Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cloth on the Go

I'm taking a quick break from my previous rant discussion to talk about cloth diapers. I love cloth diapers for lots of reasons, they are cute, they are easy, they are cheaper than disposables, don't smell like strange perfumes, A. likes them better and they mean I never have to go to the store with a sick/cranky/tired baby because we are almost out of diapers. Many people will also tell you that they are better for the environment and keep harmful toxins from touching your baby's delicate skin which is also true, but less of a concern for me as those concerns can be mitigated to some extent by buying some of the more eco-friendly disposables. We love cloth for lots more reasons that I'm not remembering, but I did a whole post about it so if you want to hear me go on and on some more click here, otherwise I'll attempt to get to the point.

Before A. was born I knew that I wanted to use cloth diapers. I had some people tell me I'd never manage or that it was too hard, but that just made me want to prove them wrong. The one thing that even supporters of cloth diapering said was that I would probably want to use disposables while we were out and for the first month or two after A. was born that is exactly what I did until one day when I realized it was no longer easier. Those that were suggesting disposables while out and about were all in my parent's generation and did not have access to many of the things that we have now to make cloth on the go so easy. For them it was a lot easier to use disposables, but many of the problems that made it that way have now been solved. Now, if you have the right equipment, it is actually easier to leave your baby in their cloth diaper than to switch them into a disposable before leaving the house. You can use cloth diapers on the go without buying anything extra, but there are a few things that make it a little easier.

Wet bag - When you leave the house with cloth diapers the biggest drawback is that you can't just throw away the dirty diapers. Instead you have to carry them with you. At first this seems like a major issue, but a good wet bag will hold in any smell or dampness. There are a lot of good wet bags on the market and many of them are really pretty. I love having a wet bag in my diaper bag even on those rare occasions when I'm using disposables because they are also good for holding nasty burp clothes, bibs or soiled clothing. Babies can be disgusting sometimes and it is nice to have a clean place to put whatever it is they have soiled. I don't know how many people I know who've thrown away an outfit because they were out and about when their baby had a blowout (normally while using a disposable diaper) and they didn't have a way to get it home to wash it. I've also found that not all public changing tables have a trash can nearby. Since I'm putting everything, including wipes, in my wet bag I don't have to worry about trying to manage a dirty diaper, wipes and a baby while looking for the nearest trashcan or even consider turning around with my squirming baby still on the changing table to throw stuff away in the trashcan behind me.

Cloth Wipes in a Wipe Case - The next thing I love to have are cloth wipes in a wipes case. Plain cases can be found at most baby stores or you can buy fancy ones on Etsy. They will generally hold 5-6 cloth wipes which may not sound like much, but frequently one cloth wipe will do far more than one disposable wipe so you don't need as many. It may seem silly to use cloth wipes, but it is nice to not have to remember to put the diaper in the diaper pail and the wipe in the trashcan or to have to separate the contents of the wet bag into the wash and the trash when you get home. We use cloth wipes almost exclusively because we are lazy and cheap are concerned about our environmental footprint. You can carry dry wipes and a spray bottle with water or bum cleaner, but I generally just grab a few pre-wetted ones from the bin of them on the changing table and put them in my wipes case on my way out the door. I've seen people do both and they both seem to work well. This isn't to say you can't use disposable wipes, I just find it easier to use cloth.

Pocket Diapers
or All-in-Ones - At home I normally use prefolds with a snappi and a cover, but when I'm out I like the diapers that work more like a disposable because they are faster, easier and take up less space in the diaper bag. I have done it both ways and can tell you that it really isn't hard to use prefolds when you are out and about, but I'm lazy and A. doesn't like staying still for a diaper change in the middle of a play date the way she does on her changing table at home. There are a ton of options for these styles of diaper and which ones you use depend on everything from whether or not you are willing to stuff pockets to how much you want to spend to how chunky your baby's legs are and even what colors you like. BumGenius and FuzziBunz are the two most popular brands and both are great. FuzziBunz tend to work better for chunky babies and the BumGenius tend to be better for slender babies, but your mileage may vary.

