Over 1700 diapers available for needy families in St. Louis

Diaper need is a silent epidemic in the United States. According to a recent study by Huggies, one in three families are forced to choose between household necessities and diapers.

Diapers are one of the most expensive costs associated with raising a baby. No government assistance exists to help families in need with the cost of diapers. Diapers cannot be purchased with WIC or SNAP benefits. Yet, diapers are a basic necessity to keep a baby clean and dry. Without an adequate supply of disposable diapers parents resort to rationing by leaving them on babies longer and to drying soiled diapers to reuse them. This can lead to a heartbreaking array of problems such as rash and infection for babies and significant emotional stress for parents.

In response to this growing epidemic Cotton Babies, Inc., created Share the Love, a cloth diaper bank, which has since grown since 2012 to include 125 locations nationwide. Share the Love brings hope to struggling families by offering reusable cloth diaper loans to qualifying families.

Due to a recent influx of cloth diaper donations, the St. Louis locations of Share the Love have over 1700 diaper changes available for distribution. These donated diapers have the potential to save local families the purchase of nearly 400,000 disposable diapers this year alone. Parents can visit http://www.cottonbabieslove.com/need-diapers/ for information about applying for a cloth diaper loan from Share the Love.

For more information about the Share The Love cloth diaper bank and how you can help, please email sharethelove@cottonbabies.com.

Does Cotton Babies have patents?

Details on the utility and design patents that are applicable to Cotton Babies patents, the products those patents apply to, as well as product origin can be found summarized below.  Actual issued patents are public record and are available for download at the USPTO.  This information may not be a complete summary of all intellectual property held by Cotton Babies or it’s owners.

Cotton Babies is unable to answer questions about whether or not a product infringes on these patents. We recommend that you consult an attorney for patent advice if needed. Licenses may be available under certain circumstances.

bumGenius 4.0
U.S. Pat. 7,629,501; 8,777,915; 8,062,276; 8,518,007.  Other U.S. and International patents pending.
Diaper made in USA of domestic and imported materials.
Insert made in China.

bumGenius Freetime
U.S. Pat. 8,409,163; 8,062,276; 8,777,915; D708,319; D708,320; D708,321; D708,739. Chinese Invention Patent No. ZL 201280044006.8. Other U.S. and International patents pending.
Made in the USA of domestic and imported materials.

bumGenius Elemental
U.S. Pat. 8,992,498; 8,062,276; 8,777,915; D708,319; D708,320; D708,321; D708,739.  Other U.S. and International patents pending.
Made in the USA of domestic and imported materials.

Flip Diaper Covers
U.S. Pat. 8,518,007; 8,062,276; 8,777,915; D708,319; D708,320; D708,321; D708,739.  Other U.S. and International patents pending.
Made in USA of domestic and imported materials.

Flip Potty Trainers
U.S. Pat. 8,430,857. Canada Pat. 2,844,249.  Other U.S. & International patents pending.
Made in USA of domestic and imported materials.

Milk Daze Nursing Pads
U.S. Pat. US D736,909.
European Registered Community Design 001400246-0001
Made in USA of imported materials.

Where are Cotton Babies diapers made anyway?

Back in 2005 when bumGenius was created, the first production lines were established in a small cut & sew factory in Denver, Colorado.  When they started, 7 people were working on making our diapers.  Today, hundreds of people work together to make the brands you now see coming from Cotton Babies.

The Denver production lines been constantly operational since December of 2005.

Fun Fact: The first bumGenius pocket diaper was released on December 21, 2005.

A few years later, we built a factory in Alexandria, Egypt that was designed to support the needs of the international market. Friends living in Egypt managed that facility for us as it grew.  During this time that Flip and Econobum were launched to the cloth diaper market.

The Denver factory continued to make products for the United States.  The Egypt factory made pieces primarily for the other half of the world. Other than manufacturing location, there was no material difference in the products. Both factories made diapers using materials we provided to them, purchased from the same component suppliers.

In 2011, when the Arab Spring started in Egypt and Hosni Mubarek stepped down, it was time to permanently exit the Egypt factory.  We weren’t able to safely visit the factory anymore and export conditions were uncertain.

At the end of 2011, all of the production volume that was being handled in Egypt for bumGenius, Flip and Econobum was moved to the factory in Denver, Colorado.

In 2012, the factory in Denver upgraded to a larger facility and staffed up.  The transition created over 100 new jobs in the Denver area.

Today, Cotton Babies has nearly all of our manufacturing in the United States. Your bumGenius Pocket Diapers, bumGenius Freetime, bumGenius Elemental, Flip Diaper Covers, Flip Organic Inserts, Econobum Diaper Covers and most of our accessories are all cut and sewn by American workers in the United States.

We’re proud to be nearly 300 strong as a team, working together with our manufacturer, retailers, component manufacturers, and distributors to grow the cloth diaper industry worldwide.

Is Disney worth it with toddlers?

Early this spring, I got a call from Disney inviting us to come down for a weekend with our two littlest people. They had a weekend planned for bloggers with preschoolers and wanted us to participate. We actually had a window in our schedule and agreed to take Louis (just turned two) and Elsie (just turned six) down to experience some of the special moments that Disney has available for preschoolers. It ended up being an adventure of the good kind that left me, a working mom of four, in tears last night.

The Disney team met us at our hotel and, for several days, walked with us through a handcrafted experience designed to teach us how to have fun with the littlest members of our family in a Disney Parks environment.

 Some of our magical moments (keep reading for the less magical moments):

Walt Disney’s life is captivating to me personally. Disney Parks started with a train in Walt Disney’s backyard and turned into an amazing thing that my family gets to enjoy together long after his death. There’s something inspiring about boundless imagination and persistence that could mean for my comparatively tiny diaper company. Someday, I really want this poster on my wall. It’s a good reminder to keep dreaming.

We stayed on resort at The Yacht Club. We loved The Yacht Club. It’s near the entrance to Epcot. The pool is zero-entry and had a real sand beach. I was surprised at how much stress was relieved just by being able to walk back to our hotel after a day in the parks.  Being cost conscious, we’d always used Marriott points to stay off the resort because it was so much less expensive. This trip helped me finally understand why it’s worth it to spend extra stay on resort. No car rental. No long rides to the farthest corner of the parking lot when you’re exhausted. A character dining experience and a small convenience grocery store was within an arms reach, and other dining was readily available for any budget.

We started the castle adventure by getting an appearance and a photo with Cinderella.

Elsie got dressed up as Cinderella and, with some convincing, went to the Bippity Boppity Boutique to have her hair and makeup done.  She’s always beautiful, but a formally polished little girl, now decked out in her best Cinderella finery, was also invited to attend the premier of Cinderella at Walt Disney World. She practically glowed through the whole movie and her moment on stage with the other little girls dressed like Cinderella.  We later found her climbing a light post while wearing her beautiful dress. Because that’s what girls do.

Rider Switch passes give the parent waiting with a little a “front of the line” pass they can use when the first parent to ride finishes. This helps in more ways that one. You can double your Fast Passes by scheduling three for one parent and three for the other parent…. the parent with the Fast Pass gets the Rider Switch Pass for the other parent… and you have six awesome rides to experience easily instead of just three.

In the parks, we rode plenty of rides, but she wanted to ride Dumbo again and again. In addition to the amazing play area inside the wait line that both kids could have easily played for an hour in, Elsie was completely enamored with being able to make the little car on this ride go up and down, much to the cameraman’s chagrin.  It’s pretty easy to see from the grin on her face that we could have done this all day and she would have been just fine with it.

