(aka My Love Affair with Cloth Diapers)
Cloth diapers make me SO happy.
Sometimes, I think Erik gets jealous of all the attention I pay our cloth diapers, but he is mostly on board with the enthusiasm. He holds the illustrious honor of having dressed Beatrice in her very first cloth diaper of all time when she was two days old.
We have certainly hit some bumps in our cloth diapering career — mold (see laundry routine at the end of this post) and chronic rash (turned out to be eczema and unrelated to diapers) — but we have never wavered in our commitment to cloth.
Ever since I found out that cloth diapering was actually a thing that people did willingly in this era of disposable everything, I have been into it. Even before I knew I would have a child, I knew I would use cloth diapers. Why am I so committed to cloth?
(1) reduced cost
(2) reduced waste, though this reasoning is controversial
(3) peace of mind regarding the mostly natural fibers next to my baby’s bum, leading to less stink and less irritation
(4) I like to do things the hard way, though cloth has turned out to be pretty easy
(5) adorability/squishability of cloth
My initial cloth diapering plan was to purchase 12-18 BumGenius Elemental All-In-One (AIO) diapers and call it a day. These cloth diapers are probably the most expensive on the market, but they are made with organic cotton, come in a variety of fun colors and patterns, fit babies from 8 to 35 pounds, and most closely resemble disposable diapers in their one-piece design. I thought the AIOs would be the easiest sell for skeptical daycares and grandparents … and the most cost effective for us, as the one purchase of under $400 would meet all our diapering needs until we finished having babies.
When I did more research, however, I found that most parents preferred to use disposable diapers for the first few months until their babies reached 10-12 pounds and these diapers fit better, despite the company’s claims that they fit from from 8 pounds and up. I went out on a limb and assumed that I would not give birth to a 10-pound baby. I also wanted to avoid disposables and use cloth diapers right from the start. I needed newborn cloth diapers.
I probably would have stuck to my original plan of AIOs had I not hit the absolute jackpot of newborn diapers on craigslist, which ended up changing my diapering preferences completely.
I found a mom a few towns over who was selling her entire lot of newborn cloth diapers after her fourth and final son grew out of them. Some people might be repulsed at the idea of used cloth diapers, but I love a good deal and I figure that cloth is cloth and can be washed. From this mom, I purchased:
– 24 Kissaluvs size 0 (5-15 lbs) fitted diapers and 2 Bummis Super Snap newborn (7-10 lbs) diaper covers for $15; fitted diapers are shaped like disposables and stay on with snaps but need a waterproof cover over them
– 2 sustainable babyish overnight bamboo fleece (OBF) size small (9-16 lbs) diapers for $35; these are extra absorbent fitted diapers that also need a waterproof cover
I spent $65 on an entire newborn cloth diapering system, thanks to craigslist. New, these items would have cost around $475. Sure, some of the elastics were relaxed and some of the diapers had minor staining, but we’ve never had a leak or a blowout (well, maybe one or two blowouts out of approximately 10 million dirty diapers) with these diapers. I remember turning my pregnant nose up at this cardboard box of ratty, boring white cloth diapers and thinking I would only have to deal with them for three months. Well, my petite 7-month-old baby still has not reached 15 pounds, and she is still using these diapers, and they are still my go-to most effective diaper. The mom who sold me these diapers did us an enormous favor.
In the name of over-preparing for Bea’s arrival, I used one of my baby shower gift certificates to Green Mountain Diapers to round out my newborn diaper supply.
– one dozen organic unbleached prefolds size newborn (6-10 lbs); these need to be folded into diaper shape and pinned on, but I bought them because they would be the easiest to adjust to my newborn’s mystery size (again, as long as she did not come out weighing 10 lbs already)
– one Blueberry Mini-Coveralls cover (6-18 lbs)
– one Imse Vimse cover in size newborn (6.5-13 lbs)
– a pack of 3 Snappis for fastening the prefolds
– 3 dozen cloth wipes
This order cost $100, though I consider it free since it was a gift.
In hindsight, the craigslist purchase alone would have been sufficient, but we definitely used everything we bought: 36 diapers (24 fitted and 12 prefolds) and 8 waterproof covers.
