Skip to Content

0

Written by Mama Monday

Advice and insight from real moms on cloth diapering, green living, and natural parenting.

If you’ve lived with eczema, you know that it can consist of itchy, scaly outbreaks on your skin that can take some time to soothe and alleviate the condition.

Now, give those symptoms to an infant and you’ve got fussiness and skin scratched raw (and often bloody), plus an awful lot of feeling awful for your beautiful little squish.

At least, that’s how we feel for our 6-month-old, Hannah.

Our older son has dealt with eczema (it’s better now but conditions still pop up) and looking back at how rough his first year was, I’m wondering if some of his overall fussiness was linked to this condition. It’s strange how time away gives you that kind of perspective. (Plus, he was our first so we were all unsure.)

We’ve heard from our doctor and his nurses some suggestions to deal with it, but my husband recently consulted with a dermatologist who opened our eyes a little further to some realities of the affliction. In addition to our own additional research, we’re waterlogged with information! Gah. Sometimes overwhelming, y’know?

I thought that I’d share our experiences, what we’ve been told (and researched), and how we’ll cope with Hannah’s eczema moving forward. Now, I’m clearly not a medical expert (just a mom and a librarian with a pension for over-researching and over-worrying!), so I’m trying to be clear that you should see a doctor or dermatologist to diagnose and determine a treatment action plan moving forward (and that everyone’s situation is different so I could very well be proven wrong), but maybe our story will help you, at the very least, recognize signs in your own family.

eczema struggles lotion

What IS Eczema?

According to the Mayo Clinic, eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a relatively common red, scaly rash that often develops in childhood. It can be seen in the creases of one’s knees, elbows, etc but can occur anywhere on the body (our daughter gets it in her all of her “creases” but especially her neck, belly, around her mouth, and sometimes back).

It varies from very mild to severe and is said to possibly be hereditary.

What to Look For

Some rashes may actually be an allergic reaction, so be sure to see a doctor if your child is displaying signs to rule out something more serious. The main thing that we notice is a scaliness that you can feel when you gently touch the rash (or you can visually notice skin that’s raised a bit). It is also often accompanied by dry skin but should not be confused as merely dry, itchy skin.

We also tend to know when a flare has occurred when Hannah has spots where she has clearly itched that bring blood to the surface (not horrifically but it shows she’s been scratching a lot, even in her sleep).

 

What Causes Eczema?

This is the million dollar question. It’s not altogether clear what causes it but there are “triggers” that seem to make it worse or “flare.” As I mentioned earlier, our dermatologist informed us that it seems to be hereditary. And while there may not be a correlation, those with allergies or asthma are more susceptible to having it.

In our case, my husband has it. All of our kids have a level of eczema (our middle child has a spot that it tends to pop up but it’s very infrequent and relatively mild).

Funny story. Our doctor’s office recently told us to cut out some foods to see if it helps Hannah’s symptoms (since I breastfeed). Of course, we’d do anything for our child’s comfort, so I gave up dairy (cheese! Pizza! Yogurt! COFFEE WITH REAL CREAMER!!! Did I mention cheese?!) and nuts.

Given that she’s naturally sensitive to lots of things, she seemed better some days and the same on others. It’s still hard to say if there’s been any correlation to how she feels or her number of eczema flare-ups.

So, this is when my husband heard from the dermatologist who said that a change in diet may help with allergies…but generally not eczema. Again, heredity is the main culprit, followed by environmental factors (like dust, pollen, cold weather, dryness, etc). Now, because folks with eczema have a higher rate of allergies, this correlation is still being pushed.

There have been some days that Hannah has been happier and her skin still has sporadic, with no rhyme or reason, so we’re not sure currently where her issue stems from.

 

What Alleviates Eczema?

This, however, we’ve got down. We use cool mist humidifiers throughout the house all day to try today get rid of some of the dryness. 

I’m switching detergents for all of her clothes and bedding and have found a more mild bath wash, as well. We’re also trying to get on top of all the allergens in the house and treat it as if she DOES have an allergy, which is a tad daunting.

It gives me anxiety to simply purchase sunscreen, though, thinking that we’re adding yet another factor to the mix! (I know the importance of using it…but I still have anxiety, nonetheless, LOL.)

It’s not fun, but super regular cleaning will help with eczema breakouts that correspond to allergens such as pollen, dust, animal fur, etc. So will a change to spring/summer weather and your wash routine – super mild wash specifically for eczema and lather on mild lotion 2-3 times a day (as needed). I massage it in and let it dry a little before putting cloth diapers on.

