Cloth Diapers Made Easy

I knew we would use cloth diapers before Adam was born. For us, it came down to expense. By the time Adam is toilet trained, we will have spent about $500, including cloth training pants and other cloth diaper accessories and everything can be used again for another baby. That sure beats spending $80-$100 a month on diapers alone. I didn’t feel good about whatever it is in disposible diapers that make them “stay dry”. Ladies, that ain’t right.

Like a lot of new moms, I was overwhelmed by the choice and advice that’s available. Prefolds, pockets, all-in-ones… it’s enough to make a hormonal-charged pregnant woman cry. Here’s my experience with one of the cheapest ways you can go with cloth diapers (with perhaps the exception of making your own diapers). I’ll make it as simple as possible.

We bought the Bummis Prefold Cloth Diaper Package from www.bynature.ca and www.caterpillarbaby.com.

Prefolds and Covers

With prefolds, you have the cloth diaper, which is flat and square (infant size) or rectangular (premium size) and a diaper cover, which helps secure the diaper in place and protects baby’s clothes from the moisture when the diaper becomes wet.

One of the things I liked about the prefolds and this particular package is dealing with two sizes only. The prefolds come in infant size (7 lbs to 15 lbs) and premium (15 lbs to 40 lbs).

The package comes with two different kinds of covers and there are dozens more out there. Diaper covers all do the same job; your choice of cover really comes down to preference. Some will fit your baby’s shape better, some will look better under clothes, some will dry faster, some will have cuter patterns. Most people collect a few different kinds. I use the covers that came with the package and haven’t succombed to the lure of others because, again, the biggest reason for prefolds was saving money.

Folding Your Diaper

At first, I found folding the cloth diaper a bit intimidating. There are countless folds and even more advice about which is best. In practice, it isn’t the tricky origami it may seem. In reality, it’s just folding a diaper. My advice is to choose a fold and stick with it for the first few days or weeks until you have a problem or you get giddy to experiment. I used the newspaper fold – folding the diaper into thirds – until we started having poo leaking onto the cover. By that time I realized it was just folding and folded it differently to contain everything a bit more.

Assembly

The popular advice is to have the diaper all put together with diaper, cover and liner (more on liners further down) and ready to slide under baby. For me, keeping the diaper lined up with the cover under a squirming baby to be more trouble than securing the cloth, thus protecting yourself from any impending mess then adding the cover.

This is the Snappi:

There are many, many videos available of a Snappi in use. Very simply, it has wee little teeth on the ends which grab the fabric and hold everything together. It’s easy to use and safe – the teeth don’t go through the fabric, they simply grab the topmost layer of fabric. Using the Snappi replaces old fashioned pins and keeps the cloth diaper together.

Liners

Until your baby is on solids and you’ll want to shake off the poop before you dump your diaper in the pail or you’re using some cream on your baby, liners aren’t necessary. There are dozens of liners that will absorb more or feel dryer, but I never found the need for them. If you’re like me and want a simpler life, don’t worry about liners unless/until you have to.

And P.S. Flushables liners? Lies, all lies. Our plumber and a $300 plumbing bill prove otherwise.

Dirty Diapers

We use the “dry pail”. Both our diapering packages came with wet bags. I bought an ordinary kitchen garbage can (the kind with the step to lift the lid) and put the wet bag inside. The pail isn’t sealed or locked and if we wash every other day, I don’t notice a smell. There’s no need to rinse – if you’re exclusively breast feeding, the poop is water soluble. Just toss the diaper in the pail and forget about it until wash day. Since Adam started on solids, we use a “flushable” liner and threw the liner and poop in the garbage and washed the diaper as usual.

Washing

This can be a controversial subject. There’s a lot of talk about RUINING your cloth diapers by washing with baking soda, vinegar, the wrong detergent, too little water. Relax – it’s cotton. You’ve washed cotton before and most washing errors can be fixed.

This is how I wash mine:

1. Cold water rinse, no detergent. This gets the messes out.

2. Hot water wash, cold water rinse, with Nature Clean detergent. You don’t need much detergent, so don’t be put off by the cost of buying a fancier detergent than you normally use. A second rinse will help keep your diapers from getting stinky from detergent residue.

3. Hang dry, in the sun if possible to eliminate stains.

A wash routine for cloth diapers isn’t complicated and you can deal with wash issues as they arise.

Adam was born in February and we couldn’t hang the diapers in the sun until May. There were stains on diapers that had been there for months. After two weeks of line drying, you’d never know a baby had pooped there. Amazing.

Trouble

The only trouble I have had is some stinky diapers and covers. We have very hard water and even if I use little detergent, eventually I get a stink. The smell is harder to get out of covers, but getting it out of diapers is quite easy. Here are a few things that have worked for me:

  • Baking soda in the wash, vinegar in the rinse. Some people (and companies) will tell you this will ruin your diapers or make a smell worse. It has a lot to do with your water and what’s in it and what exactly is making your diapers stink. I was afraid to go this route until I figured I couldn’t live with the smell of the diapers and reminded myself that prefolds are just cotton. The baking soda/vinegar combination saved my diapers. If you’re feeling brave, try it.
  • Running a wash cycle without detergent. Again and again. Sometimes the diapers just need a lot of water. This can do wonders.
  • The magic of Blue Dawn and stripping. Again, it sounds more complicated than it is. Every month or so, I do a usual wash but instead of laundry detergent, I use Blue Dawn – the original scented dish soap, which you can find everywhere, including the dollar store. Do an extra rinse or two if you’re seeing soap bubbles in the rinse cycle.

When you find a wash routine that works for you, don’t worry about the chatter about ruining diapers.This ain’t rocket science.

One of the wonderful things about cloth diapering is that there are so many other moms online talking about it. Whatever problems you may run into, there is so much help and advice. Whatever your reasons for cloth diapering – mine was saving money – go for it and have fun!

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