Cloth Diapers - Part 2

As promised, Cloth Diapers - Part 2!  Let's talk poop.  Or more importantly... how to get rid of it.   

Seriously you guys, if you have a baby (or are about to) and diapers are in your life, cloth diapers are not that much more involved.  I guarantee, using disposables you will end up with poop on you at some point, maybe even at many points.  Such is life with a kid.  So by saying that using cloth diapers is "too icky" is just simply not accurate. 

Like I mentioned before in Cloth Diapers - Part 1, I purchased this pretty basic diaper pail from Babie's R Us.  It has a decent capacity (it's about knee height) and has a little pop up lid that you can shove the diapers through.  We don't really do that, but the lid does also have a removable dome on the underside that will hold air filters. Some people use carbon filters (that's what we use in our kitchen compost bucket) but we buy little Munchkin Arm and Hammer Fresheners and that works quite well.    

The pail in all it's glory

The pail in all it's glory

The now visible dome just pops off and you can put a freshener or air filter in there

The now visible dome just pops off and you can put a freshener or air filter in there

The bags we use are great.  Planet Wise makes several different options, so it's worth it to check out their website and shop around.  Not only do they make and sell the kind we use, they make a wide variety of wet bags, including snack bags, cloth napkins, and nursing covers.  

Sidenote: If you are planning on cloth diapers, you will want to buy a small sized wet bag to hold dirty diapers while you are on the go.  (A ziplock bag would also work.) We have been caught without one too many times, and it can be disastrous.  

When we first started using cloth diapers I bought two of their Hanging Wet/Dry bags.  They come in pretty patterns on the outside and waterproof lining on the inside complete with pockets, zippers and a hanging handle.  However, I found that hanging my bag of dirty diapers was problematic.  1. We hung it on the back of the bathroom door.  As the bag filled up, the door would not open all the way.  2. As the bag filled up, the heavier the bag became, and it eventually ripped the seams of the hanging handle.  Also -- the zippers were useless!  You don't want to be zipping and unzipping a huge heavy bag of dirty diapers, ever. 

We eventually replaced the hanging wet/dry bag with the simpler option below (still from Planet Wise) and the new plastic pail.  With the elastic top, the bag just loops over the rim of the diaper pail and stays in place.  Dirty diapers go in, and when the bag is full, the whole bag and all the contents get dumped into the washer.  We have 4 bags, but I think we could easily do with 2.

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Once the diapers come off of Baby, but before they go into the pail, there is one very important step that cannot be overlooked.  (This little tool makes all the difference)  Let me introduce you to the Diaper Sprayer.  

Diaper Sprayers are made by a few different companies and come in a few different basic styles. They also come in a wide variety of prices.  Why they range from being moderately priced to expensive, I don't know.  But I would shop around to get the best price you're comfortable with.  We bought one made by bum genius and I think we paid about $40 for ours.  We ended up finding it locally at a kids boutique in Lakewood called Paisley Monkey  (for all you local Mamas). 

The Sprayer is the difference between poop in your washer vs. no poop in your washer.  Your bathroom/house smelling foul vs. your bathroom/house smelling normal.  Your diapers washing up with stains vs. your diapers washing up nice and clean.     

It's just that important.  

It is easy to install right into the water line of the toilet on one side, and comes with a little handle holder that hooks right over the top of the tank. When you are ready to use it, you flip a simple lever that redirects the water into the sprayer.  If you flip the lever all the way up, you get a pretty high pressure spray.  The position of the lever will adjust the pressure, similar to turning on your facet part way, or all the way.  

When you are ready, you just aim the nozzle, press the button, and rinse away the mess.  All solid waste gets flushed away.  

This is not to say that after you rinse your diaper will be clean.  It will not.  That's ok.  Just throw it on into the pail.  

We generally go ahead at this point and pull out the inserts.  I like to pull them out before I rinse (they won't have poop on them) as it keeps things from getting so soggy.  We have learned by trial and error that if we pull out the inserts here, then when we get to the laundry room we can literally dump the diapers, and the bag, into the washing machine.  

