Monday, September 28, 2015

This is Diapers!

Aviso:  This is a long post (I'm not burdening you by making it a multiple-part post), and obviously on a niche topic, but I think you should read it anyway, because I'm determined to dispel any rumors about cloth diapering, and if you ever find yourself facing a diaper change of the cloth variety, this might be helpful.  My intention is not to try to convert anybody, merely to inform.

Also, I added in loads of pictures for visual stimulayshe.  YAY.


"This is diapers! It's so easy, it's simple!  Even babies think it's simple.  I mean babies don't think it's simple."

It's now been a year and a half or so (even approaching two?!) since I started using cloth diapers!  I think I deserve a pat on the back, not because it's such a hard thing, but more because I have survived in the face of adversity and opposition!  I kid, I kid.

Her first time in cloth: next time I will not wait a month (or two, I don't remember) before diving in.  Also SKINNY LEGS!!

But I would say that the two hardest parts about cloth diapering, in retrospect, were:

1. Getting other caregivers to be on board

2. My child has the stinkiest and most voluminous amounts of pee known to mankind

Okay, now I need to provide a disclaimer here:  I love my family and I really love anyone who is willing to watch my child for any length of time (and really really love anyone who will change a diaper for me), but I had some interesting scenarios or concerns come up when other people changed Rosalind's diapers (ie diapers put on backwards...more than twice), and more often than not, they would default to sposies (which is mostly fine if I'm not paying for them).  I guess I could've done better at providing a little diapering lesson, but maybe I just think they're more intuitive than they actually are (...but aren't they?), which brings me partly to the whole reason behind this post, which is to prove to all 3 of you reading this that cloth diapers are not confusing or scary in the least.

So.  First, if you're still reading (Hi Mom!), I wanted to show what I tried, and how I liked it (or didn't).  Then I want to come back to Problem #2 I mentioned earlier, since that apparently is one of the biggest problems people have with cloth diapering (and have since the dawn of time, apparently).

A magazine ad from I think the 1920s?

Here it goes:


When I first thought of trying cloth, I thought pockets would be my thing, since they are equal parts convenience and ease.  I did bucketloads of research on pockets alone, and while I would've loved to have had a top-end style such as BumGenius (warning: almost every brand in the cloth diaper industry is stupid), in the end I decided to settle for a smaller brand.  I had heard good things about SO MANY different kinds (Kawaii, Alva, Sunbaby, JustSimplyBaby, etc), but I eventually went with Sunbaby because:

A) They were really affordable
B) They have a less stupid name
C) They have LEG SNAPS for better fit (not sure if anyone else does...?)
D) They have a flap over the pocket for leak protection

Sunbaby is actually one of the only ones out there made in China (besides no-name brands), but the lady who owns the company is just a regular mom who happens to be Chinese-American (or maybe just Chinese, I don't remember), and she has spoken out on the quality treatment of her laborers, so there's that.
Here you can kind of see the leg snaps I'm referring to.  They are excellent for skinnier babies.  They became superfluous after a while on Ros, but I couldn't have predicted that...

Ok.  So.  With pocket diapers, there are two parts: the (adjustable size) shell (which has the PUL fabric on the exterior and a fleecey liner sewn to it, creating a pocket, into which you place the second part, an insert.  Inserts come in a variety of fabrics.  I tried microfiber, bamboo, and cotton (I never got to try hemp, but I hear they are wonderful, although most are a blend, usually of microfiber).

Microfiber inserts are the most absorbent, and they are awesome at that.  However, it's kind of difficult to get them clean, ESPECIALLY in one of those evil "energy efficient" washers (more on this later...HE washers are the worst thing to happen to cloth diapering).  Because of the way the microfiber is made, they hold lots of fluid, but it's harder to get soap in there to clean all the little particles of ammonia off.  So they can easily become LE STINK.  Here's a good visual I took from this site.

Bamboo were easier to get clean (all natural-fiber materials are generally easier to get clean and have good absorbancy), but the bamboo inserts I got were too thin for my baby's elephant-sized bladder, and stuffing two inserts into the pocket was like...impossible.

I also had several bird's-eye cotton flat diapers I originally got by accident in looking for those Gerber ones that are so good for burp cloths (horrible for diapers, bee-tee-dubs), and they turned out to be good for using as inserts, folded up.  They were more absorbant than the bamboo, and sometimes I would double them up with bamboo.  In cloth diaper speak, techinically any insert or whatever used outside the pocket, or just in a cover by itself, is called a "doubler," SO CREATIVE.

