In Defense of Nail Biters

The Grasshopper has started biting her nails.  She started while I was pregnant, and it’s clear that she’s not going to stop any time soon.  Her dad finds this to be vexing.  He gripes.  He tells her to stop.  He takes her hand out of her mouth.  He’s even started talking about getting some of that nasty tasting nail polish.

He doesn’t understand.  He was never a nail biter.

But I was.  Oh, did I bite my nails.  I bit them right down to the quick.  I bit them until they bled.  When I ran out of fingernail, I would chew the skin around the edges of the nails.  Then I would chew up the inside of my lips.  Then I would bite my toenails.  Yeah, I know.  Gross.  Don’t pretend like you didn’t do gross stuff as a kid.  You know you did!

The nail biting was a compulsion.  I couldn’t stop.

We tried everything.  My Grandma promised me a beautiful ring when I stopped biting my nails.  Didn’t work.  Later, we tried painting my nails with bitter nail polish.  I bit them anyway.  I tried painting my nails with pretty nail polish so they’d be too pretty for me to bite.  I learned to carefully scrape off  the nail polish so I could access the nails beneath and resume biting.  Bandaids over the nails?  Peeled them off, bit, and then carefully stuck them back on again.  Every single trick that they recommend, we tried.  Many of those attempts were attempts I made myself.  It’s not like my parents were harassing me to stop biting my nails or anything.  They had given up on that years ago.

The nail biting was absolutely outside my control.  The more I tried to stop it, the more I chewed.  When I got anxious I chewed.  The attempts to quit made me anxious.  Having adults notice and point it out made me anxious.  All of that fed into the cycle.  Nail biting was just something I did and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  Then I just… stopped.

There was nothing I did to stop.  I just woke up one morning and no longer had the need to bite.  I still felt stressed about things (who doesn’t?) but because I was developmentally ready to stop, the need to chew disappeared and it no longer served as a comfort measure to deal with anxiety.

For me the need to chew disappeared when I was 17 years old.  For some people I think it comes sooner.  For others later.  For a few people, the need never disappears.  And you know what?  Who cares?

Now that the Grasshopper is older and biting her nails, what is the big deal?

I see parents agonizing over this on various parenting message boards, and I’d like to really examine the reasoning for wanting so badly for their kids to stop biting.  Let’s break this down:

  • It looks ugly.  So what?  They are her hands.  If someone is going to judge her based on her fingernails, they’ve got bigger issues than she needs to deal with anyway!  Chewed finger nails aren’t going to keep her from a career in a professional setting.  Unless she applied for a hand modeling gig.  In which case we would probably have a conversation about what her strengths really are.
  • It can be painful.  Oh, yeah.  Chewing down to the quick definitely hurts.  Does it ever!  Part of this is responsibility.  If she’s going to chew, she needs to be prepared for the consequences, and that means that some days her fingers might be sore.  It goes with the territory.  But is it really a huge deal?  I bit my nails until they bled, but it never kept me from enjoying activities.  I just had to take responsibility for what I had done and let them heal for a day or two.
  • What if she gets germs?  Well, she might, but so might a lot of other kids.  She will need to be able to keep her hands washed frequently to keep from spreading or catching any illnesses.
  • If she bites them too far, they could get infected.  It could happen.  Never happened to me, but sure.  It could happen.  We’ll just have to keep an eye on it and enforce the hand washing.
  • It’s a “bad” habit.  Like what?  Like smoking?  Not really.  It’s not causing long term effects.  It’s not hurting anyone.
  • It bugs me.  (This is my husband’s gripe.)  Then you really just need to use your neck and look the other way.  Sorry if I sound a little defensive on that one, but as a long-term nail biter, this particular line of reasoning really gets under my skin.

Look, here’s the thing: No amount of us harping on her, offering rewards, putting tabasco sauce (thanks for that idea internet. gross.), or threatening is going to stop her from biting her nails.  She can’t control it, and if we bug her about it we will just be feeding into the anxiety cycle.  Some day, she will probably grow out of it, but in the meantime, there’s no major harm being done.

See? I stopped. They don't look too bad do they?
See? I stopped. They don’t look too bad do they?

So please, if you have a kid who bites his or her nails, just leave them alone and let them grow out of it on their own.  The more you push, the more they’ll bite.  Please don’t feed the cycle.

So how about it?  Are there any other nail biters out there?   Any parents of nail biters?  I’m interested to hear your story and find out if you (or your child) eventually stopped biting and how it happened.

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Guest Post: Cloth Diapering – Part 2

I have mentioned before that my family doesn’t cloth diaper, but I do love the idea of cloth diapering.  It’s a great way to reduce your impact on the environment.  Because of this, I asked several of my friends to write guest posts about cloth diapering.  This is the second post in my cloth diaper series.  It was written by my good friend Jessica who owns Top to Bottom Baby Boutique in Omaha, Nebraska.  If you’re ever in the area, check out her new storefront!  She’s a fun lady and a great businesswoman.

Owning a natural parenting and cloth diapering store usually garnishes a lot of questions:  What started me cloth diapering?  Why did we decide to open the business?  And what do I find the most challenging?  Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of stories from moms and dads on why they started or what stopped them.  These stories, always intrigue me, because I love seeing what cloth diapering means to families.  One of the most popular questions I get is “How in the world am I suppose to use cloth when both my husband and I work full-time”.  This one always makes me chuckle, because it is my favorite topic!

Let me warn you, this always starts me on the discussion of laundry.  And just so we are clear, I hate laundry.  I’m not even sure that hate is a strong enough word.  Luckily, early on, I was able to convince Justin that it should be one of his tasks!  And I have dealt with shrunken clothes, things that have turned blue, etc in order to avoid laundry.  But diaper laundry I will do!  I love diaper laundry because I don’t have to sort, fold, or put away…though my good friend Maia does all of those for her diapers!

