Friday, September 19, 2014

Cloth Diapering your baby in 4,000 words or less...

You’re having a baby! Congratulations! Time to start making a lot of pie in the sky statements about what kind of parent you will be and pick out all organic cotton clothes and the most modern looking baby toys you can find and start reading baby sign language books!

While we didn’t end up sticking to our guns on all of those things (we did eventually break down and buy an exersaucer, play pen and some polyblend pajamas and I couldn’t tell you how to even sign the word “hi”), one thing we have stuck to is using cloth diapers vs. disposable. 

I know what you might be thinking. It’s so much work. It’s gross. It’s just as expensive in the long run.

Say what you will about cloth diapering—I know it isn’t for everyone—but if it is something that you are really interested in, I am here to tell you that YOU CAN DO IT! It’s really not that hard, it’s really not any grosser than using a disposable diaper, and you can do it quite affordably.

First a disclosure: With most subjects related to babies and parenting, lots of people will tell you that you are crazy for wanting to cloth diaper your child. Like they might want to hold an intervention for you. And they might buy you boxes of disposable diapers because they think you are too poor to afford the "luxury" of disposables. To those folks, just smile and say something like "bless your heart" and then brush that off your shoulder as you return those diapers for some store credit, because don't knock it until you've tried it, folks. I'm not that big of an evangelist for anything, but I do feel like if you want to do this, you shouldn't let anyone talk you out of it by scare tactics. So, the purpose of this post is to explain how we did it and maybe help make your decision a little easier!

And to those who have never wanted to use cloth, more power to ya! To each his own! God Bless America! and all that good stuff. I've never wanted to ride a horse and you won't catch me saddling up anytime soon!

And so we begin...

First things first, there are a TON of different types of diapers, brands of diapers, etc. This is already going to be a long post and if I were to get into that portion, you would be here forever and end up birthing your baby in front of this computer. In the interest of saving you from having an unplanned homebirth, I’d like to direct you to two cloth diaper 101 sites that I think are helpful. Cotton Babies is a parent company that makes quite a few brands of popular cloth diapers and Kelly’s Closet is a store and resource that sells multiple brands and types.

Types of diapers, what we use, etc.

The first thing I suggest to someone who is interested in using cloth diapers is to visit a store that sells them. These are usually locally owned, independent shops with very knowledgeable staff. Get your hands on some and talk to someone there who can show you the options in person and then also ask if they do a trial. A trial is where you can try different types of diapers before buying a ton of one brand, type, etc. and in most cases when you return the ones you don’t like, you get store credit to buy the ones you do like. Some stores even offer cloth diaper classes where you can go and get introduced to all the different options.

If you don’t have a store remotely close to you, maybe you have a friend who uses cloth and they can show you some different types of diapers, I was very lucky to have someone who gave me a lot of helpful information! A last suggestion is that there are many Facebook groups dedicated to cloth diapering, most are local, and they can be helpful when trying to choose a type or brand, or just to get general information.

Another thing to note is that we did not start using cloth right away. We used disposables for about the first 6-8 weeks while we were getting our bearings and were changing 10-12 diapers a day. People do use newborn size cloth though and a lot of companies make diapers that are fitted just for newborns. So it's not out of the question.

You can buy “sized” diapers—diapers that are made to fit certain weight, similar to disposables, but we use “one size” diapers. These are diapers that are adjustable either by the leg elastic or by snapping the “rise” of the diaper (front of the diaper) down to make smaller. These diapers fit from 6-35 lbs, although I found that they didn’t really fit on Caroline until she was about 8 lbs because she was very petite. Another reason we didn’t use them right away.

What we use.
The type of diaper we use are called “pocket diapers” and the brand is called Charlie Banana. Pocket diapers come with a “shell” (the actual diaper) and then with microfiber inserts to stuff into the pocket of the shell (diaper). The baby wears the diaper and when it’s time to change them, you take the whole thing off and put it in the diaper pail (shells and inserts can only be used once before washing). When you go to wash the diaper (more on that later), you take the insert out and wash both the shell and the insert together. I like these diapers because the legs are adjustable. The elastic in the leg is similar to a bra strap where you can make the opening bigger or smaller, that way you get a better fit. The company calls this diaper a  "2-in-1 is a cloth diaper with a smart front panel that allows for tucking in a disposable pad when necessary" although I have never used the disposable pads, it could be helpful for using in place of a liner (more on that later).

