Friday, March 11, 2011

Cloth Diapers for Beginners Part II

 Now that I've shared the types of cloth diapers we use, I wanted to share a little bit about HOW we use them. 

But first I need to share a little bit about disposable diapers...

For the first two or so months of E's life I used disposable diapers.  We were exhausted and as a first time mom I was just focused on survival. If you go straight in to CDing your newborn, you amaze me.  Seriously.

Newborns go through A LOT of diapers, so if you do plan on cloth diapering your newborn, make sure you have 20-30 diapers to get you through a day, and allow you time to wash and dry your dirty diapers without running out.  We had 20 & I did laundry once every day/ day and a half when E was 3 months. 

When we started using cloth we gave a real, true effort toward using cloth diapers at night.  For a little while I actually had a fantasy of being able to return all of the diapers we had stockpiled & received as gifts because we were going to cloth diaper exclusively.  Unfortunately, reality turned out to be quite different.  Even though we used a doubler, every night, by the time E woke for her next feeding she was TOTALLY soaked from head to toe.  This did not make feeding her every two hours any easier.  After several nights of having to change E, pajamas & all every few hours we finally decided we were going to have to use disposables at night.  It was a decision that has worked for us. 

We also use disposables while we travel, depending on where we are traveling.  If we travel the 5 hours it takes for me to my grandparents in Texas for 4 days, I can get away with only using 4 or 5 disposables.  I just bring our cloth diapers & cloth wipes & use them during our stay.  Around Christmas, and during the summer we travel for a month at a time seeing family.  During those times I have to pack disposables for E, but I also haul our cloth with us.  Even if we're only staying with my family for one week out of that month I would rather put E in cloth for that week.  To me it's worth saving the money, and not dumping diapers in the landfill.  As long as you have people who are willing to let you wash dirty diapers in their home you can TOTALLY travel with cloth. 

**One note-If you do use disposable diapers for your child stay in the smallest sized diaper your baby will fit into.  For instance, on Amazon a large box of size 1 Huggies Snugglers Diapers is 168 diapers.  For the same price you can get a size 2 box with only 144 diapers.  A size 1 fits  a baby 8-14 lbs, while a size 2 fits 12-18 lbs.  As long as your child can fit in the size one diaper & it is still absorbent enough, it is cheaper for you to diaper your child in the size one diaper.

On to cloth diapers...

STORAGE:  For our diapers we keep them in Little E's closet, next to the pack & play we use as a changing table.  It's certainly not fancy, but it is utilitarian, which is what I care about.  We have a lovely clearance Christmas basket that holds all of her diapers, doublers, and covers.  I keep them folded & organized to make changes go as quickly as possible.  Using covers does take a little bit longer than using pocket diapers, so I try to streamline the process.

For E's pocket diapers we keep them in one of those plastic drawer organizers. I stuff them after they are dry, so I don't have to do that while squirmy Little Emerson is on the changing table.  We use the microfiber inserts that came with the diapers in all of the diapers except the red & yellow.  We stuff those with the hemp inserts & use those for naps or outings.  We just find it easier to have a color associated with a different insert.


Cloth diapers don't have to be hard.  If you find good tutorials & practice, cloth diapering is as easy as disposable diapering.   Pocket diapers are put on exactly as a disposable, with the exception that some snap.  

Diapers & covers are slightly more laborious, but they are VERY economical.  I have used these Thirsties covers for over 7 months and because they are so well fitted I have not had a single leak.  If you are interested in how to put on a cloth diaper and cover check this out.  It definitely helped me. 

Cloth diapers do need to be changed more frequently than disposable diapers.  I would say every two hours, depending on how frequently and how much your child goes to the bathroom.  One up side to that is the child is more aware that they have a wet diaper and as a result as more likely to potty train earlier.  (This is what I have heard, I will let you know when we get there).

For dirty diaper storage I use an old stainless kitchen trashcan with a lid and a large mesh laundry bag as a liner.  Ideally you would have a wet bag, but I didn't want to spend the money, so I just used a large laundry bag I had on hand.  It keeps all of the diapers together for laundering which is all that matters.

Our pail does occasionally smell, and if it does I just pour a little baking soda over the diapers & that usually alleviates any foul smells.  While diapers are in the wash I sanitize the inside & outside of the pail & set it outside to dry.  That also helps cut down on any moisture that might have built up between washings. 

Ok, I know this is the question you've all been waiting for & I'm going to do my best to thoroughly answer it.  If you are exclusively breastfeeding your child, their poop is completely water soluble.  That means that you can throw your diaper as is into the washer.  Now whether you do that is up to you.  We did, and never had any problems.

