Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Why and how cloth diapers work for us!

(I am not being paid by BumGenius, or cotton babies, to write this post.  These opinions/instructions are just simply based off of my own, personal experience.)

I want to start off by openly admitting that I am not a cloth diaper expert.

I am sure that there will be some of you reading this that know way more than I ever will know.  I don't have all the answers.  But I've been asked quite a bit to share why and how we cloth diaper, so I thought I'd try and get it all answered in one post!

At what age did you start cloth diapering your kids?
We were given disposable newborn and size 1 diapers for both of our kids as gifts when they were born.  We used those until they were gone and then started cloth diapering.  Ellis was just about 4 months and Olive was 2 months.  The diapers we use have a 7 lb minimum...so unless you have a super tiny baby, you can start as soon as you'd like!

Why do you cloth diaper?
There are a lot of reasons why someone would cloth diaper.  The most common seem to be to help the environment and to save money.  I'll be honest here.  It's not that I don't care about the earth, but that is not why we chose the cloth diaper route.  It was 100% a financial decision for us.  We simply didn't have an extra $50/month in our budget for diapers when we knew there was another option.

But they are expensive and I don't know if I can justify the upfront cost.  Does it really save that much money?
We did some research and found that the average cost to diaper one kid per month in disposables was around $30-$50.  (The cheaper end being the generic brand, which I am not at all opposed to!)  And the average kid is potty trained by 2.5 years old.  So, even on the cheapest end, you are looking at spending $1000+ to diaper a child through to being potty trained.

The cost of a cloth diaper varies largely based on which style/brand you go with.  There are some prefolds/covers that are dirt cheap all the way up to $60 designer cloth diapers.  And surprisingly people will pay a lot for cloth!  We went the middle of the road.  We wanted something easy but affordable.  The diapers we selected cost $18/diaper.

Here's a tip, ask for them as gifts!  Birthday, Christmas, baby shower, etc.  We put them on our baby registry and were gifted 6 diapers for Ellis.  I bought another 6 on a buy 5 get one free sale ($90).  The other costs involved are a couple wet bags (approx $10 each) and diaper liners ($10 roll).  We ended up bying a couple of hemp inserts for night time when Ellis got a little older to avoid leaks at night.  Those cost about $30.  So we had a grand total of $160 that we paid for our diapers.

Even if you bought all 12 full price, you are looking at around $250, which is still less than a fourth of what you would pay for generic disposables.  

And I don't know where people get the idea that your water bill will explode.  It's almost funny.  It's like they think cloth diapering families slave away doing multiple crazy water sucking loads of laundry a day.  Sure, it added about 3 extra loads of laundry a week.  Maybe a little extra water on the bill, but I can honestly say we never noticed any significant increase.  Also, the amount of detergent you use per load is so minimal the extra cost for that is also next to nothing.

What type/brand did you choose and why?
We use BumGenius 4.0 pocket style diapers (with snaps).

A pocket diaper has an outer shell, with a removable insert.  The insert is the part that absorbs, the outer shell is the part that is waterproof and keeps the diapers from leaking.  We chose the pockets because I liked the ability to stuff them with different types of inserts as needed (for example the hemp inserts for night time use).  Besides the one-step stuffing of the diaper, they are so similar to a regular diaper in the changing process.  That was really a plus for my semi-hesistant husband :)

The other reason we chose the 4.0s is that they are what is called a "one size" diaper.   This means that the same diaper can be used on my 8 pound baby and my 20 month old.  They have different snaps on the front that adjust and allow them to "grow" with the baby all the way up until they are no longer in diapers.

I have heard the argument that some babies don't fit in the one size and therefore need the more fitted diapers.  (therefore needing to buy new cloth diapers as the baby grows and adding significantly to the overall cost of cloth diapering) That may be the case for a select few, but I would argue that BumGenius really does a great job with their one size diapers.  I have had a super skinny lanky baby and a short chubby baby and have had no fit issues with either one so far.

Also, the brand is very reputable and so far we have only had one manufacturing issue.  One of the diaper shells started to break down and leaked out of the PUL (the outer waterproof layer).  We tried a few "home remedies" that I found on pinterest and had no luck at fixing it.  A friend of mine said she had a similar issue and BumGenuis replaced the diaper at no cost to her.  I am sure if I took the time to look into it they would do the same for me, but I honestly just haven't done that.

Besides that, all of the diapers we have work and look like new even after almost 2 years of full-time use.

What about buying used cloth diapers?
There are a lot of mix opinions on this.  I am sure even a lot of my cloth friends won't even agree with me on this one...but I don't like the idea of buying used.  It has nothing to do with it being gross or unsanitary.  It completely has to do with investing your money wisely.  First off, cloth diapers retain their value very well and so the cost of used is only slightly cheaper than buying new.

But, more importantly, you have absolutely no clue how the last owner took care of their diapers.  Did they wash them with bleach too many times?  Did they accidentally use fabric softener?  Did they wash with a detergent that possibly clogged up the inserts?  You have no idea.  They may have done some serious damage to those diapers that you will not find out until they start going bad.  You also have no warranty and usually no way to contact the seller for a refund.

Most cloth diaper companies out there have a trial period where you can try and return if you don't like them.  And most new diapers have a warranty from the manufacturer that if something breaks or wears down early on, you can get it replaced.  But not if you aren't the original owner.

