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June 15, 2010

Adventures in cloth diapering

Filed under: Family, Motherhood — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 6:00 pm

Back in October, I mentioned that I was trying to talk Neal into cloth diapering.  My initial impetus was solely monetary — we were trying to find any way to pare down our budget!  In spite of Neal’s usually frugal nature, he just did not think that the financial savings was worth swishing poopy diapers in the toilet.  But I kept at it, creating cost-comparison spreadsheets (I’m actually even more pleased with the financial aspect than I predicted because psychologically it feels like we’re saving even more money than we are since we don’t have any recurring diaper expenses!) and reading message boards to find out how others convinced their initially-reluctant husbands to get on board.  And as you can see from this post title, it worked!  [Just between you and me, I pretty much always get my way once I’ve made up my mind.  But don’t tell Neal, he doesn’t know yet.]

After spending months trying to talk Neal into going cloth, and then gathering all the supplies we would need once he agreed, the strangest thing happened when we brought Addison home from the hospital.  I thought, what was I thinking?!  I am a total idiot . . . I can’t do this!!

Those first couple of weeks were literally so crazy and disorienting that I couldn’t possibly have added one more chore like cloth diapering.  We were so grateful for the people who had given us disposable diapers!  However, by about her third week of life, I was ready to give the cloth diapers a try — luckily, since with cloth diapering the bulk of the costs are up-front, so I had already made our investment in it.  It took Neal a little longer to come around; he would not deal with the clothies until he was getting good and consistent sleep, which luckily came around the five-week mark.

Although this won’t be a formal how-to post, I’ve had enough people (especially Aunt Robin who gifted us some of our first cloth diapers) ask me how it works for us that I thought I would walk through our process and set-up.

First, we have our changing pad in the bathroom so that we have easy access to the sink.  This is essential for easier diaper cleaning and because I made some cheap cloth wipes ($1/yard for white cotton flannel!) that we wet as needed:

Next, we’ve got a diaper sprayer, which solved Neal’s problem with not wanting to put his hands in the toilet.

Most of the big cloth diapering companies sell a diaper sprayer that hooks up to the toilet plumbing, but these were a little pricey for us ($40 and up).  So I sent my awesomely-handy father to Lowe’s to see what he could do for us.  We ended up with this shower sprayer:

Perfect for spraying dogs, diapers, and Addisons, for only $20.  It has worked really well for us since our toilet is fairly close to our shower head.

Finally, we’ve got our fancy-schmancy diaper pails:

Otherwise known as 50-cent ice cream buckets from the BYU Creamery.  The yellow lid is our wet bucket, for sprayed-down poopy diapers, and the red lid is our dry bucket for just wet diapers (I never noticed that before . . . our dry bucket is for wet diapers).

It took us a while to get a routine going, but now things are basically clicking.  Every night Neal brings the buckets out to the washer around 8:00 so that I can wash them and transfer them to the dryer before bed (although lately I’ve been contemplating using our drying rack instead of the dryer, now that we’ve got a system going).  Having such a convenient washer/dryer set-up has been the real key, and since we have the energy-efficient kind, the washer adjusts to the size of the load.  It has raised our utility bills somewhat (we’re paying about $20 more per month, but that includes other lifestyle adjustments to having a baby — like did you know how much you have to wash your hands with these little critters around?!), but we’re happy with the way it is going.  And we’ve made a deal with the planet, we’ll do this for it, if we can call in a favor later.  Nice.

As to the actual diapers, we have tried four different kinds to date.  As I said yesterday, I sewed some diapers myself from kits that I bought from this website.  I enjoy sewing, so this was basically fun for me, but in my haste to finish the diaper before active labor set in, I made a small mistake.  Let me just tell you, there is no such thing as a small mistake when you’re trying to contain urine and fecal matter.  Words to live by.

But by adding an extra liner from one of the other diapers, we were still able to use my defective diaper (though not at times when leaking would have been a big problem).  Since it was a size 1, it was a bit baggy on her at the beginning:

It is interesting to watch her wear the same diaper day-in and day-out, and see how the fit changes as she grows.  Yesterday we officially retired this size-1 diaper, and rotated in the size-2 homemade diaper, which I hope was sewn more precisely.

