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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

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(My) 10 Basic truths about cloth diapering...

Warning-if you're a veteran, there is nothing earth shattering here.  I wanted to write this, though, because I remember having so many basic questions when I was considering whether or not to make the switch to cloth.  And, while I certainly don't consider myself a pro, after almost 2 years of cloth diapering three little ones, I feel I have some answers.  Cloth diapering experiences vary widely.  You should read all you can on the Diaper Whisperer, and retain that which resonates with you.    

When we started this journey, we had a 4 year old, a 2 year old and twin 3 month olds.  They are now almost 6, just turned 4, and twin almost 2 year olds.  Through these changes, I've learned some simple and basic truths of cloth diapering.

Truth #1- There is no one 'best cloth diaper'
Chances are if you've considered cloth diapering, you've done a google search for 'best cloth diaper'.  I certainly did.  And, while there are absolutely some superior diapers out there, what I know to be true is that 'best' when it comes to cloth diapers, is personal, and relative. 

One of my very best girlfriends cloth diapers, as well.  When her daughter potty trained, she let me try her favorite diaper.  Not only did I not love it, I actually didn't like it.  It was just a personal preference. 

Even my own 'best' cloth diaper has varied from stage to stage and child to child. It has so much to do with a child's build and tendencies, and where you are in your cloth diapering journey.  As our needs change, so to, do our preferences.  Here is an example of a relative preference: 

Initially, I could not gush enough about the Bum Genius 3.0 One Size Diaper.   Loved, loved, loved this diaper for my then 3 month old twins.  It was soft, sweet and used much like a disposable, in that it has a velcro closure.  It was an easy transition for my slightly-reluctant husband and new-to-cloth-diapers family members to use when they were watching the kids.  

And, at the same time, I loved  my Fuzzi Bunz for my then 2 year old because the snap closures seemed to fit her build better.  (And stuffed with a loopy-do insert sandwiched between 2 large inserts, my super heavy wetter's pi's and sheets stayed dry through her 13 hour nights).  No small miracle.   

So, I had 2 'best' cloth diapers at the same point in time.

(As an aside, those same Fuzzi Bunz, double stuffed for night time, now work the same miracle for my youngest two heavy wetters).

Truth #2- 'Best' Diapers can turn to Worst Diapers in the blink of an eye AKA Velcro Closures  and Naughty Toddlers do not mix for naps-
Now fast forward about a year.  This is where I learned two lessons that I will carry with me always: 
1) Never use velcro closure diapers on mischievous 14month olds for nap time (even with pants with a snug waistline). 
2) And never, ever dress said mischievous 14 month olds in a 'boys will be boys' t shirt (you're just asking for it).

I won't go into all the details but I will say that event involved a naked baby, in a crib, covered in something you never want your baby covered in, and that same 'thing' was thrown not only around the room, on every crib spindle but also somehow made it into his sister's crib.   That was the last day I professed love for velcro closure diapers.  A few were given to my daughter to use on her baby dolls.  The rest were promptly retired to a bag, in a closet, in my washroom, where they can receive my dirty looks. 

Now, to be fair, I would use velcro on babies.  The less spicy child kept her diaper on (and he would have no doubt done the same thing in a disposable), but I'm not taking any chances.  Also, they honestly did not hold up as well as my snap closure diapers.  Over time, the velcro tabs rolled back and did not stay fastened as well, especially when the little ones became mobile. 

I probably did get what I deserved by dressing him in that t shirt.  Self fulfilling prophecy?  Who knows.  What I do know, is snap closures are wonderful for busy-bees.  This is just a personal preference. 

Truth #3-Cloth Diapering can be simple
This one really is a matter of necessary verses useful.  Just because something is useful, does not make it is necessary.
When we decided to go cloth, I was limited in what I could afford to purchase.  While I worked to build a basic supply that would see us through, I always secretly believed (hoped) I would continue to add to it.  I would read about people being so excited when their newest fluff shipments would arrive.  I saw pictures of stacks/rows of beautiful, sweet fluff, usually bathed in sunlight.  And, I had dreams of one day being the proud owner of such a collection. 

So far, it has not panned out that way, and I truthfully have no real complaints. 

