5 Tips For Traveling Light and Stress-Free with Your Infant

Photo Credit: Dan Kuster, 2009

Have you booked your Spring and Summer travel, God(dess)? Don’t be scared, especially if you are lucky enough to have a beautiful, gurgling infant. My mom, in her infinite wisdom, gave me an awesome piece of advice when our daughter was born. She said, “Travel now while all you need is a boob and a diaper!” (or in our case, some boobies,  a baby potty, and some back-up cloth diapers). I think at the time I rolled my eyes, overwhelmed with 24/7 nursing, very little sleep, and the obligatory “peak crying” at 46 weeks.

However, as the purple haze of the first few weeks of mommyhood lifted, we began to plan trips on planes and automobiles, and it was actually fun! Most likely your first trip will be to a grandparent’s house. It is a great place to get your sea legs and adventure more from there. Please enjoy these tips for traveling with your infant…and GET GOING!

Tip 1: Bring your nursing pillow.

The breast idea in the entire world! When my husband first suggested this for our first flight from Boston to Iowa with our daughter, I balked at the idea. Seriously? That was not my idea of traveling light. But once I removed the cover and stuffed it with baby’s clothing, cloth diapers, and burp cloths I realized how brilliant this was. Not only did I have everything I needed at hand, but also had a comfy place for our daughter to sleep during the flight. The result? I nursed her during take-off, she fell asleep for the entire flight, and I got to snuggle her without getting an arm cramp while reading a book. Win win win!

Tip 2: Ditch the stroller, bring the carrier.

Strollers take up a lot of space. Babies are light and love to be close to you. Bring your carrier! You can literally sashay through the airport, adventure forever through museums, go on long walks with grandma, and sooth her if you need to. A bonus? They are all-terrain!

Choose a carrier that is correct for your babe’s development. A Moby and Baby K’tan are great for very young babies (and pack down small too). For those with more head and torso control, I recommend the Boba or Ergo style carriers.

Tip 3:  Don’t forget the duct tape!

Macgyvermama approved! Duct tape can fix anything. Got a hole in your muffler during a road trip? No problem. Need a prom dress? Whip one up! However, a roll of duct tape is also a cheap (and light) way to baby-proof where you are staying away from home. If your babe isn’t mobile yet you don’t have to worry about this, but if you have a crawler/cruiser on your hands, duct tape is just the thing you need to blast out some DIY socket covers in the hotel room. You can also use it to tie up loose curtain and electrical cords, keep drawers closed, and patch sharp corners. Remember, less stress = more enjoyment. (Just make sure it doesn’t take the paint off the wall).

Tip 4: Organize baby’s clothes

Babies are small. They have small shirts, small socks, and small pants. When packing for your child (after you have packed your suitcase, God(dess)) use small, reusable drawstring bags (or gallon Ziplock bags if you prefer) to organize clothing. One outfit (shirt, pants, socks, etc) goes in each bag. This avoids overpacking and reduces the barrier to getting baby dressed (or re-dressed throughout the day). Whoever is with baby at the time of a wardrobe change can simply pick a bag without disturbing Papa from his nap or Momma from her soak in the bathtub.

Tip 5: Leave space for pottying and/or changing

I snuck this one in to see if you were following the “Travel God(dess) 75% Rule” from our last travel post. If you have followed the rule, you already have plenty of space! Traveling by car? Leave space either in the backseat or trunk to comfortably potty and/or change your little world traveler. It is less stressful than trying to dodge dirty truckstop bathrooms with your bundle of joy. Traveling by plane? Good luck. Most planes have itty bitty changing tables and most seat inserts fit on airplane toilets. Just take a deep breath (or six) and imagine yourself in a Saturday Night Live skit.

Continue practicing Elimination Communication as much as you can while you are traveling. You will gain a lot more space by not having to pack as many diapers and a little potty/bowl is an easy thing to bring with you. You may be surprised how your little babe rises to the occasion of travel!

Worth a mention: If you are planning a trip overseas with your baby, call the airlines and reserve a flying bassinet. Baby not only can sleep in it, but it makes an excellent “play space” where baby can sit and admire her surroundings.

Next up, Traveling Light with Your Toddler! Join us in two weeks. Happy travels!

