Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cloth diapers (and how we do them)

This is an extremely long post! And it is only our family's experience with cloth diapering for the last few months. :) I welcome comments and ideas that are not explained here!

 Peyton, 6 months

Before Peyton was born I decided I would like to use cloth diapers. We plan to have more babies and I knew that they would get a lot of use. We also planned for me to stay home with our kids, so we knew they would save us a lot of money! (We were right.)

I started out by looking at a few different types of cloth diapers. They're kind of all the rage right now (go green!) and there are TONS of different styles and brands. By doing a little bit of research on different brands and types, I knew a little bit about what would work best for us. (For instance, I didn't want disposable liners, I wanted something with snaps, something that was adjustable and would grow with our baby, etc.) There is a whole lingo that goes along with cloth diapering and I'll explain that, too. :) When I first started into the world of cloth diapering, I was totally intimidated. I wasn't familiar with anything and I thought it would take me forever to get the hang of using and washing cloth diapers. In reality, it's not hard at all. Once I jumped in with both feet and started using cloth diapers consistently it became very easy for me. (The hard part actually comes when we switch back and forth from cloth to disposable.)

I started my search for USED cloth diapers. I knew that there would be a pretty good sized start-up cost and I didn't want to buy brand new if we could help it. Thankfully, one of my cousins was getting ready to sell her huge stash of cloth diapers (of many different kinds) and was willing to give me a great deal. I bought a couple of different styles from her (12 diapers total). I also found a lady who worked for the same company I did at the time who was selling a huge lot of used diapers for super cheap. I think I paid around $60 for a garbage bag full of diapers and inserts, which is a smokin' deal. Eventually (after P was born and we found which diapers we liked best) I bought another small lot of our favorite diapers on eBay.

We found that FuzziBunz is our favorite brand, simply because it's the style that works best for Peyton. I ended up with a whole bunch of diapers that have an Asian logo and despite looking around online, I can't figure out the brand (they are very similar to BumJoy). I think will be great for her when she's bigger, but right now they aren't tight enough around her legs. We ended up with One Size diapers, which are fully adjustable and will fit Peyton until she is potty trained. The elastic around the leg holes is adjustable at both ends (with holes in the elastic and buttons on the diaper, much like in children's jeans these days) and the snaps on the front allow for many different snapping options.

Let me explain some of the clothe diapering lingo.

Shell: The shell is the outer, waterproof portion of the diaper. This is the part that is colored or patterned and has velcro or snaps for securing the diaper. These diapers will usually have a pocket for the insert and are called pocket diapers. (Some brands have inserts that snap on to the shell.) Some shells are adjustable (One Size) and some are not.

The left side of this diaper is the back. 
If you were to fold over the right side, you would see all of the snaps.

Insert/liner: The insert is the absorbent piece that goes inside the shell. These can be different sizes. Newborn inserts are shorter than standard ones. We use both sizes right now (P is 6 1/2 months old) but eventually will move to just the standard ones. While newborn size inserts are handy, I don't feel that they are completely necessary - we have used the standard size all along and just fold them in the back if needed. (I add this in case you are wondering whether you need to purchase multiple sizes of inserts.)

Wet bag: A wet bag is the bag that holds soiled diapers. Planet Wise is my favorite brand and they come in all kinds of adorable patterns. We have 4 wet bags (small size). I do wish that we had at least one large size, but the small size holds about 6 diapers and we have enough bags that it works out fine for us. The bags we have also have an outer zipper pocket (they are technically wet/dry bags) which I love to use for wet or soiled clothes. This way they're contained in the diaper bag, but kept separate from dirty diapers. They also have a loop on one corner which I use to hang the bag from P's dresser drawer. The large size bags have handles. I can only speak for Planet Wise bags (I have not tried other brands) but I feel that they contain odor extremely well. I have had a bag of dirty diapers sitting on the floor of my laundry room for two weeks before (I wouldn't recommend that - lol) and we never smelled them. I stuff full wet bags into our diaper bag and nothing else in the bag ever smells like wet or soiled diapers.

