Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The war against diaper rash

Long before I became a mom, I had heard other moms talk about how awful diaper rashes could be and how hard they could be to get rid of. I came to the conclusion that as with most things in life, prevention would be much better than the cure. I determined to do everything in my power to absolutely avoid my daughter getting a diaper rash in the first place.  All the experts agree that avoiding or curing a diaper rash depends on the combination of several factors such as skin sensitivity, diet, brand of diaper, diaper cream, frequence of changing the diaper and how much time spent with the diaper off. For us it was a long journey to figure out the perfect combination of products and routine to avoid and eliminate diaper rash especially with the added complication of her being in daycare five days a week. This is our story of how we finally won the war against diaper rash.

When she was born, the hospital put her in Pampers Swaddlers diapers, which are pretty darn good diapers. We used these until her belly button healed up and then we switched to the Bum Genius cloth diapers. The great thing about Swaddlers is how soft they are, and they have a wetness indicator line that turns blue when the diaper is wet. This is an awesome feature for new moms who can't always tell when its time to change the diaper.

 When we first brought her home from the hospital we began using Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm

I had heard great things about it being used to prevent and treat rashes and decided to try it as a preventative measure because it is one of the few rash creams that can be used with cloth diapers. Most of the regular rash creams cannot be used with cloth diapers as they create a an invisible build up of residue on the diaper that doesn’t wash off and eventually ruins the diaper. This angel baby bottom balm is supposedly cloth diaper approved and is made from organic vegan ingredients. I ordered a jar of it online and waited eagerly for it to arrive. But I was really confused when I received it in the mail;  because it was the tiniest jar ever!  I thought maybe it was just a free sample or something? But nope I paid $14.99 plus tax and shipping for a teeny 2oz jar of ointment that easily fits in the palm of my hand. The photo below gives you an idea of the size

I guess I should have paid  more attention to the size when I was ordering but I  assumed based on the price that it would be decent sized jar, I was wrong.  
The things I liked about this ointment;
  • Easy to apply
  • Gentle organic ingredients
  • Great for other uses such as bug bites & burns
  • Approved for cloth diapers
  • Only a small amount needed each time
However despite all the things I did like about it, I later came to the conclusion that this diaper rash ointment is actually pretty useless.  See it seemed to work fine in the beginning because she didn't have a rash. However it didn't do much to prevent a rash and once she actually started to develop a rash this ointment didn't do anything to heal it. In my opinion the best rash cream is one that is able to create a waterproof barrier between the skin and the diaper to keep moisture off the skin to prevent a rash occurring in the first place. The angel baby bottom balm rubs off the skin so easily that it all ends up in the diaper and doesn't stay on the skin to protect it.  In addition I don't really believe that this ointment is safe for cloth diapers because my cloth diapers started repelling moisture after using this balm. I went on their website and saw other people had left similar complaints. Considering the price of this product and that fact that it never actually displayed any healing properties, I rate this a D

My daughter was doing great for the first 12 weeks of her life until she started daycare. Her first day of daycare we sent her in with a box of Huggies Snug & Dry diapers. That was my first mistake. At home we were using Bum Genius cloth diapers and Pampers swaddlers. Both those diapers are so much better than Huggies, and it took me exactly one day to figure that out. When I picked my daughter up from daycare and took her home, her bottom was covered in a red bumpy rash and there were strange gel beads stuck to her skin. I was freaked out by this and looked online for more information. I found this on the Huggies website.

So they claim the gel beads are non-toxic and not harmful but my daughters skin told me a different story. I was really surprised by this because so many people use and love Huggies diapers, but I guess every baby has different skin and handles exposure to chemicals differently. I was also very disappointed because I had a closet full of huggies diapers I had received as gifts and now I couldn't use any of them. I later found out that most stores like walmart or target will give you store credit for unopened boxes of diapers.

