Reusable Nappies & Swimming

Baby swimming is a great way to bond with your baby, and can be done from birth. Both of our children were enrolled in swimming lessons from just a couple of weeks old, and they have both developed in confidence and skill over the years they have been swimming

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You need very little to take your baby swimming, but the most vital piece of clothing is the swim nappy. Most swim schools and swimming pool require a double nappy system, which consists of a swim nappy (disposable or reusable) with a neoprene ‘happy nappy’ over the top. The double layer is important, as you don’t want your child to be the one that causes the pool to be closed if the nappy leaks!

The first thing to note is that no swim nappy is designed to be absorbent; its sole purpose is to contain any solids. Anything absorbent in a swim nappy would just absorb water from the swimming pool in seconds, and will weigh down your baby

Reusable swim nappies are simple to use and can be used on multiple children. They are generally sized (small/medium/large or size 1/size 2) so they provide a snug fit for your child; a swim nappy that is too small will dig into the skin and may cause discomfort, and a swim nappy that is too big will gape and leak

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One thing to be aware of, especially if you are not familiar with reusable nappies in general is that they are designed to fit more snugly than disposable nappies, so will sit more like a pair of traditional pants, so don’t be alarmed if it looks like the swim nappy is too small, it isn’t!

There are two main styles of reusable swim nappies, and it is personal preference which you go for. Pull-up style are easier for older children to put on independently, but swim nappies with poppers or Velcro are easier to remove without making lots of mess if your little one does have an accident. Our personal preference is poppers as we find that Velcro can get brittle over time with repeated exposure to chlorine

Neoprene happy nappies are used over the top of a swim nappy and provide extra security in the event of an accident. The legs and waist are designed to form a seal in case any solids do escape the swim nappy underneath, and they must completely cover the underneath layer. Again, these are sized, and they must fit snugly to perform their job effectively

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Taking care of swim nappies is really simple too; we just pop ours into the washing machine with the rest of the swimwear. They dry very quickly, so if you are going on holiday, you should only need two or three to use in rotation; if not soiled, they can be hand-washed and dried in a couple of hours

So, what are you waiting for?! Ditch the disposables and try reusables today!

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ZERO WASTE REVIEW: Products to make washing up less of a chore!

As a family of four, plus being a childminder who works from home, we do a lot of washing up (well, I say ‘we’ when I actually mean my mother mainly!) Up until recently we would buy multipacks of cheap sponges, which were used for a week or so before throwing away, but as these are made from plastic and will never fully degrade, I was keen to find alternatives; below are my thoughts on two products designed to replace these plastic washing up sponges

Safix Scrub Pad from Hereford Eco Products

Made from coconut fibres held together with natural latex, this pad is fully compostable and biodegradable at the end of its serviceable life, as it contains no plastic whatsoever

Because of the rough texture, it is especially useful for the heavy duty washing up, such as frying pans and saucepans where the food has baked on. I will admit that I did worry for the surface of my frying pan before I used this; initially it feels quite rough to the touch, but three months down the line, and my frying pans are as smooth as ever, and the pad has softened up a little too

We are still using our original scrub pad, where we would have used and thrown away at least six sponges in the same time span. A few of the coconut fibres have worked loose over that time, but the product is still perfectly usable, and will be for some time

I tend to soak the pad once a month in diluted apple cider vinegar for an extra deep clean, but as long as you rinse the pad after use and leave to dry, it will still last a long time

Another added bonus is that it is good for scrubbing potatoes from the garden before peeling them; that brought back fond memories of my childhood cleaning the spuds for Sunday lunch in my nan’s kitchen!

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Washing Up Brush from Boobalou

Another blast from the past with this one, as I remember my mum using a washing up brush when I was a child, but that was plastic with plastics bristles. This washing up brush has a beech wood handle and bristles made of Tampico fibres; Tampico is derived from the yellow leaf of the agave cactus and is useful for this purpose because it retains water, is robust and hard-wearing and keeps its shape. Because the bristles are plant-based, they are 100% biodegradable

The brush is perfect for general cleaning of plates, bowls and cups; the bristles aren’t so hard that they scratch the surfaces of the crockery, while the small head means that the brush can get into the hard to reach corners of mugs with ease

The brush does take a while to dry out in between uses; ours doesn’t dry out in the day but does overnight. The metal loop at the end of the handle is useful to hang up the brush to dry in between uses

Replacement heads are available; there is a knack to removing the old head (lots of wiggling involved to loosen the metal holding the head on!) but once you know what you’re doing, it’s simple enough to do a second time. It’s also good to know that the head isn’t just going to fall off randomly too! The video here is useful to watch to help you too

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Summary

We are very pleased with our replacements for washing up sponges; each product fulfils a slightly different use, and therefore we will continue to use both. The key test for anything related to washing up in our house is whether they pass my mother’s seal of approval… and they do; she is will be replacing her washing up sponges with these products, so there is no higher praise than that in my eyes!

