My cloth diaper drawer
We have been cloth diapering for nearly 4 years (and having two in diapers for almost 1.5 of those years, and we are about to plunge back into having two in diapers come May, unless my almost-2-year-old decides to potty train before then!)
Cloth-diapering has become popular in recent years, and it's not just some crazy thing that hippies do. Parents from all different back-grounds and lifestyles choose to cloth diaper for various reasons. However, while I frequently meet other people who cloth diaper, or who have tried cloth diapering, I'll be honest. It's rare for me to hear a true success story.
I remember when I was pregnant with my first, upon seeing that I had registered for cloth diapers at my baby shower, a mom of two told me how she had tried to cloth diaper but how she just couldn't keep up with the laundry and so she gave up. She said something to the effect of, "Well, I hope it works out for you...."
Now, having experienced many cloth diaper challenges, and overcoming many of them, I want to share my experience here. Maybe just to satisfy your curiosity, maybe to encourage someone who is considering giving it a try, or to help those who did give up and want to try again! And so, here is my attempt at summing up all that I have learned in the last 4 years of cloth diapering...
Why Did We Start Cloth Diapering?
-Environmental: We did not like the idea of thousands of diapers sitting in landfills, especially since they take hundreds of years to decompose.
-Cost : Poor college students with a baby- we like saving money where we can!
-Chemical Exposure: A secondary reason, however, diapers do contain a lot of chemicals, and it concerned me to expose my baby to these 24/7 for the first three years of life
The Evolution of our Diaper Stash
I'll sum up what we use right now, but if you are curious as to how we came to this conclusion you can read the story of the different diapers I have tried below.
-We have about 32-36 Fuzzibunz pocket diapers (some are Perfect Size Mediums and some are the One Size). I really like the Fuzzibunz Elite that they sell now. We use these from about 3 months until potty trained! (We have that many because of having 2 in diapers. If we only had one in diapers I would probably have 18-24).
-For the first few months, we will use newborn size fitted diapers and covers with the new baby. I like the Bummis Super Whisper Wrap (velcro) and the Thirsties Duo Wrap for covers. The fitted diapers that I have aren't made anymore, but you can look at a wide variety of them here. I prefer velcro over snaps, although I have some of both. We have 4 covers and I hope to have 12-18 fitted diapers.
If you begin researching cloth diapers, you will quickly realize that there are A LOT of brands and types of diapers out there. Pre-folds, fitted diapers, pocket diapers, all-in-ones, it can be pretty confusing!
Here is what we did:
When Dmitri was a couple days old, we started him out with pre-folds and wool diaper covers. Pre-folds are one of the cheapest options, and this was the reason we decided to try these. We quickly became overwhelmed- by the frequency of newborn poops, by poop leaking out of the pre-folds, by constantly trying to clean the wool covers...I was ready to give up very quickly.
And here is where I learned what many, many cloth diaper veterans recommend:
Start out with disposables for the first few weeks, because newborns need 10-12 diaper changes per day. After a couple weeks, that slows down a bit, and cloth diapering becomes much more feasible!
We switched to disposables for the sake of our sanity. Life with a new baby was overwhelming enough! When Dmitri was about 2 months old, I decided I wasn't ready to give up on cloth diapering. I decided to try different diapers after doing a lot of research, and this made a big difference in my cloth diapering experience.
I bought 24 Fuzzibunz used, but in good condition, off of eBay. Fuzzibunz are a popular brand of pocket diapers, and are one of the more expensive options, which is why I bought them used. We used these 24 diapers until the elastics degraded in them; I then replaced the elastics with the help of my sister-in-law, and we are still using them over 3 years later!
I like pocket diapers for a few reasons:
-They look similar to disposable diapers, and so other people can figure out how to use them fairly easily (pre-folds freaked out some family members!)
-They dry faster than AIO (All-in-ones).
-You can strip the inserts, double the inserts, replace the inserts, etc. Which you can't do in an AIO.
-I chose Fuzzibunz because the snaps supposedly last longer than velcro diapers do.
