Mental Health Matters: How Cloth Diapers Helped One Mom’s Anxiety

In retrospect, things started to go awry from the moment the second line appeared on the pregnancy test last February. I don’t know how I imagined finding out I was pregnant. It certainly wasn’t while my husband was on the other side of the country and I was home alone marking essays and watching Drag Race.

I wasn’t nervous about this virus everyone was talking about, but I was incredibly empathetic towards my students who couldn’t go home to China for the Lunar New Year. Then it felt like suddenly things started crashing down around me.

The day I had my first midwife appointment at 10 weeks, I was waiting to find out if my husband was going to be able to come home from (another) work trip to Europe. I went into school that day to discover we were being forced to close. Saying it was a lot on my mental health is a bit of an understatement.

My lockdown went about the same as everyone else’s – I was forced to learn how to teach my classes online overnight (and my students were forced to learn how to elearn). My mental health suffered. I felt alone, isolated, anxious; but I was also pregnant.

I had always had it in my head that pregnancy was going to be this wonderful time where I built a special bond with me and my baby. Instead, I was very sick – pick a symptom, I probably had it at some point. I lost so much weight from “morning” (all-day) sickness that it took until week 20 for me to be at my pre-pregnancy weight. My acid reflux was so bad I probably should have bought stock in TUMS. I had such bad insomnia that I literally slept more in my first week postpartum than at any point in my second trimester.

All of that though paled in comparison to prenatal anxiety and depression.

I was really, really scared of everything. Is this hamburger underdone? Is this bagged salad going to give me food poisoning? Is that stranger refusing to wear a mask literally going to kill me and my unborn child?! How do I tell this person to please, please give me space? How am I going to take care of this little one? Why am I doing this?

Add to all that the fact that I was missing out on so much: no baby shower; having to Lysol hand-me-downs; no shopping for baby products. I had to beg a buy nothing group on Facebook for some maternity clothes because I didn’t have any pants that fit and couldn’t go out to buy any for months.

As the delivery came nearer, we waited to see if my husband would be allowed in the delivery room, and what protocols he’d have to follow. The quiet home birth I had wanted had turned into a hospital birth due to my mental health. I had planned to spend as much of my labor as possible bathing, meditating, and even dancing. For the first while, I did all of that while also worrying my husband might not make it home from another work trip in time.

After 18 hours I hadn’t even dilated 2 cm. I was crushed. I felt like the contractions and pain were all in my head again (anxiety does that to you – convinces you something is real and then convinces you that you’re paranoid and then convinces you that thing IS REAL and NO ONE IS GOING TO HELP YOU). Labor went downhill from there – but ultimately, after 52 intense house, a beautiful little boy was plopped on my chest and things started to look up.

So what does all this have to do with cloth diapers?

I decided when my husband took YET ANOTHER WORK TRIP a few weeks post-partum to start cloth diapering I was incredibly nervous to get started, even afraid. (In retrospect, this was probably that pesky perinatal mental health disorder again.) I thought I’d hate this. I worried all that money I’d spent on covers and inserts would be wasted – it wasn’t.

I found that I loved cloth diapering. I love knowing I’m helping the environment. I love saving money. I love the cute patterns. I don’t mind cleaning them. I love that my son will sleep through the night in them.

A lot of people turn to disposables because cloth diapering is ‘extra’ work when you are already tired. Here’s the thing: I couldn’t control my pregnancy. I couldn’t control the pandemic. I couldn’t control how my world changed. I couldn’t control how long my labor took. I couldn’t control my inability to breastfeed. I could control diapering. That control helped my mental health so much.

Cloth diapering may be a small thing in the grand scheme of things. One kid in Lil Helper isn’t going to make the glaciers re-freeze or heal the ozone; but it did help me get my mental health back on track in more ways than one.

So much of motherhood is hidden accomplishments (keeping them fed, clean, and dry). Rinsing diapers out daily has become a ritual where I can say to myself, “Look at that pile! Look at what you got done today!” (Not to mention wringing them out has given me some pretty sweet bicep muscles.) Cloth diaper laundry made me feel like a wizard – give me your toughest stains and I can get them out! I problem-solved my wash routine and found one that worked (shout out to Dez and the laundry fairies for their assistance on that one). Stuffing clean diapers also gave me much needed quiet time. I could listen to an audiobook or just be alone with my thoughts for awhile.

