Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dealing with teething pain naturally

Poor baby! Some children are relatively calm while teething, but others can be practically inconsolable.  It can break a parent's heart to watch you child scream for hours and not know what to do to help them.  Here are a few teething remedies that may just put that smile back on your child's face again.

Cold Things to Chew

Chewing on cold items can help to relieve teething pain naturally.  Think of it as an ice pack for baby's mouth.  Remember to always supervise your baby when they are handling anything small enough to choke on.

-- Dip a washcloth in breast milk, water, or chamomile tea and freeze
-- Offer chilled baby food at meal time if baby is ready for solids
-- Baby may chew on a large (not baby-sized!) carrot chilled in the refrigerator

Chewing Toys

There are a variety of chewing toys designed to ease teething pain on the market.  Materials such as hardwood, fabric, and leather are all good candidates.  Remember to buy teething toys from a reputable source.  Avoid anything that might contain dangerous chemicals or that may break or fall apart when subject to vigorous chewing and pulling.  Always inspect teething toys before handing them to your child to be sure that they are in good condition and do not pose a risk.

Amber Jewelry

Amber is a traditional, all-natural solution to pain relief that has been in use in some areas of the world for a long time.  It is said that the salacylic acid contained in baltic amber is activated by the warmth of your body temperature and released into your skin slowly over time.  For this reason, amber teething jewelry such as necklaces or bracelets should be worn continuously, and not reserved for times when your baby is showing signs of teething pain.  Some parents prefer to place amber jewelry around baby's ankle underneath a footed sleeper at night to eliminate any choking hazard while baby is sleeping.

Homeopathic Teething tablets

There are several brands on the market that make a homeopathic teething tablet whose active ingredient include things such as belladonna, chamomilla, german chamomile, and poke.  When used sparingly, these tablets can be a very effective teething solution.  The tablets are meant to be dissolved beneath the tongue and it takes only ten or so minutes before your baby will begin to feel some relief.  Many parents prefer to reserve these tablets for just before bed or nap time to help baby (and parents!) to get enough sleep.  Be sure to keep these and any other pills out of baby's reach and secured with a child-safe lock.  Even though they are made with only natural ingredients, there is such a thing as too much medicine!

Diluted Clove Oil

Clove oil has long been used for its medicinal properties, particularly when it comes to oral health.  Dip a cotton swab into the diluted solution and rub onto baby's gums for some fast-acting relief.  Never use undiluted clove oil, as this can burn baby's sensitive mouth.

The good news is that teething doesn't last forever.  Before long, your baby will be showing off some new teeth when he smiles.

Have you got a clever teething solution that worked for you?  Share below in the comments!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Diapers Defined -- What is a Flat Diaper?

What is it?

Flat diapers are cloth diapering at its simplest.  They are the oldest known style of diaper, and have been in use for most of history.  They are simply a square or rectangular piece of cloth that you fold to fit onto your baby.  They are generally made from natural fibers such as linen, cotton, hemp, or bamboo.  Any size may be used, but around 30" square is fairly standard.

Advantages of Flats

Flats wash very cleanly and are the quickest drying diaper.  This makes them very convenient to use if you are camping or need to wash your diaper laundry by hand.  They are also an excellent option for those traveling abroad.  Flats are also extremely versatile, and are one of the few diapering options that can fit just as well on a newborn as they can on a toddler.  For heavy wetters and older babies, it's easy to add extra layers of absorbency where they are needed the most.

A disadvantage of flats is that they do require a bit of extra time and effort when you are first learning how to use them.  Very active babies may not wish to hold still long enough to get an effective fit.  I still find flats to be a very convenient diapering option, and use them to diaper my own babies often.

How to Wash it

Most natural fibers will need to be washed several (usually 6-8) times before first use in order to wash away natural oils and increase fiber absorbency.  Alternatively, you could boil your flats in a large pot (about 20 minutes), followed by washing once or twice.  When you are completely finished with your washes, dry once, and then your diapers are ready to wear!

After normal use, you only need to wash your flats once.  I recommend doing a cold rinse, hot wash with a small amount of detergent, and a second rinse.  Then line dry, or use a dryer.

