Cloth diapering can seem like a woefully complicated and confusing endeavor, especially because there are soooo many options these days. These aren't your mama's cloth diapers, that's for sure. I thought I would put together some information about how I came to be a cloth diapering mama in the event that one of you might find it helpful. The rest of you will fall over from the boredom.
Should you want even more detail than what I'm about to give, here are my sources of information. As I began to figure out my cloth diapering plan, I got most of my information from Pinstripes and Polkadots, as they cover all aspects of cloth diapering. I also found Jill's cloth diapering posts at Baby Rabies very useful in picking out what diapers to use. Another good source of information for me was lurking on The Eco-Friendly Family Message Board on The Bump. I'm sure there are tons of other great sources, but these sites told me everything I needed to know.
Now let me bombard you with information. Ready? Deep breath and let's begin!
Why Should I Cloth Diaper?
I could do a lengthy separate post on why we cloth diaper, but for now I'll just sum it up with the following three reasons: better for the environment, I wanted to avoid exposing my baby's skin to the chemicals and perfumes in disposable diapers, and the cost savings - especially since will have more than one child. Jill at Baby Rabies goes into detail about all of these points here. A few smaller incentives to cloth diaper include the fact that cloth-diapered babies tend to potty train sooner, cloth diapers are cuter than disposables and I NEVER experience blow-outs with cloth diapers as compared to the frequent blow-outs with disposables. No poop all over your baby's back and clothes? That's a pretty big plus right there.
How Do I Choose My Cloth Diapers?
This is probably the most overwhelming part of cloth diapering and it only gets more confusing as the market for cloth diapers grows and grows. You can cloth diaper very inexpensively using pre-folds and covers or, on the other end of the spectrum, you can spend a ton of money on crazy cute diapers $30 a pop. There are so many types of diapers - pockets, all-in-ones, fitteds, contours, organic...a lot to choose from. It is generally recommended that you have 24-36 diapers in your collection or enough to be able to do laundry every two to three days.
Here is what we did:
Newborn Stage - Since most cloth diapers (especially the adjustable one-size variety) don't fit newborn's tiny bodies very well, we opted to rent the Kissaluvs Size O Rental Set from Sunshine Diapers as recommended by Jill at Baby Rabies. Sadly, this rental set no longer exists with Sunshine Diapers, but I did find a similar Kissaluvs rental option here at Nell's Natural Baby. At $100 for 3 months you are going to be breaking even, if not saving money as compared to purchasing disposables. You could also purchase a used set of Kissaluvs Size 0 online and re-sell when you are finished and would likely reclaim much of your investment. We rented instead of buying because I didn't want to invest money in diapers that (1) are only needed a short time and (2) I might not even like. The Kissaluvs require a diaper cover and we had six in total in the two smallest sizes - a mix of Proraps and Thirsties. The Kissaluvs size 0 fit Bella until she was around 9 or 10 weeks old, but they would fit most other babies longer as Bella was of the lovely jumbo-sized variety.
Speaking of Bella, here she is modeling the Thirsties diaper covers over the Kissaluvs fitted diapers.
Since all babies are shaped a little different, I strongly recommend trying several different kinds to see what works best. How do you do this? Why, with the fabulous 10-Day test kit offered at Jillian's Drawers. It gives you a chance to try several diapers for a short period of time for a small fee. I decided that the one-size bumGenius was the best fit for us.
They are put on just like a disposable diaper and have a middle-of-the-road price at $17.95 apiece. Since these are adjustable diapers they should fit through potty training, which was cheaper than buying multiple sizes of fitted diapers. One-size bumGenius diapers are a pocket diaper, which means they have inserts that are removed for washing. While BumGenius claims to fit babies starting at 6 lbs, know that the fit on a 6-10 lb baby wouldn't be so great. I prefer the velcro for ease of putting them on, but I know many moms feel that snaps are the way to go. BumGenius diapers have been upgraded since we purchased our set and the bumGenius 4.0s comes in both options.
So far I've been pleased with them, although the velcro does get a bit worn in time. If you find your velcro has lost it's stick, bumGenius has a one year warranty so you can send in diapers to get the velcro repaired. One trick I picked up along the way was to fold the velcro tabs like this prior to washing them. It has kept my velcro tabs in tip-top condition.
Another problem I encountered with the diapers was the occasional stink issue - however, this can occur with any kind of diaper and is not specific to bumGenius. I followed the recommendations on the bumGenius website and it fixed the problem.
