Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cloth diapers- why and how I use them

Diapers.  Every mom (and hopefully every dad) is more than familiar with diapers.  However, when most people think about diapers, they probably envision a plastic covered, absorbent gel filled shell that velcros onto a baby's butt and gets thrown straight into the trash when it is dirty.  Clearly, disposable diapers dominate the diaper world, but cloth diapers are making a comeback, and for good reason.

Why I use them:

Cloth diapers have come a long, long way from the diapers that our mothers and grandmothers used.  Although some people still use prefold diapers with diaper pins and rubber pants, most modern cloth diaper users do not.  All in one diapers and pocket diapers are by far and away the most popular types used today.  I have never used an all in one diaper on my little guy, but I use pockets all the time.  The only time he wears a disposable diaper is at night.  He is a pee machine, so I have to use the Huggies Overnights to prevent wet pajamas by morning.  I do highly recommend these if you have a pee machine like I do. 

People are under the misconception that cloth diapers are gross and extremely time consuming and inconvenient.  I used to think the same thing, but after doing my research and finally committing to cloth, I've learned that those misconceptions aren't really that true.  Cloth diapers are really great.  I save a ton of money every month by using something that can be washed and dried rather than thrown into the trash after one use.  Not only is this great for the environment, but the diapers are actually better for baby, too.  I love the fact that I can keep chemicals off my baby's bottom.  Modern day cloth diapers are convenient, too.  They fit and function just like disposable diapers.  The only difference is that they need to be rinsed, washed and folded.  It makes for a bit of extra laundry, but they only take a little while to fold and it can be done while watching tv or playing with baby.  Plus, the more you fold, the faster you get!

Ok, enough of trying to convince you to try cloth diapers... Now I'm going to tell you how I use them.

How I use them:
Cloth diapers are great!  I think they are stinking cute, too!
When I decided to try cloth diapers, I knew that I wanted something that would just velcro on rather than having to be folded and pinned, then covered with rubber pants.  My first step in my cloth diaper journey was picking them out.  After lots of research, I decided that I wanted to use pocket diapers.  I got 36 of them so that I wouldn't have to do wash every other day!  Pocket diapers consist of a waterproof outer layer (not rubber pants, but a shell with elastic and velcro) with a slot at the back of the waistline that is stuffed with some sort of insert.  The fabrics used on the outer shells and inserts vary from diaper to diaper and you need to weigh the benefits of each when choosing.  My pocket diapers consist of a fleece lined PUL outer.  The PUL makes the diaper waterproof and the fleece pulls moisture away from baby's bottom.  Also, poop tends to roll off of fleece a bit better than some other materials.  For my inserts, I use 3 layer microfibers.  Microfiber has a great level of absorbency and really keeps baby feeling dry.  When Brennan, my baby boy, was younger I would just put two microfiber inserts in his diaper and that would keep him dry all night.  Now, even that isn't enough, but one still works great in the daytime.  Microfiber does have a downside.  It tends to cling on to stains and smells more than most other materials.  I seem to have the problem with smells figured out, but my inserts do still have some stains.

I chose to make my own cloth wipes to accompany my diapers.  I care for them the same way that I care for my diapers, which is outlined in the next paragraph.  Wipes are extremely easy to make and work better than purchased disposable wipes.  I cut both flannel and terry cloth into 5 x 7 in rectangles (The size is really not picky.  You can make them to fit in your storage container.).  I place one flannel rectangle on top of one terry cloth rectangle and sew an X across them diagonally from corner to corner.  Then I serge around the edges.  I then store all of my wipes, pre-moistened with only water, in a wipe warmer.

I care for my cloth diapers and wipes in a way that works well for me.  I know a lot of people do it differently, but this is my plan of action.  (Note: Always follow the instructions from your diaper manufacturer!)  After a diaper change we head to the bathroom to take care of the dirty diaper.  If we are not at home and cleaning the dirty diaper isn't convenient, the diaper gets wrapped up and thrown into a Ziploc bag.  We just take care of them as soon as possible.  If the diaper is only a pee diaper, we separate the insert and the outer, rinse both in the sink, give them a gentle wring, and toss them into the empty diaper pail.  I don't put any water, baking soda, tea tree oil, etc. in my pail- it's just empty.  If the diaper is a poop diaper, we pull the insert out and rinse, wring, and toss into the pail and use our diaper sprayer to spray the poop off of the outer and into the toilet.  We get it so all of the little pieces are cleaned off, then wring it and throw it in the pail.

The diaper sprayer is a Godsend.  All it is is one of those sink sprayers that attach to the plumbing behind your toilet.  It makes cleaning a poop diaper a lot less messy and you don't have to dunk or soak the diapers in the toilet so less mess gets on your hands.  I can't recommend any specific brands because we made our own with plumbing parts from the hardware store, but there are several brands out there.

The pail I use is not a typical diaper pail- it's better!  I used a dog food storage container with a rubber gasket seal around the lid.  It works great!  It keeps all the diaper smells inside when it is sealed, so you can keep it right in your bathroom without the stink.  Most also come with caster wheels that can be attached to the bottom so that if you have your washing machine on the same floor, you don't have to pick up the heavy pail and lug it to the washer.  You can push it instead!

When I'm running low on diapers (every 4 days or so) I carry my bucket down to the basement where my washer is.  Unfortunately, my washer is not on the main floor, so I can't take advantage of those caster wheels.  I load all of the dirty diapers and wipes into the washing machine.  I use a front loader, so it is very important not to overload it.  Most of the time I start with a pre-soak.  I wash my diapers on the heavy soil cycle with warm water and a cold rinse.  I also run an extra rinse.

Detergent is one of the most important things to pay attention to with cloth diapers.  You should NEVER EVER use any sort of softener on your diapers, including dryer sheets! Also, don't use any sort of oil based diaper cream as it builds up and hurts absorbency.  For each load of my diaper wash, I use one scoop of Charlie's Soap Powder, one scoop of Sun Oxygen Cleaner, and a tablespoon or so of baking soda.  I add all of these things at the beginning of the wash cycle, right in with the diapers.  I also place about 3 tablespoons of vinegar in the softener dispenser of my washer.  This helps to fight the ammonia smell that you'll sometimes begin to smell on your diapers after extended use, such as in the morning.

Diapers drying on my line.

After the cycle is done, I always check to make sure there are no suds left.  If there are suds, you need to run another rinse.  If there aren't suds, you are ready to dry your diapers.  My favorite way to dry diapers is outside on the line!  Not only does this extend their life by not running them through the dryer, but it also saves energy and helps to bleach out poop stains!  You can't use bleach on microfiber because it wrecks the absorbency, however you can hang microfiber inserts in the sun.  You'll be surprised how well the sun takes out stains, especially ones that haven't set.  If you choose you can dry your diapers in a dryer instead of hanging them out to dry.  If you choose to do this, dry them on low or medium to extend their life.

Once your diapers are dry, all you need to do is stuff them, fold them, and put them away.  It really is pretty easy.  You'll find that your baby gets less diaper rashes than in disposable diapers and you'll feel good about doing something to save you money and the environment!

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