I have placed a total of two orders in these past two years.  My first order(for then two 3 month olds, and a 2 year old) included:
• 12 one size Bum Genius 3.0 Diapers
• 12 medium Fuzzi Bunz Diapers
• 3 Large Fuzzi Bunz Diapers
• 1 Jam Tots zippered wet bag
• 1 Large Swaddlebees Pail Liner/Laundry Bag
• 6 Baby Legs
Bummis Unbleached PreFold Diaper (6 pack)
• 2 Thirsties Diaper Covers
• 12 Bum Genius MicroFiber Inserts
• 4 Loopy-Do Pre-washed Inserts by Knickernappies.  
Ten months later I ordered 4 Bummis Training Pants (for my then 3 year old daughter, who was only wearing something for naps and night time). 

My tried and true stash (that I use day in, day out for twin almost 2 year olds and a just turned 4 year old- night times only)) now includes:
• 10 Fuzzi Bunz Diapers, (Random #, I know, we've had a few PUL casualties.  I still have the damaged ones and use them in a pinch.)
• 4 Bummis Training Pants (caution-these really are a training pant and do not hold much)
• 1 Jam Tots zippered wet bag(still use and love this for out and about.  Its folds up so small when not in use, yet easily holds as many soiled diapers as my kids have been able to throw its way when on the run.  The zippered function is a must.  No one wants to have the smelly diaper bag). 
• 1 Large Swaddlebees Pail Liner/Laundry Bag (still where I store my dirty diapers when we're home.  It has a draw string closure, which I use for hanging the bag on a nob in the laundry room.  It does a wonderful job at containing any smells. 

Notice the difference in the lists?   Granted, I'm no longer cloth diapering little babies and my older daughter now only wears a diaper for nighttime, but still, it is much simpler.  And, with four little people, simple is a gift I give myself.

For one year I have been getting by, with 5 diapers (Fuzzi Bunz) for each toddler, and 4 training pants (Bummis) for my older daughter (for night time).  I do foresee one final order for the youngest two, in the way of a few wool covers (I'm thinking 2 a child-still in the researching stage).  And, if we do have any future children, I will have to replenish a few diapers. 

Admittedly,  five diapers per child does not leave a lot of wiggle room, and I'm washing everyday, but our needs are met.  Albeit, just met…some days I'm sweating it out.   Hence the 2 wool covers per child-that I'm looking to order.  I think 8 diapers a child would be ideal for my needs.  Maybe even less with wool…i'll have to wait and see. 

Let me be clear.  I would LOVE more fluff, and do still hope to add to our collection.   But, it is possible to successfully cloth diaper with even the most basic of supplies.  So, more cloth diapers would be useful, but for the past year they've not been truly necessary.  If you're thinking of making the switch to cloth, don't shy away if you aren't able to build a huge supply, initially.  You can always add on down the road using your diaper bucks :-)
Truth #4-I did not need a sprayer
I do not have a sprayer. 

I did want one, but when I placed my first order, I was trying to stay fairly basic.  What?  I said fairly basic, and I maintain that Baby Legs fall under that category. 

I was planning on purchasing a sprayer at a later date, after I had gotten my footing as a cloth diaperer.  I soon realized, though, that I really didn't need one.  I became quite happy with my simple system for soiled diapers. 

Wet diapers go straight into the laundry bag.  Soiled diapers go out into my garage. I have a little bin (think dishpan), that I place the diapers in until I can get to them.  (In the winter the low temps help loose soils solidify and I notice no smells even in the summer). 

At night, after everyone has their nighttime diaper on, I begin my washing routine.  All solid soils get plopped into the downstairs toilet (no swishing, I promise).  More stubborn soils get rinsed in my sanitary tub, in the garage.   I simply remove the inserts, set them aside, hold the diaper by the top and run it under the hot water from the sanitary tub.  I find the force of the water is more than enough to get the diapers wash-ready.  Next, I take care to rinse out the sink (very well) and spray the sink quickly with a cleaner-that I don't even rinse. 

If I did not have a sanitary tub, though, I'm not sure I would be as content.        

Truth #5-Our budget is in love with cloth diapers
All of my estimations and projections about cloth diapering, regarding cost savings, proved fairly accurate.  Which is good, considering this was my initial motivator (not to mention, how I swayed my husband). 

