Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wool Magic

If you're looking for the most natural cloth diapering system, unbleached prefolds or fitteds made from natural thirsty fibers along with a wool soaker is for you.
Wool is a protein fiber from members of the Caprinae family, such as sheep, goats, alpaca, llamas, and others, and it's nothing short of magical.
Wool makes for the best natural choice for diaper covering because it's water repellent, hydroscopic, fire resistant, breathable, hypoallergenic, bacteriostatic, and renewable, all at the same time. Tell me that's not magical.
Wool all on it's own isn't water repellent, but with its super sidekick lanolin, it will stay dry to the touch for weeks.
Its also hydroscopic; it can hold up to 30% of its weight in moisture before it ever begins to feel wet. This makes it a great nighttime diper cover.
Wool is also fire resistant! Wool extinguishes itself when met by spark or flame, and is the only natural fiber with this ability. This is why the military and firefighters wear wool and carry wool blankets for victims. Wool jammies are a great natural alternative to the sleepwear made with heavily treated fabrics that are available on the market today.
Wool is breathable and comfortable to wear during both warm and cool seasons. This is because of wool's absorbency. When the air is cool and damp, wool will absorb moisture and keep a layer of dry insulating air next to the skin. When it is warm, that same absorption capacity takes perspiration and keeps insulating dry air next to the skin, working with the body's natural cooling system. This is good news for babies suffering from diaper rash.
Wool and all the amazingness that comes with it can be a little intimidating, but fear not. Wool is easy to care for, and is a wise investment. Properly cared for, it'll last through several children. You can buy or DIY your woolies easily.

Wool covers are very easy to care for, and only need your attention once every couple weeks. Wool covers do not need to be washed after every use, only aired out, or unless soiled. About every 2 weeks, wash and lanolize your wool.

If you ask 10 people how to care for wool, you'll get 10 different ways. This is just my way.
To wash, I fill my washing machine or sink, with warm water, and let my covers soak for about 10 minutes. If I'm washing in the sink, I just suds' up my wool wash bar onto the covers (I'm currently using Apple Valley's Natural Soap's Wool Wash Ewe Bar) if I'm washing in the machine I grate a little in there. Then I wash, wash, wash. Machine on gentle. If you're washing in the sink, to rinse, I drain the water and squeeze the excess water out against the sink, then refill again. So Squeeze, rinse, repeat. To dry, I lay my covers on a beach towel and roll them up and sqeeze, or run the spin cycle a second time. To try, I either air dry flat, or toss them into the dryer, no or low heat.

Cloth Diapering 101: Overnights

Cloth diapering for overnights can take some trial and error. Every baby is different, some might do just fine in a prefold with a cover, others will seem to leak even with multiple inserts. I have a pretty heavy wetter so I want to talk about what has worked for us, and different solutions that you can try if you have been having a tough time trying to figure out a good night time system.

A diaper that has worked well for us overnight is the LolliDoo Overnight Eco-Pocket. The first time I used it I did have a leak, but I emailed the owner and she was super nice and told me that most leaks happen when the leg elastic isn't adjusted to fit your baby. I re-adjusted the elastic, double stuffed the diaper and I never had any leaks again. I usually stuff this diaper with 2 microfiber inserts, sometimes I use the Flip insert, which is one of my new faves for overnights. The Flip stay dry inserts can seriously absorb some moisture and I highly recommend buying one to try if you are still looking for a heavy wetter solution. 
The great thing about the Flip inserts is that you can use them with just a PUL cover during the day, but you can also use them in pockets or lay it in your favorite fitted for overnight. 

Fitteds in general also work really well for us overnight. Fitteds are a good choice because the entire diaper absorbs moisture unlike a pocket or AIO where just the insert absorbs moisture. Once an insert is full there's nowhere for the pee to go but out. You can add extra layers to fitteds, just like pockets My favorite cover is wool (which can absorb 30% of it's weight in moisture, so that's even more layers!), you can also use PUL, which I do use on occasion and have never had a problem with. When choosing a fitted for night time look for diapers made with extra thirsty fabrics. Hemp and bamboo are super absorbent. I use organic cotton/bamboo on the diapers that I make (Little Owls Fitteds) and I frequently put Eli in one overnight, they work great! 
Some favorite overnight fitteds of mine are Kissaluvs Marvels (I just won one of these and it's truly awesome), Little Owls (the shop should be stocked in the upcoming weeks), and the Tots Bots Bamboozle.

One of my fool proof no leak methods is putting a wool soaker or a pair of longies on my babe at night, no matter what kind of diaper he is wearing. Wool is a great idea if you are experimenting and trying to find the right system for night time use, and will result in less sheets that need washing. Want to make your bed or crib even more bulletproof? Get a wool puddle or mattress pad!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How and Why I Cloth Diaper

Yea be warned: Once you start cloth diapering, it can become a bit of an obsession. You want to tell everyone you know (and everyone you don’t) about cloth diapers and how awesome they are. You start using your child’s bum to strike up conversations with the people around you any chance you can. Have you ever heard of someone complimenting your baby’s cute disposable? Try making a friend talking about and bonding over disposable diapers...nuh-uh not going to happen.