The prefolds lasted size-wise until around 6 weeks, which was perfect because that’s right around the time she finally stopped pooping every. single. time. she nursed.
Also before Bea was born, we used some of the amazon gift certificate I received at my work baby shower to purchase a discount 6-pack of the BG Elementals diapers for $125 in preparation for when she outgrew the newborn diapers … but again gift = free. I used my Babies R Us registry credit for one more [free] AIO, bringing the total to 7.
For the first month, our nighttime diapering routine did not differ from the daytime routine because Beatrice woke and needed changing every two hours regardless of the time. When she started sleeping longer night stretches at around one month, we started using the craigslist OBFs and Bummis whisper wraps. This overnight system worked well for some time, and the OBFs certainly did their absorbency job with the included two inserts.
When Beatrice was six weeks old, we cashed in another of our GMD gift certificates, this one for $200, to purchase the next size up in a few items since we loved the fitted + covers system we had and weren’t convinced that we wanted to switch to the AIOs.
– 6 GMD fitted organic workhorse diapers, size small (9-15 lbs) to replace the prefolds that were getting too tight
– 3 GMD fitted organic workhorse diapers, size medium (14-24 lbs), to join 3 other mediums we had received already as a gift
– 4 Flip diaper covers, one-size (8-35 lbs), to use when Bea outgrew her other covers
– 2 Disana wool pull-on covers, one in size 6-12 months and one in size 12-24 months, because I had read that wool was a bulletproof, breathable option for overnight
Gift = free :-D.
When this order arrived, I prepped all the diapers and used them a couple times because they were so cute … but then I put them away for a few months because Bea did not really need them yet. Even when she was over 9 lbs, the small workhorse diapers did not provide enough of a seal around her trim little legs, so the watery breastmilk poop would come right out the sides and get on everything. These diapers really only started to fit her well at 13 lbs (6 months), and we are now loving the extra absorbency they provide.
I’ve barely used these beautiful Flip cotton/PUL covers because we just haven’t had the need, sadly, and I discovered the magic of wool covers (see below). I may end up reselling them.
For a little while, though, we had a grand ol’ time maximizing the PUL fashion.
When the horrible diaper rash hit, we stopped using the covers temporarily in the hopes that more airflow would resolve the rash.
I finally prepped our wool cover and started to use it for overnights.
I had never before experienced the magical powers of wool, but somehow it kept this 12-hour overnight diaper from soaking Bea’s pjs!
I had one more $100 gift certificate to GMD waiting in the wings, so I went for broke and ordered 3 Babee Greens medium wool covers (12-22 lbs) for daytime use. Gift = Free.
Between the breathable wool covers and my homemade miracle diaper cream, Bea’s diaper eczema (and knee, elbow, cheek, ear eczema) is very well under control. And did I mention that I LOVE wool?
Like, I really really really love wool. I can never go back to the plastic PUL covers. Wool is breathable, moisture-resistant yet absorbent, squishy, self-cleaning, and the list goes on. I heart wool. Am I being clear?
I keep a couple PULs around for backup in case all the wool is being washed, but the rest have been packed away and might end up resold. I’m still hanging on to my AIO diapers (they have PUL covers attached) in case I end up needing them for daycare in the future, but I’m hoping to find a wool-friendly childcare option when the time comes.
In summary, I own $1000 worth of cloth diapers. How much did I pay? $65! Gotta love craigslist and gift certificates :-).
If I were to rebuild my newborn (well, 0-6 months) stash from scratch, I would stick with my original craigslist purchase ($65 used but $475 value new) and add just the 5 wool covers ($150). All other purchases have been helpful but not necessary in these first six months.
Bea is now 7.5 months old and, while the size 0 Kissaluvs still fit, her absorbency needs have increased significantly. I will save our six month + diaper tweaks for another post! There is only so much diaper talk a person can handle each day.
Figuring out the best system for washing our cloth diapers has posed more challenges than any other aspect of cloth diapering. During the first two months of diapering Bea, we experienced the recurring nightmare of teeny black mold spots appearing on the diapers and spreading like wildfire.
