Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cloth Diapers

Before my daughter was born I had decided that we would use cloth diapers because I liked the idea of being able to reuse them and I didn't relish the idea of having to drag myself to the store with a baby because I'd run out of diapers. I also liked the idea that we wouldn't be making nearly as much trash with cloth diapers as with disposables. As it is we rarely fill a 13 gallon trash bag in a week and this is something that makes me happy. As I learned more about cloth diapers I also realized how cute they can be which was a big selling point (does that make me shallow?). I had a lot of people tell me that it would be too much work and that I'd switch to disposables in no time. I figured that I was more stubborn than that and decided to prove them wrong. I had one friend who had used cloth diapers for her kids telling me that it was easy and it turns out that she was the one that was right. From the time my daughter was about a week old she was almost exclusively in cloth diapers. We used disposables for one vacation and we have used them as extras in the diaper bag for when we run out of cloth diapers because they take up less space. All in all we have only ever used one package in each size of diapers and we've had to make an effort to finish each small package. For us cloth is just so much easier (not to mention cheaper, more environmentally friendly and better for our daughter's sensitive skin). This leaves me wondering why everyone doesn't use them. I understand that a large part of their appeal for us is due to the fact that we have a washer and dryer in our home. I can understand someone not doing cloth diapers if they don't have this, but what about those that do? All I can figure is that people don't know how great they can be so I am going to answer a few questions that I had before I started. If anyone else has questions please let me know and I'll be glad to answer those too. Cloth diapers may not be for everyone, but they are worth looking into if you have a little one in diapers.

Aren't cloth diapers hard? Don't they take a lot of work?
No, they really aren't. We use prefolds and waterproof covers with a snappi. This is one of the hardest things to get onto a squirmy baby and they are still pretty easy after a little practice. If you are worried about it there are a ton of diapers on the market that work just like disposables except that you wash them instead of throwing them away. We use these (actually, we use the older version, but those aren't available anymore) at night when we aren't awake enough to bother with multiple steps. As for washing we just do a cold water wash with a little detergent followed by a hot wash with 1 tbs. of Charlie's Soap laundry powder. Everything that isn't waterproof goes in the dryer and I pull the waterproof covers out and line dry them. They can go in the dryer, but they last longer this way. When you're done you don't even need to fold stuff if you don't want to. It's not like it matters if your diapers get wrinkled, you can just use out of the basket.

What about when I'm out and about?
Some people use disposables when they are out and I had done this at first. However, I found that it is actually easier to just use cloth out. I even use wet cloth wipes in a wipe case because it is so much easier. I have a wet bag that I put everything in and it keeps the wetness and odor in, even when there is a poopy diaper. When I get home I just dump the whole thing into the diaper pail and toss the wet bag in after. (It helps that I have more than one wet bag.) This is why cloth wipes are so much easier, if you use disposable wipes you have to pull them out separately.

What about the poop?
First of all, I don't know how many of you have read the diaper package, but technically you are supposed to scrape the poop out of disposable diapers before throwing them away. This is to prevent ground water contamination when it rains at the dump. However, I don't know of anyone who does this because most anyone who knows either ignores it or switches to cloth. That said, poop isn't hard to deal with when you are using cloth diapers. If you are exclusively breastfeeding (no formula, no solids) the cold water wash will take care off all the poop. It will wash it safely into the sewer/septic system. (Note: If you use gray water for watering your plants you won't want to do that when washing diapers, the water really should be going to the sewer/septic system for these loads.) If you are using formula and/or your baby is old enough to be eating solids then you have a few options. You can use the old "dunk and swish" method, you can buy (or make) a diaper sprayer or you can use liners. We really like the liners. You can buy either reusable or flushable liners or you can buy microfleece and cut it to size to make your own. We used the last option as I was able to find microfleece on sale at and make all the liners we will ever need for about $4. Another thing to consider with the poop question is whether or not you are having problems with blow-outs. The closest thing to a blow-out we have ever had was when I didn't get the cover on tightly enough and we had a dime-sized amount of poop on the outfit. I have never had baby poop on the car seat, stroller, baby carrier, crib sheet or my shirt. We have never had to throw away an outfit or scramble to get the car seat clean after. I have heard these stories from other moms, but never experienced it myself. The cover has always contained even the largest, nastiest messes including diarrhea! Just a thought...

What about daycare?
We haven't had to worry about this, but it might be worth asking. The regulations vary from state to state and in many cases a daycare might say "no" just because they think cloth diapers are hard. If you supply them with all-in-one or pocket diapers and a wet bag to put them in they may be more willing to work with you. If you use day care and want to use cloth diapers talk to them, it may be more possible than you think.

These are the questions I get most often, but there are a ton more that I'm forgetting. If you think of anything please ask. I know that they aren't for everyone, but they are a lot easier than most people think. If you decide to stick with disposables that's fine, but don't do it just because the marketing campaign has you thinking that cloth is just "too hard". When we used disposables on our last vacation our whole family was really happy to get home and switch back to cloth because we'd missed it so.

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