March 30th 2017
I’ve been thinking about writing this post since last summer, around the time Lou went from diaper dependant to fully potty-trained. And now that she has turned three, and is a seasoned toilet go-er, the article is finally here! A whole article dedicated to the pleasures, and challenges, of using washable cloth diapers.
It seems like such a short while ago that I wrote about creating a green, all natural and organic, nursery. Lou had not yet been born and we were in full anticipation of her, and our life together, as a family. In this green nursery post, published over at my old website, I mentioned how my husband and I decided to use cloth diapers. Or more accurately: I decided to opt for cloth diapers and Yoshi willingly obliged. The reason for my choice was manifold. I did not want to add to the huge amount of waste that our planet is already burdened with. I did not want my child to have toxic material wrapped around her behind for several years on end. And I did not want to spend more than necessary. I basically wanted the best for our child and our planet.
Over time people have asked me many questions regarding the use of cloth diapers so I decided to share my full experience, front to back, over at the journal. I’ll explain which diapers we chose, why and how many. I’ll explain all of the practicalities, the benefits and the things I found challenging. I hope my story helps you, a (nearly) newborn parent, make an informed and joyful diapering decision.
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OUR CLOTH DIAPER STORY
Why we chose cloth diapers
-You produce less waste, about 800 kg in total.
-It’s healthier. Conventional diapers contain all sorts of chemicals such as cancer causing dioxin and a substance named sodium polyacrylate, which was banned from tampons because it caused a serious disease -called toxic shock syndrome- in women.
-It’s planet friendlier. Even when you consider the use of washing machine and dryer, cloth diapers are way more planet friendly than disposable ones. Disposable diapers take a whopping couple of hundred years to break down.
-It saves money, over 1000 euros in total.
Which diapers we chose and why?
We chose fitted cloth diapers made from 100% organic cotton by Popolini. We chose 100% organic cotton because it dries quicker than bamboo and is made from nothing but natural fibre. We live in a colder climate so air-drying can take a bit of time. The quicker the (natural) fabric dries, the better. We chose fitted diapers because they are extremely user friendly and highly absorbant. This cuts mama and daddy some slack and makes it a drier and more pleasant experience for baby. The variety we chose was UltraFit one size. This meant the diaper could be worn from the moment our daughter was born until she was fully potty trained. You can make these diapers size and age appropriate by using some simple snaps. The downside to ‘one size’ is that they might well be used for one child only. The reason? You use one diaper until your child will be fully potty trained. Two to four years of constant washing (and drying) will weaken the fabric and some tears might appear. If you know for sure you have the desire to welcome two children in your lives, and are adamant to use cloth diapers with both of them, it might be smarter to opt for the ‘two size’ variety. Be prepared to spend about double the amount of money.
We bought 20 diapers in total, two sets of ten, costing about 290 euros in total. Buying this amount of diapers meant I had to do a diaper wash every morning of the third day. I would do a rinse cycle, a wash cycle and then use the dryer during the colder days. I would add one of the polyester covers to the rinse and wash cycle, to make sure they were also washed regularly. Fitted diapers have several layers: the fitted diaper itself, an insert that we used on every occasion and an additional stay dry cloth to use if need be. The latter we started using only when Lou grew older (18 months or so) and needed to stay dry throughout the night. When baby starts on solids, and her faeces become more solid, there is the option of adding another layer: a fibrous organic piece of paper. This means you can simply take the poop, inside the piece of paper, and throw the whole lot it in the toilet. The paper is fully biodegradable. If your baby has merely wet her diaper you can wash the paper and use it again on another occasion. Fitted cloth diapers do not come with a waterproof outer layer so they require an additional waterproof cover. There are two choices for waterproof covers: one made from wool or, one that I mentioned earlier, made from polyester. We had both. The wool ones are more natural and durable but take some time to get used to. You need to make them waterproof yourself by lanolizing them. The polyester ones take less time to get used to but are a little less durable. The elastic band around the legs might loosen, which will cause leakage. Polyester does not breathe, wool does. This means you will create a more moist and warm environment when you use polyester covers, which might result in diaper rash. Therefore make sure to change more frequently when you decide to use the polyester covers. All waterproof covers (wool and polyester ones) come in +- 3 different sizes. We used two waterproof covers per size so we could alternate covers and let one dry or get washed while the other one was used. But fitted diapers are not your only choice when it comes to cloth diapering. If you are interested in investigating the different styles of cloth diapers, you can read more HERE.
