The Cloth Diaper Post

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap  —  January 29, 2013 — 3 Comments

Here it is. The post where I openly discuss my child’s bowel movements. How is this relevant, you might ask? Well party people, it saves me a boatload of money. And adds to my general enjoyment of life more directly by making something as disgusting as poop actually a little bit fun.

Warning: this post is ridiculously long and I mention poop several times, so if you are not at all interested feel free to skip it. But if you’re curious about cloth I promise not to disappoint.

The bulk of my stash is made up of Bumgenius Freetimes. I bought 15 of them before Jack was born. They’re an all-in-one (AIO) style diaper which means exactly what it sounds like. The entire diaper is all one piece that you just snap onto the baby. You can get them in snaps or velcro. I hear velcro is a little easier to get a good fit but snaps are more durable (and I suck at remembering to fasten velcro so it doesn’t tear stuff up in the wash). They are also one-size, meaning they fit most babies and toddlers between 8 and 35 pounds thanks to the snaps in front to adjust the rise. Jack is kind of between rises right now so I have the two outside snaps down on the lowest setting and the center one snapped a little higher. I should have taken a picture of one all the way unsnapped so you could see how it looks. Another thing about this diaper is that the part that goes against his skin is made of a stay-dry material. This is important for some babies who are sensitive to wetness, but some babies are irritated by the synthetic fibers. Every kid is different. There are two inserts, one attached at the front and one attached at the back, and you can lay them flat to overlap in the middle or fold them up however you like. I fold the front insert under so it’s doubled and lay the back insert over it to give Jack more absorbency up front where he needs it (since he’s got boy parts). They’re a little stained on the inside. I hear I could get these out by putting lemon juice on them and laying them in the sun, but I’m not too worried about the looks of something my kid poops on.

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I’ve collected a few other AIO’s and pocket diapers over the last few months. Pocket diapers are a lot like AIO’s except for they come in two pieces–the main part of the diaper and an absorbent insert that you stuff into a pocket inside the diaper. I am not a big pockets fan because I don’t like the extra work of stuffing them. From left to right I have a Swaddlebees Simplex, which is a cool diaper because there’s a stay-dry flap sewn in on one end that you can lay on top for babies who don’t like to be wet or stuff into the pocket for babies who can’t handle synthetic fibers all up in their nether regions. In the middle is an Oh Katy pocket (LSU purple!) and on the right is a Bumgenius Elemental. It’s a lot like the Freetime except that the inserts are sewn in at each end and it’s organic cotton (which means it’s not stay-dry). I think the Elemental is the easiest diaper to use because everything is sewn into place and you just snap it onto baby.

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These are prefolds and a cover. I was perfectly happy with my little stash of Freetimes until my friend Sarah’s mom sent me some prefolds she found at a garage sale and got me addicted to trying out different kinds of diapers. The three pieces of fabric you see below are all the same shape, size, and material, just folded different ways. On the left it’s laid flat, in the middle it’s folded the “wrong” way, which is what I do since it’s shorter and fits Jack better, and on the right it’s folded lengthwise. This is what people mean when they talk about trifolding or padfolding a prefold. You just fold it up and lay it in the cover (I have a Flip cover laying on top of the prefold on the left–it’s just waterproof fabric that you have to add something absorbent to) and snap it on. Back in the day people used to wrap the prefold around the baby and secure it with pins. Some people still do that, but they usually use something called a snappi or boingo to secure it instead of pins. I say that’s too much work. I just fold it up and stick it in there. You can reuse the cover several times before washing as long as it doesn’t get poop on it so you really only need a few.

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Prefolds aren’t the only thing you can put in a cover. You can take any large piece of fabric–a receiving blanket, thin towel, etc., and fold it up into a rectangle and put it in there. These are called flats and they are the cheapest way to cloth diaper. You can get receiving blankets or flour sack towels for cheap and be good to go. Next to my folded up receiving blanket I have a cotton/hemp insert made by gDiaper. I like it because it’s really thin. I use these in my Flips covers and also layered under the built-in inserts in a Freetime for extra absorbency overnight. On the right is an insert with a fleece liner laid on top. I got a yard of fleece for cheap at Hobby Lobby and cut it into rectangles to make my own liners, but you can buy them premade as well. Fleece is a stay-dry material, so you can lay it on top of fabrics like cotton or flannel to keep baby’s skin dry. You can also get disposable liners or inserts if you’re squeamish about poop–some are even flushable.

