Why Don’t More People Use Cloth Nappies And Wipes?

I know that a lot of people have a very old-fashioned view of cloth nappies.  The old terry towelling nappies that our mums used, that needed folding and using with those scary nappy pins, aren’t very appealing.  Or is the thought of needing to put dirty nappies in buckets to soak before washing just too much of a hassle? Or could it simply be the idea that it’s just a lot of extra work that puts people off?

Well, things are very different these days.  We have used mainly cloth nappies on Rosa since she got out of hospital and they’re brilliant!  The two types that we use, The Pop-In Nappy by Close Parent (our favourites) and Little Lambs (fine but not quite as good), are both shaped and are fastened with velcro.  They take no more time to put on or take off than a disposable and are just as easy to use.

Also, with today’s super-efficient washing machines, dirty nappies are kept in a dry bucket with a lid.  No smells escape from these and you wash the nappies every other day.  I haven’t found this to be very onerous at all.  Over the winter we have dried the nappies indoors on a clothes airer or over the radiator.  This has been fine, but we are loving using our outdoor clothes line now the weather’s getting better.

We use Eco Balls to wash the majority of our laundry, both for environmental reasons and because they save us a fortune in washing powder.  They are brilliant for washing nappies too, having anti-bacterial properties (although we add some tea tree and lavender essential oils to the wash too).  The one problem we have found is that modern washing machines are so water-efficient that they don’t rinse cloth nappies very well.  If you think about it, the nappies are designed to be massively absorbent, so they absorb a lot of the water that is meant to be washing them.  For this reason and because detergent residue creates sore baby bottoms, cloth nappy manufacturers recommend that you use a half measure of detergent when you wash them. We avoid this with Eco Balls, anyway.  I was finding that nappies would smell of ammonia after 2 hours, which was because the lack of water meant they weren’t being rinsed well enough.  So now, I either run them on a programme with a pre-wash function or put them on a rinse cycle before the main wash. This has solved the problem entirely.  The other issue with the Little Lamb cotton nappies was staining.  I tried using some eco-friendly stain remover but to little avail.  Now though I have discovered the solution – the sun!  Even in winter or spring the sun can remove staining without using any nasty chemicals which could harm your baby’s skin.

The Pop-In Nappies we have are bamboo, which has anti-bacterial properties and is nice  and soft for baby bots.  They are all-in-one nappies, with three parts that popper together.  There’s a soaker insert, then the main nappy and a waterproof outer, which is adjustable to fit babies from birth to potty training.  The Little Lambs we have are organic cotton and come in 2 sizes, so you need to buy two lots to accommodate your baby’s needs throughout their time in nappies.  They come with some waterproof wraps, which you put on over the main cotton nappy.  Inside the cotton nappy you can add extra booster liners, cotton ones for absorbency and fleecy ones for the catching of poo and to create a dry layer next to baby’s skin. We live in a very hard water area and the cotton nappies do end up being a bit cardboard-ish after washing, so I have to rub them together to soften them up a bit.  You can get bamboo or microfibre versions of the Little Lambs, but we haven’t tried these.  I don’t like the Little Lamb wrap system very much as you’re meant to use them for a few nappy changes, but I find they usually smell of wee at the first nappy change so I very rarely just change the cotton part of the nappy.

Anyhow, thinking about cloth nappies, there are many positives and very few negatives.  We have saved a fortune in disposable nappies, which means that we can buy the slightly more expensive Naty environmentally-friendly disposables for the odd occasions when we’re out and about and don’t want to carry re-usables.  Obviously, environmentally cloth nappies are much more virtuous, particularly with our use of Eco Balls to wash them.  It really is no hassle to do a couple more loads of washing per week when you have a baby. Rosa seems to like the nappies and has never suffered from nappy rash.

We also use cloth baby wipes and these are brilliant.  The ones we use are cotton on one side and fleece on the other.  The fleecy side is great for wees and the towelling side is best for number twos!  I use a plastic takeaway tub to make a solution of chamomile tea with 2 drops of lavender essential oil to moisten the wipes with. I put a lid on it and can keep 5 wipes in there, which last for several hours.  Only today, Rosa did an enormous poo and one or two re-usable wipes were enough to completely deal with it.  When we use disposable baby wipes, a big poo can use up several wipes.

All in all, having used disposables for 3 weeks when Rosa was in hospital and then moving to cloth nappies after she came home, I would highly recommend modern cloth nappies and wipes.  They are easy to use, don’t generate too much work and are kind to the pocket, the environment and your baby’s skin. Win, win, win!

