Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cloth Diapering...ish

I've never considered myself "crunchy," but I realize I've taken on more and more "crunchy" traits. After all, I *gasp* breastfeed, and I *gasp* babywear(ish), and recently I've taken an interest in *gasp* cloth diapering! Still, I know I don't really fit the "crunchy" mold at all. I guess that's the point. You can do some things that others might consider to be a little out there or a little non-cosmopolitan, or a little old-fashioned, or a little "crunchy," but that isn't the whole of who you are or how you live or how you parent. I can tell you for certain that we are not "crunchy" folk. I just want to do what's best for my family and my budget that works with my worldview, time, and patience.

As a result, I've found it's more convenient to babywear, cheaper to breastfeed, and now this cloth diaper business. It started innocently enough. I've been hoping my three-year-old will start using the potty, although I suppose I haven't pushed the issue as hard as I could. NJ didn't potty train until he was 3-1/2. In fact, it was on his half-birthday exactly that we finally said, "That's IT! NO MORE DIAPERS." And in three days, he was fully potty trained. Go figure. I was hoping it would be that easy with SB, but I've been trying it on and off for a few months, and I just can't seem to get him to stick with it. Frustrating. So when my favorite little local baby boutique, Babies In Bloom, advertised on their Facebook page that they had these fancy schmancy cloth training pants in stock, I thought I might investigate. Maybe SB would care more if he could feel that he was wet, or may he wouldn't want to mess up some cool cloth pants. He's willing to wear underwear, but I very quickly got sick of cleaning up his "accidents." So we went to Babies In Bloom and spent some time with one of their amazing and knowledgeable employees going over some cloth diaper basics so that I could invest in a Flip Training Pants system. Surely within a week, he'd be potty trained! Ha!

Well, the cloth, while interesting and cute, did not encourage SB to use the toilet any more than "Yo Gabba Gabba" themed underwear or "Cars" themed Pull-Ups did. However, in the process, I found out that cloth diapering is not so arcane or esoteric or difficult or time-consuming or complicated or gross as I had imagined. Once someone spent some time going over it with me, it actually seemed...surmountable. So, thought I, I have a little one in diapers for a few more years, plus, who knows, there may be another in the future, and if I had a few cloth diapers, maybe that would save me a box of disposables here and there. And what I've found is, cloth diapering is actually pretty fun and you can do it at whatever level you want, from using a few cloth diapers a week to full-time, 24/7 diapering, to anything in between. If you're crafty, you can even make your own diapers. I, however, am not. I don't have a sewing machine anyway.

So here's my newbie-for-newbies intro to cloth diapers. This is not comprehensive, since I haven't (yet?) experienced the full range of diapering options, but here's what I've figured out so far.

The purpose of a diaper is to absorb pee and catch poop. So cloth diapers are just absorbent cloth with something relatively waterproof over it to keep the wet and stinky from escaping. The most basic type of cloth diaper is a big-ish piece of fabric, usually cotton, folded a few times and secured around the baby to catch said wet and stinkies. Once it is wet and/or stinky, you wash it and put a different clean cloth on the baby so he can wet and/or stinkify it. Then you wash that one. (Well, you don't have to wash them one at a time. You can get a little collection of wet and stinky pieces of cloth and wash them all at once, of course.)

What I've just started using is called a "prefold." This is basically your aforementioned absorbent cloth that's already been folded over a few times and then sewn into a rectangle with two seams. You fold this in thirds along the seams, flare out the top, put the baby on top, and fold it up over him. You can then secure this with various methods, or simply put a cover over the whole thing and allow the cover to hold it all in place.

The covers are what make the whole thing fun. They come in all sorts of colors and patterns, so you get to pick different ones that appeal to you. These will either have snaps or Velcro or some combination to hold it around the baby. The best part is that many of them can be adjusted to grow with your baby so you can use them from birth to potty training and then back down to your next baby. In other words, once you've bought your diapers, you've bought them, and you never have to buy more (unless you want to!).

There are also "All-in-One" diapers, which are the cover and the absorbent part all put together, so you just put that on and change it like a disposable. These are good for when you're out and about or for cloth-o-phobes or daycare or whatever, who don't want to deal with a two-part system. I don't have any All-in-Ones yet, but I assume that if my cloth diaper adventure continues, I'll end up with some eventually.

Then there's something in between the All-in-One and the prefold+covers called a pocket diaper. These are covers with a lining, and you slip however many absorbent pieces of cloth between the cover and the lining. I don't have any of these yet, either, but, er, I probably will at some point. You know. If I happen to see one I like.