You can find Charlie Banana lots of places online including big box stores like Target, Buy Buy Baby, Babies R Us and Amazon so if you register there, you can add them to your registry. They sell them in single and in 3 or 6 packs. Sometimes they have them in store at Target and SOMETIMES, if you are really lucky, they go on clearance for a ridiculous price. That’s how I actually got mine. I have also heard that recently Buy Buy Baby has started selling them in some of their stores, which is convenient because you can actually go to the store and buy them without shipping costs, and if you register there you can add them to your registry. And newsflash, you can also use some of those coupons you’ve been hoarding (20% or $5 off usually) and that makes them cheaper than pretty much anywhere else.

Another brand that is similar is Fuzzi Buns. I know a couple people who love Fuzzi Buns, I tried some of these that a friend let me borrow and I didn’t like the way they snapped as much as I like how the Charlie Banana does. 

I also have used bumGenius diapers and while I think they are great and people LOVE them, they never really fit Caroline that well. They were actually my preferred diaper at first, and we used the “All in One” type as her overnight diaper, but the elastic in the legs tends to relax as you use them and with most babies that is fine because their legs grow in tandem to fit the bigger opening, but Caroline is a miniature child so they ended up leaking and I had to stop using them. Just something to keep in mind if you decide to go that route. I (and I really mean Sean) actually got the bumGenius customer service to replace them with new ones and then got rid of them in favor of more Charlie Bananas.  Another good thing about bumGenius diapers is they are sold at Buy Buy Baby, too. Lastly, they have a clearance section on the Cotton Babies website where you can get cheaper prices, too.

Jenn uses the Grovia hybrid diapers and you can read about her experience here.

I have also tried using a fitted with a Flip cover (that can be used more than once before you wash it) and I actually didn’t mind that—but fitteds are expensive, so you’d really want to make sure that is a good option for you before investing in that.

Note that these are just the types that I have used/tried. There are SO many options so you might like something different.

Snaps or Velcro?
As far as fastening goes, I would opt for the snaps vs. the Velcro (sometimes called aplix or hook and loop) because although the Velcro may give you a snugger fit at first, 1) it wears out over time and 2) as soon as your little one can undo Velcro, they can also take their diaper off as they please. NO THANKS!

What else do you need?

Here are some other things that we find helpful to have and get good use from. All are optional and again, there are many options but here is what we use.

I go between using disposable wipes when we are out of the house, or I’m being lazy at home (I just use the target brand sensitive wipes) and cloth wipes. We mostly use cloth wipes at home—especially with #2 diapers because you can just wrap everything in the diaper and throw in the pail and then toss everything in the wash and there isn’t the extra task of finding something to do with the wipe that has #2 on it. The less you have to touch #2, the better. There are many options for cloth wipes. I like these flannel wipes by bumGenius and then I also like to use really thin baby wash cloths. Those are pretty much awesome for everything, btw and I would recommend registering for them—for all
things, bath, spit up, diaper wipes, etc. You can also cut up flannel receiving blankets—which you probably will get even if you didn’t ask for them—and use those, too.

You can look up different kinds of solutions to use on the wipes. I use this stuff because someone recommended it. I like it, it smells sort of crunchy but not too much like patchouli or something. We just dilute it with water and put it in a spray bottle and then spray the wipe when I go to change her. Kelly's Closet has some other solutions.

All spray bottles are not created equally. Just buy these and take my word for it.

Diaper pail (or garbage can) and liner.
I registered for an Ubbi pail and liner. I have use this for 25 months now and I can say 100% that I have never smelled diapers, ever, when using this diaper pail. We do always flush the #2, but even the #1 diapers do not smell when this thing is closed and when I open it I am hit in the face with smell, so I know the thing is holding in the odors. I don’t know how other diaper pails work, but I can give this one a good review. And it has a lock on it so little hands can’t open it. They also sell their own brand of reusable liners that you can wash with the diapers.

If you aren’t interesting in investing in a diaper pail there are many other options out there. Some folks just use a hanging wet bag or a plain plastic garbage can with a liner in it. I cannot attest to the way these work, but you could try it and if it smells, you could try something else.

