About Michelle Stark

Michelle Stark is WHNT News 19's morning anchor and technology correspondent. She’s also a busy wife and mother of two, happy to be living in Huntsville and experiencing the South’s legendary hospitality! You’ll find her anchoring weekdays from 4:30 - 7:00 a.m. and showcasing the latest websites, apps, gadgets, emerging technologies and social media trends. Michelle is an accomplished broadcaster – with one Emmy® Award and several nominations, including one for a series of reports on technology in schools across the Tennessee Valley. In 2014, Michelle anchored and co-produced #Virtues – a 30-minute special focused on cyberbullying and social media. It was named “Best Documentary” by the Alabama Broadcasters Association and the Alabama Associated Press Broadcasters Association. The Alabama AP also named her “Best News Anchor” in 2011 and "Best Specialized Reporter" for technology coverage in 2015. As a working mom, Michelle is keenly aware of the pressures modern families face. In 2013, she helped direct the launch of The Great Diaper Drive, in partnership with RocketCityMom.com. It was a major success and is now an annual event in the Tennessee Valley, collecting 80,000+ diapers and wipes for local babies in need. In 2016, the drive was named the Best in Broadcasting "Service Project of the Year" by the Alabama Broadcasters Association. Before joining WHNT News 19, Michelle was a morning anchor and technology reporter in Boise, Idaho. She’s a Detroit-area native – who graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. in International Relations. She got her start as an anchor, reporter and producer at the ABC affiliate in Lansing and also spent time early in her career as an intern/researcher in Washington D.C. for ABC's "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings." In rare moments of free time, Michelle serves on the Women's Business Center of North Alabama's "Mompreneur Committee" and loves reading, travel, video games and eating fondue. Like all good Southerners she also loves college football and, of course, basketball – Go Spartans! Have a story idea for Michelle? Email her at michelle.stark@whnt.com. You can also connect via Facebook or Twitter @mstarktweets!

Cloth Diapering Update: Yes, We’re Still Going! But I’ve Learned Some Stuff…

Last year, about this time… my husband and I made the decision to cloth diaper our first baby.

The decision was primarily a financial one and since the math showed we could save thousands of dollars by foregoing disposables, it wasn’t hard to commit.

I spent hours browsing the web to figure out what kind of cloth diapers would fit our lifestyle best, stocked up on the necessary goods and waited for baby to arrive.

Ten months after her birth, I’m happy to report we are STILL cloth diapering!

This .gif feels appropriate here.

This .gif feels appropriate here. (Image Credit: MyLittleBrony.com)

I’m gonna take just a second to gloat here for a bit… since several of my co-workers lovingly but insistently told me I’d never keep it going past a few weeks (or months at the most). The fact that we’re still going strong despite our little one gobbling up solids (and expelling them) is so exciting and sometimes, let’s face it, it’s nice to be able to say “I told you so!”

That said, I’ve definitely learned a few things that I’d like to share with all the other moms and dads who might be thinking about cloth. Here we go…

1. Be prepared for double (or even triple) washings

Samsung 3.6 cu. ft. High-Efficiency Front Load Washer in White, ENERGY STAR (Image Credit: HomeDepot.com)

Samsung 3.6 cu. ft. High-Efficiency Front Load Washer in White, ENERGY STAR (Image Credit: HomeDepot.com)

If you have a high-efficiency (front loader) washing machine, expect to do some extra washings of your diapers. If your baby has extra sensitive skin (as ours does) you’ll need to rinse each batch thoroughly to get out all the detergent residue. I’ve tried some of the “specialty” cloth diaper detergents like Rockin’ Green and “stripped” the diapers of build-up at least 2 times. Those moves helped… somewhat… The bottom line though? If you’re using cloth diapers (at least the kind we’re using) they will require some extra TLC beyond the “just toss them in the washing machine with a good detergent and you’ll be fine” fallacy you might hear or read online. Even with all that extra effort…

2. The diapers will probably stain

We're using Charlie Banana one-size diapers like those seen here. (Image Credit: Diapers.com)

We’re using Charlie Banana one-size diapers like those seen here. (Image Credit: Diapers.com)

Especially since baby started solids, we’ve had some discoloration and staining on all of our diapers. We’re using both Charlie Banana one-size pockets with inserts and Bum Genius one-size.