This is when I resorted to using only doublers.  It was too bulky for my taste.
BUT!  After we moved in with my parents, who have an HE washer, things quickly went downhill with that microfiber (as in, I was embarassed to be with her in public with a wet diaper because she smelled like a skunk stuffed into a garbage can-- which I have actually smelled in my life, so hey!).  I tried SO MANY THINGS to get them smelling clean again, which, when I address Prob #2, I will tell you about.  Also, possibly from all the junk I did trying to get the stink out, a quarter of the covers' PUL wore down and they started seeping, and I had to throw them away, which was irritating.  In the end, I gave Ros a brief break to recover from a nasty ammonia burn (I am really making cloth sound enticing, aren't I?) by putting her in sposies, and found an alternate solution in the world of...


Prefolds are what most people think of when they think of cloth diapers.  This is what my mom used on my brother and I when we were very wee.  It's what probably everybody used until the invention of the disposable dipe.  But technology has improved since those days, and you know what?  I actually really like diapering with prefolds, like way more than I thought I would.

The prefolds you can get in the store from Gerber are crap.  Just getting that out of the way.  They are fantastic for burp cloths, obviously, but they don't do much in the way of diapers.  Dunno why.  So after a bit of research, hands down the absolute BEST place ( it the only place??) to get prefolds is Green Mountain Diapers.

I love Green Mountain.  It's run by some crazy lady in Vermont who has some kids and a LOT to say about cloth diapering.  I read pretty much everything she wrote on her site (which took several hours but was all very interesting).  They are great quality diapers and are SUPER INEXPENSIVE!!

I also watched a few YouTube videos on how to change a prefold diaper in record time (which was silly now that I think about it, but when you're not so sure, it can be helpful).

I ended up getting a dozen cotton prefolds (I've since gotten a dozen more in a bigger size), which we afix with a Snappi, which is probably the coolest (and easiest to fasten) new addition to prefold diapering.  It's basically a stretchy thing with hooks kind of like on the metal bit you use to keep an Ace Bandage in place.  It's easy, safe, quick, and I think it's a great invention.

Here she is showing off the first time we tried prefolds (the cover goes on over this).  Also if I look at this picture too long, it looks like she has a nub for a left leg and that really bothers me.
See the Snappi?  No pins, no clips, just singular, stretchy, hooky goodness.

The thing about prefolds is that you need to put on an extra, waterproof layer, so it takes maybe 15 seconds longer than putting on a pocket or an all-in-one or a sposie.  But I don't mind.  You can do the plastic (aka rubber) pants they sell at the grocery store, but I wanted something more breathable, so I got a couple of PUL covers (aka "wraps").


An All-in-One is just what it sounds like, and is closest to a sposie in setup and ease.  They are basically the PUL shell with a couple layers of absorbent fabric, which are sewn in and not removable.  That makes them a little more difficult to get clean, but fortunately, ours are made with cotton, so they're usually okay.  Also, ours have adjustable fronts too.  Actually, I always make sure what I get is adjustable, and I always get snap fasteners (velcro, aka Aplix, wears out too fast, so I hear).

When I bought the pocket diapers, I also found 4 AIOs on KSL of the elite BumGenius Elemental variety for only $32 for the 4 of them (normally ~$25 each...why??), so I snatched them up.  When we got them, they stank, and one of them looked like it had been chewed up by a dog, but after an initial washing, these puppies have been AWESOME.  Over time, and knowing Ros is at least the 3rd baby to use them, they all one by one have deteriorated to the point that we couldn't use them any more.  But I still loved them, like a lot a lot.

AIO when she was a little smaller (in a sense...look at those thighs...)
..And when she's a little older...
Blurry: Side view

Blurry: back view

If I had the money to shell out for BumGenius, I totally would.  They fit super well, are trimmer than the Sunbaby, have never leaked (unless I leave her in them too long or they reached the end of their life), and are pretty dang solid.  Even the chewed-up one outlasted some of the pockets.

Sam likes the prefolds, but he has said more than once that the AIOs are his favorite to put on (aside from the occasional stink issue because they are harder to clean), so there you go.


I got 3 adjustable Kawaii covers from Kid to Kid for $1-$3 apiece, and they have been pretty good.  On one of them, the snaps are getting a little worn, but I have no idea how many kids they've been through since I bought them at a consignment shop, and they still close, so whatever.  I think they are a smaller size though, and I can stretch the amount of days between laundry with more covers, so I eventually got 3 larger covers.

The other 3 I got were Thirsties Duo Wraps (a good, popular brand) wraps.  I like them because they are still adjustable and because they have extra leg gussets for leak protection.


Fitted diapers are basically prefolds, but fitted (meaning elastic around the leg and at the back).  Ours are the Workhorse diaper from Green Mountain, so they also have an extra doubler sewn in.  They don't come with a waterproof layer, so you still have to use a cover.  Some people like them for all the time, but I think they're a bit bulky, though very absorbent, so they are what I use on Ros for night-time.


