From Hybrid Diapers to Handwashing

I just arrived home this evening from a five-day trip to Texas to visit family and attend a wedding. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I didn’t use cloth diapers on our trip. It wasn’t feasible for a number of reasons, and even though I’m a huge cloth diaper advocate, I’m also practical and see no need to feel guilty for using disposables on occasion as a convenience.

However.

Cloth diapers have unleashed a little bit of diaper snobbishness in me. Ok, a lot. While I felt no guilt about using disposables for a few days from a cost or environmental perspective, I had serious qualms about the ugliness factor. In my mind, mainstream disposable diapers look like wrap-around maxi pads. I’m spoiled by the vibrant colors and adorable prints of cloth diapers.

Enter hybrid diapers. You may have read about them on my Cloth Diaper Systems page, but in case not, allow me to bring you up to speed. Hybrid diapers are a specific type of all-in-two (AI2) diaper that can accomodate either cloth or disposable inserts. This is a brilliant beyond brilliant idea, because you can take advantage of the convenience of disposables while maintaining the illusion of cloth. I present to you the perfect solution for using disposables incognito!

For our trip, we brought along a mix of gDiapers disposable inserts (which lay inside the sized gPant) and GroVia biosoakers (which stick to the GroVia One-Size Hybrid Shell). Both types of inserts are biodegradable, and we never had any troubles with leaks. I was one happy mama!

gDiapers and GroVia hybrids

Now, the irony.

Tomorrow is the start of the Dirty Diaper Laundry Flats & Handwashing Challenge, and I’m participating. What was I thinking??? I need to catch up on laundry from our trip, go grocery shopping, plan meals, catch up on work, and just catch up on things in general. And on top of that, I’ll be making MacGyver diapers out of t-shirts and washing them by hand.

Stay tuned to find out how this goes…

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What Do Cloth Diapers and Starbucks Have in Common?

Have you ever noticed that cloth diapers seem to have some kind of magical powers that make regular moms a little bit… well… crazy? There are plenty of logical reasons why cloth diapers are a better choice than disposables. But why have cloth diapers developed such a cult following? When you think about it, cloth diapers have three things in common with Starbucks.

Addiction

Just like caffeine causes an addiction to coffee, I have a theory that cloth diapers are laced with an unknown substance that creates an addict-like response in those who use them. Cloth diapering mamas openly talk about their addiction and how they convert and enable their friends. “Fluffy mail” is a mid-day pick-me-up that seems just as powerful as that first cup of coffee in the morning.

comic

The “Affordable Luxury” Justification

It is widely noted that one of the reasons for Starbucks’ success is that it brought an “affordable luxury” to the masses. Many people seem to think that carrying around that cup with the green logo on it is an expression of social status. They may not be able to afford a country club membership or a shiny new car, but dropping $5 on a beverage makes them feel better about themselves in a small way.

Starbucks Addiction

Cloth diapers are kind of the same. Although many of us (myself included) started using them as a means to save money, we use our savings as a justification for buying more of them. We feel proud that our babies’ bottoms look so much cuter than the bottoms of those babies in disposables. We actually find reasons to dress our babies so that their diapers are showing. (Oh come on, admit it. You’ve done it too!)

Insiders’ Lingo

In college, I worked at a small coffee shop called Gloria Jean’s where we used normal terms like small, medium, and large to describe the sizes of our drinks. When Starbucks came to town, I was irritated that they had the audacity to make up their own names for drink sizes. And it goes beyond the sizes. People seem to enjoy spouting off long, fancy, customized drink orders to the barista. Ordering a small cup of coffee just sounds too ordinary, I suppose. Instead, we have to have an iced double tall nonfat sugarfree 180 vanilla latte or a venti iced skim caramel macchiato.

Joe Fox

As the character Joe Fox says in You’ve Got Mail: “The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, et cetera. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.”

Isn’t it kind of the same with cloth diapers today? Crunchy Nana says that when she was cloth diapering my sisters and me in the 70s and 80s, she would color-coordinate the diaper pins to our outfits. Today, cloth diapering mamas have a dizzying array of colors, prints, systems, features, and materials from which to choose. Much like Starbucks, cloth diapers can certainly give you that defining sense of self.

Now go out there and find that perfect organic one-size side-snapping AIO.

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Super Absorbent Polymers and Diaper Absorbency (Nerd Alert)

Are you curious how your cloth diapers stack up to disposables in terms of absorbency? It might seem like a simple task – weigh them dry, dunk them in water, weigh them wet, and calculate the difference as the weight of the water absorbed. But did you know that if you follow those steps using plain tap water you’ll be giving the disposable diaper far more credit than it actually deserves?

(I warned you in the post title: this information is a bit nerdy. My husband made fun of me for the “diaper lab” I rigged up in our kitchen to test this.)

When they first debuted, disposable diapers used fiber-based products – tissue paper, cotton, or fluff pulp – for absorbency. The absorbent capacity of these types of materials is limited, and much of it is lost under even moderate pressure. In 1984, the introduction of super absorbent polymers (“SAP”) began a race for manufacturers to engineer a slimmer disposable. This immediately resulted in the reduction of diaper bulk by 50%, and in the decades since then, disposable diapers have continued to shrink while their absorbent capacities have risen. Today, the absorbency of disposable diapers is primarily attributable to SAP, with fluff pulp responsible for helping spread the moisture more evenly throughout the core of the diaper so that the polymers can trap it.