Fortunately, I found a great tip on the web… sun bleaching! I’ve found laying the diapers and the inserts out in the sun for several hours – or all day if possible – whitens them right up. I guess grandma really did know best! :o) Get me a clothes line, stat!

3. Invest in a diaper sprayer

Like this one. Or this one. At first I thought this was a luxury but once baby started solids… well… it’s a MUST have. Ours was easy to hook up to the toilet and instead of all the poopy going in the washing machine… it goes in the toilet (where it belongs.)

4. Cloth on-the-go is hard to pull off

We’ve pretty much abandoned cloth diapering whenever we go out of the house for an extended period of time. Despite buying a portable wet bag and sporting a can-do attitude, one incident involving a baby crying and screaming on the Target changing table while I desperately tried to adjust the “snappies” on her diaper was enough to put me off the whole thing.

5. Puffy diapers make for nice padding on baby’s bottom when they plop down

It’s worth noting that with baby girl getting more mobile and pulling herself up a lot, it’s nice to have an extra cushion when she plops back down again. She seems to enjoy it anyway. :o)

Are you a cloth diapering parent? What did you learn in the early months? Any recommendations for others? Share your comments here!




No, I’m Not Making Baby Food. Yes, I’m OK With That.

If you’ve been following along with my baby journey, you probably know by now I’m a researchaholic. Comes with being a journalist I guess.

Baby food has been no exception. When it was time for Jane to start solids, I scoured the Internet, consulted my go-to baby manual Baby 411 and reviewed all the information from our pediatrician.

Most of the advice was pretty straight forward: Start with rice cereal. Move onto purees. Slowly introduce one item at a time (fruits, veggies, proteins.) Add textures and variety as baby grows. Seemed easy enough.

I’m kind of a “natural minded” momma (yes, we’re still cloth diapering) so I decided we’d go for organic baby foods only. When I found a good sale on Earth’s Best at Publix, I stocked up on the little jars. Then I found a good sale on Plum Organics brand at Target and stocked up. Then… I went sort of crazy trying to find sales on as many varieties as possible. It became an obsession. lol. The end result is a cupboard that is literally overflowing. Like, can’t shut the door overflowing. If it’s an organic baby food pouch, we have it. (Has this happened to anyone else?)

Just one of many different varieties of Plum Stage 2 baby food pouches. (Image Credit: Drugstore.com)

Just one of many different varieties of Plum Stage 2 baby food pouches. (Image Credit: Drugstore.com)

Then it happened. I talked to a close girlfriend with a baby only a few months older than mine. She mentioned how she was making all of her own baby food: how she just loves picking out each new item to whip up into a puree for baby.

A Baby Breeza baby food maker. (Image Credit: BabyBreeza.com)

A Baby Breeza baby food maker. (Image Credit: BabyBreeza.com)her Baby Breeza, just loves picking out each new produce item for baby to try.

I felt sort of… guilty. I never really even entertained the idea of making my own baby food… at all. Suddenly though, after talking to my pal, it felt like I should be doing it too. Plus, making my own baby food seemed like the sort of thing all “natural minded” mommas do.

I went online. A quick Google ninja search turned up all kinds of stories on why you should make your own baby food, how it’s cheaper, more nutritious for baby, and generally a sign of better parenting.


I started researching baby food makers on Amazon. After days of mulling the options, I finally logged online one afternoon to buy one. It never happened.

I just don’t have time or the will to make baby food. I barely have enough time to make and freeze healthy meals for the week for myself. I’m supposed to spend hours chopping and pureeing and mashing? I’d much rather be playing with baby. Jane really seems to like the store bought varieties too. So, why change up a good thing?

Maybe it’s self-justification but I came up with a list counterpoints, a list of all the reasons to choose store bought over homemade. Maybe it will make other store-bought mommas feel better. Here it is:

1. It’s convenient. I can buy all kinds of varieties and expose baby to various tastes and textures without having to search for all manner of obscure fruits and veggies in the store. It’s not always so easy to find peaches or mangos in the dead of winter, amiright? And seriously, pureeing a turkey?

2. It’s not necessarily more expensive. If I have to spend $100 + on a fancy baby food maker or food processor, suddenly the extra expense of buying pouches and jars doesn’t seem so bad.

