Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Adventures in Cloth Diapering

I posted something a while back about possibly doing a cloth diaper post in the future, so here it is. We have cloth diapered for a year and a half now, and while we are by no means experts, I can give you our experience with them and explain how it works for us.

Before we were even trying to get pregnant with Will, one of my favorite blogs did this post about cloth diapering, and honestly, it will probably give you better info than I'm about to, but I'll do what I can. Up until that point I had never even considered cloth diapering, it sounded hard, gross, and like a lot more work than I wanted to put into it when I could just buy and throw away disposables. I mean, what's the point of living in the age we do if we don't take advantage of the convenience of disposable diapers, right?

Well, as it turns out there are a lot of reasons to not use disposables and to use cloth instead. You can find people who use cloth for a myriad of reasons, for us though, the thing that brought us around was the cost of using cloth over disposables. While that is no longer the only reason we use cloth, it is still a major factor, and the reason that we decided to do it in the first place. The start up cost for us was around $450 for 24 diapers and the diaper sprayer that attaches to the toilet to spray out any poop. I know, that seems like a lot of money to spend on diapers, but when we figured it up, we realized that we would probably end up spending that much money on disposables in about 4-5 months, and so any time we used cloth after that we would be saving money.

After doing a little research we decided to go with BumGenius Freetime diapers. They are an all-in-one diaper, meaning that there is no stuffing of inserts involved (I will get to more on that later), no safety pins and plastic pants like the days of old, they really go on pretty much exactly like a disposable diaper does, except that we opted to get snaps instead of velcro for the closures because we've heard that it lasts much longer, and since we planned to use them from baby until potty training for multiple kiddos it seemed like a better investment. The above picture is what a Freetime looks like closed up and open with the two absorbent flaps folded in, as it would be when you are putting it on the baby. The picture below is with the flaps out, which is solely done in order to help it dry faster.


The Freetimes are one size diapers, meaning that they fit a child anywhere from 8-35lbs. There are snaps down lower on the front of the diaper that change the "rise", so that they are smaller when completely snapped up, and then much larger when they are unsnapped all the way.

I have yet to put a 35lb child in the diapers, but I have put them on our 3 1/2 year old, almost 30lb niece for when she is napping over here since she still has accidents sometimes while she is asleep. They fit her great, with no issues whatsoever, so I have no doubt that they would work on a 35lb child also. As for the smaller side of the scale, they are definitely more bulky when the baby is little, but they are stinking cute anyway, and they work well too, so that is the main concern. We used disposables for the first month of Will's life until he was able to fit into the one size diapers. They do make newborn size ones too, but it didn't seem like as good of an investment as the one size ones to us, and we figured that not having to learn how to do cloth diapers along with all the other crazy parenting things right at the beginning wouldn't be such a bad thing. Here is a picture of Will in his very first cloth diaper; he was just over 1 month old at this point.

As you can see, the diaper was pretty bulky, but it did its job and only moved him up from newborn to 0-3 size pants, so the bulk really wasn't an issue for us.

With cloth you do need to change the diaper more often than with a disposable, about once every two hours at first, then when they are older and hold their pee in a little more you don't go through as many in a day. Right now we probably go through about 5-6 diapers during the day with Will and then he has a special night time diaper in order to keep him dry for the full 12 or so hours that he sleeps at night. With the 24 diapers we started out with we were washing diapers every 2 days, 3 days if we really stretched it at first. Now we have a few more diapers and we only wash every 3-5 days, although I am certain that will change as soon as Charlie gets here and is in them as well.

Something that I was kind of concerned about when starting out with the cloth diapers was the additional laundry and the amount of work that it would mean. I have to say that I have been very pleasantly surprised by this aspect of using cloth. We use a wetbag (a fabric bag with a waterproof lining) to put all our dirty diapers in, so whenever it comes time to do laundry we just dump all the diapers in the wash along with the wetbag. Some people have very complicated wash routines with their cloth diapers, but thankfully for us it is pretty simple. We just start washer on the longest and hottest setting (we have a top loader that is a few years old, so it doesn't get too hot like some of the newer models with the sanitize option might) and then pour in our detergent and then the diapers. We use Seventh Generation liquid detergent on all of our laundry including baby clothes and diapers. We prefer to have only one type of detergent for everything just to keep our lives simpler, our shelves cleaner, and our laundry more streamlined. We always hang dry our diapers in order to try to keep them in the best condition possible, since just as with clothes, over time the dryer will break down the fabric much faster than line drying will. If it is nice we will hang the diapers outside on our retractable clothesline, and if not we dry them on a rack in the laundry room. We can also throw them in in the evening and let them dry overnight and they will be ready by morning, which is nice when we realize that we've forgotten to wash them quite as soon as we needed to. I have to say, there is something oddly peaceful about hanging clothes out on the line to dry, and diapers are no exception.