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Argh, Why Do Immunisations Hurt (Me) So Much?

I have a confession to make.  It’s fairly pathetic.  For Rosa’s first two lots of jabs, I made Richard come along and hold her.  I sat next to them, boob at the ready, but it wasn’t needed.  I just couldn’t bring myself to hold Rosa.  In fact, I nearly chickened out of going to the doctor’s surgery entirely.

I don’t know why, but the very thought of taking her for her injections made me feel sick.  The first immunisations were a bit of a shock.  I had expected small needles for babies, but no.  They’re just normal, adult-sized needles. And she had to have two injections, one in each skinny little thigh.  I think I was still a bit traumatised by all the injections, blood tests and canulas Rosa had to have during her three weeks in the Special Care Baby Unit. To be honest, for the first set of jabs at 8 weeks, she slept through them and although she let out one big “Waaaaaahhhhhhh” for each injection her eyes never actually opened!  She was awake for the second lot at 12 weeks, which was also two injections.  Her sunny, innocent little face smiling at the nurse seconds before crumpling into tears as the needle went in was heartbreaking.  In truth, she did the same as before really. Just one wail for each injection and then she was back to her usual smiley little self.

She had her third lot of immunisations a few weeks ago and I took her along.  BY MYSELF! 🙂 I had put it off for about 4 weeks, because I was hoping she would put a little chub on those skinny legs. The third set of jabs is 3 injections in one session.  Unfortunately, the nurse had no appointments free when Richard was available so I would have to take her by myself.  I have to admit that I was dreading it, but it really was fine.  The nurse got it over with quickly and efficiently and Rosa wailed for each injection once only, as before.  I’m so proud of her!

Ultimately, I never considered not having Rosa immunised.  After having watched my sick baby in hospital fighting an infection for 3 weeks after birth, I want to give her every chance of avoiding serious illness. She is honestly not bothered by injections and although I still feel awful taking her along for them, it is so worth it.

She’s 6 Months Old Today! 6 Things I’ve Learnt Since Becoming A Mum

1) Make sure you procreate with a supportive partner.  This will make a massive difference to your experience of motherhood and how hard you find it.  I am very lucky because my amazing fiance is not only emotionally supportive, but is also very practical.  He has taken on the majority of the housework since Rosa was born, in addition to his full-time job.  He cooks dinner at least 50% of the time and facilitates me spending a lot of my time feeding the baby, holding the baby and generally putting her needs first.  If I contrast this with some of my friends’ partners’ approaches, they have had to not only look after the baby, but also the house and all cooking.  They have been absolutely exhausted and have found being a mum to be really hard.  Anyone with a small baby will tell you that looking after them is a full-time job and then some.  Having a partner who is happy to support you in your mothering is a huge bonus.

2) You know you feel like you’re crap at being a Mum? Don’t worry.  So does everyone else. Being a mother does make you incredibly vulnerable and can create a lack of self-confidence.  Going through pregnancy and birth often feels like a step back in decades for independent, educated and normally confident women.  You are frequently patronised, belittled, treated in a disrespectful manner or otherwise made to feel like a sub-standard mum in your dealings with doctors, health visitors, family members and the general public.  You think you’ve just nailed x, be it sleeping through the night, getting the baby to nap in the day or somesuch and then something changes and you’re back to square one again.  It’s all normal.  You’re doing the best that you can.  That woman at your baby yoga class with the amazing post-natal figure, perfectly manicured nails, no dark roots and a healthy glow – SHE’S GOT A NANNY! So chill out and feel good about yourself and all the hard work you’re putting in to raise your baby successfully.

3) Re-usable nappies are great. I have a big problem with the landfill waste created by mainstream disposables and feel a bit weird about the funky chemicals in them being next to my little girl’s skin. We do use the odd Nature Baby disposable nappy (no plastic in ’em), mainly if we’re out and about . But I have been really impressed by modern cloth nappies and they are no bother to wash either.  The ones we use are shaped and have velcro fastenings. There’s no soaking and the (dry) nappy bucket has never been stinky. All in all, they are better for the environment, not much work at all, have saved us a fortune and Rosa has never yet had nappy rash.  Result!

