Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cloth Diaper Update: It's Going OK

You may recall that three months ago I was the lucky recipient of a huge box of cloth diapers from Freecycle. When I appeared in the Chicago Tribune this weekend buying disposable diapers, some readers correctly pointed out that I'd save more money by using cloth. So I wanted to let new and old readers know how the transition to a disposable/cloth hybrid routine has gone chez Shoplifting.

My first fear with using cloth diapers was always that it would be difficult. This has not really turned out to be true. There are of course no pins. The kind of diapers I got are the mid-range kind -- they are made of cotton and have sewn-in velcro tabs and snap-in doublers. So they go on much like a disposable diaper does, and then you put a vinyl diaper cover over that in the same fashion. Because there are two parts, putting them on should take about twice as long as putting on a disposable. Since I have been changing diapers every day for 4.5 years now, this probably takes me less than a minute.

When they're dirty, that's where cloth IS undeniably more of a hassle than disposable. Wet is no biggie -- just drop in the dry diaper pail. But a poopy needs to be emptied into the toilet. How icky that process is depends entireley on your baby's digestive system. Lucky for me, many days my 2-year-old produces a nice solid turd that plops right into the toilet and leaves barely a skid mark on the cloth. HOWEVER, there are those days when the poop is a mess that clings to the fabric, and I am only able to shake some of it into the toilet. Some people scrape this stuff off or soak/rinse right in the toilet, but I am only a mortal woman. I shake off what I can and hope my washer will be able to digest the rest. So far, so good.
That aspect of cloth diapering has introduced a bit of the spirit of Las Vegas (or perhaps the spirit of dingy Indian casino) to our lives. If we have a hunch that a poop is coming, we'll put on a disposable. This hunch might come because she just had a messy one and they often come in clusters. Or because of the time of day -- i.e., if she hasn't gone all day, the naptime diaper may well come up 777.

That covers the adults' experience with the cloth diapers. Then there's Pebbles' experience. Well, she isn't crazy about them, I must admit. After the first day or so, we figured out that we should avoid putting her in cloth for naps or bedtime because they don't keep the wetness away from her skin, and she'd end up with all kinds of diaper rash. Also, the diapers I got are made of cotton, not fleece like the fancy fleece all-in-ones I bought at Diapers.com, and they are somewhat bulky for her. At first she cried when she saw me reaching for one at the changing table, and this of course made me feel terrible.

We use a lot of diaper balm or Aquaphor every single time we diaper now.

We stuck with them, and now she seems OK with it and isn't having as many rashes. She often does request "Elmo diapers," as she calls Pampers, but she doesn't usually have a fit when I say, "Nope, we're doing cloth."

The bulk does make her walk funny, though.

Then there are the other aspects: the storage of dirties and the washing. We are using a medium sized garbage can in her room, lined with a plastic bag. Because we don't use ONLY cloth, it takes us awhile to build up a fullish bag, and during that time the diaper smell can get quite strong. There are times when I walk into the girls room and it smells like a urinal, and I don't like that. I tried sprinkling in baking soda, which helped -- until Nutmeg got ahold of the baking soda container and sprinled it all over the bedroom and on her face, pretending it was makeup.
The best solution to the smell, I think, is to step up our use of the cloth diapers so we can wash loads of them more often. My husband has had a hard time getting into the habit, so I keep hiding the disposables to help him remember. I think we're doing better because lately I've had a full can of diapers to wash once a week instead of every two weeks. The latter is really too long to have a bunch of stinky diapers sitting around.
As for washing, I quickly realized that a regular cycle with detergent does not get the smell out of these things. So I'm using this method from Andrea of Spoon and Shovel. I feel bad about using so much water! But so far it has been the only thing that works. Actually my washer has all kinds of fancy cycles so I have skipped the plain water cycle but run a 2-hour "santizing" cycle plus extra soak with the baking soda and detergent, then run another sanitize cycle with vinegar. That means only 3-4 trips to the basement instead of 4-5 for me.
The future of our cloth diapering journey is expected to feature a few more comfy diapers for Pebbles and for her upcoming baby brother. I recently sent my mother-in-law a link to this site so she could learn how to make some nice fleece all-in-ones and buy the materials.


Anonymous said...

If she's 2 years old already, perhaps the cloth diapers and her dislike of them will prompt her potty training, which I'm assuming at 2 you've done already. I could never use cloth (terrible, I know), but my girls were potty trained 100% by 1 1/2 years old, even thru the night. I've been told I was lucky, but at age 11 or 12 months when they started telling me I immediately put them on the potty and, even having to deal with constant false alarms cuz they LIKED being on the potty, they quickly picked up the whole "hey, if i go on the potty, i'll be dry and fresh" thing.

Carrie said...

Anon, you ARE lucky. Most people these days don't attempting potty training until much later, which is why I have gotten some odd looks when I say I hope to train Pebbles this year. She has tried to go on the potty a few times, but so far with no success and I think she got a little frustrated so I dropped it for the moment.
I may try the "Potty Training in Less Than a Day" method.

Leah said...

We are a hybrid diapering family. I put my baby in a disposable at night b/c I don't like him sitting in a wet cloth diaper all night. One piece of advice - buy some polar fleece from the fabric store and cut it into strips that fit inside your cloth diapers. This helps keep the moisture off of baby and also helps shake out poop. It is very inexpensive - you only need about 1/4 yard.
Also, I've found that it's best to wash my diapers every 3 days. If they sit there longer, the urine starts to break down the diaper and cuts down on the life of the diaper.
Oh, and last thing - I did Potty Training in One Day with my 26 month old boy and it was a success. I figured I'd start with the shortest commitment and work my way up! I'm lazy like that and it worked out to my advantage!

Carrie said...

Leah -- That fleece tip is a great idea!
When you wash diapers every 3 days, do you still do them in a separate load, or throw them in with other clothes? I can't see myself doing a separate load of all diapers that often, even if it would preserve the diapers longer.

David said...

The best way to clean cloth diapers is to pre-rinse them off in the toilet using a Bathroom Bidet Sprayer. So convenient and if you are trying to help the environment (and your pocket book) you can give it a double whammy by virtually eliminating toilet paper use, at the same time as you benefit from using it on the diapers, by using it on yourself. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: "if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn't wipe it off with paper, would you? You'd wash it off" Available at www.bathroomsprayers.com they come in an inexpensive kit and can be installed without a plumber. And after using one of these you won't know how you lasted all those years with wadded up handfuls of toilet paper. Now we're talking green and helping the environment without any pain.