Tuesday, January 17, 2017

To Cloth or Not to Cloth

A few months into my pregnancy, I began asking friends and family for recommendations on their "must-have" items for new babies. One colleague told me to make sure to get a cloth diaper service - as if I was definitely going to cloth diaper (CD) and she just wanted to give me a tip on how to do it better. Well, it was this comment that sent me into a rabbit hole of websites, videos and YouTube tutorials for the next several weeks.

Once I resurfaced, I'd decided to take a crack at cloth diapering Mira. But don't think the decision came without some apprehension and resistance - mostly from others. The reasons I shouldn't CD ranged from "she'll get an infection from unclean diapers" to "Are you trying to single-handedly save the planet?" So here are five reasons people will try to talk you out of cloth diapering and why you should do it anyway. Only read this if you have time, it's a long (but fun) one. 

The Cost 
The main reason I made the decision to cloth diaper was the cost-savings. If you know me, you know I hate to overspend on anything but fast cars. Everything else, I need to find a deal. Here's the skinny on the cost of cloth vs. disposable:
  • Depending on the article you find, the average cost of cloth diapering through potty-training (around 24 - 30 months) can range from $600 to $1,200. On the flip side, disposable diapers can run anywhere from $1,200 to $2,200+ for the same time period. 
  • Lots of factors play into the cost of cloth diapering including how many diapers you choose to have in your stash, laundry detergent, water costs and other accessories.
  • A benefit of cloth diapering is that you can re-sell the diapers once you're done with them and recoup some of the cost (yes, people will buy your used diapers as long as they are clean, in good condition and stain free). I recently sold a few of Mira's diapers that I'd never used and wanted to trade out for a brand I liked better. I paid about $140 for the diapers and sold them for $100. Not bad huh?
  • To date, I've spent around $600 on my stash and I have about 45 diapers, a few necessary accessories, detergent and water costs. I have enough diapers of good quality to last me through the time Mira is potty-trained so my cost will likely only go up a few more bucks as I buy detergent and pay future water bills (I estimate that at an extra $200 over the next two years, if that).
  • Beware - if you're a shop-a-holic, cloth diapering can be addictive and NOT cost-effective. If you try to stick with what you have in your stash for two years and not go overboard on new diaper purchases, there's definitely a significant cost-savings. 
  • Another consideration is that your costs for cloth diapers is front-loaded - meaning, you'll come out-of-pocket a few hundred dollars up front but then won't (really) have to spend any more for the next two years if you play your cards right.
  • If you choose to use a diaper service, the cost to cloth diaper will likely be on par with disposable diapers. How the services work is they usually provide diapers, pick up the dirty and deliver clean ones. 
Right on Mira - Cloth IS Cool!

The Poop
Ok, let's keep it real. No matter how cute your baby is, poop stinks. Especially as they get older and either begin drinking formula or start eating solid foods. Managing the poop was, by far, the topic I researched the most when deciding whether to CD or not. Here are a few tips that I hope will make you a little less grossed out and a little more likely to take the leap: 
  • Breastmilk poop is completely water soluble and will wash out without much action from you - just toss it in the pail. Formula poop needs a rinse off before you put it in the pail.  
  • I use flushable liners to help manage the poop. These are sheets (similar to dryer sheets) that come on a roll of 50, 100 or 200 that you place inside the diaper to help catch the poop. While they're not always 100 percent, they certainly help lessen the damage.
  • There are tons of ways of "washing out the poop" before you place the diaper in the pail. I "dunk and swish" it in the toilet. This means, I plop whatever of the poop is solid into the toilet and then use clean toilet water to rinse off the rest and clean the diaper before putting it into the pail. When researching, this was the method I was most grossed out by. But it became the most natural way to go about it once I got into the trenches of cloth diapering.
  • No worries, you don't have to put your hands in the toilet. There are diaper sprayers, some people use spatulas and a few other ways you can get solid poop off diapers. 
  • As for blowouts, I've never had a blowout with a cloth diaper. And trust me, there should have been plenty! It all stays in the diaper, which means less clothes changes.

