Monthly Archives: December 2009

The Best Newborn Cloth Diapers?

Occasionally I will write a post here answering a common customer questions I get at the shop. Today a very nice young couple came in looking for information about cloth diapers in preparation for their newborn, expected in about a month. They were a typical Seattle couple – very hip and cool looking, with their first baby due practically any moment yet exhibiting a relaxed certainty about wanting to use cloth. Oh, and they knew very little about the many styles of diapers they have to chose from. And did I mention how relaxed and not stressed they were?!
I took them through the range of modern cloth diapers. They asked some good questions. Then, when we had gotten to the end of the official tutorial, the dad-to-be asked me what, if I had another baby right now, would I pick for my newborn?

Tough question, but a good one. From my perspective, the two easiest, safest, most cost-effective cloth diaper systems for newborns right now are 1) Prefolds and covers (preferably Thirsties Duo Wraps) or 2) A set of Fuzzi Bunz One-Size Pocket Diapers.

Chinese prefolds are often the go-to diaper for newborns because they are cheap (less than $1.75 for a newborn diaper when you buy a package). This means you can afford a big stack, and that comes in handy when that precious little bundle needs 12-15 diapers a day (no, I am not lying). You can buy a 36-pack of newborn prefolds for $57.25 – around the cost of 1 pack of disposables! And prefolds are pretty simple – just fold in three and lay inside a good cover (you don’t usually need complicated folds or fasteners for newborns). And because your newborn pees and poops so often, you will change them frequently anyway so the absorbency level of a cotton prefold is fine.

The key to success with prefolds is to have good covers! You need to keep explosive messes in, where they belong. Soooo…you need double leg gussets! Thirsties Duo Wraps are a fabulous waterproof newborn cover: Size 1 adjusts from XS to Small so it fits from birth to about 9 months old, giving you a good bang for your buck. You can use each wrap for about 3 changes before you They are super light and pliable, so no loud crunching noises during changes to wake up your sleeping newborn in the middle of the night. They are breathable, soft, easy to Velcro closed and have a nice cut-out for the umbilical stump.
Thirsties Duo Wraps also work beautifully on top of a Thirsties Fab Fitted in XS if you want to get a superb diaper with a little more absorbency than a prefold, along with a Velcro closure and elasticized legs. Thirsties Fab Fitteds have an amazingly cozy fit for newborns and really hold everything in. Plus the fleece lining keeps that new butt nice and dry!
Then, on the other end of the diapering spectrum, is the Fuzzi Bunz One-Size. There are so many reasons why I think this is a fabulous newborn cloth diaper. First, it adjusts from birth to potty-size through an elastic in the leg gusset (plus one across the back of the diaper), thereby avoiding the extra bulk a lot of other one-size diapers have when they adjust with rise snaps. These are one of the few one-size diapers that actually fit a newborn! I love the snaps on this diaper because they last forever and look so clean and neat. The fleece lining keeps baby’s skin dry, cutting down on rashes for babies with sensitive skin (like mine). After you get into the habit of stuffing the pocket as soon as your diapers come out of the laundry, it is so simple to just pull a clean Fuzzi Bunz from the waiting stack and put it on. And in terms of cost, if you sit down and crunch the numbers, you will save a ton of money with these because you will buy one set and use it the whole time your child is in diapers! It costs $538 for a 30-pack of Fuzzi Bunz One Pocket Diapers (a 2.5 – 3-day supply). That’s the same cost as 5 months of disposables, for 3+ years of cloth!!


So there you have it, my top Newborn recommendations. As you build your stash, you will add things that can make diapering even easier and more versatile, but these are the good bones you can begin with.