Oh, and this is another one for the “all kids are different” storyline, but going a few days in between baths (which makes sense to avoid drying out) makes Hannah scratch MORE. She doesn’t get more moisture from oily skin; she gets drier. So, we do every other day baths to get rid of allergens (and we’ll probably do daily in the summer, but we’ll see).

Moving forward, I’m not sure whether my diet change has helped or not. I know I’ll eventually get cheese back in my life but if there’s no real change, I shouldn’t need to be on the diet in the first place. We’ll continue to treat the symptom of the eczema and be on heightened awareness for allergies and asthma in the future.

finger spreading eczema cream on skin

We’d love to hear your experiences with eczema, as well! Be sure to share in the comments just in case there’s some parent struggling with their own eczema story (and even conflicting medical opinions) to help each other our.

No offense to any dads out there reading this; many of the points made here are totally relevant to you and the overwhelm that you feel, as well. I’m simply writing this from the perspective of a mom.

frustrated woman dealing with stress

After a very long Saturday, as the kids slumbered in their rooms, my husband and I gave each other a hug to appreciate the solitary silence for a brief moment.

But, I realized I couldn’t. My brain was too busy hopping from one thought to the next. I couldn’t slow it or stop it.

I think it’s one of the reasons that I have a hard time reading anymore. Yes, I’m a librarian, so that’s hard for me to admit, but it’s how I’ve been rewired since kids came along. It’s also a central factor as to why, I think, when the kids are all settled for the night, that I tend to sit and allow myself to veg out with my phone. I don’t need my full brain to check out social media (or scour the internet for things I’m researching to buy or do). Shameful, I know. It also, I’m positive, adds to my brain’s constant state of movement.

So, with this state tends to come the overwhelm of never fully feeling like things are “done.” For example, I’m researching a new SUV and between finding a big-but-not-too-big one and a 3-car seat option (that I can find in my area – who wants to get a sitter and drive 40 minutes just to test one that you may not end up with?), my head is spinning. Multiply this with about 20 other jobs ranging from small to large, and the spinning is constant.

Here are some ways that I’m hoping to hit the reset button to both regain my mental well-being and enjoy those around me more while finding the motivation to complete the tasks I need to accomplish. Hopefully they can help you if you’re experiencing a similar situation!

stretching woman in peaceful scene

Make lists.

The act of writing can be soul soothing, but when you’re doing a brain dump, it can actually allow you to sleep at night – even without getting something accomplished. Having them written in words in front of you takes the tasks and to-do list from disorganized thoughts floating around in your brain that you’re constantly chasing, hoping you don’t forget, to real, tangible items that you can cross off as they’re accomplished. Lists work wonders.

Prioritize and use a planner.

Once you’ve made your list(s), look at the immediate “need to do” items; things like buying a gift for someone’s birthday or a deadline at work – anything that has a date set in stone. Fill those in on your planner (and pick a day/time to accomplish the task), then start to fill in other jobs to do per day.

I try to keep it to not TOO many extras per day. I generally try to put one “bigger” item from different areas per day. For example, aside from the usual daily cleaning tasks, I’ll add one job to help me get closer to having spring cleaning done (like going through a closet or wiping out drawers), and I’ll pick a larger task at job to chip away at rather than look at a huge, daunting list.

Pick a relaxation method and try it out (more than just once).

Whatever you pick, give it a solid effort. Use essential oils. Try a meditation app. Journal or write. Do yoga. Even just take a nap or go for a walk outside. Anything is better than nothing, and psychologically just knowing that you’re trying something with a sole purpose of calming yourself and DOING something for yourself gives it a deeper meaning.

Schedule family time, tech time, and relaxation time.

Just like scheduling your tasks in your planner or calendar, do the same for your positive moments. You can keep it more fluid by putting an asterisk and simple reminder for the day: “45 minutes of social media” and “Candyland day!” Then, stay true to it. If you’re relaxing, you’re not watching TV or scrolling through your Facebook feed; you’re doing whatever your selected relaxation activity for the day is.

Knowing that there IS time later for such things as social media or TV help you cut back without feeling totally deprived. It also helps you waste less time on it and be wiser in your overall use of time. It’s the direct link to being more present, as well.

Share the burden.

Look at your chore list and determine what you can “share” with your family. If your kids are old enough to do even simple things like carrying their plates to the sink, dusting, or putting scoops of food in your pet’s bowl, let them know that this is their responsibility. Even if your child is still a baby, talking with your partner about duties you each like or dislike can help you figure out who can do what.

Read something fun.

This could be categorized under relaxation techniques, but I think it deserves its own explanation. I think that we feel like there’s a book that everyone suggests or that we SHOULD read. But with how little time we have for ourselves, we shouldn’t let the obligations take over our choices.

