I want to sell products that I am confident in. I have put a lot of time and effort reading customer reviews about the products I sell, and I have used a lot of them myself. I hope my experiences can help you make a decision about what kind of baby products you want to use, and how you want to raise your child.
Before our first child was even born, I knew I was going to use cloth diapers. I can't really say what prompted me to make this decision, I suppose it was a combination of factors. The low cost of cloth diapers compared to single-use diapers and the environmental hazards associated with single-use diapers were probably the biggest factors in my decision. We have had four children in cloth diapers now, and my husband and I are both happy with our decision.
For the first month that our first child was in cloth diapers, we used a diaper service, which is an excellent way to give cloth diapers a test drive without making the initial investment. After a month, I was was hooked on the diapers, but I wasn't so keen on the price of the diapering service. I was paying approximately the same price for the diaper service as what I would pay for single-use diapers. Furthermore, when my daughter would be old enough to eat solids, I would have to rinse the poop out of the diaper service diapers myself. Now if I could do this, surely I could go the extra step and throw them in the washing machine, after all, rinsing the poop is the worst part.
After doing some research on the Internet, I decided to stay with Bummi wraps and chinese prefold diapers. These are the diapers that we had used with the diaper service, and we already owned four covers, so all I needed to do was buy a couple more covers and some prefold diapers (small 4x8x4 prefolds, three dozen). Our investment in diapers (including cloth training pants) to date is approximately $600 CDN, the bulk of our diapers have lasted through all four children, though I did replace covers after #2 was born, and I have bought diapers 'just for fun' here and there. We have approximately 12 covers (size small and medium), five dozen prefolds (3 dozen small and 2 dozen medium sized, 4x8x4), 5 hemp liners, and 5 pairs of cloth training pants.
In the beginning, I was washing cloth diapers once every three days (a baby poops *a lot* in the early days, be forewarned!). It wasn't really much of a chore, my babies have been exclusively breastfed for the first six months, so I didn't have to worry about rinsing the poop out of their diapers (the poop of breastfed babies is water-soluble). Since I was already doing lots of laundry due to baby spit up, I was in the laundry room anyway. I have always used a dry pail, which I think makes things easier. I wash diapers on hot with a cold rinse, using the highest water level. I use Nellies laundry soda, occassionally, I will also add some drops of tea tree essential oil to the wash cycle (makes the diapers smell heavenly!). I dry the prefold diapers in the dryer (never with fabric softener), but I let the covers air dry. I know some people will pre-soak their diapers first because hot water can set in stains, but I have never done this. I periodically sun my diapers (hang them in the sun to dry), and this takes care of stains -- my diapers are still bright white, after four babies, no less! If my diapers get stinky, I use less detergent, and I add an extra rinse.
Once it came time to rinse out the poop (due to solids), that wasn't even as bad as I thought it would be. We didn't have to worry about this our babies were about nine months old -- that's when they were eating enough solids to affect the consistency of their poop. If you change your baby's bum soon enough, the poop usually just shakes out into the toilet. Otherwise, I just put on a pair of rubber gloves and dunk the diaper in the toilet bowl. All in all, it's really not that bad. As a matter of fact, if you read a package of single-use diapers, you'll see that you're *supposed* to take the poop out of the diaper before you throw it away! My husband was quite keen on the mini-shower, but he's a dad, and dads like that kind of thing (they also have an extremely low threshold for things like poop and spit-up, but that's neither here nor there!).
When my first daughter was about 13 months old, I read a very interesting article in the local newspaper about something called 'elimination communication'. I can't recall the exact details, but basically, it was about how some people start pottying their children earlier than the age recommended by today's doctors. There was an interesting statistic in the article about how 30 years ago, 95% of children were out of diapers by the age of 18 months... imagine that! Intrigued, I did a little more research into elimination communication (EC), and started pottying Maddy after naps and after she nursed. Sure enough, I 'caught' a lot of pees! It was very motivating to see progress, so we kept up with it.
When Maddy learned to walk, she lost interest in the potty, but it picked up again once the novelty of walking wore off. At this point, I was working out of the home; when we'd come home at night (and in the morning as we got ready for work), Maddy was kept diaperless around the house. We would potty her, and made sure to keep a potty accessible to her, but we did have accidents. We wouldn't get frustrated with Maddy, we'd just sit her on the potty and explain that pee goes in the potty. At about 16 months, she started to go to the potty on her own, and by 19 months, she was totally dry through the day. It was a very gentle process, she was not forced to use the potty.
When our second daughter was born, I decided I would try ECing her right from the get-go. I first pottied her around 2 wks of age. It was extremely easy, she would pee like clockwork immediately after a nap, and immediately after nursing. By 4 months of age, Hannah was napping without a diaper. We had days when we only used one diaper, and I would 'catch' all of her pees and poops. I didn't rely on any kind of cues/signals from Hannah, it was more of an intuition -- I would learn her pattern, and potty her accordingly. We did hit 'rough patches' when her pattern changes, and I need to sort things out. Like Maddy, Hannah had lost interest in being pottied as she was learning to walk. We went through a couple of months pottying Hannah unsuccessfully. Rather than struggle with her, I eased up on it. When Hannah finally mastered walking around 14 months of age, she became intersted in the potty again. When she was 14.5 months old, she walked to the bathroom, pointed to the toilet, and said 'Eeee'. I put her on the toilet, and she peed. From that point on, she was been diaperless at home, and on short outings. If I pottied her frequently, she was fine. If there's a potty accessible, she will potty herself.
