“Oh My, Diapers! Cloth Diapering 101 for Busy Parents Who Don’t Have Time for (Bull)sh*t”
So, you’re on the fence about cloth diapering? One of my husband’s reservations about cloth diapering when I was pregnant with my first-born was, let’s face it, the P word: Poop. Baby shit. I mean, whether you end up using disposables or not, it’s going to get everywhere–on your hands, their clothes, every horizontal surface within a 10 foot radius, no matter what you do! So, with that out of the equation, you might as well cloth diaper. Not only is it more cost effective for your family, but it’s better for your baby and the environment.
When I was pregnant with my first-born, I told my husband that I wanted to learn to (modern) cloth diaper. I didn’t want to mess with prefolds and covers or any of that multi-step jazz. I wanted something almost as easy as disposables but more cost-effective and healthy for us.
I binge watched instructional YouTube videos for hours which compared a myriad of different types (from all-in-ones (AIO), all-in-two’s, pockets, fitteds, hybrids, sized vs. one-sized (OS); to wool pants it or not, synthetic vs. natural fibers, etc., on and on, you name it) and the brands (a range from Chinese rebranded diapers like EcoAble to the more expensive American made like BumGenius or Blueberry Simplex), which boiled down to cost and convenience for me. My husband and I both work full time, and I didn’t have time, space, or the mental energy to mess around, and the options were dizzying to say the least. If you’re thoroughly researching cloth diapers, you’ll find an overwhelming amount of information out there from the kinds, brands to wash routines and prints…whether to spray or not to spray…
What was the most convenient, cost-effective way to cloth diaper? Sure there’s no one way, but after two years of cloth diapering with my son (and now with my infant daughter, I’m going to be cloth diapering for at least another year and a half, and that’s a lot of laundry)!
COST SAVINGS FOR YOUR FAMILY
By my calculations, a disposable diaper is more or less 25¢-33¢ a piece, depending on the brand and type. Although I cloth diaper during the day and while we’re home, I more often than not tend to use disposables at night (hemp fitted diapers with OS covers work well for us at night).
Personally, I like Seventh Generation (the best–a local VT company) and even Earth’s Best (when these are on sale), which are all upwards of 30¢/diaper mark, because they are chem/dye free and are compostable and eco-friendly. You can typically find these at your local grocery store. However, when our budget is tight, I end up usually buying Kirkland (Costco) brand diapers, which are closer to 25¢/diaper. These are not chemical free nor are they eco-friendly. When I’m overrun by guilt at the thought of the latter, I justify my actions by rationalizing that because I mostly cloth diaper, I’m not contributing as much as most people into landfills, disrupting all ecosystems, and thereby killing our beloved planet, right? But I digress.
So say your baby goes through about 10 diaper changes per day on average (more when they’re brand new and tiny but a few less when they’re a bit older).
10 diapers/day X .30¢ ≈ $3.00/day x 365 days/year ≈ > $1,100/year on diapers per child
The first year I cloth diapered with my son, I calculated about a savings of $1,250 the first year for him alone. Currently, my son is just shy of three years-old, so he mostly wears diapers only at night time now (or if we venture out in public for long periods of time), but my three month old is currently going through about 12-15 diapers/day, sometimes more. If we were to solely use disposables, we’d be spending about $120-$130/month for both babies. So our cost savings by modern cloth diapering is significantly more, closer to about $1,450-$1,600 a year (even counting our electric and water/sewer bill)!
HOW MANY DIPES TO START YOUR CLOTH DIAPERING (CD) STASH?
A CD stash–If you’re planning on modern cloth diapering full-time, I would suggest at least 20-30+ for a full stash. You want to have enough where you can rotate them out– wash/dry one load while using the other. If you’re planning to cloth diaper a newborn, I would highly recommend having more than 30, since infants go through so many the first few months.
Fair warning– Buying cloth diapers gets addictive. It’s like getting tattoos; the more you get, the more you want!
There are constantly new prints coming out each season, and some hardcore cloth diapering parents will pay top dollar for limited edition prints (some upwards of $60/diaper or more–what!?)! The good news is that if you want to swap, trade, or sell diapers, you can! They hold their resell value so well.
FYI: Functionality wise, the solid colored cloth diapers work the same as fancy, fun printed ones…
TO BUY NEW vs. USED– THAT IS THE QUESTION
Some people are totally weirded out that another baby’s poop has been on/in/around used diapers, so they opt to buy new ones. But, logically, if you prep (specific wash routine before using) your cloth diapers and sun them (to get any residual stains out) before using them on your little, they are just like brand new diapers! Before my son was born, I bought a bunch of brand new diapers, but as I got more comfortable and familiar with CD’ing, I bought used (see Resources below), and now with my second baby, I’m only buying used.
