27 April 2008

The Cloth Diaper Project

I've always wanted to try them, but when we started having babies we didn't have our own laundry facility. Then the investment scared me--what if we dropped all that cash and I hated them? But I think my mother-in-law has been reading Kelly's inflammatory rhetoric ;), because out of nowhere she started sewing up cloth diapers like mad and mailing them to me. They are fitteds with an internal PUL liner. My oversized three month old wears them, and I also put them on my undersized almost-2-year-old during naps (which, in addition to overnight, is the only time she wears diapers now, woo hoo!). They are comfortably snug in the legs on both kids; I just cinch the Velcro fasteners tighter for Baby Dude. We are only partially operational so far while she sends me small batches of different designs for testing.

Analysis

--This is a much more intimate enterprise than disposables. I don't know if I could have handled it on Baby 1, but I'm pretty well acclimated to extremely disgusting things by now. Do not attempt without a sprayer that attaches to your toilet, it's too demoralizing otherwise. Yes, yes, we have it so much easier than our mothers. Blessed are they.

--I don't know if I would want to go this route postpartum. My postpartum day looks like this: sitting on the couch, feeding the baby on the couch, napping with the baby on the couch, changing the baby on the couch, getting an older kid to throw away the diaper I just changed. Getting up and rinsing yellow poo out of 97 diapers a day isn't going to fit into that setup seamlessly.

--And it would be 97 diapers because they are always, always wet or worse, even with that PUL liner. Disposables absorb a lot of pee and you don't notice it (sometimes you can't even tell if they're wet). Cloth diapers are always soaked, so you go through a ton of them.

--An overnight disposable diaper is gross. I can hardly imagine how gross an overnight cloth diaper would be considering what they're like after 45 minutes. I'm afraid the carpet would be saturated. I'm not using them overnight. (Or what passes for overnight with my primary test subject.)

--They're very bulky.

--They're very cute.

--But you can't ever see how cute they are, since you always have to put plastic pants over them, since they're (see above) always, always wet. I have one diaper cover from Kushies, and it doesn't work AT ALL (also PUL, I think--can't say I'm too impressed with the stuff). So I'm using those old school Gerber numbers. I don't like them but they keep me from having to change Baby's clothes every time I change his diaper. IMHO, this pretty much shoots down the "breathability" argument you hear for cloth diapers for anyone who can't afford those fancy shmancy wool covers (and do they really work, really? Grandma is going to make one for me to try so I'll let you know). Breathable and dry are mutually exclusive. Grandma notes that PUL is described as a "wetness barrier," not "waterproof." Riiiiiight.

--Costs are going to go up during the winter. I'm relying heavily on line drying now because the sun dries, disinfects, and bleaches free. If the line isn't an option, you have to run the dryer on high heat for a LONG time (and they still aren't bleached). Dryers are the second most expensive appliance to run, so I'm not too keen on that. Church pays our utilities and I don't want to pass on the costs of this scheme. We could throw in an extra check to offset it, but it still bothers me. Nobody likes seeing the bills go up.

--They're very gratifying to use. Disposables always feel so wasteful--those huge boxes of stuff, just tossed in the trash year after year.

--I can't help thinking that if I were a baby, I'd be more comfortable in a disposable that pulls all the wetness away from my skin than a cloth that spreads it over the entire area of the diaper, making me that much wetter. (No results to report on diaper rash, this guy doesn't get it with either. One of our kids had pervasive rash with disposables, but she just has high maintenance skin. There is no doubt in my mind she'd have had rash with cloth diapers, too.) I can't bring myself to be intrinsically scared enough of diaper chemicals to blow off their dry-keeping powers.

So that's my experiment so far. I plan to stick with them on about a 3/4 basis (ie not overnight, for travel, or when we have company) because I have them and don't mind the extra work, but it is a big adjustment. I'm not really clear on why when you Google "cloth diapers" you turn up all these quotes about how people love them so much. This strikes me as another one of those things where the organic parenting community isn't being entirely forthcoming with the facts (cf natural childbirth, breastfeeding, etc.). I don't know why, since openness about the difficulty of these approaches makes self-righteousness that much easier. ;)

15 comments:

Anne said...

I have used CD since #2 was 1 yr. For #4 I started making my own pocket diapers (cotton PUL on the outisde, microfleece inside with various materials as the soakers) thanks to the inspiration of a friend.
I have not had trouble with overnight leaking, although #2 and #4 had trouble with yeast rashes and disposables were a sure cure. From what I've read breast milk poop doesn't need to be rinsed out...and I've never dunked a breast poop diaper.
i do have a sprayer which I didn't get until #4, but I don't think I could live without it now!
However, I do take my CDs on trips and if it's not to someone's house where I can use the wash, I will scrub them out with a brush and some bar laundry soap. It's somewhat of a pain, but I just can't stand the thought of buying disposable diapers, esp since I then feel bad for buying the "bad chemical" ones instead of the ones from the health food store. And I never have to worry about running out:)
Good luck with your experiment, It sounds like the same approach we took when we started, I think we've come a long way since then and I have to say it gets easier with each child. #5 is expected any day now. I have my 1 package of newborn dipes and then it will be on to the small CDs. I don't like meconium and the olive oil we put on them to make clean up easier to get on my diapers!

Reb. Mary said...

