Ewan at seven months wearing a BumGenius nappyStarting out on the journey
Using ‘real’ nappies on my son was not a conscious choice; it was simply the way I planned to protect my son before he was toilet trained. The thought of using disposables depressed me for a variety of reasons, chiefly the environmental impact, but also the effect their use would have on Ewan. It was not a road I would freely go down. I was aware of how misleading the word disposable actually is; products may be ‘thrown away’, but their impact on the earth is still felt. Instead, I was faced with a decision about which kind of cloth nappy to buy. On researching this topic, I was impressed with the huge variety of choices available, finding every kind of reusable nappy you could wish for, in every colour, size and pattern imaginable.
Luckily my sister-in-law had used cloth nappies on her daughter; she kindly gave me all her Mother-ease Air Flow Wrap andTotsBots shaped nappies and accessories when she’d finished with them, as well as a good deal of advice. The National Child Birth Trust also lent me their cloth nappy testing kit whilst at one of their antenatal classes, and I also found a lot of resources online, such as the Go Real – Real Nappy Information Service Without this support I wouldn’t have known where to start. Confronted with rows of disposables in leading stores, we were frustrated we couldn’t examine products we were investing hundreds of pounds in. However, this mirrors a similar lack of choice in most natural baby care products on the high-street, although luckily there is a far wider variety available online. After much deliberating, my husband and I decided to purchase a range of all-in-one Fuzzibunz and BumGenius nappies. Continue reading Our cloth nappy journey: Part One→
Ewan is sitting comfortably in his baby jogger, his father pushing him as they speed along a canal path, sights and sounds whizzing by as they overtake other joggers, families and walkers. Ewan checks his Mummy is still running beside him, then squeals with delight as Daddy suddenly runs at top speed, the scenery falling away before him, fresh air hitting his face as he laughs hysterically. He loves being in the baby jogger. Just another typical afternoon out with his parents!
Running; a shared passion
My husband and I have always been very active, outdoor people, meeting on a university mountaineering trip over a decade ago, and since then walking and running up countless mountains and hills together. Richard has been a keen fell runner since his teens, having raced in dozens of mountain marathons in the UK over recent years. Fell running is a specialist kind of running, where sportspeople run or race off road in the hills and mountains. This shared passion did not stop when I found out I was pregnant; I simply listened to my body, going at a slower pace until the point it was too difficult for us to continue running together as my bump was proving too heavy for high impact sports! The third trimester of pregnancy involved long walks, swims and yoga, ensuring I retained a good level of fitness in preparation for the birth.
The new arrival
Ewan James was born in June 2010. We both fell instantly in love with our beautiful son. The early months of parenthood involved a period of adjustment, as we learnt to live with a child entirely dependent on us for survival. However, having a child has never stopped us pursuing our own passions. Our son has fit into our lifestyle as much as we have adjusted ours to meet his needs. Ewan is taken almost everywhere we go; he is very ‘elastic’ in that he accepts wherever he is, whatever we are doing, as long as he is comfortable and secure. To achieve this we practice attachment parenting, sustained breastfeeding, baby-wearing and bed-sharing, all practices which lend themselves to being in close proximity and responsive to our child.
We usually transport Ewan in a sling, rarely using a conventional pushchair as we find them impractical for the terrain we walk on and the activities we do. Because we live in a hilly area of Derbyshire, baby-wearing is also by far the easiest way of getting about. However, we use a specialist running pushchair whenever we go running with Ewan, as it is not advisable to run with a baby in a sling. Although I have jogged for short periods with Ewan on my back, slings are not designed for running, and are bodies would suffer with the extra weight and impact of a baby on our backs.
Buying a baby jogger
We therefore decided to buy a running buggy, so that we could still pursue our love of running, taking Ewan with us on family runs. Richard’s parents offered to buy us a pram as a newborn present, so after much research we decided to buy the Performance Baby Jogger, which fitted our needs of a lightweight pushchair specifically designed for running, with the added bonus of easily being put into and out of the car. This is great when most of the family runs we do are not from our doorstep but are further afield, due to the local terrain being unsuitable for travelling far with a pushchair.
Ewan’s first ride
A few months later, when Ewan was strong enough to sit upright in the baby jogger, we took him for his first ride, to a disused railway track a few miles from home. Fortunately he is used to being in a pushchair when Grandma takes him for walks. However, he did look surprised as we set off at a slow running pace, but soon got used to this quicker speed, settling into his new chair and surroundings, looking around him at the passing countryside.
Using the baby jogger in daily life
Since then we have taken Ewan in his baby jogger as often as possible. Sometimes we run from our doorstep around the village; we much prefer being able to pursue our hobbies locally and simply, whilst also reducing our fuel output. We have also found local canal paths and disused railway lines in the area, which are suitable for pushchairs and bikes, because they are flat and don’t have any styles, which would limit the accessibility of the footpath. We go out in all weathers, except when there’s a lot of snow on the ground, using the rain cover and thick ‘cosy toes’ cover to ensure Ewan is kept warm and dry. This was particularly useful when we were running in minus temperatures during the cold spell last winter, and in the recent April showers!