3. USDA Certified Organic. If you’re buying food with this seal, you know it’s been held to a certain inspection standard and will likely have less pesticide/chemical residue than conventional baby foods, or items you get in the produce aisle.

4. Less waste. The pouches and jars can generally last for one or two days in the fridge after being opened. On the other hand, if you’re making and freezing your own baby food, you might have a harder time gauging how much to thaw at a time. I’ve since surveyed some close friends with babies doing this and they’ve admitted yes, a lot can go to waste if baby has an off eating day.

So, that’s it. One caveat though. I do think it’s really important for all parents to read the labels of what they buy carefully to make sure they’re feeding what they think is best to their baby. Sometimes labeling can be pretty misleading.

Earth's Best Chicken & Brown Rice (Image Credit: EarthsBest.com)

Earth’s Best Chicken & Brown Rice (Image Credit: EarthsBest.com)

A jar of Earth’s Best Chicken & Brown Rice Dinner for example, actually contains the following: Water, Organic Butternut Squash, Organic Ground Chicken, Organic Corn, Organic Whole Grain Brown Rice.

I’ve also noticed many of the fruit and veggie combo jar/pouches have fruit listed first in the ingredients. I’m sure this isn’t an accident. Fruits are going to have higher sugar concentrations naturally, so if there’s more of them instead of veggies, baby will probably gobble it up. What baby likes, momma buys.

So how do you feel about the baby food debate? Did you make your own baby food? Go with store bought? Why or why not? Share your experiences here!

Taking Action, Getting Results… and a LOT of diapers!

Wow. The numbers are in from The Great Diaper Drive, a month long September 2013 partnership between WHNT News 19 and RocketCityMom.com to collect diapers and wipes for local babies.

They… are… awesome.

Are you ready for this? Due to the amazing support of local businesses and partners and most of all you our viewers, together we have raised more than 40,000 diapers for Manna House!

Manna House is a Huntsville non-profit providing food and other necessities to families. The need is often hard to fill and administrators there told me some really heartbreaking stories of need… right in our own community. Everything from a mom who just lost a job and never expected to be in a position to need “charity” to women facing long-term struggles with poverty.

A recent study suggested many American mothers struggle to afford the cost of diapering even one child – sometimes having to space out or skip diaper changes all together. That story was a big touch-point for taking action and Manna House administrators admit they’ve seen moms face the same struggles in the Tennessee Valley.

So let’s take a quick look at how we got to 40,000+. First of all, there’s the turnout at the Kidventure “Diaper Shower” event in Madison. Here’s what your donations piled up looked like…

Diapers piled high outside Kidventure in Madison.
More than 7,500 here!
Michelle Stark and a young supporter of the cause at the Kidventure "Diaper Shower."
Me and a young supporter of the cause.

On Wednesday, Sept. 11th WHNT News 19 also put together a “Blitz Drive” to benefit the cause. I was live outside The Rock Church in Huntsville with some of my co-workers… braving the heat and making frequent trips to Wendy’s for snacks. Ha! Our total haul? 8,600!

My favorite stories from that day include a guy who showed up on his motorcycle with packs of diapers rigged-up to the seat! Ha! What a sight that must have been on the highway. So manly and yet, so feminine. lol.

One of the more creative drop-offs we saw.

One of the more creative drop-offs we saw.

I also heard from a lot of moms who said, “I’ve been there. Desperate and frazzled and worried about the bills.” It was really moving to see so many people take time out of the day to help strangers and their sweet little babies. One woman even made some stunning handmade blankets to keep Manna babies warm. Seriously…. they were so beautiful.

Back to the math. Manna House also received direct donations of at least 2,300 diapers and donations online were steady. Another 15,000 diapers will be purchased at Costco with money donated directly to the non-profit as part of the drive.

THANK YOU so much to everyone who helped us with this effort. I know a lot of you followed me through my pregnancy and birth and also helped to support this cause. If you have suggestions for a future event (to increase drop-off convenience for example) please leave them below!

Also, if you’d like to donate to to Manna House (and they do still need the donations) please click here.

How To Save Money On Disposable Diapers

Diapers are expensive. Super expensive. On the order of a new car downpayment expensive.

