Thursday, April 26, 2012

Homebirth Conference 2012: Ina May Gaskin

I am so excited about Sunday when I will be attending the 2012 Homebirth Association of Ireland Conference.  It promises to be a great day out for anyone interested in natural birth and parenting.  I am a huge advocate for natural birth and homebirth and can't wait to hear the speakers and meet like-minded parents at this event.

The headline speaker is none other than Ina May Gaskin, probably the world's most renowned midwife.  I first heard of Ina May when a friend gave me a copy of Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. At the time I was of the persuasion that if I would need to be knocked out to deliver this baby and woken up when it was all over.  My only perception of childbirth was what I had seen on TV and in movies - lots of screaming and pain, frantic medical staff and frustrated Moms.  I already figured myself to have a low pain tolerance and knew there was no way I could do this without copious amounts of drugs.

I had been a bit of a hippy in my youth, following bands such as Phish around during the summer and the friend who gave me the book thought it would appeal to that side of me.  She was absolutely right.  I was only a few pages in when I began to reconsider my attitude.  The first half of the book is filled with birth stories from The Farm, where Ina May has her midwifery practice.  The stories are beautiful and empowering and instantly made me feel like I could do this.  The second half of the book focuses on birth itself and goes through the various modern practices and questions them.  There is no pressure in this book, just a very educated and experienced woman presenting the facts for you to evaluate and decide.  Before I had finished the book, I switched from an obstetrician to a midwife (not too common where I was in the US at the time) and was determined to have an intervention-free natural birth.  Ina May's book was the start of my journey towards an empowering birth and began a journey of growth as a woman.  Despite being immersed in a hospital setting, the knowledge in this book allowed me to have almost the birth I wanted.  I avoided all interventions except a heparin lock, which I couldn't argue my way out of.  It was put in an hour before delivery and I demanded it be removed immediately after, so all in all it wasn't so bad.

The book was pulled out again on my second birth where I had hoped to have a homebirth.  Unfortunately the midwife had to pull out at the last minute, but I was able to have an intervention and drug-free birth in Castlebar.  I re-read every story in the book and again it gave me so much strength.

This past time around I read the book again and I added Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding to my repertoire.  I remember labouring in the pool thinking to myself "I'm going to get huge" just like one of them women in the book.  I truly believe these books helped me believe in myself and be an active participant in the three most important days of my life.

I am absolutely ecstatic to have the chance to hear Ina May on Sunday, we are so lucky to have her come to Ireland.  The Irish Times has a piece about the visit and the conference.

If you're at all interested in natural birth, it's definitely worth a visit.  The conference is this Sunday at the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel on the Naas Road in Dublin.  Tickets are available at the door and lunch is included. Tickets are €45 for HBA members and €55 for non-members. There will be lots of shopping opportunities as well.  Further details are available from the HBA website.

Let me know if you're planning on attending as I'd love to meet as many as I can!

My Cloth Nappy Experiment: Fuzzi Bunz One Size Elite

We are on day seven of my great cloth nappy experiment and I still a complete convert! I ordered three brands to try out to see what would work best for us. I've already reviewed Little Comfort and now I'm going to discuss Fuzzi Bunz.

I ordered the three count trial pack of One Size Elite from Hipbaby. I got red, blue and orange and was instantly taken with how adorable they were!  The nappies are "pocket nappies" which Go Real describes as:
"The Pocket Nappy is an All-in-one nappy which holds the absorbent part in a pocket between a fleecy stay dry layer and the waterproof outer. This allows you to separate the absorbent part to aid quick drying."
They came with two lovely soft Minky inserts which you pop into the nappy to use.  The lovely Leona from  Hipbaby gave me a quick demonstration on how to stuff them and made sure I knew to spread them out inside the pocket to prevent side leaks.   The nappies have adjustable elastic on either side that can be changed as the baby grows. Initially I left them as they arrived but quickly found they were a better fit if I adjusted them down two notches.

The wee man in a red Fuzzibunz
These nappies work from birth to potty-training, so you definitely get a good bang for your buck.  They have snap enclosures which also allow you to choose from various sizing options when you close the nappy.  I've figured out what works best for little man after having one leak that was my own fault.  Other than that we have had no problems with these nappies and I am really liking them.  He wore one last night from about 7pm to 3am.  Ideally I would have changed him around eleven but he had been awake the entire day and I hated to wake him.  I was sure I would be facing leaks at 3am, but not at all.  I was very impressed!

I love the fact that I can tumble dry these nappies and with the inserts being separate they don't take very long to dry. At the moment my nappy stash is a limited eleven nappies so I'm doing laundry daily and the fact that the Fuzzi Bunz are ready quickly is a lifesaver.

