Wednesday, December 19, 2012

We're done with diapers! (... for now.)

No, eLeMeNO-Pee is not leaving the diaper business.

But my household--and washing machine--is, at least until March.

That's right! Two weeks ago, just half a year after my first go at potty-training (or potty-learning, or elimination education, or... you get it) our 3.5-year old, we decided to give it a whirl with Little Bit #2, who turned two at the end of October... and it stuck. (Hooray!!!)

Before you ask, I do attribute this greatly to cloth diapering.

Let me explain:

When my oldest was born, we used disposable diapers, gifted to us at our baby shower, for the first three months. When we ran out, we were purchasing them ourselves, and I was not exactly a coupon queen in those days. (Let's face it: I'm still not great at finding deals. Some of us have the gift, and some of us have to find other ways to pinch the pennies.) The expense broke us down: I researched cloth, and we made an investment. Every diaper in that original stash was stay-dry, and the Little Dude really just never seemed to notice that he was wet until I switched him to prefolds right before he potty-trained at nearing 3.5.

Enter #2, who was accidentally born at home (I know, I know--who does that?) and diaperless for several hours after her birth. We finally diapered her once we were admitted to the hospital and she was bathed. Her very first cloth diaper? A prefold and tiny-but-still-probably-too-big-but-I-just-couldn't-help-it-it-was-so-durn-CAYUTE Weehuggers cover (RIP, Weehuggers). 

Apologies. Humor me as I reminisce. That fresh baby is now two... and potty-trained!
If you've ever been wearing cotton and gotten caught in a thunderstorm, you know that it's anything but stay-dry. That has got to feel a little ooky, you know? As my milk supply was established and her little kidneys and bladder got going with the flow of life on the outside, Homegirl was crying to be changed roughly every fifteen to forty minutes, all day long.

That never changed much, even as she got older and began wearing stay-dry pockets and AIOs. By her first birthday, she was removing diapers as soon as she'd wet them. What I mean is: the pee was still hot. She didn't care where we were. Home, church, the park, Kroger (yup). I bought one of the last remaining Baby Bjorn Little Potties (RIP, Little Potty) for a ridiculously gouged price from an Amazon seller because she couldn't reach to sit on the combo-potty-and-step-stool we already had, and she started telling me when she needed to use it when she was fourteen months old. She got sick a few months later and quit using it altogether; she even quit worrying about demanding dry diapers for a few weeks. Oh, well, I thought. There went that.

But the news that we were expecting twins kicked me into high gear. Three in diapers would have meant more-than-once-a-day diaper laundry because of the load size--remember, she was diva-begging to be changed immediately every time she was wet, and she remained from Day One a light, but frequent, wetter. Her last day in diapers, she used 11 of them. All her favorites. The two Cupcake FuzziBunz Elites from the Diaper Talk series, the limited edition Strawberry Delight FuzziBunz print from last summer, her Tootie Frootie, Cherrylicious, and Starburst Tots Bots EasyFits (v2), her Lovelace bumGenius Freetime, her Spearmint FuzziBunz medium, her Glacier Blue and Goddess Pink gDiapers--all of these were in the mix. I wondered if she'd be willing to give them up even though she was clearly developmentally ready.

So how did we do it?

We used the Three-Day Potty Training eBook. My mom and dad graciously offered to take her older brother for the duration of the three days, and we thanked him and praised him often for being part of the 'potty-training team.' Then we just... did it. By. The. Book. No swerving, no departures, no variations (with one exception--we could not throw our cloth diapers in the trash can! But we did pack them up; I let her make one pile for one sister and another pile for the other). My rigid 'rule-follower' tendencies paid off!

Our Elf on the Shelf helped, too.

Although there were no accidents by the end of Day Two, there was a little anxiety about 'going #2.' Our Elf helped us out there, too, but in the end, what cured her was some good, old-fashioned Daddy Magic. He sent my exhausted self out of the house for the day on what was technically Day Four (but on Day One, she managed to not go #2 at all, so it was still Day Three in some respects), and when I came home, after a day of coaching and praise, her anxiety had melted away.

And that's it. She's done. 100%, overnight, during her naps, in the car, #1 and #2. Our (still-growing!) stash of cloth diapers is packed nicely into some tote bags in our master closet, ready for the spring arrival of our twin girls, and, yes, I'm already planning which especially adorable newborn diapers will accompany us to the birth center to be used during their first few hours. But I just get to look at them now, to unpack, admire, and then repack them. I don't have to wash them! Temporarily done with diapers for the first time in nearly four years. Whew! It feels good.

So that brings me to a final bit of news: This is my last blog post until some as-yet unknown point when I begin a new contract. My contract closes at the end of this month, so at that point I will be on an indefinite hiatus from managing social media for eLeMeNO-Pee as my family focuses on preparing for the birth of these babies and the subsequent adjustments to our household life that their arrival will necessitate.

Who's going to be doing the blogging? This is the exciting part: Our consultants! Please stick around and keep reading, because our consultants are bursting with insights, humor, tales of parenting triumphs and parenting mishaps, CD education, passion for their communities, and their own unique voices. I can't wait to see what they have to add to our blog!

