Welcome to Blueberry Baby, 127 Glacier Avenue, Fairbanks Alaska

We strive to be your source for healthy, fun products to support your natural parenting decisions, as well as supply you with unique Alaskan products and gifts for the whole family. Please take a minute to look around to browse our parenting tips, product updates and news on local events, or jump right over to the online shop to see what we have available.

This section of our site is set up for important articles on cloth diapers, babywearing, community support and natural parenting issues. Is there a topic you want us to cover? Let us know! We are here for you.

*We are experienced mamas, but we don’t know everything- we welcome advice and opinions from others. We will do our best to keep you informed so you can make healthy decisions. We do not give medical advice, and no comments on this blog should be construed as such.

 

Lingerie Days

We carry four brands of fabulous nursing bras, all for different reasons! Find put where each brand really shines below!

Each day of “lingerie Days,” we will feature one of our fantastic brands. Let us know which brands you love and why!

Our featured lingerie brand for today is hotmilk. We carry different brands for all different needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding, here's what we love about hotmilk! Hotmilk is the most supportive of the bras we carry, made of sturdy fabric and well thought out designs. It supports up to an H cup without an underwire, but without skimping on cute factor either! By far some of the prettiest bras for nursing or for larger cup sizes we have seen. This is the bra we recommend for after your milk has come in and you know what size you will be for a while. Stay tuned for our top picks for maternity and transition!

Day two of lingerie days, our featured brand is Melinda G. This is our favorite brand for transition times, like the last trimester of pregnancy, or the first few months of nursing, but really, they have a bra appropriate for any stage! All of the Melinda G bras are stretchy to accommodate a range of breast sizes, and come with extension kits for the bra band. The Tee Shirt bra is the most accommodating for breast size fluctuation, and comes in sizes from a B up to an H cup. Perfect for when your milk first comes in! The Glorious Contour gives a little more lift and separate action and has a deeper neckline, while still being super comfy. The new Smoothly Divine bra has removable foam pads for a those moments when you want a little extra lift, and the Cami-Sutra nursing cami has a full, supportive bra sewn in and has a plus cup option for perfect fit and good support. This is a favorite for turning any shirt into a nursing top, or wearing all on it's own. My very favorite part of carrying Melinda G, tho, is getting to know Melinda herself. This is a small, US based company using US materials, and Melinda works closely with the craftsmen in Costa Rica to ensure both an excellent product and fair working conditions. It is great talking with Melinda, and hearing her excitement over the new ways they are coming up with to help support new moms with her products. A great company with a great product, and we've seen how much they are appreciated here in Alaska!


Final day of our Lingerie Days sale, and we have two brands to celebrate! Carriwell and Blue Canoe are two of the few brands which carry organic cotton nursing bras! The Blue Canoe Jane bra and Jane Plus bra were the first bras we carried. Similar in style to many sleep bras, but much sturdier and more supportive. Instead of fussy fasteners, these crossover style bras can be pulled aside easily for nursing, but don't wear out too quickly from that extra strain. Carriwell organic bras are a more traditional nursing bra, but made of super stretchy cotton, appropriate for those early days of fluctuating breast size. There are several different styles, some more stretchy, some with lace, and a brand new style we are super excited about with GelWire inserts. GelWire gives the extra support of an underwire, but without the excessive compression which can lead to plugged ducts. Carriwell also offers a wide range of support garments, as well as swimsuits for both maternity and nursing/post-partum support. We are excited to be working directly with the company this year, instead of a distributor, which means some great price savings for you, even without a sale!

 

Understanding Detergents, Soaps and Laundry Aids

Here we hope to answer some of the most common questions about detergents for cloth diapers. This is part of a series of articles designed to help you find the best laundry system for your family. For specific recommendations and solutions to common laundry problems, please see our detergent recommendation page, and our laundry troubleshooting guide.

What is a detergent, and how is it different from soap?

Technically, soap is a type of detergent, which just means they are substances which can be added to water to help remove oil and organic matter which water, by itself, can not remove during the washing cycle. For the purposes of this conversation, however, and to reflect how the terms are used in popular speech, I want to make a distinction between traditionally made soaps, and the highly processed detergents which have a few significant differences.

