Seeing how many other fantastic bloggers and sites have covered this subject well, I am not going to reinvent the wheel and give you all of the ins and outs of why cloth diapering is best, how much money it saves, the different types of cloth diapers, etc. At the end of this post, I will give you an extensive list of very excellent links that will fill you in on all of these important details!
What I will tell you about is my own cloth diapering tale, because I feel that it may be of benefit to those who are on the fringe and are contemplating using cloth, and also what I use and my basic method for cloth diapering.
This article was inspired by this email:
I’m assuming that you cloth diaper. I would love all the info that I could get as far as your favorite methods, and the products you use. The information out there is overwhelming. I am Mama to five wonderful girls and have another blessing on the way, due July 3.
I began cloth diapering shortly after the birth of my first child. I decided to allow myself 6 weeks of guilt-free disposable use, as we had just moved home from Japan, and had only moved into our new apartment two weeks prior to her birth. Shortly before she was born, I had gone to the only brick-and-mortar cloth diaper store (I mean, beyond Walmart, which doesn’t really count) that I knew of in my local area. I was astounded (literally, I wanted to run right out of the store) at the cost of buying good diapers and covers. Who knew that covers could start at $12 a piece? A piece!
Now for a bit of context: we had no money. Zip. Zero. Nada. Zilch. It honestly felt easier to buy $13 dollar packs of disposables every couple weeks than to fork out over $100 up front. Fortunately, I convinced myself that the long-term gain was worth the price, and bought the most economical option I could find. Starter packs of 6 diapers, 3 liners, and 1 cover (I don’t remember anymore how much they cost, but I remember that they were on clearance!). I bought 6 packs, and so it all began.
May I confess that I initially didn’t truly want to do it? I shuddered at the thought of touching them, of washing them. I allowed myself to use disposables whenever we went out in public, because using cloth was just “too hard”. And so, I spent nearly two years back and forth between my desire to produce less waste and use something cheaper (and more natural), and my self-perpetuated feelings that cloth diapering was too burdensome and inconvenient.
Between my two children, I had about 6 months of being diaper-free. During that time I read a book, that was ironincally entitled Diaper Free, explaining the traditional method in other cultures of teaching children from infancy to respond to cues and use the toilet (with assistance), rather than using diapers. I was intrigued. My desire to go greener had intensified up to this point, and this really resonated with me. I made up my mind to do it, in combination with cloth diapers for going out. When my husband became very sick, shortly before the birth of our son, I knew that it was out of the question. And suddenly cloth diapers looked very attractive to me (isn’t it funny how our perspective can change?)
What I have found is that cloth diapers are truly (really, truly!) simple to use. There is nothing more inconvenient about them than disposables, and their benefits are so much greater. I shocked myself by starting to use them when our son was only 4 weeks old this time (he was quite small, and I actually had no preemie cloth diapers that fit him, so I had to wait for him to grow a little). Even in the midst of my husband’s chemotherapy treatments, and caring for him, plus a toddler and newborn, for whatever reason, washing diapers didn’t phase me. I even went a step further and went to cloth wipes as well (except for an emergency pack of regular wipes in my bag for those times when I can’t access a faucet to wet my wipes, though I will be changing this method soon, too).
Personally, I use fitteds (with velcro) and covers (more about this style of diapering in the links below). It’s not because it’s my favorite, it’s because it’s what I have and I’m practical like that. I have a multitude of diapers, a good number of liners or inserts, and a handful of good covers (plus a few that I really don’t care for). It’s all a mish-mash, really, but you know what- that’s ok. It still works! Even without gorgeous, designer-baby colored, all-in-one, deluxe organic wool diapers, I am still getting by. 🙂
Here’s My Basic Method
Whenever I change my little guy, I toss all of the diapers and wipes into a pail beside his change table (I try to remember to close the velcro tabs, but hey, I’m not perfect). If it’s quite a solid poo (now that he’s eating some solid foods), I flush it down the toilet first, then put it in the pail.
My pail is from Walmart. It cost less than $10. It is from the home organization section, and is just a medium sized pail (big enough to be a small kitchen garbage), with a lid that snaps shut on the sides. It’s a little awkward to carry, but it’s not too bad. I fill my pail 2/3 full with cold water, and add about a half cup of vinegar (which I don’t measure, I only eyeball), which I buy in very large quantity at Costco (I believe about $4 for 2 gallons?).
