Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cloth Diaper Update

Henry (in his bumGenius diaper) and his friend, Ellie Cate (she wears Fuzzi Buns)

I haven't done a Q & A segment on this blog like I've done over at 2000 Dollar Wedding, but I received a question via e-mail that I've been meaning to address:
My husband and I are now expecting our first child (we found out it's a girl yesterday!) and I was hoping to get more of a real-life perspective on the cloth-diapering system. My husband and I don't seem to have any friends in the area that have done cloth diapering--in fact, they actually look at us like we're a little crazy when we mention that it's something we're interested in. (Can you tell we've had a difficult time finding like-minded friends after we moved?) Anyway, everywhere I look online is mainly about selling the product, and I'd just like a more realistic view of the whole ordeal.

Matt and I always knew that we wanted to use cloth diapers because it aligned with our budget-friendly and Earth-friendly values. (I know someone could make the argument that cloth diapers waste water and electricity and are therefore just as bad for the environment as disposables, but I still can't fathom throwing so much waste into the land fills.)

When it came time to make the decision, we didn't have too many friends-with-babies to turn to as mentors. Instead, I turned to my online mentors--John and Sherry--because they are uber-researchers. They recommended the bumGenius Elemental One Size, since it's an all-in-one, organic cloth diaper.

As I wrote in this post before Henry was born, here are the benefits (from my perspective) of these particular diapers:
  1. They are made with organic cotton, which is super-soft.
  2. They are "all-in-ones," which means you don't have to mess with separate covers and inserts.
  3. They are designed with many, many snaps that supposedly allow you to adjust them to fit children from 7 pounds to 35, so you don't have to waste a lot of money investing in different sizes that your child inevitably grows out of way too quickly.

Here's how cloth diapers work with our lifestyle:
  • We started using cloth diapers right after Henry stopped pooping meconium. Since he was a big baby from the get-go (all 9 pounds, 4 ounces of him!), the diapers fit him right away.
  • We pretty much use cloth diapers all the time, even when we go out. We just bring along a plastic bag to stuff the used ones in (which we use over and over; we never received the wet bag from our registry and haven't been motivated to spend the money to buy one ourselves).
  • However, we sometimes use a disposable diaper at night, since it absorbs more and keeps more moisture away from his skin. We need all the help we can get in the sleep department!
  • We also use disposable diapers when we go on a weekend trip or an extended vacation.
  • We basically wash a load of diapers every single day. We have 18 diapers--which I think is plenty--but we do have to wash them frequently.
  • I have not yet gotten my act together to line dry them. It's hard enough for me to spend my days as Henry's babysitter. Whenever I have a free moment, I want to do something intellectual; I don't want to spend more time on laundry. But I'm sorry about that, Earth.
  • We put a towel on our bathroom counter as a changing table. I love it. We have easy access to water. We use old receiving blankets cut into squares (which is essentially just flannel) with water as our wipes. We do have to be very careful never to take our hands off our little Squirrely Bug. He loves to roll!
  • We use this trash can with two of these liners to hold our dirty diapers. When one is in the washer, we use the other one.
  • When Henry gets a rash, we protect our cloth diapers from the cream by using one of our flannel wipes to line the diaper.
  • We installed this sprayer on our toilet to rinse off Henry's poop, but since he still has really mild, yellow breastmilk poop, we haven't started using it yet. However, one of my friends pointed out that we should still use it since waste belongs in the septic system, not the water system. (It's just another thing I'm too lazy to do!)

I'm so glad we're cloth diapering because I do think it's better for the Earth, and it's definitely better for the budget. Also, cloth diapers supposedly help children learn to use the real toilet more quickly because they can feel the wetness against their skin. The one drawback is the bulkiness (especially with the diapers that fit all sizes). I don't mind the bulkiness aesthetically, but I do think it must hinder their movement somewhat.