Stripping: Stripping is the process of getting rid of build-up on your diapers. It involves a couple of extra wash cycles and honestly, I don't know much about it. :) Stripping is something you would do if your diapers were absorbing poorly or if they smelled funky even when they were freshly washed. I would also recommend stripping your diapers before use if you buy used diapers. This link explains stripping diapers if you're interested!

Sunning: Sunning is the process of bleaching the diaper shells using sunlight. It's like magic! I have honestly taken a very stained diaper (from the early days of newborn poop), laid it out on a drying rack on a rainy, cloudy day and retrieved it a few hours later to find it bleached almost totally white. (I wish I had taken a before and after photo.) Sunning even works in Oregon! :) It's really smart to do this every so often with your diapers. It's just good for them to be sunned and bleached.

"Sunning" in the Oregon rain!
The basics

Lots of folks recommend starting out with 24 diapers. We have 16 that we use regularly and I wash a load of diapers every other day. 24 diapers would probably allow me to wash every three days.

 I love a stack of clean diapers!

I know people who cloth diaper at night as well as during the day. We choose not to simply because Peyton sleeps longer in disposable diapers. A couple of good friends have told me that their babies also sleep better in disposables because they wick moisture away better. I put Peyton in disposables if I know she will be in one diaper for a longer period of time than normal (at night, on a car trip, etc.). She's just more comfortable that way. However, she does wear cloth diapers during naps and I will often double stuff her diapers. This just means that I stuff two inserts into the shell instead of one, for extra absorption.

 Peyton, 2 months

When our diapers are clean, I stuff them all (stuff the inserts into the shells), fold them in half and keep them in the top drawer of P's dresser (which is also her changing table) for easy access. When I go to change her diaper I simply take her soiled one off, pull a clean one from the drawer and diaper her up! I pull the insert out of the soiled diaper (very easy and not gross if you just grasp the very end of the insert), lay it on top of the diaper, fold it in half and drop it into the wet bag. This way, when I go to wash my diapers, everything is already separated and I don't have to touch anything. The inserts, shells and wipes will all fall away from each other in the wash and I find that our diapers get very clean, every time. (Now that P is eating solids and her poop is more solid, I will shake a dirty diaper over the toilet to get rid of most of the poop before putting it in the wet bag.)

 A full load, waiting to be washed


I use cloth wipes, too! I made our wipes myself by taking flannel, cutting it into 8" squares (7" would be fine too) and serging all around the edges with a serger sewing machine.

I find cloth wipes to be SO much more effective than disposable wipes. Tons of parents say they use baby wipes for everything. Personally, I can't stand them. I think they smear and just generally kind of make a mess without really absorbing anything. But I love our cloth wipes! They are so much better at cleaning things up. The other day we were out and about and my husband asked me if I had a Kleenex for his nose. I handed him a cloth wipe and just dropped it into our wet bag when he was done. ;) I find that most of the time I only need to use one cloth wipe, even for poopy diapers. If it's really a doozy of a diaper I sometimes need to use two.

My best friend thought that 60 wipes would be a comfortable supply for her (with a 24 diaper stash). We use much less than this, but if you are using 24 diapers and using wipes at every diaper change (and for other things along the way) then this is probably perfect.

I fold my wipes so that I can drop them into a wipes box, pour my wipe solution over the top of them and pull them out just like regular wipes (one right after the other). Below is a photo example of how to fold cloth wipes to use this way. (When I fold them to put them in my travel wipes container I just fold each wipe in half by itself and stack them, rather than folding them all together.)

Lay the blue wipe flat.
Lay the yellow wipe on top, overlapping halfway. 
Fold the blue wipe over the yellow wipe. Then lay the gray wipe on top of the folded-over blue wipe.
Fold the yellow wipe over the gray wipe. Then lay the pink wipe on top of the folded-over yellow wipe.
(I wish I had chosen different colored wipes but I just grabbed what was handy. I hope the picture helps!)