So what is SAP? I’m certainly no chemist, so I asked my good buddy Wikipedia, which said: “Super absorbent polymers are now commonly made from the polymerization of acrylic acid blended with sodium hydroxide in the presence of an initiator to form a poly-acrylic acid sodium salt (sometimes referred to as sodium polyacrylate).”

Did you hear me, Wikipedia?? I said I’m no chemist! The easier version from MadeHow.com explains, “These polymeric particles act as tiny sponges that retain many times their weight in water.”

And since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some SAP crystals at work:

saps

So the important takeaway for you and me is that SAP retains water. But babies don’t fill diapers with water. Urine contains salts and and other compounds that inhibit the SAP’s ability to absorb. For purposes of testing diaper absorbency, human urine can be simulated with a 0.9% saline solution.

Rumor has it that some cheaper brands of disposable diapers used to do unscrupulous supermarket demonstrations to con shoppers into believing that their diapers were just as good as the premium, name-brand diapers. Unbeknownst to the shoppers, however, the demonstration used a saline solution on the name-brand diapers and plain tap water on the cheap diapers, thereby skewing the results of the absorbency comparison.

Just how skewed would the results be? I tried this experiment on my GroVia Biosoaker inserts, which contain SAP. I fully submerged one insert in tap water and let it soak for 10 minutes. I fully submerged another insert in a 0.9% saline solution (dyed green) and let it soak for 10 minutes as well. The result:

Side by Side

The insert on the left absorbed 793 grams of tap water. The insert on the right absorbed 286 grams of saline.

So remember: if you want to see how your cloth diapers stack up to disposables, test the disposables with a mix of 9 grams of table salt per liter of water to get an fair picture of their absorbency.

Sources:

Crunchy Nana’s Homemade Granola

[A note from Courtney: Today’s blog post is brought to you by my mom, aka “Crunchy Nana“. She can cook, bake, make her own soap, mill her own flour, spin her own yarn, sew, knit, smock, appliqué, garden, raise chickens, deliver pug puppies, and much, much more. Leave a comment if there are any topics on which you’d especially like to hear more from Crunchy Nana!]

homemade granola

Homemade granola is delicious, healthy, easy to make, and much less expensive than buying pre-made granola. We ate the last of our granola yesterday morning, so of course today I’m in the kitchen whipping up another batch. My husband, John, LOVES this stuff and eats it almost every morning (and also snacks on it–I’m trying to wean him off of M&M’s!!).

My recipe is inspired by and adapted from one I found in my King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook, which is fabulous. The original recipe can be found on the King Arthur Flour website. The most notable changes are that I leave out the dry milk and use 3/4 cup of melted organic coconut oil as a healthier alternative to vegetable oil.

Crunchy Nana’s Favorite Ingredients (Organic If Possible!)

  • 7 cups of rolled oats
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup flax seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 tsp salt – I use Redmond Real Salt
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • Dried fruit

Homemade Granola Ingredients

(I know what you’re thinking, and no, I don’t have a drinking problem. The Smirnoff bottle contains my homemade vanilla extract.)

The great thing about granola is that you can really play around with the recipe and put in any nuts your family likes. Granola is also a wonderful activity for little ones to “help” with, since there is so much dumping and stirring of dry ingredients.

Start by dumping all of the dry ingredients except the fruit into a nice, big baking pan.

Next, start preparing the “sauce” by melting 3/4 cup of coconut oil. (If your house is warmer than 76 degrees, then your coconut oil is probably liquid already, so you can skip this step.) Whisk together the melted coconut oil with 1 cup of pure maple syrup and a tablespoon of vanilla. Whisk it up until everything is nice and smooth.

Now just pour the sauce all over your nut and grain mixture, making sure not to waste one yummy drop!

Pour the Sauce

Stir, stir, stir until everything is incorporated and you’re ready to pop it into the oven.

Bake it for two hours at 250 degrees, stirring well after one hour. The long, slow baking time makes it really nice and crunchy, which of course, Crunchy Nana likes. Do something fun while your kitchen fills up with the most delicious aroma. (I spent my two hours refinishing my dining room chairs with chalk paint!)

After the granola is done baking and has cooled a bit, add dried fruit if desired. Here I added chopped dried cherries, craisins, apricots, and mangoes. This is really more dried fruit than I would like to use, especially since it has added sugar. However, my husband likes it this way and since I took away his M&M’s…well, you get the picture.

Add Fruit

And…I’m done!  Delicious, homemade granola for the next few weeks!  And besides that, doesn’t it look pretty?

 

[Another note from Courtney: Here’s the TL-DR version – throw everything together and bake it for 2 hours at 250. It’s hard to mess this one up. Enjoy!!]

Meet Crunchy Nana!

My mom is one of the most loving, unselfish, and gifted people I know. She can cook, bake, sew, knit, smock, quilt, garden, and so much more. She’s much more talented than me in many ways, so I begged her to help me bring you some interesting and fun tutorials on Diaper Wrecker. Luckily, she agreed!

In the late 70s and early 80s, she was a cloth diapering, breastfeeding mama back when those things were going out of style. I remember tagging along to her La Leche League meetings when my sister was a baby. I like to sing a little tune that she “was crunchy… when crunchy wasn’t cool.” (In case you’re not familiar with classic country music, you might need to listen to a little Barbara Mandrell for that line to make sense.) Her four grandchildren call her Nana, and recently she joked that she could go by “Crunchy Nana” in the cloth diaper world. The nickname has stuck.

Soon you’ll be hearing more from Crunchy Nana on a variety of topics. I think you’ll like her as much as I do!

Then & Now collage

Me and my wonderful mom, then and now!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!