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Showing posts with label Diapering. Show all posts

Potty Training in an Apartment with One Bathroom

If there was a top five list of parenting tasks that I wish I could outsource, potty training would probably take up 3 of the items on that list. (The other 2 places on there would be devoted to cleaning up other bodily fluids in the middle of the night and dealing with children during daylight savings time mayhem).

The conventional wisdom in the US (potty training is a developmental milestone highly influenced by culture) is that most children potty train some time between 2 and 3 years old.  I took that recommendation as a directive to spend the entire year panicking about... were we starting too late? to early? did we miss a window? how about now? does a window exist? do we have enough cleaning supplies? is there really NO way to outsource this? pretty please with a cherry on top?

When one considers this complete panic and barrage of confusing information, it was a super convenient excuse that our second child didn't sleep at all as a baby.  "We're too tired to deal with this" we told ourselves every time the topic came up for discussion.  Then finally, the baby started to sleep and we were ready to face my daughter's upcoming 3rd birthday.  We decided to our big parent pants on and just do it.  We signed up for a class at a local parenting center (The Loved Child, for the local crew), we bought some gear, and we got down to business.

Now because things on the internet are forever, I'm not actually going to discuss the details of potty training.  I will say however, that it went far more smoothly than I would have guessed.  I will tell you about gear you may need before you start, especially if you live in a house with only one bathroom and/or don't want to be trapped in your house for a month.

Potty seat for families with only one bathroom

When choosing a potty accommodation for your little one, there are many options, but all of them basically solve 2 problems - the kid is too short to climb on the toilet by herself without assistance and the kid's backside is too small to sit comfortably on an adult ring without falling through.  So here are the options we considered and what we ended up with:

  1. 1. Standalone kids' potty (for example). 
    1. Pro - it's easy for the child to get on and off by themselves and it adds a 'second' bathroom for those times, especially in the beginning, when the child is having to go constantly.

    2. Con - you have to clean it and god forbid it gets knocked over.

  2. 2. Separate child's seat for toilet and a step stool (screw on version, removable version, folding step stool).
    1. Pro - I think the screw on option is awesome if you have a dedicated bathroom for your kid and the folding step stool is easily operated by the child.

    2. Con - If you only have one bathroom, as we do, having an extra ring on the seat seems like a pain as does having 2 removable parts.

  3. 3. Ring and step stool combination (Mommy's Helper is the one we have)
    1. Pro - It's one piece of equipment that's foldable and easily operated by the child. It can be stored folded when not in use, thus not interfering with adult bathroom use.

    2. Con - It's a larger item to store than a ring and stool. Also the kid can and will figure out how to bang the stool legs on the floor while sitting on the potty. 

    3. That said, this is the set up we've been using for months and we've been quite happy with it.
You may also need other equipment for your bathroom - such as a separate step stool for your sink (if you go with the seat/stool combination or stand alone potty) and/or a faucet extender.

And finally, as with all child related things, you may have found the perfect piece of equipment for you only to find it rejected by the child.  Thus, the best potty set up is the one your kid is willing to use.

Teaching your child the potty ritual (aka "for the love of god wash your hands!")

There's a lot to learn when becoming a person. Things that are obvious to you - why you shouldn't dip your hair into the toilet - are not obvious to a child. It's helpful to have a couple books on hand when climbing this mountain.  Personally we've enjoyed The Potty Book for Girls (there's a boy's version too). Also the Daniel Tiger episode about going to the potty is particularly instructive (Season 2, Episode 10 - available on Amazon Prime Video).

Potty seats for families on the go

So that's all great but what do you do if you ever want to leave the house? I really recommend getting a portable, folding potty seat. (Note: Amazon has a bunch of identical seats like this one - down to the singing teddy - by purportedly "different" manufactures. It seems fishy to me and I'm guessing my link will be broken shortly. Regardless, the seat is good)  This seat folds and thus easily fits in your diaper bag or purse for convenient transport.  And it makes the child comfortable and confident in unfamiliar settings. It's also hard plastic and thus easily wiped down.

And with that - may the spirits of good hygiene and compliant behavior be with you!

If you live in a small space you need a plan to deal with diapers

Diaper pail, seen in the background of this heartwarming
parenting moment... smells not included
I think diaper disposal methods are one of the lesser known battlegrounds of the parent internet (just Google "do I need a diaper pail"). Lesser known... but no less important or full of smug self confidence.  There are definitely those, otherwise of sound parenting judgement, who do not believe in "fancy diaper disposal" systems and tell you to use a garbage can. I think the diaper pail denialism stems from two places.