So, read what you WANT to. A guilty pleasure romance or YA book. A reread of your all-time favorite. A short but funny or inspiring self-help book. Or even a magazine (I sometimes get as much out of a good magazine as I do a book, and the visuals and tips fill my bucket).

Just be sure to do it before bed to help you calm the craziness in your brain.

Equate the chores with something you relate to.

This is totally personal preference but by making a connection to the tasks you’re not a fan of, they may be less depressing and more (dare I say?) enjoyable.

For me, I think of old movies. I’m a nut for a good black and white film, especially if the “everyday” is shown. Or I imagine a different time in history (another thing I love). It’s probably why I make a pie or good old recipe every once in awhile.

For being a modern, pretty independent woman, I still like to relate to the strong women who came before me in my family. They swept the floors daily. They didn’t have all the easy tools that we have today (but, admittedly, most of them also didn’t work outside the home, so the “easiness” is split). But putting on big band music or an old movie helps me attack the cleaning with a bit of romanticism…and less dread! Is that weird??

Simplify.

Easier said than done, but by surrounding ourselves with less stuff, less responsibilities, and less obligations, I’m hoping to slow down the hamster wheel in my brain.

This could be as simple (pardon the pun) as cutting back on what social media you use (and using just your favorite) or buying some fun, gender neutral craft kits and games so you always have a birthday gift ready for your child’s classmate’s party. It could be as big as using a capsule wardrobe. Whatever you’re comfortable with!

So, do any of you struggle with trying to turn off the constant worry/planning/figuring going on in your brain? What’s your favorite way to slow down (and get on top of things)?

stash size doesn't matter

A question that pops up so, so frequently is regarding how many diapers you need to cloth diaper. There are guidelines for this (and I’ll share them a bit later), but I’ve come to find out that this is a flexible number.

Stash size can be a very personal thing.

There are those out there who want to #buyallthecloth. It’s almost like a collecting hobby as much as it is a diapering solution. In addition to the excitement of helping the environment and (in theory) saving money, these cloth diaper users also fall in love with the quality and, oftentimes, cuteness of the diapers.

And most of us have bought a certain diaper for exactly that reason. A cute design is everything.

Then there are those among us who choose to use cloth to simplify their lives as much as possible. These parents sometimes choose the cheapest option or sometimes the style that they think will give them the most wear over several children (even if the initial cost may be more). They also scour the buy/trade/sell groups and don’t mind a little cosmetic issue here and there if it’s a good deal.

This parent has a minimal stash size, in general. Their prideful point of contention is that they know exactly the (small) number of dipes that they need to get by. They’ve got it down to a science.

stash size doesn't matter

Personally, I fall between these two (as, I’m sure, many of us do). Because we are part-time cloth diaperers, our numbers are different than most. However, when I go full-time (when the girls are home with us for summer vacation and other breaks rather than at the sitter), I’ve got a large stash that I’ve built up over time. Like, I could (but don’t) go at least 4-5 days before washing…with two in cloth. Eek.

However, I like to compare it to our wardrobes. We all have our favorite clothes, whether for functionally or color or fit (or all three reasons), that we tend to wear over and over. We grab them first and wash them frequently just so that we can wear them again faster. We might as well create a capsule wardrobe just out of those favorites.

I do the same with cloth diapers. The solid colors are my favorites, and I’ll coordinate them to the girls’ outfits when I’m picking out their clothes in the morning. Certain colors just offer more versatility sometimes to fit those outfits better than others. (Although I get excited when a pattern works into the mix, too!)

I might as well have a cloth diaper capsule. I even have a second bin of my lesser favorites…and a third bin of old hand-me-downs that I know I should just sell, but I keep on hand just in case. Why do I keep them? Because my son was in them…? I purged his baby clothes, why don’t I purge his old diapers? Weird how we have psychological attachments like that.

Much like our wardrobes, our cloth diaper stashes say a lot about who we are – and our reasons for cloth diapering. Whether it’s small and perfectly chosen, huge and every color of the rainbow, or a hodgepodge of styles and colors, there is no one way to make a stash.

That said, there are some guidelines to help if you’re just starting your stash and don’t know where to start or are thinking you may want to pare back and aren’t sure how far to take it.

Put simply, Thirsties suggests 20-24 diapers for the newborn stage, 14-18 diapers for 6-12 months, 12-16 diapers for 12-24 months, and 4-8 diapers during potty learning. Every child is different, so this is just a starting point.