Rebekah, thanks for being a guinea pig. And for the honesty :P Keep us posted!

Anne, thanks for sharing your experiences too. Are you mainly doing CD to avoid the chemicals or to save $ or ? I think you're quite brave to CD even on road trips :)

I'm looking forward to hearing more about rebekah's experiment as well as from others who've done CDs!

Reb. Mary said...

And what's with this toilet sprayer thing? I've never even heard of such (we're obviously still in disposable mode). Sounds to me like something the two-year-old could have waaaaaaay too much fun with :D

Kelly said...

It's great to hear reviews from the trenches Rebekah! You've given me a couple of really good points to consider - especially about being on the couch. I will definitely have to think about satellite changing stations. Lots of people CD only part time for many of the same reasons you cited. And maybe I'll put the toilet sprayer on my registry too. :) I'm still going to give it the old college try - if I wind up hating it I can resell whatever I purchase or receive as gifts for a pretty decent value. And if your mother-in-law gets things perfected to the point where she starts marketing her creations definitely let me know!

Jane said...

I was lucky I got to try out cloth diapers the first time through a diaper service for several months, so I didn't have to wash them. :)

I used them most of the time for three of my four kids. #3 was the oddball because I spent most of his first three years trying to have a career.

Sprayers must be a newer thing. I had never even heard of one! I did use disposables when we traveled or even if it was going to be a busy errand-running day.

I had pretty good luck with the diaper covers that fastened with velcro, but I have no idea what they were made of.

Good luck!

Rebekah said...

Microfleece, good idea! I'll run that by Grandma.

Kelly, I do think it's worth it, and I think Anne is onto something with her one package of newborn disposables plan. A little cushion for that first week would probably be helpful.

http://www.tinytush.com/mini_shower.htm

Here's the sprayer I have, and I wouldn't want to be without it for that cute breastfed-baby pure goo poo we all know and love. RM, my kids haven't noticed it yet, but they also lack the exploratory initiative yours have. ;)

Susan said...

I never rinsed out the yellow baby poo. Until the kids starting on something besides breastmilk, I just threw the diapers in the wash and it all worked fine.

Lolababiez said...

I just started using "G" diapers & love them! They have a biodegradable throw/flush away liner inside. It's a cross between a cloth diaper & landfill diaper! I don't sell them on my online organic site, but hope to in the future. Best of luck!
Lolababiez Organics, www.lolababiez.com

elephantschild said...

Echoing what Susan said - the breast-fed poops are dissolvable. Toss everything in the bucket, run a rinse cycle, then reset the washer for hot water wash. No problem!

After solid food starts, I used the Kushies diaper liners. The poop just falls right off the liner into the toilet, and the diaper goes in the diaper bucket.

Gauntlets said...

Hey, cute baby. I want to meet him right now.

Anne: Olive oil helps with meconium cleanup? I just learned something.

Autumn said...

There are way easier ways to cloth diaper! Don't give up. It's great that your mom is making you diapers. For covers wool is a great option. It is easy to make wool covers out sweaters from the thrift store. There are a couple of free patterns out there. Also on Diaperswappers there is a pattern for a soaker made with fleece. I bet your mom could make that one easy!

For more tips check out my blog:
http://allaboutclothdiapers.com

Rebekah said...

No rinsing, hey? But then when would I aim the sprayer the wrong way in a groggy stupor and accidentally end up with a clean bathroom wall?

Angelika said...

I've used cloth on 4 kids,...never had a sprayer. I dry pail everything. It works fine for me. As said before, breastfed poop is water soluble. Run a cold rinse and that will be fine. Once baby eats solids I make sure that I use a flannel liner. Poop seems to not stick to it too much and if I give it a little shake over the toilet it slides right off. They also keep baby dryer and protect the diaper from stains.

I can promise you that I am NOT a tree hugger and do not use cloth for that reason. My main reason is the chemicals that are in disposables and the cost of disposables. (I hang mine in the laundry room to dry in winter, so the cost of the drier isn't an issue for me.) Also I truly believe that kids in cloth potty train earlier on average. I put mine on the potty (as soon as they can sit) ever time I change their diaper. Then I make a big deal out of it when something does hit the pot and we go from there.

I will admit to using disposables for baby's first few weeks. I seem to have lots of problems with the "breastfed blow-out" poop when I use disposables. That's what motivates me to use cloth again sooner. I use mother-ease and love them. Hardly any blow-out with them. I've not had problems with leaks at night and I am one of those moms that only changes poopy diapers at night. I don't get out of bed for pee!

As for the bulk? If you're used to holding a baby with cloth diapers you will feel strange holding him without one. No butt to hold on to. ;)

Rebekah said...

How long does it take them to dry hanging inside? I can't believe how long it takes on the line or even IN THE DRYER!

Angelika said...

I guess it depends on what kind of diapers you have. Mine (mother-ease one size) take about a day or so. I usually hang them up in the afternoon and by morning they are dry. In the sun they are dry in a matter of hours. All-in-one diapers will take longer to dry.


Personally I don't like the all-in-one kinds that I've tried. They didn't fit as well, leaked, and took forever to dry. I have not tried the AIO diapers from mother-ease but I'm sure that they are not much different from all the other AIO. Also, the one-size diapers are less expensive in the long run because you can use them from birth to toddler.