Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What's What Wednesday: Cloth Diapering Basics

Now that I've covered the reasons why we use cloth and given an overview of the various cloth diapering options, let's hit some frequently asked questions, shall we?

How many diapers do I need?

The answer to this depends on how much space you have to store them, how often you wish to do diaper laundry and how old your baby is. With a newborn, you can expect to go through 12-18 diapers per day. That number will decrease as your baby gets older. Delilah has sensitive skin, so she gets changed more often than some parents change their babies. We currently go through 8-10 diapers per day and do diaper laundry every other day. Personally, I think 2-dozen diapers is about as small a diaper stash as I'd go. 3-dozen is better. 4-dozen is fabulous.

What about wipes?

Many cloth-diapering families use disposable wipes. We chose to go with cloth wipes. There are a variety of methods for using cloth wipes, just like there are a variety of cloth-diapering options. Some choose to purchase wipes specifically made for this purpose, some use baby washcloths, some make their own wipes, and others just cut up old t-shirts. We like FuzziBunz Wonder Wipes and Thirsties Fab Wipes.

There are several methods that people follow with cloth wipes. Some simply use dry wipes. One popular option is leaving the wipes dry and then wetting them with a squirt bottle as needed. Keeping pre-moistened wipes in warmers is also popular. We pre-moisten our wipes, but don't use a warmer.

As far as what to use to moisten them with, there are plenty of choices there, too. Plain water works just fine for many people. Others make home-made wipes solution. We started out making our own solution using water, a tiny squirt of Burt's Bees Baby Wash and a tiny squirt of Burt's Bees Baby Lotion. This worked well enough, but when Delilah had a yeast rash, we switched to using water with a bit of apple-cider vinegar and a few drops of tea-tree oil. That combination worked out great for us, but didn't smell the best. We now use one of several wipes solutions available on the market, LuSa Baby Wipe Juice. (This week's Featured Item Friday post will be devoted to LuSa Baby Wipe Juice, and don't forget about the discount they are currently offering for Fine and Fair readers!)

Is is true that you can't use diaper rash creams with them?

Diaper rashes are a fact of life for lots of babies. Many cloth diaper users claim that their babies never have rash problems in cloth, but since babies tend to have sensitive skin, rashes aren't completely avoidable for some babies. When rashes develop, there are a few ways to handle them. Some parents choose to use traditional rash creams and use disposables until the rash has healed. Others use fleece or disposable liners with their cloth diapers while using rash creams (just make sure to wash any liners separately from your diapers if you go this route, or the residue from the creams could get onto the diapers and cause problems!).

Fortunately, there are plenty of cloth diaper-friendly rash remedies on the market today that work very well if you don't want to deal with disposable diapers or liners. The ingredients lists on these products are usually less scary (and easier to pronounce!) than traditional diaper creams, and more and more of them are being made available at mainstream retail stores. Pinstripes and Polka Dots has a great page about diaper rash creams, including a list of cloth-friendly options.

We've tried a handful of creams with Delilah, and our favorites are Angel Baby Bottom Balm and LuSa Organics Booty Balm. Speaking of LuSa Organics, I should mention that Delilah has not had a single diaper rash since we started using their Baby Wipe Juice! (And don't forget about that discount offer!)

Don't cloth diapers smell bad?

I honestly find the smells from disposable diapers far more offensive than the smells from cloth diapers. So long as your diapers are being laundered properly (more on that next week!) and you have a good system in place for keeping them between laundry days, the smell is minimal.

There are a variety of ways that people deal with dirty diapers between washings. I can only speak to the one we've tried since it has worked so well that we've never tried anything different. My recommendation is to get some good quality zippered wetbags. Sarah's Stitches on Hyena Cart makes the best of the best. (There's still time to enter to win one at that link!) I use her wetbags and cannot smell a thing when the bag is zipped shut, even when I've gone three days between washing. Other options include dry or wet pail systems, but since I haven't personally tried those routes, I can't speak to them.

Do they work overnight?

For overnight, we stuff pocket diapers with two inserts and have no problems with leaks. The nice thing about pockets is that you can customize the absorbency by adding as many inserts as you need, and the Knickernappies pockets are roomy enough to allow for that. There are also a variety of diapers made specifically for overnight use. Some families use disposables for night time. While we have chosen to use cloth full-time, every cloth diaper use makes a difference, so if full-time cloth isn't the best choice for you, do what you can!

What about daycare?

Some daycare providers have polices prohibiting the use of cloth diapers. Others are completely open to useing them. If your care provider is unsure, show them your system and see what they think. Our daycare provider was surprised at how simple Delilah's diapers are to use and has no problem with them. She has even remarked that Delilah never has blow-outs like the babies in disposables do! I send along enough diapers and wipes for the day along with a clean wetbag, and she returns the wetbag full of dirty diapers to me when I pick Delilah up. 

I would encourage you to find a cloth-friendly care provider, or at least one who is willing to give it a trial-run. Of course, if the absolute best child care option you have won't accept cloth diapers, you have to make the choice that's best for you!

What else do I need?

You'll need a place to store your diapers and and any related accessories. We use the top two drawers of Delilah's dresser for her diapers, and have a small basket organizer next to her dresser where we store wipes, covers, liners, extra inserts, etc. Some families use bin systems and many changing tables come with plenty of storage space available.

Depending on the type of diapers you're using, you might need additional accessories. If you're using prefolds or snapless fitteds, you'll want a few snappis on hand to fasten the diapers. You'll also need covers if your diapers aren't waterproof. Covers can be re-used throughout the day if they aren't visibly soiled, and again, the number you need will depend on how often you want to do laundry. If you're using pockets, you might want extra inserts for additional absorbency overnight or during naps. You may want to pick up some disposable diaper liners if your baby is prone to rashes. (We like Bummis.)

Finally, you'll want something to, ahem, assist in poop removal once your baby starts eating solids (or if your baby is formula fed). Some families use a spatula or scraper, some use toilet paper or a wipe to get the poop into the toilet, and others install a diaper sprayer to do the dirty work.

These are the basics that should help you get started with cloth diapering. Please feel free to comment with any remaining questions you have!

--This is the third in a series of cloth diapering related 'What's What Wednesday' posts. Next week, I'll share my diaper laundry routine in more detail than you could possibly want!

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  1. Great tips! I wish I had known where to look for resources like this when we first got started! I started out with two dozen prefolds, three plain white covers, and no fasteners (I thought the velcro on the cover was all I needed!) or wet bag ;) It was interesting figuring out what I needed to make it work! :) I know the info you share will be helpful to mamas who are just getting started!

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