Category Archives: Products

The worst thing about reusable nappies

I had initially planned this post to be an in-depth description of how we came to choose reusable diapers, within a few days of V. being born. My intention was to assure you we weren’t hippies. However, I was awake from midnight to 02:30 this morning with a daughter who did not want to sleep. I’m too tired so I’ll skip to the punch line.

After 8 months of reusables, the worst part (so far) is to be found in holding a used diaper over the toilet bowl and scraping half-formed stools into the water before flushing them away. Yes, folks, they don’t talk so much about this on the websites that sell the nappies. As her poo becomes more solid thanks to weaning, it becomes less practical to rely on a domestic washing machine to thoroughly wash the nappies. So this chore is a smelly and fairly disgusting new development.

It’s also why we have a dedicated pair of rubber gloves, held aloft on the bathroom tiling by a rubber-suckered clip. We also bought a special zip-up bag – with a rubber lining – that can hold 8-10 used nappies until wash day. The bag, contents and all, then go straight into the washing machine. Essential, unless you are intending to wash her nappies every day.

I wonder if reusable nappies encourages parents to move to potty-training faster?

Baby carrier review

I mentioned just before Christmas that we were using a baby carrier for short trips out and about in our local area. Now, at five months, V. is a little bigger, has better neck control and is more robust. So the baby carrier is becoming a more useful alternative to our pram. It doesn’t hurt that it comes in a military green colour and kinda has the feel of a flak jacket when you put it on.

What’s suprising me, though, is how much my back starts to complain after just a couple of hours of wearing this thing.

As a personal trainer, it’s a matter of professional pride to eliminate this weakness from my performance. Yes, this is how personal trainers talk. It’s also disappointing because, in my professional life, I focus a lot on maintaining a pain-free, flexible and healthy back.

I suspect that this problem is common no matter which baby carrier you have. Ours is the best baby carrier on the market – a present from my Dad. It has many adjustable straps, padded waist belt and a support bar that runs down the spine.

The manufacturer’s own website shows the waist belt being positioned around the belly button. As I have always adjusted rucksacks so that the waist belt sits on my hips, I did the same with the baby carrier. I feel this allows some of the weight to be taken on the hips and not by my lower back or shoulders. Another issue to look at are the shoes I wear when I have the carrier on.

Any shoe or boot with a heel will tilt your hips into an anterior pelvic tilt. This can put undue pressure on the low back as the lower vertebrae go into hyperextension. Could those hiking boots I sometimes wear also be contributing to the soreness? I’ve switched to flatter shoes when wearing the carrier.

Both of these strategies have helped relieve tiredness and stiffness in my back when carrying V. around.

But I see a problem further ahead. As the baby gets bigger, its common to turn her around in the baby carrier so that she can face forwards. That is great for her experience. However this means that a heavier baby has now moved her centre of gravity forwards, away form yours. As far as I understand it, this means even more demands on the back and shoulders.
Nothing new to pregnant women, of course.

Clearly, I need to think about a dedicated workout to help cope with the stresses and strains of the new dad experience.

Laundry tubs are bags of fun

With the reusable nappies firmly part of our daily lives,

With a growing baby’s wardrobe plus continuous resuable nappy use, laundry has rather taken over the flat. And my laundry skills have been lacking. Once in a while we’ve find ourselves without muslin cloths or a baby towel for bath time or an insert for one of the nappies or any underwear for the grownups.

Buying more linen and clothes isn’t advisable. Knowing myself and F., we’ll just end up with larger piles of laundry.

So at Christmas, my wife gave me a set of plastic tubs in a variety of colours. You know the kind: flexible ones that seem to be on every building site nowadays. I already have one for our tiny roof garden. Now I have a set to help organise the laundry. They’re tough, but very light, flexible (for shoving into corners), wipeable and stackable.

The first step was to colour code the tubs. There is therefore no need to sort out a laundry load in front of the washing machine. It’s all in one tub. The other advantage is that it becomes very easy to see what type of washing is building up and therefore ought to take priority. The nappies have their own zippable bag which essential to keep the smell in until they are washed. Everything thing goes in a tub.

I’m now working on a laundry schedule. My aim is to cut down the number of washes we do on the week and to maximise exactly what goes into each wash.

“Baby Carrier Makes Christmas Shop Slightly Less Difficult” Shock

So this is what all my training is for. The hours spent following strength training protocols, interval training and SAQ work come together for a purpose. I always thought I was preparing for the zombie apocalypse but no, it was in fact, so that I could shop at Waitrose on the night before the night before Christmas.

