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Domestic Imperfection: Cloth Diapers Explained

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cloth Diapers Explained

I've had quite a few questions about my sons cloth diapers, so I figured I'd just write a post about it. I'm no cloth diaper expert, but after 17 months I've found what works, what doesn't, what I would recommend and what you should definitely NOT buy. So here we go!

When I first heard of cloth diapering I was like "people still do that?" It seemed outdated, nasty and troublesome. But it also sounded cheap....so I started to do more research. Let me tell you...there are about a million different ways to cloth diaper, and after a little bit of research my brain was swimming. I'm not going to go over all the different ways, but it ranges from old school flats and prefolds to diapers that are basically a disposable that you wash. Before Elijah was born I decided that since we are cloth diapering because we are cheap, we weren't going to buy the expensive, ultra convenient diapers (though we did get a few as shower gifts). After much research I bought two dozen newborn cotton prefolds and a dozen size one Thirsties diaper covers.

Basically, this is almost your grandmas way of doing things. You fold the prefold, which I did my folding in thirds and fanning out the corners to pin. Except that people don't use pins anymore, thank goodness. There is this nifty thing called a Snappi now...

They are very much awesome. I couldn't imagine using pins, especially on a wiggly older baby. So basically you just put on the prefold, snappi it, and then put on the cover (which goes on just like a disposable.) easy enough, right? Here is Elijah at 8 weeks in this type of diaper...

I did this for awhile, but when it came time to move him up to the next size I started looking for something different. My problem was that even though the diapers rarely leaked, I couldn't keep all the runny breastmilk poo inside the prefold. It would always get on the cover, which means I couldn't re-use it. Here is a helpful piece of advice...make sure that any diaper covers you buy have leg gussets. This is so so so important...if it wasn't for the leg gussets I would have had poo explosions every time. My favorite kinds of covers are the Blueberry Coveralls and  the Thirsties Duo Wrap...there are lots more that would work fine too, those are just what I like. Anyway, back to my shopping. I started looking into fitted diapers...basically a diaper that is already in the correct shape (no folding) that you put under a cover. I was going to go with those until I stumbled upon the Workhorse diaper from Green Mountain diapers. They are prefold diapers that are sewn to resemble a fitted, but they have extra stuffing, cheaper, and have elastic around the legs. I was sold and ordered 18 of them.

They are awesome. My son is a SUPER heavy wetter and they have never leaked. Poo has never escaped to get on the cover. I bought the ones without the snaps because I want them to last for all my kids and I already own plenty of Snappis. They have my official recommendation....and no, no one paid me to write this post (though that would have been fantastic!). Anyway, I do own a couple of the more convenient diapers, let me tell you about those. I have three BumGenius 3.0 pocket diapers and two 4.0's that I got at my baby shower. Pocket diapers are basically a cover with a pocket that you "stuff" to make absorbent. Here is one put together and then laid out with all its pieces....

They are supposed to fit from newborn to potty training...they have an adjustable rise just like the diapers covers. The diapers covers though come in a size one and two with three settings in each size, so you do have to buy more than one set, but they fit really well. The pocket diapers fit well now, but as a newborn they were HUGE and he couldn't really wear then till about his fourth month...but you only have to buy one set.

What I like about the pocket diapers is that they are easy to put on - these are the ones I reach for when the diaper change is a battle and I just want to get it over with. Also, its easier to get the poo off because there no crevices or folds on the inside of the diaper. Things I don't like 1) you can only use then once before a wash since the cover is connected.  2) They leak. I can't put him down for a nap in a pocket or the crib ends up wet, certainly wouldn't consider using this as an overnight diaper. 3) Price 4) Now that he is older, they are really easy for him to take off. Here is an example from when I *stupidly* put him down for a nap in his BumGenius...

Poo everywhere. Rubbed into his sheets, crib, himself, and then thrown onto the floor. He was so proud. There is an easy solution to this. Listen carefully, this is the best piece of advice in this whole post. ALWAYS BUY DIAPERS WITH SNAPS! Always. Covers, pockets, all in ones, whatever...BUY THE SNAPS! They are just as easy to put on as the velcro, don't wear out in the wash, and you kid won't be able to take them off. Here is a close up of the BumGenuis 4.0 (with snaps!) in action...

Like the drool?

Now for the burning question that everyone has....what do you do with the poo? Well, you put it in the toilet. You can do this one of two ways 1) swish the diaper around in the toilet or 2) buy a diaper sprayer. Let me give you a hint...you should pick door number two. You just hook it up to your toilets water supply, hang it from the tank, and spray off the diaper, no poo-touching required. Then you throw it into your diaper pail (basically a trash can with a lid and liner) until its time to wash them. Pee diapers can go directly into the pail. Here is my diaper pail...its just a trash can from target.

While I'm thinking of it, here is my whole changing station...

