Friday, January 27, 2012

Favorite Things Friday: Diaper Palz Wetbags

I am really, truly, 100% in love with my Diaper Palz wetbag.  I've been using mine since early December, and I'm thinking that I need to get at least one more.  My other wetbag is a Planetwise one, and while it has served me well over the past 15 months, the Diaper Palz one has many advantages.

- Planetwise wetbags are cotton on the outside, with a layer of PUL sewn inside.  This allows for a lot of really cool prints, but with repeated washing these prints tend to fade and wear out.  My bag also has developed holes in the cotton and has some bleach stains.  The bag is still totally functional, but it's very sad looking.  Diaper Palz bags are just a single layer of PUL, so the patterns won't fade or be affected by bleach.  Solid PUL also dries significantly faster than cotton.

- Size.  The Planetwise "Large" size is 18"x21", and the Diaper Palz "Large" is 30" tall and holds significantly more diapers.  The Planetwise will hold 2 days worth of diapers for me, but those last few have to really be crammed in there.  This picture shows my Diaper Palz bag with 3 days worth of diapers, and it isn't even completely full.  I think that it could probably hold 4 days, but I don't go that long between washing.  This would be great if you had 2 babies in cloth though!

- Price.  Diaper Palz bags are significantly cheaper.  A full priced large Diaper Palz bag costs $15+ $1 shipping, while a large Planetwise bag costs $19.  The Diaper Palz bags are very high quality, especially the hanging loop.  As you can see, my gigantic bag of heavy dirty diapers is hanging from a hook by my washing machine.  So far, the PUL is not showing any signs of stress or damage but my Planetwise one started looking worn along the handle seam within a few months.  I'm confident that this bag will last me through our diapering years and beyond.

The best part is Diaper Palz is actually hosting a January clearance right now, with large wetbags for as low as $13!  Try using coupon code "dsmama" for an additional discount.  Check them out, you won't be disappointed!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Washing Routines

When I first decided to cloth diaper, I was really nervous about washing them.  I read all of this information saying that you need to soak the diapers for a few hours, use a special soap that you have to order from the internet, all these crazy elaborate routines... I was freaked out.  I followed the advice at first, I used the special detergent (first Purex Free and Clear, and then Rockin' Green) and only used 2 tablespoons of it per load.  It was fine at first, but eventually my diapers were stinky and awful.  As soon as he would pee, the whole diaper smelled like poop.  I actually almost gave up on cloth diapering because it was so gross.  Then I read that Tide was actually a really good detergent to use, and I was intrigued.  Every place said to avoid detergents with fragrance, dyes, and enzymes but Tide had ALL of those things.  I figured that I didn't have anything left to lose at that point, so first I bleached everything then started using Tide.  What a difference!

In my experience, those natural detergents just don't work and sometimes you have to use a little bleach.  I mean, think about it- what would you do if you had a bunch of shirts that had gotten peed and pooped on?  Would you skimp on the detergent?  No way.  You would use a good strong detergent that would clear the mess away, and you might even add a bit of bleach for good measure.  Some babies really are sensitive to fragrances and enzymes and if that is the case then you shouldn't use something like Tide, but most babies will be just fine.  It's all experimentation, so sometimes you have to try a few different detergents until you find what works, or add in extra rinses at the end.  But once you have it down, it's great!

So, this is my washing routine that I do every other morning.  It's easy, it's uncomplicated, and it works like a dream.  I have a non high efficiency top loading machine with hard water and I use liquid detergents.

- Cold rinse/spin cycle.  This gets the bulk of the pee/poop residue off of the diapers.
- Hot "Super Heavy Duty" cycle, Gain or Tide detergent measured to the "2" line
- 2 more cold rinse/spin cycles.  These extra rinses make sure that all of the detergent has been rinsed from the diapers.  I've found that if I only do one rinse, my son sometimes gets a little rashy so I always do 2.
After that, I take out my pocket shells and PUL covers and hang them up to dry on a drying rack
- Cold rinse/spin cycle with a cap full of plant based fabric softener- either 7th Generation or Ecover.  You can skip this step, but I like having soft diapers.
- 2 dryer cycles on medium heat.  You can dry on high, but medium will make the diapers softer. I add a dry towel to the dryer and it cuts down on drying time.

Start with a really basic routine like that, and then tweak from there as needed.  If you're having trouble and need help, feel free to contact me.  Another good resource is Diaper Swappers.  The ladies on DS can help you solve just about any laundry problems.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Naptime Adventures: Prepping Hemp Inserts

For this naptime adventure, I'm going to prep some new Thirsties hemp inserts for my pocket diapers by boiling them.  This isn't a true naptime adventure because my Gremlin is wide awake, but Dad is keeping him occupied.

