Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cloth Diapering (The Illustrated Edition)

So a few people have been asking how cloth diapering is going and I have to say...  it's super easy.  Like no problem at all.  Like I can't believe everybody who has a washer and dryer doesn't cloth diaper.  It's THAT easy.

(And remember, I am easily grossed out.  For example:  I had to pick up Cooper's runny dog poop on a walk the other day and I started gagging and then full-out dry heaving because it was so liquidy and David finally grabbed the bag of poop from me and left me retching curb-side as he pushed the stroller away, pretending he didn't know me.)

There are MANY kinds of cloth diapers, all with various pros and cons, so I'm just going to tell you what we do and how it works for us.  In detail.  With photo illustrations.  My dad's here, so I have some time.  Feel free to skip this post if you're bored already.

This is where the magic cloth diapering happens.  Observe the crazy monkey. He's always climbing the palm tree!  Caro thinks he is hilarious.
Caroline wears Bum Genius 4.0's.  They are not the newest model, but they were the newest model when we bought them for Eliza (almost two years ago).  We also have a few Fuzzi Bunz that were hand-me-downs from a friend, but those are still a little too big (they leak around the leg holes).  So right now we are exclusively using Bum Geniuses.  Ours are one-size-fits-all diapers with snaps that adjust as the baby grows.

Close up of the snaps
(We have a couple of velcro fastening diapers, which I love for ease/convenience, but I've read that the velcro wears out so we decided to invest in snaps since these diapers will grow with this baby and hopefully be used if we have any baby ducks in the future.)  We did use disposable diapers for the first few weeks until Caroline got to be around 10 pounds and the Bum Geniuses fit better around her little thighs.  We also used disposables when traveling over Labor Day weekend.

Our opinion?  Cloth diapers rock.  Disposables are lame.

Caroline's face demonstrates her opinion of disposable diapers.
Ours are also "pocket diapers" which means the outer shell is your basic diaper-outer-layer (with a cute colored outside and microfiber inside) and there is a pocket in which you put an absorbent insert (or two as baby gets bigger and pees more).

Here you can see the absorbent insert (on the left) outside of diaper with pocket peeking open.  This picture is for demonstration only, as we store the diapers ready to go with the inserts in them.  And Caro is kicking her legs in excitement because she loves cloth diapers or possibly because that damn monkey is climbing that tree and it's still hilarious.   
The diapers each come with two inserts, the basic one is extra-long and made so that 1/3 of it gets foldered over (you can see that in the above picture as well).  The folded portion goes in the front for boys and in the back for girls.  The additional insert is a flat piece the same size as the folded insert (but without a fold).  It can be added later when you need extra absorbency.  Right now those are just stacked in her dresser drawer since we don't need them yet.

Voila!  Insert in the pocket.
We have about 30 diapers total.  That's a big investment when diapers run about $20-25 a pop, but we saved on them by buying a lot of them gently used from a local cloth diaper store for closer to $10 each  (Cotton Babies for those of you in STL).  We also received a lot of them as shower gifts and I know you can buy them in bulk and save as well (Cotton Babies has a great website).  Plus, you only have to buy them once!  (Everytime I threw away a disposable diaper, I felt like I was throwing a quarter in the trash.)

Plus these are so CUTE!  And don't have stupid cartoon characters on them.
We also use cloth wipes.  At first I wasn't sure that we would want to because somehow it just seemed gross.  We thought we might stick with disposable wipes even after we started using cloth diapers.  But we got some of them for a shower gift for Eliza, so we decided to give them a try.  And they were LIFE CHANGING.  Seriously.  They are so soft and gentle on the baby's bottom and it only takes ONE (maybe two) to clean up a really messy diaper that would require several disposable wipes.  They just do a much better job.

