When we began our journey to parenthood, we had a lot of decisions to make from birth plans to nursery décor and everything in between. One choice was an easy one: we would cloth diaper our kids. Three kids later, we still cloth diaper. Why? A combination of frugality, environment, health and simplicity. Yes, that’s right; using cloth is quite simple.
What we’ve discovered along the way is that a lot of misconceptions surround cloth diapering and prevent many from trying it for themselves. For us, it took some research, and trial and error, but we quickly fell into a diapering system that works for our family. We have gotten plenty of questions over the years and we are always happy to answer them and to do our best at dispelling those misconceptions.
What style of diaper do you use?
Once we made the choice to use cloth, the research began. I explored the various types to choose from. In the end, we chose to go cheap with pre-folds and Velcro covers. I had wanted to try all-in-ones, but they had two negatives for me: cost and the amount of dry time. Our decision was further sealed when we used a local cloth diaper service for the first couple of months. Before investing money in buying our own diapers, we thought we would try it out with minimal commitment. Once a week, the service would deliver clean diapers and covers to our doorstep, and pick up a trash bag of dirty ones. When we needed a new size, more diapers or had any questions, all we had to do was call. Using the service helped us realize just how easy diapering could be, so we eventually made the decision to save even more money by purchasing our own diapers. Since we had used pre-folds through the service, we stuck with them.
How do you fold them?
People can get easily intimated when they see a pre-fold. All-in-ones resemble more of a disposable, where as pre-folds are a large rectangle that needs to be folded around the baby and be kept in place with a cover (by the way, pins are no longer required). Here’s the secret: it really doesn’t matter how the diaper is folded as long as it is all tucked inside the waterproof cover. My husband and I have our own folding styles. It’s all a matter of preference. What really matters is that all the cloth is inside the cover so when the cloth gets wet, it won’t leak and soak onto the baby’s outfit…or more.
Where do you put the dirty diapers?
No fancy diaper pails are necessary. All we use is a trashcan with a lid. With the diaper service, we lined the trashcan with a trash bag. Instead of wasting that plastic with each load of diapers after we quit the service, we purchased a large wet bag that fits in the can. When we place the diapers into the washing machine, the bag goes with them. The bag works so well that we decided to buy smaller ones for the diaper bag to put dirty diapers in when we are out and about.
So what happens to the pooh?
In the olden days (when I was a kid in cloth), most people used a wet pail meaning it had water or some sort of cleaning solution in it. The thought of emptying a can full of waste-water doesn’t sound ideal to me. When a baby is exclusively breastfed, the diaper can go directly into the pail with no rinsing or disposal of any sort. It all washes out in the machine. When formula and food are introduced, it becomes necessary to clear out the waste before putting it into the pail and eventually the machine. But even this doesn’t have to be a messy deal. While there are sprayers you can attach to your toilet to wash off a dirty diaper, we have never had to use one. We prefer to use rice paper liners. They are something like a dryer sheet that lay on top of the diaper before it is folded onto the child. Then it catches the solid waste and is easily dumped into the toilet and flushed away. No mess. No worries. Incidentally, it is advised that waste even in disposable diapers be flushed down the toilet instead of put into the landfills to help prevent groundwater contamination.
How do you wash them?
A lot of people assume using cloth means a lot of extra laundry. With a four-month-old, we do a load once every four to five days. We use a very small amount of Tide Free or All Free and Clear detergent. We sometimes use a scoop of Oxyclean or we toss in a Downy ball with vinegar to aid in the rinsing process. We wash on the whitest whites cycle, so it has an extra rinse and hot water. Then we dry them. We have never separated diapers from covers. In fact, we even use cloth wipes (square pieces of flannel that we wet with water right before use). Everything, including the wet bag, goes into the machine together. When the load is dry and done, we stack the diapers and wipes, put them under the changing table and that’s it. In fact, once our kids get old enough, they take over the stacking as one of their chores.
Doesn’t it take a lot of time?
No. Changing a cloth diaper takes as much time as a disposable. Instead of tossing it into the trash, we toss it into the diaper pail. As for the laundry, I’d estimate it takes up 10 minutes a week to get them into the washer and dryer, and then stacked and put them away.
Does it really save money?
Absolutely. Our diaper system includes 36 small pre-folds; 48 large pre-folds; six doublers (absorbent inserts for over-night use); between five and 10 covers in each size small, medium and large; rice paper liners; wet bags in sizes small, medium and extra large; trash can; and deodorizing disks for the diaper pail. Most of the items have been new, but the small pre-folds and some covers were found gently used on Craig’s List. My best estimate for the total cost is $600. That cost has gotten us through two children with number three in them right now. And did I mention that if they remain in good condition, we can sell them in the end? Now that is music to a frugal mom’s ears!
Still have questions about cloth diapering? Comment below and we’ll do our best to answer. Or, if you are a cloth diaperer, tell us what question you most often get asked. And, how do you respond?
This article first appeared in The Family Magazine of Michiana.}