Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cloth Diaper Extravaganza

I'm not really trying to be a 'how-to' girl on this blog. In fact, I'd say my vibe is more like 'how-NOT-to.' However, I'm going to make an exception today to give you a how-to post about... wait for it... CLOTH DIAPERS!

Ha! How disappointed are you right now?!?! Please, if you don't care about diapers at this point in your life, know that I am so happy for you, and that I encourage you to find something else to read today. Anything else, really. The next several hundred words will bore the crap out of you.

But if you DO care about diapers, and particularly, My Way of doing cloth diapers, then welcome! Read on!

In the past week I've had THREE friends email me asking about the products I use for cloth diapering and general how-to info. I had a few other old emails I'd sent to other people in the past on this particular topic, and I was trying to condense and combine those emails, plus update them with the changes I've made over the past 2 years. In the middle of it, I just decided to go balls to the wall and put it all in a post that I can refer back to foreeeever and eeeever.

I am aware that this post is bizarrely long. I considered splitting it up into a few posts, then I thought... nah.

Two Disclaimers:
1. I am NOT claiming to be an expert. However, I AM currently cloth diapering 2 children. (3 if you count Miss K) which does qualify me as... well... spending a lot of time with diapers.

2. I know everyone who cloth diapers has their own set of reasons for trying it, but mine was simple: Cash money- spend less of it. I say that because there are a MILLION different diapering products out there, and some may work better than what I use, but I've mostly chosen to go the cheapest route that is still efficient and effective. Because my cheapness, though intense, cannot not usurp my love of efficiency. I love them both equally.

THE PRODUCTS

Diapers: I have OsoCozy Better Fit Unbleached Prefolds. Yowza, thats a mouthful! I've got 2 dozen infant size, 2 dozen premium size, and 1 dozen toddler size. (Wish I had 2 dozen toddler size, but whatever, he's going to potty train soon, I'm not buying more right now.) I love, love, love these diapers. They're durable, super absorbant, and hold up great with repeated washings. I chose the BetterFit over the Standard becuase the standards are really bulky on little babies, and I chose unbleached over bleached because they're supposed to last longer. I used to use Gerber DSQ prefolds, and they were fine when Henry was little, but as he got older and started to pee more, they couldn't absorb it all and they started leaking. Booooo. I've also heard great things about Green Mountain cloth diapers, but I wanted to register for cloth diapers for my baby shower, so I went with OsoCozys, since they were on Amazon and I could add them to my baby registry. Also, seeing as I got EVERY DIAPER I REGISTERED FOR BECUASE MY FRIENDS ARE AMAZING, I do not regret this decision one little bit.
purple=infant, red=premium, tan=toddler
Covers: I like Thirsties Duo Wraps, with the velcro closures. We have three in the Size 1, and four in the Size 2, and that is pleeeeenty. I have a little piece of twine and some clothespins hanging from the side of my changing table. When I change a diaper, I just clip the cover there to dry/air out until the next diaper change, and put on a new cover. I wash the covers about once a week or, whenever they get messy. Some people prefer the snap closures, I think velcro is easier, whatever. The reason they're awesome is this: first, they have an adjustable rise, so they can grow with your baby and you only have to buy them in 2 sizes, as opposed to buying them in 3 or 4 sizes. BIG money saver. Second, they do. not. leak. Cue music from the heavens. I have.... and I really mean this... it's not an exaggeration... NEVER had a poop blowout in a cloth diaper. NEVER. EVER. We've had TONS of blowouts when the kids have been in disposables, and they've definetly done blowout worthy poops while in a cloth diaper, but those suckers keep it in. That ALONE is reason enough to cloth diaper as far as I'm concerned.
Size One, opened up to the largest rise, then snapped down to the smallest
 Fleece Liners: I like to use fleece liners for the following reasons: 1. It wicks moisture away from my babies' sweet skin, helping to prevent diaper rash and keep them comfy. 2. It protects my expensive diapers from diaper cream, which can sometimes build up in the diapers and make them less absorbent. 3. It makes it easier to clean up poopy diapers, because for some reason, poop doesn't really stick to the fleece. It just sort of... shakes off. I bough one pack of Bummis fleece liners, and they worked great. Then I got smart, went to JoAnnes fabrics when they had a 50% off sale, bought a yard of microfleece for $7, and cut it up into liners myself. It made about 45 liners. They work great. Tada. (If you do this, and you totally should, just be sure you buy MICROfleece, regular fleece can HOLD water, which is the opposite of what you want a liner to do.) All you do is lay it in the middle of the diaper before you put it on the baby. Super easy.
homemade liner
 Doublers: I have 2 Thirsties Hemp Doublers. Henry wears them in his nighttime diapers for extra absorbency. They work GREAT. I also lay 2 fleece liners on top of the doubler, like, side by side to be sure he doesn't wake up because he's wet and uncomfortable. Because, dude, I do NOT want him to wake up.
diaper with a doubler
nighttime diaper setup
 Snappis: These hold the diaper shut. No more scary pins. Buy a 3 pack, you will lose track of them.
look at that cute baby belly!
Diaper Pail & Liners: We've got this diaper pail, and it works just fine. I used to line it with trash bags, but that got expensive. They I tried going linerless, but cleaning out the pail was gross. Then I bought this washable diaper pail liner from PlanetWise and it's awesome. I wish I had two. I might buy another one. Don't tell David.