There are also two other cloth diapers in our collection. We have a couple of Fuzzi Bunz pocket diapers in and those are good, too. They have snap closures, which is good and bad. The snaps might make these diapers last longer, but the snaps can be hard to get on a wriggly toddler . These diapers are also a little smaller than bumGenius and are nearly too small for Bella now that she is approaching 2 years. I give FuzziBunz diapers a B. The other diapers we have are three Organic bumGenius one-size diapers. I purchased them on clearance for $10 apiece, but they normally retail for a spendy $24.95. I'm not crazy about these diapers. They are less absorbent and leak more and take longer to dry. Plus, it's my own personal preference to like velcro more and they are snaps. On the plus side, they are a sleeker fit than regular bumGenius diapers and they don't require stuffing of inserts. I give these diapers a C.What do you do at nighttime?
Inserts - As your baby grows into a toddler, you might want to consider picking up some heavy-duty inserts to supplement the other inserts that came with your diapers in order to boost absorbency. I love our sleek, but super absorbent Hemp Babies inserts. I like to use at least one in every diaper and they are a relatively reasonable $3 per insert.
When Bella was younger (less than 10 months or so), we found stuffing the pocket diapers with two bumGenius inserts (the ones that came with the diapers) was enough absorbency to last her through the night. As she grew older and would pee more, we started having problems. I tried a lot of things to make night cloth diapering work and the closest we came to success was putting two large Bum Genius inserts along with two Hemp Babies inserts into the diaper and then adding one more Hemp Babies insert folded in half into the front of the diaper. Bella's GIGANTIC butt was a sight to behold in that get-up, but it kept her dry all night. However, it was a little too fussy and bulky so we decided to go with disposables at night. I'm mostly okay with this. When I feel the need to be more eco-friendly/low-chemical, I go with a "whole wheat diaper" (as Husband likes to call them) and use either Earth's Best chlorine-free diapers or Seventh Generation chlorine-free diapers. But the truth is most of the time I go with the Target brand. Please chime in with a comment if you found something effective for cloth diapering at night!
I don't have a lot of money, but I'd prefer not to use the old-fashioned pre-fold diapers. Any ideas?
First, pre-folds are not as scary as they might seem at first. Here is tutorial on how to fold them and you should also consider using Snappis, which are the modern day equivalent to diaper pins. Still don't want to use pre-folds? You might want to consider buying used cloth diapers at a fraction of the retail price. A couple good sites are Diaper Swappers and Craigslist. I debated buying used diapers, but I figure we'll need them for 2-4 children, so might as well get them new so they will last. And now I look at that last sentence and am thinking, 4 children!? Really?
What exactly do I need in order to cloth diaper effectively?
- At least 24 cloth diapers
- Large pail with a lid
- Two large wet bags to fit the large pail
- Small wet bag for when you are on the go
- A laundry detergent without additives - I have used both Country Save and Charlie's Soap (helpful site that reviews and compares detergents)
- Cloth wipes (optional)
- Spray bottle for cloth wipes (optional)
- Flushable diaper liners (optional)
- Diaper sprayer (optional)
OK, I have those things. Now what?
We use a dry pail system which means that used diapers are placed in the pail and then the bag and diapers get washed every 2-3 days. I personally recommend washing every 2 days rather than 3 to limit stink issues.
Wet diapers can go directly into the pail, but poo diapers may require an extra step. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, then you can pass go, collect $200 and put the poo diaper directly in the pail as breastmilk poo is water soluble (and now you know one of the more selfish reasons I waited until 6 months to introduce solids). If your baby is formula fed or has started on solids, then you will need to get rid that poo before you put the diaper in the pail. The next question will deal with the specifics of poo removal. One laundry tip - I like to pull out the inserts and get the velcro tabs stuck together to one side immediately after each diaper change rather than wait until laundry day to avoid the noxious ammonia fumes.
When you are ready to wash, place the wet bag and diapers into the washing machine (first pulling out inserts if you have pocket diapers) and do an initial cold rinse to remove any remaining solids. Then comes a hot wash with a small scoop of cloth-diaper friendly detergent (~1 Tbsp in my front loader). It will not feel like enough detergent and this will frighten you. It's OK, really. Too much detergent (or a non-cloth diaper friendly detergent) will cause buildup, which keeps your diapers from absorbing properly and makes then stinky. So a wee amount of detergent it is. Finally, you do one more cold wash to get the diapers fully rinsed.