To summarise:
An excellent pocket nappy with great absorbency. A great selection of colours, highly adjustable and very functional. Will definitely remain a staple in my stash!

Pros:
  • High quality, well-known brand
  • Excellent absorbency
  • Nice selection of colours, very cute
  • Highly adjustable
  • Quick drying time
  • No leaks!
Cons:
  • A bit bulky
  • Snaps can be daunting (well at least himself thinks so!)
Disclaimer: No compensation was received for this review, nappies were purchased from my own pocket. All opinions are my own.Fuzzibunz can be ordered in Ireland from Hipbaby.ie.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Both my girls have eczema on their arms and I have tried literally everything to get rid of it. From over the counter creams to prescription cortisone and steroids and nothing seems to help.

Recently I began thinking about other causes and decided a simpler more natural laundry soap might help.

The following is my recipe for homemade detergent. It's incredibly frugal, making enough for 160 loads and working out at less than three cent a load. Beat that Proctor and Gamble!!! You can customise it to suit your water and sense of smell. I like lavender and find it relaxes the small people, so I went with that.  You could also add a few drops of tea tree oil for it's disinfectant properties.

Borax can be bought at most chemists and if they don't have it in stock, they will order it for you. I got the soda crystals at Tesco and the soap at Dunnes. This is very effective and gets stains out easily. Use a little extra soda if you have hard water and continue to use whatever softening technique you already use, like Calgon.

Ingredients:
  • 3oz laundry/castile soap, approx half a bar (i.e. Ivory, Fels Naptha, Fairy, Dr. Bronners)
  • 3/4 cup borax
  • 3/4 cup washing soda
  • 9L hot water
  • 10-15 drops essential oil
Grate the soap into a metal bowl.

Bring one litre of the water to a boil on the stove and add the grated soap, stirring until dissolved.  Add essential oil to scent.  Remove from heat and add the soda and borax.

Stir until combined, it will thicken.  Pour into a ten litre container* and add the remaining eight litres of hot water.  Stir vigorously until well mixed.

Allow the mixture to sit overnight and it will thicken slightly.  

Use 2 fluid ounces (1/4 cup) per load of laundry, more for extra soiling.  

* I asked at the local shop for one of those big mayonnaise buckets they use at the deli!




Monday, April 23, 2012

My Cloth Nappy Experiment: Review of Little Comfort

Little Comfort Trial Pack
We are on day five of my great cloth nappy experiment and I think it's safe to say I will not be going back to disposables!  If you'd have told me I would say this two weeks ago I would have laughed in your face, but here I am, a complete convert! I ordered three brands to try out to see what would work best for us.

The first brand I tried was Little Comfort.  I was really excited to try them out as they are an Irish company and I like to support Irish businesses where at all possible, especially when - like Little Comfort - they are competitive.

I ordered the combination trial pack of their economy nappy and their luxury Bambee nappy.  The package came with 4 flushable liners and a cover.  I ordered the burberry cover that looked blue on the website, but is a definite purple when it arrived.  My very manly hubby was immediately put off by the purple, but I promised no one would see it!  The packaging was lovely and came with full colour instructions and a troubleshooting guide. I was a little disappointed because one of the snaps had fallen off the economy nappy before I had opened the package, but I was able to make do.

The wee man in his Little Comfort Bambee Nappy
Both nappies are exceptionally soft with the Bambee being just lovely and luxurious.  They both came with two inserts that just snap into the nappy.  I have used both at night with absolutely no leaks and this being with a baby who would regularly leak through night time disposable nappies.  To say I was pleased is an understatement.  When you take the nappy off the baby there are no red marks, no smell other than a lovely woody scent that I take it comes from the bamboo they are made of.  The cover seems to keep everything contained and both nappies wash up just lovely.

You cannot tumble dry them, which is a little frustrating as they take a long time to dry and in this weather, a line is just not an option. From an aesthetic point of view I think these could be a little cuter, but functionally they are fantastic.

To summarise:
An excellent super-soft bamboo nappy with great absorbency.   I will continue using them for my night time choice as I know I can rely on them and they are soft and luxurious on my son.

Pros:

  • Irish company, made in Ireland
  • High quality
  • Super soft
  • Excellent absorbency
  • Lovely smell
  • Comfortable on baby
  • No leaks!
Cons:
  • A bit bulky
  • Plain looking
  • Slow to dry
  • Can't tumble-dry
  • Requires a cover
Disclaimer: No compensation was received for this review, nappies were purchased from my own pocket. All opinions are my own.Little Comfort can be ordered directly from their website.
Thursday, April 19, 2012

Real Nappy Week: My Experiment with Cloth Diapers

Did you know that it's Real Nappy (Diaper) Week?  Me neither!  A week ago I thought that a real nappy was made by Pampers.  Turns out real nappies are the ones our grandmothers used... CLOTH nappies.