A letter to our friends and family: please no ‘stuff’ this Christmas

Firstly, I do want to say how grateful we are that people want to buy our kids (and us!) gifts at Christmas; we are lucky to have such generous friends and family! This post is not meant to sound ungrateful or like we’re preaching to you, but we would like to share with you some of the changes we have made this year, and how you, our friends and family, can help to support us with those changes

We have now reached a stage in our life where we have so much ‘stuff’ that we don’t actually need, and Christmas adds more to the pile. This year we have decluttered a LOT (even Paul has got involved with this one, and cleared the loft space a little!) got rid of excess furniture, knick-knacks, duplicate toys and household items which we used once years ago and then never again (who needs a salad spinner, really?!)

We are now reaching a stage where everything in our house falls into two categories; useful or sentimental. The rest is expendable

And this is where YOU come in, our friends and family. We don’t need more stuff to fill the gaps we have created in our home this year and will NOT be offended if you don’t get us anything at all! What we do want is time together as a family, so if you want to get us anything, could you consider popping a fiver in an envelope which we can put towards family days out throughout the year. For example, last July we took the kids on the train to London to see Uncle David, and would love to do the same again this year

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Due to the nature of my job, we have loads of toys already, so there are very few things we actually need; but if you REALLY feel that you want to buy the kids something to open, we have a list of a few select toys at Wise Owl Toys (ask behind the counter for the list) Some of these won’t be used immediately for our kids, but I plan ahead for the whole year. For instance, we have just cracked open the See & Spell that was bought for Thomas’s third birthday as he is just learning to read at preschool; so even if the items seem too advanced for our kids currently, they will get full use when the time comes!

We are also trying to reduce our waste this year, particularly plastic waste; we have introduced reusable straws, reusable cups and beeswax wraps instead of clingfilm into our household. We also utilise the new zero waste shop that has opened in Worcester, buying plastic-free deodorant, refilling containers instead of buying new and continuing to use reusable nappies, wipes and (me personally) CSP

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Christmas adds a lot of unnecessary waste to our house including foil wrapping paper that can’t be recycled. So, would you consider using brown paper to wrap? It is cheap to buy, and we will reuse it is possible, recycle if necessary. You can even get the kids to decorate it for a personal touch! Or could you reuse those gift bags from last year, make labels from old cards and consider homemade gifts for other people where they would be appreciated?

I understand that our lifestyle changes aren’t to everyone’s taste, but we would love it if you could join us in making our Christmas a sustainable one

Merry Christmas everyone!

Cloth Nappies & Childcare

One of the most common reasons I hear for people not trying reusable nappies is that nurseries and childminders won’t use them. In fact, there is no reason why childcare providers CANNOT use reusable nappies, and it actually is a good way for them to demonstrate that they are working in partnership with parents, something that Ofsted is hot on

I’m an Ofsted registered childminder whose own children were (eldest) and are (youngest) in reusable nappies; in fact, the youngest has never worn a disposable nappy. The nursery my youngest attends is more than happy for her to stay in reusables, despite this being their first experience of them

I have cared for children in both disposable and reusable nappies, and MUCH prefer reusable, as there is no risk of poo leaks up the back of the nappy! However, I understand that it is parent choice, and I would never expect my parents who use disposable nappies to switch to reusable, so why should the reverse be acceptable?

There are many misconceptions floating around about reusable nappies, and most of them stem from ignorance of what modern reusable nappies are actually like, so I’d like to share a few tips to help get your childcare provider on board with reusable nappies

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  1. Education
    Using reusable nappies is still a relatively rare practice in our modern throw-away society, so a lot of childcare providers won’t have come across reusable nappies in their setting before. Ask your childcare provider if they have seen or used modern reusable nappies previously and be prepared to show them what they are like
    If you ask the majority of people in the UK what reusable nappies are, they will usually describe terry squares, plastic pants, soaking in a bucket until wash day… The reality of modern reusable nappies is very different, and by showing providers that no nappy pins or soaking is involved, then they will usually be more open to the suggestion
    Find out if your childcare provider has any preconceptions about reusable nappies, for example, that they leak, and be prepared to address those
  2. Communication
    Have a conversation with your childcare provider about how both you and they could manage reusable nappies in the setting
    Things to consider might include:
  • Preparation of nappies: could you send nappies already prepared, with all inserts, boosters and liners in place, ready to put straight onto the child?
  • Storage of dirty nappies: if the childcare provider has a double bagging policy could you provide small wet bags for individual nappies then another, larger, wet bag for these to go into afterwards?
  • Dealing with solids: I always suggest asking the childcare provider to leave any solids for parents to dispose of at home