Good Green, Carbon-Friendly Giving

This year at the Punkernoodle house we set a little challenge for ourselves. The kiddos are suddenly wise to the whole gift thing – they know they’re coming, they’re asking and begging for them, and of course for them, more is better. We decided, in an effort to save money and also be green, that we wouldn’t buy any NEW gifts for them – it’s a recycled Hanukkah/Christmas for us. I was nervous at first, but so far it’s gone off really well and the kids are none the wiser – and not in the least bit disappointed. For Hanukkah, when some children traditionally receive 8 nights of gifts, they got wooden puzzles, a doll, little learning computers, some DVDs for family movie night, a pile of books, and more – all of it recycled. Christmas will bring more of the same. Everything we bought for them was new or nearly new looking, some had never even been used, and all had a ton of “playing life” left in it. The only truly brand new stuff the girls got was from their relatives (grandparents don’t want to buy pre-owned stuff for the apples of their eyes, they just don’t).

So how’d we do it? Thanks to a few great kids consignment shops, I found really wonderful gifts even up to the last minute. I helped organize a toy drive in the fall and bought some toys from there (garage sales, community sales and swaps are other good places). Craigs List is another great place if you are looking for specific things (last year we bought the girls an amazing wooden train table, train tracks and a whole wooden Thomas train set for waaaayyyyy less than it costs new).

In Seattle, a couple of our favorite consignment shops are Childish Things and Me ‘n Moms. Every community has stores like these, or even thrift stores where you can find great recycled toys and clothes for cheap.

Another great way to give to your children without buying New Stuff is to give an experience. Annual passes to the zoo, the Children’s Theater, the Children’s Museum, tickets to a show, swimming or soccer lessons, etc. We took the girls to The Nutcracker and it was a great gift and a lifetime memory for them. Relatives and grandparents also love this idea because they feel like they are giving a gift that keeps on giving. Another carbon-neutral idea is to download a music album for your child – an hour or two of fun new kiddie music. Then put it on and have a family dance party. There are lots of gift ideas that maximize family time and togetherness and minimize buying new crap. If you do want to buy new stuff, anything locally made is great (we have artisans at our local farmer’s market who make soap, jewelry, hand-knit hats and dolls) or fairly traded (hot chocolate or chocolate, bubble bath, and hand-made organic cotton toys).

And you can always buy something new that is earth-friendly and will help you reduce your overall footprint (like cloth diapers for your baby from Punkernoodle or Two Little Whales!) or seeds and tools to plant a winter or spring garden…

Finally, re-think wrapping. Our kids are still young, so the present is the main focus and they don;t care much about wrapping. I just had one recycled gift bag that I would place each night’s gift in over Hanukkah and then when it was time for gifts I would pull it our of the bag or let them do it – no extra wrapping. When we do have wrapping I try to reuse it. You can also wrap things unconventionally – use the gifts themselves, like clothing or a toy purse, to wrap or contain other gifts. Wrap gifts in a reusable canvas shopping bag and then tell your child that’s their bag to take to the grocery store (another gift!).

Only a couple days left for Christmas shopping – with a little change in thinking you can give your kids a recycled, carbon-friendly Christmas too!

Reality Check

So for a year now I’ve been stressing about a Situation.

Three times a week, we drive the same route to preschool. The Punkernoodles’ school is great, but it’s a little far – a 20-minute drive. The route takes us through several neighborhoods and requires us to cross Aurora Avenue. Also known as Highway 99, this mini highway through Seattle is, well, pretty much a shit hole. For miles it basically consists of flea-ridden motels offering hourly rates, strip clubs, gun clubs, fast food “restaurants,” even drive-through coffee huts where your barista will dress up in cheap lingerie. The underbelly of our town, if you will.

Anyway. Before crossing this treasure of a byway, we have to stop at a long red light. At the corner stands a homeless man. A very bedraggled homeless man. He’s an older guy, no doubt looking even more aged than he actually is, with a nest of wildish hair, a gnarled grimace, pale watery eyes, and a sign. The sign has changed a few times since we first started passing him, but generally it is fashioned from a wrinkled piece of box cardboard and is scrawled with a request for food, money etc. For much of the past year (though not in the past couple months), he wore a snowsuit, a kind of torn-up puffy sleeping-bag-looking thing. In this suit, or whatever outfit of the day he can muster, he shuffles along the sidewalk, grumbling and peering into car windows with his sign.

