Friday, 1 July 2016

This body isn't afraid to look like it's doing life

'They're really not THAT bad' I'm commiserated with.
Huh? I feel confused. I wasn't aware that I warranted commiserations on this. The 'they' in question? My knees.

I know. Who knew you could have bad knees? - beyond the actual infrastructure of them, of course. I wasn't aware my knees were problematic at all until my toddler showed concern for their 'bruises'. Which I jovially shared in company. Thus the commiserations.

I hadn't really looked before, but if turns out my knees are really dark compared to the rest of my legs. And a bit rough. Calloused, you might say. I think it must be because I both love wearing skirts and dresses, and spend most of my time crawling around on the floor with little'uns. My knees are useful, they do their job, and I suppose, if I think about it, that you can tell they do their job if you look at them.

It doesn't feel like a problem to me. And as I approach 30, this recent life-moment got me thinking about the other bits of me that are bearing signs of use. My tummy that has stretched to house a couple of kiddies. My boobs which are still feeding one of those kiddies. My feet which are essentially growing their own leather soles. My face which is starting to etch my emotions more permanently for others to see.

I quite like it. I don't like that my forehead now quietly betrays the temper I wish I controlled more, or the way I get jittery if my blood sugar drops these days. And I'm not a huge fan of the beating that my mental state has taken lately, but that's sort of it. The rest is OK. Because I think it shows that I'm using my body to do life. That's what it's designed for.

It seems to be an unpopular thing, to have a body, a face, even a house or a car, that look like it gets used. One of my favourite all time quotes ever was Patsy in Ab Fab, post-botox.

I'm happy about that, can you tell?'
'Money well spent.'

Utterly brilliant - but sort of sad too. Why wouldn't we want to show that we are, that we have spent time being, happy?

Our bodies start out beautifully, ludicrously soft and smooth and unblemished. Teeny babies with skin so perfect you can't quite believe it's real. Within days it starts to be flawed by baby acne or cradle cap, all thanks to encountering its own sweat and the outside world for the first time. We fall over, bump our heads, gather bruises, tan lines, scars from minor scrapes, injections and illnesses. We grow callouses, scar tissue, lines and marks, moles and freckles. Some of us choose to add ink and metal into the mix. And slowly as we move through life, our body becomes a road map for where we've been.

'The Picture of Dorian Grey' shows that you cannot escape your life choices, and your personality from showing - and although it's hyperbolic I think it's true. Scowl all your life and your face will show it. 'The wind'll change and you'll be stuck like that' my Grandma used to tell me when I was merrily sulking in one of my moods.There's an element of truth to that, I think; it's just not instantaneous.

So, my thoughts on the eve of my 30th birthday are these:
- That I'm proud of the 29 years that my body is showing so far, all the things I've done and thought and felt, because they reflect me and how I got here.
- I'm going to choose to be proud of all the new lines and scars and marks and alterations that keep coming, - but I'm going to try and remember that the choices I make will show on my face too. I think that, in 30 years' time, I'd like more lines around my eyes and mouth than on my forehead.

This body I'm in is getting used to do life, and it shows - so I'm going to try and show the best life I can on it.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Shutting out the 'shoulds'

I'm a pretty sure-of-myself kind of gal. If I make up my mind on something, I'll stick to it - unless I do more research and flip to a new perspective which I'll likely hold just as strongly to... Yeah, I'm one of those.

Even so, I'm a real victim of the 'Should's.

You know those voices that undermine your choices or make you feel guilty for not changing something?

From the simple examination of my new frown lines (my fringe grew out and there they were) comes the helpful 'I should moisturise more'. A quick chucking away of some plastic whilst out and about chides me with 'I should have taken that home to recycle it.'

And then there's every less-than ideal parenting moment in each and every day, all with their own 'should' tags. All those moments when I didn't manage to mentally step away from the situation and reconnect with my child as is the general advice I read, but instead either evoked Banshee-mama or the delightful short-tempered and snippy Moodymummy to parent on that occasion. I feel guilt and failure as I look back on them once the moment has passed and hear the reproachful Shoulds murmur their disappointment.  A really bad parenting faux pas can get put on repeat as my head hits the pillow, the Shoulds warding off sleep that I desperately want.

And it's so completely and utterly pointless.

