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An update on my cloth diapering adventures

We made some recent changes in the cloth diapering department, so I decided an update post was in order since I’ve blogged so extensively about the subject and I know I have many followers that have been converted to cloth from reading my posts (Haha, funny moment this weekend at our cousin’s baby shower, one of her friends came up to me and said, “Hi Lisa. You don’t know me, but I read your blog. And I started cloth diapering because of you. It’s been so great for us.”).

Well, after 2.5 years, and 2 kids worth of use, the microfiber inserts that came with my BumGenius 3.0 diapers had had it. They were still intact, they were still absorbent, but they stunk. And they stunk bad. Much of the “hook and loop” (Velcro) closures were also pretty worn (you may remember I’d started converting my diapers to snaps, but I only got a handful of them done). Changing diapers was an olfactory experience that I could not really deal with anymore. Then washing and drying them, P. U. It would stink up our whole house!

I tried so many things. Soaking. Bleaching. More soaking. Anti bacterials. Oxi Clean. Baking soda and vinegar. I scoured the Internet for “microfiber stink solutions,” “stinky BumGenius solution,” you name it I probably Googled it and tried it on my diapers. Nothing worked.

I had pretty much resolved to get rid of the inserts and either make or buy my own cotton inserts. Until I could get around to it, I had started using Huggies Pure & Natural Diapers or Seventh Generation diapers for Sprout and Pull-Ups or the Seventh Generation brand training pants for Bean. Stephen and I both noticed quite a spike in our budget during this period. So he started trying to be more proactive about the diaper laundry and using cloth. It was nice, but I was still sick of our microfiber.

Then my aunt called out of the blue one day and said for a combined Mother’s Day, birthday and new baby present this year she wanted to get us a cloth diapering service. She had researched it out, found three companies that serve our area and was surprised it wasn’t as expensive as she’d thought.

So I called up the companies next to find out a little more. I had a nice chat with one of owners of a Santa Clarita based company about cloth diapering and my cloth diapering problems. She told me that microfiber can only be guaranteed a year or a certain number of washes which is why diapering services can’t use them. She was surprised I made it 2.5 years with mine. She said they use cotton pre-folds because they can get the stink out and they last longer. This is basically what I had read on the Internet too, but it made more sense hearing it from someone who’s entire business revolves around cloth diapering.

After looking into it a little more though, I was disappointed to find that the diapering service only takes care of washing the pre-fold inserts and not the covers. To me, this didn’t really seem all that helpful. I’d have to keep two separate pails for the covers and inserts (which cloth diapering stuff already takes up enough room in our place), and I’d still be doing some diapering laundry.

So I talked to my aunt a little more about it and she said she would replace our old diapers instead.

Overall I still felt that my BumGenius diapers were a good investment and a good quality product. But I knew I wanted to go with cotton and not microfiber this time. I also had fairly good experiences with the distributor/parent company (I think that’s what they are?), Cotton Babies, so I did not hesitate to go back to them.

BumGenius does make an organic cotton version of their diapers, but they are all one piece. Plus, the new ones come in your choice of snaps or hook and loop. I actually liked that we could stuff our other diapers because I could control how much we needed to add or subtract for absorbency. I still wanted the flexibility of a pocket diaper or just a cover. I knew I would also go with snaps over hook and loop this time.

Since I bought/was gifted my BG 3.0s over 2.5 years ago, Cotton Babies has come out with two other kinds of diapers, the Flip System and the EconoBum.

The Flip diapers are pretty similar to G Diapers in that they have cloth or disposable inserts depending on your need. You can reuse the covers until they get gross, so you just keep replacing the inserts otherwise. They also have two cloth options, microfiber and cotton. Another good difference between the Flip and G Diapers is that like the BumGenius diapers they are one size and you can get them in snaps or hook and loop closure. They also come in all the fun colors that the BumGenius diapers do. And from what I could tell of the pictures, they looked like they fit just like the BumGenius diapers do, which is one of the things I really liked about those diapers.

