Sunday, April 14, 2013

Dominique's cloth diapering step-by-step

The backstory: My husband and I wanted to do cloth diapering to save money, save the earth, and protect our baby’s bum. We live in NYC which is already so full of people and trash, and my husband and I simply didn’t want to contribute to any more waste. Long story short, I did a lot of research and learned that disposable diapers for the first 2 1⁄2 years can cost up to $3000 whereas re-useable diapers are only a fraction of that.

The research: I originally considered using a diaper service (yes, they still exist). After a bit of cost analysis I soon crossed that off the list because it didn’t fit my family budget. Depending on the type of cloth diaper you choose, a diaper service can run you between $35 and $50 a week. Next, I considered getting a small washer/dryer combo for our apartment in order to do our own washing at home. I had to cross that option off my list because I found out we weren’t allowed to have one in our building. Otherwise the washer and dryer would have been roughly $800-$1500, plus the cost of the diapers. Without that option, my husband convinced me we could manage and make use of the Laundromat down the street from our house. We wash our other clothes there, so why not throw in some cloth diapers? (this arrangement later changed, see my notes in The Cleaning section) Once we settled on the cloth diaper and Laundromat plan, I started researching the whole range of cloth diaper options and prepared to start my shopping.

The Purchase: During the later months of my pregnancy, I obsessively researched all the different brands of cloth diapers, covers, and all-in-ones. The all-in-ones (AIO) are the easiest because they are inserts and diaper covers built into one diaper and only involve one step just like a disposable diaper. However you need more and have to wash more frequently, which would have increased my budget. Actually, before I ruled out the all-in-one diapers, I actually ordered a sample on Ebay which came from China! (I wouldn’t recommend this. Whenever possible, always try to buy local US products, better for our environment and economy).

I finally settled on a combo of waterproof diaper covers with pre-fold cotton diapers. If you are clueless about this whole thing, a diaper cover is a waterproof diaper worn over a cloth diaper or other insert to prevent moisture from getting everywhere. Think of them as a rain coat or shower cap you wear over your underwear. After debating the numerous options, I finally chose the Thirsties brand of diaper covers. I got them on Amazon and they run between $11 and $13 each and they have snaps or Velcro, several different colors and patterns, and they are made in good old USA. I started with a couple of the small newborn size, and then eventually moved up to about 5 pairs of the one size fits all.
Thirsties diaper covers
Once I settled on my diaper covers, I knew I needed the actual cloth diapers. I knew that I wanted something easy so I opted for pre-fold diapers as opposed to the ones that are small blanket size you have to fold into a diaper yourself. I decided to go with the unbleached cotton pre-folds. They have Indian ones and Chinese ones and the only difference is that one is slightly softer and one may last longer. There’s a better breakdown (here). Debating between Chinese and Indian wasn’t a big deal for me, but it got me thinking, what about the African method? Is there one? I remember when I was living in Ghana as an exchange student, I often saw babies with no diapers or a simple cloth wrapped around their bum. In rural tribal communities, parents use truly natural methods and don’t use any diapers and instead rely on cues and “elimination communication” to know when babies need to go. I wasn’t quite ready for that, so I chose the unbleached Indian pre-folds by OsoCozy. One pack of six costs about $11 - $12.
As an upgrade from the safety pins our foremothers used, I ordered Snappi hooks to keep the pre-fold closed which are far better than pins since they don’t prick you or baby. They are easy and come in lots of fun colors.
Once I had my set of Snappi fasteners, pre-folds, and diapers in tow, I just needed a baby to put them on. I waited patiently, practiced on dolls, and pillows, and finally, my little girl was born!
Practice Makes Perfect: After Leena-Deen was born, I used the disposable diapers provided by the hospital, family, and friends. While I wanted to get into my cloth diapering routine right away, I was happy to have the free disposables (about a 2 month supply) which made things a little easier in those first few weeks of sleepless nights. If I'm blessed with another baby, I feel confident and ready to do the cloth diapers from day one. (ask me that again when baby #2 comes, lol)
After the first couple months, I easily transitioned from the disposable to the cloth diapers considering I had been researching, watching videos, and practicing for a couple months before I even had a baby. My baby and her bum were comfortable, chemical and rash free, and best of all, I had no trash! In lieu of baby wipes, I used cut up towels and t-shirts which I moistened with a mix of water and Dr. Bronners Baby Mild Soap. When needed, I moisturized her bum with baby oil, coconut oil that me and hubby use, or organic baby lotion. My favorite which you can get from Target is Shea Moisture Organic Raw Shea Chamomile & Argan Oil Baby Healing Lotion.