Unless you have someone to keep your baby 100% occupied, I would really recommend doing this while your baby is asleep.  Mostly because of the boiling water, but also because you need to keep your eye on the process and you don't want to get distracted and burn your house down.

Hemp is a natural fabric, which means that when it's brand new it is coated with natural oils.  You need to strip these oils off before using the diaper, or it won't absorb much.  You can do this by washing in hot water in your washing machine and drying 4-6 times, or by boiling on the stove.  Boiling uses a lot less water, especially for something small like inserts.  You don't want to boil anything with PUL, snaps, or elastic because that will ruin the diaper, but pocket inserts and prefolds are generally ok to boil.

Today, I'm prepping 4 new Thirsties hemp inserts.  These are the best pocket inserts that I've found.  They're incredibly trim, but hold a ton of pee.  Arthur can be a bit of a super soaker, but a single Thirsties insert will hold him for at least 2 hours.  The first thing that you'll notice is that they're huge.

On the right is one of the inserts that is already prepped and heavily used.  When fabrics are prepped, they shrink.  Once these inserts are done being prepped, they'll be about the same size as the one on the right.

Get a pot of water boiling.  Use a stock pot if you have one, especially if you're boiling prefolds.  I'm only doing 2 inserts at a time so a regular pot will do.

Ugh, that's sideways.  Sorry!  Add the inserts to the pot, set the timer for 15 minutes.  Stick close by the stove, and stir the inserts around.  If you want you can add a squirt of dish soap to help draw the oils out, but I don't usually remember to do that.

See how the water is all gross and yellow-ish?  That's the hemp oil that has been boiled out of the fabric.  After your 15 minutes are up, if you're a competent person you will have a pair of tongs in your kitchen.  Pick the diapers out of the pot with the tongs, put them in a bowl/bucket and bring them to your washing machine.  I don't have tongs, so I just use potholders and dump the whole pot into the washer.  Now you're going to run a hot wash with a little bit of detergent.  I usually take this opportunity to wash some towels or sheets.  Use whatever detergent you're using for your diapers (I use Gain on everything, to keep it simple) and run a normal hot wash.  Put everything in the dryer when that's finished, and you're done!  At this point they're ready to go and should be close to full absorbency, but I personally put them straight from the dryer into the wetbag and wash them again with the next load of diapers.  Pretty simple!

Like I said, you can do this with prefolds too, but you are going to want to use a big pot.  Before my son was born I bought 18 brand new prefolds and I had plans to boil them because I didn't have hot water in my washing machine.  I kind of procrastinated, and then my son was born early.  Then I found myself with a 4 day old baby, boiling 2 prefolds at a time on the stove.  I don't recommend it.  If possible, do any prepping and boiling before your baby arrives.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Favorite Things Friday: Prefolds (part 1)

This is something new that I'm going to try out.  Every Friday (ummm maybe every other Friday) I'm going to pick one (probably diaper related) product that I really really like and write about it.  I'm hoping that this will keep me focused and give me something to write about each week.

For my first post, I'm going to talk about prefolds.  Not Gerber prefolds, but nice, high quality cotton ones.  These are the backbone of my stash, and if I had to choose only one type of diaper to have, it would be prefolds.  I'm actually going to have to break this up over a few entries, because I have a lot to say.

The main benefits of prefolds are:
- Low cost.  They're the cheapest cloth diaper option, aside from flats.  They typically cost somewhere around $2/diaper, compared to all in one styles that can cost over $20 each.  That's why prefolds are the most commonly recommended diaper for the newborn stage.  Newborns go through a ton of diapers every day, so you really want to have as many on hand as possible (generally 36 diapers, if you are planning on washing every other day) and prefolds are a perfect, inexpensive way to do that.
- Versatility.  They can be used in diaper form in a variety of ways- folded and snappi-d/pinned/boingo-ed, trifolded in a cover, or used as a pocket insert instead of microfiber.
- Longevity.  Prefolds can be used and stored for decades and still work perfectly.  You don't have to worry about elastic or PUL degrading like with a fitted or pocket diaper, since they're just cotton.  When you're done using them as diapers, you can use them around the house for cleaning rags or crafts.  Buying prefolds will give you the most bang for your buck, especially compared to disposable diapers.

But, of course, there are a few downsides:
- Learning curve.  If you aren't trifolding and putting the diaper in a cover, then you will need to learn how to fold the prefold onto your baby and how to fasten it to keep it on.  I recommend practicing on a doll before your baby.  Youtube is full of how-to videos, so definitely look there for some guidance.  In the same vein, people who watch your baby might not want to "hassle" with prefolds.  This is easily remedied by having a small stash of pockets or all in one diapers for them to use.
-   Prepping.  Any diaper that is made with natural fibers (cotton, hemp, bamboo) needs to be prepped before you can use it.  That's because there are plant oils coating the fabric, and until you get all of those oils off, your diapers won't be absorbent.  To reach full absorbency, it usually takes 4 or 5 full wash/dry cycles, with hot water.  This is time consuming and uses a lot of resources.  You can also boil them in a big pot on the stove, but that is still time consuming but at least it saves you some hot water.  If you want to, you could just wash/dry them one time and then start using them.  The only thing is they won't be quite as absorbent right off the bat, but as long as you keep that in mind and change your baby more frequently they will get more absorbent with each use.  Honestly, the best way to get prefolds is to find them used and take advantage of someone else doing the work for you.