Create your stash for whatever needs (or wants) you may have; there’s no one right or wrong answer, just like with parenting itself. Don’t feel guilty for using pre-loved dipes vs. new or if you have five of your favorite print; if you overbought because you can’t get to the laundry as often as you’d like or you challenge yourself to make the fewest diapers work as possible. It’s all about the journey and what helps you reach the finish line easiest, not what works for everyone else.

What does your stash look like? A mix of styles and brands or multiples of your favorite? A perfect rainbow or a hot mess? Expansive or minimalist? We’d love to hear!

more spring activities for young children


As I sit and write this, I can see an icy freezing rain fall outside and hear the wind whip at the trees and windows. Mind you, it’s April 15th. And I know there are people who are currently enduring snow. I’m not a complainer, but I think we can all agree…it’s a bit much.

So, as I did last year when spring had an equally difficult time stopping by for a visit, I thought it’d be fun to find some fun springtime activities that we’ll be able to do with the kids. Eventually.

Promise. It’ll get here. Someday!

So, here we go! Some simple, fun activities that are perfect for celebrating the coming of spring…whether it feels like it or not!

Fun spring books for kids

Great Spring Books for Kids – This booklist is a nice mix of topics and characters, featuring old favorites and new soon-to-be classics. I’m partial to Bear, Caterpillar, and “And Then It’s Spring” in particular.

bug arts and crafts project

Build-a-Bug – When our son was too young to cut and was still working on his fine motor skills, we would make a bunch of pre-cut construction paper shapes available for him to make pictures. I love this idea to make bugs with no frustration (only fun!) for the littles. And, honestly, I know he’ll want to do this right along with our 2-year-old (even though he’s a “big boy” of 5). This site also has a similar idea for flowers; try combining them to give the bugs a home!

simple nature scavenger hunt

Nature Scavenger Hunt – I love this particular nature walk idea because it’s super open-ended and child-driven with just enough guidance. Not too specific and super fun, suggestions like “find something round” or “find something rough” is a great sensory experience.
 spring themed sensory tub

Spring Sensory Tub – Nope, they didn’t use real dirt (although you could if you were brave…I’m not, haha!). There are so many opportunities for fine motor development, storytelling, imaginative play, simple science, and calming hands-on free time with a sensory bucket like this.

gnome fairy garden DIY

Easy Gnome (or Fairy) Cups – A fairy garden may be a little complicated for little fingers, but a smaller activity that’s pretty much compiling cute pieces together like this is just downright fun. Most of the materials can be found at a dollar store (but more complicated ones can be ordered online or found at a craft store) and if your kids are anything like mine, they’ll probably tell a story to go along with the scene…along with a name for your family’s little gnome or fairy.

 how to plant sunflowers with kids

Grow Sunflowers – If your weather’s warm enough, your kids can plant them right into the ground, but if you’re still getting frost (like us) you can get the excitement going by starting the seeds inside. We use eggshells to start our seeds, but use whatever you want! I figure that if we start it now, it’ll be ready to grow when the warmth finally hits.

 fun games with a ball for kids

Outdoor Ball Games – Some kids can go outside and play with a ball independently all day long. Others need some suggestions after a few minutes. This gives you 6 ideas that you can simplify or enhance depending on your child’s ability level. Either way, these games are super fun and great for hand-eye coordination.

What are you looking forward to most when the warmer weather arrives? And if you’re in a warm weather location, let us know what you’re up to! We’d love to live vicariously through you!!

fun spring activities for kids


As cloth diapering families, we’re all already making strides to lessen our environmental footprint one diaper at a time. I’ve talked about some ways to celebrate Earth Day everyday and even some fun activities to do with the kids, but I thought I’d share a more comprehensive list here today.

You’ve probably heard of some of these over the years, and others may seem far fetched, but I’ve done that on purpose. We’re all at a different part of our green journey, so I figured they were all mentionable. It’s also always good to have a reminder on some of the basics and it’s possible to tweak some of the more “outrageous” ideas to work for you in a more practical sense (ie starting at less waste rather than aiming for zero waste).

Also, I’ve organized these tips but sometimes you’ll find some that could go into more than one category, so just assume that it’s straddling the line.

Oh, and I’m positive I’ve missed some (there are just so many amazing changes we can make), so please don’t hesitate to add your ideas in the comments!

 

REDUCE

Use cloth diapers. (Kind of a given. ;-))

Switch to cloth wipes.

Develop a capsule wardrobe for yourself.

Develop a capsule wardrobe for every member of your family.

Find a store that offers bulk items (everything from wine and olive oil to soap and shampoo) and use your own refillable bottles.

Buy coffee in bulk (again, with a portable reusable bag).

