Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cloth diapers at 15 months

Can you believe Little Monster is now 15 months old? It's just insane how fast she is getting big. Tonight she said "uh-oh" after she had been crying and I about died laughing. When she is crying we say "uh oh! Did you fall?" and I guess she learned that's what you way when you cry.

So. Many bloggers I read have mentioned cloth diapering. Here's a really nice summary post (that links to other posts on the topic) if you haven't read a similar post. Actually I really found this one helpful too. Over the years I've read many other cloth diaper posts in this vein all over the place.

Brief disclaimer: I do not care one bit whether you use cloth diapers or not, it's all good. Life happens and we do what works for us. I do not expect anyone to be insane and do things my way because it often feels like an eternally uphill battle in many respects. We chose cloth diapers because we are broke most of the time and overall the cost is much lower to do cloth (in dollars and because we are failures at taking out the trash so we need to reduce our trash production wherever possible).

The thing other people haven't written about is using prefolds instead of all in one or pocket diapers. That's something we are doing that is pretty unusual (maybe?) so I thought I'd talk about it (plus I'm in a gloomy mood so I'm hoping it will at least be a break from my grumbling gloom that I hope will go away soon).

Here are the questions I have heard or not heard but seem implied from folks and our answers (along with some pictures because why not?).

How are prefolds different from diapers my grandma used?

What makes them prefolded is the number of layers of cotton. Back in the day, diapers were one thickness (and all cloth obviously) and you needed to fold a bunch to get more bulk where you needed it. Now the diapers are made with a middle third that is double the thickness of the edges so fewer folds are needed or none depending on how you attach them to the baby.

Why would you pick prefolds instead of all in one diapers?

For us the reasoning was twofold. One, it's easier for us to not add a step to the end of laundry like stuffing pocket diapers or even putting away all in one diapers. We get busy, laundry gets left in a basket for a week, and prefolds are easy to grab from the basket, fold in thirds, and stick into a cover. Two is the advantage of each part wearing separately and being able to be laundered in a way that makes it last the longest. We wash diapers in a warm short cycle (this is mostly a rinse) and then a hot wash while the covers only get washed warm with other baby clothes (and the liners too, then they go for another hot wash after the other clothes and covers are removed). This means covers last longer and diapers that wear out or are damaged can be tossed out while we keep the cover. A bonus we discovered is the cleaning power of a cloth diaper. We use them for spills on the carpet, as burp rags for tiny humans, to dust, for potty training incidents, all over the house. It's really handy to know that we have that level of absorbency handy for cleaning up.

Don't all those diapers stink? I don't think I could handle the smell.

I gag every time I wash diapers and throw up on occasion. I gag a lot when I change a poopy diaper so I am not representative of someone who tolerates stink very well. However, we do a few things to cut down the smell. We have soiled diapers in a trash can with a foot pedal, soiled baby clothes and diaper liners and used wipes in a mesh wire basket on the counter because they smell very little. We add baking soda to the diaper pail when it gets smelly and it gets washed out periodically too. When we leave home we use wet bags and the smell is pretty well contained in them.

How do you get them clean? Aren't they really icky?
We use Rockin Green laundry soap and never bleach them, warm rinse with a dash of soap and hot wash with a full dose of soap, and they either go on the line or in the dryer. Our dryer is geriatric so they get dried on low because anything hotter and it overheats and won't work for a week and the repair human who fixed it up last time it quit heating said it's at a high risk of starting on fire at any moment if we use the high heat. Sometimes we dry the diapers twice on low so they are really dry. The covers we turn inside out (well, flip inside out) and put into the warm wash and they generally come clean in only one load.

When it's sunny we dry the diapers on the line. One drying rack holds about 2 dozen large size prefolds or 3 dozen of the small ones. In the winter it took 3-5 sunny days to whiten the diapers but in the summer one afternoon gets out most stains. I discovered recently that clothespins fit right over the rods on the drying racks so that saves some time hanging them up. Here's my laundry assistant demonstrating that her big sister's mini golf set needs to have a hole inside the drying rack.

You can see we have another very short drying rack in silver in addition to the main white one. That's the one we got when the kid was a baby and after umpteen moves, its legs vanished. When stretched it holds 3 dozen large prefolds if it has its legs. Now it holds about a dozen at most but it's my overflow. I think we have between 3 and 4 dozen diapers in circulation. We bought 1 dozen new and 2 dozen used ones retired from the local cloth diaper service and there are some strays from the kid's babyhood around but not nearly as many as I'd thought. I assume I'll discover a box of cloth diapers about the time Little Monster is potty trained since so many things are missing and have yet to be found. 3 dozen would be plenty and it's kind of risky to have so many diapers because we can go too long between washes and still have diapers.

I tried cloth diapers, those all in one things with all the snaps, and I hated them so I sold the lot.