I think over the years of diapering you are more likely to spend less money and less worry if you invest in a set of new, reputable brand cloth diapers.  

How many diapers do you have?
We had 12 with Ellis and then bought another 12 for Olive.  Most companies will recommend closer to 18-24 diapers per baby.  Obviously that would be nice and mean less laundry, but again, we did this to save money, so we only had 12.   And here's a little secret the cloth diaper companies won't tell you...it really wasn't hard.  

How often do you have to do laundry?
Well, because we only had 12 diapers for Ellis, we did a load of diapers about every 1.5 days.  Depending on how many he went through there were some days we did a load each night and there were other days we could go a day between washing.  As he got older and used less diapers we were able to go every other day pretty consistently.

What is your wash method?
We have run the gamut on wash methods.  This is the one tricky thing about cloth diapering.  You have to find out what works best for your washer and water type.  It's a lot of live and learn.

This is our current regimen
(but again...what works perfectly for us may not work for you at all...but I'd be happy to help you troubleshoot if you are having washing issues!)

Medium water level (too much water doesn't scrub enough, too little water left them stinky)
1 cold rinse cycle (no soap)
1 hot wash cycle (2 tablespoons of Tide Original Ultra Powder detergent*)
1 hot rinse cycle
Dry inserts on hot
Hang shells to dry**

(*Tide is typically not a recommended cloth diaper detergent.  But after a lot of research we found that the liquid detergents were were using were clogging up our diapers and a lot of people were reporting good luck with the Tide Ultra Powder.  It ended up working for us.  Other tide detergents can ruin your diapers so don't try without lots of research.)

(**in light of full disclosure here...we used to be great at hang drying the shells, but lately have slacked off and dried them in the dryer quite a bit.  This is not recommended, but we have seen zero issues with it and know a lot of people who do it.  Just know, if you machine dry the shells, you void the warranty on the diaper.)

About once a month I throw in 1/2 cup of bleach to the wash to help with stains and smell.  (recommended by BumGenius)

But don't you hate how big and bulky they are?  Do they fit well under clothes?
Honestly I've never thought twice about it.  Even more, I think it's cute.  We have never had any clothes not fit because of cloth diapers :)  Sure, your kiddo may have a fluffier butt than others, but is not having that really worth $750+?

I want to try cloth diapers but I am afraid of leaks.  Do you get a lot of leaks?
We had some leaks in the beginning with Ellis, but I write that off to being a newbie.  We probably didn't have the snaps tight enough or left the diaper on for too long.  After about a week we figured it out and the leaks stopped.

Then around 9 months we started having leaks again.  This time was a little more frustrating.  We were seemingly doing everything right and they just kept leaking.  We ended up stripping the diapers and finding a new detergent.

For those curious, the best way to strip BumGenius diapers is to add a tablespoon of blue Dawn dish soap to the wash cycle and then rinse 4-5 extra rinses.  Then dry as normal.

Since we did that, we have had no serious leak issues.  Every now and then if we are out running errands and leave E in a diaper a little too long we will leak, but again, that's user error.

If you are having leak issues, keep trying.  This can be a big frustration in the moment, but it's worth hanging on and figuring it out.  Don't give up.  I'd be happy to help anyone troubleshoot leak issues if you want to comment below or email me!

What do you do about babysitters/church nursery/etc?
Well, that's up to you.  We personally just talk to each person and let them decide what to do.  We don't force anyone to cloth diaper our kids :)  Thankfully everyone that we have ever asked has no issue doing it once they see how easy it is.  It really is like taking off and putting on a disposable, just with snaps instead of sticky tabs.  And you don't throw it away, of course! :)

If you want to make it easy though, just keep a couple disposables with you and use them when you leave your kid with someone.  It won't break the bank if you use them sparingly.

What is your actual diapering process from beginning to end?
We keep the diapers in a drawer in our living room.  When a kid needs a change, I grab a (pre stuffed) diaper, a liner, and wipes.  I unsnap the diaper, wipe the baby, and remove the dirty diaper.  Then (just as you would with a disposable, grab a new diaper and snap it on.   We keep the dirty diapers in a pail by the washing machine.  When the diapers are all dirty we wash, dry, stuff, and then put them back in the drawer.  Really is pretty simple.

And...when we go out, I just throw a few diapers in the diaper bag and a wet bag for storing the dirty ones.  Same process besides that!

and...the question you're all dying to ask...
What do you do with the poop?
You see, there are these handy little things called liners.  Don't cloth diaper with out them.  Just don't.
They look like dryer sheets and go on top of the diaper, against babies skin.  They collect the poop.  Sure, some may slip through, around, or out, but they collect it 99% of the time.   I take the liner and wipes and flush them (I don't actually touch them, just open the diaper and shake them into the toilet).  Then throw the dirty diaper in a pail/wetbag.  If any poop leaked onto the diaper, you may need to do a quick rinse before you throw them in the wash.  A utility sink is perfect for this.    Don't bother with diaper sprayers.  They are just a mess to try and use without covering yourself in poo splatters.
Yes, I said poo splatters.  Just buy the liners. Please.

(My mom just said poo splatters.  I apologize for her.)

So, there ya go!
I'm a big advocate for cloth diapers and really hope that this post helped you see how simple it can be.  If you are still on the fence about it and have further questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

Also, if you use another brand/style of diaper that you love, please share the love below! :)

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