Out of the wash and ready to go
Our favorites are the Thirsties brand which are microfiber on one side and fleece on the other.  They are a bit pricey, but worth the investment since you only have to buy them once.  We keep the wipes damp and ready to go in a wipe warmer.

wipe and warmer
People swear by the Prince Lionheart brand of wipe warmer, but my mom got us a fairly inexpensive wipe warmer (possibly from Wal-Mart?) and it works just fine (I taped the lid down where you'd pull the disposables through and we just lift the whole lid each time).  The wipes fit in there perfectly when they are folded in half.  When they come out of the wash, I don't bother to dry them.  I just fold them in half, stack them, and re-wet them thoroughly, then wring them out before sticking them in the warmer.  They stay nice and warm and don't get dried out.  And we wash them right along with the diapers.  We don't use anything but water on the wipes, but I did buy the Bum Genius Bottom Spray and I spray that on the wipe for really messy clean ups.

The washing situation is, of course, the grossest part of the whole set up, but it is seriously no big deal.  We got this diaper pail from Cotton Babies.  It's just a plastic pail with a liner.  (And we bought an extra liner to use when one is in the wash--an extra $20 but a necessity).  The "special thing" about this pail is that it has a carbon filter and an air-freshener insert to help with stink.  So far, breast milk poops don't stink much and odor hasn't been an issue at all.

the pail - nothing fancy
When we change her diaper, we throw the dirties (and the wipes) into the diaper pail, removing the insert from the pocket before dropping it in.  With 30 diapers, we have enough that we can wash them every other day.  On wash days, I pull out the entire liner bag from the diaper pail, carry it to the washing machine, and shove it in, leaving everything in the bag because it will come out in the wash cycle on its own (no touching the dirty dipes once they are already in the pail).

Dirty diaper, insert, and wipe in the pail.  You're welcome.
We use Charlie's liquid soap in our front-load washer.  I order it from Amazon (or from an affiliate who sells through Amazon).  The price fluctuates and different places offer free shipping, so it pays to click around a bit before you order.  I've been able to find it for around $25/gallon with free shipping and you only need a tiny bit for each load (plus you save money because you don't need to buy fabric softener).  One gallon washes 128 loads, so it comes out to around 20 cents a load.  I suppose you could save more making your own detergent... but then you'd have to make your own detergent.

So I just use Charlie's for everything--our clothes, towels, sheets, baby clothes, and diapers.  I started using Charlie's since I was pregnant with Eliza and I've been really happy with it.  It doesn't require any fabric softener (so no chemicals on baby's skin) and it doesn't really have a scent so our clothes just smell clean without a fragrance added to them (I confess, I miss the smell of Downy, but I'm getting over it.)  To help with static issues in the dryer and improve drying time, I use dryer balls like these.  (Tip:  At our Target, these dryer balls are sold in the closet/organization aisle instead of the laundry aisle.  No idea why.)

So when I put the diapers in, I follow Cotton Babies's recommendation and run them through on two full "heavy" cycles.  First, on cold, with just a little bit of detergent to loosen the gunk.  Then again on hot, with a normal measurement of detergent and the extra rinse option turned on.

In case you wondered what diapers in the washing machine look like - and you can see we do not have a large or fancy washing machine but it gets the diapers clean just fine!
When the diapers are finished washing, I pull out the diaper outsides, the wipes, and the diaper pail liner.  The wipes I'm just going to re-wet and put in the wipe warmer, so I don't bother to dry them.  The diaper outsides and the pail liner go on the drying rack to air dry.  Since it's been nice outside, I put the rack out on our deck to dry in the sun, which removes any stains that may remain on the diapers (we've had just a few of those and the sun totally gets rid of them like magic).  The absorbent inserts go in the dryer on high for an extra-long cycle to get them thoroughly dry.

glorious diapers drying in the sun!
A few hours later, everything is dry and clean!  The diaper outsides dry very quickly, which is good since drying on the deck probably won't work in the winter months.  The inserts sometimes need an extra short cycle in the dryer since they are thick.

Once everything is dry, I throw it all in a laundry basket and David and I restuff the diapers (putting the inserts in the pockets) while we're watching TV.  It takes just a few minutes.  The ready-to-go diapers go back in her dresser drawer and that's all there is to it.

ready for baby bottom coverage
After using disposable diapers over Labor Day weekend, David and I could not believe how much we prefer the cloth.  I think they are gentler on her skin, they are WAY less likely to have leaks or blow-outs, and they are truly just as convenient (as long as you have easy access to a washer and dryer, obvy).  And (eventually) we'll save money.  Yes, there's extra laundry, which could get more annoying when I go back to work, but we'll figure it out.

