Adventures in Newborn Cloth Diapering, Part Two
September 14, 2011
ZOMG, YOU GUYS.
So immediately after finishing my epic manifesto (or at least PART ONE of it) (and I don't think "finishing" is correct, because it was more like I ran out of time and simply had to STOP TALKING SO MUCH and hit the Publish button), I dashed out to meet Noah at the school bus. While I was waiting, I pulled my blog up on my phone, just to double-check that everything had published okay...and to start spotting the inevitable typos that always suddenly become SUPER obvious the second after I've convinced myself that I've proofread enough.
And that's when it fully hit me JUST HOW MANY WORDS I'd committed to the topic of cloth diapers. By the time I was done scrolling through all those many, many paragraphs to the comments, MY THUMB HAD A FUCKING CRAMP.
Then I did this embarrassingly audible snarf-laff at myself, because FUCK YOU, BREVITY, and another mother gave me a look and asked what was so funny.
I opened my mouth, ready to explain that "oh hi I just wrote a Great American Novel's worth of text about my infant's diapers on the Internet for no real reason," but then thought this would be a smart time to STOP TALKING SO MUCH.
So instead, I lied. "LOLcats," I told her.
Anyway! Welcome to part two! In which I admit that sometimes cloth diapering didn't quite go as planned. Not so much to discourage anyone out there, but...I just need to be honest. I felt like everything I read from other cloth-diaper users never seemed to admit that cloth has ANY limitations or drawbacks (besides the obvious having to wash them, teh horrozz). Like we're all too focused on trying to convince people that we're not insane. Shhh! Don't give them any ammo! Don't mention the leaks! You shut your whore mouth about the overnight diaper rash from a sopping wet prefold!
Likewise, the people who WERE talking about their less-than-great experiences almost had an axe to grind, because they TRIED cloth and they didn't LIKE cloth and so they QUIT and went back to 100% disposables ALL THE TIME and have never been HAPPIER, SO THERE, HIPPIE FREAKS.
The thing is (and this was echoed in the comments several times), cloth doesn't HAVE to be an all-or-nothing, either/or endeavor. No one is going to come in and take away your Exclusively Cloth Diapering Gold Star Hero Award if you mumble "fuck this bullshit" at two in the morning and reach for a disposable instead. No one cares if you keep an emergency stack of Pampers in the diaper bag, or buy a big jumbo sleeve of Target-brand disposables whenever you go on vacation. Because I have done all three of those things, and I would do them again.
And I would cloth diaper a newborn again! Really!
(Should a newborn ever miraculously come into my possession, that is, like in a basket on my front step. Because: No. I sure do like babies, but now that I've had three of them, I can definitively tell you that babies turn into children. All babies! Yes! Even yours. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.)
Anyway, here is what I started out with, on the day Ike was born (note that we were already set for stuff like cloth wipes, detergent, wet bags, diaper pails and liners, etc.):
Eight preemie-sized organic cotton prefolds, by Bummis
One dozen newborn-sized organic cotton prefolds, by Bummis
Two dozen newborn-sized unbleached Indian Cotton prefolds, diaper service quality
Three PUL covers from Fluffy's Diapers on Etsy, size x-small
Six Fuzzi Bunz One Size Cloth Diapers (link goes to Amazon but there are better prices out there)
Three newborn-sized fitted diapers from Rebel Baby Co.
Oooh, ahhh, whatever.
Looking over this list, I can definitely see what my plan was: I'd go halfsies the first week or two, with the preemie prefolds and free hospital disposables, depending on Ike's size. (He was 7 pounds even when we brought him home. Ezra was in the 6-pound range. And Noah? NINE POUNDS.) No matter what his size, we'd move up to the regular prefolds fairly quickly, most likely.
I picked all PUL covers because I couldn't wrap my head about putting a baby in fleece or wool in the summer, plus the Thirsties cut away for the umbilical stump.
I cinched up the FuzziBunz to the recommended newborn setting and figured those would be our going-out-of-the-house diapers, or middle-of-the-night-I-don't-feel-like-dealing-with-prefolds diapers.
The three newborn fitteds were a gift -- I hadn't considered buying fitteds because of the cost and the relatively small window of use. But for free? Giddy the fuck up. I set those aside for special occasions, like our well-baby visits at the pediatrician. (Shut up.)
