Monday, November 1, 2010

To Cloth or Not To Cloth: The New Baby Question

Introducing my first guest poster ever...Nisha, from Healthy Mom's Kitchen!

Hi Parsimonious Fans! I'm excited to guest post for the Princess herself today, but just wanted to give her some bloggy love first. This blog has helped me make quite a few changes in my own home and I'm glad Heather is the guinea pig for most things frugal so we can benefit from her learning. I typically err on the side of practicality over frugality, so I'm a little surprised at myself that I'm writing on the topic of cloth diapers.

I made the switch to cloth about 6 weeks ago. "Why?...YUCK!?" you may be thinking. Most of my friends just keep saying, "Wow, you're brave." And I keep responding with, "It's not as bad as you think it would be!" I have two kids - Sophie, who is turning 4 in December and still pees the bed all night long, and Landon, who is 14 months. Back in February before my husband lost his job, we stocked up on disposable diapers and wipes from Costco. We used the Kirkland brand for both kids. We were just about out of diapers at the end of August and I couldn't stand the thought of buying more and more diapers - NEVER ENDING diapers! Especially for my almost 4 year old. I just felt like it was the biggest waste of money. Luckily, one of my good friends, Betsy, had recently been blogging about cloth diapers over at Eco-Novice: Going Green Gradually and while her blog is about saving the earth and living frugal and I am not a tree-hugger (as most cloth diapering parents are stereotyped to be), her posts opened my eyes to the ease and practicality of cloth diapers.

Betsy recommended I start out by doing the "Changing Diapers, Changing Minds" trial program through Jillian's Drawers. For $10, you can use a variety of cloth diapering systems for 21 days. Doing this helped me to see what diapers fit my kids best. I kept and paid for my favorites that came with the trial and ordered more prefolds and Thirsties covers. I kept some bumGenius pocket diapers because they are just like regular diapers in how you put them on (only one piece to figure out), so those would be best for when babysitters are over or my husband is with the kids (he's not a big diaper changing guy). I realized after a few weeks that my son leaks out of the prefolds and covers when he sleeps because he sleeps on his belly so the pee stays concentrated in the front, rather than absorbing through the entire prefold. So, I ordered more bumGenius (v.3 for a great deal when the v.4 came out!).

I will admit that the first month was difficult. Landon has very sensitive skin and I had to do some trial and error with detergents because he had pretty awful diaper rash. He still gets diaper rash more often because cloth diapers fit snug even when wet, whereas disposable diapers sag low and hang down when they are wet. Same goes when kids poop in disposables; with those, it's not right on their bum. When L poops in the cloth diaper, it stays pretty tight to his bum, so I have to make sure I change him quickly. I did find a diaper rash creme I love that my doctor recommended called Calmoseptine which has helped a ton!

It also took me some time to experiment with different ways of folding the prefold. The way Betsy folds the prefold works for her kids because they are chunkier. Mine are so skinny, so I had to fold it a different way to prevent them from leaking out the sides at night.

Now that I have figured everything out, I love cloth diapering for the following reasons:

It saves us a TON of money (Sophie and Landon can wear the same size! The makers of cloth diapers are pretty brilliant about making them very adjustable), my house smells LESS (yes - because I do laundry more frequently than I would take the trash out when we used disposable diapers), and it's healthier for my kids and the Earth (check out this video on disposable diaps and chemicals - YUCK!).

So, let's get right down to the savings. I have purchased 8 Thirsties covers (some snap, some velcro) and 8 bumGenius diapers as well as 16 prefolds. I also bought a Kissaluvs diaper pail liner and have spent $280.01.

Let's say, hypothetically, that I use these diapers and don't spend any more on cloth diapering until Landon turns 3 when he's potty trained (knock on wood ;). Just for two years of cloth diapering L, I spent $280.01. If he were still in Kirkland diapers (based on 208 count boxes of size 3s and 8 diapers a day), I would spend $45 on diapers every 26 days. In two years, I would spend $1,263.46 on disposable diapers for him. That's not including the money I save on Sophie's diapers or the savings for future children. I'll use these diapers on my future kids (although I will need to buy a few more small ones since infants need diaper changes much more often). Do you see the savings adding up?! To me, it's a no brainer. Yes, it does take a little bit more planning to make sure I get the diapers in the wash when he's wearing his last one. I usually can time it just right so I'm doing laundry as soon as he's in bed or first thing in the morning.

Now, there are few things I haven't mentioned yet that you may be wondering about. I am still using disposable wipes because we also stocked up on those back in February and still have plenty, but when they're out, I'm going to cut up a few of the prefolds to use as wipes. I have extras of those. I didn't go into the details of how I clean the poop off L's diapers: I actually have a shower head that I can take down and it reaches over my toilet, so I spray the poop off in the toilet. You can buy a diaper sprayer for $40 if you don't have a shower head like this. At first, I was grossed out about wringing the diaper out in the toilet, but I got over that pretty quickly.

I also didn't factor in laundry costs. Honestly, I don't know how much it costs for me to do a load of laundry. I have energy efficient and front loaders, so it's not as costly as older models. I did buy extra diapers so that when I did wash them, I would at least have a fuller load.

