Monday, September 30, 2013

Cloth Diapering Chronicles: the beginning

A few friends have asked me about how cloth diapering is going. It got me thinking...who doesn't love reading about the ways in which a baby's tushy can be cleaned and cared for?! For those interested in cloth diapering, read on. For those who are'll wan to skip this post (unless you're interested in cute pictures of Drew in cloth diapers!).

The Why
I don't remember exactly when I got the idea to cloth diaper. It just seemed to keep popping up, and at some point I set aside time to look into it.

There are financial reasons: the rough cost to get set up to cloth diaper is $100 - $400, whereas the total cost of disposable diapers hovers around $2,000 per child. Those numbers will vary depending on whom you talk with, but the underling theme is the same: cloth diapers are cheaper in the long run.

There are environmental reasons: the first disposable diaper hasn't even decomposed yet. So there's that. To be fair, cloth diapering does use more electricity and water than I guess either way you swing it, you have pick you poison...or in this case, your waste.

There are preference reasons: I just generally like the idea of Drew's manhood being engulfed in soft, fuzzy cloud during his diapering years. Also, cloth diapers cause less (if any) diaper rashes or chemical burns, and they can be re-used for multiple children. Win.

The What
Fortunately, there is a surplus of women who have already researched cloth diapering and made all of their findings and opinions available on the internet. Google search "cloth diaper comparison", or "BumGenius v. Fuzzibunz" and you will get pages and pages of blogs and articles where cloth diaper types and brands are being compared and contrasted.

Other than doing my own research, the most helpful thing I did was attend a Diaper Party. It's just like it's like a Tupperware party, but with diapers. A gal hosted, and a Diaper Parties representative came with dozens of types and brands of cloth diapers for us to look at. We got to do some hands on research, and ask questions. I also got to talk with other moms who were currently cloth diapering.

The cut to the chase, we primarily went with the Bum Genius 4.0 Pocket Diapers (16 total). We also have three Flips Hybrid Diapers.

Some factors that were important to me:
  • One size fits all: I didn't want to have to go back and buy a bigger size later on. BGs fit 8lbs-35lbs.
  • Snap closure: not a fan of the Velcro closure and I am positive I would forget to secure the velcro and it would tear up the other diapers in the wash. BGs have snap closure option.
  • Amount of pieces needed: there is an all-on-diaper where the insert is permanently inside the pocket, but I was told those take longer to dry and I was after a quicker turnaround. I'm not a patient woman, so that wasn't going to fly. BGs have two pieces: the diaper itself, and the inserts.
  • Time to assemble: the more pieces you have, the longer is takes to assemble the diapers (both prep and putting them the child). That's why pre-folds with shells weren't going to work for me (again, I'm an impatient woman when there's a squirmy baby on the changing table). BG assembling takes seconds, and then the diaper goes on like a normal diaper.
  • Cost of the diaper unit: pretty obvious. Much of our motivation to cloth diaper is our frugality...BGs fit into our price point, and we got about half of them from our baby registry.
  • Availability: I noticed the prices for cloth diaps on Amazon is always higher than the industry re-sellers (like Cotton Babies). We got all of our actual diapers through Cotton Babies, and the Diaper Party I attended. We got all of the supplies through Amazon (because those prices actually were competitive, and I have Prime which means free 2-day delivery. Perfect for the impatient woman!).

The BGs are a "pocket diaper" because the diaper has a pocket where the insert goes.

I didn't include pictures of the Flips. We only have three Flips, and I only use them when Drew has recently had a big poo and I can safely expect he wont have another one for a few days...or at least a few hours. The reason being, the Flips just consist of an insert and a shell which is great for containing pee. I don't trust it to contain a blow-out, though. The benefit of the Flips is that as long as no pee gets on the shell, you can re-use the shell and just put in a new insert. You can also get disposable inserts for when you're on the go and have no where to keep (or wash) your diapers. As I said, though, the major set back (in my opinion) is I don't trust them to contain a blow-out. Also, the Flip system was slightly more expensive than the BGs. We got one just to try, and two more as a gift, so that's why we have three total.