While I do think how much a family saves will vary from family to family (as all of our diaper needs/uses are different), I think every family that switches to cloth will see substantial savings.  As I stated in a previous post, my diapers paid for themselves in eleven weeks.  I get that was accelerated by the fact that three children were being diapered…but still, that's pretty amazing.   While we've supplemented our original stash once and will add on one more time, there have been no other real out of pocket costs.  Love that. 

Before, disposable diapers were coming out of my weekly grocery budget.  Now, every penny can actually go towards our food.   

Truth #6-I can use cloth with Diarrhea
Stomach bugs are no walk in the park regardless of your diapering habits.  Before I began cloth diapering I worried that cloth diapers (or more aptly, cloth diapers and I) wouldn't be able to stand bouts of diarrhea…times three(because we all know how kids love to share their germs).  I needn't have worried.  Perhaps we go through more diapers in a day, but otherwise, its really kinda diaper business as usual.  I've never had a leak.  I do give the diapers an additional 2 part rinse on extra hot (no soap) for good measure, though, and they come out beautiful. 

I can see that some stomach issues are worse than others, and would not be opposed to temporarily using disposables if the need was there.  Its about what helps you be the best Mama you can be in your given situation. 

Truth #7-I can buy disposables without feeling guilty
While I have never bought disposables to give myself a 'break', I have bought them since we've switched to cloth. 

My mother-in-law is one of those wonderful women who respects my choices and never voices objections.  So while I know she wouldn't choose to cloth diaper (and if we're being honest, may think I am a wee bit looney to do so), she never seems put out by my choice.  But, once a year, my husband and I are are fortunate enough to go on a work trip for 5 days.  My in laws watch the 4 children.  I would never ask her to watch my four small children for 5 days AND cloth diaper them.  I always leave her with a box of disposables.  And I never feel bad about it. 

I've also used them on vacation once.  The first year we went while cloth diapering, I wasn't sure if the washing machine (VERY old) at the place would be able to withstand the washing process.   But, it turns out it can.  So, now we bring our cloth with us for our family vacations.  

Truth #8- It really has cut down on our garbage

Truth be told, I hadn't really been appalled by our garbage output before switching to cloth, but it is amazing how much is has cut down on what we produce.  For the 6 of us we really only put out 1 and a half bags a week.  Which makes sense, since we were able to stop putting 210 diapers in our garbage each week.  Thats 10,920 fewer diapers in the landfill in just the first year that we switched.    This comes with minimal effort and much payoff.  I'm proud of that. 

Truth #9-They can stay amazingly clean and white
I guess I kinda thought, based on the nature of the beast, that cloth diapers would dinge over time.  Not the case for us, yet.  They have stayed remarkably white and fresh.  Every so often if they're not seeming as clean (hint-slight odor), I find that a simple added warm rinse with vinegar does the trick every time.  Also, in the dead of winter I've found it necessary to bump my hot water heater's thermostat up a bit.  The water wasn't getting hot enough to clean them.  Once I did that, the diapers were back to their white appearance and beautiful smell of nothingness.  (Warning, though, that means that all of your water sources will get hotter.  So if you have wee ones who wash their own hands supervise and advise them until you're sure they've gotten the message). 

And never forget that the sun is your friend.  My diapers are always hanging outside to dry if there is sunshine to be seen.  Even in the winter, if its above freezing, they're out there.  It really does help in the natural bleaching and antibacterial departments. 

Truth #10-Cloth Diapering makes you feel so, so good
It is pure and sweet and wholesome.  Its a back to the basics approach to parenting you can be proud of.   Its empowering because of its sustainability.  You don't need a store to supply your baby with diapers every week.  With one purchase, and your loving care, you're able to do that for your child.   (And they can be passed down from sweet one to sweet one).  You feel good wrapping those plump little rumps in the softness of fluff.  Childhood should be simple and sweet and chemical free, and cloth diapers are all of these. 

So, in closing, I can say this:  Cloth diapering is a lot like nursing in that perhaps, it may be a bit more work than its alternative, but once you settle into your rhythm, it truly doesn't seem that way.  I love cloth diapering and will absolutely cloth any future bambinos. 

And, in case you were wondering…Baby Legs were worth every penny.   They're still edible and though my son has graduated from them,  I'm looking forward to using them again, in early spring, under dresses.
I hope you take from this that cloth diapering, like any parenting decision, can be tailored to your circumstances, means and preferences; and can be as simple or complex as you desire.  

