Lesson 52: Caring for your cloth diapers (cloth diaper tutorial, part 3)

It was easy to reach the decision to cloth diaper. It was a little more challenging to choose the type of diaper we would use. But the hardest part was actually learning how to care for our diapers. I knew that we should wash them separately from other clothes and I knew that we had to use a special detergent. What I did not realize was that we couldn’t use any type of petroleum-based diaper cream on our child’s diapers. Oops.

I don’t know about all cloth diapers, but I do know that my gDiapers had zero care instructions in the package. Cloth diaperers are pretty much left to their own devices to go ahead and figure out how to care for their diapers. There are blogs and forums and message boards devoted to the care of cloth diapers. But if you’re totally new to cloth diapering, why would you even consider Googling “Vaseline and cloth diapers” if you have no suspicion that it might be bad?

And yes, in hindsight, I can see where of course a petroleum-based product used on cloth is bad. But that’s hindsight for ya…

But there’s so much information on cloth diapering. And so many opinions. And so many tricks of the trade. It’s meant to be helpful, but it’s overwhelming! Or, it was for me at least. All I wanted was simple, straightforward, step-by-step, talk-to-me-like-I’m-stupid directions. Do this. Do not do that.

Now that I’ve got this damn cloth diapering thing figured out, here is your simple, straightforward, step-by-step, talk-to-you-like-you’re-stupid directions. You’re welcome.

(Let me preface this by saying it does matter what type of material your diapers are made off. My variety of diapers are made up of microfiber terry, microfleece, hemp, and cotton.)

Prep your diapers before you use them. Of course you know you need to wash any new material before it goes on your baby’s gentle skin. But it’s imperative to follow your manufacturer’s instructions and fully prep cloth diapers so that they become fully absorbent. I recommend reading your manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you’re not missing an important step. Then, follow these directions instead:

1. If you purchased all diapers made out of natural materials (such as hemp) or all diapers made out of synthetic materials (such as microfiber terry), skip to #2. You should not prep natural materials and synthetic materials together (don’t worry, it’s just this once–you can wash them together in the future). So, just divide your diapers into two piles to wash: natural vs. synthetic. You can, however, dry them together.

2. Use OxiClean. Follow the directions on the box. There is some controversy over whether or not Oxi should be used on cloth diapers. However, a cloth-diapering friend of mine recommended it to me and now we both use it religiously. If you want to research it and make your own decision, that’s never a bad idea.

3. Use a cloth diaper safe detergent (i.e. detergents free of scents, dyes, enzymes, brighteners and bleach). I prefer Ecos because it’s inexpensive and works really well (depending on your water type). Read up on it and choose what works for you here, here, here, or here.

4. Do not use fabric softener (ever!!).

5. Set your washing machine on the shortest cycle possible (on my HE, I use the cycle called Quick Wash). Set your soil level to light, spin speed to low, and wash temp to hot. If you do not have an HE machine, make sure to set your water level high enough because you need the extra water to help wash out any extra detergent.

Cloth Diapering 1

6. After the cycle is complete, set your washing machine on the shortest cycle again. But this time, set your soil level to light, spin speed to low, and wash temp to cold. Do not add more Oxy or detergent. Run the diapers through this cycle twice.

Cloth Diapering 2

7. Next, run them through one last cycle. Set  your washing machine on the shortest cycle again. Now set your soil level to low, spin cycle to high, and wash temp to hot. Again, do not add more Oxy or detergent.

Cloth Diapering 3

8. After they’re washed, you can hang the diapers to dry or throw them in the dryer. Lots of people swear by air-drying their diapers; I’m not one of them (because I’m lazy). If you choose to machine dry them, put them on high heat for about 80 minutes (depending on the size of your load). Do not use dryer sheets (ever!!).

Cloth Diapering 4

Caring for your diapers while in use. Really, the only thing you need to know is this: never, ever use any type of petroleum-based cream on your baby’s bottom while using cloth diapers. In fact, be very careful of any type of diaper cream you use. Always use a cloth diaper safe cream (I use Baby Bee Diaper Ointment). And as an added bonus? Consider using a liner when you use diaper cream.