    This communication shouldn’t happen just when your child starts childcare either; make sure you communicate regularly with your childcare provider, encouraging them to share any issues they may have

  1. Stick to what you know
    Don’t send in nappies you don’t normally use. Stick to nappies you know suit your child; nappies that you can demonstrate how to fit correctly because you use them every day, where you know how long those nappies should last between changes
    There’s absolutely no point in buying loads of nappies especially for nursery because they’re ‘easier’ when actually your child wees through them in half an hour and they aren’t a good fit on your child
    If it ain’t broke…
  2. Expect leaks
    Remember when you first started using reusable nappies on your little one and didn’t fit them properly into the knickerline? And that time you left the fleece liner sticking out and liquid wicked onto trousers? Oh, and when you did the poppers up too tight and got compression leaks?
    Your childcare provider will need to go through that learning process, and you will need to be patient
    Pack several pairs of bottoms. Be prepared to demonstrate how to fit a reusable nappy several times to several different people. Send in a picture to show how tight the Velcro at the waist should be. Write a brief set of instructions to leave in the change bag to remind the key worker. Send them a link to a fit video (fab one here!) Use Sharpie to mark the poppers that need to be done up… Do whatever needs to be done to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved
    You learnt to do this once, and you didn’t have 20 other children to look after at the same timeI suppose the main lesson to take away from this consists of two words…
    Be patient!

Anyone else got any more top tips to share when it comes to cloth nappies and childcare?

Christmas Traditions: Making Mincemeat

Don’t shoot me, but I can’t stand mincemeat. Yet every year I make jars and jars of the stuff! Why?! Sometimes I do ask myself that question, but other people seem to like mince pies, and it also makes for a fab gift for friends and family, so every year, during October half term, I find myself making the stuff. And it’s really simple!

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I’ve tried a LOT of recipes for mincemeat over the years, and experimented with them all; my current favourite (mainly because it doesn’t require ridiculous ingredients or any cooking) is derived from the Traditional Mincemeat recipe found on BBC Good Food, linked here. However, I have tweaked it slightly, so that it produces less waste and uses whole packets of ingredients rather than part packets, the rest of which would not be touched until next Christmas.

The following recipe makes approximately six jars. I say ‘approximate’ as I reuse jars collected over the year(s), so they are various sizes and shapes, and all lacking labels from multiple uses!

Ingredients

  • 500g raisins
  • 700g currants
    I also substitute in sultanas if I don’t have enough raisins or currants; I’ve never really worked out the difference between the three things!
  • 400ml brandy
    You can never have enough alcohol in there, right?!
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 200g suet
    I always use veggie suet as I’m veggie, but no reason why you can’t use the meaty stuff
    This stuff generally comes in 200g boxes, so none is left over from this recipe
  • 500g dark brown sugar
    I have also used light brown sugar, if that’s what I have, with no difference in taste
  • 200g chopped mixed peel
    Again, this ingredient tends to come in 200g containers, which I then reuse for the small amount of leftover mincemeat that won’t fit into the jars at the very end
  • ½ grated nutmeg
    You can use the powdered stuff, but nothing beats the smell and taste of freshly grated nutmeg to get you in the mood for Christmas. I pick my whole nutmeg up for pennies from my local Zero Waste shop, which also means I can buy single

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Method

  1. Soak the raisins and currants (and/or sultanas!) in the brandy, lemon juice and lemon zest for a minimum of one hour, overnight preferably. The fruit soaks up most of the juice and plumps up nicely. I find giving the mixture a stir periodically helps to rotate the topmost fruit to the bottom, meaning everything gets a chance to absorb that brandy
  2. While the fruit is soaking, sterilise the jars in the dishwasher on a hot setting. If you don’t have a dishwasher, you can sterilise in the oven or microwave. Full instructions here
    The main thing to note is to let the jars cool before adding the mincemeat as adding cold mincemeat to hot jars may cause the jars to shatter. No-one wants to waste good mincemeat (or jars, for that matter)
  3. Add the other ingredients and stir well
    I add them a little at a time, as they can be hard to distribute evenly throughout if added all at once, especially the suet and the sugar
  4. Spoon the finished mincemeat into the sterilised jars and press in firmly to exclude any air; you will be surprised at how much you can pack into those jars if you squeeze the air out as you go
  5. Store for at least a month before use, the longer the better
    The original recipe says use within six months, but I’ve used up jars from previous Christmases in mince pies without poisoning anyone yet…

Enjoy, people!

