A few people have asked for recommendations, particularly regarding cloth diapering, but also about toys and items that we have found useful for Leah. Below are some of our favorite things. Disclaimer: If you shop on Amazon.com using any of the links below, we get a very small referral commission for purchases made during that shopping session.
Mandy and I made the decision to use cloth diapers before we even knew that Leah would have special needs. We weren’t comfortable with the idea of filling landfills with diapers, and we liked the idea of using plain cotton instead of diapers filled with chemicals. As it turns out, it was a wise economic decision as well. Cloth diapering requires an initial investment, but is a more inexpensive option in the long run, particularly if you plan to have multiple children – you won’t have to buy diapers for the next kid! In addition, children with Down Syndrome often have delays in toilet training, which means that Leah will likely be in diapers for a longer time than most of her peers. That’s more diapers that we won’t have to keep buying!
When we started with Leah’s cloth diapering, we tried out a few different types, as we weren’t sure quite what we were doing. I read and researched obsessively, asked others for advice, and watched YouTube videos and web tutorials. In the end, we found that the good old-fashioned pre-folds worked the best for us – we didn’t need the fancy schmancy all-in-ones and pocket diapers, although we do use the ones that we have. We do not use a diapering service; we wash our diapers at home. The diaper service is an unnecessary expenditure, and I’m sure they must use tons of bleaches and harsh detergents on their diapers.
Here is what we use:
OsoCozy 6 Pack Prefolds Unbleached Cloth Diapers, Size 2: We found that these diapers had the most favorable reviews. The Thirsties Duo Hemp Prefolds also had very good reviews, particularly for absorbency, but we found that they do not hold the Snappis very well, so they are really only useful if you are going to trifold your diapers (i.e. just fold them and stick them in the cover, as opposed to putting them on like a diaper and fastening the corners in place before putting the cover on). Since we prefer to fit and fasten the cloth diapers, the OsoCozies win. When Leah got too big for the size 1 diapers but was too small for size 2, we switched to OsoCozy Better Fit Unbleached Prefolds. These are wider than size 1 and shorter than size 2, so they are perfect for her right now. They are meant to be trifolded and fit better in diaper covers, but because of Leah’s size they actually do work with the Snappis. She has nearly outgrown them, though, and will be moving on to size 2 soon! For overnight diapers, we often add a Thirsties Stay-Dry Duo Insert into the cloth diaper – although I imagine you could also use them alone in a diaper cover. This insert has a layer of absorbent hemp and a layer of microfiber. Hemp is great for absorption, but doesn’t wick moisture away from the skin very well. The layer of microfiber takes care of that, and the hemp can stick to absorbing. I do like these for overnight diapers, but sometimes they can make the diaper so bulky that it leaks.
Snappi Cloth Diaper Fasteners: Snappis have, in my opinion, revolutionized cloth diapering. You no longer have to fear that you will accidentally stab your baby or yourself with a safety pin. The Snappis have little plastic claws that grip the corners of the diaper to keep them in place. They are so easy to use. I’m not sure we would have had the dedication to stick with this if we still had to rely on safety pins.
Blueberry Coveralls Diaper Snap: We have tried several brands of diaper covers and found these to be the best, the cutest, and most importantly, the least likely to leak. Don’t get me wrong – they occasionally leak, as all diapers do. But we have tried some other brands and I think they leak more frequently. The nice thing about the Blueberry covers is that they are one-size-fits-all. They have many snaps so that you can adjust the size as the baby gets bigger. MAKE SURE YOU GET THE KIND WITH SNAPS AND NOT WITH VELCRO. Every review I read said that Velcro diaper covers tend to lose their stick after they’ve been washed a few times. The diapers with snaps will last longer. The Blueberry diaper covers also come in lots of adorable patterns. Leah has, among others, giraffes, monkeys, dinosaurs, flowers, and monsters. And a cow print. We love the cow print. Be sure that all of the cloth diaper gets tucked into the leg gussets and front and back waist line – one big cause of leaks is that if the cloth diaper sticks out of the cover, it will wick moisture up and out and the clothes will get wet.
Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag: Some of the diapering articles I read suggested that we needed to buy a big fancy odor-reducing diaper bucket. Thankfully I came across other articles that suggested this wet bag as a cheaper alternative. You really don’t need anything fancy – just a water-resistant hanging bag that can store the diapers until you have a chance to wash them – once every two to three days, at minimum. We had initially planned to use disposable diapers when we were out and about, but found that it was just as easy to get a smaller Planet Wise Wet Diaper Bag, Small that would fit into our diaper bag. We use cloth diapers everywhere we go.
GroVia Cloth Wipes, 12 count: We had also initially planned to use disposable wipes with our cloth diapers, but found that it was easier to discard the wipes in the same receptacle as the diapers – which meant using cloth wipes as well. It sounded horrible, but really wasn’t that hard. We bought several different types of wipes, and I found that the Grovia brand were the ones I reached for most often. We had some cheaper, thinner OsoCozy Flannel Baby Wipes, but they were flimsy and really only worked for wet diapers. For the dirty ones you need something more substantial. On the other hand, some people favor the Charlie Banana 10 Reusable Double Sided Wipes precisely because they are much more substantial – but honestly, they’re kind of a waste of money considering that they are… you know… wipes. The Grovia ones are the best, in my opinion. Now that Leah is a bit bigger (and so are her dirty diapers), I’ll admit that we have mostly switched to disposable wipes for the dirtiest diapers, just for practicality’s sake. If you were to use a wipe system where your reusable wipes were pre-dampened it might be practical, but it’s kind of a pain to be constantly spraying, especially when you’re in the middle of cleaning up an epic mess.
Kissaluvs Diaper Lotion Potion 4 oz, Spray: Generally speaking, we wet our wipes with water from a spray bottle. But for dirtier diapers, or for a sore little tush, we use the Kissaluvs diaper spray. It seems less harsh than the petroleum-based products, and less intense than something like Desitin or Butt Paste, which are great for diaper rash, but not necessary in the absence of diaper rash.
Bi-O-Kleen Bac-Out Stain and Odor Eliminator Foaming Action Spray: This is what we use to pre-clean the dirty diapers while they await laundry day. Leah is still exclusively breastmilk-fed (not for long!) so her diapers aren’t horrible enough to require a sprayer hose yet. We spray the diapers with this enzyme-based stain remover before we put them into the diaper bag. It smells decent, but after a while you start equating that smell with stinky diapers and suddenly it doesn’t matter how nice it smells. If you find that you like this stuff, it is cheaper to get a jug of it to refill the original bottles instead of continuing to buy new spray bottles. You can buy a gallon jug of Bac-Out on Amazon – and if you REALLY love it, I think they sell multi-packs of the jugs as well.
Toys and Baby Stuff
I’ll continue to update this as we see which toys really help Leah push her development further.
Fisher-Price Newborn Rock n’ Play Sleeper, Pink Giraffe: We would seriously have been lost without this thing. Before her fundoplication, Leah was not able to sleep flat on her back due to reflux and frequent vomiting; she was at particular risk of aspiration / choking because of her swallowing issues. She needed to sleep upright. The company that makes the Res-Q Wedge was kind enough to donate a wedge to us through a charity organization that assisted us when Leah was first getting out of the hospital, but it took some time to arrive, and then we had Leah sleeping in our room for the first few months after she returned from the hospital, so she wasn’t using the wedge full-time yet. The Rock ‘N’ Play seriously saved us. Not only did it keep Leah upright, but the version we purchased has a vibrating function, which is a major plus because Leah is very frequently soothed to sleep by vibration even when she is otherwise resisting sleep. The Rock ‘N’ Play also made it possible for us to travel with Leah overnight, particularly when we stayed at Ronald McDonald House before and after subsequent surgeries after Leah’s release. It folds up very easily and fits in the car, which meant we didn’t have to worry about getting a crib and then figuring out how she was going to sleep in it. For a long time we would still put Leah in the Rock ‘N’ Play for naps and when she came home from surgeries and couldn’t sleep in the sling with her fresh sutures.