Soap is traditionally made by mixing fat (animal or vegetable) with a highly alkaline substance such as lye or wood ash. This creates a potassium or sodium based salt, which are long hydrocarbon chains. They produce an emulsifying effect because they are hydrophilic (water loving) on one end of the chain, while being able to bond with oils and other organic compounds on the non polar end as well. The salts, when bonded with water, form little spheres of molecules, with the non-polar ends facing in, and they hydrophilic, ionic ends facing out. The oils and organic compounds are pulled into the middle of the spheres and trapped there. The non polar oils trapped in the ionic spheres are now repellent from each other, which helps hold them in suspension, ready to be rinsed away. Unfortunately, when these salts interact with hard water minerals, they create a filmy residue which can deposit on fibers as well as on the washing machine or wash basin. Soap scum and “ring around the collar” are problems related to using soaps with hard water.

Detergents, as we generally refer to them today, were developed when petrochemicals were introduced as an alternative to the fats used in soap making, which were in short supply during WWII. Today, they are still usually made in a lab, some from petrochemicals, some from oleochemicals (derived from plants or animals,) but all highly processed and manipulated to form the ideal hydrocarbon chain length for their purpose. Shorter chains are better for emulsifying. Like soaps, detergents use alkalis to provide positively charged ions for facilitating chemical reactions, but they also contain additional surfactants and oxidizers.

Surfactants are found in most detergents and some soaps as well. Surfactants break the surface tension of water, essentially making water “wetter,” or able to more easily penetrate fibers. Surfactants of all types, even the “safe” surfactants derived from such things as coconut oil, are highly irritating and can cause skin reaction. The presence of surfactants such as sodium laureth sulfate are what makes mainstream hair detergents (shampoo) so much more painful than natural soaps (which still sting, just not as much) if it happens to get in your eyes. On a side note, we recommend finding cleansing agents which are actually gentle, rather than relying on “no more tears” shampoos which contain pain killers in order to mask the body’s natural response to irritating substances. Oxidizers are the chemicals in surfactants which are responsible for creating the hydrophilic (water-loving) component of the surfactant. Because they are highly reactive, these oxidizers can also be used as a bleaching agents.

Soap residue and oils will coat fibers, reducing absorbency, and can be very hard to remove. Using soap or oils on diapers will void all diaper warranties.

Do I really need soap or detergents?

It is possible to clean diapers without a detergent, but it is far from easy. The simple reason is that oil and water don’t like to mix, and most organic compounds (like poop) have a lot of oils in them. Water cleans by allowing dirt and grime to be agitated off the fibers, suspended and then rinsed away. If only water is used, the only way to get rid of oils and organic compounds is to rub harder, or use heat to get it off. Boiling laundry is a long accepted way to convince the oil molecules to release their hold on fibers long enough to be rinsed off. Unfortunately, excessive heat will also damage fibers and make fabric brittle and frail over time. This method is still used with prefold diapers, but please do not try this with anything which uses elastic, hook and loop closures or plastic/nylon snaps. Scrubbing also has a long tradition in laundry. Intense scrubbing is generally used in conjunction with soap or detergent, but if those are hard to come by for any reason, people just scrub harder. In my travels, I have used sand, stone, concrete, and metal washboards to clean my clothes. They come out clean and soft. They are also much thinner than when they went in, and that is with soap to help out. The new washing balls operate on a similar principal. They increase the agitation of the water and beat the clothes as well. They will certainly make water more effective than otherwise, but they act very differently from detergents, which use a chemical rather than physical application to remove grime.

Can I just use what I’m using now?

In many cases, yes. There are definitely detergents which work better than others, however most detergents will get your diapers clean with minimal residue. The problems often occur when detergents have other additives. Bleach breaks down diaper fabric faster than a regular wash will, and chlorine produces dioxin, a known carcinogen, when it reacts with natural fibers. Fabric softeners coat fibers, which prevents absorbency, as well as increasing the fabric’s flammability. Fabric softeners have also been linked to greater incidences of allergies and respiratory ailments. Bluing agents and optic brighteners also coat the fabric and prevent absorbency. If your detergent is free from all of these elements, it should be safe to use with cloth diapers. Dryer sheets are essentially an alternative method of distribution of with fabric softener and pose the same risks. TIP- If you use dryer sheets with your other laundry, wiping the dryer out with white vinegar on a rag will help remove residue from the dryer so it doesn’t transfer to your diapers. Using fabric softeners or dryer sheets will ruin your diapers and voids all warranties.