I pottied my son from birth as well, he took to it like a fish to water -- that boy was diaperless at home for the most part from 7 months of age onwards. I EC'ed him at night for a period (until he was sleeping for longer blocks), and I have to say, when I was inclined to do it, it worked well. Owen was fully in underwear though the day at 11 months of age (yes, 11 months), and he was dry at night well before he turned 2 years old. So much for the theory that boys are harder to potty train.
Grace, our last baby, is now 15 months old, and like Owen was at her age, she is out of diapers most of the time at home. I will take her out of the house for quick trips (anything less than an hour) diaperless, however, she's not the best sleeper, so she has always napped with a diaper on.
A lot of people consider EC to be weird/unnatural. However, I think it's weird/unnatural to let a child sit in their own urine/fecal matter until the age of 3, which is roughly the age at which most children in single-use diapers potty train. I think the concept of waiting to start potty training a child until he can physically pull his own pants up/down is absurd. The earlier you start, the easier it will be, trust me!
If a child can't feed himself, the parent feeds him... Yes, it's messy to start, and you do the work, but your child will eventually figure it out, and the end result is rewarding for you both. Why should potty training be any different?
Like I knew I wanted to use cloth diapers, I also knew I was going to breastfeed my daughter before she was born. My mother had breastfed all of my siblings and I, and my sister had given birth to a boy six months before my daughter was born, so I had lots of exposure to breastfeeding from her. As a result of that, I knew that the first few weeks of breastfeeding would be rough, but I also knew that if I stuck with it, both of us (my daughter and I) would get the hang of it. I had also done a lot of reading to prepare myself, so I was well-aware of the numerous benefits associated with breastfeeding.
When my daughter was born, I'm happy to report that she latched on like a champ within 20 minutes of coming out. We were ecstatic. While I was in the hospital, the nurses were very good at showing me how to hold her properly and latch her on properly. When I came home, however, it was a different story. As a new mother I worried... alot! Until my milk came in, I was worried that I wouldn't have any milk. After my milk came in, I was worried that my daughter wasn't nursing enough (she was very quick at the breast). Probably the hardest thing was not knowing *exactly* how much breastmilk she was drinking. With a bottle, you know that a baby drinks x ounces of formula, but when a baby is at the breast, for those first few weeks, I found it worrisome.
I was reassured, however, by the number of wet and poopy diapers she had, and by taking my daughter to a walk-in breastfeeding clinic. The nurse at the breastfeeding clinic helped me with our latch (all I can say is make sure the baby's mouth is totally open before you put him/her on the breast!), and seeing her gain weight was reassuring to me.
I always warn moms that they will more than likely run into some issues (usually latch problems) when their baby is born. I cannot stress enough how normal this is, and that it's just something you have to work at -- just because you hit a bump in the road doesn't mean breastfeeding won't work out for you. With patience and perseverence, it will be one of the most wonderful things you can do for your child. Fortunately, Ottawa has lots of free breastfeeding drop-ins, so if you need help, it's easy to find.
Once we had the hang of things, it was smooth sailing from there. I was relieved not to have to fuss with sterilizing bottles and preparing formula, and I was happy about all of the benefits that my daughter would derive from my breastmilk.
One of the first baby-related purchases I made before my daugher was born was a front-pack carrier -- "What a neat idea," I thought. Of course, at this point, I had no idea how hard it would be to put the carrier on, then put my baby in it. Even harder was taking the carrier off. After my daughter was born, I found the carrier useful, but awkward to use. Initially, the carrier didn't even fit me. For the first couple of weeks, I was still carrying around a big belly, and the carrier's belt wouldn't fit around my waist (I'm not a large person, it just wasn't cut very generously).
When I could fit the carrier, putting it on was a challenge (remember, as a new mom, you'll largely be home alone -- no third hand to help out!). But I will admit, once I got used to it, the carrier was very handy. If my daughter was fussy, nothing settled her more than to be in the carrier while I was vaccuuming. Let's just say I had very clean floors!
I started taking my daughter to a playgroup for other first-time mothers when she was 4 wks old. That's where I was introduced to the concept of a sling. I thought it was amazing! Needless to say, I ran out and bought my own. I was happy that I was able to nurse my daughter and have both hands free. It was also easier to put on and take off than the front-pack carrier.
At some point, I started to read about other types of slings, and I came across the Maya Wrap. It got great reviews, so I purchased one for myself. The sling I had bought at a local department store was handy, but I found it hard to adjust with my growing baby. The Maya Wrap was excellent. It is made out of 100% Guatamalen cotton, and it comes in a number of funky prints. The sling is very easy to adjust, and the shoulder strap can be spread across your shoulder to distribute your baby's weight evenly (rather than concentrating the weight on one spot). Furthermore, I liked the fact that when I adjusted the sling, I could tighted the top, pulling my baby close to me.
Three babies later, and a myriad of carriers later, I can honestly say that our slings have been invaluable to parenting. I have never had to worry about being one-handed due to carrying a baby in one hand... baby has always been safely nestled in a baby carrier, leaving me free to tend to the other kids, or whatever else I have to do. I've never had to wrestle with a bulky stroller, and our babies have had a great birds-eye view of what's going on. We've all enjoyed our babywearing years, I'll be sad to see those days end!