At the moment I have a 9 month old who seems to be on sleep strike unless my boob is wedged in his mouth. I am currently lying on his mattress, feeding him to sleep again because the last three times he fell asleep, my boob fell out before he was deep enough in dreamland not to notice and we went back to square one. The Shoulds in this form an endless patter of mental background noise. I should be:
trying to break the association of feeding with sleep
allowing him to feed to sleep without resentment if that's what he needs
encouraging more independence and slipping away before he's fully asleep
enjoying these cuddles because they won't last forever
using this time to pray or read my Bible, not scroll Facebook
using this time to sleep given I'm not getting enough at night
leaving him to cry out with my husband instead...

The list is endless. All Shoulds. All, essentially telling me that my reality is wrong in some way, either in action or thought. That I'm getting it wrong. That I'm failing.

I have recently learned that all these Shoulds form a stick that I beat myself up with. Endlessly. If you physically beat yourself up every day, you'd have bruising, breaks and soreness. It didn't occur to me until someone else pointed it out that this is the case emotionally and mentally too.

I'm having a hard time with this stick. I'm trying to put it down more, and my aim is to eventually break it up and use it as kindling, but it takes a lot of energy to put it down. Conscious energy, and self-awareness, and compassion, and there are too many days when I don't seem to have the resources to do it. Frustratingly, on the days I find those reserves from somewhere, I have more energy. I find more joy. I feel lighter. It's almost like the investment adage, you have to spend money to make money. I have to spend energy to make energy. And it's hard.

If I break it down though, it starts with just saying, 'Hush' to each Should that starts to tap me on the shoulder. Telling it that actually, right now, this is OK. In this moment, or in the moment where I was less than I would like, I was as much as I could be. Maybe I wish that I could have been more, but tomorrow is another day, and I'll give it everything I've got, just like today.

Some days, I don't have as much to give as I wish I did. I am less than I would like. And I am working on believing that that is OK.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The baddies in our bathroom: unleashing your inner hippy without compromising on quality stuff

When I was a teenager, I had one friend who lived differently to me - and to everyone else I knew. She and her siblings were homeschooled, their mattresses were all on the floor, they kept chickens, made their own bread and their house had a lovely earthy yet botanical smell to it. I loved it there. It was a warm, welcoming home full of warm, welcoming people. I was curious about the way they lived but, as many a teenager who also adored sloping about in Boots would have, I was mostly intrigued by their toiletries.

As I went into my twenties, I did enough research to know that I didn't want to be cramming my body with processed food or covering it with chemicals and some of my findings in my friend's house encouraged me to look out products that would support this aim. However, I didn't really want to compromise on the lovely things I liked best, so Tom's toothpaste and Neals Yard shampoo sat alongside a Clarins cleanser and some beauties from Benefit... I've relinquished ore and more of the lovelies over the years, mostly due to budget rather than ethics, I'm ashamed to say, and have grown quite fond of my local Green Shop. I even  make several a few products for our family from scratch. But what if you're not a fan of 'green shops!?

For some, lavender just isn't a preferable scent. I get that. That earthy yet botanical scent that somehow fills all wholesome, natural (and, being honest, slightly hippy) shops and homes isn't a comforting and enjoyable bouquet for everyone. So what if you fancy less chemical yuck in your bathroom cabinet or make-up bag but need it to smell less 'essential oil' and more beauty counter?

It's totally do-able without breaking the bank and lots is available in your standard high street or supermarket. (Of course, you can always rely on that brilliant of 'buy everything you possibly need from your armchair / bed / other snuggly place' using the internet.) The biggest challenge, I think, is in identifying the products that are genuinely yuck-free as opposed to marketed as such because they have a bit of 'organic this' or 'ethical that' else in their creation.

This isn't a blog on what the nasties are, or why they're nasty, so you'll need to do your own research if you want that info. Just have a Google: there's a good number of blogs highlighting problem ingredients or questioning whether they're all that bad, so you can make up your mind what you think. If I'm honest, I don't fully know half of what some of the nasties do. 

But I do know that the more basic and natural you go, the less likely it is that someone will say in 20 years' time: 'We're banning X, it seems it turns you purple.'

