Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cloth Diapers-- How We Do It

I remember when we were getting ready for Zosia, we were overwhelmed by cloth diapers. How would we do it? How many did we need? What type would be best? So, here's what we arrived at, and what ended up working for us:

We got our cloth diapers through We found that their diapers are much better than the ones you would get at Babies R Us, let alone Walmart, and quite affordable. What you need to get started is around 10 Bummi covers for each size (these are awesome... they're a velcro pocket diaper cover that you just slip your prefolds into), and 3 dozen prefold diapers for each size. Now, I know from exprience that Ben and I have big babies. Zosia spent a couple of weeks in the "newborn" size before she outgrew them and went into "small." In retrospect, we could have totally skipped the newborn ones. However, if you don't know, I would get a handful of newborn covers, and then 10 small and 10 medium, and 3 dozen each of the infant size prefolds and the regular size prefolds. This should get you through your first year! Don't worry about "diaper doublers" "diaper liners," and other stuff. I found that I didn't need them (but I wasn't cloth diapering at night... you might want these if you're going to be using cloth through the night). All of these supplies should cost you $300 or so... not bad, considering that you would be spending $40 a month minimum on disposables, which means that you've broken even in 7 months... let alone if you end up reusing these diapers with multiple children).

So, now that you have your diapers in the mail, you have to get some supplies together to deal with maintaining your diapers. If you have a regular old laundry machine as opposed to a front loader, things will be easier for you. I recommend a "dry pail" method. Basically, you will go down to Home Depot and buy two big old 5-gallon plastic pails. These have secure lids and are perfect for cloth diapering. One will be for diapers with pee (pardon the toddler language), one for diapers with poop. Now, you will want to get a huge container of baking soda, a big container of Borax (available next to laundry stuff, typically), and a big thing of vinegar, along with the detergent of your choice (there is generally absolutely no need to get special baby detergent... regular stuff works great). Sprinkle a healthy dose of baking soda into the bottom of each pail and put it next to the changing table, or wherever you'll be dealing with diapers. Now, when the baby has a wet diaper, just toss it into the one pail. When the baby has a dirty diaper, toss it in the other (for the first 6 months at least, there is no need to rinse poopy diapers or to shake them out. Just toss them in the pail, poop and all.)

Every two or three days, take your two pails to your laundry area. Toss the poopy diapers into the laundry machine, put in a scoop of baking soda, and if they really need to get clean, some borax (although this will wear out your diapers when used too much, so use sparingly) and turn the machine on the "soak" cycle. Soak the poopy diapers overnight. This might require some tampering with your laundry machine (I remember in our old apartment, we had to turn on the soak cycle, let the machine fill up, and then turn the machine off in order to accomplish a soak overnight). In the morning, add the pee diapers, put in the detergent (and some vinegar, if they have a strong urine smell), and run the machine as usual. Pop it in the dryer, and you have some clean diapers ready to use.

Now, a word about the diaper covers. You do not need to change these with every pee or even poo diaper! That's the trick to only needing 10 or so. Often, the cover will remain dry even when the inside is wet. Sometimes, the cover will be damp. These are made out of polyester, and dry quickly, so just lay it out somewhere where it can air out, and put on a dry cover. I would only wash the diaper covers once a week or so. Basically, avoid washing it unless you get some poop directly onto the diaper cover.

That's what worked for us, and how we're planning on doing cloth diapers this time around. Once you have figured out the system, it really is quick and easy... especially if there's one person that doesn't mind doing the extra load of laundry every couple of days.

However, as I've mentioned, I'm not for cloth diapers in all circumstances. For the first few weeks, I would recommend using newborn disposables-- these are specially cut to leave the belly button open, which is important while it's healing. Also, we preferred disposables at night because we could leave a single diaper on all night without a single leak. Likewise, I preferred using disposables while we were out and about-- although I hear that with a properly sealed bag, you can just "pack out" your dirty diapers. And lastly, if you're planning on having your infant in a group-care environment (daycare or even leaving him/her with another mom during the day) for any substantial period of time, I would honestly just skip the cloth diapers. They're really not that much better for the environment than disposables, and I just wouldn't impose the burden of doing cloth on anyone outside of my immediate family... I know that if I were caring for multiple infants, I would resent too many "specific" instructions. And if you're going to have to buy disposables for daycare, then I would say that the cost of cloth diapers becomes much less worth it.

Whew! I NEVER thought I would have that much to say about diapers, but there it is. Every last word of it. Good luck!

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