Cloth diapering has come a long way since the days of our parents, and no longer requires the use of safety pins and thin strips of cloth that must be fashioned into a reasonable semblance of a diaper. What I found is that there are cloth diapers that are just as easy to put on and take off as a disposable diaper, maybe requiring some extra work to clean, but certainly nothing that’s too hard to handle (that is until the introduction of solid foods, but we’ll talk about that later).
After researching the various options I chose to go the middle ground. Some cloth diapers are cheaper than others, but may not work as well or last as long. The reality of the matter is that these diapers are going to get plenty of use, so you need something that can stand up to the task at hand. Being that my family was about to change our status to “single income”, we didn’t have a lot to spend. So we chose a brand of diapers called “Happy Heiny’s”, because the price is reasonable, about $18-19 which includes the liner in a small and a large size for the one size diapers, and because they are extremely user friendly.
There are lots of pocket diapers out there that work equally as well: Fuzzibunz, Bum Genius, Rumparooz, Tweedle bugs, Knickernappies, BabyKicks, Thirsties, etc.
Happy Heiny’s cloth diapers fall in the category of pocket diapers, meaning that the inserts which absorb liquid go inside an outer cover and are removed for washing. The entire diaper, cover and inserts, is washed at the same time, though separated into pieces. The second, smaller insert that you see above is an extra hemp “soaker” that helps stop leaking (these cost about $2-3 a piece beyond the price of the diaper and are necessary if you have a heavy wetter).
The above diaper is also a “one size fits all” diaper. It is supposed to fit all the way up to the child is potty trained. I did not have the one size diapers with my first son, so I can’t attest to it, but it gets pretty darn big. They were actually too big at first, so we used Chinese Prefolds instead.
Prefolds are very affordable and, though they are not nearly as cushy and plush, they work very well. I actually thought that these were only one step up from the pin and cloth diaper, but they are much better than that. We use these as our “back up” diapers so we don’t run out. I use organic hemp ones, which run a bit more, but hemp is extremely absorbent and gets even more absorbent the more you wash it.
As you can see, you fold the prefold under on both sides (called a prefold because the fold is already there for you), and place it on top of the outer liner. You usually need to fold the front under, which keeps boy babies from leaking out, and makes the diaper fit better. The outer liner (red) does not necessarily have to be washed every time. It is lined with a waterproof coating that you can just wipe down if it is a bit wet, but you should wash it if it gets a little poop on it, which can happen. The outer liners can cost around $10-13, but you don’t need as many since they can be wiped down and used more between washes.
There are also diapers called “all in ones” that have the inserts built into the diaper and are washed all as one piece. I personally don’t like these at much so I don’t have any of those. Some people love these because there is no “stuffing” involved and they are easy on easy off. I find them a bit harder to get clean and you can’t bleach or strip them in any way, whereas with pocket diapers you can strip the inserts to give them new life (see below).
Now, we also decided with Kyan and again with the twins to do cloth wipes. This may sound crazy, but once you start doing it you will realize it is so easy! There are several options here. We ordered hemp “washcloth” wipes the first time we did this, and they worked fine. This time, however, I got some terry fleece wipes that I LOVE!
I have them stacked in the drawer of the changing table and when I need one I pull it out and wet it down with my wipes solution, which is in a bottle next to the changing table.
The wipes solution is simply water with a bit of a wipes solution concentrate that I purchased. I recently bought some little discs that dissolve in the water and smell quite nice. It’s nice to have a bit of a smell and the essential oils moisturize baby a bit; Using just water works perfectly fine, however. Just check out diapering sites and search for “wipes solution” if you are interested in that. I use much less of the concentrate than suggested just to make it last.
The other alternative here, which I have seen done, is to pre-wet your wipes with the solution, roll them up and put them in a wipes warmer. Sounds nice, but a lot of work, and when I did that with the hemp wipes they eventually smelled really bad. I haven’t tried it with these new ones.
Now, once you have the diapers you have to use them and this is where it gets a bit messy. Here is the system I have set up:
Basically, the diaper champ is the dry bin, and the other is a wet bin. You can get these at a diapering store, too. The wet bin has a removable 10 gallon bucket in it that can be filled with water and I also add a few squirts of “Biokleen”, an environmentally friendly product that reduces smell. I never had a wet bin with my first child, but I highly recommend it!
In the dry bin I put wipes or diapers that don’t have any poop on them. I put ALL inserts in the wet bin, because they are the thing that tends to get stinky eventually. The diaper champ works for cloth diapers, as I was told when it was given to me, but I wouldn’t say it works fabulously. You could certainly use something else for a dry bin, though it should have a lid of some sort as it tends to smell.
I lug the big heavy bucket to the utility room, dump the water in the utility sink (or not…it can go right into the machine, too), and put the rest in the wash. When the twins were newborns I could just dump the poopy diapers right into the wet bin, but once the poops get more solid you will need to put the waste into the toilet before putting the diaper in the bin. There is a great product that attaches to your toilet and has a sprayer on it to rinse them right into the toilet. I may get that eventually, but never had it with Kyan and I did fine!
In the washing machine I rinse the whole load once in cold water on a “light” wash, then again in HOT water with detergent on a “heavy” wash. Then it all goes in the dryer. There are a few different cloth diaper friendly detergents to choose from. You cannot use regular detergents with cloth diapers because they will break down the waterproofing and the fibers. I use “Country Save” because it is less expensive, and I can order it through Amazon.com’s subscribe and save program for an extra 15% off and free shipping. GREAT DEAL!!
I did have to recently “strip” my liners because the older ones, from the days of Kyan, were kind of stinky. To do this you use a bit of vinegar or bleach (bleach is a HUGE no no with cloth diapers, EXCEPT for the terrycloth liners, which should occasionally be bleached), and wash them in HOT water at least 5-7 times! You only use the bleach the first time, and the other cycles you just use the hot water. It works wonders!
Now, the next point of difficulty is leaving home. With Kyan, I must admit, I did not use the cloth diapers outside of the home. I figured I would be easy on myself and buy chlorine free diapers to use for outings. If you choose to do this I would suggest the Seventh Generation chlorine free diapers, and again, I order those through Amazon’s subscribe and save and get a great deal!
With the twins, however, I decided to go all out and cloth diaper almost exclusively. So, I purchased a wet bag (also at diapering stores) that goes in my diaper bag. When I take off a cloth diaper, I stick it in there and deal with it at home. It’s much easier than I realized! We still use disposables if we go out of town, since it is harder to do the laundry etc. wherever we may be. As they are getting older they are leaking a bit more so we have been doing disposables more when we go out. I think the most important thing is to do what works for you!
All in all, I have to say that it is not a huge inconvenience to do cloth diapering, but it is a HUGE benefit for our income, our environment, and our babies. There is a rather large starting cost to get yourself all set up, but it is only a fraction of what you will eventually spend over 2-3 years of disposable diapering (especially with twins!). I cut our initial costs by registering only for cloth diapers for my second baby shower, and I also had a lot of friends hand down stuff to me, like the prefolds and the diaper bins. You can sometimes find cloth diapering supplies at consignment stores, and I know in Portland several of the diaper stores have consignment, too.
So, if you decide to go for it, GOOD LUCK! Feel free to comment or e-mail me (email@example.com) if you have any questions!
2011 FHM Support Services
Mommy to Kyan (3 1/2), Mason and Ronan (8 months)