-If you live in a colder climate, you will probably need a dryer. If you have the choice, opt for the greenest one available.
-This drying rack comes in very handy, when air-drying diapers. It folds up on days you don’t need it.
-When you air-dry your diapers make sure you add some apple cider vinegar, as a fabric softener, to your wash cycle. Diapers that are air-dried can be very stiff and hard and this might feel a bit uncomfortable on your babies bottoms. Vinegar will prevent that.
-Since you’re already washing and going for waste-free, you might want to consider using washable bottom wipes. We used these by Imse Vimse. We purchased 36 in total, which -when used- we placed in the diaper bin along with the dirty diapers and machine wash (and dry) them together every morning of the third day. This way we made sure to never run out of clean ones. The wipes are still to this day in tip top shape, so ultra durable.
-We did not use cloth diapers when on holidays. I tried it once but I soon found out I wanted a true holiday with as little doing, and as much resting, as possible. While we were holidaying we used these 100% biodegradable organic disposable ones.
-Do not place your waterproof polyester diaper covers in the dryer. Do not put your wool covers in with your diaper wash. They requier specific treatment.
-We had to get used to them. The first times we put them on Lou they were leaking and we had to change the diaper, the bedding and Lou’s clothes. But this was due to our inexperience of getting all the layers right, and had nothing to do with the quality of the diaper. It was a bit frustrating at first but after three days of practice we became true professionals.
-You might be shocked by the sheer size of them. Yes, they are indeed bigger than a regular disposable diaper, but this is not neccesarily a bad thing. Read the benefits in the section below.
-Because the diaper has more volume you’ll also have to carry a bit more volume with you when you take baby outdoors. I have never found this to be a problem, as going out with the baby already meant we had to bring plenty of stuff. Many brands offer wetbags for parents on the road. A wetbag is a bag designed to place the soiled wet diaper in. It can be easily zipped to keep the rest of your belongings dry.
-The greatest challenge of them all was the emptying of the diaper. Wet diapers were easy. Baby poop was easy. But as Lou grew her faeces changed. Most days it was nicely shaped and I could just pick it up in the sheet of paper I mentioned earlier, and throw it in the toilet. But somedays her poop was all over the diaper, which meant I had to hand rinse the diaper before placing it in the washing machine for a rinse and wash cycle. Let’s say it is a bit more ‘hands-on’ than the disposable version.
-Babies who wear cloth diapers rarely experience diaper rash. There are no chemicals that can harm your babies skin. Lou rarely had a rash but when she did we treated her behind with organic coconut oil or diaper cream by Weleda.
-Babies who wear cloth diapers potty train earlier than babies who wear disposables. Can you imagine wearing a big lump of cloth around your behind all day? Well that’s plenty of motivation to start using the toilet asap. Lou was fully potty trained (day and night) when she was 2,5. Hooray!
-Another volume benefit: when your child goes down the slide a bit to fast she has the extra padding disposable diapered kids miss ; )
-Other than those first three days, we have not experienced leaking when using the cloth variety. We have experienced plenty of leaking with disposable diapers whilst on holidays. And it’s not just my experience! Cloth diapers are known to leak less than disposables.
-We saved close to 1000 euros by using cloth diapers and additionally enjoyed all of the benefits mentioned at ‘why we chose cloth diapers’.
What to do with your diapers after they’ve been well used?
If your diapers look perfectly wearable after your child has potty trained you can sell them on, at an online marketplace, or give them to a friend. There are plenty of people who want to cloth diaper on a budget and don’t mind buying second hand. This way you make sure they are well used and not discarded before. Diapers that have holes, broken snaps or loosened elastic bands can be mended and used again. Even my extremely well used ‘one size’ ones might be used on a second baby. Are your diapers well used, tired, unfixable, not in a shape to be sold or passed on, than you might choose to cut the fabric and use these pieces of cotton as cleaning cloth. And one last tip: there are projects set up that collect and recycle (organic) cotton. Use google to find a project near you. These are all ways to make sure you don’t add more (preventable) waste.
Would we do it again?
The best way to know if the benefits and the ease outweighed the challenges is by asking me the question ‘ would we do it again’? And I would answer, within a split second, yes we would. No doubt in my mind we would.
Photos and text (c) (copyright) kyra. at kyra’s kitchen.