Friday, March 18, 2011

Cloth Diapering 101

Night before last I started feeling queasy after dinner and ended up spending the night with my head in the toilet. I was pretty queasy all day yesterday, plus tired and achey from dehydration and mineral loss, and wasn't able to eat anything, but thankfully kept water down. Today I'm feeling better and I've eaten two meals with just a bit of a lingering unsettled feeling. This is the second time this has happened in the last six months! I don't know if it's a virus or food poisoning or what. No one else got sick and I didn't eat anything no one else ate. Ugh.

But that's not what I really want to talk about today. I want to talk about cloth diapering! Yay! Wait, don't go! I'm here to tell you cloth diapering is fun and easy. And believe me, I am not an committed environmentalist or even a fanatical cloth diaperer. I'm pretty lazy, all things considered. But I read a few articles about it when I was pregnant and the more I read the more the idea appealed to me and seemed like something I could maybe get on board with.

So I registered for some Fuzzi Bunz one size diapers as baby shower gifts and some of Adam's family were generous enough to give us a 12 pack. And a few other people bought us one or two, so that before Avery was born I had 16 - fifteen FB's and 1 Bum Genius 3.0 with the velcro because I wanted to try it even though I had read that some people don't really like the velcro.

I wasn't sure I was going to like cloth diapering, but I wanted to give it a try. The biggest two reasons were:

1. The cost saving. I figured our cloth diaper investment would pay for itself within seven months, even including the additional CD paraphernalia I bought. So in diapering Avery for an estimated two years, plus any hypothetical future children, we could potentially be saving thousands of dollars.

2. The benefits to baby. I love the idea of putting soft cloth next to baby's delicate skin. After I gave birth and had to (TMI warning!) wear a pad for 6+ weeks, I was even more sure I preferred putting my baby in fluff instead of a scratchy paper and plastic diaper. It was so uncomfortable! No wonder diaper rash is so common.

The fact that it's also better for the environment was a side benefit, but truthfully not my main concern. I also planned with a healthy dose of realism, knowing that I might be completely overwhelmed by motherhood and would lose interest in cloth diapering once I saw how much work baby care really was. I figured I would try it out and if I didn't like it, I would quit and wouldn't feel bad about it. FB's and BG's have really good resale value on websites like, so the risk seemed minimal.

So then Avery was born and she was in preemie diapers to begin with. So tiny! The couple newborn sized outfits I had were absolutely swimming on her. So there was no chance of putting her in the FB's despite their claim they fit from 7-35 lbs. They don't. If you're planning to cloth diaper, you need a backup plan for the newborn stage, unless you give birth to a 10 lb'er or something. And I was right - I did have enough to deal with in the early days that I wasn't interested in cloth diapering right off the bat. We used Huggies natural brand for the first 8-10 weeks before I started gradually putting her in cloth. Newborns poop a LOT in the beginning - or at least mine did - on the order of 8 or 10 times a day! It was just easier for me to use disposables. If I have another baby I will consider doing some flats and covers (like old school CD's) in the beginning, but all things considered would be fine doing the same thing again and using disposables for the first couple months.

Getting her in cloth full time was a gradual process. I started out thinking I would just do one or two diapers a day, but honestly once you have diaper laundry you might as well have a full load. So I would go through all the diapers I had (16 - about a day and a half worth) and then do laundry and put her back in 'sposies until everything was dry and ready to go again. I decided I liked it well enough and the extra laundry wasn't a big deal and didn't make me feel overwhelmed so I ordered some more diapers. I wanted to try BG 4.0's with the snaps so I got a six pack. They turned out to be my favorite diapers. I like the FB's fine, but the BG's are better - they are easier to stuff and you don't have to mess with the elastics (FB's have adjustable elastics).

