Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Raising a baby without a lot of expense - Part 1 Cloth Diapers

Most people seem to use cloth diapers for environmental and idealistic reasons, I cloth diaper (CD) to save money. That leads to some interesting conversations, because everyone seems to need to save money these days. In that spirit the next few posts deal with the least expensive way to get started with a baby.

Cloth Diapers
Previously I posted about the basic types of cloth diapers. The least expensive, least complicated way to diaper a baby in my opinion is with the Econobum brand diapers.  These are basic one size fits most (8-40lb) prefold diapers and covers. As the name suggests they are designed to be inexpensive, but these are good quality diapers made by Cotton Babies, who also sell the ever popular Bumgenius Diapers. (Check out this video review)

A box of 12 prefolds, 3 covers, and a pail liner runs $60, and you will need 2 boxes to diaper full-time.

In addition, I recommend a snappi ($3.50), which helps to keep the runny newborn poop from exploding everywhere.

Prefolds (known as ‘snappi diapers’ in our house) do require a little folding (think 5 seconds), but that means they can be customized to girls, boys, heavy wetters, etc. Here is a quick picture tutorial on a few diaper folds.

The easiest fold is the tri-fold. Fold over one third of the fabric from each side of the diaper to form a long rectangle and lay this in the cover before fastening onto the baby. If your baby only poops occasionally (3 times a day) this will work, but anymore and you will need a lot of covers because it does not stop the mess from reaching the cover. You may also want to fold down some of the front or back fabric to adjust the size.

We love the jelly-roll fold. Simply lay the diaper flat, place the baby on the diaper, with the diaper at baby’s waist height, then roll in both sides to form a cone shape. Fold up over baby’s crotch, fold down any extra fabric and snappi in place. (Check out these tutorials http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9UId1SKn1c ; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjFJ5bxMnr8&feature=related)

The angel wing fold is also popular. Simply tri-fold your pre-fold and pull out the back edges to snappi it to the baby.

The covers with this system are one size fits most. The cover  uses a series of snaps that can be used to make the diaper smaller and larger.

It is important to make sure that the diaper cover covers the prefold completely (nothing sticking out), and that you can’t see air between the baby’s legs and the cover (otherwise mess will escape).

Before you use cloth diapers you will need to wash them a full 3-5 times to remove the oils still on the diapers and make them absorbent. After that you can use them, but they will only reach their most absorbent after about 10 washes.  Simply add a little (about ½ the normal amount) of detergent to 2-3 washes, then dry the diapers, then repeat.

Typically you need to use a clean rinsing detergent with diapers. The easiest is Arm & Hammer Essentials (NO fabric softener), but there are many specially designed detergents available (Try Rocking Green or Tiny Bubbles).  Rinse the diapers on cold, then add detergent and wash on hot, then do an extra rinse on cold. You want to avoid letting detergent build up on the diapers because it makes them less absorbent and can give the baby a rash. The extra rinse makes sure all the bubbles come out.

If you find there are lots of bubbles in the last rinse, try reducing the amount of detergent you use or adding another rinse.

Line dry the covers and either tumble dry or line dry the prefolds.

Laundry issues:
There are a few problems with cloth diapers that may pop up from time to time, but most are avoided by washing every 2-3 days:

Stains happen, but if you have washed the diapers, then just like the mustard or ketchup stain on your shirt, it is nothing to worry about the diaper is still clean. However, line drying the diapers in the sun will get them sparkling again. Adding a little lemon juice to a really stubborn stain before sunning a diaper will also work.
1.       Check that you are tucking the fabric from the legs and back into the cover at each change.
2.       You might have detergent build up from the wrong type of laundry soap, using too much soap, or using fabric softener*.
a.       Solution: Wash your diapers in hot water several times without detergent until you don’t see anymore bubbles in the water.
*You will need to strip your diapers like you did when they were new if you used fabric softener

Strong Urine/ammonia smell:
1.       The urine may not be washing out completely. Add an extra rinse, to see if it resolves
2.       If not, soak the diapers in detergent and hot water for 30min-1 hr then launder as usual with an extra rinse (I have a bag of Rocking Green for this purpose).

Really Stinky Diapers:
Typically your diapers smell okay out of the wash, but stink as soon as they are wet.
1.       Soak the diapers in detergent and hot water for 30min-1 hr then launder as uses with an extra rinse. You may not be using enough detergent, try increasing the amount you normally use.

If these don’t work, or it’s something else check out the Forum on DiaperPin. The members are very helpful for trouble shooting.

If your baby gets thrust or a yeast rash you need to sanitize your diapers throughout the treatment period and for 5 days after the rash clears. The easiest way to do this is to wash the prefolds in very hot water with 1-2 tbsp of bleach. DO NOT Bleach Covers. You don't want to bleach the covers because it can damage the elastic and the PUL that makes the cover waterproof.

Alternatively, 10-20 drops of grapefruit seed extract in a hot water wash will also do the trick.

Diaper Creams:
Typically you DO NOT want to use diaper creams with cloth diapers. But if you need to, make sure to use a cream that is specifically listed as cloth diaper safe, or use a flushable diaper liner to protect the diaper from the cream.

Dealing with the mess:
The biggest question everyone seems to ask is "what about the poop?". If a baby is breastfed the poop is almost as runny as urine and diapers can simply go straight into the wash. Once the baby starts solids, the chunkier poop needs to go into the toilet. Options include tipping it in, scraping it off (people often have a spatula that lives in the bathroom or use the wipe), spraying it off (with a diaper sprayer or handheld shower head), using a flush-able liner, or dunking and swishing. I prefer the first option, but everyone has there own preference.

If your baby was in disposables, the poopy clothes (any there would be many) go in the washer without a thought. The washer can handle the diapers too.

For more articles check out:
The New & Green Baby Company
Bummis FAQ page

or simply search your question online.