How to fold it

There are many different ways to fold a flat diaper.  Here are just a few to get started.


Fold in half horizontally.  Fold several times vertically.  Tuck excess under.  Use in any diaper cover designed for inserts.

Triangle Fold:

Pull bottom right corner to top left corner.  Then pull bottom left corner to top right corner.  Place under baby with long edge aligned with baby's belly button.  Pull bottom corner of triangle up through baby's legs, folding down any excess.  Pull left edge of triangle over baby's belly.  Pull right edge of triangle over baby's belly.  Secure with pin or snappi.

Prefold style:

This fold requires two flats.  Padfold first flat (see above) and place it slightly off center on unfolded flat.  Fold top and bottom of flat towards center.  Fold left side towards inner padfold.  Fold right side over about an inch, then over the padfold center.  Place baby on diaper and put on like a prefold.  Secure with a pin or snappi.


There are a few different options for holding a flat diaper closed once you have folded it around your baby.  You may not need any closure system if you are using your flat under a tight fitting wrap-style cover.  Other ways include:

Diaper belt
Mitten clips

Top it Off

You can use a flat diaper by itself, or add a cover on top as a moisture-resistant protective layer to keep leaks from happening.  Covers can be made of wool, polyester fleece, or PUL.  Remember to change your baby often (every 2 hours or as needed) to prevent rashes.

What is your favorite way to use a flat?  Share in the comments below!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Intro to Green Cleaning

One reason that parents may choose to cloth diaper their baby is to reduce the number of chemicals that their baby is exposed to.  We want our homes to be a place that is free from all of the chemicals that may be linked to health problems.  However, many of the most popular cleaning products from well-known and reputable brands contain undeclared ingredients, many of which may be toxic to your family.  These products might even have warning labels that merit concern.  Some parents hear horror stories about children swallowing cleaning products, leading to panicked phone calls to a poison control hotline, or having to rush the child to the hospital.  Others may be concerned with the environmental impact of washing these products down the drain.

My second son was born with a skin condition that makes him very intolerant of a wide variety of household products, including laundry detergent, soaps, shampoos, lotions, and household cleaning products.  Prior to his birth, I had no idea just how many chemicals Americans are typically exposed to on a daily basis.  Since many of the ingredients that were causing him the most problems were undeclared, finding things that would work for his skin was a process of trial and error.

What is it?

Green Cleaning methods typically involve ingredients that occur naturally and tend to be gentler on our skin and the environment.  I have found that when I use vinegar and baking soda to clean my house, I don't really need to use gloves to protect my hands.  I also don't need to worry as much about ventilation, and using these kinds of cleaning products does not make me cough or irritate my throat or chest.  Most of the cleaning formulas that I use take only a minute to mix and last for a long time.  Best of all, I have seen a vast improvement in my son's skin since I switched to these methods, so I know that they are gentler on skin than mainstream cleaning products.  Another bonus aspect to this cleaning method is that many homemade cleaning formulas are much cheaper to make than the products you may buy in a store.

How Does it Work?

There are many different ingredients and cleaning formulas available in books and on the internet to help you to clean your house without using synthetic chemicals.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Window Cleaner:

1c        Distilled white Vinegar
1c        Water
2TBsp  Lemon Juice

Pour ingredients into a spray bottle and shake to combine.  Spray onto dirty surface you wish to clean and wipe with a clean, dry cloth (I recommend a lintless flour sack towel).

Soap Scum Remover:

1/4c+     Baking Soda
2TBsp+ Water (HOT!)
1TBsp+ Distilled White Vinegar

Sprinkle a small amount of baking soda onto the affected tile or counter area, and add enough water to make a paste.  Scrub with a cleaning brush.  For stubborn spots, pour about a tablespoon of vinegar over the paste and allow it to bubble, then scrub until clean.

Cleaner for Mopping:

1/4 c  Borax
2 gal  Water (HOT!)

Pour water into mop bucket or sink.  Add the borax and stir until dissolved.  Use to mop floors or wipe counters to clean and sanitize.

Here are some links to kindle books on green cleaning available for download.  At the time this blog was published, they were available for free, though the offer is for a limited time only.