Once you introduce solid food into your baby's diet, you can no longer do this with their diapers, which means...duhn, duhn, duhn, you have to deal with the poop.  NOT MY FAVORITE.  Not by a long shot.

Here are some options:

  1. Diaper Sprayer--Use the diaper sprayer to spray down the diaper, once fecal free, dump in your diaper pail.  There is a FABULOUS tutorial of a DIY diaper sprayer here
  2. Use the kitchen sink sprayer--It is literally the same thing as the diaper sprayer, but free, because if it is already in your house.  Not sure if you want poo near your food though...
  3. Buy liners--These are toilet paper like items that you place in your child's diaper.  When they poo, you remove the liner & the nasty mess with it.  
  4. The Ol' Dunky Dunky Method--This is what I did & I didn't love it, but it was free & worked.  I'd take E's diaper, and dunk it up and down in the toilet until everything came lose.  It was a sort of gross task, but I love my daughter and I love the earth, so it had to be done.  
Let me also say, that doing that only lasts until your child is eating more solid food than break milk.   Once E started eating more solids her number 2 became more solid and I could simply shake all contents into the toilet & have a clean diaper for the pail.

For diapers & covers, different people have different philosophies for the frequency in which to change the cover.  For me, I change the cover if it gets soiled, wet, or at the end of the day.  If there is only pee in the diaper, I simply lift out the wet diaper,  replace it with a dry diaper, and put the cover back on.  Breastfeed newborns will mess their covers more, so keep that in mind if you intend to use covers & diapers.

For pocket diapers I always remove the insert before I put it in the diaper pail.  I originally did not do this, and reaching through sitting stinking diapers to separate the insert from the diaper was high on the barf scale.  I don't recommend it. 


Now that E is a year, I wash the diapers about every 3+ days, depending on how quickly E soils her diaper covers. When she was 3 months, it was more like every day/day & a half.  Younger babies go through more of the more exhausting things about a newborn.

We have a HE washer, so I wash the diapers once, with no detergent, on a short wash cycle.  (I did try the pre-wash setting initially & had problems with the diapers smelling).   Then I was the diapers with a 1/4 c of homemade detergent and a splash of vinegar in the softener slot on heavy cycle with an extra rinse.  I wash them in cold water, because my detergent has borax in it, which is a germ killer, so I feel ok using cold. I've also heard hot water wears out diapers faster, but if you are concerned or using a regular detergent, by all means, go ahead & use hot water.  Once a  month or two  I use hot water to kind of 'strip' the diapers of smells & to help with absorbency.   I also use baking soda if they're smelly and that definitely helps.

I always line dry my diapers, so I have no advice on drying them in a dryer, sorry.  I will say that line drying or drying on a drying rack will extend the life of your diapers significantly.  Also, if you ever have any dark spots left on the diapers the sunshine will bleach it away as well as kill any residule germs.  Plus it is FREE & doesn't hurt the earth. 

Occasionally you might run into trouble with absorbency & you might need to strip your diapers.  I've done different things to try to strip them, including soaking them in oxiclean overnight in the bathtub.  Here's what usually works for me:  On the first short wash, set the water to HOT (as hot as your machine allows), squirt in a 1/4 a cup or so of liquid dish soap (I use Palmolive Pure & Clear, or 7th Generation).  Allow that cycle to finish.  Then set to heavy wash with extra rinse, HOT water, and no detergent or softener.  This has worked for me, and I find it to be the least cumbersome way to strip my diapers. 

And remember, NEVER use any diaper creams on cloth diapers.  If a diaper rash occurs use baby powder, corn starch, or olive oil.  The diaper cream will cause buildup on your diapers & can make them leak. 
One Last Way to Save:  I  use cloth wipes that I made from receiving blankets.  They work really well and are a great money saver.  I started when E was about eight months old, so I can't speak to how it would work with a newborn.  We only use them for number 1 and when Emerson was an infant almost every diaper she had was majorly dirty, so I'm not so sure I would have liked cloth wipes for that. Once your baby starts table food, if you wanted to try cloth wipes, I think it would be an easier time to start.

I keep 10 or so wipes in an old wipe container and wet them down with E's Hiney Wash:

2 tsp of witch hazel
1/2 tsp of olive oil
2 drops of lavender essential oil

I put them in an 8 oz bottle from the hospital & fill the rest up with water.  The oil will separate from the water, so be sure to shake it when wetting the wipes.

The wipes won't glide as smoothly as disposables, but they smell lovely, don't have any alcohol, & get the job done.  Plus they certainly help the diaper pail smell better.

Cloth diapering & cloth wipes can be an extremely easy, green, budget friendly option for parents.  While it may seem like a lot of added effort, in my opinion, the benefits make it well worth it. 

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