Cloth Diapering in the Bastone Kudej household - A Case Study
::Introduction - a diapering tutorial
Before you get all numb from all the options and lingo in this world of babies and their bowel movements, let's cover the basics. In no particular order:
- Pre-folds - these are the old school rectangular heavy cotton cloth diapers of our mothers' and grandmothers' generations (now seen in the rag bin, quite handily). You can get Chinese Prefolds or Indian Prefolds (unbleached, in 2 or 3 sizes - infant to toddler) for about $2 each. As well as a bunch of organic options for more money. They are often listed as 4-6-4 or 4-8-4 with the middle number being the number of layers in the center section of diaper (most absorbant part). Contrary to what I overheard one uneducated salesgirl tell a customer at a national baby store, these are NOT prefolded. You must fold them on the baby before you put it on them. Then you use a waterproof cover.
- Snappis - these are an elasticized grabber thingy that people use to close up or "pin" a prefold, instead of those old baby pins. No worries about pricking the kid. About $3 each, I think. Would only need about 2 or 3 depending on the covers you use (some covers hold the prefold well enough without a Snappi).
- Contours - these are usually cotton (like prefolds) but are cut out in a classic diaper shape that you don't need to fold them all up to fit around baby. Still require a Snappi and/or cover. Around $ each. They come sized (XS, S, M, L usually).
- Fitteds - these are really cool, frankly. Like contours, usually made of cotton or hemp, but have velcro or snaps to hold it in place. They are super convenient and I fell in love with Kissaluvs size 0 (newborn) for when we first came home from the hospital. They are sized (not one size fits all) and about $12 each and require a waterproof cover. Resale value (on eBay) for used fitteds is about $10 each.
- Covers - these are most often made of PUL - a waterproof laminate fabric. They are no longer rubber pull up pants, but are trim velcro or snap jobs. Other options are fleece or wool. Prices for PUL are generally in the $11 - $15 range. Wool tends to be more expensive, but you wash it less frequently.
- Pocket diapers - these are what we went with. Essentially, this is the cover and diaper in one (well, 2) unit(s). You change the absorbancy of the diaper by the size of the insert you slip into the back. The inside is typically some brushed fleece or cotton. The insert is often microfiber or hemp or cotton. You have 2 options: one-size and "perfect" size. One size is supposed to fit from birth to potty training. It has snaps or some other way to adjust size. Perfect size means you need to buy small, medium and large to get from birth to potty training. Costs are $13 - $27 per diaper with most in the $17 range. Resale value for used diapers (on eBay) is about $10 each if they're in good shape.
- All-in-one diapers - These are like pocket diapers except the insert is sewn in. More convenient and some people have an aversion to touching the insert after it's soiled. But generally more expensive and take longer to launder. They are touted as being just like disposable for ease and "great for babysitters and dads!" because we all know that apparently dads just don't get diapers. Tell that to Darling.
- Hybrid diapers - These are gDiapers, Flip, and there are probably others. You have a washable cover that you put a disposable or biodegradable (flushable - but that's debatable) or even cloth insert in. I know very little about these. We looked into them for traveling when laundry wasn't accessible, but decided for short trips that we could use disposables.
We're a bumGenius family. Or, more to the point, Oliver is a bumGenius bum. The reason is simplicity and cost. You'll need about 2 dozen diapers in the kid's current size and we thought that the one-size diaper was a better value than buying 2 dozen small, 2 dozen medium, 2 dozen large. We have about 3 dozen one-size. Mostly bumGenius, but also some Fuzzibunz, Haute Pockets, and Blueberry. We have 2 all-in-one diapers. We started off with some prefolds, fitteds, and covers. There are lots of options out there and we got lucky that bumGenius fit well. Generally, I think people find that the perfect size fit better, but the one-size worked for Oliver. Then again, he isn't particularly skinny or fat or short or anything requiring a special fit.
We probably laid down about $500 at the outset and $200 over the course of the next 2 years for accessories etc. I think if you use really cheap disposables, you're looking at $600 - $700/year per kid. That's the great thing about our diapers. They're good for more kids and then we could potentially sell them.
Our inserts are mostly microfiber. They are fantastic because they are very absorbant without being very bulky. But after about a year of washing in a front loader (great for water and energy efficiency, not as great for cloth diapers, which benefit from the soaking of top loaders) the microfiber inserts were really holding an ammonia odor. Eventually, we bought a bunch of prefolds and are using them as inserts. They are bulkier, but the cotton doesn't smell as funky as the microfiber and we'll be able to use them as household rags later. I think of it as Smartwool vs. Capilene. I know which shirt stinks after a hike and which one doesn't.
We use Charlie's Soap to wash our diapers. If you use cotton, you just need a good, clean rinsing soap. If you use microfiber, it's critical that you use an "approved" soap. Otherwise, you can be creating a buildup on the material, which can cause the diapers to leak. Also - no rash cream. If you use one, put a prefold or liner in the diaper to keep the cream from the microfleece. It effects absorbancy.
We use a wet bag to hold our dirties when we're out and about. Then when we get home, we take out the insert, rinse any solids off (GET A DIAPER SPRAYER - SO HELPFUL!) and put the insert and the outer in a dry diaper pail lined with a big PUL bag.
We also use cloth wipes. We mix up a little water/soap solution to wet the wipe and keep that in a squirt bottle by the changing pad with a bottle of lotion potion. We bought some great flannel cloth wipes from BumGenius (discontinued) and some decent terrycloth ones but cuts of flannel sheets or washcloths would work just as well. I don't think a wipe warmer is needed. We throw the wipes in the dry pail with the dirties and they all get washed together.
::What I wish we did
Oh how I love the Blueberry diapers. Man oh man. The interior is soft, the insert is a hemp and microfiber blend (very absorbant, but the hemp doesn't hold odor like the microfiber does). And fun exteriors! But holy hefty price tag. At $27 a pop, we only have 2 (purchased on sale).
I also really like the Kissaluvs fitteds and BumGenius bamboo fitteds (discontinued). We used these when Oliver was smaller. I never bought larger sizes or covers. I didn't explore the fitted and cover option that much because it was probably about twice as much money as the one-size. But the times we used them, I do like them. They're pretty much bomb-proof and they fit well while still being fairly trim. If it's just pee, you can wipe the cover out and reuse. I'm not sure how many covers you'd need if you were doing all prefolds or fitteds. Not 2 dozen, but more than a couple. I really like the Thirsties covers. I'm considering getting some more Kissaluvs size 0s and Thirsties covers for Part 2. But frankly, it's a very short time (1-3 weeks) that the bumGenius seemed too big for the newborn Oliver.
::What you could do
There are so many other options out there! Prefolds and covers are your cheapest and simplest diapering option. The drawback there is the bulkiness. Proponents swear that simple is best and prefolds are definitely that. But I imagine it takes a little getting used to. We used prefolds when Oliver was a newborn and it was fine. But once switching to the pocket diapers, didn't really want to go back.
Fuzzibunz is a huge favorite for many parents. They have both one size and "perfect size" diapers now. In fact, there are many more one size diapers out there than just bumGenius. Different brands will have slightly different fits, colors, inserts, features, prices. But they're all basically the same. Find a good deal or a good fit and go with it. Or, try several before committing to one system.
::Where to go for more info
There is so much on cloth diapering out there, it's dizzying. Aside from the links above, try:
Mothering Magazine articles here, and here, and here, and here.