Monday, May 12, 2014

Cloth Diapering

I participate in a little first-time Moms group on Facebook. One of my friends in the group asked me to share some of my experiences with cloth diapering. I decided to get a bunch of birds stoned at once here and use this blog to collect what I've learned about cloth diapers.

Now, in my research and time being a Mom so far, I've learned that diaper decisions are definitely on the list of "hot button" topics for parents (along with things like sleep training, breastfeeding vs. formula, methods of introducing solids, etc.) Diapering is one of those things that some people have VERY strong opinions about, making it a polarizing topic.

Generally speaking, I am not someone who judges others. I believe that every Mom does what's best for her family Let your kid cry it out. Or don't. Pierce their ears. Or don't. Feed 'em breast milk until they're 13. Or don't. (But please, dear Lord, immunize them... for my baby's sake!) 

My thoughts on cloth diapers, starting with the basics: 
  •  They are awesome.
  •  With long-term use, they save you a lot of money.
  • They take more time/work than disposable diapers.
  •  You’re more intimately involved with body fluids than with disposables.
A quick overview of the different types of cloth diapers (from The Fitnessista:)

Things that have worked for us and things I've learned:
  1. In the beginning: We didn't start cloth diapers until we ran out of all of the disposable diapers we were gifted by friends (thank you, thank you, thank you.) Those lasted until Trudy was around 10 weeks old. I’m glad we waited because, as many of you know, those first few weeks with a new baby are chaos and the last thing you want to add to the mix is learning how to use cloth diapers. Also, because Trudy was so small (even at 7 pounds) and growing, we didn't want to invest in too many newborn-sized cloth diapers out of which she would grow really fast.
  2. Buying Diapers: We did not buy a whack of cloth diapers off the start. We got trial packs from Econobum and Real Nappies, and a few from Kawaii Baby. We ended up going with Kawaii Baby—a company based in BC (though I’m pretty sure the diapers are made in China.) We placed a small trial order and have since placed two additional orders. I've done them all during 25%-off sales (which I think happen at least three times a year.)
  3. Number of diapers: We've found that our current amount is more than enough to last a maximum of three days between washes. You don’t need a lot – the fact that you have to wash the diapers every two to three days means you need only a few. Since Trudy grew out of some of the newborn diapers, we have 5 covers with 12 pre-folds (12 diapers, since you can reuse the covers multiple times as long as they don’t get really wet/dirty) and 10 pocket diapers.
  4.  It takes two: We bought two types of cloth diapers: pre-folds and pocket diapers (refer to above diagram.) I like the pre-folds with a Snappi and a cover. My husband likes the pre-stuffed pocket diapers. The pre-folds require less preparation but necessitate a bit more work to put on the baby. The pocket diaper requires more preparation but goes on fast for a quick change.
  5. It takes two, too: Speaking of husbands, I found great joy in summarizing what I learned about cloth diapers when I started doing research. He was on board right from the beginning because he'd heard that cloth diapering was a great way to save money, among other things. Husband-convincing may be something you have to consider when making a diapering decision. I put together a guide for Bryn to help him learn about cloth diapers.
  6. It's about balance: In the early days, I sometimes took “disposable diaper holidays” where I would use disposables for a day. This was an effective coping mechanism when I was feeling overwhelmed and needed a break from laundry. I think this helped me persevere during the time when the learning curve was so steep.
  7. Bamboo Diapers: I didn't like the bamboo diapers I've tried (these ones.) I’ve found that they don’t absorb as well as the others, are hard to clean, and take forever to dry (even in the dryer.) They cost more than the others, too!
  8. Folding diapers: There are tons of videos on YouTube that show you how to fold pre-fold diapers. I checked out this one and this one. The “jellyroll fold” featured in the second video is my personal preference.
