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    Why I Chose to Co-Sleep

    When I got pregnant with our first child in 2009, I wasn't totally knowledgable about natural parenting. I knew that I wanted a natural birth, that I wanted to breastfeed, and that - eventually - I wanted to cloth diaper. That's about it. Our plans for sleeping arrangements were to set up a bassinette in our bedroom for the first few months of Maya's life, then to move her to a crib in her own room. Well.... things did not quite work out that way. We did start out with a bassinette in our bedroom. I stayed up for most of the night... every night... listening for any and every sound coming from that babe's mouth. Every whimper, sigh, hiccup that escaped her sweet little lips sent me scrambling over in a sleep-deprived haze to make sure something terrible wasn't happening. And then of course, if I did manage to doze off for thirty minutes or so, I was awakened shortly after because she needed to nurse. In addition to getting up to nurse, Maya was a fairly high-needs baby. She wanted to be held almost constantly. She wanted to nurse every 30 - 45 minutes it seemed, and it lasted for months. After she turned three months, she could no longer fit into her bassinette, so we disassembled her crib (the one waiting for her in "her own room") and moved it into our tiny bedroom, right up against my side of the bed. "This is a great idea!" I thought. "Now she can be close to me, and I won't have to walk across the room to nurse! This will make things so much easier!" Wrong again. She had a very hard time sleeping, and would wake up crying at all hours of the night. She was inconsolable unless she was in my arms. She wasn't sleeping... my husband wasn't sleeping... and I definitely wasn't sleeping. Then one night, in a fit of frustration from constant nursing and lack of adequate rest, I exclaimed "I'm putting her into bed with me! I HAVE to sleep!!" My husband was very concerned about this, as he was terrified of rolling over on her. I understood, because I was afraid of that too, but something told me it would be okay. And oh my stars, it was more than okay! She slept!! And my husband slept (well, after he realized he wasn't going to roll over on her)!! And I slept, too!! When she woke to nurse, I was already right there. Whenever I felt her stirring I immediately woke up to see what her needs were, then went right back to sleep. It is a common misconception that co-sleeping is a dangerous practice, but the truth is, for healthy parents who do not smoke, use sedatives, drugs, or certain other medications, and who are not hard to waken, co-sleeping is a natural and safe practice that benefits both the baby and breastfeeding mothers! Probably one of the  most interesting and important benefits of co-sleeping is that it greatly reduces the risk of SIDS. This is thought to be so because there is a synchronicity involved in mothers and their babies when sleeping beside one another. Babies tend to naturally sleep on their backs or sides moreso than their stomachs, which has been one theorized component of SIDS cases. In addition, the breath, arousability, and waking patterns of mother and baby seem to sync up while co-sleeping. If the theory that SIDS is a disorder in which a baby is difficult to waken when something causes breathing to cease, then it makes perfect sense that the stimulation of mother's breath, along with increased arousability and proper sleep positioning could drastically reduce the chances of SIDS death. Babies who co-sleep feel safe and comforted day and night since they are so close to their parents, which offers a sense of security that often results in less dependency during the day. Knowing that your baby is safe and restful beside you can help you and/or your partner relax and get a much higher quality of rest. While discussing the benefits of co-sleeping are important, there is also the question of how to co-sleep. Many parents are comfortable keeping their babies in bed beside them, but some parents may be too nervous or dislike the idea of baby being right there in the same bed. In this instance, something like the Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper (link: https://www.armsreach.com/shop)  may be a more comfortable solution. This is basically a crib with a lowering side that attaches directly to your mattress. This allows you to have your baby at "arm's reach," but without baby being directly in your bed. If you want baby in bed with you, but are nervous about him/her falling off of the bed, products like the Tres Tria Natural Co Sleeper Pillow (link: http://www.babyecotrends.com/item/Tres_Tria_Natural_Co_Sleeper_Pillow/1587) can help put your mind at ease by acting as a "bumper" to prevent accidents from happening. A more economical approach could be to use a First Years Secure Sleeper, which fits right into bed with you, but prevents accidental rolling. (link: http://www.amazon.com/The-First-Years-Secure-Sleeper/dp/B00012CHFI) To understand the science behind co-sleeping's effects on babies and their caregivers, Dr. Sears has written an intelligent and highly-informative article that I would encourage anyone who is considering co-sleeping to read. This article can be found via the following link: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/sleep-problems/co-sleeping-yes-no-sometimes Co-sleeping isn't for everyone, and you have to trust your intuition when making the decision as to whether or not it is the right choice for you and your baby, but hopefully this information, and the information found on Dr. Sears' website can help you make the most knowledgable decision. Do you co-sleep? What does co-sleeping look like for you and your baby? ~ Lindsay Lewis

