When you’re first becoming a parent, you’ll find that there are so many different choices you’ll need to make. Often times, many soon-to-be moms don’t even know all of the options that they have available to them. Will you have a homebirth or a hospital birth? Breastfeed, bottle feed or formula feed? Will you use disposable or cloth diapers? Will you use plastic or wooden toys? Choosing can be overwhelming and daunting but also exciting at the same time. Just remember, you’re the mama here, so you’re in charge! It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about your parenting choices. It’s your child and you will do what you feel is best!
Before we get started, I just want to put a disclaimer that this post by no means is meant to shame other moms for their choices. If you didn’t, don’t, or won’t do the things I mention in this post, THAT IS OK. I merely want to share a few of the parenting choices I have made that I’ve really loved or been grateful for. I’m definitely not a perfect mother–no one is. We are all just trying our best and doing what works best for us and our family.
One of the parenting choices I obsessed over during pregnancy was diapers. Seriously, ask my husband how many hours I spent talking to him about the different brands, styles, how they worked, wash routines etc. when I was in my second trimester. It was so bad that one day he just said “If I let you buy them, will you quit talking to me about it?” Well, we bought them the next day.
I’ll be honest, the original reason that I looked into cloth diapering was to save money. I had heard people talk about how much money they spent each month for diapers and I was not excited to have to add that to my budget. I watched countless videos and read articles about whether or not it was actually cheaper to cloth diaper even when you would be doing more laundry and needing to buy more soap. The consensus: yes it was cheaper. The savings skyrocketed if you had more than one child as well. As I’ve gone on in my natural living journey, I’ve grown even more appreciative of doing cloth diapers. Disposable diapers end up in landfills and they take 500 years to decompose! And one baby uses about 2500 to 3000 diapers in their first year. That’s a lot of diapers just sitting in the ground not decomposing! Additionally, disposable diapers are made with chemicals and things that should not be near your skin. We had Kylie in disposable diapers for a little bit and many of them would give her rashes because of the chemicals. I’ve also seen many moms talk about chemical burns and other issues with disposable diapers.
I know most people’s many complaint, worry, or hesitation is dealing with the poop. I get it–that’s valid. Honestly, cloth diapers really aren’t that much different from disposable diapers with poop clean ups. As a parent, you are going to deal with poop. Sorry, it’s going to happen. But, I found that with cloth diapers, we didn’t have any blowouts. The cloth diapers’ elastic around the legs and lower back kept the poop contained to the diaper. This meant a lesser mess to clean up!
As far as for non-pooplosions, the clean up is the same. Rather than a trash can for the disposable diapers, you have a diaper pail to put the cloth diapers in. While a baby is breastfed, the poop is water soluble, meaning you just throw it in the pail and then throw it in the wash on laundry day without ever needing to touch it again. You do need to add an extra cleaning step before the wash once starting solids, but if you do my second parenting recommendation, elimination communication, you shouldn’t need to do that too much either!
Lastly, cloth diapers are supposed to help with potty training as it helps with their awareness. Rather than feeling dry when they pee, they can feel the wetness and notice when it happens. Whether you do elimination communication or conventional potty training, cloth diapers will give you a leg up on that as well.
I mentioned this briefly previously, so you’re probably wondering, “What is elimination communication?” Well, put simply, it’s helping your baby with their eliminating (pottying) needs just as you would when they are hungry or tired. Because we are mammals, we have a strong urge to not soil ourselves. Babies don’t want to go in a diaper, but they do WHEN they aren’t given another option. However, if you watch for your baby’s signals that they need to go to the bathroom, you can help them do this. I’m going to give a brief overview or what elimination communication is, and I’m always willing to help with any questions, but I highly recommend Andrea Olsen’s book (at godiaperfree.com) as well as her free resources such as her podcast or youtube videos. I’ve learned a lot from her and I don’t think we would have been quite as successful without the guidance from those various resources.
Elimination communication is only a little bit more effort but the payoff is definitely worth it. Kylie is only 14 months old and I can count on one hand how many poopy diapers I’ve needed to deal with since she was 9 months old! We probably only “miss” around 20% of her pees on average. Some days we do better than others, of course.