I’m not saying cloth diapering saved my mental health all on its own. (Credit is due also to therapy, medication, a good medical team & support network, even if they had to be virtual.) Cloth diapering did give me a win when I needed one. In the chaos of 2020 where I couldn’t control most of my life, this reminded me I could control some things.

If you’re suffering from Perinatal Mood Disorder, I want you to know you aren’t alone – it might feel that way, but you aren’t. When you feel ready, find that thing that gives you control again. Maybe it’s cloth diapering. Maybe it’s gardening. Maybe it’s cooking. Find something that reminds you how awesome you are and that this too shall pass.


About the Author

Grace is a Lil Helper Ambassador, a mom of one and a high school teacher on mat leave. She loves board games, reading, and has a mini-zoo.


Upcycle Twine: How to Repurpose Cloth Diaper Inserts & Worn Clothes

What is there to do with old cloth diaper inserts? With single socks? With worn out T-shirts, stain covered kids clothes, and even that stretched out pair of underwear? Welcome to part one of two for repurposing fabric that has no where else to go! In this post, we will learn how to make DIY Twine from old clothes and inserts. Keep your eye on the blog and don’t miss part two- what you can create with the twine!

My “inter-twine-ing” Journey

If you have been anywhere near Lil Helper lately, you’ve heard about the newest insert combo to completely blow the minds of cloth diapers caregivers: The Tank. This new combo is soft, sleek, thin, and more absorbent than any other inserts the company has released! With PUL on the back, your chances of reusing your covers are high and your chances of leaks are low. There was no question in my mind- I wanted it. To be specific, I wanted 18 Tank sets.

My biggest hesitation wasn’t their use, it was what to do with the 18 charcoal inserts that would be left replaced and unused. I took the plunge, made the purchase, and resolved to not waste the inserts. Instead, I set the old charcoal sets aside in hope of future genius.

This discovery came at a cumulative cleaning crisis. Even with two feet of snow and freezing temperatures, I was determined to spring clean our home. Items were sent to the thrift store, to our local Mutual Aid group, to friends who would get a smile from a trinket or book, and many things broken down for recycling. All that was left were the clothes too worn to be donated, and those old charcoal inserts. Then, the moment I of genius I had waited for arrived in the form of DIY Twine.

What You Will Need:

If you’ve read my DIY posts before, you know I am all about achievability! We are talking low skill friendly, no fancy tools needed, and definitely not fragile or easily ruined. I promise- this is the most doable of up-cycles. The one skill that is a must for this project is a comfortability with repetitive tasks. If you, like me, are a parent, then you are already a pro! All day long we say the same words, pick up the same toys, read the same books, now you can put the tolerance you’ve gained to good and creative use! So cue your favorite audio book, pour a cup of tea, and settle into a project that will keep your hands busy for a few evenings of relaxing as trash becomes DIY twine.

You will only need the following: (1) your old inserts or clothes; (2) scissors; (3) an alligator clip, chip bag clip, or anything similar!

A Preemptive Step: If you are using your inserts, socks, or other items that tend to see the worst smells we can create, I highly recommend a good strip before you go any further! You can learn about how to strip your inserts or laundry on this post!

Step One: Deconstruct to Reconstruct

With any thin fabric, such as a cotton shirt, you will want to cut strips that are approximately one inch thick, or a little wider than the average thumb. The more consistent your cutting is, the more consistent your twine width will be. That being said, I found that letting myself use differing textures, colors, and thicknesses created a twine that felt more fun than attempting to create something completely uniform.

With thicker fabric, you will want to cut strips that are about half an inch thick.

If you are wanting a thin twine, you can cut thinner strips. If you want a thicker rope, you can keep them thicker! Just make sure that you are adjusting your width to account of the bulkiness of your material.

If you are tackling your charcoal inserts, you will want to:
– cut off the edge seam (but save it!)
– separate and strip your layers. The grey charcoal can be one inch wide strips. The thicker white layers will be a half inch strip.
– Remove the snaps by trimming that portion of the fabric. (these are the only part of the insert that will remain unused for this project)

You’ll be left with something like this:

Step Two: Tie and Twist

First, you will tie a knot connecting two pieces of fabric together.