So anyway I made sure not to use Huggies on her ever again. I did a side by side comparison with a  Huggies snug & dry diaper, a Pampers swaddlers diaper and I even compared the Huggies Little Snugglers diaper which is supposed to have the same features as the pampers swaddlers. But it was easy to see that the pampers felt softer and more comfortable than both of the Huggies. I sent in boxes of pampers swaddlers to her daycare and her rash cleared up in a few days. However after a while she started getting a different sort of bumpy rash that would not go away. I was convinced her daycare wasn't changing her every two hours as they claimed, after talking with them about it in as nice a way as possible, I realized what the problem might be. They were using their own generic brand of wipes and not using the Huggies Natural care wipes I was sending in. They seemed to think they were doing me a favor by saving my  wipes and using their own wipes, but my daughters poor skin was getting worse and worse.  I emphasized the importance of only using her wipes on her in order to keep her skin rash free.

I decided to try stronger rash creams that could permanently get rid of her rash. I tried;

This is a thick white paste that contains 40% zinc oxide. It is advertised to start healing on contact and is available in either a jar or tube. This product is made by my least favorite company Johnson & Johnson, but I still decided to give it a try since this particular product isn't part of the Johnsons baby line that had all the issues.  I had a love hate relationship with this product

The Pros
  • It really does seem to make a difference right away if you follow the instructions correctly
  • It forms a thick barrier between the baby's skin and the diaper, protecting it from moisture
  • It is relatively affordable
The cons
  • It is really thick and messy to apply, it gets everywhere. seriously.
  • It is really hard to clean this off my daughters bottom, I have to wipe really hard to get it off and that in itself irritates the skin even more, making the rash raw and chaffed.
Overall I think its a fairly good rash cream but not for continued use, and it does irritate the skin while you are trying to clean it off. I rate this a C+

Once my daughter's skin started getting irritated by the Desitin, I decided to try some milder options and home remedies. Firstly her pediatrician recommened that we try Vaseline, Lanolin or A+D

 This ointment is primarily made of petroleum and lanolin is great at preventing rather than curing diaper rashers. A+D also has a zinc version of this, but neither of them did much for my daughter. I rate this B-

I decided to try the 100% Lansinoh lanolin that I blogged about previously, I  already had tubes of it at home so I had nothing to lose.

I can honestly say it is one of the best "home remedies" especially in terms of creating a waterproof barrier. Aside from the fact that its a bit pricey I really saw improvement using this. I rate this A+

My mother mentioned to me that when I was a child she had used Milk of magnesia to get rid of diaper rashes, so I decided to give it a try.

It definitely does help calm an angry rash but you have to wait for it to dry completely before putting the diaper on and that takes a while. I would often put vaseline over it to form a thicker barrier. I realized later on that many moms make their own diaper cream using milk of magnesia as one of the key ingredients, I guess moms really do know best! I rate this B-

I also saw online that seating the baby in a baking soda bath helps soothe and heal a diaper rash, so I tried this too. It definitely did help a bit but wasn't a true cure. I also read online the importance of using a cloth wipe or wet wash cloth to cleanse the skin after a diaper change , so I started doing this too. The reason for this is that the wipes themselves are full of chemicals and can cause or aggravate a diaper rash too. Using a wet wash cloth to cleanse the diaper area helps remove the chemical residue left behind by the wipes.

I also tried the organic coconut oil that I was already using it in her hair. I think it does an okay job of healing minor skin issues from head to toe, but it's not all that effective at clearing up a serious diaper rash.

As you can imagine, by this point I felt like I had tried everything under the sun and yet the rash kept coming back. So I had no other choice but to keep trying and praying I would figure it out. I tried Triple Paste medicated ointment. It is one of the more expensive options available in the store and is supposed to be one of the best.

In our case it didn't work at all, each time I tried it, it made her rash immediately ten times worse. It was frustrating to say the least, that I would buy and try all these creams that worked well for other moms but would still have no luck. I was so frustrated and convinced that the daycare was doing something wrong to make her rash worse. I started visiting other daycares to see if I could find some place better for her and I will post about that in more detail later. In the mean time her doctor gave us a prescription for a stronger cream that eliminated the rash completely, only for it to return in a few weeks. We also tried Boudreaux's butt paste which was also useless for us. I also decided to try the California Baby Diaper Area Wash. I decided to try this since I really loved the California Baby hair products. This can be sprayed directly on the skin or on a wash cloth to cleanse the diaper area. The logic behind this spray is that it is supposed to clean the skin better than a regular disposable wipe can and is less irritating to sensitive skin. To be honest I was never able to tell if this was making her rash any better or worse,  I couldn't even really rate this so I threw it into my reject pile.

