February 19, 2015

My two cents about cloth diapering

This post is a repost of one I had written a while ago on a different family blog.  Since I've decided to blog here exclusively I want to go ahead and make sure this info is intact so I can continue to pass it on when my friends and family have questions about cloth diapering.  

In the last few months I've been asked by a handful of mama's and mama's-to-be my thoughts on cloth diapering and for general information.  After typing it all out the last time I thought I'd make it into a proper blog post so I could send it over the next time someone asked me or in case someone researching cloth diapering stumbled here during their online adventures.  What follows is a bit of Cloth Diapering 101 mixed with a lot of my/our experiences and opinions.  Cloth diapering is not only a great way to help the environment but it can also save a lot of money over the life of your child/children. Once upon a time cloth diapering may have been taboo and time consuming, luckily both of those have gone by the wayside as more parents chose to live more simply.

A peek at D's nursery.  Click here to see it featured on Apartment Therapy's website or here to see more details on the Creative Event Studio's blog.

There are a couple of different types of cloth diapers:
  • Prefolds/Covers: These are more or less what you probably think of when you think of cloth diapers. These have a cotten piece of cloth that is secured with a snappy (moms used to use safety pins). A plastic covering is used over the cotton prefold to prevent wetness from leaking through. We tried this method with D at first but found it cumbersome and not effective. 
  • Pocket diapers: These diapers are essentially a 'pillowcase' with a plastic cover on the outside and (generally) fleece on the inside. Inserts are stuffed into the inside of the pocket. The fleece whisks moisture away from the baby. The benefit to using the insert system is that you can take wet inserts out and put dry inserts in and reuse the diaper for multiple changes. Inserts are generally made of microfiber, hemp, or bamboo. We use pocket diapers for D and found them to be very effective. When he was younger and didn't wet as much we could use 1 pocket diaper through 2 or sometimes 3 changes because the fleece wasn't wet to the touch. Now that he is older we change the entire diaper each time. At 18months we use about 4-5 diapers per day.
  • All in one diapers: These diapers are very similar to the pocket diapers but instead of having a fleece liner and inserts the inserts are sewn directly to the cover. We chose not to use this method because there was no barrier to whisk away moisture and you had to change the entire diaper every time.  We also thought that they were a bit on the bulky side. 

There are 2 types of cloth diaper closures: velcro and snap. When D was little and we first began using cloth diapers we LOVED the velcro. (We own BumGenius & Imagine velcro diapers.)  However over time (9months-1year) D figured out how to unfasten the velcro and we'd see a streaker running around the house! Outside of that I've come to really HATE the BumGenius velcro diapers because they don't last. The velcro strips have started to peel up so they don't stick anymore (we have had to begin using the snappy to keep them closed). These were the biggest waste of money ever, luckily the bulk of those were given to us as gifts. Anymore we only use these if it an emergency. The velcro on the Imagine diapers is still going strong and we have no problems with them.  Though I will say that both brands of velcro diapers have snagged my other diaper covers in the wash.  It doesn't matter how well you fasten those velcro tabs they always come loose!  We primarily use our snap closure diapers because they stay closed, little mister can't get them open, and they provide the best fit (I'll get into this later). I've not had any of my snaps pop off and the diapers are in great shape.

You'll probably have noticed that there are tons of different brands of diapers on the market. Some of the most well known are the BumGenius and FuzziBunz. I never tried FuzziBunz so I can't give an opinion on that product. When we first started out with cloth diapers we chose to go with the BumGenius because it had such great reviews and was recommended to us by the store we were at. We later added Imagine diapers and Sunbaby Diapers to our stash. A friend of mine just got some Fuzzibunz and they look pretty straightforward with a slim cut.

My honest opinion is that the BumGenius diapers are a total waste of money. The velcro on my diapers are basically shot and the elastic hasn't kept it's elasticity well. Additionally I find that because they don't have an adjustable thigh snap or elastic that they leak because there is no way to close the 'gap' on the inner thigh. I also thing that they are extremely bulky. If you have a slim baby (like ours) then they aren't the best fit. Overall I do not recommend these diapers to anyone wanting to get into cloth.

Just a few shots to show the velcro.  If you look close you can also see how pilled up parts of the cover have become from the snagging.

After we got into cloth and figured out we needed more we picked up two Imagine diapers. They were cheap so we thought we'd try them out. I like them better than BumGenius but the outside of the covers have gotten very snagged by velcro latches in the wash and they feel the cheapest out of all my diapers. With that being said they provide a good fit and the velcro has lasted extremely well.