As for being out and about in daily life, I just carry a wet-bag in the diaper bag, which I then empty into the diaper pail when I get home (so far we haven't had stink issues... of course that could change, so we're exploring our options with Flip disposables and the diaper liners).

We have only had to use a diaper rash cream occasionally (it's my understanding that babies have fewer rashes with cloth diapers, but I don't really know if that's true), and I read that some creams can stain cloth diapers, so we just browsed the shelves at Target for one that said it was cloth diaper friendly.  We went with California babies, which is also the baby wash that we use.  It smells nice and we've had no issues with it so far.

I do realize that things will get, uh, ickier when Caro starts eating solid foods.  To deal with the solid-poo issue, we purchased a little sprayer that hooks up to the toilet.  My understanding is that once the poo gets more solid, you shake it off into the toilet, then give the diaper a little spray if it needs some help, and wash the diapers the same way. And we could always use the diaper liners on a more regular basis if we need to, which peel away from the diaper and can be flushed.

Overall, I'm VERY glad we did the cloth diaper route.  I know it's not for everybody, and I'm totally NOT judging those of you who are single-handedly destroying the environment by filling landfills with disposable diapers (kidding!  really).  But it's been a good system for us and really even easier than I anticipated.  (And I am lazy, for realz.)

Cloth diapers rock!
So that's how it works at our house.  Anybody else using Bum Genius 4.0?  Anybody using the fancy all-in-ones where you don't even have to stuff them with the absorbent insert?  Anybody doing old school cloth diapers with pins?  Anybody now totally convinced they should convert to cloth diapers?  Anybody still think I'm crazy?  It's ok.  You can say so.


  1. She is too too cute! Love her smile!

    (I'm pretty sure you are using 3.0's if you bought them a couple years ago, the 4.0's are the ones they sell now.)

    Unfortunately, cloth diapers were bad on Luke's sensitive butt. I think it was mostly the microsuede lining inside the Bumgeniuses. He constantly had a rash in them even when we changed it very often. (He is pretty sensitive to disposable diapers too. Ugh.) He did better with the cheaper brands that have other linings like the fleece stuff (sunbabies). Or prefolds and covers. I also don't like that their butts are so big in them that you can't put them in their normal sized pants (maybe not as big of a deal for a girl.) And all bets are off once they start solids, no thank you!

    That being said, I did keep most of my cloth diapers and hope to cloth diaper the next baby at least for the first 6 months, if I can manage the extra laundry. Hopefully his skin won't be as sensitive as Luke's and I may continue on with flushable liners after 6 months.

    A bonus you didn't mention is there is still a fairly high resale value even after you use them. I decided our "stash" was way overboard and easily resold some of ours on craigslist for the same price I paid for them. (Bought gently used.) In fact, I got a lot of emails about them and sold them in under a day.

    And on that note, watch out for that diaperswappers website, if you've seen it. There are some real nuts on it and you can end up getting caught in the madness and end up with 80 cloth diapers before you know it! (Hence why I sold some!)

    I don't mind disposables, though. I get good enough deals on them and stock up, that I don't think the cost difference between that and cloth diapering is all that much, especially factoring in having to run downstairs 3-4 times for a single load of diaper laundry. If we had a same floor washer/dryer, I'd be more inclined to stick with it, I think.

  2. I think ours are the 4.0-- they had just come out when we bought them in November 2010. But some may be 3.0 that were used. It's interesting that Luke broke out with them. A friend of mine had the opposite situation--switching to cloth cleared up her baby's rash. You are totally right about main floor laundry, though. Makes life much easier that our washer and dryer are in the kitchen!

  3. And yes, she did go up a size in clothes (wearing 3-6 months onesies) but dresses are no problem. I didn't mind since most of the clothes we had were the bigger sizes anyway.