Stephanie’s daughter took her first road trip to see her Grandmother in Maryland at 4 months old. It ended up being an 11 hour trip full of traffic jams, the Jersey Turnpike, and nursing escapades. She was a complete rockstar and hardly fussed. That was more than she could say for her parents.

3 Money-Saving Tools for New Parents

Growing numbers of new parents gaining access to tools that have been used across time to save money and raise thriving babies. Check out the baby registries  of these mavericks (if you can find them, because they recognize that few items marketed as “baby essentials” are necessary or even useful), and you won’t find the funtime froggy bathtub, a baby swing, and most notably a crib. Usually, that is. It’s important to recognize that every family is different and while sweeping generalities can be used to give you a sense of their typical lifestyle choices, every family makes its own decisions independently, based on its own needs and preferences.

Anyone who’s purchased baby food, including infant formula, baby cereals and purees, not to mention all those fun teething biscuits and snacks with cartoons on the boxes, will tell you—they cost a pretty penny. But they’ve been around so long—and, more importantly, marketed so successfully—you’d never know they weren’t necessary to feed your children.

If foods like baby formula are such staples, then why aren’t babies born with a bottle and can of formula? Because they are born with something even easier to access, healthier, and cheaper. We humans are called mammals because our bodies are genetically equipped to feed our babies with human milk, and we begin making milk in preparation for the baby’s birth. It’s true, not all women make enough milk for their babies. I know—I  was one of the few who didn’t, at first. But it’s far less true than we’re led to think. More than 90% of women have enough milk, or can make enough milk to feed their babies. It’s just that new moms don’t get all the support we need to do it, in the form of skilled professionals like Lactation Consultants—or better yet, a wise community of elders—who can help us through the early days and the inevitable bumps in the road.

While we’re on the topic of baby food, I’m excited to share a revelation that changed my life, and kept our bank account healthy. Babies don’t actually need baby food! Really. I know what you’re thinking—here’s one of those blender ladies who is going to tell me to puree my own baby food. Actually, no. It’s much easier than that. Our babies—beginning around age 6 months and older—can eat the vast majority of foods that we eat. Things like whole fruit, cooked veggies and whole grains such as rice, quinoa, beans and even meat.

Not only can babies eat our food, they can also feed themselves. This is where the real fun comes in. Maybe you’ve seen a parent feeding their baby, or maybe you’ve been that parent airplaning mashed bananas into his mouth. You know that it takes both of your hands and your complete attention. You’re spooning the mush out of the jar, aiming it into the baby’s mouth, possibly making sound effects while encouraging him to eat it, then cleaning up when he’s done. Picture this instead. Cook dinner as you normally would, then put some food on his tray or plate. Let him practice picking it up, aiming it towards his mouth or just playing with it. Then clean up when he’s all done. What’s the difference between these two ways of feeding babies solid foods? In the second scenario, the parent can actually eat and enjoy the show! Chances are she has many comical pictures of her baby wearing his dinner, what with her hands free and clear. The long-term outcomes are even more impressive, though. Babies who are self-fed are less likely to overeat or be obese later in life. Not bad for budget-friendly dining.

Another top money saving baby-care secret is called Elimination Communication (EC), or infant pottying. Yes, really. Infants can be taken to the bathroom, and, in fact, they really want to be. No one wants to sit in their own filth, not even babies. Most parents who potty their infants notice that babies stop pooping in their diapers within a week or two. By tuning in to our babies’ cues, we’re able to better meet their needs. ECing parents also report less incidences of unexplained crying. You know those times when you fed, clothed, napped and changed your baby, and he still wouldn’t stop crying? Millions of parents chalk it up to a mystery of babyhood. But it just might be that your baby wants you to take off his diaper so that he won’t have to soil himself. It sounds crazy at first, I know. But pottying is fun for everyone – the baby who doesn’t have to poop in his diaper, and the parent who “catches” his eliminations and doesn’t have to change her baby’s diaper—not to mention pay for all those expensive Pampers!

