WHY and HOW I Cloth Diaper:
There are a few things you need to know about me and why I chose to use cloth diapers, and how I make it work.
1. Environmental and health concerns do matter to me. Reading about the chemicals in disposable diapers and what converts the pee from liquid to a gel to prevent leakage was a major deciding factor to me. ( Read here about the chemicals in diapers.) And when Lily was a baby, I took her swimming in a regular diaper (vs. a swim diaper, I didn't really know what the difference was) and when it absorbed all the pool water and exploded - billions of little chemical pearls (clear gel spheres) filled the diaper and were all over her. When I really saw what was inside a diaper, I was convinced. Also, we live in a rural area that doesn't have trash pickup - we have to bring our own trash to the dump. During the months when I worked as a nanny (and Lily was still in diapers at home and using disposables while I was at work), I could actually SEE the amount of trash I was creating - since I literally had to transport bags of diapers to the dump. Lily probably filled two grocery size plastic bags full of used diapers a week. (And the other baby the same). Seeing all the trash being created felt heavy on my conscience. I hate creating extra garbage (so much so that I even bought applicator-free tampons from age 18 until Lily was conceived at age 28 to lessen my trash impact) and so using cloth diapers was important to me this time around, since I'm the one at home diapering. (Read here about the environmental impact of disposable diapers and the 20 BILLION diapers thrown away per YEAR.)
2. We are a family with tight finances. Some people use cloth diapers to save money - and some people spend MORE money on cloth than they ever would on disposables. The truth is, is that it can go both ways. If you are using basic flat or prefold diapers (white squares), I imagine that the cost is a lot less than buying disposables. But if you like a nice and easy All-In-One (basically, a diaper that is one piece and snaps/velcros on just like a disposable with no stuffing, folding, pinning, or clipping), you may end up spending way more, since these can run up to $25 each! (or more if you are buying organic or designer). And anyone who uses cloth will tell you - it's addictive to buy! I do like never "running out" of diapers or having to run out to the store to pick them up. But people will argue back and forth about the cost variables and will talk about the cost of water, detergent, etc. Ultimately, I think you can save money using cloth, but not everybody will. The initial investment is usually steep (I spent $200-$300 on our initial batch) but then you don't have to keep buying (until the baby goes up a size, if you are not using one size diapers.) But I figured that disposables cost $20-$30 a package, which lasts maybe two weeks. So maybe $50-$60 a month? And so I figured I'd break even using my initial diaper stash at 4-6 months old. But you don't have to spend a ton of money to cloth diaper, you can definitely do it on a budget.
3. I am domestically challenged. That's usually the thing that throws most people. "Why do you want to make more work for yourself?" That's the question I get a lot (even from my own mom.) And, well, I don't! I suck at housework! But the truth is, cloth diapering takes very little time and effort. I'm not a super-mom and I'm a pretty pathetic housewife, but even I can handle it! I put dirty diapers in a wetbag hanging on the back of the door, and every other day, I take the bag downstairs - dump and shake into the washing machine - turn it on, pour soap, and wash! Takes 2 minutes. When the load is done, I hang dry the covers (they are made of PUL and get ruined in the dryer) and I throw the diapers in the dryer (cotton or bamboo cloth only) - and an hour later everything is done! Takes another 10 minutes to fold/sort them into the basket, wipes bin, etc. It's really not a big deal and takes a total of 5 minutes wash, 5 minutes throw in the dryer, 10 minutes to take upstairs and fold/sort - so 20 minutes every few days. It's less work than say... ironing, or taking the trash to the dump, or washing the dishes, etc. It's seriously the least of my household responsibilities.
4. I like cute things in pretty colors. And cloth diapers are super appealing that way. Babies LOOK (and photograph) so much cuter in colored cotton diapers instead of white paper with cheesy brand logos and cartoon characters on them. Today's cloth diapers aren't just white squares with diaper pins. They're cute! (And often pink!)
So, that's why I cloth diaper. Also - they are less stinky (the cover holds in odors), dry (disposables always make clothing feel damp to me), and when done correctly, way less leaky!
I also have the internet to thank for cloth diapering - because without it, I wouldn't have known about all the cute patterns and easy styles of diapers out there. Before I was pregnant with Lily, I assumed cloth diapering was only the flat kind you had to fold and pin. I didn't know anyone in real life who ever used diapers nor did I know what was even out there.
A little while ago Coraline was sick with RSV (lung infection) and I had to take her for a chest Xray. When I got her undressed, the X-ray tech (who was an older woman, probably in her 50's) in all sincerity thanked me for cloth diapering my baby. She said that she cloth diapered both of her girls twenty-something years ago and thought "no one did that anymore" and she felt so excited to see that people were still doing it. She quoted the Native American saying "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." It was a major woman-to-woman, mother-to-mother bonding moment. It's not something you just bring up with strangers, nor do they normally see what is under your baby's clothes, so it's rare that you get to talk about it. But her gratitude made my day.
Anyway... on to... Diapers!
