Cloth diapering in practice

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The cloth diapering has actually gone pretty well! I used to think I would want to wear gloves to change Bash’s poopy diapers. Maybe out of habit since I used to work at a childcare center. But I don’t mind at all. Once you push a bowling ball out of your butt with a bunch of other random bodily fluids in front of a room full of people, not much will bother you.

Anyway, so far the only downside of cloth diapering has been the cleanup, since we have to wash the diapers everyday. However, this only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, including hanging the diapers up to dry and putting away the diapers from the day before. That being said, if I’m alone and Bash wakes up hungry as I’m washing, I have to stop what I’m doing. A few times it has taken me 3 hours to finish the laundry and hang it up. I’m not actively washing for three hours, but the delay in finishing the diapers means they have less exposure to sunlight. I have a large diaper stash, but it isn’t infinite. Also, on rainy days we keep the drying rack inside so our apartment looks extra messy.

Some pleasant surprises with the cloth diapers have been:

  • They actually get clean when we follow the bucket method from Fluff Love University! I was shocked. Granted, we pre-rinse the poop off of the diapers before tossing them in the bucket, but still. Maybe when Bash starts to eat solid food his poopy diapers will be harder to clean, but for now, the breast milk poops are very manageable.
  • Sunning the clean, wet diapers really does make the poop stains disappear. I read that the sun does this, but seeing it in action was cool.
  • Although the diapers will sometimes leak urine, they have NEVER leaked poo (yet anyway)! And Bash has some pretty large ones. His Grandfather called it an “atomic bomb” when he heard Bash poo and saw it’s size. I know babies get blowouts all of the time in disposable diapers, so hopefully the cloth continues to contain them.
  • Hand washing = Exercise! I wash the diapers with a bucket and plunger. Between diaper laundry and picking up a baby, my arms have gotten way less flabby!
  • Tommy has gotten into it as well. He has his preferences when it comes to which diaper inserts to use and when. The other day he was trying to determine the best way to hang the diapers to minimize drying time. It was amusing!

Help! I’m addicted to buying cloth diapers…

…and my baby is even here yet!

I seriously think I have a problem. I wanted to try cloth diapering to save money. Tommy and I bought the cheapest and most minimalistic style of diapers out there (flats and flour sack towels with solid colored covers). Well fast forward a month or two and here I am scouring cloth diaper co-ops, ebay, and other groups for cute printed diapers. (In my defense, this is still way cheaper than using disposables and I won’t be throwing my diapers away. On the contrary. If you have a large stash of cloth diapers, a.k.a. “fluff,” and take good care of it, you can resell your diapers for at least half of the cost you paid for them. I already try to talk about my wash routine with Tommy though of course he is tired of hearing it. But when it comes time to use these diapers on our second child or resell them, I know he will be silently thanking me in his head.)

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Charcoal bamboo (left) and hemp (right) inserts

So I’ve been looking into pocket diapers now because they have thousands of awesome patterns to choose from. They often come with a microfiber insert. Microfiber is great at quickly absorbing urine, but they often have more stink issues, lead to compression leaks, and they can’t be right against your baby’s tush (the fabric will dry out the skin). Sometimes you can buy pockets without inserts or have the insert upgraded to charcoal bamboo or hemp.
Charcoal bamboo inserts are dark in color and have a layer of bamboo on the outside with microfiber on the inside. Bamboo and hemp are more absorbent (though slow to absorb) and safe to use against your baby’s skin, so these inserts are often preferred, though it’s completely up to you. I personally will be avoiding pure microfiber inserts so my family and I don’t get confused about what can and can’t touch the baby. Many of the co-ops and Facebook fluff groups I’ve come across will sell pocket diapers without inserts. I try to buy from them since it’s often cheaper and I have enough inserts for now I think (15 hemp and 12 charcoal bamboo) to use with just the pockets. I still have 12 flat diapers and 12 flour sack towels which you can also fold and stuff in the pockets if you like.

