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The benefits of cloth diapering are numerous: reducing your waste and consumables (helping protect the planet), reducing risk of rashes, reducing the length of time baby is in diapers, and saving some big bucks on your expenses. Just like their disposable counter parts, there can be issues (or blow outs), but with a little dedication and some idea of what to expect- one day you will be hanging that very last load on the line laughing at all of the money and waste you saved! Here is a quick break down of cloth diapering 101!
You will want at least 24 diapers for 1 child. It is really nice to have 36-48 for 2 or more kids because more frequent changes will be needed to keep babies dry in cloth. You will typically do laundry every 2-3 days, and babies can easily go through 12 changes in a day! The ‘one size fits all’ style diaper will get you the most bang for your buck as opposed to different sizes for different weights. There are many types of diapers to chose from depending on your preferred style. They can come in either covers, pockets, all-in-ones or all-in-twos.
You will also want at least 2 inserts/ boosters for each diaper. There are many, many cloth diapering companies to choose from, many made right here in Canada! Giggle Life out of Waterloo Ontario carries an excellent cute selection for very reasonable prices.
Often overlooked, but just as important (your doing laundry anyways, why spend money on wipes). You can find them at any baby or department store and you probably got a bunch of them at your baby shower. You can even make your own out of old-tshirts! Keep a few pre-wetted cloths in a container for easy wipe downs.
Great to have when out of the house to stash dirty diapers in until you get home with no smell or mess.
For the home, you will want either a diaper pail with resuable pail liner or a hanging wet bag to store all the dirty diapers until laundry day. Ubbi Diaper Pail’s offers reusable bags that can take hundreds of washes and days on the line with your diapers and very modern, easy to clean diaper pails.
Water, washing machine, soap, and schedule can change wash results drastically for cloth diapers, and may take some trial and error. The number one sign your diapers are in need of a wash routine change or stripping is smell. If they smell coming out of the washing machine or dryer, if they have a strong ammonia smell when doing a bum change, or if your babe starts getting rashes or ammonia burn it’s time to change something in your overall routine.
Daily or every other day: Run a rinse cycle (some will argue with soap, others will say it is not necessary), then a wash in hot water with laundry detergent (no fabric softeners!). Line dry or dry in dryer on low heat. Certain natural fibres will do better in the dryer, while certain covers will do better on the line.
Run one hot wash with soap, followed by an overnight soak with a few drops of eco friendly dish soap, followed by another wash, and then hang dry if possible. Juice from a lemon is a great extra additive to the overnight soak for killing germs and removing stains. Another common way to strip is one hot wash with soap, followed by hot wash (with no soap) until the water no longer has soap bubbles (6-10), and then hang dry if possible.
Front loaders can work fine but a top loader has some features that make cloth diapering easier, like the ability to soak and the ability to pick and stop cycles easily. Line drying is optimal but a dryer works just fine if you don’t have a line, or time, or for the off season. Hanging should be done outside in the sun. Indoor drying can turn diapers stinky really quickly.
Read all of the reviews you want, but depending on your water, results can be very different. Trial and error is all you can depend on. Avoiding harsh chemicals and toxic fabric softeners’ are a must for your diapers to work correctly so try and choose milder detergents, eco label’s, or even homemade laundry soap: the most popular by David Suzuki’s Queen of Green can be found here.
Some children will need double inserts from the start and some will only need one. Boys may need an extra insert at the top of the diaper, where girls need extra absorbency towards the middle and back. Two children, even of the same sex, can have very different absorbency needs.
Once baby starts sleeping longer stretches and hopefully through the night, inserts can be doubled or tripled as needed. The most common way to keep all that extra fluid off of that soft skin is to use a micro fiber insert closest to the skin (some brands have this feature built in). Micro-fiber wicks away the urine into the absorbent layers of the diaper and maintains its dry feel. Most micro-fibre inserts will have one side of micro-fibre and one side of cotton/bamboo/fleece. Ensure that you do not use the micro-fibre side directly ON the skin, as that can irritate and cause rashes very quickly. However, for best moisture wicking effects, you want that insert closest to baby. Alternatively, natural fibres such as hemp are super absorbent and can hold a ton of liquid to last overnight. Micro-fleece liners are another alternative for a stay-dry feel for baby.
Onsies and big bum’s: we love cute onsies but the truth is onsies ride the edge of the diaper and easily wick urine onto clothes (referred to as compression leaks) and even blankets creating more laundry. And that is the last thing we want. Making sure your little one’s diaper is fitting properly and the insert is in correctly will help. But as a general rule, it is always best to go up a size in one piece clothes, especially bottoms, to leave space for their cute ‘fluffy’ bum. Diapers with a double gusset around the legs can further prevent leaking.
If exclusively breastfeeding, baby poops are pretty much water soluable and do not require any extra work. Toss them in the pail until wash day and everything will come out in the wash. Once food or formula is introduced, quality of the stool will change. Scraping as much mess off of diapers before they go into the pail is important but a little bit here and there will just wash out with the dirty water. The old school way is to give the diaper a rinse in the toilette bowl before it goes into the pail. Disposable inserts can be helpful during periods of soft stool but they are NOT flushable like they claim to be. These inserts do not break down quick enough and can wreak havoc on your well or municipal water stations. Better to find biodegradable inserts, and toss them into a composting bin. The other alternative is to get a diaper sprayer, which will help you spray the mess directly into the toilet, without having to come in too-close-contact with the baby poo.
Sometimes cloth diapering requires some trouble shooting and trial and error, but if you are committed to cloth for financial or environmental reasons you will overcome any challenge!
Stay calm and get your cloth diaper on!