Friday, March 13, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: A year of cloth diapering

I meant to write this post at the beginning of February but never got around to technically I guess it should be thirteen and a half months of cloth diapering. Anyway...

#1: The diapers

I got one-size pockets because I figured that would be relatively easy. My husband still thinks they're too hard. Though he's also scared of ring slings, so his crunchy parenting cred is pretty low.

I have 29 diapers (12 of these, 16 of these, and 1 of these) and wash twice a week. Sometimes waiting for the diapers to line dry cuts it pretty close. (As I type this, my napping toddler is wearing the last clean and stuffed diaper in the apartment, so I should probably stuff a few before he wakes up.) If I washed 3 times a week like I'm supposed to or had maybe 32-34 diapers it would work nicely.

A big disadvantage of OS pockets is that even though they claim to fit 8+ pounds, they really don't fit until at least 10 pounds. I didn't think this would be a problem since of course I was going to go 2 weeks overdue and have a 10-lb baby. Instead I went 3 weeks early and had an 8-lb baby who subsequently decided that gaining weight is for chumps. So he didn't top 10 lbs until he was a little past 2 months old.

I used to like the BumGenius diapers better because they fit better, but now that he's bigger the China diapers are the ones that fit better. The BGs have also started to look a bit worn in spots and the China diapers haven't, even though I rotate them evenly.

Next baby I might bridge the gap between "I'm functional enough to do laundry" and "baby is big enough to wear pockets" by getting a few newborn-sized covers and use prefolds or old T-shirts or what have you. We'll see.

#2: The changing station

I don't have a changing table. Before Tad could roll, I used a Pack-n-Play as a diaper storage unit/changing table and that worked nicely. Now I have one of those under-bed bins under the crib for storing diapers and I change him on the floor.

I have two of these cotton-lined waterproof pads because they're cute. Nowadays I use a plain white plastic pad that came in a box of hand-me-downs 99% of the time, because when Sir Rollsalot inevitably smears poop on it I can just wipe it off instead of having to wash it with the laundry. If I had it to do over I'd just buy a few more plain plastic ones and have done with it.

I have about 63 flannel wipes (I haven't counted them up recently to see if they're all still there)--60 of these and 3 BumGenius that came as a free sample with some diapers my mother bought. 63 is plenty for washing twice a week. I don't like the BG wipes because they're too small and too thick. The OsoCozy ones, on the other hand, are just about perfect in both respects. The only disadvantage with them is that the rainbow-colored trim tends to fray. This doesn't affect the functionality of the wipes but it is unsightly and annoying. (Of course, the old poop stains are also a bit unsightly. Cloth wipes just aren't going to stay pretty after a year of use.)

To wet the wipes before I use them, I use the peri bottle I got in the hospital (if you're the homebirthing type, you can buy peri bottles super cheap on Amazon) filled with plain water. I used to put a few drops of baby shampoo in there too, but now I don't and I haven't noticed a difference.

#3: Dealing with dirty diapers

There are people out there who say that when a baby is exclusively breastfed you don't have to remove the poop from the diapers and this is probably true but when Tad was little and would have massive blowout poops about once a week, I would spray the diapers.

Once he started solids it was definitely necessary, and now it's less necessary again because after he was eating a decent amount it got to the point where I could just shake the solid bits off into the toilet most of the time.

Anyway. We went almost a year with a cheap plastic $15 sprayer from Meijer. Being plastic, it eventually broke. So I invested in an all-metal sprayer--the Bumkins was $10 cheaper than the BumGenius one that looks like exactly the same thing. I've only been using that one about three months so I can't comment on its longevity, but it has a much more powerful spray than the cheapy plastic one and that alone makes me wish I'd ponied up the extra $35 from the beginning.

Wet diapers and pre-sprayed poopy diapers go into a large wet bag that hangs off the bathroom doorknob. I have two, one dark green and one white with blue/green/yellow dots. The dark green one has faded significantly after a year of being washed once a week but otherwise they've held up remarkably well given how much I abuse and overstuff them. They hold pretty much exactly the same number of diapers as a standard sized washing machine.

#4: Doing the laundry 

As mentioned, I wash my diapers twice a week. I take the wet bag and dump its contents into the washing machine and then throw the wet bag right in there too. (This is why I have two wet bags, so I can have one in use and one washing/drying.)

I've tried a few different detergents and so far my favorite is Rockin Green (the unscented hard water formulation, to be precise). One bag lasts me about 5 months and I'm generous with my scoops.

To save money, I hang dry EVERYTHING. Covers, inserts, wipes, anything else that got thrown in there.... A while back I made my life much much easier by getting a cheap drying rack from Wal-Mart so I don't have to hang diapers off the backs of random chairs and stuff. If I stay on top of rotating stuff out when it's dry, I can usually get everything done in about 24 hours and then I stuff it all at once and then I have a day or two off before I wash another load and start it all over again. I look forward to the day when I will have my own laundry room and will only have to line-dry covers.

#5: Leaving the house

To be honest, most of the time when I leave the house I don't even bring diapers. I'm a lazy breastfeeding mom; I don't like to pack things.

On the rare occasions when we go on longer trips or he hasn't done his morning poop yet before we go grocery shopping, I will throw in a waterproof changing mat that came with my diaper bag (okay, I lied in Take #2, I have two plastic mats), a medium wet bag, the peri bottle, and the appropriate number of diapers and wipes. If I end up changing his diaper, I shake any poop into the nearest toilet and then remove the inserts from the pocket and toss everything into the wet bag. When I get home the wet bag gets tossed on the bathroom floor and then next time I wash diapers it gets dumped into the washing machine too. (As in I open it up, empty the contents, and then toss in the wet bag itself.)