Thank you for this year of following along while I figured this blogging thing out. It's been incredible--humbling, an honor, and a real treat--to watch us gain readers and 'shares' and 'likes' and '+1s' in only our first year to have a blog. I can only hope that when I return, I can fill the shoes of all the brilliant Cloth Diaper Ladies who will be keeping this show running.

Until next time, friends!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jingle bells, jingle bells, down your local streets!

Anybody who knows me knows that I talk a big talk about buying Christmas presents before December so that, in our home, Advent can be Advent and not "Christmas shopping season." For the most part, I succeed! But we have a big family. There's always that point where the summer spending cash runs out, and here it is almost mid-December, and I've got at least three gift recipients left on the shopping list and a couple White Elephant exchange gifts to figure out!

Luckily, everywhere I turn, a friend is talking about some awesome Christmas purchase she made from a local business or a small online boutique! I've gotten tons of great ideas this year, like:

A downtown Lake Charles cafe that features local talent!
1) A gift certificate... to a local eatery! When I procrastinate on shopping, I'm always tempted to pick up a couple gift cards to chain restaurants or box stores while I'm in the grocery check-out line. That's fine--there are plenty of wonderful families who own local franchise establishments in every town in America! But it can be super-fun to bless a local friend with a dining experience that is completely unique to our shared hometown. I like to pick a 'hole-in-the-wall,' but some place with lots of traffic in a funky location that doubles as a perch for people-watching, for the right recipient, can also make for the perfect treat.

2) Something handmade, green, cute to look at, and totally useful. Last Christmas I purchased rolls of 'unpaper towels' for some of my sisters-in-law from this shop. The WAHM behind the shop custom-made them to my specifications, using absorbent, textured fabrics that I selected from her listed options, and let me choose from her dozens-upon-dozens of (actually stylish!) in-stock prints. I was able to order a half-dozen for each sister-in-law, snapped around a PVC pipe to fit perfectly onto a paper-towel holder. Best of all? They were a total last-minute purchase, and she made and shipped them with more than enough time to spare. And were they ever a hit: the rest of the family was asking why we didn't give them to everyone!

Photo courtesy Wiki Commons.
3) Just the right kind of pick-me-up. My husband recently switched us to decaf. We love coffee, but it gives him the jitters, and I'm expecting twins and want to do everything we can to avoid low-birth weight babies. Decaf it is. But that doesn't mean I can't go sniff out the good stuff, right? There are a couple cafes around these parts with delicious-smelling coffees, some Fair Trade Certified, some locally blended, and a bag or two, beautifully packaged, would make the perfect contribution to, say, a work-related gift exchange. (Don't tell Allison and Todd, but that's most likely what I'm bringing!)

4) Support your local arts and music scenes. That band you saw last month when you were finally able to get out on the town? They really were that good! Look 'em up on Facebook, find out how to purchase copies of their latest release, and ask if you can have them autographed. Voila! Give them to the out-of-towner musicphiles on your gift list. That hometown relief artist who's gaining some notoriety in your crowd? Small prints from her latest collection will brighten the lives and homes of your non-local friends and family, and you'll be giving the gift of expanded exposure to the artist.

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons.
5) Think outside the toybox. Quality toys don't have to come from a big box store! If you're into the 'classic toys' gig, or you just want to avoid gifting the latest in bright-lights-and-buzzy-sounds, pack up your Santa sack and head to a local toy store. I've often found one-of-a-kind or hand-crafted wooden toys, toys made with paints and dyes with impressive certifications backing up their claims of safety and quality, and toys that help munchkins make music or art, play imaginatively, build models, even do science experiments. A local toy purveyor is probably a toy expert, too. The teenager in the toy aisle at Target may be a pretty sweet kid, but he may not be able to help me determine whether my four-year old is ready for a rokkaku or delta kite or if he just needs to stick with a diamond.

6) Call up your Mary Kay Lady. Or your Avon consultant, your Premier Jewelry lady, your Stella & Dot stylist or Silpada jeweler, your Scentsy dealer, your Thirty-One consultant... You get the picture. Chances are, there's a "Get it in time for Christmas!" shipping deal going on right now, and she may even have some in-stock items for you to choose from and bring home with you today. As a direct sales company ourselves, we're pretty enthusiastic about the "personal consultant" model of doing business because it allows for unbeatable customer service for the client AND for moms to boost their household income or even work from home with their babies. Chances are, you've got a local friend who has her own direct sales business, and she probably has lots of gift ideas! (I had to send my Thirty-One consultant a frantic e-mail tonight asking if I can see her inventory on payday. Sshhhh!)

Not that you need the incentive, because, well... you're awesome, and you probably thought of all of this before I did, but just to say, "Thanks for shopping local!" the eLeMeNO-Pee retail location, located at 2102 W. Prien Lake Rd. in Lake Charles, will be offering 10% off ALL regular-priced in-stock items TODAY ONLY! We're open from 10-2, and we are so much more than cloth diapers. Come in and see what I mean!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Product spotlight: hosie naturals’ Love Your Labor Oil, or: I Didn’t Know I Was in Labor

Sometimes I marvel at how the hosie naturals product line has grown so much since the day I met its owner, Kari Feucht, in early October 2010. That was the day she gifted me with a small bottle of something mysterious that she told me not to open, not to touch, smell, or handle in any way until my pregnancy had reached what they call “full-term”—37 weeks*.

