The Natural Diaper Bag

The Natural Diaper Bag

I just went to lunch with an old friend of mine. In the course of catching up, we talked about parenting (I mean, it comes up :)), and in particular about the game of good cop - bad cop that many parents play. Well, she coined the term “lazy cop” in the course of this discussion, and I have to admit, when it comes to diaper bags (and, occasionally other parenting matters), this label fits me perfectly. I am generally in the less is more camp when packing anyway, a holdover from my days in Latin America with a fellow health worker, (who happened to be an older guy and smoking hot), who would pridefully announce that the only thing you need when traveling is a toothbrush and a change of underpants. And even though, twenty years later I am SO over this (and him!), old habits die hard. So I guess it comes as no surprise given my early-twenties indoctrinations that my diaper bag only contains what I consider to be the essentials -- but I do try to keep it natural. Here’s my go-to list for a natural diaper bag -- what I carry, and what I WISH I carried with me everywhere. BTW: At said luncheon, I forgot to bring a diaper bag at all...

The Natural Diaper Bag

1.  Diapers: seems obvious, but as the thing in the bag we use most frequently, its the thing we run out of first and have to restock each night. The debate between whether to use cloth or disposable diapers rages. I wish I could say there was a clear winner, but the sad truth is, its still a game of ‘pick your favorite natural resource’ and balance this with utility and convenience. Disposable diapers are a landfill nightmare, cloth diapers use significant water and energy to launder. Biodegradable diapers are a nice solution, but unless you’re prepared to compost them yourself, they won’t make a big landfill difference -- landfills don’t generally have enough oxygen to initiate the decomposition, and composting works for urine-filled diapers only. From the health perspective, I would choose organic cloth over conventional disposables any day -- the conventionals contain synthetic polyolefin, a plastic derivative which covers the absorbent materials, synthetic rubber for the waistband, and synthetic dyes for the designs. They are often petroleum-based and contain dioxin, a super-toxic category of chemicals. Add in fragrance, chlorine to bleach the diaper and possible lotions, and you have a lot of potential for irritations and exposure to toxins through the skin. Not a lot, perhaps, but certainly something with day-in-day-out wear. The choice between the cloth diapers and the natural disposables is less black-and-white to me. Natural disposables are easier, faster, and often more absorbent (this has pros and cons when its potty training time, but at night, I like it!), but I’m not experienced with cloth, so I might get better at it with time.

G-diapers are another solution: a diaper with a reusable cloth pantie, and either 100% biodegradable inserts which can be flushed (and break down in 50-150 days), or reusable cloth. For more on diapers, check out ENSO Plastics diaper guide, also NewHope 360. RIght now I pack my diaper bag with natural disposables (I look for chlorine-free, fragrance-free and lotion-free), but I’m also going to give the G-diapers a try. I’ll let you know how it works out.

2.  Biodegradable, natural wipes: This is less of a dilemma for me. I love the reusables in concept, and in the comfort of my own home, I’m happy to go old-school and use natural soap and a soft washcloth, but if your baby is the prolific pooper that mine is, you may not want to mess around with reusable wipes when you’re on the go. A lot of information is out there on what chemicals to avoid in baby wipes (for a nice in-depth overview). I won’t reiterate the wonderful research here, but I’ll summarize. Biodegradable, chlorine-free, and flushable is GOOD good stuff for the planet, the baby and for on-the-go. I like the Bambino Mio wipes, with natural lavender, chamomile, and aloe vera for soothing the skin, but if your baby is sensitive to essential oils, try Nature Babycare. Some great alternatives are also made out of bamboo -- a natural antimicrobial. Walgreens has them, their own-brand Renew Wipes. So does Gaia Bamboo Baby Wipes or Bum Boosa (love the names!). For my husband, the size of the wipe is the deal-breaker, so our trial and error on his favorite brand continues...

3.  Witch hazel: Do you get tired of me mentioning witch hazel in every blog? Then you haven’t tried it yet -- it is amazing stuff! Got a poo-poo you didn’t catch immediately, or a container of wipes gone dry? This is the answer. It’s better than water in that it soothes the bum as it cleans.

4.  A change of clothes. I don’t need to say why. Especially if your husband, in a traveling emergency has picked up generic diapers. Ugh.