It is sad – I know that. I have a lot of compassion for people like this man. I have interviewed many of them as a journalist, written stories about programs that support homelessness. I have done the midnight homeless count and spent the night in a homeless shelter to interview the men who called it home. It’s not simple – lots of factors contribute to a life like this: Bad luck, sure, and also addiction, mental illness, poor social suport systems. Bottom line, people like him suffer on levels I personally cannot really even imagine.

But that’s not what I’ve been thinking about this past year. This whole time, I have been worried about the minutes we spend every commute sitting, in the right-hand-lane, right at his corner as we wait for the light to turn green. For the first six months or so, when the kiddos were a bit younger, I was just concerned they would notice this scruffy specter and have nightmares. Then, as Punkernoodle 1 inched closer to her fourth birthday, I began to panic about the day she would inevitably ask, “Mommy, what is that man doing?”

I know, it’s weak. I admit it. But I was afraid of having to explain homelessness, in stark terms, with such a compelling visual standing right before us. In the 2 minutes of a red-green light cycle.

Finally, a few months ago, the question came. I played the classic (and weak, I know, I know) brush off. “Oh, I don’t know, honey – sometimes people just stand outside with signs.”

Yes, I am a pathetic chicken-shit of a parent.

Another time, as 2 1/2-year-old Sister listened in, Punkernoodle 1 tried to come in from another angle. “What does that sign say, Mommy?” In that probing, demanding, painfully innocent 4-year-old way.

“Not sure, babe,” I chirped out as the light changed and I slammed the gas pedal. “I missed it.”

Other times I just distracted them at the corner so they wouldn’t notice. “Let’s sing a song,” I’d say. “What’s your favorite dessert?”

It’s not that I am afraid of tough topics. I take them on all the time. I’m like a parrot about the whole “your body is private” thing. We’ve done food drives and toy drives and  have talked about how some children don’t have money for good food or nice toys and it’s good to help them. Heck, my daughters have a cousin being raised by two dads – and they already know all about that.

There’s just something about the harsh reality of a person so run-down, so obviously alone and desperate and unloved, so without-a-home, that I can’t bear to break to them. Maybe that’s because I don’t really understand it, or believe it, myself at some base level: How can someone in our country, our community, have no home? Nowhere to sleep? Or shower, or eat? It’s shameful – not on the people without a bed, but, maybe, on all of us with one. On me.

I know this speaks to a larger issue, the question of how to talk to our children about the difficult topics. I am searching for the best road, the way to give them the information they are going to need to become “citizens of the world,” as the catch phrase goes, without shattering that which makes them regard that world as miraculous to begin with.

Well. Finally, this week, the fateful moment arrived. The day I’ve been avoiding like a coward for a year. We pull up to Aurora. It’s an uncharacteristically sunny fall Seattle day. The girls are very busy looking out their windows. There he is. Here it comes. “Mommy? What is that man doing?”

I can’t avoid it this time. Too direct. Too obvious. She’s gotten too smart, too perceptive. This is going to shatter her innocence forever, steal her open-hearted wonder at the world and give her the first spoonful of human bitterness, but there’s nothing more I can do about it. Fuck. Ok – here it goes: “Well, sweetie. Sometimes people don’t have any food or money. So they might make a sign asking other people for money, or food, so maybe if they hold the sign up people will help them.”

I wait for it. The request to roll down the window and pass this man some money. And some food. And maybe invite him home to sleep in our guest room, at least until Nana comes to visit.

“Mommy,” she barks in her recent, loud, newly assertive and slightly demanding way. I cringe.

“He should just get a job.”

Oh my god. All this time, all this fear – of the wrong thing. She’s not losing her rosy outlook on the world. She’s training for public office. Ha.

Ok. Sigh of relief. Laughs all around. Note to Self: Make a few extra donations to the food bank, kids in tow. Volunteer at a shelter. Find children’s book explaining mental illness?

Find a new route to school.

Just kidding…