Why would I want to use a diaper specific detergent?

Peace of mind. Just because a detergent is safe for use with cloth diapers does not mean it is the most effective. Many detergents do leave residue on diapers, including some of the more popular mainstream detergents occasionally recommended for diapers. I can usually tell which mainstream detergents have been used on diapers based on smell, even if it is supposedly a “scent free” detergent, based on that residue. Detergents specifically recommended for diapers (including those few specifically formulated for diapers) have been tested and proven to leave very little residue, are extremely effective on diaper stains, yet gentle enough that they can extend the life expectancy of your diapers. Using a diaper specific detergent may reduce the risk of mineral build up, ammonia residue, rash and early diaper disintegration. Please see our article on recommended detergents for specifics.

Will I need to use additives or laundry boosters?

Whether you need laundry aids will largely depend on your water. Detergents are soecifically formulated to work on their own under average water conditions. We do not recommend using laundry aids as a preventative measure. Wash as normal first, unless you already know your water causes laundry problems, and then adapt as needed. As with anything else in life, laundry aids come with trade offs. Common laundry aids include RLR, also known as soda ash or washing soda, enzymes, oxygen bleach, vinegar, baking soda and chlorine bleach. Hard water treatments, preformulated mixtures of several of these typical additives,  may also be used.

Baking soda changes the pH of the water to a more alkaline state. This reduces surface tension and increases the water’s ability to get at the things you are trying to wash away. It also opens up the scales of natural fibers which allows the detergents to penetrate deeper into the fiber, but has the potential to clog porous synthetic fibers and prevent absorbency.

Enzymes are designed to break down proteins. This is fantastic for getting rid of poop stains and residue and does not harm either cellulose fibers (hemp, cotton, bamboo, linen) or synthetic fibers. It is very important to make sure enzymes are thoroughly washed out, however, since the nearest protein for enzymes to act on if they remain in a diaper is your baby’s sensitive skin.

Bleaching agents, including chlorine bleach and oxygen bleaches like hydrogen peroxide and washing soda (soda ash/RLR) and borax, are highly reactive and are used speed up chemical reactions. These oxidizing reactions break chemical bonds, making stains invisible (tho not necessarily removing the material causing the stain) and killing bacteria. They are also alkalis, which, like baking soda, will reduce surface tension and make water “wetter.” All bleaching agents wear out fabric, elastic and fasteners faster, and should only be used if you feel you have a serious reason for using them. Please be aware that washing soda is a common ingredient in hard water treatments, so we recommend avoiding the use of hard water treatments and additional washing soda simultaneously. Use one or the other to see what works for you.

If you choose to use chlorine bleach, there are a few things to remember. Chlorine bleach is much stronger and more caustic than any other laundry aid. It also produces dioxin, a known carcinogen, when used with any natural fiber. Never mix chlorine bleach with other chemicals such as vinegar, use only as directed and be careful not to breath the fumes from chlorine bleach.

If you must use a bleach, we suggest using an “oxygen based” bleach. It will still degrade diapers faster than normal, but it does not produce dioxin, as chlorine bleach does, and is not as caustic as chlorine bleach. Better yet, we recommend sunning diapers instead, even at -40 degree temperatures. Sunning diapers has a similar oxidizing effect, but with less wear and tear on your diapers.It really works!

Borax is an interesting mineral. When mixed with water, some of it will react to produce a little bit of hydrogen peroxide, but that’s not all it does. It is also an alkali, which, as stated earlier, can boost the effectiveness of detergents, and borax also works an excellent emulsifier.

Vinegar, unlike most laundry aids, is a mild acid. As such, it can help neutralize the alkaline nature of hard water deposits, ammonia and residue from detergent or surfactants. Vinegar can also help contract the scales in natural fibers, and works as a natural fabric softener and static reducer, without coating fibers like commercial fabric softeners. Vinegar should be used only in the rinse cycle, after the alkaline washing agents have done their job.