Meeting our family’s needs
Ewan is fully integrated into our lives, sharing our love of exercise and being outdoors. We both much prefer to adapt our activities and lifestyles so that our son can be with us as much as possible. Richard trains for and attends a number of mountain marathons each year, events which certainly aren’t child-friendly, using the baby jogger means he can do a little of this training with his family.
The baby jogger certainly meets our needs as a family who love running; it means we can share this sport together instead of practising it separately. We are fortunate to live in a society that designs speciality baby equipment to meet the needs of a wide variety of families. Baby joggers are one of these niche pieces of equipment, which happen to match our lifestyle and parenting philosophy. Toddler slings are another example, fitting a small but growing area of the children’s market.
Realistically, Ewan cannot yet accompany us on long fell runs in the hills and mountains, but by being with us in a baby jogger he is learning and accepting his parent’s love of running as part of his life. We anticipate that as Ewan gets older he shall be keen to join us in our activities, whether that is fell running, mountain walking or simply visiting a local nature reserve. Who knows, perhaps one day he shall even follow in his Daddy’s footsteps by doing mountain marathons. However, this shall be entirely his choice; even if he never runs as an adult, those years when he accompanied us in the baby jogger will contribute to his appreciation of exercise for health and happiness, as well as a wonderful way to experience the great outdoors and nature.
We look forward to many more years using our baby jogger with our growing family; hopefully one day a new baby will sit in the baby jogger as Ewan runs alongside it! The fact we can pursue our love of running alongside our son enhances the experience of running because we are sharing it with the person we love most in the world, our son.
Pampering is the right word to describe this three-hour extended yoga session for Mums, a regular one-off Saturday event at the Yoga Home. Run once every term, three times a year, Yoga Home students who are also Mums are invited to a well deserved rest and relaxation event at the Iona School in Sneinton, an ideal venue for a few hours away from the kids. In this calming environment, in the schools kindergarden, students are led through two one and a half hour yoga sessions, broken by a short break for tea and healthy nibbles (Green and Blacks chocolate, oat crackers and homemade flapjack). At the end of the morning students can stay for a fuddle, a shared lunch, which always includes Ameet’s delicious homemade dahl, plus lots of other scrumptious food brought in by attendees. The whole event is a wonderful combination of yoga and socialising; three rare hours of yoga, plus a chance to meet up with friends from past pregnancy and postnatal yoga classes. Continue reading The wonderful Pampering Yoga morning for Mums→
I started using reusable menstrual pads when my periods returned. Because I was already in the routine of storing and washing my son’s reusable nappies it was easy to simply add a little to this pile with these pads. I found them comfortable, soft, easy to use, absorbent and efficient, so added to my small stock by buying a number of organic UK made cloth pads, which came in a wide selection of patterns and colours, shapes and sizes. The added bonus is that these pads are commonly made in the UK by stay-at-home Mums, a great alternative to funding big corporations.
I found Moon Times offered a range of beautiful sanitary products and good customer service. However, this is one of many companies who supply these products. Regrettably, these products, like most other alternative products, are not commonly sold in the high-street, only online. However, awareness and use of these products is increasing, so hopefully in the future it will be easier to buy them!
Other reusable menstrual products
In searching online for reusable towels I came across a whole range of different menstrual products. Such a wide variety of products means it is more likely consumers will find a product which matches their needs. For instance, not all women are happy to wash reusable menstrual towels; they want something which is more convenient. Even though I didn’t mind washing these towels, I decided to try a few other products as a source of comparison.
I tried Jam Sponges, natural sea sponges which are alternatives to tampons. This interesting natural alternative to tampons has, according to the Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health, been used by women to absorb menstrual discharge for thousands of years. I personally didn’t get on with them, finding they leaked and were slightly uncomfortable. However, this was perhaps because I didn’t give them a long enough trial run and had no-one face-to-face to talk to or offer me support in using this new product.
A little later I discovered the Mooncup, the reusable menstrual cup, which I decided to try, as it seemed a simpler product to use. The Mooncup is made from silicone, worn internally lower than a tampon is worn so menstrual fluid is collected instead of absorbed. It is removed, rinsed and reinserted up to every eight hours, instead of the more frequent changing of towels or tampons. I soon became a convert to this and have not looked back! Mooncups are very comfortable and as long as inserted correctly will cause no leakage. It only cost me £20, but will last for years and years, as opposed to reusable towels, which have to be bought in larger quantities and washed, thereby using more resources than menstrual cups (still minimal compared to disposable products however). Another similar alternative, which I have not tried because I am so happy with my Mooncup, is the Diva Cup.