So, some easy pointers to prove that actual nice-to-your-body toiletries are out there next to your shopping basket, complete with pretty packaging, yummy scents and genuine quality...
  1. Happy Hair Days shampoos and conditioners - found in Sainsbury's - are rather lovely, smell good (I'm using a yummy macadamia nut smell at the moment), lather well and don't build up at all. I'm a fan. They're SLS, paraben and phthalate free. They're also only about £2.50 a bottle - it's nice when there's not a silly mark-up for wanting to take care of yourself!
  2. 'Yes to' is a range of fragrance free skincare from San Francisco that Boots now stock. It's paraben, phthalate and SLS free and showcases different core ingredients depending on your skin type - Yes to cucumbers for sensitive skin, Yes to carrots for normal to dry skin, Yes to blueberries for aging skin, etc. It's reasonably priced, and lovely make-up artist Lisa Eldridge recommended Yes to cucumber's sensitive cleanser in a recent YouTube post on good cleansing products. (I like it too...)
  3. For little people, Child's Farm is stocked at Boots and is SLS, paraben and phthalate free plus dermatologically tested to be suitable for eczema-prone skin. It smells nice in a kiddy kind of way - think Body Shop's fruit ranges - so if you like that kind of thing, there's no reason it should be kiddy-only!
  4. Boots and Superdrug both stock paraben-free stuff including Palmers, Aveda, Weleda and BareMinerals. 
  5. Neal's Yard stuff is no longer only sold in Neal's Yard, Covent Garden which is handy, although the Internet means online shopping is easier often. It's also pretty pricey now it's so well loved :(

A couple of online finds include Jelly Pong Pong, which is good make-up (from the bits I have) in fun packaging (think Benefit style) but works hard to be as natural as possible. I like. Mineral Fusion gets the stamp of approval from a few beauty gurus too, though I've not tried it. None of these have any of the 'health food shop' about them. Promise.

If this has got you thinking but you want more options, there's some great articles and blogs rating toiletries, makeup ranges and perfumes - a couple of Huffpost ones on top skincare are handy and rate brands like Trilogy (Princess Katherine is a fan, apparently) which you can get at Boots or online.

By digging a little, it seems there's a whole host of options from budget or affordable to high-end swit-swoo products none of which are reminiscent of claggy or greasy moisturisers or rustic soap. And with not a whiff of patchouli or lavender, no-one need even realise that you're secretly a bit of a hippy.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

An adventure in ombhus...

I love babywearing - but if I'm honest, I love the slings just as much. I have a couple of wraps, a Lenny Lamb ergo carrier and a few homemade mei tais which do different things (newborn soft, padded shoulders for comfy back carries etc).

I love making carriers too and if I hear someone's pregnant, chances are I'll make them a cute mei tai - because even if they're not into babywearing much, or even at all, there are times when your baby wants to be held, you want to get on, and a sling - if it's there - might just be the magic answer that time.

With my latest Peeling, a Goliath of a chap who was in 9-12 month clothes from 20 weeks, I've hit a bump to get over... Munchkin could be worn on my front with a waterproof over her sling and my waterproof zipped up to meet her bum, keeping us pretty dry, until around 9 months old. Goliath stopped fitting around 4 weeks ago. He's too young to be exposed to the elements really, but on very wet days, we need a way to both keep dry and be comfortable. An umbrella is a poor solution when you live on top of a windy hill, too.

My solution is to make a carrier out of an old waxed jacket - and to add poppers or zips so that my waxed jacket can meet it. Then, when he's older, it's a waterproof carrier in its own right and he can have his Muddy Puddles onesie under it (other brands are, of course, available!)

My mum gave me her old jacket - but it's a beautiful Barbour and I couldn't bring myself to hack it apart until I knew exactly what I wanted. And almost the same time, I came across ombhus... Hmm - maybe I want a Barbour Ombhu? So I started my prototypes.

An ombhu, or ombhuimo, is an Asian carrier similar to the mei tai, only instead of having ties at the waist to hold the carrier in place and create a seat, it has little loops which the top straps pass through - so as you tighten the straps, the seat gets deeper too, holding the little'un nice and high on your back.

A brilliant carrier for squirmers and legstraighteners, it seems, because the seat cannot be gotten out of whilst the straps are on your shoulders. With the lesser amount of fabric, (only 2 straps and a short body - see further down the article) these are really compact carriers, and are great for out and about with walking toddlers who want to be up and down a lot, they're so simple to put on and take off. Because they don't have a waist strap, they're good for pregnant wearers or those who don't like a waist tie. These carriers literally look like a standard rucksack.

