Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Adventures in Cloth Diapering: On-the-Go Cloth Diapering

I'm going to level with you: diapering away from home is one area where disposables have cloth diapers beaten. There I said it. No beating around the bush here. Clothing diapering in public bathrooms can be tricky.

That said, on-the-go cloth diapering is not impossible. I mean, I've been doing it with my little guy for the last couple years (he turned TWO a little over a week ago. How is that even possible?!  I swear I just had him a few months ago. Weird.).  In this post, I'm going to tell you how I cloth diaper away from home -- the gear that I use, how I do it, and the occasions when I wave the white flag of surrender.

First, what to pack in your diaper bag...

The three essentials: diapers, wipes, and a wet bag. Let me break it down a bit:

The Wet Bag: The main difference between cloth diapering and using disposable diapers on the go is that you have to take the wet/soiled diapers with you (obviously). That's where the wet bag comes into play. You can use any kind of bag as your wet bag (I've used plastic bags from the store in a pinch), but I prefer using a bag specifically made for cloth diapering. The exterior of the bag is cloth but the inside is made of a waterproof material. These kinds of bags are great for two reasons: one, the good ones don't leak; two, they keep the stink contained. Before I had my baby I did some research and read a bunch of reviews on wet bags and finally decided on one made by Planet Wise. This wet bag is a champ! I can fit multiple diapers in it, it has never leaked (they actually have a special way of sealing the seams of the bag, avoiding the tiny holes often left behind when waterproof fabric is sewn), and it keeps my diaper bag from smelling like..well...diapers. I've put some seriously stinky diapers into this bag and you can't even smell them once the zipper is closed.

Wipes:  I use cloth wipes at home but I don't when I'm away from home. I know there are others that use cloth wipes both at home and on the go, but I just don't bother. In the two years I've been cloth diapering my little guy, I think I've bought around five packages of wipes, at the most. They're convenient and easy to pack. When I'm dealing with a poopy diaper on those changing tables in a public restroom (more on that in a bit), I'm trying to get out of there as fast and discreetly as I can -- having wipes already damp and ready to go is nice. Once I've used the wipes on my baby, I usually put them into the trash or I'll stick them in the wet bag (I'll either throw them in the trash when I get home or they'll find their way into the wash and I throw them away as I'm getting the diapers into the dryer/onto the clothesline).

Diapers:  Pocket diapers are the best for on-the-go cloth diapering because everything you need is right there -- no need to fumble in your bag for a Snappi or a diaper cover. Plus, they're quick and easy to get on your baby. The diaper I like to pack the most: Bummis Easy Fit (the yellow one in the picture above). I like the Easy Fit diapers away from home because the diaper comes in one piece, insert and all -- I can grab them in a hurry when I'm leaving and know that I didn't forget the inserts (yeah, it's happened before). They're also the most compact of the cloth diapers my baby wears.

Optional items: changing pad (it's nice to have a buffer between your baby and the changing surface) and flushable diaper liners (put one in the diaper your baby is wearing before you go. Makes poopy diapers much easier to deal with. More on that in a bit.).

Now that your bag is all packed, you're ready to go. So what do you if your baby needs changing while you're out?

Wet diapers are simple. When you're done changing your baby, stick the wet diaper in your wet bag. Done. Soiled diapers are a bit trickier.

I remember when my little guy was around 6-8 months old, he went through this phase when, no matter what, he pooped whenever we went somewhere. Even with that practice and after a couple years of cloth diapering, I still dread changing poopy diapers when I'm not at home. It's just so much easier at home with the diaper sprayer...

Honestly, I don't have a one-size-fits-all method. You have to sort of improvise, depending on what you're dealing with. (I'm just going to say it now...I'm going to be talking about poo for a while. In depth.)  It all depends on the age of your baby and the consistency of the diaper's contents. (Hey, you were warned.)

If your baby is exclusively breastfed, poopy diapers are no problem; breastfed baby poop is water soluble and doesn't even need to be rinsed off. Just put the soiled diaper into the wet bag and call it good. Once you're home, you can dump the diaper straight into your diaper pail or washing machine.

