Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Scoop on Poop: Our Adventures in Cloth Diapering

I'll be honest -- this is entire post about diapers. And baby poop. And toddler poopy.

So if it's something that you have no interest, I promise I won't be offended if you sign off now.  :)

I've answered a lot of questions lately about cloth diapering (wow, I never thought I'd say THAT five years ago!), so I figured I'd just pull together a post about everything cloth diapers in the Ski world.  It's long and detailed, but there's a lot of info inside...especially if you're considering cloth diapering. And I loved reading other moms' blogs about cloth diapering when I had questions as I was starting out.

Diapers have been a pretty big focus over the past few months as we've welcomed a newborn back into the house.  Newborns go through diapers at nearly twice the rate of toddlers, so I've been changing a lot of diapers lately.  A LOT. 

Over the course of Thomas's life, we've spent nearly $2000 on diapers.  Knowing that little boys potty train later than little girls, we're looking at the possibility of another year of him in them.  Starting again with John Paul means that we have several years ahead of diapers. 

Why did I want to make the switch? 
  • Each child moving from disposable diapers to cloth diapers saves about two tons of trash from if we're hoping for a big family (which we are), this is one way to help keep our carbon "bottomprint" (heh heh, instead of footprint) smaller.  
  • Cloth diapers help kids recognize when they are wet and can help them potty train earlier.  I'm all for that!  :)
  • The financial impact of another round of disposable diapers is depressing.  $2000 for each child vs $500-600 for both AND can be handed down to future Wee Skis with good care?  Yes, please!
  • With the newborn diapers, even the sensitive ones, the mesh would stick to John Paul's tiny little man parts and I would literally have to peel it off.  With the soft microfleece of the diapers we chose, that's never been an issue.  John Paul's never had any diaper rash because of it.  
  • In the big picture, I'm OK if we still use disposables as needed (especially for travel).  I'll have John Paul with me later in the month out of town, where we won't have access to a washing machine or dryer for several days...and we'll be flying seven hours each way.  
  • And in the bigger picture...I'm not about to judge any other mom for whether or not she uses cloth diapers.  I've seen that there is definitely a group of moms who judge other moms for the choices that they make -- for example, regarding breastfeeding vs formula or cloth vs disposable or whatever else the current hot button item is -- and I'm not interested in that.  This is what works for us, and it won't work for everyone.  And that is perfectly OK!
I thought about cloth diapering Thomas much earlier, but I encountered resistance from Jonathan.  And reasonably so -- I really had no idea what I was thinking about getting into or was asking of him.  There was one ill-fated attempt to just convert over to cloth wipes last year and that ended badly.  Let's be real - it was a stinky disaster.  Poopy wipes with nowhere to go are NOT the way to sell your husband on converting the diapers over too!

At times, I realize I must be a little insane to move two kids into cloth diapers cold turkey at the same time. I just figured it was easier to go "all in" with both of them or not at all.  That decision actually helped to solidify the plan because not only was it a larger up-front commitment, but it required some big changes to make it successful for both boys. 