Knowing that the wait can be really hard for the little people, Disney has integrated entertainment for littles (and bigs) into their wait lines for a number of rides. The  interactive Peter Pan line and a play area inside the Dumbo line were amazing. Thoughtful line design could be seen everywhere though.  This photo of Louis is a great example of how a creative approach to the line turned into a meaningful moment for my little guy.  He was afraid to get a picture with Tigger and Winnie the Pooh, but he was totally enraptured with the experience of watching them from behind this box that was just the right size for a little person to hide behind.  He loves Pooh.  And this was just enough for his tiny little brain.

In additional to all of the magical moments, we also had…

  1. A shy little girl who didn’t like having people comment on how pretty she looked and definitely wasn’t into having cameras around.
  2. An independent little girl who was on her own schedule and really didn’t want to do what was planned.  If  grown-up suggested it, she thought it was a bad idea.
  3. A two year old who preferred not to be in the stroller.
  4. A two year old who was covered in food mostly always.
  5. Stressed out parents who were worried about what these amazing people hosting us were thinking about our clearly precocious children.
  6. Kids uninterested in smiling for the camera.  My kids are often the subject of unwanted attention when we’re in public.  All of them (except one) have developed an aversion to people being  in their faces with cameras. Consequently, most of the pictures and video footage we took turned out to be of kids avoiding the spotlight.  But we captured the reality of those imperfect moments.  So there’s that.

All of those issues we encountered with our kids were normal. Six year olds and two year olds are unpredictable, strong-willed, and not necessarily willing to perform on cue.  In the middle of dealing with the chaos of normal kids doing normal things, the team from Disney did an amazing job of teaching us how to absorb the Disney experience from a preschooler’s perspective.  Walt Disney’s primary goal was to create a place where parents could actually engage in experiences with their kids.  That experience is going to be different for parents at different points in a child’s development.  It’s easy to approach Disney with the goal of doing all the things. Older kids want to run around and do all the rides. They don’t mind waiting.  But you just can’t do that with littles.  That said, this trip proved to me that you can have fun creating some incredible memories with your littles in spite of the corresponding unpredictable chaos they add to any vacation.

Honestly, if we all tell the truth, there’s not a parent on this planet that wouldn’t think twice about taking that unpredictable chaos to Disney.   Toddlers scream at inopportune times, they need naps, diaper changes are inevitable, and sometimes there’s just poop everywhere.  By the time you’re done doing the administrative side of keeping littles alive and healthy… you’re exhausted and wishing that it was all just a little bit easier.  Disney  somehow managed to read our minds.  Over the last few years, they’ve been making changes that were specifically for the family with the very young child… to be sure that we (you, me, and our littles) could have a good time too. Those efforts have manifested into baby care centers that are also quiet, air conditioned places for all of your kids to rest for a few minutes, age-appropriate ride experiences, water play, random bubbles on the street, bright lights and engaging parades at night, and dining experiences that can include Mickey Mouse or Winnie the Pooh. For a complete list of resources that Walt Disney World makes available to parents of small children, read this article from Walt Disney World News, a publication of Disney Parks.

Strategy and lists aside, the “why we do things” is always a much bigger deal to me than the “how we do things”. Louis surprised me last night with a little trip into his mind that showed me in a few short minutes how important this trip was to him.  I’d been gone on a stressful business trip all day in New York.  I walked in late at night, exhausted after intense conversations, fully expecting to find all of the kids in bed.  I’d put my bag down inside the front door, taken my boots off, and had turned to head towards our room where my pillow was calling me.  As I turned, I saw Louis running towards me.  He wrapped his little arms around my legs, solidly kissed my knees, and started talking and talking and talking.

“You home, Mommy?  You ride on airplane, Mommy?  You go up hill in airport, Mommy?” And then, unprompted, he started into a 60% understandable blue streak of words that I finally realized were a string of  memories of his last time on a big trip that involved airplanes… to Disney. Somehow, my trip to New York had triggered some memories of our trip and he needed to tell me all about them.  Right that minute.  With his arms wrapped around my legs.  It helped me realize that, with the helpful guiding hands of the team hosting us, we had slowed down enough to let some of the experience sink meaningfully in to his little brain.  And he was remembering good things, good memories, that happened with us.  As a working mom who is often traveling, I’m always hoping that something special is registering with my kids.  Those few minutes with Louis last night, looking at the smile on his face while he talked, were so meaningful to me. I travel all the time. I have a full-time job. Seeing that this trip and the way it was approached had made an impact, even on my two-year-old, simply made my day.

Moments like this, even months later, are what can make a trip to Disney so worth it… really.

#PutOnLove – Because together, we're stronger.

Women are an incredible force.Love_Newborn

A force for right and against wrong.

A force for our children and against harm.

A force for freedom.
And the underserved.

What if, for a minute, we turned our eyes towards love?

What if we set aside differences and focus on unity?

What if we use story to teach others what love, real unity, actually is?

The directed passion of a mom is a powerful thing.

What if we decided to go change something.

And then actually did it.

Let’s #putonlove.

I did.

Escaping the Dopamine Trap

Did you know that high levels of negative information interact with the pleasure centers in your brain, releasing a chemical reaction not unlike what happens when you’re addicted to pain killers? Negativity addictions are not as obvious as other forms of addiction like drugs or alcohol, but negativity plays with the same parts of the brain and can be as addictive as some chemicals.

The internet plays host to this kind of negativity daily.  Trolls love to watch for moments to post content they know will bait an argument, just to feed off of the energy that moment produces as unsuspecting, but well-intentioned people stumble into their trap.  Online drama can be like the drug dealer on the corner for people unknowingly hooked on drama-based dopamine hits.

Even the best of us can stumble into the dopamine trap.  Here are a few suggestions for escaping the cycle.

  1.  Put your phone down and step away from the computer for a few days so you can remember what it’s like to be without the constant influx of negative content.  A few days of being disengaged allows your brain to relax.  It’s hard to see when you’re in the middle of the cycle, but after a few days, you start to remember who you really are and it gets easier to apply better perspective to what you’re intaking.
  2. An article in Psychology Today suggests that you turn off notifications on your devices.
  3. When you turn your social feeds back on, consider removing the negativity from your social feeds.  Some of us need to step entirely away from the drama to stay healthy.
  4. Recognize irrationality.  You can’t rationalize with an irrational person.  That’s a life rule to remember forever.
  5. If you’re an advocate or social content producer, avoid angry rants.  An angry rant will produce a reflexive response that can alienate followers and detract from your overall online presence.  The reflexive response to anger or fear producing content is emotional and lacking in logic. One article says, ” … anxiety start[s] with a catalyst – an environmental stimulus that provokes stress. The amygdala reacts to this stimuli by preparing to either stand and fight or to turn and run.” Anger and fear may result in “social engagement”, but may not be as likely to result in learning.  This produces a response without associated change.
  6. Teach through story telling.  A story engages a different part of the brain,  It’s more likely that a story will be retained by your readers and responses may be more thoughtful instead of reflexive. Stories are more likely to yield learning and change.
  7. Most importantly, measure your content by asking if it adds value to others. If it doesn’t, don’t click post. That one simple step will increase the value of your feed… a win, for everyone.

