Monday, February 09, 2015

Review: Cloth Diaper Shop India

Disclaimer: The owner of this business is somebody I consider a friend. She sent me some of her latest stock asking for a fair and honest review, which is what this is. All opinions are my own, based on my experiences with the following products.

Exactly a year ago, when I was pregnant and looking to stock baby things ahead of the pregnancy, I looked far and wide for cloth diapering options in India. As you may have noted from my last review, there is much more to cloth diapering today than the flimsy cloth triangles of yore. One of the most useful resources I found was Cloth Diaper Shop India. A business built strongly on word of mouth and using Facebook and her blog, CDS currently has its own website and an official helpline manned by the enthusiastic Poornima Kishan, the woman behind the enterprise. Now, most of the cloth diaper retailers currently operating in India source readymade Chinese brands. Good ones, but these necessarily come with pre-set styles and patterns. CDS recently took a step forward by getting its own diapering products manufactured according to the feedback Poornima has so carefully gathered over her time in the business and also as a cloth diapering mother herself.

Of these, the product that excites me the most is the bamboo cotton insert. It looks like a prefold and in fact, I think of it as a prefold. It's two layers of thick bamboo cotton fabric sized about the same as the Econobum prefold.

It came to me wonderfully soft and luxurious; through several washes and line-drying it's grown a little stiffer but remains soft to the touch and is very absorbent. I had always been scared of using cover diapers at night somehow but one of these bamboo cotton pieces, folded in thirds over a microfibre or hemp insert, is a bulky yet quite adequate night-time diaper. It kept a heavy wetter like Puchke going for over eight hours recently, which is quite an achievement given that he feeds twice a night.

I got the CDS hemp insert too. You can see it here, along with the bamboo, next to one of my Osocozy size 1 prefolds. Both bamboo cotton and hemp inserts shrank a little after washing but not significantly so.

Hemp inserts do not get any prettier on washing but they do get better and better at soaking up liquid. That said, I confess to a little weakness for the rainbow edging, it's so cute! So far my favourite night-time pocket insert combination was the charcoal bamboo+organic bamboo from Madhuri Baby. However, this hemp insert gives me an even trimmer diaper -- even when paired with microfibre, notorious for being bulky.

The third product I received from CDS is their latest offering, a minky all-in-one (AIO) diaper with a sewn-in microfibre insert as well as a pocket opening so that more absorbency can be added as required. I don't like minky fabrics but I have to say I find this diaper cute.

It's lined with charcoal bamboo fabric inside, which adds to its absorbency. You can see the sewn in insert. The pocket opening is also visible to the left.

I pulled the inner sewn-in insert out a little through the pocket opening so you can see it better.

Now, this diaper, like any AIO, is bulky to start with, so I like to boost it with the CDS hemp insert for nights. Interestingly, it's a larger diaper than my Alva pockets, with the rise unsnapped. It has three rise settings (i.e. the buttons which can make the diaper longer or shorter down the front) which gives a variety of fit options, though I have to say I'm not a big fan of the smaller rises. This is because I don't like the way the sewn-in insert bunches up when the rise is at its smallest. See the whole diaper compared with my one-size green Alva pocket.

This photo brings me to the diaper on the right, the pretty purple cover diaper. It was a print I had loved when it was first unveiled. Unfortunately though, the piece that reached me had a broken snap. It still fitted Puchke but when I mentioned the damage to Poornima she promptly sent me a replacement cover. These two are also new to the shop, and made to her own specifications. They are exactly the kind of cover diaper I like. Check out the replacement.

Also check out the cute diaper keyring that was promptly washed and added to Puchke's growing collection of Things to Chew On. The construction print was not one that I was immediately drawn to but it's growing on me. The inside of the cover is what really pleases me.