The cleaning: As I mentioned before, we decided to use the Laundromat down the street to clean our cloth diapers along with our other laundry. There are a couple of methods you can use to handle dirty cloth diapers. Some suggest just storing them in a closed plastic trash can or laundry bag with baking soda or scented oils on the bottom to keep smells out. I tried that, it still stinks! Others suggest having a “wet pail”, which is basically a closed lid bucket or trash you keep filled with water and let the diapers soak until you’re ready to wash. I tried that, it still stinks! By the time I got to the laundry mat with wet or dried on pee or poop diapers, I was a walking trail of stink. It was truly a walk of shame. I’d throw the diapers in the wash and quickly shut the washing machine door before anyone noticed the stench was coming from me. It wasn’t horrible like NYC trash on hot summer day stink; it was more like ammonia (the lingering pee smell) mixed with a faint smell of poop stink. It’s bearable in your own home with your own washing machine, but not fair to other public laundry users. So, my husband said “Forget about the Laundromat, I’ll just hand wash them myself”. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I realized he was serious. He’s a frugal man, and on that day, I saw he’s the world’s best dad and I can’t wait to tell our daughter that he hand washed her poop diapers. I will say this only works for us because he’s at home with her during the day. If our daughter was in day-care or had another caretaker I might have gone with the all-in-one diaper plan and the dry bag that we’d hand wash ourselves at night.
Now my husband’s routine may sound overwhelming, but really it’s not that bad. And I usually take on the tasks during the weekend when I’m home all day. The baby goes through about 6-10 pre-folds and maybe 2-3 diaper covers a day depending on if the diaper covers get wet or dirty. In a whole day, only 2 or 3 of the diaper changes have poop. So as the day goes by and she does her business, my husband just takes out
the pre-fold from the diaper cover and rinses it with water to get the pee out. Then he sets it aside in a bucket or in the tub or bathroom sink until he can wash it with soap later in the day. If there’s poop, he shakes or scrapes the solids into the toilet, then follows the same routine as the pee diapers. Some cloth diaper users use handheld sprayers attached to the toilet or bath to spray off the poopy diapers, but I didn’t find it necessary to invest in. At the end of the night, he gets his bucket and soap and hand washes the small pile of dirty pre-folds. Then, he wrings them out and hangs them to dry. If he has a heavier load, I occasionally help out or hang out with him in the bathroom while he does the washing. Then, we either hang them in the bathroom or on a clothesline we put up in her room. It may sound crazy but it works and isn’t a big burden at all. On a few occasions, the loads did pile up in which case we were sometimes left with our stinky bucket problem. But it never lasts long and by changing the water we are able to buy ourselves another odor-free day. If we are really behind, we resort to the laundry method we started with but that is only on a rare occasion. We use Dr. Bronners Baby Mild Soap or sometimes just use the baby’s SheaMoisture Raw Shea Chamomile & Argan Oil Baby Head-To-Toe Wash & Shampoo. There was a short period when we started introducing Leena-Deen to different foods so she was going through more diapers while her body adjusted. My husband was washing more diapers each night and started getting raw chapped hands, so I bought him some dishwashing gloves and later even ordered a Wonder Washer for $60 which is basically a plug in cleaning appliance that swishes around a small load of clothes. Think of it as an oversized blender for clothes. It didn’t work when it arrived (busted motor) and after testing out the replacement, we both realized we were better off hand washing in a bucket and using a stick to swish the clothes around. Needless to say, I returned the item. Good old fashioned hand washing worked for us. Maybe on our next round with our a second child, I might want to find something to assist us with wringing out the diapers. But I’m hoping that by baby #2, we’re living in a bigger place where we can utilize an energy efficient washer/dryer. However, knowing my husband, we’ll probably be using a bicycle or solar powered machine!

The remix: My cloth diaper routine was going quite well early on, but I sometimes found myself in a predicament of not having enough pre-folds at my disposal. They are pretty thick, and since I don’t have an outdoor clothes line and wasn’t using a dryer, they took a while to dry inside of my apartment even with a fan. I didn’t want to spend any more money on more pre-folds, so I looked for an alternative and found a 60 pack of 100% cotton flannel pre-folded diapers for $20. The price was too good to be true, so I took a gamble and ordered them on Amazon. 100% Cotton Flannel Prefolded Diapers 60 Pack. They aren’t as thick or absorbent as the pre-folds, but they also dry faster, I can use two at a time, or 1 with a folded wash cloth for extra absorption. And you don’t need to use the Snappi or other pins with these. They are contoured and easily fold in and stay in place under the diaper cover. They are also good to use as wipes and burp cloths. This combination has worked quite well for us. Even though Leena-Deen spends the majority of her time at home, we’re still able to do the diapering on the go. We just bring an extra bag to keep the used diapers in until we’re home to wash them. I had no problem keeping up my routine when I took her to visit my family in LA. And I was happy to use my family’s washer/dryer. When we went on a European trip just
before her first birthday, I opted to buy one pack of diapers since I knew we’d be on the go and didn’t want to bring extra bags I unsure of our washing set-up in each place we were visiting. I brought a small pack from home and also bought a pack of cute natural disposable diapers in Paris. Knowing what I know now, I could probably do the cloth diapering on an international trip with some advance preparation.

Potty Training:
Now, I’m happy to say that through all the trials and tribulations, Leena-Deen is on her way to being diaper free and she’s only 1 1⁄2 . I’m hopeful she’ll be out of diapers and into undies or cloth training pants by age 2. We’re just now embarking on our potty training journey, so I’ll re-cap that in the coming weeks.

Green living = more green in my pocket:
In addition to my daughter’s advancements in potty training, I’m also happy to report that the total I spent on her diapers, soaps, laundry, and other accessories was approximately $350! This is slightly yes than most other cloth diaper users who buy more covers, pre-folds, or all-in-ones and all the other diaper accessories like the cloth wipes and cleaners and bags and average a total cost of $1000 - $1500 which is still considerably less than the $3000 that most spend on disposables, diaper rash creams, and other add-ons. So take a moment to consider if this a line item in your family budget that you want to save on or if you just want to challenge yourself and your family to being more frugal and environmental. With my extra savings, I can set money aside for our first home purchase, buy some cute new cotton underwear for my little lady and I can get nice hand cream and give my hubby a much needed hand massage after doing all that hand washing!

Cloth diapers worked for us and may work for you too! ~Dominique 

No comments:

Post a Comment