We are in the process of making the switch to cloth diapers around here. There are several good reasons why we have taken the plunge: they are better for the environment, they are more economical, they reduce diaper rash, they are cuter, but most importantly, they are safer for babies. Here is a great resource that outlines some of the reasons to choose cloth diapers. Trust me, I was a bit hesitant at first, but now that I have done a bit of research and have put them to the test, I am completely hooked.
I first became interested in using cloth after reading the article, The Diaper Dilemma, in Mothering May/June 2010. It is an informative and exhaustive guide that covers all of the reasons to cloth diaper and also talks a bit about the different types of diapers. I was definitely intimidated at first by all the choices and lingo or where to even begin, really. I mean, what's a soaker? what's a doubler? What are the pros and cons of all of the different materials and systems, anyways? I met up with my friend Mandy and she gave me a consultation of sorts on the ins and outs of natural diapering. A nicer and more knowledgable cloth diaper advocate you will not meet. She absolutely convinced me that this was something I could do.
Another fantastic online resource that really gets down to the nuts and bolts of cloth diapering is a series of videos on YouTube called Cloth Diapering 101 by Jaimee Gleisner. This is a very concise, comprehensive and complete guide to all of the most commom questions. She brings you through the different types of diapers and materials, the myriad of cloth diaper accessories and talks a bit about washing. Oh, the washing. I should definitely touch on that. So, before I had educated myself on the process, I had thought that I would either have to wash every poopy diaper in the sink one by one, or that the dirty diapers would need to soak in a pail in the nursery, stinking to high heavens. As it turns out, it is much easier than that. In fact, the only difference in the way that I treat the cloth vs. disposable is that I actually wash them instead of throwing them away. I remove Rylie's cloth diaper, poop or pee, and I put it in a wet bag which zippers closed and keeps all odors at bay. There is virtaully no stink. The wet bag is lined with a waterproof laminate so on wash day you empty your diapers into the machine and the bag goes right in along with them. Easy. I also was not sure how my wash machine could ever get a diaper clean. The truth is that each different diaper type has a very specific set of instructions on how to clean them. Follow the instructions and your diapers will not stain or become funky. I was amazed at how well they washed up in the laundry.
So, what diapers are we using? I purchased a Flip system day pack to give it a try before fully committing. The reason I choose this system was threefold: it is easy, it is a great value and it is versatile. Basically you have your choice between a microfleece-terry cloth insert which has excellent moisture whicking properties, an organic cotton prefold if you want to stick with natural fibers, or a disposable insert for those times when cloth is not practical. You pick one of these three options and you slap it inside a waterproof, size-adjustable cover and you are all set. When baby wets, you replace the insert and reuse the cover. When baby poops, you throw that cover in the wet bag along with the insert. So on average you will use two covers per day depending on how many #2s you are dealing with.
We have been at it for a week now, and honestly, I have no complaints. I have not gone out and about with them yet, but I'm not sweating it. If we choose convenience, using the disposable insert is essentially the same as using a disposable diaper. However, if we get a couple of these adorable smaller wet bags for our diaper bag, we can go out in cloth and treat diaper changes the same as if we were at home. The diapers look super cute on Rylie and they adjust with her as she grows. She definitely has the bigger "cloth diaper butt" but all of her clothes still fit her. The diapers have not leaked once, which is more than I can say for the disposables we were using. And laundering them has also been easier than I had imagined.
I'm actually pretty geeked over the whole experience. Now that I "get it " a little bit and understand all of the options and terminology, I realize that there are so many ways to customize a system that is just right for you. There are so many more options than disposables. It took me a while to really settle in on what would be exactly right for us, and I'm not sure that the Flip system is the be all end all. There is a part of me that wants to go completely all natural by using a cotton, bamboo or hemp diaper and then covering with a wool soaker. My only hesitation is that the natural materials are not as absorbant as the microfleece, which means more diaper changes, more laundry and inevitably more leaks. Another drawback is that you have to buy the wool covers in different sizes as baby grows, and as you might expect, 100% wool is expensive. I'm also a little curious about the BumGenius 4.0 and the GroVia covers. I may buy one of each of those just to give them a whirl to see if I prefer them over the Flip. But so far the Flip seems pretty darn fail-safe.
The great news is that one positive change influences another. We are now also using resusable baby wipes. Before I was using cloth diapers, I was using individual paper towels saturated with an all natural baby wipe juice. This worked great and it is really gentle on Rylie's skin. I figured that since I am now laundering diapers, why not throw in reusable wipes as well. It's all the same, right? So now I am using little washcloths for wipes saturated with the same wipe juice.
If you are interested or just curious about cloth diapering, I totally encourage you to find out more. It's never too late to start and you don't have to go 100% full time either. Even if you just cloth diaper at home, that is saving thousands of disposble diapers from landfills over the span of your baby's diaper-wearing years. All experiences will be unique, so what is working for us may not work for you and vice versa. One of the coolest things about cloth is that they are so customizable. Here are a few great resources that helped me on this journey. You might be surprised at just how easy it is to make the switch and how incredibly sophisticated the whole industry has become.
Dumping Disposable Diapers by Lindsay Evans
Crazy For Cloth by Laura Schmitt
A Tale of Two Diapers by Peggy O'Mara
The ABCs of Going Cloth by Elizabeth Gawlik
Disposable Diapers Linked to Asthma
Amanda Schutt CBD, CPD, HCHI