The Real Story of Cotton Babies

The exhilaration of seeing two pink lines on the pregnancy test for the first time thirteen years ago is a feeling I won’t soon forget.  I called my friend and had a squealing moment about those two pink lines.  Then I had to take the other test… just to be sure.  It felt amazing. I’d dreamed about having a family for years.  After all these years of dreaming, I was finally going to be a mom.

Two days later when the phone rang, only my husband and my friend knew I was pregnant.  The voice on the other end of the phone was telling me that the company I was working for was closing.  All the staff was being laid off.  I was losing my job too. I listened to the voice talk while I looked at the positive pregnancy test that was still sitting on my desk.  It was real.  It was also real that my job was going away. The last thing he said before hanging up was that I had two more paychecks coming and our insurance coverage would expire at the end of the month, when we would be able to opt for Cobra coverage.

Rewinding a few years, shortly after we were married, Jimmy and I had idealistically moved to Columbia from St. Louis thinking that we could live there while I worked on my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at Mizzou.  Having a degree was a dream, but with the job market in relatively good shape the dream seemed reachable when we moved. Programmers were making a good income.  We were hoping that we could find work quickly that summer so I could start school in the fall.  Then the tech stocks crashed, a hiring freeze started at several large companies in Columbia, and the general job market for programmers fell apart.  We watched my dream of getting a degree evaporate. There we were, away from family, with no idea of how we were going to pull things together.  We talked a lot about what to do… and finally Jimmy started working on code for a website that we thought would be amazing, while I went to work for a company that let me write code and work from home part-time, traveling the rest of the time. I didn’t go to school and the travel was more than we’d planned.  When we added all the travel up, we discovered that I’d been gone a full eight months out of the first year of our marriage. I worked there for about eighteen months before the day that the phone rang.

About sixteen weeks later, my husband found a job making copies in St. Louis, 90 miles away from Columbia, but near his parents.  His job offered health insurance and full-time hours.  He didn’t make much, but it was something.  He stayed with his mom and dad five days a week and came home to be with me in Columbia for two days.  While he was gone, I got our house ready to sell.  We had purchased a fixer-upper with plaster walls, so I was crawling around on the floor pregnant, sanding baseboards, filling nail holes, sanding down the plaster, painting and packing boxes.  When he was home, we alternated between working on the house and worrying about what we were going to do.

We’d been through a lot of change by the time the baby was born.  We spent a few months living with my in-laws in St. Louis until we found an un-airconditioned apartment in the city.  I have these crazy memories of laying in front of the window unit we’d bought for our bedroom in that apartment… letting the cold air blow over my belly and praying that I would go into labor soon.  It was really hot, but at least we had a place that was ours. Jimmy was still making copies. We were actually making ends meet on not much per hour.  Rent, insurance, groceries, gas… by the time all the bills were paid, there was really only about $30 a week left for groceries and our weekly WIC check.  I’d figured out how to do it though. All throughout this period, Jimmy kept looking for better paying programming jobs.  In spite of resume after resume going out, he was rarely called for an interview.  Too many people were applying for the same jobs. Unless you knew someone or were one of the first to apply, it was really tough.  Thankfully, his job making copies was nearby so gas costs were negligible.

The night I went into labor happened to be the night that was the first day of his weekend.  We were walking around the St. Louis Zoo when I started having contractions that felt real.  Specifically, we were right outside of the (really stinky) bird house with a long way to walk back home.  I was an experienced doula having already helped a number of babies make their way into this earth. I’d done all the reading. I’d been with moms during labor.  I knew what I wanted… an unmedicated birth, a natural latch, exclusive breastfeeding, baby with me the whole time after he was born, and no pacifiers.  Our baby’s birth started out normal.  I progressed well, but was struggling with a lot of back labor.  After many hours of laboring unmedicated, I’d made it almost all the way through transition.  But then, without my permission, my body had started pushing and the last tiny bit of cervix started to swell.  I’d gone from nine with a lip back to an eight.  You don’t go backwards in labor. At least that’s not in any of the books that I’d read.  I could feel myself panicking and the doctor was clear… the only way I could deliver naturally was with an epidural.  I got the epidural and within just a few minutes, the swelling was gone – just like the doctor said would happen.  It was time to have my baby. This is when the boxes of failure started getting checked in my head.  Failure #1 (I had a medicated birth).  When the baby was delivered, he didn’t immediately latch.  We struggled through the night and the next day, but by then, the nurses had brought me a pump so I could pump and give him a bottle.  Failure #2 (I couldn’t breastfeed).

I got a call shortly before we were leaving the hospital that my friend, who was also my doula, was in labor and getting ready to push. I remember thinking, “Wait, are you sure? Is this a joke?  I was supposed to be her doula!”  She was due three weeks after me, but she delivered a tiny baby boy at home in the bathtub that day, two days after my son was born.  I saw her that evening, nursing her baby in the living room.  We said hi and then my baby started to cry.  I hid with my pump in the guest room and tried to figure out how to feed my hungry baby for the first time away from the hospital and all of the helpful postpartum nurses.  Failure #3 (I didn’t get to be there for her birth like we’d planned), Failure #4 (she had what looked like an ideal birth and I didn’t), Failure #5 (I was embarrassed to be pumping giving my baby a bottle in front of my friend who was breastfeeding).

We went home that night to experience that inevitable first night with a new baby in the house.  Our son cried all night. We were awake all night.  I didn’t seem to be able to pump enough to help him feel satisfied. So he cried.  Failure #6 (I couldn’t feed my baby enough, so he was crying).  After seeking out the help of an IBCLC the next day, we finally gave him some formula until my milk was all the way in and I was producing and pumping enough for his belly to be happy.  All this, while still continuing the routine of offering the breast, baby refusing to latch, getting exhausted, giving up, pumping while he cried because he was hungry, then giving him a bottle.  We set a timer to do it all again two hours later because someone told me that babies should eat every four hours…. and that whole routine took us two hours.  We never slept.

A few days later, I found myself with another breastfeeding friend who questioned my decision to give him a pacifier.  She thought that was why he wouldn’t latch.  We would give him a pacifier while I tried to pump so he wasn’t crying.  I literally trembled when he cried, but she didn’t know that.  Failure #7 (My baby won’t nurse because I gave him a pacifier. I must be weak.).

Six weeks later, I’d watched my other friend go back to near her pre-pregnancy size.  I was still at least 40 pounds heavier than I’d been when I got pregnant. She’d only gained a little bit of weight. I’d gained a lot of weight.  She was thin again. I still felt so, so fat. We were doing things so differently as parents.  She seemed to have the perfect attachment parenting story, and I was living a mess that I’d never dreamed would be mine to live. I blamed myself for giving in to getting an epidural – a decision I know now wasn’t really optional. Jimmy still didn’t have a different job.  Money was even tighter than it had ever been.  I wasn’t sleeping.  The one piece of light in the middle of all that darkness was finding out about nipple shields.  My baby would latch to a nipple shield and could nurse directly on me. I’d been able to stop pumping and bottle feeding.  By 9 weeks old, we’d dropped the nipple shield and he was nursing like a champion without any nipple supplementation.

But by then, the damage was done… to me.  In my exhausted, first time mom brain, I was a failure as a parent. I’d let my baby down.  And some sick, twisted piece of me believed something I’d read online… that the drugs they’d given me in the epidural were the reason my baby wouldn’t latch.  Nobody told me about flat, inverted nipples.  Nobody checked my breasts before I had my baby.  Nobody helped me know what it was going to take to draw out my nipples so I could nurse. I believed the decision to let him have a pacifier was why he continued to refuse to nurse those first few weeks.   I believed that it was somehow my fault that my friend had delivered early.  I was a wreck.