Justin and I have always both worked, and for the longest times we were on opposite shifts to avoid full-time daycare.  It made it very hard to avoid laundry duty.  When we began cloth diapering, we used a local diaper service.  After a couple of weeks we were having issues with leaks and I started looking for other options.  What I found was the wonderful world of fitteds, beautiful covers, and all around cute diapers.  Cuter than Cadence was wearing at that point.  As my research continued, we decided to move away from using the service and begin washing our own.  Two kids and three years later we opened our own store because there were no local options that allowed me to play with diapers (and as my husband tells everyone, I’m just not patient enough to wait for the mail to arrive).

With both kids in diapers, we knew we needed enough diapers to get through about two days.  Our diapers weren’t always pretty, but they were functional.  I would throw them in the wash after the kids went to bed and then into the drier before I went to sleep.  And inevitably, they ended up in a basket the next morning and that is where they stayed (I warned you, I don’t fold them!)  Diaper wash, in case you are wondering, is easy peasy–throw in everything, rinse, add soap (I love Rockin Green) and wash on hot, toss in the drier (or like our partner Robyn, hang up to dry).  I always warn everyone that it is a good idea to have a couple extra prefolds and a cover around for the inevitable time that you forget to do laundry until you put the last diaper on the kids (or when you are taking that last diaper OFF!).  Justin and I once had to fashion a diaper out of his t-shirt because I had managed to forget to switch the diapers to the dryer.  I’m not sure he found it as amusing as I did.

I’m sure at this point you are wondering about daycare.  We used two different daycares during our last 3 years and numerous trips to grandmas, so I have learned a very important lesson–most people think prefolds and plastic pants when you tell them you are going to cloth diaper.  We realized early on that it was easier to show them the types of diapers we planned to use then hope they knew what we were talking about.  I always tell moms it is important to take a diaper with you when you go meet a new daycare.  I usually also recommend using a Pocket or an All in One diaper because they are the most like disposables.  I am not a big fan of pockets, because it requires stuffing the inserts in the diapers.  I lose inserts like I lose socks (ie my hatred for laundry) so I tend to steer clear of these!  If I could, I would redo my stash in Bummis Tot Bots and Itti Bitti Tuttos but at this point with 2 kids who are potty trained except at night I am having a hard time convincing Justin that I need all new diapers!

Natural diapering is an option for everyone, working or stay at home parents.  Some parents go for the full cloth diaper experience, others use a mixture of cloth with disposable inserts (Gro-Via and Flip both make disposable inserts that can be used with the cloth covers), or the eco-friendly disposables (G-Diapers or Gro-Via bio diapers).  All of these are great options for parents.  There are so many options out there that everyone can find something they enjoy!

Update on the Green Disposable Diaper Search

A few weeks ago, I told you all how we are searching for a more earth-friendly/baby-friendly disposable diaper option.  You can read that post here: Green Disposable Diapers?

As a part of that search, I wanted to see, in person, the different diapers and wipes sold by the main producers of “green” disposable diapers.  To that end, I emailed the four companies requesting samples of their diapers:

At this point, almost two weeks have passed, and here’s where things stand:

I heard almost immediately from 7th Generation.  The emailed me right away to thank me for my interest and let me know that they had mailed me some samples.  Sure enough, within a few days, a large envelope arrived in my mailbox (hand addressed I might add) with 2 newborn size diapers, 2 size 1 diapers, and a small package of 3 wipes.  Perfect!  This is exactly what I needed!  This lets me get my hands right on the diapers and wipes to feel them, smell them, see if there’s a scent or fragrance that bothers me, and just generally get to know the product!  They included a few coupons for diapers and other 7th Generation products.

Thanks 7th Generation!  This really helps me!  I appreciate the quick response and I appreciate your willingness to go further than what I requested to try to accommodate and win a potential new customer.  As someone who works in customer service myself, I appreciate this.  It’s good salesmanship, and it predisposes me to feel favorably about the product.

I also heard back from the Nature Babycare folks.  Here is the email they sent me:

Thanks for taking the time to contact us.  We certainly appreciate your interest in Nature babycare as we do have the “greenest” diapers on the market.  (See attached FAQ’s)

We receive hundreds of emails from people requesting free samples.  We have limited resources as we are a very small company and want to keep the costs to a minimum so that we can pass that savings on to you.  The best and most environmentally friendly way “to try” Nature babycare is to purchase from one of our online retailers who offer our items at a very reasonable price, some offer additional discounts/specials and free shipping with qualifying orders.  Visit www.Diapers.com, www.Amazon.com or www.Naturebabycare.com as well as others.

Please feel free to sign up at our website www.naturebabycare.com (envelope icon, use your email address) for postings regarding product announcements, upcoming news, specials and coupons.

So, okay.  I can understand this.  I get that they’re a small company.  Totally respect that.  On the other hand, part of me is thinking, “Really?  You don’t have one diaper sitting around there that you could pop into an envelope?”

Let’s be real, though.  I am writing these companies asking for free stuff.  I’m not asking for a ton of free diapers (just one!), but still, it’s a rough economy, so I respect that a company can’t necessarily afford to send a diaper to every single person.  It does annoy me–in that slightly unreasonable, customer is not always right kind of way–that basically told me I’m going to have to go out and buy a whole big pack of these diapers.

But, check out what I did manage to find just this very moment as I was writing this post:  You can go to diapers.com and buy a sample of the Nature Babycare diapers!  For $0.99!  Who knew?  I wish the customer service rep from Nature Babycare had mentioned that in her email.  When I got her email, I imagined that I would have to get a whole pack of 70+ diapers.  Imagine my relief now in seeing that I can just get a little sample here!  Good news!  If she had said that in the first place, it would have been a lot more helpful.

