Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cloth diapers... read at your own risk!

Disclaimer: I have yet to actually diaper a child in cloth, so my thoughts and recommendations may change. I have done an insane amount of research and talked to several cloth-diapering parents. However, this may be more wishful thinking and first-time mom naivety than anything. 

No judgement to those who use disposable diapers. For many reasons, they are a more convenient option. We will probably use some combination of cloth and disposables, especially when it comes to travel, emergencies and laziness.

Let me begin by saying the world of cloth diapers is incredibly complex. When I first started investigating cloth as an option, I was really overwhelmed. Pre-folds, pockets, all-in-ones, covers, doublers, flushable inserts, etc. There are just so many options!

I spent a lot of time asking for input from other parents... those who used cloth and those who used disposables. But the best resource I could find was a local parenting store in Neenah. The staff at the Mom and Pop Place helped me sort everything out. I ultimately chose to purchase most of our cloth diapers and accessories from them. Not only does that give me buying local bonus points, but their prices are really competitive.

So, Sam... why cloth?

I was originally drawn to cloth because I'm uncomfortable with the chemicals used in disposable diapers. Though millions of parents safely use disposable diapers every year, I just don't like the idea of chemicals (bleach, VOCs, dioxin, etc) on my baby's body 24/7. Most disposable diapers offer a moisture-wicking gel core. Though convenient (baby drier longer = less diaper changes), it can also result in more diaper rash and skin irritation.

An equally important benefit to me was the cost savings. It will cost approximately $2,000 to diaper one child until age two. We spent about $700 on cloth diapers and accessories, which should last our child through toilet training. The same diapers can also be used for subsequent children. Even when you factor in the cost to launder cloth diapers, that's a considerable savings.

Finally, disposable diapers are really bad for the environment. One disposable diaper takes up to 500 years to decompose. That being said, I have to confess: the environmental impact was a secondary benefit to me. While I care about how our actions affect the environment, chemicals and cost-savings were my primary motivators.

Alright, cloth it is... what exactly will you use?

As I mentioned before, there are a million options when it comes to cloth diapers (pre-folds, pockets, all-in-ones, covers, doublers, flushable inserts, etc). It's worth noting that what works for one family/child will not necessarily work for another. But this is what we purchased based on the following factors:
  1. I am staying home full-time, so I will be the primary child care provider.
  2. I am willing to wash diapers every 2-3 days.
  3. I want diapers that will grow with the baby (rather than graduated sizes).
  4. I want reliable, easy-to-use options for overnight, travel, babysitters, etc.
Based on those factors, here's what our cloth diaper stash looks like:
  1. 12 BumGenius 3.0 Diapers - These are pocket diapers, which means they have a pocket built into the back of the diaper that you stuff with an absorbant cloth insert. The cover is waterproof. You can add a cloth doubler (which is basically an added absorbancy pad), for bedtime, car trips, heavy wetting, etc. They are one-size diapers, meaning they adjust to grow with your baby. These have stretchy Velcro closure, so they fasten more like disposable diapers (which Ben really likes).
  2. 12 FuzziBunz One-Size Diapers - These are also one-size pocket diapers, but they have snap closure and adjustable elastic around the legs.
  3. Tiny Tush Elite Diapers - Again, these are one-size pocket diapers (are you seeing a pattern here?). We have these in snaps and Velcro. The Velcro isn't as heavy duty as the BumGenius, but they have more adjustability.
  4. 3 MonkeyZ Diapers - These are made by a local mom. I bought them mostly for the darling covers (I couldn't resist the cute fabrics). They are all-in-one diapers, so there's no pocket to stuff (just more padding attached to the cover).
  5. 36 flannel wipes - Since you're washing the diapers, it seems just as easy to just wash the wipes. Keep a spray bottle of wipe solution near the changing table, spritz on baby's bottom and clean with a flannel wipe. Cloth diaper and cloth wipe go right into the laundry bag.
Note that there aren't any newborn sizes in there. We plan to use disposables until the baby reaches 8 lbs (the minimum weight for most of the diapers we purchased). My friends at the Mom and Pop Place made this suggestion, as babies wear the newborn size for such a short period of time.

You got your gear... how exactly does it work?

Cloth is a little more work than disposables, but not much. Next to our changing table we have a washable laundry bag. When the baby needs to be changed, the soiled cloth diaper and/or insert gets tossed in the laundry bag for washing.

Breastmilk is water soluable, so until the baby starts on solids, all waste products (#1 and #2) can go right in the laundry bag. When baby starts eating solids, the #2 needs to be removed from the diaper prior to being tossed in the laundry bag. You can scrape or shake poop into the toilet (ew), purchase a diaper sprayer that hooks up to your toilet (better), or use a thin disposable liner inside the diaper (bingo). The liner is a flushable paper product... imagine something between toilet paper and dryer sheet. You just lift out the liner with the diaper change, and either flush down the toilet or toss into a regular garbage can.

Every other day, you take the laundry bag downstairs and wash the entire lot of cloth diapers and inserts (you can also wash the laundry bag). First, you pre-rinse on cold with no detergent to remove any #1 or #2. Then wash in a regular hot water cycle with detergent to get the diapers clean. Hang diapers to dry (diapers can go in the dryer, but line drying extends their life), and repeat in 48 hours.

Other care tips I've picked up along the way...

Cloth diapers require detergent with no dyes or perfumes. Regular detergents can reduce the absorbancy of your diapers (so liquid beads up and rolls off, rather than being absorbed in). If this happens, you can "strip" your diapers with several hot wash cycles, but this can be really harsh on the fabric. Most diaper manufacturers recommend a special cloth diaper detergent, though some mom bloggers just use Tide Free or All Free and Clear (both are available at Target).

You should never use bleach or borax on cloth diapers (especially if chemicals are the reason you went to cloth in the first place). Cloth diapers will never be as sparkling white as when you frist bought them. However, you can cut stains with vinegar and baking soda, or by drying them outside in the sun.

If your diapers have Velcro closure, be sure to secure the Velcro tabs to the side of the diaper prior to washing. If you don't, your diapers will all stick together and come out of the wash as one big, crinkled mess. That may also reduce the efficiency of the Velcro over time.

Whew! Is that ALL?

Yep, that's about it. Every possible thought and opinion I have on cloth diapers. I was really intimidated by cloth at first... I wouldn't even let myself consider it as an option. But the more I learned (products have come a long way from soaking buckets and pointy diaper pins), the more I realized it was a doable alternative.

If you're just getting started, I'd strongly recommend visiting a local speciality store The Mom and Pop Place in Neenah is awesome, and I've ordered some things online from Nicki's Diapers in Madison. Another resource that I really enjoyed was Jillian's Drawers. You can check out their special section New to Cloth for a cloth diaper overview and other suggestions.

1 comment:

  1. I heart Jillian's Drawers. Such awesome service and SO fast.

    Good call not starting out with newborn diapers. We tried to put Milo is cloth as soon as the meconium was done and ended up having to go back to disposables until his stump came off. Fortunately he is a long baby, so the newborn sizes might fit him for a while still.
    Yay cloth!

    P.S. We've been using cloth wipes the whole time and found that we like the thinner ones (single layer flannel rather than double). Easier to get into all the little cracks and doesn't require as much spray.


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