    Diaper Rash

    Whether you use disposable diapers or cloth diapers, at some point your child may develop a diaper rash. It is true that diaper rashes are much less common when using cloth diapers, but it can still happen and I'd like to take a moment to outline the different types of rashes, and some of the best methods for treating each one. Rash from build­up When you have been using your cloth diapers for a while, you may begin to develop build­up in your inserts and other absorbent parts of the diapers. This can be caused by a number of factors,but is mainly caused by detergent residues left behind from inadequate rinsing, mineral accumulation from hard water, or residues left from ointments/creams. If the build­up gets to be bad enough, not only can repelling and leaking occur, but skin irritation can also occur, leading to diaper rash. In order to remove build­up from your diapers, you will need to strip them. Our Strip Rx solution works wonderfully well at cutting through residues and rinsing your diapers clean! Alternately, you can do the following: 1) Start with clean diapers 2) For top loaders, fill your washing machine to the max with hot water. For HE front ­loaders, I recommend stripping in your bathtub or in a large, clean receptacle like a garbage bin. 3) Drop 4 ­ 5 Tablespoons of Oxo­Brite (or OxiClean) into the water, add your diapers, and allow the washing machine to begin agitating (or agitate the diapers manually with your hands, enough to work the solution into the diapers). 4) Allow the diapers to agitate for a couple of minutes, then stop the cycle and close the lid to keep the heat in (or simply let the diapers rest in the water if you are stripping them in your tub/receptacle). 5) Let the diapers soak for at least 6 hours, up to overnight. 6) Drain the tub, and transfer the diapers to your washing machine (if you stripped them in the tub). Run one or two full hot wash cycles with no detergent. 7) Dry on low heat or hang to dry. While stripping the diapers, try to allow your child as much naked time as possible to assist in healing the rash. You may also use safe and gentle baby powders such as Bee All Natural's Baby Powder (http://www.beeallnatural.com/Organic_Baby_Powder_Natural_p/bp­n.htm). If you prefer a paste, add a little warm water to some of the powder and mix! Once the diapers have been stripped, make sure to check your wash routine to ensure that there is enough water being used to properly rinse and wash the diapers. Also check to make sure you aren't using too little/too much detergent, and that the detergent you are using does not contain scents, dyes, fabric softeners, optical brighteners, or enzymes. Rash from yeast This type of rash can seem like one of the most difficult to treat, because if you don't get rid of the yeast infection, as well as the yeast bacteria and yeast spores in your diapers, it is possible to re-infect your child, resulting in a frustrating cycle of rashes, stripping, and discomfort. Once you have eliminated the actual infection, it's time to remove all traces from your cloth diapers. While bleach will kill yeast bacteria, it will not eliminate yeast spores. In addition to this fact, bleach in itself is not the safest or gentlest option to use with your cloth diapers. The following method has been proven to kill the bacteria and spores that can re­-infect your Little One, and is a fairly simple process (from http://www.mommyscraftobsession.com/2013/01/the-yeast­monster­how­to­properlystrip.html): 1. Rinse your diapers to get the stinkies washed out a little 2. Do a regular wash with no soap 3. Rinse the diapers three times 4. Add eight to ten drops of Tea Tree Oil and wash your diapers on regular 5. Rinse diapers 6. Rinse them again Optional Step (if you have yeast spores in the diaper, this is a must): Add five drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract Optional Step: Rinse diapers 7.Wash diapers with Cloth Diaper detergent 8. Rinse Diapers 9. Switch to dryer on HIGH or sun dry If ­ while treating your child's infection ­ you need to use topical anti­fungal creams or ointments, it is highly recommended that you use disposable diaper liners that completely cover the inside of the diapers. If you choose to use cloth liners, do NOT wash them with your cloth diapers. They must be washed separately to avoid "re­-infecting" the diapers. Rash due to sensitive skin Some children have very sensitive skin which may react noticeably to certain products and materials. For some children, cloth diapers made of synthetic fibers are not compatible and only natural fiber fabrics will do. For others, the texture of the diapers and inserts used will make all of the difference. If your child has sensitive skin, you may need to experiment with different types of cloth diapers, detergents, and rash solutions to find what works best for you and your child. Rash due to prolonged exposure to urine/feces Obviously urine and feces are going to touch your child's skin during their diaper­wearing years, but sometimes very acidic bodily fluids, or irritation caused by frequent bowel movements can cause mild to severe diaper rash. To try and soothe irritation, make sure you are changing your baby often and/or give him or her plenty of naked time if you can. A calming, gentle baby powder can ease pain and discomfort, and warm baths may bring relief. Rash due to change in diet As your baby transitions from breast milk or formula to solid foods, you may suddenly notice diaper rashes appearing. When new foods are introduced, the frequency and composition of your child's stools changes, which can lead to diaper rash. Allergies and food sensitivities are sometimes a culprit as well, so be sure to observe whether or not certain foods cause flare-ups. In addition, sometimes breastfed children develop diaper rashes in response to something his/her mother eats. Again, just observe to see if a certain food or drink causes a flare-up, and try to eliminate that food for a period to see if the rash clears up. Rash due to chafing While you want your diapers to fit snugly, a diaper that is too loose or too tight can cause uncomfortable chafing, leading to diaper rash. Make sure that your diapers fit snugly enough so that you can fit one finger underneath the elastics at the legs and waist, but not so tight that the diaper leaves painful­ or "angry­" looking red marks when the diaper is removed. Light red marks are normal and expected, just as what you would observe when taking off your socks or underwear. Have you ever dealt with diaper rash? What are some of your best remedies?