Finally, whilst at yet another doctors appointment,  her pediatrician was looking at the rash as I was rattling off a big list of everything that had so far failed to make it better and she suggested yet again that we try to keep her diaper free as much as possible... I  had always previously ignored this suggestion because I felt it was very impractical to just leave her crawling around without a diaper, and it was definitely not an option at the daycare where she spends most of the day. However she also mentioned that several of her patients had luck with using Triple Paste AF as a last resort but it was super important to ensure the baby's skin was 100% dry because applying this cream.

I was confused by this suggestion at first because I thought I already tried Triple Paste but she explained to me that Triple Paste AF is a completely different product. I thought it couldn't hurt to try one more cream, even though I was certain it wasn't going to work. I looked everywhere for it but no one seemed to sell it. Her doctor told me I could request for my pharmacy to order it for me, but they refused to do so. So  I had to buy it online. I discovered that this cream was not a baby rash cream but rather a general water proof anti fungal cream for any fungal or moisture related rash. A tiny tube cost nearly $30 but I thought I would try it anyway. When I received it in the mail I sat down and read all the instructions and for the first time I decided to really make sure her skin was fully dry before putting the cream on her. In the past I had read on all other rash creams the importance of applying the cream to dry skin but I would just dab her skin dry with a towel rather than leave her to dry.  This time I decided to leave her without the diaper for over 10 minutes til she was 100% dry and then I applied the cream and put her to bed. When I woke her up in the morning and took off her diaper I was stunned by how much better the rash seemed. I spoke in detail to her daycare teachers about how important it was for her skin to be really dry before putting on her diaper. The awesome ladies there were very happy to cooperate, and later told me funny stories of how they would have to fan her bottom to get her to dry. Within a week the entire rash was gone for good. The amazing thing about Triple Paste AF is that it really seals out all moisture from the skin but at the same time it wipes off easily and doesn't aggravate the skin. Many other rash creams claim to do this but don't actually deliver. Triple Paste AF is basically a miracle in a tube and I only had to use it twice a day for less than two weeks.

It stunned me to realize that something as simple as excess moisture on her skin could cause such an awful and stubborn rash, but thank God for Triple Paste AF that finally eliminated her rash. Now I no longer rush through diaper changes, I leave her diaper off as long as it takes for her to be really 100% dry before using vaseline to keep the moisture off her skin. What a journey! 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Adventures in solids: Spinach, zucchini & parsnips

Once my daughter had gotten the hang of basic fruit & veggie purees, I decided to try a few less obvious options to provide her with more variety. Firstly I tried Spinach. I chose these because spinach is high in iron and her doctor had recommended iron supplements once she turned 6 months. I didn't really want to give her the supplement because it smelt awful, it looked awful and the taste was ugly! I decided to introduce iron rich foods to her diet instead.  I found out that similar to carrots, when spinach is cooked in water it releases nitrates into the water which isn't good for infants so its best to immediately remove it from the water and discard the water. According to wholesome baby food, storing it for long periods isn't advisable either. I decided to make a small batch of spinach as an experiment. I bought fresh spinach from the farmers market

Then I washed it and cooked it in a tiny bit of water. Once it was cooked I drained it, and put it in the blender. It looked freakishly green once it was blended! Then I poured the pureed spinach into my mumi & bubi trays and popped it in the freezer.  Because spinach on its own is a bit too plain, I mixed this in with other veggies when I served it to her. She especially liked spinach  with cheese and sweet potato!

Zucchini (Summer Squash): 

I know I said I would never touch a squash again, but Zucchini is a friendly squash so I decided to give it a try! I have an on again, off again relationship with zucchini, some days I love it and then some days I can't stand it. I decided to try making this into a puree for daughter; big mistake. Firstly zucchini is similar to a cucumber in the sense that its mostly water. so once its cooked, blended, frozen and then defrosted, it transforms into watery mush. Secondly it takes on a more bitter taste once its blended even though I peeled it and didn't over cook it. It tasted fine before I blended it and then just magically taste gross afterwards. My daughter was not a fan of this, and to be honest neither was I!