We’ve all heard about life in the trenches – the first three months of a baby’s life when he’s crying all the time, waking up multiple times to feed and needing to be swaddled, rocked, pacified, sung to, driven in the car, or shushed to sleep. I’ve been there, and they were the longest and most miserable three weeks of my life. But thanks to conversations with parents in-the-know, I learned that I didn’t have to keep muscling through, all three of us miserable as my baby cried her way through the nights. I learned that I could bring her into bed with me – that bed-sharing wasn’t unsafe, as my post-partum hospital nurse had told me, as long as it was done safely. Safe co-sleeping is one of the best-kept secrets in Western society, even though it’s practiced across the rest of the world. The U.S. government in particular has done an impressive job publicizing the perils of bed-sharing, citing many tragic deaths from co-sleeping, without mentioning that they are actually 46 times less than crib deaths over the same time period.

What’s so great about co-sleeping? For nursing moms, sharing a sleep surface enables a baby to feed quickly and easily, without mom’s feet once touching the ground. (Babies who aren’t nursing are safest on a separate sleep surface, close to their parents.) For babies, who have spent 10 months in utero, co-sleeping allows them the nearness to their moms, making the world less scary and helping them relax and sleep! Also, while the baby’s lungs are developing, nearness to his mom helps him to regulate his breathing, resulting in fewer instances of apnea and SIDS.

As one who has tread both worlds with the same baby, I can tell you that the tools in our parenting toolkit have fattened our bank account, built a close intuitive relationship with our daughter and increased our sleep. Taken together or separately, the experience has been priceless.

Miriam is a fun-loving mama who literally can’t stop kissing Dalia, her delicious 2 year old.  She loves reading, yoga, crafting and helping others find their paths through life coaching. She is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year.

What about you? What are your top money-saving baby-care tools?

Diaper Free in the Middle East

People in China are doing it. People in India, Africa, Russia, Germany and the U.S. are doing it. And a small yet determined cadre of new parents in Israel are taking the plunge.

Diaper Free is just as easy as it sounds. Take off the nappies! Either altogether or here and there for a pee break. But the implications of going diaper free in a society where it’s virtually unheard of are a bit more complex.

As a mentor with DiaperFreeBaby.org, I host meetings for parents of babies and toddlers in my hometown of Boston. But, as I geared up to spend a month in Israel, an unexpected and synchronistic connection from an EC-ing (EC stands for Elimination Communication, the gentle and connection-oriented practice of pottying your child in babyhood) Israeli mama was a lightbulb moment for me. ECing parents benefit from support, no matter where they are, because–unlike the Chinese–we live in societies where our practices are little-known. With few family members and friends to pass down the torch of initiation into this practice, finding our way alone can be challenging.

Before the first ever Tel Aviv meeting of DiaperFreeBaby commenced, Larissa and I discussed our goals. To cover some basic techniques, to provide an opportunity for like-minded parents to connect, but mostly to give parents an opportunity to tell their stories and air their challenges and questions. Six families attended, two of which included mom, dad and baby, one mom who’d left her baby at home, and three moms with their babies.

As the dads nervously expressed their relief to see another dad there, I recalled my first ever DFB meeting. My now-toddler was 2 weeks old, and my husband was the only dad present. That meeting was pivotal in our parenting journey, since it’s where we learned about co-sleeping and co-bathing, two practices that helped us to meet our daughter’s needs in a way that mainstream baby-case couldn’t.

We showed some basic pottying holds–since when you’re pottying an infant, you have to hold them over the designated spot–then briefly touched on the role of intuition in infant pottying. “I thought it was just me!” confessed a mom in joy and recognition when I discussed a phenomenon known as the “phantom pee”–when you feel as if you’ve just been peed on but you haven’t. It means your baby needs to use the bathroom. Two other moms had also experienced it without knowing what it was.

How amazing to have moms exploring this new world in a country where there are no books published in Hebrew on EC. They don’t even have appropriate words to describe the practice yet. Having read all the books I could find (and there are only four of them as of today’s count) on the matter, I was impressed by the courage of these parents, who’d scraped together all they could learn from the internet and a few like-minded friends.