I was super skeptical of wool, because the idea behind it seems kind of counter-intuitive.  But in combination with a fitted diaper, this is without a doubt the most leak-proof solution I've found for nighttime!

The bad things about wool are:

A) You have to wash them by hand with special, lanolizing wool soap

B) They are expensive

C) They are bulky

The good things are:

A) They are completely waterproof once lanolized, and only get more waterproof with time as they felt naturally

B) They have the ultimate breathability (no plastic or chemical layer, just knit wool)

C) You only have to wash it once every few weeks, and wool has natural deodorizing properties (I was most skeptical of this, but no joke, by the time I put it on her again at night, it's completely odorless!)

D) You can make one yourself out of an old wool sweater if you are the crafty type  (Ha.  I tried this.  Got a couple of sweaters for a few bucks each at a thrift store but it turns out I SUCK AT USING A SEWING MACHINE, so yeah, we'll stick with the Disana for now)

Exhibit A. Wut.

Exhibit B.  I give up.

We bought a basic wool soaker from Disana (they sell them for a pretty good price on Green Mountain), and I like it quite a lot.  The cool thing about wool is that, if they're lanolized, you can just slap on a pair of wool pants or wool overalls and it works just as well as a diaper-cover-only one.  I think that's a little weird, but it can cut down on the bulk of layers.  Since we just use it for nighttime, the bulk doesn't bother me as much, since Ros is so fat she has to be in huge pajamas anyway, so it all fits fine.

And the first night in wool pants

I was skeptical.  But they are very soft and comfy and didn't leak a bit!


So, like I said, Rosalind pees like an adult and has all the stink of ages.  It's kind of freaky.  She gets plenty of water (um, yeah, hence the volume), but she has always been this way, since birth.  But in combination with only having access to an HE washer, it caused a HUGE problem with ammonia buildup, and pretty quickly.

It smells.  It burns your baby.  It's impossible.  It's bad.

Lucky for you, if you're facing this, I've tried basically everything, so you can learn from my trial and error (though your own trial and error is usually best).

Things I tried to get rid of ammonia buildup:

1. Boiling:  Don't do it.  It's a waste of time, it smells, and it damages fabrics.  Certainly NEVER boil PUL.  The heat melts the plastic and they are no longer waterproof.

2. Blue Dawn Soap:  Relatively useless.  And hard to get out.  I was never dumb enough to use it in the washing machine (just in the tub), but some people have done that, and it can void the warranty on your washer, so yeah.

3. Rockin' Green Funk Rock:  Works pretty well, but isn't a very permanent solution, and it's kind of expensive.  You can see it here.

4. Bleach:  Works like heaven!  But without other changes to our washing routine, we had to do it at least once a week, and that's ridiculous (plus it can damage the fabric over time if you do it too much).  Also of note, always let the diapers soak in bleach OUTSIDE because ammonia + bleach = poisonous gas!!!

5. White Vinegar:  Works the same as bleach, but is not as potent, so I mostly use it for a maintenance rinse, not for heavy duty stuff.

6. Switching to Tide:  With most cloth diapers, they recommend a specific diaper-friendly detergent.  I normally use Ecos Free & Clear.  There are a zillion other recommendations out there.  Here's a good chart I've consulted.  But the cool thing about cotton prefolds is that you don't really need a special detergent if you don't want to, and if you have ammonia problems, switching to regular, powdered Tide can do the trick.  I was hesitant since I'm sensitive to chemical fragrances, plus some people swear it is basically like setting your diapers on fire, but I went for it.  It took me a few washings, but I definitely saw results by making the switch, and I don't have repelling issues.

7. Hot water and multiple rinse cycles:  This is necessary!  When we had the standard washer, my wash routine was: a regular cycle on cold without soap, a regular cycle on hot with soap, and a quick rinse/spin.  It was dandy.  With the HE washer it's harder and takes more time.  I normally do: soak cycle, regular cycle on cold or warm (Delicate has the most water) without soap, regular cycle on hot with soap, regular or extra rinse cycle on cold without soap, and sometimes an extra extra rinse cycle with short spin.  It takes a while, but you do what you can.  I've been seriously tempted to go to a laundromat and use a standard washer some days, but convenience wins out -_-

Update (since I originally wrote most of this while we were still living with my parents): since having our standard washer back, our wash routine (every 3-ish days) is a cold rinse, hot cycle with soap, extra rinse on cold.  We use Tide, and sometimes (like if we were out of town and I forgot to do diapers before we left so the diapers smell like a dump) bleach.  I never have problems with stink anymore, hallelujah.


There were a couple other things I had to do differently than mainstream when I decided on cloth.

