Cloth Diapers, wipes and diaper wraps save you thousands of dollars, encourage potty training, don’t end up in our landfills, and are really very simple to use.
Here’s what I’d been led to believe prior to the birth of my son: cloth diapers are a total pain, a throwback to pioneer women doing loads of laundry and packing heat at the same time. I saw diaper pins and bloody fingers. I saw diaper blowouts everywhere, leaking all over God’s creation. I saw reeking, poopy hampers begging to be put off another day. I knew that disposable diapers were filling up our landfills, but the aforementioned images were ingrained.
How unbelievably misinformed I was. I even bought a package of every single size of disposable diaper there was, simply being certain that I’d need one from time to time. We never did. A few months prior to the birth, when we made the decision to use cloth diapers, we were told that a diaper service would make it all okay. We bought 5 dozen cloth diapers, a dozen diaper covers, a diaper pail and pail liner, and 40 cloth wipes for a total of about $400. We called to set up the diaper service, and you can imagine how bummed we were to find out that they didn’t deliver out as far as our house. We were all on our own. But like I say, everything’s always perfect. If it hadn’t turned out that way, I wouldn’t be able to tell you that we’ve been duped – even the part about needing a diaper service.
Washing Cloth Diapers is really no big deal
My husband washed all of the diapers for the first month, while I was joyfully held captive in my big bed by my baby and my healing uterus. I thought he was being so heroic as he never complained once. As soon as I took over the diaper washing, I realized that there was nothing to complain about. And I am not exaggerating in the least. I cannot figure out why Americans have gotten so hooked on disposable diapers. And I’m the first person on Earth to appreciate something that really does make life easier. I love hot, running water, computers, the Internet, air travel, and the list goes on and on. On my list of things that make life better: cloth diapers.
And don’t let your mother or grandmother convince you otherwise; cloth diapering has come a long way, baby. The diaper wraps they make these days are user-friendly thanks to Velcro, and they almost never leak. The one time that Kai had a really gnarly blowout, I’m sure it would have blown out of anything, cloth or disposable. The first 2-3 weeks, you won’t use wraps at all because your baby will just be too tiny to wear them, so you’ll have to struggle with diaper pins until the wrap just neatly velcros it all together. I already listed most of what you need to get your cloth diapering going, but here goes a real, vertical list.
- 2-3 dozen newborn size Chinese prefolds
- 3-4 dozen regular size Chinese prefolds
- 6 newborn size Bummis diaper wraps
- 8-12 small size Bummis diaper wraps (if you have a preemie or a large baby, adjust the sizes)
- 30-40 cloth wipes
- a 5 gallon diaper pail
- a 5 gallon diaper pail liner
- a small “dry bag” to put dirties in when you’re out with the diaper bag
- some organic liquid baby wash
- a very gentle detergent made for baby clothes
- about 10 cloth (hemp or cotton) diaper inserts
How to wash cloth diapers
Here’s what you do. When there’s a pee pee diaper, it goes directly into the pail. When there’s a poopy one, you drop it in the toilet. The same goes for the poopy diaper wraps. You come back in a few minutes and squeeze it out. I know that sounds gross, but it’s really not gross until your baby starts eating solid food, and by then you’re used to it. I know my toilet is clean and I know what goes into my baby. If you don’t like this idea, just have a “wet” bucket, a bucket with water in it that you drop the diapers into. Squeeze them out at the end of the day and add them to the pail. You can use rubber gloves if you want to. This is what I did when I was visiting relatives. If you really can’t fathom the idea of touching poo, they make contraptions that squeeze the diapers for you. But let me go ahead and warn you, you can’t be a parent and not touch poo or pee or vomit or snot. But there’s no one’s vomit in the world that I wouldn’t mind catching barehanded other than Kai’s.
When you get close to needing more clean diapers, you dump the pail into the washing machine. Do one rinse cycle with cold water. Then do one hot water wash with a teeny amount of gentle detergent. Make sure that the diapers have plenty of room to agitate in the wash. You will be amazed at how sudsy the water gets. You will never need bleach. There is no need. Our rivers, lakes and marine life will thank you too. If your diapers get a little poop stained, just hang them to dry from time to time in the bright sun. It’s amazing how it bleaches the diapers. There’s no need for fabric softener either.
Diaper rash can occur in any type of diaper and requires immediate attention. In seventeen months of cloth diapering, my son had only two minor bouts with it. If we ever saw a little pink on his bottom, we put cream on right away or let him go diaperless for a while. Diaper rash really wasn’t on our radar very much, and I attribute this to cloth diapers and the frequency with which we changed them.
Diaper Services are over-rated
Since we started using cloth diapers, I understand that using a diaper service isn’t all that much better environmentally speaking, than using the disposables. Diaper services have to wash 3 times and use bleach because they are putting everybody’s fecal matter together to wash. Using a diaper service is better than going with disposables, but if you really want to be environmentally friendly, wash your diapers yourself.
Disposable Diapers are inexcusable (for the most part)
Studies have recently shown that disposable diapers increase scrotal temperatures in boys to the point of causing low sperm counts as adults. Researchers have also found that when mice are exposed to clean disposables, they have a higher incidence of asthma.[i]
The other argument against disposables is that whatever that chemical wonder gel is that soaks up pee to where you can’t even feel it, it’s sitting up cozy against your baby’s genitals for years. Considering that we’re finding chemicals in our baby’s blood at a truly alarming rate,[ii] I’ll take organic cotton that I wash myself thank you.
We never ran out of diapers and had to run to the store. We only had to wash about twice a week. No biggie. You don’t even have to fold them, just stack them.
Cloth Wipes are just as awesome as cloth diapers
I also love the cloth wipes. They look like thick, small washcloths with super reinforced stitching around the entire edge so that they withstand 2000 washes. Here’s what you do and this seriously takes 30 seconds each morning: you take 6 or so cotton wipes, more at first, less after a while, you put some water with a little dab of baby wash in a bowl, stir, add the dry wipes, soak up the solution and squeeze them out. Put them in a ziplock bag and you have all natural, reusable wipes. Just throw them in the diaper pail and wash with the diapers. Environment and baby booty approved.
All-in-ones are convenient, but not necessary. I bought a few just to try them out. Basically, they are the cloth diaper and the wrap all in one. When you use real wraps, if the diaper gets wet only, you can reuse the wrap until it gets poop on it. The all-in-ones are only good for one change, even if it’s just pee, and they’re really expensive. Next time, I’d just use the prefolds and wraps. You’re also going to want some “inserts” for when your baby starts peeing more abundantly and for nighttime.
I never needed the “large” size wraps or diapers because I don’t believe in keeping toddlers in diapers. I’ll go ahead and mention that I love the Bummis brand training pants as well.
[ii] Environmental Working Group, “Body Burden – The Pollution in Newborns,” Environmental Working Group, http://archive.ewg.org/reports/bodyburden2/execsumm.php (accessed Sept. 1, 2008).