Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cloth Diapers and the Poop-ocalypse

Like many Seattle-ites and other parents out there, we jumped on the cloth diaper bandwagon when our firstborn made her entrance into the world.  For all the benefits (saving money, sending less junk to landfills, getting to outfit your baby in cute diaper covers, blah blah blah), there’s no getting around one glaring downside.   You will be washing out a lot of poop.  A few years back, our then-single and childless friend Jeremy expressed shock and disgust that we washed cloth diapers in the same laundry machine that we use on our regular clothes.  Is that disgusting?  Maybe to non-parents.  But Jeremy's day is coming soon, for he and his wife Chrissie are expecting a little bundle of joy, AND they're planning on using cloth.  Yippee!  So this post is dedicated to Jeremy and all parents who are considering cloth but aren't so excited about the prospect of handling poop.

In the pre-kid era, Jeff and I considered ourselves somewhat immune to the yuckiness of poop.  After all, Jeff grew up on a mini-farm and once almost drowned in a lagoon of cow manure.  And while I wasn’t literally up to my neck in poop, I have done my fair share of gastroenterology rotations in med school and residency.  Not to mention working as a nanny before that.  But nothing could prepare us for the sheer magnitude and variance of the poop that parenthood would bring.

I remember the early days of Anna’s life, when she would leave tiny streaks of sticky newborn poo on her diapers, and we would naively congratulate ourselves on our fortitude for not being grossed out by diapers like so many parents we knew.  Then in the coming weeks, she impressed us with her, well, productivity.  And explosivity.  Jeff developed a rating scale to quickly communicate the magnitude of her output, ranging from a 1 (barely necessitating a diaper change) to a 10 (full soilage of diaper, outfit, surrounding environment, and caretaker, thus necessitating a load of laundry, a shower, and a glass of wine).  This is also known as the poop-ocalypse.  Yet we still patted ourselves on the back for handling her mustardy breastmilk poo-poo with hardly a second thought.  But, oh, did we have another thing coming.  Enter solid foods and a new realm of utterly foul diapers.  Suddenly our pro-cloth diaper stance began to waver. If we were going to make it to the potty training stage with cloth diapers, we were going to have to add some anti-poop weapons to our arsenal.  Here were our weapons of choice:

Weapon #1: The disposable diaper liner.  These little papers resemble a dryer sheet that goes inside the cloth diaper.  If the baby leaves a little present, the liner can easily be dumped into the toilet and flushed down.  While great in theory, these failed the practicality test, since they cost up to 5-10 cents a piece (seriously? for a sheet of beefed up toilet paper?).  We didn't use these for long.

Weapon #2: The diaper sprayer.  We hit a freecycle jackpot on this one!  This hooks up to the toilet and sprays poop off the diaper into the toilet bowl so you don’t have to do the whole “dunk and swirl” business.  Caution advised, my friend, spray downward.  Downward!

Weapon #3: The potty chair.  At 8 months of age, Anna decided to go poop every time she sat in her high chair for dinner (oh she’s going to love this story when she’s a teenager).  Seriously, every single day.   Invariably, our hot dinner would grow tepid as one of us left to deal with a poopy diaper.  After a few weeks of this, we decided that enough was enough and in frustration, plunked her on the potty chair to let her do her business.  Who knew she would love it so much that she would then refuse to poop in diapers from then on?  We started the same thing with Tess around 7 months, when she could sit on the potty without falling off.  Boy does she love using that potty chair!  Unfortunately, it hasn't solved the problem of cold dinners (tonight BOTH of the girls interrupted dinner to use the toilet), but it sure has cut down on dirty diapers.

Parents: how do YOU handle cloth diapers and the poop-ocalypse?

Friday, April 13, 2012

For the Love of Dairy, Part 3: Blessed Are the (Goat) Cheesemakers

In the bleary postpartum haze following baby Tess’ birth, I was struck with sudden inspiration.  We would learn to make cheese.  Cheese, you ask?  Cheese?!?  Somewhere between dead-of-the-night feedings of a newborn and endless stories and trips to the park with a toddler, cheesemaking sprung to the top of my must-do list.  Blame it on hormones.

Jeff read an article in Make about making goat cheese, so we decided to give it a go.  Since we weren’t hitting the clubs much those days, we planned the experiment for a home date night.  Yes, pretty wild bunch we are.  Due to our failure to plan ahead, we made the mistake of doing steps 1-4 on our date night, which took a grand total of 5 minutes.  We spent the rest of the date night twiddling out thumbs and struggling to stay awake until a respectable time to go to bed (say, 8:30pm or so).  Then I had to do the more labor-intensive steps 5-9 involving cheesecloth and large amounts of liquids while holding Tess in one arm, when Jeff was at work the next day.  Oops.


1 gallon goat milk
¼ c buttermilk
rennet (can buy in specialty stores or online)
1 ½ tsp salt
dried herbs (we used garlic and dill)
cheesecloth or clean handkerchief
large stainless steel pot with lid


1. Sterilize the pot by boiling ¼ cup of water for 5 minutes with the lid on, then discard the water.
2. Combine the goat milk and the buttermilk in the pot, and heat to room temp (65F) over a low flame.
3. Prepare the rennet following the package directions, then add to the pot.  Stir well to combine.
4. Let the mixture sit undisturbed at room temp overnight- no jiggling! no prodding!

5. Go to bed.  Pray that the baby will sleep for 3 hours in a row.

6. In about 12 hours, the milk should have formed a curd (i.e. be slice-able with a knife).  If not, let it sit a few more hours.

7. Boil the cheesecloth to sterilize it, and spread it in a colander.

8. Cut the curd into 1” cubes with a long knife, and scoop them into the cheesecloth.

9. Gather the corners of the cloth and secure with a rubber band.  Set the colander over a bowl in the fridge, and let the whey drain overnight.  Be sure a check the bowl before you go to bed, as it might be overflowing.

10. Go to bed again.  Lower your standards and hope for a 2 hour stretch of sleep.

11. When the cheese is done draining, it will be the consistency of whipped cream cheese.  Add salt and herbs of choice.

12. Bring to a party to impress your friends.  Or eat it all by yourself during a middle-of-the-night feeding.  Really, nobody will know.