Storing soiled diapers.

1. I store my son’s soiled diapers in a garbage can like this one. I don’t even keep a liner in it; I just throw the diapers in.

2. For an exclusively breastfed baby, you don’t have to rinse poopy diapers before throwing them in the pail. For formula-fed babies or babies/toddlers who eat more than breastmilk, you’ll need to rinse out the poop in the toilet before putting them in your pail.

3. As you throw your diapers into the dirty pail, make sure to go ahead and fasten any velcro tabs to make washing easier (and more gentle on the diapers).

Routine washing.

1. Dump the diapers in the washing machine.

2. Add cloth diaper safe detergent. Use OxyClean or not, your choice. Do not use fabric softener (ever!).

3. Set your washing machine on a cycle similar to the whites cycle (it’s okay to use the whites cycle as long as it doesn’t sanitize on this cycle–the water shouldn’t get above 160 degrees). Set your soil level to heavy, spin speed to high, and wash temp to hot. Make sure to the extra rinse setting is on. As mentioned before, if you do not have an HE machine, make sure to set your water level high enough.

Cloth Diapering 5

4.While the diapers are washing, wash out your diaper pail.

5. Again, you can hang your diapers to dry or machine dry them. If you machine dry them, set them on high heat for about 80 minutes.

Stripping. I usually strip my diapers every few months because I’m anal. I’m not sure you have to do this. I suppose you’ll know if you have to strip them (if they seem to be less resistant to leaks or have an odor to them). The only time I’ve ever had to strip them was when I used Vaseline with my cloth diapers. But you can have buildups from hard water or detergents (if you use too much or the wrong kind).

1. Follow steps 1-4 under routine washing.

2. If you haven’t had any problems with leaking, skip to step 3. If you’ve noticed frequent leaking lately, you can use Dawn dish liquid on your diapers. If you have a regular machine, I’ve read that you can just squirt some in there and run a regular load with an extra rinse (also, I’ve done it when I had a regular washing machine and never had a problem). But if you have an HE, you’ll need to scrub them with the Dawn by hand. The purpose of the Dawn is to break down any oily residue, perhaps left behind by diaper creams.

3. Now, put your machine on the shortest cycle possible. Set your soil level to light, spin speed to low, and wash temp to hot. Wash the diapers on this cycle 3 times.

4. Dry using your method of choice.

Keep your washing machine clean. Make sure to follow the recommendations of your washing machine’s manufacturer and keep your machine clean. Residue from detergents used on other laundry can build up in your machine and have a negative impact on your cloth diapers. I use Affresh once every other month.

Finally, if you’re not sure–Google it.Or call you diaper manufacturer. Opinions on the best way to care for cloth diapers are like belly buttons–everybody’s got one and they all look a little different. If you receive advice you’re not sure of, Google it! Or, ask a friend who has some experience with it (chances are, she’s already Googled it and/or tried it herself). This is an excellent resources that addresses some controversial agents for cleaning cloth diapers.

Lesson 42: Diaper rash is a pain in the butt (cabernetandbreastmilk.com)

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Lesson 51: Choosing the right cloth diapers (cloth diaper tutorial, part 2)

Choosing the cloth diapers that work best for your family is really important. The start-up cost isn’t cheap, so you better love what you buy. It can be a little overwhelming in the beginning, so I’ve broken it down into steps.

1. Before choosing a brand, choose a type.

There are about a gazillion types of cloth diapers. Okay, not really a gazillion–more like 9. But still, it’s daunting.

Flat Diapers

Flat diapers are large squares of fabric that you can fold a variety of ways. You have to use a cover with these (all of the diapers on the list that require covers do so because they are absorbent, but not waterproof). I don’t know much about them because they look way too complicated for me. However, there are lots of tutorials available online if you want to learn–and from what I’ve read, they’re not as complicated as they seem. Flat diapers are the cheapest way to go if you want to cloth diaper.

