Through the years our parenting has evolved and changed. A lot of that comes from experience, a lot comes out of necessity. Cloth diapering was one of those things. I tell people that if I can cloth diaper, anyone can. I hate laundry and I’m kind of lazy about it, and yet it works for us.
When we had Zoe we did things in a way that was familiar to us. We were young parents, the first of our friends to get married, the first to have kids. We were sort of flying blind. Sure, I was around kids, as soon as I was old enough to take the American Red Cross Safe Sitter course I was babysitting any chance I could. I was no stranger to being around kids, but I did things the way their parents wanted them done. Most of the time that was in pretty mainstream ways. Pampers, formula feeding, jarred baby food, etc.
Then came Oliver, we had been doing this parenting gig for 3 years. Zoe had turned out pretty well (so far). We were probably over confident. Oliver taught us that everything we knew didn’t matter. He was a different person, his own person. We had to learn to adapt.
For the first two weeks of Oliver’s life he had chronic, bleeding diaper rash. I tried all my tricks, creams, switched diaper brands, everything. None of it worked. My sister in law, had her second child about a year and half before and she had decided to cloth diaper. She suggested trying cloth to see if it helped his skin.
I instantly balked. No way. I didn’t have time for that! (Oh, how silly I was. I had so much time back then.) She’s was a stay at home mom, I was slated to head back to work in retail management in a few short weeks. There was no way I could balance that and everything else. I couldn’t keep up on our laundry as it was. Washing diapers was not on the list. Also…. poop, in my washer. *gag*.
After everything else failed to help his poor bottom, we relented and went to the only local cloth diaper store in the area. (The Little Seedling) Torey, (who I knew from being a CPST) helped me pick out a simple and inexpensive way to try it out and taught me how to put them on. I started with 15 used prefolds, 3 kissaluvs fitteds, 3 Thirsties covers and a wet bag. At the time it was about $75, and enough to get us through about a day. My plan was if it helped, I was only going to do it until his skin cleared up, not any longer than absolutely necessary. I was not going to be washing diapers when I went back to work.
We got home, we were skeptical at best, but we jumped right in. Within two diaper changes his bottom was looking better. Crap, I guess we’re doing this, I thought. It seemed simple enough. Put the absorbent part in, waterproof cover on, change when wet. Do not throw in the trash, bag it up for washing later. Mark was a little more hesitant. I remember him telling me, “I’ll change the diapers, but I’m not washing them.” (Oh, how things have changed!)
It was all fun and games until he pooped. Instant panic. What was I supposed to do with that? I called Torey at The Little Seedling, I’m sure she could hear the urgency in my voice. She calmly talked me through dumping the it in the toilet. Why that didn’t occur to me, I’m not sure. We continued on and Oliver’s rash was almost healed at the 24 hour mark. It was a miracle. (Not really, it was actually lack of crazy chemicals next to his skin.)
We made it through the whole “stash” of diapers I bought and it was time to wash them. I had my instructions, also from The Little Seedling. I took some deep breaths and put them in the washer. It was a few more steps than regular laundry, but it wasn’t terrible. After they were done and had gone in the dryer, they were clean and ready to go. It was honestly way easier than I expected.
Since I had used all the cloth we had bought and it was all washing, I put Oliver back in the disposables. After one diaper the rash was back. It was clear that they were the problem. I was feeling pretty OK with how things were going, I successfully cloth diapered for a day. I could do this at least until I went back to work.
As the days and weeks went on we got into a groove and really came to not mind using cloth diapers. I even sort of liked it, they were way cuter than disposables. Remember this was before they started putting cute prints on possibles, way back in 2010. Washing them was really no big deal (and Mark helped despite his initial protest), they smelled way better than that diaper genie full of a weeks worth of disposables, and we were saving money. Which at the time, was huge, because we didn’t have a lot to spare.
We bought some different kinds and tried them out and ended up using a combination of pocket diapers, all in twos, and those same prefolds and covers. Since it was clear that Oliver wasn’t going to tolerate disposables we decided we’d just keep doing it. It was either that or have a miserable kid with a bleeding butt. It’s amazing what you do when you just have to.
Honestly, I’ve kind of grown to like it. It’s not nearly as complicated as some people make it out to be. I’ve learned that almost everything you read on the internet about caring for and washing diapers is over complicated. (Except for this of course!) I’ll include some of my favorite links at the end.
We’ve been using cloth diapers ever since, it wasn’t even a question with the younger two. They wore cloth from the day they were born (at home) and I haven’t bought a disposable diaper since. (With the exception of a recent emergency hurricane pack, just in case, that we never used.) We take our cloth diapers when we travel, really everywhere. I have even hand washed them while camping, while not super fun, it wasn’t nearly bad as I thought it was going to be.
Because of the spacing in age of our kids, we’ve had someone in diapers solidly since 2010. At one point both the boys were in diapers. We did have a short 3 month break between Eli and Isabel when Eli was only wearing them at bedtime. I couldn’t even begin to figure how much money we’ve saved. I still have some diapers that Oliver wore, so they’ve been through three kids. Those original 15 prefolds? All three of my kids wore them, a friends kid, and I passed them on to another friend when Isabel was done. Sure some things have worn out and needed to be replaced, or I’ve bought some new just because, but I’m not adding $30-$50 a week to our grocery bill for diapers. Plus, I’m not putting all those diapers in a landfill and exposing my kids to nasty chemicals that are in disposable diapers.
Whenever cloth diapering comes up in a conversation with new parents I always try to convince them to do it. Sure it takes time to get used to putting dirty diapers in the wash, but the benefits far outweigh any negative aspects. You will save a ton of money, potentially side-step issues with sensitive skin, and you can feel good about keeping all of those diapers out of landfills. You’ll also pick up new and interesting skills, after a few months of cloth diapering you’ll be a regular diapering MacGyver, able to make a diaper out of anything. All joking aside though, if you run out of disposable diapers you are going to have to run to the store, if you run out of clean cloth diapers you can just use an old t-shirt, a hand towel, or anything else clean and absorbent you have around the house while your diapers wash.
If you’re local to Ann Arbor, Michigan, check out The Little Seedling for a cloth diapering workshop, knowledgeable associates, and an awesome selections of quality cloth diapers. (Disclaimer, I am a former employee, but that’s a post for another time.)
Check out The Real Diaper Association for info on washing and diaper care:
The Dirty Diaper Laundry is a great online place to get info on basics:
Also a shout out to Cotton Babies (the makers of Bumgenius and Flip Diapers) because we almost exclusively use their diapers. We love their commitment to responsible manufacturing and making quality products. Oh, and friggin’ adorable prints.