Brand new cloth diapers, depending on the type and brand you end up with will run you about $25-$30/diaper on average. More are less, some are more. However, if you’re willing to buy used cloth diapers, you can buy them for closer to $12-$20/diaper and get good quality ones that look and function like brand new. With the advent of social media/Facebook cloth diaper swaps (see Resources below) and PayPal, shopping for used CD’s is so easy.
WHAT KINDS AND BRANDS SHOULD I BUY?
This depends on what you’re looking for in a cloth diaper! I wanted to find brands that were (in this precise order):
1. Co$t-effective 2. Convenient 3. Good quality 4. Trim (not bulky)
If you’re super busy like our household is with two full-time working parents, a toddler, an infant, two big dogs, a cat somewhere, and piles of laundry everywhere, I would highly recommend buying one-size (OS) all-in-ones (AIO’s) with an optional pocket to add a natural fiber insert for nap/night time.
There are all kinds or types of modern cloth dipes (best 2017). After personally trying pockets with four different kinds of inserts–bamboo, charcoal bamboo, hemp, and microfiber,– fitteds, all-in-two’s, velcro vs. snaps, synthetic vs. natural fiber vs. organic, and seemingly everything in between all within the first year of my son’s life, I’ve found my personal favorite: Blueberry Simplex AIO.
I must put a plug in here for Blueberry Simplex here. They’re all natural fibers (cotton–and come in organic if you want to pay a bit more). They are quite trim but very absorbent. I’ve never had a leak or blow out. The OS (not newborn kinds) have a cool insert that is fleece lined, so you can either use the insert as a top layer (fleece wicks away pee) or keep the insert inside the diaper; it all agitates out in the wash (so no pulling out poopy inserts before wash routine).
RUNNERS UP– Pros & Cons
- EcoAble (AIO)-Either charcoal bamboo or bamboo insert sewn in making it convenient and trim; great cost and good quality but are Chinese re-branded (not made the USA) and take forever to dry.
- Wonderful Bambino (hemp fitted) with a shell/diaper cover
- BumGenius AIO (4.0 or Freetime)-A bit overrated. Made in USA, good quality; bulky and expensive to buy new
By the way, I used to be so naive that I honestly thought velcro diapers would save me time… half a second to be precise.
VELCRO vs. SNAPS
Doesn’t velcro save time though? The short answer is nope. Over time as my babies moved from one size to the next, I’ve found that snaps are better. They fit more comfortably and snugly, which means less leaks and mess. And for the record, velcro does not save time and actually can create a storm of frustration when you get “velcro trains” out of the wash with all sorts of microfiber, lint, and fleece (sometimes from the diapers themselves). I do not have the time, patience, or desire to pick the velcro strips clean. This tends to wear down the tips of the velcro, making the velcro tabs protrude when they’re worn by the babe. This wears down the velcro quickly and snags on clothing. The last reason that velcro is overrated is because velcro can scratch the li’l babe if the tabs aren’t point perfect horizontally or downward. There have been more than a handful of times when I’ve seen small red patches or scratches from velcro scratching my little one…
DIRTY DIPE STORAGE
A common misconception about storing dirty diapers is that you it smells horribly, and you need to seal them container or submerged in water. No need for a “wet pail”–a bucket full of shitty water. Who wants that!? I just use wetbags (some call it “dry pail”) and when I hit about 15-20 diapers or two days’ worth, I will wash them.
TO SPRAY OR NOT TO SPRAY?
Exclusively breastfed babies’ poops are really not that bad. It rarely stains, and normally comes out very clean.Once your baby is eating real food or solids, the shit will change. Should you invest in a diaper sprayer or just tackle with wads of TP? Well, if you’re luckily married to a mechanically savvy and creative husband like me, you can make your own (DIY diaper sprayer)! Our hose attaches with velcro to the side of the medicine cabinet above the toilet, so it’s always suspended and doesn’t touch the nasties, which isn’t shown in the tutorial. Otherwise, you can buy diaper sprayer kits. I would highly recommend a Spray Pal diaper sprayer shield. The last thing you want when you spray into the toilet is to get shitty water everywhere. You can try to make your own, as I’ve seen some people do, but I think it’s better to just buy one.
