Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How to use cloth diapers

I committed to using cloth diapers while I was pregnant, in my head. But I was intimidated about actualizing that commitment. Would it be a hassle? Would it be gross? I wanted a clear "how to" so I'd know what to expect, what to do, etc. Here's my own version of what I was looking for. Hopefully some new mom who's considering cloth diapering will stumble across it.

SUPPLIES (These are further explained at the end, including cost considerations.)
In your diapering area
12-18 FuzziBunz cloth diaper inserts and covers (sold together)
4-6 doublers
Box/roll of diaper liners
1-2 large wet bags
15-30 cloth wipes

In your laundry area
Bac-Out Cleaner
Charlie's Soap

Months 0, 1 and 2
I used a diaper service for the first 2 months of Desmond's life and disposables for his third month  Why?

1. Cloth diaper companies will promise you can fit them onto tiny babies, and you can, technically. But with the diaper service, which provided traditional cloth diapers (that often are used as burp cloths) called "tri-folds" I could get a much better fit.

2. Using the tri-folds, I was never in danger of letting Desmond sit in his own pee. Disposables and fancy cloth diapers of today are very absorbent. Contemporary cloth diapers have micro-suede lining that sits against baby's skin and seems fairly dry after a couple of pees, so it can be easy to not realize the diaper is wet.

 3. I changed A LOT of diapers, but never had to wash with the service. We went through 50-70 in any given week (this amount decreases later on). Baby's bladder doesn't hold much at the newborn stage, so the 12-18 diapers I recommend having will only give you a day's use.

4. Using a service helped me ease into cloth diapering. If there's no service available to you, I think using disposables for these months is the way to go.

Month 3
Around 3 months of age, the cloth diapers seemed to fit. This is when I discovered that FuzziBunz had the best fit for Desmond. The FB Medium size are specified for babies who are 14-30 lbs. Desmond started wearing his at about 12 lbs. and I did not have leaking problems. Also, by this point, he needed fewer diaper changes, I was less frazzled and started being able to manage my time and responsibilities better, and Desmond was developing sleep and feeding patterns, so a schedule was emerging.

I was terrified I was getting into something that would be a hassle. But after two weeks of use I had it down and have never felt like I am adding more work to my mom-load.

Load the inserts into the diaper covers ahead of time so that when it's time for a diaper change you can grab one and snap it on. I put the diaper liners in as I diaper because I don't use a liner for each diaper. Some people may find it helpful to line each diaper ahead of time. If your child will attend daycare, you'll likely need to send the diapers ready to go. At night, right before I'm about to put him down, I'll change him and add a doubler into his diaper cover so that the diaper is more absorbent. During a change, I take the dirty diapers off and toss them into my wet bag along with the fabric wipe I used to clean him. In a nutshell, the process isn't much different from grabbing a disposable, wiping clean and then throwing away your wipe and diaper (except here you thow them into a wet bag).

These are the instructions that come along with most cloth diapers I found.
1. Pre-wash or soak in cold water. Add a capful of Bac-Out to this water.
2. Dump the entire contents of your wet bag and the wet bag itself into the water and Bac-Out.
3. After the pre-wash or soak, add Charlie's Soap and wash in hot water, rinse in cold water.

I wash every other day. If I had 24 diapers, I could probably wash every 3rd day. If you wait more than that, you probably will encounter issues with your wet bag starting to smell. 

12-18 FuzziBunz cloth diaper inserts and covers (sold together)
I have 13 and plan to purchase 3 more. Right now I need to use disposables at night. When I have 16-18, I can eliminate disposables all together. At first I thought it would be easier to use disposables at night, but I'm finding that, regardless of whether he's in cloth or disposables at night, there's no real difference in leakage or his sleep patterns. And changing diapers in the middle of the night is the same with both. You're bleary-eyed and slower no matter what.
I use both Perfect Fit, sz. Medium FuzziBunz and a few Elite One Size FuzziBunz. I tried Flips, Bum Genius 4.0 All-in-ones and FuzziBunz. I wanted to use BG b/c they were slightly cheaper and looked so much like FB in construction. The reality is that the FB fit my son with less bulk and less uncomfortable squeezing. The Flips seemed like a good way to spend less money and wash less, but once the baby gets more wiggly, the inserts (i.e. the actual piss-absorbing diaper) move around too much. And you'll have to wash the inserts no matter what, so why not just get one cover per one diaper insert (which is what you get when you purchase a FuzziBunz diaper) and wash them together?

Every baby's different, but three people highly recommended FuzziBunz to me. I still tried less expensive diapers first. If you feel like you want to try some different kinds out, it might be good to purchase one diaper of three or four different brands before you commit. I ended up selling my Flips and FuzziBunz online and got for not much less than they originally cost because they were so new and in such great shape. 

The Cost: If you buy 12 FuzziBunz, you'll spend about $180. You'll spend about $270 on 18. If I use only disposables (which I did for a couple of months), I spend $80/month. I could get them in bulk online and spend $70-75/month. But add that up and by month 4, you've already spent $280. You will be able to use your cloth diapers for the span of your child's diapering days, and if you care for them properly you'll have them for baby #2, if that's in your cards.

4-6 Doublers
What the hell are doublers? This is what I wondered. Essentially, they are smaller diaper inserts that you put in the diaper cover with a regular insert to "double up" the absorbancy for heavy/nighttime wetting.
Fuzzibunz charges about $4 for doublers, so you're looking at $16-20. 