I forgot about it after that, honestly. I was busy with a 20-month old, a pregnancy in its third trimester, and a new business as a cloth diaper consultant with a very young eLeMeNO-Pee (who remembers the old yellow Web site?). I stuck it in the box with the rest of my demos for home parties—eLeMeNO-Pee was the very first retailer of hosie naturals products—and didn’t think about it again.

At 39 weeks and 2 days pregnant, still nearly two weeks away from the gestative point I reached before birthing my first child and with the possibility of impending labor totally blocked from my mental periphery (after all, “It’s normal to go late,” is the natural childbirther’s necessary mantra, right?), I was sitting cross-legged on my living room floor, presenting my cloth diaper and natural parenting wares to a group of Very Pregnant Bradley Method couples and their instructor. I read aloud the description on this bottle of what was still to me some sort of Mystery Labor Potion and made sure the students were at least 37 weeks pregnant before passing it around the room. Some weren’t. I was, so I figured I might as well rub some on my hands and sniff. (And sniff… and sniff… The only thing that could smell better to me at 39 weeks pregnant is a batch of homemade brownies that I didn’t have to bake.)

I was contracting regularly before the couples had completed their purchases. Having never experienced a Braxton-Hicks contraction during either of my pregnancies, I wasn’t sure what was going on. Just a few hours earlier, my care provider had informed me that my cervix was closed, firm, and posterior, and my unborn daughter was hanging out somewhere between my throat and my ribcage, or that’s what it felt like. She was not engaged; labor was not expected, and this must not be labor. Time for a bath with this heavenly scented oil and as good a night’s sleep as I could manage.
Photo credit:

Y’all, sleep was not happening. Back to the tub with this labor oil I went, warning my husband that he should sleep while he could, because, “It’ll probably be tomorrow night or the next day.” Fifteen minutes later, at about 11:30 pm, my vocalizations awoke my husband, so I asked him to burn my labor playlist to a CD to bring with us to the hospital. (He later confessed that he played World of Warcraft instead.)

We called the people who needed to know—our mothers, our doula, the professional photographer who would be traveling from more than an hour away. We told them that early labor had begun and seemed to be moving steadily, that “go-time” for everyone would probably be “some time tomorrow evening.” My mother, en route to New York City, tried to make arrangements to head back. Everyone was confident she’d be back in our hometown in time for our daughter’s birth. I busied myself by beginning to pack a hospital bag, stopping to breathe and even loudly vocalize through some contractions. I kept a tissue soaked with that fantastic-smelling elixir nearby. Sniff, sniff. Ahhhh. Lavender.

I attempted to flat-iron my hair and put makeup on, determined to have beautiful labor photos since I knew I’d have a long labor and didn’t want to look like the (forgive me, it’s overused, but nothing else applies) hot mess I looked after my 33-hour marathon of a first labor. Suddenly, my hair only half-smoothened, back labor gripped me.

It was a little after 1 am. I requested a Love Your Labor-augmented foot massage, but this unfamiliar sensation of back labor was too much to endure it, and we moved to back massage and counter-pressure. I was draped across my birthing ball on our bed; my husband dumped half the bottle of labor oil on my back, not realizing that with undiluted oils, “a little goes a long way.” The contractions strengthened almost immediately in response to his quickly rubbing it all into my skin to keep it from dripping onto our unprotected sheets. This is not my recommended method for using the product; please use it as directed, a little at a time.

My husband is an excellent labor support person, but he simply doesn’t have any training in massage. He wasn’t hitting just the right spots, and I was getting frustrated having to try to direct him and keep myself relaxed mentally. We had to call in some back-up. I asked my doula to drive to our house. She lived about 45 minutes away. I told her I guessed that I was about 1.5 cm dilated; recalling my first labor, this was what 1.5 cm had felt like. (We had headed to the hospital that time, only to be told in triage that we could either be admitted and hooked up to Pitocin or go home—we chose home. We were not putting ourselves through the emotional roller-coaster of travel-stalled labor again.)

She took her time; we all knew I had long labors and nothing was urgent. I lay on my side when I needed to, got up and packed when I could, and did my best to pass the time and breathe like the model Bradley student that I wasn’t. She arrived at 3:45 am, gas station coffee in hand. I relaxed immediately, and the three of us chatted and laughed between my contractions, keeping careful not to awaken our sleeping toddler. Shortly after she arrived, my husband handed our doula the bottle of what we were by then calling “the Potion.” There was about 1/3 oz. left in the bottle. She set me up draped over my birthing ball while she massaged my aching back with a little drop of the oil.

We decided that as soon as I felt ready, we were going to try to flip the baby (who must have been “sunny-side up,” given my back labor) using some lunging exercises. We needed me to be relaxed and carrying the baby in a favorable position before we walked into Early Labor. Our plan was to head to the hospital around 8 am, when our son would be waking up. We called my mother-in-law to let her know to be at our house by 8; she didn’t answer.

It was 5 am. We guessed that I was about 3 cm dilated and that most of the hard work I was doing was effacement. I was carrying on conversations with the two of them and calling out a packing list for my husband, who couldn’t find my favorite nursing tank top in my pajama drawer.

