trip with no Starbucks in sight, this gadget is what you need.  The uniquely designed warmer adjusts to any size and shape of bottle and features push-button settings for more accurate temperatures.  It plugs directly into the car and has a safety feature to prevent overheating.  Those who have irregularly shaped bottles (i.e. not perfectly round or straight) will especially appreciate this warmer.

2) Philips Avent ISIS Manual On the Go Breast Pump - For breast feeding moms who need to pump, this is my favorite.  The convenient one-hand design and natural let down of Avent breast pumps makes it easy and painless to use.  A Medela hand pump was given to me, and I much preferred the Avent.  Plus the carrying case is a great place to store extra bottles, nursing pads, and other breast feeding accessories.

3) The First Years Take & Toss Feeding Variety Pack - This 28 piece set has everything you need for feeding baby on the go. PVC, pthalate, and BPA free, It includes 6 bowls, 6 spoons, 6 bowls with lids, 6 snack bowls with lids, and 4 spill proof cups all in a zippered pouch for easy packing.

4) Munchkin Powdered Formula Dispenser Combo Pack - Carry cereal and formula with this handy two-pack. At under $5, you can buy multiple sets for the most versatility and convenience. Both 8 oz. capacity dispensers feature a pour spout lid. One has a single compartment and the other is divided into 3 chambers. BPA free.

5)Pandigital PAN7000DW 7-Inch Digital Picture Frame - Rip your child's favorite videos to an SD card for hours worth of entertainment without the stacks of DVDs. Play a continuous video loop or select individual movies. Use a power inverter like this Schumacher model to plug it into your car. Older children can watch it in their laps. For babies, zip tie it to the headrest in front of them. I personally have an Aluratek, which was given to me, but I would personally choose the Pandigital for its many travel friendly features and extras such as built in 1GB memory, 6 in 1 card reader, alarm, calendar, WiFi compatibility, and more. If only they had a cordless version, it would be perfect!