 

Recommended detergents for diapers

This is the short and sweet version of what was trying to become “The Diaper Geek’s Compleat Guide to the Way Washing Works,” but I restrained myself in the hopes of actually getting this posted sometime this year. Stay tuned for details, here’s the quick and dirty on detergents. Well as quick as I am apparently capable of making it.

Before you go out and by a diaper specific detergent, take a look at what you are already using and see if it is useable. Most detergents will clean diapers suitably, but there are a few things to avoid. Choose a detergent free of bleach, fabric softener, bluing agents and optic brighteners. We recommend using caution with enzymes and perfumes as well. They may not ruin your diapers like the previous list, but if not rinsed out thoroughly, they may irritate baby’s bum.

Special considerations

Please remember that every body, every washing machine, every water system operates a little differently, so you may need to experiment to find a detergent that is just right for your system. It is also important to know that our bodies, and more importantly the sensitive skin of our little babes, can react to anything. Even products specifically designed to be hypoallergenic and gentle for “any skin type” can cause reactions. Reactions to various detergents on our “safe” list have been reported, and there is no way of knowing before hand if your child will react to a specific product. Even tho incidence is rare with the detergents listed bellow, if your detergent (or any other product) is causing a reaction, stop immediately and switch to another option. If you are unsure of what is causing a reaction, please see our guide on Diaper Rash and What To Do About It.

So, what detergents do you recommend?

These recommendations are based on what we can find here in Fairbanks, Alaska. We have tried most of these ourselves and received feedback on others from many, many local families, however it is not comprehensive. One of our clients recommended checking out the more comprehensive chart Pinstripes and Polkadots has put together.

Charlie’s Soap: Not actually a soap, this detergent has been tested as the detergent with lowest residue on the market. In fact, it is so effective, it will actually remove residue from your washer as well as from your clothes. If you are not using this detergent exclusively for all your laundry, or if you are sharing laundry facilities, it is very important to run an empty load, or a load of rags or towels, before washing your diapers. If you run a load of diapers without this step, you are essentially using your diapers as rags to clean out the residue and can ruin your diapers, and potentially end up with severe chemical burns on baby’s bum. I love this detergent, it is super effective, does great on all our clothes, leaves no smell and has actually gotten rid of any static problem as well. I use it to scrub floors and toilets too, and I like having one, all purpose cleaner for our house but you need to know what the potential risks are. Quite simply, this detergent is best used if you are willing to make a complete switch for all your laundry.

RockinGreen- I like this detergent, it leaves no noticible residue and some of the scents are fun. They are very subtle and mostly noticed when actually doing laundry, not in the laundry after it is done being washed. My very sensitive family does not react to these particular scents, but if you have a known sensitivity, you might still want to use the unscented version. I do have to use more of this detergent than I do with Charlie’s, but it is comparable in price and efficacy. I find that many people tend to buy the hard rock version when they do not necessarily need it here in Fairbanks. We do have very hard water, but most residences compensate for that with water softeners and filters. If in doubt, please use the hard water test strips to test your water.

EcoSprout- I find that this detergent has a greater tendency to leave residue, but this was solved in our household by reducing the amount of detergent used to significantly below the recomended amount.

BumGenius Diaper Detergent- again, very effective and unscented. I found no noticeable residue when washing with the recommended amount of detergent. It is a little pricier than other locally available, diaper specific brands.

Mainstream detergents recommended for diapers:

Planet, Country Save, Allens- these detergents are all available at local grocery stores, leave no noticeable residue and have been recommended by local parents. I use Planet when washing at my parent’s house, and they have washed a fair number of our diapers as well, over the years.