Natural Green Cleaning: 101 Non-Toxic DIY Hints & Cleaning Tips For Home Cleaning Using Vinegar

The Green Home Cleaning Guide: Clean Your House the Easy and Natural Way in Less than 30 Minutes a Day (Clean Green Minimalism)

Book Package: The Green Home Cleaning Guide: Clean Your House the Easy and Natural Way in Less than 30 Minutes a Day & Natural Green Cleaning: How to Clean Your Home Naturally

I hope you enjoy using these green cleaning methods.  Please share your experiences in the comments below!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cloth Diapers For Beginners -- Vocabulary Cheat Sheet

Cloth diapers can seem intimidating, especially for those who are just beginning to learn about them.  It's not really a complicated idea.  But with all of the different options available now, there's a whole new vocabulary to learn.  Let's break things down into some of the most popular options, and go from there.

Absorbent Inner Layers 

This is the functional part of the diaper.  Without an absorbent layer, you have no diaper.  Here are some examples:



Waterproof Outer Layers

Technically, you can use cloth diapers without an outer layer.  But it's risky.  Once the absorbent layer has reached its saturation point, there's nothing to keep leaks from happening.  Here are some examples:

Wrap covers
Pull-on pants


Combination Systems

I use the heading "combination" to include any diaper system where the absorbent inner layer and the waterproof outer layer are connected to function as one piece.  You generally put on and take off both layers with only one closure system.  Here are some examples:

Hybrid Diapers



One last consideration is what size diaper you are purchasing.  Sized diapers are designed to fit most babies within a certain weight range.  You need to buy a new size diaper when your baby outgrows it, every few months.  Examples:


Other diapers have a system of snaps or folds to make them adjustable as the baby grows.  Many of these are called "One-size", meaning only one diaper size is needed from generally around 8 pounds until the child is ready to potty train.



Cloth diapers need something to hold them in place as the baby moves around.  The closure can be on the inner layer, on the outer layer, or on both.  Some examples:

Diaper Belt


That's It!

There are additional accessories and products that you can use along with your cloth diapers, but for the actual functional diaper, that's all you really need to know to get started.  I plan to write additional articles outlining the function, pros, and cons of these different types of diapers, so stay tuned!


Do you have any questions about how different cloth diapers work?  Please let me know in the comments below!


There are still some cloth diaper covers in my Etsy shop.  Check them out!
*** Earth Stork Etsy Shop *** 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Newborn Sleep Strategies

Having a baby can change your life in so many ways.  One of the hardest changes for many new parents is that your sleep schedule can be thrown completely out of whack.  Sleep deprivation can be devastating to your immune system and even your mental health.  It is vital for new parents to get as much sleep as possible so that they will be able to continue to give their babies the care and attention that they need.  Here are a few ideas to help you to weather the storm.

1.  Swaddle your Baby

Swaddling is an age-old strategy that has been used for babies for over 2000 years.  It's a funny word, but it basically just means to wrap your baby very tightly in a thin blanket.  Think of a baby burrito, and you'll have an idea of what I'm talking about.  Swaddling works because it gives babies a feeling similar to being wrapped in someone's arms, and suppresses their startle response while their nervous system is still developing.  I've found that swaddled babies tend to fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep a little bit longer.

2.  Prep your Supplies

Before you even think about heading to bed, you need to get an area set up for middle-of-the-night baby care.  It doesn't have to be anything fancy, but you need to have an area where all of your supplies are gathered and ready to go.  If you bottle feed, get your bottles and formula or pumped milk ready to go.  If you breastfeed, get your nursing pillow, breast pads, and nipple cream together.  Set up your changing area as well.  Fold your diapers, prep your inserts, get your covers lined up, and make sure your diaper pail is within throwing distance.  Also, don't forget to prepare a few treats for yourself.  Set up a music playlist (with headphones) or a movie, or pick out a book to read, and grab something to snack on and a bottle of water.