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Wool and fitteds. Now I am really getting in deep with the cloth diaper obsession, y’all. Wool has some kind of magical properties that make it a good cover. Don’t ask me to explain it because I don’t understand how it works. All I know is that you can put these little wool shorts on over a prefold or whatever (if you had it fastened around the baby somehow instead of just folded) with no other cover and it would absorb whatever moisture came through the diaper and then let it evaporate out the other side. I use these at night over an AIO to keep Jack’s pajamas from getting wet if his diaper should happen to leak.

Now fitteds, these are addictive. I don’t know why. They just are. It’s just the absorbent part of the diaper and it fastens around baby and you put a cover or wool over it. They’re supposed to be good for little babies who only drink breastmilk and have explosive poop because the poop has to make it first out of the fitted and then out of the cover before reaching poosplosion status.

From left to right these are Goodmama, Cloth-eez Workhorse, and Bumgenius bamboo. I think BG is no longer making the bamboo fitted and I don’t know why because it is sooooo squishy soft and delightful. I told Nick I would want to wear it and he said he’ll keep that in mind when my bladder control starts heading downhill.

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I had a really hard time with cloth diapers the first couple months we were using them. Jack kept getting rashes! Not from the moisture against his skin or the synthetic fibers in stay-dry dipes, but because he just. pooped. so. much. Like six times a day. He would have had the same problem in disposables except for then I could have slathered him up with diaper cream and he would have been fine. Most diaper creams cannot be used with cloth diapers. The same stuff in it that protects the skin gets into the fabric and renders it nonabsorbent. After weeks and weeks of trying different cloth-safe options I finally found this stuff–Grandma El’s. This little jar costs $15 at my local cloth diaper store but it’s lasted us three months. I love it. And since Jack has gotten older and slowed down on the pooping we don’t use it as much anymore.

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You might be wondering where I keep the dirty diapers. A few feet away from the changing table, just inside the bathroom door, I have a woven hamper ($20 at Marshall’s) with a washable pail liner inside. Come laundry day I toss the whole thing, bag and all, into the wash. As long as the lid is on that hamper I don’t smell a thing.

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Now that Jack is on solids, the **** has gotten real. Literally. When he was exclusively breastfed poopy diapers could just be tossed in the pail with everything else, but now his waste is solid and it’s gotta be addressed. We got a handheld sprayer from Amazon and hooked it up to our toilet. There’s a little handle on the left that you use to turn it on and adjust the pressure, then on the sprayer there’s a button you push to let ‘er rip. It came with a little hook to make it hang from the back of the toilet but it lifted the lid of the tank up ever so slightly and changed the way the water sounded filling back up after flushing and that drove me nuts. I am sensitive to sounds the way some people are to smells. I actually think my hearing is not very good, but certain sounds really annoy me and apparently a running toilet is one of them. So I just lay the sprayer on the floor. Don’t beat yourself up if your toilet is not camera-ready like mine. I scrubbed it down just for this picture.

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Now, how do I keep all these diapers and their accoutrements organized? The top two drawers of Jack’s dresser are dedicated to diapering. On the right are pockets, AIO’s, prefolds, and inserts (usually that drawer is very full but it was wash day). On the left I have fitteds, wool, and small bins holding everything else.

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From left to right, Jack’s hairbrush and “toothbrush,” covers and liners, ointments and hand sanitizer, and wipes.

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Oh yes wipes! At first I thought I would just use disposable wipes until I realized it is actually more work to put diapers in a pail and wipes in a trashcan. It’s simpler to just send them all to the same place. So I cut up some flannel receiving blankets and filled a squirt bottle with water and a few drops of baby wash. I had read when I was pregnant that the peri bottle you get at the hospital after delivery is perfect for this so I saved it, sanitized it, and now I use it for my wipes. I didn’t even bother sewing the edges of the wipes–I am literally using them to wipe poop so I think frayed edges are okay. I used to fold and stack them neatly but now I just stuff them in the little bin.

