Where do you fall on Crappy Mommy’s Crappy Mohs Scale of Crunchy Mamas*? Okay, so hopefully that made you laugh and you realize it’s meant to point out a fatal flaw of many mamas: wanting to be crunchy, and wanting other moms to know just how crunchy you are. I remember being a few months into motherhood and somehow finding myself at a 5, which is completely laughable for two reasons: I was trying to do exactly what Crappy Mommy was poking fun at, and PS there’s no way I was ever higher than a 3.5.
Anyway, I’m not crunchy. I wish I were, but it can be so expensive which is kind of ironic (pretty sure you either have to make twice as much as we bring home a year to be able to send your kid to the Waldorf or Montessori schools, or not work at all so you can manage half-day preschool schedules). I’d love to have a giant vegetable garden, not let my kids watch TV, make real dinners from scratch every night, and home school. I know some moms are able to do this while working full time with more kids than I have, so if you’re one of them tell me your secret now. Something we do that a lot of people equate with crunchiness though is cloth diapering. In reality it’s more like rectangles and squares: you don’t have to be crunchy to cloth diaper, but you have to cloth diaper to be crunchy. And if you’re really crunchy you use prefolds and unbleached cotton and maybe even sew your own diapers from wool you wove on your loom. By candlelight. Beeswax, of course.
But I’m lazy, and I wanted to cloth diaper for environmental and financial reasons. When I was researching which diapers there were all these comments about how “____ is my favorite because they have so many cute patterns!” Okay, cute patterns are a perk, but let’s be serious: baby butts are adorable no matter what you dress them in. My approach to cloth diapering is wholly practical, from cost to the process surrounding the use of the diapers we chose. Cloth diapering can be incredibly overwhelming. There are so many types and brands, and the variety of inserts is mind-boggling. Thankfully if you’re taking the practical approach, it’s a little more straightforward. So here is the breakdown of our stash and process:
There’s really only one type of cloth diaper to consider if you’re lazy and practical: the All-In-Two. AI2 diapers have a reusable outer shell that you wipe clean between changes. You either snap an insert in, or lay an insert in flat. They’re less expensive than pocket** and fitted diapers because of the fact that you can reuse the shell. While you purchase the inserts separately, they are relatively inexpensive so don’t add to the cost very much. Also, I don’t know this for a fact but I think refurbishing Ai2s is probably easier than pocket or fitteds. We used Bum Genius pocket diapers for a while and I found replacing the elastic to be nearly impossible.
We are currently using Best Bottom Diapers, Blueberry One Size Coveralls, and a few Rumparooz One Size Diaper Covers. All of our Best Bottoms are left over from Lily, and about half have been refurbished (read: we replaced the elastic in the leg gussets, and the Velcro in the diapers that had them). Some are newer than others because we did a really bad job of maintaining the Velcro on our diapers. While Velcro is easier to close up when you have a squirmy baby, it’s also much harder to maintain and much easier for a baby to rip off. Lily always had to have snaps if I wasn’t going to put clothes or a cover on her (hot summer days, dresses). For this reason, I recommend only getting snap covers. We have about 12-15 diaper covers. This is plenty.
The Best Bottom diapers are fantastic and the leg gussets are so secure, but I absolutely love the Blueberries. While they’re more expensive, if I could go back and re-purchase everything, I’d only get Blueberry One Size Coveralls. The Rumparooz are pretty bad. They are just so bunched up and fit really poorly. You get what you pay for.
Unlike the other two covers, Best Bottoms use a snap-in insert. We use their microfiber inserts which are very soft and absorbent. These also fit very well in the other two covers, with which you can use any “lay flat” insert. Rather than purchasing new inserts when we replaced our Bum Genius diapers with the Blueberry and Rumparooz, we just reused the Bum Genius inserts. I recently learned that they are not intended to be in contact with your baby’s skin, so I purchased some very inexpensive Oso Cozy doublers. We ended up purchasing extra Best Bottom inserts to make up for the fact that we didn’t have 3 inserts for every cover.
3 inserts per shell is the magic number.
With Lily, we used Best Bottom Overnight Inserts. These were not enough for Maggie, who is a heavy wetter. We used disposables for a few months overnight before the cost got to me. I purchased some hemp doublers (I don’t think the brand matters), and these have worked so well. Hemp is more expensive than microfiber or cotton, but it is much trimmer and more absorbent. I use one of our Bum Genious inserts, and two hemp inserts: one on top. and one on the bottom. OR one Best Bottom insert on top, with two hemp inserts below (the microfiber-cotton combo absorbs more quickly than the hemp, which is much more absorbent but takes longer to absorb which is why it should go on the bottom).