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The On/Off Lever

The On/Off Lever

Once the bag is full, it and all the diapers make their way into the laundry room.  We turn the bag upside down, dump out all the diaper covers and inserts, then drop the  bag right in on top.   

Everything get's run twice.  The first cycle is a rinse on cold.  This removes any remaining mess. In the beginning we were super paranoid about getting the diapers clean, so we would add Oxyclean to this cycle.  Eventually, we learned that the diapers were getting clean without the Oxyclean, so we stopped using it.  It's just a cold water rinse.  Once the diapers are done, you run them again on hot with the detergent of your choice.  This kills any germs. (If you washed the diapers on hot first, you would set the stains.)

Bum genius recommends a third cycle, a final rinse to get out all of the detergent before it goes back on babies skin.  We did this for a long time until we bought our Fuzzibunz which only instructed for two cycles.  Since we have always used gentle, free and clear detergent for Mercer, we felt ok giving up this last wash.  

So!  Rinse once on cold. Wash once on hot.  Done.  

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Then the inserts and the bag go into the dryer to be dried on hot.  The covers get air dried.  If it's remotely sunny, we hang the covers outside-- bottom side up, to dry in the sun.  The sun acts as a natural bleach.  During rainy days or winter, we have a little drying rack that we use inside instead.

We are looking into buying a clothesline but, in the meantime, this works too. 

We are looking into buying a clothesline but, in the meantime, this works too. 

All white!

All white!

Ready to start again

Ready to start again

So that's it.  Once the diapers are ready to go back into rotation, the covers go in one drawer, and the inserts go in another.  We stuff them as needed on the spot.  It's really uncomplicated, especially once you get the hang of it.   

Not only do I feel like I have done a huge part in saving some diapers from landfills, I know that I have saved myself a lot of money, I know that my kid is wearing something soft and chemical free,... and, the best part, he looks completely adorable.   

Win, win, win win!   

Motherhood Moment - Tomato Sauce

I don't know how it happened, but over the course of the last year we've realized that we are doing twice the work of meal preparation in our house.  Once for ourselves -cooking a dinner like spaghetti or tacos for example, and then cooking something entirely separate for the kid.  

When he was a little baby and just starting out on solid foods, it seemed like he would eat anything. (Anything except for avocado or eggs.)  He ate broccoli, black beans, and even Brussels Sprouts!   He was just as happy eating grilled chicken (from any restaurant or home cooked) as he was eating sausage, ground beef, or steak.  He was a good, non picky eater.  And then.  He changed.  

If it's green he won't touch it.  And if it's meat, he gives it the evil eye, and may or may not try it.  If it's chicken and we've cooked it he refuses.  If it's the wrong kind of cheese he turns up his nose.  

We have ourselves a bonafide picky eater. 

We are trying to enforce a "just try it", rule in our house.  You may NOT like it... and that's fine, but you should at least try it out to find out.  And more and more lately he's been a pretty good sport about it.  So we try to put a little of our food on his plate to encourage broadening his palette.   

Last week we made sweet potato gnocchi with a marinara meat sauce.  I put a little dab of medium temperature sauce on my finger and offered it up to the kid.  He looked at it, hesitated, and then agreeing, stepped forward and let me smear it on his tongue.  

Apparently, Mercer does NOT like marinara.  

As soon as it touched his tongue he made the most awful face and refused to close his mouth.  In sheer rejection and defiance he just stood there in the middle of the floor with his mouth as wide as it would go, wincing and grunting and pointing to the offending sauce.  I think he would have gone on like that all night-- screaming himself into tears, had I not given in and wiped the sauce off his tongue with a towel.  

Ridiculous.  I know he will come around eventually.  Some people have told us to ONLY serve him what we are eating and to just let him deal with it.  But seeing as his tastes change on a day to day basis, I can't see us making it a battle.  In the mean time, we will keep experimenting... one dab at a time. 