Prefolds

Prefolds are rectangular pieces of cloth which fold into three sections, the middle part being the most absorbent. You can either fasten it around your baby with safety pins (or a snappi) or place it inside a cover. Again, a little too complicated for me. I’m sure it’s not difficult, but I’m way too lazy for all that.

Contours

Contour diapers are shaped to fit your baby, so you don’t have to fold them, but they require pins or a snappi to hold them. They also require a cover.

Fitted Diapers

Fitted diapers are shaped to fit your baby and they also do not require the use of pins (see how this is getting easier as we go?). They do require the use of a cover.

Pocket Diapers

Pocket diapers are shaped to fit your baby, require no cover, and utilize a snap or Velcro closure. They have pockets that require an insert, but they’re fairly easy to use.

Sleeve Diapers

Sleeve diapers are virtually the same thing as pocket diapers. The difference is that they have two openings, rather than one. The benefit is, when your baby poops, you don’t have to reach in and pull out the insert. You can just toss it in the washer and let it do its job. I’m guessing this only works with exclusively breastfed babies though, since you need to rinse formula or solid-food poop.

Hybrids

Hybrids are a cross between cloth and disposable diapers. They’re super convenient in that you can choose the type of insert you prefer: disposable (which are biodegradable and chemical-free) or cloth. We initially chose to use hybrids so that we wouldn’t be a total pain in the ass for J’s daycare teachers. He uses the disposable inserts there and the cloth inserts at home. We also like to use the disposable inserts when we’re out and about. They include an outer cover, a snap-in plastic liner, and a cloth or disposable insert.

All In Twos (AI2)

All in twos require an insert, but it actually snaps to the diaper, rather than sliding into a pocket on the diaper.

All In Ones (AIO)

All in ones are my absolute favorite cloth diapers. They’re stupid proof. They require no cover, no inserts, no pins, nothing. You put them on just like a disposable diaper and they utilize Velcro or snaps for closure. It’s that easy. I’ve read that they’re a bit more costly than other types, but I don’t see a big difference once you move past flats, prefolds, contours or fitted. But even with those, you have to purchase a separate cover–so I’m not sure it’s that big of a price difference. If I were recommending a type of cloth diaper, I would most definitely recommend all in ones.

2. Choose a brand.

Just like the type of diaper you choose, the brand is really all about personal preference. I imagine that some brands are better than others, but I would recommend that you check reviews closely before buying. Some brands try harder than others to cash in on the cute factor–and those brands are definitely more expensive. Ask your friends who cloth diaper, read blogs, seek out an online mom’s group, read Amazon reviews. And then when you decide on a type and brand, just buy a few and test drive them before fully committing. Kinda like you did with your husband before you married him.

gDiapers

We went with gDiapers because I liked the hybrid theory. But to be honest, I’ll probably sell my stash and won’t use them on the next baby. We don’t want J’s daycare to have to deal with handling soiled cloth diapers, so we like to be able to use the gDiaper disposable inserts. While they’re pricier than most diaper brands, they are cheaper than Honest diapers and that’s what has kept us using them. However, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll probably just use Honest diapers for daycare in the future.

I’m not bashing gDiapers–they’re good diapers. The disposable inserts are biodegradable and flushable. They have good customer service. And once you get past the learning curve, they rarely leak. However, the cloth inserts do tend to leak more than the disposable inserts. Well, a lot more in fact. If you want a true cloth diaper, gDiaper isn’t the way to go. But if you want the flexibility of being able to use cloth or disposable, research your hybrid options. Or if you want a chemical-free disposable diaper, they are competitively priced among that type of diaper.