Aside from the diaper portion being a factor in choosing prefolds, the closure for the diapers was a major factor as well. One of us adults has moderate limitations to manual dexterity which makes snaps very difficult. I don't think an all in one diaper exists that comes with the loop and hook closure (ve.lcro is a trade name for this stuff). Combining a hard time getting snaps to work with a squirmy kicking baby just seemed like a bad idea to us so we didn't.

Isn't it a pain in the neck having all those parts to keep track of?

Maybe yes, mostly no. We do covers, trifold the diaper to fit in the cover, add a fleece liner, and attach the diaper to the baby. If we used all in ones, we'd only lose one piece to that trio. It isn't that much effort and only nominally less than if we did all in ones, plus we don't need to worry about doublers or adding special pieces to the all in one.

What about diaper creams? How does that work?

Little Monster has mild eczema and she needs lotion or creams of some sort about 3 weeks a month to keep it in check and stop her from scratching until she bleeds. We started off thinking rashes would be rare and we could just put her in disposables for a day or two while we used the cream but now we've gotten some fleece from a craft store and chopped it into liners that we use with each diaper change.

Wait... what do you use for wipes?

Washcloths. Specifically we bought a big pack of them meant for washing your car at a price of about 40 cents apiece. As they get destroyed by being laundered often we just toss them. I think we started with about 6 dozen and we're down to maybe 4 dozen now (some barely lasted 1 wash though). We also have some plain white washcloths in the mix too but most were the kid's during her diaper years. Many people get all excited about some fancy wipes solution but we don't do that at all. Just plain water for us and so far it works well. Both girls get a rash from aloe so we are cautious about products we put on their skin and try to keep it to a minimum. We have an insulated water pump deal like this except in a really amazing plaid pattern for when the diaper station isn't in the laundry room with a sink like it is now so water is always handy.

What about bleaching or yeast infections?

Some all in ones have in their cleaning directions to bleach them sometimes but that's more because the cover makes it hard or impossible to get the sewn-in liner clean all the way. That's a benefit to prefolds. Unless you do something awful to them like forget to wash them before a week long vacation, there's no need to bleach them probably. If Little Monster is having trouble with a yeast infection we iron the diapers with a very hot iron and lots of steam and that helps quiet things down. Heat kills the nasty yeasts so some folks also use really hot wash water. Our diapers already get washed in water hot enough to kill most yeast so the iron seals the deal (plus obviously the dryer never gets all that hot).

What kind of covers do you like?

We have a variety of covers. Little Monster is a long body baby and relatively narrow as babies go, plus she's in the 25th percentile so she's a petite baby. I imagine some covers that don't work wonderfully for us would be better on a differently shaped baby. We mostly have Thirsties (no affiliate links, I'm much too lazy for that) and Flip covers. We had intended to just get Thirsties but the cloth diaper store was out and some Flips were on clearance so we got some and I think I like them better. Thirsties have the double leg gusset that my spouse likes but I find the inner elastic is worn out now. They also come in size 1 and size 2 so higher cost overall than the Flip that in theory fits all along. We got our first Flip cover about 6 months ago so I can't speak to how it would fit a newborn but my bet is not as well as the Thirsties size 1 did. Despite weighing not much more than 20 lbs Little Monster needs the tallest size in both covers now so I'm unsure they will last her tall body to potty training, but then maybe they will. She's still pretty near the narrowest on all her covers as well. We also have a Sweet Pea all in one cover that is just not at all the right cut for Little Monster so we rarely use it, and a single all in one diaper that I like pretty well and would consider having more of despite the snaps. In the legacy diaper cover category we have a few Bummis covers that are much less awesome than the current models but that got the job done well enough. They were the small size and are outgrown now and we didn't buy any more but not for any special reason beyond sales and easy availability. Somewhere we have the full set of barely-used mediums from the kid's toddlerhood but due to need those may just stay lost.

If you had unlimited money and were just starting out with cloth diapers, what would you suggest?

I really like the multipurpose prefolds so I'd say go with those and pick some cute covers. We've convinced 5 different in-home daycares to use them if they have the hook and loop closure. I prefer the hook and loop closure but I bet the snaps last longer so might be better if you are planning for many children. I would suggest a few different covers to start with (say 4 but maybe 4 different varieties or brands), 3 dozen of the small prefold diapers plus 1 dozen large ones and you can add the other 2 dozen larges and another 2-6 covers over the first few months of babyhood as the budget allows. We have to have at least 8 covers because at daycare each cover is used once and that gives us 2 days' worth of covers if we are behind on laundry. I'd suggest either a big wet bag or a cheap foot pedal trashcan to store soiled diapers and a little one for soiled covers.


  1. This was really interesting to read! I'm usually pretty happy with AIOs, but it's nice there are so many options out there.

    1. I'm glad it was interesting! I think in the future I may get new parents a dozen large size prefolds because they are so handy to have around whether you use them as diapers or not. It's really awesome to see how far cloth diapers have come even in the 5 years between my girls and I'm hopeful they will continue becoming more awesome as time goes by.