How this mama does cloth diapers

I get this question a lot from friends of mine – how do you do cloth diapers?

I don’t know that we really advertise that we cloth diaper (unless I’m just totally doing it without realizing it). But people seem to know that and they always ask me about it. And let me tell you, I LOVE to talk about cloth diapers. Like seriously, I can wax poetic about the way we handle the excrements of our children. Its really ridiculous, actually.

Matching fuzzy butts

Matching fuzzy butts

So. I’m going to put all my information/experience/etc in this one blog post so that I can send people here in the future when I get the cloth-diaper question. If you’re here for cute pictures of kids and some emotional ramblings, you’ll want to skip this post. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled content shortly. 🙂

We’re going to do this once and we’re going to do it right. So this is going to get a bit long. So to help out: Table of contents for this (extra long) blog post:

1) Why do you cloth diaper? How did people who also care for your kids respond?
2) How did you get started?
3) What kind of diapers do you use?
4) How do you do diaper changes? at home? at daycare? in public?
5) What do I do about the poop?
6) How do you wash them?
7) Anything else I need to know?

And so, let’s get started:

1) Why do you cloth diaper? How did people who also care for your kids respond?

The long and short of it is that we cloth diaper because I want to. At the end of the day, it makes me feel like I am thriving as a mom, rather than just surviving day-to-day. While there are loads of other reasons to use cloth diapers, like the money savings or the positive impact it has on the environment, none of those would have kept me in it this long. The reason that I have stuck with this is because, at the heart of it, I want to. And their little butts are just so dang cute in the fluff.

When we first told my parents that we were going to cloth diaper, they were less than enthusiastic. When I was a baby, they used a cloth diaper service and were less than thrilled with the results. But once they saw our system and what MODERN cloth diapers are like, they have become some of our biggest enthusiasts. I’ll never forget when I was talking to a lady (of my parents’ generation) at my sister’s graduation party, and she noticed that Jaylee was wearing a cloth diaper. My dad enthusiastically went over to the diaper bag to get a (clean) diaper and show her how very different cloth diapering is now than when they were raising infants.

My babies have been fortunate to be cared for by family their whole lives, other than one year when Jaylee was cared for by a friend of ours. So I don’t have any experience with how a daycare center responds to cloth diapers. But our friend and family members haven’t had any issues with using the cloth diapers we provide and sending home the dirty ones after they’ve been changed.

2) How did you get started?

First of all, I received some of the best advice ever before Jaylee was born when I asked my sister-in-law Chelsea about how she cloth diapered her boys. She advised me to NOT jump right into cloth when Jaylee was born. And she was SO RIGHT. The adjustment to motherhood is HARD, and life with a newborn is HARD. Its such a massive life change – and I know that personally, cloth diapering from the get-go would have killed me. Instead, my advice is to wait until you have your feet under you to start with cloth. For Jaylee, we started sometime between 4-5 months, and were doing full-time cloth by the time she was 6 months old. For Jax, we switched to full time cloth around 2 months. You have to do what’s right for your family.

The way I got started the first time: I went to a consignment shop and bought 2 pocket diapers (the type I figured I’d probably use). I went home and washed them, and then put them on Jaylee. After trying them out for a couple days, I thought the laundry seemed something that I could handle reasonably. So I called my awesome mother-in-law, Beth, and we got down the business of making a bunch of cloth diapers. More on that later.

Now, I like to loan out some of my cloth diaper stash to people who are considering it for themselves. That way they can try out the diapers and see if they think the laundry is something they can keep up with BEFORE making the financial investment.

3) What kind of diapers do you use?

The diapers we use are called pocket diapers. I use them because they are exactly like disposable diapers during diaper changes, except that you throw them into a wet bag instead of the trash can. There are lots of different kinds of cloth diapers, but these are the ones that work best for our family. We did receive one all-in-one diaper as a gift, and I do like it. But it takes that diaper at least twice as long to dry. So that’s no good.

As far as what brand of diapers we use, our diapers are actually homemade. They’re modeled after the BumGenius line, but we (as in my mother-in-law Beth and I) made them ourselves. She’s a fabulous seamstress and did all the sewing, and I did most of the snapping. There’s a whole book here that gives you patterns of all different types of diapers, and we bought most of our supplies at Joann’s Fabric store. Beth is wonderfully creative, and she made the diapers so cute by adding lots of fun little touches like patches, lace, Broncos fabric, etc. Its a nice way to express some creativity, if that’s your thing.

The snap stash!

The snap stash!

Our diapers are sized, and then we also added on lots of snaps (like the BumGenius line) so that they could be custom fit even better. I own one diaper that uses velcro instead of snaps. It does give a more exact custom fit, but the velcro definitely wears out. Overall, I prefer snaps.