So after a little contemplation and calculating, I decided to go with Flip covers. However, the Flip cotton insert pretty much looked like a cotton pre-fold to me and since I knew from my conversation with the diapering service that pre-folds last the longest, I decided to go with unbleached cotton pre-folds instead of the official Flip insert. Besides, the pre-folds were much cheaper!

The hardest part for me was trying to figure out how many inserts and covers to get. With the BumGenius I had 40+ diapers that I just ordered all together and all their pieces got worn and tossed in the diaper pail together. With these I knew I wouldn’t need as many of the covers since I’d be using them for more than one diaper change. I was slightly concerned about the absorbability of the cotton versus microfiber and whether I’d be doing more changes or doubling up to get that same level of absorbency that I was used to. So in the end, I decided to go with 20 covers and 60 pre-folds.

I know it sounds like a lot, but now that we are using them (well, we have been since Sunday anyway), I think I made the right decision for two kids in diapers. It is a little much for mostly just Sprout though (I had to plan ahead, Bean is pretty much in undies except for naps she wears a cloth diaper, but for preschool and at night we put a disposable training pant on her because she needs the extra absorbency). So a person with one kid in diapers could probably get away with a lot less.

I am also pleased to report that the cotton pre-folds are really absorbent and stand up to what we were used to with the microfiber just fine. I haven’t really noticed any extra diaper changes and we haven’t had any leaks, even overnight. The diapers fit pretty much the same as our BumGenius diapers did. The snaps work great and are easy to use.

I know it may be a bit premature since we are only a few days in, but I am really happy with the change.

My new diapers arrived in the mail last week along with a new Ergo carrier. I was so excited!

A Flip cover and a pre-fold insert after I had pre-washed everything. My initial excitement over the diapers was kind of put on hold when I read that the new Cotton Babies recommendation for diaper prep was SEVEN washes and dries! With our BG 3.0s I distinctly remember that we only had to do three.

Open Flip cover with the pre-fold in place.

Closed up Flip diaper all ready to go.

Bean wearing a Flip diaper with cotton pre-fold for nap today. I love the snaps and the fact that I can put my kids down for a nap sans pants and not worry that they will get bored and take off their diaper. This will be great during the summer when their rooms get a little warm even with the air on because of where they are positioned, getting the afternoon sun and being upstairs where heat rises.

Anyway, that about sums things up. Special thanks to my auntie for the new diapers. I am so happy with them!

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Daily, 11/13

Bean and Papa reading a book together. Love.

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I love cloth diapering, part 1: Why consider cloth?

Cloth diapering does not work for everyone or every family. I completely understand this. There are many situations in which cloth diapering would not be an ideal choice. I know plenty of people who are very sensitive to the environment in many other ways but still choose to use disposables. That is completely fine. Every family has to do what works for them; I can respect that.

You may feel like this post is a bit redundant since I’ve already done a couple vlogs on the subject. Well, in the past month I have had three different friends inquire about cloth diapering and either seriously consider the switch or actually take the plunge (Woohoo Kourtni!!). I realized when they came to me with their questions that 1) there was quite a bit my videos did not cover and 2) the videos are a bit long and tend to ramble into tangents because of my camera shyness.

So, I wound up going back to long, drawn-out e-mails trying to think of every possible question I had when I started, as well as answering the questions they had specifically asked me and covering anything I found that came up after I was already well into the adventure. In an effort to simplify the process of responding to future inquiries, I decided that a well thought out and organized blog series on the topic was in order.

Plus, since “green is the new black,” I’ve been seeing cloth diapers and supplies even pop up in some of the larger baby retail stores. Yesterday when I was in Babies R Us they had three different kinds of cloth diapers plus the gDiapers physically in the store (they’ve had them online for some time now). I also saw a wipes warmer specifically designed for cloth wipes with organic bamboo wipes included and extras sold right alongside it. The Target here also has BumGenius diapers from time to time. For these products to actually make it into the store and not just be available online, means that people are requesting them and using them. That means more and more people are going cloth, which is really exciting to me.