I love parsnips, in my mind they are the love child of carrots and potatoes. I especially love to roast them after they have been glazed with honey.  Introducing these to my daughter was easy.  I peeled, cored and cooked them in the same way as I did with sweet potatoes and then poured them in the cube trays and froze them. My daughter really enjoyed these either on their own or mixed with carrots, spinach, egg or cheese.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Her first doll!

Ever since my daughter was born, I’ve tried to be really restrained and not buy every single cute thing in the store. It's hard though, it really is because if ever there was a product junkie, it would be me without a doubt. With so many adorable toys and dolls out there it takes restraint not to buy them all, but I firmly believed that overwhelming her with too many toys wouldn’t serve much of a purpose. I decided to wait til she was walking to introduce her to her first real doll and  I was so excited about it. I knew for a fact I wanted a soft doll because she is still a young toddler and a soft cuddly doll would be more practical for her to play with and easier for me to clean. Not to mention the fact that as a child I always preferred soft rag dolls to hard plastic dolls.

My first thought was to invest in a Bla Bla doll. I use the word invest because they are a bit expensive. They aren’t outrageously priced but spending $44-$56 on a soft cloth/knit doll is definitely expensive in my book. 

As you can see from the photos above each doll comes in two size options; the large 18 inch doll or the smaller 12 inch doll. There are many options of animals, people and even mythical creatures like a mermaid and fairy.

I had heard such wonderful things about these dolls and a part of me really liked the whimsical animal character dolls. On the other hand  I couldn't help but agree with other moms that some of the bla bla dolls have creepy faces! While I was debating whether it was worth it to even spend that much on knit doll,  I discovered that they have regular sales on specific dolls promoted from their twitter page. I decided to stalk their twitter account until they have a sale on a doll I like.

In the mean I shifted my attention to my next favorite brand of rag dolls: Lotta and friends by HABA dolls.

I knew HABA had a good reputation for making great wooden toys but I only recently found out that they make soft toys as well. I fell in love with their rag dolls because they embodied everything I was looking for; a high quality, soft doll with a friendly face and lots of fun accessories. 

My initial favorite in this range was the Elise doll shown in the photo below.

The Elise doll really appealed to the tomboy in me because she doesn't look like your typical super girly doll. Her freckles, red hair, brown eyes, satchel and cute overalls make her a fun spunky character. I was all set to buy this doll when I came across the Souri doll also by HABA.

Souri is an african HABA doll and is slightly taller than the other dolls in the range. Most of them are 12 inches tall, but Souri is 15 inches.  I didn't love the look of the Souri doll online. Frankly my first thought was that she didn't really look authentic and if at all she looked more like an African grandma than a girl. She didn't seem as fun or as playful as the other dolls in the range. There was something about the combination of the headscarf, beaded necklace, dress and slippers that just made her seem elderly. I decided to stick to my original choice; the Elise doll.

However I kept coming back to this doll, I read glowing reviews about how Souri looked so much better in person and was so much fun to play with. After thinking about it some more I decided to go ahead and order the Souri doll and decide how felt when I saw it in person.

When the box finally arrived, I was actually really glad I chose this doll, firstly because it is very well made and looks much better in person than in the online photos.

I discovered once I took her out of the box that she was soft and cuddly but still firm enough that she could be propped into a seating position. The hair is made of chenille and is especially soft. After an initial stare down my daughter fell in love with her.

Its amazing to watch her interact with Souri, she repeatedly takes off her sandals and tries to put them on her own feet, and she does the same with the necklace and scarf. This poor doll gets hugged, kissed and dragged around the floor of every room in our home over and over again.

All the accessories and clothing are easy to remove and underneath them all, she has on a T-shirt and stripped leggings.

Overall I'm glad I gave this doll a chance and I'm  happy with the quality of it. So many rag dolls out there are way too limp, soft and flimsy and fall apart easily but this doll is a sturdier breed that appears to be armed to endure all the abuse of being owned by a toddler.