Thursday, November 15, 2012

Granola Mom: Cloth Diapers FAQ


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When people find out that I use cloth diapers I usually get funny looks followed by a series of questions that I'm more than happy to answer. I thought I'd devote this blog post to the most frequently asked questions and my answers to them. (With the caveat that MY answer is not necessarily the best or right answer.)

1) Why?

This is one decision I was pretty adamant about. Most people thought/think I'm crazy. I even had to convince Beau. (He was worried about some of the questions as well.) Disposable diapers are expensive, bad for baby and worse for the environment. Rather than waxing poetic about all of the bad stuff (because we all know I'm wordy and that could take ages), check out this blog post. Obviously, there are both sides of the argument, but if even one quarter of all of the scary stuff is true, I knew before I met my Little Man that I wanted to do my best to take care of him and protect him as best I can.

Also, after Beau and I had made the decision for me to stay at home, I knew I'd have the time to devote to the laundry that would be generated and I wouldn't have to worry about finding a day care that isn't weirded out by cloth. (Many of them won't deal with them despite the fact that they are just as easy as disposable.) Also, in staying at home I was looking for ways to cut costs. This seemed like a smart place to start.

To answer the question without going on for much longer, I simply decided why not?

2) Don't you worry about sticking him with pins?
If you haven't seen cloth diapers in a while, you're in for a pleasant surprise. There is no need for pins. Cloth diapering today does not necessitate shoving long, sharp pins violently through layers of cloth and hoping not to stick baby. Even if you have never tried to pin a diaper, I'm guessing at some point you have tried to safety pin through something and shoved the pin painfully into your finger.


Now imagine that stick going into the silky smooth leg of a sweet newborn.

Nope. You couldn't pay me enough to use pins.

Today there are many options like the snaps above, Velcro, or Snappis. They are the bomb if you choose to go with flat diapers or prefolds.

(Image from here)
I'm not going to go into all of the cloth diapering options in this post or explain diapering terminology, but basically, if it looks like it needs a pin, just use a snappi.

Suffice it to say: No. I don't worry about sticking him with a pin because I don't use any pins at all. Those things are antiquated!

3) What do you do with poop?

Well, right now, Little Man is only getting breast milk. Breast milk is 100% water soluble. All I do is throw the diaper in the bin and wash them all together when the bin is full.

Soon he'll be on solid food and I'll need to dispose of solid waste in the toilet. Generally speaking, a little shake should do the trick. If not, there are sprayers made for the task of rinsing solid waste into the toilet. Simply, spray the diaper off into the toilet, then the diaper goes in the bin to be washed and the toilet gets flushed. Easy peasy.

4) What do you do with dirty diapers?

This bin that I speak of is very much like a mid-sized trash can with a lid. The only thing that makes it special is that the inside of the lid has a compartment for little baking soda disks to absorb any smells. This bin sits in in the corner of the nursery near the changing table and the door.

Said diaper pail is lined with a waterproof diaper pail liner. (I have the one it is linked to and "hoot." I wish "hedgehog" had been around when I was doing my ordering... cute, cute, cute)

When the bin is full, I pull the bag out of the bin, take it to the washer, dump everything inside and throw the bag in as well. I set the washer on sanitize (for an extra hot, germ killing wash and rinse) and walk away.

When it is done, I pull the covers out to hang to dry and the cotton liners get dried in the drier.

5) You wash them in your washer? Gross.

Babies have disgusting blowouts all the time and no one gets grossed out when all that mess goes into the washer. This is the same thing. Yes, I wash dirty diapers in the same washer that I wash our clothes in. Like I said, I use the sanitize setting and the diapers (and the inside of the washer) get really clean. We have a tankless water heater and our plumber (who was totally thinking ahead) put its thermostat in right next to the washer. I can turn the water heater temperature up to 135 degrees so that the diapers get super duper hot water.

People ask me why I don't just take them to the laundromat. I have no idea why I would leave the comfort of my home to wash my son's diapers elsewhere. I know that my sterilize setting actually gets the diapers hot and clean. (Thanks to Tommy the plumber!) If I went to the laundromat, I'd have no idea if the hot cycle was getting hot enough to sanitize everything.

6) How did you even get started with this?
Years ago, I was visiting my friend Nikki in Florida. Her middle child was then just a baby. She had decided to do the cloth diaper thing and I was there when she got her stash in the mail and started the process. I didn't even realize that there were people who used anything but disposables. It really got me thinking about how much waste is created with disposables. When Beau and I got pregnant, those early days with Nikki and her cloth stash came to mind. I figured if she had two kids and could do it, I could handle it with one little guy.

From there, I asked questions and did all kinds of research on what I wanted. It turns out that the process has gotten even easier since Nikki started. I'll be posting about the cloth diapers I use sometime later this week or early next week, so specifics will come soon.

7) Wouldn't it be easier to use a diaper service?

Diaper services do exist and they make cloth diapering very, very, very easy. Basically, you pay a monthly fee and diapers are delivered to your doorstep. The night before delivery day, you put your bag of dirties outside. They disappear, clean ones reappear and everyone is happy.

Nice, huh?

But, like everything else in life, this convenience is not cheap.

When I first let people know I was going to cloth diaper, many of them assumed I'd use a service. Some even laughed at me and told me I'd change my mind about wanting to wash the diapers myself shortly after bringing Little Man home.

Aside from being green and safer on my little boy's bottom, the savings of cloth diapering really appealed to me and I knew that I'd need to do the laundry in order to realize any of that savings.
The cost of using a service is about equivalent to using disposables. This means that if I went with the service, the savings would be nonexistent. After paying for my stash, the only monthly costs are for detergent, water, electricity and gas (the drier and water heater).

7) What kind of savings do you expect to see?

I've seen different estimates on what it costs to diaper a child. The estimates usually come in around $3000 to diaper a child until he's potty trained at two and a half or three. Wipes would add close to $1000 to that. Like I said earlier, I've invested about $40 into my wipes.

Cloth diapers are not cheap to start with. My awesome sister-in-law got us started with a few different diapers from my registry and I later purchased another set and some individual cloth covers, plus prefolds and some accidental flats (which I use as the best and biggest burp cloths ever!). All said, even with Betsy's gift factored in, we've got less than $500 invested in this. (Probably closer to $400, actually.) Unless I want more diapers, new patterns or whatever, I'm set until Little Man is potty trained.

So, I've got about $440 spent out of pocket. Over the course of a disposable diaper timeline a parent could expect to pay about $4000 on diapers and wipes. That's a sweet savings!

And the best part? If we have another child (especially a boy), our cost would be zero dollars to diaper him (plus that negligible cost of washing). With disposables, the cost just repeats itself since those things can't be reused!

If we were to have a girl, I'd probably feel compelled to get a few super cute pink diapers and patterned ones with flowers and bunnies and stuff.

Do you have any other burning cloth diaper questions? Any other CD'ers out there have anything to add?

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