Cloth Diaper Redux

Now that I have cloth diapered one baby from birth to potty training, I wanted to revisit the subject and share what I’ve learned.

1. It is easy. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. They are either feeling defensive about their choice to use disposables (as if that is under attack) or are of an earlier generation when it was much more difficult and annoying than it is now. The extra laundry is not even that big a deal–we had two loads of diapers a week when Sam was a toddler, and maybe one more than that when he was an infant (they poop more and pee whenever they feel the need). We have coin-op machines. If I can do this, anyone can.

2. Different diapers fit different babies. Just like one parent will swear by Huggies while another says they leaked and only Pampers work, different babies are different shapes and therefore different diapers will work best. For anyone starting out with cloth, whether you have a newborn or an older baby or a toddler, I really recommend getting a selection. Use them all a few times, then purchase or make more of the kind that works best for you. Cloth diapers have tremendous resale value, and you’ll be able to earn back most of your initial investment. (Some diaper stores will also take returns.)

2A. Different cloth diapers fit the same baby at different stages. So your baby might have chubby thighs and do best in one type as an infant, then slim down when he starts to crawl and need another type. Or he may need a different type once he starts walking. But since he’ll need bigger diapers at that point anyway, you’ll be able to work with it.

3. It does not have to be all or nothing. We used disposables at night and for most travel for the first year of Sam’s life. Then we found the (more expensive) pocket diaper option and never looked back–literally, he has only been in one disposable diaper since then, and it was when family was watching him and used one of his cousin’s diapers. Using cloth exclusively worked for us, because I am home with Sam and don’t mind the laundry. For babies in daycare, you might want to use cloth at home and disposables during the day. (Ask, though, if you want to use cloth–many daycare providers are happy to use All-in-Ones or Pocket diapers, and some will even use prefolds.) There is also the option of G-Diapers, which have the flushable/disposable liner and reusable pants.

4. There are a lot of different reasons to use cloth diapers. You might do it for the environment. You might do it for your baby’s health. You might do it for economic reasons. We did it for all three. It saved us a ton of money, Sam almost never had diaper rashes, and we put almost zero plastics and gels (chemicals) into the landfill. Two extra loads of laundry a week is not so much water use that I feel any guilt, even living in the land of water shortages. (Besides, the amount of water used in making disposables is way more than I could ever manage to use.)

5. Cloth diapers really are cuter. Even if you use plain prefolds, you can put sweet wool pants over them, or adorable plastic wraps.

So. Any questions?

Last Minute Gift Guide: Your Po’ Friends

There’s less than a week till Christmas and you just aren’t sure if you should go practical or frivolous for your friends (or family members) who are barely scraping by. As someone who has had to chose between rent and the car payment, I feel qualified to help.

Both are OK. Practical is good because we need to eat. Frivolous is good because we aren’t getting those things for ourselves.

My #1 suggestion: gift cards. I know it seems boring and impersonal but it is really the perfect gift. I love being able to get exactly what I want without having to juggle the budget, whether it is a loaf of bread or some new clothes. Stores like Trader Joe’s are ideal, since there is a wide variety of foods ranging from inexpensive staples to delicious treats. If you’re OK with bigger chains, Target is great for the same reason: practical and frivolous all in one place. Also consider office supply stores, hardware stores, bookstores, and anyplace else you know they shop. A gas card or metro pass would also be lovely.

Also excellent: cash. A check works just fine too but nothing is as good as cash. Cash doesn’t have to go toward your overdraft or your credit card bill. Cash can get you anything you need right away.

But you want specific suggestions. I have those, too.