I’m sure Tommy will flip his lid when he finds out that we have triple the diaper stash that we started out with. Actually, as soon as he proofreads this he will start choking on the pastry he has in his mouth, but that’s fine. I used my “mad money” (we each have a small allowance to spend on whatever personal things we want) so really he has no grounds to complain. Honestly, I like to shop. Since I feel like a beached whale and my due date is in 6 weeks, there’s really no point in buying clothes for myself. Let me have my fun and get cute diapers for my son.

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I can’t wait to use these and more are on the way! I really do have a problem…

Easy diy fleece liners for cloth diapers

I purchased a polyester fleece blanket (about 55” x 65”) at the 99 cent store for $2. It was cheap and I liked the colors, but at the time I had absolutely no use for it. It was the middle of summer…probably why these blankets were in the store in the first place. Anyway, when researching cloth diapering I found that many people use fleece liners for a variety of reasons:

  • Fleece helps to wick away moisture, keeping your baby feeling dry, especially if he/she is prone to getting a rash from wetness sensitivity20150915_111900
  • Fleece liners catch most of the poop, helping to reduce staining in your cloth diapers
  • Poop comes off of fleece much easier than than the standard cloth diaper materials
  • Fleece liners can be used to protect your cloth diapers from many popular diaper creams that can stain or cause repelling
  • Fleece liners are reusable

How I made my fleece liners:

  1. I washed the blanket so it wouldn’t shrink after I cut the liners
  2. I cut off the tag and decorative edge20150915_104824
  3. I measured the inside of my diaper cover and the size of a tri-folded/pad folded flat diaper
  4. I made 2 templates out of cardboard (I decided to make two sizes: 12” x 5” and 15” x 5”)
  5. I used a pen to make outlines on the fleece (I tried to maximize the number of liners I could get out of the one blanket)
  6. I cut along my lines with sewing scissors (sharp regular scissors should also work just fine)

From a 55” x 65” fleece blanket I was able to make 20 large liners (15” x 5”) and 22 smaller liners (12” x 5”). That’s 4.5 cents per piece! The great thing about making these liners out of fleece is that there is NO SEWING INVOLVED!!! You just cut the fleece to the desired size and that’s it. The fleece doesn’t fray.

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All I need to do now is wash the liners before using them!

Prepping our flat diapers

We got a variety of things to use as flat diapers:

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  • 12 OsoCozy birdseye flats from Amazon
  • 5 cotton flannel receiving blankets from Ross (which we may or may not use as diapers)
  • 12 Room Essentials flour sack towels from Target
  • 6 cotton receiving blankets from my mom (again, we may or may not use as diapers)
  • 5 handmade pieces (cotton/poly blend?) from Tommy’s mom

I’ve decided to hand wash and line dry our diapers to save money (we share one washer and dryer with 8 other units). I considered boiling the flats to prep them, but finally went with hand washing so I could establish a routine and see what worked well and what didn’t.

20150824_100142We bought a 5 gallon bucket and plunger from Home Depot, and Tommy drilled a hole in the lid so I could wash without get splashed. I didn’t bother with the lid during the prepping phase because the diapers are basically clean. When they are soiled with urine and poop that lid will be on securely! We are using the detergent brand, Foca (it has a white baby seal on the outside of the bag). Some cloth diapering families are strict about using cloth
diaper specific detergents, others aren’t. I read enough articles and discussion threads where people used regular detergent (as long as there were no fabric softeners in them) without any problems. We bought an 11 lb bag of Foca from Target for $8.59. Besides being inexpensive, Foca contains a water softener, which is great for us because we have very hard water.