4) Breastfeeding is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But also the most worthwhile. I know I’ve written about this before, so I shan’t bore you with loads of details. When Rosa left the Special Care Baby Unit, she was having the boob, then a small bottle of expressed breast milk, then a small amount of formula at each feed.  This is MADNESS. We were using nipple shields and it was still painful with them.  I phased out the crazy expressing after every feed and we changed to breastfeeding all day and night bar one evening formula feed.  This enabled my poor boobs to have a break for a few hours and is the reason why we have managed to reach 6 months of breastfeeding.  Yes, it still hurts me and we’re still using the nipple shields, but she has had well over 80% breast milk goodness each day and I have no plans to stop breastfeeding any time soon. I can’t imagine not having had that special bonding experience with Rosa, even though at times it has had me in tears and other times I have silently seethed as she feeds really badly in the middle of the night and I just wish she’d get it.  The feeds when it’s ok or even good make it all worthwhile though.

5) Trust your baby and your instincts. Following on from my previous post “Slow Weight Gain And The Evil Red Book” it has taken me some months to have confidence in my gut instinct as a mum.  However, I am now at the point where I am happy that Rosa is fine and that I would know if there was anything wrong with her.  She “told” us 3 weeks ago that she was ready to start baby-led weaning (this is AMAZING btw, I’ll be blogging about that a lot), by helping herself to something off my plate when she was sat on my lap.  Shewas 3 weeks shy of 6 months old, the recommended age, but it was the right time for her.  Since then she has had the exact same amount of milk feeds as before, complemented by some proper food at dinner time. She eats at the table with us and has so far explored avocado, banana, pear, steamed carrot and broccoli, tomato, cheese, chilli con carne, rice,spinach, roasted sweet potato, roasted butternut squash, mashed potato, boiled potato and jacket potato, home-made pizza, steak, pork, chicken and veal(English rose veal, if you’re wondering), houmous, celery, peppers and yogurt. Incredible stuff.  Anyway, the point of this is that all babies are individuals and no-one knows your baby better than you.  So if your baby does something that differs from the guidelines, but is alert, developmentally on track and happy and you feel that they’re fine – they probably are. And if you’re wondering, I haven’t had Rosa weighed for 6 weeks now. I don’t need to know what the numbers say.  She is looking great.

6) Being a mum is so much fun! I was very focussed on how difficult being a parent would be.  I was terrified about the sleep deprivation, the drudgery of the extra housework and not having any time to yourself.  Actually, with a supportive partner and a very chilled little girl, it’s been surprisingly do-able. I do sometimes get pretty tired, but if I nap with Rosa some of the time, I can keep things on an even keel.  The extra housework isn’t too bad currently, again with help from my other half. In the evenings, I do have time for myself, if I want it.  There may not be as much time as before and certainly a shower in the evening feels like a luxury after the rushed daytime ones when I have to sing and keep popping my head out pulling funny faces at my daughter!  Rosa and I laugh so much together.  Her ready and face-splitting smiles melt my heart and I never realised just how much joy she would bring to our lives.

The First Night Out!

For the first time since New Year’s Eve 2010, 6 days before we found out I was preggo, I went out! For drinks….with friends…..and no baby.  It was my friend Cath’s birthday and Richard encouraged me to go out and offered to look after the baby through the night.  I wasn’t sure if I was ready.  I’m not organised enough to express in advance, so that would mean that my baby would have three bottles of formula in a row, rather than her usual one a day.  I would still need to come home and express some milk, but throw it away (pump and dump).

On the day, I was really tired.  My baby had had her third lot of immunisations the day before and had slept fretfully.  I was shattered from the word go and then had a really busy day with Richard, my step-daughter and the baby.  I was seriously thinking I should just forget about it and get some sleep instead.  But after dinner I got my second wind and decided I would go out after all.  I had said to my friend that I’d come out and I was really looking forward to seeing her.  The issue of the formula still remained.  I felt very guilty at the prospect of giving her three consecutive formula feeds.  However, as Richard said, it’s not like she hasn’t ever had it or anything and it was just for one part of one day.  I think you do need to get a sense of proportion about these things.  My daughter is nearly 6 months old and against all odds her main source of nutrition by a long way has been breast milk.  So I really should be able to go out and  enjoy myself for one night without feeling guilty.

How was the first night out?  It was great.  I really enjoyed myself and it was lovely to see my friends and celebrate Cath’s birthday.  I was able to wear a nice dress that didn’t need to be selected for easy boob access! I wore make-up!  I drank booze! Only 3 drinks, mind, and I did feel really rather tipsy being a complete lightweight these days.  Although I missed  Richard and my little one, it was great to be out and to enjoy a little time to myself.  So, if you’re feeling nervous or guilty about going out for the first time, then please don’t.  If you’re ready to go out, you’ll know and you will enjoy yourself.

What’s With All The Pink?