3.  Borrow Gadgets First

Babies are all born with their own little personalities, and I've found out the hard way that what works for one may not work for another.  For instance, my second baby absolutely loved to sleep in a baby swing, and wouldn't fall asleep anywhere else.  I was ready to declare baby swings as the number-one must-have gadget that every new parent should buy ... until baby number three came along and totally blew my theory out of the water.  She hated being in a swing and would scream at the top of her lungs whenever she was in it.  So if you're in a position to borrow a baby gadget from a friend or family member, it might save you the frustration of spending big bucks for something that simply doesn't help your family.

4.  Consider Room Sharing

I will fully admit that room sharing is not for everyone.  For some people, hearing every tiny sound that your baby makes in the middle of the night is a sure-fire way to get absolutely no sleep at all.  But for many people, room sharing can make middle-of-the-night baby care so much easier.  No stumbling through the house at 2am, running back and forth whenever you hear a sniffle, having to sit in a dark room feeding the baby when all you want is to be in your own bed.  I really like keeping the baby in a bassinet or crib right next to my bed, within arm's reach.  When the inevitable middle-of-the-night feeding time rolls around, I can pick up my baby, change the diaper, and feed her without ever getting out of my bed.  This means that I can avoid the shock of lights and cold floors and I generally fall asleep faster and more deeply than if I had to run across the house.

5.  Don't Set an Alarm

Unless you have someplace that you need to be first thing in the morning, I would leave the alarm clock off.  Having your sleep interrupted several times during the night means that your sleep is less restful.  Going to bed a little early, or sleeping in in the morning, are ways that you can help your body to compensate.  Of course, you may not be able to sleep in if you have a job or if other children need your attention.  But don't just get up at 6am because it's your normal time to get up.  Your body will tell you how much sleep it needs, and I promise that the chores and errands will still be there when you are rested enough to do them properly.

6.  Daytime Naps

It may feel a little bit strange if you are not used to sleeping during the day, but taking a nap can be a great way to re-energize and get over the afternoon slump.  Most babies will nap at least a couple of times a day, and while you are still establishing a routine, you should definitely take advantage and get a bit of sleep yourself.  Blackout curtains or a sleep mask can help with this.  Put on some restful music, put your cell phone on silent, and take some time to recharge.  Even 20 minutes can make a huge difference.

7.  Bring in Some Help

Many new parents can feel a little burnt out as they try to take care of a new baby.  Being on call 24/7 can be very emotionally draining.  It's helpful to pool your resources and find someone that can lend an extra hand now and again to give you a break.  Your significant other can take turns getting up with the baby, or give you some time to yourself once a day to shower, drink something hot, or take a walk by yourself.  A friend may be able to come over once or twice a week to give the baby some cuddles and give your arms a break.  Be sure to reach out to whoever you have available and let them know specific ways that they can help you.

Taking good care of yourself is the only way that you will be able to take care of your baby.  But every family is different, and some of these suggestions may need to be modified, depending on your situation.  Just do your best to rest when you can, whatever you need to to maintain your sanity.  The newborn stage will not last forever, and before you know it, your sweet little cherub will be sleeping through the night.

Do you have any tips for getting enough rest with a new baby?  Share your stories in the comments below!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Use a T-shirt to Cloth Diaper Your Baby!

Did you know that with a few simple folds, you can use a regular adult t-shirt as a cloth diaper?  This is a really cool trick that I learned from a friend.  It's a simple way to try out cloth diapering without making a big investment, and it can come in handy in an emergency.  The end result looks amazing; I bet your friends would never guess what you used as a diaper!

Choose your Tee

You can really use almost any t-shirt for this project.  I would suggest using one that is 100% cotton, as these are more absorbent than shirts that contain nylon or polyester.  I would also avoid thick shirts, or those with long sleeves -- these choices would make a diaper that is impossibly bulky.  If you are concerned about absorbency, you can always use a second t-shirt to double the fabric.

Fold your Diaper

Video Instructions for Small Babies.


On a t-shirt with a very open weave, you may be able to use a Snappi to hold your diaper closed.  However, I have found that diaper pins usually give me a much more reliable hold.  With certain folds and babies, you might be able to roll and tuck the sides tightly enough to keep the diaper in place with no additional closure device.  Some wrap diaper covers may be worn tightly enough to hold the diaper in place.  Or you may wish to use a diaper belt on your baby.