Second, taking the fabric father from you, twist it tightly away from your body.

Third, without loosening your twist, cross it on top of the other fabric strip.

Repeat your twisting and crossing motion for the remainder of this project. It really is that simple! By twisting the fabric counter to the direction you are crossing, the fabric will stay tightly twisted into a strand of thick twine or rope! You’re old inserts will begin to form into something new right before your eyes.

More of a visual person? Check out this handy video to help you with these steps!

Step Three: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

That really is all you need to do! Keep twisting and crossing. If you need to take a break, you can use an alligator clip to keep the ends in place.

When a fabric strip has only a few inches left, you will want to tuck a new strip inside of it, twisting the two together as you cross, and keeping the strand extra tight to create a firm transition. This will be trickiest part of the process, but even this step will be mastered in no time! If you want to see this step happen, click here to jump to the connection portion of my how-to video.

Step Four: Stay Twisty for Part Two

Over the next few weeks as you enjoy your Netflix binges, or as plan your next move on family game night, get twisting! You’ll want a hefty spool of twine for all the projects coming your way in Part Two!


About the Author

Lisa is a first time mama who is passionate about sustainable and achievable DIY crafts and activities. Dabbling in a hobbies ranging from knitting to silk screen printing, she loves to help light other's spark for joyful creating. Currently living in Chicago, Lisa has called home: small town NH, Seattle WA, and Vancouver BC. She lives with her husband, their cat, and their one-year-old fluff bum, enjoying traditions of Saturday morning doughnuts and Thursday night nachos.


Seed Starting: How to Grow Your Own Garden

Growing your own food is a great way to encourage kids to try new foods and get outside! For many Canadian regions, now is the time to start planning your garden! New to growing your own? You’ve come to the right place – it’s seed starting thyme! (see what I did there?)

Seed starting – Materials needed:

  • containers for your plant babies: you can use discarded plastic or paper cups, trays or boxes (If you go the DIY route make sure you poke holes for water drainage!)
  • potting soil made especially for starting seeds or peat pods
  • a spray mister (empty spray bottles are ideal)
  • and of course, seeds!

Seed Starting Basics: Get to Know Your Planting Region

Find out when your last frost date is. What does that mean? “Frost date” really means when temperatures fall to 0°C or lower, which is cold enough to damage or kill tender plants. This date is different for different areas. You can check out the- farmers almanac to help with this.

Next, what do you want to grow? Will you buy seeds OR save them from fruits and veggies you eat? Want to learn about how to harvest seeds from foods you already buy? Check out this link here

Now that you know what you want to plant, you need to figure out how long it takes to grow from seed. This will help you determine when you need to start.

Check out these regional planting charts from West Coast Seeds here

Those of us with short growing seasons (hello Newfoundland!) will benefit from seed starting indoors during the winter and transplanting once the ground thaws. Things like broccoli, peppers and asparagus need to be started early as they can take the longest to grow.

Now that you’ve determined what you're going to grow, you have to figure out how you’re going to grow it.

What Container Should You Use for Seed Starting?

The internet boasts that you can start your seeds in eggshells, and egg cartons, however these options left me with mold and rot. I really liked the idea of it but it didn't work out the numerous times I tried.

I personally prefer peat pods and/or biodegradable ‘pulp’ cell trays for seed starting.

*NOTE* While I use peat pods (as they’re more common in my particular area) if you have access to coconut coir pots use those! They’re a much more sustainable option to peat.

Reduce/Reuse/Recycle!

Seed starting is a wonderful way to recycle. You can reuse just about anything! Here you can see re-using empty milk containers works. Just wash thoroughly before using.

Lil Helper Lifesaver mats are a great way to save your surfaces from dirt and water when the kids help with seed starting!

I also had great success with paper cups leftover from my kiddo’s pre-Covid birthday party. You do have to remove the cups before planting in the ground but its a great place to grow seeds as it can give enough space until you’re ready to transplant. If you want to go the DIY route you can start saving toilet paper rolls to make your own seed starters Check out how!

Pro tip! I like to germinate (sprout my seeds before planting) my seeds first. Why? Not all seeds grow. To save myself disappointment (and not waste a peat pod) I put all the my seeds on a damp paper towel in a closed food container. You can also place them in a plastic sandwich bag as well. This acts as a mini greenhouse. Set in indirect light and wait 5-7 days. Any seeds that will sprout will sprout and those are the ones you can plant!