I wash my diapers twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays (I don’t have access to a machine on the weekends). I lug the pail downstairs, and dump it all in the washer. I put the washer on cold, and on a medium water level (which is more than enough for such a small load of wash), and set it to rinse. When this cycle is finished, I switch it to hot, lower the water level to low, add a small amount of a natural laundry detergent, and turn it on for a full cycle.
This winter I am using the dryer for my diapers (not my covers- those I air dry on top of the washer). In the spring time, I plan to start using a rack or a line outside the house, now that we have a yard. I’ve heard that air/sun drying your diapers helps keep them very clean and white (the sun acts almost like a natural bleaching agent).
When I go out in public, I bring along a large ziploc bag in my diaper bag. I’d love to buy a wet bag, but I just haven’t felt compelled enough to spend the money yet (see, it’s that practical thing again). If I’m able to use a faucet, I wet my cloths and add both them and the diaper to the ziploc bag. If I’m in a more random place (the back of a car, for instance), I use a disposable wipe, and just try to remember to remove it before washing the diapers (otherwise it sticks too all, and I do mean all, of your velcro and is very difficult to remove). When I get home, I simply dump my ziploc bag into the diaper pail, give it a quick rinse, and put it back in my diaper bag. When I feel that it’s seen the end of it’s days (ie. when it stinks), I throw it out and get a fresh one (this is why I’m eyeing the wet bags- I don’t like throwing out the ziplocs).
I hope that the simplicity and practicality of my method came through in what I just wrote- it is just a routine that you need to get into, and it is no more trouble than anything else baby related. And now, I cannot even imagine going back to disposables. I have used them only once (since he was first born), when we went on an almost 2 week trip to Florida and Georgia, because I couldn’t quite figure out any way to make it work (perhaps someone can share with me what they’ve done on long trips). Whenever we go to Seattle to visit my husband’s family, I take my diaper pail with me in the trunk, and do a load of wash at my mother-in-law’s if I need to.
One very big praise of cloth diapers is that with my daughter, we had a lot of diaper rash. I noticed it particularly during the times when I leaned more heavily on disposables. With our son, we have had next to no rashes. I try to change him quite regularly through the day. Since I have a basic routine with him (for eating, sleeping, etc.) I change him first thing in the morning, and then right before his nap for the rest of the day (since he still naps 3 times a day, it’s fairly often), and before bed, as well as anytime that I know for a fact that he needs to be changed (I heard him go, or his diaper is leaking and his clothes are a bit wet).
What products do I recommend you use (or avoid)?
Well, since I haven’t been willing to spend a lot of money, I mostly just use what I have. I went the first 6 months of my son’s life using the cheap, plastic Gerber pants and Kushie’s covers (do not ever, ever waste your money on these covers that do not work- the fabric around the edge of the diapers leaks as soon as they get wet). But even with poor covers, I survived, I just did a little extra laundry.
2 months ago, I was blessed beyond belief to get some money to order new diaper covers. I chose to get 4 Bummi’s Super Whisper Wraps. Overall, I would say that these are good covers, far better than the cheaper ones I was using before. Sometimes he can get through a whole day dry in one of these. Unfortunately, sometimes they leak if he’s wetter than I realize before I change him. I think next time I will buy something else in a similar price range, probably Mother-ease, which I had the opportunity to try once and thought they were great. My sister-in-law uses them and really likes them. Bummi’s and Motherease both cost around $11-14 per cover (the very amount that astounded me at first!), but they are worth it. Do not scrimp on your covers, or you will pay for it in frustration and loads (literally) of laundry.
My diapers themselves are Chummies. They are nothing special, but they are adequate. A little too thin, so they are not terribly absorbent, but I usually add a liner inside, and I double diaper at night. I also have some hand me downs from a friend (brand unknown), and some toddler sized Kushie’s diapers (which are fine, much better than their covers).
Additional Cloth Diapering Reading
Cloth Diapering 101 from Wellness Mama
Cloth diaper detergent chart– Which detergent works best with cloth diapers?
Cloth diapering- is it worth it? at Passionate Homemaking
Cloth wipe recipe at Stewardship not Convenience
Frequently asked questions at the Diaper Pin (a great resource for reviews and diaper retailers)
Cloth Diaper basics– at Cotton Babies
BabyBecause– where I just bought my latest diaper covers- good prices, service and cheap, quick shipping. Also, this is where I saw the wet bags that I’d like to get.
Do you cloth diaper? What advice can you give to those just getting started?