Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Starter Stash

There's an overwhelming amount of information out there, right?  Here are the basics of what you need to get started, give or take.

  • Enough diapers to get you through 48 hours.  If you're starting with a newborn, you will need more diapers than if you're starting with an older baby.  Allegedly.  The Baby Fish is a peeing machine!  We started with 24 prefolds.
  • A diaper pail *
  • Two diaper pail liners/wetbags (one for the wash, one for the pail)
  • A travel size wetbag or two if you plan to use cloth diapers on the go (we only have one because we don't leave the house every day)
  • If you're using diapers that need separate covers, you'll probably need 5-6 covers
  • A Snappi isn't an absolute MUST, but it has worked very well for us.  Just this weekend we started going Snappiless.  
  • If you're feeding formula or solids/cereal, decide if you'll want a diaper sprayer or flushable diaper liners.
  • Wipes of some sort (I highly recommend cloth wipes if you're cloth diapering.  If you're going to be using cloth diapers anyway, they will mean less work--no emptying the trash to get rid of poopy wipes.)
  • You don't absolutely have to have them, but wool dryer balls are really nice to have (they soften  fabric and reduce drying time).  There are also plastic versions out there, but I haven't tried them.
*My "diaper pail" is just a cheap plastic trash can with a flip top lid.  You can skip a pail altogether if you use hanging wetbags.

That's just about it!  If any of my CDing friends have other opinions, feel free to chime in.

BTW - Sarah at Hope in Every Season is hosting a link up with lots of crafty/recipe type stuff.  I always find something neat from her blog followers.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Being Thrifty

If you are curious about how cloth might work for you, but you're scared to buy a starter stash, I've just discovered that there are trial programs so that you can spend a minimal amount of money to try it out for 30 days or so and see how it goes.  This could also help you pinpoint which types of diapers work best for your baby with minimal commitment.  Here's a link to a directory of trial programs.

It seemed like everyone asked me in the beginning if I would be using a diaper service.  I still can't for the life of me figure out why I would need one, but I guess for some folks, it's a good choice.  It might also be a good way to try out a variety of diapers.  I haven't looked into it, but the one thing I know is that they come by to pick up soiled diapers once a week.  That seems like an awfully long time to have wet/poopy diapers marinating in one's house, but that's coming from someone who voluntarily washes them every day.

I mentioned before that cloth diapers have resale value.  This could work in your favor if you're looking to save even more money over the price of disposables.  Check Craigslist, Ebay, or do a search for cloth diaper swap boards.  If you have a local diaper store, they may sell used diapers as well.  It doesn't hurt to ask.

Once you know what types of diapers you want, most brands have bundles you can buy.  If you're opposed to buying used diapers, searching for package deals will save you quite a bit of money on new diapers.

One budgeting idea I've heard is that you should put away $60 per month to go toward diapers.  Apparently that's what you might expect to spend on diapers per month if you use disposables.  Then you can use that money to buy cloth diapers little by little or save it up for awhile and buy a bundle.

Here's an approximation of what our beginning stash cost:

24 prefolds - $48
7 covers - $79   (this is probably 2 more covers than what we actually needed)
2 Diaper pail liners - $33
Diaper pail - $10
1 Travel Wetbag - $21
Snappi 2 pack - $5
3 Wool Dryer Balls - $21
Total:  $217 (give or take a few bucks)

If the $60 per month for disposables thing is true, I have made my money back in less than 4 months -and we didn't really shop around or bundle as much as we could have.

If you use disposables, how much do you spend on diapers/wipes per month?  I would like to know if the estimations I've read are accurate.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Pockets and All-in-Ones and Prefolds, Oh My!

A friend recently asked about the difference between pockets and all in ones.  There are actually several different types of diapers and all of them have pros and cons.


The name says it all!  These are the most similar in use to disposables (except you don't throw them away!).  The inside is absorbent, the outside is waterproof.  Depending on the brand, they are available as "one size" or sized.