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Here’s how I handle cloth diapering on the go. I took a plastic pencil case I already had and filled it with a set of 12 Bumgenius cloth wipes I bought before I realized I could just cut up receiving blankets–since these are dedicated to the diaper bag I always remember to put them back in there after washing. Then I filled a travel size bottle of baby wash with water and a little bit of soap and threw it into the pencil box along with a little thing of hand sanitizer. I have a travel wetbag that holds a day’s worth of diapers and can go in the wash along with everything else. It zips up and holds in any unpleasant smells.

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While we’re on the topic of smart things I’ve done to organize my diaper bag, check out my latest accomplishment. I took this plastic zip-pouch that came with a set of toys Jack got for Christmas and filled it with all the little toys and teethers that used to just fly willy nilly all over the inside of the diaper bag. Life changer.

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I don’t carry a traditional diaper bag–it’s actually a vintage carry-on bag–so it doesn’t have a ton of pockets or special features, but I love it. Here’s how it looks for your standard trip to the grocery store or lunch out or whatever. We’ve got a large muslin blanket (for shading the carseat, impromptu naps, nursing cover, or–shocker–keeping the baby warm), burp cloth, toy bag, diaper, wet bag, and wipes case. There’s a changing pad tucked into the back. My wallet and keys go in the pocket up front. My phone is apparently permanently attached to my body at all times, but on the rare occasion I put it down I just toss it in on top. If we’re going to visit grandparents all day or going to the babysitter or whatever I bring prefolds and covers because it’s easy to squeeze a bunch of them into the diaper bag.

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One more thing: washing! It’s not hard. I toss them in the machine and do a cold rinse with no soap, then a hot wash with detergent (but not too much–just filled up to the first line on the scoop), then an extra cold rinse. If the weather’s nice I hang everything outside to dry. At the end of the day prefolds, inserts, fitteds, and wipes go into the dryer to finish drying and soften up a little, while anything with synthetic fibers or PUL (the waterproof fabric) gets hung up inside if it’s still damp, but usually it’s dry. Sometimes I just put everything in the dryer but those fabrics wear out more easily so I try not to do it too often. I wash three times a week. If I worked full time I would wash them after dinner, move them to the dryer before bed, and put them away the next day after work. So worth it to save so much money.

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As for the cost, my original stash of 15 AIO’s cost $250. This is on the expensive side. You could get started for much less. Over the last few months I’ve traded a few that I didn’t like the color of for other diapers and bought more diapers secondhand. The only other thing I’ve bought new are my three Flip covers. Total I’ve spent about $350 and I can change him 35-40 times before doing laundry, though I would never wait that long unless we were traveling or something because they would start to stink. The vast majority of these diapers are one-size and will adjust to fit him until he’s potty trained.

It’s worth mentioning that we didn’t start using cloth full-time until Jack was nine weeks old. Before that we just dabbled. But since then we’ve only used a handful of disposables here and there.

There is not a lot of fun to be had with boy clothes, at least until he gets old enough for me to start dressing him like a miniature husband, putting him in outfits I can never talk Nick into, but cloth diapers are fun. There are cute colors and prints and I think the fluffy butt is adorable.

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Of course it’s easy to love them when your baby is so dang cute. Look at him pretending he’s an underwear model!

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This has seriously been the longest post of all time, so if you’ve stuck with me this long props to you. If you’re thinking about using cloth diapers with your baby, or just curious about their recent resurgence in popularity I hope I’ve answered some of your questions. And of course if there’s something I failed to mention you can ask me in the comments! There’s so much more I could say but I’ve got to stop somewhere, haha.

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap

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3 responses to The Cloth Diaper Post

  1. I love the new cloth diapers. I used cloth diapers for both of my kids. I had the plain white ones back in the day. I had to fold and pin them. I did use diaper liners but they were supposed to be disposable but I washed them too. We lived in the country with no trash pick up so disposable diapers would have been disgusting. Who would want to burn them. Yuck. Besides, I had worked in the infant center of a day care center. Children with cloth diapers had less diaper rash than the others. Besides, the cost was ridiculous. I know that the disposables are much better now, but I just don’t like the idea.
    Jack is just adorable I love the way he is posing for his big photo shoot.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap January 30, 2013 at 10:13 am

      Glad to hear you’re a fan! A lot of people were really surprised when I said I wanted to use cloth and didn’t think I’d stick with it, but it really is pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

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