When I thought of cloth nappies I thought pins and pails and smells and piles and piles of laundry.  Laundry is my nemesis and I am no fan of dirty nappies, so the mere idea of cloth nappies filled me with dread.

Yes, I knew it was good for the environment and really good for my wallet, but the thought of the added laundry and a big bucket of poopy mess lying around just made me want to run the other way.

I was having coffee with some friends last week and one of them mentioned how her friend had a new baby and was using cloth nappies. We all scoffed at the thought of the extra laundry and we moved on to another subject.  Two days later I was reading an article about saving money and they came up again and a day or two later I was thinking of ways we could reduce our waste and there it was again. So like any good Mammy would, I consulted Captain Google and lo and behold, my idea of cloth nappies was antiquated at best.  After asking Moms who use cloth nappies some honest questions and doing a fair bit of online research, I decided to take the plunge and order a few samples and that is how I end up sitting with my little man wearing the cutest little blue Fuzzibunz cloth nappy.

I spoke with lots of Moms and the brands that came up again and again were Bumgenius, Fuzzibunz and the Irish brand Little Comfort.  I ordered a couple of nappies of each brand and we are trying them out over the next few days to see if it's something that would work for us.  One of the things that have convinced me is the idea of using a flushable liner in the nappies so any solids are flushed down the toilet, not sitting steeping somewhere.  That also means they aren't stinking up a garbage bin like disposable ones.  Big selling point for me, especially as they get older and the dirty nappies get worse.  From a laundry perspective it doesn't sound too bad either as I have been assured you only need to do a wash every 2-3 days.

Today starts my experiment and I will report back and review the various brands.  I have a feeling this is going to work and revolutionise this house, but time will tell.  If you are interested in taking the plunge, lots of places are doing great deals for Real Nappy Week. Below are the Irish shops that I have ordered from, all of which are offering good deals for the event or on trial packs.


  • Baba Me - I ordered Bumgenius from these guys located in Newry. They offer free delivery and have some great BOGOF deals this week. I hope to receive these tomorrow.
  • Little Comfort - I ordered a combination trial pack from this Irish company.  I love that the nappies are made in Ireland. They also have a 10% discount code for the rest of the month for RNW, type RNW12 in at checkout.  
  • Hipbaby - I ordered Fuzzibunz from this Irish shop, there's some good deals on packs, they also stock Little Comfort. The service was amazing and I love these nappies so far, they are so cute and functional. 
  • Earthmother - Earthmother stocks Bumgenius as well but they also have a huge range of earth-friendly cleaning products and detergents as well as tons of nappy accessories. 

Have you tried cloth nappies or considered it? What are your thoughts?

Parsnip and Coriander Soup

I recently had lunch with my parents in a little cafe in Ballina and my Mom ordered a Parsnip and Coriander soup.  Let the record show that I hate parsnip, with a passion, so when she asked me to try it I was incredulous and refused.  My Mom however is not one to take no for an answer so she forced the issue and I acquiesced only to find myself completely blown away by a sweet, creamy peppery concoction that didn't taste like parsnip at all. I immediately grilled the cafe owner on the recipe, determined to make the soup at home.  I get an organic box every week and when parsnips come in it, they just go to waste, but now I had something to do with them.  This is my attempt to recreate the soup and I have to say it was fabulous, even the kids ate it and that's high praise indeed. 

Ingredients:
  • Knob of butter
  • 3 large pasrnsips, roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1L good vegetable stock
  • 1 cup (8 fl oz) heavy cream
  • 1 large bunch coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to season
  • Coriander and cream to garnish

Melt the butter in a large pot and add the onions.  Saute for a few minutes until softening.  Add the parsnips and cook for about ten minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the garlic and stir for a minute, then add the stock.  Simmer for half an hour until the parsnip is cooked through. Add the cream and the coriander.

Using an immersion blender, blitz the soup until it's smooth and creamy.  Season with salt and pepper and garnish with more coriander and a drizzle of cream if you like.  Serve with crusty bread.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review: Ardo Calypso Breast Pump

My breastfeeding journey has continued to be a struggle with my new little man.  For a few days there we thought I might actually be ok.  For the first time I experienced let down and engorgement and my little man was audibly swallowing and even gulping at times. I didn't supplement at all until day ten when it became apparent he was going downhill and losing weight and becoming less alert.  I think I made enough milk initially but as his needs increased my supply couldn't keep up.  The joys of IGT I guess. It made the whole situation quite emotional for me, as even though I had prepared for the worst I had gotten that false glimmer of hope for the first week or so that things were actually working this time around.  I have been supplementing with donor milk and formula for the last few weeks and thankfully the little man is now thriving again. It's a heartbreaking situation and even more difficult when I see so many women giving up for selfish or just plain ridiculous reasons when they make plenty of milk. But I digress...