I have not heard from the Huggies or the Earth’s Best folks, which annoys me slightly.  The good news again, is that I can pick up $0.99 Earth’s Best diaper sample from the sample area at diapers.com.  It comes with a free sample of their rice cereal.  We very adamantly do not do rice cereal, so that’ll get donated.  No biggie.  The bad news is that for the Huggies, I don’t see a sample option.  I’m not through looking, but it’s just not apparent at this point.

The lack of a sample from Huggies doesn’t break my heart, but I don’t want to have to buy 30 diapers just so I can look at one.  I know if I hate them I can just donate them, but we disliked Huggies so much when the Grasshopper was a baby, I’m not sure I’m interested in going out of my way to try these out even though I’m sure they’ve come such a long way.

Right now, I want to wait to get the diaper samples in before I really start trying them out.  I want to be able to look at them all side-by-side to see how they compare.  I want to do things like put them on one of the Grasshopper’s dolls to see how they fit, pour water into them, and just generally mess around with them to get a better idea of how they work.

Of course, I will keep you all posted, so stay tuned for the continuing saga!

Confessions of a Bad Mother

I am feeling like a horrible mother right now.  I have no patience with the Grasshopper and it seems like all we do is butt heads.  Over everything.

Let me start by stating unequivocally that we are a no-spank household.  We try to be a no shouting household, too, but I’m pretty much failing at that.

Last night was awful.  It was right before bath time. She’d spent the entire evening dragging her feet and not listening and just generally being difficult. Mr. Grasshopper was using the restroom which meant that the next 30 minutes were going to involve me trying to get her in and out of the tub and reaching across my enormous belly to try to get her clean while she danced in the middle of the shower instead of standing where I could actually reach her.

Right after I undressed her, she grabbed her comb and acted like she was going to put it in her butt. Her naked, sweaty, running around all day, filthy butt. I say, “Do NOT put the comb in your bootie.” And you know what she did?  She grinned at me and scrubbed it really quickly a few times right in her butt crack. And you know what I did? I reached around and spanked her. And then I felt horrible. Like I said before, we are a no-spank household. And I was spanking out of anger, which isn’t spanking at all. That’s just hitting. I didn’t do it very hard, certainly not hard enough to actually hurt, but her look of utter betrayal just killed me.

I ended up apologizing and explaining that I was just so frustrated because she did something on purpose just because I told her not to, but that it wasn’t okay to hit. And we hugged.  And we both cried.  I explained to her that she has poopoo germs in her bootie and that when she put her comb in her bootie she got poopoo germs on her comb. I told her that poopoo germs can make her very sick and it’s important not to put her hands and things in her bootie and that when Mama tells her something it’s to keep her safe and that she must listen to Mama.

Then when it was time to comb her hair after her shower (which was spent dancing mostly out of reach just like I thought it would), I reminded her about the poopoo germs on her comb and asked her why they were there. “Umm… I don’t know.” “Think really hard.” “Because I put my comb in my bootie?” “Yep. And you know what? I’m about to comb your hair with those poopoo germs.” Cue the dramatics: “I don’t want poopoo germs in my hair! No Mama! I don’t want poopoo germs in my hair!” “Well, you should’ve listened when Mama told you not to put the comb in your bootie.” And I combed her hair.

Then my husband came out of the bathroom and told me I was being mean so I left.

Right now she is really drawing out the worst in me. It seems like all I do is yell at her all the time. I hate it.  She’s just so darn contrary right now and my patience is so short from feeling crappy all day that I just snap at her constantly. The pregnancy hormones and just the pregnancy in general are making me cranky to a pretty strong degree.  And then last night I smacked her bottom. I feel like a horrible mother.

I just feel so overwhelmed with everything right now.  Thankfully I’m not nauseated 24/7, but there are some times that I just can’t get up off the couch.  It’s like she can sense those times.  She’s like a shark smelling blood in the water.  This weekend I was feeling very ill and I asked her to wash her hands in the bathroom as the kitchen sink had dirty dishes and a knife or two in it.  She grinned at me and washed her hands in the  kitchen sink anyway.

Later, I asked her to pick up her toys and she crawled under the table and kicked the chairs for half an hour.  Now, she knows I can’t pick her up and carry her.  She knows I can’t bend over without getting sick.  She knows this.  Which is why she deliberately crawled under the table where I couldn’t pull her out.  And it’s not like she was at much of a risk for me taking the toys away because I couldn’t bend over and get them anyway.

Here’s the thing:  She’s normally a really easy-going kid.  I mean, this is the kid who, aside from a brief run-around on the grass and a few potty breaks, sat through an entire UCLA graduation ceremony.  She was better behaved than the very large group of adults that were sitting around us chatting at full volume the whole time.  For a kid, that’s pretty impressive.  For a 3-year-old, that’s just jaw-dropping.

But lately, she’s pushing her boundaries and I’m feeling really lost as to how to show her where the boundaries are.  My temper is incredibly short, I’m not physically able to chase her or move her or put her somewhere, and I just feel like I’m failing at the whole motherhood thing.

A friend commented recently that while parenthood shows you these deep wells of love that you never knew you had, it also shows you these deep wells of anger.  This is really ringing true for me right now.

I think recognizing that she’s testing her boundaries right now will really help me handle things better.  So will finding a way to be more consistent with discipline.  Right now she gets so many warnings to stop doing something that the whole thing becomes meaningless.

I think I need to find a way to reconnect with her.  It seems like the days turn into wake-up, shower, help Mr. Grasshopper get her ready, work all day, come home, crash on the couch, watch Mr. Grasshopper shower her, read her a story, go to sleep.  I really need to find some time in there for us to just connect together.  Heck, I’m even getting cranky during story time!