I ate a snack, some kind of cereal bar. I was feeling pretty oily and remember saying I wanted to do the baby-rotating lunges in the shower so I could get cleaned up, forget my flat-ironed hair. I went to the master bathroom to void my bladder first. My doula waited just outside, in the master bedroom, knowing I might call for her because the toilet-seated position can intensify contractions. My husband went to the kitchen to refill his water glass and try calling his mother again.


My water broke, amniotic fluid splattering against the sides of the toilet boil.
(Birth is beautiful, but birth is gross.)

My doula rushed to my side and helped to hold me up by my elbow.

Creaky footsteps headed toward the master bedroom door. “Was that the… Did she… ? Hey, Ma, I gotta go.”

As my husband’s concerned face appeared in the bathroom door frame, I felt my baby descend into my pelvis and straight down to my cervix like a boulder down a chute. Then the familiar burn.

My baby was going to be born in our bathroom, and we never knew I had reached active labor.

June Azalea Clare was born at 5:15 am, a nuchal cord wrapped twice around her neck that my doula unwrapped as soon as I pushed past her shoulders. 

She breathed, cried, and then nursed immediately. I birthed the placenta into the toilet. When her cord stopped pulsing, we tied it off with my husband’s pajama pants string. He held her skin-to-skin; my doula draped them with a blanket.

By 5:45, I was showering, washing away what remained of the Love Your Labor oil, adrenaline pumping, but still relaxed—reveling in all that had transpired. By the time the paramedics arrived at my front door with the stretcher they intended me to ride to the hospital on (ha), I was in the laundry room sprinkling Charlie’s Soap over a load of towels. Found my nursing tank.

Nobody believes me that I didn’t plan a homebirth, but I didn’t. My husband, nor I, nor the experienced professional support person by my side caught any hint that I was in active labor. Keeping me relaxed, which had been such hard work in itself during my first marathon of a labor, had not been the challenge we expected it to become “later.” We kept waiting for the hard work to start, for “later” to emerge. We knew that the contractions were getting a little longer and intensifying, but we were all using my first labor as a litmus test. There was no comparison.

This reads a bit like an infomercial, I know. Here’s this beautiful (I believe) birth story, and interspersed throughout is product placement. It’s an ‘ad’ for what we affectionately termed ‘the Potion.’ And if I hadn’t heard of and been privileged to witness a large handful of birth narratives that played out similarly, I might hesitate to use my own story as “a Love Your Labor oil tale.” But my experience with Love Your Labor Potion—er, oil—is the very experience that got me interested in hosie naturals. It’s what convinced me, a pretty average consumer, of the efficacy of therapeutic-grade essential oils and herb essences. It’s the experience that illustrated to me, in the most complete sense of that verb, the difference between Kari’s business—her art—and something like Bath & Body Works.

There can be so much more to skincare than fragrance. Skincare can become whole body care. June’s birth represented many milestones for me and for our family unrelated to my intellect, my concept of wellness, or my consumer interests, but I can’t forsake acknowledging the role that the hosie naturals Love Your Labor oil played in creating a labor and birth experience that came out of nowhere, that was peaceful but fast-paced, intense but never grueling, powerful but never overpowering, and that is, quite frankly, the most hilarious story in our family vault.

I blame the clary sage.

*Ingredients are all Certified Organic and include: *Sunflower Oil, Camellia Seed Oil, Vitamin E (non-GMO), Essential Oils of: *Lavender, Clary Sage, *Ylang Ylang, Frankincense, Sandalwood, *Palma Rosa, Vanilla Absolut, *Geranium, *Bergamot, Rose Absolute Jasmine, Neroli, Chamomile. Specially formulated for expecting mothers to aid in a more pleasant birthing experience. The superior blend of essential oils is reputed to be beneficial in labor, aiding in relaxation, focus and toning of the uterus for more productive, yet less painful pressure sensations (contractions).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I'm thankful for this: It's the BIGGEST SALE in eLeMeNO-Pee HISTORY, and we can offer it because of YOU!

I gotta tell y'all, friends: I'm feeling the love. (If you don't want to read the schmaltz, scroll to the next orange text.)

I've been affiliated with eLeMeNO-Pee in some form or another--as a client, as a consultant, and now as the contracted social media director--for two-and-a-half years now. I've watched us grow from a literal home office (in our founder's home) with two consultants each about 60 miles from that office, with a selection of exactly three cloth diapers to choose from, to a full-blown, legit, competitive, oh-shoot-people-know-who-we-are cloth diaper retailer with a unique three-pronged business model and an ever-growing team of motivated consultants who are invested in seeing their communities be turned onto cloth... and succeed with cloth because they have the right education and the right products for their families' needs and desires.

Now, you might blame it on my pregnancy. You might blame it on my general sentimental nature. You might blame it on the fact that my household is gearing up for Advent and Christmas, and I'm emotional about this time of year, period. But I just gotta tell y'all that I get a little misty-eyed when I think about how far our clients, our consultants, and our amazing Home Office team, including our past and present owners, have taken us. Sniff, sniff. Cloth diapers, y'all. It's a community, and there's just no other community like it!

In case you missed the e-mail we sent out earlier today (and if you don't want to miss future e-mails, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom left of our store's home page), I'll copy and paste it for you right on this blog entry!

Have a beautiful Thanksgiving!

With love,
Social Media Director
eLeMeNO-Pee, Ltd.

We're so thankful for your business, so we're offering you...

