the diaper post

I have wanted to write a diapering post for some time now. I remember when I was pregnant that I could read just about anything on cloth diapering and that I was always looking for more. In fact, as a cloth diapering parent, I still love reading about how others find their ways through this process. Therefore, I want to share with you the process we went through to get to an almost exclusively cloth diapering place. It wasn’t necessarily graceful. It wasn’t the wonderfully back-to-the-good-old-days experience I initially thought it would be. Instead, it was a journey of trial and error much like everything else has been since our Baby Genius was born. We’re not advocating any one method here; we’re just sharing what worked–and mostly what didn’t work–for us. Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments area, and we’ll be happy to answer them there (you can also send an email). We don’t by any means claim to be experts in this field, but we’re happy to share what we have learned as we’ve bumbled our way through cloth diapering our son.  

I’ll warn you now: this is a long one, but our journey has been a long one. I’ve included headings to help make this a little easier to navigate.  

And, finally, a disclaimer: We talk about our shame over using disposables. We’re not passing judgment on anyone else’s diapering choices here; this was solely connected to what we perceived as our own failures at the time.

Some Background

 I have always known I would cloth diaper my children. I was cloth diapered, as were my siblings. I learned at the age of eight when my sister was born how to fold a diaper and safely pin it. We used these dreadful “plastic pants” then–the covers that are made of vinyl with elastic at the legs and waist. I was also taught how to swish the soiled diapers in the toilet, and this became one of my jobs to help out. It wasn’t until I started babysitting as a preteen that I even knew about disposable diapers. I just assumed that diapers were cloth, and that was that. I spent many years providing childcare, and in the mid-nineties, I informally nannied for a family who cloth diapered exclusively. They had some really cool covers that kept them from needing the dreaded diaper pins. I loved cloth diapering their little boy, and I reaffirmed to myself that cloth diapering it would be when I finally had a baby.  

When J and I first started talking baby stuff in earnest, I told her I wanted to cloth diaper. She wasn’t sure about it because she didn’t know much about it. The thought of safety pins scared her, but it didn’t take long to help her realize that it might not be so bad once she knew there were alternatives to diaper pins and plastic pants.   

The Research Phase   

Once I was pregnant, we really started looking at diapers. We began to research them like we do everything. For so long, we thought we would do prefolds and covers because that’s what we thought was available. Then we got online. Just scratching the surface revealed new and unfamiliar terms like AIO, pocket diaper, fitted diaper, stuffers, soakers, and more. There weren’t just prefolds; there were Indian prefolds and Chinese prefolds, bleached and unbleached, hemp, cotton (organic and not), microfiber terry, and even bamboo. To say the least, we were completely overwhelmed. The stubborn, practical side of me said we’d stick with prefolds–the ones my sister was giving us for free, which she had never used. We would get some covers–simple ones–and that was that.   

What made our decisions more difficult, as I’m sure many of you have found, is that it was nearly impossible to try to find real samples of these things anywhere. BRU does not carry anything but the really crappy G.erber prefold diapers and those dreaded plastic pants–and those aren’t even in the diapering section of the store! No other mainstream big-box baby retailer carries real cloth diapering supplies either. One day, though, we happened into a baby boutique, and we spied our first pocket diaper. It was a Happy Heinys. The salesperson was more than happy to tell us about them, and we were amazed. We bought one for $20 and had some serious buyer’s remorse upon returning home, realizing it was a one-use-then-wash item. We had to keep this diapering thing economical because that was one of the reasons we wanted to cloth diaper. At $20 a diaper, this was not going to be economical.   

The Reality of Diapering a Newborn   

By the time Baby Genius made his arrival, we were stocked with diaper covers of several varieties and those pre-folds my sister had given us,  about six (huge) designer pre-folds, along with a homemade all-in-one (which basically looks and works like a cloth disposable), and a single one-size Happy Heinys. We thought we were pretty set, but we also bought a pack of newborn disposables, thinking we might need those before his cord fell off. We had high hopes that the diaper covers and pre-folds were going to work. They were the most economical option, and we were going to have to make due. We also had plans for a wet pail soaking method.   

Then reality struck.   

When BG came home, he was wearing the disposables from the hospital. For the first few days, we kept him in disposables, but we were itching to try out the cloth. A few days in, we tried one of the prefolds, and it was so huge that we had to fold it and refold it, and fold it some more to get it to fit. We put it on with a cover that had a cut-out (Pro-Wraps), but we quickly saw that it was going to irritate his cord, so we were back in disposables. We waited a bit longer, and soon his cord fell off, but the covers still irritated his healing belly button, so we used the cloth sparingly until he healed.   