  • Something to do (this one is good for families especially). Our friends bought us a membership at the LA Zoo. We can go visit the animals any time we want now, and it won’t cost us a penny. Other ideas might include tickets to a show or movies passes.
  • A meal out — or in. We can’t afford to eat out. And we miss it. My dad had a pizza delivered for us last week and it was the best meal ever.
  • A treat. Maybe a manicure for a female friend (or a male friend if he’s into that sort of thing), a massage if your pockets are a little deeper. Any service that is non-essential has probably been cut from the budget (for instance, I don’t even get haircuts anymore).
  • Does your friend have a hobby? They probably need supplies. Gift certificates really are best, but if you know what they need go ahead and get something to wrap up. (It is a good idea to find out the store’s return policy and make sure your friend can exchange the item if necessary. Gift receipts are a good thing.) Local store suggestion: The Art Store (now Blick). Online local store suggestion: SuperCrafty!
  • If your friend has a camera, pay for film processing or digital prints. You can buy a frame or a nice album and put the gift card in it, so you have something to wrap up.
  • Shop their Amazon wish list. Movies, books, and music are hard to budget and are huge morale boosters.
  • A travel mug (or paper cup sleeve) and a Starbucks gift card (or Peet’s or any other coffee shop). Obviously this is really only a good idea for a coffee or tea drinker.
  • Something handmade. There is no better gift. (Except cash.) (Kidding.) (Sort of.)

Anyone have further ideas to share?

(By the way, I hope no one will take this post as a “hint” — while I’d be thrilled to get anything listed here, I am offering the ideas for the people on your shopping list.)

Homeschooling Tips & Answers

If you’re here via Pass the Torch, welcome!

There are two things that I think are vitally important for anyone thinking about home schooling to know:

  1. You do not need to be a teacher. There are no qualifications that you need to meet in order to educate your child other than an interest in doing so. (Your state laws may disagree with me. I can’t help that.) If you choose to follow a curriculum, there are teachers’ guides. With or without a curriculum, there are encyclopedias, libraries, and google. YOU are the best person to facilitate your child’s education.
  2. Be flexible and follow your child’s interests. That is the best way for anyone to learn. If your child wants to talk about boats, it doesn’t matter if it is time for math. Go to the harbor and look at boats. Go to the library and learn about what happened in The Narrows. Rent Titanic and then talk about accuracy in movies (two lessons in one!). Being flexible allows for the most amazing adventures in learning. But you might also want to learn about boats that didn’t end up in tragic disasters.

That’s it. That’s all I think you need to know. But you might like to read my post about unschooling from a few months ago. In the comments, many questions were asked and I kept trying to get them answered and not quite finishing. So here are the questions and my answers.

Eileen: Can [the terms homeschooling and unschooling] be used interchangably?

Yes and no. You can use homeschooling to mean anything from the strictest school-at-home to total free-form structureless days. Unschooling only describes the latter end of the spectrum. We’re planning on unschooling, but since the philosophy is all about following your interests, we reserve the right to change our minds about anything at anytime.

Am I right in thinking that SATs are the main high school (or equivalent) qualification? When you go to college, they look at your SAT scores? Do employers look at anything like that? I’m not really sure what SATs involved, so is it curriculum based? Would someone who hasn’t followed the school curriculum be able to sit them (if so, wow for getting such high scores unprepared!)? If you’re homeschooled and unable to sit these exams, what is the situation when it comes to applying for jobs or university? Are there equivalent qualifications that homeschoolers can do?

(That’s a lot of questions but they’re all on the same basic topic so I’m going to answer them together.)

The SAT is the Scholastic Achievement Test. It isn’t a qualification exactly, as it’s optional. Every high school gives tests that are required for a diploma, and home schoolers in most states are allowed to take those tests. Anyone can take the SAT, which many colleges look at (though fewer than most high schoolers are led to believe). Home schoolers graduate high school in various way — some through the local school district (sitting the exams with the graduating seniors), some through correspondence school, and some by taking the GED which is a high school equivalence exam.

I took the SAT and did better than most people I knew in public school (at that time). While I had not formally studied most of the material, I bought a practice test booklet and looked it over. Though I did not know a lot of the specific material, my experience helped me to figure it out on the day. I credit home schooling as well as my brief stint in public school, where I learned how to take tests (which I believe is the #1 point of formal education). As for graduation: I had been enrolled in a correspondence course but opted to take the GED because it was faster and I was impatient. I scored off the charts (not a hard thing to do, but still worth mentioning).

