Can You Live “Naturally” With 4 Young Kids?

Getting three new kids in 15 days earlier this year rocked our worlds.  Our lives changed in predictable ways- our grocery budget increased, our free time decreased, our patience was tried.  And our lives changed in some unexpected ways- we had to think about our consumption habits, our attitudes towards food, our screen time rules.  My next several posts will be about those unexpected ways.

Several years ago I started becoming more aware of the chemicals and preservatives I was exposing myself and my family to.  In our house I am the one that plans and shops, so I am responsible for everything that’s brought into our house.  If I buy lots of disposable products and Oreos they will get used and eaten.  If I don’t, they won’t.  I did a blog series back in 2012 about all of the “natural” things I was doing to live a more healthy life and reduce our environmental footprint.

So how’s that working out for me, nearly 3 years and 4 kids later?  Well, I’m glad you asked.

Laundry Detergent– Still making it exactly the way I did back then, and thank God because I probably couldn’t have afforded to quit my job if I was having to buy laundry detergent for the 96,000 loads of laundry I do every week.  This is good stuff.  Cheap, easy to make, all natural, gets the job done.  If you’re looking to start a more natural style of living, this would be a quick and easy first step.

All Purpose Spray– Same as laundry detergent.  I use this all the time.  I haven’t changed a thing since the original post because it’s just that good.  I use it on everything, though with kids and our recent sickness I do also use bleach and Lysol occasionally.  This is cheap, easy, and effective.  Another great way to get started.

Dishwasher Detergent–  I stopped using this a long time ago.  I couldn’t perfect the formula.  The detergent would clump and it left our glass foggy.  I bought basically a whole truckload of citric acid to try to help and it didn’t, so if you ever need citric acid for something please hit me up.  Now I use the Costco brand of detergent, not natural but it works.

Oil Face Wash– Another win.  I am obsessed with this and apparently a lot of others are too, because although this post was over 2 years ago it is consistently one of the most popular posts.  Before I started using oil face wash I would get 2-3 pimples a month and now I get that many a year.  It’s awesome.  My sister did not have great success with this so it may not be for all skin types, but for me it’s awesome.

Homemade Dog Food- Our poor dogs.  I stopped making their food shortly after Wiggles was born.  For the first month or so after he was born people brought us food and I didn’t have to cook, and I just never started cooking the dogs’ food again. Instead I bought some PetSmart food that was like $183 a bag, but now we’re scaling back and this comes from Costco now too.  Poor dogs.  They’re so neglected.

I never wrote an original post about this, but we also tried to limit our consumption of disposable products.  We rarely used paper towels, opting for old rags instead.  When we entertained we always used real plates, not because we’re fancy but because I hate throwing stuff away.  I never went as far as using a Lunette cup or reusable toilet paper (it seriously exists), but limited consumption was definitely something we prioritized.  After kids?  Eh.  Still a goal but really?  When 4 kids are freaking out and there’s dog pee on the floor and the baby needs fed I’m grabbing whatever’s closest.  As our lives have gotten more busy sometimes convenience is more important than Earth-saving.  Sometimes.  Not always.  I hope that as our kids get older and more self-sufficient we can tip the scales back the other way.  Speaking of convenience…

Cloth Diapers–  Where do I even begin?  I was obsessed with cloth diaper when I had Wiggles.  I mean, I was serious.  Wiggles was in cloth full time and I even took them on vacation with us.  For the first six months I thought they were perfect.  As we introduced solids I got disgusted at rinsing off poop, but it really wasn’t as bad as it sounded.  Cloth diapers are a bit harder to put on than disposables, and this is especially true after the baby starts moving (and Wiggles, well he wiggled a LOT).  After 18 months I had a love/hate relationship with cloth.  I loved them for all the reasons I started using them- the soft fabric on his bottom, the super cute designs, I never spent $1 on diapers after the initial purchase, the environmental impact.  But I also started having issues.  As he started wetting more they sometimes leaked- and not leak a little, but totally soak through.  When you mention this to anyone in the cloth diaper community they get giddy with excitement.  They start offering all sorts of suggestions about your washing routine and you have to do a lot of trial and error to fix the problem.  Are you using too much detergent?  Not enough?  Do you need an extra rinse?  I did a lot of troubleshooting and solved many of my issues, but this was all just annoying to me.  I didn’t want to spend my limited time and mental energy figuring out why my diapers didn’t work.  I just wanted them to work.

They were still worth it, but I didn’t love them nearly as much as I did when I started out.  When we started potty training he was good at peeing but bad at pooping in the potty.  Which mean that every diaper I changed was poopy.  And 2-year-old poop is pretty gross, especially when you have to clean it out of a cloth diaper.  Around this same time I was getting ready to have The Baby and I didn’t want to have two kids in cloth diapers- my diapers are all one size and I didn’t want to have to keep switching the sizings between them.  So around the time Wiggles turned 2 and The Baby came, Wiggles went to disposables full time.

The Baby started wearing cloth as soon as she could fit into them, when she was about six weeks old.  I had spent quite a bit of money building my stash and was disappointed at how they held up (partially my fault for putting them in the dryer regularly).  I got rid of about half my stash that either leaked consistently or was just too damaged to survive another child.  This only left me with about a day and a half worth of diapers.  I wasn’t going to wash diapers every night, so The Baby wore cloth as I had them clean- probably about 75% of the time.  She wore them most of the time at daycare, but if we went somewhere I’d usually put her in disposables.  When she was around 5 months old we switched daycares and I decided not to mess with cloth there- so she only wore cloth while she was at home.  She started eating solids around 7 months and I didn’t want to mess with poop rinsing so I rarely put her in cloth, maybe 20% of the time.  Then she got Hand Foot and Mouth disease, which is contagious through fecal matter for months, and I didn’t want to get my diapers messed up, so I just stopped all together.  Now she’s 9 months and in disposables full time.

So all told, I got a little less than 2.5 years of mostly full-time wear out of my cloth, plus a few months of part time.  Not bad.  Disposables are, without a doubt, way more convenient.  But they’re not perfect.  It seems like I am constantly buying diapers and my trash can is always full and WHAT IS IT WITH THE BLOW OUTS?  I never once had a blow out with cloth diapers.  Never once in 2.5 years.

So would I recommend cloth diapering to someone considering it?  It depends on their motivation and their commitment, but yes.  There really is no perfect diapering solution, but cloth is a great way to keep chemicals off your baby’s bum and keep diapers out of landfills.  I’m not thrilled that I’m using disposables now, but I have 4 kids and 2 in diapers, yo!  If that wasn’t the case I’d be more committed to making cloth work, because it does take more effort.  If you are considering it, I would most definitely recommend a trial package to figure out what kinds you like.  I’m glad I did it and honestly wish I had more mental energy to make it work longer.

So now that you know more than you ever wanted to know about my cloth diapering habits, go and have yourself a good time tonight celebrating the New Year.  We’ll be right here at home, eating pizza and having dance parties with our closest friends.  Maybe we’ll even make it to midnight?

After the New Year I’ll be sharing how our food habits have changed and offer some tips on healthy eating!

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