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Making Apple Cider Vinegar: Part 1

ShampooI use shampoo bars, which can sometimes leave my hair feeling waxy if not rinsed out thoroughly; this can make my hair feel heavy and look lacklustre. An apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse works wonders to remove any waxy residue left behind after rinsing, but I wanted to find a more sustainable source than buying glass bottles of the stuff every month from the supermarket

As my husband’s boss has a small orchard, we get given a LOT of windfall apples every autumn, and I make a lot of apple cake (Mary Berry’s Apple & Cinnamon Cake, if anyone wants to make their own) But the cores and peel generally go straight into the composter, which seems rather wasteful… Cue a spot of Googling and I found a very simple and easy-to-follow recipe from Tales of a Kitchen which you can find here

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As I use the windfall apples up in small batches, and only had a 2L Kilner jar to make the ACV in, I froze the cores and peel in a 2L tub until full. You might prefer to make smaller batches more often, so you have a more regular but smaller supply of ACV every couple of weeks, but as this is my first time, I’m going to put all of my eggs into one basket! Plus, you need a wide mouth jar, and I don’t have many of those lying around that aren’t already in use

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Anyway, onto the actual making… My first tip: cut the apple cores into smaller pieces BEFORE freezing, else they are very difficult to saw up. But once they are in smaller pieces, simply stuff into the jar, trying to fill all of the spaces. It would probably be easier to squish the apples down more if they have defrosted, but I was far too impatient to do that; or not organised enough to remove from the freezer earlier in the day… You decide which!

Once the apples are crammed into the jar, dissolve a couple of teaspoons of sugar in some water – as I was using more apples than the recipe above, I used heaped teaspoons of sugar – and pour over the apples; I recommend doing this SLOWLY otherwise the sugar water splashes out. Then top up with more water until the apples are covered. I boiled the water and then cooled it before adding to the jar as I do not have a water filter

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The final stage is to cover the mouth of the jar with a muslin and secure it before storing in a dark cupboard for a couple of weeks. I also dated the jar with today’s date in case I do decide to make another batch before this one has finished fermenting, to differentiate them

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I’m looking forward to keeping an eye on my ACV over the coming week, stirring it occasionally, watching for the bubbles that show that fermentation is happening and searching for a white foam at the top – any other colour of ‘scum’ is not good, apparently!

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I will keep you updated with the progress of my ACV as the weeks go on; I’ll be honest, I’m expecting a few pitfalls along the way… Wish me luck!

REVIEW: Reusable Nappies – EcoBebe All-in-Two Nappy

The EcoBebe nappy (right hand side in the photo below) is designed to fit from 7lb 7oz on the smallest setting up to 33lb on the largest, although if you do have a larger toddler I would be wary that it might not last up until that maximum weight, especially in comparison to the EcoPipo (left hand side in the photo below) which is definitely more generous in size.

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I was a tad sceptical when I saw the EcoBebe nappy; it looked a LOT smaller than the EcoPipo pockets I was already using on my youngest, and I wasn’t convinced it wasn’t going to fit her… But it did! She is on the largest setting at just over two years of age, and 50th centile for weight (I can’t remember what she actually weighs though, classic second child problem!)

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The fit is very trim, and a lot less bulky than EcoPipo pockets, partially aided by the insert. EcoPipo pockets come with one long trifold (bamboo and microfibre) which folds into three, whereas the EcoBebe insert only folds into two; it comprises of one long microfibre insert with a cotton velour outer on one side and a microfleece outer on the other for a choice of material to put next to the skin. As the insert folds over to fit into the wrap, it also unfolds for faster drying, which is a definite bonus in the torrential rain we are currently experiencing

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The insert fits comfortably into the cover, and I have also added an extra EcoPipo bamboo insert for extra peace of mind on occasion; I was unsure if this would compromise the fit of the nappy, but the double gusset at the leg means that there is no gapping once the nappy is fitted correctly

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One slight issue I do have is the proximity of the snaps to the edge of the tab; this can make it tricky to undo the nappy when changing, as there isn’t any material to grab onto, but I am unsure if this is just my particular nappy, or true for all products

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Overall, we are very happy with our EcoBebe nappy; the trim fit is great for an active toddler, and absorbency can easily be customised to suit without gaps and leaks occurring

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***ALL VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THIS BLOG POST ARE MY OWN***