The When
We waited for about four weeks before really getting going with the cloth diapers. There were too many other things to be thinking about, and diapers was not high on the list. Also, Drew was too small when he was born to even remotely fit into them, and we didn't want to get newborn cloth diapers to only use for a month. I pulled the cloth diapers out a few times, testing to see if they would finally fit Drew as he approached 8lbs. I started testing them only at home first, to ensure he was big enough for them to fit in them. Over time, we got more confident in how to put them on properly, and now he's almost exclusively in cloth diapers (even at night).

The diapers look really big at first:

With the cloth diapers on, Drew goes up 2 sizes in clothes. So currently he is 2 months old (size 0-3 months), but wearing clothes labeled for 6-9  months. Just keep that in mind!

The How
Here's how it all goes down:

We keep our stash in the top drawer of Drew's dresser/changing table. I have 16 BGs, and three Flips. Two of my 16 BGs are second-hand; another glorious thing about the cloth diapers is if you take good care of them, they are completely re-usable by another family. It's not as gross it sounds. I promise.

After removing a diaper, I drop it into this wet bag hanging on the side of the changing table:

If the diaper has poo in it, I spray it with some Bac-Out Strain+Odor Remover before dropping it into the wet bag. I like this stain remover because it also has odor remover. The other, smaller bottle just has some baby soap and water in it. That's what I use to clean off Drew's manhood. We do have wet wipes on hand, but I mostly use cloth wipes. I found they are much more efficient at cleaning up poo explosions!

The cloth wipes we use are a mix of flannel wipes, and just some terry cloth rags my grandma made for us. Both work great. If the wipes just have soapy water and pee on them, they go in the hamper. If they have poo on them, they go into the wet bag. We do have a diaper pail in his room for the occasional disposable diaper, and wet wipes.

I usually do cloth diaper laundry every 2-3 days. I just dump the entire contents of the wet bag into the machine.  

One noteworthy thing about cloth diapers: they need "special" soap. Regular laundry soap leaves behind a residue that builds up over time and makes the diapers do a poor job of absorbing liquid. After doing some research, it seemed like Charlie's Soap was a pretty well-liked brand. We ordered a small size at first (just to test it) and I've hardly used any of it!

You only need to use a 1/3 of a tablespoon for each wash. That's barely any soap!

I got tired of looking up the washing instructions, so I just have them on a sticky note on my dryer. For regular washing I do one rinse on cold, one wash with soap on hot, and one final rinse on cold. The hot water is part of what sanitizes the diapers, so I had Kyle turn our hot water heater up well over 100 degrees to ensure our hot water gets nice and hot. During the initial rinse, most of the inserts just agitate right out of the pockets on their own. Before adding soap for the actual wash, I double-check to make sure all the inserts are out. While there will still be poo stain on the diapers at this part of the wash process, the actual poo (and pee) will be washed away so there's no danger of getting it on your hands when you reach in to pull the inserts out.

There comes a point when the diapers may start to smell (even after being washed), or leak. I thought a few of them might be starting to smell, so I went ahead and stripped all of the cloth diapers last weekend. Stripping the diapers refers to stripping any build-up out of them. It's a pretty easy process: one rinse on cold, one wash with 1 tablespoon of blue Dawn soap on hot, 2-3 rinses on cold until all soap bubbles are gone, and one final rinse on cold with a cup of vinegar. The blue Dawn works to get out any residual build-up of body oils or Charlie's Soap, and the vinegar works to kill any odors. The diapers do not smell like vinegar afterwards, they just smell like...nothing. Which means they are clean! This process does not need to be done very often. I'm thinking I may do it 4 times a year, if that.

After the washing is done, I put the inserts in the dryer with some dryer balls (no dryer sheets!). The diapers go on a drying rack in our guest shower (we don't have a laundry room so I gotta get creative with our space). It takes about 12 hours for them to dry. Sometimes I throw them in the dryer on the no heat/fluff setting to get out any residual wetness or speed up the drying process. As you can see from the photo, the diapers come out of the wash pearly white. I only have one insert that currently has a poo stain on it; much like Tupperware sometimes absorbs the color of spaghetti sauce even though it's clean, the same can be true for the inserts.

