Happy Earth Day, everyone!
Today, I’m kind of cursing at nature. I picked up a few mosquito bites that are itching like crazy, and my entire respiratory system is revolting from high mold counts. Whenever cedar season kicks in, I have an urge to BURN ALL THE TREES DOWN. But I can’t stay mad at you, Earth! There are way too many beautiful beaches, awe inspiring hikes, grand mountains and double rainbows to want to ruin you through my consumerism.
I wanted to talk about cloth diapering in honor of today. Let me first say that we used disposable diapers with our first child for the first year of his life. Getting through a med-free birth and learning to breastfeed were my first priorities in welcoming a human to the world. My husband and I were not up for the task of cloth diapering, so we waited. Also, it seemed so incredibly intimidating. Once we settled into our parenting routine, we decided to take a first step into cloth and ease the feeling of guilt of throwing away so many diapers. We started off doing it only on the weekends. We kind of wanted to ease into cloth and see how it went before committing full force. We also hadn’t talked to daycare about using cloth diapers.
Our entry into cloth diapering
Our older son was a year old and eating solids pretty well. This also meant his poop was changing, instead of the runny mess that is infant poop. If you’re squeamish about human poop, then I suggest caring for a dog first. Picking up steaming dog poop with only the protection of a thin plastic bag over your hand will make poop handling a CINCH for cute baby poop.
After reading many sites that broke down the different types of cloth diapers (and there are SO MANY kinds), we decided to start with pockets. They’re not terribly expensive, dry pretty quickly and you can adjust the absorbency by sticking more inserts into the pocket. We bought about 10 diapers to begin since he was going through 4-5 diapers a day at that point. Knowing that we were planning to have a second kid, the initial investment didn’t seem that overwhelming.
There wasn’t that big of a learning curve with pockets. Once I adjusted the snaps to the right rise, they went on his booty just like a disposable. The wash routine wasn’t that bad either (more on that later).
Cloth diapering an infant
Alright, so we survived cloth diapering a toddler. He was in them from 12 to 20-ish months, and then we were on the whole potty training/pull-ups route. When Bear Shark was about to enter the picture, we decided we’d jump into cloth diapering early on. We used one pack of size 1 disposables to get us through the meconium phase, and then it was ON like Donkey Kong.
For the first few months, we used prefold diapers with a cover. This is Bear Shark when he was a wrinkly newborn wearing a size small Clotheez prefold. It’s held together with a Snappy and then you can see the diaper cover with the velcro tabs to keep all the wetness contained.
We used a newspaper fold, which was much easier and faster for me than trying to keep a bikini twist or jelly roll fold together. Go YouTube these terms to see how they’re done. If I was in a huge hurry, I would fold the prefold diaper into thirds and then line the center of the cover and close up. The Snappy really kept things on a little tighter, but sometimes you have to just make do with the time you have.
The Size Small prefolds lasted until he was about 4 months old before he outgrew them. We had about 30 prefolds and rotated between 3 covers. This was definitely the cheapest cloth diapering option and extra bonus was that everything went into the dryer without needing to be hung.
We now have Size Medium prefolds, but Bear Shark is too wiggly to attempt fancy folds, and the size jump was pretty vast. These are our backup diapers if we ever get caught with all the pockets in the wash. A dozen prefolds came out to about $2-3 a piece. They also make really great clean-up rags for when Bear Shark spits up his milk. Prefolds do require a little bit of prep. I pretty much threw them in with the other dirty diapers, and then they were getting that nice quilted look for max absorbency.
What do you do with poopy infant diapers? They all go in the wash. I breastfed my kiddos, so breastmilk poo is completely water soluble. It’s almost like a yogurt consistency. I’ve heard formula moms say they haven’t had problems throwing those diapers in the wash. I actually don’t know what formula poop looks like, so you may want to make that call based on what’s on the diaper.
Cloth diapering a mobile baby
By the time Bear Shark outgrew the Small prefolds, he was on the move anyway. He was inch worming and ready to take off crawling by 4.5 months old. He was in daycare by then, and we switched over to pocket diapers almost full time to make it easier on the teachers. (Yay for daycare doing cloth diapers!)
My stash is mostly Bum Genius 4.0 pockets and Kawaii Baby. The Bum Genius ones usually run $18 retail, but they sell them at Buy Buy Baby, so I took advantage of all the $5 off coupons. Kawaii Baby runs between $10-$15, depending on the style and the material. I ordered many of those through SweetBottomsBaby.com and opted out of the inserts since we had so many from other diapers. That saved an extra $1 or $2.
Poop management. Yes, poop.
Once we got to the solid poop stage, we added a few things to our diaper routine to make things a little easier. First, diaper liners. $8 for 200 liners. I like the Bumkins brand since the material lies on the diaper a little more securely. The one in the above pic is Bummis, and while they’re cheaper, they shift around a lot. They sell these at Buy Buy Baby, and I have no problems using the 20% off coupons. You can also order from Amazon.
Diaper liners can be flushed, but I still pick them out if it’s just a pee and toss in the trash. These keep diapers much more clean when there’s poop and will even be a nice barrier if you have to use diaper rash cream, which can stain and cause liquid to repel. For the times when the diaper liners don’t catch the poop properly or if the kid has the runs, well, this is where a sprayer and SprayPal come in handy.
The BumGenius sprayers run almost $60. I’m cheap, so we got a bidet sprayer from Home Depot for $35. It works exactly the same. The SprayPal is a trifolded plastic shield with a clip to secure the diaper. It keeps poop water from spraying all over the bathroom. A little pricy at $25, but yay for no poop water!
Once the poop is carefully disposed of, dirty diapers go in the wet bag. We have two that we use – one for home, one for school. I also have travel-size wet bags that I keep in the diaper bag. Every 3-4 days, I do diaper laundry.
This seemed like the most intimidating part of using cloth diapers once you got past all the different kinds of diapers, but it’s really not. We have a plain top loading washer and front loading dryer. No fancy settings.
Since the diaper liners and sprayer keep any poop diapers free of debris, the dirty ones aren’t really that dirty when they go in the wash. Our routine looks like this:
1. Pull all the inserts out of the pockets and throw all diapers parts in the washer.
2. Adjust the water level to however much stuff is in the washer (4 days of diapers is a little less than half of the washer) and do one cycle of cold wash – no detergent.
3. Add towels and other laundry that can handle hot water in with the rinsed diapers. Adjust water level appropriately. Add a scoop of detergent (I use Tide powder) and do a hot cycle.
4. Dry everything except covers – no dryer sheet. You CAN dry the covers, but I’m trying to make the elastic last longer.
5. Stuff pockets and line with diaper liners so everything’s ready to go.
We haven’t seen our water bill go up noticeably or even at all, especially now that he’s not dirtying as many diapers in a day. Even so, my husband rigged up a gray water system to re-use the water in our yard. I can’t explain specifics of what he’s done. I just know we have barrels to filter and hold the gray water and hoses that deliver the water throughout the yard. Civil engineering at its most productive!
Our total investment in diapers was maybe $200, and we go through 1.5 boxes of liners a month. There’s also a market for buying/selling used cloth diapers, so as long as I keep these in good shape, I should be able to sell my stash when we’re all done and get some of our investment back. Considering babies will go through 40-60 diapers a WEEK until they’re potty trained, our using cloth diapers is a significant effort in reducing waste.
Hopefully this post made cloth diapering a little easier to understand and less intimidating. It really didn’t take that long to get the hang of things, and we feel pretty good about our decision to make parenting a little more eco-friendly.