Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cloth diapering-all the details

I just got back from a quick jaunt to Baltimore-up at 4 am and back home at 11 pm, so tiring!  I finally have some time to sit down and write this post.

People ask us all the time about cloth diapering.  How does it work?  Is it hard?  Is it messy?  Does it smell?  What do you do with the poo?  All valid questions and things I will endeavor to address.  We were happy to learn just last week that we inspired another family at Maegwin's daycare to switch over to cloth.  They saw Maegwin's diapers and said "What are those?? We want them!"  I will try to include links as well to all things we use in this post so if anyone is interested they can purchase or explore.

First let's do a bit of calculation.  Looking at the average cost of a disposable diaper between name brands and generics we've come up with a cost of about $0.25 per diaper and about $0.05 per disposable wipe.  So for our purposes we will assume at each diaper change a cost is incurred of $0.30.  Knowing this we can now compare the cash outlay for cloth diapers vs. disposables.

Cost of disposables:
Newborns need to be changed about 12 times per day

2 months x 12 diapers/day x $0.30 = $216

Infants need to be changed about 8 times per day

10 months x 8 diapers/day x $0.30 = $720

Toddlers need to be changed about 6 times per day

12 months x 6 diapers/day x $0.30 = $657

Children who are potty training need to be changed about 4 times per day (Pull-ups cost more but for our purposes we'll assume we're just using the same diapers)

18 months x 4 diapers/day x $0.30 = $656

Total cost for diapering a baby through potty training = $2,249

Cost of cloth:
2 dozen flannel wipes = $22

Diaper sprayer = $45

Cleaning solution (we use a solution with olive oiland tea tree, recipe here)-about one bottle x 3 months
$1.00 x 44 months = $44

Diapers-48 one size Bum Genius diapers (we find this is plenty to go all week without washing diapers)
$204 per 12 pack x 4 = $816

Laundry detergent-150 oz bottle Seventh Generation Free and Clear = $20

Total cost for cloth diapering a baby through potty training = $947

That's a savings of around $1300 and if you have more than one child, the same cloth diapers can be used for the second one!

There are many choices in cloth diapering today.  What typically comes to mind when I say cloth diaper is the old reliable prefold diapers.  These are the squares of cloth that were probably used by most of our grandparents and maybe even parents depending on one's age.  My mom used them for both me and my sister.    The type of diaper we use is commonly referred to as a pocket diaper.  It has a waterproof shell that can be stuffed with various sizes and absorbencies of liner.

We use the Bum Genius brand one size diapers.  They have a set of three snaps that allow sizing to accommodate from around 8 lbs to 35 lbs.  We have basically used ours since Maegwin came home from the hospital since she was over 9 lbs when she was born.

We used the small size for quite a while and are still on the second set of snaps now with Maegwin at 20 lbs 10 oz.
She still has quite a bit of room in them so I don't think we'll have to go to no snaps for a while yet.
Each diaper comes with two inserts-the infant one for the smallest sizing and then a larger one that snaps down to fit either the second or third sizing positions.  Right now we double up and use the infant insert and the longer insert as well for maximum absorbency.
The real elastic around the legs and at the top around the back also help the diapers fit better than disposables and seem to keep in poo better as well. Maegwin has never had a "blowout".  At most she had mild leaking when we didn't realize she needed to be changed.  The diapers go on with velcro for the version we have but they are also available with snap closures.  I personally prefer the velcro closure because I think it allows for better custom fitting to the baby.

For wipes we use flannel and have a few bamboo as well.
I prefer the flannel because both sides are soft and can clean whereas the bamboo have an offside that isn't very soft.
They are also handy for cleaning off glasses, shining shoes, wiping faces and hands, dusting, cleaning off dvds, etc. We started out using the Bum Genius bottom cleaner, but then I read that we could use various homemade sprays. That works amazingly well and is much cheaper. I did reuse the bottles though. We refill the bottle about once a month and have more than enough for spraying on at every diaper change.

So what to do with those dirty diapers?  Well, if we're at home once Maegwin has been changed we take off the diaper and put the velcro on the laundry tabs inside.
This protects the velcro when the diapers are being washed and saves time when going to launder them. I don't have to spend a lot of time moving the velcro to the tabs and potentially missing some.
We have a diaper pail for dirty diapers with two washable Bummis bag liners. We got the diaper pail as a kit from and it came with a carbon filter and two deodorizing discs. They seem to currently be out of stock so I can't provide a link.
It easily fits a week's worth of diapers and we have it right in our bedroom and never smell a thing.
Ok, now to that burning question of what about the poo. Did you know that it is actually against the law to put untreated human feces in the landfill? Technically you are supposed to shake the poo off disposable diapers into the toilet. No one does this of course-they wad them up in a little ball and toss them in the trash.  So if the diaper is poopy, we rinse it off first. Oddly our diaper sprayer came in an order by accident but we liked it so much we called the people at Cotton Babies to have them charge us for it. It fits on the toilet with no special tools and has really good spraying capacity.  Bonus-it helps when you're cleaning the toilet out too!

If we're on the go when we change Maegwin, we have two Bummis wet bags that we alternate.  They come in great colors and hold up to six diapers easily.  We've also used them for wet swimsuits when we went to the pool and they worked great for that too.
They have a wrist strap with a snap so they can easily be put onto a stroller or hook. Our daycare hangs them on the door of the bathroom there.

Next step-Laundry! On Saturday we take out the bag from the diaper pail and head downstairs. I pull out all the inserts and unsnap them to make sure they get completely clean. I throw the diaper pail bag and wet bag right in with the diapers. We use Seventh Generation Free & Clear which is the same laundry soap we use for everything. The important thing is just that it is dye free and doesn't cause buildup on the diapers.
Rather than the normal amount of soap for a load
The diapers call for 1/8th of that amount per load.
Do not use fabric softener as this will decrease absorbency. We actually use white vinegar on all of our clothes because it doesn't damage the fabric. They will be just as soft and don't smell at all.
They need to be washed initially in cold water and then washed a second time with hot water and a double rinse. Once that is done, we separate the shells and liners. The liners can go in the dryer and the shells should be air dried. We have a stacking rack we got from Bed Bath and Beyond that I also use for my hand knits and other delicates.

That's pretty much it! It's super easy and we are very happy with our decision to cloth diaper. Our doctor says Maegwin has some of the least diaper rash she has ever seen and was so impressed with the diapers that she took down the information to tell her sister about them. We have some reusable liners for the times when Maegwin does have diaper rash because diaper cream will stain cloth diapers and make them repel water.

Final note: cloth diapers are adorable. People will randomly ask what they are and comment on their cuteness.
eating celery
Our only complaint is that clothing is now made for fitting the trimmer silhouette of disposables so we often have to size up pants/onesies/etc to accommodate the diaper. Small price to pay though.

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