Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cloth Diapering Basics

We cloth diaper. I actually love it. I had a friend ask about cloth diapering so I figured I'd wrote a blog post about it so maybe I can help other people too when looking into cloth diapering. Cloth diapering can be very overwhelming when you first start looking into it. Here is my take on the cloth diapering basics. Hopefully in layman's terms :) Also I've included just some general info that I've picked up along the way. If after reading this you still feel that disposables are for you, good for you. Do what is right for your family.

Benefits of cloth diapering:
-Better for the environment - no diapers sitting in landfills.
-Cloth diapers are more sanitary for the environment. Improperly disposing of human waste is illegal. So why is it ok for us to put tons of human waste into our landfills in diapers? The bacteria can leak into our water from here. With cloth, poop goes into the toilet and gets treated before going back into our drinking water systems.
- No chemicals sitting next to your childs skin every hour of every day.
- They are cuter than disposables : )
-Cost. It can cost as little as $1500 - $2000 per child for disposables. You could cloth diaper for as little as $300 and you can use them for multiple children!
-I also find that it's nice to not have to worry about if I have enough diapers on hand at home. If you run out of disposables at home you're S.O.L. With cloth you just wash one quick! I think it gives a little more flexibility. We were at my parents house recently and we weren't planning on spending the night. I was thinking though that if we randomly decided to stay the night we could, we would just throw our diapers in the wash! If we did disposables, we wouldn't have that option because we would have run out of what we brought.
-Cloth diapers are less prone to blowouts and leaking.
-Your childs bottom will be touching cloth all day instead of chemicals and plastic.
-Cloth diapered babies tend to potty train earlier and easier.

There are different “systems” of cloth diapering. Each has pros and cons. Each system has different brands you can choose. There are also accessories that you would need to purchase to aid your cloth diapering experience. Here are a few of them that I think are important.


This is the modern replacement of pins. Instead of pinning each side of the cloth diaper, the snappi has teeth that grip the sides and you can quickly “pin” your diaper on.

Pail and pail liners.
Cloth diapering used to be done with simple pieces of cotton. Essentially rags. This led to wet pails which means that the diapers were thrown into water after being removed from the baby to soak. With modern diapers, there are often many parts to the diaper that can not be constantly stored in water - such as elastic. This would cause your diapers last only a short while and not be worth your money. The pail I have is just a trash can with a swinging lid. Pail liners are waterproof bags essentially. You could use trash bags but since you are going to be doing laundry anyway, you might as well use a reusable bag and toss it in with everything else. There are a few variations with these. Some are a bag with an elastic top, some have drawstrings on top. A bag with drawstrings is helpful if you are spending the night away from home or sending the bag to the babysitters, etc. There is a new bag that came out that has handles for you to hang over a doorknob eliminating the need for a pail and then it has a zipper on the bottom for dumping the diapers in the wash. I have three liners. It's helpful to have more than one so you have one to put back in the pail while one is in the wash. There are different brands - here are a few examples:

Wet Bags.
Wet bags are waterproof bags. They are great for on the go. There are different sizes of wet bags. I have a medium one that I leave in the diaper bag for putting soiled diapers in until we get home. They are also great to just put wet stuff in such as swimming suits.

Covers are needed if you are using flats, prefolds or fitteds. They are the waterproof outer layer of your diaper. Most of these you have to buy by size. There are a few coming out that are now one size. If you see OS when looking about something talking about diapers, it means one size. This means that there are probably snaps on the front that allow the diapers to fit from newborn until potty training. They adjust to fit the size of your baby. There are some covers that are single gusset or double gusset. This means one or two pieces of elastic around the leg area.

Option #1:
Flats with cover

A flat diaper is old school. It is a large single layer of cotton. This must then be folded multiple times to create an absorbent diaper. Helpful Link

Pros: Thin so it dries faster. I think you would have control over how this is fitting and you would have a lot of options of what you could do with it. Inexpensive.

Cons: Time is spent folding the diapers. You may not feel like you are able to fold it just right. Requires you to fold, put the snappi on or pin, then put the cover on.

