Adventures in Newborn Cloth Diapering, Part One
September 13, 2011
Hey, Baby Ike. So. This is awkward, but apparently the Internet is very, very interested in hearing about your diapers.
Not in a creepy way! I don't think. Everybody just keeps asking about the cloth diapers and what we think of the cloth diapers and would we recommend the cloth diapers or are we just pointlessly martyring ourselves over the cloth diapers and so forth and so on and etc.
The thing is, there are about 500,340,201,430 (at last count) websites out there that discuss cloth diapers. Probably a good half of those sites specifically cover cloth diapering a newborn. I know, because I read just about every single flipping one while I was pregnant with Ike.
Noah wore disposables, and honestly, it never even occurred to me that cloth was a viable, non-crazy-person option. I switched Ezra over to cloth diapers when he was around four or five-ish months old. I was sick of diaper rash and poop blowouts, and we were making all these other efforts around our home to be more (GAG) "green" and generate less waste and trash, so disposable diapers kinda seemed like something we should eliminate (ZING).
That, plus our inability to EVER remember to buy diapers at the store, since we always THOUGHT we were using fewer diapers than we actually were, is what led to me finally shrieking "THAT'S IT, I'M SWITCHING TO CLOTH" while driving to the store with Ezra in nothing but one of Noah's old swim diapers because GODDDDDDDDdamn.
That process was really easy. I emailed some people who cloth diapered and asked them what they used. Answer: FuzziBunz and bumGenius. Okay then! I hunted around for the best price and plopped down a couple hundred bucks on diapers (half one brand and half the other) and some detergent, promising myself that I would stick with it, and that it was a worthwhile investment.
And it was! Holy cats. The diapers did everything I hoped they would do: Stop blowouts and rash (check), look adorable (check), eliminate our need for both disposable diapers and nighttime pull-ups (check check), and save money in the long run (check check check). And it turned out I was much, much better at remembering to dump the contents of a diaper pail into the washing machine every few days than I was at remembering to pick up another econo-mondo-box of Huggies size...wait, is he a 3 still? Should we move up to 4s? And don't I have a coupon somewhere for Pampers?
I kicked myself for not considering cloth diapers before. TRUTH.
But. I sensed that cloth diapering a newborn might not be so straightforward. The whole "one diaper birth to potty-training" thing isn't really possible -- unless you get a REALLY BIG BABY like Noah, or are willing to snap your infant into a crazy bulky, cinched-up diaper four times the size of his head for a couple weeks. Plus: leaks around the leg holes because newborn babies have thighs like underfed poultry. Plus plus: The umbilical stump! YOU MUST MIND THE STUMP.
So I knew our hand-me-downs would not be a viable option at first.
But then! Going out and buying a whole diapering system just for a few weeks? Or months? Or however long it would take my baby to fit into the hand-me-down one-size diapers? Oof. Doesn't that kinda kill the money-saving part? Especially once you realize how much some newborn-sized fitted diapers and fancy covers can cost, so maybe I should just go with a couple dozen prefolds and cheap waterproof covers? Is that enough? Should I buy more? Do they need something different for nighttime? What about when we're out? Will I really be happy fumbling with prefolds and Snappis in a public restroom with no changing table?
(Now go ahead and repeat that previous paragraph over and over again for about eight straight months. Welcome to my pregnancy! Try not to go completely insane.)
So. Okay. I GET why everyone wants me to talk about cloth diapers, because it's the same reason I wanted everybody else to talk about cloth diapers: I was hoping what worked for you would work for me, too.
Thus, cloth diapering Ike has been an ongoing process of trial and error, tweaks and re-jiggerings and changing our minds about what works best and when and how.
It's a weirdly rewarding process, for sure, because I have two full drawers now of some of the most CRIMINALLY CUTE diapering options in the world, to the point that I'm so HAPPY he was born in the summer because it meant I never, ever felt compelled to put actual clothing on him and cover up the adorableness. Plus, instead of package after package of disposables, I've purchased wonderful diapers and covers handmade by other moms, with my money going to support their home-based businesses, or just to help someone make some money off their hobby, doing something they love.
And when you realize that newborns go through about 8-10 diapers a day...well, shit, man. That's almost 100 non-biodegradable diapers headed for the landfill every 10 days. Some of them having spent all of 30 seconds in active duty on your baby's butt, because newborns have IMPECCABLE poop timing.
I do not judge anyone, however, who chooses to value their sanity over the environment in those first weeks and months. (Or ever, really. My diapering choice isn't meant to one-up yours, or anything. Just trying to lay out why I choose this, and all.) I could definitely make the argument for stealing as many Pampers as the hospital will give you and worrying about cloth diapering later, once your baby gets some chunk and YOU get some damn sleep.
I will say, hey: I have three kids. I work about 25-30 hours a week, on average. I have been known to drive my child (in a fuel-guzzling minivan) to his bus stop two blocks away because it's kinda sort-of raining outside. So I am not Superwoman, either environmentally or otherwise. But if I can do this, I'm pretty sure anyone can. And by anyone I am also including drunk monkeys.
So. Now that I've bored everyone to tears with my preamble, how about some specifics? Like I said yesterday, I'm breaking this magnum opus into a few parts. Tomorrow Imma gonna be brutally honest and tell you about the stuff that didn't work for us and some of the things I'd probably do differently. The next day I'll talk about what did work and where we are now, three months later.