I had the lucky advantage of getting lots of hand-me-downs before Lilian was born. Two separate friends gave me the diapers their kids outgrew, so I started out with a big assortment of diapers to try, mostly pocket diapers in a variety of brands and some all-in-ones. We also bought a starter gDiaper kit for Lilian. When she was a few weeks old, I tried to cloth diaper her using all of these, and really had no luck. Nothing seemed to really fit her right (she was extremely petite) and I was changing outfits all the time. I know lots of (online) friends who use and love pocket diapers, but they didn't seem to be the solution for us. So I kind of gave up on cloth diapering for the time being when Lilian was an infant.
For all the Newbies, I'll describe the different types of diapers:
* Pocket Diapers - a pocket diaper involves a diaper that has a PUL (polyurethane laminated fabric), a waterproof fabric, as the outer layer and then fleece or a natural fiber as an inner layer. Then the back/side/front is open to make a pocket - in which you stuff absorbent inserts. When you wash them, the inserts come out, so you have to "stuff" the diapers after every washing before use. (see BumGenius below)
* Flat / Prefold diapers - these are the big white squares most people imagine. You can fold them up and lay them in a cover, you can do all sorts of fancy folds with pins, or you can stuff them inside pocket diapers.
* All-In-One Diapers - these are like a pocket, but with the absorbent part sewn in the center. It's all ready to go! It's a one piece diaper with PUL outer and absorbent inners. The disadvantage - they take a LONG time to air dry.
* All-In-Two Diapers - Similar to an all-in-one, but the inner layer snaps onto the outer layer. The advantage of this is you can reuse the outer part a few times before laundering, and just keep snapping in new inner layers. Also, the inners can be put in the dryer while you air dry the outer PUL cover. But they have the same ease of use as an All-In-One, as simple to put on as a disposable. (See "Wizard Duo" below)
* Fitted Diapers - These look like disposables in shape (and pockets/all-in-ones) but have NO water proof layer. They are just made out of absorbent material all around, like cotton, bamboo, etc. Since they are not waterproof, they need a PUL or wool cover to go over them. (See Kissaluv, Sandies, and Mother-Ease below)
* Covers / Wraps - these are just PUL shells that go over prefold/flat or fitted diapers to hold in the moisture. They are thin layers of PUL fabric and have no absorbency. (see Thirsties and Air Flows below)
*Hybrid - these are the new diapers that combine disposable parts (liners) that lay in a reusable "pant". You get to throw away the part that absorbs the pee/poo and just wash the shell.
So when Lilian was about 18 months old, I decided that I wanted to revisit the cloth diapers. Through my blog, I contacted several companies and inquired about reviewing their products for the blog, and several sent me diapers to try and giveaway. This is how we discovered the Mother-Ease line of diapers, which turned out to be the leak-free miracle solution I was looking for!
|Lilian in her Mother-Ease diapers, a few months before she turned 2.|
She's wearing a pink Air Flow cover in size M/L.
Mother-Ease is a two part system, a fitted diaper with a cover that goes on top. The fitted diapers are nice (soft cotton that comes in cute colors, or extra soft bamboo), but the Air Flow covers are the part that are extraordinary. With pocket diapers I was having leaks about 50-70% of the time every day. With the Air Flow covers, I was having maybe one leak a week, and it was usually my fault. The Air Flow is a "full" sized cover - kinda like a granny panty - it comes up high on the waist and has low-cut legs, so it fully covers any diaper with a little room to spare. And since the legs and waist adjust separately, you can truly size it to your baby.
The problem I always had with pocket diapers has to do with wicking. You can see it in these two photos - see that little bit of white by the leg - that is the inner fleece lining. But since it sticks out by the leg (and my girls are petite with skinny legs, which may be the problem), when the liquid wicks and spreads out on the absorbent material, it inevitably spreads to that part - where it comes in contact with the clothes... and a leak! But because a cover tucks the absorbent part of a fitted diaper inside, there is no wicking to come in contact with the clothes!
|Coraline in a Happy Heiny pocket diaper - you can see white fleece where the arrow points.|
|Coraline in a BumGenius pocket diaper.|
The Kissaluv fitted diapers are made of a soft-fuzzy cotton fleece and come in pretty pastel colors. They are so far my favorite diaper to photograph her in, since they have such a pretty and natural look to them. They also have a great fit (very slim/trim for small babies) and absorb great. In the green diaper photo, she is 5 weeks old and about 8 pounds and in the peach diaper photo she's two months old, and about 10 pounds. She is today, almost 4 months old, and probably around 12-12.5 pounds and is still wearing these size 0 Kissaluvs with the waist on the tightest setting. The rise on them is starting to get short though, so she'll probably outgrow the rise before the waist. We have 8 of these Kissaluvs in all the colors.
|Coraline in green and peach Kissaluv fitted diapers, size 0|
You can see the Air Flow wrap in Oceans print, and we also have one in pale pink in size Small.