Once a seed does this in your little container you know its viable and you can plant it. It has a higher success rate than just blind planting.

Lets get planting!

Step 1 If you’re not using peat pellets then prepare your soil by expanding the peat pellet according to directions. If you’re using soil then begin by lightly misting it till its slightly moist. Plant seeds according to package (or if you scraped your own seeds the rule of thumb for planting depth is twice as deep as a seed is wide.)

Step 2 Poke your finger into the soil, push your seed in, lightly spray with a water bottle and place seed in the hole and cover lightly.
Place in bright light but avoid direct sunlight if covered.
Seedlings need moisture and consistent temperatures to grow. Most seed starting kits come with a covered tray so you can use that. If you’re using recycled containers then you can cover with plastic cling wrap. Don’t forget to label your seedlings!

Just like me in the winter, seedlings like to be warm.

So make sure to keep in a consistently warm spot until your seedlings sprout leaves.

Step 3 Check regularly and keep moist damp but not sopping wet.

Step 4 Once you see your little seedlings popping out of the soil you can remove the cover to let the air circulate around those little babies.

Seedlings need strong light to continue to grow other wise they may become ‘leggy’. This is a term to describe what happens when seedlings are reaching too much for light. They stretch out too thin, becoming weak.

These seedlings have become too tall and thin as they reach for the light. There are also too many seedlings in each ‘cell’. Its best to stick to 2-3 seedlings per cell.

You can sit them in a south-facing window or under a grow light if you have one.

If you live in a windier/colder climate you should consider putting a fan on rotate to strengthen your seedlings. Not only will the air help strengthen the tiny stem but air circulation will work towards counteracting any humidity that can lead to rot.

Once you try seed starting, you will find yourself waking up every morning and checking on your seedlings and their progress.

The hardest part is to be patient. And like children, all seeds grow at different rates.

All seeds have different grow rates. The above pic shows pots where all the seeds were planted at the same time under the same conditions, but they’re all at different growing stages.

Troubleshooting tips:

Why are my seedlings dying?
‘Damping off’ is a fungal disease causing your seedlings to wither and die.
Make sure you use specific soil for seedlings which can help and check your watering practices.

What should my watering schedule look like? Watering all depends on temperature, humidity levels and they all vary so drastically with climate and location. Instead of focusing on a schedule, focus on the feel of your soil. When seed starting, water your soil when it is dry to the touch.

What do I do if my seedlings are getting too big for their container?
If you see roots poking out out of your container or cell tray then its time to transplant your growing seedling to a larger container until you’re ready to plant in the ground outside.

Here you can see I transplanted my growing seedlings to larger containers (paper cups)
Don’t forget to poke drainage holes!

Seed Starting for the Whole Family

Get your kiddos involved! Gardening and seed starting is a great way to bond with your child, teach them new skills and encourage healthy eating! When they get to take part and are involved from planting and watching it grow, they’re more inclined to try a new food that they helped create.

Too early to start planting seeds for your area just yet? That’s ok!

Get your kids involved in planning their own garden layout! They can draw and colour fruits or veggies they’d like to plant and see grow. Never too early to start planning!

Have you planted your own fruit and veggies? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

Will this year be your first time? Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll answer to the best of my ability or point you in the right direction!


About the Author

Heather is a STAHWM who lives in St. John’s NL. where she’s raising two humans, two dogs, a cat and a fish. In between chasing her hooligans and waiting for her Hogwarts letter, she enjoys knitting, crocheting and campy 80’s horror flicks.


Celebrate Easter with these Four Simple, Nature-Based Activities

Easter is a holiday weekend to celebrate new life. As winter fades away, spring flowers begin to appear, tree buds and cherry blossoms gently whisper that life is coming, and your children no longer need twenty layers before they head outside. Life brims with hope of warmer days to come. The outdoors is filled with expectation of new life and new growth. Nature-Based activities are a perfect choice for you to celebrate Easter this year.