Wash routine:

I looked at a variety of websites for wash routines, but I found this one from Fluff Love University (Krawford & Hecht, 2014-2015) to be the simplest and easiest to follow. To summarize:

  1. Cold water rinse: 50 plunges, wait 5 min, 50 more plunges, dump water (I skipped this step because the diapers were new)
  2. First hot water wash with detergent: 50 plunges, let the diapers sit for 10 min, 50 more plunges, dump water
  3. Second hot water wash with detergent: 50 plunges, let the diapers sit for 10 min, 50 more plunges, dump water
  4. Cold water rinse: 50 plunges, wait 5 min, 50 more plunges, dump water

What worked:

  • Load size of 12 flats:
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    Drying flour sack towels on my rack from Costco ($25)

    This allowed me to fill the bucket maybe 3/4 full with water and diapers and gave me enough space to stir everything around with the plunger. This amount also fits perfectly on my drying rack.

  • Plunging wasn’t as difficult on my arms as I thought it would be! If anything, wringing out the clothes required the most work.
  • Overall the process required minimal time. I’d say a prepping load took about 25-30 min, but most of that time was letting the diapers soak in the hot water. Actively plunging, draining, and wringing out the diapers took about 5-10 minutes.

What didn’t work:

  • The detergent amount:
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    Half cup of Foca = too many suds!

    According to the Foca bag, you should use ½ cup of detergent for about 2.5 gallons of water (half of my bucket). Well I used half a cup of detergent with 2/3 a bucket of water and it was still a suds explosion! I was so mad because I had to rinse out the diapers seven (yes seven) times to remove the detergent! On the next batch I only used 1/8 of a cup (2 Tbsp, as recommended by the Fluff Love article). This seemed to work a lot better! When in doubt, start out with too little detergent. You can always add more later!

  • I got lazy at the end and mixed the dark colored Ross receiving blankets with the light colored pieces from both of our moms. Mistake! The dark blue Ross blanket leaked dye everywhere. I’m thinking of using those blankets as burp cloths instead. I feel that more dye may leak out of them and I don’t want my baby to have a blue bottom. I hand rinsed each of these items to try to remove the blue dye and it seemed to come out fine.

I won’t know how well the diapers will work until our baby arrives. While I could test them for absorbency now, I can’t test how they will fit on my baby and how he reacts to them. I’m satisfied with the prep job that I did, and Tommy reminded me that the flats will get washed multiple times in the first couple of weeks anyway since babies go through so many diapers. So if the diapers aren’t at their peak absorbency yet, they will quickly get there!

 

Reference:

Krawford, K. & Hecht, D. (2014-2015). Hand Washing Cloth Diapers. Fluff Love University. Retrieved from http://www.fluffloveuniversity.com/special-circumstances/handwashing-coin-op-and-portable-washers/hand-washing-cloth-diapers/

 

Why use cloth diapers: Saving money

At first we were going to go the disposable route because that’s just what most people use and picture when they hear the word “diaper.” The cheapest and most convenient disposables we could find were at Costco (Kirkland brand). I love Costco and anything from Kirkland. The quality has always been great and the price has been good as well. I’ve changed a lot of children that use Kirkland diapers and wipes and they seem to hold. I’ve personally used Kirkland wipes on myself when I want to feel refreshed. They stay moist for a long time, have a nice mild scent, and the material is thick and soft. That being said, I’m an adult. A baby’s bottom is more sensitive.

One day I calculated the average cost of using Costco diapers. It came out to $1336.33 for 2 years, and that’s without factoring in the cost of wipes. I thought that number was ridiculous, especially for diapers that are used once and then thrown away. It’s like paying rent on your space in the landfill. I’m fortunate enough to be in a situation where I plan on staying home with our baby for at least the first year. I know being a mom a full time job, but I also want to cut our expenses since I will not be bringing in any additional income. That’s where cloth diapering comes in.

