Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cloth diapering a baby or toddler with Down syndrome

I recently heard that some physical therapists have cautioned mothers of babies with Down syndrome against using cloth diapers out of concern that bulky diapers could hinder gross motor skill development. While their concern is genuine and worth taking into consideration, a blanket ban just seemed like overkill to me. So I dug a little deeper, and after talking to some friends who are physical therapists and some fellow cloth diapering moms of little ones with Down syndrome, including Heather from Cloth Diaper Outlet, here's what I think seems like the most sensible approach to using cloth diapers with babies and toddlers with Down syndrome. 

my son in an adorable Wolbybug pocket diaper from Cloth Diaper Outlet

Why cloth is great for kids with DS
Modern cloth diapers are so convenient and so cute that they're rapidly gaining in popularity among all parents. Just like any family, families with a baby with Down syndrome may be attracted to cost savings, reduced environmental impact, not *having* to shop for diapers as often, and how adorable they are!
Additionally, babies with Down syndrome often have thinner skin than typical babies, so parents may find that babies who have sensitive skin and get rashes from disposable diapers have much healthier skin when they use cloth diapers! Our son with Down syndrome has definitely seen a dramatic decrease in diaper rash since switching to cloth diapers. 
Momma Jorje's son as a baby in pre-folds. So cute!!

Primary concerns
The biggest concern cited by physical therapists and parents is that excess bulk will exacerbate the tendency to splay hips too widely and could hinder gross motor skill development. As far as I know, there is no research into whether this is a valid concern or not; perhaps it'd be a good topic for future studies in the physical therapy field. 

What works
The easiest solution seems to be to make sure your diapers are relatively trim! There are several ways to search for cloth diapers that will not be excessively bulky.  Heather suggested that pocket diapers with a hemp insert are the very trimmest option, but sometimes not quite absorbent enough.  Next up would be a trim AIO (all-in-one)-Heather's favorite is Simplex and is what she uses about 50% of the time on both her babies. She also loves simple prefolds and covers and recommends the "premium short" prefolds from Cloth Diaper Outlet. They are made the same length as the cover, so you just fold in thirds, lay in cover, and are good to go! Heather said you can also fold them even skinnier so they are more trim--they won't be quite as trim as a disposable, but much more trim than a standard prefold.

I also checked in with several other mamas of cloth diapered little ones with Down syndrome to find out their favorites:
Jorje from Momma Jorje used prefolds and covers and elimination communication with her son who has Down syndrome. 
Drea from the Maiden Metallurgist reports that her favorite diapers for her year old with Down syndrome have been fitteds and wool. 
Lisa, another mom of an adorable toddler with DS who also sells cloth diapers says her favorite trim diapers are a Smart Bottoms and Tidy Tots brands (side note: Tidy Tots are manufactured in the US at a company that employs people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. So your baby with Down syndrome could be wearing a diaper sewed by an adult with Down syndrome!)
At 18 months old, my son is currently in a mixture of pocket and hybrid diapers and they all seem to fit fairly well without being excessively bulky.

The general advice is to try several different brands when you are first starting with cloth diapering so you can figure out which work best for you without a huge investment in any one brand, and I think that's all the more true when you're dealing with the challenges presented by special needs. I think it's also worth noting that there is a wide range of available sizes of cloth diapers, including diapers that fit babies as small as 4 lbs and up to 50lbs and beyond (through adult sizes). One brand with this wide range of sizes is Snap-EZ (which is run by a super sweet mom of 13, including two preschoolers with Down syndrome!!) I love that this broad size range means even preemies and very small newborns, and kids who are in diapers later than many of their same-age peers can find options that work for them.

Drea from the Maiden Metallurgist's son as a newborn in a woolie! Ovaries aching yet?!?

One other option is to pair cloth diapers with Hip Helpers. These special compression shorts are designed to help kids with special needs keep their hips from splaying too widely. If you have a physical therapist who objects to cloth diapers on these grounds, using hip helpers some of the time may be an acceptable compromise for both of you. 

