Monday, March 7, 2011

Cloth Diapering: Hindsight

I recently got a question from a reader about cloth diapering. She wants to know what I wish I had known about CDing before I began, and any tips and tricks I can share with her as she begins preparing to cloth diaper her new baby this Summer.

I'd like to start by saying that I love cloth diapering. It feels like something special my husband and I do for our son and, more broadly, for our family as a whole. I like that Daniel doesn't have the chemicals that are in disposables up against his skin nearly 24 hours a day. I like that we don't have to go to the grocery store when we're out of diapers. I like that I don't feel like we're throwing our money out each time I change a diaper. I like knowing that the majority of my kid's diapers won't be sitting in a landfill for long after we're all gone from this life.

Also, diapering in general doesn't gross me out. I would much rather change a baby's diaper and wipe a tiny butt than do...well, let's just say that being a nurse isn't always the cleanest job.

So, without further ado, here are a few things I wish I had known before cloth diapering my son and things I've learned along the way:

  • Using prefolds and covers is so much easier than I ever would've thought. Bonus: it's an incredibly economical choice if you're planning on cloth diapering. We used a diaper service for about three months and then used our own prefolds for a couple of months before slowly incorporating various pocket and AIO diapers into our stash. I really liked the Thirsties Duo Wrap covers we used. They have a double leg gusset which really holds in that runny breastmilk poop, and they come in great colors. We had six covers at first, and I think (unless you're going to use wool) you need at least six covers to get by for diapering a newborn. As Daniel got older, we didn't have to wash the covers as often, but at first, it was good to have six.
  • All that love for prefolds still standing, I have to say that I love pocket diapers. They dry quickly, the absorbency is highly adjustable, and you can pre-stuff so when you're putting the diaper on at the changing table, it's as easy as an AIO. Pocket diapers are simply the best fit for our family for this stage in diapering. If I had a different washing machine (a top-loader that wasn't high-efficiency), I think I would be more inclined to go with the sleeve-type diapers which have openings at both ends of the pocket. With sleeve diapers, the inserts agitate out in the washing machine, so there's no need to un-stuff soiled inserts. What a great idea!
  • There's something to be said for having mostly one kind of diaper. It makes it easier for those people in your life who change your baby's diapers less frequently. For partners, family members, and babysitters, learning how to use one kind of diaper is easier than learning a bunch of different kinds. Another solution to this is just leaving the simplest diapers for the less-frequent caregivers to use (a velcro AIO or pocket diaper, for instance), and saving your "more complicated" diapers (say, a fitted with a doubler and a wool cover) for the more experienced cloth diaperers in your baby's life. For us, this hasn't been a big issue, but we don't have Daniel in daycare and we rarely leave him with someone to go out by ourselves (We've been on one date so far in nine months.) so very few different people have changed his diaper.
  • You have to buy bigger pants for your kid if you're going to CD them. Cloth diapers are bulkier than disposables, and standard baby clothes are made to go over disposable diapers. Whatever. This hasn't been a big deal for us because I've never tried to put Daniel in a pair of jeans. Apparently those are the hardest since they have very little give to them, and a tighter waistband. We use baby leggings almost every day, which eliminates the need for larger pants, and makes diaper changing time just that much simpler. Another thing I like about the baby leggings is that they'll fit for a long time, no matter how you diaper your baby.
  • Daniel in a prefold and Thirsties Duo Wrap
    You don't really need a diaper pail. A hanging wet bag might work just as well for you! I hadn't even considered the option of not using a diaper pail before beginning cloth diapering. We were gifted a nice diaper pail with a pedal for the lid, and I do love it. A reusable PUL diaper pail liner bag is a good investment if you're going to have a diaper pail. However, if you're on a tighter budget or want to simplify your changing area, a hanging wet bag could be a great solution. I got the one I have, a Planet Wise large hanging wet bag, for traveling, and I think it's awesome. When it comes time to wash, you just throw the whole thing in the washer. Not much could be easier than that!
  • Using cloth wipes isn't hard at all. It's not much more work than washing one more diaper per load. I bought some locally-made wipes which are two layers of cotton flannel serged together. We have some that are designated as "cleaner," used only for wiping Daniel's nose and face, and others that are "dirty," which we use at the changing table. Right now, we only use cloth wipes for after pee diapers, but that may change in the future. Even replacing some of your wipes with cloth will save money and waste.
  • Cleaning poop off of diapers really isn't that big of a deal. Breastmilk poop is water soluble, so if you're breastfeeding, poop is a breeze to clean before your kiddo starts solid foods: throw the diaper in the pail and launder as you would a pee diaper—the poop completely dissolves in the washer. I was concerned about how the poop would change when Daniel started eating solids, but it turns out it really hasn't been an issue. As soon as they're eating larger portions of solids, the poop gets more solid, and flushable liners have been wonderful since that point. So really, there's just a transitional time in there between the water soluble poop and the flushable poop, when you have to deal with trying to wipe the sticky poop into the toilet. I've had great success with using a bit of toilet paper or a flushable baby wipe to remove whatever I could, then just spraying the whole thing down with Bac Out before throwing it in the pail. On maybe two or three occasions, one of us has had to swish a particularly, um, coated, diaper in the toilet before spraying and putting it in the diaper pail. If that gives you the willies, wear gloves, and then be grateful that your hands are washable. And no matter what you do, there will not be poop left over inside your washer after you wash a load of dirty diapers. I promise.
  • Sunlight does amazing things to stained diapers. I haven't had a stain yet that a little time in the sun hasn't taken care of. I live in the cloudy, drizzly Pacific Northwest, and even I can sun my diapers. It works...even through a window...on a cloudy day. Our place faces East, so I can just stick a stained shell or liner up against one of our front windows (inside) and by the end of the day, it's white again! (Alright, on a really cloudy week, it might take two days in the window to get white again.) You should definitely try it if you haven't; it's so cool to experience the bleaching power of the sun. (Check out these dramatic sunning success photos from Kim at Dirty Diaper Laundry.)
  • Wool dryer balls are awesome. They really do help to speed drying time, cut down on static, and naturally soften your clothes (and diapers)! You should make some.