You can’t use just any diaper cream with cloth diapers. Many people recommend using a liner every time you use diaper cream. We tried a Burt’s Bees cream we were gifted once that was supposedly cloth safe but it absolutely wasn’t. We use Weleda Diaper Cream without a liner. We don’t have staining or repelling. Our wash process helps with this, too.
Dirty Diaper Storage (wet bags)
We have two Thirsties Diaper Pail Liners. You don’t need to use any special diaper pail. We have two large Planet Wise wet bags. When I needed to get a few more because two wasn’t enough for full-time childcare, I got Alva Baby Wet Bags. I’m not sure why, but these are much less expensive and way better at preventing leaks. The Planet Wise bags leaked all the time and were so stinky. We have four wet bags.
Let’s start with poop. If you breastfeed only, you can throw poopy diapers in the wash without scraping the poop off. Once your baby starts solids (or if you combo or formula feed), you have to flush the poop. Because we are lazy and practical, we use toilet paper or a spatula to scrape the poop off if it doesn’t easily come off. Maggie was on amoxicillin twice in two months, and I admittedly had to dunk and swish multiple diapers. Like as many as I did the entire time Lily was a baby. Some people have diaper sprayers that attach to their toilet, but because I dunked like 5 diapers with Lily, I can’t justify the investment. This does mean that, while our diapers are clean, some are stained. It’s not like anyone is looking, so it doesn’t matter.
You should wash your diapers every 2-3 days. Thank god for my mom because this can be really difficult. I think it’s kind of a routine thing like exercising though: once you get into it, it’s not hard to keep up. My parents have been out of town for two wash cycles, and I just got them done nbd. Here’s how washing works:
- Detergent: it must be cloth diaper-friendly. The “pure” versions of mainstream detergent brands (Tide, Arm and Hammer) are. We used Arm and Hammer until after Lily was one with no problem. Then everything started stinking. I did a lot of research and came upon Charlie’s Soap. It solved all of our smell problems, and we use it on all of our clothes. I am a firm believer in detergents that can be used with every item you launder.
- Wash process: Cold rinse, then hot wash with as much water as possible, and finally an extra rinse. At our old house we had an awful washer machine (that was also two flights down and on the opposite side of the house as the nursery), but adding a towel to our washes made everything work out okay (diaper washes are smaller than regular washes which can mess things up). This washer did the job fine, but we did have to go up and down the stairs a few times. We had to get a new washer a few months after moving into our new house. It was really reasonably priced (read: under $900), but has awesome wash functions including one of those sensors that tells it how large the load is. I can put in the detergent, select the type of wash (“Towels”), and prewash, and “Water Plus” (you should get as much water involved in the cycle as possible–sorry, Californians) all at the same time. I do have to go back down to do the last rinse, but this only takes 17 minutes with my washer.
- Special treatments: Sometimes things get stinky. I’ve started to throw some baking soda in every wash and this has helped so much.
- Drying: Hang dry shells, and tumble dry inserts on high.
The only 2+ night trips we would bring cloth diapers on were trips to my parents. They live in town now, so any trips of this length will involve disposables in the future. We use Seventh Generation. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect other people to be comfortable with you washing your baby’s dirty diapers in their washer, or to expect that there will be a reliable washer and dryer available. If I was renting a house or condo with a washer and dryer I would probably bring our cloth diapers, especially if it was something like a week long. You should always have at least a handful of diapers on hand in case you run our or the power goes out on wash night (both have happened to use more than once).
We use reusable swim diapers. I think the disposable ones are super gross.
One final note: I often put my kids in one pant-size up with cloth diapers.
*Can we talk about family cloth? WTF. I’m all about reducing waste, but toilet paper has hygienic purposes and let’s not forget there are still plenty of people in the world who reserve one hand for wiping.
**We have one FuzziBunz One-Size Pocket Diaper. I got this because I wanted to see what pockets were all about. So expensive ($16.95 for a diaper that must be washed after every use), but so soft and cute. Not for someone who has other caregivers, because there is no way a non-parent will want to fish a liner out of a pocket.