Wet Bags: Even if you don't cloth diaper, you gotta get one of these. They're awesome. They hold in moisture & smells- dirty burp cloths, gross bibs, messy clothes, wet swimsuits, and, you guessed it, used cloth diapers. :) I have 2 in the medium size and I keep one in the diaper bag at all times. When we're out and I change a diaper, I just toss the used diaper into the bag and zip 'er up.

Cloth Wipes: You do not have to use cloth wipes if you cloth diaper, you can totally keep using regular ones. However, I gotta say, I really like the cloth ones. I get annoyed when I have to use regular wipes, because they don't work as well and even the sensitive ones dry out my kids' bums. I have 4 dozen from ImseVimse. You DO NOT need that many if you're only diapering one kid. 2 dozen is plenty,  I bought 2 more dozen when Maggie was born.

Wipes Solution: Here's how I use cloth wipes. Again, lots of fancy ways to do this, I'm doing the cheapers & easiest way that works well. I've got a 1 liter plastic bottle (old shampoo bottle) I squirt in about 5 pumps of baby soap, 5 squirts of baby oil, and 5 drops of tea tree oil, then fill it up with water and shake. The soap is for cleaning, (duh) the baby oil helps the poop to sliiiiide off (WAY better than regular wipes) and the tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial and antifungal. I put a stack of cloth wipes into an old plastic wipes container (you know, the hard ones, with the top that opens) and squirt in wipes solution until the wipes are good & soaked. Then, just use 'em like you would regular wipes, but toss em in the diaper pail instead of the trash can. The tea tree oil prevents the wipes from getting funky, so they can sit in the solution for up to a week with no problem. I tend to go through a container's worth of wipes every 2 days or so, and go through a liter of the solution in about a week. (Also, I just carry a pack of disposable wipes in my diaper bag. You could use one of those hard plastic to-go wipes containers, and put your cloth wipes in them, I've just never really gotten around to it.)
old plastic wipes container

wipes & solution, ready to go
 Diaper Creams: So, TECHNICALLY you're not supposed to use regular diaper creams with cloth diapers, because they can build up a residue in the diapers and make them less absorbent. But the creams that are 'safe' for cloth are ex.pen.SIVE, and that not what I'm about. Soooooo, I use my fleece liners, and when the kids have a diaper rash, I just use Desitin and hope for the best. My kids inherited my sensitive skin and are rash prone, so we use Desitin A LOT and I have had no problems with buildup or absorbency. Yet. I also use Vaseline at every diaper change to prevent rashes & chapping and have had no issues with doing that either.


THE PROCEDURE:

There are like a million video tutorials online for how to put the diaper on the baby. Go find one. :) Or just come over and I'll show you. The short version is: Lay down a cloth diaper, lay a fleece liner in the middle, pull the front up over baby, pull the corners together,  put a Snappi on to hold it all together, wrap a cover on top of the whole thing, be sure ALL of the cloth diaper is tucked into the cover, cue applause.

