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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

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Poop Tales: Cloth Diapering a Medically Complex Kiddo

“Not again!” I muttered as I changed my son's diaper for the ninth time one afternoon. With that back-breaking straw, I decided to take the plunge and finally buy some of the cloth diapers I had researched for so long. From day one I was in love with everything about them! I loved not having to throw a dozen diapers away every day. I loved that I would be able to use these same diapers on baby #2 (whom I was pregnant with at the time). I loved not having to chase diaper sales and store huge boxes of diapers. It was a dream come true!

As my pregnancy progressed, I excitedly looked into newborn cloth diapers. I purchased cute newborn pocket size diapers, newborn inserts, prefolds and newborn covers. We planned to have everything we would need to cloth diaper our bundle from day one.

That fall we welcomed our second baby boy into the world. He was (and still is) beautiful and perfect, we couldn’t get enough of him. Sadly within hours our sweet baby started to get sicker and sicker. Tests revealed that his intestines had never connected to his bowels. The Doctors life flighted him to a bigger hospital where he underwent a 4-hour surgery, in the hopes that the problem could be fixed with ease. Unfortunately, surgery to connect his bowels and lower intestine was unsuccessful, so our sweet boy was given a colostomy. We were sent home; told that we would be changing poopy bags not poopy diapers. I mentioned our cloth diaper plans to the Neonatologist who told us that he didn’t see how we could make cloth diapering work. Being scared NICU parents, we took his word for it and put our cloth diapers away.

After a few weeks of using disposables we realized that there had to be a way that we could make cloth diapering still work. We started trouble shooting. It was a bumpy ride, but in so many ways cloth diapering turned out to be the best thing we could have done for our medically complex son.

What we had to do differently:
Our baby's stoma (poop hole on top of his abdomen) was much lower than most colostomy patients, so we had to put the diaper very low on his belly. Secondly, our son’s bag needed emptying; so we emptied it into the diapers. The diapers would then get laundered as “normal” poopy diapers.

What didn't work:
Most Pockets/All in Ones- We simply struggled to get them to fit low enough on his belly. As he got older we got a few brands to fit by folding down the area above the waist snaps or folding the velcro strip in half down into the diaper.

What worked best:
We finally found success with prefolds and low rise covers (flats also worked too). Below is how we folded the prefold in order to get them low enough for him.

How Else Cloth Diapering Helped Us:
Our cloth diapers not only went on our baby's bum but we ended up using them on his belly. Babies with colostomies and similar procedures often get skin breakdown around their stoma sites. We ended up occasionally using cloth diapers on his stoma to give the skin time to breathe and heal. We used a snappi to attach a prefold. It worked like a charm.

Cloth was also a blessing after our son’s colostomy reversal. He, like most children who undergo intestinal surgeries, experience bowel incontinence for weeks to years post surgery. We ended up using 15 diapers a day at least. This would have been a huge financial burden had we been using disposables.

Ultimately, cloth diapering our son did not go as we had envisioned it. But with some creativity even a child with special health challenges can be cloth diapered. Don't be discouraged by like feeding tubes, ostomies, low birth weights, older children with diapering needs etc. Every baby and family can benefit from using cloth diapers. There are enough cloth diaper brands, styles and sizes to ensure that every baby can sport a fluffy bum and a smile.

Bio: Charlene lives in UT with her adorably geeky husband and the two cutest baby boys in the Northern Hemisphere. She is a cloth diaper enthusiast, baby sling connoisseur, overall rockin' domestic engineer and avid blogger at


Hannah said...

Hope your son is doing well after the surgery. It's nice to be able to read about using cloth diapers despite medical challenges. Thanks for sharing your story!

dccdmom said...

My son had a feeding tube and we used cloth diapers exclusively once we were home from the hospital, actually we still use cloth as he is almost 4 and nowhere near being potty trained.

cgmrb said...

That is great to hear that cloth diapers are still working for you guys. I really hope to spread the cloth diaper love to many more families with medically challenged kiddos.

LizE said...

This is really exciting to read. Our daughter will likely have a permanent ostomy and so far bagging it might be impossible due to it's positioning. This gives me hope that we'll be able to successfully cloth diaper our little miss.