Wipes solution

This is so easy. I take a Mason jar (any container will work, but I recommend glass since this recipe includes baby oil) and I put the following in it:

1 cup warm water
1 "pump" Johnson & Johnson Head to Toe wash (equivalent to 1 or 2 tsp, maybe?)
1 small squirt of baby oil

I lay my folded wipes in the wipes box and pour this solution directly over them. Replace with fresh wipes and solution every 2 days or they will start to smell mildewy. (My friend makes up extra solution and keeps it in a bottle near her changing station so she can easily make up a new box of wipes.)

Washing your diapers

The first couple of times I washed my diapers I was nervous that I would do something wrong. People talk about being so meticulous with their washing. I found a really easy routine. (We have a top loading washing machine.) Do NOT use regular laundry soap with cloth diapers. It will create awful buildup and cause your diapers to not work effectively.

1. I start my washer on a COLD rinse cycle (no soap). I dump the contents of my wet bags (diapers, inserts, wipes) into the washer and drop the wet bag in right after them.

2. Once the cold rinse cycle is finished, I add 1/4 of vinegar to the "additive" section of my washing machine. I start a HOT/COLD wash cycle (hot wash, cold rinse).
I add a tablespoon of diaper soap, which I pour directly under the hot water so it will dissolve. The amount of soap will depend on how many diapers you are washing (I am usually washing about 14 at a time). I recommend following the directions on the back of your soap package. (I use Rockin Green diaper soap but as soon as I run out of this I plan to make my own.)
I select the "extra rinse" option for this cycle of washing.
(Note: For front loading washing machines you will always want to select the Extra Water option to wash cloth diapers.)

3. Once the hot/cold cycle and extra rinse are finished, I run a second COLD wash and rinse cycle (using the "extra rinse" option again).

As far as drying your diapers, most people (and probably diaper companies) will say it's best to hang dry your diaper shells. I agree, this is probably best for your diapers. However, for the sake of time, I dry mine in the dryer. I put the heat setting extremely low (almost as low as it will go). Don't use fabric softener or dryer sheets - this will cause buildup. In the summer time, drying your diapers outside can accomplish drying and sunning at the same time! (I sometimes hang dry my wet bags and sometimes dry them with the diapers.)

On the go

I find that cloth diapering on the go is just as easy as cloth diapering at home (for me, anyway). The only downside I find is that cloth diapers take up more space so my diaper bag can feel really full! :)

I pack enough diapers for the amount of time we will be gone and I always make sure we have a wet bag. (I keep a wet bag in our diaper bag even if it's a "disposable day" for soiled clothes, etc. They come in very handy!) I also have a small spray bottle (the kind you might use for a throat spray) with wipe solution in it. I have a travel wipes container with cloth wipes folded inside. I take out a wipe, spray it with the solution and I'm ready to change a diaper. Other than that, I follow the exact same process as at home. (In a pinch you could also just wet a cloth wipe with water.)

 Visiting relatives

Homemade diaper soap

** I have not tried this recipe **

I found this recipe on the blog of a woman whose baby had sensitive skin. She has a disclaimer right in her post that she is no scientist and has been using this recipe for 5 months, so she also can't vouch for the long-term use of this soap on your diapers. I will update this post once I've tried the recipe, but I don't anticipate running out of Rockin Green soap for awhile so don't hold your breath. :)

Equal parts of:
*Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
*Oxygen cleaner, like Sun Oxygen (sodium carbonate, sodium carbonate peroxide - these should be the only ingredients in the oxygen cleaner you choose)
*Washing soda (sodium carbonate)

Use 1 Tbs per load of cloth diapers.
(For a small load, use a little less than 1 Tbs. For a large load, do not exceed 2 Tbs.)

I hope this information is helpful! :)


Aslan's Adventures in Haiti said...

Wow! It's like an encyclopedia page on cloth diapering!! Great write up!! CDs ROCK!!! :) ❤

Alaina said...

I have some girl fuzzibunz if you want to trade for one of the brands you're not a fan of in a gender neutral print/color. I'm starting to collect a stash for Nathaniel. :)