This time around, I planned ahead to help make the transition a success.  As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Here's a few ways that I prepared:
  • RESEARCH  I did a great deal of research both on the diapers themselves and the process of washing.
    I asked friends who cloth diaper, stopped into our local cloth diapering shop (Simple Cloth) in Olympia, and researched on the web.  I wanted to have an idea of the challenges in switching over. 
  • CHOOSING THE DIAPERS  |  For the diapers, I wanted ones that would take the boys from nearly-newborn to potty training. 
    With that, I ended up with the FuzziBunz One Size Pocket Diaper.  I could use the same ones for Thomas now, and 'pass them down' to John Paul as Thomas potty trained.  And all of them can be passed down to future Wee Skis.  The FuzziBunz can be used on babies from 7-35 pounds.  Three different elastics can be adjusted (each leg + waist).  The legs have 8 different size options and the waist has 4 options.  John Paul is on the smallest size (about to move up) and Thomas is on the second largest size.  FuzziBunz also had a great promo while we were stocking up -- buy 5, get 1 free.  We ended up with 36 diapers between the two boys, with a little more than half sized down to John Paul.  I actually anticipated moving John Paul into the FuzziBunz around 3 months, but he's been growing like a weed and I really wanted to stop peeling the disposables off his he was moved to them sooner.  
  • STORING THE DIAPERS AFTER USE  |  Using a diaper sprayer and a 'dry pail'. 
    Newborn diapers and toddler diapers are treated differently.  Breastmilk poo is water soluble, so I just slide out the insert and drop both the diaper and insert into the dry pail on the wall.  John Paul's diapers are the easiest.  Thomas's diapers take a bit more work, but it's not bad.  I remove the insert and drop that into the dry pail.  I knock any solids into the toilet and use the diaper sprayer to rinse any remaining solids into the toilet as well.  The diaper goes into the dry pail and that's it!  It took a few times to get the hang of the right pressure (READ: not spraying too hard and covering yourself in wet baby poo) but trust me, you learn quickly when that's the punishment!!  When it comes time to wash, you simply take the whole bag into the laundry area, unzip the bottom of the bag, drop the diapers into the wash, and toss the bag in as well.  You never need to touch the dirty diapers as they drop into the washer.  We have two FuzziBunz hanging diaper pails at home and a zippered diaper tote that goes with us in when we're not home.  We also use the FuzziBunz wonder wipes with fleece, and toss those into the dry pail as well.  With two boys, I picked up two 10-packs to always have some handy.  They're also soft face washcloths for the boys when you need them!
  • THE LAUNDRY  |  About the wash...I have never been a fan of laundry.  But the prospect of washing diapers every other day (and sometimes every day) forced me to get my laundry plan organized and together (sweet bonus!!).  I set up a schedule for what would be washed on which day, and that helped dramatically in keeping things on track.  It also helped to ensure that Jonathan never runs out of white tees or dark socks because whites and darks always get washed early in the week.  I designed two guides for the laundry area (someday, I'll have a laundry room...someday!) and laminated them.  They're hung on the wall with clothespins above the washer & dryer. As long as I keep up, the extra laundry really isn't a big deal. 
  • THE SOAP  |  Finding what works for the diapers with our well water.
    I tested our water at the house.  Having a well helps in cutting the cost on water to wash, since we own the water and only pay for the electricity to heat the water and run the machine & dryer.  I wanted to know what kind of soap would work best with our water, and I was amazed to find out how soft our water really is.  I learned that not only was I using too much laundry soap for normal loads, but I was using too much dishwasher soap, and dishes weren't rinsing well.  Cutting the soap for both loads helped dramatically in the final product of normal clothes cycles and dish cycles in the dishwasher.  That was a nice bonus!  Anyway, I chose Rockin' Green for the soap.  They have a number of yummy fragrances, so I started with the sample sizes to test the scents and to see how they reacted with the boys' bottoms.  John Paul was always fine, but Thomas broke out in diaper rash a few times from the diapers.  When I reduced the amount of soap being used, the breakouts cleared up right away. After all the samples, I picked up a big package of the lavender mint...which ended up being my favorite.  They have three options -- hard rock (for hard water), classic rock (for middle of the road) and soft rock (for soft water).  We use the classic rock, in smaller quantities because our water is soft.  For each load, we use about 2 TSP per load.
  • DRYING  Line dried diapers last longer.
    Washington's wet weather isn't what I'd call conducive to line drying throughout the year...but I'll take it as long as I can (said while looking outside to the first 80 degree days we've had THIS YEAR).  I have my ghetto fabulous clothesline (mentioned here) but also picked up a drying rack from Costco that I love.  I'll probably pick up another one for the winter to use inside.  They have a sale right now in the warehouses, making them about $23 each.  Money well spent!  When I can't line dry, I toss everything into the dryer on low...but am planning to move the racks inside this winter. 
  • STORING THE DIAPERS BEFORE USE  |  In the bathroom.We have two JJ Cole tall storage boxes.  They are awesome on their own - they fold up and store flat when not in use. They fit right under the counter in the bathroom - one for each boy.  Each 11x11x11 storage box holds the stuffed diapers so they are ready to go when they are needed.  We also have a JJ Cole diaper and wipes caddy, which holds all the cloth wipes in the big compartment (where the diapers used to be stored).
Onto the fun stuff, what this all looks like.