So can you use cloth diapers on babies and toddlers with Down syndrome? My answer is a resounding "yes!" in almost all cases! It sure works well for us!

Interested in natural parenting for a little one with Down syndrome? Check out my other posts on Babywearing and Down syndrome and Gentle Parenting through Blood Draws!

*I am not a doctor, physical therapist, or any other type of health professional and I've never met your child. Please consult with your child's care team to adapt or even completely ignore my suggestions based on your individual child's needs and the advice of your care team. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How I used the Internet to make local friends: August Carnival of Natural Parenting

Welcome to the August 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Friends
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 stories and wisdom about friends.

There are so many moms who seem nice and like they think the same of me but don't seem actually interested in being my friend.  I've met them at the park. The library. Church. It's always the same; our friends play for a few minutes or an hour while we chat energetically, but then we leave without exchanging any contact information. Nothing more comes of it. Or maybe I see them again, and the same thing happens at another event or location.

But finally I've found a group of friends and friendly acquaintances. The last time I saw a mom with a baby in a ring sling at the grocery store and jokingly thought "hey, we should be friends!", it turned out we already are!
And when I enter cloth diaper or baby carrier giveaways that ask you to tag a friend, I now have actual people in my same city to tag that use cloth diapers and wraps too. Sometimes they even tag me first!

So where did I find "my tribe"? Online! My expanding group of friends is thanks to a Facebook group for families in our city interested in natural parenting. We discuss natural parenting topics in the group and have met at the park a few times. The first time I only knew one other mom, but as summer has worn on, I now have several new friends who share many of our parenting values and much of our parenting style. Some of them I can tell will probably stay casual friends, some friendly acquaintances, but a couple seem like they have a pretty decent chance to end up being real, lasting, deep friendships!

And chances are your city has similar groups that you can join to connect with like minded moms too! Look for natural parenting, babywearing, cloth diapering, and other such topical groups for your city or broader geographical area. Even if a group seems focused on something fairly specific, the friends you meet will surely be interested in talking about more than just that specific topic if they meet with you at the park. 

Making new mom friends can be tough, but the Information Age can make it easier. If you're having trouble finding local moms like you, try finding them online and then meeting in real life rather than just vise versa.
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:
(This list will be updated by afternoon August 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • Sibling Revelry — At Natural Parents Network, Amy W. shares her joy in witnessing the growth of the friendship between her two young children.
  • Making New Mama Friends — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama muses on how she was able to connect with like-minded mamas and form deep friendships both in 'real life' and online. Learn how these life-long friendships, both between Jennifer and other mothers but also between Jennifer's daughter and the other children, formed and flourished.
  • Family, Friends and Family Friends — Vidya Sury at Vidya Sury, Going A-Musing, Collecting Smiles is reflecting on family friendships, past and present.
  • Arranging friendships in a modern world — From a free-range childhood to current parenthood, how can an introvert like Lauren at Hobo Mama navigate the newly complicated scheduling of playdates and mom friends?
  • Mommy Blogs: Where Moms Make Friends — Mothers make friends with other mothers in new ways. The options from earlier decades remain, but new avenues have sprung up with mommy bloggers. Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. at Parental Intelligence shares her thoughts.
  • Friendship and Sacrifice: Guardians of the Galaxy — Shay at 4HisGlor y learned that friendship lessons can be found in unlikely places, like blockbuster summer movies.
  • Friendship - Finding, Forming, Keeping, and WishingLife Breath Present's thoughts on finding, forming, keeping, and wishing for friendships as an introvert.
  • Consciously Creating My Community: Monthly Dinners — How have you intentionally created community? Dionna at Code Name: Mama's goal for the year is to cultivate community. One way she's done that is to help organize two different monthly dinners with friends.
  • Adults need imaginary friends, too — Tat at Mum in Search shares why it's a good idea for adults to have imaginary friends. You get to meet Tat's friend and download a playbook to create your own.
  • Friends Near, Friends Far — Kellie at Our Mindful Life helps her kids keep in touch with friends 600 miles apart.
  • Which comes first, social skills or social life? — Jorje of Momma Jorje frets about whether her daughter can learn social skills without experience, but how to get good experience without social skills.
  • Snail Mail Revival — Skype isn't the only way to stay in touch with long distance friends, That Mama Gretchen and her family are breaking out the envelopes and stamps these days!
  • Montessori-Inspired Friendship Activities — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares a roundup of Montessori-inspired friendship activities for home or classroom.
  • How I used the internet to make local friends — After years of striking out at the park, Crunchy Con Mom finally found some great local friends . . . online!
  • My How Friends Change — Erica at ChildOrganics knows entirely too much about how to comfort a friend after a loss.

