Friday, August 5, 2011

Plastic Pants are Out and Other Things I've Learned About Cloth Diapering

This is an update to April's post "A (Mother) Earth Day Crisis."

So picture it, I was an excited, environmentally conscious (and clueless!) mother-to-be, and I decided I wanted to help reduce my landfill contributions by using cloth diapers.  Wash them?  Ick!  I started the search for a service that would do it for me.  I thought surely people don't actually put their babies' dirty diapers in their own washing machines!  Actually, they do.  But more on that later.

I found a service.  It was a little pricey for the early months since tiny disposable diapers are cheaper than the larger ones.  But as the little one grew, the price would end up just slightly higher to use a cloth diaper service.  But like buying organic produce, wouldn't the little extra money be worth it?  I thought I had it all figured out.  And then the looks of disgust and disbelief started appearing as I shared my plan with women around me.

You're going to wash what?
These women meant no harm.  They knew a whole different world of cloth diapering.  Ask your mother what your car seat used to be like and then watch her face the first time you pop that infant carrier into the base in your backseat.  That's how far cloth diapers have come.  So below, I'd like to dispel a few of those myths and share some of my own experiences.

Listen, this is a diaper discussion.  If you're eating you might want to stop reading now.

Disgusting Myth #1 - You have to scrape out poop, dunk the diaper in the toilet, and otherwise engage in ridding the diaper of baby's number twos.  Your washing machine is really good at washing.  If you take the diaper and turn it upside down over the toilet and let what falls out fall, you can certainly wash the rest.  If you're baby has not started solids, those liquidy poops wash out without a problem.  The ones that are slightly more solid will wash out too, but you could scrape it into the toilet.  If it doesn't look to me like it would just fall right in, I don't even bother scraping.  No dunking necessary!  Are you kidding me?  That's gross!

Disgusting Myth #2 - Your house will smell disgusting.  If you go the cloth diaper route, you will need a diaper pail or lidded trash can.  They sell liners for the pails that get washed right along with the diapers.  You need to wash the diapers every 2-3 days (I wash every other day), and so far I have not had any house guests comment on an unpleasant odor.  Nor do I smell anything in the room where the diaper pail is unless I just opened it. I think you put the lid on and it's all good.

Disgusting Myth #3 - Your baby's behind will sweat in those plastic pants and he'll have diaper rash really bad.  There are tons of options for cloth diapers and most (in fact, the only ones I would use), do not involve plastic pants.  I use Kissaluv's Marvels All-in-Ones which have an absorbent inner layer and a waterproof outer layer.  It does get a little wetter in the cloth diapers than disposables because the disposables are filled with a polymer that wicks all moisture away.  My baby has not has a diaper rash in his life; these diapers do not create that problem.
Wells sporting his Kissaluvs diaper

Disgusting Myth #4 - You have to carry that s#*t around with you!  This myth is partially true.  If your child goes to a daycare or if you're out and about and you need to change him, you will have to carry the dirty diaper home with you.  Most companies sell wet bags that are zippered and waterproof and get washed with the diapers.  They do the job well.  But the truth is, you don't have to carry diapers around at the zoo.  You can use disposables for a day, a weekend, or a few hours when it makes sense to do so.  I don't want to worry about washing diapers on vacation, so I use disposables for that.

Disgusting Myth #5 - You can't wash diapers in the same place you wash your clothes.  Your washing machine is made to take dirt, spilled food, blood, throw-up--whatever goes into it--and wash it out.  It's made to wash and soak and rinse so all that grime exits the area.  To wash diapers you don't need a special washer.  You run one rinse cycle on cold to prevent staining.  If you don't think the diapers look rinsed enough, you can run it again.  Then you wash the longest cycle your washer has on warm or hot with regular laundry detergent with no fabric softener (it has a waterproofing effect--bad for diapers!) and then dry without a dryer sheet.

Here are some other helpful things I've learned about the process:

  • Washing diapers is not the same as doing more laundry.  That was a huge fear for me because I really don't like doing laundry.  Regular laundry involves folding, sorting, hanging and sock matching.  Diapers just get washed and dryed.  If you get the ones I have, the "soaker" is made to come out and the diaper gets turned inside out in the wash cycle (getting it really clean), so you do have to turn them right side out after drying.
  • I use 12 diapers and that seems to be enough for every other day washing.  I rarely go through all 12 diapers by washing time.
  • No pins.  The all-in-ones have either snaps or Velcro.
  • Detergent matters.  Some detergents can coat the diapers and make them less and less absorbent. Check out this detergent chart to see if your detergent will work.
  • You do need to think about wipes.  With disposables the wipe goes in the diaper and gets thrown away.  You could continue to use disposable wipes and keep a waste basket for them.  I switched to reusable wipes (a cut up old towel, the thinner the better, works just as well as the wipes the diaper makers sell).  You have to wet the wipes with wipe solution.  I make my own and keep it in a spray bottle: water, baby soap and baby oil).  I throw the wipe in the diaper pail and they get washed with the diapers.
  • You don't use a ton of water.  The diapers only make a small load.
  • The all-in-one diapers are not cheap, about $22 each.  But you will save in the long run.
I am not hear to convince anyone that cloth diapering is what you should be doing.  But I do know a lot of women would be open to it if they knew how it all works instead of believing the myths.  Feel free to post your questions below.

Our Mother Earth is worth it!

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe how much you've learned about this in such a short time - but then, I guess having a baby is a crash course in a lot of things! Thanks so much for the info. I'll file it away under 'B' for 'baby', should I ever have one. ;-)