My first ombhu I made fabric loops, having read that some find the traditional metal rings dig in a bit. Only I made the loops too big so they meet when I'm tightening the straps and I can't get a tight enough carry. My straps were too long and really bugged me with all that tail. And I attempted to pad lightly around the leg given my big little man is only young and I thought it might be comfier on his tender legs. The problem with the padding is that it's in the wrong place while the loops are so big - the seat is really very deep. Finally, my body was a bit long - I read after making this one that an ombhuimo body is generally shorter than a mei tai, and designed more for older kidlets with arms out. So, my unpicker will be coming out to re-do the loops, and I'll be lopping off a chunk of strap tail on each strap. I'll also be popping a little padding into the top section of the straps so they stay spread when in rucksack style on my back. It'll be perfect if ready for summer as it's a really lightweight one with a vibrant colour scheme and it'll fit beautifully by then (it was close to beinget too high on his back - almost to upper neck).

All this learning under my belt, I set to making a new-and-improved prototype. I cut a good 2" off my length to shorten the body, went for shorter straps, smaller loops and light padding on the shoulders. I'm a bit proud of this one; it looks quite cool - as the Munchkin calls it 'the boofaloo carrier' - but it's still not quite right. The loops and straps are good, but the body's slightly shorter than I'd like, in that it's ok for an older child (Munchkin is just ok in it but I wouldn't advocate her napping...) but it's too low on my Goliath's back. With the padded shoulders there's less grip on the wearer and my husband and I both found we needed to tie Tibetan to get a good snug fit (crossing straps back through the shoulder straps to give an X shape on chest then tying it off). The biggest issue though isn't, I think, to do with my making...

As with all carriers, there's a learning curve, even if only a little one. With the ombhu it seems to be getting the perfect balance between tight and loose... To explain: not tight enough and there's not a good seat, they're not secure on your back, you start to get backache after a short while and your centre of gravity is all wrong. BUT tighten too much and the seat pulls up too much, off setting the top of the carrier and causing a bit of a tilt. The body shortens too much, the tightness at the bottom pushes out the top and you're left feeling like your little one is pulling back from your shoulders.

When my husband wore the Munchkin, I was able to help pull the carrier back up on her back and feed the seat back a bit while he kept tension on the straps, which stopped the leaning - but a carrier should be fine to use on your own, unassisted - or at least for me it should.

I rather love the second ombhu I made; it's so compact a carrier that it's a perfect option to carry in my bag for if Munchkin gets tired when she insists on walking and I know she's not going to manage it all. It's also handy, given that I tandem carry when she's in a carrier, that you can thread the ombhu around the child, stand them on a bench or similar (when they're toddler age or older, obviously!) and tighten them up onto your back without the standard 'forward lean' of babywearing set-up. Ideal if you've already got a mini person strapped on your front.

However, it's going to take a bit of shifting weight and pulling fabric each time to get a good, snug and safe fit, I think. I'll persevere, and I'd welcome any suggestions or tried and tested ways around this issue, but for that reason, I'll not be making any more. It'll be a Barbour mei tai for me, I think.

If you're an ombhu fan and you have any thoughts on avoiding the lean, please let me know. Or have you also tried an ombhu and found it less straightforward than it seems?! I'd love to hear :)

My first mei tai - 
with a 3 day old Goliath in it! 

Monday, 18 January 2016

The wilderness years...

Yesterday, my husband and I were driving to church for the morning service - not our own church, as we were staying with relatives for the weekend. The conversation went something like :
Me: Who's going out with munchkin?
Him: Well if you go out, you'll have both of them and be a novelty, but if I have her and you have him..'
Me: 'Divide and conquer approach. Got it.'
So he got covered in paint and checked on munchkin's need to wee every 10 minutes and I handled a teething 4 month old due a feed and a nap.

That was an easy weekend too. At our own church, with my husband a deacon and me the worship coordinator, a Sunday morning is one of my busiest days at the office. We want to bring up our little'uns to know and love God, to have respect for other worshippers and to enjoy their time at church, so we do our best to help them engage with the more structured worship of a Sunday as well as the daily living with Jesus as our model. We want to live our roles within the church to the best of our ability, in tune with God and His will for our church. Both of us have a responsibility to help those around us engage with our Father, see Jesus more clearly, make space for the Spirit to work in His people. These wants and aims are a wonderful privilege. They do, however, leave very little space to engage with God ourselves.