I remember going to my postpartum follow-up appointment and lying to my obstetrician when he asked me how I was feeling.  I was embarrassed to think that I might be dealing with postpartum depression, but I was sure that I could fight this on my own. We were fighting other battles. Surely I could beat this on my own too.  There are tears falling as I write this because it’s so emotional just to think about that period of our life.  I left without the help he could have given me.  And for months after that, I couldn’t get out of the funk of feeling fat, feeling like a failure, feeling lonely, and feeling like a really terrible parent.

Now remember, Cotton Babies started when our first son was eight weeks old.  I used $100 to open a wholesale account with Maya Wrap and started selling slings to my friends and to doula clients.  I put ten business cards in the pocket of every sling that I sold. Gradually, my phone started to ring.  As the phone started to ring more with people looking for slings, prefolds, and diaper covers, I somehow stopped thinking about all the things that had gone wrong and started focusing on the business.  Being busy was helping me.  We bought a cheap HUD house because the payment was going to be less than our rent, and we moved out of the apartment.  I joined a moms group and started to make a few friends. We still didn’t have any money, but at least I had something to do to keep my mind from focusing on why I should be miserable.  Life wasn’t good, but it started to improve in some ways.

I remember a moment, driving home from church one week, where I remembered that Jesus had promised in the Bible that we would have our basic needs met (Matt 6:25-34).  We couldn’t splurge on food, but our belly was full.  We had gas and tires. The landlord was a creep, but we had a place to sleep. There was a washing machine in the basement that was only $1 to use.  Things weren’t necessarily going the way that I thought they should go… and we certainly weren’t in a place much above scraping the bottom… but somehow, in that moment, I found a little bit of hope and, like a life raft in the middle of a stormy ocean, I clung to that little piece of hope because it was all it seemed like I had to hold onto.

I don’t remember exactly when I finally started to feel better… when the fog started to lift.  It was somewhere between the day I was filling a couple of orders by myself in the bedroom, and the day that we found ourselves going to the airport every night at midnight to drop buckets of orders off at the airport post office.

We went through several miscarriages and three more live births.  Then, not long after Louis was born,  I was going through a really intense season trying to be a mom, and work, and transitioning my kids to public school, and dealing with a husband having a broken leg, and shutting lights off in a house that had a dark basement, and dealing with the people on the internet… and making decisions for all the things all the time….. without realizing it, I had slipped into a funk again. I was afraid of crazy things… it’s just a dark basement, right?  And why shouldn’t I go to the mall or to the grocery store?  I rarely went out in public without someone with me.  I slipped and hit my head on a business trip and found myself passed out with a concussion in a strange city. Knowing that something was wrong after the fall, I got a real doctor after years of not going anywhere except urgent care… and only when I thought I was going to die.  My real doctor listened to me talk and decided that, on top of having a concussion, I also needed help sleeping.  He was right.  I hadn’t slept without taking something to help me sleep in a long time.  He prescribed a pill that they give lots of people with chronic sleep disorders. It helped me sleep… and a few weeks later, I realized that I wasn’t afraid anymore. I wanted to play my piano. I wanted to sing.  I wanted to write again.  I felt like I could create again. I wanted to do all the things… and that’s when it hit me. I looked at the description of the prescription he’d written and realized that it wasn’t just a sleep aid, it was also an anti-depressant / anti-anxiety medication. I not only needed to rest…  the meds that he’d given me were actually giving me a part of my life back.

I would never have written this blog post years back… mostly because it’s really personal and it’s nobody’s business.

But recently we agreed to help finance a video project for Jill Krause and Postpartum Progress, a project that would bring awareness to the issue of postpartum depression.  That video debuted at the Warrior Moms conference and has since gone viral with amazing exposure in mainstream media. I thought we could just sponsor the conference, finance the video, and help someone else’s dreams come true while moms got the help and information they needed.  While I watched that video play for the first time, I realized that I needed to think again about sharing my story.  As parents, we set off into a journey with goals that are amazing… but when we fall short of our own standard, we end up feeling like there must be something that is best in life that other people have and we’ll just never be able to reach. Let’s talk about that for a minute. It’s not true.  There’s a lot of paths to walk and, no matter what those perfect people say on the internet about any of it, not one of them has it perfect.  It doesn’t matter how their birth went, how their feeding journey went, how their weight loss story went… maybe they love their body, maybe they’re happy with the way their baby needed to be fed, maybe breastfeeding didn’t hurt, maybe they’re over the rainbow excited about their birth, and maybe they had sex a week later because they used oil and massaged their vagina like crazy.  It isn’t all real.  Not everyone loves their body.  Not everyone is happy with the way their baby needed fed.  Not everyone has an idealistic birth in the fog in the woods with Enya playing in the background.  Some of us tore beyond belief shoving a bowling ball out of our nether regions even though our husband “massaged” us with oil before we went into labor and, for some, sex is a joke… for a really, really long time.

I’m being facetious about some of this.

But honestly, perfect moms with perfect stories only exist on the internet. I think those “perfect parenting” books need to have a disclaimer added that tells moms about all the babies that aren’t just like the book say they should be.  Some of us need to start writing about what’s real instead of letting authors who don’t even remember what it’s like to have kids set the standard.  Add unrealistic parenting books to the countless “advocates” out there with extreme positions on nearly every single parenting issue.  They build tribes of people who noisily evangelize their extremes.  Shut out the noise.  Seek balance in all things.  Find your center.  Take care of your baby the way your baby needs to be taken care of.  Do your best to rest.  Exercise when you can. Have sex when you feel like you’re ready. Eat good food. Tell your doctor the truth.  Get help if you need it.  That’s what matters.

It can be even harder for business owners who literally burn the candle at both ends and then pour wax on the middle to see if we can milk some extra life out of the wick before getting a new one.  We have babies, we deal with the pressures of paying bills, meeting pay roll, dealing with drama, helping the staff, helping the customers, wishing we had time to exercise, somehow managing to keep all of our children alive and fed and schooled… and trying to working time with our spouse in somewhere between collapsing into bed and falling into an unconscious state.  Lots of us are working really hard to hold it all together, while maintaining a super woman facade the the internet seems to think is real.  There’s pressure to somehow maintain super-woman status… but you know and I know that we are not super-woman.  We’re the same collection of cells as every other human being out there. We have limitations. We just aren’t very good at listening to them.  We don’t have to be that kind of strong.

Don’t do what I did.  Don’t lie to your doctor.  If you’re not sure, read this blog post from Postpartum Progress.  Katherine Stone, the author and founder of Postpartum Progress, has done a beautiful job of explaining the symptoms of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety in plain mama English. Remember, not all of us have the same story.  I can only write about mine.  My issues were triggered by birth, breastfeeding, and situational issues at home.  There are other many stories about postpartum depression, many other triggers, and many other issues. One in seven women is a mom with a story to tell though, and countless others with stories of their own are never diagnosed. I’ve recovered from where I was at during those dark days, but I can’t even begin to imagine what else we could have accomplished had I not lost so many nights awake fighting all the lies.

Remember, like all of us, you’re trying to be the person that your kids want to take good care of when they’re old.  You want your kids to have good memories.  You want them to have full bellies and to get rest at night. You want them to grow up educated and successful in this world as adults.  ALL of us deal with the pressures of how we interpret those goals and how the rest of the world seems to be interpreting those goals for us. We all do it differently.  We’re all living through the same twenty-four hours today.  We all have our own crazy stories to tell of all the things that have gone right and wrong along the way.  Don’t forget to do what it takes to take care of you.  You are a good mom.  I believe in you… and so do a lot of other people.