Planning your Thanksgiving weekend shopping? We love that you're choosing to shop local and shop small businesses! We're so grateful and so humbled to say that because of you, we've grown enough in 2012 to be able to offer you the BIGGEST sale in our history, and we hope you'll include us in your weekend plans!

Here are the deets:

Black Friday
Begins at 12:00 am Central

Buy 4 FuzziBunz Elite OS diapers, get 2 FREE!
(Load 6, 12, or 18 into your cart, and the price of 2, 4, or 6 will automatically be deducted from your order! This is so that you can select the colors of your freebies from our available stock!)

Small Business Saturday
Begins at 12:00 am Central; ends at 11:59 pm Central.

Buy 4 FuzziBunz Elite OS diapers, get 2 FREE!

Any order placed through your local eLeMeNO-Pee consultant* will receive a SURPRISE Planet Wise freebie, randomly drawn from a selection of THREE popular Planet Wise products!
*To qualify, orders must be placed by the consultant, not by using the consultant's link on our Web site.

Cyber Monday
***FREE SHIPPING on all orders over $75!!!***

Begins at 12:00 am Central; ends at 11:59 pm Central.


Duo Hemp Pocket Diaper – 15% off, with SELECT PRINTS 25% OFF! (Orig. price $18.50-$19.50)

Booty Luster, 4 oz. – 25% off (Orig. price $6.25)

Fab Wipes – 15% off  (Orig. price $12.25)


All day wet bags – $16.50 (Orig. price $21.95)

Beeboo Babies

Fleece Soaker Shorts – $13.50 (Orig. price $15.95)


Body Silk Seamless – 25% off (Orig. price $49.00)

Original Nursing Bra – 25% off (Orig. price $35.00)


Buy 4 FuzziBunz Elite OS diapers, get 2 FREE!
(Load 6, 12, or 18 into your cart, and the price of 2, 4, or 6 will automatically be deducted from your order! This is so that you can select the colors of your freebies from our available stock!)

Perfect size – 15% off (Orig. price $13.95 - $16.95)

Trickle-free Trainers – 25% off (Orig. price $13.95 - $16.95)

All sales on discounted items are final; promotions apply only while in-stock supplies last.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our happy eLeMeNO-Pee babies, mamas, and 'dadvocates!'logo

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Textiles and Fibers, A-Z, pt. II: Waterproofing in cloth diapers

Like I mentioned last week, there are two necessary components of a cloth diaper system: absorbent cloth and waterproof (or water-resistant) cloth. And whether you choose a system with a separate waterproof component (usually called a 'cover' or a 'soaker,' but in the case of gDiapers is a distinctive pouch that snaps into a bloomer-cover) or with a sewn-on waterproof layer, there are lots of great options presented by the inventors and designers behind the modern cloth diaper movement.

Fortunately for you (and for me!), there are fewer textiles commonly used to provide waterproofing than there are to provide absorbency, and they can be grouped into categories that are functionally similar. Laminates and nylons provide waterproofing and feel similar to each other and perform similarly despite their being very different textiles, while fleece and wool are functionally similar in that they are water-resistant, despite being very different in some ways and requiring different styles of laundry care.

If this is information overload for you, don't worry about it! You don't have to care about this stuff to be in the cloth diaper club; not caring to learn the chemical and structural details of the textiles used in your cloth diapers does not mean you are cloth diapering the wrong way. (In fact, I think the only 'wrong way' to cloth diaper is to accept problems as part and parcel of the product instead of reaching out for help from from experienced cloth diapering moms!) But if you're a researcher or even a seamstress yourself, this hopefully comprehensive overview may strike your fancy!

Waterproof textiles

Laminates are textiles that are made waterproof by adding a layer of Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) to an outer fabric that works well to complement the waterproof properties of the polyurethane. Most often, we see TPU laminated to a polyester interlock to create what is commonly called "PUL" in the cloth diapering world.

Polyurethane Laminate (PUL)
- PUL is, as mentioned above, most commonly rendered as a compound of some brand of TPU, which is a family of clear, stretchy, waterproof plastics manufactured under more than a dozen name brands, laminated to a polyester interlock or, sometimes, a thickly woven cotton. PUL can be '1 mil' or '2 mil,' which describes its thickness. Thicker PUL is alleged to be less breathable, but more durable, than thinner (1 mil) PUL. PUL is used to create the waterproofing of most pockets and AIOs as well as most wrap-style covers on the market today. 

Many sources claim that PUL was developed to be a medical-grade textile and is thus hardy under 'harsh,' sterilizing laundering conditions like regular exposure to very high heat. However, most cloth diaper manufacturers do not allow their PUL warranties to cover products that have been regularly washed in very hot temperatures--many manufacturers even specify a maximum water temperature that must be used in order to satisfy warranty conditions.

Some manufacturers have claimed that their product is made with "TPU, not PUL," but this is most likely a misunderstanding about some of the technical 'chemistry' terms involved in the world of textiles derived from plastics, which is quite a vast and confusing world!
What most manufacturers mean when they say their products make use of 'TPU' is that the manufacturing source from which they purchase their waterproof materials uses a heat (thermal) bonding rather than a chemical bonding process to laminate their outer fabric (usually a polyester interlock, but sometimes woven cotton) with TPU. However, the name "thermoplastic polyurethane" describes how this particular polyurethane (notably different from many other polyurethanes for its elasticity and its transparency) is made, not how it is bonded to its outer fabric.

