|Tutorial and Photographs Copyright Andrea Paterson at Amaranth Road Studio. 2012|
A recent thread on Facebook prompted me to write a post about cloth diapering. Cloth diapers have become a lot more popular recently and the planet is truly grateful. But there's a ton of debate out there about what diapers to use, which detergents are best, and how to deal with the inevitable mess. I suspect that there are a lot of systems that work, so I'm going to tell you what I'm doing and how I've made cloth diapering work for me, but it's definitely not the only way to go. Please note that I have not been endorsed by any diaper companies to promote their products.
First, if you're considering cloth diapering your baby but have been put off by the rampant insistence that it's way more work than disposable, I urge you to reconsider. I was hesitant and prepared to spend a lot of time dealing with diapers for the sake of the environment, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's not much hassle at all if you use an efficient diapering system.
After a ton of research I settled on G-Diapers , which consist of a cotton cover with velcro closures and a snap in plastic liner that holds your absorbent insert. The three piece system means that you do a LOT less laundry as compared to all in one systems which require you to wash a very thick diaper with a super long drying time every time it's dirty. With G-Diapers you can simply replace wet inserts without washing the whole diaper and since the inserts are quite thin before you fold them they dry relatively quickly. My covers frequently last 24 hours and the snap in liners last 12-24 before you need to put in a new one. I have 8 covers in my baby's current size, 24 liners, and 36 cotton pre-folds as the absorbent layer. I tried the hemp inserts made by G-Diapers, but I can't recommend them. They're way too thin and leak constantly. Unless you change them hourly you're going to have a wet baby. Instead I use Bummis Organic Cotton Prefolds . You simply fold them in three, stuff them into the plastic liner, and you're ready to go. I'm including a photo tutorial on how to use prefolds with G-diaper covers:
(Note that this tutorial uses the Medium sized diaper. If you're using the small size you'll need to fold the prefolds in three along the shorter edge so that they'll fit in the pouch).
I do diaper laundry every three days or so and have enough diapers left at that time allow my diapers to air dry. I'm using Rockin' Green Detergent which I find gets my diapers nice and clean without leaving any scent on them (we're a very scent sensitive family). None of my prefolds have stains after 6 months of use. Be sure to close the velcro laundry tabs on your diaper covers or the velcro may wreck other things in the washer. I always air dry the covers to preserve the velcro. It's still good as new after 4 months of use with the current size.
The next big issue is how to survive overnight with cloth diapers. I've found that using cotton prefolds isn't practical overnight. They just aren't absorbent enough to last a 12 hour stretch and changing my baby in the middle of the night is not a good option, since it makes him fussy and hard to get back to sleep. My solution has been to use G-diaper biodegradable inserts combined with the G-diaper hemp insert (the only good application I've found for these). You put the biodegradable insert in first and then the hemp insert, fleece side up, on top of that. The fleece wicks moisture away keeping the top layer soft and dry. The biodegradable insert is super absorbent and lasts all night most times. In the morning the biodegradable insert can be easily pulled apart and flushed down the toilet. These inserts are nice if you're out and about as well--though be warned, they're expensive and not the greatest for poop. Blow-outs are more likely with the biodegradable inserts than with prefolds. Here is a photo tutorial for using the biodegradable plus hemp insert system:
The last thing is dealing with your dirty diapers. I put my wet and soiled diapers in a plastic garbage pail lined with a waterproof diaper liner that can be thrown in the wash with my diapers. Wet pails are absolutely not necessary. Just throw everything in and close the lid. I tape a charcoal filled diaper pail deoderizer to the inside of the lid and it helps to keep the smell down.
When dealing with poopy diapers I can't rave enough about diaper sprayers. They easily attach to your toilet and allow you a high pressure spray that gets all the mess off the diaper and into your toilet without having to stick your hand in the bowl to swish everything around. The sprayer does such a good job of rinsing my diapers that they often look practically clean afterwards. This means way less mess in your washer and way less actual contact with poop, which I'm sure you'll agree is worth the $50 or so investment.
In general this system is highly economical. The diapers (when not on sale--and watch for sales at London Drugs as they sometimes have them on G-diapers) are $20 each including one liner each. You will need to buy three sizes eventually (small, medium, and large). I don't recommend the newborn size since your baby is likely to outgrow them in a matter of weeks. The small size fits well on an 8 pound baby and no one wants to be using cloth during the meconium phase anyway, so save yourself the money and start cloth at 2 weeks-1 month. Prefolds are around $20 for a package of 6. Packages of 6 extra plastic liners (these are breathable by the way) are $23. I got 6 extra in each size.
So 24 diapers cost $480.
36 prefolds cost $100
18 extra liners cost $69
So the basic system is going to cost you $649.
You'll also spend money on detergent and maybe biodegradable liners as well, but you're going to come in well under the $3000 or so it costs to diaper a single child, especially since you can use these diapers for multiple kids! So if environmental arguments don't sway you, consider the financial one.
My last piece of advice is to do what works for you. Even if you cloth diaper part time and use disposable when it makes sense to you, you're putting a big dent in the amount of waste going to landfills. I tend to use disposable diapers when travelling. Cloth diapering on a 10 hour flight is not something I think is worth it. I sometimes use disposable if I know I'm going to be out for a very long time during the day, or at night if I'm out of biodegradable inserts. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have about issues in this post and I welcome other perspectives. Go to town in the comments section! And best of luck with your cloth diapering adventures. Next up in this segment will be a chat about Elimination Communication, which may turn out to be less crazy than you think!