I hope you share this post with your friends. I hope you tell your story. It’s real.  Lots of us fight this battle. Together, I know we can set some other moms free to get better too.

P.S. I mentioned a video project that we helped to finance for Postpartum Progress.  This is that video, created by Jill Krause of Baby Rabies:

#warriormoms #everygoodmom #ceomom #cottonbabies #jenniferlabit

The day a diaper got a new name…

I’ve barely slept the last three days as I’ve pondered writing this post and what to say and how to say it…

After all these years, I’ve come to really appreciate the people who try to understand the complexities involved in making all of the people happy all of the time while also trying to operate a business with a value system that works to include all the different kinds of moms out there. It’s complicated and we’ve faced significant challenges, not just how and when we do things, but also with production volume, production methodologies, and appropriately identifying what the future holds with ideas as they mature.

In spite of these challenges, we have continued to move Cotton Babies and the cloth diaper industry forward in a way that inspires growth, creativity, domestic jobs and fair labor practices. We hope the passion behind our fans never dies, as it is our most vibrant source of inspiration for future improvements. Have I ever told you about the (former) staff member who, on purpose, shipped people all the wrong color and wrong sized diapers?  Or the staff member who was selling product off the back dock?  You told us about both of these people. We have since learned not to trust everyone.  Security cameras have been installed now… and our fulfillment line is designed to not fail based on the actions of a single individual… the phone system helps us hold people accountable… we’ve doubled the size of our customer service team… and our social media team… and our marketing team…  but the learning process to get here has involved multiple and, at times, massive public failures.  Thank you, Facebook.  Oh, the stories I could tell….  our base has always been interconnected.  They talk to each other… and repeat legend… and I live with all of the things in my dreams.  Someday the whole story will be part of an epic book.

This year though, our focus has been on #everygoodmom and #youreonegoodmom.  We’ve worked to make our marketing racially and gender diverse while also inclusive of a variety of parenting approaches.  We’re the only corporation that was willing to stand behind the moms attending the Warrior Moms conference in Boston in a few weeks… a conference event designed for the one in seven women suffering from postpartum depression and other postpartum mood disorders.  We believe in EVERY mom.  We sell things that help the process of mothering, but we know that mothering doesn’t require “things” as much as it requires healthy, informed moms.  With this in mind, we’ve built a community of almost 20,000 parents on Facebook, primarily women, in hopes that they would be there to support each other through their parenting journies.  When every mom feels enabled and equipped to be a great mom, every child gets a chance to have a better childhood.  When every child gets a chance at a better childhood, our world wins.  Cotton Babies started out to feed my family thirteen years ago, but it’s never been just a business for me. It’s always been about the people.

So here we are.  You’re wondering why Kipling is now Chico.

Last summer, one of our artists presented us with two prints, prints that were at the time named Patch and Kipling.  Both prints were beautifully done.  The butterfly design and the story behind Patch was solid. The nod towards The Jungle Book with Kipling seemed safe and nostalgic.  Most of us have fond memories of watching the Disney movie as a child and singing along with Mowgli about the “simple, bare necessities of life”.  Some quick trademark research helped us identify the story as public domain. That was a simple yes from our legal team, and with that, we pushed both Patch and Kipling forward last fall, making them available to our retailers to order in absolutely any quantity desired.  At the time, the chief criticism of Cotton Babies was that we weren’t making enough diapers when we released a print.  We kept increasing production, but it was never enough.  So in an effort to define “enough”, we let the retailers tell us what they wanted to buy.  Surely that would be a better gauge of “enough”, right?  Retailer pre-order numbers came in at double our last production run.  Higher than we expected, but not stratospheric. The print designs were done, so we went to final screens last October with the fabric printer and ordered laminate.  The fabric got caught behind some other things that ended up being more urgent, then the laminator moved them behind someone else’s order and we ended up waiting six months for fabric to be delivered to our cut/sew facility in Colorado.  By the time we actually started making diapers early this year, everyone had been living with the designs and the ideas behind the designs for a year.  The designs were gorgeous and the geniuses who inspired them seemed so… safe.

Patch happened.  Now let’s fast forward to release day, Thursday, June 25th.  I woke up at 2am and got in the car to drive to Chicago to speak at an event that afternoon.  Wednesday, we’d filmed a quick “box opening video” as the warehouse was working to get all of the wholesale orders shipped.  In case you’re wondering, I opened the box of diapers going to Stephanie at Abby’s Lane.  That video was pushed out on Thursday afternoon.  My event was at 2pm.  As I was presenting cloth diaper market research to a small group of people in Chicago, nearly all of the “Kipling” diapers were sold through from Cotton Babies and we were beginning to hear rumors roll in of retailers beginning to sell through their inventory as well.  I started to drive back to St. Louis on Thursday around 4pm, when my car read me a text from Libby that just said “call me”.  We had received a Facebook message from one customer… an message that sent ice through my veins when Libby read it to me:


Libby read me the Wikipedia page that the customer linked us to… and then pulled up Rudyard Kipling’s bio… which is when we both realized that neither of us had done any digging on Kipling other than recognizing that the movie was a sweet memory from when we were kids.  A quick Google search schooled us on exactly how seriously we’d failed.  Kipling was, indeed, an internationally recognized literary genius with work that deserves applauding and study, but he’d used his platform to promote a form of racism.  While this might have been seen as acceptable when Kipling wrote his poem, Kipling’s views do nothing today but throw fire on a world that desperately needs peace…. This is not the time for Cotton Babies to be making a hero of a man who sowed some of the seeds that grew into the racial division our world is facing today.

Remember, our goal is to make sure that every mom is equipped and enabled to be an amazing mom. Never once did I a dream that a sweet diaper with characters on it from the jungle book could create a place for Cotton Babies to be accused of having racist values… and that, my friends, is exactly what was starting to happen.

Libby and I talked at length about what to do.  We could have acknowledged the issue, and just encouraged people to focus on the things he did well.  We could have done nothing.  There were a lot of various options, but there was no “best choice”. Given the current state of our country, we finally decided that the certainly not perfect, but the right thing to do was to rename the diaper.  Most companies would try to bury this.  It’s simpler than owning up to the issue and choosing to give the minority a voice. Certainly, the diapers were selling out.  Sales of product weren’t going to be a problem.  But we both knew the bigger issue was the one being raised privately by the kind mom who messaged us… and that was the issue that would linger forever… and that was the issue that we wanted to be clear on.  Cotton Babies cares about all of our moms.

Once the decision was made, I pulled off of the interstate at Bloomington, Illinois to write a post for the mob about why we made the change. We expected the mob to get it.  We thought that most of the moms would be unaware, as we were, but would understand and support the change.  Unfortunately, we were wrong. The conversation was dominated by people who didn’t understand and didn’t support the change.  The opinions and voices of the minorities in the group were mocked and belittled and unfortunately, we had to make the decision to moderate the mob as this post (and a number of others) devolved into ugliness.

This is the unedited version of my post to the mob on Thursday evening:

This afternoon, right after we released the new print, we learned some disturbing things about Rudyard Kipling.  Rudyard Kipling was a notable individual with many accomplishments, including “The Jungle Book,” a piece of literature that will forever have a place in popular culture. However, Kipling also wrote a very disturbing poem supporting a concept called colonialism.  He was demeaning and disrespectful to people of other cultures and promoted his opinion as fact.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this was an upsetting discovery.  Cotton Babies will not promote discrimination or racism. We value people.  All of them…. and Cotton Babies has decided that Rudyard Kipling does not belong in our Hall of Genius.