The Wash
Getting your wash routine right is the key to whether or not you'll be successful and want to stick with cloth diapering. If your diapers still stink after washing, it's likely that you'll say to hell with it and go back to disposables. Here are a few things to know about getting the wash right:
  • The general rule for washing diapers is cold rinse cycle, hot wash cycle, cold extra rinse to get out any detergent or extra residue. And then you either dry on low-heat or line dry. 
  • You can achieve this with most washing machines and dryers, no matter how old (my set is about 12 years old and it works just fine).
  • The general rule is that you should wash every 2 to 3 days. Right now, I average about every three days since that's about the time my diaper pail gets full.
  • You should definitely not go the wash alone. Meaning, do your research. It's definitely not worth ruining your diapers because you decide to just wash them like you wash everything else.
  • Also, don't feel you need to buy fancy detergents for your wash. Regular Tide works well. I use Tide Free & Gentle powder because I also use that on Mira's clothes so it keeps things simple. 
  • Wash your diapers as their own load vs. washing with lots of other things.
  • If you start to notice that your diapers are not smelling fresh after you wash, there are a million things you can do to get the smell out so don't let that deter you from continuing to CD. I won't go into them all here but I've used a couple products with success and it wasn't a hassle. 
We store dirty diapers in a regular 13-gallon trash can with flip top from Walmart with a pail liner inside.
An x-large load of diapers - there are about 30 diapers in this load.

The Types
There are lots of different types, brands and price points for diapers. Biggest piece of advice: try different types versus only having one style that makes up your entire stash. Initially, I made the mistake of having only one type and, luckily, had a friend who gave me her old stash. This allowed me to experience a few different types, so here is my feedback based on what's in my diaper collection: 
  • All-in-Ones: These are usually one-piece diapers and I think they are likely the best options for daycare as the staff will find them the least cumbersome. They usually include a snap-in insert or an already installed insert. I wasn't always keen on this type of diaper because I felt you couldn't really get it clean, but Nicki's Diapers sells one that is now my favorite diaper.
  • Pockets: These diapers have inserts that you stuff inside of a pocket in the diaper. Those inserts absorb liquids and generally keep the baby feeling dry. Restuffing these can be time consuming and do require patience.
  • Prefolds and Covers: These look like the old school cloth diapers, the kinds that are most often used as burp cloths. If you have a smaller baby, I recommend these. Pair them with really cute covers that either snap or have velcro closures and you're in business. If your baby hates feeling wet, they will certainly complain when wet with these because there's nothing to wick away the wetness as you see in some of the fancier types of diapers. 
  • All of these types come in one-size which means that there are snaps and settings that allow you to adjust the size to your baby. So the same diaper that will fit a 10-pound Mira will also fit a 30-pound Mira. Sounds unbelievable, but I actually tried one of the diapers on a friend's two-year old on the largest setting and it was actually loose on her.
  • Some of my favorite brands are Nicki's Diapers brand, Bum Genius and Kawaii Baby. Kawaii Baby is the most affordable, Nicki's is mid-range and Bum Genius is the most expensive of the bunch.
These are prefolds and diaper covers. These really worked for me when Mira was a newborn (up to about 8 pounds or so).

This is how the prefold and cover looks on the baby. (Sweet Pea cover, Imagine prefold)

This is an All-in-One diaper (Nicki's Diapers brand)

This is a pocket diaper - the difference is in the inside (Kawaii Baby brand)

The Health and Environmental Benefits 
I'm not the type to blast disposable diapers because they contain chemicals - to each his own. Mira wore disposables for the first three months of her life in the NICU with only one small issue (yeast infection). Here are a few health and environment reasons to cloth diaper: 
  • Diaper rashes and yeast infections are significantly reduced because it's just cloth. The caveat to this is that you have to properly clean the diapers. Three months of cloth diapering and not one issue at all. 
  • If your kid has sensitive skin or eczema or any of those issues, then you should definitely consider cloth diapers.
  • Disposable diapers take a long time to leave landfills. So, if you care, cloth diapers mean you don't clutter up the earth with dirty diapers that take a long time to disintegrate. 
Ok, apologies for the long article. But I hope I made the case for someone out there to consider giving cloth diapering a try. It doesn't matter if you have an older baby, it's never too late to make the change. A few sites I love are Nicki's Diapers, Fluff Love University and Kelly's Closet. A few of my favorite YouTube channels are We Are The Strange and Obbs and Lala

I really would love questions and conversations about it, so don't hesitate to reach out to me here in the comments section or at prkimmy@gmail.com. I will likely write another post soon with more insights.