So I'll start you with a little 'cloth diapering porn', if you will.  It's turned out that hanging the diapers is one of the most calming things in the world.  Jonathan definitely doesn't bug me when I'm doing it (lest I ask him to help!) and Thomas plays outside near me when I'm out there.  Stuffing the diapers later is the perfect before-bed relaxation.  And I can't tell you how many people my mom's age remember doing the same thing for their kids a generation ago, and talk about it wistfully.  :)

Anyway, enjoy.

Hanging on our line outside...

Drying the inserts on the rack from Costco. This sight just makes me happy.

The rack in the front yard, on the sidewalk. You can tell it's summer because our Christmas trees are soft and fluffy and growing in the background.

The FuzziBunz One Size diapers.  We're in Relay season, so I pulled a lavender diaper (sized down to two-month-old John Paul) and a grape diaper (sized for 2 1/2 year old Thomas).  You can see how small the elastic can make the diapers so they can be used for both boys...and it definitely gives John Paul a super fluffy bum!

The inserts that go inside.  Each FuzziBunz One Size diaper comes with two super soft cotton microfiber inserts (a newborn size and a toddler size) as well as an extra set of elastics.  For Thomas, who is a heavy wetter at night, I also picked up some extra Thirsties hemp inserts (I can see my mom rolling her eyes right now -- hemp?  Really?  Hemp?!?) that are super absorbent.  John Paul uses one newborn insert in each diaper all the time.  Thomas uses the toddler sized insert all the time, and at night, he gets 'double stuffed' with both a toddler insert and a hemp insert.  It keeps him dry all night. 

Thomas with the infamous diaper sprayer.  There are some funny stories with this, starting with me installing it.  I felt pretty confident about installing it after watching this video on YouTube.  Little did I know that we had copper pipes and I snapped off the pipe right from the wall.  Thank God I had turned off the water first!  Uncle Jerry and Jonathan loved making fun of me and my mad plumbing skills after that. They ended up replacing the copper pipes to both toilets in the bathroom and it ended up being a good thing overall, if you ignore my bruised ego.

Secondly, Thomas thinks having a spray gun on the toilet is THE BEST THING EVER.  I remember being in the living room when I forgot to turn off the lever to the gun, and I heard yelling, "WHEEE!!!  WHEEE!!!"  I ran to the bathroom to find the walls soaked and a very proud Wee Ski holding the sprayer.  His response, "I help Mommy!"  We had some serious timeouts after that and he is now a responsible diaper sprayer user.

I originally wanted the BumGenius diaper sprayer, but you can also get the generic one for $15 cheaper and better reviews!  Notice the nearly identical packaging, you're just buying the name!

In the background above, you can also see the hanging dry pails.  We have a very unique bathroom layout -- with a large bathroom (with the bath and shower) and a smaller bathroom connected to the larger bathroom via pocket doors.  Guests (and my husband) mainly use the larger bathroom, so I didn't want the dirty diapers hanging in there. Though we also change the boys on the giant counter in the large bathroom, the diaper sprayer and dry pail are in the small bathroom so the scent (if there ever is any) doesn't bother anyone but me.  It's literally a six foot walk, so it's not a big deal.

Since the door to the small bathroom is a pocket door, there's obviously no door handle to hang the diaper pails on (which is where they can easily hang).  I installed a hook on the wall of the small bathroom (reinforced with drywall screws) to hang the pails.  Why two?  On the photo above, you can tell that the white bag is nearly full (by how stretched out it is).  When I pull that bag to wash the diapers, the brown one is right there for the next time either boy get changed. 

And Thomas living it up with the diaper sprayer.  Do you know how awesome the phrase, "No, diaper sprayers are only for big boys who are learning to use the potty" is?  IT WORKS WONDERS.  He can help Mommy after he's spent some quality time on his little potty.

