Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Barf-a-rama: Coming Too Soon to a Home Near You

In the spirit of Dad Labs' Bathtime 101: Poop in the Tub tutorial, we'd like to share some hard-learned lessons from our recent battle with gushing tide. A quick Google search for "barf crib cleanup" brings back altogether too many references to the family dog.

Backstory: A terrible virus has been lurking at the periphery of our playgroup, quietly taking out one child after another. The symptoms were pure horror movie- gurgling, rumbling, growling, fluid eruptions, convulsions, crying, and screaming- violent, copious screaming.

Toddler Barf Tip #1- Zippers are your friend. Ease of clothing removal is essential when confronted with a potentially barfing child. Yesterday I foolishly dressed Ranger in a onesie, a rugby jersey, and overalls after he barfed on his zip-up jammies and crib. He wasn't off the changing table before he annihilated that outfit (and the changing table). It took forever to take the sopping outfit off as two of the items had to pull over his head. It brought to mind a car trip story my dad tells involving himself, a carsick dog on the back window ledge, and my grandfather cutting Dad out of a sweater. After that, it was fleece zipper jammies all day. I highly recommend the the kind that zip to or below the knee. Fleece is also resistant to stains and absorption.

Toddler Barf Tip #2- Don't think "Hey, that's the last of it." Toddler nausea seems to have more reincarnations than horror movie villain. I would wishfully think " How could he barf any more?" only to have the question promptly answered on our white carpet, upholstered furniture, Jim's person, my person, and /or all of the above. As the Boy Scouts recommend: "Be Prepared." Trust me, you won't be that disappointed for overplanning the next barf attack.

Toddler Barf Tip #3- Hydration is essential, even though it seems like you are rearming a loose cannon. The biggest risk for little guys with bad stomaches is dehydration. To avoid dehydration keep giving your child water and electrolytes. It may seem counter-productive in barf control, but your child is far more important than your carpet, furniture, etc.. Electrolyte Popsicles are great for kids who gulp down liquids or are timid about drinking.

Toddler Barf Tip #4- What goes down, may come up. Consider this when choosing food items. Grapes and oranges, not good. Grape juice and orange juice, even worse. Water, not so bad. Grapefruit, horrible. Mid-afternoon on day one of our 2 day regurgapallooza, I found myself asking "How will this color compliment our decor?" If you don't like the match, find something else. Also be concerned about texture and acidity because the kids don't yet know enough to consider the feeling of their favorite foods (for Ranger- grapefruit) flying through their nasal passages.

Toddler Barf Tip #5- One is the loneliest number. If you face an ill child alone and have someone who will come help you, don't hesitate to call them immediately. It may seem like a cop-out, but let me tell you- it's hard to clean a child and clothing/furniture/carpets/yourself at the same time. No one sane will fault you for calling in reinforcements. If you don't have anyone you can call, see tip #6.

Toddler Barf Tip #6- Remember the Bathtub. (lifesaving tip from Veronica, mom to twins) Trying to clean a squirmy, freaked out, barfy kid quickly? Unless you have a mudroom with a hose and a floor drain, I strongly recommend the bathtub. Strip 'em of dirty duds and wash children as needed in tub (the shower is also quite handy if hair, ears, or face are involved- though you will probably need to step in with the child). Ranger is quite freaked out over the new experience of vomiting, but a bath really helps calm him down. If there is more gastronomical disruption, your tub is usually easier to clean than other regions of the house. A few cautions- if your child has a high fever, DO NOT USE WATER THAT WILL CHILL THEM; febrile seizures can occur. Never, ever, ever leave a sick child unattended in the bathtub even if it's just for a minute to get a towel or clean something up.

Toddler Barf Tip#7- Put supplies in multiple places. Stick an extra outfit, wipes, and diapers in the bathroom or wherever it is easy for you to clean up your child. Have at least two places you can change your baby as one of those areas may quickly become a biohazard zone.

Toddler Barf Tip #8- This is a great justification for owning a home carpet cleaner. Prep the machine once and leave it on standby for further cleanup situations until you know your child is better. Keep cleaning supplies handy.

Toddler Barf Tip #9- Call your doctor, track temperatures and wet/dirty diapers. Call again if the situation changes.

Toddler Barf Tip #10- It's always somewhat frightening when you child is ill and heaving, maybe more so for first-timers like us. Try to stay calm for the sake of the young one. If your voice is in a strange vocal range, your sick kid is going to pick up on that and become more frightened. Listen to yourself and try to sound more assured than you feel. If you have to call for assistance and you make some distressing noises, remember to reassure your child that they are a good kid and they will feel better (Ranger thought he was in trouble when Jim called me in to assist with a completely unforeseen upchuck reprise).