I am happy to say that we did find someone much more deserving of your awareness and attention, and effective immediately, the diaper that was released today will now be named “Chico” in honor of Chico Mendes. Mendes was a Brazilian conservationist who worked tirelessly to stop the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and to bring stabilization to families living in the jungle of the Amazon. Mendes was eventually assassinated because of his dedication to jungle preservation.

“At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I realize I am fighting for humanity.” —Chico Mendes

All the images and references to this print on our website  have been updated to the new name.  We are asking our retailers to make the same changes.  We sincerely apologize for this oversight, and hope the cloth diaper community will help us memorialize this diaper as “Chico.” I owe a debt of gratitude to the kind person brought this to our attention today.

Thank you for your support as we work to bring attention to the things in our world that are truly important.  Love people. That is the beginning and the end of things here. We hope it’s that way for you too.

Was renaming the diaper the best choice?  No, the best choice would have been to figure this out earlier so we didn’t find ourselves having to walk this particular path.  But was it the right choice for this circumstance?  Yes.  Emphatically yes.  That said, when we went looking for a new namesake, we chose Chico Mendes because of the importance of his fight for rainforest preservation.  When you dive into the details of his life, you’ll find a story of a boy growing up in the jungle, learning how to read at 18, and as an adult, becoming an internationally renown influence around an important global issue. The Environmental Defense Fund writes, “Brazilian rubber tapper and land rights leader Chico Mendes pioneered the world’s first tropical forest conservation initiative advanced by forest peoples themselves. His work led to the establishment of Brazil’s extractive reserves protected forest areas that are inhabited and managed by local communities.” While he’s not a household name, he should be… and his story is worth learning more about. We’re aware that the theme isn’t a perfect match, but stay tuned…. you will see a Genius Series diaper from us that is more accurately focused on the Amazonian rainforest and the important battle to preserve our planet’s natural resources in South America.  Some of you will say that it’s just a diaper and question why it’s such a big deal.  Most of the time, I’d be standing shoulder to shoulder with you… yes, it’s just a diaper.  But this week, it wasn’t just a diaper. It was much, much more.

Our hope is to see the cloth diapers reach absolutely every single family in the United States.  Unfortunately, cloth diapers are NOT reaching every single family in the United States.  Remember that survey that we asked cloth diapering families to fill out?  The results taught us some valuable things, but one of the most shocking was the lack of diversity in the moms who are talking to us.  Over 90% of the 6000+ responses were from Caucasian families.  I’m sharing this piece of information with you because, while the mob was loud in their response the other night, the survey data tells us that the mob isn’t the whole story.  There are voices that we’re not hearing.

We are here for ALL of the moms.  And if it takes a change like this to help restore some confidence in the hearts of the minorities in the cloth diaper world, we are going to do it.  And while you’re free to have your own opinions about that decision and the dynamics behind the decision and how we could have prevented the need for that decision… we are going to stand here, behind all of the moms… and if we had to do it all over again… we would. Because it’s that important.

We asked a few people to share some thoughts with us about this whole situation.  Only one felt comfortable sharing her thoughts publicly.  Donna Smith, the founder of Black Women Do Cloth Diaper, wrote this:

I choose to believe that people are mostly good. I wish I could teach my children that. I don’t have that luxury.

“WE BELIEVE in building bridges, not walls. We believe that every family, every parent, every baby is different. We believe that you (and all your lovely differences) deserve to be treated with respect.”

Last night, I watched something in the mob that broke my heart. Those very basic things above were shattered by a few single line quips and comments. On a cloth diaper forum. However, I was not “surprised”. I don’t have the luxury of being suprised.

I am willing to believe that 96% of the members in this forum had no idea of who Rudyard Kipling was aside from “The Jungle Book”. See there are many sides of some people. Good, bad, and ugly. He was multifaceted. He was human. He was flawed. We all are. He wrote something called “The White Man’s Burden”. Its troubling. Take a stab at reading it without feeling sick to your stomach and possibly getting a little angry.

All people do not have the luxury of not being aware. Aware of the world as it was and as it is. Some people, make a conscious decision to be unaware, and that is dangerous. Jenn and her team choose to not only be aware but to be conscious. They made a decision to not shy away from an issue that is as prevalent now as it was then. And they choose to swiftly and immediately change. There are people in this world who hate people based solely on the amount of melatonin in their skin. That is it. I am not going to get uber deep. I just want you to digest that. No matter how YOU live, there are other people who don’t see things the way that YOU do. Why not BE aware? It is OK to SEE race. It is OK to acknowledge that each, every, and ALL forms of social injustice is WRONG. How can change occur if people don’t identify the need and address it?

Will racism go away if we just don’t talk about it? I see people say everything is not about race. That is true. On the other end of the spectrum, there ARE things that are about race.

It is a not about being “politically correct”. Stop with that. Cut it out. Its a slap in the face. It is simply about acknowledging that things in the past have to ability to still cause ill feelings in the present. If someone stabs you, you feel that pain for a period of time that is not to be determined but anyone but you. Eventually, you may no longer feel the pain, but you will have the scar as a constant reminder of that pain that lasted but for a period of time. Racism is the scar. Can you understand that?

My son will be a Black man in America. It terrifies me that he could do all of the right things and still get all of the wrong responses for being born Black. I am scared. Here is my vulnerability. I am not alone in this. My husband is a service member who has given almost half of his life to serving this country. I was not as scared of him deploying to war as I am when he leaves the house and he is not in his uniform. He is covered in tattoos. He looks “urban”. I am terrified. Can you understand living in that kind of fear? Some of you can, some of you can’t, and then some of you believe I am being unreasonable.

What is unreasonable is that in 2015 my fears are VALID. I seek out constant reminders that maybe my fears are invalid. The action Jenn and her team took last night was one of them.

We heard from some retailers.  Here’s an email from Bethany Hackworth, owner of The Little Sprout in Canada:

I just want to say that I fully support the name change and all of my
customers know it. I hope this firestorm of anger dies down quickly and
that the new mob comes back. When I say new mob I mean the changes that I
saw happening with regards to the attitude in there. I hope you are able
to pass this on to the social media team who took a beating last night,
but in the last couple of weeks I have noticed a change in how they do
things and I think others did too! Their presence within the mob was a
positive one, lots of “getting to know us” questions posed by the admin,
lots of involvement in conversation, the picture of the do not open box
was fantastic and the box opening video was a great move..  I loved that
they had all of the colour charts prepared and ready for everyone and just
their overall involvement over the last few weeks.
I hope that this is just a lesson learned and a bump in the road, but with
all of the negativity going on I felt that I needed to send this, and
hopefully they will get a little lift to know not everyone thinks they
made the wrong choice and that their improved social media presence
leading up to now has been noticed!

We also heard from some customers. Only one person called to cancel their order on Friday. We heard a lot of unawareness and surprise… and unfortunately, some hate-filled threats. There was also support and a lot of love.

And a quiet comment from another person was simply,

Jenn did the right thing.  I support the decision entirely, but I’m really glad that it wasn’t mine to make.