It quickly became apparent that I would need to add pumping to my long list of tricks to get my supply to it's optimum level.  In the past I have used Medela and Avent pumps.  I used the hospital grade Medela Lactina, the Medela Swing and the Medela Mini as well as the Avent Isis. I was on a budget this time but wanted something good and reliable that wouldn't cost me a fortune in replacement parts if I needed them.

Ardo Calypso
I stumbled upon the Ardo Calypso Breast Pump, an electric pump that can do single or double pumping.  It was a bit of a gamble as they are a less known company and there were not too many reviews out there.  The reviews that were out there though, were quite good.  I loved the 400 hour guarantee that transferred with owners and I liked the fact that several had commented on the excellent customer support. It is also used in hospitals in parts of the UK, so I figured that in itself is a raging endorsement.

I went ahead and ordered the package deal on Inhealth.ie as it came with the double kit and some milk storage bags and worked out cheaper than buying the double kit on Amazon or directly from Ardo.

I am very happy with the pump, it is on par with other ones I have tried, even the very expensive Medela Lactina.  I loved the fact that it came with three different sized flanges, so you are sure to be able to get one that works best for you without having to shop around elsewhere and fork out more money.  It is fairly straightforward to assemble, although I can't say I thought the instructions were very clear.  Think Ikea instructions, you need to do a lot of reading between the lines, but once set up it's easy to remember and repeat.

The pump itself is very quiet in comparison to other electric pumps.  The base unit is small and unobtrusive and doesn't look like a breast pump.  It sits inconspicuously in my living room and no one knows what it is until I plug in the flanges.

There are eight vacuum and eight cycle settings.  This is brilliant because you can play around with something that suits your situation and your flow.  I start off on a very fast cycle to imitate what a baby would do to start let down, then I slow it down.  As the flow is decreasing, I turn the vacuum up and do compressions to get the remaining few drops out.

Overall I am extremely happy with this pump. I think it is better than both the Medela and Avent options and would highly recommend it.  Below is a summary of the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Great value for money
  • Three flange sizes
  • Affordable replacement parts
  • Quiet motor
  • Small and inobtrusive
  • Can be used with batteries as well
  • 400 hours of pumping guarantee
  • Good customer service
  • Fully compliant with the WHO Breastfeeding code.
Cons:
  • Instructions are not as clear as they should be
  • Batteries must be removed to use the mains adaptor

Disclaimer: I purchased this pump with my own funds, no compensation was received for this review. All opinions are my own.
Saturday, April 14, 2012

Clementine Creamsicle Cupcakes


Came up with this glorious cupcake recipe yesterday, they taste just like an orange creamsicle.  I baked them for a birthday party and they went down a treat, especially when I told the kids they didn't have to eat the orange on top! ;)  These would be perfect for a baby shower or christening, they're really light and delicate. 



Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:


  • 1/2 cup  (4oz)  butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, sliced in half, beans scraped
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (6 fl oz) cream
  • 1/4 cup orange juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Vanilla buttercream mixed with 1tbsp orange zest
  • Clementine segments to garnish
  • Orange zest to garnish


Preheat oven to 180C/350F.  Prepare a cupcake tin with liners.

Cream butter and sugar until light in colour in large. Add in eggs, vanilla bean and orange zest. Mix orange juice and cream into the bowl.

Sift flour with the other dry ingredients and slowly add into the liquid ingredients, mixing well.

Spoon into cupcake liners, filling about 3/4 of the way up. This should yield about 16 cupcakes. 



Bake for 20 minutes until puffed up and golden brown.  Allow to cool before frosting.

Decorate with vanilla frosting and clementine segments, sprinkling with some orange zest if desired.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Reading

I must apologise for my absence around here.  If you've read about my breastfeeding struggles, you'll know this is a very challenging period for me. Blogging has taken a backseat as I am constantly attached to an infant or a breast pump.  I am hoping things should even out in the next few weeks.  In the meantime, my one-handed surfing has found some interesting reads for the Easter season.  I hope you enjoy the reads and the season, bring on the chocolate coma, say I!

Niamh has some great thoughts on limiting sugar for kids, very pertinent to the upcoming chocolate fest.  Will you be limiting your kids eggs?

Easter Bunny Cake Pops? Hell yes! 

Aine explains why she boycotts Nestle in this powerful post. Really makes you think, especially coming up to Easter.  Cadbury's is better anyways! ;)

Skip those processed chemical laden store-bought hot cross buns this week and make your own. This easy cardamom scented hot cross bun recipe will be filling my house with a spicy aroma tomorrow. Yum!

Want some kids Easter craft ideas? Here's 50 egg-cellent ideas! (sorry I couldn't help myself!)