Monday, March 1, 2010

Intro To Cloth Diapers

I get asked all the time about using cloth diapers - Why I choose to use them and how to wash, fold and change them. When I first decided to use cloth over disposable it was long before I was ever pregnant, and it was only because of the cost. I knew either way they would need to be changed and it didn't seem much different to change them and put it in the diaper pail and dump it in the trash or change them and put it in the diaper pail and dump it in the washer. But after Samuel was born, I found out many other advantages. The biggest was knowing that my children would never have chemicals sitting on their skin 24/7 for up to 2 years. Also, with potty training (or EC), being able to feel right when they are wet helps with awareness for both parent and child. There is less skin irritation from diaper rash, because cotton is much more breathable than plastic. And I kinda like a big cute diaper butt :o) And last but not least, they are much much better for the environment. There are so many cloth diaper options to choose from now! Most look and work just like disposables (all but the washing). Diaper cover options are also abundant.

When I started with Samuel all I had were flat and pre-folded diapers, diaper pins, and plastic covers. I didn't research any options (mostly because I didn't know that there were so many available), and I was only concerned with the cheapest option, not the easiest or cutest. I ended up spending about $60 total to diaper Samuel, and I still have most of those diapers today (all but a few the dogs ate :o(  ), that I use to stuff my pocket diapers.
Shortly after Josiah was born, I started making lots of different kinds of diapers! I used anything I could find. Old clothes, old blankets and sheets... Anything that would be soft and absorbent. I found flannel to be my favorite fabric because it's soft, very absorbent, and still not too thick and bulky. The only material I bought were some flannel sheets and receiving blankets from Goodwill for $5. Everything else I had already, so diapering Josiah came out pretty cheap! Finally I found what is the perfect diaper for us. It's a one-size-fits-all pocket diaper. Folded different ways and stuffed with different amounts of all my leftover flat and pre-folded diapers, they fit from a 5lb newborn to the 35 or 40lb toddler who still needs to wear something overnight. I also started making different diaper covers. What I've ended up using most are wool wrap covers. I'm still on the search for the perfect cover pattern. Wool is great for so many reasons! It's the most breathable of all diaper covers and still virtually water-proof. It holds 35% of its weight in water (or pee) and still feels dry to the touch. It pulls moisture quickly away for dryer happier bottoms. It needs little washing because it's naturally antibacterial. When the cover starts feeling moist or smells at all, just hang to air dry and everything evaporates out of it, and it's ready to use again. After usually 4-6 weeks the urine will break down the natural lanolin oil that comes from wool, and it will need to be hand washed and re-lanolized by adding some lanolin to a sink full of warm water and letting it soak for 15-30 minutes. Then line dry for 24 hours (or until fully dry) and you're ready for 6 more weeks of diaper coverage. 
I was telling a friend how wonderful wool is in every way and she told me that she was very allergic to every kind of wool, so I guess it's not wonderful for everyone. So for anyone who may deal with the same issue, there are plenty of other options. Plastic, fleece, or polyester with a layer of plastic in the middle all work well. I get my wool from old coats and sweaters that people are so nice to give me when a sweater goes through the wash by accident and shrinks, or from the thrift store. By washing in hot water and sending through the dryer on high, the fibers will tighten so tight that it makes them very water resistant. That, along with a lanolin soak, and you have super wetness protection! I've used my share of covers, and have had less leaks with wool that with anything else. And, while I'm talking about leaks, I'll just say that I've baby-sat a lot of kids that used disposables, and they leak too! The biggest reason for leaks with cloth are usually a diaper that's not put on well, is sticking out of the cover, or a cover that does not fit well. 
People always ask if cloth has to be changed more often than disposables. The answer is yes, but not much more.You can always double-diaper if you have a heavy wetter and are worried about leaking overnight or on a long car trip. Disposable diapers are made now to hold so much that you really could leave your child sitting in their pee and poop almost a whole day without bothering to change them. I don't feel that that's the best thing for them, and don't mind changing diapers a little more often than that. I'm not saying that I've always changed my boys' diapers the moment that I knew they needed it, but I always tried to get to them as soon as possible.  Cloth also not only holds pee, but pulls it away from your baby's skin keeping him very comfortable. I've changed many a diaper that was very wet with pee on the outside, but almost dry by their skin. Once you get more then 1 pee in it that's not the case, but if you're aware of when they are eliminating, you can keep them dry and comfortable all the time.