The middle section is for doublers and the newborn inserts from the pocket diapers....I always add a doubler for nighttime diapers.
What else? Oh, washing. I wash about every other day. I throw everything in the washer, including the pail liner. I do a cold rinse with no detergent, then a hot cycle with detergent, then a warm cycle without detergent. It seems like a lot of cycles, and if you want to skip the last rinse I'm sure that would be okay. As far as detergent, you can't use what you use for your clothes, you have to use a detergent that rinses clean or else you diapers will get build up and become water (pee) repellent. There's lots of options, I use Country Save. It's about $10 a box and I'm still using the SAME BOX that I originally bought and still have about 1/3 left. As in Elijah might be potty trained before I finish the box. Not bad, huh? You only use a tiny bit per load, perhaps a tablespoon or so. As far as drying them, I pull out the covers and pail liner to let them air dry (if I remember) and dry the rest in the dryer. You can also line dry them, that would be free, plus the sunlight bleaches out any stains.

Now lets do a budget breakdown to see how much cloth diapers will save you over disposables. This is in no way official math, I'm just going to use guesstimates and nice round numbers...

If I honestly sit down and think about it, I have probably spent around $400 on cloth diapers, including the pail, liners, sprayer and all accessories. You could probably spend less if you pick something and stick with it, but I've made a few trial and error purchases. Now remember, that $400 will last you through all your kids, you won't ever have to buy anymore (unless you want too). As far as the extra cost of water and electric, I'll guesstimate that to be about $8 a month. So $96 a year. Lets say the average kid is potty-trained by age 3 (even though cloth babies usually train earlier and easier that disposable babies-added bonus!). So $288 for newborn to potty trained...plus we can't forget that $10 for detergent....$298. So I will spend $698 total to diaper Elijah with cloth diapers.

Now lets add up what it would be with disposables. I wouldn't have bought fancy diapers so we'll use the price of cheaper Costco diapers (which are awesome, I use them when we travel.) Lets say the average box is 200 diapers for $40 (it varies by size). That's about 20 cents a diaper. At eight diaper changes a day that's $1.60 per day times 365 days a year = $584 a year times three years = $1752 to disposable diaper a baby. (If you buy cheap diapers!)

So it's a little over $1000 cheaper to cloth diaper a baby. But wait, that's if you only have one kid. I would like to have four kids! Lets take the $400 I originally spent on cloth diapers plus $298 (for utilities) times four = $1592 to cloth diaper my four kids. Disposables would cost me $7008 for four kids. That's a total saving of $5416!

There is a ton of information that I didn't cover in this post - if you have any questions just leave them in a comment below and I'll be sure to get back to you. Make sure you leave your e-mail address in the comment as well so that I have a way to contact you!

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11 Comments:

At August 2, 2011 at 4:10 PM , Blogger Kate said...

love it, all the information I keep asking you over and over but can't seem to retain. LOL. So I'm actually wondering if it will be hard to switch Gideon in the middle, actually switch myself in the middle. but I think I can build the new habits of doing diaper laundry, etc. into my routine. I wonder if the homemade detergent is safe to use on cloth diapers? I have "friended" a company called www.rockingreensoap.com that i'm interested in trying, but I bet they're more expensive. I'll have to wait for a sale or promo. Anyway thanks for taking time to document this. :) <3 you!

 
At August 4, 2011 at 11:10 AM , Blogger Elisa said...

Here's my two cents from a cloth diaper mama vet (3 babies so far). The Prorap Classic Covers are also really great (http://www.amazon.com/Prorap-Classic-Diaper-Covers-Newborn/dp/B0027ZARMW) although I've never bought them from amazon. They are bit less cool than the thirsties, but much cheaper. They also have a special newborn one that has a gap for the belly button (love that)! I always started out with 3 diaper covers in each size, so I always had at least one on hand. I never had a big problem w/ runny leaks. The key is in a good soaker! I sewed my own out of old towels. I have a small diaper pail so that I'm forced to wash diapers no less than every 3rd day. Hmm..what else? I think hard water KILLS my prefolds. This is my second time in Texas and after 3 kids, the prefolds really have seen better days. We haven't bought new ones yet, b/c they still get the job done for now. I don't find it hard to fold my prefolds and neither does hubby - we're so used to it and I like the extra absorbency the folded cloth gives. I'm not a big fan of snaps. I have a couple of one size fits all covers with snaps, but find they don't stay snapped and leave bigger gaps around the legs when the kiddo is little. All my covers are velcro. You just have to make sure you close the velcro in the wash and occasionally pull a few fabrics out to keep it velcro-y.

I'm in love w/ my wool covers by GentlyMade. Will blog about those sometime.

Anywhoo - people are so afraid of cloth diapering! Just try it and be flexible at first and then before you know it, you will love it!

 
At August 4, 2011 at 1:10 PM , Blogger Ashley said...