Pros - Very user friendly, all one piece, available in cute prints, most have a stay dry lining that helps wick moisture away from baby (great for night time)

Cons - They tend to be thick, can take a long time to dry --even in the dryer, take up lots of room in a diaper bag, the "one size" versions aren't usually recommended for babies under 10 pounds.

Examples:  Thirsties($15-16), GroVia($15-$24), Bumkins ($17) , Bumgenius ($18)


These consist of a waterproof shell with an absorbent insert that snaps in.   Available as sized or one size.

Pros - The shell can be used multiple times before you have to wash it, quick drying since the absorbent piece is separate, having two pieces allows you to hang the cover to dry to prolong its life, easy to use, inserts are available in "stay dry"(usually a synthetic like microfleece over a natural fiber), natural fibers like cotton, hemp, or bamboo, and even disposable.

Cons - Fairly thick, inserts and shells are sold separately which can make them more expensive than all-in-ones, some brands (I'm talkin' to YOU, GroVia!) don't have a wipeable cover...probably solely to make you have to buy more covers.  Shady, shady! 

Examples:  GroVia Shell($17) and Insert($17-18 for two), Best Bottom Shell($17) and insert ($4-10 each)


Pockets combine the ease of all-in-ones with the ability to separate the soaker from the cover. Available as sized or one size.

Pros - separate soaker allows you to customize the absorbency and hang covers to dry, most have a stay dry lining, great for night time, some brands come with two soakers per diaper so that you can double up for night time.

Cons - you have to take the soaker out of the pocket before tossing into the pail, you have to re-stuff them after they are dry (adds a little time to your diaper routine).

Examples:  Fuzzibunz ($20), Blueberry ($29), Thirsties ($17-19)


I've mentioned before that prefolds are our main diaper right now.  They are several layers of fabric stitched together and must be used with a cover to prevent leaks.  They are sized.  One word of caution -- you will see "prefolds" sold in retail stores like Walmart and Target.  Those prefolds are burp cloths!  Don't use them as diapers.  You'll want to buy Diaper Service Quality (DSQ) prefolds or you will probably be disappointed in their performance.

There are several different natural fibers that can make up a prefold and they all have different absorbency.  Cotton is the cheapest, then there are hemp (25% more absorbent than cotton) and bamboo (I think it's more absorbent than cotton too, but I can't remember how much more) versions.

They are probably similar to the mental image you have of a traditional cloth diaper (except you don't use diaper pins anymore!).

Pros - These are GREAT for tiny babies since you can adjust the size down as far as you need to with the use of a Snappi, very trim, super absorbent, inexpensive, quick drying, can double as burp cloths, covers can be wiped down after each change, so you don't need a ton of covers.

Cons - Have to be used with a cover and you have to make sure that none of the prefold is "peeking" out of the cover or you will have leaks, if you're using a snappi it will take a little longer to get baby diapered than if you're using an all-in-one or pocket.

Prefold Examples: Bumkins Indian Prefolds (cotton - $2.33 each)Osocozy Chinese Prefolds ( cotton $2.25 each) , Thirsties Hemp Prefolds ($7.75 each) , GroVia Bamboo Prefolds (3 for $12)

Cover Examples: Thirsties Duo Wrap ($12.75) , Bummis ($12.95)
(I should mention that you can also use wool covers, but they require special care so I won't consider them even though my husband wants to get one every time we go to the diaper store!)


Think of fitteds as prefolds with elastic around the legs and snaps/velcro closures.  They are very easy to use and ours seem a little more absorbent than the regular prefolds, but that probably varies from brand to brand.  You will use the same covers that you use for prefolds with these diapers.

Pros - Easier to put on a baby than prefolds, more absorbent

Cons - More expensive than prefolds by a landslide!

Examples: Sandy's ($12)Sustainable Babyish ($30), Bumkins ($13-$15), GroVia Kiwi Pie ($27), Osocozy ($7.50)


Are you good at origami?  Want to try it out with a diaper while your undiapered child writhes around on the changing table, just begging to flop off on the floor? Well that makes one of us!

Pros - I have no idea!  I guess since it's such a big piece of fabric, you can probably use one size for a very long time.

