Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cloth Diapering

I have been wanting to write a cloth diapering post because I love our cloth diapers but I felt that my opinions were lacking. For example, I only used one type. Yes I checked out other kinds but I never bought or used them so I can only say what exactly I found lacking - not exactly a nice thing to do.

That said, I read this Cloth Diapering post from The Humbled Homemaker and had a light bulb moment: even though I have limited  knowledge of all the brands and kinds, I do have two years experience using cloth diapers. I have the exact kind of experience that I wanted to read about when I was trying to decide what I wanted to do/use.

When I was pregnant over two years ago, I read about cloth diapers (in Oprah magazine - it was about women who had started their own businesses) and learned about The Natural Baby Company. This was the start of my search. I checked with other mothers I knew who were cloth diapering. Most were using Bum Genius since that brand tends to be the most available. One of my best friends liked them but didn't love them and after looking over the many pieces, I wasn't completely sold. The number one thing I wanted was for the diaper to be organic and not contain harmful chemicals. As I search and didn't find much (at the time) comparison information, I kept coming back to The GroVia brand by The Natural Baby Company. I really liked the snap in part. I also really liked the fact that I could reuse the shells.

My husband was pretty hesitant at first but I slowly won him over. He tended to let me make a lot of the decision that would be something I would have to deal with while I was home during the day. I relied on him to do the research for the big items like the car seat.

In the end, I ordered the Live package (with the Velcro, not the snaps) for $375. My husband and I aren't rich, and this was a big expenditure for us, especially since I had gotten laid off the year before making us a single income family. We had to look at it as an investment, figuring that if we used them for at least 3 months, we would still be saving money.

When they arrived in the mail (while I was in the hospital having L1), my husband checked them out but put them away. Since L1 was three weeks early he was on the small side, 5lbs 14 oz when he was born and 5 lbs and 6 oz when he came home. The diapers didn't fit him so we ended up using Seventh Generation Newborns for the first 5 weeks until he was big enough.

Once he was big enough, we pulled them out. It is important to know that cloth diapers can be bulkier than disposables. We didn't have a chunky baby so it was never an issue. Truth be told, he was so long that he was always in the next size up and most clothes are for seriously chunky babies so the clothes would often be too big even with the cloth diapers.

In the beginning there were a few missteps. For example we had two blow outs in the first two weeks. It was completely our fault though. We weren't putting the diapers on snugly enough. When you put them on snugly, it can look like they are too tight but the soft elastic of the GroVia didn't leave a mark on the baby or cause any issues. Once we put them on a little tighter, we never had another blow out. (Okay - small confession is that we have had a few but they were all because my wiggly little boy was old enough to either 1. take his diaper off and get it everywhere or 2. we didn't secure it and it would get caught on the clothing and pull open so when he pooped and began wiggling... you get the idea.)

Also, with cloth or with disposables it is so important to make sure that you secure the Velcro/closure firmly. If there is any Velcro or the disposable gripper part exposed to the skin, it will rub and it is not comfortable. Uncomfortable babies = crying babies. I always double check the closure by running my hand from the back forward so I can see if any of the closure will rub. This saved me many times.

For us, we love the snap in inserts because they make it so you never have to get your hands dirty. Just close the diaper and peel the outer shell down to the snaps, unsnap and toss the diaper into the wet bag. We have one big wet bag in the laundry room and three smaller, one for the car, our room and an extra. They contain the mess and the smell. I just put the opening next to the washer and push the bag in so that the diapers go in and the wet bag is inside out. All inside the washer, nice and contained.

A note on washing: Washing the diapers is also pretty easy. Our washer has a baby care cycle as well as a sanitize cycle. I put all breast milk poopy diapers in the washer throughout the day. Next I run a Sanitize cycle rinse and spin on just the poopy diapers to remove all the orange "stuff." Then I put the rest in (see paragraph above for inside out trick) and run either baby care or sanitize cycle with baby laundry detergent. I use Seventh Generation. Make sure you don't use too much, less is better than too much. I typically run this main cycle at night because our washer is an energy saver so it can take forever (like 2 1/2 hours - everything else gets the speed wash cycle and takes 30 min). In the morning I run a couple of Speed Wash rinse and spins (2) then I do a quick Speed Wash using vinegar in the detergent spot. This will help strip the diapers and wash out any remaining soap. Removing all soap is important because the reaction between the pee and soap can cause ammonia burns on your baby. Can it happen, yes. Does it often, no. It is more an irritation but still, anything to keep baby happy is better. (More on ammonia burns below.) Then we pop them in the dryer on medium until dry or hang them in the sun outside or in the backroom with the wood stove. I know it sounds like a lot but it isn't. You baby will use between 10 and 16 diapers a day. With one boy I would do a load every other day. Some babies use more and some less. It all depends. You can also wash a few by hand if you are running low and concerned about not making it through the day. Or (crazy thought) let you baby be diaper free for a little bit. It is not as bad as people think. They need air circulation down there. Put baby in a towel or on one if baby is a little older. Seriously people, it is only pee. It cleans up. I personally think spilled milk is worse. (You miss any of that and you will smell it in a day or two. Ewwwww.)