  4. That's awesome!! I need one of those monkeys for myself! OH! I mean....Kidding. This is awesome, it sounds like you picked a really good system for this. I've never heard anyone talk about how much they hate cloth diapering, but I've also never heard a story that made me really want to try it, you know what I mean? You do make this sound very simple, something to consider should the need arise. Thanks!

  5. Cute diapers on a cute baby!

    We had a diaper service with Ewan -- a dude would come to our door every week with a fresh batch of folded diapers in the size we needed at the time and he woud take the bag of dirty diapers away. That part was awesome. I hated how hard it was to fit clothes over the bulky cloth diapers, though, and Ewan had awful diaper rashes all the time. And lots of blow-outs.

    I used disposables with Laren (because it was a different city and I remembered being slightly annoyed with the aforementioned cloth diaper issues) and it was a breeze. No rashes ever. I think we had one blow-out, maybe. I felt super-guilty throwing them away all the time, though.

    That wipe system you have going? That is awesome and definitely the way to go if you are washing all the diapers yourself, too! Easy-peasy to throw it all in the same bag! If we weren't pretty much done with potty training, I would give those wipes of yours a try!

  6. I really think cloth diapers are adorable. I was half and half on whether I could be bothered with them... In the end I decided nay as I've always heard daycares are a PITA about it (Grace will only be part-time once she turns one, but I guess I was thinking about before we move).

    We've had pretty much zero issues with diaper rash too- but I also think that's part of my hyper-vigalence with changing her freshly wet/dirty diapers.

    I'll be interested to know what your thoughts on once Caro has more solid, um, poops. I think once they're fully formed, they should be okay... But I don't know when the transition from baby poop to solid poop is... yikes- enough poop chat for me. :)

  7. I love our cloth diapers!

    The picture of the BG next to Caroline cracked me up because the diaper looked comically huge--they look much smaller next to our little linebacker!

  8. I love Caro and you guys and those cloth diapers. And I totally wish I didn't have the largest stash of diapers EVER that prevents me from wanting to invest hundreds in a cloth stash for myself. But I obviously don't care too much, since I am doing nothing about it...

    Anyway, cute tutorial. I dig it. I have been shaking the um, more solid poo into the toilet using disposables, too! And no more blowouts since the chunk has been eating solids. It's just totally different. I'm wondering the changes of the baby bowels... even I think we've got so much to see still and he's been on solids for weeks now.

    But yeah, enough about the poo. She really does like that climbing monkey, eh?

  9. LOVE! I haven't had time to read all the other comments, and while I could leave an essay comment on this post, I want to say: BUY LINERS! I used cloth for two and a half years before I got liners, and they changed my life. Dramatic? Maybe so, but I had been hosing poop off damn nappies for too long which sends tiny poop particles flying all over your toilet, and it wasn't fun. Solid food can make things a bit easier, if the poo is "flop-able" but a whole lot messier if they do a sticky one. Gross huh, but that's the name of the game. I've hardly used our sprayer since we got the liners. Get on to them now! From one cloth mama to another, I salute you.

  10. We use old fashioned squares of cloth for our diapers, folded in the Chinese fold. But no pins for us -- my sister introduced us to snappis. They're great.

    We use disposables when traveling and also overnight (and she gets them at daycare); I definitely prefer the cloth. Gwen's never had diaper rash, but the first time we had to use disposables for a week, her bottom was definitely more red by the time we got home.

  11. CD'd with Julius all the way.

    did a combo with baby girl. i would use disposables at night because of her monitor. UNTIL her poop changed. we have the sprayer. but my goodness, we were not prepared for the change her poop took (Julius was ONLY BF so we didn't have to deal with it).

    after several days of freaking out because the poop was getting everywhere when we sprayed, and it was just overall stressful, we decided to do 100% disposables.

    of course this time around i have much less energy because of grief, so i was the one who suggested just stopping with CD (with Julius i never would have. i would have pushed through it and made CD works).

    but lordy that change in her poop was definitely a surprise to us both. lol. and i look forward to you reaching that fun stage with Ms. Caro. (seriously though, i'm not trying to be snarky or sarcastic lol).

  12. OOOOOOOOO, and just reading Hope's mama's post, i see what i should have done. i should have bought liners!!! well, i think we just might be going back to CD one more time after i finish the box of sposies.