The thing I like about using the prefold+cover method is that if the cover doesn't get wet and/or stinky, you can just change the prefold and reuse the cover a couple of times. So you need fewer covers than prefolds.

To give you an idea of the pricing, the covers I have were about $12 or $13 each, and the prefolds were $20 for 6 of them. I've been told an initial investment of about $200 buys you all the diapers you'll ever need, and that sounds about right. It also depends if you're buying more All-in-Ones or more covers or whatnot, and how many kids you have in diapers at once, obviously. The beauty of the one-size diapers is that if you have a toddler and an infant both in diapers, they can both use the same diapers (but not at the same time, haha). So you don't need two separate collections.

I'm not buying my cloth diapers all at once. Instead, yesterday I was on my way to Costco, which happens to be about a minute and a half from Babies In Bloom. I had intended to buy a box of diapers at Costco, but then I decided to buy cloth diapers instead at Babies In Bloom. I spent $35 on the cloth diapers, which is almost exactly what I would have spent for a box disposables at Costco. I figure if I change about four diapers a day, then they pay for themselves in about two months. The more cloth I have, the fewer disposables I'll use, and the more money I'll save. Because after they've paid for themselves, I'm basically diapering for free. Kinda cool. Also, no diaper trash. Yum.

And now the part you're really worried about. Well, the part I was worried about. Washing them. When you read the instructions for washing cloth, it seems so complicated. I'm going to make it easy on you. First of all, there's the poop issue. Breastmilk poop washes out without any special work. I promise. I've been doing it. Solids poop is a little grosser. Okay, a lot grosser, and is the only thing I don't enjoy about cloth diapering. With disposables, you just wrap the whole offensive pile inside the diaper with the dirty wipes and throw the whole thing away. You can't do this with cloth. You have to dump the excess solid poop into the toilet and then wash the diaper. So you have to figure out what to do with the dirty wipes, which is not very much fun. You can buy a diaper sprayer that attaches to your toilet to rinse the poop more if you want, but it isn't wholly necessary.

Okay, so when you first buy a diaper, look at the instructions for the initial wash. Typically, you need to wash it three times before you can use it. You wash on Hot with a Cold rinse. You shouldn't use laundry detergent with any of the following: dyes, fragrances, enzymes, fabric softeners. You want a very very basic detergent. Fabric softeners will repel water, not what you want in an absorbent diaper. Fragrances, dyes, and enzymes might irritate the baby's skin. So, none of that. A quick Google search will find you a big ol' list of good laundry detergents for cloth diapers. You can dry the diapers in your dryer. Except you may want to hang-dry the covers to keep the Velcro or snaps lasting longer.

Now you can use the diapers. And then, of course, once you've used them, you have to wash them again. This is actually pretty simple. Throw your dirty diapers into the washing machine and first run a cold rinse cycle. Then wash them with detergent, a hot wash with a cold rinse and add an extra rinse. Most modern washers will do all of this for you without you having to come back until it's all done. It's really not that much trouble.

Most people have a storage solution for dirty diapers - a bucket or pail or something to put them in until they can be washed. I've been using an otherwise-unused Diaper Champ that I stuck in the laundry room. You'll probably want to do your diaper laundry reasonably frequently so your diaper storage area does not become too stinky (and so you don't run out of diapers!).

Sometimes things happen to your diapers, like they become stained or retain an unpleasant odor or lose absorbency. There are ways to deal with these problems, which another quick Google search will show you. There's a technique called "stripping" the diapers to take off accumulated oils and buildup that could be causing them to be less absorbent (as far as I can tell, this just involves doing three hot rinses in your washing machine). You can also use baking soda to help reduce odor, hang the diapers in the sun to reduce stains and odor, and so on. Lot's of people who know more about this have written detailed treatises on the use and maintenance of cloth diapers. My goal here was to give you a simple intro so that it doesn't seem so scary anymore.

Happy diapering!


  1. Such kind of post i really like because it covering with great info that are very essential for every new parents so thanks for shared such info with us diapers for babies

  2. Matt Collins12/26/16, 4:26 AM

    I think cloth diapers are the best for babies. Usually, the diapers available in the market are added with some fragrance that will absorb the odour of baby pee and will give you a fresh smell but that chemical can be harmful for your baby. The skin of the babies are much more sensitive and they may get infected by it. I like your concern on cloth diapers. Nice post Jessica. baby diapers.