Firstly, let me say that I have nothing against pink, per se.  I have a few items of pink clothing myself, in fact. But what I cannot abide is the current total polarisation of colours in baby clothing. Everything is pink for a girl or blue for a boy.  Or white, yellow or green for pre-birth purchases where gender is unknown.

I do dress Rosa in pink, but also in blue, green, purple, red, brown…..as many colours of the spectrum as possible, in fact.  I dressed her in floral-embroidered chambray (i.e. light blue) for a family event a few weeks ago and Rich’s Aunt couldn’t get her head around the fact that Rosa is a girl.  I could hear Rich in the corridor talking to her saying “Rosa (pause)….Rosa (pause)…..Rosa (pause)…..Rosa (pause)…..Rosa” in various tones (going up, going down – still didn’t compute!) when she asked what the baby’s name was.  After he had said it loooooooads of times, she finally got it and said, “You should have dressed her in pink, then I would have known she was a girl and the name would have made sense!”.

Looking back at photos of when I was a small child, there seemed to be a lot of red, green, brown and orange!  A nice 70s palette there.  I remember having some pink clothes, but also a lot of other colours.

The other day we watched some Tots TV, that 90s kids programme from the Ragdoll Productions stable that features the adventures of three puppets, Tilly, Tom and Tiny.  Interspersed with Tilly, Tom and Tiny’s exploits are video segments featuring children.  It was noticeable that these kids were not wearing pink or blue, but lots of different colours. So the whole pink or blue only thing is relatively recent.

So why do parents dress their babies in pink or blue only? Is it so that people know what gender the child is?  Does that really matter in a baby??  I don’t agree with those silly buggers who gave their baby a gender-neutral name and concealed his gender from everyone until he was five.  That is taking things a bit too far. Gender is a big part of who we are, but I don’t want to be imposing stereotypes on Rosa by dressing her mainly in pink. Neither will I be encouraging a princess fixation.  What the hell’s that all about anyway (hmmm, passive)? It’s only a short step from there to aspiring to be a WAG, in my book, which would be a tragedy.

What do you think about clothing babies in mainly pink or blue clothing? Is it harmless or the start of a lifetime of stereotyping?

Hypnobirthing – How Was It For You?

I’m going to be completely honest here when I tell you that I am a complete wuss. Not only am I a complete wuss but I had also been dreading giving birth since I found out what was involved.  Well, who wouldn’t?  When the realisation that the stork wouldn’t be bringing me a baby hit home and not only that but any child would be emerging from my front bottom, I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect.  Then when words such as stitches, agony, forceps and tears crept into my consciousness, followed by others like incontinence and episiotomy, I became truly terrified. And slightly obsessed. There’s a specific term, ‘tokophobia’, which means fear of childbirth. I definitely had it.

I sought out birth stories whenever I could, both personal accounts from women I knew and those in literature/on the net/on telly.  A sizeable proportion of births seemed like distressingly negative experiences, which often led to longer term trauma or problems bonding with the baby.  I felt like giving birth naturally just wasn’t for me – I couldn’t do it.  I would have to save up three grand to go private so I that could have an elective caesarean.  And I was thinking all these things when I was single and had no idea whether I might even be able to conceive or not.

Then I heard about hypnobirthing.  It offered the possibility of a calm and relaxed birth, a comfortable birth.  I decided that this was definitely for me, should I ever meet the right man, settle down and want to have a family. Fast forward a couple of years and I had met my lovely man, Rich, and we eventually decided that we wanted to have a baby together. Happily we did manage to conceive quickly and I started looking for hypnobirthing tutors in the local area.

One of my closest friends was also expecting, although 11 weeks earlier than me.  She and her other half were also keen to learn hypnobirthing.  We found a lovely hypnobirthing teacher, Marie, and all had lessons together at my house.  Both Rich and I enjoyed the sessions and found them to be very informative and relaxing.  I found the fear release guided hypnosis to be very useful and this was something I followed up by myself several times during my pregnancy.  Rich and I both listened to one of the relaxation mp3s almost every night of my pregnancy after doing the course and it was very effective. So much so that he would often drop off when he was just reading next to me and not supposed to be listening to the mp3 at all! Marie is an ex-midwife and currently works as a doula, health visitor and breastfeeding counsellor.  Her knowledge and experience were invaluable and her sense of humour and humanity much appreciated.  I also came across Dany Griffiths and her Tums2Mums hypnobirthing website and bought her distance learning course, as it contained some extra mp3s and a really useful workbook.