I have never once been asked for proof of my high school diploma during a job application, and employers do not see exam results. Most employers are more concerned about college degrees, which many home schoolers have. I don’t, but I’ve never been asked about that either. My job application history is about 50% successful, and I don’t think it has anything to do with my education.

Lucretia: Where does the law stand on homeschooling? Is there a certain “standard” Sam is required to achieve, and is there an exam he will have to pass? (Eileen may have covered this above).

Each state is different, but home schooling is legal in all 50. Some are very strict and require constant testing and monitoring, while others are quite relaxed. Anyone can legally enroll their children in the correspondence school I used in high school; they send out forms to fill out quarterly describing your education (for instance, hours spent on science: 5 nature walks = 5 hours botany) and they provide legal protection and a diploma. They are a real school (their campus has day students) but allow families full control over their own curriculum. In some states you can register your home as a private school and do things that way. That would obviously work best for school-at-home. When we were very young, my parents simply never told the school district we existed. This is easy to get away with in Manhattan, but might not work elsewhere (and of course it’s illegal). I haven’t decided yet what route we’ll go with Sam.

I think this has parallels with your post about not “disciplining” Sam (semantics not withstanding, and apologies for my frequent use of “””””””). What do you look forward to teaching Sam, and what do you you anticipate having to teach him not to do?

I don’t anticipate a lot of formal lessons, but I am willing for that to change depending on his needs. I look forward to reading about new and exciting things with Sam (boats, for instance) and learning new things myself. I hope that he’ll learn right and wrong by example.

Amanda: how do you introduce topics to see if the child is interested in them? Some things come up in everyday life, but some topics definitely don’t. Or is that part of the learning, figuring out how to find topics you’re interested in?

I don’t know! I’m looking forward to finding out. I suspect that if you want to bring up a topic, you just bring it up (dinner table conversation style). I also suspect that most topics will come up sooner or later. He’ll read, and watch TV (well, movies), and be around other kids, so he’ll be exposed to a pretty wide variety of ideas. I hope.

Laura: According to what seems to be the definition of ‘unschooling’, I was NOT unschooled because I had assignments – is that right?

Well, technically that is not unschooling, but I think you can call it anything you like.

Would an unschooler learn grammar?

I don’t remember ever being taught more than “subject, predicate” and I somehow manage to earn a living as a copy editor. So I think he’ll pick up what he needs to know even if, like me, he’s still a little fuzzy on the names of the parts of speech.

Would you introduce any [curriculum] materials of your own at all?

I don’t know yet. I’m inclined to say no, but we’re playing everything by ear.

Allison: Wow. It sounds like you had some bad experiences with traditional schools.

That wasn’t a question, but I just wanted to clarify that I actually had an okay experience the five years I was in school. I did very, very well academically and my last year (a different school than the first four) I was quite popular and participated in all sorts of activities. It just is not a type of education that I find valuable. It is the very structure of formal education (in America, I can’t speak about other countries) that I think is all wrong. John Holt and John Taylor Gatto go into great detail in their books, and are far more eloquent than I could ever hope to be on the reasons that our country’s education system is inherently flawed. But I assure you, this is not about my experience — my experience merely backs up my beliefs.

Erik: how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?

I think what you are really asking here is whether I have made enough pie to share with you. The answer is yes, but only if you bring Nova.

And there you have it. I think I managed to answer everything. If I missed your question or confused you further, comments are open.

Cloth diapers: pictures, resources, and miscellany

First, please accept my thanks if you slogged your way through the cloth diaper post. It was a lot to read! And, you know, I have more to say, so please make yourself comfortable.