If your baby is older and isn't exclusively breastfed, you'll need to take a few extra steps once the soiled diaper is off your baby. Once you've gotten the poopy diaper taken off and have a clean one on baby, try to get most of the dirty diaper's contents into the toilet. This is where flushable diaper liners are quite helpful. You just need to dump the liner into the toilet, flush and you're done. If you forgot to put a liner in your baby's diaper before you left home (this would be me lately), you can still try to dump the contents into a nearby toilet but it won't be always be as easy (unless baby's poop is solid and compact, which is always a relief in that situation).

If all else fails, you can put the diaper in the wet bag as is, poop and all, and deal with it at home. It's not the most pleasant of jobs, but I just tell myself that it takes less than five minutes to clean once I'm home. I can deal with five minutes of just about anything. Oh, the things we mothers do for our kids.

{It's worth mentioning that you should ALWAYS have your baby strapped when he or she is on a changing table, especially if you have to leave them for a moment to empty the diaper into the toilet. I remember having to change my little guy once in a public restroom and there was no belt on the fold-out table. I ended up just sticking everything into the wet bag. Just not worth the risk of baby rolling out and getting hurt.}

One last thing: I don't always cloth diaper my boy when I'm away from home. I don't even bother while on vacation (dealing with cloth diapers on 10-hour road trips or all day at Disneyland? Not for me.). I know it can be done. I've read about using cloth diaper services and I've heard of people washing their diapers while staying in a hotel. I just don't. I also skip the cloth diapers when we're camping. I don't quite know how to clean a poopy diaper when there's no plumbing. More power to you if you do cloth diapers on vacation or in the mountains, though. I think you've got to be flexible when it comes to cloth diapering -- do what works for you and your child; otherwise, you will get burned out and even want to give up completely.

In the last couple years of cloth diapering, I've noticed that the whole experience is full of little paradigm shifts. Using cloth diapers is definitely not mainstream; the idea takes a little getting used to. I still get funny/baffled looks from people when I tell them that my little boy wears cloth diapers. Changing cloth diapers away from home is just another one of those little shifts: it's not exactly the norm to pack a wet bag with you. It feels a little funny at first to leave a public restroom, knowing that you've got dirty diapers in your bag, and to then carry them around with you as you finish your errands (it will be our secret. No one will ever know!). But believe me, you get over it really quickly. It will become the norm for you. I've actually gotten to the point where it feels strange to throw a diaper away. I definitely didn't see that paradigm shift coming.

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

{This post is linked up to Homestead Barn Hop and Your Green Resource.}


StrivingSimply said...

I used disposable wipes a couple of times with our cloth diapers and found them very annoying. I use the peri bottle from the hospital to wet down Miss F's wipes. Another option is to use a wet wipe container and keep them in there wet. I just hated changing her and having to find a trash can just for a wipe.

Miss F is only 9 months old, but I've had no problem with dirty (not wet) diapers on the go. With our FuzziBunz, I turn them over (fleece side down) and bend the diaper, and it peels right off into the toilet. You could also use the peri bottle to spray off like a diaper sprayer.

We've never been on a trip with Miss F for longer than two days, so I don't know what we'd do in that case. But you're absolutely right, you have to be flexible and do what you can. The fact that you're CDing at all is great. I know a lot of people who started out with CDs and gave up when their little one got big. Keep up the good work!

StrivingSimply said...

PS: Sorry that was so long!

Heather said...

Thanks for the nice words -- it does get a bit more gross as they get older, but it's not so bad. And I have to say, using a peri bottle is a great idea!

When I use the wipes on the go, if I don't see a trash can, I usually just put them in the wet bag and throw them away later.

I'm glad you haven't had any problems with the poopy diapers. Some experiences with my boy have been okay (like how you described them), others weren't and it was pretty terrible.

The parenthood cliche is so true...once you have kids, poop is becomes a legit topic of discussion. :)

Unknown said...

Very nice article! I always use cloth diapers. They look so stinking adorable on my little baby and they save us money! and here i can read more about the cloth diapering so thanks for all the wonderful information.
Baby cloth diapers

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Unknown said...

The peri bottle as an onthego diaper sprayer? GENIUS! I LOVE YOU. sorry I came off strong, shouldve been cool and asked for a number first lol but seriously that's an awesome idea, cuz you don't even need to leave it filled if you don't want, you can always use the sink with good hot water!

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