May 26, 2015

Cloth Diapering Basics

I didn't know much about babies before I had one, but one thing was for certain — I knew if I ever had a child, I'd use cloth diapers.

Cloth diapers have come a long way since I was a baby. I'm happy to report that I've been using them nearly exclusively for almost 10 months now, without a single pin in sight. 

If you are in the market to swap out your disposables or if you're considering cloth as a new mama, you may be as overwhelmed as I was with the choices out there. I ended up Googling 'cloth-diaper-how-to' and found some great YouTube videos. (Sadly, I forgot to bookmark them to share with you.) But I figured I could still possibly help a mother or two out there who is curious about cloth diapering. 

(If you couldn't care less about diapers... well then feel free to skip this post! Even if you do care about cloth diapers, this post is quite lengthy, so grab a cup of coffee...)

I discovered that there was no right or wrong way to cloth diaper. Everyone has their own preference and I had to go through several types of diapers before I found the ones that fit our lifestyle.  

In the cloth diapering world, there are numerous types of diapers. Some examples include: All-in-One (AIO), pocket-diapers, and shells or covers that you use in conjunction with either pre-folds or flats. Another cloth diapering mama told me to gather a few of each and then figure out which ones I liked.

In the end, the old-fashioned very basic, versatile and cheap flats were the most effective for my little Peanut — and they were my favorite diapers to actually use. I purchased several covers, and only washed them when they got wet or soiled. 

Initially I had a diaper service for six weeks, so I used their pre-folds in my covers. The pre-folds worked well, but as they come in two sizes, I didn't like the idea that I would have to invest in two sets of pre-folds as the Peanut grew. I also knew that pre-folds take longer to dry, both in the dryer and air drying. I wanted to simplify my life.
Flats are just that. Flat pieces of cloth. (I'm not talking about the cheapies you can find at Walmart that are actually labeled 'cloth diapers'... use those awful things as burp cloths instead.) Traditional flats are thin and dry very fast both in the dryer and on a line. These are the traditional old-fashioned cloth diapers that our moms pinned on us... only nowadays, you can simply fold them in half twice, then in thirds and then stuff them into a cover that you snap onto your baby. Voila. No more fancy folding or pinning! 

That being said, you can totally do the old-fashioned fold and pin, with a cover over the top. I just think these Planet Wise covers are super easy to use!

Plus they're simply adorable. They come in two sizes. For a while, I was able to overlap using both sizes with the Peanut, when I adjusted the snaps on the smallest two (top) with the larger sizes (bottom). As you can see, the snaps adjust so you can make them smaller or larger, and you can even snap down the cover for that (semi-gross) newborn stage when the umbilical cord still needs to fall off.

I invested in two of the smaller size and four of the larger size. (I had a few miscellaneous smaller covers I found at consignment sales.) I also had two of the Thirsties brand in the small size. There are lots of other covers out there — some have snaps; others use velcro-like closures. I prefer the snaps, although now that the Peanut is super wiggly, I suspect the hook and loop closures might be quicker and easier! 

While the Thirsties worked out well, especially because they dried super fast, I preferred the Planet Wise covers because I could pre-stuff them with a flat diaper before a change. 

I found my flats online. Initially I purchased a dozen each of the bleached and unbleached versions of OsoCozy flats. After a few months, I bought another six of the unbleached ones since I wanted to keep a stash in the car and in my bag. I prefer the unbleached because they hide stains better and they generally feel softer overall. 

I also purchased about eight of the micro-fiber fleece pocket diapers from both Jungle Roo and Lotus Bums. I found them on Zulily, where they were much cheaper than on their sites. Initially I used them overnight because I could stuff two inserts in at a time, but I discovered they seemed to leak worse when the Peanut was laying down. I swapped over to the flats overnight, stuffing two into the cover, and so far it's working!

I had a few different all-in-one diapers that I didn't really like using. I just thought they were really bulky... and I wanted something smaller to carry around in my bag. I also don't like using the micro-fiber fleece ones when I'm out and about. They seem to take up more space in my bag. Flats and the covers fit the bill perfectly. 