First of all, to answer Liz’s questions:

  • Our washers probably hold about a bushel, and we wash dozens of diapers each load; I’d say we do diaper laundry two to four times a week.
  • Snappis are quite durable. I have two, one for at home and one in the diaper bag. They say to replace them every six months, but they’re just covering their tushies because plastic can dry out and become brittle. Ours haven’t. (By the way, you’ll want to use a cover with a snappi, because they don’t go through the fabric like a pin so they can fly right off.)
  • I think four covers in each size would be about right, and you’ll probably want a couple ahead of time (if you plan to hang out at home for the first couple weeks, you can do without, but may not want to because newborn poop is really messy).

TRAVELING

This is the one big thing I did not cover in the previous post. Partly because it was already so long and partly because I don’t really have this down yet.

Around Town

Just as with disposables, you’ll need a bag to carry your supplies in. You can use a commercial diaper bag, but they tend to annoy me. Too many bottle pockets (I really hate this culture’s assumption that everyone uses formula). We got a bag from BabyStyle that we ended up selling at our yard sale. We did keep the roll-up changing pad that came with it, and I really recommend that everyone get one of these, because it makes diaper changes comfortable anywhere (I can’t tell you how many bathroom floors I’ve had to kneel on). We keep it in the back of our car and change Sam there frequently. Very handy on road trips and in parking lots. You will also need a wet bag — a bag made of PUL to keep used diapers in. Mine was a gift and came from WAHMies. You could use a ziplock bag or reuse a grocery bag if you like. In this instance you do want something waterproof.

Incidentally, we used an Army surplus messenger bag for a while and then downsized to a bag I bought at a yardsale. In my fairy tale spare time I am thinking of making a bag to use for baby #2. Maybe Amy Butler.

Long Distance

To be perfectly honest, it is much harder to travel with cloth than with disposables. We’ve switched to “sposies” on more than one trip. Sam used to scream his head off when he was wet, and disposables are so absorbent (which is bad in the long run) that he didn’t get upset. Also, cloth diapers take up more room and the used ones pile up quickly. If you don’t have laundry facilities, that can be a problem.

Because of my promise to myself to use ZERO disposables this year (starting on Sam’s birthday, when we used the last of an old pack), I’ve been thinking about ways to make traveling easier.

One idea is to switch to gDiapers for extended travel. Even if you can’t flush them, the inserts are biodegradable and can be tossed in the trash (wet ones can also be put in with compost, by the way). This would be handy on an airplane or in a hotel.

If you can bring a large supply of cloth, it might be worth investing in a large wet bag and just saving the laundry till you’re able to do it.

If anyone else has ideas about using cloth on extended trips, please share them!

Wipes

We keep a package of Seventh Generation wipes in the diaper bag. They can be washed and reused. I’d like to come up with a solution that doesn’t involve buying anything, but this works for now.

RESOURCES

Because as awesome as I am, you just need more.

More info about cloth diapering

Make Your Own

Purchase

(These are online shops I have personally bought from. There are many, many others to choose from.)

Discussions

PHOTOS

Sorry, no real babies in these pictures. There are too many diaper fetishists on the internet.

Every thumbnail can be clicked to go to flickr, where there are notes.

First, here is what our diaper storage looks like:

diapersdiapers

And laundry:

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A few of the different types of diapers, modeled by the Elephant Man:

diapersdiapers

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If you’d like pictures of any other types of diapers, on or off, just let me know.

And here is a picture of my assistant, who was shocked to discover, when I moved all the junk out of the way to take that picture of the laundry, that there is a window back there! And, um, apparently I have not cleaned the sill in forever.

Sam

(I can tell you when I last cleaned it, actually: when I moved things around to put the co-sleeper there. The week before he was born. Eww.)

The cloth diaper post

I never considered using anything but cloth diapers, so this isn’t a post about how I like them (fine!) so much as a how-to for anyone who’d like to try them.

This tutorial will not include pictures of Sam in the different types of diapers. You can thank internet predators for that. If I know you, I will be happy to share pictures — just ask. I will be posting pictures of just the diapers (no baby) in a separate post, along with a list of resources. This post is already the longest blog post of all time at almost 3000 words. (If you want to skip to the previous post, it is right here and has just 26 words and a picture.)