So in this first installment, I wanted to talk about why parents should consider cloth diapering.

1. It is environmentally friendly.
Disposable diapers make up one third of consumer waste in landfills today. We don’t know how long it takes them to decompose because no one has lived that long yet  some estimates are around 500 years. One baby in disposable diapers will contribute at least one ton of waste to your local landfill.

2. It is healthier for your baby.
Disposable diapers consist of a plastic exterior, an inner super-absorbent layer treated with chemicals and a liner. These chemicals include dioxin, a chemical by-product of industrial processes, including the paper-bleaching process. Its toxicity is second only to radioactive waste. Disposable diapers also have been found to contain TBT, one of the most poisonous substances known to man. TBT can severely affect one’s immune and hormonal system. And then there’s sodium polyacrylate, the substance that turns urine into gel. This material was in tampons until around 1985, when its link to Toxic Shock Syndrome caused it to be removed. Furthermore, females involved in the manufacturing of sodium polyacrylate have suffered from reproductive organ problems, weight loss, fatigue, and slow-healing wounds. Which begs the question, if it isn’t safe for this chemical to be in contact with the reproductive organs of grown women, why is it safe for it to be in contact with the reproductive organs of our little babies? Could this chemical be why infertility problems are on the rise?

A study conducted by Anderson Laboratories in 1999 and published in the Archives of Environmental Health found that disposable diapers release volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), including toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and dipentene. All of these VOCs have been shown to have toxic health effects, such as cancer and brain damage, with long-term or high level exposure.

The researchers also discovered that mice exposed to the chemicals released by disposable diapers were more likely to experience irritated airways than mice exposed to emissions from cloth diapers. These effects were increased during repeat exposures. The authors suggested that disposable diapers may cause “asthma-like” reactions and urged more study into a possible link between diaper emissions and asthma.

With the toxic chemical exposure of disposable diapers, it is no shock that a study by a major disposable diaper manufacturer shows that the incidence of diaper rash rose from 7.1% to 61% between 1970 and 1995, coinciding with the increase in disposable diaper use. However, no studies have ever been conducted on the long-term effects of these substances being in contact with a child’s reproductive organs for 24 hours a day and upwards of two or three years.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again  every single time I put Bean in disposables she gets a rash. When we first set out to cloth diaper, our plan was to use cloth at home and disposables for out-of-town trips and days when I would be out of the house for most of the day. At the time, it seemed to us that this plan would be easier than carting around dirty diapers everywhere. When Bean started getting rashes because of the disposable diapers, that changed our plans.

We knew that these rashes were specifically from the disposable diapers and/or wipes because we could usually clear this rash up without creams by putting her back in cloth diapers for a day. On one particular extended trip out of town, the rash got so bad she blistered and peeled. It didn’t seem fair to subject Bean to a painful rash just for our convenience. So now we cart around dirty diapers in a wet bag (Lisa notes: Stephen thinks this term sounds disgusting and will turn people off to cloth diapering. He would have preferred I used “plastic bag,” but they really are called “wet bags” and I know plenty of moms that use them and don’t cloth diaper so I’m leaving the term. Plus, click on the link and you will see tons of really cute ones!) and when we go out of town we make arrangements to wash them if we are staying for an extended period of time.

Actually, until Bean was around 5 or 6 months old, the only time she ever got a rash was from disposable diapers. That has since changed. We did have a yeast/thrush problem for awhile that caused a rash. Then there are three other main reasons why she will sometimes get a rash: 1) Reaction to a solid food that she ate, 2) Teething, because I think the teething changes the acidity of her digestive system for some reason and makes her poop burn her bum and 3) Negligence on my part sometimes I forget to change the diapers as often as I should. Still, these rashes are few and far between compared to if she were in disposables all the time.

