Reduce and Reuse. I try to live by these words, especially when it comes to parenting. No one really prepares you for the insane amount of stuff that comes along with a new kid. The clothes, the gear, the toys, the baby care items, the diapers. And when you factor in the rate at which they go through these things, and then the number of children born per minute...well, let's just say it's enough to give any environmentally conscious person a panic attack. Aside from the littering-the-earth-with-junk thing, there's also the staggering cost of purchasing these items. I did and continue to do what I could to limit the impact on the planet and my wallet by buying secondhand, taking a minimalist approach to toys and gear, and by cloth diapering.
Drea and I both cloth diapered our babes, and I don't know about her, but most people looked at me like a crazy person when I mentioned that I would be going that route. I went right ahead, because to me, it just made sense. It was less expensive, less taxing on our landfills and safer for my baby's butt (most disposable diapers contain bleached paper products and harsh fragrances.) I created a plan of attack, and somehow, managed to stick with it for almost the entirety of our diapering days.
There are a ton of cloth diapering options out there, pre-folds, covers, all-in-ones, bamboo, cotton, microfiber, wool...the list goes on. Drea and I both went with BumGenius 4.0 (one size fits most covers that come with microfiber inserts.) They were easy, affordable and pretty cute. I started off with 16 diapers which turned out to be plenty for us, because my daughter had a fair amount of diaper-free time. I also purchased a reusable diaper pail liner, a zippered wet bag for outings and a large bucket for presoaking the particularly soiled diapers prior to washing. All in all, I spent around $350-$400 for everything. Which, in comparison to the $2000 that a typical family spends on disposable diapering, seemed like a win.
And the execution really wasn't that difficult. Dirty diapers went into the pail (after dumping any solids in the toilet) and got washed every two days on a gentle cycle with a detergent free of dyes and fragrances, then line-dried. Super simple. I know that some people shudder at the thought of washing and reusing something that has been pooped on, but the reality is that when you have a baby poop pretty much ends up on everything. So, unless you plan on tossing every article of clothing, sheet, blanket, burping cloth, etc after each poopy encounter, you'll be doing it anyway. The liner and the wet bag got washed as needed and afterwards I'd add a drop of lavender oil to mask any lingering smells (which weren't really an issue to begin with. I'm just a big fan of lavender oil.)
What you'll need to get started:
- 12-24 covers and liners
- 1-2 reusable diaper pail liners
- 1-2 reusable wet bag
- Line or rack for drying (This is totally optional. I usually just draped the diapers over the backs of chairs and I remember Drea's kitchen cabinet knobs were more often than not covered in drying diaper covers. Whatever works)
- Free & clear detergent
- Sprayer attachment for rinsing (neither of us used this but it seems pretty handy.)
Now that my daughter only uses diapers for bedtime, and given the fact that I no longer have my own washing machine (if any of you fellow city dwellers cloth diaper, I'd love to hear how you do it!), we've moved on to using a chlorine-free fragrance-free disposable brand. But, I'm happy and dare I say a tiny bit proud that we were able to do cloth for as long as we did.
Unlike Emily, I didn't start cloth diapering right away. (Look at this four month old diaper butt!) I wanted too, but only picked up two diapers and debated on it. Two cloth diapers isn't enough--- cloth diapering is mostly an all or nothing thing. You can do it part time, but to have it work smoothly it's best to do it completely so you can create a proper washing schedule. About two months in of the 'raising a baby' thing, I had had enough (with diapers, not the baby). I felt awful seeing our trash pile up from and with diapers. Diapers aren't the most bio-degradable thing, it's estimated they take about 500 years to decompose--- and with billions of diapers making they're way to the landfill each year, well, thats a lot of garbage. Anyway, this isn't an environmental lesson, the point is, I had never had more than a grocery bag or so of garbage every month (unless you count food trash) so I felt bad. The other big factor for me was money. I like to be smart about money (cough: frugal) and I just couldn't get comfortable spending so much money on diapers, when I was already struggling with money as is. So to literally spend money (to fill up with crap) and throw in garbage? No, I'll pass. (Read more about my thoughts on that HERE).
So I started cloth diapering--- and sure it takes a tiny bit more work than the disposable option, but it was one of the best decisions I made for our lives and my wallet. I should mention, I never even purchased a pail or liners for the pail. With it being only M and I in the house, I was able to just toss the (rinsed) used diapers into the washer--- I never had to worry about anyone else ever needing laundry done, and once I had about 4 left, I'd run the load. I had somewhere between 12 and 14 diapers total.
-diaper rash is less likely
-you never have to worry about late night diaper runs to the store, you always have them.
-they look adorable! seriously, who needs pants?
-look at your initial purchase as a smart investment. The number is much larger than just buying a bag of disposables, but if you do the math, you'll find yourself very, very pleased in the long run.
-decide to do it and commit. It takes a bit of adjusting if you've already started using disposables, but if you plan to do it, and buy all the things you need off the bat, you're set!
-line drying your diapers outside will do wonders for stains and keeping your diapers bright! Emily is right, I did have diapers hanging in my kitchen---- basically 100% of the time during rainy season. But in winter I line dried them outside, insides up. The sun helps to bleach away stains.
-create a schedule. sure you can't really predict the number of soiled diapers you'll have in a day, but you can mostly guesstimate to create a weekly schedule between diapers and regular clothes.
-don't wash the diapers with your regular laundry. keep it separate.
-speaking of which, follow wash directions carefully. If you want your cloth diapers to last up until potty training (or better yet, through to your next kid) then watching to take proper care of them is key. Over time the protective lining can wear, so properly washing will help them last longer and throughout the years!
-avoid creams, unless it specifically says it's safe for cloth diapering. Creams can create a barrier between the absorbent layer and other problems.
-between the snap variety and the velcro variety, i'd personally recommend the snaps. They can be a touch tricker to close, but the velcro can wear over time.
-if you have your own blog, consider doing these posts when your child is still in cloth diapers, not two years later, it just makes more sense.
-Emily's list of what you'll need is perfect. Sprayer is optional, but a lot of people recommend it. Other than that, it's not at all as hard or as messy as it seems, we promise!
Happy cloth diapering!
Authors: Drea & Emily