Add a Cover 

This step is optional, but if you are going to be out of the house, using a cover can help to contain leaks until you are able to change your baby's diaper.  Your cover should be moisture-resistant and fit snugly on the waist and legs.  There are many ways to make a cover for very little money if finances are an issue.

That's It!

Now you will never be more than a few folds away from a diaper.  Enjoy your new t-shirt origami skills.  Impress your friends at parties!  Eh, well, maybe not that ...

Have you tried folding a diaper from a t-shirt?  Let me know how it went in the comments section!


Find a Wool Diaper Cover to go over your brand new t-shirt diaper.  Check out my Etsy Shop!

*** Earth Stork Etsy Shop ***   

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ways to Make a Wool Cover

I first learned about wool diaper covers when I was pregnant, with many months to go before my due date.  That meant that I had plenty of time to explore different ways of making wool covers to find out what method I liked the best.  There are three main ways to construct a wool diaper cover -- through crochet, knitting, and sewing.


For both crochet and knitting, you need to find a source of untreated wool yarn.  If the package says "superwash", then it has been chemically treated to be machine washable.  This is great news for sock and sweater makers, but not so great for cloth diapers.  I've tried a few different brands of wool, and I have to say that so far I really prefer Paton's classic wool.  This is a worsted weight yarn that is spun a little bit loosely but still holds together quite well (I rarely split a stitch).  It also comes in a variety of really lovely colors, and it seems to hold up really well under a moderate amount of use when it has been knit or crocheted tightly.

For sewing, you need to find your fabric source.  Some people prefer to buy new fabric, and some people prefer to source fabric from used sweaters or blankets.  Again, if you are buying new fabric, check labels carefully, and stay away from anything that has been chemically treated.  An advantage of buying new fabric is that you may be able to find something that is certified organic.  However, many people prefer the challenge of using old sweaters, and claim that "upcycling" is more eco-friendly because it is repurposing something that may otherwise have ended up in the landfill.

If you are sewing your diaper covers, you will also need to source your thread carefully.  Cotton is absorbent, and can cause moisture to seep through at the seams if you use it in your diaper cover construction.  I find that polyester thread works well.  You may also wish to try a wool thread, but as these are mostly produced for embroidery machines, they can be very expensive.


Whatever method of construction you prefer, you are going to need a pattern to follow.  I have used a whole slew of free patterns that I have found all over the internet.  Here are a few of my favorites:

If I had it all to do over again, I would have stopped right here instead of trying out the dozen or so other crochet patterns.  This pattern is not only easy, it's also easy to customize.  And believe it or not, it actually fit my baby better than a lot of the other "fitted" diaper cover designs.  It also stretches as my baby grows better than many of the other designs that I've tried.  I can't say enough good stuff about this pattern.

Like the crochet castle pattern, this pattern is both simple and versatile.  It is made by knitting in the round and is, therefore, seamless.  I will admit that, when I tried to knit diaper covers for my baby, I was still very much a beginner knitter.  It took me much longer to finish a knit piece, and they did not wear well because I had knit the piece more loosely than a more experienced knitter would have done.  But I have a friend who knit this pattern for her diaper covers, and she was very happy with the design.

This pattern has become a bit of a legend among cloth diaper sewers.  It fits beautifully and looks great.  It's not quite as simple of a design as the other patterns, but it also has a printable pattern, so you can lay it down over your fabric and cut away to get the right shape.  This diaper pattern is sized, and doesn't stretch much as your baby grows.  They only take a few seams to make, though, so if you have cheap enough materials, it might be worth it.  These also make a great pattern for underwear for those who are doing Elimination Communication parenting, or for toddler underwear after your child is fully out of diapers.

There are many other patterns and tutorials available on the internet, designed for people of all different levels of proficiency.  If you are feeling especially creative, you may even wish to design your own pattern.  (Don't forget to share it with me!)  Have fun crafting your very own wooly diaper creations!

Don't have time to make your own wool diaper covers?  Support a WAHM!  Check out the beautiful cloth diaper covers I have in my Etsy shop!