Going Diaper Free was just the tip of the iceburg with these parents. One mom described how people thought she was crazy given that she gave birth in her home, something even more uncommon than in the U.S., where the practice is slowly gaining ground. All present babies were toted in carriers, a practice gaining ground in a similar fashion to the US–baby bjorns are frequently seen on the streets, and the occasional wrap. Most of them were cosleeping, a practice that made nighttime pottying easier, but also cultivates a deeper connection of trust and responsiveness between moms and babies, and makes nighttime nursing a breeze.

The language was different, but the types of comments were the same. Parenting against the grain takes dedication and resolve, yet it can get lonely. Finding like-minded parents can be a huge relief. Thankfully, Larissa has firmly taken the reins, and is hosting bi-weekly meetings all across the country. You can check out this amazing woman and her blog here (in Hebrew, but google translate can you sort through it).

Washing Cloth Diapers

Intimidated by washing a stash of cloth dipes? I was too. It took me a month to learn the ins and outs of laundering diapers. If you google “washing cloth diapers,” you’re bound to read a hundred different ways to get those undies clean. Everyone has their own rhythm, depending on timing, weather, and water pH levels. This quick and easy guide should be a solid jumping off point for even the most launder-phobic!

1. Prep. First, check the labels on your diapers. Some have already been prepped for you. Most prefolds, especially organic unbleached cotton, however, require five to ten washes on hot BEFORE using them. If you don’t do this, you’ll notice the diapers aren’t very absorbent and leak frequently. This is because the natural oils in cotton are water repellent and need to be stripped.

2. Cold, Hot, Rinse. If you can remember these three steps, you’re golden. Start with a cold prewash – no detergent – to get rid of any stains or soiling. Then, a hot wash with diaper-friendly detergent or soap will sanitize and clean. An extra rinse will ensure all cleaners are gone for good! Don’t mix up the cold and hot – if you do, you may find some baked-in poop when you go to fetch your dipes. Eww.

3. Dry. Leaving your diapers to dry in the sun is a great natural way to remove stains. Or you can throw them in your dryer, especially in cooler climates. Using a hot setting will help sanitize them.

4. Diaper-friendly detergent. A clean rinsing detergent is key. You’ll want to steer clear of traditional detergents, as they often contain petroleum, whiteners, brighteners and enzymes. Even the “baby safe” detergents like Free and Clear are not suitable for diapers.

And while I’m on the topic of no-nos – ditch the fabric softeners and bleach. These products contain ingredients that will build up on your diapers, and can cause diaper rash, skin irritation, and smelly diapers. Chlorine bleach, aside from being a harsh chemical best kept off baby’s sensitive skin, weakens fabric fibers, and causes diapers to break down prematurely.

In general, and this goes for all laundry machine washes, you need about half of the amount of detergent suggested.

We like: NaturOli Soap Nuts , Charlie’s Soap Powder and Rockin’ Green Classic Rock

Noticing your diapers are still a little stinky? Many moms choose to do a pre-wash with just water, and then an extra rinse after the regular cycle has completed. This ensures there’s no soap left behind. If your babe gets diaper rash with his cloth dipes, ensuring that they are being fully rinsed is a good first step! If that fails, you may need to strip the diapers of old residues using several hot wash cycles with no detergent.

It may seem overwhelming, but once you get the hang of it, the diaper laundry just may be your favorite load. It needs no folding and no sorting!

Cloth Diapering Basics

Did Michelle’s post inspire anyone? While cloth diapering isn’t for everyone, there are some serious perks, as she mentioned. The $avings alone is worth it – but your little one’s bum will thank you, too.

If you’re having visions of a white cloth nipped at the sides with large safety pins, covered with stiff plastic pants – fear not. Cloth diapering has had a huge face lift, and you may be surprised at just how cute your little one’s bum can be.

But with the modernization comes choices. Lots of choices. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re in good company. When pregnant, it took me a month to understand the difference between a soaker, a prefold, and a wool longie. So, we’ve put together a Cloth Diapering Glossary to demystify the world of washable diapers.


The Anatomy of a Cloth Diaper

Cover. The external part of a diaper that prevents wetness from soaking baby’s clothes (or mama’s lap). It should fit snugly around the infant’s legs and waist to contain leaks.

Inner. This may be a folded cloth, a cloth that has been pre-folded and sewn so that it has extra absorbency in the middle (a prefold), or several pieces of absorbent material sewn together to double a diaper’s capacity (soakers or doublers).

