Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My "Cloth Diapers Explained" Post! (part 1)

I LOVE that my friends often refer me to their friends who are interested in cloth diapers.  I've successfully "converted" several friends to cloth & have shared the fluffy love with a bunch of others.  I love being a cloth diaper advocate & of course don't mind taking the time to answer any and all questions.  So I figured it was about time that I wrote down all of that info and have it posted in one easy to find spot! So here goes!

First of all, I LOVE cloth diapering.  I love how cloth diapers contain messes (especially breastfed baby poo if you're planning on nursing.  that stuff is explosive!)  I've only had <5 blowout diapers in the 2.5+ years I've been cloth diapering.  I love how after the initial purchase, you never have to buy diapers again & save money (although it's so addictive, you just may find you "need" to buy more diapers from time to time).  Noah's been using the same diapers my daughter Maddy wore & he's been a very inexpensive child between nursing & cloth diapering! :o)  I love how I don't have to literally throw money away at each diaper change & I never have to frantically run to the store or scrape up a few bucks for another pack of diapers (which we did w/Sophie).  I love how I am not contributing the 3rd largest single consumer item in landfills & keeping my babies bottoms out of all of those chemicals.  Dioxin (a by product of the bleaching process of disposable diapers/feminine napkins) has proven links to cancer & it is illegal in most countries except for the US.  I love how I decrease the risk of my baby boy having fertility problems or testicular cancer in the future, since disposables raise the temperature in a baby's testicles and cloth is more breathable and actually cools them down to a safe level.  But most of all, I love how cute cloth diapers are!!!

Many modern cloth diapers come sized for a better fit, or "one-size" (OS) to fit from 8-35ish pounds, supposedly from birth to potty training.  You get the most out of OS diapers, but they don't always fit newborns well until they reach the 10lb mark and if you have a big toddler or late potty trainer (which many babies in cloth train sooner from feeling the wetness instead of the polymers in disposables soaking it away), it may be better to get a few sized ones as well.  I love that my OS diapers can be adjusted in about 2 seconds to fit Noah or Maddy, depending on who needed the change & it cut down on the diapers in my diaper bag before Maddy was potty trained!

Two most common forms of OS diapers:
Fuzzi Bunz OS diaper with adjustable elastic in the legs & back by pocket opening.
Bum Genius OS diaper with snap down rise adjustment

Most modern cloth diapers are secured with velcro or snaps.  There are benefits and drawbacks to both, but I have both in my stash.  Husbands, babysitters, grandparents & daycares typically find velcro the easiest to use (most like a disposable diaper) & I find I prefer velcro for a more adjustable fit.  They're also very simple to grab for nighttime changes.  I do prefer snaps on toddlers, so they cannot remove diapers on their own & I like how durable snaps are.  Velcro tends to get curly & lose it's stick after a while, so it will need replaced eventually (they do sell refresher kits for Bum Genius or you can just go buy & cut velcro pieces to fit properly).  It is a simple process when they need done & I don't mind doing it one bit if it means I get a little help changing diapers.

If you want to go old school, you can use pins still too.  I personally am terrified of pins (I have several sets that I just haven't used ever on diapers), so I use something called a snappi (kinda like an ace bandage holder) to hold diapers shut.  Great tutorial here for using snappis on newborns. But depending on folding techniques, you don't even need one of them.

Noah in a nb prefold closed by a blue snappi

As for what diapers to get, it depends on what you want to get out of it--if you want cheap, I would suggest going with prefolded diapers & covers.  They are cheap, and you fold them around your baby to contain messes & put a cover overtop of that to keep their clothes dry.  I used these in the beginning & prefer these for the newborn poo days to keep messes contained with 2 separate layers of protection.  These are typically the cheapest to find--costing around $2/diaper and $10-13 for a cover.  I recommend 24-36 newborn prefolds and 5 covers to last the first few months at least.  Prefolds are basically flat diapers (large piece of absorbent fabric) that are pre folded into a diaper with extra layers added to the middle & sewn together.  You can fold them different ways as well to get more customized fits.  HERE is a great tutorial.

