Friday, August 23, 2013

Adventures in Cloth Diapering

When I was researching cloth diapers just before Emma was born, the following questions almost made my head explode!

Which kind of diaper? (There are dozens!) How many?  Which cover & how many? How many wetbags? How often should I change her? When should I use liners/doublers? Should I use a spatula or sprayer? How often should I launder them? How do I launder them?

We planned on using cloth from the beginning, but life with a newborn was more overwhelming than I had anticipated. Everything was new, & the idea of adding the tasks involved with cloth diapering was daunting. It seemed so much easier to wrap it up & throw it away. So, we started out in disposables, intending to make the switch once Emma was out of the newborn size. But, we found it easier to just continue as we were, so here we are using cloth diapers for the first time on our 14-month-old daughter. Needing to save money, we decided to finally take the plunge, & I am so glad we did because - strange as it may sound - I love it! I love knowing that there are no more chemicals & dyes next to Emma's skin. I love knowing that, in the long run, I am saving money for my family. And I love pulling freshly laundered diapers out of the dryer, clean & ready to be used on my precious girl's hiney. I know from personal experience that making the change can be overwhelming, so I would like to share what I've learned so far as a complete novice, in hopes that I can help other newbies in a very small way.

Okay, so from one greenhorn to another, if you need advice in choosing a cloth diaper, I highly recommend you running over to Kitchen Stewardship for some incredibly in-depth reviews, including videos. She solved all of my exploding-head issues! Which is definitely a good thing! As for our own experiences, because of the reviews on KS, I knew that 2-pieces were a good fit for us. ;-)  I liked the idea of just folding up the prefolds & using the cover to hold them in place. I further decided on the Econobum covers because they adjust as Emma grows, plus they're a good quality at a lower price. I was excited when my box of goodies came in, & I have to say that my enthusiasm hasn't abated!

Alright, so I've just given my choices to answer my "which kind of diaper & cover" questions, so let me tell you what I've discovered so far about the others. Upon advisement, I forget from where, I ordered 2 dozen red-edged & 1 dozen brown-edged prefolds. That has been good advice! With the ones always packed in the diaper bag, plus those waiting to be used or laundered, it's been the perfect amount. Emma wears the red-edged, with the brown being the next size up, & I've only had to use them a couple of times while the others were washing. As for how many covers, I initially ordered 7, but very quickly sent for 3 more because I almost ran out on laundry day. 10 seems to be the perfect number for now. Finally, I have found that 2 small & 2 large wetbags work well for us. I keep one large as a trash can liner (not closed, which encourages fruit flies), & dump this into the wash with the diapers. I replace it with the other large bag, because she's going to have wet or dirty diapers while the laundry is going, & I need somewhere other than the bookcase to put them. I chose 2 small ones so that if one was in the wash, I'd still have the other available if we go somewhere or to hold soiled covers. 

Now, how often should I change her? I had some trouble with this initially. It was an adjustment, because disposables don't have to be changed as often. Also, it's been harder for me to tell that she needed a change. Apparently, the cotton holds in odors better! A plus, but definitely an adjustment. And, unfortunately one that made our little ladybug's hiney break out in the worst diaper rash. She was red, raw, & obviously in pain, & I was very upset with myself. So, I grabbed my kitchen timer & set it next to her changing table. Every time I finished changing her diaper, I set the timer for an hour. When it went off, Emma got her diaper changed (only once has it been unnecessary). It only took one day using the timer to figure out how often I needed to change her. Normally, it works like this: she gets 3 diaper changes in the morning - 1 when we first wake up, 1 right before sitting down to breakfast, & 1 just before her morning nap. We follow the same pattern between her morning & afternoon naps, & again between her afternoon nap & bedtime. All told, she gets between 9 & 10 changes a day. And, it should be no surprise, no more diaper rash! Some will say you don't have to use any sort of diaper rash cream with cloth diapers, but I always slather coconut oil on her, & it works perfectly! We also keep Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm on hand, as it works well, too - & not just on diaper rashes. Both are safe on cloth diapers. When Emma has a wet diaper, I toss the diaper in the pail & hang the cover wrong-side-out over her bed railing. I keep 2 covers in rotation, so I simply grab the other one off the railing to use. If her cover is soiled, I simply put it off to the side until I can clean it (more on that later). While I'm on the subject of changing her diapers, let me address liners/doublers. My sister by marriage gave us a lot of their cloth diaper collection, so I already have these, & I use them 3 times a day - before each nap & before bedtime - to pad her diapers & give extra absorbency. As for storing all of these goodies, I have one basket to hold my diapers & another for the covers & liners.

Spatula or sprayer? I started out using a spatula, but have happily moved on to a sprayer, albeit an unconventional one. You've got some choices here to make, & it may depend on the configuration of your bathroom. Some people make their own sprayers or purchase them. I honestly had one picked out, but we're trying to save money, so I grabbed an empty cat litter bucket, & I use my detachable shower head on the massage setting. I set the bucket in the tub, hold the diaper over it, & spray it with hot water. All of the contents go into the bucket, which then gets poured into the toilet. Thanks to a tiny bathroom & a long shower head cord, I'm then able to hold the bucket over the toilet while I spray out anything that got left behind. Then the diapers go into the wetbag to await laundry day. 

Which brings me to the last questions. As for how to launder them, I will refer you to Green Mountain Diapers, who will send you a comprehensive guide with your order. I highly recommend it! In our own home, I wash the diapers every Monday, Wednesday, & Saturday, with diaper covers being washed the evening before & laid out to dry overnight. The covers are washed once on warm for the long cycle. Because of my washer's settings, the diapers are essentially washed twice, always with detergent. The first go-round they receive a short warm wash, & the second time I set it for the long hot wash*. I've only bleached targeted areas** once & rewashed those diapers separately. I've also used 1/4 cup vinegar in the final rinse once to make sure all of the soap was removed. Once they are done washing, I put them in the dryer on normal heat*** (due to the wetbags). Then I fold them in half & store them in their basket. That's it!

If you're new to cloth diapering like I am, or are considering it but find it daunting, I hope this has been helpful & encouraging. I am the sort who gets overwhelmed by new things, & I can let that hold me back. But I can say with confidence that cloth diapering is just as easy as using disposables once you have a system that works for you. And you'll save money & feel good about the fact that cotton is next to your baby's bum instead of chemicals. Happy diapering!

UPDATE (April 2015):  I highly recommend that you do NOT use the settings I did as a newbie (see * above)!  It took a little while, but my red-edged diapers began to fray & come apart, & I am 100% certain this was due to my "targeted bleaching", "hot wash", & "normal [drying] heat".  The lining on my wetbags all came off, not a one of my red-edged diapers can be used with our next baby, & my diaper covers are now pretty much useless as far as holding in wetness.  So!  Now, there is no targeted bleaching whatsoever; if there are persistent stains, I put a little bleach in the whole wash, but this is extremely rare.  I wash on a WARM setting, not hot.  Drying happens on a low setting &, of course, never includes the diaper covers.