Along came baby # 2, and we had two in diapers. I needed more diapers, so I ordered Fuzzibunz in a perfect size small to use with him for the first several months. Somehow, I also ended up with fitted diapers and covers in a newborn size, as well, and we used both. Over the couple months that he fit in newborn size diapers, I realized that I liked the fitted diapers quite a bit more for a newborn. And here is why:
-My babies have skinny legs, and the fitted diapers fit better. (Dmitri wore preemie diapers for weeks, even though he didn't fit in the weight limit, just because of his legs). The fitted diapers had velcro, which was more adjustable. While I've heard that velcro isn't recommended for durability, my babies are only in NB sizes for a very short time, so long-term durability would not be a concern for us.
-The fitted diapers weren't as bulky and didn't make our newborn look funny in clothes (a silly complaint of pocket diapers, but it is a factor).
-Overall, for whatever reason, David and I both found them to be more pleasant to use. No stuffing diapers, etc.
Third time is the charm, so we will be using fitted diapers and covers for the first 3 months, and then switch to Fuzzibunz with baby # 3.
The Financial Investment
I have heard many people say that they have not had the money to buy cloth diapers, and so they use disposables. Financially, this is really short-sighted.. However, if you do feel like you don't have the money for the initial investment, here are a couple of ideas to try:
Option 1. Register for cloth diapers, or ask for cloth diapers if family members ask what gifts you need for the baby. (I know we did not get very many cloth diapers, even though we registered for them. I think most people don't really understand why cloth diapers are "so expensive" nor really want to buy them as gifts. However, maybe your family might! More and more stores carry cloth diapers, or if you do an Amazon registry you can register for cloth diapers.
Option 2. From the start of your pregnancy, budget $50/ month towards diapers, which is how much it will cost once the baby is here to diaper with disposables. Consider taking that much out of your bank account in cash and putting it in a piggy bank or envelope. In 6 months, you would have $300 to invest in cloth diapers. If you did this for your entire pregnancy, you could have $450 and have an extra big stash.
Option 3. Say that you weren't able to save money during your pregnancy, or you just learned about/decided to cloth diaper at 9 months, and don't have an extra $300 to spend on diapers. Another idea: Amazon offers 0% financing for 6 months on purchases over $150. If you buy 12 diapers for $227, you would only have to pay $38/ month to have it paid off in 6 months. Most likely, you will want more than that, say, at least 18. You could pay for those in 6 months with only $56/month. Which is the same you would be spending on disposables. BUT, that's only for 6 months, and not 3 years.
How Much Does it REALLY Cost to Cloth Diaper
You may have seen cost comparisons of Cloth Diapers vs. Disposables, claiming that you can save thousands of dollars by using cloth. Do you really? Well, here is the breakdown of how much I have personally spent on cloth diapering.
First cloth diapering purchase, pre-folds + wool covers (2009) - $150
24 Fuzzibunz used from eBay (2009) - $260
Diaper Sprayer (2009)- $40
Portable Wet Bag (2011)- $15
2 Wet Bags for home use - Given to me by a friend
12 Fuzzibunz size smalls + 2 covers and 6 fitted diapers for baby # 2 (2011) - $120 (very gently used diapers, almost like new)
12 Fuzzibunz Elite Diapers (2011) - $227
2 Additional Covers for baby # 3 - $35
12 fitted diapers for baby # 3 (budgeting) - $80 (will by used).
Amount Spent on the Actual Purchase of Diapers and Accessories for 3 children over 4 years: $920
Minus cloth diapers that I did not use that I have sold: - $180 (I have also donated to people in need some of the diapers I was not using, which I have not included).
However, this does not include the expenses of detergent, water, and energy.
I spend $15 every two months on detergent. And let's say about $5/ month on utilities (we do have a HE washer, so I'd say that's being generous).
That's $150/year on detergent and utilities.
(We usually throw in a few towels and other items into our diaper loads, so really, I feel this is being generous. Because we don't JUST wash the diapers with the detergent and utilities).
Over 7 years that would be:
To diaper 3 children over 7 years, we will have spent $1790.
Disposables cost about $600/year/child. To diaper 3 children for 3 years each in disposable diapers, it would cost us $5400 from birth to potty training!