 

Cloth Diapers - Part 1

To start with, let me shock you with some crazy stats on diapers:  

  • Disposable does not mean biodegradable. On average it takes about 200 - 250 years for a disposable diaper to decompose.  If you think about that in terms of life span, that's roughly ten generations.  Also consider that this is an educated guess, since disposable diapers were only invented in the late 40s, the earliest diaper still has about 185 years left to see if this guess is correct.
  • 24 billion disposable diapers are added to our landfills every year and contribute 4% of all solid waste.
  • Disposable diapers are the third largest single contributor to landfills. 
  • Disposable diapers have traces of potentially harmful chemicals.  (I had a list going for you here, but I am sure that every brand is different and I don't want to freak anyone out) Just be aware. 
  • It is estimated that a single baby will need about 6,000-7,500 diapers in the first two years of life.  

Disposable diapers are one of the few products on the market that are manufactured to be thrown away.  (They are on that list with toilet paper and nose tissue)  Yes, they absolutely have a purpose in between purchase to trash can, but the usefulness of disposable diapers is incredibly short lived in comparison to their longevity on this planet. 

The first US disposable diapers were sold by Johnson and Johnson in 1948, (65 years ago!) and today about 24 billion diapers are used each year in America alone.  I can't even wrap my head around all that math.  

Now let's talk money: 

  • Disposable diapers:  $0.17 each (Cost of Pampers at WalMart) x 10,950 (an estimated 3,650 for each year they are in diapers, at 10 diapers a day, assuming they are potty trained by 3) = $1,861.50

  • Cloth Diapers: $18 each (average) x 25 =  $450  Depending on the quality and care of your cloth diapers, most should last through the entire span of your baby's diaper years, and should you have a second baby, through the diaper years of that baby too.   

So one more additional math problem for you before we move on (I hate math!)   

  • Disposable diapers x2 kids = $3,723
  • Cloth Diapers x2 kids = $450 

Ok -- that's enough stats.  Now let's talk diapers.  

Before I was ever pregnant with Bud, I knew we would use cloth diapers.  I had a very good friend who chose cloth for her little girl and used them (by appearance) effortlessly and gracefully.  I was so impressed with that family's solid commitment to doing what I thought was "the right thing",  that it was one of those lasting impressions -- "well, if they can do it, so can I!"  

We had lots of people tell us differently.  Not only that we were wasting our money, but that we would change our minds a few weeks in, that it was incredibly gross, that our house would smell like poop, and so on.  But despite the many nay sayers, we persevered.  

I registered for my cloth diapers.  Using a fabulous website called MyRegistry.com I could link all my store registries and any online stores into one single platform.  And then I found the diapers I wanted at CottonBabies.com.  You can find cloth diapers all over the internet now, places like Diapers.comClothDiapers.com,...  I have even started seeing them for sale in person at Target -- which makes me want to hug someone. (I have never used them, but they look amazing and similar in style and use to the ones I do use!)

I chose Cotton Babies because 1. You can buy them as individuals as well as 3, 6, and 12 packs; 2. They have pretty good sales, like, buy 5 and get the 6th free; 3. They also sell "refurbished" diapers that are gently used for bigger discounts (If you read the terms of submitting your used diapers you will see that "gently used" basically means NEVER used.) and; 4. They sell repair kits if your diapers should ever need quick fixes.

So here is our stash.  

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Cloth diapers come in a few simple choices.  

  • All in ones: which are just like disposables (no inserts pieces or parts) just cloth.  
  • Inserts:  a cloth outer shell (with waterproof interior lining) and cloth inserts that fit down into a pocket in the center.  Great for use on different babies or growing babies because you can adjust how much extra absorption you need.
  • Shells:  Basically just an outer shell without the pocket that you can then add either a cloth lining or a disposable lining.

There may be others, but I am pretty sure (from my experience and research) that they are all variations of these three basics.