PREP YOUR NEW-NEW or NEW-USED DIAPERS
A quick piece of advice–When you get new diapers, whether they are brand new or used, you should “prep” them. This is quite similar to stripping (see below) and is especially necessary if you have brand new diapers. Essentially, you’re washing the diapers in hot, hot water multiple times to remove natural oils and residue in the materials. Failure to prep new diapers will most likely lead to leaky diapers because the natural oils in the natural fiber diapers will repel pee…not what you want!
Prepping diapers need to be done separate from your CD stash, and it’s especially important if you have brand new diapers that are made of natural material (bamboo, hemp, charcoal bamboo, cotton–about 5 hot washes). These have more natural oils and need to be prepped longer than diapers made of synthetic material (microsuede–about 3 washes).
BASIC WASH ROUTINE
My basic wash routine is this: Dump about 15 diapers with the wetbag(s) into the washer. Cold rinse on a high agitator setting. Hot wash with 2 tbsp. Tide Original powder. Extra rinse. Dry on low/medium heat (not high, which would destroy the PUL over time).
You’ll find that some people have a more complicated wash routine (e.g., hard water) or prefer special detergents like Rockin’ Green or RLR. But I’m cheap and busy, so Tide Original powder works great (never liquid detergents because they leave a repellent film on dipes) more than just fine.
Stripping. I’m talking about cloth dipes…without the pole.
Occasionally, I’ll find that I need to strip my cloth diapers. This means that you strip them of repellents, soap build up and residue, which can accumulate over time. Here’s where hardcore cloth diaperers become polarized. This subject is touchy, polarized, and very hotly debated! One way to strip that gets a little complicated is using Dawn original dish soap and bleach (video here). Some use RLR; I just do a normal basic wash and do at least 2 more hot washes without soap. Lastly, which is optional, I’ll cold rinse, and sometimes add a tiny bit of bleach (1/2 cup–wears the PUL out over time) or white vinegar if necessary.
-Do not use regular “butt paste” or diaper creams, especially if they have mineral oil or petroleum. These are bad for baby skin anyway, which is why I make my own Simply Organic diaper cream. But I digress. Normal diaper creams will make cloth dipes repel liquid, which is precisely what you don’t want. Then the stripping to get it out. Sounds like an all nighter. Luckily, I knew this before I had begun, but I’ve read horror stories.
-Use as much water as possible to wash and rinse. Don’t skimp on this. Trying to conserve water can lead to poop, ammonia, or soap residue. I did this once and my son got a mysterious angry rash that I couldn’t figure out. Then I ended up having to strip them, which ends up wasting more water. Not worth it!
-Having Tea Tree essential oil and baking soda are great to have on hand in case the diapers start to stank a bit (on a rare occasion–embarassingly I admit–I’ll wait 3 days to wash). Just a few drops and a bit of baking soda is all that’s necessary until the next wash. Tea Tree is one of my fave eo’s and has dozens of other uses too by the way!
This rinse gets the poop out before hot washing. Do not immediately wash with hot water without a cold rinse first. Doing that will literally “cook the poop” into the diaper and stain! Yuck. No thanks.
OTHER REASONS TO CLOTH DIAPER:
HEALTHIER OPTION FOR YOUR BABY & FOR THE PLANET
Did you know that it takes less than 30 seconds for skin to absorb? Huggies, Pampers, Luvs and other commercial brand diapers are cheap and so easy to use. But they are full of dyes, fragrances, chemicals that get absorbed into your babe’s skin and ultimately organs. That’s right. Harmful chemicals in disposable diapers. Why do you think there’s that awesome gel that forms or the wetness indicator line that turns blue when your baby pees? Some babies get horrible diaper rashes, and it’s because of some of those aforementioned key contributors.
“According to the EPA, about 20 billion diapers are dumped into landfills per year” (Keefer). This translates to almost 3% of our total trash a year…Because commercial brand disposables are made of synthetic materials, they are not compostable. Well, I take it back. It takes about 500 years for one to fully decompose…
If I can choose an option that’s healthier for us while minimizing my footprint on the environment, I’m going to try to do it…
My Cloth Diapering 101 Presentation–Two years ago I was asked to present about modern cloth diapering to doulas in training. You can use this as a reference, which has some key points and tips. Download (PDF) My Cloth Diapering Slideshow Presentation
*Join Facebook Cloth Diaper Swaps (click on links below)!
Go shopping for new or used cloth dipes and get great advice from fellow cloth diapering parents.