Something’s got to give.

I know adding a second child into the mix will just fuel the chaos, but I can’t help thinking it will be so much better because at least I won’t be pregnant anymore.

Meantime, I need to go cuddle with my firstborn and try to reach some middle ground with her.

Green Disposable Diapers?

I’m feeling crummy today from overdoing it yesterday walking all over UCLA and the La Brea Tar Pits.  So this post may be short.  And not particularly well researched.

I think I’ve mentioned before that we do not cloth diaper.  I’d like to talk a little more about that and share my thoughts with you on reducing our diaper footprint.

Let me start by saying that I love cloth diapers.  The fabrics are not only beautiful, but they’re so incredibly soft.  The thought of that cushy organic bamboo velour cradling my baby’s tiny, delicate rump just makes my heart go pitter pat.  Cloth diapering is very, very doable, even for families where both parents work outside the home.  It just means a little extra laundry.  But here’s the deal:  I don’t do the laundry.  My husband does the laundry in our house (God bless him), and this means that ultimately the decision is his.

You know, we all have our hills that we are willing to die on:  Those aspects of life that are so important that they must be done the way you want.  For me, those hills include breastfeeding, solids, and child sleep.  I will breastfeed my children, I will make their own food and delay solids, and I will not leave them alone to cry it out.

That’s a whole lot of hills.

Mr. Grasshopper doesn’t have as many hills.  He’s just a lot bit more laid back than I am.  But cloth diapering is where he draws the line.  And quite honestly, as much as I fantasize about those beautiful and soft cloth diapers on my babies’ bottoms, I recognize that I need to be okay with this.  This is something that wouldn’t affect me in a huge way, but would have a terrific impact on the amount of work he has to do.  Considering how much hard work he does around the house anyway (the guy is a housework machine!), I respect his choice.

That leaves me wondering, though, what I can do to help “green up” diaper time for the newest member of our family.

Thankfully, environmentally friendly diaper options have started to become more and more available.  There are a couple of hybrid cloth/disposable options like the gDiaper, but having had friends who tried and didn’t like them, I think these might not be the best option for us.  Plus, these would still leave Mr. Grasshopper doing diaper laundry.

At this point, I’m looking at three possible choices for us:

Now here’s the thing:  Natural and Eco-friendly is great and all, but these puppies have to perform.

We used the 7th Gen diapers a few times with the Grasshopper when she got a bad diaper rash. They were pretty good, but they were a little stiff.  My husband did not like them.  I’ve never used the other kinds, but with the packaging it’s really impossible to tell much about the diapers.

I’ve emailed each of the three diaper companies to request that they send me a sample diaper.  I just want one of each.  I want to get the feel of it.  I want to see how stiff or how soft they are.  I want to pour some water into them to see how they react and absorb the fluid.  I do not expect any diaper to contain an honest-to-goodness poopsplosion, but I do expect them not to completely disintegrate when pee hits them.

I haven’t heard back from the companies as of yet on my request, so please stay tuned.  I’ll let you know if they’re willing to send me a sample or not.  I’d rather not have to shell out for packs of each.  These puppies aren’t cheap.

In the meantime, have any of you, dear readers used these natural disposable diapering options?  Does anyone out there in cyberspace have anything they can share with me about how these work out?

Guest Post: Cloth Diapering – Part 1

I have mentioned before that my family doesn’t cloth diaper, but I do love the idea of cloth diapering.  It’s a great way to reduce your impact on the environment.  Because of this, I asked several of my friends to write guest posts about cloth diapering.  This first post in a multi-post series is by a dear, childhood friend of mine, Katie.

Before our little one was born, I decided to try cloth diapers because I believed that they would be a better use of both environmental and financial resources.   I just couldn’t justify all of those used disposable diapers piling up somewhere.  This feeling was potently strengthened after our little one arrived and we went through 1100 diapers in the first two months!   Despite the added energy and water consumption required to wash cloth diapers, they are still radically better for the environment and perhaps the most earth-conscious decision parents can make.

Once I began researching cloth diapers, I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer number of options and opinions.  There are many styles of diapers (and numerous manufacturers, each with subtle differences), laundry routines and trouble-shooting solutions.  And, like most things, the internet provides a wealth of conflicting information.  After a lot of research, I had really learned very little because like most baby gear, each individual has different preferences.  For example, some people prefer all-natural or organic fabrics, while others prefer the moisture-wicking and cost benefits of synthetic fabrics.  Most people now prefer the fastening options that do not require diaper pins.  There are also numerous opportunities to match various manufacturers’ styles to your little one’s body type, such as more generous leg openings or a longer rise.  The sheer number of options can be frustrating, but it also means that you have a lot of alternatives to try if you are dissatisfied.

There seems to be a growing recognition of how overwhelming the cloth diaper product line-up can be.  One prominent cloth diaper vendor, Jillian’s Drawers, offers a cloth diaper trial for a mere $10 (provided you return the items promptly if you choose to not pursue cloth diapering), as well as a variety of sample packages.

Of course, trying out a lot of cloth diapering products can eventually translate to a significant investment, especially if you prefer cloth diapers with more features and/or organic fabrics.  This has been a disappointment to me as I naively imagined that cloth diapering would represent substantial cost-savings.  I still believe that we will save a lot of money in the long run, but at only seven months into cloth diapers, the cost benefits have probably been fairly minimal.  A large part of that is that our little one has grown at an incredible rate and is very tall.  As a result, many of the cloth diapers and covers that we tried had to be “retired” early, typically due to the rise being too short for our little one.  For example, we tried and loved Thirsties Duo-Wrap Snap Size 1 which is advertised to last until about 9 months or 18 pounds, but our little one outgrew it around 4-5 months and 15-16 pounds.  As our little one’s growth slows down, I expect that each size of cloth diapers will last longer and thus be more cost-effective.   Of course, our real savings will come when we can reuse all of these diapers with our anticipated second child.