I'll just show you the diapers that I have. I'm not sure of the brands, but as far as flat and prefolds go, they pretty much look and are used the same way. The only difference would be that the more you spend the higher quality and longer lasting.
This is a very thin pre-fold that is great for newborns or as a doubler. Pre-fold just means that there's a pre-sewn, thicker panel in the middle. Sorry, the picture's not great, just look hard and you can see it. :o)

This is a flat diaper. They are usually bigger than pre-folds, because you fold them to put the thickness in the place you want.

This is also a pre-fold, but a thicker one. Not as good for newborns, but after babies are a few weeks old they give some extra absorbency, and also work great as a doubler. 

This is a one-size-fits-all fitted pocket diaper that I made.

This is a Gerber-brand plastic diaper cover. People are probably most familiar with this kind of cover.

These are some wool wrap covers that I have made. As I said before, I'm still looking for what will be the perfect cover pattern for us.

I'll try to quickly go through the washing part so this won't be too long. It's really easy and contrary to what most would think, not gross or messy at all.

My diaper pail is just a trash can with a lid on it. Anything with a top will work. There are two kinds of dirty diaper storage methods: dry pail and wet pail. I use dry pail, which is just putting the diapers in a pail. Wet pail is when you have water and sometimes detergent, or some sort of vinegar solution for the diapers to soak in until wash day. I have not found this to be necessary, though. For breast-fed babies, just put the diapers in the pail. For babies on solid food, you just dump the poop in the toilet and rinse in the bath tub, if needed, before you put them in the pail. Location of the pail helps make sure the diapers get in the pail quickly. If you set the diaper somewhere (just for a minute), it usually ends up being there longer, because no one wants to touch one that's been there for a while. So, putting the pail in the bathroom, by a changing table, or wherever you change diapers the most is helpful if you tend to leave diapers sitting around outside of the pail like I have been known to do at times.

Sorry the picture is turned; I know it's going to drive my husband crazy!!! (Yes, you're right!! :o) ) Doesn't bother me in the slightest  :o)

If you use a liner or trash bag in the pail, it's much easier to transfer to the washer, and you don't have to wash the pail itself. Also notice that I never actually touch the diapers, which is always my goal :o)

Take from pail and dump in washer.

I also get asked what I do with the diapers when I'm out and about. Same thing, just smaller bag. When I get home, I just dump the bag in the pail or straight in the washer if I'm ready to do a load. 

It's best to use a really good detergent to avoid residue from cheap detergents.  Also, don't use fabric softeners or dryer sheets, since these will hinder the diapers' absorbency.

And a sprinkle of baking soda to naturally deodorize and whiten.

 Just sprinkle around a time or two. I'm not too big on exact amounts.

A clean bag, and you're ready for a few more days. When I have a new baby, I usually do a load every 3-4 days, and as they get bigger this turns into about once a week. It depends on the baby and how many diapers you have.

Drying on high will sanitize, and in the warmer weather I like to hang mine on the line outside. The sun is the best natural sanitizer and stain remover. One line-dry and no more stains. I guess you could do this all the time, but I only go outside when it's warm. Not hot and not cold if I can help it. But that's just me :o)

I hope this can help to show that cloth diapering is really not a big deal. I've never bought disposables, so this is all I know. Even so, if you get into a routine it's really not hard, or gross. I actually like it! I'll post later on how to fold, stuff, and put the diaper on the baby. There's so much more I could say, but I'll stop here. If anyone has questions, please leave a comment and I will do my best to answer. 

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