Monday, April 02, 2007

Cloth Diaper Madness

a couple of days ago, i sent a massive email to my friend kim (hi kim!), who was asking questions about using cloth diapers. as most of you know, we have used cloth diapers since nicholas was born 4.5 years ago, and with a few exceptions (such as the weeks following the birth of a new baby, etc), have used them for the vast majority of our diapering. since it was such a massive email, (and i felt alternately cool that i actually wrote it all down, and lame to think that i spent the time to write it all down), i though i would post it here in case anyone ever asked me again. that way, i wouldn't have to face the cool/lame continuum again, at least about this. so, here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

"this is our system:

3 dozen chinese prefolds (this is enough for 2 kids if you wash every couple days)
6-8 breathable covers (i like the motherease brand with the snaps--called "airflow" i think)
a dozen or so pins
any old bin with a snapping cover, i am using some random storage ones i got at target because they were cheap and small, with a handle.
our system is pretty low-tech, as far as diapers go. if you spend any time looking at cloth diapers online, you will soon be inundated with all the choices and levels of fanciness that are available to you. since we started doing this mainly for the cheapness factor, ours is a pretty plain system.

*the diapers* --if you decide to go a similar route to us, the important thing to look for in prefolds is that they say "diaper service quality (dsq)" or "chinese prefolds". this means that they are thicker and more absorbent, as opposed to the more flimsy ones you sometimes see in walmart or babies r us, etc. here is where we bought ours, a dozen unbleached is $25.95: Choosey Diapers.
our boys never graduated to toddler size, and the infant size is only useful for about the first 3 months, and then later as a doubler for nighttime. the vast majority of the time is spent in the middle size.

this site also has lots of other options and info on cloth diapers, so feel free to look around. the other thing about the diapers, and this is true regardless of what kind you get, is that before you use them you have to wash them several times in Scalding Hot Water. seriously. boiling would be even better. there are oils in the cotton that will shed water (not good in a diaper), so you have to wash these out before you can use them. most of the time, whatever company you buy from will send instructions for the first washing. if you follow them and they still don't absorb, just stick them in a big pot and boil them on the stove before using. you'll be able to tell, because once they are dry again, you will either see water soak in (try it at the sink), or you will see it run off.

*the covers*--when we started, we were going mega-cheap so i used the oldfashioned plastic pants that you can get at walmart and places like that. i soon hated them quite a bit. the ones that i have liked are from a company called motherease. they are waterproof and breathable, and they are much easier to take on and off without getting poop everywhere (bonus!) here's the covers we use: Motherease Airflow Covers
these are quite a bit more than the plastic pants, but worth it to me. they have lasted for all 3 children, but you do need to get a few different sizes. i think we got the small (infant), medium (jonathan has almost outgrown these, probably would have if daniel weren't using the next size up still) and med-large (daniel is still in these). this will all depend on the sizes of your kids, of course. daniel is on the small side, and jonathan is ginormous. :) you don't need to get all the sizes upfront, just get whatever you need and add on. how many you get depends on how much you wash (more on that later).

*pins*--we use them. i will tell you, they seem scary at first, but you get the hang of them very quickly. there are other options besides pins, but they are often going along with more expensive diapers, or else i couldn't get them to stay put as well.

*pail*--we use a very simple pail, that's pretty small. some of this is because of my washing system...i don't use a wet pail, and so i don't need to be as worried about a child knocking it over. also, we've never really had a problem with them playing with it, we just teach them early on not to touch. also, i wash every couple of days, so i don't need as many diapers. this helps with the smell issue too...if they start to smell, it's probably time to wash. now, i don't think that cloth will ever be as smell-free as those hermetically sealed diaper genie things, but then again, those things won't biodegrade. ever. if you notice a problem, you could always go for one of those real live Diaper Pails that are sold on the diapering websites, some even have deodorizing tablets and such. but, i haven't found a need for them.