I want to emphasize though that it IS completely possible to save A LOT of money with cloth diapering.  The bare minimum supplies would only be about $200, plus laundry detergent & utilities.  I also made simple cloth wipes out of 2-ply 8-inch squares of cheap flannel which have been a significant savings.  And rather than using any kind of wipes solution or expensive cloth-approved diaper rash cream, I prefer nearly-free plain water for the former and completely-free indirect sun exposure for the latter.  Line-drying your diapers can also drastically reduce your cloth-diaper-dependent energy bill.  If you are fortunate to be able to dry them outside, sunlight also has amazing diaper-brightening properties!  In addition, depending on your sewing ability and/or your willingness to learn, you can make your own cloth diapers.

An unexpected benefit of choosing to use cloth diapers has been the fabulous customer service I have received from cloth diaper vendors.   My favorite detergent company (Rockin’ Green) offers free and prompt trouble-shooting assistance.  When I asked their advice on how to fine-tune my laundry routine when I was battling diaper rash, they sent me a free sample of the new formula they were developing.   They then offered to make me custom detergent until the new formula would be commercially available several months later.

When I inquired about the availability of one particular diaper style, a favorite diaper manufacturer (ESBaby) offered to send me a free prototype of a new pattern she was developing for that style, provided I gave her feedback on the redesign.   ESBaby will also further customize their patterns by adding or trimming inches in the rise or crotch width, and covering the diapers with customer selected prints (or even customer-provided fabrics).  As an added bonus, many of these vendors are either work-at-home moms or moms transitioning into full-time careers.  It is a huge frustration to me that there seems to be serious professional stigma attached to women who want to return to the workforce after choosing to stay home with their young kids so I love supporting these mom-driven businesses.

Finally, anyone who chooses cloth diapers seems more than willing to help others get started or trouble-shoot.   I have personally benefitted from some great advice and instruction in this way, including an incredibly helpful and clarifying email from the other cloth diaper guest blogger, arranged via an email introduction from Molly here at Two Little Grasshoppers.

There are some mild disadvantages to cloth diapers.  The biggest issue for us has been battling diaper rash.  Most people advertise that cloth-diapered babies rarely have diaper rash because they are changed more often.  We changed our little one 16-20 times a day for the first two months and still struggled with diaper rash.  In fairness, we seem to have a family predisposition towards diaper rash.  We pretty much have this condition under control now due to the reduced frequency of output by our little one and routine preventative air and indirect-sun exposure.

Obviously, cloth diapers require you to spend more time with your diapers.  Dealing with soiled cloth diapers seems no worse to me than dealing with soiled disposable diapers (Disclaimer:  our little one is still in the very early phases of solid food, so perhaps this issue might become more unpleasant in the future).  It does take some time, every day so far, to wash and fold cloth diapers, although far less time and effort than I expected.  I am fortunate to be able to stay home with my little one and his diapers which makes this process even easier.   I believe that it would be possible to use cloth diapers while working outside of the home, but it would require more flexibility and commitment and would be undeniably harder to manage.  But even partial use of cloth diapers would make a huge impact on the environment!

Another minor inconvenience has been finding roomy enough clothes to accommodate the added bulk of cloth diapers.  Our little one is fairly slim too, so I imagine this must be really difficult if you have a more Rubenesque baby.  In particular, pajamas are a problem.  Federal law mandates that children’s sleepwear either be made out of a non-flammable material or have a slim-fit so as to minimize the danger of the clothes igniting in a fire.  As a result, the overwhelming majority of children’s sleepwear is not cloth diaper-friendly.  Skirts are pretty forgiving for little girls, while stretchy knits work best for other bottoms.  There are some brands that I’ve tried that have a more generous fit, like Zutano, Hanna Andersson and Wal-mart’s Garanimals.  Except for the latter, these brands are pretty pricey though which was another small disappointment to me.

We have used disposables while traveling and both my husband and I strongly prefer cloth diapers.  With cloth diapers, it is much easier to customize the fit and style to our little one.  In fact, perhaps “CD” should stand for “Customized Diapers” rather than “Cloth Diapers!”  Additionally, the materials are much softer and more comfortable (we imagine).  We have also experienced significantly fewer blow-outs and leaks with cloth diapers.  Finally, they seem more breathable and trap less overall moisture.

To briefly summarize, I’ve listed below the pros and cons of cloth diapers from my experience.

Cloth Diaper Pros:

  • Environmentally-friendly!
  • Customizable fit, materials & absorbency (cute prints can be an added bonus)
  • Can be much cheaper
  • Softer against the baby’s skin
  • Better containment of bodily waste & odor
  • Fabulous customer service & support while often supporting mom-driven businesses

Cloth Diaper Cons:

  • Time & energy to wash diapers
  • Diaper rash (this might be fairly unique to our situation)
  • Can have significant upfront costs, especially if choosing to use premium diapers
  • Requires roomier clothes that may be more difficult to find

Nurturing My Daughter Through Hyperemesis Gravidarum

I’ve mostly been writing about myself and how I am dealing with this hyperemesis gravidarum pregnancy and all the joys that have gone along with it.  I’d like to take a moment to talk some about how my daughter has been dealing with things.

The Grasshopper was one of the first people we told about the new baby.  We wanted to let her know early what was going on so that we could help her deal with the hyperemesis gravidarum.  Not knowing when it would hit, we wanted to give her a foundation of age appropriate knowledge so that she wouldn’t be blindsided by the brutal reality of the situation.