Fastener. These gadgets hold the cloth or prefold securely in place. They are only ever used with prefolds and covers. Luckily, the old-fashioned safety pins are not necessary these days, as prefolds can often be laid into a cover and stay in place without much movement. For those who want a more traditional diaper look, or to ensure maximum coverage, snappies, rubbery prongs with teeth, are the most common fasteners on the market today.


Cover Love

● Wool. I loved my wool diaper covers. We used them exclusively during Anabella’s first year. This naturally antibacterial and breathable fabric keeps your babe’s skin cool and dry. If you don’t have major poop blowouts (and if you’re practicing EC, you’ll likely have fewer), wool covers are low maintenance. Lanolin, a wax naturally excreted by sheep, coats wool fibers, making your wool diaper cover water repellent. Some moms re-lanolize – or add lanolin to the cover to keep its water repellent properties – every few weeks. We went for months, because Anabella wasn’t soiling it much. Either way, wool covers do not need to be washed regularly. Wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water without feeling wet. Bonus: a high quality wool cover will feel soft against your babe’s skin, not scratchy like a cheap sweater.

We like: Disana Wool Diaper Cover and  Little Beetle Wool Diaper Cover

● PUL. Polyurethane Laminate, or PUL, can be said “P-U-L” or “pull.” PUL is a weave of polyester or cotton treated with polyurethane, making it waterproof and mildew resistant. However, these covers aren’t very breathable, which means that if your babe has moisture down under, wearing a PUL cover can lead to rashes or bacterial infections. Though it’s difficult to pinpoint specific evidence as to whether or not PUL is toxic, some moms notice their babes react poorly, and prefer to avoid it altogether. Since there are so many great alternatives these days, you can avoid PUL if you choose.


From the Inside Out

● Prefolds. Though you’ll experience the steepest learning curve with these flat cloth diapers, they are tried-and-true. Generations have been using prefolds and some sort of absorbent or water repellent cover over them. Gone are the days of rubber pants, but you will need to scout out your favorite cover, and possibly a fastener as well.

We like: Bummi’s Organic Cotton Prefolds

 Fitted. Fitted diapers come in a variety of sizes, styles, and fabrics. They’re glorified prefolds, and need a cover to keep from leaking. You can find fitteds that fasten with snaps or velcro. Moms choose fitteds because they are often a snugger fit than prefolds and a cover, but less expensive than all-in-ones. If you’re looking for just a little bit of protection, you can use fitted diapers as training pants, as well.

We like: BabyKicks Organic Fitted


Let’s See What You’re Made Of

● Bamboo. Bamboo diapers are relatively new to the cloth diapering scene. They are super absorbent, fast-drying, soft to the touch, easy to clean and tend not to retain odors. On the other hand, the FTC now requires most fabrics made from bamboo to be labelled as “rayon made from bamboo” because, while the pulp originates from a bamboo plant (rayon is always produced from plant-based cellulose), “the rayon manufacturing process, which involves dissolving the plant source in harsh chemicals, eliminates any such natural properties of the bamboo plant.”  Manufacturers claim that these diapers are naturally antimicrobial, but according to the FTC, these benefits disappear in the vat of chemicals. In order to keep up with growing demand for their “eco-friendly” product, bamboo companies are clearing vast tracts of land for bamboo production. This has contributed to deforestation, leaving a mono-culture at the expense of biodiversity.

Good news: there is a healthy way to transform bamboo stalks into fabric. This alternative manufacturing process uses a non-toxic solvent and is very costly. Its products do maintain the bamboo plant’s antimicrobial qualities and are called organic bamboo velour, or organic bamboo.

We like: Good Mama bamboo diapers

● Fleece. Fleece is 100% polyester. Polyester is essentially a plastic. Diapers made with polyester fleece are lightweight, breathable, hardy, and fast-drying, making the material a popular fabric choice for cloth dipes. Fleece wicks away moisture, keeping baby feeling dry. Some babies are sensitive to fleece and develop rashes or skin irritation due to the synthetic fibers. (There is no such thing as organic polyester.) Fleece is sometimes used as a diaper cover, as well. As anyone who owns a fleece jacket can confirm, though, it can get hot in the warmer months. I tried it once or twice with Anabella and found she was very sweaty!