Putting a cloth diaper on is not hard, I promise, you just need to practice a couple of times. However, becuase there are lots of supplies needed, (diapers, liners, snappis, covers, etc) I do think that organizing everything well is really helpful to making cloth diapering convenient. Also, I am a little bit of a freak with organizing systems, so it is ESPECIALLY important to me that everything have a place and that I can easily find it. Behold: Where I Keep The Diapering Stuff.

Here is the changing station in the nursery:

Let's walk through it.
On top of the changing table, far right: wipes container for Henry & Maggie's wipes.


On the white wall shelves: green bucket holds extra snappis, wipes container with K's wipes, spray bottle of BacOut (and there's some decorations, ignore those, not important for diapering :))


To the right of the changing table: I keep a piece of twine tied to the the changing table with clothespins on it & use it for hanging diaper covers to dry between uses. The red pail is trash & the beige pail is the diaper pail.


To the left of the changing table: A diaper stacker, full of H's cloth diapers.


 In the changing table bins, top shelf: Bin #1- extra clean covers, #2- tissues & snot sucker, #3- lotion, Vaseline, diaper cream, etc, #4- fleece liners, #5- clean wipes, doublers


In the changing table bins, bottom shelf: Bin #1- disposable wipes & Henry's disposable diapers (note that we are out. whoops!) #2- Maggie's disposable diapers, #3- Maggie's cloth diapers


I also have a mini changing station in the living room with diapering stuff for Maggie, just because newborns need sooooooo many diaper changes, it's nice to be able to change her without going back to the nursery. On the far right, the orange bundle is a wetbag for her dirty diapers. Next to it, another container of cloth wipes. 


 In the basket, I just keep a few diapers, liners, & other necessities.


Since Maggie still sleeps in our room at night, I also keep a little basket in there too, with a few diapers and some wipes for the middle of the night change.
Usually at night, I just bring that little orange wetbag (in the previous picture) into our room and toss any dirty diapers into it.
When I do laundry and am putting away clean diapers, I stock all 3 stations so they're ready to go.

And that, friends, is Where I Keep The Diapering Stuff.


THE WASHING:

I have a 6 (sometimes 7) step method: Shake, (Swish), Spray, Soak, Wash, Wash, Rinse.

Shake:  These first 3 steps are only necesary with poopy diapers, AND the first two are only necessary once your baby is eating solids. Breastfed baby poop is water soluable and can go straight into the washing machine. Crazy, I know, but its true. But once your kiddo is eating real food, even just a little bit, poop becomes a WHOLE new thing. SO, if you're dealing with newborns, skip to the spray step! You can come back to this later! But, if your kid eats food or formula, read on. First step is shake the poop into the toilet and flush awaaaaaay. Liners are very helpful with this task, and the poop tends to adhere to them less. Sometimes if things are a little sticky, I just use a peice of toilet paper to knock off anything thats still sticking to the diaper. Sometimes, however, you'll have a particularly gross diaper that needs more than a simple shake off.

(Swish:) When that happens, and it only happens sometimes, here's what I do. I keep a pair of yellow gloves in the bathroom near the toilet. Put 'em on, dunk the entire diaper in the toilet, swish it around, and flush. Swish again, flush, squeeze out excess water, spray with BacOut, (that step is coming...) and toss it in the pail. Then I just wash my hands, with the gloves on, hang the gloves to dry, and wash my hands again. For good measure.

Spray: I keep a little spray bottle of BacOut (side note: BacOut is AMAZING, it's a concentrated live enzyme cleaner and I could seriously write an entire post about the things I use it for. I literally buy it by the gallon. THE GALLON.) at the changing table and after I shake any excess poop off of diapers, I spray the dirty diapers with BacOut before dropping them in the pail. (For Maggie's diapers- she's breastfed only- I don't shake, I don't swish, I just spray and toss.) This means nothing weird will grow on your diapers while they're waiting to be washed and it helps prevent stains. It also keeps smells to a minimum. Love.

