Friday, August 13, 2010

A Diapering Odyssey

Someone asked me some details regarding my diapering methods. Rather than writing an individual e-mail and plugging up an in-box with lots of pictures, I decided to make it a blog post instead. So this is our diapering odyssey through 3 kids and counting...

When the farmer girl was born, the only thing I knew about cloth diapers were prefolds with pins and plastic pants. I was NOT interested. I learned about fuzzi bunz when she was about 4 months old. I did the math and figured out we'd be saving money by making this rather costly initial investment. And so we bought about 15 fuzzi bunz and 30 inserts (because she needed double stuffing to not leak). About 6 months later when she was outgrowing that first size, I started researching other brands and happened upon a yahoo group of people who MADE their own pocket diapers. I'm not the greatest seamstress, but I'm always up for a challenge and figured I could make this work. I found more yahoo groups of diaper fabric co-ops making the price for supplies a good deal cheaper too. Getting good deals on fabric meant I could make a diaper for about $3 each- totally blowing the cost of disposables out of the water!

So, this is what I make, various versions and various results:

1) Pocket diapers- This is my first pick but they are the most time consuming to make and also the most expensive to buy or make so my selection is a bit limited. They hold the most, especially given that you can double stuff them if need be.
a) The inner layer is microfleece or suede cloth. I prefer the microfleece. Suede cloth offers some color variety which can be fun. I have some black stuff that I thought would look sharp on blue
or red dipes... that will only likely only be worn by #3 (IF I actually get some more made!)
b) The outer layer is polyurethane laminate (PUL). This can be purchased online retail or
through online co-ops. I've got a good stash now so I'm not up-to-date on co-ops or current pricing. I do know to
NOT use prints. As ADORABLE as the frogs dressed as spider man or the pink camouflage diapers are, they just don't work. Stick with solid colors.
c) In some I used fold-over-elastic (aka FOE) (like in the bright orange one). In others I used standard elastic which is all covered by fabric. I used the FOE to add sidewalls which I don't think are worth the effort. They leak the same as the others (the sage or bright green ones) when inserts are saturated and are way more fussy to make. Also the FOE is more expensive and that design requires more of it.
There is a place for FOE and sidewalls, but more about that later.
d) Inserts- In one picture you can see a diaper and 2 different inserts. The center insert is one I made from 4 layers of hemp cloth. Hemp holds more than microfiber, but buying them retail is really pricey. If a good deal on hemp comes up, I'd snag it quick. The insert on the right is
a purchased microfiber one, purchased with the first fuzzi bunz. They work fine. I've also heard of people stuffing dipes with a folded microfiber towel they bought at the auto store, or with a prefold diaper, or even with old kitchen towels. I like having things already folded and ready for stuffing so making a few extra inserts from hemp was worth it for me. Another thing I've done is used some smaller hemp scraps to make little square inserts. This gets added where the biggest projection of wet occurs for a girl or boy. It gives a bit more protection against leaks but doesn't make the tooshie so big as to need its own zip code.

2) Using pockets can be tricky. When poop is involved, it requires dumping in the toilet (which is required for disposables too if you read the label!). Sometimes you have to swish it around in the toilet to get it all off. It's not for the faint at heart... but then again, neither is parenting. Washing must be done with the inserts removed from the diaper with minimal amounts of detergent. Every so often you'll notice they are leaking more than they used to, meaning detergent has built up on the inner-lining (which is designed to let fluids through but keep the bottom somewhat dry). To remove the build-up, simply wash with only a bit of dish soap, put through an extra rinse cycle and maybe add some vinegar to a rinse cycle as well. A bit of baking soda in the wash will also help to remove the laundry detergent build-up. They can be dried in the drier after any wash though the PUL won't last as long if they routinely are. They line dry quickly. I know someone who puts the inserts in the drier and merely sets the pockets on top of the drier. The residual heat is enough to gently dry them.

3) Traveling with cloth is a feat I don't go for anymore. When it was just 1 child in tow, I thought nothing of packing a PUL bag in the diaper bag and put a diaper (and ALL its contents) in that PUL bag until we got home and it could be dealt with appropriately. Now I'm all for 'sposies when we're out and about. Too many times, as more kids entered the picture, I have forgotten to deal with a diaper in a timely matter and have had... yes... MAGGOTS in the diaper bag. Just can't deal with that anymore.

4) Currently, #3 fits in both the smalls and the mediums so I have an abundance of pockets. But once he's cracking more than one smile in the smalls, I'll be using the prefolds more. They are cheap and easy, but they definitely need to be changed more frequently. I simply don't know how mom's made it through the night with only prefolds and plastic pants in their diaper stash. But even with the prefolds, I don't use pins. "Snappies" are available online through lots of retailers. It's the red rubbery thing which grips the diaper in 3 places and holds it snug. They are very handy and much safer to use as well. They don't grip flannel, fleece or hemp so don't both trying to make prefolds with that hemp as I did.

5) I like wraps over pull-on pants for over prefolds. Its easy to keep the changing mat clean and its easy to re-use a wrap for several diapers without the outside getting moistened. The turquoise one is one I made using PUL and FOE.
Notice the side walls- very important when making a prefold wrap. The blue wrap is a
"Thirsties" that I purchased to get a working design to copy.

6) Actually sewing these buggers really isn't that hard. If I can do it, anyone can. There are free patterns available online. If I remember right I started with the "Mama Bird" pattern. I made it out of cheap scrap fabric to get a good fit. I ended up adjusting here and stretching there and made about 3 of my own patterns and diapers before I got the pattern that worked the best. I also discovered that Happy Heinys are really good diapers. I modeled mine after those as they had simple Velcro closures. Oddly enough though, my own diapers have worn much better. I have 2 purchased Happy Heinys and they are both done in with only 2 kids.
I've replaced the elastic already and the PUL is now shot. I'm going to take them apart to use as a pattern though. Theirs did fit better as each kid grew taller than my own pattern did so I'd rather use their pattern. Besides, I've lost my pattern now anyway. By the way, I cut patterns out of brown paper bags and trace them onto fabric using washable ink. After cutting out the pieces, I sew the soft side of the velcro onto the front of the PUL. Be sure to use 100% polyester thread as any cotton in the tread will wick moisture past the polyurethane. Also, the added soft velcro tabs on the side are important so that the rough velcro doesn't snag everything in washing. Folding the tabs in really reduces snags though they will still occur some.

You'll notice I only discuss price and not environmental ethics... because studies are now showing that cloth are no more gentle on the environment than disposable. I don't know how that is, but its been a bit of an embarrassment for the cloth diapering "tree-huggers". They say the water used to repeatedly wash these diapers, the energy usage in running the washer, etc, is just as detrimental as a mountain of disposables in a landfill. I find it pretty hard to believe, especially when we're washing with well water that hasn't been treated by a city facility anyway. But, alas, I'm not the one making these claims. You'll have to judge for yourself. I'm frugal so regardless of environmental claims, cloth is our method.

Now with THAT said, I have to confess that I did give up cloth diapering #2 a bit before #3 was born. That boy has an ACTIVE colon. I just couldn't keep up with the swishing of the poop. It was disgusting and I was tired. #3 is much more "normal" in his bm's so I think he'll be an easy one to see cloth through to potty-training time.

Feel free to post questions. I left a lot unsaid, but there's TONS of info on the internet. I'm not sure if any of my sites are still up and I'd be hours finding sites to link. Happy diapering.I hope this helps.

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