● Hemp. Most hemp diapers are made using 55% hemp, 45% cotton. The cotton helps make the hemp more supple. Just like cotton, hemp can be grown organically. Hemp is absorbent and anti-bacterial.

We like: Little Beetles hemp fitted diapers and training pants

● Cotton. Cotton is a natural fiber that has been used for centuries of cloth diapering in the United States. It’s easy to wash, easy to use, and doesn’t repel water, causing leaks, as some synthetic materials are known to do. Because your little one’s delicate skin will be in contact with the material, we recommend organic cotton, which has not been treated with any pesticides or fungicides. It may be pricier, but you can always pick up used diapers. Anabella wore organic cotton prefolds almost exclusively. They were the most economical option, and were easy to make a quick change.


The whole Shebang!

All-in-ones (AIOs). Probably the easiest cloth diapering option, all-in-ones contain everything you need to diaper your babe. No extra soaker pads or covers required. Some parents prefer to have a complete stash of all-in-ones, but others buy a few for babysitters, grandparents, and others who may be unfamiliar with cloth diapers. We just had three Dream-Eze AIOs, for Nana and Daddy. They are often considerably more expensive than prefolds and covers. Miriam used mostly Totsbots AIOs with Dalia, and loved them.

We like: Dream-Eze organic cotton AIOs and  Totsbots All-in-ones

● Pocket diapers. These are a popular option as well, but require a bit more work as you have to stuff and unstuff soakers into the diaper cover. They’re fast drying and trimmer than prefolds, but they can get stinky, and some moms grow tired of stuffing and unstuffing for each change. Personally, neither of us have had much success with pocket diapers, and find they leak often. Some moms swear by them, though.


What are your favorite diapers? Tell us in the comments!

Stay tuned for our next post: a tutorial on washing cloth diapers!

One Momma’s Journey to Cloth Diapering

Hello!

I’m Michelle and I write over at The Momma Bird. I blog about parenting, life, being a military spouse, travel, and occasionally I like to make my readers laugh with my vlog. I’m very happy to be here on The Other Baby Blog writing about how I got into cloth diapering.

When I was pregnant with our first child I heard about people who used cloth diapers and scoffed at them. I thought it was the most disgusting thing on the planet! Who would want to mess with all that POO?!! I was “that” Mom who would laugh at “those” Mom’s.

Then came baby. With baby came disposables and LOTS of diaper cream. My son was so sensitive his poor bum suffered rashes almost every night! There were multiple times we had to get prescription cream for them – it was THAT bad. When my little guy was 7 months old we found out I was pregnant again! I started to do research on cloth diapers. I had loads of friends who did it and SWORE by it – so what would be the harm in researching it?!

Fast forward to the summer of 2011. I was a month away from having our 2nd little guy and I was sick of the diaper rashes. I know my poor baby was too! I ordered a trial version on a cloth diapering site and was ready to give it a go. I got the package, did all the washings and tried them out. There were some that I absolutely hated and others that I fell in love with. My little guy looked so cute in his fluff AND after just days of being in cloth, the rashes disappeared. I was sold.

boys

After my 30 day trial I purchased everything I needed. Both of my little guys were in their cloth and I couldn’t help but feel so proud knowing I was providing my boys with a product that was both safe and comfortable for their precious skin. It has been a year and a half since I started CD’ing full time and I still love it. My 2nd son, who has been in cloth his whole life, has NEVER had a rash except on the rare occasion he is wearing a disposable.

I have now turned into the crazy lady who tries to get everyone’s kids into cloth. One day, while grocery shopping, I saw a pregnant couple trying to figure out the cost of diapers for their soon to be child. I casually walked over and told them that they should really look into cloth diapering, and that while it may seem like a high cost up-front, it saves in the long run & is better for their baby’s skin. I left the store, came home to my husband and told him that I was pretty sure I just scared off a couple by my cloth diapering talk. Turns out, a year later she found me on facebook and messaged me about cloth diapering. She wanted more information and wanted to get her kid into cloth!

boys

Though I was skeptical at first, cloth has been the best decision for me and my babies!