Cloth Diapering–Phase I   

When we finally were able to start using cloth, we hated the diapers. They sucked. It turns out that the diapers my sister gave us were the cheap but thicker G.erber diapers, and as generous as it was for her to give these to us, it became very clear why she had been discouraged by cloth diapering. They didn’t fold well. They didn’t quilt up at all, making them less absorbent than they needed to be. They weren’t very soft. And they were huge–just too huge. We kept trying to use them, but because we had to fold them so many times, they made it impossible to put any of BG’s clothes on him, and the covers hardly fit either. We were both incredibly discouraged, and we would often “cheat” and put him in a disposable just because we didn’t want to deal with folding another diaper that didn’t fit within the covers we had. We had expected some diaper bulge, but this was bordering on the absurd.   

Cloth Diapering–Phase II   

After some research, we finally decided to get some prefolds that were sized. We looked around and decided on Indian over Chinese. We read great reviews about how well the Indian prefolds soften up over time, how absorbent they are, and how long they last, so we bought a couple dozen small prefolds, thinking they would fit well within the covers without having to fold them over at the top. These turned out to be pretty good. We liked that they fit within the covers, and they were super absorbent. They were also rather soft (and continue to get softer with each wash). We tried to use these for some time, and we used them with a variety of covers, but mostly Bummis Whisper Wraps. We also had some Thirsties wraps, Cott’n Wraps, one Kushies wrap, and some homemade wraps someone was selling on ebay. Bummis were fine, but they tended to be bulky, and as Baby Genius’ thighs grew thicker, they were harder to fit properly. We liked Thirsties for how thin they were, and now we’re pretty fond of Cott’n Wraps and Kushies (also nice and thin).   

Bummis Wrap

This system, while better, was flawed. First, it takes some practice to get the diaper into the cover just so, and even then, it doesn’t always fit properly. J found this endlessly frustrating at the time, and I did on occasion. When the baby was particularly fussy, or we were in a hurry for some reason, we’d end up reaching for a disposable because it was easier. Second,  the covers and prefolds typically made BG’s butt so bulky that few of his clothes would fit. Baby clothes are made with disposable diapers in mind, so when you try to stuff a baby with a bulky cloth diaper into these clothes, it can be very difficult and frustrating. Third, we couldn’t get much longevity out of the prefolds because BG felt any moisture so very quickly (and hated it). If we put him down for a nap in one of these, he would wake up as soon as he peed. Putting him in these diapers overnight was out of the question, so we used disposables at night and usually ended up going through three or four before we got around to putting him into a cloth diaper in the morning. We were buying a pack of diapers a couple of times a week.   

At one point, and I’m horribly embarrassed to admit it, we bought a huge box of H.uggies from Co.stco. It was enormous. We were so embarrassed that we waited to bring it up to our apartment until nightfall, and we waited until the next night to take the box down to the recycling bin. But that didn’t stop us from using the damn things. I’m still not sure why we thought we needed them at the time. I think it was just so alluring because there were so many diapers for what seemed like so little money. We figured they would last us a few months, but we didn’t take into account any growth spurts our son might go through. In fact, because our son was growing so quickly at the time, there came a week or two that we had to put him in these diapers exclusively because he was almost too big for them. We were determined to use them up, but in the process of doing so, we had developed a nasty disposable habit. Our diaper pail was reserved for cloth diapers, and we didn’t have a separate one for disposables, so we had a bag for dirty diapers behind the nursery door. Even though we took this bag out to the trash (full of shame) every day, the nursery stunk. We hated throwing that many diapers in the landfills, and having the visual evidence every day was enough to send us back to the drawing board.   

Cloth Diapering–Phase III   

As we came to the end of that box, we vowed never to buy a box again, and instead, we decided to once again reconfigure our diapering system. We had since learned the value of the one pocket diaper we had purchased. These things work almost like a disposable in that the stuffer that fills the pocket soaks up tons of moisture and draws it away from the fleece lining. As a result, baby doesn’t feel wet when he pees. Finally after using this thing a few times, I realized that this was the direction we needed to go. Thanks to a couple of my favorite diapering websites, Diaper Pin and Nicki’s Diapers, I found a great deal on some pocket diapers that would work for us, and I bought a couple. We tried them out and loved them, so next paycheck, we bought two more, and then two more, and on and on. With part of our tax return, I bought eight more, and then, as a late holiday gift, my sister bought us ten. We’re up to 25 pocket diapers now, and we have a pack of disposables for when we go out for long periods of time. I bought this pack a month ago, and we still have half of them left.  So here’s the nitty-gritty–our current system:  Daily Diaper Use  