So why do some PULs feel different than others? There are at least a dozen brands of that clear, stretchy TPU on the market--some are "stickier," some are smoother, and some are more textured. There are also several methods of bonding the polyurethane to the fabric outer, and each method will affect the texture of the finished compound. Additionally, some manufacturers choose to sandwich a "hidden layer" of PUL between other fabrics--the Bummis Super Whisper Wrap, for example, employs a layer of 2 mil PUL bonded to polyester on either side of the polyurethane for extra durability. This makes for a stiffer fabric, and the cover is not slick and "wipe-able," but it is extra leak-proof, and it means that no laminates touch the baby's skin.

Our newest product addition, the bumGenius Freetime, comes in proprietary colors, meaning that the color palette is commissioned by the manufacturer for its own use and cannot be found among other PUL suppliers.
Each PUL manufacturer has a contract with a particular brand of TPU (and with a particular brand of polyester interlock as well). Some cloth diaper manufacturers contract with a PUL factory and design proprietary prints and colors (which is why you can't find, say, Thirsties prints or the FuzziBunz color palette on a WAHM diaper); others just purchase wholesale and in bulk, using whatever prints and colors are available to them, and not limiting themselves to PUL manufactured at a single factory, which is why sometimes a single brand will carry prints with PUL that feels just a little different than their solid color palette or some of their other prints.

Laminates are known in the cloth diaper world for 'de-laminating,' which describes the process of the clear, plastic TPU becoming unbonded from the outer fabric. Why does this occur? Sometimes it's a reaction to too much heat exposure, and other times it's a reaction to certain chemicals. Often, though, it's just a product defect. Ever used a laminating machine to laminate paper? How many times has your finished product had a 'bubble' in it? While the process of creating PUL has been refined over the last thirty years, PUL is prone to bubbling and eventually de-laminating if the conditions under which it is bonded are not exactly, perfectly, precisely correct. That's why cloth diaper manufacturers often warranty their PUL for so long.

Pros: PUL is easily laundered, reasonably durable, and definitely waterproof. It can be manufactured in a multitude of colors and prints. Cons: Delamination does happen; fortunately, most manufacturers offer warranties to protect the customer in this event. Additionally, some children are sensitive to the chemicals used in the bonding process of a particular PUL brand or to the plastic itself; others just require more breathability than any laminate can offer.

Nylons that have been treated with a waterproofing agent are also used to create the waterproof layer of some cloth diaper systems, including the gDiapers snap-in gPouch.

Polyurethane-coated Nylon - Polyurethane-coated Nylon is simply another waterproof textile option. It is used to make old-fashioned plastic pull-on pants, like the Dappi, as well as the gDiaper snap-in gPouch. This is integral to what gDiapers terms "gBreathe technology"--because Nylon is more porous and thus more breathable than many of the polyesters used in the outer layer of the alternative, PUL. 

gPouch: coated Nylon
Interestingly, polyurethane-coated Nylon is certified 'food-safe' by the FDA (although when used for reusable food storage products, the 'shiny' side should never touch food), while PUL is not, which leads many to allege that the Nylon alternative is generally less "chemical-ly." Polyurethane-coated Nylon is certified to be mildew- and stain-resistant, although many moms find that gPouches do stain.

Pros: Coated nylon is more breathable than PUL, and there is no equivalent to the 'delamination' that is simply a risk of the PUL manufacturing procedure. Cons: Coated nylon cannot be washed in hot temperatures, which are ideal for killing the bacteria left behind on cloth diapers. Machine washing does break down the polyurethane coating more quickly than PUL is broken down; therefore, products like the gPouches do not have the life expectancy of a PUL cover.

For brevity's sake, we'll cover the water-resistant options, fleece and wool, next week. You think I had a lot to say about PUL? Just wait.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Putting the 'cloth' in cloth diapers: the A-Z on textiles and fibers in CDs

Whether you're researching cloth, you're waiting on an upcoming appointment or workshop with a retailer or consultant, you're just getting started building a stash, or you've been in the thick of cloth diapering for a while, you may find yourself constantly encountering new and unfamiliar textile terminology. 

Does it all confuse you? And do you like what you've got already?

Ain't nothin' wrong with that, my friends. Move right along and ogle something beautiful, like the new gDiaper special releases we just received a shipment of.

But if you've become a diaper nerd--or if you just pride yourself on being the type to research thoroughly enough to know everything there is to know--you may appreciate a handy reference guide to the types of textiles found commonly in cloth diapers.

Textiles 101

So, it's important to know that there are certain terms you'll hear that refer to fibers and raw materials, and there certain terms you'll hear that refer to the way a fiber or raw material is woven, knit, matted, interlaced, or otherwise put together in order to achieve the texture, behavior, and other physical properties characteristic to the textile. Often the resulting textile can be made from a number of possible fibers or raw materials. 

One such example is the term 'fleece.' 'Fleece' does not describe one single type of fabric; it is not in itself a fiber. Fleece is a textile that can be made from many types of fibers and/or raw materials: synthetics like polyethelene (made from a plastic resin) or even the components of recycled plastic bottles, but also hemp and cotton. Microfleece, also known as polar fleece, is a synthetic textile that was invented in 1979 and is a commonly used stay-dry (or "wicking") fabric used in cloth diapers.