If you cloth diaper, you need somewhere to store your dirty diapers until laundry day. We bought a galvanized trash can, similar to this one, and then a large wet bag to put inside. We keep the trash can in the laundry room. I hang smaller wet bags in the room where we change the Peanut. I found several wet/dry bags on Zulily also. Planet Wise also sells a number of super cute ones.

And as far as laundry goes, it is more, but nothing that is out of control. I can go every three days with my stash, but I prefer to wash every other day. I soak the diapers, then run a cycle using Nellie's All Natural Laundry Soda (I can often find a dented tin at TJMaxx and similar stores, much cheaper) and at least one extra rinse on hot water. When the diapers start to stink more than usual, they need to be stripped of excess laundry soap, so I end up washing them with vinegar and rinse, rinse, rinse. 

What about the poop? I hear you asking. Well, exclusively breastfed poop can go right into the washing machine! It's water soluble, after all. Once the baby is on solids, poop is, well, poop, so you need to toss it into the loo. I found that it comes off the micro-fiber fleece a little easier, but it's not that hard to get it off the flats. Some people purchase a sprayer for their toilet, others use a scraper or just swish the diaper in the water to loosen the gunk. 

And really, you're supposed to flush the poop even if you use disposables, so it's not that much more work. 

For wipes, I purchased about 40 small baby washcloths from TJMaxx. I used them quite heavily when the Peanut was tiny and pooping a ton. Now that he's also eating solid foods, I found that I only need about a dozen wipes in my stash to get them through several days.  I use plain old water, or this Kissaluvs Diaper Lotion Potion that smells super.

When I'm out and about with the Peanut, I still cloth diaper. I just keep a wet/dry bag in our stuff and I cart home the dirties. They don't stink in the bag. I usually have disposables wipes with me instead of the washcloths though. Disposable wipes are needed for all kinds of messes, so it's worth it to me to keep a package in my bag. 

Someone asked me the other day if I thought it was cost-effective to use cloth. Um, yes. I estimate that I spent about $300 on my stash and I probably could have spent a little less. I haven't calculated how much I've spent in laundry soap, water and electricity, but the bills haven't skyrocketed. They have gone up only slightly, and it's still much cheaper than disposables.

The only time I've used disposables were those first few days I spent in the hospital, and then I've also used them while traveling long distances, such as on an airplane. I had some serious sticker shock when I had to buy diapers for those traveling occasions! I used them exclusively for my 10-day trip to Idaho, and even though I bought chemical free disposables, it was the only time the Peanut got a rash. I would have carted my cloth stash with me, but I only traveled with hand luggage (and the Peanut, of course!)

I also used them traveling to and from South Africa, but since we were there for nearly a month and we had a larger luggage limit, I brought my stash with me. In the end, it was a lot more work to wash them there, since my mother-in-law has a very old-fashioned washing machine (along with a separate spinner), and we had to hang dry the diapers, but even the Sailor got on board with helping out and it worked out fine.

I found that for traveling, disposables are definitely easier to deal with. They are also less bulky than cloth diapers, so you can stash more in your bag. Even when the Sailor and I went on a short road trip out of town for a few days, we took the cloth diapers with us. In retrospect, it was a little icky to cart home a whole load of dirty diapers in the trunk, but I wanted to prove to myself that it was possible to travel with cloth.  

I'm not sure if the Peanut has noticed a difference, but I certainly have with the amount of cash we're saving. I feel a little less guilty splurging on other things for the Peanut now. 

I'll be traveling a bit this summer, and while I will definitely use cloth at my destinations, I'll be using disposables along the way. After all, I'll be on vacation. 

Some great cloth diaper vendors: 

Amazon carries a number of items, of course. I also found a few things through Walmart and Target, available online only and not in their stores. 

Did you make the cloth diaper switch? I'd love to hear about it! 

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