Cons - Haven't I made that obvious?

Examples:  Seriously?  You want examples?  You can look here.

There are probably other types of diapers that I haven't listed, but those are the ones I know about.  If you aren't sure which ones are right for you, you might want to try just getting a couple of each kind and trying them out.

Other Benefits of Cloth

Aside from the cost savings of using cloth over disposables, there are several other benefits.

1.  They are more eco-friendly.  Something like 1/3 of all waste in landfills is disposable diapers, and they aren't going anywhere.  Even the more "Earth Friendly" diapers don't biodegrade when they're sealed up in a landfill.  If you estimate 5000 diapers per child (here's a visual) and consider the natural resources it takes to produce the diapers and transport them to stores, it's pretty shocking.  I could go on, but this article goes into the details of the raw materials it takes to make a diaper.

2.  No yucky chemicals next to baby's most sensitive areas.  In our early Fish keeping days, we noticed that the little gel "pellets" that form when diapers are wet were stuck all over him at diaper changes.  It grossed me out.

3.  Less diaper rash. Especially if your baby has sensitive skin.  See #2. 

4.  Cloth diapered babies potty train faster. The average age of potty training is 18 months vs. 40 months because cloth diapered babies know when they're wet.

5.  They can be reused on subsequent children, making those children's diapers, FREE.  :)

6.  If you make your own wipe solution, you know EXACTLY what's in it and you can tailor it to your preferences regarding scents and natural products with protective and healing properties.  There are tons of recipes here.

7.  Cloth diapers have resale value.  If you don't believe me, search Craigslist or Ebay.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Is it worth it?

If you're looking at cloth diapering from just an economic standpoint, how much money does it save?

This article suggests that using cloth diapers is like paying yourself $18/hour to do the diaper laundry, based on the amount of time it takes to launder diapers and the savings over disposables (She estimates 15 minutes every other day....I do mine every day and probably only spend 10 minutes per day on them, including the time it takes to fold them, put them away, and get distracted by The Fish several times).

I've seen other estimates that cloth diapers save anywhere from $1100 up.  It really depends on what kind of diapers you buy, and how long it takes your child to potty train.  Diapers range from the inexpensive (good quality prefolds like we use are about $2 each, plus the cost of covers) to all in one diapers which can be around $25 each (but they're REALLY easy and  REALLY cute!).

The more kids you reuse the cloth diapers on, the greater your savings, obviously.

By the way, the article estimates the price of cloth wipes at about $1 per wipe, but I think that's exaggerated.  If you have an extra flannel receiving blanket that you don't need, you have several cloth wipes.  You just need to cut it into squares, and if you're ambitious, topstitch two squares together to make it more substantial.  (I was lucky enough to have a sister and niece who did this for me, so mine cost me exactly nothing!)  Otherwise, go to your local fabric store and look in their remnant bin for flannel fabric or go to Goodwill and look for old flannel shirts.  You're wiping up poop with it, it doesn't have to be pretty.  :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Diaper Laundry

I was kind of intimidated by the laundry aspect of cloth diapers before we got started.  It wasn't that I minded the idea of an extra load of laundry every day, it was just that there are rules regarding diaper laundry.  It's really not so bad though, and once you figure it out, you always do it the same way, so you form a routine and it becomes second nature.

My routine goes something like this.

1.  Take Wet bag with dirty diapers and dump them into the washer.  Turn the wet bag inside out and toss it in with the diapers (never touching the dirty diapers!)
2.  Run a cold rinse cycle with no detergent.  This dissolves the poop and keeps it from getting baked into the diapers.
3.  Run a hot wash cycle with a small amount of detergent and do an extra rinse.  On my washer, I can specify that I want an extra rinse without having to restart the washer.  The hot cycle cleans the diapers and the extra rinse makes sure you've removed all of the detergent.  Failing to remove the detergent can make diapers stink, and nobody likes a stinky diaper.
4.  Toss clean diapers into the dryer.  Never use fabric softener on diapers because it will waterproof them.  We use wool dryer balls instead (here's a tutorial for making your own!).  They reduce drying time, so that's an added bonus.  I do hang up our covers to dry because putting them in the dryer can wear out the elastic faster.  On the other hand, putting the covers in the dryer occasionally can help make the waterproof layer stronger and can help strengthen the Aplix.  Don't ask me how.  Basically, do whatever you want in regards to drying covers.