We also have a small step can next to the toilet in the upstairs bathroom to put rinsed off #2 diapers and wipes in so we don’t have to carry them from the bathroom to Caroline’s room. And we also have a step can downstairs so we don’t have to bring the diaper upstairs if we change her down there. Neither of those smell either, so it’s really up to you to choose what the best option is.

Speaking of rinsing off #2…

Diaper sprayer.
We have a diaper sprayer. Some people don’t see the need for one—they just swoosh the poop off in the toilet—but that is not really my jam. It attaches to your toilet and you spray the #2 off into the toilet before putting the diaper in the pail to wash. Tips for this. 1) Get a little bucket or pan or something to put under the hose to catch any leaks. You don’t want to ruin your floor. 2) Never use it on full power. Medium works just fine. Trust me on that, you don’t want a face full of poo molecule splash back.

If you breastfeed, you probably won’t have to spray the poop off right away, but it does help to avoid staining. However, it is a diaper, so I’m not sure if you would care. Breastfed poop is water soluble so it just washes away in the washing machine, therefore you can just toss the dirty diaper in without rinsing it off first. But formula poop and real food poop must be washed off first.

Many brands of diapers make liners—some flushable, some reusable, some disposable. Why would you need a liner? A couple reasons. 1) You are out and about and just don’t want to worry about the #2 stinking up your diaper bag. You can put a liner in and then just toss or flush that and then just put the dirty diaper in your wet bag without it having #2 on it. 2) You want to use a diaper cream that is not cloth diaper safe (see below) if baby has a bad rash or needs a Rx cream or something, you can use a liner and then that will be safe and keep it from getting in the fibers. If you ever have to use a
liner and don’t want disposable you can just cut up a t-shirt or an old fleece or flannel blanket. Or you can buy reusable ones too.

Wet bags.
Wet bags are the jam. Seriously. Even if you don’t use cloth diapers, I would get at least one of these for anything from wet bathing suits to that “oops I think my baby just peed all over me in public” shirt you’ll need to find something to do with. For diapers, I would suggest having at least two travel size wet bags (this size: for the diaper bag. And then any other ones you need for around the house, etc. To
wash, you just toss them in the load with the diapers.

Cloth diaper safe cream.
Regular diaper rash creams (desitin, triple paste, butt paste, etc.) are not safe for cloth diapers because they can clog the fibers and cause them to not absorb or breed bacteria, yadda yadda. So, here are some options for ya. Currently, we use nothing on her unless she gets red, which honestly is hardly ever. But we have tried a few options. First, coconut oil can be used and I’m sure you’ve heard the wonders of coconut oil already. We used that on her for a long time and still do use it sometimes if
there is a little redness. I have also tried the Earth Mama’s Angel baby bottom balm. I didn’t really like it as it has a strong smell and I think it’s greasy. I have also tried this and I like it better. We use this whenever she gets more red and seems like she could use a good wetness barrier. I have also heard good things about the Grovia magic stick and CJs bottom butter. California Baby also makes a CD safe cream and that is available at Target in a pinch. I’ve never tried it though.

If baby gets a bad rash and you feel like it’s not healing, I would suggest to just use either a liner or disposables with a thick cream like triple paste (this is my favorite conventional rash cream) until it clears up. I think that sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do for the good of your bebe.

Different kinds of inserts.
In all honesty, I don’t like microfiber inserts. I think they get stinky and they don’t absorb as much as other options. I used them when she was smaller but as she got bigger and had more for the diaper to hold, I invested in some other inserts. I use the microfiber still, but I don’t reach for them first, and especially for naps or out of the house trips I use the other inserts. You find buy hemp, bamboo, charcoal, etc.

I’ve tried three different kinds of inserts. These are okay, but they aren’t very long. I wouldn’t recommend them. These are more affordable and I think they do an okay job, but they take forever to dry. These are my absolute favorite. They are prefold diapers—that you can use for many different uses actually. Some people use them with reusable covers (like the flip covers). I fold them in thirds (the long way) and stuff them in. They hold a lot and they never stink.

They also make a bigger size that you can fold in thirds and then fold down in the front for extra layers for a stomach sleeper or a boy. We used to use these as her overnight diapers.

What is our routine? (or…are you finished yet, lady?)