WHY:

Cloth diapers save money and are good for the environment. For a couple hundred dollars you can own enough diapers to last through multiple children; putting one child in disposables costs thousands of dollars. Plus, disposables stay in landfills for at least 500 years. Any concern about the water used to wash cloth diapers or the energy used to make them should be mitigated by the fact that Shakespeare’s disposables (had they been available back then) would still not have decomposed. Not to mention the horrible health risks associated with disposing of fecal matter anywhere but the toilet.

There are also studies that show that disposables are bad for babies. In fact, a diaper manufacturer conducted a study that proved that with the use of their diapers, incidence of diaper rash went up from about 7% to 60%. You can read more about the health risks of disposables here.

HOW:

There are options. SO MANY OPTIONS.

Flats and prefolds

Our grandmothers were limited to flat diapers, which are huge squares of birdseye fabric that must be folded (and folded and folded) until they fit around a baby’s bottom. Our parents were limited to flat diapers or prefolds, which are rectangles of cotton sewn into multiple layers, thicker in the center, and are usually folded in three, placed around baby’s bottom, and then splayed at either end to go around the baby’s waist. Both of these options require pinning, though you do have the option now to use a snappi (which replaces pins) or just lay the diaper, folded in three, into a wrap cover (these were not an option thirty years ago — they just had pull-on plastic pants or wool soakers, which I’ll get to later) and fasten the wrap around the baby. I don’t like that option because the cover gets soiled faster and the diaper doesn’t really stay put. However, everyone should obviously use the method they’re comfortable with and that works on their baby. Some of the ways to fold a prefold are described here. Prefolds come in three sizes: preemie (teensy!), infant (still just barely fits Sam) and regular/premium. The diapers are described with a series of numbers, such as 4-8-4. This means there are four layers of fabric on each side and eight layers in the center panel.

Prefolds cost around $1-2 each. When I was pregnant I bought 3 dozen used infant prefolds on ebay for $25 and we still use them daily. If you prefer to buy them new, many shops have package deals (this is a good one). The Gerber prefolds you can buy anywhere are total crap, but make great burp cloths.

Fitted Diapers

Fitteds are shaped more like disposables and fasten with either velcro or snaps. They are not waterproof and require a cover. They’re great if you want to let the baby run around without any plastic on his body, but don’t want to let him run totally naked. We used fitted diapers primarily for the first few months. We liked them better than prefolds because they’re super-easy and were more absorbent. Sam pees A LOT and hates being wet, which was a challenge — we changed his diaper every five minutes for a long time.

We use Very Baby fitteds which my mom sews for us. If you do not have my mom, there are many WAHMs (work at home moms) licensed to sell Very Baby diapers, and there are several other brands to choose from as well. We also have some Lovey Bums and Mudpies which are great (very absorbent) but I do not love the way they fasten (you’ll find that’s very much a matter of your preference and your baby’s shape).

Fitted diapers often require a doubler, or booster, which is an absorbent piece of fabric, often contour shaped, that you lay into the diaper. The booster being separate makes the diaper dry much faster, and makes poop easier to clean up (more on that later).

Fitted diapers range from about $8-13 each.

All In Ones

All in Ones (AIOs) are exactly what they sound like. A fitted diaper with a built-in absorbent layer and a waterproof outer layer. An AIO goes on like a disposable and works pretty much the same. These are sometimes referred to as Daddy Diapers, as if Moms don’t like shortcuts too. I do imagine they’re very handy for babysitters and relatives unaccustomed to cloth, but I also don’t think it would be very hard for anyone to learn whatever diaper system you choose.

Brands we’ve used include Very Baby (I am not crazy about the fit on Sam), Rumpsters (awesome but very low rise and outgrown quickly), and Bumkins (would be perfect if the velcro tabs overlapped).

Also available are All In Twos, which I believe just have a separate booster to speed drying time. I don’t have any of these but I think they sound awesome.

AIOs cost about $15-20 each.