  1. 1.Different lifestyle.  Meaning, some people either live in large enough homes that they cannot smell the horror, or they run every poopy diaper to out to the garage once their kiddo starts solids (breastmilk fed babies have slightly less foul smelling diapers... slightly being the operative word). Of course, not everyone has a garage (I don't) and some of us live 2 floors up from the big garbage bins that would remove the diaper from our actual living space.  Walking down and up 2 flights of stairs every time the kid poops seems... impractical at best.

  2. 2. The belief that diaper pails don't do anything to control the smell. Having been around some different diaper pails, I would say that this is true if you buy a not great diaper pail and/or don't buy the bags that are designed to go with it.

I personally only have a lot of experience with the Dekor Diaper Plus Diaper Disposal System so I suppose I cannot speak so authoritatively to the efficacy of other systems (I have been in other people's houses though).  That said, we picked the Dekor for its excellent Amazon reviews and the glowing write up in the Baby Bargains book. Having now used it for almost 3 years, I will say that while not perfect, it totally 100% cuts down on the smell A LOT. I will also say that I like how easy it is to put the diapers in one handed (pretty much no different than a regular garbage can with a push lid and a foot pedal). I also like that it doesn't look like a baby item because once the kids are out of diapers, this bin will take regular garbage bags and can be used as just a trash can in their room (it now also comes in so-called "Designer Colors" if you want to match your decor better).

Don't be tempted to use the regular garbage bags with diapers though - the refills are made out of special plastic that is much better at controlling smell than regular garbage bags.  Using regular garbage bags will totally defeat the purpose of buying the pail in the first place.

This brings us to the lifetime operating cost of the pail, a.k.a. "omg how much does a refill cost?" How the refills (or bags) work was very unclear to me before I bought the Dekor and I  just assumed that I would pay a fortune for bags and that's that.  Not so! Yes the refills aren't cheap, but 1 refill does not equal 1 regular garbage bag.  This is because each refill cartridge is used to create many many bags by tying off and disposing of a Dekor-full of diapers each time the can fills. Even with 2 kids in diapers, it takes us about a month to go through one cartridge. Coming in 2-packs, $7 a month for diaper pail bags is not cheap, but definitely not that bad.

Finally, this is another one of those great items to register for (and don't forget to put the refills on the list) because it is pricey enough that getting it as a present is awesome.


The Zen of Diaper Bags

Diaper bags are one of those pieces of equipment that even non-parents have opinions about.  They can be a kinda ridiculous fashion statement, be literally big enough to fit a sleeping baby, or just a plain old symbol of your new lameness.  This is probably because they come most places with you for several years (or more if you have more than one child).  So here are some practical thoughts on how to pick one and what to put in it.

What should you have in your diaper bag?

Very little.  Ok so our diaper bag pretty much lives on the stroller, which means that I never have to carry it.  Even with that, I hate having a big over stuffed bag because it means I can never find what I'm looking for.  So we keep it light.  Here is what you actually need to have with you:
  • for all munchkins
    • diapers
    • wipes
    • change of clothes
    • a couple plastic bags (for disposing of poopy diapers or containing soiled clothes). Regular grocery bags will do or you can go with something like the Munchkin Diaper Bag Dispenser.
    • a changing pad
    • seasonally appropriate items such as a baby hat or sunscreen 
    • tiny hand sanitizer (soap and water is best for cleaning your hands after a diaper change, but for those rare times that you have to change a diaper not in a bathroom, hand sanitizer is needed)
  • for babies only
    • some way to feed the baby if you're a non lactating parent
    • nursing cover if you are the lactating parent 
  • for toddlers only
    • hand wipes
    • tissues
    • one non perishable emergency snack. (We are definitely a "no snacking on the go" family.  However, sometimes circumstances beyond your control necessitate a change in plan.  One time, my husband was on a bus bringing my toddler daughter home from daycare when all traffic stopped for an hour because the president had come to town. Delaying a tired one year old's dinner by an hour in a confined space is a recipe for all kinds of mayhem and a well placed granola bar can go a long way to keeping everyone's hearing intact.)

How do you pick a diaper bag?

In my humble opinion, you should pick the smallest bag you can find that both parents are willing to carry.

Why the smallest?

Nature abhors a vacuum and you will fill whatever sized bag you buy.  Thus, on those days when you do actually have to carry it, it's going to suck.  Also you'll never find the thing you're looking for.

Doesn't each parent deserve their own bag?