Depending on your style and aptitude for washing, one kind might suit you better than another.  We actually have used all three in the short two years that our kid has been in diapers.  Not because we have jumped around trying out different things because one or another way didn't work-- but because different styles suited our needs at different times.    

When Baby was born, we were very fortunate to have inherited one set of bum genius Newborn hand me downs.  They were an All in One style, so baby wore it, got it dirty, we took it off and washed it, repeat.  It doesn't get much simpler than that.  They make All in Ones in bigger sizes, as well as in a One Size Fits All which adjusts to fit as baby grows.  We thought the All in Ones were a great time saver for our lives with a newborn, but opted for the inserts once our baby was big enough to fit into them.

**A side note to this diaper journey. When Mercer was just weeks old, I took him to one of those Lactation Support Groups filled with women and babies.  You strip your baby down to a clean diaper, weigh them, then feed them, then weigh them again to see how much milk they are getting.  I hadn't really been thinking that day (with a newborn?! No!)  and Mercer was sporting one of his awesome hand me down newborn cloth diapers in a very fancy hot pink.  The nurse asked me what 'her' name was, and I laughed and said, well, HIS name is Mercer.  She just looked at me.  'But her diaper is pink.' 'HIS diaper is a hand me down, HE is a boy.'  I thought the nurse gave me a rather hard time about it, she definitely disapproved, but the other mothers in the room oo'd and awe'd over the diaper.  One lady told me she had bought cloth diapers but that they didn't fit yet so she was using disposable... she had no idea they made some specifically for newborns.   

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The majority of the diapers we have used are the insert kind.  We started out with the bum genius brand, which I have loved.  However, as Mercer grew (quickly) into his second year (about 18 months) I started wondering if the bum genius One Size Fits All would really still fit him before he was potty trained.  I ended up buying almost the exact same diaper from Fuzzibunz, but in a size large which is supposed to fit up to 45 pounds whereas the bum genius goes 35 pounds.  Mercer just turned 2 and weighs 32.5 lbs. He can still wear both brands, although I maintain that the bum genius are getting pretty small on him.  

Below are three pictures for you of the One Size Fits All (from bum genius) and their snap down system.  The top two rows of horizontal snaps are for closing the diaper around your baby -- like the sticky tables on regular dispoable diapers.  The other snaps size the diaper vertically, so they will fit your very small baby, approximately 7 pounds, up to a normal size toddler, 35 lbs.   

Snaps open will fit most larger babies and toddlers

Snaps open will fit most larger babies and toddlers

Sized up for a little one

Sized up for a little one

Snapped up and around just like it would be on a smaller baby

Snapped up and around just like it would be on a smaller baby

Our only real cloth diaper drama was that I mistakenly ended up with velcro tabbed diapers instead of snaps.  Online, the velcro is called, "hook and eye", so don't be fooled.  

Just like velcro on any surface, it wears out.  Especially if you are washing it two to three times a week!  I would say the first ones started to give out after one year.  I diligently bought the "mending kit" which came with replacement tabs, and with great effort (I am no seamstress and my sewing machine is 65 years old) replaced the tabs on about half the diapers.  I had to take the others to a real seamstress, who was pretty put out that I was asking her to do what I was asking her to do, and she charged me about $30 to replace the other 10 tabs.  

But the real kicker came when I realized that even with new tabs, I could not replace the front velcro panel, the piece to which the tabs attached.  1. It wasn't part of the mending kit, 2. In order to sew over the existing diaper as is, I would have sewn the internal pocket shut- eliminating it's ability to hold inserts!   What a mess. 

Argh! Worn out Velcro!

Argh! Worn out Velcro!

The next solution came from my mother, who suggested and volunteered to remove ALL the velcro from ALL the diapers, and replace them with metal snaps.  This works, and doesn't work all at the same time.  Our self applied snaps don't fit Bud as well, as we only have the two options and we didn't fit to the kid when we snapped them on.  Also, they occasionally fall off.  The snaps. Not the diapers.  