|Coraline in a one-size purple Mother-Ease (folded over) and the fish print Air Flow wrap size Small.|
|Coraline in pink and bamboo Mother-Ease Sandies fitted diapers, size small.|
|Bitti Boo fitted diaper. Also great! But she's outgrown the small size already at 12 lbs.|
|Bummis cover. It's very thick/bulky and not that reliable.|
The Thirsties are a really cute looking wrap, and have a great fit with double leg gussets. But unfortunately, we had leakage out the leg holes. I think my girls just have too skinny legs for them! So although I thought these were a good cover, they just didn't compare to the Air Flow for me, which almost never leaks! So, I passed them on to someone else who likes them!
|Thirsties Duo wraps (covers)|
Another awesome diaper I discovered is the Mother-Ease Wizard Duo. It's an all-in-two diaper - where the diaper snaps into the liner. But unlike a pocket, there is a centimeter or so between the edge of the cover and where the diaper starts, so the diaper doesn't get near the edge, which means no leaking! These have a much slimmer fit than the Air Flow wraps with fitteds, and so I like to use these under outfits when we're going out. I also use these overnight for 10+ hours with no leaks! What is also nice about them, is you can have the liners pre-snapped in, and you can just grab it and put it on pretty quickly. It only has 4 snaps total to put it on (vs. the 8 snaps to put on a Fitted diaper plus a cover.) I don't think I like them MORE than the fitted/Air Flow combo, but I definitely like them as much.
|Mother-Ease Wizard Duo. Green is size Extra-Small, White is size Small.|
Coraline is 12 pounds now and is still wearing both sizes.
So that represents our current diaper collection for Coraline. We've been FULL time cloth diapering since she was a month old. Including the ones I'm using from Lily, I think I have 19 diapers (8 Kissaluvs, 2 Sandies, 5 M-E one size, and 4 liners for the Wizard Duo) and 4 covers that I use (2 Air Flows, and 2 Wizard Duos). And I only wash every 2-3 days. When she was too small to wear the one-sizes and I only had a dozen diapers, I was washing every 24-36 hours or so. I store them all in a basket beside her changing table. It doesn't take up a lot of room. And I didn't have to buy a million diapers to do Full Time diapering (Some sites recommend you need 24-36 diapers for full time, and I just don't get it! I think I use 6 a day, about 5 during the day changing every three hours or so, then one overnight for ten hours.)
|(Most) of our diaper collection.|
* No fabric softener! There are lots of lists online about which detergents are best, but you basically want a "plain" one with no added color brighteners, softeners, etc. I like Arm & Hammer Sensitive, Tide, or All Free & Clear.
* Don't use Desitin or any other barrier type cream. You don't need it anyway with cloth, but it ruins the aborbency of the diaper by coating it. There are safe things to use like coconut oil and special cloth diaper butt creams from various companies. But I mostly use nothing.
* PUL can't go in the dryer! Heat ruins it. Hang dry anything with PUL (the waterproof fabric that feels like a windbreaker.)
* Snaps are better than Velcro! (that goes for everything baby) Velcro collects lint, pulls fabric in the washing machine, and eventually babies can undo it themselves. Snaps look better, hold up better, and stand the test of time. It DOES take me slightly longer to put on each diaper - I usually have to close 4-8 snaps at every diaper change, but the time difference between that and velcro (or that and a disposable) is about 60-90 seconds versus 10 seconds. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Yes it takes longer to change a cloth diaper, but not by much.
We also use cloth wipes - because it's simpler to throw them in the same wetbag then to have a separate garbage can nearby. Plus, disposable wipes have chemicals on them and make more garbage! I have some cloth wipes sold by diaper companies which are good - but I also have a few packages of the cheapy washcloths sold in packages in baby stores - which are great because they are thin. (And they also come in cute colors.) I keep them in a used Huggies wipes box - I add warm water to moisten, and I add a few drops of Tea Tree oil. The Tea Tree oil serves a few purposes: it doesn't allow for mildew to grow, it is a natural disinfectant on the diaper covers (i wipe them down when changing a diaper to reuse them) and on her bum, and it has a very strong smell, so the wetbag smells like Tea Tree not peepee! It majorly helps with odor control. And it's natural! No soaps, dyes, or chemicals.
I've been lucky to have had almost NO diaper rashes to deal with. And if we get occasional redness, recently I've used coconut oil and it's gone in a day.
So, I guess that sums it up! Like I've said, I'm not an expert and I'm a pretty lazy mom. But if I can do it, so can you! The thought is very overwhelming if you don't know where to start - I've been there. But once you get your routine down, it really isn't a big deal. And once you discover the diapers you love (and like I said, many of my friends swear by pocket diapers, or love their flat prefolds, etc. Everyone likes something different), it really isn't much harder and is what's best for your baby and the environment. And, they're cute!
Feel free to email me with any questions (or compliments on how cute my babies are).
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Leave me a comment. Have you cloth diapered your children? What solutions worked for you?
And did you ever have an experience like mine with the X-ray Tech? I'd love to hear about it!