There is no better setting for your Easter activities than the outdoors. Whether your Easter weekend is elaborate or simple, your traditions are bunny based or faith based, and regardless of your little one’s age- it is a time to embrace joy and find all that fills you with hope. These four nature-based activities are simple enough for young kids, with easy ways to make them more engaging for older children, too. Be prepared for a little mud, pack a change of clothes, fill your Lil Helper Bite Bags, and get ready for some time outside!

Activity One: Nature Walk

Photo: Gabrielle S.

It may seem simple, but an Easter nature walk is a simple activity that gets your body and mind engaged in looking for signs of new life. It might be as simple as getting into the back yard, or as taking a drive farther away to a nature preserve, hiking trail, or a park. I challenge you to take this walk as slow as your child or toddler wants. Try to see this place as they do. Crouch down. Let your hands get muddy just like theirs do. When it comes to looking for signs of spring and reasons to find delight on a nature walk, a toddler can be your sweetest, most spontaneous, albeit slow and messy, guide.

If you are looking to add a layer of interactivity to this nature walk, consider looking for and focusing on one of these lists:

1. Start at the bottom, and slowly move upward. Look for something that shows a sign of spring on the ground. Next, look at knee height. Then eye level, upward! From bottom to top (or top to bottom), where do you see spring?
2. Look for each color of the rainbow. Find something red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and even purple and pink.
3. Use this walk as an opportunity for a Reverse Egg Hunt!

Activity Two: Reverse Easter Egg Hunt

Photo: Gabrielle S.

A reverse egg hunt is a way to Celebrate Easter with a shift of focus. Rather than filling the yard with our own candy or toys, let your children look for treasure as they would define it. This simple, nature-based activity will let your child find and collect the signs of Spring and what they find special in world around them.

You can collect items inside plastic Easter eggs, or simply use your favorite bag. When their eggs have been filled, take the time to sit and listen to why they chose their items. Let your question simply be: What would you like to tell me about it? Would you like to tell me more? This reverse egg hunt lets them take the lead and be the one to show you what is most precious to them.

Activity Three: Plant a Garden

Photo: Katie F.

After enjoying what nature already has to offer- consider adding it to. While this may be a messy project, embrace it! Keep it as simple as a single flower, a row of carrots, or maybe this is the spring where you break up that corner of the back yard for a proper vegetable garden. Easter weekend, you can see where life is already coming, and you can allow your children to be an active participant in it. Gardens are a real life teacher for little ones. Being able to plant, nurture, and see growth is amazing for children!

If gardening is far beyond your expertise, consider creating a straw bale garden. This how-to post can guide you through an easy way to achieve a raised garden bed. Straw bale gardens are low maintenance and highly effective options!

Activity Four: Natural Easter Egg Dye

Photo: Becca N.

Lastly an, Easter classic. Egg dying. This year, give it a new spin by choosing to create natural dyes! Creating your own egg dye is simple, with only a little prep time needed. You can create your own vibrant colors for your children to enjoy!

The Ingredients: Shredded beet, 2-4tbs turmeric, shredded purple cabbage, yellow onion skins, purple onion skins. You can try out your own ingredients to experiment with! (hint: skins and leaves tend to produce more color than fruit)

The Process: Take your ingredients, and in individual steel pots, let them sit in warm, barely-simmering water for 30 minutes to an hour. You can check your color by spooning a small amount into a white bowl or plate. When the color is where you’d like it, you can let it cool. For each cup of dye, add in one tablespoon of white vinegar, and then use it as you would normal Easter egg dye! The longer an egg sits in the dye, or the more times it is dried and dipped back in, the more vibrant the color will become.

If you’re not interested in coloring real eggs, you can pour the dye into little jars and use it as water colors! This is a great way to paint paper eggs or decorations, while still enjoying what nature offers us in spring time.

If you take a try at any ingredients we didn’t list, or if you choose any of our ideas to be part of your weekend fun, be sure to tag us on Instagram @lilhelpergram or email a photo to: delight@lilhelper.ca; we would love to see your project!


About the Author

Lisa is a first time mama who is passionate about sustainable and achievable DIY crafts and activities. Dabbling in a hobbies ranging from knitting to silk screen printing, she loves to help light other's spark for joyful creating. Currently living in Chicago, Lisa has called home: small town NH, Seattle WA, and Vancouver BC. She lives with her husband, their cat, and their one-year-old fluff bum, enjoying traditions of Saturday morning doughnuts and Thursday night nachos.