As I mentioned, Will wears a special diaper at night now. The Freetimes worked great for him for the first year or so of his life, but he has become somewhat of a heavy wetter at night now, and the Freetimes were just not able to keep up with him at night anymore, so we had to look for another solution. We first tried the Bum Genius 4.0 diapers, we had gotten one for free with our original order of 24 Freetimes, but we never used it because it was a pocket diaper that you had to stuff inserts into to get it ready for use, rather than being an all in one style. The 4.0 worked for us for a bit, but not long. We now use the two that we have for nap time, and they work great for that. We use one of the microfiber inserts that came with the diaper and a charcoal bamboo insert that I bought at a local cloth diaper store. The type of insert you put into a pocket diaper can dictate how well it absorbs. The microfiber absorbs quickly, but doesn't hold as much, while the charcoal bamboo is very absorbent, but not the fastest, so I put the microfiber insert on top so that it is closest to Will and able to absorb quickly, then the charcoal bamboo underneath to absorb more. Pockets look pretty much the same as Freetimes from the outside, but you just put the inserts into the back end of the diaper.

Since the 4.0s hadn't worked out for the night we had to find something different. I had heard several people speak highly of the Kawaii Good Night Heavy Wetter (GNHW) diapers, and a group that I am a part of on Facebook was running a group buy on them to get free shipping. Since they were only $8 per diaper we decided to give them a try, and figured we could always resell them if we didn't end up liking them (most cloth diapers, especially if they are in good condition have great resale value). When we got the diapers and tried them out they worked great for us! Will woke up completely dry the next morning, and we were very happy with them. The GNHW is also a one size diaper, but it is a pocket like the 4.0 that has to be stuffed, and it is specifically designed to keep kids dry for long periods of time overnight.

We eventually had to start adding a charcoal bamboo insert inside the pocket along with the two microfiber inserts that came with the diaper, but since doing that we haven't had any issues at night, and Will wakes up dry in the mornings. We only bought three to start out with, but then we got another three when the same Facebook group was running a coop on them a month or two later, so now we have six of the GNHW along with our 24 Freetimes and 2 4.0s that we have.

Now everyone's favorite topic, poop. Yep, I threw that out there. Wow, maybe I should have thought that through a little before I talked about throwing poop out there. Anyway, poop was one of my other big concerns when it came to getting on board with cloth diapers. After all, I know that I don't want any poop floating around in my washing machine, ick! So when I read on Young House Love that there is a sprayer that attaches right to your toilet that you can use to clean any dirty diapers into the toilet. We bought our sprayer from here, but I've heard of people making their own from a kitchen sink sprayer. I am so glad we invested in a sprayer also, I know that there are people who think they are unnecessary, but I for one am not one of them. Every dirty (not just wet) diaper in our house gets sprayed out in order to keep the dreaded poop out of my washing machine, and as you can see from these pictures, our diapers are not gross and stained with poop, but still look really good, especially for being in use for a year and a half! Another method for dealing with poop, which I have yet to try since I just found out about it and got the supplies the other day, is to use bio-liners. The idea with bio-liners is that you put it on top of the diaper and allow liquid through but hold the poop, so that when you change the diaper all you have to do is take the liner out and flush the whole thing down the toilet. I am really hoping we like them!

There is one other type of diaper we have tried, and to be honest, we liked this one the least. It is the Grovia one size all-in-one diaper. I initially bought it because I absolutely loved the print, and I still do for that matter. I mean, bicycles on a diaper, how cute is that?

Our issue with these diapers is the way that they close. Rather than closing like a regular disposable diaper, or any of our other diapers for that matter, you have to pull the sides over first and then put the middle up to snap it. On the left the diaper is open all the way, so to close it you would fold the flap down, then bring it up over your little one's bum, then you have to fold in the side flaps as shown on the right and then bring the middle part up and snap it. It is just more work than we care to do to change a diaper, so we are going to sell these two.

As I said at the beginning of the post, there are loads of reasons to cloth diaper, even in this day and age. I don't have the time, or as good of information as others would on the different reasons, but if you are wanting a jumping off point for your own research then I would check out these different reasons for using cloth over disposables:
  • Cost savings
  • Environmental impact
  • Toxic chemicals in disposables
  • Less frequent diaper rash than disposables
  • Earlier and easier potty training
I'm sure there are other reasons that I am forgetting to list, but there is a lot of information out there on cloth diapers, so doing just a little research can give you a lot of results. 

I think that pretty much wraps up our adventures in cloth diapering thus far, we will see how it all goes in the next few months when we start having two in cloth, although I have to admit we hope to only do that for a few months and then get Will potty trained. If you have any questions about using cloth or other experiences I would love to hear about it in the comments!

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