Today was our big food shop before the in-laws arrive tomorrow. We had a list. We checked it twice. We still forgot things. And the mayhem was not just limited to Waitrose. Because our local Waitrose happens to be the one in John Lewis on Oxford Street, central London, so we had the pleasure of experiencing 6 floors of middle England going apeshit over cashmere jumpers.

And V. came along for the ride courtesy of a baby carrier. We’ve used both a wrap and a front-loaded carrier and both have been invaluable for two reasons. Firstly, we live in a flat on the 4th floor and there is no lift. The wheel base for our pram stays at the bottom of the communal stairwell and it can be a pain to walk down four floors carrying baby along with the top half of her pram. Secondly, we live in central London, just off Oxford Circus and yes, the streets are very busy much of the time. You really can weave in and out of crowds, cross the road and take the escalator much faster. Compared to pushing a pram, it’s like being the Flash.

So V. saw the whole thing when I was forced to buy brussel sprouts on a stalk. There were no bags of brussels. If I leave it to tomorrow, everywhere may have run out. And I’ve got the in-laws. I had to do it. Yes, V., your dad paid top dollar for a vegetable that is only semi-processed. The things we do when fear stalks the aisles of Waitrose.

Merry Christmas!

Reusable Nappies

People we’ve told about our reusable nappies look at us with either admiration (from those of our generation) or dismay (from our parents’ generation). And everyone assumes we’re doing it from an eco position. Which we’re really not.

Very early on after V.’s birth she developed nappy rash, which, if you read the books, is quite early. We tried the three most recommended creams to help clear it up, with limited success. Her mother and I felt that if we didn’t solve this problem our daughter would be suffering for a long, long time.

F. continued to use the creams but began looking online at better solutions, including reusable nappies. She had never like the disposable nappies we’d be using since birth. She felt that they were plasticky, couldn’t breathe and were more of an irritant than most people let on.

So we decided to give reusable nappies a try because they were mostly made of natural fibres that grew softer and more absorbent the more you washed them. We ordered 15 pairs from two different manufacturers. They were one size its all, so should last V. all the way to toilet-training. The waist band and overall sizing are altered through plastic poppers.

The nappy itself is a soft, light fleece outer shell with a water-resistant backing. Inside the nappy is a fleece lining and two or three detachable layers that are added either through more poppers or inserted between the inner and outer layers.

Reusable nappies seem to work just as well as disposables in capturing what they need to capture. Once the nappy is taken off the baby, it is disassembled, and stored in a waterproof, zip-up bag. We keep ours in the bathroom. When the bag is full (around 8 nappies or so), the contents – plus the bag – go into the washing machine.

It’s at the laundry end where reusable nappies are a lot more work than disposables. You’re generally looking at one extra wash every other day. And it will be a long wash: our used nappies go through a 36 minute rinse, the a 2 hour cotton wash cycle, and finally – if it’s a rush job – a one hour tumble dry. The nappies then have to be assembled which takes us a half hour whilst sat in front of the TV. It’s the constant washing that makes me doubt the manufacturers message that reusables are cheaper than disposable diapers. I haven’t done a calculation, but based on the amount of energy we’re using to keep these things clean, I doubt we’re saving any money. And even if that were true and they were a little cheaper. So what? We all pay more money for more convenience, anyway.

If you’re taking baby on a trip, these nappies will raise one or two logistical questions. They are quite bulky and will need to be washed whilst you are away, depending how long you are away for. I wouldn’t leave them in the nappy bag for too long. We forgot about a nappy we left in a travel-size zip-up bag for 3 days; when we took it out, it was pretty rank.

After a month of using these nappies – plus finding the right nappy rash cream – V.’s nappy rash has completely cleared up. Could a simpler way have been found? Perhaps. But we’re happy to have found a formula that works so we’ll be sticking with reusable nappies.

Baby-led design

A lot of baby-related products seem to have been designed with a mood-board of purity, simplicity, cleanliness, innocence, delicacy. Colours used are often white, or off-white, or cream white, or milk white. A kind of dreamy, christening-gown aesthetic.

I was going to call this approach baby-led design (in the spirit of baby-led weaning) and feel fairly smug about my clever name. Except, this issue isn’t stemming from babies, it comes from – I presume – product design teams aiming to appeal to adult buyers of baby products. And I don’t have a clever name for that situation.