5.  Those cute muslin swaddle blankets: My same sweet honey of the generic diaper incident didn’t want me to buy the swaddle blankets we were seeing everywhere (have you seen them? cute giraffes, blue monkeys, baby elephants, all on a lightweight cloth that beats the summer heat). We were blessed with beautiful crocheted blankets from friends and family, and sweet, well-worn, hand-me-downs. But he admitted last week that he’s glad my impetuousness prevailed. The muslin blankets don’t have sentimental value, so I don’t mind throwing them down to cover a dirty carpet, car seat, or changing station. They’re a tummy time pad on the fly (at least under soft surfaces). They handle spit-ups in a jiffy. Not into them? Use organic burp cloths or dishtowels. You sacrifice the surface area and the pretty, but otherwise get the same functionality.

6.  Plastic baggies or "wetbags": Nowhere else would I advocate for plastic bags, but admit it, you’ve got one or two saved under the sink just awaiting the perfect re-use or recycling. Put them to work to wrap up soiled diapers and dirty clothes. Or try waterproof on-the-go wetbags, specifically formulated to hold soiled diapers, clothes or utensils & bowls (Kushies and Planetwise make versions). I promise you, no friend wants your son’s poopie dipe dumped directly in their trashcan, no matter how nice they’re being about it.

7.  A favorite toy: My fave is the Sophie Giraffe, (the French import by Vulli that’s good for teething and made of natural rubber - tres chic!), the wooden rattle (it was a gift, but Green Sprout makes a great one) or anything that makes a crinkling sound (try Dandelion Organics) -- I find the crinkling noise so strangely satisfying! I don’t know what his favorite is.

Optional Items...Items I Sometimes Carry:

1.  Bottle: my little guy isn’t eating solids yet, only breastmilk, but if you’re packing the bag for daddy, feeling modest or using formula, of course a bottle goes in too -- I love the LifeFactory bottles -- they are glass to eliminate leeching, and covered in a silicone slipcover for break-resistance and grip-abililty. Breastmilk can last for 4-6 hours unrefrigerated if the temperature stays at 72f or below -- at 60f it will last even longer. It never hurts to put it in a small insulated lunch sack though, with an ice pack if its a hot day or the excursion is long.

2.  Food: if your little one is eating solid foods already, a jar of food (and a spoon!) can be included. I also like to include a mini tupperware of snacks for my older son as well -- trail mix, homemade granola bars, or sprouted almonds are my favorites -- they’re healthy, non-perishable and also good for the nursing mama who’s packing this bag - and whose appetite won’t quit. :)

3.  Gripe Water (& any other first aid items): If your little one is prone to tummy trouble or hiccups -- or going through an - I-don’t-have-any-idea-what’s-wrong-but-they’re-grumpy spell, gripe water is a godsend. I keep it, and any other potential first aid necessities in a little toiletry bag within the diaper bag, both for easy access and to avoid spills.

4.  A hat (and various other weather-dependent items): any chance of prolonged sunlight, or inclement weather? I usually keep a hat in the bag, just in case.

5.  A bottle of water: Still nursing your baby? Then this really isn’t optional.

And things I WISH I carried:

1.  Chamomilla: is great for teething and calming in general. Use 3-5 of the homeopathic pellets (in 3x, 6x, or 6c) dissolved in one teaspoon of water every couple hours or as needed -- hopefully never:).

2.  Arnica -- I stash bottles of this everywhere as a topical miracle-worker for bumps and bruises on either son. Next stop -- the diaper bag. It is aptly re-named in my family as “owwie cream”.

3.  A camera. I use my phone. I hear that apps are available to beautify my snapshots, and on a recent trip, I watched an artistically-inclined friend of mine screw a miniature lens onto her iPhone, after which she took beatific photos of our kids playing in the sunflower fields. I’m considering it.

4.  An emergency laminated index card -- containing emergency numbers, pediatrician, any allergies, my contact info in case it or I get lost. I can do the card, but the laminating? My mother’s church has a laminating machine. Maybe I can sneak it in...

5.  My wallet. I aspire to consolidate diaper bag and my purse, but so far haven’t done it with any regularity. First the wallet, then my lipstick, housekeys, ipad... It’s a slippery slope. 

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