Option #2:
Prefolds with cover

Prefolds evolved from flats. They are a flat, just already folded and layered and sewn in place for you. This is the "cheap option" most people go with these days. Helpful Link

Pros: Cheap. Simpler than flats. Very handy around the house!

Cons: Still needs to be folded to fit onto the baby. Needs snappi and cover. Need to be purchased by size.

Option #3:
Fitteds with cover

Fitteds are material that has elastic around the legs and snaps or velcros at the waist. They are already made to fit your child.

Pros: Simpler and fast.

Cons: Can be almost as expensive as pockets and all in ones once you buy the covers. Still have to cover.

Option #4:

I'll let the image explain for me

Pockets can come in OS or sized. They can have velcro closures at the waist or snaps. Velcro is a little easier and more like disposables. Some people like snaps because as kids get older they can figure out how to take off the velcro. You'd have the same issue if they were in disposables though.

Pros: Very easy. Put it on and go. You can customize your diaper to how much absorbency you need by what you put in the pocket. You can put in the insert and doubler for overnight. You can insert your prefolds if you have some to increase absorbency.

Cons: Have to stuff the pocket. More expensive than other options.

Option #5:

Everything is there in one piece. Exactly like a disposable except you have to wash them! They can have velcro closures at the waist or snaps.

Pros: No work for you

Cons: Do not come in One Size. Take a long time to dry. More expensive than other options.

Cleaning them: There are different ideas on how you can wash your diapers. Most importantly though, please know that not all detergents are cloth diaper friendly. Softners, whitners and additives can break down your diapers making their life span much shorter. Choose some sort of "free and clear" detergent. Here is a list of cloth diaper friendly detergents. Bleach should be used sparingly on your diapers. Only use if you really think you need to. Bleach will break down your diapers faster than you'd want. It might also irritate babies bottoms. Sunning is a great alternative. Lay your diapers out in the sun for a few hours and they will come back in bright white! Think about how the sun bleaches wood surrounding windows or rugs under french doors or something that you left laying in the back window of your car.

If your baby is exclusively breast fed, their poop is water soluble. All you have to do is take the diaper off and throw it in the pail. I use pockets so I shake the insert out as I throw it in the pail.
If your baby is formula fed or eats solids, they make rice paper liners you can put in the diaper that are biodegradable and you can just toss that into the toilet and flush. Liners aren't always so friendly on septic tanks though. If you have a septic tank you can get a diaper sprayer that hooks up to your toilet and looks kind of like a shower head. Take the diaper off, give it a quick spray and put it in the pail.

I personally don't use any of those. I take the diaper to the toilet, turn it over and shake off what comes off easily. Anything else I just take toilet paper and swipe the diaper a few times. The diaper does not have to be totally clean, just chunks off because they won't break down in your washer as easily. You do not have to dunk or have the diaper totally clean.

I have used the rice paper liners to help protect the diaper when I've had to use an unapproved diaper cream.

Here is how I wash my diapers. Throw them in the wash and do a quick rinse. The initial rinse gets the poop off the diapers and out of the washer before you actually start washing the diapers. Then I wash with hot water. Make sure that you do not use too much detergent in your washes. If you do and it doesn't get all rinsed out it can build up on your diapers and can irritate your baby. If there are still suds in the machine, just do another rinse.

You also do not want to use dryer sheets with your cloth diapers. You can use dryer balls as an alternative.

Some people say "I don't have time to wash my laundry as it is", but really, it's not that big of a deal. I've heard people say "I never do my own laundry but my diaper laundry is always done. It's more fun!" Really, I just think you know you need to do it. When I go to put a diaper on and see that there are only 4 or so left in the bin, I know it's time to wash. Or you just know that you need to wash every 2nd or third night.