Front and back flaps keep inserts in place, double gussets at the legs keep messes contained and the tabs (the chocolate coloured 'wings') stretch ever so slightly, making for a nice, snug fit at the waist. The PUL seems sturdy, too. Sizewise, these new CDS covers are slightly larger than the Alva OS pocket I compared them to, as you will have noted in the earlier photo.

Lastly, prices: CDS products are not cheap. I'd call them mid-range. However, Poornima offers occasional discounts, and free shipping for orders over Rs. 2000. Many customers talk of the freebies she is known to surprise them with -- I myself received an unexpected fleece liner once. Those who buy from her tend to return because she is known for being accessible and extremely helpful, especially to mothers trying out these products for the first time, confused about what would best suit their babies. Personally, having tried out these specific products, I think the covers are very nicely priced, while the hemp and bamboo cotton insert trial pack is an excellent deal.

That concludes my review. I will end on a fun note from Poornima. To set the ball rolling with the new additions to her shop, she is hosting a treasure hunt from today. Your first clue is
1. Colour of Love . Find me in CB Pocket. 
Find the solution and next clue on Cloth Diaper Shop India Facebook page. Winners have fun prizes waiting for them at her store, she says!

Sunday, February 08, 2015


I'm not in the habit of re-posting sentimental open letters that seem to be all the rage these days, but this, addressed as it is to a mother-in-law who was also a grandmother, struck a chord. Here are some excerpts --
I thought you would turn them into "selfish brats" by giving them everything they wanted. I thought they might never learn to wait, to take turns, to share, because you granted their wishes as soon as they opened their mouths and pointed.
You held each one of my babies long after they fell asleep.
Didn't you understand that I needed them to learn to fall asleep on their own? You ran to them as soon as they made the tiniest sound. How would they ever learn to self soothe?
I spent a lot of time wondering why you did all these things and how I could get you to ease up. I know grandmothers are supposed to "spoil the kids," then send them home, but you were … ridiculous.
but also
My kids, now in their teens, miss you dearly. And they don't miss your gifts or your money. They miss you. They miss running to greet you at the door and hugging you before you could step in. They miss looking up at the bleachers and seeing you, one of their biggest fans, smiling and enthralled to catch their eye. They miss talking to you and hearing your words of wisdom, encouragement and love.
This reminds of my children's grandparents. V and I have been battling my parents' spoiling for many years, but every so often, we see how much it reassures Rahul, that unshakably firm bedrock of their love for him, and we know we're not really in a battle. It's more a dance or a play and we're playing out our parts, but with less and less conviction each year. Their spoiling has not spoiled him. Not for ever, not for life, not even for these years. They just make our job harder, but making our job easier was never my parents' ambition.

And in a sadder way, this reminded me of my mother-in-law. She wants to be the archetypal grandmother, adoring and adored, and she has it all within her reach and yet she doesn't know how to enjoy it. This letter should also have been about her.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Not a Review: Soul Ring Slings

Late in May last year I received a baby gift from Monika that totally made my day: a chocolate brown linen Soul ring sling. I had been eyeing them greedily on Facebook, hesitant to spend what seemed like a lot of money over what's basically a length of cloth and yet coveting the comfort they seemed to promise. Thrilled with the gift, I placed it in the front of my baby things and waited impatiently to use it. We used to wear The Wee Bhablet, if you remember, and already knew it was the most comfortable way to cart a kid around.

The good thing is, these slings (unlike Rahul's ssc) can be used from birth. The extra fabric, called the 'tail', can be used to cover your baby from dust, sun, rain or even just to allow him to nap in peace. Or blow bubbles, should he be in the mood.

My first time out of the house with the newborn Puchke, I popped him into our Soul. And the next time. After the first few awkward carries I spent a little time reading up on how to really wear a ring sling. We haven't looked back since. I soon realised that I use the sling a great deal more than any other baby thing we have (except my beloved cloth diapers!) and thus, it's worth every rupee.

Especially when I was travelling in December and had nobody to help me with Puchke, it was wonderful being able to carry him in a carrier that folded so compactly into any old bag. This brown linen sling is easy to launder (bung into washing machine) so it has seen trains and aeroplanes, beaches and hills.