As I mentioned Robin and Diane gifted us some little gPants, which are known for being an environmentally-friendly hybrid between cloth and disposable, although we only have the cloth variety.  These had an incredibly awkward fit:

Until I figured out that I was putting them on backwards.  Much better:

They are hands-down the cutest diapers we own, but the outer cover often feels damp to the touch even though the inner liner is supposed to keep it dry.  With these, we often can’t tell if she is really wet or not.  Still, I will be sad for her to outgrow them (which is imminent since they only go up to about 14 pounds) because they’re my go-to diapers when she needs to look extra adorable!

The best diaper we own is a single bumGenius — one of the crème de la crème of clothies.  I can’t get over how well made this diaper is!  It’s super easy to put on since it’s built much like a disposable.  And the cloth layer that touches her skin really wicks away moisture as well or better than a disposable.  Sometimes we can’t tell whether she’s wet or not until we actually pull out the insert (of course, usually she is wet . . . a little pee monkey, remember?).  But the best part is that it is a one-size-fits-all diaper (you adjust a few of snaps as needed to go from 8 pounds to 35 pounds), so we can basically use it from birth until she is potty-trained.  Can you tell that I think this diaper is AMAZING?!  Here’s a shot of our little beauty:

Did you think I meant Addison?

Unfortunately, buying more than one of these little miracle machines wasn’t in the budget (they run about $17 around here, although that includes an extra nighttime liner), so the bulk of our diapers are actually a new, inexpensive variety made by the same company as bumGenius.  Econobums have only been on the market for about 8 months, so it is too soon to say if they will last us through her whole diapering stage, but they are made to be a one-size prefold and one-size diaper cover to take you from 8 to 35 pounds.  For $50, we got 12 prefold inserts and 3 covers and so far we are pleased with how well they work.  We rarely have any leakage with them, even overnight (we only use the econobums or bumGenius overnight since the others don’t fare well for that long a stretch).  Of course, the downside is that they look ridiculous on her.  But that’s also the upside.  I don’t know if the pictures do justice to how funny she looked in them as a newborn, but she was hilariously bottom-heavy:

They still make her look like quite a big-bummed girl (and sometimes cause a little chafing, though she doesn’t seem bothered by it), but at least she is no longer immobile in them:

But frugality over fashion, little one.  It’ll pay dividends later when you get to do things like eat and wear shoes in the winter.  You’ll see.



  1. Ohhwee!! She is such a cutie in those big ole diapers. I’m impressed that you made some of your own. I think I’ll need to get a pattern from you.

    Comment by Cranney — June 15, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

  2. You’re a better person than I am! After helping change many of my brother’s cloth diapers, watching my dad launder them, and witnessing two diaper pail spills, I told Ryan on no uncertain terms that I don’t care how many trees I kill, how many acres of landfills I fill, or how much it costs, we are using disposable diapers! Maybe someday my heart will soften, but I’m not counting on it!

    Comment by Vickie Blanchard — June 16, 2010 @ 2:46 pm

  3. Amazing. . .that’s all I can say. Wait, no, amazing and hilarious. Your little one has quite the adventure ahead of her with you two! 🙂 I’m glad she’ll get to eat and wear shoes in the winter though. I just can’t stop laughing.

    Comment by Liesl Johnson — June 17, 2010 @ 3:05 am

  4. Be sassy (and happy) with your supreme and virtuous efforts. Quite noble.
    Will that make you insufferably self-righteous with us mere mortals who have less-than-perfect bathroom, shower, and toilet arrangements? We are in awe not only of your economy, which as students should reign supreme, but also that the three of you are at home (double entendre intended) with an effort that wears me out just thinking about it. So I won’t. Nothing wrong with disposables being a luxury reserved for trips and social events. We applaud your determination, effort, peace of mind, frugality, truce with the earth, at-home-ness, and willingness to make it work.

    Is it okay if I prefer ease, sanitation, fewer stains, eliminating odors, simplifying work in my daily life (opportunity cost here), and mobility? I know both ways, and frankly find my choice livable. In olden times, the pain and frustration of safety pins and struggling man cubs were a big deal. Glad you do not have that. Diversity turns the world round and round…hear, hear!

    I do love this post and the photos!!! We cherish you!

    Comment by Lorie — June 20, 2010 @ 3:37 am

  5. Where did you find flannel for $1 a yard????????

    Comment by suebee — December 6, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

    • I found it on sale at Hancock Fabrics. I subscribe to their email list, so I think I was able to print off a 10 or 15% off coupon and combine it with an in-store deal.

      Comment by llcall — December 6, 2011 @ 10:47 pm

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