Tuesday, October 20, 2009

All About Cloth Diapers

(Mimi sporting Bum Genius at our last family reunion)

There have been some really great cloth diapering write-ups in the blogosphere recently (see some great information here and here), so I thought I'd pitch in my two cents.  (And DO check out those links.  The first is to my good friend Rae and her homemade diapers and general diaper love.  The second is Tsh over at Simple Mom- she had a whole "diapering 101" week that was fantastic!!)

We started cloth diapering Mimi in June, and I LOVE it. Here's why:

1) We save money. We were spending $40 a month on disposable diapers, plus wipes! We also save money on our garbage- now we only half fill a "mini" can every week, and got a reduced rate accordingly.
2) My garbage can is no long a toxic waste site. Come on- anywhere you store disposable diapers for a week, they will STINK.
3)  Happy heinie- no more chemicals on baby's bum!
4) Happy planet. No more thinking about where my diapers will be sitting in 500 years.
5) CUTE. There's just something about seeing a baby in cloth diapers...much cuter than disposables. (How's that for trite-but-true?)
6) We try and have a years' supply of food, toiletries, etc. on hand.  The thought of keeping a years' supply of disposable diapers on hand...is truly daunting.
7)  Clean clothes.  We have not had a SINGLE leak since we switched to cloth diapers.  There have been a few times her clothes were damp, from a cloth corner poking out of the cover, but never a leak.  I can wash her diapers on super-hot water, and leave them in the sun to bleach until they shine.  Soiled clothes...are just stained.

We thought about switching for a long time. (OK, I thought about switching. Because really, how often does Wonder Daddy have the chance to change a diaper? Not often!)  I was nervous about trying something new, especially something that would cost so much to start with.

Here's what we ended up using- these are cotton "fitteds" I purchased on Craigslist.  I change her diaper every 2-3 hours.

We cover them with these water-proof covers. I change the cover once or twice a day, or when it gets dirty or smelly.

This is the second kind of diaper I purchased- a Bum Genius pocket diaper (you can see the inserts poking out.) This is not as absorbant as the fitteds, because it's just those little inserts soaking up, rather than an entire diaper. But, I love that they are micro-fleece on the inside. Keeps her nice and dry.

These are our wipes- the blue is a piece of flannel I cut and serged, and the pink is just a rectangle of fleece I had in my stash. I've also use large white "shop towels" from Costco- they're like washcloths, I love them for burp cloths, cleaning, etc. Right now, the fleece is my favorite wipe. It's a nice size and thickness, and is still soft when I line dry it. I also use these pieces of fleece as diaper liners when I need to use diaper cream- you can't put diaper cream on the diaper, or it will coat and stick to the diaper and inhibit the absorptive properties. (More about diaper rash later.)  I keep a bottle of water (with a 1/2 tsp of baby soap, but that's entirely optional) nearby to spray with.

Here you can see my entire changing station- I change Mimi on the bathmat in front of my bathroom sink, and these baskets are next to us under the counter.

Clean up is a major reason many people don't want to use cloth diapers. (For me, I'd rather hose something off and flush it away than store it in a trash can for a week!) I have two buckets in my bathroom- since I wash every other day, they hold the two days' worth of diapers. For soiled diapers, I use our detachable shower head set to a strong spray (with cold water) to rinse off anything solid.  (A note on the pocket diapers- shake the inserts into the bin before throwing the cover in!  Trust me, you don't want to do it when you're putting them in the washing machine :)  There are flushable liners you can use to help with clean up too- rice paper sheets that can be peeled off and flushed away when they're dirty, or thrown in the washing machine a time or two when they're just wet.  (Imse Vimse is one brand I've heard good things about.)

This cabinet is above my toilet- I keep a basket of cleaning cloths (the shop towels I mentioned earlier) and a bottle of disinfectant (hydrogen peroxide with 12 or 15 drops of tea tree oil). I wipe down the toilet after every spray-fest. This is, hands down, the CLEANEST toilet in my entire house!

Every other day, as I mentioned, I wash the diapers- since they're all rinsed and ready to go, I dump the buckets into the washing machine and wash the load on "sanitary" (the hottest setting on my front-loader: hot wash, cold rinse) with 1/2 Tablespoon of my laundry soap, 1 Tablespoon of Oxy-Clean, and about a 1/4 cup of white vinegar.  If it's not raining, I carry the clean diapers out to the drying rack to dry outside.  The sun will bleach out any stains, and sanitize the diapers.  I can definitely tell when it's been too rainy to line-dry my diapers- they smell musty.  The water proof covers should always be line-dryed, inside or outside, to make them last longer.  This is my original drying rack- I use wooden clothes pins to hang the diapers up by a corner.