*washing*--there are probably as many systems for washing as there are people doing the wash, but here is an outline of what i do. keep in mind my lackadaisical attitude toward some of the more "official" ways of doing things, as above.

first, i don't dunk diapers in the toilet. ever. my position is that if i have to touch the poop, i am not going to do it. also, i figure that the washing machine is a miracle tool, so i might as well use it. so, i have come to this system: if the baby is entirely breastfed, the diaper can go into the pail as-is, because the poop is not very solid and will soak out later in my process. if the baby has some solids, or is a toddler, the poop is more solid and so i shake off whatever will come off into the toilet, and put the diaper in the pail. also, i generally re-use one cover throughout the day if it's just wet, and if it gets poop on it, then it goes into the pail too and i get a new one. usually, they get a new cover first thing in the morning because the overnight one is so wet and stinky.

with nicholas, this shaking policy worked just fine because he always had solid ones. daniel threw us for a loop because his are less solid, so then i was faced with the dilemma of having to deal too intimately with the poop by scraping with t.p. or something, or just putting it in the pail and trying to soak more. this varied based on my mood. lets hope you are never faced with this choice! :) that said, there are many contraptions out there for scraping/spraying/dunking the poop off...so if you are interested, look around.

because of my no-dunking policy, i do a longer soak. i figure that the machine is up to the challenge, but may need my help now and then. so, once the pail is full, i throw everything in the wash and fill it to the top on cold. don't overfill the washer, no more than 2 dozen or so at a time. i rinse and drain it once (twice if there is some gnarly poop, see above). then, i fill it again with warm water and 2 scoops of oxyclean. i usually leave this to soak overnight. in the morning, i drain the water again (so they don't wash in dirty water) and then i do a long wash cycle on hot water with some tide detergent and more oxyclean. then, into the dryer, or on better days, onto the clothesline. which leads to my next point....

cloth diapers will stain. this is a fact of life, and if you washed them well and they smell fresh, does not mean that they are still dirty. if you are worried about it, you can bleach them white again, but this shortens the life of the diaper (not to mention the scariness of bleach on the environment). another option is to hang them in the sun, which gets just about all of the stains out. that said, i do occaisionally bleach the diapers if they are still stinky after washing, like less than 2x per year, or if someone has been particularly sick. sometimes, they just need a little touch up.

i use cloth when i'm out and about (church, cbs, shopping, etc.), and just use plastic grocery sacks to store the wet ones in until i can get them home. however, if i'm going to be gone on a trip, or out all day, then i use disposables as a backup. also, when we were having so much trouble with daniel's digestion last summer and he was having diahrea constantly. but, for the most part, the system i described can do just about all situations.

*overnight*--i find that cloth diapers leak much less often than disposables. i can usually get them on more snugly with the pins than i can disposables, and i usually tuck the extra fabric in around their legs when i put them on, which helps hold things in more. that said, there comes a point with each child when i have needed to "double up". for nicholas, he was close to 2yrs, with jonathan it was about 5 months, and with daniel, i still haven't had to. all doubling means is that i lay an infant sized diaper inside the regular one, and fold it all together when i pin. then they have a really mondo-diaper-butt! :) if i didn't have the infant size, i would use another diaper, or if that was too big, even a washcloth would work. using this, i have never had them leak through, unless some of the diaper was poking out of the cover somewhere. (i forgot to tell you that...make sure to tuck everything in, because any little spot poking out will cause the water to wick onto the clothes.)

i have used the same 3 dozen diapers for all 3 kids. i am just now looking to replace them, because they are disintegrating (i keep pulling handfulls of lint out of the linttrap in the dryer). however, this is not bad for the initial $75! and, while i do end up doing more laundry, it's really only 2 or 3 loads in a week, not outrageous, and this is with 2 in diapers. with one, your work will be less."

1 comment:

joysnatcher said...

Wow! I was completely enthralled and impressed by your cloth diaper knowledge. This subject comes up a lot, and I often feel a little sad because I didn't "go cloth".

But, we are in an entirely different point in life than most parents, and have been lucky when we actually had a washer to use. That, and our travelling, made it very difficult to see cloth diapers as a reasonable option.

But, I'm not out of my childbearing years yet. Who's to say I won't one day be done travelling and have a washer at my disposal, and have a baby? Then I'll be referring to your handy post!!!