I have shared my dawning consciousness of the impact of disposable sanitary wear and my search for a gentler alternative, in order to raise awareness of the negative impacts of disposable sanitary products, as well as the wonderful array of reusable products available on the market. By spreading the word I hope that more women will try out one or more of these products, and in doing so feel as positive about them as I have. We can then spread the word to our families and friends, which in the long-term will contribute to a shift into more mainstream thinking.
I know I am using a product which is far kinder on the environment and on my person. This makes me feel proud and empowered. I feel more aware and in-tune with my body, as well as less negative about my period returning each month. Although I haven’t yet reached the stage I feel I can celebrate my period, in time this may come as I accept this is a natural cycle and a healthy indicator of my fertility. If I am ever fortunate enough to have a daughter, I shall teach her to be proud of her growing body, guiding her to touch a little more gently. Using reusable menstrual products is one way of contributing to this more gentle impact.
The kinder we are to nature, the kinder we are to ourselves. I therefore urge you to try out some of these products out, spread the word, and maybe drop me a line to let me know how you get on.
I stumbled upon eco-menstrual products after giving birth to my son in 2010. In the birthing centre I remember worrying about the number of postnatal sanitary towels I was using, which lay stacked up in a small bin in the toilets I shared with my roommate. Having already made the decision to use cloth nappies on my son, I decided to research the topic of reusable sanitary products, of which I knew absolutely nothing whatsoever. I had been brought up, like almost every other teenage girl in the UK, to not talk about periods, and to wear disposable towels and tampons. I had therefore never questioned this practice. Only on the birth of my son did I start questioning the impact of our throw-away, increasingly disposable culture.
Some months later I saw an advert in The Green Parent magazine for reusable sanitary towels. Intrigued, I looked online, amazed to find a large variety of alternative, eco-friendly sanitary products on the market. This was a revelation to me. I felt guilty for all the masses of disposable sanitary wear I had used and thrown away over the years, without a thought to the environmental and other costs. I started to wonder how women used to manage in the past, and indeed still do in less developed areas of the world. Certainly Stone Age women didn’t use disposable products I wondered, so why do we? I ordered a few reusable towels, packing them away in readiness for the return of my fertility, excited about trying a product which was far healthier for me, my wallet and the planet. About fifteen months after Ewan was born my periods returned.[i]
Reasons for using eco sanitary products
According to the company Moon Times, women spend on average a phenomenal six and a half years of their lives bleeding! In the West, where we have access to and can afford disposable sanitary products, we use between twelve and seventeen thousand of these in our lifetimes! Simply stopping to consider the environmental impact of this high usage is enough to change many women’s age-old habits. However, most women are simply unaware about reusable products, how comfortable, easy-to-use, hygienic, affordable and varied they are. Most women also remain uninformed about how environmentally polluting disposable sanitary products are, or like me, choose not to even consider it.
Here is a simplified, brief list of some of the effects of using disposable sanitary wear; increased marine pollution, significant blockage of drains, risk to health due to toxins and dioxins found in bleaching disposable tampon (contributing to toxic stress syndrome) and the effects of using cotton on the environment. This is not to mention the more visible personal impact on women’s purses; whilst there is an initial cost in purchasing reusable products, this is an investment with lasting results, unlike disposable products which you have to keep replenishing.
Menstruating; Secrets and silence
There exists a taboo in our society about menstruation, which keeps us silent on the issue of periods. This area of a woman’s life is kept hush hushed, secret as if it is something to be ashamed of. Few of us celebrate the onset of menstruation, a girl’s Menarche, although it is a significant, life-changing event in a girl’s life. We certainly don’t get excited about getting our period every month for the next thirty years or so; a more typical response is to bemoan it for the pain and inconvenience it causes. Few girls or women feel empowered enough to ask questions or search for healthier alternatives to use on (and in) their bodies. We lose bodily awareness because we are shamed by this natural act. We are missing out on knowledge which if practised has a lasting positive effect on ourselves, because we are using products which are kinder on our skin and bodies, and therefore healthier for us on a personal, as well as a wider environmental, level.
Next week I continue this discussion, with information about the various products I discovered and trialled, including reusable towels, jam sponges and Mooncups.
[i] Ewan is now twenty-two months old. He has always been an enthusiastic nurser who suckles frequently throughout the day and night. My period returned so late because my son was exclusively breastfed for six months, never sucking on a pacifier or bottle teat, both contributing factors which reduce suckling at the breast and therefore milk supply, and then continued to be breastfed on demand as I followed his lead through natural weaning. This is yet another wonderful hidden advantage of breastfeeding, nature’s way of regulating returning fertility and providing natural family planning until the mother can provide sufficient attention to a new child. La Leche’s ‘The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding 8th Edition discusses Lactational Amenorrhea, which means natural postnatal infertility, which occurs when a woman doesn’t have a period and is fully breastfeeding (see page p.169-170).