That was a good plan, honestly. It was the result of months and months of needless obsessing, because I am crazy and refused to chill out and remember that I didn't need to have a cloth diapering system perfectly in place from day one. But still. Good plan.
A few tweaks and problems, though:
1) I didn't need the liners, flushable or fleece. Liners are fantastic for older babies with more, ahem, substantial, solid poops, but there's no real need to fuss with them for breastmilk baby poop. I have MAYBE felt the need to pre-rinse about two or three soiled diapers TOTAL before tossing them in the washing machine. I've dunked one in the toilet, I think, and the others I still simply put in the diaper pail and then rinsed them off in our utility sink right before washing. Everything else goes in the pail, then in a cold soak cycle and a hot wash with a tablespoon of Charlie's Soap. Everything nasty washes away like mustard-colored water, no biggie. If your diapers look stained, let them dry outside in the sun.
For diaper stink, I strip them every couple months with Rockin Green' Cloth Diaper and Laundry Detergent according to the package directions. (Weirdly, I tried switching from Charlie's to Rockin Green full-time, but the stink just came back faster when I used it all the time. Charlie's keeps them smelling better for longer, but when the inevitable build-up happens, only Rockin Green can de-funkify them.)
2) I hated the Bummis organic prefolds, both preemie and newborn. HATED. Still do. They got demoted to burp rags almost immediately. They don't fluff up as nicely as the diaper-service-quality prefolds, but they shrink more, absorb less and don't have much "give" to them, which meant I couldn't use them with a Snappi fastener. I had to lay them in the cover tri-fold style, and when your covers are too big and your prefold too skimpy, well...
3) Blowouts. God, if there is anything to make a newbie cloth diaperer wonder what in the SAM HILL SHE IS DOING WRONG, it's the newborn poop blowouts. Which everyone assures you only happen in disposables! I mean, that was true for us and Ezra, but not with Ike. I had six covers, which was SUPPOSED to be more than enough to last a few days because you only had to change the cover when it got poop on it, right?
YEAH. COOL STORY BRO. Newborn babies poop approximately a billion times a day. Our covers got poop on them every. Time. He. Pooped. So did his clothes. Not up and out the back, like a disposable, but out the leg holes. In the preemies, in the newborns, in the Bummis and in the "good" prefolds. There was no snap setting or extra gusset or special fold that was any match for Ike's scrawny little chicken thighs.
In a panic, I ordered a couple Proraps in the preemie size, hoping that they'd fit a little better and keep the poop contained. The order got held up by Amazon for some reason, so by the time they arrived, Ike was a week old. They DID keep poop from getting on Ike's clothing...but poop still got on THEM, the covers, every time, so I was once again left with a pile of useless prefolds and no clean covers by mid-morning. Plus, the preemie size probably only fit him for another week, two tops. Bah.
The rapid-fire poop-changes were a temporary problem -- (most) babies do eventually stop the poop-after-every-meal thing within the first month, so the onslaught of blowouts slowed to about one a day, then every other day, but they were simply...BIGGER blowouts. After about three or four weeks we abandoned prefolds entirely in favor of all fitteds with covers because GAAAAHHHHHH.
By the time I dared revisit the prefolds again (sans the Bummis), about a month later, everything mysteriously worked like clockwork, and Jason and I both now rank the prefolds as among our favorite option to use (he likes the tri-fold/PUL option, I'm all about the angel-wing-fold/Snappi/wooooooooliepants).
The "good" prefolds, with the hated Bummis banished to the very bottom of the stash. This is called staying organized, passive-aggressive style.
I still don't really know what was wrong at first. Was Ike too small and skinny? Covers too big? Should I have had the preemie size on-hand from the start? Should I have opted for some newborn fleece or wool soakers instead of the wrap-style PULs? Did Ike just...poop more enthusiastically than your average baby? Were we just idiots?
(Don't answer that.)
4) Other people. Jason and my mom stabbed themselves with the Snappi fasteners, not realizing that a replacement for diaper pins might still be a little, you know, SHARP. Our babysitter (who loves the one-sizes for Ezra) took one look at the prefolds and was like, fuck no. (She's since come around, though I can tell she haaaaates the fact that we have more than one "system" going. I revel in having options to pick and choose from; other people, not so much.)
Everyone besides Jason and I seemed easily confounded by the snaps on one-sizes and the soaker pads on the fitteds and would NEVER EVER EVER fasten the diapers up tightly enough because they were afraid of hurting the tiny newborn. Of course, the diaper would then gap and leak all over and everybody would glare at ME, THE CRAZY PERSON, who was insisting that cloth diapers really were the way to go. That was fun.