Cloth Diapering Supplies

Most websites about cloth diapers say that for a newborn, you want to have a stash of at minimum 24 diapers, assuming you will wash the diapers every other day (newborns need between 10-12 diaper changes per day). Cloth diapering can get a bit pricey if you buy the fancy ones and use fancy detergent and have a coin laundry machine like we do. But it can also be really inexpensive. The cheapest option, which I will be trying out, is to use flat diapers with diaper covers.

flat diapers from amazon website
OsoCozy flats
osocozy prefolds from toys r us website
Osocozy prefolds

Based on dozens of websites I’ve looked at on cloth diapering, you really want to go for flat diapers that are made out of all cotton, bamboo, or hemp. Cotton seems to be the cheapest and easiest to find. At first I was going to go with prefolds (the same as flats basically but they’ve already been prefolded and sewn together somewhat so you have less folding to do yourself). Prefolds are thicker in the middle and thinner on the sides, but the length and width dimensions of a prefold are much smaller than that of a flat. I’ve decided to try flats first for a few reasons:

  1. Flats are more versatile in terms of the types of folds I can make and what I can use them for after diapering
  2. Flats are easier to wash and dry quicker than prefolds because they open up to a single layer and
  3. The same flats can be used from birth through potty training (prefolds often come in at least two sizes).

Some flat diaper options include:

  • OsoCozy Birdseye Flat Unbleached Diapers off of Amazon ($19.25/12 pack)
  • Flour sack towels (100% cotton, about 27” x 27” to 30” x 30”…We looked all over and finally found them for $1 each at Target in-store.)
  • Receiving blankets (again all cotton, somewhere between 27” x 27” to 30” x 30”)
flip diaper cover from amazon
“flip” brand diaper cover

I expect that I will be trying all three at some point. Both my mom and Tommy’s mom have given us old cloth diapers and a few receiving blankets. Our first order of Osocozy flat diapers also arrived in the mail today! I haven’t personally tested out any of these options to compare them yet. When I’ve assembled our stash of flats I will post an update on how to prep them and how our baby likes them!

Now flat diapers are good at absorbing urine and poop, but they are not waterproof, so you will want some diaper covers. I’ve heard that 4-6 covers is the minimum you want to go with for a newborn. The cover can hold the flat diaper in place, or you can buy a Snappi or diaper pins to hold the flat diaper together. Many companies make waterproof covers out of PUL (polyurethane laminate), but you can also find covers made out of wool which tend to be pricier but are made out of all natural materials. Anyway, if you go for the covers made out of PUL then you can wipe them clean with a diaper wipe in between changes (unless poop gets on them). That way, you can use the same cover a few times before giving it a thorough wash. We will be trying out a little bit of both. I’m looking into Alva, Thirsties, and Flip covers at the moment since they all have pretty good ratings on Amazon. Tommy’s mom is also giving us one of his old wool diaper covers so we can see how that goes as well!

Cost Breakdown

Assuming you get the minimum recommended amount of supplies…

  • 24 flat diapers (say we get two packs of the OsoCozy flats at $19.25/dozen)
  • 6 Flip diaper covers ($14.95/cover)
  • 1 set of Snappis (Tommy found a pack of 3 Snappis on ebay for $2!)

Cost: $130.20

Obviously, with cloth diapers you have to wash them and store them, so that can cause the cost to rise by a little or a lot, depending on how you want to go about cleaning them. I will be hand washing ours and hanging them to dry. We live in an apartment where our water and trash is paid for, so the only extra costs for me would be more laundry detergent and some accessories.

  • Laundry detergent: $70 for a 2 year supply
  • Wet bag: $7.99
  • Pail liner: $15.99
  • Bucket: $10?
  • (Optional) Diaper sprayer: $44.95

Total cost of cloth diapering with hand washing and line drying for 2 years: $279.13
Total cost of disposable diapers for 2 years: $1336.33
Savings: $1057.20 over 2 years!!!

Ways to further save include using cloth wipes, reusing your cloth diapers for subsequent children, and even buying gently used cloth diapers online. It may sound gross to some people, but most cloth diapering families have very strict washing routines and of course you can wash them again once you buy them. We also saw some new diaper covers made in China on ebay for about $4 each. We ordered one to check out the quality and see how it holds up compared to the rest of our diaper cover stash. It is the Alva brand. Even if you buy all new supplies, cloth diapering is a sweet deal! Ultimately, the monetary savings are what sold me on cloth diapering.

Bottom line: If you want to save a ton of money, use cloth diapers!