  9. Diaper wipes: If you really want to save money, consider buying reusable cloth wipes which you can spray with homemade cloth wipe solution. We do this and I really like it. You wash the wipes along with the diapers. I make my own solution using water, baby oil, and baby shampoo to spray on the cloths. This site has a lot of awesome cloth wipe solution recipes.
  10. Diaper cream: I use CJ’s BUTTer butt paste. I have a 2 oz. stick of the lavender stuff and it is wonderful. I'm still on the first stick we bought, now after nearly 9 months of use, and it's still going strong! A great thing about cloth diapers is that they are supposed to cut down on diaper rash. We've had none, except for the times when we use disposable diapers! I use this site as a guide to cloth diaper-friendly pastes and ointments.
  11. Disposable liners: We used disposable liners for a while but have since stopped. Trudy’s poops are formed enough now (sorry if that’s TMI) that we can, for the most part, just dump the little logs directly into the toilet. Some folks get nifty little sprayers for their toilet which can help with cleaning and disposal.
  12. Wet pail vs. dry pail, wet bags: We use a regular garbage pail like this one for dirty diaper storage and line it with a liner bag. I’ve never experimented with a wet pail; seems like a lot of work to me.The smell with our pail is not even noticeable since we scoop poop directly into the toilet and wash the diapers every 2-3 days. You can buy a wet bag for outings (I have one of these) but a large Ziploc bag tucked in your diaper bag works just as well for me. I keep one of those with Trudy’s stuff to store any dirty clothes any way.
  13. Laundry, laundry soap: Your diapers will come with instructions on how to wash them. Cloth-friendly detergent is a must. We use Rock in Green Cloth Diaper and Laundry Detergent. Wash on warm/cold. I dry outside on the line as much as I can, or in the dryer on low without dryer sheets.
  14. Cleaning, sanitizing – The diapers sometimes get stinky. You can experiment with ways to sanitize and “strip” (deep clean) them every month or so. I’ve found that a good hot soak with a whack of baking soda works the best. I then run them through the washing machine (no detergent) on hot and hang them in the sun. Sun is essential to sanitize and clean. Also, keep in mind that you’ll have to wash the diapers a bunch of times when you first get them. Your diapers will come with instructions on how to do this.
  15. When going out, traveling – disposable vs. cloth - When I was first learning how to deal with taking Trudy out, nursing in public, etc., I minimized the challenges by using disposables when we went out. Now, I use cloth diapers pretty much all of the time with the exception of when we travel.
  16. Bigger clothes - I've found that, given the size of cloth diapers, I've had to put Trudy in bigger clothes than I might have otherwise in order to accommodate the bulk. I've found that two-piece outfits (like a top and pants or a dress with a little diaper cover/pair of baby undies) work the best.
  17. Delay in rolling, crawling? - I noticed that Trudy had to fight a bit harder to get moving given the additional weight of the cloth diaper. I don't think this is a bad thing at all--if anything, it will only increase the strength of her super powers and prolong the amount of time you can plop baby down and not worry about baby wandering off. If you're a really nervous Mom, this is something to keep in mind so that you don't freak out if things take just slightly longer than in those super light-weight disposables. The funny part with Trudy was that any time we put her in disposables, she would go crazy because all of the sudden her bum wasn't weighed down. Now, at almost 9 months, she crawls and maneuvers like a champ, cloth diapers and all. She also leaps tall builds in a single bound which, of course, is thanks to prolonged use of cloth diapers.
  18. Swim diapers - We have yet to use a swim diaper, but I do have a reusable one for her to use this summer when we go traveling.
  19. Cloth training pants, potty training - There is a whole world of cloth training pants for potty training which may be something we consider in a year or so when that fun begins.

