Monday, October 12, 2009

Go Green - Cloth Diaper

It was The Good Husband's idea to cloth diaper (CD). It was one of those ideas he floated around before we had kids that I kinda just brushed off - like naming one of our kids Atticus.

Then I got pregnant and TGH got super cheap and started to research CD options. I soon took over the research and after a few days of intensive searching we came up our plan of attack.

The first and most overwhelming part of cloth diapering is distinguishing the different types of cloth diapers out there. There are several different kinds and styles. They range in price from the super cheap to the really expensive. We attended a cloth diaper class at a local store (Pinstripes and Polkadots) and were able to see the different styles and types of diapers and learn about cleaning them.

Then there is the Poo Factor.

At first it is a little gross to think about all that poo in your washing machine. However, breastfed babies have poo that is completely water soluble. It will rinse completely away. Secondly, everyone I know that uses disposable diapers will have blowouts, where the poo will explode from the diaper and cover a baby head to toe. All that poo gets on the baby's clothes and where do the clothes get washed? You guessed it - your washing machine. So if you have a baby, you will have poo in your washing machine at some point in time.

We did a combination of pre-fold diapers with covers and a one-size pocket diaper. This is the best mix of cheap and expensive diapers. What does that mean?

Pre-fold - This is what you think of when you think of CDs like your grandma used. They are called pre-folds, even though they are one big square, because in the dark ages of CDs this little diaper was actually 3 times bigger and had to be folded so all the absorbency was in the center.

Today's pre-folds are made to already have that absorbency in the middle so you don't have to fold it down to size. These work with a diaper cover. You will need to learn how to fold them however, to fit your baby and to fit inside a diaper cover. You will also need either diaper pins or Snappies to hold these closed.

Fitteds - These are similar to pre-folds but you don't need to fold and secure them with a pin or a Snappie. They come with snaps so it is super easy and fast to use. This is the best kind of diaper to use in the middle of the night, when you are tired and it is dark and you just want to change a diaper in world record speed to get back to sleep. Think of a cloth diaper in the shape of a disposable with snaps. These will need a cover too.

Covers - These replaced the plastic pants of yore. They have a cloth outside but most are PLU - polyester with urethane coating - on the inside to repel water and poo.

Pocket - This kind of diaper is getting close to a disposable in shape and ease but there is still some work involved. A pocket diaper has the inner cloth diaper and the cover swen together to create one diaper you just put on and secure with the hook and loop tabs (or snaps). You do have to stuff these diapers with a liner that looks like a panty liner but without the adhesive. This diaper is good if you have a heavy wetter, since you can control the absorbency. You do have to be careful when you wash these but I will address that below.

One-size - This is the easiest diaper to use in terms of sizing for your baby. If you don't want to have 5 different sizes of diapers, a one-size diaper will allow you to use the same diaper over and over again, adjusting for size as your baby grows. These diapers feature snaps that will rise with the baby so you never need to worry about having the right size of diaper again. All of these diapers are pocket diapers or all-in-ones - meaning they have the cloth diaper and the cover swen together.

Here is our stash as it looks today:

From bottom left to bottom right: covers, Snappies, cloth wipes, inserts, pre-folds, pocket diapers (the colored ones) and fitted diapers (the tan ones)

Here is what it looked like the first day we got them:

What is in our stash? (We wanted to wash our diapers every other day to every third day.)

~36 pre-fold diapers in Standard Infant (not pictured)
~5 fitted diapers in size 0 (not pictured)
~5 diaper covers in size XS
~15 one-size pocket diapers
~36 cloth wipes
~3 stay dry liners (for the pocket diapers)
~3 diaper doublers (for the pocket diapers)
~3 Snappies
~3 diaper pins
~1 wetbag
~1 pail liner
~2 pair of Baby Legs - b/c they are so damn cute

Prepping and Washing
Pre-fold diapers are not ready to use once you get them. You have to wash them several times in order to get the natural oils off the fibers and to make them absorbent. Notice the difference between the diapers from when I first got them (below) to what they look like now (first photo)?

They got nice and soft by washing them 7-8 times in hot water with just a drop of detergent and then drying.

You have to also pay extra attention to how you wash your CDs when they are soiled. Sadly, you don't want to use homemade laundry soap on them.

To wash the pre-folds, I just toss the diaper and the cloth wipe into the diaper pail and after a few days, empty the bag into the washing machine. I throw the pail liner in with the diapers and covers (although you don't need to wash the covers every time you use them. Unless the cover got poo on it, I usually can use it for a few times and then wash).

I do one cold rise, add a drop (seriously, like 1/8 of a cup) of detergent and wash on hot. I dry them normally.

Washing the pocket diapers are a little more labor intensive but not by much. When you are changing your baby you have to remove the liner and toss that into the diaper pail along with the wipe and diaper. You wash and dry your diapers in the same way as your pre-folds, only taking the time to stuff the pocket back into the diaper as you are folding them and putting them away.

With pocket diapers you have to be very careful you do not do anything to clog the microfiber holes that allow the diaper to absorb liquid. This means using certain types of laundry detergent and NO fabric softeners. I use Arm & Hammer Free and I have had no problems. You can find other CD Safe detergent here:

We have been CDing The Good Baby for almost 4 months now and have not had any problems so far. Our water bills have only increased by less than $10 and we have only had one poo explosion. Overall I am totally happy with CDing. The $1500 I stand to save by CDing TGB and the $2000 I stand to save with each additional baby has been well worth it.


#1SAHM said...

Just out of curiosity, have you looked into how much extra energy and water you will use with all that extra laundry? Those affect the environment too. Even if you use cold water, if you use the dryer, you'll be using heat which is a lot of extra energy. Wash machines take up energy no matter what temperature you use (although cold is less energy) so even if you skip the dryer and line dry, you'll still be using energy. Not to mention all the extra water. I know that baby clothes need to be washed, but do you have any idea how much diapers a baby goes through in a day? I guarantee you that you'll have full loads just of cloth diapers to wash. Good thought, but not exactly "green." Just my opinion. (Although I agree with you that disposable are bad for the environment). Let us know if you have a better solution, etc. Thanks! : )

The Good Wife said...

Mom2Be - You bring up good points. I compared our water and electric use pre-baby and post-baby.

With the extra laundry - which is about 2-3 loads a week now but will lessen as she goes through less - we use about $10 more a month in water and electric. We line dry as much as possible to save but sometimes that is not an option.

While it is not the greenest way to diaper, it is vastly better than using disposables.

The only true 100% green way to deal with baby pee and poo is to go the Elimination Communication route, which frankly, is impossible for two working parents.

Everything else is the lesser of two evils.

Anonymous said...

I'm totally bookmarking this post for future reference. That's the best CD explaination I've seen! :)

Kitty said...

This post is sooo informative. When I have a child I am definitely cloth diapering and I have yet to find a really good definition of what each type is and what a good starter pack is. Thanks fort his post!!