I quickly noticed I often ran out of room on that little rack, and recently purchased this larger one from Ikea. I love it- it takes up very little space when not in use, but holds loads more than the wooden one.

All that said, there are a few things that have been tricky with cloth diapers.

1)  I mentioned the great "no leaks" part, but that fabulous seal also seals off smells- there have been many, many times that Mimi has a dirty diaper, and I don't know about it until I change her diaper.  This can cause some nasty diaper rash, and I always feel horrible.  It's been a learning curve, to be sure.  I try and ALWAYS change her diaper every few hours now, and it's helped tremendously.  Plus, I may just be getting a better "sniffer." :)

2) Traveling out of the house for more than an hour or two is tricky- I haven't found a good way to tote around dirty diapers, and carrying spare cloth diapers is a big space commitment in my purse!  Most of the time I carry a plastic sack for the dirty diaper, and keep disposable diapers in the car for emergencies.

3)  I have not found a diaper absorbent enough for night time.  I know there are lots of different diapers out there that would work, but the cotton diapers leave too much moisture on her skin and the pocket diapers just seem too thick by the time I put 2 or 3 inserts in there, and have leaked the time or two I tried.  We just use disposables at night, at least until I find a great night-time solution.  (I've heard hemp inserts are insanely absorbent- that's next on my list of things to try, because I've got about 20 disposable diapers left and I don't want to purchase any more!)

4)  Washing diapers DOES take up water- I have a front loader, and it's not really an issue where we are.  But perhaps it might be for you?  The clothes dryer is the real energy hog in this whole caboodle, so do line dry if you can.  Even if it's on a drying rack set over the heat register.

5)  Ummm...a cloth-covered bum is a somewhat bulbous bum.  It can be difficult finding pants for her :)


Su said...

That is GREAT information for anyone thinking of using cloth diapers!

I will forward this page to my friends with 'green' websites. I think they would love to link up.

Aunt LoLo said...

Great post, sweetie. :-)

I'm not converted...but it's a great post! ;-)

Casey said...

I'm excited (and nervous) to give cloth diapers a go. :)

Mama Papaya said...

Here, here!

6) When we are old, gray and in need of our own diapers. We have absolutely earned our fleece.

PS Hemp is insanely absorbent. I also have had good luck with shoving an infant prefold in with a heavy liner. But one daughter required all of this AND a diaper cover for awhile.

melissa said...

Hooray cloth diapers! I'm not a mom yet, so I don't have any experience with purchasing cloth diapers but I have cared for the children of lots of families that do use them! My personal favorites are from Mother-ease. The family that I knew uses the one-size diaper, absorbent inserts and air-flow covers. Of all of the cloth diapers I've seen and changed and dealt with a lot, I recommend these ones, even for night times. The mom that I knew used to shake off any solids and then toss them into a bucket with a lid that had water, a few drops of laundry detergent (like literally just 3 drops), and some lavendar essential oils. I would open that bucket up to toss in a diaper and it smelled fresh in there every single time no matter how many gross diapers were inside! I know that she also sometimes sprayed them with spray stain remover before washing them. She has four boys and has been using this brand of diapers since her oldest was born.

Check out the diapering accessories page for the basic wet bags. They work really well for keeping dirty diapers, plus you can turn them inside out and wash them with the diapers. The small one says it can hold up to 4 diapers and the large one can hold up to 7.

I promise I'm don't work for Mother-ease!!! I know I sound pretty enthusiastic about cloth diapers, especially for someone who doesn't even have kids, but I was totally converted to the idea of using cloth diapers by this mother-ease buying mom and her four boys! Hope this helps and congrats on joining the cloth diapering world. : )

Rae said...

Hey look at this! What a fab post, and thanks for the linklove! (:

I am so glad you took the time to dissect your CD madness, and what a nice job!

BTW, we use(d) hemp inserts for E at night; triple stuffing the dipe for overnight was how we made it: cotton, hemp, cotton, and almost always changed him again before WE went to bed. Try the hemp. It works!

Also an editorial note...I think those are Fuzzi Bunz, not Bum Genius?

Yay cloth diapers!!!

Shannon said...

Good post on the cloth diaper challenges and triumphs. I use Fuzzi Bunz and love them. I haven't had great luck with my hemp inserts at night but you could also try the Bummis diaper covers. I have heard good things about them.

For traveling with the cloth diapers, I purchased a washable diaper tote or wet bag that works great -- though it does get bulky with more than two diapers.


designer fabric said...

Cloth diapers are really nice. Very eco-friendly and very comfortable for parents' budget.