Saturday, January 7, 2012

Then Use the Nozzle to Spray the Poop into the Bucket...


Yeah, you heard me right. And that is just one step in my laundry routine for cloth diapers. Tonight I'm going to tell you how I was lured into cloth dipes by some friends when I was first exposed to the way of the crunch.

As I've said before, I did not start this crunchy journey until I was pregnant with Monkey. I spent the bulk of my pregnancy, especially the second half of it, preparing for a NUCB. I paid little to no attention to other parenting topics that didn't deal with birth during that time.

On an online parenting forum I was on at the time, I realized that many people were doing cloth diapers. I had never seen a cloth diaper in person, but had heard grandparents and aunts talk about their prefolds and hard plastic covers they used with their kids. They said we were lucky to have disposable diapers and I agreed. As far as I was concerned at that point, all those crazy moms on the forum MUST have been using something that looked like this:

And it was probably covered with a stiff plastic diaper cover or rubber pants. Then you had to deal with washing them. In my mind, I could not fathom how you would clean poop off a diaper. Would I have to....*shudder*....touch it? So I really thought some of these ladies on the online parenting forum must be nuts. Why subject yourself to so much work and grossness if you could just use a disposable?

Then I realized I must be missing something. These ladies spoke in a language I did not understand. AIO (all-in-one), one-size, pocket diapers, AI2 (all-in-two), fitteds with covers, wool longies, and a million other terms and acronyms that I did not understand.

Just as I had done when faced with the idea of going outside the box and having a natural birth, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. And I fell in love.

Well, not at first. It did take some thought. I started reading the posts on the forum about cloth diapers and searching online for different types. Then I went to a cloth diaper workshop hosted by Mama*ology in my town in April 2011. Monkey was 3 months at this point. There, I was able to learn about the different types of diapers and get some hands-on knowledge. Literally.

After I left that workshop, I decided to go for it and order some diapers of my own. Modern cloth diapers are amazing. Although some still use prefolds, covers, and pins, there is a wide variety of different types of diapers available to parents now. Some day I will go into more detail on the numerous options, but for now I will just focus on what I use. It is also important to note, what works for one family will notwork for another. Some moms have great success with a particular type of diaper, while others will basically call it a piece of crap. So what I have also learned is that, just like birth options, everyone has their own opinions and different things work for different people.

Pocket Diapers
I decided on one-size pocket diapers. They are designed to fit different sizes, from 8lbs to 35lbs. They have snaps on the front to snap the size down to fit smaller babies. The inside of the diaper is usually made of fleece, which wicks away moisture from baby's skin better than any disposable could ever hope. The outside of the diaper is typically PUL (polyurethane laminated fabric), which is fabric laminated with a waterproof backing. There is a pocket in the back of the diaper to place inserts, which offer a wide range of absorbency options. Inserts are usually made of microfiber, hemp, or bamboo. So here is how the diapers work:

I ordered 12 dipes with 24 microfiber inserts to get me started and began using cloth at home at the end of April 2011. It was...a learning curve. Thankfully I had a lot of fellow cloth diapering mamas in my online groups and I found a great resource in The Eco-Friendly Family. I had met Amanda at some of the Mama*ology events and she had let me know that she had lots of information on her blog. This place is a goldmine. How to prep diapers, dos and don'ts, safe detergents, how to handle issues you may experience, etc.

So when we started using cloth part time, Monkey was around 15lbs. I used the smallest setting in the "rise" and 1 microfiber insert. Then you change settings and add additional inserts as needed. We went full-time cloth in May 2011 after I bought 12 more dipes and inserts from a friend, except for the occasional "sposie vacations" caused by a stomach virus or other illness hitting our home. Monkey is on the largest setting with 2 inserts and is a little over 20lbs. My diapers have snap closures, not velcro/aplix. So the diapers look like this at the different settings:

Diaper Pail, Wet and Dirty Dipes
Now, developing a routine was really trial and error. There are different washing routines, different ways to keep your dirty dipes until washing, etc. For me, I have city water and it is not hard water. I had used our regular detergent for a few months, then decided to use the detergent recipe found on The Eco-Friendly Family's site.

So, when we have a wet dipe, I take change the diaper just like a disposable. Then I take the wet dipe to my diaper pail, pull the inserts out of the pocket, and put the inserts and dipe inside. My diaper pail is simple a plastic kitchen-sized trashcan with a flip-top lid and a diaper pail liner from Planetwise. The lid allows air to get to the dipes, but also keeps the room from smelling at all. If you walked into the room, chances are you would have no idea that the trashcan had dirty cloth diapers in it.

Now, for dirty dipes, it is a whole 'nother ball game. When we first started, it was easy. Monkey was exclusively breastfed and not on solids yet, so his poop was water-soluble. That's right, I put dirty dipes with poo on them directly into the pail and then washed them. I will admit, it took some work on my part to convince Hubby that it was actually ok.

After he started on solids, we had to figure out what would work best for us to deal with the poo. Some parents use the "dunk and swish" method in the toilet, then flushing to let the poo go down. Rinse and repeat, then wring it out and add it to the pail. For me personally, this was a little too "hands-on." Would I do it in a time of need? Sure. But I went a different direction to handle, or rather *not* handle the poo.

Diaper Sprayer
In part of my initiation into cloth diapers, I had learned about diaper sprayers. These are handy little sprayers that you hook up to your toilet, almost like a kitchen spray nozzle. You can hold the dipe, poo side up, in the toilet and use the diaper spray to spray all the poo into the toilet. It looks like this:

Now, you can buy one or go to your local hardware store and buy all the parts. This is a great option for many families. But I had one issue with it: I can TOTALLY see Sassy and Diva having water fights in their bathroom (where I would install it).

So I went on to Option 3. I already had a great spray nozzle in my my kitchen sink. I also have several large buckets and tubs that have accumulated over the years. I decided on a 10 gallon plastic tote. It has a home on my backporch. When we have a dirty dipe, I set it off to the side until I have a spare moment to deal with it. I then grab my tote off the back porch and place it directly in front of my kitchen sink in a chair, usually with a towel under it. I pull the nozzle on my kitchen sink directly over the side and let it lay in the tub. I hold the dipe poo side up, then use the nozzle to spray the poo in the tote (cold water ONLY). I also do this with the inserts from overnight dipes to cut down on the ammonia smell.

As long as it doesn't sit for too long, the poo doesn't stick to the fleece in the dipe and it sprays directly into the tote. The tote is also deep enough to catch any spray. When I am done, I wring the dipe out and put it in the diaper pail. I carry the tote in to the bathroom, dump the contents into the toilet, and flush. The tote then gets sprayed down with vinegar, rinsed, and put back on the porch. I also clean the nozzle with vinegar.

I wash dipes every 2-3 days. I take the entire pail of dipes, including the pail liner, and put it in my washer. I have a front loader, which means that it will sometimes not use as much water as I need to fully rinse the absorbant microfiber inserts. One of the tricks of the trade is to add a bath towel to the load.

After putting the dipes in the washer, the first thing I do is a cold rinse to rinse the pee. Some people do cold or warm washes, but I found that a hot wash works best for us. I do a hot wash with my homemade detergent from The Eco-Friendly Family's site. My washer allows me to add up to 4 extra rinse cycles, so I usually add 2-3 rinses.

Fabric softener is a BIG NO-NO, as are most diaper rash creams. The reason for this is that they will cause the inserts to repel, meaning no absorbency and lots of leaks. So instead of softener, we use white vinegar as a rinsing agent. I just fill the "fabric softener" dispenser of my front loader and it works perfectly.

Many families put their dipes on a clothesline outside or on drying racks inside to air dry, then fluff then on an air dry cycle in the dryer. Others dry the dipes in the dryer like normal. We typically dry the dipes and inserts for 20 minutes in the dryer, then pull out all the dipes. This is because the only wet part of the dipe is the fleece inner layer. Then the inserts keep drying for about 20-40 minutes, depending on the size of the load.

After all the dipes are clean, I pre-stuff them. Currently, that means adding 2 inserts to each dipe's pocket. Then I fold it in half and place it in baskets that are in Monkey's room specifically for his dipes. Pre-stuffing saves a lot of time when it comes time to change dipes or grab some for an outing.

Speaking out outings, how are you supposed to use cloth diapers when you go out and about? Just like any other diaper. The only difference is that you use a wet bag to hold your dirty dipes instead of throwing away a sposie. Like my pail liner, I use Planetwise wet/dry bags. The clean dipes go in the "dry" outer pocket, while the dirty dipes go in the "wet" larger pocket that has a layer of  PUL to keep it waterproof. I just put some dry dipes in the outer pocket and add it to whatever bag I am carrying.This is an example:

And finally, what do I do about stains? During this journey, I learned that the sun can do amazing things. Not only is it good for drying the dipes, but it will bleach out the stains. My detergent also has Oxy-Clean in it, but I will add an extra scoop to the wash when I have a particularly soiled load of dipes. We do not have a clothesline currently, mostly because Hubby didn't think we'd stick with cloth and wanted to wait. But I have found ways to sun my dipes without one. At IKEA, I found Pressa hanging dryers that have 16 clips on them and look like an octopus. I use these for my inserts and hang them on hooks on my front porch and on a small shepherd's hook for plants. Then I run a line from my porch to the shepherd's hook. It isn't very pretty, but it is functional:

We have been in cloth for nearly 9 months. Before that time, I was buying about 1 large box of sposies from Sam's Club for around $50 a month. On my "stash", as those in the cloth diaper community lovingly call it, I have spent exactly $225. That is 27 pocket dipes, 42 microfiber inserts, one Thirsties Duo Wrap, 2 wet/dry bags, and a diaper pail liner. If we had been buying sposies this entire time, I would have spent $450. I will also be able to keep Monkey in these dipes until he is potty training, so the savings will just keep adding up.

So, very cost efficient, no more disposables, and being green. Oh, and did I mention that they are CUTE! I have a wide variety of designs, everything from plaids to solids, cars to robots, skulls to guitars. Although I usually keep pants on Monkey, it is nice to have the option of just a dipe and shirt in hot weather at times. And even when the weather turns cold, they actually make Baby Legs for baby to wear, displaying their dipe while keeping their legs warm. We do not use Baby Legs, but I did order a pair specifically for Christmas. Who can argue that my Monkey looks cute with his "Santa Rocks" shirt, ornament Baby Legs, and dipe?

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