As far as drying, drying on a line outside is ideal. The sun has magical properties that takes away stains in the diapers and (obviously) dries them faster than if you line dry inside. If you choose to machine dry, keep in mind that you are taking away from the eco-friendliness of the diapers. I wish I could say that I line-dry, but it doesn't really work between a tiny laundry area, Minnesota winters and the (DUMB) rule about no outdoor clotheslines at our townhome. Once we move I'll be able to line dry the diapers and will admire the crunchy granola look of it all.
Ugh, dealing with poo. This sounds terrible. How am I supposed to get it off the diaper?
It's really not that bad, I promise. And remember - no blowouts with cloth diapers means you will never have to scrape poop off clothes and/or clean it off your baby's back. The poo situation is why I purchase both flushable liners and the diaper sprayer.
So you can either line the diaper with a flushable liner and then just flush the liner and poo OR you can skip the liner and rinse the poo out of the diaper with the sprayer.
Diaper Sprayer attached to our toilet
Ah, the diaper sprayer. Can I tell you that it makes me a little nervous that my toilet now has a very special spray hose attached to it? I fear guests will think that we require a bidet and then went so far as to install one ourselves. AWKWARD. Friends - I promise...it's for the baby! One thing about the sprayer - it's taken some practice to use it effectively and not...how should I put this?...power spray poop onto the wall. One thing that has helped is to remove all the inserts from the pocket diapers before attempting to spray the poo. Also, I stick the diaper halfway in the toilet water and keep the sprayer pointed down while rinsing it all off. I initially tried to avoid getting the diaper in the toilet bowl water, but it made for a messier situation in the end. So don't be afraid to half-dunk that diaper into the bowl. And I'm really, really sorry for being so descriptive about my baby's poo. Anyone need a refreshing spritz of water on their backside to feel better?
What if I don't have my own washer or I'm too busy to do all that laundry?
A cloth diapering service might be a great option for you. I have two mom friends in the Twin Cities who are using Do Good Diapers and both highly recommend it. And while it's nice to be able to wash them more leisurely throughout the day as a stay-at-home mom, I think a working mom could still find the laundry manageable. The trick would be to stay on top of when one wash cycle ends so you can start the next cycle immediately.
If I cloth diaper, I'd like to use cloth wipes, too. How does that work?
Confession - I've only been using cloth wipes part time. I started out using disposable wipes and just never stopped. However, Bella recently had a bout of diaper rash due to really dry skin so I've been extra cautious about exposing her to anything that might irritate the rash further. You can either spray the cloth wipe with a spray bottle or peri-bottle filled with water and a couple drops of baby shampoo (I use Burt's Bees) or you can fold all the wipes together in a disposable wipes container and add some water to the entire container.
What about when I'm on vacation?
We go with disposables on vacation as I have a hard time using up a bunch of suitcase space for cloth diapers, detergent, etc. when I'm traveling by plane. However, if I ever go somewhere by car that has a washer, then I would certainly consider cloth diapering on that trip.
What about when a baby gets diaper rash? Can I still cloth diaper?
I avoid using diaper creams with my cloth diapers as they can cause absorbency problems. So I either use disposables when using diaper creams or I use a sparing amount of cream and put a liner in the cloth diaper. One good thing, though, is that babies are less prone to diaper rash when cloth diapering, so this situation does not happen too often.
My Husband/Partner is reluctant to cloth diaper. Any thing to convince him/her?
A life without poop spraying up your baby's back. Is that not enough for them? Seriously, though, take some time to calculate the cost of cloth diapering versus using disposables. That should be quite convincing.
[Husband's comment: Overall cost was my primary concern. Once I found out how much we would be spending on disposables over the course of a year as compared to the upfront investment with cloth, and given we're a single income family that hopes to have multiple children, it was hard not to be on board with the cloth diapers. Honestly, each option (cloth or disposable) has a routine and pros and cons. Once you get used to the routine, and decide which one suits you best (for us it was obviously cloth) you just go with the flow...literally and figuratively.]
Be honest: are there cons to cloth diapering?
Yes, there are some downsides, but they are not so bad in my mind. Downsides include poop management, more leaks at night, additional laundry, and some difficulty with fitting clothes over the bulky diapers. None of these things come close to being a deal breaker to me, but it all depends on your own lifestyle and living situation.
Why did you attach a bidet to your toilet? Are you some kind of freak?
Sigh. I knew this would happen. IT'S NOT A BIDET. IT'S FOR THE BABY.
Alright folks, that's all the time we have for today. Any other questions? Comments?