Most estimates I’ve seen online put the total cost between $1,500 – $3,000 for a single child in disposables, on an average potty training timeline. That’s one reason I opted to use “pocket” cloth diapers for our new little baby.

Unfortunately, for reasons outlined here, cloth diapers are not an option for everyone – especially families who are struggling with poverty. That’s one reason we’re partnering up for a month-long effort with RocketCityMom.com this September called “The Great Diaper Drive.”

Join our effort September 1st - 30th!

Join our effort September 1st – 30th!

We’re collecting disposable diapers for local babies in need, to be distributed through a local non-profit called Manna House. Details on how to donate here.

As our effort ramps up, I thought it’d be a nice idea to dig up tips for all mommas and dads on how to buy disposables more cheaply. It can be done.

Basic Tips

1. Buy in bulk (look for cheaper cost-per-unit or cost-per-diaper)

Make like you’re headed to Costco. In fact, Costco (or any other warehouse shopping outlet) is a great place to buy “bulk” diapers. They’re often (although not always) much cheaper when purchased in packs of 100 + than when bought in smaller sizes. Economies of scale.

2. Buy store brands

Store brands are often way cheaper than Huggies & Pampers. Just the other day I picked up a package of Size 3 for Jane (which we use on the occasions when she has developed diaper rash) and saved at least $3.00 over the premium brand they had on the shelf.

Huggies Little Snugglers Diapers, Size Newborn, 76ct @ $20.23 on Diapers.com

Huggies Little Snugglers Diapers, Size Newborn, 76ct going for $20.23 on Diapers.com

3. Stock up during sales

I just did this with baby food – stocking an entire pantry shelf with Stage 2 jars & pouches. Jane is not anywhere close to eating Stage 2 (6 months +) but she will be eventually and certainly within the expiration date. My husband laughed out loud looking at our overstuffed pantry but the principle applies to diapers too. Buy whatever size IS on sale WHEN it’s on sale.

Advanced Strategies

1. Combine coupons

Make like TLC’s extreme couponing masters and keep an folder of clipped coupons (or printed ones from the web) that you can combine for maximum savings. The Coupon Centsation has for example an excellent blog post showing how you can MAKE money off a Huggies Diaper purchase starting this Sunday, September 8th! Yes, this strategy requires some work but if you’re a detail person…

2. Sign up for online promotions and fliers

Diaper companies are all over social media now, just like we all are. Take a minute to like your favorite brands or sign up for rewards programs. Send letters or emails to diaper companies to share your experiences. You may just get some rewards in return.

up&up™ Baby Diapers - Bulk Pack (Size 3) featured @ Target.com for $24.99 - $26.00

up&up™ Baby Diapers – Bulk Pack (Size 3) featured @ Target.com for $24.99 – $26.00

Pampers and Huggies also offer loyalty rewards programs. Diaper packages will feature codes to enter online after registering for an account and adding codes found on other products like baby wipes can add to your rewards!

3. Shop online

Diapers.com and Amazon.com. Can’t lose with best price comparison.

Big Things Happening! Join Us For “The Great Diaper Drive”

I’ve been settling in as a new mommy for a few months now and if there’s one thing I’ve noticed, it’s that we go through a LOT of diapers. All you ladies out there weren’t kidding!

We’re still going strong with pocket cloth diapers (hoping to save some big money) but occasionally our little one gets a gnarly case of diaper rash that requires a slathering of cream and disposables. The last time that happened, we raced through a full pack of diapers in about two days! Talk about expensive.

Sadly, not every mom is in a position to use cloth diapers and many are struggling to keep up with the massive expense of disposables. That’s why I’m so excited to announce that WHNT News 19 is partnering up with RocketCityMom.com this September to collect diapers for local families in need!

“The Great Diaper Drive” will be happening all month long and you’ll see me on-air and on-location… putting the call out for people to join us in this wonderful effort.

All diapers will be distributed through Manna House, a local 501(c)3. Click here to make an online donation. Please enter “diapers” in the comment section. A donation of $25 will buy 200 diapers.