But before I do that, I thought it might be nice to do a little primer on the diaper varieties I've tried so everybody will know What I'm Talking About When I Talk About Cloth Diapers. I was incredibly intimidated by all the different things when I first looked into cloth diapers: I wasn't prepared for such a steep learning curve. One-size? Fitted? AIO? Pocket? PUL? Fleece, wool, wraps, liners, doublers, soakers? WHAT IN THE SAM HILL IS EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT?
After the jump, a brief intro to a few different kinds of diapers. Plus baby pictures! If that's all you're here for.
This is a prefold, fastened here with a Snappi using the "angel wing" style fold. Prefolds are cheap, super-absorbant and easy to launder, but my personal journey towards loving prefolds was filled with poop blowouts and a lot of cursing. That said, I adore them now. (SPOILER ALERT!) Prefolds require a waterproof/water-resistant cover.
And here is a prefold in a PUL (Polyurethane Laminate) cover. No Snappi or pins necessary with this style cover -- just fold it over in threes and lay it right in there, then snap or velcro the MacGuyvered-diaper-thing on.
This particular cover is a Thirsties Duo Wrap Snap, size one (6-18 pounds). However, it didn't fit Ike's chicken-thighs very well for the first couple weeks, and while he is NO WHERE close to 18 pounds and there's a ton of room to grow in the waist, you'll notice we've already unsnapped the "rise" all the way. The perils of having a very (VERY) long and skinny baby, alas.
A handmade fleece cover from Etsy, over a fastened prefold (or a fitted, I don't remember). NOM. Breathable, great for rash-prone skin, and can be washed with regular loads of regular laundry.
WOOOOOOLIE PAAAANNNNNTS. I use these with fastened prefolds, fitted diapers or over any diaper prone to leakage (even a disposable, overnight). These are handmade from recycled sweaters and make me want to chew his legs off.
Wool covers were a damn hard sell for me: Wool? In August? That you have to handwash in a special soap and WTF is this lanolizing nonsense? Are you kidding me?
I expected to hate the snot out of wool covers. There are now on my list of Things To Save In A Fire.
(Ike's perfectly-coordinated-with-his-woolie-pants-onesie by The Plain Chachalaca.)
This is a fitted one-size diaper by Rebel Baby Co. These also technically require a cover, but are so absorbant and leak-proof that I only cover them at night and when we're out of the house. Other times, you'll have plenty of warning that the diaper is getting a tad damp and needs to be changed before there's a mess (unlike prefolds). These fitteds are lined with organic bamboo velour and have an adjustable snap-in soaker. They are more expensive than prefolds and take longer to dry than pockets, but...look at that diaper. LOOK AT IT. LOOK AT IT AND WEEP FROM THE CUTE.
(I also have this diaper in several color varieties of Ooga Boogas, stripes, argyles, dinosaurs, firetrucks, AH MAH GAWD.)
(Oh, and I also have one  hand-me-down Babykicks fitted, courtesy of Temerity Jane who said, AND I QUOTE: "This diaper is CRAP. YOU have it." I don't totally hate it, but I don't really love it. And I certainly agree that it is not cute enough to warrant its own photograph, so there.)
This is a refurbished bumGenius one-size pocket diaper, from my original stash purchased for Ezra. These little numbers served us very well through potty training in the 20+ pound range. But by that point, the velcro was almost completely shot, so I found someone on Etsy to yank it off and replace it with snaps.
However, the velcro was sort of essential to the whole "one-size" promise -- these are still a bit big for Ike at three months. Though that may be because some of the leg elastic needs to be replaced. (That's an easy fix, even for a non-sewer like me. I just have to get around to it, in all my copious amounts of free time.)
More one-size pocket diapers. The one on the left is a new one by FuzziBunz, the one on the right is by Charlie Banana (disclosure: a PR company sent me that diaper). This is the style diaper I started with, obvs, and it's DEFINITELY the easiest sell if you're trying to convince a daycare or significant other to give cloth a chance. You pre-stuff the diaper shells with inserts and then...done. Put it on, snap/velcro it up like a disposable.
That said, these diapers are pricey, they did NOT fit Ike at first, and I've found to be the most high-maintenance in the laundry department compared to the other options I've tried. The microfiber inserts these diapers come with are the most prone to stink and/or repelling, at least with our personal washer/water/detergent situation. But I'm getting ahead of myself; I'll have more to say about these later.
My single solitary foray into All-In-One (AIO) diapering. I bought this diaper by GroBaby (now GroVia) for Ezra. Hated it. Hated it HARD. The shell was laughably small to be a true "one size" and the snap-in insert/soaker thing was woefully underprepared for a heavy little boy wetter...but if I added additional doublers or anything I could barely get the thing fastened. However, for a smaller, non-mobile baby, this diaper is finally pulling its weight as a Solidly Okay Daytime Diaper.
That said, the brand has changed and overhauled the diaper so much since I bought this that I have no idea what it's like now. AIO diapers are similar to pocket diapers, except the inserts either snap in or are sewn directly to the cover (no stuffing required). Nice, except that this particular style takes longer to dry than pockets and isn't quite as leak-proof as a fitted with a cover.
Okay. Whew. I think that's everything I'll be talking about, save for extra crap like liners and laundry care. The worst part is that there are still dozens of additional diaper styles and systems and probably HUNDREDS of other brands. But I am just one person, with just one baby butt to cover, and one diapering budget that I am trying very hard NOT to blow to smithereens with a dozen more pairs of woolie pants.
Tomorrow: I Cannot Tell A Lie, Internet: Things I did NOT enjoy about cloth diapering a newborn.