I’m a quiet introvert and, clearly, do life with a bit of a limp.  I actually have a bad hip and am having hip surgery soon… but in this case, the reference is more about wishing it was all perfect all the time and that people would just like each other, use kind words, and genuinely try to pull out the best in each other.  That’s my limp… because it’s not real life.  People don’t like each other. They don’t use kind words.  They don’t want the best for each other.  And, as we saw demonstrated in the mob the other night, they don’t always think to see someone else’s perspective before shouting their own.

Friends, I think about important things for weeks before I actually say them out loud. I stay out of crowds and loud things. I like entertaining, but I’m not usually the person who loves parties. It takes me a long time to be ready to say these things. But as the questions pile up and the presumptive comments loom, it’s time to get this post published.  I don’t have days to edit and rewrite, but it has to be said…. and this is what I want you to remember.

We genuinely love people at Cotton Babies. Why we’re here… is about you.  And all of your lovely diverse differences.  We like it that way.  This world is full of amazing people.  Who all deserve to be heard.  All of them. Especially those who are under-represented.  We hope that you’ll make room for more moms… those like you.. and welcome those who aren’t just like you.

Because together, we’re stronger.  Apart, we’re alone.
P.S. When we started the Genius Series four years ago, the plan was to keep it fun and light hearted.  When the themes were chosen, we were looking at elements of remarkable work from an individual that would help us draw attention to a particular occupation or cause.  Jules and Carroll were authors of memorable children’s stories.  Spence and Marie were people who have contributed to oceanographic research and cartography.  Albert and Lovelace were a nod to the math and programming worlds. Louis was a look at music history and the influences of jazz.  Harper called attention to another amazing work of literature.  As the idea developed and more diapers were released, the entire series became more influential than we’d ever imagined possible…  If we had it to do over again, the Genius Series would be just as fun, but we’d consistently focus our efforts at building awareness around ideas and people differently than the original Genius Series concept described… and, in some cases, we would have made different choices with the people we featured.  As the Genius Series continues to evolve, we’re looking forward to drawing attention to interesting ideas, occupations, and people.  There are some powerful things waiting to be released. Stay tuned.

Our Employees Bring Babies to Work… and how we make it work

A few of our employees… all of these women are expecting babies in the next few months!

Having started my business with a little person in my lap or crawling around my feet, I am an avid advocate for parents who want to bring a baby to work for a period of time after returning from maternity leave.  Making this allowance for employees enables them to further develop the parenting relationship after baby joins their family and, where applicable, also elongates the length of time a parent is able to exclusively breastfed a child.  Employers who want to have a family friendly environment can make some simple adjustments to their employee manual that allow this to be possible and productive for both the employee and the employer.  In this post, I will outline our experience with allowing young children to be at work with a parent and chart a way forward for the business who wants to adjust their policies to be more accommodating to parents of young children.

Cotton Babies started when our oldest child, Andrew, was eight weeks old.  By the time we hired our first employee, Andrew was about 18 months old and I needed help filling orders and answering the phone. Our first employee started working for us when she was several months pregnant with her first child.  When her baby was born, she took about six weeks off and then decided that she was ready to come back to work.  Aiden came to work with her and stayed in a sling or played on the floor while the two of us worked on orders.  Our second employee also had a baby not long after starting work for Cotton Babies.  When she felt up to returning to work, she also brought her baby to work.  We had three babies around, and I was pregnant, but at that point in time we were still working out of my home, so it was easy for all of the kids to hang out with us and play with each other. We fed the babies in between snapping diapers, packing orders, and answering the phone.

We’ve grown a lot since those early days.  Our staff levels vary seasonally.  At times, we are up around 100 employees.  Right now, we have 60-70 staff members between all of our locations.  Six of our moms are expecting and one is expecting twins!  Most of our moms tend to work right up until when their baby is born.  After their baby is born, mom is given the option to return to work with her baby when she’s ready. They are welcome to take their full 12 weeks of maternity leave, but most seem to come back to work when their baby is 5-8 weeks old. When asked why,  most of them are thankful to  be around adults and happy to have a few extra hands around to hold their baby.  Cuddling babies is not a documented benefit of working at Cotton Babies, but there’s something extra wonderful about snuggling a little person in the middle of another amazing day at Cotton Babies.  It’s been fun to watch the culture of our business develop around the fun of welcoming the tiniest people into the everyday life of being a working parent.

Someone added the months up recently, and we realized that we had spent over 32 years of total parent and baby time in the office…. As we have learned how to make it work, we have adjusted the work environment, the job expectations, and the employee guidelines to reflect what works for Cotton Babies, for the staff member and for their baby.

Gina and Sawyer on a busy day at Cotton Babies.

“I’ve worked part-time for Cotton Babies for over 3 years, so Sawyer is actually my second baby I’ve brought here. My babies have always loved the office environment, and I love introducing them to a normal day in society and can tell it has influenced how they’ve developed. We of course had our fair share of tough days at the office, but I know I’m personally a better mom to my kids because of the balance I get to have in my life. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, and cannot explain the passion, appreciation, and the loyalty I feel for this company.”  ~ Gina, Human Resources

While the rest of this blog post is written using the word “moms”, it isn’t exclusive of dads.  We occasionally have a dad who will bring his child to work as well.  Most of our experience is with moms though, so that’s the perspective that I used in writing this blog post.  So without further ado… the details.

Is it appropriate to have a baby in a work environment? 
I wonder if we have to ask this question because our culture has defined “normal” to be something different than reality.  Women have babies.  Babies need their parents. Cultural norms in the Western world have traditionally confined mothers of young children to home-making. While that is what some women want to do, it isn’t what all of us want to do.  As long as mom enjoys doing her job with her baby at her side and it is safe for her baby to be with her while she does her job, I believe that it is perfectly appropriate to have her baby present.  At Cotton Babies, all employees add value to our bottom line.  The employees who are bringing their baby to work are happy with their choice to parent at work. Of our moms who choose to breastfeed, nearly all of them are still breastfeeding when their baby is 12 months old, a statistic that exceeds the national average of 27%.  These employees also remain with Cotton Babies longer because they didn’t have to start using childcare before they were ready.  Our training costs are lower because our turnover is lower.  Most of our moms have decided to stay at the company, even after their baby aged out of being able to be at work all the time.  Some of them have been with us through multiple pregnancies.  We’ve even had a few moms with twins.

The work day looks a little different when a baby is at the office.  That’s ok.

What about feeding the baby?
We allow moms to take as many breaks as they need to feed their baby.  These are paid breaks.  While our moms are welcome to step into a private area if they need to go feed their baby, most of the time, they choose to feed the baby at their desk. Occasionally, a guest in the office is surprised to see a mom breastfeeding at her desk.  While we understand that it’s an adjustment to see a baby at work, and perhaps even an additional adjustment to see a baby breastfeeding at work, it is our priority to ensure that moms and babies are together.  As a mom who has spent hours upon hours working while nursing a baby, we know that (most of the time) there’s absolutely nothing about feeding a baby that prevents an email from being responded to, a call from being taken, or some other quiet task from being accomplished.  In the retail store, most of our moms are able to nurse in a sling while helping a customer.

babiesatwork-jeanineI started working at the retail store when my first baby was 7 months old. After 5 months, she went to my sister’s 2 days a week and I stayed on with Cotton Babies until I had my second daughter. She started coming to work with me at 5.5 weeks! As much as I love staying home with our girls, I love working too. A significant portion of my day is made simpler by being able to bring my baby to work with me. I enjoy helping soon-to-be/new parents and I’ve adored being with each of my girls as babies. I am grateful that I didn’t have to choose one or the other. ~ Jeanine, Shift Supervisor

What if the baby cries?
If the baby is fussy, moms can go to a separate room to help them settle.  If it’s better for the baby to go home, we give mom the flexibility to make that decision.  Every full-time staff member at Cotton Babies is given approximately 26 days of paid time off each year to enable them to take the time that they need for their family.