Now, let’s break cloth diaper down, cost-wise (all in USD):
(I would say this is a good estimate for the first year)
  • $170.94 in diapers = $63.88 (first order; 4 pocket diapers, 3 covers, a dozen inserts, and a wet bag); $32.36 (second order; 2 covers, 3 pocket diapers); (third order; 7 pocket diapers); $74.70
  • $16.44 for wipes and solution (2 packs of flannel wipes; solution is just water, baby oil, and baby shampoo. I’m not including any cost for baby oil and baby shampoo since we were gifted these and you use very little in the solution.)
  • $12.99 for butt cream (one 2 oz. stick of CJ’s BUTTer has lasted us 9 months so far and it’s still going)
  •  $9.99 for three Snappis (diaper fasteners)
  •  $35.90 in laundry detergent (2 bags x $17.95)
  • $34.95 for diaper pail and liner
  • $84.00 in water… I have noticed an increase in our water bill. We now pay around $66.00 every three months ($22.00/month.) This is up from around $45.00 every three months ($15.00/month.) This is most likely a combination of several things, all of which are baby-related but not exclusive to our use of cloth diapers. Do we do a lot laundry? Yes. Would we do a lot of baby laundry even without cloth diapers? Yes. Baby baths = more water. I’m also home a lot more which means I always shower at home (as opposed to at the gym), cook more (which means more dishes to wash), etc.
  • $96.00 in electricity… again, a slight increase but it’s hard to connect this to cloth diapers. We do a lot of laundry. I try, when I can, to line-dry the clothes to cut down on these costs. And since I’m home more, I turn up the A/C more frequently than if I wasn’t here
  • TOTAL CLOTH DIAPERING INVESTMENT for Trudy’s first year (including everything necessary to keep Trudy’s bum clean, healthy, and dry) = $461.21 (USD)
Now, let's attempt a very loose disposable vs. cloth diaper comparison…

In the early days, I would say we changed Trudy’s diaper 10 times a day. Let’s say that lasted for the first 2 months. For the next few months (let’s say 3 through 6), it went down to 6 times a day. Now (at around 9 months), we change Trudy around 4-5 times a day. Let’s use 4/day for months 7 through 12.
  • Months 1-2: 600 diapers
  • Months 3-6: 720 diapers
  • Months 7-12: 720 diapers= 2040 diapers for the first year
Again, loose and conservative figures. Let’s ballpark the price per disposable at $0.25. (I did this based on an economy-sized box of Pampers Size 2 diapers available on Amazon.) 2040 x $0.25 = $510.00 (USD.)

Let’s add wipes into the mix. Let’s say you use 2 wipes for every diaper change. That’s 4080 wipes per year. Ballparking wipes at $0.03/wipe (based on an economy-sized box of Pampers Sensitive wipes available on Amazon.) 4080 x $0.03 = $122.40 (USD.)

If you control for (remove) butt cream and diaper pails from the equation, here’s a final comparison based on my experience and calculations.

First year - Cloth Diapers
(including diapers, fasteners, wipes, wipe solution, laundry detergent, water increase, electricity increase)
First year - Disposable Diapers
(including diapers and wipes; note that this could also include laundry detergent, but I wasn’t sure how to break that down)

$413.27 (USD)

$632.40 (USD)

Approximately $0.20/diaper

Approximately $0.31/diaper

So, modest savings over the course of the first year based on some quick math. You can do all kinds of Googling about cloth diapers vs. disposable to read blog postings from moms who have done various comparative cost analyses and come to similar conclusions. For example:

I’ve found that most claim that the real savings come in the second year of the baby’s life, since your upfront costs start getting spread over a larger window of time. Also consider that you can reuse diapers for subsequent babies AND there are online communities (like this one) to sell used cloth diapers! In terms of saving money, cloth diapers are where it's at.

And then there’s the whole environmental angle to strengthen cloth diapering’s argument. And avoiding exposure to chemicals in diapers and wipes

But apparently that's not as clear-cut as many cloth diapering advocates would hope. We'll leave that topic for another day...

1 comment:

JuliaR said...

That was pretty thorough! Wow.

Next challenge - toilet training. The one extreme that few people do is the very early training. It demands 24-7 paying attention by the parents, so that when the baby shows signs that she has to go, the parent gets her to a toilet asap. It reminds me of house training a dog. Very rigid rules, 24-7 vigilance, but huge pay-off in terms of getting it done fast and forever.