Total savings over 7 years: $3610
No complaints here! Your specific circumstances might be different. You might use different diapers, or have less of them, or only have one child in diapers at a time. We definitely have not cloth diapered the absolute cheapest way, but it's worked for us, and still saved us a lot of money.
Washing Cloth Diapers
Here is where it seems most people get hung up or grossed out. Yes, you have to wash cloth diapers. People have been washing diapers for quite some time - disposables only became popular in the last 50 years. But, most people seem to be a bit bothered by bodily excrements and the idea of washing diapers just seems weird. As someone who is hyper-sensitive to smells, I want my diapers to be super clean and completely odorless. I expect nothing less. And the smell of disposables bother me a lot too. So here is how we clean our diapers. Nothing revolutionary- I think it's probably how most people do it, but if you are curious....
After diaper change:
1. If applicable, rinse solid waste into the toilet with a diaper sprayer. (Only applies if baby eats solids)
2. Remove insert and place diaper into wet bag. We keep ours hung up in the bathroom (which is also our laundry room).
3. When wet bag is getting full, dump diapers into the washer and throw the wet bag in too.
4. Rinse in cold water (no detergent).
5. Wash on hottest cycle - we use a "Sanitize" cycle with a cloth diaper approved detergent (My favorite is Rockin' Green). Follow with a cold rinse/extra rinse.
6. Before placing diapers into the dryer, I ALWAYS do a smell-test. There is nothing worse than a funky smelling diaper coming out of the dryer.
7. If they smell fresh and clean enough to rub all over my face, then I dry either in the dryer or in the sun.
8. When dry, I throw mine into a basket and call it done.
If they still smell funny coming out of the wash, which is rare, but occasionally happens, I either re-wash them on a short hot cycle with Funk Rock detergent, or I remove all of the covers and rinse the inserts with a vinegar rinse. Either option always takes care of the smell. I also like to dry them in the sun if I can.
Trouble Shooting Common Cloth Diapering Problems & Challenges
Here are a few problems that I have run into with cloth diapers, both for myself and friends, and what helped us to work through them.
I was cloth diapering and it was great, and then my diapers began to smell....
A few things to try:
-Switch detergents. I used Charlie's Soap for months and months, and eventually they started to smell. Fine in the short term, but not for the long haul. Switching to Rockin' Green has worked much better for me.
-I use Funk Rock every 2 weeks - 1/month to help prevent ammonia build up.
-You can rinse the inserts in vinegar.
-The sun is great for "bleaching" and really really helps with smells and bacteria build up. It also bleaches stains out!
Cloth diapers were perfect until my child got a horrible diaper rash...
Both of my boys got really bad diaper rashes when they started eating solids. What worked best for us was to switch to disposables until the diaper rash cleared up and use a diaper creme. (You can't use a diaper creme with cloth unless you put a barrier between the creme and cloth. I.e. rice paper, wash cloth, etc.) Once it was cleared up, we switched back to cloth, and made sure to change their diapers as frequently as possible. It's important no matter what kind of diaper you use to change diapers frequently, but with cloth especially because there aren't a lot of chemicals keeping your baby's skin dry.
Also, laying diapers in the sun can help with any bacteria that might be causing a diaper rash.
Cloth diapers should never leak. If they do, it could be for a few reasons.
1. Diaper doesn't fit properly.
2. Elastic has worn out.
3. The detergent you are using is causing repelling. Check that it's cloth diaper approved and/or switch.
4. Diapers need to be changed more frequently.
5. Adding a more absorbant liner...When my boys got to be about 9 months old, we started using 2 liners in every diaper. You can also try hemp liners which are supposedly more absorbant (I didn't want to pay extra for hemp liners, personally.)
Products I have Mentioned
Fuzzibunz One Size Elite Pocket Diapers
Rockin' Green Laundry Detergent & Funk Rock
Diaper Sprayer (Bum Genius is the one we use)
Wet Bag (portable)
Bummis Super Whisper Wrap (Newborn Diaper cover)
Thirsties Diaper Cover
And there you have it, my expulsion of cloth diapering experience. If you have questions, I'll do my best to share any thoughts or help. Over all, cloth diapering has worked well for us, and I'm so glad that we've stuck with it and trouble-shooted when we've needed to. I hope you'll consider it too!