Disposable liners - One of the big things that people (including myself when I started) worry about with cloth is what to do about the poop. If you are still exclusively breastfeeding (no formula or solids) the answer is easy, just throw it in the wash! (Yes, it really is that easy and no this isn't a trick, everything is water soluble and the hot water and soap will kill the germs.) If you are out and about throw it in the wet bag which will contain the smell. If you are using formula or solids though, the answer is a little more challenging. In a pinch you can still put the dirty diaper in the wet bag, but I prefer to put a slightly cleaner diaper into the wet bag when I can. If I am near home or at a friend's house I use the same washable liners that I use at home and shake any solids off into the toilet. If I'm out shopping or traveling though I prefer disposable liners. These are thin, flushable and biodegradable. You put them inside the diaper and toss them in the trash for a wet diaper or flush them poop and all for a dirty diaper, easy peasey. That said, we only use them if we are going to be out a while as it is one more thing to remember and I'm lazy (plus by the time they are on solids babies generally only get one dirty diaper a day and it normally happens at a regular, predictable time).

Back-up supplies - The one problem with cloth diapers and supplies is that they are bulkier than disposable diapers and wipes. This means you can't carry as many with you and I know I tend to worry about running out. The first thing to remember is that there are stores in the world and even those using disposables will run out sometimes and have to buy a pack of diapers because the shopping trip ran long, they stopped for lunch or their toddler drank more water than they thought. However, in the interest of being prepared I normally carry one or two disposable diapers and a small pack of disposable wipes tucked into the corner of the diaper bag "just in case". (This actually started after A. dirtied her last diaper when we had one more store left on a trip running errands on the far side of town and I had to run in and buy a pack of diapers.) I know that once we put the disposable on her that we need to head for home, but it buys me the time I need sometimes. The only problem we run into is that we use so few disposables that when A. starts getting to the top of a size range we need to make a concerted effort to use the rest before she grows out of them and remember to buy more in the next size up (which reminds me, I think she's probably been in size 3s for a while now and we haven't ever bought any...). Thus far we have used exactly one pack in each size and I'd kinda like to keep it that way.

I hope this answers any questions for those of you who are considering cloth for your next kid, currently using cloth at home but switching to disposables while out or even using disposables and considering switching to cloth now. (Toddlers tend to potty train faster in cloth, just saying.) If you have any questions on how to get started or if you currently use cloth out and about and have a great suggestion for how to make it easier please leave a comment. Now days, for me at least, it really is easier to use cloth out than it is to bother changing a clean diaper simply because you are leaving the house and want a disposable.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Attachment Parenting

As I was reading through my blogs this morning I came across a post on a friends blog talking about the failings and shortcomings that all parents inevitably experience and that those of us who practice "attachment parenting" beat ourselves up all the more for. I think that people tend to forget that "attachment parenting" isn't supposed to be a strict, prescriptive method. The idea is to have a strong bond with your children, to pay attention and respond to their needs as quickly as possible. AP is not meant to be an all or nothing prospect, the idea is to do what works best for you, your child and your family.

A great example is cosleeping, or bringing the baby (or child) into bed with the parents. The idea is that if the baby wakes up for some reason during the night you are right there to comfort and sooth them back to sleep instead of leaving them to cry alone in a room. Cosleeping can make life easier and happier for some families and worse for others. I never sleep well when A. is in bed with us. She moves around and I'm always half awake because I know that I toss and turn a lot and wouldn't want to hurt her. Also, she is a light sleeper and wakes up every time I roll over or DH coughs or the dog barks in his sleep. When she was tiny and nursing a lot at night she slept in a bassinet in our room so that we didn't have to walk across the house several times a night. For the first 6 months this worked beautifully with her occasionally coming into bed with us if she was having a hard night or a growth spurt. At some point between 6 and 7 months she suddenly went from waking up once or twice a night to waking up every 1-2 hours. No one was sleeping and we were all miserable and cranky. DH decided to put her to bed in her crib one night and promised to bring her too me and take her back every time she needed to nurse. We turned on the baby monitor and turned it up so high that we could hear her breathing and the clock in her room ticking. She only woke up once! Thinking it was a fluke we tried it again the next night, but the same thing happened. Turns out we were waking her up and as soon as she had her own space we all started sleeping better. Part of me wants to beat myself up for not cosleeping like many of my AP friends say is best, but I know better. We are all getting enough sleep because I listened to my daughters need to be in her own bed, in her own room down the hall. We still respond immediately when she cries, but unless she's sick that doesn't happen much. We may not cosleep, but we follow the spirit in finding what works best for our family and helps us all feel the most safe, secure and rested.

