Cloth diapering seemed more like wishful thinking than reality when we were preparing for Little Bird’s birth. Like the vegetable garden in my backyard that I’ll eventually get to, so was the thought of wrapping our little one in washable diapers. Then Bird was born and off to the store we went, to buy disposable diapers. In two weeks we were driving to the store again to buy another box of disposables. The piles of dirty diapers in our trash can began to take its toll, not just on the environment, but mentally as well. It wasn’t until we took Little Bird to an Earth Day fair last April, that I finally made a serious plunge into the world of cloth diapering. While carrying Little Bird I stumbled into a local cloth diaper support group, and was asked by a member if my baby wears cloth. I responded with an embarrassing “no.” Then quickly tried to save face with “…but I want to!” For some reason, an overwhelming rush of guilt washed over me, as if I were lazy and weren’t providing the best for my newborn baby. But the support group member, carrying her tiny 2 month old, wrapped in bright colored cloth diaper, just smiled and handed me a flyer on how to cloth diaper my baby. Next thing I knew, I was placing an order for a pack of cloth diapers online.
Like disposable diapers, there are many styles and brands of cloth diapers for your baby. All-in-one’s, pocket diapers, one size diapers, pre-fold diapers, the list is endless. And although the old cloth and diaper pin style still exists, (which is probably what you’ve been picturing thus far), it’s as obsolete as televisions with antennas. These days, cloth diapered babies are wrapped in modern looking diapers, with velcro or button snaps, and built for convenience, which means you can wash them yourself. New Mommy and I decided to get one-size pocket diapers from a brand called Bum Genius. The great thing about these is that they are size adjustable via button snaps and should last the duration of Little Bird’s diaper wearing years. They consist of a diaper cover that resembles a typical disposable diaper, except lined in cloth, velcro tabs at one end, and a pocket where a micro-fiber insert is placed to absorb wetness. In addition to cloth diapering, it’s good to have reusable cloth wipes. We picked up a pack of flannel cotton wipes and use a spray solution consisting of essential oils and purified water.
I know what you’re thinking; the thought of washing cloth diapers is enough to make you lose your lunch over. Well it’s not that bad. Once the diaper is soiled, remove the insert from the diaper and toss both into a dry diaper pail lined with a water proof liner, or a wet bag if you’re out and about. You can find diaper pail liners and wet bags at cloth diaper stores online. For the diaper pail, we purchased a basic kitchen trash can with a pop-up lid from Target, and placed it in the laundry room. Little Bird goes through about 12 diapers, almost two days worth, before I start washing them. It’s recommended to use a free and clear laundry detergent for washing, because the dyes and perfumes found in standard detergents interfere with the micro-fiber inserts ability to absorb wetness and they can irritate your baby’s behind. I use Seventh Generation Free and Clear detergent, which works well. What about wasting water you ask? Well, if you have a high efficiency (HE) front load washer, it uses about 60% less water than a standard washer. If you do not have access to an HE washer, you can wash during non-peak hours and set the wash to a light load and use less detergent. Hang drying the diapers and inserts saves on gas and electric use and helps increase the diapers longevity too.
Yes, it happens. Sometimes Bird’s little messes will stain the diapers and inserts, and washing alone, though it may clean it, doesn’t always get the stains out. I use a combination of three things to help remove and prevent stains. 1) Line the diapers with a diaper liner, which is made of biodegradable, flushable viscose rayon. This helps make messes easier to clean up, just by flushing the soiled liner in the toilet; 2) Pre-treat stains with Biokleen Bac-out spray, a biodegradable, non-toxic odor and stain remover that I found at Whole Foods; and 3) Hang dry stained diapers and inserts outside in the sun, and the stains magically disappear. Using a combination of the three of these, especially the third, stains have never been a problem for us.
Needless to say, cloth against a baby’s bottom trumps synthetics treated with chemicals like chlorine that can promote irritation and diaper rash. Organic cotton diapers are even better, but costs a bit more. For the first month alone, we spent about $60 on disposable diapers. In two years that would add up to roughly $1500 in disposable diapers. Not to mention 4300 bacteria infested diapers that will sit in a landfill for 500 years or longer. The cloth diapers we have were $17.95 each and can be used at least a hundred times. Plus they look better on Little Bird. Cloth may take a little more effort to use, honestly though, I’d rather wash diapers than dishes any day. If your baby is wearing disposables, hopefully this information will help in considering the switch to cloth. It doesn’t have to be full time either. We are only in our 2 month of cloth diapering and we’re still building our stash of cloth. So it’s not yet realistic for us to cloth diaper full time. Luckily there are alternatives to regular disposables. When our cloth diapers are in the wash and when we travel we make sure to have a few biodegradable disposable diapers from Nature Babycare on hand.
Cloth diapering may sound intimidating, but seriously, it’s not that hard to do. Give it a try. I bet your baby will be a happier one for it.