Monday, August 4, 2014

$3 DIY Nursing Infinity Scarf with supplies from Michael's!

Did you know this week is World Breastfeeding Week? To celebrate, I created this all new tutorial to make your own infinity scarf that can double as a nursing cover if you're breastfeeding in public and want a little (or a lot) more coverage than your clothes alone provide. 

What you need

A t-shirt, size XL or larger. I used a Gildan t-shirt in heathered sapphire that was on sale at Michael's for $3, but you can find the same shirt on Amazon too for a little more, or use a different shirt in XL or larger. 

Sewing machine
Ballpoint needle

What you do
Lay t-shirt flat on a big table or floor
Cut down sides just to the inside of armpits, through both layers of the shirt
Cut straight across front below neckline
Cut straight across back just below neckline
Lay front and back of shirt end to end, so that there is an unfinished edge next to what used to be the bottom of the shirt

Pin shirt so that finished seam (former bottom of shirt) will be on top of the unfinished edge

Sew the two pieces together (I used a black thread so you can see my terrible stitching. My preschooler was distracting me. Obviously if you use a color that matches your fabric it won't stand out like this does.) Don't forget to use a bit of backwards stitching at the beginning and end to secure it!

To keep your stitching straight, try having edge of hemmed shirt bottom line up with the edge of the presser foot. Too bad I didn't think of that while sewing the first hem!

Next pin the two unsewed edges together so that again, the finished hem that used to be the bottom of the shirt is on top. 

Stitch it up
Clip threads and trim edges as needed
Style it as desired!

To nurse, simply unwrap and un-scrunch it and position as desired. I like to have it under the arm of whichever side I'm nursing on. You can make it cover a little:

my preschooler let me borrow his ninja turtle since my real nursling was asleep
Or a lot

blurry photo also thanks to my preschooler
And Voila! For $3 you have a nursing infinity scarf that you can wear with you out and about to provide a little more coverage while nursing if that's something you're looking for. 

  • It'd be very cute and fun to tie dye the shirt either before or after transforming it into a scarf
  • This scarf is not very long, so I'd definitely not recommend doing it with a large t-shirt or any other size smaller than XL.
  • This would also be awesome to do with XL or larger tees from the thrift store (probably even less than $3!!)or souvenir shirt from a vacation!
  • If shirts aren't on sale at Michael's, they usually have a coupon available on their website!

While I personally like to use a cover, I unequivocally support the rights of all mothers to nurse with or without a cover wherever they may be, free from harassment or penalty. 

Amazon links are affiliate links; your product costs the same but I get a tiny cut of Amazon's profits.
I did not receive any compensation for this post.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Little Elliot Big City children's book review

What it is
Little Elliot Big City is a children's book about an elephant named Little Elliot who lives in a big city and feels too small sometimes. 

Who wrote it
Little Elliot Big City is written and illustrated by Mike Curato, who can be found on Facebook and Twitter, and is published by Henry Holt, which is a Macmillian imprint. You can connect with Henry Holt on Facebook, Twittertumblr and YouTube.