I have 21 diapers and they're enough to get me through a couple of days. I do diaper laundry every other day or sometimes every third day depending on how many changes we have. I could have more diapers, but it wouldn't make anything much easier since you still have to wash them every couple days to avoid your pail stinking to high heaven. Unless you put your pail somewhere you don't have to smell it, but I like mine right next to the changing table cause I don't want to carry a diaper somewhere after changing.

Oh, and I still use a disposable overnight. Somewhere around three months I decided I was not going to change pee diapers at night, and Avery was going most nights without pooping. Something about their sleep regulates around that time and sleep hormones keep their bowels from moving during the night. So I slather a load of Boudreaux's All Natural Butt Paste on her and peace out till morning. We haven't had any diaper rashes doing this. I did try her in one of my dipes with two inserts overnight and she got a bit rashy after a couple days of that, though no leaking. There are super-absorbent inserts and protective liners you can get (like hemp and silk and I don't know what else) but I am lazy and this is working for us so I haven't changed it yet.

So how do you wash the suckers and what else do you need for smooth sailing? I'll talk about extra CD'ing paraphernalia first.

1. Diaper pail. I have a Diaper Genie for my disposable diapers, and for my CD's I have a regular old Rubbermaid kitchen trash can with a step-open mechanism lid like this one. I tried a couple of fancier pails but this one fit the bill best. It does start to stink after a couple days, but it's time to do laundry when I smell it. The rest of the time I only smell it when I open the lid to put the diaper in.

2. Diaper pail liners. I have two of these Planet Wise diaper pail liners. There is no point not using a reusable pail liner if you are CD'ing because you are doing laundry anyway so you can just put the pail liner in the wash with the diapers. One is not enough cause you need a liner for when the other one is in the wash.

3. Cloth wipes. Similar to the pail liner, it just makes sense to use cloth wipes with your cloth dipes. Then you can just toss them in the pail with the diapers and wash it all together. You don't have to worry about what to do with the paper wipes after they are dirty - another can? - it's actually LESS headache to use the cloth. Not to mention, I'll be honest I was not thrilled about the idea of wiping Avery's bum with chemical-laden regular wipes. I try not to put all that stuff on my own skin so why would I want it on my newborn baby's? I actually used cloth wipes from the start even when I was using disposable diapers. I put a little plastic bowl on the changing table and piled the dirty ones in there (before I started my CD pail) and just washed them with her clothes (which were usually covered in poop and/or pee anyway because disposable diapers do NOT hold in newborn breastmilk poo very well, fyi). [I do use regular wipes occasionally like when we are out and I buy the Whole Foods 365 brand. I tried a couple different kinds of "natural" wipes and those are the best in my opinion.] I wasn't sure what kind of wipes I would like so I bought a bunch and I'll tell you my favorites are these Baby Kicks. I also like these OsoCozy ones. The other ones I have are either too small or don't wash well. I have about two dozen and a bunch more stashed away for later that I haven't needed to break into yet.

4. Wipes warmer. I personally think this is a necessity if you're using cloth wipes, though some may disagree with me. The reason is not to keep them warm, though that is nice for the baby and makes those middle of the night changes less jarring. It's to keep them MOIST. In the very beginning I didn't have one of these and I was constantly running to the bathroom to wet a wipe before changing, and forgetting and having to yell for someone to wet one for me - annoying. I got one of these and I love it. (Make sure you get the one for cloth wipes! They make one for regular too.) You buy these anti-microbial pads for the bottom to keep germies at bay. I use just plain water, wetting the wipes and keeping about a quarter inch of liquid in the bottom.

5. Diaper sprayer. For the spraying of the poop into the toilet. Now, if you're planning to breastfeed, you won't need one of these for the first six months. Breastmilk poo is quite innocuous and you can just throw it in the washing machine without rinsing or anything. Really. But once you start solids, you will definitely want a sprayer to wash solid poo's into the toilet. To be honest, this was the most daunting part of CD'ing for me. I just had a mental block about how it would all work out and just how do you DO it? Then I heard about the Potty Pail - it's worth the money. The pail sits on top of the toilet, and has hooks to hang the diaper on. I just carry the poopy diaper to the toilet, hang it on the hooks and spray. Poo goes out the hole in the bottom into the toilet and the pail contains the spray. I never have to touch poo! I just leave the diaper drip-drying for a while and then put it in the pail - often on the way to the laundry I will pick up the diaper hanging in the pail. Because Avery only poops once a day or even every couple days now!