Elisa - You like velcro better? Do your boys not rip off their diapers in about 2 seconds flat and leave you little surprises around every corner? I've always found that the snaps fit really well too, theres so many snaps on those things that I don't thing I'll ever have a problem. I guess its all a matter of prefrence! Also, I totally agree with you on the hard water....it seems that no matter how many times I strip my diapers they still smell a little bit "fishy" and I'm sure our super hard water is to blame. I'll look into those wool covers, I've never used a wool before, and if you need new prefolds look into the workhorse ones...I LOVE them. LOVE.

 
At August 4, 2011 at 1:28 PM , Blogger Stephanie said...

This is so helpful! Thanks so much for sharing this! I have been wondering about cloth diapers and have been wondering if I should try them out with my next. It sounds like it would save a lot of money! I am a new follower here!

 
At August 4, 2011 at 3:16 PM , Blogger Elisa said...

Haha, no, I've never had the taking off velcro diapers problem. Maybe Isaiah did it once, but since then I always put little shorts over their diaper covers. When they are older, potty training, I teach them to take it off when they have to go potty and come get me to put it back on again. That's getting annoying though (Luke's taking forever to night-time potty train), so I'm sewing a cloth pull-up. Yeah, those workhorses do look awesome. Anything that green mountain has is good stuff. They're my fav. site.

 
At August 7, 2011 at 9:05 PM , Blogger Abby Heckendorn said...

Elisa,
I use cloth, and have always wondered about the wool covers. Ummm, I guess I just don't understand how they work? I read you have to do some sort of prep with them before you ever use them. How do you wash them? Do you use them with multiple diaper changes, or are they one and done?
Thanks!

 
At August 8, 2011 at 10:40 AM , Blogger Elisa said...

Hey Abby, in short, yes, you do have to lanolize them first. I will have to blog about how I do it soon, because I keep getting questions about it. Here's the website to the gentlymade store & their instructions. http://gentlymade.wordpress.com/how-to-care-for-your-covers/
It's very easy. I have to lanolize mine again, so I'll probably make a video & post it on my blog, along with my fav. links. I was so afraid of lanolizing them at first, but it's really easy! Wool is so great for baby. Next to wearing nothing, it's the best thing!

 
At August 12, 2011 at 3:57 PM , Blogger Elisa said...

Here's my little blog post about how I wash my wool covers.
http://www.elisaloves.com/2011/08/how-to-wash-wool-diaper-covers.html

 
At August 13, 2011 at 1:11 AM , Blogger Tassie said...

Thank you thank you thank you, for the informative post. My daughter is having her first child in a few months, and I have be trying to sing the praises of cloth diapers. But, she is not buying it!!! Times have changed so much I knew that i was not giving her good, updated information. Thank you so much for all the information, and pictures. I will pass this on to her. If nothing else, I hope that the cost analysis at the end will win her over!
THANK YOU

 
At July 2, 2013 at 3:54 PM , Blogger Gayle Perez said...

I'm on baby #2 in cloth diapers and much prefer Velcro. My oldest never took her diaper off and made a mess. I think maybe once I got her up from a nap naked. We have a Thirsties Duo with snaps that someone gave us and we don't like it. I find it hard to snap and it doesn't fit well around the waist so pee leeches out the top onto clothes.
we have a diaper service because we don't have our own washer/dryer so we only get prefolds and I don't use any kind of doubler cause I don't want to wash it. I would love to try those contours, though, as we occasionally have poop on the cover as well. Although sometimes I'll just hand wash those and dry them in the sun.
Also, leg gussets aren't necessary to hold in poop I don't think. #2 had skinny thighs at first and the non-gusseted Bummis Whisper Wrap worked great. We use those and thirsties duo.
We used prowraps with my first and still have them but use them as a last resort because the elastic is kind of rough and curled, it's not nicely covered like with thirsties. Also they permanently smell of pee and without my own washer I don't want to do a vinegar rinse on them.

 
At July 2, 2013 at 3:55 PM , Blogger Gayle Perez said...

I'm on baby #2 in cloth diapers and much prefer Velcro. My oldest never took her diaper off and made a mess. I think maybe once I got her up from a nap naked. We have a Thirsties Duo with snaps that someone gave us and we don't like it. I find it hard to snap and it doesn't fit well around the waist so pee leeches out the top onto clothes.
we have a diaper service because we don't have our own washer/dryer so we only get prefolds and I don't use any kind of doubler cause I don't want to wash it. I would love to try those contours, though, as we occasionally have poop on the cover as well. Although sometimes I'll just hand wash those and dry them in the sun.
Also, leg gussets aren't necessary to hold in poop I don't think. #2 had skinny thighs at first and the non-gusseted Bummis Whisper Wrap worked great. We use those and thirsties duo.
We used prowraps with my first and still have them but use them as a last resort because the elastic is kind of rough and curled, it's not nicely covered like with thirsties. Also they permanently smell of pee and without my own washer I don't want to do a vinegar rinse on them.

 

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