 

Why use cloth diapers: The environment

Many people will say that cloth diapers are more eco-friendly because you are using something once, throwing it into a landfill, and letting it sit there for the next 500 years to decompose. Others argue that the water and power used to clean cloth diapers has the same negative impact on the environment as disposables. Honestly, I’m sure both arguments are true to an extent. I plan to make cloth diapering eco-friendly for my family by hand washing and line drying the diapers. For busy families however, this isn’t always an option, and that’s ok! When I was a toddler teacher, I spent at least a third of my day (probably closer to half actually) changing diapers, mopping the floor, and picking up toys. I would come home, plop on the couch, and literally not move while my hubby would want to do something active since he had a desk job. Our place was also a mess because the last thing I wanted to do was think about cleaning when I got home. I get it. If hand washing isn’t for you then don’t do it. You’re not going to impress anyone by saying you hand wash your diapers. If anything people will look at you like you’re from another planet. (And in the off chance you do end up impressing someone by your hand washing, you might want to re-evaluate that person’s sanity!)

If you do decide to hand wash, or at least line-dry (that part doesn’t usually require extra work!), then cloth diapering is arguably more eco-friendly. You will probably use less water, your diapers will get clean faster since you don’t have to wait for an entire machine load of them to pile up, and the sunlight will naturally bleach your diapers to help keep stains at bay. Personally, hand washing will save me a few extra trips up and down the stairs to get to our apartment complex’s one shared washer and dryer. With hand washing, I can do it on my own time and not be worried that a neighbor is waiting to yank my wet things out the second the wash is done so they can put their dirty laundry into the machine (sadly, I speak from experience). Also, when your baby becomes a toddler, he or she can get involved by helping you to hang the freshly washed diapers. Children love to help out around the house. Anything you are doing, they want to do as well!

Bottom line: If you are doing cloth diapering solely to be eco-friendly, then consider hand washing and/or line drying. Otherwise, don’t stress yourself out.

 

Why use cloth diapers: Better for your baby’s bum

(I just noticed that people use a lot of “B” words for that area, “Butt”, “Bottom”, “Bum”, and “Behind.” Maybe the “B” reminds them of butt cheeks?)

Are cloth diapers actually better for your baby than disposables? I personally think this answer is both yes and no.

You should check your baby’s diaper at least every two hours while he or she is awake! This has been a rule at every early childhood center that I have worked for or visited. If you discover that your child has peed or pooped before the two hour mark, then change the diaper (cloth or disposable), even if you are positive the diaper can hold more urine without leaking. In this respect, cloth diapering is better for your baby because the baby feels the wetness and the diaper will probably not be as absorbent as a disposable, sort of holding you accountable to the two hour diaper change rule.

Another argument many people make is that disposable diapers have chemicals in them which aren’t good for your baby. I haven’t researched all of the scientific evidence though so I can’t comment on what chemicals are in disposable diapers and if they put your baby at risk in any way. There are disposable brands such as the Honest Company, Seventh Generation, and Earth’s Best that claim to be free of chlorine, dyes, and other additives.

Ultimately though, it depends on the parent. If you’re the type of parent that uses cloth diapers but doesn’t wash them properly (either by hand or machine), then your baby will probably get a rash and would be better off in disposables. On the other hand, because disposable diapers tend to leave the baby feeling dry for longer, you might be tempted to change your baby’s diaper less often, also encouraging a rash to develop. Personally, I’m lazy when it comes to changing things like the trash bag (Tommy nags me about it all the time. Honestly, if the trash bothers you so much, just take it out yourself!). Anyway, I often won’t do something unless it’s an impending necessity. Will I change my baby’s disposable diaper every two hours even though I know it can last me 4 hours? Maybe, maybe not. Will I hand wash his stash of cloth diapers when I see I only have a few left? You bet I will! I only do laundry when I’m running low on my own underwear, so it only makes sense for me to wash my babies things when his stash gets low as well.

Bottom line: Go with the diapering option that will cause you to put a clean diaper on your baby as often as possible!