This Saturday some of Chilliwack's cutest bums will be at All Things Being Eco to participate in the Guinness World Records diaper changing challenge called The Great Cloth Diaper Change. More than 10,000 babies at 400 locations in 24 countries will take part in a simultaneous diaper challenge to celebrate Earth Day. Times reporter Paul J. Henderson will be there with his little one and store owner Donna Gumprich needs at least 25 bums for the local effort to count towards the Guinness record. Check out All Things Being Eco on Facebook for information on the event. World records aside, here's naturopath Dr. Joanne Menard's take on the natural approach to changing diapers.
Changing a diaper, naturally
By Joanne Menard, B.Sc., N.D.
When it comes to a new baby, changing diapers is probably the second-most frequent activity (next to nursing or feeding) that parent and baby participate in together.
A more natural approach to diaper care, which includes cloth diapers, natural baby wipes and homemade salves will inevitably prevent many of the rashes and discomforts that all parents want to avoid for their baby.
Here's a step-by-step approach to natural diaper care for your baby that requires a little preparation, but isn't complicated, and will leave you and your baby feeling happy and content in this most intimate and frequent of interactions.
Step 1: Wipe with water.
As parents, we all want to do what's best for our baby's skin. The skin isn't an impermeable barrier, as many would imagine, but has the ability to excrete sweat and toxins, as well as the ability to absorb anything that is rubbed on it, good or bad. So you may want to rethink baby wipes--they can contain propylene glycol (better known as antifreeze), parabens (a hormone-disrupting chemical that's used to scent baby wipes), and chlorine bleach (how else did they get to be so white?), which off-gases dioxins, another hormone disruptor.
Luckily, there are more natural, unscented wipes available now for when you are out and about, and nothing can beat simple water and washcloths at home (which are also better environmental choices than any one-use wipe). Here are a few helpful tips for using plain old water and washcloths:
Â Keep a small thermos filled with warm water in the drawer of your change table (a thermos will keep the water warm for about five hours). The advantage of the warm water is that it will be less likely to irritate or startle a content baby (wouldn't you prefer a warm washcloth on your skin over a cold, wet wipe?)
Â If you are having a hard time preventing yeast-based diaper rashes, you can add one drop of neem oil (a natural anti-fungal herb) to about one cup of warm water.
Â Dip a washcloth in the warm water to wipe baby's bottom and use another clean washcloth to dry off. Having 40 baby washcloths on hand in a basket on or above your change table will be plenty for you to rotate through. Organic cotton or bamboo washcloths will be the softest on baby's skin and won't contain any pesticides.
Â Then, give baby a minute or two of diaper-free time to further help prevent any diaper rashes.
Step 2: Use a homemade diaper salve.
Everyone wants to keep their baby's bottom rash free. But using vaseline as a barrier doesn't make any sense--it's exactly what it says it is--petroleum jelly. And many diaper ointments contain parabens, which, once absorbed through the skin, mimic estrogen in your baby's body.
You can use the following homemade diaper salve to provide a barrier between your baby's skin and a wet or soiled diaper. The calendula is soothing and healing to any irritated skin but won't be sufficient enough if your baby has a full-blown diaper rash (a zinc-based ointment will be a better choice in this case or you may need an appropriate anti-fungal if it is a yeast-based rash).
Â 1/4 cup beeswax (which you can purchase from one of our local honey farms)
Â 1/2 cup organic olive oil
Â 1 cup dried calendula flowers
Â Vitamin E oil
Â Pour 1/2-cup of organic olive oil over a cup of dried calendula flowers and let sit in a mason jar away from sunlight for one week or longer (up to three months)
Â Cut the beeswax into pieces (about two cm long)
Â In a double boiler, heat beeswax and olive oil until the beeswax has all melted. Add a few drops of vitamin E oil to act as a preservative.
Â Pour the warm liquid into small jars that have been sanitized in the dishwasher. It will then harden into a salve. It's a good idea to use a small container (such as a lip balm jar) to keep in your diaper bag.
Step 3. Use Cloth Diapers.
In the first two years of your baby's life you will be changing between 5,000 and 7,000 diapers. Approximately 85 per cent of Canadian parents use disposable diapers so that can easily add up to four million diapers ending up in Canadian landfills every day. The worst part is that research suggests that disposables can take somewhere between 200 and 500 years to biodegrade (so best-case scenario your great-great-great-great grandchild will be starting kindergarten by the time your baby's first disposable diaper has decomposed). There are lots of cloth diaper options out there nowadays, including prefolds, all-in-one cloth diapers, organic cotton diapers, bamboo diapers; the list goes on. My personal choice has been the g-diaper which allows you the option of using either reusable cloth liners or a biodegradable liner that fully decomposes in 50-150 days (and which you can flush, compost or toss). Not every diaper will work for every baby, however, and you may need to try a few different types before finding that perfect leak-free fit.
There's plenty of debate over whether cloth diapers are more environmentally friendly than disposable, but in the end, Environment Canada has recognized cloth as a superior choice to disposables and some researchers say they are up to 50 per cent more gentle on the environment than disposables.
Cloth diapers are also more breathable, made of natural fibres, and don't contain any dioxins (which are carcinogenic and disrupt the endocrine system) or chemicals or perfumes like disposables do. And apparently, babies catch onto toilet training faster than they would if you were using disposable diapers (they are more motivated to use the potty and get out of diapers because they actually sense some moistness from the cloth against their bottoms). So here are a few tips to make cloth diapers easy:
Â use flushable biodegradable liners between the cloth diaper and your baby's bottom (especially around the time your baby poops). This will make clean up of soiled diapers much easier as you can pick up the liner and toss it (along with the poop) into the toilet where the poop belongs and it helps keep your cloth from accumulating tough stains.
Â On sunny days, hang your washed liners on the line outside to dry. You'll save on your hydro bill by not using your dryer and the sun is an amazing natural alternative to bleach.
Â Breastfeed. Apparently, the poop from a breastfed baby is less likely to stain than that from a formula-fed baby.
Step 4. The Ultimate Challenge:
Apparently, you can learn your baby's cues for pee and poop and bring them to a potty before they eliminate. That's definitely one way to keep any harmful chemicals away from your baby's bottom and by far the most environmentally friendly and cheapest way. On a recent visit to Saltspring Island, I overheard one hippie mom at the farmer's market who was nursing her baby in a sling all the while serving wheatgrass shots saying "why spend two years teaching your baby to poop in a diaper and then suddenly expect them to go in a big scary toilet. It's so much easier to start with the potty right off the bat." Obviously this won't suit everyone's lifestyle but you can visit www.diaperfreebaby.org for more information if you think you're up for it.
w Joanne Menard is a naturopathic doctor at the Sardis Naturopathic Medical Clinic. She has a special interest in women's health and pre- and post-natal care. She is the mother of a 17-month-old girl, and together they are practising the art of natural diaper changing. For more information about Dr. Menard, visit www.JoanneMenardND.com.
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