What we thought
My sons and I love Little Elliot Big City. The illustrations are just gorgeous, and for me, illustrations really make or break a children's book. When we first got the book, my sons both sat on my lap to listen to it three times in a row before going off to play other things. This book is sweet and charming without seeming frivolous or fake. The only thing that bothered me a bit was that there wasn't an explanation of why there is a small polka dot elephant living in the big city. Since this is his introductory book, and small elephants in big cities are highly unusual (Elliot is probably the first ever), it seems like a lot of people will probably wonder about that. I hope they provide Elliot's origin story in a future book.
My husband thought the story was okay for preschoolers and great for toddlers, and the pictures excellent. He thought they were reminiscent of an comparable in quality to the pictures in the Polar Express. His only complaint was the same as mine--the lack of a back story
I predict Little Elliot will become a household name like Spot and Paddington and Cordurory. 

Beautiful illustrations
Positive message

Lack of origin story

The bottom line
Little Elliot Big City is a deceptively simple, beautifully illustrated children's book about friendship and teamwork that I predict will become a classic. 


Get it
You can buy Little Elliot Big City beginning August 26th for $16.99 at stores and sites around the country. Pre-order it on Amazon now-priced at $13.59 at time of posting this review:

I received a free advanced copy of this book from Macmillian to review but received no other compensation for this post. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Babywearing as a Hobby: Collecting, Churning, Selling and Swapping

Mothers have been using baby carriers for pretty much all of recorded history, and as modern mamas in Western nations are rediscovering this amazingly useful skill, some of us are also discovering it can be really fun to collect and trade these gorgeous pieces of cloth! It is absolutely not necessary to have multiple wraps or buy and sell them in order to consider yourself a *real*, well-loved, essential part of the babywearing community. It is just a fun hobby that many of us enjoy a great deal!

Our newest wrap, Solnce Genesis Bliss, bought from a group on FB using PayPal

How to get started
The first step is to buy some baby carriers, learn to use them, and start figuring out what you like! 

Where to learn
There are babywearing groups on Facebook and websites like, and websites like devoted entirely to babywearing. There are also great YouTube channels like BabywearingFaith to help learn new wrapping techniques. As you learn more about different carries, fiber blends, wrap widths, taper length/angle, and types of weaves (sometimes known as "wrap geekery"), you will find yourself wanting to try different sizes and fiber blends from different companies to see how they differ and to find the perfect one for you! 
Where to buy 
When originally released, wraps can be bought directly from the manufacturer and from stores like Wrap Your Baby and Marsupial Mamas. Local cloth diaper stores may sometimes also carry more common brands of woven wraps. However many wraps are released in extremely limited quantities and sell out within minutes, so the only way to ever get to try one is to get extremely lucky or to buy one on the secondary market. There are several swaps on Facebook, like the Babywearing Swap and the High End Swap. The common practice in these groups and in the wrap swap sections of babycenter and is to use paypal for buying and selling wraps, as it offers some protection to both buyers and sellers in these private transactions. These groups almost always also have spin off "feedback" pages where members can check to make sure they are buying and selling to reliable people. Established members of these groups also commonly engage in paypal backed trades; because wraps can be quite expensive, especially for the most hard to find (htf) and highly sought after (hsa)  wraps, this helps prevent either party in a trade from being taken advantage of while still allowing them to try wraps they might not ever have otherwise gotten to see and use in real life!

How much does it cost?
Wraps themselves range in cost from under $100 for the least expensive options like little frog brand to over $1000 for hsa and htf wraps like artipoppe and uppymama wraps that are auctioned off. Beyond the cost of the wraps, the only real cost is shipping expenses, which range from about $5-20 for most shipments in the US but can cost much more for faster shipping and international shipping. Occasionally you may make money if a wrap you bought for retail price has become htf/hsa and gone up in value, but many in the babywearing community bristle at the idea of charging much more for a wrap than you yourself paid, so tread lightly if attempting to flip wraps for a profit. 