I mentioned it above but ammonia burns can happen. They have happened to us. They usually happen after the baby starts sleeping through the night because the baby will stir, waking them enough to pee and then fall right back to sleep. I say the baby is going to stir because in my adventure using EC (Elimination Communication - another post all on it's own) with my second, L2, I can say without a doubt that my kids will NOT pee if they are in deep sleep. This what EC information will tell you and most people, even some doctors, have looked at me like I am crazy but I slept with L2 for the first five months diaper free and he would NEVER pee without being semiconscious. So babies will wake a little, empty their bladders (those things are small - think pregnancy!) and go back to sleep. Sitting in pee, especially if all the soap hasn't been rinsed can cause irritation. The same thing can happen in disposables. Of course no parent deliberately leaves their kid sitting in excrement but it will happen at some point. If it does happen to you the best thing is to keep the area clean and dry. The best way to do this is to be diaper free. The more air, the less likely to have any moisture get trapped. When a spot would show up on L1 (we haven't had this issue with L2 yet - keeping my fingers crossed) we would keep him without a diaper as much as possible and use Weleda Diaper Rash cream when we was diapered. If the irritation looked like more than just a red rash, I used Lanolin on it. Lanolin has a natural pain reliever in it (hence why breastfeeding moms use it on sore nipples) and it is thick, creating a nice moisture barrier. The more air, the sooner it would go away. If I kept L1 diapered all day (errands or whatnot) then it would take a day or two. We never had an issue with infections or severe diaper rash. I have heard that some people have issues but no one I know of has. The few things I have heard have all been the same so perhaps it is more of a rumor?

Another weird thing to mention (not cloth diaper specific) babies, especially boys, will touch their genitals. Those little baby nails can scratch the delicate skin. If this happens, I always treated it with a little Lanolin so that any pee or poop wouldn't irritate the scratch as it was healing. I know, go ahead and laugh but when your cute as a button baby does exactly this (a behavior all moms say they don't grow out of) you will think: "Already? I thought I would have more time!" Mind you, I hear it is the same when they head off to school... Anyway, the reason I mention it is because when it happens, diapers and excrement can irritate the skin so helping it heal is important. Again, air exposure will expedite healing.

Moving right along... in summary we love our cloth diapers. My husband and I are so glad we did it this way. Between the two kids we spent less than $700 on diapers and that includes the 8 weeks we used disposables (L1 for 5 weeks, L2, who was also 3 weeks early, for 3 weeks). I also bought The Natural Baby Company's reusable wipes. They are super soft. I like using them now on L1 when he poops in the potty because it is soft and doesn't bother his skin the same way wiping with toilet paper can. There are obviously moments when we are cleaning up a diaper that we go "ewwwww" but the same can be said about disposables.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to post below. I cannot guarantee that I will know the answer but someone out there will.


  1. What a helpful and insightful blog post. Thank you.

    As a mum of 4 (4 in 3 1/2 yrs) whose kids have all only just past teen years and all still studying, I used cloth nappies when they were babies. It is almost unheard of now and I think that is sad considering the landfill problems of disposable nappies. Speaking to a pregnant mum just the other day recently arrived from Iraq she said 'what you mean cloth nappies?'

    Must admit though, I never put nappies in the washer without rinsing off first but then washers didn't have a 'sanitise' or 'baby care' cycle. I also let my kids have a nappy free time every day - usually before bath time and they absolutely loved it. They rarely had nappy rash and I always changed them frequently as I figured I wouldn't like to be sitting in pee or poo. Some things don't change but I think knowledge and environment awareness have an added dimension to what decisions we make today.
    Again, thank you.

  2. Thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for talking about clothing diapering to new mums. Thank you for being aware of the environmental issues. And I hope your kids thank you for their diaper free time (probably not though). We are now in a throw it away mind set and it is not good for our earth or our kids.

    Also, in regards to the diaper free time, if you ever check out EC, the literature will tell you that babies and toddlers know when they need to eliminate. I can tell you that is true. My four month old had no problem knowing when he needed to go and using the potty. the literature also says that we train children to ignore their own signals and to get used to sitting in pee and poo. Little babies hate wet nappies, it is only as they get bigger that they tolerate it. It is a shame. In developing worlds that use EC, using disposables is now a status symbol because only the rich can afford it. Same for cloth diapers. Many people say, oh "I can't do that" or "why? we can afford disposables." But cloth addresses lots of different issues not to mention saving new parents money. People who made less money in years passed could afford multiple kids but parents now say they can't afford more than one or two. Diapers and formula alone can break the bank. Hopefully more parents will see cloth as a more affordable, healthy option as mums such as yourself help spread the word.


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