Many people start EC from birth (which I plan to do with our next baby), but we didn’t start until she was 10 weeks old because I felt I had a better handle on my new life with a newborn. Previous to EC, when she would get fussy and I knew I had just fed her, I would give her the pacifier to calm down. I thought she had reflux and that the pacifier helped with that. After observing her and starting our EC journey, I learned that that fussiness was actually her signaling to me that she needed help to go relieve herself. At that point, we stopped giving Kylie her pacifier when she was awake unless we were in a car. I learned and believe so strongly that our babies are SO smart and try hard to communicate with us. They are in tune with their bodies and the world around them, we just need to unplug and reconnect with them.
Once we started catching more, we started using diapers less. I had less diapers to wash which means that this technically also made our “diaper bill” even cheaper. It also is amazing to watch how much your baby loves potty time. Kylie would always be so smiley on the potty because she feels respected, cared for, and tended to. If you do choose to do EC, my biggest piece of advice would be to not stress. If you catch something, that’s awesome! Relish in those moments! When you miss, just move on. It’s no big deal. If you weren’t doing EC, they would have gone in that diaper anyway, so you’re still way ahead of the game. Elimination communication also helps with earlier and easier potty training–so that’s an additional bonus!
BABY LED WEANING
Let me start by saying that I am a firm believer in waiting until your baby is showing all of the signs of readiness to begin solid foods and that they need to be 6 months old. Many pediatricians will recommend starting solid foods at 4 months, but your baby’s gut is still too immature and that age is from an outdated recommendation from the AAP. The AAP has since said that you should wait until 6 months to give your baby solid foods.
So, what is baby led weaning? Basically, baby led weaning is skipping the purees and letting your baby munch on whatever you are eating! We adjusted it a little bit and didn’t give Kylie meat until she was a year old. Baby led weaning has a variety of benefits that made me want to do it even though no one else in my family has before. First, baby led weaning can be easier on your budget since you aren’t needing to buy expensive baby purees. I also learned that purees can actually make it more dangerous to introduce solid foods because of where the food goes on the baby’s tongue and how they immediately swallow it. Baby led weaning also helps your baby learn about different foods and their textures and their curious brains will love all of that stimulation! Lastly, it helps them become better/less picky eaters and they learn how to use utensils faster.
A big component of baby led weaning is letting your baby do it themselves. It is more hands-off and Montessori aligned, which I also like. You basically let your baby investigate the foods and practice putting them in their mouths. You can let them use their own spoon and guide it to their mouths which helps them learn that skill faster as well.
A common worry I hear is, won’t my baby choke? I completely understand that fear and something that helped us feel more prepared was taking a CPR/first aid class with someone and we focused on practicing infant CPR. It is also important to know the difference between a child that is gagging and one that is choking. Your child WILL gag during this process. They are learning where the back of their throat is and when food hits the back of their throat they will gag just like you and I would. This is a good thing! It is their body’s way of pushing the food back to a safe spot in their mouth. Kylie has gagged many times since we have started BLW (baby led weaning) but she has never actually choked before. If your child is coughing, do not intervene! Coughing is a sign that they are still getting oxygen and their body is working to push the food out. If you hit them on the back you could actually lodge the piece of food into a spot where their body can no longer get oxygen. Instead, you want to wait until they are silent and this is when they are actually choking and need help. Like I said, we have never dealt with Kylie needing us to intervene before. I do pay close attention when she gags and look for the signs that she needs my help so that I am ready.
So that’s it! In my parenting journey, I am doing quite a few things that wouldn’t be considered “mainstream” but these three I have really found to benefit Kylie and I and I’ve really been glad that we’ve chosen to do them. If you are curious about the other parenting decisions I’ve made or things that we do in our home, follow along on the blog as I’ll be sharing the things I’m learning, changes I’m making, and what I think of different things. If you do any of the above things or have something that you implement in your home that you think I would like, I would love to hear about them!