I guess most noteworthy of those is that you can't use traditional diaper rash creams because they contain waxes and such (this is how they work by repelling moisture from your baby's skin).  There's no way around it.

Fortunately, I've actually never had a diaper rash with cloth!  Every now and then things will get a little reddish in areas, but Coconut Oil works absolutely wonderful at acting as a moisture repellant in those cases, plus it helps to treat the rash, and it washes out of diapers, unlike waxy creams, so it's pretty great.  PS: also letting your baby hang out in the buff, especially in the sun, will kill the yeast.  Just fyi.

When Ros got the aforementioned ammonia burn, a little meleleuca ointment worked almost magically in treating it.  I tried it on a whim (we use it for stuff like cuts, light burns, bug bites, etc), and I was surprised at the difference it made in just a few hours.

Also, poop is not really an issue.

I have NEVER had a blow-out in cloth.  I've dealt with a few when she was in those are nasty.  But with cloth, nada.  It just fits better.

As for getting it out of the diaper before washing, well, as they always say, breastfed baby poop is completely water soluble.  And it is.  But guess what I found?  SO IS FORMULA POOP.  I mean, it's not like I'm throwing chunks of poop in the washer, but, actually, I sort of did.  Sometimes it's too much effort to get out, so sue me.  And GUESS WHAT it all goes down the drain.  Some people even throw in food-formula poop, but I think dumping a little clump in the toilet before putting it in the pail is easier than picking out little pieces of food from the washer barrel post-washing.  Also, you're supposed to be dumping poop in the toilet even with a sposie (it's like the law or whatever, human waste is hazardous waste or somesuch, not like anybody listens to them).

I also use cloth wipes, because I think they're easier than getting a special bag to throw dirty paper wipes into.  Too much work.  We had about a million baby washcloths, so we just use those.  And I've tried pre-wetting them and keeping them in a bag, but when Ros started pooping like once per or once every couple of days, they got mildewy, so I switched to a spray bottle (part soap, part oil, part water).  But the thing has been empty for like a week, and it's just as easy to wet them in the sink first.  LA-Z.

For going out, I still use cloth, yep.  You can buy little wetbags that will fit a few diapers.  I actually bought some PUL and sewed (by hand) a couple of little bags for myself because I don't care and people charge too much for this crap.


ARE YOU STILL READING THIS?  Now it's YOU that deserves a pat on the back!

Random tidbit: For some reason people think they will never be able to use cloth because their husband or boyfriend or whoever will never be on board, or never be able to figure it out.  That's stupid, sorry.  Men are just as capable as anyone at changing diapers, and if they disagree, they are sexist against themselves (how meta that sounds).  I've known super manly/tough/insert-stupid-cliche-here men who have said they will "allow" their wife to have a kid so long as they never have to change a diaper.  Guess what, after that babe rolls around, they change plenty of diapers.  And cloth is no different.  And I know there are exceptions to everything, and that maybe there are people like that out there.  THAT SAID, maybe some of you are curious as to Sam's opinion of this whole shebang.  It is, in a nut shell, "That's bull.  I did it.  And it saves money.  Which makes me happy."  Update: he has recently added that he wishes Utah had a diaper cleaning service.  My mom used a diaper service when we were babes, as an aside.  I agree, I think that would be awesome, but I don't think it's all that much more difficult.  2 extra loads of laundry per week?  Meh.

Okay, so.  After this past almost-two-years, I will definitely say that though we ended up spending a little more than planned due to washing machine issues and not anticipating Ros' large quantities of toxic urine, I still have only spent...maybe $300 on diapers?  Maybe a skoshe more since I like to have a package of sposies on hand for emergencies (a small package would last a couple of months...or longer if she didn't outgrow them) [Update: Ros is now in sposies for nighttime because she outgrew the wool (seriously, this chub-child), so we do buy one small package per month] Which will take me up to potty training.  The average cost of disposables to potty training is about $1,600-$1,700 per child (according to a quick search on the intranetz...maybe you use coupons and get all your diapers free, I dee kay).  And seeing as these diapers will probably last through at least one other kid, I'd say that's a pretty dang good investment.

Now I'll bet you are wiped out.


Melissa Kunz said...

I'm glad you wrote this! I was sooo super convinced that I was going to use cloth with my second baby and did lots of reading and was super excited to save money and be awesome, but then eric convinced me that I would go crazy with all the extra laundry since our kids would be so close and my church calling was basically taking over my life. I was sad at first but I'm actually glad now, because for reals it takes me three days to finish one load of Laundry these days! Maybe some day it will calm down and I can handle it, I'd still like to give it a try someday! And when that day comes I will gladly refer myself back to this post!

LP said...

Man, fat legs! I forgot how chubby she was.