One of the best ways she connects to ideas is through stories, so we began reading Mama has Hyperemesis Gravidarum (but only for a while) to her.  I reviewed this book here if you are interested.

This story really seemed to help prepare her for what was happening.  I was able to tell her that “Mommy is sick.” And she would immediately make the connection and say, “Like Mama Bunny?”  Yeah, baby.  Like Mama Bunny.  Hyperemesis gravidarum was a term that she quickly learned to say, and because the book used to accurate medical term for the disease (as opposed to whitewashing over it), she was able to immediately grasp what was going on.

We experienced a lot of things that the Bunny family went through.  The Grasshopper came to see me in the hospital which was very similar to the hospital illustration in the story.  Grandma came to help out and spend time with her just like Grandma Bunny.  And Mama had a black bag with a tube that gave her medicine just like Mama Bunny had. This really, really helped her process what she was experiencing.

Now, I won’t say it was all sunshine and roses for the Grasshopper.  It was hard on her.  She and I are very, very deeply bonded.  We sleep together (at least for the first part of the evening), and up until very recently we still nursed.  That is to say, our relationship is one of both physical and emotional closeness.  I knew the hyperemesis gravidarum would render that kind of physical closeness difficult, but I didn’t realize how fast it would hit.  One day I wasn’t feeling quite right and the next I was in the hospital.  Having Mommy taken out completely like that was really hard for her.

For the most part, she seemed to handle things pretty well, but at daycare she became clingy with her teachers and sensitive with her friends.  Things that normally wouldn’t make her cry resulted in full melt-downs.  Thankfully, her loving teachers did not try to push her to “toughen up” or anything like that.  They knew from talking to us what was going on, and they compensated for what she wasn’t getting at home, but giving her extra hugs and affection.  Of course, they did not change their expectations for her behavior in the sense that they let her get away with acting out, but knowing what she was having to deal with allowed them to help nurture her through the toughest parts of the HG.

One thing that we never, ever did was tell her that the pregnancy or the baby was causing the hyperemesis gravidarum.  She knew about the baby in my tummy.  She knew I was sick.  We were careful to avoid connecting the two.

Once the hyperemesis gravidarum eased, things became much easier for her.  Just like in the story, the HG was “only for a while.”  She’s back to her usual bubbly self, which is great.  She’s helping us think of names for the baby.  Right now, the baby’s name is Muggle-Wump after the monkey from Roald Dahl’s Enormous Crocodile.

We’re doing all we can to help her feel a sense of bonding and ownership with the baby now.  We refer to the baby as Her Baby, and the Grasshopper has definitely internalized that.  She’s quick to remind us just whose baby this is!

She seems pretty excited about the baby.  She has a few friends at school who have new babies, one in particular is a baby girl who comes to visit often to pick up her older brother.  I love that she is getting that exposure early on with J and his baby sister.

She does seem to worry a bit about not being “little” anymore.  She reminds me a lot these days that she is little, and I always agree with her and re-assure her that she will be a kid for a long, long time and even when she’s a grown up lady she will always be Mommy’s little girl.  No pushing responsibility that she’s not ready for.

We’ve started talking about her being an “older sister” instead of a “big sister,” an idea from the Dr. Sears book What Baby Needs, a book I like because it depicts attachment parenting (breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, etc) in a simple way for older siblings to see ahead of time.  She seems to prefer this terminology I suppose because it doesn’t seem to force any expectations on her.

At this point, she seems pretty enthused about Her new baby.  We plan to continue to reinforce the idea of participation and ownership from her so that she doesn’t feel shunted to one side after the birth.  The baby will be bringing the Grasshopper her very own baby doll so that she can do the things that she can do the same things that Mommy does if she wishes.  I’ve got a child-sized Ergo baby carrier put away for her, and at some point in the next few months, I’ll take her to pick out fabric for a Grasshopper-sized wrap so that she can carry her doll in a wrap like Mommy does if she wants to.  We’ll also have a step-stool in the baby’s room so that she can help with things like diaper changes if she wishes to.

I want to give her the opportunity to participate as much as possible.  If she prefers to step back, that’s okay, too, but I want her to know that she is and always will be one of the four primary members of the family.

So just to sum up, here are some of the tips in brief for helping older siblings with HG and pregnancy (the last few are still a little hypothetical to us):

  • Prepare them early to know what to expect – Seriously, do get a copy of Mama has Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  It’s wonderful.
  • Avoid letting on to them that the pregnancy (baby) is making Mama sick.  You don’t want them to blame or feel angry at the baby.
  • Let alternate care providers know early on about HG so that they can help nurture your child through it as well.  We lent her teachers copies of the Mama has HG book so that they could talk about the HG in a way that was consistent to how we were talking about it at home.
  • Give them age-appropriate ways to participate in helping Mommy out (making a cool wash-cloth, carrying over a glass of baking soda water to rinse the mouth after Mommy pukes, etc)
  • Help foster a sense of ownership for the new baby by calling the baby Her Baby or His Baby.
  • Give them a mental picture of what to expect once the baby is born through books, play, art, whatever speaks to your child the most.
  • Don’t push more responsibility onto the child than he or she is ready for: try calling them the “older” sibling instead of the “big” sibling.
  • Once the baby is born, help the older sibling feel included by finding ways for them to participate in the care of the child whether that be through diaper changes, imitation play, or other activities.

Have any of you had to help nurture a child through hyperemesis gravidarum or other very serious parental illness?  How did you help them cope?  What about dealing with becoming an older sibling?  Any tips you can share on that front?  Any favorite children’s books that helped with the adjustment?  My mom and I are only both only children.  All this sibling stuff in completely and totally hypothetical for me!

 

Attachment Parenting: Stopping to Listen

Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Essentials

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared the parenting essentials that they could not live without. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I can’t imagine parenting without listening.

