Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November Featured Work-at-Home-Mom: Kim Stinson!

Kimberly Stinson is the owner of EcoStyle Baby, Inc. Kim has two boys, aged 2 ½ and 9 months. She lives in Clearwater, Florida with her husband Jason. EcoStyle Baby is a retailer of earth-friendly goodies for baby and family (including Fuzzi Bunz diapers, wood toys by Melissa & Doug, and the Buggy Blankie - an EcoStyle Baby exclusive!). We love EcoStyle Baby because Kim tests (and vouches for!) all the products and makes sure that they are produced in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible way. EcoStyle Baby is also committed to donating a portion of its profits back to the community.

Kim has graciously agreed to answer a few questions for our readers:

Why did you decide to start your own business?
I started EcoStyle Baby as a result of being a disappointed consumer. After discovering there was no diaper service locally, I started to research use-at-home cloth diapers. That lead to research on why I should chose environmentally friendly baby products for my own use. Then I had a hard time finding great responsible products. I thought I could fill a void in the market.

What’s the Buggy Blankie?
When my oldest was just a baby, he often fell asleep during our outings. I hated to take off the warm blanket just to get the 3 point harness off. So my mother and I designed and developed a stroller blanket that solves the problem of transferring a little one from stroller to house without having to take off the warm, cozy blanket. And viola, the Buggy Blankie was born. We sew ourselves using quality fleece. It comes in two sizes: infant and toddler.

What’s your favorite part of being a WAHM?
I love to help other moms. I’ve amassed knowledge and experience with my own kids. So, whether it be finding the right size Hotsling or teaching a mom about why wood toys are better, the moms and their babies are the reason I do this.

What advice would you give to moms seeking to become a WAHM?
Have a solid business plan. I hear of too many moms who don’t do all their homework first. There’s a lot to know about running a business; the products, the taxes, the regulations. Once you get all the details worked out, go for it. It’s rewarding to do something for your family that you enjoy.

What are your best home economics tips?
Meal planning is important. It helps keep order and helps keep our food budget down. Shopping without a list is chaos for us.

Staying tidy is key for my household. We don’t overload our kids with tons of toys (that they don’t really even need) which helps with cleanup time. It never takes more than a couple minutes to get the whole house tidy. Then I don’t feel overwhelmed by it all.

I also am a big fan of clean. I was having a hard time keeping up with all the housework after the second baby arrived, so I decided to splurge on a housekeeping service every other week. It’s amazing how much time I save and don’t have to stress about a clean shower!

There is always a bargain at EcoStyle Baby, and there’s almost always something on sale (toys, puzzles, organic clothing, books). But, for our readers, Kim is generously offering a 15% discount on your entire purchase! So be sure to visit www.ecostylebaby.com and use coupon code Holiday2008 at checkout.


Monday, November 17, 2008

keeping it all in perspective

my mom once told me, while i was complaining about the various little difficulties in my life, that if my problems could be solved with money, then i should consider myself very lucky. i've always been fortunate to be comfortable, financially, and i certainly don't want to minimize the challenges faced by those who struggle to meet their basic needs. but what my mom said really made me re-think how i spend money and why i try to save money.

because i am an economist by training, let me explain in economic terms: the opportunity cost of buying/doing something is what i give up in order to buy/do that thing. everything has an opportunity cost and, in most cases, it is not just a monetary cost. for example, you might think of the opportunity cost of getting take-out for dinner as just the $25 that could be spent on something else. but, in fact, the full opportunity cost would be less, because i "save" the time i would've spent cooking and cleaning and the marital strife caused by arguing with hubby about who makes dinner more and who should've made dinner today.

so, now, if something is really bothering me, and i can use money to resolve the issue, instead of assuming that i can't afford it, i think about what purchases i would have to forgo and whether i want those things more than i want this particular problem to go away. next time you have to make a decision about what to buy or what to do with your precious time, try taking a moment to reflect on what you are really giving up and what you are really gaining, and see if that gives you a little different perspective.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Washing Cloth Diapers

When I first started using cloth diapers I probably read around 20 different methods that worked for different families. Almost all of them used a top-loading washing machine. Mine is a front-loader. I did find a few mentions of washing diapers in a front-loader and all were negative. I even read where some families buy a top-loader just for diapers if they already have a front-loader. I had neither the money nor the space for that, but I had already committed to cloth. I'm happy to say that it has been six months and I have an infant and a toddler in clean cloth diapers. If you are considering cloth, please don't let your washing machine stop you! Here is the system that works for us:

We have one large pail liner, but no pail. The bag just hangs off the side of the changing table with the bottom resting on the floor. If I change a diaper while the diapers are in the washer I have to set it aside for an hour. It doesn't bother me and I don't have a second bag sitting on the shelf to use for the one hour every other day that ours is being washed. The bag is for wet diapers and breast milk-only poop diapers. In the bathroom I have a diaper sprayer attached to the toilet and a kids beach bucket right beside it. Diapers with "real" poop are sprayed and put in the bucket until wash time.

When it is time to wash I dump the bucket in the washer. The bucket works well because I can reach in the washer with the whole thing and then dump it out, I don't have to touch the diapers. Then I take the pail liner and push the diapers out from the bottom, turning the bag inside out as I go and leave it in the washer. I run a rinse and spin cycle first, followed by the towel cycle (hot wash, high spin, heavy soil, extra rinse). My detergent is plain Tide powder (for HE machines) and I use a little less than half of the amount called for for a regular size load. Once a week or so I also put a cup of white vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser.