Pockets

Pocket diapers are very expensive and totally worth it — to us. A pocket diaper is shaped like a fitted diaper. It is just two layers: an outer waterproof layer and an inner microfleece layer which wicks moisture away from the baby’s bottom. There is an opening at the back and you stuff the “pocket” with absorbent material. The two most popular brands are Fuzzy Bunz and Bum Genius. We’ve tried both and did not think Fuzzy Bunz were absorbent enough, but absolutely love Bum Genius. At $17 a pop we could not possibly use these exclusively, but we don’t really want to. While it is nice for Sam to not feel too wet, never feeling when he pees would delay potty use significantly. Did you know that babies today potty train (gah, hate that phrase) an average of 1.5 years later than in the 50s? I am quite certain it’s because disposables don’t let babies feel when they are wet, so there is no motivation for them to move on.

We use Bum Genius pocket diapers, stuffed with an infant prefold (tri-folded) and the micro terry insert they come with overnight. This is the FIRST cloth diaper Sam has ever made it all night in. We had a little luck with Rumpsters, but he had to be changed an average of twice a night, which was our entire stash. Until he was almost a year old we were using disposables at night, which I hated to do. When I bought a sampler pack of premium diapers (Bumkins AIO, Fuzzy Bunz, and Bum Genius) it was like a whole new world opened up for me. I spent the next $100 I made from ads on this site on half dozen more Bum Genius and we’ve used them every night since. We often change him once in the night, but not always. (Note: Bum Genius are a one size diaper, which means they fit from birth — or shortly thereafter — till potty training.)

Pocket diapers cost around $17 each.

Inserts

Micro terry is the stuff shop towels are made from. It feels like sandpaper, only nastier. You would NEVER put it next to your baby’s skin, but it is super-absorbent and great for stuffing a pocket diaper. In addition to the inserts you can buy that are made for diaper stuffing, you can buy micro terry towels in the automotive department and fold them to fit. You’ll need to wash them at least once before they are absorbent enough.

You can use anything absorbent to stuff a pocket diaper. Some popular ideas include cotton prefolds, flat diapers, and hemp terry.

Covers

You basically have two options: plastic or wool. Plastic generally comes in the form of PUL (polyurethane laminate) wrap covers; wool is either a fleece wrap cover or a knitted soaker. All covers can be used multiple times — until they are soiled or start to smell like pee.

Wraps
We have some Very Baby covers and some Bummis Super Whisper Wraps. The Very Baby ones are great, but I have had some trouble with the fit between sizes. The Bummis are awesome, my very favorite with any type of diaper. I have never used them, but several friends swear by Prowraps, especially with newborns (who are harder to fit in cloth diapers because their thighs are so skinny, making for leaks). Fleece wraps are the same style as the PUL ones but made from microfleece. I’ve never used them, but am considering cutting up a maternity sweatshirt to make a few.

Wrap covers run about $9-12 each, and up to $20 for wool/fleece.

Soakers
I love to knit wool soakers. I use my own pattern which I will someday write down and make available. There are plenty of patterns already on the web, some free and some for sale. Some of the patterns do not require knitting or crocheting, just cutting up old sweaters. Some sewing may be necessary.

Basically, they are just a little pair of pants that pull on over the diaper — sometimes just to cover the bum and sometimes with long legs. Wool is naturally absorbent, and some people like to boost the absorbency by either partially felting the pants or soaking them in lanolin.

Wool soakers can be purchased for anywhere between $15-40, but everyone I know makes their own.

Other Options

There are lots of other types of cloth diapers. Contours are kind of like fitted diapers with no elastic to contain poop. I don’t see the point, but I’ve never tried them. Maybe they’re great! Who knows. Poo Pockets are semi-fitteds, with elastic gussets at the legs. They’re another one-size, but didn’t work on Sammy till he wore a medium. They work best with a booster or prefold. They are not a pocket diaper — the name describes the pocket formed by the leg gusset. We have some of these in our backup stash.