Flannel and velour are other examples of textiles that can be made from various fibers.

So what puts the 'cloth' in cloth diapers? 

There are two things a diaper must be to function as a diaper: absorbent and waterproof. After that, some parents may choose a diaper system that pulls moisture away from their baby's skin for comfort reasons as well as to prevent diaper rash; this component is certainly one of the many conveniences of modern cloth diapers, but a diaper can be a diaper without it.

We'll start this week with... 

Absorbent materials

Synthetic textiles are textiles that are manufactured from already manufactured components. Sometimes one component of the raw materials can be found in nature, but, by and large, synthetic textiles are the result of modern chemistry. There is some argument that, despite their association with plastics and plastics manufacturing, their production is 'greener' than textiles woven from natural fibers, which must be farmed, and are often conventionally farmed using pesticides, and then shipped. The cost of synthetic textiles is more easily regulated and slower to rise than the cost of natural fibers, which are in higher demand and lower supply.
Microfiber terry - commonly referred to as simply "microfiber," this material is, more accurately, a high-pile, tight-loop version of the synthetic textile microfiber made into a terry (which is why it feels different than, say, your microfiber-covered couch). Terries are absorbent because the loops act as small sponges. Microfiber terry is commonly used to make automobile and kitchen towels! 
The Thirsties Duo AIO uses microfiber terry as its absorbent core material.
Its most common use in the cloth diaper world is as a cut, stacked, and serged-together insert for pocket diapers. It also appears inside All-in-Twos, All-in-Ones, and even in some fitteds. Microfiber terry diapers reach peak absorbency after about 10 washes, although most families find that they are absorbent enough to be usable after only one or two high-agitation washes. Pros: It's inexpensive, durable, and heavily absorbent. Cons: Some mothers frequently express that microfiber terry holds onto minerals from hard water and becomes stinky more quickly than other materials commonly used for absorbency. Microfiber cannot be worn against the skin and is reportedly prone to compression leaking if it becomes saturated.

Zorb and Zorb II - Zorb is a synthetic absorbent textile invented and patented by Wazoodle, an online fabric supplier that specializes in cloth diaper fabrics. It is not all that different than microfiber--it's a blend of poly/micro fibers, viscose of bamboo, and cotton. Pros: According to the manufacturer, it is hemp-free (Wazoodle is an advocate for eliminating hemp from the diaper and healthcare product markets) and trimmer than microfiber terry. It is also manufactured in the US and Canada. Cons: It's weighty, which makes it expensive to ship and thus to source; no mainstream industry manufacturers are using Zorb at this time. Zorb cannot be worn against the skin and is, like microfiber terry, reportedly prone to compression leaking.

Sherpa - Sherpa is a cotton/polyester blend that is processed into a knit terry. It is more commonly used among WAHM cloth diaper manufacturers than mainstream industry manufacturers. Pros: Sherpa can be found in colors other than 'white' and 'natural,' which can be a lot of fun! Cons: Sherpa's plushness makes it, like many other synthetic absorbent textiles, fall prey to that tendency towards compression leaking.

Absorbent minky - Fairly new to the cloth-diaper-absorbent-core scene, absorbent minky is all the rage these days because of its fast drying time and soft feel. "Mothers Against Microfiber" prefer it because it doesn't feel rough on their hands when they're stuffing it into pockets--it feels incredibly soft and luxurious, actually... because it is synthetic mink

Tots Bots EasyFit: minky!
Some sources tout absorbent minky as stay-dry, and it is often used as the inner layer of WAHM pocket diapers. However, it is my opinion that a distinction should be made between "quick-drying" and "stay-dry." The fabric that makes up a stay-dry layer (also called a "wicking layer") actually pushes moisture quickly past itself and directs it onto the layer underneath it, the absorbent core. Minky merely dries quickly, so if a diaper is used once and left on the baby over a period of time--say, during a nap--the urine will dry fairly quickly and your baby's diaper may not feel wet unless it is highly saturated. It does not perform the same function that a traditional wicking fabric does. Pros: Though synthetic, it can be safely and comfortably worn against the skin. Cons: Some moms do not find that its typical configuration of three or four stacked layers is absorbent enough on its own and must use a doubler with it.

Bamboozle, made from stretch rayon.
Rayon from bamboo - Also known as "viscose of bamboo," this is a synthetic textile, despite its derivation from a plant. Bamboo itself is farmed in a comparatively green and sustainable way, although the manufacturing process is no more or less green or toxin-free than the process associated with any synthetic textile; some of the chemicals used to process rayon include lye and carbon disulfide. The plant contains anti-microbial properties, but the resulting fabrics do not. 

Rayon from bamboo (or from any plant) can be made to mimic silk, wool, cotton, and linen. The version of the fabric that appears in cloth diapers, HVM rayon, is usually napped, giving it more textural similarity to a fleece or even a terry than to a smooth, woven fabric. It can also be made into a velour.