A side note on picking cover colors: the white/cream/light yellow diapers blend in with the inserts when everything is in the wash together. If I'm sorting too quickly, the lighter diapers end up in the dryer with inserts. Also, stick to one color or one shade of colors if you're planning on having kids close together (for example, all blues or all greens). That way, you can get a different color for the second child and then wont have any confusion when sorting the diapers. Otherwise, you'd have to check each diaper to see which snap setting it is on to determine which child it belonged to (obviously a newborn needs a smaller snap setting than a toddler).

Then, the whole pile gets thrown on the couch until I can get to it...

This is the only real "time intensive part". I say that lightly, because it takes about 1.3 seconds per diaper. Here is what the pocket diaper looks like with the insert next to it.

The inserts have adjustable lengths. That tiny snap in the middle is for the smallest setting. I currently have the inserts on the medium length setting.

The diapers are also adjustable. The bottom row of snaps is for the smallest setting; I currently have the diapers on the medium size setting.

As you can see, the insert just goes right inside the "pocket" of the diaper.

Here it is all the way in:

Once it's all the way in, the back flap just folds over the opening to prevent the insert from coming out. Then you have your finished product!

Another little tidbit: you can't use conventional diaper creams with the cloth diapers. The cream builds up in the diapers, making them less absorbent. Drew hasn't had any diaper rashes with the cloth diapers, but I do give him a little coconut oil rub down after each bath. If I think his tushy might be getting a little red, I put this in the appropriate crevices and he's all set. We get the big tub of coconut oil at Costco, and I just ration some out into this jar that I keep at the changing table.

For overnight, we just add a hemp insert into the pocket (we have three hemp inserts, and I'll be getting one more so I don't have to panic when I'm on a three-day laundry gap). The hemp insert goes underneath the regular insert, so that it's farther away from the baby's body. So far this has worked at night to prevent any leaks. 

Lastly, for on-the-go we have two wet bags. One is for real quick on-the-go trips as it just holds one cloth diaper (maybe two if you squeezed them in there). The other is my normal on-the-go wet bag. The wet bags can be washed in the washer if they start to stink (we've washed our once). Usually just turning it inside out to air out does the trick.

We like it, for now. Things may change in the future, but we've got a system down that works for us. My official stance: I'm happy with our choice to cloth diaper and would certainly recommend it to a friend.

Giving it grace: Cloth diapers is one of the tasks on my ever-repeating to-do list. As a housewife and now mom, much of my life looks the same day-to-day. I spend a large amount of time creating food (meals for Kyle and I, breast milk for Drew), and then cleaning it up (dishes and diapers). Throw in cleaning the house and managing our calendar/bills/paperwork and it's a regular Groundhog's Day over here. I know that will only magnify as we have more kids.

And I love it. God has been faithful to show me there's beauty in the seemingly mundane. That's not to say my life doesn't have wonderfully significant moments, and lots of breaks from my routine (for example, Kyle watches Drew two nights a week so I can escape to the gym)....but I don't find myself going through the housewife motions just constantly itching for an escape, or a break. Maybe at some point in this job, I will. But that's not the case right now.

Right now, I feel God pouring out grace on me as I struggle to get my footing as a wife+mom combo. Botched meals, no clean diapers left, e-mails piling up...19 years of schooling and I still don't know how to estimate how long it takes to do three loads of laundry start to finish (which means sometimes, we don't have all the sheets on our bed at night).

And that's when I feel God's grace. I hear him say "it's ok that you feel inadequate. You are inadequate. I made you to need me, and I'm here to help you. I'll fill in where you fall short." 2 Corinthaisn 12:9 says "But he [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." And that's what I want to hear, because I do believe I'm inadequate but I don't believe that's a bad thing. Satan takes the truth that we are inadequate and turns into a negative identity. Satan leaves out the part that our inadequacies are filled in with God's perfectness, and we don't have to strive to "get it right" all the time.

And then God graciously comes along and redeems that lie with the beautiful truth that His grace for us is limitless, and His love for us means we can call upon that grace and it's already there. Even in the mundane.

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