The next time that I talk about prefolds, I'll discuss different cover types and different ways to fold and fasten them.  Like I said, prefolds are very versatile and can be used a ton of different ways, so that gives me way too much content for a single post.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Where to Buy

I think that one of the biggest obstacles to using cloth diapers is actually finding and buying them.  You're not going to find cloth diapers in any grocery or big box store, and brick and mortar cloth diaper stores can be hard to find.

If you're new to cloth, I really think that it's worth it to try to find a physical diaper store in your area.  I wish that I had been able to go into an actual store, and see actual diapers, and have a real life person show me how to use them.  It would have made the whole process so much less intimidating.  The best way to find a nearby cloth diaper store is to do a google search for "your city+cloth diaper store", or ask around on a message board- and Diaper Swappers both have regional boards that you can check out.  Craigslist is also worth checking out.

I'm going to do a quick plug- the store closest to me is Central Street Farmhouse in Bangor, Maine.  This is a great store!  The ladies that work there are so knowledgeable and kind.  They have a pretty big range of brands- Thirsties, Fuzzibunz, Charlie Banana, and Rumparooz, to name a few.  They also sell baby carriers and if you bring your baby with you, they'll show you how to use them.  They have cloth diapering and baby wearing classes and breastfeeding support groups.

But, Bangor is quite a trek from where we live, so I do most of my diaper shopping online.  My favorite way to buy diapers is used!  You can get amazing deals that way, and you can try out a certain diaper that you're interested in without having to worry about being out a lot of money if you don't like it.  A good strategy is to buy a few used diapers to figure out what you like, then buy brand new.  I buy used diapers at Diaper Swappers and Spot's Corner.  Make sure that you check out a seller's feedback before you buy from her, and it's a good idea to have a Paypal account because that is the only kind of payment that most people accept.

For buying new diapers, my favorite store is Abby's Lane.  Every order gets free shipping, they carry a huge range of brands, and they have the best customer service.  If you follow them on Facebook, they have giveaways and freebies and if you subscribe to their newsletter they will send you a 5% off code that is good for almost everything in the store.  Another site that I like to order from is Jack Be Natural.  They also have free shipping on all orders, and they carry a lot of brands including cheap pocket diapers such as Kawaii and Go Green which Abby's Lane doesn't carry.  Between these two sites, I can almost always find anything diaper related that I need.

I know that it's still really overwhelming, but hopefully a few of these resources will make it a little bit easier.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Naptime Adventures: The Anatomy of a Gerber Prefold

If you go into a Wal Mart, Target, or Babies R Us in search of cloth diapers, the only thing that you are going to find are Gerber prefolds.  Unfortunately, these don't make good diapers, not even in the slightest, and yet these are the diapers that are widely available for people to use.  It's no wonder people think that cloth diapering is ridiculous and doesn't work when these are the diapers that they have to work with!

The top picture is a Gerber prefold, the middle is a premium ("large") sized cotton prefold, and the bottom is a comparison shot of the two.  You can see that the Gerber diaper is flimsy and thin, compared to the thick "quilted" cotton one.  But the sizing is what these pictures are really about.  Gerber prefolds only come in one size, and that size is awkward.  It is way too big for a newborn- as you can see, the length is almost the same as the length of a large sized cotton prefold.  My son is 30 pounds and (I think) 32 inches long, just to give you an idea of what sized kid fits into a diaper of that length.  

These diapers are not absorbent.  By the time your baby is the right size to wear these, they will most likely be able to pee straight through in one pee.  This is not true with a cotton prefold.  The difference is that a cotton prefold will have anywhere from 4-8 layers of nice, absorbent cotton in the middle panel.  A Gerber one will have...

a nice wad of polyester batting sandwiched between two layers of very very thin cotton.  Obviously that isn't going to absorb any significant amount of urine from your baby.  Maybe that level of absorption would work for a newborn, but as I said- these are way too big for a newborn to wear.  Back in the old days, Gerbers were made with 100% cotton and worked a lot better than the ones that they make now.

If you have somehow acquired a stack of these, don't worry.  You can still use them.  In an absolute pinch you can use them as a diaper- just don't expect it to hold very much and plan on changing your baby every hour or so.  These make awesome burp cloths, spit up rags, changing pads, and eco friendly replacements for paper towels.