Toddler Bart Tip #11- Layer your crib. I can't express how much we love the Ultimate Crib Sheet with its slightly disgusting 4 liquid cup holding capacity. It launders well and is easily removed and installed. We just bought some extra crib -sized pads and also use a waterproof mattress pad under a standard sheet. The more onion-like you can make a toddler's bed, the better- who want to changes sheets or wait for the dryer to finish at 2AM?

Any other good barf-related tips or stories out there?
Please share them in our comments.

Next: Making the Best of an E-Room Visit


Creative Genius? said...

Oh I like the Quick Zip Sheets from http://www.cloudsandstars.com combined with their mattress pad. MUCH quicker and easier than the Ultimate Crib Sheet - safer too!

The only barf suggestion I have is for washing clothing -- a good soak in Oxy-Clean works wonders on barf stains!

Anonymous said...

Get a small box, bigger than a shoe box, but not to big. Put a few garbage bags in it, just folded up in the bottom. Then put the whole thing in a garbage bag, sideways, so the open top is facing a side. Push the garbage bag into the open box. Put this barf box in your car. If your kid starts to lose it in the car, stick it under his or her chin. They barf in it. You invert the garbage bag, sealing the puke inside. Take the next folded up bag out and repeat. Keep at least one roll of paper towel in the car at all times as well.

adrienne said...

Brilliant! I just located a good barf box for the car. Thanks for the tip.

A local friend called to remind me to add using washable throw blankets and beach towels to cover furniture, carpet, and other potential barf targets.

Anonymous said...

Also, don't forget to instruct spouse/partner that trying to give a baby who just puked a pacifier will only result in more puking (speaking from experience).

We learned to keep a large bath towel spread across the loveseat when feeding baby the bottle, and could fold one end up and over them and us (or just us) to catch the majority of what was coming out (sorry if tmi).

Anonymous said...

Hi Adrienne- I just found your blog and feel your pain. Very important barf tip for slightly older children: use the tallest trashcan possible for bedside use. When I was pregnant with Lily, B got sick. I put one of our extra trashcans next to her bed. I heard her getting sick from the other room. Running down the hall, I'm shouting "Aim for the trashcan!" I arrive in barf-central to see the results of my folly: barf everywhere but in the tiny little trashcan next to her bed. Poor kid!

Another barf tip for parents with girls: Learn to french braid. It's the only reliable way to keep hair out of barf.

Jim said...


Great tips. Where was this knowledge in EVERY SINGLE parenting book that I bought or borrowed.

Nowhere! That's where.

I am really pleased (and proud) that people are sharing their hard won (believe us, we know) tips here.

Thank you so much.

SereneCat said...

Another use for those cheap plastic table/picnic tablecloths: cover the furniture or floor around the sick child. They are easily wiped down and can be thrown away after the illness passes.

They are usually only $1-$2, and I keep a few extras in my pantry.

Anonymous said...

LOVE the Barf-O-Rama tips.

But feel compelled to share my story of the Ultimate Death Sheet -- seriously, the most dangerous product I've ever owned, BURN it! My son got trapped under it when he was 10 months old (one of the snaps must've come undone). Think about how heavy and waterproof it is - it's a suffocation waiting to happen.

I LOVE the Clouds & Stars QuickZip sheets that a previous poster mentioned though. They are awesome. I cut the straps off the Ultimate Death Sheets and use those as mattress pad underneath the QuickZip sheets now.

adrienne said...


I can see how the Ultimate Crib Sheet could be a hazard should the baby get under it, but with our crib rails- it seems pretty taut to the mattress. I don't think our son could have gotten under it or gotten the snaps loose (but that's just our son).

I wouldn't recommend or use any waterproof crib sheet that isn't snug to the mattress, childproof, and well-anchored. That probably varies quite a bit by crib style and infant mobility/curiosity.

Thanks for the recommendation of the Zip Sheets. I didn't know about them when Ranger was young, or we might have bought them instead. Ranger can now get into/out of everything; I'm just glad he has no interest in his bedding.

Anonymous said...

We use receiving blankets for the Barf-o-rama. They are cheap, easily washable, and comfortable for the child to rest on. You can surround the sick child with clean comfort: over the pillow, on the lap, on the foam chair, wherever they are camping out. Use them to catch and wipe up the mess, soak in the washer until you have a full load to wash.
Our triplets are 7 years old now, but we still resort to the big stack of receiving blankets (30?) when illness strikes.