Finally, here's the two guides that hang over our washer & dryer.  These really were godsends when it came to getting our family laundry organized and on track. Surprisingly, my freakish Type-A tendencies are OK with being flexible with this, because it at least helps keep me on track to make sure everything gets done in a good rotation. 

The laundry schedule:

Cloth Diapering 101 -- just in case hell freezes over and I have a laundry angel to come help!  :)

All in all, I'm glad we changed over from disposable diapers.  

It's not for everyone, but it works for us.  And that's a good deal of cash saved that we can save & invest to help put both boys (who should be OUT of diapers by then) through college!  :)  The retired-financial-advisor in me says that the $2000 saved for each child should be able to cover their college books, at least!  :)

And honestly, aren't their little fluffy bums cute?!?

Cloth Diapering Made Easy  |  A quick way to find nearly everything mentioned here in an online shoppe at Amazon  :)


Family of 4 said...

I could not have said it better myself .... which it why I waited all this time for you to post about it! ;-)

Perhaps my most favorite thing .... naked babies in FuzziBunz in the summer(or anytime)! I love that this weathers lets Gus be clothing free with just a cuter than cute diaper!

Cheers for 2000 extra dollars!

Unknown said...

Hi there!

I just stumbled upon your blog from a post you made on Twitter... I just have to say your boys are adorable, and I love the Cloth Diaper 101 chart you made! Genius!

I'm also in WA (near Tacoma) so it was a shock to see you mention Simple Cloth, lol!

I'm glad that cloth diapering is working so well for your family! I love our FBOS diapers, too - although I have a very eclectic stash, and only 2 of them are FBOS.

Kerry said...

Anna and Gus just sent us your blog. We have been thinking of switching to cloth diapers, and Anna has been a great help with recommendations, but my husband is resisting. We have 4 kids, 4 and under, so I see the need, but he thinks it will be "icky." Our two oldest boys have been potty trained since twenty seven months, but Patrick (22 months) and McKenna (8 weeks) are still in the disposables. I'm hoping when hubby reads this he might be more willing!

Anonymous said...

Please add your post to our reviews section on the FuzziBunz Facebook Page! Thanks!

Jena said...

I don't judge people for using disposables, but I do assume they don't know about how awesome modern cloth diapers are. I love my cloth diapers. Have never used Fuzzibunz (though they were the first I looked into), but I have Oh Katy's, Ecobumz, and Comfy Rumps. The CR are about $8/diaper and almost local to me--just a couple ferry rides away; plus, they almost always have a great promotion going on. (In May I got 18 diapers, a wet bag and three extra inserts for $140, including shipping.)

I'd encourage NB prefolds for anyone considering diapers for newborns--OS diapers are often just a little too big for the tiny ones (though I'm sure they would've been great on my 10 lb. 7 oz. nephew). Prefolds (24-36) + four (or more) covers + a couple of Snappis = bliss with a newborn. I also loved my Sugar Peas size 1 hemp fitteds for my LO when she was tiny. (Not so tiny now--19+ lb. at 6.5mo!) They're a tad on the expensive side, though. (Mine were a gift.)

Anonymous said...

I am a converted disposable diaper user! I made the big leap with my 4th son. I am so glad I did!!! I am using Mother-ease Sandy's diapers. They are great and I have a few of their new line called the Wizard line. I have converted my husband too. At first he was like "whatever you want to do" but now I really think he is into it. I am so glad that I had some really good friends support me with CD! Now that i have made the switch I will never go back!

Jenna said...

What a great post and I love the charts! I have already posted the washing one!

Ane and her cloud said...

Your blog and your story is amazing!Love your prof. photos.
If you like saving $$$ ,clean diapers and rash free tushie, try homemade washing powder.

1 bar of shaved bar soap (Ivory, ZOTE, Fels-Naptha)
1 cup of borax
1 cup of washing soda

Feel free to use Bronner's soap, I love it. I do use Oxyclean on my fuzzies with no problem. You only need 1-2 Tbsp per load of this powder so I still have my batch from 2 years ago.
God bless your wonderful family.

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