Soak: Okay, so this is where the REAL washing starts. I should say first- now that I'm cloth diapering 2 kids, I usually just do a load of diapers every night. Sometimes I skip a night, but if I do, we're daaaangerously low on diapers.  We always have disposables as back-up, but I really don't like using them very much, so I try to keep ahead of the curve. When it was just Henry, I washed every 2nd or 3rd day. OKAY, so, I pull the pail liner out of the pail, carry it to the washer and dump all the diapers (wipes, liners, doublers, dirty covers, etc) in. Then, just toss the pail liner in too. If there are any diapers in the wetbag from that day, grab the wetbag, dump the diapers in the washer, and then toss the wetbag in. (Confession: I don't actually wash the pail liner and wetbag EVERY time. More like every 3rd time. I just don't feel like they really NEED it- they're just for holding dirty diapers, so I'm okay with them being a little dirty.) I set my washer on a COLD PREWASH cycle and leave the lid open so the diapers can soak in cold water for about an hour. IT MUST BE COLD. Hot water can set stains in, and that's NOT what you want. Don't put any detergent or anything in for this step. Just plaiiiin cold water. Also, for ALL these steps put your washer on the largest load setting. Mine is called 'super.' You want the diapers to have lots of room to swish around in the washer- it gets them cleaner and avoids excess friction which can cause pilling.

Wash #1: After an hour or so close the lid of the washer. The diapers will run through the prewash cycle with just cold water.

Wash #2: Okay, this is the serious wash. After the cold prewash cycle, set the washer to a HOT wash cycle. Just use the regular wash settings for this. To wash the diapers I use Charlie's Soap detergent, baking soda, and vinegar. I order the Charlie's Soap on Amazon, and buy baking soda and vinegar in ginormous sizes for VERY cheap at Costco, and just keep 'em by the washer. I keep a 1/2 cup scoop in the vinegar bag, and a Downy Fabric Softener Ball with the vinegar. Toss in 1 scoop of Charlie's Soap, 1 scoop of baking soda, and fill up the Downy Ball halfway with vinegar, pull the plug closed, and toss it in too. The Downy Ball is so the vinegar is included in the RINSE water, and NOT in the wash water. Vinegar can also set stains into fabric, so you only want it to be in their once the soap has done it's job. (You can also use this baking soda/vinegar business as a boost to your regular laundry.)
the laundry station. so glamorous
Rinse: After the hot wash, you want to do one more COLD rinse. This is just to be sure all the detergent, baking soda, and vinegar are out of the diapers. You don't want any of that rubbing on your baby's skin. If you look at your washer dial, you'll see marked in the middle of the cycle where the rinse part starts. Just turn the dial to rinse and it'll fill up with water and rinse the diapers one more time.

So, to review, COLD soak & prewash, HOT wash with soap, baking soda, vinegar, COLD rinse.

THE OTHER THINGS

Drying: I like to line dry my diapers. It saves energy (money) and make them smell like fresh air. Yum. Also, sunlight naturally bleaches stains and kills odors, so, double win. (Also, other weird tip, you can cut a lemon in half and squeeze/rub the juice over any stubborn stains before hanging them outside. The sunlight & lemon juice is like a natural bleach, and works surprisingly well on tough stains. You can hang 'em on a clothesline outside and you don't even need clothespins, I just hang the diapers over the line. I do use a few clothespins for the wipes and liners, but I put 4 or 5 of them in one clothespin. If it's rainy or otherwise yucky outside, you can hang the diapers in racks inside. You won't get the sunlight benefits or fresh air smell, but you still get the perk of not having to run a dryer cycle. If you need the diapers FAST, or you're just feeling lazy (what? it happens!) put them in the dryer on the looooooongest possible setting. It'll take the whooole time, and maybe a few extra minutes.

Detergent: Currently, I use Charlie's Soap. I've also heard good things about Rockin' Green Detergent. HOWEVER, I'm about to do something even cheaper. 'Cause that's how I roll. I found this recipe for homemade detergent, and several people I've spoken to LOVE it for cloth diapers, and the rest of their laundry as well. I'll report back once I've given it a try. Whatever you use, it does need to be an ADDITIVE FREE detergent, so even something like All Free & Clear (which is what I use for the rest of our laundry now) won't cut it because it's fragrance and dye free, but not additive free. Read the label well- it matters. Also, prepare to pay. Additive free detergents aren't that cheap.