VTech – Crazy Legs Learning Bugs: Funny story – we had this toy sitting on our shelf for months; Aunti Staci got it for Leah, but she had not yet played with it when she returned to the hospital for a four-day stay in early May. It’s a good toy for babies learning to sit, and she wasn’t quite there yet. But in the hospital she had a little breakthrough and bumped her 60-second sitting record up to a full ten minutes. I can’t say whether or not it is a coincidence, but prior to this awesome little milestone, the Child Life Specialist had brought Leah this toy to play with. She LOVED it and played with it the whole time she was in the hospital. And then she sat for ten minutes in her hospital crib! Go figure! As I was watching her play with it, I realized I had seen the same toy on our shelf at home, and so when Leah got home we brought it down, and we haven’t put it away since. She just loves it. It’s one of the first toys with buttons she’s actually been able to push on her own, whether deliberately or by accident. And wouldn’t you know – it’s a ladybug. 🙂
Fisher-Price Discover ‘n Grow Busy Baby Booster: This has been another big boost in Leah’s efforts to sit up on her own. Leah had been sitting upright in a chair that was similar to the Bumbo, but her PT didn’t like her sitting in it for long stretches because it had a curved bottom and wasn’t great for posture. We asked her for an alternative because we wanted Leah to be sitting up more frequently and not just sitting reclined in her little bouncy chair. Leah’s PT went “shopping” at the baby stores nearby and came back with this suggestion. Leah’s Gran got it for her birthday, and it has been great – it has a tray with built-in toys, but the toys are removable so you can put other items on the tray. It’s actually meant to be a booster seat, so it also has straps that can secure it to a chair at the table. We’re not quite there yet – but Leah loves to play in this chair!
Boppy Nursing Pillow and Positioner: When I see new moms and dads asking what items are “must-haves” while they’re filling out their registries, this is always at the very top of the list. It’s just a given. Every new parent should have a Boppy – and if your kid is a spitter-upper or has a g-tube, you probably want the Boppy Water Resistant Protective Cover for it as well. We used this EVERY DAY in the NICU (and yes, the waterproof cover came in handy multiple times), and EVERY DAY in the PICU. We still use it now – it is useful for tummy time and then to help the baby sit up. At this point we use it to cushion and support her when we want her to sit for a long period of time, e.g. when we are trying to work on fine motor skills and don’t want her to have to focus on staying upright.
Fisher-Price Go Baby Go! 1-2-3 Crawl Along Snail: Seriously, everyone seems to have this toy. And it’s an annoying toy. You forget that it’s on, and you walk by and it starts playing music or cheering out of nowhere. BUT the kid adores it. It gets her attention and keeps it. Leah loves it. Just, you know, don’t forget to turn it off when your kid’s done with it.
Cloud b Sleep Sheep On The Go Travel Sound Machine with Four Soothing Sounds: We got this as a gift at our shower. I don’t know why it took us so long to realize that Leah would love white noise. She often falls asleep during her nebulizer treatment – sometimes immediately. One night, after watching her drift off literally the moment I turned on the machine, I decided to test out a white noise app on my phone the next time she was resisting a nap. Sure enough, I put on “ocean sounds” on my phone and she drifted off to sleep in a few minutes. We started using my phone as a sleep tool when we were out and about. Then I remembered we had the Sleep Sheep tucked away. We now use it every night and take it with us on day excursions (whoopee, days of doctor visits), and I no longer have to part with my phone every time the kiddo needs a nap and tries to fight it. Yay.
Wonder Mat Non-Toxic Rainbow (6 Colors) foam Wonder MateWonderWorld Rainbow (6 Colors) foam Wonder Mats: Extra Thick: Leah’s room has tile on top of a concrete floor, so we needed to make sure that there was adequate protection for her sweet little head when we put her on the floor. We asked around and the best piece of advice we got was to get foam mats – and to go with the extra-thick ones. We love these mats from E-Wonder-World because they are thicker than most of the mats we found on Amazon, AND you can also get replacement tiles individually from the seller if, for example, your cats claw up a tile because you accidentally left the mat out overnight. For example. More valid reasons might include needing additional squares beyond what’s included in the 36-pack. We got enough squares to cover the bulk of the floor space in Leah’s room and then have a mat for the living room for Leah’s in-home therapy sessions. They clean up easily with disinfectant wipes, and they break down into individual squares so it’s SUPER easy to take them with you if you go to the grandparents’ house for the day and need a space where baby can play.