Limit screen time.

Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and warmer in the summer.

Be cognizant of your water use (and take shorter showers).

Carry a “zero waste” kit for each family member when you go out. Include a stainless steel straw, utensils, a cloth napkin, etc.

Avoid one-use party supplies.

Get a stainless steel water bottle for every member of the family.

Schedule your errands for one round-trip drive to reduce gas use and emissions.

Go “zero waste.” (There are tons of resources online and on YouTube.)

Use handkerchiefs.

Ask for fewer holiday and birthday gifts (and perhaps more “experience gifts” instead).

Pare down the makeup and toiletries you use when you’re done with them.

Purge your belongings and either sell items or donate them to those in need.

Buy clothes at second-hand stores or through websites like ThredUp.

Replace your light bulbs with CFLs and LEDs when needed.

Wash with cold water when possible.

Use a clothesline or drying rack.

Carpool.

Unplug appliances when you’re not using them or use a smart adapter that will cut off “phantom” energy use.

Use a faucet aerator.

Install a low-flow showerhead.

Put a brick or repurpose a bottle filled with water in your toilet tank to reduce water use.

Share tools and other appliances with neighbors and family.

Read newspapers online.

Pay bills online.

REUSE

Save wrapping, ribbons, and gift bags to reuse.

Bring reusable bags to the grocery store.

Pack your lunch using reusable lunch, sandwich, and snack bags, and glass containers.

Use reusable mesh produce bags.

Swap kid clothes and shoes with family/friends.

Swap decor items from one room to another to freshen the look without buying more.

Use reusable makeup wipes.

Switch to reusable feminine care products (menstrual cups and washable cotton pads).

Use a reusable mug for tea and coffee.

Use your children’s drawings and art to wrap gifts.

Regift unopened items that you had no need for. (It’s okay, really.)

Think out of the box with decor items – like repurposing wine bottles as a light fixture.

Buy reusable batteries.

Share your used magazines with friends or donate to a local group (a battered women’s shelter, a VA group, a homeless shelter, etc.)

RECYCLE

Use old towels/washcloths/t-shirts for rags.

Use old toothbrushes to clean grout and other hard-to-reach spots.

If you absolutely have to buy water, recycle the bottle.

Recycle your old cell phones.

Recycle appropriately.

GOOD FOR YOU AND THE PLANET

Buy food and cleaning supplies with less chemicals.

Make your own cleaning supplies with essential oils.

Walk or bike whenever possible.

Check your makeup and toiletries for inhumane practices and harmful chemicals.

Support local farmers, particularly those who subscribe to humane and organic practices.

Eat humane grassfed beef and milk and free range chicken and eggs (or go vegetarian/vegan altogether).

Eat one meatless meal a week or consider a flexitarian diet.

Eat organic foods.

Use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets.

Buy a new houseplant.

Diffuse essential oils or use natural soy candles rather than traditional ones.

GET PROACTIVE

Support green businesses.

Support a cause (or two…) that speaks to you.

Buy products made with natural fibers rather than synthetic.

Volunteer for a wildlife organization or group.

Be vocal (but not condescending) about your choices and why you make them.

Contact your representatives and demand that they make eco-friendly choices.

Lobby your local government to increase spending on sidewalks and bike lanes.

Lobby against pesticide use in public parks and places.

Buy sustainable home goods, like jute rugs and bamboo furniture.

Use low- and no-VOC paints.

MAKE IT HANDS-ON FOR YOUR KIDS

Keep a box of recyclables to use as craft supplies.

Suggest that your child’s group (Girl/Boy Scouts, Altruism Club, Environmental Club, etc.) hold a regular community clean-up day. (Or have your own!)

Keep recycling bins in convenient places.

Buy eco-friendly craft supplies and toys.

Read books from the local library.

Start a little library for a book share.

Start a vegetable/herb garden.

Start a wildflower (bee/butterfly) garden. If you’re feeling brave, replace your front yard with one!

Grow drought-resistant plants.

Make a compost pile.

Start a beehive.

Raise your own chickens.

Only go to zoos and aquariums that subscribe to sustainable, conservatory practices.

Collect rainwater to water plants.

Watch pro-science/environmental shows like “Nature Cat” and “Wild Kratts” (in moderation).

ENJOY THE EARTH WE HAVE

Go on bike rides and walks.

Use nature/hiking trails.

Find a favorite outside space and visit it often.

When traveling, find a new natural spot to explore and appreciate.

Try a new activity (canoeing, hiking, surfing, etc) with the whole family.

Go outside every day (even on rainy or snowy days).

80 ways to celebrate Earth Day everyday