I’ll start with a confession:  I’ve never been a very good listener.  It’s something I struggle with.  I’m very much a waiting-for-my-turn-to-talk kind of person.

When my daughter was first born, we struggled a lot.  Nursing did not come easily to us.  I didn’t listen to her signals.  I don’t think I knew how.  Instead I listened to well-meaning nurses and pamphlets.  I fell into a lot of booby traps.  Eventually, we managed to get through the worst of it, and nursing became easier.  Time had solved many of our problems.

It was right around that time that I found out about Attachment Parenting.  It seemed to fit with my instincts so I went with it.  Intellectually, I understood the hallmarks of it.  You know, that checklist that you see sometimes: breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping, etc.  I got the laundry-list down, but I still hadn’t internalized the mindset.  I still hadn’t learned to really listen.  Attachment parenting was something I did.  It wasn’t something the Grasshopper and I did together.  She was an easy baby.  We managed to coast along for a while.

All that was about to change.

When she turned 8 months old, the Grasshopper hit an intense wakeful period.  Suddenly, instead of cruising and just going with the easy flow, I felt like I had a problem.  I went out and bought all the books on sleep that I could find that would (supposedly) mesh with our attachment parenting ideals.  I won’t list them here.  They didn’t help.

Instead of helping, those books placed me at odds with my daughter.  I found myself mentally gearing up for battle each night.  I was determined to make this work.  And every night, despite all the “gentle” techniques that the books recommended, it just didn’t work.  I wanted very much for her to be like the fantasy babies in the books, and every night that it didn’t quite work out, I felt bad about myself.

One night I gave up.  I just gave in.  I quit.  I couldn’t hack it.  I couldn’t do the stupid pull-off without her crying.  I couldn’t set her down in her crib while she was still slightly awake without her getting upset.  I couldn’t gently settle her by rubbing her tummy.  I couldn’t do it.

I felt so bad.  I felt like a failure.

It was a few nights later that I noticed a difference:  Since I had “given up”, I didn’t feel upset and stressed anymore.  Nights had become easier.  That’s when I started looking back and trying to understand what had happened.

Our mainstream society teaches up that babies should fit into neat models.  We see it all the time in the questions people ask us: “Is she sleeping through the night yet?”  “How much does she eat?”  And the one that really curls my toes: “Is she a good baby?”

Intellectually, I knew the traditional notions of how babies should be are false.  Deep inside, I had still been struggling with it.  I realized that I had been looking for control over the situation.  I was trying to find a way to fit our daughter into our lives.  I hadn’t been listening to what she had been telling me from the beginning.

Instead of control and sleep, what I ended up with were endless battles, stress, and the feeling that I must be doing something really wrong. Ultimately, it wasn’t until I just gave up, that things started changing.

I thought that in giving up I had lost.   What had actually happened was that I let go of the need to shape her into our lives.  More importantly, I stopped thinking about my relationship with my daughter as a battle to be won or lost.  Most importantly, I started listening.

When I stopped focusing on getting her to sleep, I found myself focusing instead on her needs, listening to what she was trying to tell me in her tiny way.  The mental conversation used to go a little something like this: “Oh, no, she woke up again!  I have to get up to get ready for work at 5!  I’m going to be so tired!  I just want her to sleep!  PLEASE STOP CRYING!”  Now it was going a little more like this: “Wow, she’s really hungry.  Let’s get you fed little one.”

In really listening to her needs instead of my own frustration, I found a deep sense of peace.  The Grasshopper, I am sure, sensed that peace, too.  Nights became easier.  Our relationship became one based on love and respect instead of conflict.

Looking back, I’m not sure how I made it through those first few months without listening to her.  How did we manage to figure out nursing when I was listening to someone telling me to dump the transitional milk I pumped because it wasn’t “real milk” yet?  How did we survive that?  I wonder what kind of a difference listening would have made in the beginning when we were struggling so much to nurse.  Would I have been able to notice her hunger cues better?  Would I have been able to help her latch more easily?  I wonder what kind of a difference it will make with this new baby.

Now that she’s a very verbal three, I can’t imagine being able to parent without stopping first to listen to her.  She’s still a pretty laid back kid, but even the most relaxed children have their moments.  Stopping, taking a deep breath, listening to what she is trying to say, instead of that voice in my head telling me that she shouldn’t be acting a certain way, seems to head off a lot of conflict before it even starts.  What kind of frustration would we be feeling with each other if I wasn’t listening to her?

