My last post was about diapers… This one is also about diapers. With a new baby in the house, it is a topic of great discussion around here, so you’ll have to bear with me as I discuss it in public as well. (Hey, I’m not forcing you to read this blog, so if the diapers and poop talk bugs you, you should probably find another blog to read until Blueberry is potty trained!).
Even before Blueberry was born, Jeremy and I had discussed the possibility of cloth diapering her. I had cloth diapered before when I was a nanny, so I came into this conversation with a lot more knowledge than he had about the subject (although I have since learned that I initially knew jack shit, despite my short forray into it a few years ago). I loved the idea of using cloth diapers. Call me a hippie, but yes, I want to save the world. Also (and this was the big benefit that got Jeremy on board), it’s way freaking cheaper over the long run than using disposables (which were only introduced in 1948 – they’ve been around less than 60 years!).
Of course, we had initial concerns – how do we deal with poop? What about our laundry situation? How much is this going to cost us up front? And the biggie – with so many choices nowadays, where the hell do we even START?!
Poop. This was Jeremy’s biggest concern – and rightfully so. There are a couple different ways to deal with baby and toddler poop in a cloth diaper. If the baby is being exclusively breastfed (as ours happens to be), they say you don’t even need to wash the poop off. Just chuck that sucker in the laundry and you’re good to go. Now, I’ve yet to do that. We have a community laundry facility, and I have a feeling if people see me throwing poop-covered diapers in the machines, they might just have a heart attack right then and there. Once baby starts eating solid foods, you’ll need to get rid of the poop before you wash anyway, so at some point you’ll have to deal with it.
Method 1: Toilet “swishing.” From what I understand, you throw on a big yellow rubber glove and dunk that sucker a couple times… sounds fun.
Method 2: Toilet spraying. Attach a little specially designed hose thing to your toilet and hose the poop off.
Method 3: Disposable poop liners. These are real thin, biodegradable, flushable sheets (they come in a roll like paper towels, and look kind of like bounce dryer sheets, and function sort of like women’s sanitary pads). You put it in the diaper as the top layer, and if baby poops, you pull it off, and chuck the whole thing in the toilet and flush. If baby pees, the pee wicks through the liner and soaks into the diaper like normal.
For now, we just rinse them and then throw them in the laundry. Later, when Blueberry starts eating real people food, we will be opting for Method 3. Just a personal … thing, I guess, but I just can’t stick my hand in a toilet.
Laundry. Like I said, we have a community facility, which happens to be the most expensive I’ve ever come across. That being said, we had to weigh the cost of laundry versus how many diaper covers and inserts we bought (I’ll talk more about what we actually got later). The more covers and inserts, the higher the cost up front – but the lower the laundry costs because we could go a little longer between washes… What is nice is that both of our parents will let us throw a load through when we visit, so that usually saves us a load a week or so (right now we are having to do a diaper load once every other day, but once our order of additional diaper covers comes in, we should be able to stretch that a little longer to every 3-4 days).
Cost. Cost really varies between which kinds of covers and inserts you get. Covers are roughly $15-20 each from what I’ve seen. Inserts can be as cheap as $2 each (for flat diapers) up to $6-8 each (for hemp and organic bamboo inserts). It also depends on how heavy of a wetter your kid is. Laundry is also a concern (unless you use a diaper service). Anyway, the math that I came up with said that if I cloth diaper for 2-2.5 months or so, I will break even. Jeremy and I made the commitment to cloth diaper for 2.5 months. If we absolutely hate it at that point, we will give up and go back to disposables without having lost any money. If you’re on a tight budget, cloth diapering is definitely something to look in to.
Choices. There are SO MANY CHOICES for cloth diapers. And what works well for one baby won’t necessarily work well for another. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Types of Diapers/Covers:
Prefolds/flats: These are the classic diapers most people think of when they think cloth diapering. It’s what your grandmother would have used with the safety pins and the rubber pants. These can also be folded and used as inserts under other diaper covers.
Pros: Tend to be the cheapest option. Flats dry faster in the dryer or on the line. Cons: Need to be folded prior to each use. Work best with safety pins or Snappis.
All-in-ones: These work just like disposables in that you use a new one with each changing.
Pros: No need to stuff or fold anything. Cons: More expensive total because you’ll need more you can’t reuse covers between uses.
Pocket: These covers have a pocket, which you stuff an insert into.
Pros: Easy to use. Don’t have to worry about insert shifting. Cons: If baby pees, you have to reach into the pocket to pull out the liner and then put in a new one. If the baby poops, you’ll need to use a new cover.
Hybrid: Like a pocket, except the liner goes on top of the cover, and isn’t held in. Some hybrids have little flaps in the front and back of the cover to help hold the insert in place better.
Pros: Can reuse the same cover over and over without washing in between. Cheapest cover option. Cons: Insert can shift, causing leakage.
Rubber Pants: These are the old-fashioned kind – looks sort of like a underwear. Plain, with elastic around the waist and legs.
Pros: Probably the easiest to use. Cons: Hard to find. Typically only come in plain white (all-in-ones, pockets, and hybrids are now all offered in a myriad of cute colors and patterns).
Types of Inserts:
There are a couple different kinds of choices for the inserts you use. Except for all-in-ones, you will need some type of insert. These are the workhorse of the diaper. Inserts catch all the waste, and the cover keeps it from leaking.