The last time I listened to a speaker and took in all of their message was some time ago. The last time I worshipped without having an eye on the congregation or a child was a fair while ago too - and the last time I actually focused, in a prayerful attitude, on God's message for me or prompts in my life, I can't even remember. 

Away from church, we pray with our little'uns every day and we talk about Jesus, about how He taught us to be. I grab snatches of time to ask for help, to say sorry for losing my patience yet again, to be thankful for a beautiful moment. But it's like texting God rather than visiting him. I send out my messages, sometimes I check for a reply and partly take in what it says before getting sidetracked again.

I can't be alone in this. Often, men and women my age, with a young family, are hugely active in their churches. I can't be the only one who is finding that having young children means very little time for nurturing your own relationship with God. Surely others are also wandering the wilderness during this phase of life?

It has been frustrating me of late, this wilderness. I'm having times where I resent the work my role requires, especially when it cuts into, perhaps, time with my husband, which is also on the lean side. He and I have exchanged rueful glances when one of us tentatively asks the other what they got out of a service as we leave the church. I feel guilty that, as I sing most weeks in our worship group, he has to go out to the creche with our munchkin so misses the service. I feel guilty that my youngest gets chucked in a sling on my back and ignored, that my eldest spends an extra hour and a half trying to find ways to entertain herself as we prep for the service. And this guilt is no friend to the servant heart I want to offer my God and my church.

Then, yesterday, after we agreed to divide and conquer, something occurred to me - or maybe I finally heard it... 

My family is a blessing from God and for this time, right now, we should be meeting with Him as a family, with all the disruption and mayhem that implies. We can't find the space to do more than that at the moment and maybe that's ok. Maybe texting God right now is fine, maybe he knows that I'll try and visit as often as I can and he'd rather hear from me in a few messages each day than not at all. 

My attitude needs to change. I might be in the wilderness, but why does that mean I can't find time to meet with God? Jesus popped off to the desert expressly to find Him!I need to find Him within my life as it is rather than trying to carve a space away from them to focus, because that space isn't there at the moment. 

Lent is on the horizon, and that's a time of wilderness; an opportunity to strip back in order to understand more. I think my aim right now is to embrace my wilderness. I want to accept it, to keep on trusting that God will seek me out in it, to keep trying to walk his path, and to keep an eye out for the rare oasises that are sure to be found here and there, if I walk it for long enough.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Squeezing me into the new year

It's a new year. I have spent the last two years brewing and birthing Peelings. This has left very little room for other things because bumps and breastfeeding seem to take up a lot of room / time.

This year there are going to be no pregnancies. No births. I will be attempting to bestow some semblance of order onto life with two under two. It's not a task I'm looking forward to really, but it must be done because I think I've reached the point where I need, from the point of retaining my last vestiges of sanity, to create something that's been overlooked.

Time for me.

Not 'me time' in that beautiful, quiet, in a bath with a glass of vino and Einaudi on the stereo kind of serene time - I don't think my mind would handle that much space - but time where I don't have a child clamouring for attention or being sustained in some way.

I want to use my sewing machine for longer than 20 minutes in one go. To reupholster the two wingback chairs bought as a Project when I was pregnant with the first munchkin and had no idea what was about to hit me. To cook real meals that take more than 10 minutes on the hob, or to get stuff done on the house and to feel a sense of achievement afterwards.

Because at the moment, I don't feel like I accomplish anything. Ever. I don't know if I'm alone in this, but it makes me feel a bit flat sometimes. I stumble through the day, making sure we all survive - and with an aim that everyone feels like they're enjoying life for at least a small chunk of the time - trying not to be hideous to my husband when he comes home from work, and getting as much of my Life Admin done online as possible whilst my newest clusterfeeds through the evening. Then I climb into bed too late, get chatted at throughout the night by my good natured Goliath of a baby, who finally falls asleep a couple of hours before the Munchkin wakes up - and around we go again.

Before you read misery into this, I love this odd little Groundhog Day that we live in. My little'uns, hard work as they are, stun me with their awesomeness in copious little ways daily. They're truely the most incredible things. But that doesn't mean there aren't times where I feel thwarted in living the bit of life that they don't occupy. Because they brutally invade and I seem unable to mount a decent counter attack.

Before I get to the point where resentment creeps in, I want to try and order life a little so that a space reappears for me to occupy solo. Or to choose to share with another - like my husband, who I miss chatting with about real stuff rather than aforementioned life admin, or friends who are subjected to the split attention and erratic eye contact of a day time parent.