When we go to my parents' for the weekend (the only time we've been away overnight since Tad was born) we usually mooch disposable diapers off of them (though I've heard rumors that Matthew is getting cut off when he turns 4, so those days might be over soon) and I will frequently use the opportunity of none of the diapers being in use to strip them with dish soap to remove buildup. (Plus then I don't have to pay extra quarters for all the extra rinses.)

#6: Nighttime diapering and rashes

Up until Tad was about six months old I could just leave him in a double-stuffed diaper overnight and he'd be fine. Once teething entered the scene he started getting much rashier, though. (Molars have caused some particularly nasty rashes, including one that got so bad he got a secondary bacterial infection. I switched to disposables for a week or so and bleached all the diapers when that happened.)

What seems to work fairly well for prevention is slathering him with coconut oil before bed and putting an extra fleece liner in his diaper to wick away the moisture. (Do not buy liners for your cloth diapers. Go to Joann's on 50% off day and get half a yard of fleece and cut it into roughly 4x8 pieces for a baby or 4x12 pieces for a toddler.)

If I slack off with the coconut oil and he actually gets a rash, I add breastmilk* and Vitamin E (cut open a capsule and slather on its contents) to our regimen and that seems to work if I start it early enough. I'm not 100% sure the Vitamin E is an approved cloth diaper thing, but let's pretend, okay?

For bad rashes you can use fleece liners to protect your diapers from butt paste/Vaseline/whatever (use a different color fleece from your regular overnight liners and wash separate so the stuff doesn't get all over the diapers in the wash), but I'm not enough of a purist to do that very often; usually I just buy a cheap pack of disposables and use those for a few days.

*Yes, I just lift my shirt in the middle of a diaper change and hand-express a bit. I'm a weird hippie now, okay?

#7: Why I do it

The biggest reason I cloth diaper is just because I like it. I like pretending that I'm a peaceful wholesome earth mother type instead of a grouchy person who occasionally feeds her kid chocolate chips to bribe him into 10 minutes of quiet. If cloth diapers didn't have that draw for me I really doubt the other advantages would be enough to make me want to do it. But here are a few anyway:

- Cost: Even dealing with coin-op laundry, I estimate that I spend about $25 a month on diapers, which is better than you could do with even generic disposables.

Of course there is the initial outlay, but most of my diapers and supplies were gifts. Plus I don't remember that far back thanks to post-baby amnesia, so the sticker shock has worn off. (And if you do covers and old T-shirts instead of fancy pockets, your initial outlay might not even be that high.)

- Convenience: I know, you all think I'm crazy. I hate leaving the house just that much, that not having to go to the store for diapers is a major selling point for me. Not having to worry about buying a huge case of Size 4 right before a growth spurt. NOT HAVING TO TAKE OUT THE PUTRID TRASH EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

If I had my own washer and dryer (this is a constant refrain for me) it would be even better. I could throw a load in whenever I had a spare minute! I wouldn't have to line-dry! It'd be fabulous. 

(Ask me about this again in about 5 years and see if I actually save time or just adjust my laziness to compensate.) 

- Durability: Disposables are obviously meant to be disposable. But, you know, when my child wears a diaper for a few hours and it starts falling apart, that's maybe a little too disposable. And he can't rip off the cloth diapers and poop on the carpet when I'm not paying attention.

- Leak-proof-ness: We've had blowouts in cloth, don't get me wrong. When Tad was exclusively breastfed he just loved to save his poop for a week and then completely overflow his diaper. But when he was in disposables he would poop up his back EVERY SINGLE TIME. Even when it was only a small poop. 

- Aesthetics: I only have to deal with smell from cloth diapers about 2 minutes out of every week, when I dump the wet bag into the washing machine and 4-day-old-poop smell flies up into the air. The smell from a trash can full of disposables is constant and oppressive. Disposables even smell bad when they're clean! 

Cloth gives my baby a nice pattable bum. (And he hates sleep, so he gets a lot of repetitive bum-patting.)

And they're just plain cute. Especially with penguins on them.

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Rosalie Shiffler said...

Thank you so much for writing this out... All the answers! I'm really thinking about doing cloth diapers with this coming baby, but hadn't been able to find the mental energy to try to figure out how it would actually work and what all I would need. Have you been able to do just two loads a week since the beginning? It seems like (and this was two and a half years ago and I'm pregnant and have a fuzzy brain, so I could be wrong) that when he was very little we went through more diapers per day (disposables) than we do now.

The Sojourner said...

I think that with a newborn you'd have to wash every other day unless you had a very very large stash. (Like 36+ diapers.) As I mentioned above, we didn't do cloth until Tad was 2 months old and had already settled into pooping a couple of times a week--when he was a very new newborn and I was still meticulously tracking his output, I remember one day he pooped NINE times!

The Sojourner said...

Okay, now that I've thought about it (while reading "Doggies" 15 times...), it seems like the kind of thing that would require trial and error. I mean, right now I could not wash 40 diapers all at once because Tad's diapers are just too bulky--that would be nearly 2 washers-full! But presumably newborn diapers are smaller, right? So maybe you could wash a lot more of them in one load.

(If memory serves, newborns go through roughly 10-12 diapers a day, multiply that by 3.5 days for twice-a-week washing and it comes to 35-42 diapers. That's a big number.)

Rosalie Shiffler said...

Thank you! Yes, that makes sense. Using disposables while they're super tiny and it's less predictable when/how much they're going to mess is a good idea, too.