Like any type of collecting, churning woven wraps can be a great deal of fun, and the fact that wraps are beautiful and useful for caring for our children makes it even better than many other items we could be collecting instead!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The easy healthcare solution?

It's time for another big change to the laws and tax structure surrounding corporate healthcare. 

I have been thinking a lot the last few days about the recent Supreme Court case, and while on a certain level I celebrate that the decision seems to be in favor of religious freedom, I also totally understand the other side, and can see the potential for issues in the future with other religious objections to specific medical care. 

And more importantly, I see that as long as employers are required to pay for specific healthcare there will be opportunity for employers to be required to pay for specific healthcare they fear risking their soul to provide. 

The more I think about it, the more I feel the easiest solution is for employers to offer a healthcare allowance that employees could use to buy any healthcare plan they choose (within the price range obviously, or paying extra beyond the allowance out of pocket). This would allow employees to choose the healthcare they want without the employer feeling like they are sinning by paying for medications or procedures they feel are sinful. This could be done either through a reimbursement system, or by giving everyone a raise in the amount of the healthcare allowance, which would have the added bonus of allowing frugal employees to choose less expensive healthcare plans than some of their colleagues and save or spend the rest of their paycheck for other necessities, retirement, etc!

Because employers don't really want to micromanage others' healthcare decisions. Hobby Lobby executives don't spend their time making sure their employees don't buy alcohol or porn or other things that would be in opposition to the religious beliefs of HL owners. They just don't want to buy it themselves because they feel this jeopardizes their soul, and the current healthcare system makes them feel as if that is what they are required to do. 

I also thinking moving away from corporate healthcare plans would reduce the inequalities between plans for corporations and plans for small business owners, the self-employed, and others who are not provided healthcare by their jobs. Currently, this second group of people tends to pay more for less when it comes to healthcare. But the combination of laws and tax subsidies and breaks makes giving employees money to choose their own health care plan much more expensive for employers. Our tax structure rewards the current inequity through the breaks available to companies who provide corporate healthcare plans, and we ought revise that. This would also increase competition between healthcare plans, who will have to compete for employees of the biggest companies rather than automatically getting all or none of them depending on their contracts, and this would encourage companies to offer more coverage for lower prices, which would benefit all of us. 

Your boss shouldn't be able to decide what healthcare you receive. But they also shouldn't be forced to decide between being a good boss and violating their religious beliefs. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I am not a healthcare industry insider, so I could be missing something...this solution seems like a compromise that serves all parties well though!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Star Wars Workbook Review

What they are
The Star Wars Workbook collection is a new set of math, reading, and writing workbooks for preschool through second grade based on the characters and lore of the Star Wars universe. 

Who made them
Workman Publishing, one of the top publishing houses in the nation. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Our thoughts

We got to check out Star Wars Workbook: Preschool Shapes, Colors, and Patterns, Star Wars Workbook: Kindergarten Phonics and ABCs, and Star Wars Workbook: Kindergarten Writing and ABCs and loved all three. The preschool book was a little easy for my son who is almost 5, but not so easy that it was boring for him. The kindergarten phonics book seemed just right for him, and the writing book was hard for him, but not so hard that he couldn't do it. 
I really love that the Star Wars theme was so well incorporated into all the activities but not at the expense of educational content. The theme really enhanced the learning, and motivated my son to want to do more pages and do them well!


Good for both boys and girls

Only pre-k through 2nd grade available right now

The bottom line
If you are a parent, teacher, or otherwise involved in teaching a child from 3-7 who likes Star Wars, these books are a must-have!

Get it

The Star Wars workbooks are available from Amazon, most for $5.66 each at time of posting. They've also appeared on Zulily, so keep your eyes open for them there too!

I received sample copies of these books for free to review but received no other compensation for this post. Amazon links are affiliate links, so if you choose to use one, your price stays the same but I get a teensy bit of Amazon's profits.