4) How do you do diaper changes? at home? at daycare? in public?

Since we use pocket diapers, diaper changes work exactly the way you change a disposable diaper – with the exception that you put the diaper in a wet bag instead of throwing it away. Make sure to keep any disposable wipes separate from the diapers – the wipes do not go into the washing machine. But otherwise, you just drop the dirty diaper in the wet bag and take it home for laundering at the end of the day.

The only real difference between cloth and disposable is that you can’t use diaper creams or baby powder with cloth diapers – it builds up and decreases their absorbency. We get around this because we use disposable diapers at night (they do better at absorbing overnight without reaching max capacity). So if we need to apply diaper cream, we can do it before the kids go to bed when they put on their paper diaper. But overall, we don’t need to use a lot of diaper cream because we don’t get very many diaper rashes with cloth diapers.

5) What do I do about the poop?

When our babies were little, I exclusively nursed them. The nice thing about breastfed babies in cloth diapers is that you don’t have to do anything about the poop! Their poop is water-soluble which means the washing machine can take care of it no problem!

After our babies started solids (around 5-6 months old), their poop changed. Turds are easy – they just get dropped in the toilet (they don’t really stick to the diapers). If the poop is more sticky, I try to get as much of it off as possible by using a diaper sprayer/bidet attachment on our toilet, and this ingenious invention to help keep all the spray in the diaper. Before I found that nifty spray guard, I was having to clean the toilet every time I used the diaper sprayer! Not a bad thing, really. But I got tired of that.

I don’t usually clean poopy diapers until the end of the day when I’m putting all the diapers into the washing machine. Its easier to just clean the 2-3 poopy ones at once. This has the additional benefit of drying out the solid matter, because the absorbent liner keeps drawing in the water as the day goes on. This makes the more-solid ones a lot easier to clean. There’s not much to be done about the sticky ones.

Some people say they don’t want to do cloth diapers because they don’t want to deal with the poop. But truly, the washing machine is the one who does most of the work. And until the baby starts solid foods, you don’t have to deal with poop at all! Besides, have you ever met a parent (cloth diaper or not) who doesn’t have a story about an explosive diaper change they had to deal with? Poop happens with little kids. Its an occupational hazard for parents, whether you do cloth or not.

Putting on snaps

Installing snaps on a round of new homemade cloth diapers

6) How do you wash them?

I wash diapers every night (or every other night, times). After dumping any solids in the toilet, I start by separating all the soakers from the diapers and throwing them all in the washing machine together. You can find lots of lists online of “diaper safe” detergents – I use Tide free and clear. I put in about 1/3 of what is actually recommended for a load, and have the washing machine go with the hottest water possible and an extra rinse. Then when its done, I set it to go again with cold water, and an extra rinse.

After the initial investment, the next biggest source of cost for cloth diapering is the energy costs to run the dryer. Plus, the dryer will shorten the life span of your diapers. So instead of using the dryer, I purchased two octopus hanging racks from IKEA. I then put up a tension rod in my laundry room and hang the cloth diapers to dry on the octopus. In my laundry room, this is right by a window, which I will open to allow air to circulate if the weather outside is nice. Using this drying method, it takes about 12 hours for the diapers to dry. Which I find to be totally reasonable. If I’m in a pinch, I’ll throw diapers in the dryer. But I much prefer this.

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The diaper octopus(es)

7) Anything else I need to know?

Cloth diapers are definitely much more bulky than regular diapers – its forces you to be a bit more strategic in choosing clothing. Both of my kids often have to wear a size up in pants, and I have to roll up the bottoms for Jaylee since she is walking.

Cloth diapers are a labor of love – but they make me feel like I am a successful mom. Don’t allow anyone to pressure you or your family to use cloth diapers for any reason. People are hard enough on moms (and dads) without us putting more pressure on ourselves. My kids don’t eat organic, or even eat the correct amount of vegetables each day. We spend too much time playing apps on the kindle, and we should probably be reading more books. But you know what? That’s what is right for our family. And cloth diapers are right for our family. That doesn’t mean they have to be right for yours.

Give them a try! Take a test run for a couple days, and then decide for yourself. I think they’re totally worthwhile. But you may not, and that’s ok too.

Let me know if there is anything I’ve forgotten in the comments. Hopefully this is a good quick reference post for anyone who’s considering cloth and wanted to know our experiences.

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About Jodi

Just a regular girl, piecing together life as I see it.
This entry was posted in Motherhood, Tips and Tricks and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to How this mama does cloth diapers

  1. Cameo says:

    This is awesome!!! Thanks for sharing!

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