*Note:  If you're super eco-conscious and not lazy like I am, you can line dry your diapers.  Besides the obvious benefit of saving energy, hanging diapers in the sun to dry removes stains like magic!  The Baby Fish is not at all embarrassed by his stained diapers.

That's it!  Then you can fold them (or not) and start all over.

We have an HE washer, and some people with HE washers have to "trick" their washer into using enough water to clean the diapers well, but we haven't had to do that.  If you have an old school washer, you'll be able to adjust the amount of water you use, so you won't have to worry about it.

You also can't use just any detergent.  I use Ecos Free and Clear simply because I found it on this list and it was readily available at my local grocery store.  I think the big container I got of it was $8 and I use so little per load that it lasts forever.

You will also want to be careful about which diaper creams you use when cloth diapering (petroleum based ointments can waterproof diapers).  One benefit to cloth is that babies tend to have less diaper rashes than in disposables.  However, we have a sensitive boy and we keep cream on his rear at all times.  Here is a list of acceptable diaper creams.  The one we've found to be available at regular stores like Target and Babies R Us is California Baby Diaper Cream.  It is the only one we've used so far, but I do have another brand on standby for when his current tube runs out!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Scoop about Poop

In my first post, I mentioned that the cloth diapering rules are a little different for formula fed and food eating babies than for breast fed babies.  In a couple of months, I will be feeding The Fish solids and I will be able to weigh in from experience, but for now, this is all based off of research.  I like to research.  :)

Here's a little science lesson aside:

Breast milk poop is water soluble because breast milk is digested so completely that baby just doesn't leave much behind.  It's mostly water by the time it makes its grand exit.  Babies' systems aren't as efficient at digesting formula, so more of it turns into waste and it tends to be much more stinky and less watery. 

*disclosure* I've also heard people say you don't have to rinse off formula poo. There seem to be varying ideas about that and I have no experience with formula poo, so I can't verify that. *

Aren't you glad you stopped by for that highly technical little nugget of information?

Anyway, the good news is that even if your baby isn't breastfed, you can still cloth diaper and it's probably easier than you think.

The difference is that you can't just toss a poopy diaper into a pail.  You need to plop the poop off into the toilet first.  If the poop isn't a ploppable (I can make up words if I want to) consistency, there are a few different ways to get the poop into the toilet.

You could go old school and dunk the diaper in the toilet (gross!)
You can keep a spatula or some other tool of your choosing in the bathroom for this special purpose (slightly less gross!)
You can invest in a handy dandy diaper sprayer and spray your troubles away (ding ding ding!  We have a winner!)

Diaper sprayers run around $40-$50 and there are several brands available.

We have the Flo Diaper Sprayer, but we haven't installed it yet.  It looks fairly simple to install, but we haven't needed it yet and we are procrastinators.

If you need a cheaper option and you're handy, I've heard that you can take a regular kitchen sink sprayer and use it as a diaper sprayer.  Look, I even found a tutorial for you! You're welcome.

If that all just seems like a little too much, there is another option.  There are several different brands of diaper liners on the market.  These are little disposable pieces that you place on the diaper so that when poop happens, you just pull off the liner and flush the liner + poop away.  If you go this route, you will follow the same diaper routine as breastfed babies once you remove the liner.  Easy peasy.

I have not found any liners that I felt comfortable about flushing since we have a septic system, otherwise, I would consider using them.

Technically you're not supposed to dispose of human waste in the trash (some disposable diaper packages even say you're supposed to plop the poop in the toilet before disposing of the diaper) due to the risk of contaminants getting into the ground water.  I don't know anyone who does that, but luckily, I think developed countries have well designed landfills that mitigate this risk.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Itty Bitty Baby Bottoms

If you're researching all of the different types of modern cloth diapers, you might be a little overwhelmed.  There are so many different brands and styles.  Some are sized and some are "one size" (they will allegedly fit a baby from birth through potty training). 

