Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cloth Diapering Basics

I'll start by saying I'm not an expert in cloth diapering. But after four months of changing many, many diapers, I'm no dummy. This post is meant for anyone considering cloth diapers who might be wondering if they should invest and whether they are worth the effort. There were many reasons we decided to go with cloth diapers. For starters, many people we knew cloth diapered their babies and gave us great advice and sang its praises. Both of our parents cloth diapered us, so our families were a great resource as well. Then, when we started to consider the environmental impact and cost of disposable diapers, we knew cloth would be the right route for our family. Especially when we considered that our cloth diapers could be used for future children. That's a bundle of money saved! I also have the benefit of being at home, which makes cloth diapering much easier. Many people aren't at home or send their children to daycares that won't take kids in cloth diapers. 

When I first began to explore cloth diapering for Emerson, I was quickly overwhelmed by all of the information, products, and washing advice available. It was too much. Thankfully I had friends and family who shared what worked for them. They helped guide us in our purchases and I couldn't be happier with the decisions we've made thus far. 

As soon as you begin cloth diapering your child, you realize that every person you talk to has their favorite brand, style of diaper, and washing method. If you are interested in cloth diapers, there are plenty of options on the market, from traditional prefolds to cool all-in-one diapers that make the process a snap. Friends that use the all-in-one diapers swear by Bummis and Gro-Via diapers. I've tried a few of these and they are really nice. The only drawbacks for me were the cost and they took longer to clean (dry). I also wondered if the all-in-ones would hold up as well as traditional prefolds over the long haul. 

We decided to use prefold diapers with a simple, thin, waterproof cover. These are the diapers that likely come to mind when you think of cloth diapers. They are also the kind your mother and grandmother probably used. But even prefolds have come along way with the invention of the Snappi closure (pictured above), which eliminates the need for pins and makes prefolds super convenient and easy to use. To see a demonstration of using the Snappi closure, click here

I want to cloth diaper my baby. What do I need and how much should I purchase?

We made all of our diaper purchases from Green Mountain Diapers and couldn't be happier with the service and speedy delivery. If you are interested in purchasing prefold diapers, here are the essentials I recommend purchasing: 
  • 3 dozen newborn (orange edge) diapers (for babies 5-10 pounds)
  • 3 dozen small (yellow edge) diapers (10-15 pounds)
  • 3 dozen medium (red edge) diapers (14-20 pounds)
  • 8 extra-small covers (work with orange diapers)
  • 8 small covers (work with yellow diapers)
  • 8 medium covers (work with red diapers)
  • 3-4 Snappi closures (size 1)
When it comes to covers there are many options. We decided to go with Thirsties covers. I've tried a few different ones and these are definitely my favorite. I like that they are very lightweight. They also air dry super quickly after washing and don't weigh Emerson down. 
If you don't want to order everything at once, you can start with the newborn and small diapers. For reference, Emerson is currently four months old, about 14 pounds and is just growing out of the small diapers. 

Note: If you purchase prefolds, you will need to wash and dry them 4-6 times before using. They will shrink up as you wash them and become more absorbent. Also, if you have a baby like ours who goes through many diapers a day, you may find you need to purchase an additional dozen.

Not necessary but nice to have: 
  • 1 dozen large (brown edge) diapers (These are for babies 20 pounds and up. They are the perfect size for laying on your changing pad and protecting your cover. I initially ordered a dozen of these, but will need to order two dozen more if Emerson grows out of the red diapers before she is potty trained.)
  • 1 dozen preemie diapers (I fold these into thirds lengthwise and place in the middle of Em's diaper when changing her before bed. It helps keep her dry in the night.)
Washing Diapers
There is no golden rule to getting diapers clean. You will need to find the right routine that works for your washer. There is a great article here that will help guide you as you get started. I began by checking our hot water temperature. The ideal range for getting diapers clean is 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit. If your hot water is too cool, you can unscrew the panel on the front of your hot water heater and adjust the temperature. You will need a place to hold dirty diapers prior to washing. Here are the essentials I recommend purchasing: 
  • 40-liter trash can (This one is the perfect size and has a convenient lock feature once little hands are getting into everything.)
  • 2 large waterproof pail liners (We purchased two of these. They fit perfectly in the trash can linked above.)
  • 2 large waterproof wet bags (We purchased two of these. They are perfect for the diaper bag.)
  • Laundry detergent (There are many detergents out there. Everyone has their favorite. Here are a few brands you can check out: Charlie's Soap, Country Save, Rockin' Green. We use Rockin' Green, but I may try Country Save next time I need soap.)
 Not necessary but nice to have: 
  • Bac-Out (Spray on super dirty diapers before placing in the bin to break down stains.)
  • Deodorizing disc (for diaper pail)
  • Baby OxiClean (Add 1/4 cup when you wash to boost your cleaning power. This is especially helpful in getting stains out of covers.)
  • White vinegar 
  • Nellie's Dryer Balls (I swear by these. They cut your drying time in half and we use them with all of our laundry.)
Wash Routine  
Here's a wash routine that can help you get started. I wait until the pail is pretty full and then do a load of wash, generally every two to three days. This is the routine I started with and tweaked slightly as I began washing diapers:
  1. Turn your pail liner inside out in your washer and empty diapers inside.  
  2. Rinse cycle in warm water. 
  3. Rinse cycle in cold water. 
  4. Add your soap (2-3 tablespoons). Wash on the heavy duty cycle. 
  5. Rinse cycle in cold water. 
  6. Rinse cycle in cold water. 
About every two weeks I do a soak, which helps strip the diapers of any soapy buildup or residue. To soak: 
  1. Turn your pail liner inside out in your washer and empty diapers inside.  
  2. Rinse cycle in warm water. 
  3. Rinse cycle in cold water. 
  4. Add your soap (2-3 tablespoons). Add a glug of white vingear to the fabric softener slot. Wash on the delicate cycle in cold water, no spin.
  5. Rinse cycle in cold water. 
  6. Rinse cycle in cold water. 

If you're on the fence about using cloth diapers, I hope you'll give it a go. Special thanks to Anna, Becca, Leigh, and Kristin for their help and guidance in getting us started! And if you cloth diaper in the Baltimore, Maryland area and would rather not wash your diapers yourself, please check out Green Spring Diapers!

UPDATE: Once your little one is eating mostly solids, I highly recommend biodegradable, flushable liners, such as these


Chick_In said...

There is also an amazing cloth diapering service in Chicagoland -- Clean Green Nappy...phenomenal service, green washing, great prices, and a mom-owned business.

Chick_In said...

There's also a great cloth diaper service in Chicagoland...Clean Green Nappy provides phenomenal service, great pricing, uses eco-friendly washing materials, and is a mom-owned business.