Bleach: Bleach is a big nono when it comes to cloth diapering. So, please don't tell anyone that sometimes I use it. It's bad for your diapers because it breaks down the fibers and, obviously, you don't want that on your baby's skin later. But, sometimes, you miiiiiiight leave the diapers in the pail too long, and things are funky. Or, you might just have some stains that you cannot get rid of, and they make you sad. Whatever. I'm not saying I recommend this, but A FEW TIMES I've soaked and washed my diapers with some bleach (half a cup maybe) and nothing terrible has happened. When I've done it, I've followed it up with TWO MORE hot washes, and a cold rinse to be SURE all the bleach residue is out.

Disposables: I'm not anti-disposables, they're just expensive, and seem to make more messes (leaks, blowouts) than my cloth diapers. However, we do always keep them on hand for babysitters, church nursery, and for overnight trips. I know some people are hardcore with using cloth diapers even when traveling out of town, but it's just too much hassle for us. We just buy a pack of disposables for the trip.

Stripping: There's a thing you do to cloth diapers called stripping them. It gets out any buildup or residue that may be hanging out in your diapers. My understanding is that if you start having problems with diaper rash or you have lingering ammonia or poop smells in your diapers you need to strip them. Ask someone else how to do this. I've never needed to, so I've never tried.

Husbands: David changes cloth diapers like a champ. It's not that hard. I swear. Your husband can do it too.

Cost: I couldn't help it. After I put all this crap together, I went back and added it all up. I just neeeeded to know!!! If you cloth diaper My Way, you'll spend $290 on one-time purchase supplies- diapers, liners, pails, etc. (This is assuming YOU actually buy it- at LEAST half of our cloth diaper stuff was given to us as gifts. Yaaay!) (ALSO, second parenthesis, all this stuff can be used OVER and OVER again for subsequent kids, further diluting the cost. Yaaaaaaay again!) Then I'm estimating my cost of consumable items- tea tree oil, detergent, BacOut, etc, at maybe $200 over a 2.5 year diapering life of one kid. That's a really, REALLY generous estimate too. And then, if you want to get REALLY picky we can factor in the cost of washing the diapers: $0.08 for a cold load, $0.37 for a hot load, $0.06 for a cold rinse, so $0.47 per load. If you are AWESOME and wash every other day for 2.5 years, that's $215 on laundry. (No dryer costs, becuase remember we're liiiiiine drying becuase we're cheeeeeaaaaaaap.) Total Cost: $705.

Disposables & wipes cost about $92 dollars a month (according to Baby Center, who is ALWAYS right) so total cost for one kid over 2.5 years would be $2,760.

$2,760 for disposables. $705 for cloth. Savings of $2,055.

Therefore, I win.

5 comments:

  1. Lara (yackety yac)February 5, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    I love that you cloth diaper! We do too (i recommend jilliansdrawers.com for their $10 diaper trial for anyone who's curious) but mostly use BumGenius & Flip. We have a diaper sprayer (like a shower massaged for your commode, ha) but rarely use it - mostly we can "roll" the mess off. & I did get a stripping detergent (RLR? Or Sensiclean?) but have only used it once. Also, I've heard drying/laying dipes in sunshine naturally bleached them.
    Ok, that's all from me, but again, way to go w/ cloth diapering! I'll have to try your wipe solution.

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  2. Oh my gosh Rachel. Yes it's me, I've been stalking your blog for months now and am always fascinated but I have to say, this is a gold mine post. I'm not even pregnant and am not really planning on having a baby for awhile, but I've always been curious about cloth diapering and thought it was way too messy for me. In the 20 minutes it took me to read this post (I'm still a terribly slow reader) I've been converted. You are amazing. Thank you for this detailed account of how to use, wash, store and organize cloth diapers and your supplies. I'm seriously making an Amazon wish list of all these items so I don't forget about them in a year and am printing out your post. Congratulations on being a mom-genius and thanks for sharing it with the rest of us. xoxo.

    Lindsey Baskette (Andreotta)

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  3. I have now read this post so many times that when I start to type "hav..." into my browser bar, it automatically fills in the name of this post.

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  4. So what's the word, do you still love your system? Do you like your new soap? We're Charlie's Soap fans too, and I'm planning on using prefolds with our new little one. Had to come back and find this post to get your recommendations!

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  5. This is so helpful, thank you! Question: Do you sew up the edges of your homemade microfleece liners, or does the fabric not fray?

    Leah Harner

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