Emboldened by a discount on their Facebook page, I even bought myself another sling, one from their limited handloom range, for warmer babywearing during the winter. I may not be a Green Lantern but I claim babywearing as my superpower.

The handloom fabric is thicker and harder to adjust initially, but once in place it's actually even softer and more pliable than the linen sling. Also, the fabric looks really special when worn to weddings.

As you can see from the *cough* action shot *cough* below, babies nap rather comfortably in slings. Even when their father and brother go nuts all around them in a busy, noisy food court.

Vicky has mixed feelings about ring slings because he finds them a little fiddly. I love them because I'm used to adjusting them and now I'm fairly fast. Once you're used to one, I find nothing beats them for versatility -- baby blanket, wipe, your stole, sunshade, chew toy and also a carrier -- as well as convenience. Babies can be popped in and out without struggling with buckles or straps. The least expected benefit has been how much my back loves these slings: when worn correctly they seem to exert just the right amount of pressure in just the right places to soothe an aching back. So there you go. I am not calling this a review because I'm clearly very biased but if you have a baby or a toddler and you have aching arms and could do with a carrier, you really should head over to Soul Ring Slings and check their stuff out. If you have queries, mail them. As somebody who did, and got all the help she required, I vouch for their customer service too.

And no, nobody's paying me for saying any of this, not that I would mind being paid in slings. (Yes, these slings get a little addictive. I'm hoping you didn't notice that.)

Monday, February 02, 2015

Daktar Dadu

 Dr. Bikash Bhattacharya

The day after Christmas 2014 I got a text from Mini saying that her father had passed away unexpectedly. In my shock I blurted it out loud without realising that Rahul could hear me. He's dealt with death a lot in his eight years but it never gets easier, does it? He sat down near my mother for comfort and quietly asked, "Is Daktar Dadu gone? Who will look after Bhai then?" There is so much trust and dependence in his response.

I've known Uncle for fourteen years. First I was his son's ditsy girlfriend, and then, after his children left the city for their studies, I was that girl who kept popping in on his wife. We got friendlier then. After Rahul was born our experience with his first paediatrician was pretty shattering. When I was fretting about not being able to find a doctor we could trust Beq reminded me that I could go to his father. And that's when Vicky and I first turned to Uncle in his professional capacity. Over the last eight years we have had the inexpressible comfort of knowing that Rahul was in the hands of a doctor who viewed him more as a grandson than as a source of money. Nor did Uncle ever accept charges from us, to our considerable embarrassment. We called upon him at all hours, visited him at home with a baby and did all the other panicked things first-time parents do.  As Rahul grew older there were fewer professional visits but we met socially and as always depended on Uncle to remind us of things like follow-up vaccinations.

When I was expecting Puchke, before I found myself a gynaecologist I knew I had to have Uncle at the birth. I was prepared to compromise on my own care if need be because I knew with him around no child of mine would be in any way endangered. I built my entire pregnancy around his recommendations, and found myself in the hands of doctors and technicians who respected him highly and treated me accordingly. The only thing I vividly remember from the birth itself is his excitement as he announced that the baby was a boy. He was a doctor in that OT but he was also a Dadu, a grandfather, proudly weighing the healthy little newborn.

This post is awfully hard to write. I've been putting it off for a whole month because if I don't write it he's not gone.

After Puchke had his first shots away from the hospital, Uncle called up to check on him the next day. Over the years he's scolded me for not knowing more and worrying less, joked with Vicky, watched Rahul grow. I was counting on talking to him about weaning Puchke, checking milestones, soothing my fears, in January.

Instead, he died at the hands of an inept technician over a scan. And Vicky and I -- and Rahul -- feel lost. We've found another paediatrician and he's no doubt very nice and knows what he's doing. But he isn't Daktar Dadu. Nobody is.