So now washing. I'll tell you what I do and you can google "washing cloth diapers" and get about a million different methods, but most of them center around three things - cold soak, hot wash, cold rinse. First of all, I pull the diaper insert out before I dump it in the pail. You will want to do this too. When it's time to wash, I empty my pail liner into the washing machine (top loader) and throw the liner in. Then I do a cold wash cycle on regular, no soap. When that's done I do a hot wash with a couple tablespoons of Charlie's Soap and about half a cup of Borax. The Borax acts as a water softener - we have hard water here and if you don't use it your detergent will get used up softening the water and won't clean your diapers as well. When that cycle is done I pull the diaper liner out and hang it up to dry and run the diapers through an extra cold rinse. Sometimes I check while it's rinsing and if there are a lot of suds, I run another rinse or two. If you don't get all the soap out of the diapers you will get build-up which will cause them to repel (not absorb pee) and stink. Don't be afraid, just use a small amount of detergent and check every so often that the rinse cycle is suds-free. If not, rinse, rinse, rinse. To dry I hang the liners on a drying rack and put the inserts and wipes in the dryer. I haven't had any staining on my diapers, even with solids, but if you do you can just hang them to dry in the sun.

There are lots of different detergents you can use, but it HAS to be one that is fragrance and color free. Like I said you don't want stuff like scent hanging around on your diapers. Here's a handy chart rating the best detergents to use. I picked Charlie's Soap because another blogger I follow uses it and likes it. I haven't had any problems with it, it seems to work just fine. For the rest of my laundry I use a "free and clear" detergent like Arm and Hammer (and I wash Avery's clothes in it too, not in Dreft, you don't need a special detergent for baby's clothes).

So that's really all there is to cloth diapering. There are tons of different types of diapers and I did the research, but decided I wanted to go with a popular brand I was pretty sure I would like. You can get used diapers on or look on Ebay if you want to save a buck. I might have tried a couple of the ebay ones if I'd known about them before I bought all my FB's and BG's, but I didn't hear about them till later.

Questions? Comments? I'd love to hear from you!


nicknmegan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nicknmegan said...

Your timing couldn't be better! We've been doing some heavy, eye-crossing research into all the cloth diapering options. Like everything else baby-related, the overwhelming amount of options and opinions are insane. We're leaning toward doing the disposables right after she's born, then getting her into the one-sizes as soon as she fits them. I was leaning toward the FuzziBunz, but the BumGenius were a close runner-up, so now I'm rethinking. Part of me just wants to PICK ONE and move on. I literally can't count the number of hours I've spent on the computer googling the various brands.

So anyway. Thanks for this post! It's extremely useful. Also like the comment about the wipes warmer - I would have NEVER thought of that beforehand, but that makes so much sense.

I have a topic for your next in-depth baby product research post. :) Breast-feeding and pumps! Do you need one, do you not need one, hand pump if stay-at-home-mom, or go big or go home with the double electric Medela...? My mother tells me I should be rubbing a rough towel across my boobs every morning to toughen up my nipples in preparation for breast-feeding. Is it really as scary as everyone is making it out to be...?

Lindsey Broere said...

AWESOME...I was just talking with a girlfriend about switching to cloth diapers with Adalei to help prepare her for potty training. I am DEF doing cloth diapers with the next one...

I'm bookmarking this :)

Thanks Michelle...

AGH...Megan...the great breast pump decision. Do you know I was more terrified about breast feeding than labor? I was. No kidding.