I’m almost done, I promise!

So, I am pretty sure I don’t have to explain how to change a diaper, but with cloth diapers, there are different ways to store them before and after wear. Since we have pocket diapers, we have to stuff them. Some people prefer to stuff them as they use them. To them I say, bless your soul, but when I want to change my kids diaper, I don’t want it to be a 10 minute adventure. Especially when they no longer sit still for it. So, we stuff them all after we wash them and then I store them in a variety of places.

In her room I have an over the door shoe thing that holds 24 diapers. I did not come up with that genius idea, but I love the person who did. Coming from a person with very little storage space, this works very well. I also keep some downstairs in a little diaper changing bin and then we have some ready to go on her dresser/changing table. If you choose a different system (hybrid, flats or fitteds with covers, etc) there will probably be a different storage/prep solution for you. But for pockets, this tends to work well. And if you end up using all in ones, all you have to do is wash them and store them so those are the easiest of all.

We wash every other day. That leaves us with about 16 diapers in the washer at a time. It used to be more. I wouldn’t wash more than 20 or so at a time because too many diapers and you just end up washing them in what equates to pee/poo soup. However, you don’t want too small of a load because you need enough diapers in there to make them agitate against each other and get clean. I would definitely suggest washing every other day.

How do you wash these things?
You can wash them yourself or get a service (listed in the resources). We wash them ourselves.
Lord all mighty. If there were a place where the opinions differ. It would be washing. There are a couple good resources to read below, but I’ll tell you what I do. Like I said. I wash every other day. We have an older washing machine—non HE—top loader. As much as I don’t love this washing machine, it is really one of the best machines for washing diapers. If you have an HE machine or a front loader, you will maybe have to adjust your routine (see those resources below).

So, I set the load to medium size (for about 16 diapers and a wet bag or two). I set the temp to warm. I don’t do any extra rinses. I run the cycle all the way through with NO detergent once. This is what I call my “rinse.” Then, I take the diapers out (or to the side if I am being lazy) fill the washing machine up again with water and add one scoop of detergent (I use Charlies—more on that in a minute) and put the diapers back in and wash again. When they are done, I hang up the shells (some say you can dry them, but I am not sure that it doesn’t wear them out quickly) and then I put the inserts in the dryer on regular heat. My friend got me this little octopus thing from IKEA and it
is awesome for hanging up the diapers (and bras and tights!).

As for detergents, there are a ton. Some people use detergents that are made by the diaper brand—they all have them. Some people just use Tide powder. I use Charlies because someone recommended it to me.  The thing about Charlies though is that you have to use it exclusively (see their website for explanation). Which we do. Sean and I both have sensitive skin and so we like that it doesn’t have any harsh additives. The resources below talk about different detergent options.

Also, time to break up with fabric softener and dryer sheets. Those are not good to use with diapers because they clog the fibers and make them less absorbent. Even if you used them with your non-diaper laundry in the same machine. Sorry, I know. It might take time, but you’ll meet someone new. We bought some wool dryer balls and they seem to work pretty well.

You will read a lot about stripping your diapers. I have never stripped my diapers before and I’ve had them for over two years, so unless you are desperate I don’t think it’s necessary. However, every 6-8 weeks, I give them a wash with this stuff and it helps lift out anything that has built up—detergent, minerals, etc.

I have also never used bleach on my diapers so I can’t say how that works—but it is recommended by the diaper manufacturers and people do it successfully. I just am freaked out by the thought of bleach in general and I don’t think I’m missing out on any fantastic results by using it.

Final thoughts

Yes, I am done. But I just wanted to add that around 13 or 14 months we had to start using disposable overnight diapers. I tried many different diapering options and I couldn’t find something that didn’t leak. It isn’t really my preference but again, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do! So if you find there is a time where you can’t use cloth anymore or you can’t use it full time, don’t beat yourself up over it.

Helpful resources

Cotton Babies Cloth Diaper 101
bumGenius pocket diapers
bumGenius all in one diapers
Charlie Banana diapers
Kelly’s Closet
Her cloth diaper 101
Kelly's Closet info on washing routines
Info about washing routines from the blog Dirty Diaper Laundry

Do you cloth diaper or are you hoping to? Share your experience or any questions you have in the comments below!

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