Best of Luck! -Mary D.


Dreaming Mama said...

Mary you broke it down perfectly! I started out with a stash that I washed everyday. I have been able to add to it thanks to the Kelly's Closet free diaper coupon and I wouldn't change my decision at all.

One Sassy Mama said...

This rings so true for me! I'm starting out in cloth diapering and I'm just in love with it. I especially like your point that you feel OK going back to a disposable when the need arises - like in laws watching kids. That's so appreciated.

Anonymous said...

When you say "sanitary tub," what exactly are you referring to?

Angela H said...

Great article. When I first looked at cloth I thought I needed a few stash of BG 4.0. Now I'm stocking up on a variety since I know every baby is different.

jessw said...

I don't want to jinx myself but my 16-month old, who can be pretty rowdy, has never tried to take off his diaper, thank goodness!

kerry said...

This is a great post! It's right on, for me. And our situations were remarkably similar--I started CD'ing with my newborn twins, with a 5 and 3 year old at home, too. (But they were both out of diapers already.) I also have no diaper sprayer--thought for sure I would get one, but never have felt the need, and now that they are 15 months old, it's no longer necessary. And I researched to figure out what would be the best bang for my buck, so as not to break the bank. I ended up with mostly gro-baby's--still really love the hybrid system, not so much the velcro :)
I would add to your list one thing. While everyone talks about the wonders of CD's, and how great they are, there are times when they can be difficult and frustrating to sort out--washing issues and rash issues. Trying to figure out the BEST way for YOU to wash them is hard. you may think you're doign it right, until, SURPRISE--stink issues! Or repelling. Or rashes. Then it's a lot of trial and error to correct (including LOTS of googling to search for the "right" answer, which I have learned doesn't exist. You have to find what's right for YOU--your washer, your water, your diapers, your detergent(s)...but you will find the right solution if you keep trying!
The second thing that has made me crazy was dealing with rashes--specifically yeast this winter, when I can't sun dry them. My pediatrician wanted me to ditch the CD's rather than come up with a solution to get rid of the yeast once and for all. And so there I was, googling again, and finding every solution under the sun. But it took a lot of time and research to find out the best solution for me. WE have conquered the yeast, but it was frustrating for me and painful at times for my babies, while we experimented to get it right. I feel like it's the "dirty little secret" about cloth diapers that really doesn't get a lot of mention.
So that's my two cents--there will be problems--expect them! And be diligent in solving them! You CAN solve the problems and it is SO worth it in the long run!

Praying Mommyof2 said...

Thanks for posting this- I am just starting and am SO FAR from expert that "basics" helps- some of this I had started to figure out other things were new ideas for me. Now I just need to add to the stash so I can find MY 'perfect diaper" LOL and maybe 2 types with #2 coming soon!

Auntie Aimee said...

Awesome post! Two orders in two about self control, I've ordered way more than that in 3 months of CDing and I have a pretty big hand me down stash!

Angela V said...

My boys are 4 & 2 and they still wear BabyLegs. :) They are great for arm warmers when they just have to wear their favorite short sleeve shirt, but it's still chilly out. They also wear them under their pants for an extra layer when it's extra cold out. Enjoyed your post, kudos to you for cloth diapering 3 at once! :)

Kristina said...

Absolutely love this post. I'm about to be a new cloth diapering momma, and I'm already telling all my friends about it. In fact, I'm throwing a Cloth Diapering party for some other new mommas with a special guest coming in to give demos and debunk some CDing myths. I can't wait to wrap my new little guy in fluff when he arrives in a week or so! Thanks for a great blog and helping take the scare out of switching to cloth. :)

Marcia said...

I LOVE that someone (other than me) has such a small stash! I always feel like I overindulge or buy too much, but really my stash just gets me through the day or maybe a day and a half, if I break out all my prefolds.

Great article!

Michelle said...

I am so glad I checked this blog out and found this article. For financial reasons, I really really want to CD our second child. I'm expecting May 1 and keep going back and forth what is necessary. This confirms some of my thoughts. Thank you!

Laura said...


Lara + Chris said...

This is such a great article! I'm sharing it with the skeptics that have given me a hard time about CDing.

Susan said...

Awesome post! I am going to share it in one of my blog posts!! Thanks so much!!