So here I am, writing this on my phone in the dark, my little man asleep on me, trying to pluck up the courage to leave him sleeping on his own. It's the first night of trying. I'm likely to spend the evening thus: Lay solidly sleeping child down carefully, take ten minutes to retract arms, hands, face, ensure top with smell on is nearby and hold breath - as their eyes ping open at the last hurdle and back to square one we go. And that's my evenings for the next few months, I expect.

It's worth the time, I know, and when I look back it'll seem quicker than a blink.

And every time I feel frustrated that I'm picking him up once again, after hours of feeding and rocking and cuddling, I'm going to remember two things:

1. that, we speculate to accumulate - and I must do this for my own sanity,
2. that just two weeks after I can successfully put him down first time and am free by 7.30 most evenings, I'll be lamenting the loss of my extensive cuddles and wishing time wasn't flying by so fast.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Review: the new Peenut (cloth nappy system)

The TotsBots Peenut baby - so cute!

On 7th September to coincide with the start of Zero Waste Week, Tots Bots released a new cloth nappy system. The Peenut.

Designed to be their most cost-effective way of doing cloth bums yet, the simple, no frills nappies are birth to potty, day to night, and with a while clean outer to reduce the number of nappies you need.
Being the nappy geek I am, I immediately ordered 2 wraps and inners to test out how they work on both my newborn (small stationary bot) and my 18month old (heavier soiling, crazy-active bum).

Why is it new and exciting?
My munchkin inspects the merchandise
  • Often the initial outlay cost of cloth nappies is off-putting for those who'd otherwise try it, even though cloth is massively cheaper than disposables in the long term with an average cost saving of £1200 for one child - and economies of scale thereafter (see the pdf available here for some cost breakdowns, assumptions and graphs, if that's your thing). These nappies will set you back less than £200 for an entire starter kit , so all the nappies you need for one baby, from birth through to potty. Not too shabby.
  • No muss, no fuss. In theory, these are the simplest and easiest cloth nappies to use yet. They have a wipe-clean outer and pop-in inserts of varying absorbency so that less components are needed.  All you have to do is choose which pads you want to pop in (depending on the age, wee-capacity, and day/night situation of your little one) and wipe clean the outer wrap before popping them in and onto your baby's bum.

The best bits
  • Pop pop pop. Need I say more? So simple, so quick, so easy to use. I'm a bit in love with the popper insert system, and I defy you to find me anyone who can't change a cloth nappy with one of these systems.  If you've never used cloth before, or have a cloth-phobic relative or carer taking your usually cloth-bummed little one on a regular basis, these nappies should allay any panic. Pop them to size, pop in the inner and velcro shut. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

  • The versatility. With 2 children with different needs, both of them are able to wear these by adapting the size and absorbency as needed each change. Also being adaptable to other cloth elements like additional boosters is a big win. 
  • Slimline shape. If you're put off cloth because of the chunky bum look and the need to put your baby in bigger sized bottom halves, this will sort that problem. In a Peenut, you can't tell that it's cloth. It's that streamlined. 
  • They're a good size unlike other TotsBots which can be a bit on the small side. The size 2, which is meant for 9-35lbs, would happily fit even the chunkiest of toddling bums, so you're sure to get your use out of them.
  • The PUL outer is a lot more leakproof than I have found TotsBots fabric outers to be in the past,  and whilst there's only one leg elastic on each side (no double-protective elastic like a Blueberry wrap has) the inner is absorbant enough that it seems pretty leakproof to me. I'm a regular changer though and practice a bit of Elimination Communication so if you prefer your cloth nappies to rival a disposable's containment, this might not be so leakproof for you...
  • They're very pretty. The Elements patterns of white with rainbows or birds on is very cute; or any of the existing nursery rhymes and stories prints are lovely. Or you can go for plain white. 