What about play time?
Some of our moms will keep a pack and play close by, so their baby has a place to be down and play with a toy.  Others find creative ways to create play space on their lap or on the floor near their desk.  I have one mom right now who has an old (disconnected) keyboard placed in front of her active keyboard so her baby, sitting on her lap, can “type” along while she works.  In the retail stores, most babies are worn in baby carriers during their mom’s shift.

What about naps?
Most of our babies still take two naps a day.  Our moms typically let their baby sleep in a carrier.  Sometimes, mom will bring a pack & play to work. The pack & play can stay by her desk, or she’s welcome to set it up in an empty office.

What about safety?
Babies are welcome in just about any position where it’s safe.

How long is the baby allowed to be at work?
The baby can stay at work with mom until the baby is mobile.  We define “mobility” as when independent exploration starts. Every baby is different.  For some babies, that’s when they start to crawl.  For others, that’s when they start to walk.  A baby reaching the mobility stage generally corresponds to a point in time when mom is already looking to either stay home with her baby or has already prepared outside resources to care for her baby during office hours.

You’re so relaxed about this.  Don’t people take advantage of you?
No.  We have good people working for us.  They understand their jobs and they know what it’s going to take to get it done. Our office might not look like our culture is used to seeing the business world work… but it works.

Holly and Lola having fun in Lola’s happy spot.

I brought my daughter to the office full time when she was 7 weeks old and we jumped right in! After an adjustment period, we have settled into a daily routine. Becoming a parent changes how you approach EVERY activity, work is just another thing to re-learn. I feel we will reach our breastfeeding goals easily, and I feel a lot of loyalty to Cotton Babies for allowing me such a unique opportunity. ~ Holly, Accounts Payable

What about older children?
We don’t allow older children to be in the office or at the retail store as an everyday occurrence.  We do, however, permit a parent to bring an older child into the office occasionally if there is an issue with school closure or childcare.  They bring books, iPads, game devices, laptops, coloring books and other things for their child to do while in the office.  Generally speaking, the parent grabs an empty conference room for an older child to play in or keeps their younger child within eyesight.

What about the legal side of life?
While we have a quiet room where moms can feed their babies, we do not provide babysitting or a childcare center.  Our building isn’t set up for that type of care and the babies who come to work with our moms are usually too young to be away from their mom for very long.  Before bringing their baby to work, our moms sign a liability release.  We also have a section of our employee manual specifically dedicated to the general expectations and guidelines around having a baby at work.  See links below for reference copies of these documents.

Where can I find more information? 
Parenting In The Workplace Institute – http://www.babiesatwork.org
The New York Times:
– Bringing Baby to Work – NYTimes.com
– Maternity-Leave Alternative – Bring the Baby to Work …
Bloomberg – Bringing Your Child to Work—Every Day? – Businessweek
USA Today – Day care’s new frontier: Your baby at your desk … – USA Today

How would I implement a change like this in my workplace?
The first step is determining whether or not there is interest.  If your staff members are content, there might not be a need for change.  If you are loosing staff members after having adopted or given birth to a child, implementing a “Babies At Work” policy might be something to consider.

Jimmy and Baby Louis snuggle at Jimmy’s desk on a day when Louis wasn’t feeling well.

The hard cost to allow a non-mobile baby in the workplace with a parent is low. The parent is recognizing that their job responsibilities and performance expectations haven’t changed.  You’re recognizing that people are creative and that a great deal can be accomplished differently than what might be typical.  You’re allowing flexibility and in exchange, the parent is committing to ensure that their job responsibilities are accomplished.  While things sometimes look a little bit different, we’ve seen the net result to our business be the same, if not greater.

The biggest hurdles to overcome have less to do with job performance and more to do with what’s happening in everyone else’s head.   Clients, customers, vendors, employees, guests, and service providers may express discomfort with breastfeeding, question a woman’s commitment to her career, feel uncertain about how to respond to a baby in the workplace, or become annoyed with occasionally hearing a child.  My favorite way to respond to those concerns has become, “She’s getting her job done. Her baby is content. Can you help me understand why that makes you uncomfortable?”  Cultural expectations of a woman’s place being in the home with her young child don’t necessary reflect what all women want to do.  While we support and encourage the moms who choose to stay home, we also love seeing those who stay with us also achieving their career goals.

Many employers don’t believe this will work in their workplace.  There are places where that’s true.  We wouldn’t allow a child to be with a parent in any work place where dangerous things are stored, used, or where dangerous actives are occurring.   We wouldn’t want a child in a work place where emotionally intense things happen all the time.  The areas where we allow a non-mobile baby to be with a parent at Cotton Babies are places that both we and the parent have decided are safe.  Generally speaking, in an office or retail store environment, very few legitimate hazards exist that don’t also exist in a home or aren’t easily resolvable to everyone’s benefit.

The paperwork side of implementing a “Babies At Work” policy is simple.  We have a basic liability release that the parent will sign and we have a section in our employee manual that outlines the expectations and general guidelines for having a baby at work.  For the benefit of employers wanting to provide more a more open policy for the parents they have on staff, I’m providing a copy of our Babies At Work – Liability Waiver Form as well as a copy of our Babies At Work Policy.   Both documents have been reviewed by an employment attorney and are in compliance with federal employment laws as well as employment laws in Missouri and Washington states.  State laws vary, so be sure to check with an attorney before using these documents for your own purposes.

20130426-192852.jpgWe do what we do because it’s important to me to see women progress in our rights as women.  We are able to be mothers and still pursue our dreams.  Our children are able to be born and still receive the physical and emotional nourishment they need from a working mom.  Traditional cultural practice is really only thing standing in the way of making this happen in more workplaces.   I hope this post enables at least a few businesses to broaden their workplace policies. Should you be a mom who wants to bring your baby to work, I also hope that I’ve been able to provide some language to help facilitate a conversation with your employer.  You can do this.

We're Changing Things… Warranty and Washing Recommendation Updates

After reviewing the feedback received through customer surveys regarding detergent choice and washing routines, Cotton Babies has decided to make several major changes.

  1. We are discontinuing our list of recommended detergents. Instead, we are recommending that parents choose a detergent that works well for their family, their budget, and their child.The new detergent information sheet along with basic washing instructions is available at CottonBabies.com.
  2. In concert with this decision, we are also modifying the warranty that applies to Cotton Babies manufactured cloth diapers (bumGenius, Flip, and Econobum). This warranty change will be honored retroactively on purchases of all Cotton Babies manufactured cloth diapers purchased since January 1, 2014. The revised warranty can be reviewed at bumGenius.com.
  3. We continue to recommend the use of detergents that are free of optical brighteners, perfumes, fabric softeners, and dyes. Many detergents may leave certain chemical residues on fabric. Some, not all, babies may react to this residue. If your child has a diaper rash, seek medical advice. Parents are responsible to ensure that the detergent of their choice is safe for their child. The use of bumGenius detergent is recommended, but not required for warranty coverage.

We realize that these are substantial changes, but they are changes that should make things easier (and better!) for you.

If you have questions, please let us know. Thank you for your support and feedback!

All the best,