 

During the day, we use Haute Pockets one-size diapers. We are still using these on the first setting, and our son is nearly twenty pounds. They’re going to last until he’s out of diapers. They cost about $13-$14 each, so a little over $300 was invested in this system. They include a large stuffer and a small stuffer which can be combined for a super night-time stuff. We probably use 8-10 diapers a day at this point, but we have a frequent pooper. I’ve heard rumors that many babies at BG’s age only poop once a day or less. Were that the case, he’d probably go through fewer diapers. At night, we double-stuff the diapers, and we can go almost all night without needing to change him (if he has just wet the diaper). When we go out on a short jaunt, we usually keep him in a pocket diaper, but we do keep disposables in the diaper bag. For a longer jaunt or when going out of town, we use disposables.Believe it or not, we also still use prefolds and covers on occasion. When BG is developing a bit of irritation, the cotton seems to help him heal quickly. Other times I think we just use them because now that they’re optional, they’re a bit more of a novelty, and they aren’t half bad. They also help us stretch time between diaper washing a little.  

A Note on Wipes  

   

We use primarily cloth wipes. We have some that were gifted to us, and we have a bunch that I made out of antique cotton flannel. To wet the wipes, we use the peri bottle I was given in the hospital (much like a small bottle for dish soap), and in it I place about a tablespoon of hand-crafted, baby safe body wash (I think it basically has olive oil, vitamin E, water, and some essential oils), and I fill the rest up with water. It works very well, and BG’s diaper area tends to stay very healthy.   

Diaper Care and Laundering   

  

When these are wet, we pull out the insert and place both the diaper and the insert into a dry pail. When they are soiled, we pull out the insert, place it in the pail, and then place the diaper in the toilet for a moment. Then we put on our trusty gloves, clean the diaper out in the toilet a bit, and place the diaper in the dry pail. I mention this part because the diaper companies make it seem easier than it is by saying all you need to do is dump the solids into the toilet. If your baby is breastfed and/or not eating solids, or has gastrointestinal issues like  ours does, you’re not going to have neat little poos to “dump” into the toilet. And while many people simple throw the pre-solids poopy diapers in the washing machine as-is (breastfed, especially), we prefer to get a jumpstart on the process to minimize staining and stink.We usually wash a load of diapers every two or three days, although we could probably do them every four days or so if we had a larger diaper pail. As it is, we wash them when the pail is full. We put them in for a presoak, and then we wash them in hot water with a small amount of detergent (scent-free, dye-free). To help combat the odors that can linger in pocket diapers, we use a D.owney Ball with white vinegar in it– it really helps to keep the odors away. We alternate line drying and machine drying for the covers so that we can make them last as long as possible. Once they’re dry and clean, we pre-stuff them. We even pre-stuff our night-time diapers, and we’ve designated a color just for night (white, if you’re interested in knowing).  

The Bottom Line  

We are so happy with our diapering system. They pocket diapers are still bulkier than the trim disposables, and as a result there are clothes that just don’t fit as well. We either don’t use those clothes, or we dress BG in those clothes when we’re going on big outtings when he’s wearing a disposable anyway. Our initial investment has nearly paid itself off already because we truly are down to a small pack of disposables (or less) per month now. Baby Genius loves his diapers too. We’re finding that he’s less comfortable in paper diapers. He prefers the soft fuzziness next to his skin. Yes, it takes more effort, but it really is worth it in the end, and honestly, I find those duties related to cloth diapering very rewarding.  

 
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18 Comments

Filed under Baby Genius, diapers

18 responses to “the diaper post

  1. boo

    Wow! Thank you so much for writing this down. I read it with great interest, as we are just about to embark on our own cloth diapering journey. I am so glad that you found a system that works well for you. I’m looking forward to more updates on what works for you as BG grows.

  2. This is great. I often wish I had my own washing machine and a partner who was into it, so we could have used cloth. It was my plan before I knew I’d have these two major roadblocks. Maybe if we get a house and ever have baby #3, I’ll be able to live my dream and I’ll come back to this post to learn from the pros.

  3. Jodi

    I have to say, I’m glad we found the pocket diapers and that they work so well for the baby. I was very discouraged in what I saw as a waste of money and supplies in our failed systems, but I was also very uncomfortable using disposables as often as we were. I’m just glad that T is stubborn and didn’t give up! I may very well have.