3. Less blowouts.
I can count on one hand the number of times Bean has had a blowout in her cloth diapers. These blowouts were of such proportion and force that a paper thin disposable would not have been able to contain them either. Actually this is funny to me because one of the main warnings I got when I announced my decision was that everyone who had tried cloth or knew someone that had tried cloth stopped using them because of blowouts. In reality, I had way more problems with blowouts, really gross poop-all-the-way-up-the-back blowouts, than I ever have with my cloth diapers.

One of the first pieces of advice about cloth diapers I got when researching it was that I would see a huge polarization in the reviews of the different brands because every diaper fits every baby differently. As such, I was advised to start out with a stash of diapers with a variety of brands so I could figure out what I liked and what worked best with my baby’s body (I actually ignored this advice, but I’ll address that later in the series).

So, I think this is where friends and others who have tried cloth ran into problems. The diaper they chose, for whatever reason, did not work with their baby’s body type and they had leaks or blowouts. Now, if you were using Pampers, you’d probably just try switching to Huggies or some other brand. I think with cloth though we’re more apt to just say, “Well these ones don’t work, therefore all cloth diapers don’t work for us. I’m going back to disposables because that was easier.” When you’re spending much more for a single diaper (I’ve seen upwards of $35 per diaper for some ritzy brands), I can understand why you might be a little wary of experimentation though.

4. They are super cute.
The diapers I use come in a bunch of really fun colors. So does pretty much every brand I’ve come across. Then, if you want to get into supporting stay at home moms (also known as work at home moms or WAHMies), there are tons of sites where you can buy handmade diapers and covers in a huge variety of fun, beautiful and designer fabrics. Below is just a couple examples of some of the stuff you can find:

5. A lot has changed and it isn’t as hard as it used to be.
As I intend to show you throughout this series, cloth diapering is not as hard as our parents and grandparents made it out to be: gone are the days of stinky buckets of water with dirty diapers soaking in them, the laundry isn’t that bad or that much more than you are probably already doing with your baby and you don’t have to deal with pins and folding cloth diaper inserts if you don’t want to. Modern technology and fashion have really made this a much more fun and simple process.

6. It is cheaper!
This is the point that often wins the economical and practical guys over. Most estimates on the cost of disposable diapers put the figure at $2-3,000 per child, per year. If your child is in diapers for two years, that means you will spend $4-6,000 and if they are in diapers for three years, you will be spending $6-9,000 just on diapers for one child. If you factor in multiple children, that figure skyrockets even more.

I personally have about $800 worth of BumGenius diapers which run between $15-20 each, depending on where you get them from and whether you buy in bulk or not. Of that $800, my husband and I only invested $400 into them, the rest were very gratefully received shower gifts.

For those of you that, like me, hate doing math, I will do the calculations for you. We personally will save up to $5,600-8,600 just on Bean alone. We will likely use these diapers with our next child as well, provided they hold up that long and I can keep up with two kids and laundry. So, that means up to an additional $6-9000 worth of savings for a total of up to $11,600-17,600 for both kids! And that doesn’t even include the amount of money we aren’t constantly spending on diaper rash creams or wipes (since with use cloth wipes as well).

**Edit: After some of your comments I think the above figures are definitely a little high. I originally saw the $2-3K figure as a per child figure some time ago, not per child per year. I couldn’t remember what the actual figure was when I went to put together this post so I did a really quick search and a couple sites said the the per child, per year number so I went with that because the $2-3K part of it seemed familiar to me. Anyhow, check the comments section below to hear from actual disposable users that know what the real cost is. Sorry about that! In any case, over the long term cloth diapers are still cheaper than using disposables.

So that about covers the main reasons to go cloth. I hope you will seriously consider it if you haven’t before. For me personally, the biggest factors that swung me into the cloth diaper camp were the economic savings and the health of my child. I think those two things alone are worth condsideration.


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