There is definitely advice out there that says mom and dad need their own bag.  I find this highly dubious.  Moving your kids things from bag to bag or making sure both of them are stocked is never going to happen, and most likely one of them is going to gather dust permanently.  Here are a couple of brands we've found that make bags likely to be palatable to both parents:
  • Lassig. We have their messenger style bag and love it.  Though, full disclosure, the messenger bag is kind of big and we only got it when we found out we were having a second child.  The need to carry both baby and toddler things simultaneously necessitated a bigger bag than the one we had to start.  That said, the bag has been awesome from the way it clips to the stroller to the extra wide shoulder strap that makes it easy to carry even when full.
  • L.L. Bean.  They're known for their high quality bags of all kinds, so why not diaper bags?
  • Skip Hop. They have a number of designs and sizes to match almost any kind of style or family.
  • DadGear.  This is a great brand for the most gender neutral of bags (all the way to full on "manly" cameo bags).
  • Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F.   These definitely run expensive but if you're looking for a diaper bag that truly converts from a purse into a backpack and has a fun design - this is your bag.
  • Any bag you are both willing to carry and can fit all the things. It's pretty easy to buy a changing pad and stroller clips and voila - you have a perfectly fine diaper bag of your very own!

Wipes (to go!)

When imagining the acquisition of children, I often found it hard to imagine having a kid bigger than a baby.  It's almost impossible to imagine how quickly they grow and turn into little people.  It seems like in the blink of an eye they go from tiny mewling kittens to walking, talking, mini humans.  Thus it is even more difficult to imagine how quickly one goes from changing a baby's diaper 20 times a day at the newborn stage to changing it just 5 or 6 times a day once they hit 6 months or so.

We started out using the OXO Tot On-the-Go Travel Wipes Dispenser for diapering when out and about.  It worked great at first.  However, as our baby grew and we were no longer using the wipes on a weekly if not daily basis, we noticed they were often drying out between uses.  This is a mostly solvable problem, of course, since usually one is changing diapers in a bathroom and thus can re-wet them slightly in the sink.

However, we recently came upon an even better solution.  When our second child was born, we took home the package of wipes the hospital had been using.  We then realized that they didn't dry out, despite living in our diaper bag for about two months before running out.  Thus the executive decision was made to switch to the Medline Aloetouch Personal Cleansing Wipes permanently for use when not at home.  Generally I wouldn't recommend a disposable solution when a reasonable reusable one exists, but with 80 large wipes per bag (you would rarely need more than 2 for a diaper change) I doubt we'll be using more than 3 packages a year.  This way, there is also peace of mind that a wet wipe will be available, even if I haven't checked the bag in a long long time.

Also, we haven't started potty training yet (heaven help us) but I expect having permanently wet, large wipes with us at all times will be helpful in that endeavor.


Diaper rash is like taxes

Both are largely inevitable. Oh sure, there are magic babies who never get it, along with ones who nurse like a champ, sleep through the night at 6 weeks, and pop out after 10 minutes of labor because you sneezed. (That said if you have an in with a higher power, I recommend asking for the other stuff first since diaper rash is relatively easy to deal with).  In any case, because this is the kind of thing that can happen rather suddenly, it's good to have diaper rash cream on hand when the baby comes home or soon after, just in case.

Diaper rash happens because the acid in pee and poop can eat away at a baby's skin. Obviously the best thing you can do is try to prevent it by changing the diaper once the baby poops (modern diapers are pretty absorptive so they move pee away from the skin really well) . However if your child has sensitive skin like both of mine do, it's just something that's going to happen from time to time. Once the rash develops you need to apply a barrier cream to help the skin heal.  The active ingredient in pretty much all diaper rash cream is an inert mineral called zinc oxide. The more zinc oxide in a product, the stronger the barrier and the faster the skin will heal. Most creams top out at about 15% zinc oxide. To get something more concentrated than that, you pretty much have to go to a paste. Personally I find paste annoying to carry around and apply (it gets under my nails, which are short).   So I was really excited to find a brand that makes a high concentration cream version (25%). It's called Booty Goo. (Why yes, it IS a terrible name! Have you noticed how baby product manufacturers assume you have no dignity?).  Remember to put it on thickly (think spreading it like icing).

And here is one more tip for the road that was given to us by our pediatrician and has worked wonders. If the diaper rash has gotten bad enough that the skin has broken (the baby screaming bloody murder when you apply rash cream is usually a sign that it has), apply neosporin to the area first and then slather the cream on top. And finally, if you're in the throws of a bad outbreak and are having trouble wiping the cream off at diaper change, give the baby a bath with a bunch of baking soda in the water.

Good luck, and whatever you do - DO NOT GOOGLE IMAGES OF DIAPER RASH.  It looks much less scary in real life.

Photo credits - DEATH and TAXES under a Creative Commons license.