You can also donate disposable diapers and wipes at these businesses all month long:

  • Manna House – 2110 South Memorial Parkway in Huntsville from 2:00-7:00 p.m. (Monday, Wednesday or Thursday)
  • A Nurturing Moment – 7540 Memorial Pkwy SW in Huntsville
  • Itty Bitty – 5732 U.S. 431, Brownsboro, AL 35741
  • Kidventure – 500 Lanier Road, Ste. D in Madison
  • The Little Gym locations – 2124 Cecil Ashburn Dr. SE and 470 Providence Main St NW
  • Posh Mommy and Baby, Too! – 7755 Hwy 72 W. in Madison
  • WAY-FM – 9582 Madison Blvd. #8 in Madison

Kidventure will also host a Diaper Shower on Sunday, September 8th from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. Every child that brings a package of disposable diapers gets in free!  There will be refreshments, live entertainment and door prizes.

To read more on the local need for diapers and why we’ve decided to Take Action with this diaper drive, click here.

Expecting? Check Out The WebMD Pregnancy App

There are hundreds of pregnancy apps out there. Having just had a baby, WHNT News 19 morning anchor and technology reporter Michelle Stark has tried many of them.

Monday on WHNT News 19 This Morning, Michelle featured WebMD Pregnancy as the daily “Click Pick.” It’s worth a look for any expecting momma.

WebMD Pregnancy is a free app for iPhone and a companion to the website WebMD. When you log-in, you’ll need to enter your due date. In return, you’ll get information tailored to your pregnancy’s progression.

You’ll also get weekly updates on your baby’s growth and can take advantage of a journaling tool to chronicle your experiences.

There are also doctor reviewed articles, video and slideshows, plus a checklist of questions to ask your doctor – helpful when your “pregnancy brain” makes you desperate to remember even the most basic things.

Last but not least, there’s a contraction timer for when the big moment arrives!

New Baby Lessons: The Three Month Old Edition

I’m learning a lot as a new mom. Oh yes, yes I am. Little nuggets of wisdom which I’ll pass along now for any other mommies-to-be out there. For the moms who already passed this stage, perhaps you can add to my list!

Baby Lessons (The Three Month Edition)

Lesson #1: Sometimes it’s OK to wallow in filth

Babies spit-up. Babies with acid reflux spit-up A LOT. Jane has acid reflux. Sooooo… Mommy and daddy are covered in spit-up… A LOT. At first I was changing my shirt with every slobber but I was doing laundry every. single. day. Multiple times a day. So I gave up. I’ve just decided it’s OK to be a little slovenly.

Lesson #2: Bottles in the dishwasher are a joke

Image Credit: MGN Online

Bottles by hand… Image Credit: MGN Online

Seriously. As a working mommy, pumping full-time for baby now, we go through a lot of bottles. At first, I thought I’d put the caps, nipples, rings and other accessories in those handy baby dishwasher baskets, alongside the bottles. Wrong. lol. It only took a wash or two to notice the bottles, especially the nipples, weren’t getting rinsed clean all the way. I’m not crazy about the idea of Jane drinking soapy residue… so I’ve been washing the bottles by hand ever since. Yes. ALL the bottles. Maybe we need to invest in a high-powered dishwasher?

Lesson #3: If you change baby’s diaper too fast after eating, she WILL poop

15 minute wait time. At least. Otherwise it’s a guarantee that as soon as I swap out a dirty cloth diaper for a fresh one, she’ll have a special delivery for mommy.

Lesson #4: What baby wants, baby gets

Paci Monitor...  Image Credit: MGN Online

Paci Monitor… Image Credit: MGN Online

Baby wants to be held and walked around the house? OK then. No sitting on the couch for me. Baby wants me to stand up next to the crib while she falls asleep… picking up her paci and giving it back to her as soon as it falls out over and over? OK then. Baby doesn’t want to fall asleep at all? OK then. Happy non-fussing baby is the top priority right? lol.

Lesson #5: Buy large sizes, only large ones

Little girl was a 9 lbr. when she arrived, so she kind of skipped over the “newborn” sizes. She’s since leveled out in her growth to a nice average but boy does she grow! A few weekends back we stocked up on 3 month-sized PJs and onesies. It wasn’t a week later and she was too long for nearly all of them! So yes, after our very expensive purchase… I’m now buying our little one sizes 6 months and up! They may be baggy but at least I won’t have to buy new ones in a week!

Moms, what are your lessons from the first three months of a baby’s life? Feel free to share them here! Or comment on what I’ve learned. :o) Happy parenting!