If I had to do it all over again, I think I would have gone with the cloth diaper my friend uses: Fuzzi Bunz One Size. They seem to have all the benefits of the bumGenius without some of the drawbacks. For example:
  • The Fuzzi Bunz have adjustable elastic. I imagine that being able to adjust the leg elastic would help prevent leaks. Henry definitely has leaks with his cloth diapers (although he has leaks in disposables, too). Adjustable elastic just makes a ton of sense for diapers that are supposed to last until the child can use the toilet independently.
  • The Fuzzi Bunz have replaceable elastic. Rumor has it that the elastic is the first thing to wear down in cloth diapers. Since the budget benefits and Earth benefits are even more significant if you can use them for a second and third child, I think elastic that can be replaced is a great feature.
  • The Fuzzi Bunz also have snaps like the bumGenius. I hate the way velcro snags on stuff, so I definitely prefer snaps.
  • The Fuzzy Bunz have an insert that adjusts the level of absorbency. Yes, it's a slight pain to have separate pieces to put together and take apart, but the benefit is that they dry much, much faster than the bumGenius diapers.

The only thing I don't like about the Fuzzi Bunz is that the internal material is microfleece instead of organic cotton like the bumGenius we have. I try to avoid synthetic fabrics whenever possible. I guess one additional drawback is that the Fuzzi Bunz require you to snap six times instead of four like the bumGenius.

The only other problem we're having with cloth diapers is getting them clean enough because we have an eco-friendly washing machine that doesn't use enough water. Henry's diapers get an ammonia smell, which we've read all about on the bumGenius page. We just haven't prioritized fixing this problem. Oy vey!

So, long story short, I wholeheartedly recommend cloth diapers! Our generation is lucky that they are so easy-peasy!

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Annalisa said...

my advice on the cloth diaper front is wait until your baby is here! i have a 10wk old baby girl who still can't fit into her 18 bg diapers! lots of places do free test runs, try it then and see what works. we use 7th gen disp. and they are great for now. we'll probably do disposables at night since we co-sleep and it'll be one less thing to fully wake the baby. i also agree on the leg elastic - if that was better we could use the bg.

Mindy said...

Thank you for your suggestions on cloth diapers. There are so many choices that it can be really overwhelming to choose (especially when everyone around you is looking at you like you're crazy for choosing cloth).

Any other baby gear recommendations?

Anonymous said...

Cotton Babies (maker of BG) sells repair kits for $1 and it includes all the elastic you need. I bought used diapers from them and replaced all the components. They also have seconds of BG 4.0 right now that you stuff with inserts (or inexpensive Indian pre-folds). They're about half-priced and I can't tell what's "second" about them.

Your washing machine does go to the septic, unless you've got some illegal system. BF poops are water soluable. The only reason you would spray first is that keeping them wet with water cuts down on stains.

In a HE washer try washing in two cycles, first without soap and second with. The diapers should come out without the smell. Also, try Charlie's soap or Rockin Green. If you're using 7th Gen it's notorious for build-up that would make the diapers leaky/less absorbent. Both easy solutions that won't require much more non-intellectual pursuits.

Have you tried using an Indian pre-fold either pinned or snappied in addition to the BG at night?

amber said...

for our babe born in feb too (yay!) we use a combo of bumgenius 4.0 one size (which are the ones with inserts.) and we use fuzzibunz one size. the insert is worth messing with because we only do one low heat air dry cycle and they are done. also, i like it because at night, we can add an extra insert to make sure he isnt wet. to keep the moisture away from his little bum, we use a hemp liner in addition to the regular liner at night.

we debated the organic cotton ones, but we heard too much about the smell that you speak of. and as a matter of fact, we do have a few all in ones that we use on occasion, and i have to say, they did smell terrible. BUT i have found a way to combat the smell. i keep some of the biokleen bac out
with the sprayer head next to our changing table. i spray this onto the diapers even when they have just urine on them, then i put them into our hamper. i then do a rinse cycle, wash cycle on warm, and a rinse cycle with 1/2 cup of vinegar. then i line dry them. even thought the bac out has enzymes in it, with the extra rinses, it keeps the enzymes from ever getting close to baby's bum. it has made all the difference.

it seems like it might take a lot of time, but it really doesnt. i only wash our diapers every other day. also, if your washer isnt getting them clean because of your he system, you can add a bath towel in with the diapers and it will help raise the water level a little bit.

oh also, i have to say about the fuzzi bunz: a few negatives that i have found is that the elastic isnt as comfortable on the back for the baby as the bum genius, in my opinion, as it doesnt have any padding around it. also, the fleece that touches the baby's bum wears out fairly quickly if they are not line dried or dried on low. the bum genius never seems to wear out....... regardless, i really love them both soo soo much.

Anonymous said...

I don't have first hand experience with HE washers, but I read somewhere that if you throw a wet towel in the wash with a small load it'll make the washer use a more water. That might be a quick cheap fix.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any essential oils? They could help you combat the diaper stink if you put a few drops on a cloth (you could use a flannel wipe) and toss it in the dryer to add a fresh scent. Lemongrass is my favorite for laundry, but you could also use lavender, orange or lemon! Pretty sure they sell them at Whole Foods.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Annalisa! I think the hard part about waiting until the baby is here is that I definitely didn't feel like being out and about in those early weeks. Plus, we had to wash our diapers 5-7 times before use, which was fine when I was pregnant and eagerly anticipating Henry's arrival. It wouldn't have been so fun as a new mom. But that's just me! I can imagine that other people would feel differently. One of the downsides of the one-size diapers is that they often don't fit the smaller babies. The adjustable Fuzzi Bunz seem like a way around that dilemma.

Hi, Mindy! Here's a link to a post that has my favorite baby stuff:

@ Anonymous: Does Cotton Babies sell replacement elastic for the organic all-in-one bumGenius diapers? I can't imagine how I would replace the elastic. Everything is all closed up! And, yes, we do use Charlie's Soap. We use Seventh Generation Free and Clear for his clothes only.

Hi, andreaunplugged! I will try the towel trick!

@ Everyone: Thanks for sharing your insights!

Marina said...

My sister-in-law, who's totally my baby mentor as she now has a 7 year old, a 5 year old, and a 2 year old, says she likes different brands for different ages. Specifically she recommended Bummis for little babies when their waste doesn't have as much odor, and Bumkins for older babies when there's more odor. I know there's also differences between how the elastic fits around waist and legs, so a long 'n' lean baby might need a different diaper brand than a chubby baby.

Kaitlin said...

BioKleen's Bac-Out works WONDERS for the ammonia smell that cloth diapers acquire. I just add a small amount in the space where the washer says to add bleach and then do a double rinse. Voila! It's like magic. I also don't use soap on them, just baking soda.

Good luck!

One and Doll said...

We did cloth diapering for awhile at pained me to imagine all the waist with disposables.

But, both working full time and our washing machine being overloaded and far away we couldn't do it.

G-diapers though saved us. I neve read about them on Mom blogs and just want to suggest these are a good middle ground. Cloth covers with compostable inserts. We put her wet diapers in the compost...feeding our garden eventaully...

I highly! Highly! Highly! Reccomend them!

Anonymous said...

Apparently if you use charlies soap you shouldn't also be using a normal detergent bc charlies is actually stripping the machine of the other detergent and depositing it on the diapers!
(this website is a great resource!)

We use planet detergent for that reason (we share laundry with our downstairs neighbor). We use prefolds and snappis, and wool knit covers and haven't had any stink issues (she's 5 mo). Also, check out kissaluvs diaper lotion potion. We spray a few spritzes in the tub of water we have for wipes and she hasn't had any rashes. Also, cj's BUTTer is great since it doesn't affect the diapers.

Anonymous said...

Check out the website - very good info from all of the brands and also tells you what is what when you are trying to figure things out!

Cecile said...

ohh... did you read the study comparing disposable and reusable diapers ?

Air drying really makes a DIFFERENCE ! Not air drying makes reusable diapers a lot less environnment friendly :'(

Jess said...

In answer to this "Does Cotton Babies sell replacement elastic for the organic all-in-one bumGenius diapers? I can't imagine how I would replace the elastic. Everything is all closed up!"

I would imagine that replacing for the elementals would be basically the same as the other BG diapers though I am 100% sure on that. Replacement does require some sewing, but is overall pretty simple. Here is a YouTube video on it:

Lexie said...

Great suggestion about using cut up receiving blankets as wipes! I've been making my own wipes out of paper towels with a combination of unscented baby oil and soap, lavender oil, and water. Now that my baby is finally pooping less, cloth wipes make more sense. Especially since I can just wash them with my diapers (we use Fuzzi Bunz One Size). Thanks for the informative post! I think cloth diapers can seem complicated and confusing, so I'm happy to see bloggers spreading the good word. :-)

Anonymous said...

a cup of plain white vinegar in the wash along with the soap works wonders on my teenager's laundry. Now I use it on everything. Clothes turn out cleaner, brighter and softer. Not sure if it will work on your problem but might be worth a try. And no...your clothes don't smell like a pickle when they are done.

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