  4. Wow. What a great post, thanks so much for taking the time to write it. I’m still trying to decide what route to go when it comes to diapering our baby and your post definitely gave me some things to think about.

  5. Joy

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey and what you’ve found that works. I love researching and reading about CD options and this was another great resource!

  6. Jen

    Holy cow. We toyed around with the idea of cd, but as your amazing post proved, it just seems too overwhelming. We are the costco big box buyers and it works for us. There is research out there saying that disposibles are soakig up toxins in the land fields. I am ubber impressed with your dedication!

  7. Wow– thanks for this. When/if we finally have a baby, we are committed to giving CD a go. I spend so much of my day picking up poop and cleaning/feeding the 4-dog, 3-cat menagerie (and we homecook all their food, too) that I feel like almost anything can be done with a proper system. I am bookmarking this post for the day!

  8. Brilliant! I was another that was so set on prefolds and covers and ended up with pockets. It’s reassuring to know they work so well for you and your gorgeous boy. I’m off to look up Haute Pockets.

    xo

  9. poppycat

    I have some questions for you look for an email from me soon.

  10. Christina

    Good post! We’ve been cloth-diapering our 10-month old twins and are also very happy with our system (we started with prefolds also, but now use BumGenius AIOs and 3.0 pockets).

    As far as the poo issue, we’ve never rinsed them in the toilet but instead starting using Bummis BioSoft diaper liners when their poop became more solid. Definitely not helpful though for very runny BMs.

    We’ve also found that tea tree oil helps the dry diaper pail scent considerably– we only wash the diapers twice a week.

    And finally, I have to put a plug in for browned flour as a diaper rash cure. It’s nearly free and is cloth-diaper friendly. Our son had terrible diaper rash for over a month, and we tried everything we could find. Browned flour was the only thing that worked (just brown it on the stove or in the oven, stirring frequently).

  11. Kim

    What a great post. If more people stuck with it like you guys I think our landfills would be a much happier place. Personally I started out with g diapers and used them for a while, although I only bought the smallest size they had and when she grew out of them I wasn’t in a financial position to buy the next size up. So I researched and found a local company that is called Earth-baby diapers and they have diapers that look and function very similar to disposables but they are 100% compostable. I pay a fee each month and they come to my house and pick them up and compost them for me. So while I am not thrilled about the fact that a truck drives around to pick up diapers, I am content with the fact that my child, who is now 11 months old, has never once put a disposable diaper into a landfill. I wish I could say I was as dedicated as the two of you, but I am happy with where I have ended up.

    • reproducinggenius

      What a great alternative! I have never heard of these, but I’m so glad you mentioned them here because others will certsinly benefit from this. How cool!

  12. Thanks for the perry bottle tip. Ziya was getting cloths run under warm water for each change. What a princess butt. Turns out room temperature is just fine.

  13. Jodi

    Princess Butt, LOL! One of the most ridiculous and unnecessary gifts we recieved at our baby shower was a plug-in wipe warmer, meant for heating disposable wipes. We never used it, and it ended up at a thrift store (the consignment store said they were a fire hazard and wouldn’t take it!).

    We don’t use disposable wipes very often, but when we do, we ball them up in the palm of our hands for 10-15 seconds, and they warm right up!

  14. I’m glad you posted your disclaimer, as studies have shown that cloth diapers are not more environmentally friendly than disposables. Basically, you are trading water/energy usage for space in landfills and it ends up being a wash. The benefit is mainly financial, particularly if you use cloth for younger siblings.

    • reproducinggenius

      There is quite a bit of information now showing that the production of disposable diapers consumes more water/energy than the production and laundering of cloth diapers. They also use more raw materials such as petroleum and wood pulp, both of which have issues of their own. The studies you are referring to (I’m assuming we’re referring to the same well-known research) focus primarily on the waste produced after the diapers are purchased and not at all on production process, which is a pretty significant factor considering just how many more disposable diapers are produced.

      That said, my first comment still stands: this is a decision that is a personal one, and one has to consider one’s own values, priorities, and needs when choosing a diapering system. Whether one uses cloth for financial, health, environmental, or nostalgic reasons, the diapers ultimately have to work for the parents and the babies. That’s the bottom line.

  15. Thank you SO much for referring me to this post!
    You’ve made this feel much less overwhelming.

  16. Pingback: cloth diapering a year in: tips and caveats « reproducing genius

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