Flats: Again, these are the old-fashioned kind you fold up. These can work two ways: 1. Fold it around her like a diaper (old-fashioned way) and then pin or Snappi it up, and put a diaper cover over it. You don’t NEED to use pins or Snappis, but it makes it much easier to get the cover on a squirmy baby. 2. Fold it into a rectangle and put it into a pocket or hybrid diaper cover like a normal insert.
These are the best as far as how quickly they wash and dry. Generally these are made of cotton or bamboo.
Prefolds: These are very similar to flats, but they are essentially folded and pre-sewn. They can also be used two ways. 1. You can find larger ones that can be folded into a diaper shape, just like flats. 2. You can fold these in thirds and use them as inserts for pocket and hybrid diapers.
These are the medium choice as far as how quickly they wash and dry. Generally these are made of cotton or bamboo.
Inserts: Normal inserts can be made of a bunch of different materials, or a mix of fabrics. The most common materials are hemp (most expensive), bamboo, microfiber, minky, terry cloth, or cotton (least expensive). The type of material used determines the thickness of the insert. Some also have a layer of fleece to help wick the liquid away from the baby. These come in a couple different shapes – rectangle, oval, contour, etc.
These tend to take the longest to wash and dry. Some fabrics can hold onto smells over time. Some inserts are designed to be folded in half to help cut down on wash time (thinner fabrics dry faster, and there is less likelihood of funky smell buildup).
What’s nice about all of the options nowadays is that you can mix and match most of these different options. We are currently cloth diapering a couple of different ways. We have hybrid diaper covers (4 Mabu Baby covers with the little flaps to hold inserts down – no longer sold in the U.S., and 6 Blueberry covers without the little flaps). We are using inserts that fold in half when we go out and about (20 of them). These can be used with either cover style. We use flat diapers around the house, and fold them in the old fashioned diaper way, with the Blueberry covers (18 of them, but I might buy another 6-pack).
I really like the flat diapers. She is currently too small to fold them up like inserts – makes her diapers too bulky, but folding them around her seems to work the best. We currently are not using pins or Snappis, but we are planning on picking up some Snappis this week. For us, the flat diapers seem to hold in the poop the best – we haven’t had any leaks at all so far from using them. The folded inserts are made of microfiber, with a fleece layer. These are easier to use on-the-go than the flats, but we have definitely had some leakage issues with these, so we always need to keep an extra cover or two in the diaper bag…
UPDATE 5/2/14: We now exclusively use OsoCozy flat unbleached diapers (30) with Blueberry covers (4 with the snaps, and 2 with the velcro) 100% of the time. We have the pink, green, paisley, and elephants in the snaps, and the butterflies and the swirls in the velcro. I fold all of her flats when they come out of the laundry, so they are ready to go, whether I need them around the house or out and about. We use Snappis, not pins, and they are AWESOME. Using the flats, she has only had 1 blowout that got on her onesie (and it was only a VERY small amount), as opposed to the insert-style, where we had several, and disposables, where she was having one every day or two. We now just throw the diapers into the wash (no pre-rinse), and they come out just fine.
If you are using cloth diapers on the go, you will want to invest in a wet bag of some kind. They are made of waterproof material, and you just stick the wet and dirty inserts inside until you get home. These also work great for older kids to throw wet bathing suits into!
Benefits of Cloth Diapering:
1. Much cheaper over the long run than disposable diapers. This cost is reduced even more if you have a second or third child, and reuse the same covers and inserts for both!
2. In most cases, babies tend to have fewer cases of diaper rash when using cloth diapers (but be careful! If your baby DOES get diaper rash, you will either need to buy an ointment that is safe to use with the cloth diapers, OR switch to disposables for a couple of days until the rash goes away. Traditional diaper ointments will ruin both the inserts and the waterproof qualities of the covers).
3. Have you ever seen how much crap they put in diapers? Those crystals that absorb like 1000% their own weight in urine… not natural. They can also absorb moisture from baby’s sensitive skin. Not to mention dioxin, sodium polyacrylate, propylene, etc. These are chemicals that have been linked to cancer, asthma, allergies, reproductive problems, diabetes, chemical burns, immunotoxicity, etc. Do you really want all that toxic crap touching your little bundle of joy? 24/7 for the next 2-3 years?
4. Yes, yes, I’m a tree-hugger. Get over it. But when you consider that over the course of you baby’s life before they potty train, they will go through several thousand, you start to see that even 1 baby switching to cloth diapers can make a big impact! National Geographic says the average American goes through 3796 in their lifetime. I find that a little hard to believe. If your baby potty trains at 2.5 years old, that’s only 4 diapers a day! Toddlers typically use 4-6, and my 1.5 month old goes through about 8-10 (up until a week or two ago, it was 10-12). It is estimated that disposable diapers take 250-500 years to decompose. With 27.4 BILLION diapers being consumed in the US every year, that means there will be at LEAST 6850 BILLION more diapers in landfills before your baby’s diapers decompose. Wanna join me on the tree-hugger side now?
5. Cloth diapers can have multiple lives! If you aren’t having any more kids, flat diapers and prefolds make fantastic burp cloths, can replace paper towels for cleaning and dusting, and can replace women’s menstrual products if you so desire.
6. Bonus benefit: cloth diapers are adorable! They make tons of covers in all kinds of cute colors and prints to match all of your baby’s outfits. (Today, my baby is wearing a light pink one to match her totally pink ensemble!)