 Thirsties

I adore Thirsties Duo AIO’s. They’re so easy and I’ve never had a problem with leaking. If you’re going to cloth diaper, AIO is the way to go. Yes, they can be a little pricier than other types. But you can find them on sale or you can find coupons. Thirsties usually run a little less than $16 per diaper, but I bought several for about 20% off when Diaper Junction was having a sale. Also, you can find coupons for places like Buy Buy Baby (they accept Bed, Bath & Beyond and all competitor coupons too) and easily get 20% of per diaper that way.

Diaper Rite

When I needed some more AIO diapers (I stocked up on hybrids before I realized how much I would love AIO), I went to diaper junction, selected the AIO category and then set the menu to show “Price: Low to High.” I totally rolled the dice and bought a few Diaper Rites for $12 each. They’re very absorbent (we’ve had no problems with leaks), but they’re a little more difficult to snap. There’s nothing wrong with this diaper, but I still prefer my Thirsties.

(These are the only types of cloth diapers I’ve actually tried myself. Please feel free to leave your own experiences in the comments below.)

3. Choose a design.

I’m not talking about a color or a cute little pattern (though those are great too!). I’m talking about the closure. Hook & loop (Velcro) or snaps. Hook & loop is super easy, but snap lasts longer according to the reviews. I can see how that would be and if you’re going to go all Duggar Family on us, you’ll probably won’t something with a little more longevity. But our hook & loops have held up just fine so far and I feel confident that they’ll hold up through a second baby (maybe even a third). We just make sure to hook them before washing so they don’t get snagged on each other.

That said, snaps are the way to go once your baby is a toddler. Once he learns to pull his diaper off, you’ll be thankful for something a little more difficult to manage. gDiaper is ahead of the curve on that one, since they make their hook & loops to hook in the back, rather than in the front.

Since many cloth diapers are now designed to fit from birth to potty-training, take that into consideration when choosing your closure design. For us, we’ll go with snaps with any future diapers we purchase simply because we’ve learned that babies pull off diapers (plus, they’re really not difficult to close–and they’re kinda cute).

4. Don’t forget your accessories.

  • You can buy a diaper pail, but we just use a covered garbage can with a step lid.
  • You’ll need a few wet bags. I keep 2 small ones to alternate between in J’s diaper bag, but also a large one for traveling.
  • You might consider using a diaper sprayer. Our toilet is very close to the shower in our guest bathroom, so we just use a detachable shower head and rinse the diaper in the toilet that way.
  • Depending on the type of diaper you choose, you might need pins and fasteners.
  • Since you’re considering cloth diapers, you might also like cloth wipes. We don’t use them because we’re too lazy.
  • You’ll definitely need to keep some cloth-safe diaper cream on hand (I happen to be partial to my own homemade diaper cream).
  • I like to use liners with the diaper cream, just to be extra safe.
  • Pick a cloth-safe detergent of your choosing. My favorite is Ecos.

If you choose to use cloth diapers, see my post on caring for them.

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Lesson 50: The benefits of cloth diapering (cloth diaper tutorial, part 1)

Cloth diapering was something I definitely considered while I was pregnant, but I eventually decided I wasn’t going to do it. I was already so overwhelmed with all the other new stuff – and I had no idea what it was going to be like to have a newborn – so I chose to go with what I knew: disposables. I don’t regret that decision and I’m not entirely certain that I’ll use cloth on a second baby during the newborn phase. Newborns go through a lot of diapers and I’m not sure I want to keep up with that kind of laundry during the first already busy and sleep-deprived weeks.

Despite choosing not to cloth diaper, the idea really lingered in my head. When J was only a few weeks old, he had his first diaper rash that bled. That was the first time after going disposable that I wondered if cloth would be easier on his skin. Even after I cleared up the rash and was more vigilant about using creams, his skin remained red most of the time. He didn’t necessarily keep a rash, but he just had really sensitive skin. Finally, when he was about 5 months old, I decided to bite the bullet. We dropped a few hundred dollars on cloth diapers (the start-up cost is nothing to sneeze at) and returned all of the cases of unopened disposable diapers we had purchased throughout my pregnancy.