So, what do you think? Are you at least a little bit intrigued? Or seriously considering cloth? My brother and sister-in-law who don't yet have babies have seen Landon in his cute cloth diapers and they are excited to go the cloth route! It's a pretty easy sell when you know someone who does it and loves it. Feel free to email me with your questions. Maybe we'll do a follow up post or I can point you in the right direction. Betsy's site as well as Simple Mom have great information out there about cloth diapers, but I also know it's helpful to talk to someone about it. I called Betsy with a zillion questions before my first order. Don't hesitate to contact me at admin (at) healthymomskitchen (dot) com.


Gwen said...

Gwen here...(I won your Art of Homemaking book and pluot jam). My husb was one of Nisha's co-workers back in the day. I decided to go the cloth diaper route because my husband is now in graduate school and we are living off a stipend. I also decided to try gdiapers because you can use both cloth inserts and biodegradable inserts that you just flush into the toilet. I figured this would be easier than carrying around a soiled cloth insert when we are out and about or just easier for babysitters, grandparents, etc. I bought about 200 newborn size disposables which we are using now just to make the first few weeks easier but will start using my gdiapers when the baby hits about nine or ten pounds. I actually bought my gdiapers on sale at and combined that with a 20% of coupon for first-time customers. For $350 I bought all of the diaper supplies to last the baby until she's two years old (including 30 cloth inserts). If anybody is interested in gdiapers I will let you know how I like them after using them exclusively for a few weeks.

Nisha said...

Hey Gwen! I hadn't even heard of gDiapers. Sounds interesting. It's kind of overwhelming - the number of diapering systems. I'm confident though that everyone can find the best fit for their family. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to hearing more about the gDiaps afer you've used them for a few weeks.

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

Nisha, I am so glad you recorded your experience! I highly recommend a cloth diaper trial of some sort if you cannot try a friend's diapers and don't have a brick-and-mortar cloth diaper store you. I personally love prefolds and covers (my husband likes these best now too). I think they are just as easy as disposables.

Gwen, on the go, I think a small wet bag is super easy. I don't like using disposables at all now b/c I think they are less reliable in terms of leaking. Sometimes I just leave a wet diaper inside the cover in the diaper bag and that's sufficient until I get home (as long as I had another cover in the bag). For vacations, I use disposables, and I'm always very glad to get back to my cloth.

Also, know that not everyone has more rashes with cloth. Some folks choose cloth b/c the chemicals in disposables give their kids wicked rashes. My son got rashes in both (we switched to cloth at one-year-old with him) -- mostly just from contact with his poop (for even 5 seconds). I also find that cloth leaks a lot less POOP than the luge-like surface of disposables. It is SUPER easy to cloth diaper a newborn if you breastfeed. You just throw the poopy diapers -- no pretreating, no removing, no nothing. The breastmilk poop is totally water soluble (although you might get a little staining, if you care, I don't).

Another advantage -- earlier potty training. My 15-month-old does all her poops in the potty and pees 2-5 times per day (depending on how often I take her, she doesn't walk yet). I'll be putting her in undies soon. I'm reading Diaper Free Before 3 and the author (pediatrician) argues that disposables are messing up kids' normal potty training, based on her review of the research, b/c they don't notice when they've peed or pooped and b/c they are so "convenient" parents use them for too long and start potty training too late. Very interesting! OK, that's enough from me. There's plenty more on my blog for those interested.

Good job, Nisha!

Gwen said...

Thanks for the tip Betsy. I'll look in to wet bags and give it a try.

Nisha said...

I definitely don't blame the cloth diaper for his rash. I can't smell his poop in the cloth like I can disposables - a good thing in my opinion. And I definitely wasn't using the right detergent for his little bummy.

I can't wait for potty training with L. He definitely already knows what it feels like to pee because he takes glory in peeing on the floor whenever he can - like any time he's naked. He thinks it's pretty great :)

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

Yes, one more thing, cloth wipes rock the house! They are my husband's FAVORITE part of cloth diapering. Nisha, you need to buy some wipes NOW and use your leftover disposable ones in the car for wiping little hands while out and about. I love the Kissaluvs Awesome wipes. I tried making my own wipes from old T-shirts. They sucked.

kelly said...

This post was a good one. Mostly because you were very honest in your cloth diaper experience. It is a process finding out what works best for you and your shape of children. They certainty aren't a one kind works for all. I never felt a tremendous amount of pressure using cloth diapers because I am at home with my children. But in reality, more and more day cares are accepting the "easier" dad-friendly diapers like pockets or AIOs.
Overall cloth diapering has been a source of great pride for me because it's so nice to know all of the money we are saving and the hundreds and hundreds of diapers that won't sit in a landfill because of using them. And it's actually really fun! I try to give people the "pitch" for cloth whenever I get the chance. Because now, more than ever, it makes so much sense to use them!

The bumgenius wipes are pretty good. There are a ton of wipe solutions to make at home. Cheap, natural and irritable free.

Also, I swear by wool soakers at night for my mega pee-ers. Just air them out until you're ready to put them on again, then lanolize them every once in a while.

Kathirynne said...

Regarding wipes - you really don't need anything special in terms of wipes or of "solution". When my babies were in nappies (many moons ago, now!) I just used those cheap, white cotton washcloths that come in an 18 pack at WalMart. I never used any solution; I just dampened them with warm water before a diaper change and then washed them with the nappies.

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