I did a little bit of research before we got started and learned that even though some babies can wear "one size" diapers from the beginning, many little newborns just don't have the build for them yet.  If you have a petite baby, you may find that you can't size the diapers down far enough to keep leaks at bay.

For that reason, we started out with prefold diapers.  Prefolds are sized, so they're not going to fit forever, but they're inexpensive, absorbant, and very adjustable.

The Baby Fish was 7lb 15oz at birth and is now 14lb 3oz at 4 months.  He is still in size 1 prefolds and size 1 covers.  In fact, we just recently adjusted the snaps on the covers to make them larger, so he still has a little bit of room to grow.  The prefolds are starting to get a little snug, so we are testing other styles, but all in all, I am pleased with the amount of use we've gotten out of them.

These have been our go-to diapers since he was a couple of weeks old.  The links go to our favorite diaper and organic baby goods store, Franklin Goose.  They are located in Richmond, but you can order online if you don't have a diaper store near you.  They have $5 flat rate shipping! They are great about answering cloth questions, too.

Osocozy Cotton Prefolds (6 diapers for $12- Prefolds are the least expensive way to do cloth)
Thirsties Duo Dry Covers 
Snappi (Gone are the days of having to safety pin diapers on a squirming infant!)

I think we started with 4 packs of prefolds and about 7 covers.  We have 3 covers with snaps and the rest have Aplix (Velcro) closures.  There are pros and cons to each type.  You can't beat Aplix for ease of use, especially for bleary-eyed nighttime diaper changes.  The downside to Aplix is that it tends to wear out more quickly than the snap version of the covers.  Also, if you have an older baby who is an exhibitionist...well, they're going to enjoy Aplix, you are not.  The only time I reach for the snap ones is if all of the Aplix ones are in the wash.  That's just my personal preference.

We bought a two pack of Snappis and I had never taken the second one out of the package until a few weeks ago when the first one broke.  You don't technically have to use a Snappi to hold the diaper closed if you're using a cover, but we were advised that they reduce leaks by keeping the diaper from shifting around inside the cover.  We always use one.

Here's The Baby Fish sporting one of his prefolds, sans cover.  They are very trim.

Monday, January 21, 2013


A few people have asked me what's working for us in the cloth diapering world, so I figured rather than writing multiple emails (I always forget something!), I'll just post stuff here.

The Baby Fish is now 4 months old and we've been using cloth since he was about 2 weeks old. Now that he's starting to outgrow his itty bitty baby diapers, we are starting to branch out and try different types. We are still learning, so if my more seasoned friends have tips and tricks, feel free to speak up.

If you're thinking about cloth diapering, I really encourage you to try it! I know it seems really intimidating (and maybe gross), but it's really simple and no yuckier than disposables.

Here are some false assumptions that you might have about cloth:
1. You have to scrub the poop off before you wash them*
 2. It's time consuming
3. Cloth diapers have to soak in a pail until they're ready to wash
4. They stink*
5. They cause an excessive amount of laundry

* My experience is based on an exclusively breastfed baby. Formula fed babies and babies who eat solids will have a slightly different diaper routine.

If your baby is exclusively breastfed, the poop will dissolve in the washer like magic. There is no need to wash it off ahead of time or soak the diapers. In fact, all of the modern cloth diaper manufacturers I've read up on suggest that you use a dry pail.

This is how our diaper routine goes:
1. Baby poops/pees in diaper
2. I take the diaper off and put it in a dry pail along with any cloth wipes I have used.
3. Once a day I run a load of diaper laundry (washer and dryer, but there are certainly benefits to line drying...I'm just lazy!)
4. Fold diapers and start over.

You don't even have to wash the diapers every day (every other day is fine), but I just feel less stressed when I know I'm not getting low on clean diapers. Laundry is the one household task that I don't hate, so it's just not a big deal to me. If you do choose to wash them every other day, try not to wash more than about 20 diapers in one load.