We love cloth diapering and will definitely use cloth with any future babies we might have. But it is an undertaking, so make sure you really think about it and do your research before you start buying them. Cloth diapering is expensive (in the beginning) and time-consuming. If you’re not really committed and if you don’t find the method that works for you, you’re not going to be happy.

These are the reasons we chose to cloth diaper:

Fewer chemicals. Since we swapped to cloth, we never have to deal with the constant redness that disposables caused and we rarely have to deal with any diaper rash at all. We do use Honest disposable diapers when we’re out and about and we’ve found that we also have no skin sensitivity problems with those either. I can only assume it’s the chemicals used in regular diapers that caused irritation for us. I’m not super paranoid about keeping every potentially harmful chemical away from my baby–it’s not possible. And in fact I do use Huggies Overnites (and love them) because all of the others leak for us overnight. And I use regular wipes. So no, I don’t freak out over every chemical–but I am careful and I have seen what a difference it can make.

Save money. Yes, there’s a bit of a start-up cost, but they can be less expensive in the long run. I say can be because it really does depend on the type of cloth diaper you choose vs. the type of disposable diaper you would have used if you didn’t use cloth. For instance, if you choose to use gDiapers with only the disposable inserts, but you would have used Target’s Up&Up brand disposables if you didn’t use cloth diapers, you’re probably not saving any money. In fact, you’re probably spending more money. If saving money is your main or only purpose for cloth diapering, make sure that’s in the front of your mind when you’re choosing the type of cloth diapers you will use. Also, make sure to choose gender-neutral colors so that you can reuse them with any future babies.

It’s good for the environment. Less crap (literally) in the landfill? Sure, I can get on board with that. But you do have to consider the amount of water and electricity used for washing and drying. If you really want to make an impact, make sure you only wash when you have a full load, use Energy Star rated machines and low-impact detergent, air-dry your baby’s diapers, and reuse the same diapers as hand-me-downs for younger kids (or sell them).

It’s easy. I’m not saying that disposables aren’t easy, because they are. But I do want to point out that cloth diapering is also easy. With an exclusively breastfed baby, you don’t even have to rinse the poop out of the diaper before you wash it. And once they start eating solids, or if you use formula, it’s not a big deal to rinse it. You can purchase a diaper sprayer to hook to your toilet to rinse off the poop. Or, if your toilet is close enough to the shower, just use a detachable shower head and rinse the poop into the toilet that way. Cloth diapering is intimidating at first, and there’s a lot to learn in the beginning, but it’s really very simple–so don’t let the unknown scare you off!

They’re cute! I admit, I like to try to make my son’s diaper match his outfit when I can. He doesn’t care and it’s not really a “benefit.” But I do think the variety of colors and patterns are super cute!

If you choose to use cloth diapers, see my posts on choosing the right cloth diapers for your family and caring for your cloth diapers.

Lesson 42: Diaper rash is a pain in the butt

I mentioned in a previous post that we deal with diaper rash by letting J sit in a warm bath with 8 ounces of baking soda mixed in. After his bath, we allow him plenty of “naked time” to let his bottom air dry and to just give him a break from a diaper. When it’s time to put on his diaper, we use Boudreaux’s Maximum Strength Butt Paste. This is our go-to diaper rash remedy for a bad rash and it seems to do the trick.

Boudreauxs and Baking Soda

We swapped to cloth diapers because disposable diapers irritated J’s skin. Because of the cloth, we rarely have to deal with a diaper rash. However, if I see some irritation beginning, I use my own Keiki Diaper Cream. It contains beeswax, coconut oil, and other cloth-diaper safe ingredients.

Keiki Handmade Diaper Cream

I still use Boudreaux for a bad rash. However, you absolutely cannot use Boudreaux with a cloth diaper. So, while it may seem to be counterintuitive, we actually switch to disposable diapers if J breaks out into a bad rash. We use Honest Diapers if we have to use disposables, since they’re chemical free and easier on the skin. We also haven’t had any skin sensitivity problems with the Honest brand.