Mainstream detergents commonly used for diapers:

These are detergents that are commonly used or recommended for diapers, which will not void warranty for most manufacturers. These particular brands have been problematic for some local families, including mine. They all leave a residue, so if you do use them, be sure to rinse thoroughly. I’ve used some of these when traveling, and used others for a long time, before more diaper friendly detergents were widely available. They will work in a pinch, but I can not personally recommend them in light of the highly effective, low residue detergents listed above. Several cases of diaper rash and allergic reactions have been reported to us for all of these detergents, but do keep in mind that we are relying on what has been reported to us, and we do not know all the circumstances which surround any given reaction. Basically, these are okay for diapers, but use with caution and monitor your results.

Tide- some of the scents may irritate sensitive people, and it has a tendancy to leave residue, which can be removed with extra rinse cycles.

All Free and Clear- has been reported to leave residue, especially with synthetic fabrics, and can cause diaper rash if not rinsed completely. I have used this one when traveling because it is often stocked in laundromat vending machines and I tend to forget things like detergent on vacation. I have not personally had issues during this short term use.

 BioKleen, Seventh Generation- the reports on both of these are very mixed. Some people use these without issues, but others have reported problems with both repelling and rash.

Happy February- Breastfeeding Supply Sale!

This month, we are featuring all of our breastfeeding support products.
Hygiea closed-system breast pumps (manual and electric) and hand expression cups, HotMilk nursing bras, nighties and dresses, the amazingly fabulous wool nursing pads from Lana, nursing covers, even our new “breastfeeding hats” from Terri.
We’re giving away a free Herbs & Oats Bath sample with every breastfeeding related purchase this month, plus a chance to win a Moby or Ring Sling. Every purchase earns you another chance to win! Did you know the Herbs & Oats bath makes a great compress to help relieve engorged breasts and plugged ducts, as well as being a nice, soothing bath for post partum or itchy skin relief? Good stuff!

December 2012 Specials

We've got some stellar deals, just in time for solstice, from some of our favorite artisans as well as our top brand toys and woolens! Here are just a few of the specials running through the end of the year:

Braving the cold? Just for coming in, take 20% off all Smartwool and Disana socks, tights, leggings, leg warmers, sweaters, long johns and blankets.

Bring a little color into your home with 50% off art prints and greeting cards.

Select quilts, beautifully hand made by local artisans, are 25% off.

“Fly” bird print, up-cycled onesies and tees are just $10.

Sock puppet kits are $8, and last but certainly not least, all toys and puzzles from Under the Nile and Melissa and Doug are 15% off.

Don't forget to join the Nutcracker Chase and turn in your cards before the Downtown Association drawing at the Solstice Spectacular on Friday!

 

How can a store support “buy nothing day?”

It doesn't really make sense, does it? A business which survives through people buying things encouraging people to stay home and buy nothing for 48 hours seems counter intuitive! So why do we support buy nothing day? I think we get caught up a little too often in the frenzy of a good deal. I strive to be a good steward of our family resources, so I am not at all above looking for a good deal, but at the same time, I find gross commercialism troubling. I have to wonder what has been sacrificed for those fantastic deals. I have a responsibility to try to understand how my purchases affect my family, our community and the broader world. I know that too much “stuff” is detrimental to our family harmony, so I try to stick with things we will actually use and enjoy fully, instead of just “stuff.”

When we started Blueberry Baby, we met with a lot of skepticism from business professionals regarding our goals. We wanted to sell durable items which could be used for a long time, thereby reducing how much customers would need to come back and buy from us. Where is the profit in selling things like cloth diapers, which encourage parents to buy less? We also chose to work with artisans as close to home as possible. There are many times we have been offered discount products from China, India, Lithuania and other locations where it is less expensive for both labor and materials, in order to maintain a higher profit margin, and we consistently decline because we appreciate the unique designs, high quality and personal accountability which comes with dealing directly with our neighbors. We do purchase specific items from some of those places, but only after thoroughly investigating the companies for fair, ethical business practices. These are not items created or purchased on a whim. They are carefully designed and created and just as carefully purchased. They are also priced in a way calculated to sustain the artisan as well as Blueberry Baby.

We certainly try to balance that with the financial needs of our clients, but a reduction in price will directly impact someone along the line. There is not a built in margin designed for luring you in with a false “price reduction,” and we will not compromise on materials or craftsmanship in order to compete. Our products are meant to last as long as possible. We have high quality artisan items every day, priced fairly, and we feel blessed that the community has rewarded our vision and our priorities with 8 years of growing support. For the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I do hope we can all take a little time out, evaluate what we actually need and make considered decisions about what is important to us, and spend time with our precious families. Blueberry Baby and all your favorite local artisans will be waiting for you when you are ready.