Rayon from bamboo is reported to be slower to absorb than terries, which are made from large loops and thus act more effectively as 'sponges.' Because of this, it is often paired with or layered underneath microfiber terry to catch what is 'squeezed out' of the microfiber layers. HVM rayon is more durable and retains its appearance for longer than the conventionally processed version. Pros: Rayon from bamboo is soft, thin, and absorbent. It does not compress as profoundly when layered like a high-pile fabric such as microfiber does. It can be worn against the skin. Cons: Claims that this is a naturally anti-microbial, natural-fiber material simply are not true.

Natural fiber textiles are often considered more "high-end" than their synthetic counterparts. Some families find that they are more difficult to clean than diapers made from synthetics, while others find that they are more easily cleaned; this is so dependent upon the makeup of a household's water supply that a generalization really can't be made fairly or accurately. 

Natural fibers can be configured in several different ways to form the absorbent textiles that become the absorbent core of a cloth diapering system--they can be woven and smooth, knotted into a velour or French terry, and even blended together. Natural fibers are farmed and then shipped to factories where they are made into various usable textiles, including the types of textiles used in cloth diaper manufacturing. There is concern among fair trade activists that most of the labor on these farms falls to severely underpaid workers and even to slaves.

All diapers made from natural fibers require additional "prepping" before first use. This prep process is accomplished in a number of ways, usually involving hot water and often a de-greasing agent. The goal of prepping is to remove as much of the natural oils and waxes inherent to the fibers as possible in order to achieve maximum absorbency and prevent repelling. 

Cotton - Who doesn't know about cotton? Cotton, like other natural textiles, has the benefit of being, well, natural. Absorbent cotton is made by removing the fiber's naturally occurring wax. 

It's rare to run across a cotton allergy, and there's a reason cotton has been used for diapering for centuries. It's highly absorbent and highly durable. It can be made into a number of textiles: flannel or a flannelette, a fleece, or even a velour, but a simple birdseye weave is its most common manifestation in the cloth diapering world. It is typically bleached, which is effective in removing its oils and waxes, but it can also be purchased unbleached. Pros: Woven cotton, like birdseye, is porous and breathable while still being highly absorbent. Most cotton products, especially Chinese or Indian cotton prefolds and birdseye flats, are inexpensive. Cons: Conventionally farmed cotton is regarded as a problematic crop for a number of reasons, both environmental and human rights-related. Because of this, many consumers feel ethically convicted not to purchase it.

Organic cotton - Cotton that has been farmed according to certified organic farming practices, using minimal to no chemical pesticides, is classified as organic cotton. Because it is more rare than conventionally grown cotton, it is often more expensive. It is considered less durable than conventional cotton and is prone to tearing or forming holes near its seams when it is sewn or serged. Pros: There are significantly fewer environmental concerns regarding the farming and harvesting of organic cotton than conventionally grown cotton. Cons: Fair Trade organic cotton can be darned near impossible to source; even organically grown cotton is associated with labor practices that would not fly in the United States. Additionally, its sustainability as a crop remains a concern--while grown without chemicals, organic cotton still carries a hefty footprint because of the amount of land and water its farming requires.

Hemp - Hemp is a little controversial in the textile world, but it is certainly popular in the cloth diapering world. To be softened enough to be usable as a textile, hemp fibers must be blended with cotton fibers. According to some sources, this hemp/cotton blend is up to eight times more absorbent than cotton alone, and it is regarded as more durable.
Thirsties hemp prefolds.
Hemp, like bamboo, is an anti-microbial plant, but once it is manipulated and processed and blended with other fibers to become a textile, there is no evidence that it retains any anti-microbial properties. In fact, because hemp is so strong and absorbent, it is prone to stinking if it is not 100% cleansed and subsequently dried completely before its next use. Pros: Hemp's tensile strength and durability make it a great candidate for workhorse diapering. Cons: Because its production is limited to certain countries (in light of its association with marijuana), hemp fabrics are expensive for manufacturers to source, and that cost gets added to the price tag. Hemp blends that have less cotton in them, while more absorbent, are prone to stiffness.

Wool - Wool deserves a mention. It's most frequently used as a water-resistant outer, but wool makes an appearance from time to time as an insert or part of an insert. Why? Because it is absorbent! In fact, wool, an animal-derived fiber, can hold up to 30% of its own weight in liquid without feeling damp--that's because it consists of overlapping cuticles that repel water, but beneath those cuticles is a porous absorbent core. Pros: Wool is breathable and (it's true!) somewhat self-cleaning, and the types of wool used in diapering (like merino) are usually hypoallergenic. Wool is a fantastic option for babies who present a reactive sensitivity to other textiles popularly used in cloth diapers. Cons: Even machine-washable wools require some special laundry care. Wool is also more costly than plant-derived or synthetic fibers, and if you are passionate about animal rights, then wool presents a problem.

So is there a perfect absorbent textile for cloth diapers?

The perfect absorbent material for your cloth diapers is the textile that you like the best. It's what functions well for your child and cleans well in your washer, with your water. It's what your budget can handle, and it's what fits into your family's consumer ethics. 

Chances are, you'll love whatever you try first, because there's nothing popular on the market that just plain doesn't work. And if, like many mamas, you start with microfiber terry and then get the itch to try new things, well, that's great, too!

(Next time, we'll talk about waterproof textiles! Laminates and nylons, fleeces and wools--ever wondered what "interlock" means? Or what the difference between PUL and TPU is? Check back to find out!)