Diaper Liners
These are super thin sheets (thinner than fabric softener sheets and softer) that you place on top of the diaper cover and next to baby's skin. When baby poops, he generally doesn't ooze outside of the liner. I can lift the liner and flush it. Occasionally, he oozes out, but it's not hard to rinse of the edges before throwing the soiled diaper into the wet bag. If your baby does have problems with rashes, liners are important. Petroleum products in diaper creams remove absorbancy from diaper covers, so the liners protect the diaper cream from getting onto the diapers. You can also find diaper creams that don't contain petroleum products.

Cost: I've been using Bumkins, spending about $8.00 for a box of 100. It took me a month and a half to use one box. So, at $80/year, this is my most constant expense with cloth diapering. I don't use a liner for every diaper. After Desmond poops, I don't use a liner for the next 3 or 4 diapers because I'm fairly sure he won't poop again that soon. So far this has mostly worked, and the occasional clean up when I was wrong hasn't been terrible.

For me, the Bum Genius sprayer/bidet thing that hooks to your toilet is more of a mess than a help. It's hard to control the water pressure, so it just sprays the water out too fast and furiously. 

1-2 large wet bags
These bags have a waterproof lining and zip closed. When you change a diaper, you put the soiled diaper in the bag and zip it. I have one large Planet Wise bag because they come in good patterns/colors. It would be nice to have two so when one is being washed the other is available, but I haven't had any problems using only one. I also only wash my bag with every other load of diapers and find that I don't have problems with odor. I feel like washing the bag every other load will help maintain the water-proof material inside the bag. I could probably even get away with washing it every third load/once a week.

Cost: These are pricier than they should be in my opinion. But you only need to buy them once. A large Planet Wise bag runs about $20 if you buy directly from their website. You can find them for less on Amazon, but watch out, because sometimes they are more on Amazon.

15-30 cloth wipes
Like the diapers, disposable wipes cost more money over a relatively short span of time. You're already washing diapers if you use cloth, so why not use cloth wipes and toss them in your wet bag to wash with the diapers as you go? I do keep disposable wipes in my diaper bag and to use for poopy diapers, but other than that, I have a wipe warmer where I keep fabric wipes moistened with water. Water is all the baby needs, and Desmond has never had a diaper rash, which is possibly because of less chemicals on his skin. His only rashes seem to be a result of skin chafing.

Cost: A set of 12 BumGenius will cost about $12 on diapers.com. Again, if you add up what you'd spend over a few months on wipes, using disposables, you'll see you get your money back pretty quickly.

Some people recommend cutting up flannel receiving blankets. I did this because at first I was afraid my 28 cloth wipes would not be enough. In the end, the homemade ones are less soft and the edges fray. I think the $20 bucks was worthwhile, as they're holding up nicely.

Bac-Out Cleaner
People's advice on how they use this in the cleaning process varies slightly, but at the end of the day it's the same: pre-treat your dirty diapers with Bac-Out to remove stains and odor. This product has enzymes that eat away bacteria and thus, odor.

Cost: $8.00 for 32 oz. I use one capful per load, less than one oz for sure. I think a bottle will last for appx. 3 months. If you buy directly from their website it's cheaper than from other sites and stores, and they reduce the price if you buy in bulk.

Charlie's Soap
I did a lot of internet searching and tried a few types of laundry detergent, including Seventh Generation and an herbal detergent. People kept recommending Charlie's. I was hesitant at first, but am convinced it's all I want to use on all of my laundry. The gloopy stuff that thickens detergent is something used in glue. It creates residue in your machine and on your clothes over time (you may have noticed your towels stiffen after a while). There's none of the gloop in Charlie's (this is noticeable). For a small load (i.e. 12-18 diapers), you need only 3 tsp./1 tbsp. of soap. For a large load, you need only 6 tsp./2 tbsp (1oz.).

Cost: Appx. $28 for 128 oz. bottle, which is 128 large loads of laundry. If you are only using this for diapers, you'll wash small loads appx. 3 times/week. This comes out to 144 times/year - but remember, these are small loads, not large loads. That is to say, one 128 oz. bottle will last you over a year if you are paying attention to how much soap you use per load.

If you use 18 diapers, 6 doublers, 2 wet bags and 30 cloth wipes, you're looking at about $350. Throw in the Charlie's soap, and you're up to $380. Add in a year's supply of liners, and you're up to $460. That sounds crazy, right? But if you use disposables, at $70/month, you'll spend $840 in 1 year for the diapers alone. You'll also spend a significant amount of money on disposable wipes. So the first year, you save half the money. The second year you're spending pretty much nothing on diapering. With a second child, you're spending nothing for both years of diapering.

Do you spend more in water bills? Probably. But you do a lot of laundry having a baby regardless of whether you use cloth diapers. And honestly, for a while I just combined my diaper loads with baby clothes because the clothes were/are full of piss, spit up, drool and poop leaks anyway.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Know that Beatles song, "I'm so Tired"?

On Saturday night, as I was driving to pick up a pizza, I thought to myself, "I have never felt more tired, old, and haggard in my life." And I felt so heavy with that exhaustion. I thought, "I don't know if I'm cut out to be a parent around the clock," as if there's a choice.

The heaviness lifted.

But then Tuesday rolled around. Desmond has had a cold for several nights and keeps waking up through the night because his nose is stuffed. When I got him back down in the crib at 5:40 a.m. on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, I was desperate for him to stay asleep so that I could catch up on sleep. Of course, he woke up forty minutes later. I almost cried, literally almost cried. Being tired will make you act like a baby I guess.

Thank goodness for last night when he went down at 7:15 pm and did not get up until 5:30 am. It's good to feel rested.