  13. So you may have already heard from or seen this awesome site that just so happens to be a close friend of mine in life- but check out

    She is a CD PRO! She has convinced me to do it once this baby is born...regardless if its micro preemie or not. :) (If you stop by- comment and tell her you heard of her from me.)

    I totally was against CD- but have been converted....they are so cute and EARTH friendly. :)

  14. Thank you for this!! And for making it seem a lot let intimidating than it can be.

    A few questions still (of course):

    1. Do you notice that baby is wet when she sleeps longer? Or do you think that with a baby who does sleep through the night this would be a problem? Finn is a rockstar with sleeping (knock on wood) and is a 11-12 hour at night kind of guy. Would he be soaked in the morning?

    2. Do you think that the brand depends on the baby? Finn is a peanut. Do you think that some cloth diapers would or wouldn't fit him well based on his size and any recommendations for babies with not the chunkiest of legs?

    3. Is putting the insert in easy? Or is it like when you wash a bikini top and that little triangle comes out and it's a pain to get back in and flatten out?

    4. If money weren't an issue do you think that the all-in-one's are the way to go? I don't think I'd want to pay that much. But maybe if I could get them at a gonga of a deal/gently used or something.


  15. We used g diapers with our second kid and loved them. We had maybe 6 covers in the small size and another 6-8 in the larger size. To me it was a great compromise between disposable and cloth diapering / washing. Little to no diaper rash, and we even stopped flushing them for the most part and just bagged them up in biodeg. bags since they also break down in the trash. It's been several years now, but I know I got online deals / coupons a lot which made them somewhat more reasonable (although not cheap, by any means).

    Our daycare encourages cloth diapers and many parents use them. Our kid was the first to use the g diaper system, but it wasn't a problem at all - they figured it out.

    (Big) Caroline - we had a 12+ hour sleeper too, and always found her wet up the back in the morning with cloth diapers - even doubling up, or adding an extra layer at the top. She would just roll over and soak up the front of her. We finally gave up and did one disposable a night - I bought one of the "greener" disposables for that.

    My view was - whatever worked, worked, and to work to get my kids out of diapers as soon as possible. The greenest thing I think I did was to diaper for 16-18 months versus 36 months or 42 months or more...

    I do think they are super cute and (little) Caroline is very cute in them. We had a cilly monkey over our changing table too, and that brings back good memories - not of diapers, just of the smiles.

  16. I am a cloth diaper rep through Diaper Parties (a great way to earn some free cloth! Host a party for all your friends just like pampered chef or scentsy!)

    I just wanted to add two things: Once you start solids youll want to start your wash routine with a regular cold rinse to get all the gunk out or your just washing in dirty water. And to a previous commenter I highly suggest getting a spray pal! They are amazing at keeping all the fly away spray in the bowl.


  18. This is our third baby, but our first time with cloth wipes. I bought several used receiving blankets at a local kid's consignment store, cut them up into 6" squares, and zigzagged around the edge with my sewing machine. They work great, and the whole batch cost me $2!

    Yes, and I second the spraypal for when the baby starts eating solids. . .

  19. Love it. We have cloth diapered since week 2. Simple system though of white cloths and 2 diaper covers. we have 40 and do wash a little more than once a week. Solids add (heh heh) some effort sometimes if you get a "musher" but every time I'm dealing with that I think about the thousands of dollars I save and the sheer amount of trash, space, in my home, landfills, shopping, storing etc for disposables. what a pain, what a lot of time compared to a load of laundry that doesn't even need folding!

  20. i forgot to add that he goes to babysitting two days and she only will use disposables and he sleeps in a disposable. he would probably be fine for 12 hours in his cloth though, just sounds so wet!

  21. So glad to see you're loving CD'ing. We are 15mths in and love it still! We've had more smell issues and have had to change some things but overall positive experience. We primarily use Flips now that he's older, love them! Also love Grovia flushable diaper liners for the poppy diapers or we use our diaper sprayer.
    Hope the CD continues to go smoothly for you guys, it really is very easy!