Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ba Donka Donk

Lately, I find myself humming the Oompa Loompa song (old, Gene Wilder version). You see, we've switched. We are (mostly) free of the disposable diaper and dependant on the cloth diaper. I have a few comments to share regarding this transition.
First, I feel a little better about my impact on the world. I've had increasingly strong feelings of guilt about the impact of having a child on the size of the landfill. First all the gear entering our home requires packaging. We've gone through as much cardboard in the last 3 months as we did in our last move. Then there's the guilt of the impact of disposable diaper heaps on the world. I know the diaper industry wants us to believe that the impact of cloth diapers is the same, but its not. We also have taken some steps that skew things further in favor of natural fibers. We went with unbleached cotton and our wash water doesn't come from or feed into sewer treatments plants.
I had these other negative experiences with the disposables: I was finding little bits of gel stuck on Jackson after a change. I found them to be a bit too absorbent, so that if we didn't change a diaper right away (like overnights), the solids would be glued to Jackson's skin. The diapers just weren't cutting it! We had atleast one horrifying blowout everyday (again, I apologize, Nicole) not to mention the wet leaks.
I didn't plan on using cloth diapers since I have unpleasant memories of my mother using them, but the lady at the store swore it wasn't like that anymore. The diapering systems are much better than before. They are more effective than the disposables. Ease of use has improved, both for putting the diapers on and for cleaning them up after. As long as the child is consuming only breast milk, they can go straight into the wash. The environmental impact is less, both from the landfill perspective, and from the manufacturing. So, I decided to give it a try.
We went with the Chinese prefolds and separate covers. This is supposed to be the most economical way to go. The diapers cover a large size range, so there's less to buy. I found a nice sample pack with 6 diapers (unbleached Chinese cotton prefolds), 1 snappi (pin free fastener), and 2 Bummi's covers for $38. That's enough to get through most of the day and get a feel for whether you'd like to continue or not. We are continuing and have added some Indian prefolds (I think I like these a bit better than the Chinese), some smaller Chinese prefolds, some smaller hemparoos, and more of the original supply. Here are some of my thoughts on the process:
1-I've found the cloth diapering crowd to be nuts--completely gungho on the fabulosity of fabric. There's an entire dictionary of new vocabulary and acryonyms to be learned. Mother's have made a cottage industry of making their own diapers and selling through boutiques and eBay. I appreciate their exhuberance! Special thanks to some woman named Karen who has posted great info on how to fold the "prefolds".
2-Cloth diapers are much larger than regular diapers--hence the Oompa Loompa theme. Jason pointed out rightly that Jackson is more like an [overgrown and swelling] blueberry, especially in the outfit above. The size range of these diapers is 15-30 lbs. We started using them right on the lower cusp. We since acquired some smaller ones, but they're still big. I took some photos showing Jackson lying on the diapers for scale (they're bigger than he is), but I can't find them. I may take some more a slip them in later. There is a shot of how much a diaper shrinks in the wash--they have to be washed repeatedly before wear.

3-Effectiveness: They're right. In 2 weeks, we haven't had any orange escapes. It frequently gets to the cover, but not across the line. There have been a couple of wet spots around the legs, but only after extended durations or extenuating circumstances (see 4, below).

4-Hemp diapers sound like a great way to go. I found they're not the panacea I'd expected. They're 2-3 times the cost of cotton, and while they are very soft, they weren't as absorbent. We've suffered a couple of short duration leaks with the hemparoos--I report with regrets. Also, the snappi doesn't catch on the fabric. I had one come loose and push into Jackson's thigh. Snappi's are optional anyway.

5-They're right about a couple of other things as well. We can and do just toss the whole mess into the washing machine. It all dissolves away. That was a surprise. I was also shocked to find they were right about the stains. Set the diapers out in the sun, and blotches fade away. The power of fusion--if we could only get it to work cold...

6-The cotton prefolds are not inconvenient. Folding is easy once you see the tips (see Karen's site above). However, I'm not thrilled with the system of re-using covers. I'm planning to get many more so I don't have to. This will make the economic advantages disappear vs the pocket diapers.

7-Notes on folding. My sources of info like either a simple triple fold or a bikini twist. In my brief experience, I found the prefold to be flirting with danger. There are no edges to keep things in place. The bikini twist is trim between the legs, but the folding makes awkward pockets, and the edges are questionable. The jelly-roll has nice edges, but its difficult to perform. My money is on the angel wing. It has nice thickness up front (especially when the diaper is way too long for the baby) and sufficient edging around the legs.

8-Stock up on cheapo baby washcloths from Target. These are great for whipes. There's a risk of having disposable wipes disintegrate in the wash and contaminate the diapers, plus why not lessen our environmental impact further. At first, I put the washcloths in an empty wipes container with water and a few drops of tea tree oil to ward off fungus. We got mildew after a few days. Here's the improved system: I'm keeping water with a few drops of tea tree oil and a small squirt of natural baby wash in the wipes container. The washcloths are kept dry in a bin next to it, then wetted on demand. This is working very well.

So that's plenty of info. This looks long. I'm also hearing cries from the bedroom and I have to work in the morning. Goodnight.



  1. Wow! Thanks for all the info on cloth diapers. I don't know anyone who has even tried it, so I really had no idea how it's going for babies these days. It's so important to be nice to the world.

    I hope you're doing well in the adjustment back into the working world. Jackson is so very cute! Love all the pics of him. We used the high chair at the dinner table from a young age, too, and it was wonderful.

  2. I will have to email my friend about a company she got all of her cloth diapers from. They had these really cool rice paper inserts for when the baby starts eating solids and the poop gets "real". The whole mess comes out with the rice paper inserts and you flush that down the toilet, then you don't have the mess to deal with in the diaper and in the wash.