Anyway, an example came to me several weeks ago although I’m just coming around to writing about it. It’s the size of silicone teats on formula bottles. The type we use have the size range – 1, 2, 3 etc – faintly etched in an opaque shape found, with great difficulty, at the bottom of the teat. It’s even more difficult at 3am, under a weak kitchen counter light as I try to give my daughter a ‘dream feed’. There was no reason for the designers to have made it so difficult. They could have indicated the age range of the teat by making it bright green.

It’s a bit like that egg-shaped baby monitor I wrote about recently. Looks nice. Feels nice in the hand. Deeply impractical.

We have clearance, Clarence.

Since V. moved into her own room last week, we’ve been putting a baby monitor through its paces. This gadget was leant to us by my sister and it does make a world of difference to our domestic life, knowing we have an attentive little device keeping watch over the baby. However, one or two problems have emerged. So before you buy one yourself, read on.

Our monitor consists of a Baby unit that stays near the sleeping baby – basically, a microphone – and a Parent Unit; the speaker. The Parent unit sits in a cradle and needs recharging in that position every few hours. We’ve found that, to keep the Parent unit charged and with us at all times, we have to keep unplugging the cradle and carry it from room to room. From the kitchen, to the front room and then to the bedroom for overnight use. Are we the only ones who find this very annoying? Ideally, the Parent unit ought to stay charged enough to stay out of its cradle for several hours. So I would recommend finding a Parent unit that either guarantees 9 or 10 hours of charge time away from its cradle, or have a Parent unit that works on replaceable batteries.

And while you are at it, find a talkback function that has volume control. We use ours so that mum and dad can communicate with each other when one of us is in the nursery. But if V. is asleep in the same room, that communication becomes one sided because the talkback function is so loud. (Admittedly this hasn’t stopped me signing off each sentence with “Roger, Over.Kercchh.” when I’m on the mic.)

Finally, I recommend getting a Parent Unit that has a belt clip. Ours is shaped like an egg. I’m sure it was designed to look nice, but is a royal pain to carry around with you.

If anyone knows of a monitor with these functions, let me know! “Over.”

A cot bed, already

Tonight, V. is being introduced to her new cot bed. At three months, she’s almost punching her way out of the Moses basket. She could wear the basket as a hat. Myself and F. decided that the in-between option of a cot seemed unnecessary, so our daughter is trying out a bed that will be lasting her for the next 3 years or more. She also gets a pocket-sprung mattress that cost more, per square foot, than the one I sleep on. We lay V. down and step back. She lies there on top of a pristine white canvas, staring back at us. “She seems so small” says F. as our daughter flings out her arms, unencumbered for the first time by walls of flimsy reed. She has more space than I do, I think.

Not only is she in a new bed. She’s in her own room. This is a big jump and me and F. are relying heavily on the baby monitor to pick up ANY sounds of distress over night. It is a great monitor, but even so, we both know F. will be getting up in the night for a visual check. I’ve anticipated this and have been looking at baby video monitors online. This, I believe, is not paranoia. I think this is a clever use of technology to make good, attentive parenting a little easier. In the meantime, the volume on our audio baby monitor is set as high as possible and the doors to our bedroom and her room are ajar.

One thing F. noticed immediately. In the new bed, you can’t hear V. moving. In her basket, every move came with a rustle. She’s a pretty active sleeper so we’ve become used to hearing her in bed. Now, complete silence. Think I’ll order one of those video monitors.

Muslin cloths: WTF?

I’m starting to see that parenting is surrounded by a lot of dogma.

Before V. was born, one of the essential items we were recommended to stock up on was muslin cloths.

“You can’t have enough of them”, they said. As far as I understand, their primary job is to clean up possett. Sick-up. Spit-up. Vomit. ‘Oopsies’. Whatever you want to call it. You assume, therefore that muslin cloths are essential because of their absorption qualities.

So we dutifully bought some and were gifted some (new).

And guess what? They don’t work. They don’t fricking work. We have two types – one from a major department store’s own label and some own-brand from a small, up-market chain of baby shops.
Both makes are 100% cotton. Neither work. You think, initially, well, cotton. That’s good, isn’t it? Cotton? For cleaning up babies. I mean TOWELS are made of cotton, right? But muslin cloths are more like large, thin handkerchiefs. They seem to actually repel liquid. I mean, I’ve watched V’s possett run down a muslin cloth and collect in a fold, as pool of liquid. It’s like watching mercury running over a surface.

If you are forced to use these things, don’t buy small sizes. You’ll need ones the size of a pillow case, so the cloth can cover from the chin to the feet.

If any parent has found an alternative to these things, I’d appreciate the heads up.