So, with our planned homebirth all booked in and our delivery kit waiting with the birth pool in the spare room, my due date came and went. Two days (Weds) later I began having contractions and the day after (Thurs) that my waters broke. My contractions were easy to handle with my TENS machine and hypnobirth mp3s.  The midwife had come out to the house that day and I was 3 cm dilated. Then everything stopped. Then started again overnight and then….stopped again in the morning.  I went into hospital on Friday to be checked over and they wanted to augment my labour (same as being induced but when labour has already started) at that point as my waters had been broken for over 24 hours.  We declined this, but said that we would be happy to come in for monitoring each day.  I fully expected that the contractions would kick in again with a vengeance at any moment and our baby would be born a few hours later.  However, an extremely miserable Saturday and Sunday passed with stop start contractions and me going for acupuncture each day. I was not able to get comfortable in any position from Wednesday onwards.  Only in water was I able to feel some sort of comfort.  Car journeys were torture. Richard and I had talked on Sunday and decided that we would go in for augmentation on Monday, as I was in so much pain and had barely slept or eaten for 5 days.  However, we had promised the doctors that Richard would take my temperature every 4 hours and on the Sunday evening, I mentioned that I felt hot.  Richard took my temperature again and it had risen above the level that the doctors had given as a limit.  Just as well I had packed that emergency hospital bag!  We grabbed it and headed off to the hospital.

It’s fair to say that I had very mixed feelings about going in to hospital to have our baby.  I had really wanted a home birth, with as little intervention as possible. Now I would have to be hooked up to a hormone drip to hurry things along throughout my labour and I would also be given IV antibiotics.  In addition, I would have continuous monitoring belts across my abdomen, which would restrict my movement. On the plus side, I would have a midwife with me at all times because I was on the drip and having IV antibiotics. I had heard lots of bad things about being induced and really wanted to avoid the cascade of intervention that often follows induction. I was also frightened that once on the drip, my contractions would ramp up to a level that I couldn’t cope with and any thoughts of using my hypnobirthing techniques would be forgotten.

As it happened, my labour was fine.  I put my hypnobirthing mp3s on and listened to them over and over again.  The cannula was inserted into my hand (this was not painful, actually – I was surprised) and the drip and antibiotics were started at 11pm on the Sunday night.  I used the ‘Rainbow Relaxation’ and ‘Surges With The Sea’ tracks to get myself into a deep state of relaxation.  As my contractions increased in frequency and intensity, I carried on listening to the mp3s and also used the golden thread breath that I’d learnt in my pregnancy yoga class. I could feel pressure, but not pain.  At about 6am, I started having very intense surges that felt like falling off a cliff, in that I could feel a build up and then gave in to the sensation.  The contractions were still not painful. I could just feel a massive amount of energy with each one.  The first one took me by surprise and I remember asking the midwife, “What the hell was that?”! She told me that it was an involuntary pushing contraction and I would soon be able to start pushing.  She checked me at 7am and there was a small cervical lip, so asked me to wait another hour and I then started pushing just after 8am.  Unfortunately, my midwife finished her shift at 8am and another midwife and student then joined us instead.  They were pleasant and encouraged me in my pushing.  Hypnobirthing theory is that you should breath the baby down.  However, there were concerns about the baby, so I had to forget about that and get pushing. Unfortunately by this point I couldn’t even feel my contractions.  Not at all!  I had to get the midwives to tell me from the monitor when they were happening.  I pushed for an hour and a half and then the doctors performed a foetal scalp blood test on my poor baby and she was one point above the level that indicates distress.  Although she was literally only one centimetre inside my body, a small episiotomy was performed (now that smarted with no anaesthetic) and she was born with the help of a ventouse (a vacuum device) at 10.08am on Monday 19th September 2011. Our daughter’s APGAR scores (these are scores out of ten that measure a baby’s condition at birth) were 9 and 9. 🙂

Although the birth was quite different to how I had imagined or hoped it to be in terms of being quite heavily medicalised, it was still quite comfortable and certainly not painful.  The only pain I experienced was when the doctor cut me without any anaesthetic and that was only momentary. It was also the only time I made any noise! I am certain that hypnobirthing was a major factor in this and would recommend it to anyone, but I would also say that you must practice it religiously.  The medical staff were amazed that I had been hooked up to the hormone drip and not had any pain relief at all.   I was elated and high as a kite on endorphins after the birth and one of the first things I said to Richard was, “I want to do it again, tomorrow!”. I think that says a lot.

Have you used hypnobirthing techniques during labour? How did you find they worked for you?