My favorite brand is Cloth-eeze as they are super soft, pre-sized from preemie through toddler, so you don't have to custom fold them to cover your baby and thereby less bulky & they are amazingly absorbent.  I keep these on hand even when I'm not diapering, because they are great spill catchers as well!  My least favorite brand of prefolds is Gerber--they're just not as absorbent, no matter how many washes to prep them I did & they're not soft and fluffy either.
medium brown edged GMD prefold diaper unfolded
Orange (nb), Yellow (small) & brown--newly replaced with red (medium).

These have come a long way since the pull on plastic pants our grandmothers used! They're cute, durable, breathable & easy to use now.  Fitted diapers & prefolds require covers to keep baby waterproof.  There are 3 main types of materials used to make diaper covers: PUL (polyurethane laminate), fleece & wool. PUL & fleece are man-made materials, which tends to be easier to care for (just throw in the wash with your diapers if smelly or soiled--easy!) & wool comes from sheep, but needs to be handwashed and lanolized if they get poo on them or once a month or so.  I love how wool breathes & is wicks away moisture for my heavy wetters & is antibacterial, but I also love how trim PUL covers are and low maintenance.  And fleece is like the best of both of those worlds--low maintenance & very breathable.   

Thirsties duo wrap size 2, PUL cover

inside of Thirsties duo wrap size 2 

Thirsties duo wrap standard inner gussets! They contain EVERYTHING!

Wool diaper covers:
knit shorties (left), recycled sweater pull on cover (top right)
& Nifty Nappy recycled sweater wrap (bottom right)

If you want easy to use, I suggest starting with a pocket diaper (basically a cover with a stay dry layer that you stuff with an absorbent insert in between) or an all-in-one (AIO-a cover with an absorbent layer sewn in, so there's no stuffing--closest thing to a disposable diaper, except you wash & reuse).  These diapers are typically more pricey at $15-20/diaper, and I'd recommend at least 20 diapers.  I use these for my hubby to change, my parents/babysitters/etc. and many daycares will change these types as well, since they're very easy to use.
Bum Genius OS pocket diaper with snaps;
can also get them with velcro closures.
Inside of Bum Genius OS snap diaper--
the flap at the top covers the opening where you stuff inserts into the diaper.
Just Ducky AIO with hidden PUL layer.
Inside of Just Ducky AIO--no stuffing required.
Everything is already sewn in.

If you want a hybrid system, there are diapers like grovia, gdiapers & flip that all have a cover and you put a disposable insert in the middle.  You can toss/compost/flush most of these inserts and wipe the cover and you're good to go again.  I find these the easiest to travel with since you just need an extra cover and several inserts; they take up very little room in my diaper bag this way!  And if I need a disposable option, but don't want to support Pampers evil ways or prefer your baby to be in less chemicals while they need to be in disposables, hybrid systems are a great option.  They also make cloth inserts for these diapers that you just wash the inserts between uses which are also called an all-in-two system (AI2).

Bum Genius Flip disposable insert (top) &
Gdiaper disposable insert (bottom)

Flip cover with disposable insert laid inside.

Outside of OS Flip cover

Flip organic (left) & stay dry (right) OS inserts.
These are to be washed & reused.

Grovia OS cover.

Grovia cover with cloth insert snapped into place

My personal favorites are fitted diapers (diapers that have snaps/velcro to keep them on baby securely, but are not waterproof & require a cover) and a wool cover. These tend to be a more pricey option though.  And my favorite fitteds are from Nifty Nappy.  I love how absorbent her hemp/bamboo fitteds are and how cute!  The Heavy Doody fitted she designed is the only thing that kept my kids dry all night because of how many hemp layers & extra protection of a fitted and a cover on top. I don't even tend to use covers with them unless I'm going out of the house or putting Noah down for a nap. And while Vilate isn't selling diapers anymore, Red Barn Cloth Diapers is an official licensee for the Nifty Nappy cottage license & makes the same amazing fitted diapers now! YAY!