Another big component of AP is babywearing. Now, those of you who know me know that I am a big fan of wearing A. I have a ton of carriers or all shapes, sizes and colors and will happily help anyone who is interested in "wearing" their baby or toddler figure out what works best for them. When A. was tiny I didn't even own a stroller and we took our walks the way she liked best, with her snuggled against my chest asleep. Not only was this A.'s favorite way to be held, but it left my hands free so I could take the dogs on a walk too. Once she was old enough to go into a jogging stroller this changed. I love the chance to go jogging, an activity that isn't safe when you are wearing a baby, and she likes being able to look around and have some quiet alone time watching the birds and plants pass by. Every morning she goes into the stroller and we go for a walk (or jog) that ends up at the park where she gets to run around and play herself. However, just because I am now using a stroller doesn't mean that I am no longer wearing her. When we go grocery shopping she prefers being on my back to being in the cart. Honestly, I haven't pushed the matter because it is also a lot easier for me because she can't stand up and try to climb out (did I mention that she's figuring out how buckles work?) or grab stuff off the shelves as we are walking. By wearing her shopping is a pleasant activity to do together instead of the constant fight I get half the time when I try putting her in the cart. I also love it when we are traveling or out and about. I can fit a wrap, sling or my Ergo in my diaper bag and carry A. or let her walk depending on her desire and how much of a hurry I'm in. I've yet to find a stroller that will fit in a diaper bag or let you zip through crowds the way I can with a wrap or the Ergo. Babywearing is also great for hiking, we can take any trail a backpacker could and share the remote mountain beauty with our daughter, try doing that with a stroller. However, doing one does not mean that I can't do the other. I use push A. in a stroller for some activities and wear her on my back for others. While I may feel a bit smug as I dodge between the strollers stuck in the crowd at ZooLights with my baby on my back, that doesn't mean that strollers don't have a place in my life or that I feel bad when I put A. in our stroller and go jogging along the paved nature trail near my house.

There are many more of these types of things where the conflict between someone else's (or my own) definition of what "should" be conflicts with the reality. However, this blog post is getting crazy long so I'll stop here. Hopefully I'll post more tomorrow.

To be continued....(if I remember...)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pan-fried Fish

I love fish, but I've always been rather intimidated by the thought of cooking it myself. This is probably because I didn't grow up seeing it cooked combined with a few spectacular failures early on. Even the times that I considered my efforts a success DH didn't like it so I had pretty much given up and left fish to the professionals. Then yesterday I was at Trader Joe's and noticed some frozen tilapia fillets that seemed to be calling to me. I was really in a fish mood so I picked them up and decided to experiment. I "followed" (meaning I only changed half of it) one of the recipes on the package and did the same for a tarter sauce recipe I found online and wound up with an amazingly fast and tasty meal. DH was so impressed by the end product that I'm not entirely sure he hasn't been replaced by aliens, but I'll take my victories where I can find them and have decided to write it down before I forget what I did. Here goes:

You need:
White Fish Fillets (I used tilapia)
Garlic Powder
Vegetable Oil

Put 1/2c-1c flour in a pie plate and add a bunch of lemon-pepper along with a dash of garlic powder and a pinch of salt. Mix it all together with a fork. How much lemon-pepper you add depends on how much flour you add, you are trying to get to where the flour is nicely speckled with the pepper once it has all been mixed up. Rinse the fish off and if you have giant pieces like I did you might consider cutting them into more manageable pieces. (I did this on accident, it was frozen and I broke the fillets trying to get them apart. One of the fillets remained intact and I cooked it that way, but we liked the smaller pieces better.) Put enough oil in a frying pan to just cover the bottom and start heating it up over medium-high heat while you dredge the wet fish in the flour mixture. Be sure to cover the fish well and then shake off the excess flour. Once the oil is hot put the fish pieces in the oil and cook for 3 minutes, flip and cook for 3-4 more minutes until the middle is firm and white and it flakes easily with a fork. You will have to poke it with a fork to tell though, because the breading holds it together. At this point the outside should be a nice golden brown, if it isn't turn up the heat a touch next time. If you are working in batches because your pan is too small then line a plate or platter with a paper towel and put them in a warm oven. The paper towel will help keep them from getting soggy while they wait and will also let you see how little oil was absorbed by the thin breading so you feel better about eating fried fish.

For the Tarter Sauce:
Lemon Juice

Take 2-3 tablespoons of the mayo and add a splash of lemon juice and mix it up until it has the consistency that you want. If it is too thin add more mayo, too thick add more lemon juice. Sprinkle in the dill until you have an attractively flecked sauce. Double check that it tastes the way you want and adjust the seasoning to suit.

Serve the fish with some tarter sauce on the side. If you add couscous and some frozen veggies cooked in the microwave you can have a tasty, healthy dinner in less than 15 minutes and all of the ingredients can be stored in either the freezer or the pantry so you have them on hand for those busy evenings.