With being pregnant now, listening to the Grasshopper is more important than ever.  I want her to be able to welcome our new baby warmly, so I’m doing my best to listen to her and validate her feelings.  Even ones that might be negative.  Especially with the illness I am facing, how will I nurture her through it if I’m not listening to her?  I think, with out relationship of trust and respect that we will get through it.  It will be hard, but we can do it if I take the time to listen.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Not Without Him — The love Starr at Taking Time shares with her husband is the foundation of her parenting.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without B(.)(.)bs — From an uneducated dreamer to a breastfeeding mother of a toddler, nursing has forever changed Kristy at Strings to Things’s relationship with her daughter and her outlook on life.
  • Raising a Child in the Internet Village — When Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction has a question or concern about parenting, she turns to the Internet. What did parents do before Google?
  • Partner in Crime and ParentingBethy at Bounce Me to the Moon can’t imagine parenting without her husband’s sense of humor – he brings her laughter and love every day.)
  • I Make MilkPatti at Jazzy Mama can’t imagine trying to mother her babies without her breasts, but she could do it if she had to.
  • New Perspectives Bring New BeginningsMJ at Wander Wonder Discover, who is a former authoritarian mamma, has gained perspective via parenting.
  • Time Out!Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog explores how time apart can increase your capacity to give unconditionally.
  • Unimaginable Without HimKristina at heyred designs is celebrating her amazing partner, without whom none of her parenting experience would be possible.
  • My Parenting NecessityClaire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl needs “me time” in order to be the Mama she wants to be.
  • Babywearing As a Way of LifeDarcel at The Mahogany Way talks about the benefits of babywearing in everyday life.
  • Parenting Partnership — Sometimes Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter doesn’t appreciate her husband enough, but she definitely couldn’t imagine parenting without his help.
  • Parenting EssentialsMomma Jorje loves her parenting products, but she needs you even more.
  • My Parenting Must-Have: SupportJoella at Fine and Fair wrote a letter to her daughter about the role that support from friends and family plays in her mothering.
  • It’s More Than Just Hair — Think doing hair is full of fluff? Too girly? Useless? Karli from Curly Hairdo Ideas used to think so too.
  • The Minimalist Parent — The parents at Living Peacefully with Children embrace a minimalist perspective when it comes to baby gear. A good sling is all they need.
  • Without My BreastsCharise at I Thought I Knew Mama can’t imagine parenting without her breasts; here’s why.
  • Loves Books, Loves PeopleSeonaid at the Practical Dilettante discovers that the library is a perfect fit for her family’s needs.
  • An Ode to the Maya WrapRevMama’s next child might be named Maya, because of her fondness for the sling.
  • Avoiding the Padded RoomPecky at Benny and Bex is here to testify that it takes a village to raise a child.
  • My parenting essentials, from Tivo to battery-operated monstrositiesLauren at Hobo Mama presents a list of parenting essentials you didn’t even know you needed (and probably don’t…).
  • Attachment Parenting Through Separation: It Makes It a Little BetterJessica at This Is Worthwhile talks about how she couldn’t survive her separation without attachment parenting and the bond it’s afforded her with her 3 year old son.
  • Parenting EssentialsDeb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the principles she used to parent her children from infants to adults.
  • My Parenting Essentials — The things that are truly essential to Kim at In Desperate Need of Entertainment aren’t things at all.
  • I’m No One Without My Sling — How baby carrying is essential to the parenting of Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without…Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about what she needs to raise her children.
  • February Carnival of Natural Parenting — Through her experiences over the last five and a half years, Casey at Love What Is has discovered her most important tool for parenting is using her instincts.
  • CNP: I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without __________.The Artsymama discloses the one thing that gave her back control of herself as a parent.
  • Laugh Until I Cry — Laughing with her sons keeps Acacia at Fingerpaint & Superheroes connected and grounded.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting WithoutLuschka at Diary of a First Child realizes what the one thing she can’t imagine parenting without is, and it turns out it’s not a thing after all.
  • It Takes Two — Here are a few of the reasons why Jenn at Adventures Down Under cannot imagine parenting without her fabulous husband.
  • Stopping to Listen — Though it wasn’t easy at first, Knocked Up – Knocked Over cannot imagine parenting her daughter without listening first to what she is telling her.
  • The Essence of Parenting — There are many wonderful resources that make life easier for Michelle at the Parent Vortex to parent, but the essence is the relationship between parent and child.
  • What I Cannot Live WithoutSybil at Musings of a Milk Maker considers her computer to be a parenting lifeline.
  • True Blessings: White Noise and GrandparentsKat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment can’t live without her white noise machine and the support of her parents.
  • The Necessities! — What “stuff” does a natural parent like Lily, aka Witch Mom really need? Not much, it turns out.
  • Mama Showed MeMama Mo at Attached at the Nip writes about how parenting wisdom is passed on by example.
  • Ode to the Loo — For Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch, the bathroom is her safe place, where she can take a minute to calm down if she is feeling touched out.
  • Go, Mama. Go!Andrea!!! at Ella-Bean & Co. has been able to integrate her many roles through her get-up-and-go parenting essential, exercise!
  • My Other HalfBecky at Old New Legacy realizes what a relief it is to have her husband parent alongside her.
  • Grace, Love, and CoffeeMrsH at Fleeting Moments realizes that lifelines can take the form of the profound, or the mundane. Both are ok.
  • Supportive Spouse, Check! — There are so many parenting tools and gadgets that are superfluous, but the one essential, for Danielle at born.in.japan, has been her supportive spouse.
  • Why I’m a BabywearerMeredith at Becoming Mamas reflects on the ways babywearing has enhanced her mama baby relationship…and made life easier to boot.
  • It’s Marvelous Out Here, Kiddo!Rachael at The Variegated Life can’t imagine parenting in the big city without the marvels of Prospect Park to share with her Critter.
  • Yes, Thank YouAmy at Anktangle offers tips on how to ask for and accept help, an essential for successful parenting.
  • Parenting Essentials Checklist: Mom’s Inner Rebel and Her Kids’ VoicesOlivia at Write About Birth reflects on raising global citizens and saying no to societal norms.
  • Eco-Mama Online! — An Eco-Mama living in the mountains of a nature island, Terri at Child of the Nature Isle finds it essential to connect to nature and to connect online.
  • Sorry, We Just Sold the Last OneNev at The Adventures of Lime confesses she missed out the day they handed out patience.
  • LaughTashmica at The Mother Flippin’ Blog reveals her super power, her talisman agains mean mommy.
  • My Priceless Parenting Resource — What do books, a magazine community, my mother and the local playgroup have in common? Lucy at Dreaming Aloud tells us…
  • The Gift of Shared TimeTree at Mom Grooves strives to experience the world from her daughter’s perspective.
  • Follow the GigglesDionna at Code Name: Mama can’t live without the sound of her child’s giggles – come watch her video and you’ll agree!
  • Can I Mommy Without Boob?Emily at Crunchy(ish) Mama shares her fears about weaning and losing part of that the mother/child bond.