I don't think there was any way to solve this except to 1) personally take care of every diaper change, 2) accept and embrace my role as the crazy person or 3) hover behind people at the changing table all, UR DOIN IT WRONG. I think I went with a combination of two and three, but I don't know. I was pretty tired.
5) Rashes. Ike gets a vicious rash if he's left in a diaper for too long -- disposable or cloth, and particularly in a PUL cover. Not on his butt, but in the front, below his belly button and above his bidness. This is not great for nighttime, when you never know if your newborn will sleep for 45 minutes...or four hours. Again, everyone praises cloth diapers to the SKIES for their rash-preventing qualities, and AGAIN, this was true when I cloth diapered an older baby. Ezra NEVER got rashes. But a newborn? Some newborn skin is just that dang sensitive that it doesn't matter.
Last night Ike slept for an astonishing NINE HOURS in a fitted diaper and a wool cover. Nothing leaked, amazingly, but yeah, there was that pesky, nasty, chapped-looking rash again.
I recommend Grandma El's Diaper Rash Remedy (which I should have applied before bed last night). It's safe for cloth diapers and clears things up right quick, but I consider it a miracle of OCD over-preparation that I even had the stuff on-hand when Ike needed it, because ho ho ho, we won't need diaper rash cream because we cloth diaper, smugface, hurr hurr durr.
6) FuzziBunz elastic drama. This was, perhaps, the most surprising bit of our Cloth Diaper Journey (coming this fall to CBS!)...I assumed the uber-expensive FB one-sizes would be worth the investment, because I loved the sized version we used for Ezra. The improvements made in the one-size style could only be better, right?
Uh, yeah. Jury is still out on that one. These diapers are amost TOO adjustable. The waist and leg holes all have adjustable elastic that you can pull and button on both sides. Like so:
Before, at the largest setting.
Adjusting, omfg, trying to forget just how many of these fuckers I purchased...
Wookit the wittle diaper! Wookit it!
So that's...six different buttons and adjustment numbering options. And every time I put one of these diapers on Ike, I find myself second-guessing the fit. He grows so fast that I seriously end up rebuttoning and retucking in at least two or three places each time they come through the wash. That is, if the diaper is lucky enough to GET through the wash without the elastic accidentally unbuttoning and disappearing into the diaper, requiring me to dig it out with a safety pin and a lot of curse words.
Plus, tightening elastic is not MAGIC. All that fabric? Designed to fit a potty-training two-year-old? Doesn't VANISH or anything. It's still there, just cinched and puffed up in the back. I don't mind the little roundy fluffybutt shape a baby gets in bulkier cloth diapers, but these were RIDICULOUS on Ike as a newborn. Like, I wanted to point and laugh at him. HA HA, your mom dresses you funny. I first tried them at around 8 pounds, but I really don't think they were realistic until at least 10 pounds.
That said, these diapers are the favorite of grandparents and caregivers, because they seem like the "easiest." Just stuff, snap and done, no scary folding or additional cover. So fine! I leave these in the drawer for them, most of the time. (Or in the diaper bag, for changes when we're out.) I figure I'll like them better later, when Ike isn't growing so quickly and making me feel compelled to futz with the elastic so often. Eh, I KNOW I'll like them better, because they really are fantastic diapers. (Though by that point, my hand-me-down batch of Medium FuzziBunz will probably fit, meaning I really could have saved the money I spent on the one-sizes.)
I could just do without ALL THE OPTIONS and go for a little more honesty: Your baby WILL fit into these diapers at some point, but that point is probably not fresh out of the womb. You can buy these diapers a couple months later and not worry that you haven't gotten EVERY PENNY'S WORTH from them, you know?
AH CRAP BUS TIME AGAIN GOTTA GO. This is a nice little tradition I've got going for myself. Perhaps today, when I gasp in horror at this entry's length and wordiness, I'll pretend I'm seeing goatse for the first time, or something.
Tomorrow-ish: The stuff that worked. Or else just looked the cutest. Plus some reader questions/requests, so shout 'em out if you've got 'em (or send follow-ups to the Advice Smackdown [amyadviceATgmail.com], and I'll try to cover any specific topics there when we're not feeling quite so CLOTH DIAPER OVERLOAD MAKE IT STOP anymore).