Here's what I chose to use:
My "stash" consists of:
24 Green Mountain Prefold Newborn Sized Diapers
6 XS Thirsties Covers
3 Snappi
24 BumGenius(the brand) OS(One Size) 3.0(Version 3) Pockets(type of diapering system)
3 used Haute Pocket Pockets
3 BumGenius Doublers (we use these at night as doublers as she's gotten older)
2 Hemp Doublers
1 package Imse Vimse Flushable Liners
Med Planet Wise wet bag
2 Planet Wise pail liners
1 Blueberry Pail Liner (has drawstring) (nice for when traveling)
Country Save Detergent
Dryer balls
CD friendly diaper rash cream

For a lot of babies, the OS diapers won't fit until 10 lbs. We decided to go with prefolds until she hit that 10 lb mark. Now we are using BG Pockets. For us, Lauren fit into the pockets at about 9 lbs. She has pretty chubby legs though. Now that we aren't using the prefolds full time I still use them quite a bit - or at least a few of them. I left a few out of storage and I use them as doublers, to put under her when she's airing out, cleaning up messes, etc. I love having them around.

Helpful Websites:
Nicki's Diapers
Green Mountain Diapers
Cotton Babies
Pin stripes to Polka Dots
Diaper Swappers
The bump Eco-Friendly Family Forum
A few cheaper diaper options that get great reviews:

Additional random thoughts:
-Different brands will fit different shaped babies differently. If they don't fit correctly they could leak. A lot of online stores will sell trail packages where you can get a few of different diapers to try them out. Or you can take the chance and build your stash from the beginning with all one kind.
-Diapers actually hold their resale value very well. They can be boughten used and resold after you are done with them.
- You will need to purchase as many diapers for how often you want to do wash. If you want to do wash every other day, it's recommended that you'll probably need 24 diapers. If you use flats or prefolds, you do not need a cover for every diaper. Maybe 5 covers total. You can lay them out to air out in between changes and only really need to wash if the gussets get wet or dirty.
-Running out of clean diapers and no time to wash. Put an insert or doubler over the dirty part of the diaper next to baby's skin and still use the dirty diaper as a cover essentially. Wa la. Clean diaper in a pinch. (sorta)
-Different brands use different materials for their diapers. Cotton, Microfiber, Microfleece, Suedecloth, Hemp, etc. Example, BumGenius uses suedecloth as the material that touches your babys bottom. Their inserts are microfiber. The microfiber is designed to pull moisture in away from the skin and the suedecloth acts to keep your baby's skin away from the moisture and dry. I have a few hemp inserts that hold more moisture than microfiber will. These hemp inserts are made a certain way that there is blue stitching on one side and that is the side that faces the baby's bottom.
-Some babies can be allergic to suedecloth. If there is a persistent diaper rash you can not figure out, try a diaper that isn't made of suedecloth.
-Not all diaper creams are cloth diaper safe. If they are too oily they can build up on the diaper and make them repel moisture instead of absorbing. You would then need to strip your diapers. Stripping is using dish soap to wash them and boiling them. I have heard of success with putting a little dish soap in the washing machine and washing in hot water.
Safe Diaper Rash Creams
-Of course not all daycare providers will be ok with cloth diapering. But most are thinking of doing it the old school way and think that it's just a lot harder. I suggest using a pocket or all in one system if this is the case and taking one in to show them. Show them how it'll be no different for them except they would have to throw it into the bag instead of a trash can. Especially if you use velcro closures. If they still say no, you can still use cloth at home at night and on weekends. This may not be quite as cost effective but if you are doing cloth for environmental reasons, it still helps in that area.
-You can dry your covers, pockets and all in ones but if you do they will wear out faster. It's best to air dry for the majority of the time.

There are a few other options and more out there to learn if you research. I'm going to quit now as I've probably overloaded you :)

Edit: Lauren is now on formula and solids. I have to admit that I was a little scared of the diaper situation once we make the switch to formula and started solids. It's really no big deal. The poop is now more solid and I just give it a little shake over the toilet. If there is still some on there I just take a little toilet paper and swipe it. No different than wiping it off of her. You don't need to get it totally clean, just the majority of it off. That is what the rinse cycle before the wash is for - to get all the rest of it off before your actual wash. They stain every so often now but no biggie - that is what sunning is for and they still work the same!

1 comment:

Tami D said...

Wow--I think I now know everything there is to know about cloth diapering--thanks! :-)