Another great possibility is gDiapers. These are an absolute revolution in diapering: cloth pants with a snap-in nylon liner that holds the absorbent part: a flushable liner. We’ve used these and love them — but the best part about these is reusing them with infant sized prefolds instead of the pricey flushables. Essentially, they become another diaper cover. We use these all the time.

A gDiaper “starter kit” with two pairs of pants, four liners, and ten flushable inserts costs about $25. Refills of the inserts are around $14.

Wipes

Disposable wipes are kind of icky when you think about it. I do like the Seventh Generation ones, though, and they are really cool because you can throw them in the wash and reuse them! Tushies disposable wipes are OK. They’re slightly perfumed and can be flushed (use caution, of course). You can buy cloth wipes, but it is much cheaper to just buy a yard of nice flannel and cut it into squares. Surge the edges if you have a surger, stitch a hem, or just let them fray (they won’t fray too much).

You can just wet the wipes with tap water, or you can make a wipe solution of water with a squirt of baby wash (I like California Baby), a little oil (olive works nicely), and a few drops of tea tree oil. Use a spray bottle or just dunk the wipes in the solution.

BUT…

Oh yes, the big one: caring for cloth diapers. Aren’t disposables easy? You just roll them up, wrap them in plastic, wrap that in more plastic, and stick it in a bin that promises no stink (but really, really smells). Yeah, they’re bad for the environment, but you don’t have to touch the poop!

Look, I’m poking fun, but I really do sympathise. It’s true: while cloth really is easy (once you wade through all the damn choices), disposables are easier.

Have I mentioned how much less cloth costs? We have spent (estimated) around $250 on supplies for making diapers; $200 on new fancy diapers; and $100 on assorted used diapers. We have coin-op laundry, and spent about $9 a week washing diapers; now that we’ve hung a line to dry them, I expect that amount to go down to about $5. Disposables cost between $7 and $15 per package of ~36. That’s an average of $11 every three days for two to three years! Which comes to $3,345.84. You could maybe cut that down to around $2,500 if you buy them by the case at a warehouse store. I estimate that by the time Sam is using the potty we will have spent $1,408 (assuming we continue to use pay washers). That is still a lot of money, but only $550 of it is actual diapers, which was spent over a year and a half… and they will all be usable for subsequent babies. PLUS, the resale value on cloth diapers is ridiculously high. Used Fuzzy Bunz ($17 new) often sell for $15. Keep in mind, too, that we have fancier diapers. If you just want prefolds and covers, you could probably lay out a full supply for well under $100.

Assuming that I’ve convinced you it’s worthwhile, you’ll need to know how to clean the diapers.

First of all, do not use a wet pail and do not use a pail with a tightly fitting lid. I know it seems counterintuitive, but letting the diapers breathe keeps them from smelling too much. We use a canvas bag on a wooden frame, and we drape Sam’s changing pad (homemade: PUL on one side, flannel on the other) over the top. Before putting the diapers in the bag we prep them for washing, so that when we go down to the laundry room we can just invert the bag into the machine (we then wash the bag right with the diapers).

Prepping the diapers consists of separating any layers (boosters, etc.), closing any velcro (there are often fold-down tabs for this; if not, just fasten the diaper inside-out), and disposing of poop. Before your baby starts solids, you do not have to do anything with poop (assuming you breastfeed — treat formula as a solid here). It is basically liquid and will be washed away just as the pee is. Honest! Once poop becomes, um, poopier, you will need to remove it from the diaper. Folks used to “dunk and swish” which is just as revolting as it sounds and I think involves holding the diaper in the toilet while you flush. Yuck! Trust me, there is a better way. It will cost you about $35 and is worth twice that: the mini shower diaper sprayer. Ours (a gift) was purchased here. Separate the dirty part of the diaper — with any luck it is just the innermost part, whether that is a booster or prefold or whatever. Let any true solids roll off the diaper, then spray off any gunk. Spray off the wipes, squeeze the water out of everything, and drop it all in your laundry bag/pail. Done!