I learned a lot about cloth diapers from reading CDing blogs before Daniel was born. I highly recommend Dirty Diaper Laundry. Kim has done tons of cloth diaper video reviews, which I found very helpful when I was first learning about all the various kinds of diapers. And if you're about to buy a certain brand, look to see if she's reviewed it first; you might find out something you didn't know about the diaper! Right now, she's in the process of doing an intro to cloth diapers series, which is explaining all the different types of cloth diapers in individual posts.

For fellow cloth diaper users: What do you wish you had known before beginning to use cloth? What tips and tricks would you share with someone new to CDing? I'd love to hear!

11 comments:

  1. This is a great post and I could echo most of the things you mentioned! I use prefolds at night with the Thirsties Duo-Wraps and love them, too! Those leg gussets are fantastic! I'm going to pass this on to a cousin of mine thinking about starting cloth with her newest baby. I think she'll find the links especially helpful.

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  2. Thank you so much for this post!! I was looking forward to it!!

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  3. @Julia: Thank you! I'm glad you found the post useful.

    @AmandaRuth: You're so welcome! There will be more cloth diapering posts in the next couple of weeks.

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  4. I am so glad you said about throwing BF-pooed diapers into the machine as is. I was sure I had read somewhere that it was okay, but then have read other things about flushable liners and rinsing and such, which made me think maybe I should be rinsing them first. I don't, because I am lazy and they seem to get clean anyway, but felt a bit guilty about it. Now I don't have to worry! Thanks for the great post!

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  5. I'm new to your blog (it was just recommended to me b/c my daughter may possibly have some SPD things going on) so was pleased and surprised to see cloth diapers as a topic. Since you asked. . . I wish I would have went with a diaper trial in the beginning. I thought I knew what I wanted, but I had no idea. A diaper trial woudl have made a lot of sense. Currently we are very happy with FuzziBunz, BumGenius and Rump-a-Rooz. I've never tried a prefold.

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  6. Those pictures are so pretty! And dude - you totally should have used this as a CarNatPar post this month. You could have easily turned it into a top 10 ;) (Better yet, you could have guest posted it somewhere, AND still done the post you have scheduled tomorrow. Ha!)

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  7. @carrieb: I think a diaper trial would've been a great idea, too. Definitely would have saved me some time buying various used diapers to try them out. Who recommended my blog because of SPD? (Just curious.) I would be happy to have a chat with you about our experiences if that would be helpful to you. Send me an email if you're interested.

    @Dionna: Doh--wish I would've thought of that! Could I re-submit with this one instead? =P I should really get my act together and do more guest posts.

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  8. Great post, Amy! You always put a lot of research and thought into your posts.

    We have dug cloth diapering as well. We used Thirsties covers nearly exclusively the whole time. For "innards," we started off with the Kissaluv Size 0 inner (and LOVED it), and then once Z grew out of those, we switched over to the Kissaluvs Contour diaper with a Snappi fastener (to save money). Contours are like pre-folds, but with the legs cut out and the middle reinforced with extra fabric (which you get with the pre-fold in the folding action). We liked the contoured shape much better. For this next baby, I rrrreally want to make our own innards, because I think I can get the shape even better yet for what will probably be another Skinny Winny baby. Because of Z's thin legs, we never did find an AIO diaper that contained the piddle.

    This page has a nice overview of cloth diapers, including the ones I mentioned: http://greenmomhappymom.com/overview-of-cloth-diaper-styles/

    We have continued to use cloth wipes for all manner of spills and body fluids found around and throughout the house and bathroom. :) They are awesome! Mini washcloths.

    I got's to try me some wool dryer balls! If I have one complaint about cloth diapers, it's that cotton ones eventually get rough to the touch, even when you've stripped them. But then, I wouldn't say I tried much else for a solution; I eventually just cut fleece liners in the same shape as the cotton contours and laid them on top to be against Z's skin.

    And of course, doing Elimination Communication cut down on diapers altogether. I think we maybe changed 50 poopies over Z's whole life. We'll see if we have the same success with #2!

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  9. P.S. That last comment was me. Danged google/gmail/blogger/etc. and their myriad accounts.

    Also, I wanted to say the title of this post was perfect. "Hind"sight. Ha.

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  10. @Lori: Thanks for sharing your experiences! I'd like to try fitteds with a tiny baby--I've heard so many good things about them...especially those Kissaluvs, they're so soft! I wish we were better at ECing, particularly for poops, but I guess I shouldn't be too hard on myself about it. And thanks for noticing my pun! It was totally unintentional, I swear.

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  11. Great post! I sort of love having a big variety of diapers - I have some AIOs, some prefolds, some pockets, and I like each for different reasons. Some day we're feeling like a prefold, someday we're BumGenius. I took the approach of trying a few of each and find out what I love only to learn that I really love them all.

    And thanks for the reminder about sunning - if we ever see the sun again here in Wisconsin, I need to take advantage of it.

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