Thursday, March 31, 2011

Confessions of a part-time cloth diaperer

I am a part-time cloth diaperer. Since I started cloth diapering a year and a half ago, this has varied from nearly full-time to part-time part of the time. Currently I'm back at it full-swing, cloth diapering during the day, using disposables when we go out and at night.

Right before I quit my job just after the birth of my second daughter, I researched cloth diapers, figuring that after the initial investment, using them would save us considerably on our monthly diaper expense. At the time, I had a two-year-old who was still in diapers and I was about to have a newborn, so I researched all-in-ones or AIOs, as they are commonly known. I wanted to buy cloth diapers once and have them fit both kids. I researched using pre-folds with diaper covers or soakers (which sounds disgusting but they are actually pretty cool), but the all-in-one's fit my criteria. After more research into which brand was best, I chose BumGenius. They had the best reviews, and with a name like "BumGenius" and my infantile sense of humor, I was sold! I spent about $300 on them while I still had it, ordering a pretty, cute, fun array of colors.

Before the new baby was born, I tried them out on my then 2-year-old and they worked great. We used them at home except for night-time, and they fit well, were absorbent and despite definitely causing the phenomenon known as "cloth diaper butt," in which your baby appears to have a butt like J.Lo's, they fit under her clothes just fine. I was gung-ho about using them with my newborn, and before she was born, I reserved and pre-stuffed ten or so of them with the newborn insert and snapped them into the newborn size. Perfect!

Well, then my baby was born and I gave it a shot for the first few days. However, since newborns poop about 10 times a day and I had my 2-year-old wearing them, too, the 22 BumGeniuses that I had were quickly used up. I found myself needing to wash a load of cloth diapers every day to keep up. Cloth diapers have very specific washing needs: specific detergents must be used so as not to damage the waterproof outer fabric and also to avoid leaving baby butt-irritating detergent behind. They also must be washed once on cold to remove any nasty residue (eewww) and then once on hot, to get them truly clean. With my washer, this takes just over two hours.

Beyond the mere washing, there's also the problem of handling the poo. Since newborn poo is nowhere near solid, you have to get it out of the diaper somehow before putting it in your washer. That's where a diaper sprayer such as this one comes in:

Or so I thought. It's this brilliant sink sprayer-like thingy that attaches to your toilet, so you can spray the non-solid poo right off the diaper and into the toilet. What could be easier, right? It sounds great in theory, but the times I actually tried it, it did not remove any poo, but succeeded only in making the entire diaper really wet, soaking the smelly nastiness through all layers but the waterproof outer core.

This all proved to be too much for me with a newborn and a 2-year-old in diapers at the same time and I found myself overwhelmed by the amount of laundry and stressed out by it. "Screw it," I said, and I gave up on cloth diapering for many months, going through $40 box after box of diapers from Costco.

Until the last month or so, the cloth diapers did nothing but sit on a shelf, look pretty and mock me. "You spent $300 on us, dumbass. All we do is just sit here while you spend $40 or more per month on disposables," they seemed to say. I would occasionally use a few of them when we were getting low on disposables and our Friday payday and Costco run was still a couple days away, but otherwise, there they sat.

Then my sister-in-law had twins and started asking questions on Facebook about cloth diapering. She went ahead and bought some and gave them a try. I thought, "If a mother of three-month-old twins (AND a 4-year-old) is willing to even consider trying cloth diapering, I can give it another try, too."

And I did. The situation is quite different now - my older daughter is now 3-and-a-half and potty trained and my baby is now 15 months old and her poops mostly solid. This makes the whole thing so much easier. I cloth diaper her exclusively except for night-time and when we go out, and I do a load of diapers about every other day. So far, it's really working, and I am enjoying both saving the money and saving a few disposable diapers from ending up in a landfill.

It's still really gross and really smelly, but much easier than before, and I think I can stick with it until my younger daughter is potty trained. If I feel overwhelmed by the laundry or just feel like I can't face a poopy cloth diaper on a given day, I just use a disposable and I don't feel bad about it. My daughters need me functioning at full capacity, not stressed out or overwhelmed, and not rocking in a corner, delirious from baby pee ammonia fumes.

One of the things that my cloth diapering experience has taught me is that there are no absolutes in parenthood, no black and white rules. Almost nothing works 100% of the time and I have to remain flexible and go with the flow, including the flow of smelly laundry.


  1. You're a brave woman. I considered cloth diapers for about 10 seconds when I realized I'd have to scrub the poop out...

  2. Awesome! Thanks for the shout-out :) Cloth diapering is another job in itself. I love it not only for the cost, but because we are teaching our children about being responsible for our environment (of course the disposable diaper companies are getting on board with that too now). I love reading your articles!

  3. mine are out of diapers... a little scared of the poo sprayer.

    left an award for you on my blog!

  4. YAY for cloth diapering! I completely agree that you don't have to do it 100% of the time - just do what you can do, and don't feel bad about the rest. I've been cloth diapering for about 2 years now (since shortly before my 2nd was born), and we are a cloth during the day, disposable at night family too. I am so sad that no one told you that you don't have to spray/remove newborn poo from the diapers though!! Until they start solids, you can throw the newborn poo diapers in with the rest of the dirty dipes, and the hot wash will clean them thoroughly and leave your washer clean. Once they start solids, it's a different story, but that's why I love my Imse Visme flushable liners!! :-)

  5. I wish someone had told me that, too! Might have made it a little easier and less demoralizing. It works great now that my daughter's poops are solid and can be just dumped into the toilet without a care. If I have another kid, this info will come in handy!

    We use disposables at night because no cloth diaper stands a chance against my daughters' amount of night-time pee. Disposables don't, half the time!


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