All of my covers, fleece liners, wipes, and pail liner go in the dryer on high for about 20 minutes and I hang the diapers. I do toss the diapers in the dryer the next day for about 20 minutes to soften up. No fabric softener on any of it, ever!

Most methods I read suggested washing no more than 12 diapers at a time. My front-loader holds bigger loads than a top-loader so I figured that would go for diapers too. I usually wash about 18 diapers at a time, but I have washed up to 22 with decent results.

If you're thinking about cloth, you may also want to check out how I make my wipes solution.

NOTE: When I originally posted this I left out the info on which wash cycle I use, now I think it's complete!


Thursday, November 6, 2008

baby-led weaning

i have always been confused about the best way to introduce solid foods - when to start, how often, how much, and how to wean from breast/bottle while all this is going on. lately, i've been seeing more and more on baby-led weaning (often shortened to BLW), so i decided to check it out. it is a concept developed by gill rapley, who is a nurse, midwife, lactation consultant and currently the deputy program director of UNICEF UK's Baby Friendly Initiative. the basic idea is to introduce solid foods by allowing babies to self-feed with finger foods, skipping cereals and pureed foods altogether. rapley argues that this is a more natural transition, as breastfeeding is essentially the first form of self-feeding. and what appears to motivate babies to first eat solid foods is curiosity, not hunger, so self-feeding allows for more discovery and more participation in the family mealtime ritual. self-feeding may also improve hand-eye coordination and even digestion by reducing the likelihood that babies over-eat. some of the benefits of BLW appear to be related more to the prescription of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life than to the notion of self-feeding per se.

but what i found really intriguing is the discussion of how a baby's ability to manage solid food (with her mouth, her throat and her digestive system) keeps pace with her motor development.
...babies are not capable of intentionally moving food to the back of their throats until after they have developed the ability to chew. And they do not develop the ability to chew until after they have developed the ability to reach out and grab things. The ability to pick up very small things develops later still. Thus, a very young baby cannot easily put himself at risk because he cannot get small pieces of food into his mouth. Spoon feeding, by contrast, encourages the baby to suck the food straight to the back of his mouth, potentially making choking more likely.

the priciples of BLW are pretty straightforward and easy enough to follow. i have found this site very informative, chock full of resources, practical tips and observations, as well as other people's stories. and, to give you the basics, here are rapley's "10 commandments", as presented in the guardian.
1. Start weaning at six months
The reason spoon-feeding became popular, Rapley says, is that people used to give babies food from as young as three or even two months - and at that age, they aren't ready to feed themselves. But current advice from the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health is that six months is the best age to start weaning as a baby's gut and immune system aren't ready for real food until then. And by that stage, says Rapley, they need the opportunity to feed themselves real food such as steamed (or lightly boiled) whole vegetables, strips of chicken, pieces of fruit or cheese sticks.

2. Sit your baby upright for meals
Choking is often a parent's biggest weaning worry - but, says Rapley, providing the baby is upright, and you make sure they have control over their food (don't put the food into their mouth - let them do it themselves), choking is no more likely, and may be less likely, than it is when a baby is being spoon-fed. Rapley says parents often mistake gagging - a retching movement that pushes food out of the baby's airway - with choking.

3. Offer, rather than push, food
"Humans are designed to regulate the amount of food they need, and that includes babies," says Rapley. At some meals they'll eat very little - at other meals, they'll eat more. The "clean plate rule" that many of us were brought up with is associated with over-eating in adults, she says. Allowing babies to eat what they want means they'll learn to choose the nutrients they need, and to listen to their bodies telling them when they've had enough.

4. Eat with your child
"Eating with people will ensure babies learn more than just how to handle food - they'll learn about taking turns, conversation and table manners. Treat them with the same respect you would any other mealtime companion," she says. That means not telling them what to eat, not wiping their faces and not washing up while they're still eating.

5. Expect a mess
"Mess is an inevitable, fun and important part of babies learning about food," Rapley says. Plastic tablecloths and sheets under highchairs are recommended.

6. Don't get emotional
"If you feel hurt that your child isn't eating the food you've prepared, think about why you're taking it so hard. The real reason might be that you have anxieties about whether you're a good enough parent, and that's the issue you really need to address. Babies don't use mealtimes to play out emotional mindgames, but adults may interpret it as that, because for us there are many emotional tie-ups with food."

7. Don't cut food up too small
Before they master pincer-gripping with their fingers and thumb, says Rapley, "babies need pieces of food that are big enough for them to hold in their fists."

8. Treat mealtimes as playtimes
"In the early days, when your baby is first moving from milk feeds to proper food, mealtimes are more about fun than about eating," Rapley explains. "Your baby will be getting enough nourishment from milk feeds. Food, at this stage, is almost a rehearsal for 'real' eating, and what you want to get across more than anything is a sense of enjoyment. As far as your child is concerned, food is there to be experimented with, played with, and investigated. And also, of course, to be tasted."

9. Don't give food to hungry babies
In the early weeks of eating finger food, says Rapley, "offering a hungry baby finger food is as irrelevant and frustrating as offering a hungry baby a toy". Instead, give them a milk feed first, then finger food so they'll be able to enjoy playing with the food, and experimenting with getting some of it into their mouth.

10. Watch your language
A lot of the language we use around babies and food isn't helpful, says Rapley. "Many parents say things like 'Here comes the train!' because they anticipate the baby won't want to eat the food. Encourage the baby to think of food itself as interesting and pleasurable, rather than associate it with negativity." Avoid labelling babies as good or poor eaters.