The actual washing of diapers couldn’t be easier. Use about a tablespoon (really) of dye-free, perfume-free detergent and 1/2 to one cup of baking soda. Add dirty diapers (they will get cleaner if you only fill the machine about 2/3 of the way). If it’s an option, soak for about 30 minutes. Wash on hot with warm or cool rinse (extended rinse doesn’t hurt). Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup plain vinegar to the rinse cycle (NEVER use store-bought fabric softener, as it keeps diapers from being absorbent and can cause irritation). Dry on warm (NO dryer sheets!) or hang in the sun (this bleaches out stains).

Wool needs to be handwashed, which is very easy: fill a small tub or bucket with lukewarm water and add a few tablespoons of no-rinse wool wash (Eucalan is great). Let your wool soak for 15 minutes. Gently squeeze out the water. Do not wring. Roll the wool in a towel to draw out more water, then hang or lay flat to dry.

That’s it. Really. And if it is still more than you’re willing to do, hire a diaper service! You will only get prefolds, but they provide everything and you don’t even have to rinse off the poop.

So! Any questions?

Baby Carriers

Hi! I know I said the next post would be the Noirbettie Award Ceremony, but I lied! Instead I am going to post a brief pictorial about baby carriers for my friend Liz who is going to have an unexpected baby come September and is a little confused about the options.

First of all, The Baby Wearer is a good resource, as is Attached To Baby.

Slings:

You can get a pouch sling or a ring sling. A ring sling is a length of fabric that you adjust. Some people swear by them, others say they spend all their time adjusting. I’ve never had one. We used a pouch sling from Hotslings and loved it. Sam was cozy in the cradle carry when he was tiny, occasionally sat in the kangaroo carry after the first couple months (if I’m not mistaken, in the first picture below he’s in a sort of hybrid of the two), and now loves to ride on my hip.

sling

sling - hip

Carriers:

The most popular is the Baby Bjorn. We first had an Infantino that we bought at Walmart for $13 when Sam was two months old. It’s sort of a cross between the Bjorn and a Snugli. Sam was too heavy within a month and we bought a Bjorn. In another month he was too tall for me to carry him in the Bjorn. The baby hangs by his crotch, which is unhealthy in the long term (but not so bad for a few months) and also makes his legs hang straight down and kick you in the knees while you walk. Will was able to wear the Bjorn much longer than I was because he is six feet tall. However, Sam got too heavy for that, too, at about six months.

infantino (with Tem)

Bjorn

(At that point Gramma bought us a stroller, which we use for walks around the neighborhood. It is handy for trips to the grocery store, but I usually bring the sling and use the stroller for the groceries. I strongly recommend anyone shopping for a stroller look for one that is reversible — ours is not and I don’t like having Sam face away from me all the time.)

Then Nana bought us an Ergo Carrier. It is the same idea as a Mei Tai, but has buckles instead of requiring you to tie it. Will prefers the buckles, while I’d eventually like to make a Mei Tai because I think they are pretty.

I have one solitary complaint about the Ergo (other than how long it took us to get one): the “sleeping hood” only fits babies up to about two feet tall, and is not removable. I plan to consult with my mom when she’s here and see if we can cut it off and reattach it with snaps. If it snapped on in the first place, this would be the perfect carrier.

Seriously, I love the Ergo. LOVE IT. Sam is positioned such that his legs go around my waist, which is good for his hip development. He cannot face out, as with the Bjorn, which I understand some parents see as a negative; however, facing out is, again, bad for the baby’s hips (though I do not think it is harmful occasionally, if that is how the baby is comfy — Sam sure was). But he can go ON MY BACK! Lately he has been all about wanting to see what’s going on when I cook, which is kind of a pain in the ass, but I can just strap him onto my back and he is happy. Also excellent for doing laundry.

ergo

I almost never wear Sam on my belly or hip with the Ergo, so I have no pictures. But it is entirely possible to use the Ergo for either carry. You can also get an infant insert that supports the baby in more of a cradle position before he can sit up/hold his head up. I have no experience with that.

I think that’s it. Any questions? Any experiences to share?