The thought of covering my newborn baby in moldy diapers was like a knife through my heart. The thought of mold colonizing my $1000 of cloth diapers made me sick to my stomach. I tried vinegar, lemon juice, salt, peroxide, sunshine (did you know that sun almost instantly bleaches baby poop stains out of diapers?!), tea tree oil, borax, oxi-clean, and who knows what else.
Just like with the rash situation, I became obsessed. I had the sparkliest, whitest diapers on the planet, but those darn mold spots kept multiplying.
Finally, with some encouragement from Karen at GMD, I admitted defeat and used 1/2 cup of bleach (which I had been trying to avoid at all costs) in the wash water to stop the spread of the mold. It worked. I heard angels sing.
Once I was sure the mold had stopped spreading, I tweaked my wash routine to prevent further outbreaks:
– I stopped storing dirty diapers in my PlanetWise wetbag because it was not allowing enough air circulation. I switched to a regular 5-gallon plastic pail with no lid to allow maximum circulation. I was worried about stink with this open method, but there was none. The air circulation prevents stinky bacteria from growing.
– I started spraying poopy diapers and the super saturated overnight diapers with biokleen Bac-Out before putting them in the pail.
– I stopped line drying the diapers and started using the dryer. I loved line drying because it bleached the diapers and saved energy, but the extra time the diapers spent damp as a result allowed the mold to grow. If I have a particularly messy diaper, I’ll dry it most of the way in the dryer and then hang it in a sunny window to bleach (since it’s winter now anyway).
– I switched from the “light” wash cycle (what was I ever thinking??!) to an “extra heavy duty” wash cycle. In the name of being frugal and energy conscious, I’ve never washed my clothes on anything but the light cycle and cold water. I guess I was on auto-pilot in the beginning and did not realize that if anything called for the heavy duty wash cycle, it would be poopy baby diapers.
– I started adding 1/4 cup vinegar to the wash water and 1/4 vinegar to the final rinse for extra disinfection. I use vinegar as a fabric softener for all my regular laundry but had been hesitant to add it to the cloth diapers, as nearly all cloth diaper manufacturers state that additives such as vinegar will void the warranties on the diapers and cause damage to the fibers. I decided that I did not care what the cloth diaper manufacturers said because I needed that mold gone from my life for good. It has worked.
Note: The mold stains are, unfortunately, permanent. They fade somewhat over time (and with multiple washes) and really don’t bother me anymore since I know the mold is dead.
This routine has served us well for about five months now.
1. Extra-heavy duty wash with hot water on auto-sensing load setting, 1 scoop of Charlie’s Laundry Soap detergent and 1/4 cup vinegar in the wash water.
2. Medium wash with warm water on auto-sensing load setting, 1 scoop Charlie’s Laundry Soap, 1/4 cup vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser. If I have any PUL items to wash (rare, since we have switched to wool), I add them to this cycle and leave off the vinegar because it could crack the plastic and compromise the water-proofing.
3. Extra Optimum dryer setting (stops when it senses no more moisture).
4. 60 minutes timed dryer setting (because the dryer can’t really sense the moisture locked in the super absorbent inner layers of the diapers).
I wash the diapers every other night after Beatrice goes to sleep, and the process is so automatic at this point that I hardly realize I’m doing it. I just wish we had a quieter washer/dryer unit, but … RENTAL. We’re lucky to have a washer/dryer at all!
Washing Wool Diaper Covers
I only need to wash the magic wool diapers once every two weeks or so. I rotate through the 3 Babee Greens wool covers all day long so each cover has plenty of time to air out between uses and smells totally fresh when its next shift comes around.
In the case of errant poop, I spot clean with water and a bar of olive oil soap and speed the drying with a fan. The overnight diaper needs a bit more drying assistance, so I usually let the fan blow on it for a couple hours each morning so that it is fresh and ready for business again by night.
When the wool starts to smell less fresh when dry, every 2-3 weeks, I take my cue to wash it using these instructions. I dry the wool on the drying rack with a fan, and it is ready to use again 24 hours later.
Silly, happy, woolly baby: