What in the world made you decide to do that, you ask? Well, my older sister (from whom I get the wonderful life advantage of watching and learning before doing) decided to do cloth diapers waaaay back five years ago when her first baby came along. Nobody but hippy fruitcakes in California even thought about using cloth diapers then, but my sister was always more environmentally conscious than the rest of us and she decided to give it a go. I got to help, and was able to see firsthand that it really wasn't so bad. Worth the savings in both money and yucky yucky landfill waste. Now cloth diapers are all the rage (meaning I don't get quite as many raised eyebrows as she did) and I get to use her very same cloth diapers for my newly-arrived munchkin. Talk about reusing and recycling, right? Plus, they were free and that's awesome.
So, what's it really like? I'll be honest and say it's pretty gross. I mean, cloth diapering is not for whimps. And I'm still a big whimp some days. But any amount of cloth diapers used instead of disposables makes a difference. So...one day at a time. I've found that creating a convenient, organized system is what has made it easier for me. There's just no comparing to the convenience of disposables, so you have to make a system that works for you, and this can take some trial and error. After a few tries I think I finally have my system down, and I'll describe it for you shortly. Cloth diapering is hard work. It's messy, smelly, and kind of a pain in the ass. BUT! It is so worth it for three reasons:
1. Money: You will save thousands of dollars over the course of your baby's diaper days by using cloth....even more dollars if you also use cloth wipes.
2. Earth: The amount of waste created by disposable diapers each year is astonishing. It's gross and irresponsible. Plus, new studies show that the chemicals and gels used in disposable diapers contribute greatly to the amount of cancer-causing yuckiness seeping out of landfills and into our soil. Not to mention all the energy, oil, and chemicals used to produce and distribute all those diapers across the country.
3. Baby: Cloth diapers are less likely to cause diaper rash, cause fewer blowouts (I didn't believe this at first, but it's true!), and often help toddlers potty train more easily (because they feel the wetness, I suppose).
Okay, so here's how I do it. First, a photo of my diaper-changing station:
The basket on the top shelf holds all my diaper covers, which are the cute, waterproof outer layer of the cloth diaper. The two brown canvas bins in the tower on the right hold all the diaper liners, which are the cloth part that catches all the poop. The trash can on the left is where all the dirty cloth diapers get tossed. The green bag liner is a wet/dry bag made to repel odors and funk and it can be machine washed with the diapers. I use the cloth insert/waterproof cover combination and the fancy gDiapers. I'll show them both here, but there are all kinds of other cloth diapers out there, including all-in-ones that are pretty close to disposables in terms of convenience. They are, of course, more expensive.
Okay, so I have my old-fashioned 100% cotton cloth diaper and my waterproof cover.
I fold the cloth part in half and insert it into the liner like this (my folding technique will probably change a couple times as Lucy grows):
Then, I fasten it on her! It looks like this:
And, on her, it looks like this (not the same diaper, but similar):
When she needs to be changed, I get a clean diaper ready to go before taking the dirty one off (learned this the hard way). If it's wet, the diaper goes into the pail and the cover goes back into the basket to be reused later. If it's dirty, I clean her up and put the fresh diaper on (setting the dirty one aside), then put her in her crib and turn her mobile on while I go to the diaper sprayer. Usually, with a dirty diaper, I rinse both the diaper and the cover and toss both into the pail. Sometimes, if it's just a tiny poop, I will reuse the cover. The diaper sprayer hooks into the water supply with your toilet, and works like a super high-powered kitchen sink sprayer.
So, I spray the poop off, wring out the diaper (the worst part of the whole process), and then toss it into the pail.
That's it! All done. Except the very last step: WASH HANDS! Please note that cloth diapering involves serious hand-washing. Have fancy hand salve handy (no pun intended!) for dryness that will occur from excessive washing.
gDiapers work similarly, but they have biodegradable, flushable inserts! You can also use cloth inserts with gDiapers, AND you can throw away the flushable ones, which is nice if you're out and about. They don't have as much yucky stuff as regular disposables. Also, gDiapers are cuter and less bulky than the regular cloth diapers...and, of course, more expensive.
First, make sure to have your clean diaper ready to go before taking off the dirty one! You have the cute cloth outer layer with the snap in liner (if one liner gets dirty, you can snap in a clean one and use the same outer cover), and the disposable/flushable insert that looks like a giant maxi pad.
Place (more like shove) the insert into the white snap-in liner, and hoorah! Cute diaper!
The gDiaper is super cute on!
The frustrating thing for me about gDiapers is that you have to take the insert to the toilet every time, not just for poopy ones. But there's no spraying or laundering and everything goes bye-bye down the toilet. First, you tear off the side of the insert (I usually tear both sides) so that the fluffy inside part comes out into the toilet. Then, you use your special swish stick (it hangs on the side of the toilet) to break up all the fluffy part so it will flush down easily. As you flush, drop the outer layer (still in your hand from when you tore the sides) into the toilet and watch it disappear! No more poop. No washing. Gone down the hole, where poop belongs.
And that's my diapering story. I got off to a rocky start and thought I wasn't cut out for it at first, since newborns poop 5-6 times a day and their poop is pretty runny. Ew. But, now that Lucy is bigger and poops less often, it has gotten much easier. I think it will get even easier as she grows and starts having even fewer, more solid poops, which can just be shaken off into the toilet. And, I really do feel a twinge of guilt each time I use a disposable. I've been using them whenever I go out, but I recently bought a small, zippered wet/dry bag for use on the road. Not giving in to the convenience of disposables while I'm out is the next step for me. And, I'm sure that any time I actually travel (overnight, for instance) I will use disposables. I do have to do a lot of laundry, which uses energy and water, but the green bag that lines my pail keeps me from having to do it every single day, and when it gets warmer out, I'm going to try and line dry the diapers once they've been washed. The dryer uses a lot of energy. But, even with the extra water and energy use, cloth diapers are still incontrovertibly the most responsible choice. They're yucky, but important. Next, I'll talk about recycling and composting (in a much shorter post)!