On a recommendation from a friend I ordered a set of Sunbaby Diapers.  I LOVE THEM! They are a company based out of China and they offer tons of patterns (you can't always find diapers with a pattern), colors, and they are cheap. Seriously, they are so cheap. All of the diapers are a snap closure with an adustable snap for the leg and come with a slimmer design so your baby doesn't have a huge butt (they do offer 2 sizes). We like these diapers so much we've ordered 2 different sets for ourselves and another set for a friend. We have both the microfiber and bamboo inserts. I like the bamboo but prefer the microfiber. They have held up excellent with no issues and I rarely have leaks. This diaper is an A+ in our book for both quality and price.

Different brands and types of pocket diaper inserts.  From left to right:  Size XL hemp insert, Sunbaby Diapers bamboo insert, small BumGenius insert, large BumGenius insert, Sunbaby microfiber insert

The main thing I was worried about before getting started with cloth diapers was how to wash them. In all honestly there is nothing to it. I have about 18 (?) diapers and end up doing diaper laundry about 1-2 times a week. I use Nellie's All Natural Laundry Soda and dryer balls. Other people I know use Rockin' Green and Charlies. If you have hard water don't use Charlies. I found this link (click here)  while I was researching soap before Davis was born and I thought it was so helpful I've passed it on to all my cloth diapering friends. You also can't use dryer sheets or stain remover on the diapers because it will affect their absorption. So pick up a pack of dryer balls for the dryer, we have dryer balls from Nellie's too but any will work.

 Part of our diaper stash, patterns on the left are Sunbaby Diapers, solid colors on the right are Imagine diapers, and the black and white in the top right is a BumGenius (the rest are in the wash!)

After posting this originally I had a few questions about how to wash the diapers:
  • Can you wash pocket diapers with the inserts in them?  Yes you can.  We generally don't but I know a lot of people who do.  We don't do this because although the washing machine will pull out most of the inserts out of the diapers about 1/3 of the inserts don't come out in the wash.  In my experience they just ball up in a corner.  It makes me feel like they aren't getting as clean.  Plus if you forget to pull the inserts out of the diaper before putting them in the dryer they won't get dry and you'll have to stick them back in the dryer after the rest of your diapers are done.  
  • How do you was your diapers?  We do one wash in cold water followed by a wash in hot.  We use detergent with both cycles.  A lot of people do just one so it's just personal preference but I feel like they get cleaner.
  • What do you do about stains?   We haven't had a lot of problems with staining on our diapers.  (Not for lack of trying on our son's part!)  I think the biggest reason is because we use a diaper sprayer so the 'dirty' doesn't sit in the diaper very long at all.  Plus by spraying it out it is like giving your diaper a pre-wash.  You can't use traditional stain fighters on your diapers and you really can't use bleach.  The best way to get rid of stains is to dry your diapers in the sun.  You can do this by line drying them or by laying them in front of a window.  I

Lastly there are a few things you'll need before you get started:
  • 2-3 wetbags. We keep 1 large wetbag (with a strap to hang it on the changing table) in D's room, then we keep a smaller wetbag in the bathroom with the diaper sprayer. We also have a very small wetbag that we keep in our diaper bag for the on the road changes. Some people just use a trash can for their diapers.  (I've recieved numerous questions about if the diapers smell, if the room smells, etc.  No matter if you use disposable or cloth diapers they are going to smell.  When the wet bag is zipped up there is no smell at all.)  Planet Wise carries tons of wet bags but I like a lot of the ones I see on Etsy too.
  • Diaper Sprayer: The baby is going to poop and you don't want to put poopy diapers in your wetbag with the other ones. What you do is spray out (or just flip it) into the toilet. We keep a 2nd wetbag next to our toilet for the dirty diapers. 
  • Most people recommend to have 24 diapers for a full stash if you're planning on doing CD's full time.  We have about 18 and I do diapers about every 3-4 days.  
  • If you're wondering how much it will cost to invest in your diaper stash you can expect to spend anywhere from $250-$500 on average.  If you were to buy a full stash of 24 Sunbaby Diapers with 48 inserts, a diaper sprayer, and one or 2 wetbags you'd be looking at about $250.  If you go with another brand of diapers it could be more or less.  
 Our changing table with wetbag.  Diaper pail is on the right behind the wetbag.

      I hope this information is helpful to someone out there.  If you have any questions feel free to leave it in the comments!

      All opinions are my own and I am not being paid or endorsed by any company for these reviews.