However, it did save these diapers for me, in lieu of the velcro which was to the point of being unusable.  Save yourself the trouble and just buy the snaps in the beginning.  I beg of you. 

Our replacement metal snaps. 

Our replacement metal snaps. 

Fuzzibunz snap diapers.  The way diapers should be. 

Fuzzibunz snap diapers.  The way diapers should be. 

The inserts that go into the bum genius and Fuzzibunz are essentially the same.  Because our bum genius diapers are One Size Fits All, they came with a smaller insert for smaller babies, and a larger adjustable insert for larger babies.  We have almost ALWAYS used a combo of two or both, because our boy is apparently a heavy wetter.  I have heard, although not experimented with it, that the hemp inserts (oh yes, hemp) are more absorbent than anything else around. So if you find yourself needing more absorbency, try those instead. There are also versions that are certified organic.  

It's really not too complicated.  Just like everything else with a baby or kid, a little bit of trial and error and you figure out what your little one needs.  But this is why I liked having the Insert style of diaper.  What if I found out my kid was a heavy wetter and all I had were the All in Ones?  There'd be no way to adjust for his needs.  

The obvious con of using Inserts is that you do have more laundry. I'll get to that later. 

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The last style of cloth diaper that I'll talk about is the Shell.   We used this too, although not nearly as much as the other kinds.  In the bum genius line, the shell is called the Flip.  It is a simple waterproof outer shell that comes with basic cloth liners-- just like the inserts that we used for our other diapers.  You can also buy a disposable liner separately.  

The Flip is kind of billed as the diaper for super busy parents.  There is not stuffing.  If baby just wets you can remove the wet liner, wet wipe the shell and just reuse.  (Seriously, you can.)  

I always found it a little tricky to get the liner centered long enough on the shell to get it on my squirmy baby.  But I loved the ease of the system, and bought it mainly with the idea of traveling.  It packs lighter, it's a quicker change, and even if baby poops, the shells are so easily cleaned they can be hand washed in a hotel sink and will be dry by morning.  (The majority of the poop being thrown out with the liner - not in the sink.)  

The Flip with a package of disposable liners

The Flip with a package of disposable liners

Opened up- you can see that it's just the plastic lining. The front and back fold over a little to help keep the inserts in place, and also help keep baby dry.  

Opened up- you can see that it's just the plastic lining. The front and back fold over a little to help keep the inserts in place, and also help keep baby dry.  

Side by side, the Insert style and the Shell style

Side by side, the Insert style and the Shell style

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The last thing I'll mention is the diaper bag.  After a little bit of trial and error, we ended up with the Planet Wise Diaper Pail Liner with an elastic top and I love them.  They are soft cloth on the outside and waterproof liner on the inside.  With the elastic top it fits around just about any regular diaper pail (I bought this basic one from Babies R Us) The diapers go in.  Then the whole bag with diapers just gets laundered together.  Presto. 

Archie sporting a bum genius snap diaper in blue

Archie sporting a bum genius snap diaper in blue

Stay tuned for Cloth Diapers - Part II later this week when I'll explain our cleaning system.  I know you want to know!  Despite what you may think, if you are already changing diapers (or about to be) it's really not that more involved or that different than disposables.   

If you have questions or comments, I'd be happy to try to answer them.  I am by no means an expert at anything.  Just sharing my experiences and trying to do a little bit to make the world a greener place.   

Garden Update

Just a little garden update.  I have four different kinds of tomatoes growing, and wish I knew if that was the reason behind their crazy and erratic growing. Plants I thought would be huge are small, and my cherry tomatoes are about to outgrow their cage!  There seems to be a major difference in sun from one side of the box to the other, so I suspect that this is playing a role in the size differences. 

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I think the broccoli is doing the best so far, and we finally harvested the first head this week, although-- almost too late! I really thought that if I just left them out there they would continue to grow big, but this one started to bloom.  I didn't even know broccoli bloomed!!  So we cut it down and ate it, and it was delicious.  

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