Nifty Nappy fitted diapers:
Regular fitted (left), Heavy Doody fitted (middle) & Bitty Bum (right)

Inside of Nifty Nappy fitteds with folded doublers for extra absorbency.
Washing diapers isn't hard either.  I use 1-2 Tablespoons of Purex Free & Clear to wash a load of diapers, so that big $6 bottle lasts about 6 months washing every other day (when I have had 2 in cloth for 7 months; now I tend to wash every 2-3 days but my stash is big enough to make it much, much longer then that! lol!).  There are fancy schmancy cloth diaper friendly detergent brands out there--but honestly, I didn't notice that big of a difference & the Purex got my diapers clean, bright & didn't cost a fortune. But my favorite fancy schmancy cloth diaper detergent is Clean B.  While her customer service sucks, her product rocks & it's now only sold through retailers like Diapeze, so it's easier to obtain without waiting 6+ months. **UPDATE: It appears that the owner of Diapeze and a business partner bought Clean B's recipe and make their own soap now called A Happy Green Life. I got my first batch & it smells and cleans exactly like the Clean B I loved, but with stellar customer service!! Hurrah!!**  Clean diapers with a light scent that doesn't leave residue & rinses thoroughly (a common problem with some detergents is they cause build up on the diaper when they don't rinse clean or have things like brighteners in them that stick to clothing and diapers) & the scents are delicious!! There are also all natural options like soap nuts that you literally just throw the little bag of these dried berries in your washer.  So cool!!  I LOVE taking these along when I travel--no scoops or messes to deal with in my bag!

Clean B detergent (top left), Purex free & clear (right)
& EcoNuts (bottom left)
Breastfed baby poo is very water soluble, so ther's no need to rinse off diapers before washing either!  I personally dunk & swish the poo off in the toilet before tossing them in the washer, but they also make little "diaper sprayers" that are basically kitchen sprayers hooked to a toilet that you can spray off poo and never have to even touch it.  There are also flushable liners you can use so you can just flush the liner and poo away.  Easy peasy.  I store all of our dirty diapers in a trashcan with a waterproof pail liner and then take the pail liner w/diapers to the washer & wash everything.  My routine is a to put the diapers & pail liner in my top loader on a 20 minutes cold/warm soak & rinse cycle (sometimes adding 1T of detergent if it's especially stinky) on the biggest load size we can make it go, then a hot/cold wash cycle on the medium load size with 1-2 T of detergent followed by a large load size on extra warm/hot rinse cycle.  After reading THIS that Kim from Rockin' Green soap wrote, I discovered I was getting the most out of my washing & my method has morphed into the above.  I've heard people use the argument that using all of that water can't be cost effective/good for the environment, but I haven't noticed a jump in our water bill from washing 2 or 3 loads of diapers a week and I have to remind them that water is a renewable resource (unlike the trash disposable diapers create let alone the process to make & ship them).

Anyway, let me get back on track here.  You can't use regular diaper rash creams with cloth diapers as it will cause diapers to repel, but luckily most kids in cloth have fewer rashes from the breath-ability of cloth & getting changed more frequently.  If the baby gets a rash, I use coconut oil (a tiny bit goes a LOOOONG way & is way cheaper than a white, zinc-based cream) & a it's typically gone in a day or so.  I started using cloth with Maddy when she was a preemie because she kept getting horrid rashes from disposables & they went away with our switch to cloth.  The few times I've had to use disposables since have been awful & made me even more grateful for having switched to cloth diapers for my kiddos.

I get most of my cloth diapers preloved on the internet, since they're hard to come by in actual brick & mortar stores--and the ones you can find at Walmart or Babys 'R Us like the Gerber brand prefolds are just not very good.  There are great deals to be found on craigslist, diaperswappers.com (you can buy diapers/accessories on their forum & their message boards are active with tons of  moms eager to help), and several facebook groups (search fluff swappers & cloth diaper swap).  I also scour the internet for great deals from mom & pop retailers with free shipping (abbyslane.comcottonbabies.com & happybabycompany.com) and they often offer monthly newsletter codes or facebook fan savings as well.  While there's an upfront cost to cloth diapering, you will quickly find there are significant savings (a great diaper savings calculator here).  Diaperpin.com is also  great resource to find testimonials about certain brands.  I'd recommend trying a few different types/brands before investing a lot of money somewhere.

I suggest checking out my cloth diaper picture album
and my newborn cloth diaper album
and even my "fluffy bums are cuter" album for good measure. ;o)

And it can't hurt to try them & if you don't find them to be a fit, you can always resell them & recoup at least 50% of the cost.  I have been selling off some of the diapers I don't use very much and am always amazed when I get money for them--you can't sell a used disposable!

I am passionate about cloth diapers & would love to help spread the fluffy love to others!  Ask me questions anytime & be on the look out for more cloth diapers explained posts!! I have SO much more to write! :o)


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