So do they do what they say?
Size 2 on its smallest setting...
  • I initially ordered two wraps, a size 1 for my newborn, and a size 2 for my toddler, then changed my mind when I realised that my tiny one isn't very tiny...  So right there, it's not quite birth to potty - even my little man who was 9lb 3.5 at birth (within the weight limit for the size 2 wrap) and who at 5 weeks old is in 3-6 month clothes, has only just started comfortably fitting the smallest setting on the size 2 in the past few days. Whilst he's long rather than chunky, I'd suggest that most babies would need at least 6-8 weeks of life before the Peenut would work unless the size 1 wraps were used. To go truely from birth to potty with this system would require both size wraps, meaning the size 1's, which take you to 18lbs, would be obsolete once your little one was a few months old.
  • The wipe clean outer... I have to say, when my order came I was surprised. I expected to see something revolutionary. Instead, I saw a hybrid of a TotsBots nappy and a Blueberry diaper wrap. Really, it's just a PUL wrap. And whilst a wee could be wiped clean, if the nappy is very wet, the legs of the wrap do seem to get a bit damp. I reused one on my newborn for an overnight change (pop-pop - so quick!) but in the morning the wrap felt damp as did his babygro although there was no evidence of leaking. 
  • And poo is definitely out. I wouldn't fancy the faff of trying to stretch out the leg elastic to 'wipe clean' poo from the creases. Or from around the poppers. Or any of the seams. To be honest, unless you caught your wee or a solid (once your child was older) poo the moment it happened, I'm not convinced that wiping it clean would be a viable option all that often - and I'm a frequent changer. I'm still willing to give it a go here and there but if I can feel any dampness at all on the wrap, I'll be swapping it out for a new one. On this element, I'm not sold...
  • The pop-in inners? They're good. Really good - nice and wide so they fill the nappy outer, they're lovely and absorbent and the poppers inside really help keep your nappy shape, so no bunched up inserts after a wee. That said, I used the 'night' system of both inners popped together for the daytime as my girl's a pretty heavy wetter at 18 months, and I wouldn't want to test it overnight on her. She can leak overnight even with a Blueberry wrap, bamboo inner and booster, and this didn't feel quite as robust. 
  • One inner is fine for my newborn during the day and two, with the second folded in half for absorbency where it's needed will work well when he's a little bigger - but it's too chunky between his legs to do that right now. I added a mini booster between the inner and the wrap instead and the popped in inner helped hold the booster in place,  so it seems a compatible system with existing nappy supplies if you already have them. 

The downsides
  • For me, the biggest downside is the flip side to the good absorbency - drying time. Even a full day on the washing line, now that the sun's not as hot, doesn't get these completely dry, and when forced to dry indoors, it can be a few days until the inner is ready for use again. For me to use these full time, I'd need a fair few inners which goes against the minimalist ethos behind the Peenut. To segway into cost briefly though, they're a lot cheaper than many other systems so you can afford to stock up on a few more inners than you might otherwise, and with the inserts being able to be used singly for lighter wetters, each set (2 inners costing c£8 if bought as a,single set) can effectively be 2 nappies. Looked at that way, the absorbency pros outweigh the cons.
  • Again on absorbency, though: it's not quite as pro as it's cracked up to be. My munchkin, at 18 months and a reasonable wetter, uses the 'night' setting with both inserts for a normal daytime nappy, and this morning after 2 hours of wear, we already had a leak. Because of that, I wouldn't try the 'night' version at night. Not until she's almost managing dry nights, I don't think. 
  • That said, the oh-so-slim inners mean there's plenty of space in the wrap to add a booster and it might be that a slimline but extra absorbent booster like a hemp one, or another bamboo layer, might get you through the night with a heavier wetter. I'll comment later if I get brave enough to risk a broken night with my girl! 
  • Wipe-clean? I don't personally think this works brilliantly as already outlined - have a read above if you're skipping about a bit! 
  • Velcro fastening. For many this will be a plus,  but on personal preference, I'm a popper-up gal and I wish these had a popper close.
  • Single gusset. Accustomed to the Blueberry's failsafe double gusset (2 elastic sections around the legs for leakproof bums), I wish all nappies had them. That's all. 

In conclusion 

They're not going to rival my Blueberry wraps for super-awesomeness any time soon, but the speed of changing, the ability to take less nappy elements out and about, and the versatility of use, as well as the very palatable price tag means that these get a good 'wrap' from me! In fact, I needed to up my stash to counteract the rain (slower drying) and additional baby and what did I order? The Peenut.

A quick note :
These don't come with liners as part of the pack as some do. - I'd recommend fleece liners for wicking away the moisture from your little one's bum, and minimising leaks.

If you're interested in this nappy system but want more information, or want to chat about cloth nappies more generally, please get in touch. My details are all here.