Monday, April 27, 2009

Adventures in Cloth Diapering (Part 1)

Probably the next most important question for all expecting parents (after breast or bottle?) is disposables or cloth? Now don't go screaming and running away. Just as technology has evolved, so have cloth diapers. I'm also here to hold your hand.

I'll be the first to admit, that in the initial weary, zombie-like, sleepless days and nights after Green Organic Girl was born, we did use conventional disposable diapers. Now mind you, I did spend a lot of time and effort, amassing a lovely layette of adorable Kushies All-In-One cloth diapers. A lot of research went into my selection, as there are a multitude of different types and brands of cloth diapers. Ultimately, I needed something straight-forward to use, in order to get hubby on board. Kushies just happen to be high-quality Canadian-made products as well (Canadian-made, like me). However, even though Green Organic Girl was 8 pounds 4 ounces when she was born, the infant-sized Kushies were still much too big. It wasn't until she was about 9 months old that we finally used these cloth diapers full-time. The Kushies were very good to us, and even now, Green Organic Girl uses Kushies washable training pants. All of Kushies' products are too cute for words, and very well made.

Let's talk about the diapers first. The All-In-Ones from this company go on pretty much like a regular disposable diaper. There are Velcro tabs that hold the diaper together, much like the sticky tabs of a disposable. Each diaper is padded, and has a waterproof cover, with many cute designs to choose from. The most obvious difference with using these diapers is that they are thicker (much thicker) than a disposable. The waterproof cover is actually not at all scratchy, but it is a bit stiff. No worries, you'll get used to that. One of the nicest features with using cloth is the option to customize the absorbency. Many cloth diapering manufacturers also sell inserts to lay inside the diapers. We used Kushes' own brand of cotton liner inserts, and by the time Green Organic Girl was a toddler, we were using three inserts for overnight.

Okay, I've kept you waiting long enough. What to do about poo? Not to worry. Kushies has a solution for this, too: flushable paper liners! These sheets come on a roll, about the size of a toilet paper roll, but that's where the similarities end. These paper liners are very sturdy (but not scratchy), and are long enough to span the entire length of the diaper. Now, these are liners... not miracle workers. They will catch most of the poop, but do expect to have a little that will end up on the diaper itself. No big deal... poop washes out easily. Fold down the Velcro tabs, so they don't catch on anything, rinse off any solids in the toilet, and toss the diaper in the pail, awaiting Wash Day. But before we wash...

Let's talk soaking. Some people do the dry method, and just throw the diapers in a dry pail, until it's time to do the laundry. I think you're just asking for trouble when you do that (stains, smells, mold, etc.). I highly recommend soaking the diapers in water, with a little vinegar. We've had a lot of luck, using a step-on trash can from our local discount department store, that came with a plastic bucket/liner, with a handle that tucks away. We keep this in the bathroom, with a baby gate across the door, to keep curious little ones out. Please do be careful where you keep your soaking pail! I've had the best results filling the soaking pail with cold water (about 2/3 full) and about 1/4 cup of vinegar. We tried baking soda before, but it really doesn't help with smells. Vinegar does, and it helps minimize stains as well. (Whatever you use, please don't use laundry soap. It will break down the fibers of the fabric.) It's best to rinse off any solids before you toss your diapers in the pail. At the end of each day (or whenever I could remember), I would dump out the dirty water from the soaking pail in the toilet, fill it with fresh clean water, dump it again, and fill it one more time and add the vinegar. Believe me, this will make for a much more pleasant experience, come wash day.

It's been a few days, and your diaper pail is full. Time to wash. If you haven't rinsed the pail recently, do so now, and drain the water before lugging it off to the laundry room. Dump the contents of the pail in the washing machine, and give it a spin. We have a top-loading washing machine, and it typically requires two wash cycles to get the diapers clean. Let's start with the first cycle. Wait! Put that soap down. You're only going to need a little. Use about 1/3 of what you typically use to wash a load of clothes. Too much soap will leave a residue on the fibers, that interferes with absorbency. That residue will make the diapers stinky, too. Got the soap measured? Good. Now add about a cup of white vinegar to the wash. That's it! Let the cycle run. When that finishes, we're going to do one more, but this time, no soap. Just vinegar this time. The vinegar will help remove any soap residue that may still be clinging to the diapers from the first wash. It will also help neutralize any lingering odors. The vinegar smell will disappear fast, I promise. The diapers should smell like clean cotton.

Now that the diapers are washed, it's time to dry. I have gone through the experience of drying diapers in the dryer, and also line-drying them. If you want your diapers to stay in good shape, and not wear out so fast (especially the waterproof outer shells), keep them out of the dryer as much as you can. There may be times when you're in a hurry, so once in a while is okay. Adding a clean, dry bath towel to the dryer will help speed up the drying process as well. Otherwise, manage your washing schedule so that you have enough time to allow for air drying.

When my diapers were dry, I would prep them in a stack, so they were ready to go. Kushies have a loose flap inside, and the top end needs to be folded and tucked under, about an inch, to avoid wicking moisture out onto baby's clothes. Under this flap, I would usually tuck one or two cotton liners. Fold the diaper back up, and continue until the whole stack is ready. All that's needed now is to insert a paper liner when you think it's close to baby's regular time to do her business.

And look, we're done! You're cloth diapering! How easy was that?

I'll discuss the Kushes training pants, and our slow-going potty training adventures in Part 2.

Kushies Diapers photo courtesy of Diapers.com

1 comment:

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