 

Artisan’s Guide Part 3- Labeling

You've done your research, created a good product, found your niche market, done safety checks, secured a business license, everything should be ready to go, right? Now you simply need to present your product to the public. As much as we'd like our products and perhaps our reputation to speak for itself, marketing is the voice needed to help products actually reach the consumer. The marketplace is a raucously loud place. Finding the right voice to communicate your unique message makes all the difference.

First off, what is your product and who are you selling to? Try to put yourself in the shoes of your potential client and think about what would draw you to this product if you were shopping instead of producing. How will you dusplay this product? Does it look best on a shelf? Can it stand up on a shelf? Can it be hung? How much space does it take up on display? Does it look messy if hung in a group? Does it grab enough attention lying flat on a shelf? Can it be displayed in multiple ways? Play with your product and see if it needs extra support or simple packaging to hold up to display needs.

Everything you do in packaging is as much a part if your product and your brand as the item you are selling. For some items, a business card size tag (easy and inexpensive to print) are all you need, but think about what you convey with your tag design. Who are you appealing to with your font and images and color scheme? Elegance, fun, whimsy, functionality, simplicity, peace, trendiness can all be communicated with font and color. How do you make your presentation stand out?

Some items do better with stickers instead of (or in addition to) tags. Shaped, printable stickers are available at most office supply stores, and custom shapes can be ordered if you have a unique label design. Again, play around with the design and see what it says to you.

Get outside opinions, just in case what you thought said “trendy, upbeat, fun,” says “hot, bloody mess,” to the world at large. Use white space, keep designs simple and give the eye a place to rest. Make sure what you need to say is not hidden by what you could say. There are exceptions to every rule, but they are just that, exceptions. Something so intriguingly nonconforming that it grabs attention. Chances are you will get along better clearly stating the case for your product.

If you can afford it, hire a graphic designer. A good designer is worth every penny.

What do you need on your tags?

Essentials:

  • Tags are not just a place to put a price sticker, they are your introduction to your customer. Tell them your name. If they can read your name, they are more likely to remember you and come back for more and tell their friends. If you have a website, include that as well.
  • If you have a logo, use that. A logo is a simple identifier which lets people see at a glance who they are dealing with. It can be an image, your name or abbreviated name in a particular font, it can be a color or color wash you always use.
  • We are required to tell where things are made, but don't hide it! Made in the USA or Made in Alaska are selling points, play it up! I strongly encourage Alaskan artisans to register for the MIA program, that little icon really does help sell items. If you don't go that route, a simple “town name, state” under your business name/brand serves the same purpose.
  • Leave room for the price tag so it doesn't cover important stuff!

Important.

  • If it is not permanently affixed to the item with a care tag or printed on, it is also good to print out care instructions and content, even for items not required to carry this information. Make it easy to read so people know what they're getting into.

Only if you have room:

  • How to use the product
  • Testimonials
  • Endorsements

These are things to consider if you have a box or larger packaging, don't put this on a small tag, please! If you need to communicate this for a smaller item with less packaging, consider putting it on a website or a product brochure. Make use of QR codes.

 

We moved October 2012!

We have a beautiful new location in the heart of downtown Fairbanks! We are sorry for the short notice, there was a building emergency which required us to move on very short notice. The owner of Chartreuse was very generous and made room for us immediately in the riverfront shop adjacent to her main business space.

We spent a long time at the Chena Pump location and will miss our wonderful neighbors there, but we hope you will enjoy our new locations just as much! It will take us a little while to get settled, but we have access to the inventory while we rearrange things. If you have a special request, feel free to call ahead so we can have it ready when you stop by.

We expect to be fully operational by Tuesday, October 16, and we will have a re-opening party once we feel settled again, so stay tuned for details! Although unexpected, we hope that this will be a good move for us, and we are thankful for the opportunity to continue serving the Fairbanks community. Thank you for your support!