During my sophomore year in high school I switched to using cloth menstrual pads instead of the disposable alternative because it was cheaper, healthier, and made less of an environmental impact. When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I figured if cloth is good enough for my bits and pieces, its even better for hers.
So any time I had a little extra cash (which, mind you, wasn’t very often at all) I began buying cloth diapers and accessories. A little here, a little there made the start up costs so much less overwhelming. By the time my Alice arrived, I had a pretty good starter stash of about 40 prefolds, 5 wool soakers, 2 one size AIO, and about 10 fitteds. I also started accumulating a collection of baby wash cloths and turning them into wipes (by simply removing all the little annoying white tags, ha!).

I brought Alice home from the hospital in a sweet little fitted made by Jessica at Little Owls. It had little tomatoes on it :)

Cloth diapering isn’t as crappy as many skeptics make it out to be, and I only dedicate about 3 minutes every other day to wash my daughter’s diapers, so it’s not such the timesuck either.

They’re easy to put on, easy to take off, and are a snap to care for. Besides any diapers, fasteners, and covers your diapering system may call for, all you need is a diaper pail and liner (I use a Diaper Champ Deluxe and a wet bag), a washing machine, gentle laundry detergent (I suggest either soap nuts or a combo of washing soda and borax) and about 2 minutes every other day (more or less, depending on how much your baby poops, how many diapers you have, and how often you need to wash them).

Here’s my washing routine:
I dump all the diapers into the wash, and do a pre-rinse on cold, Heavy Duty.
Once that’s finished, I set my machine to Hot, Heavy Duty, add my detergent of choice, and watch my shows, do my dishes or feed my baby for the next 25 minutes until I have to load the diapers into the dryer with a wool ball.

If I wasn’t a renting tenant, didn’t live in Alaska, and if I was bothered by stains, I would totally line dry. The sun’s powerful UV rays whiten and disinfect without harsh chemical bleach, and without shrinking your clothes. And, best of all it's great for the environment and absolutely free.

I advise against using bleach, as it can over time eat the elastic used in many diapers, and I just don’t trust any freaky chemicals against precious baby skin.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cloth Diapering Without a Washing Machine

It seems impossible, right? Well, it's not! I know it might be hard to believe but there are many ways you can cloth diaper without having a washing machine in your living space. 

A diaper service. Sure, it's more expensive than buying your own cloth diapers, but the price is comparable to disposable diapers, so if you are going to buy those then why not try out a diaper service. You still won't have to run to the store to pick up disposables when you run out and you get the added benefit of having someone else do your diaper laundry for you (although it's really not bad at all, it's surprisingly my favorite chore). A diaper service is a more eco-friendly choice because you aren't throwing diapers away. Plastic diapers = waste, and all waste goes to the landfill. Some cities don't have diaper services available so you might try one of the other options!

Prefolds and covers. The most economical diapering choice (you can get a dozen prefolds for under $30 and several covers from approx. $5-$20 each) and the easiest to wash, especially in a laundromat or public laundry room. The covers can be reused several times unless they get poop on them, so you don't have to worry about washing after each use, just wipe down, air out, and use again. I have been able to wash all of my prefolds in one cycle, so you won't need a ton of extra quarters. If you feel inclined you can do a cold rinse in your tub prior to washing for extra messy diapers. Prefolds also dry fast, you can run them through the dryer once, or hang them out to dry if that's an option for you. You're either going to spend money on washing clothes that go poop on them from disposable diaper blowouts or you can do a load of prefold laundry, the choice is yours!
There are also several diapering systems that are easy to wash like prefolds such as Econobum or Flip by Cotton Babies, gDiapers with cloth inserts or prefolds, GroVia, Thirstie's Duo Wraps with their new inserts or prefolds. It can be done and it's easy!

Do you live in a place without a washer and still cloth diaper? Share what you do with us!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Guest Post: Trying Cloth Diapers (on a budget!)

The following article is written by Jenni Brighton and was originally published on her blog Musings of a Mommy Bee. Thanks for letting us use this Jenni!

After my recent post about the politics of diapers, I got the following comment:

So I'm actually kind of interested considering I'm going to have two kids in diapers in the next week. Any ideas on how to try out cloth diapers without investing a ton of money pre-commitment?
What a great question! I was ready to make the commitment before trying them out, so the investment wasn't really an issue for me. I knew that I wanted to use cloth, so I spent my time researching types of diapers, reading reviews about various patterns, and deciding which fabrics to buy. However, if you're just thinking about cloth diapers, and not sure yet if you're ready to jump in with both feet, here are a few suggestions:
  • Figure out how many diapers you need (for all diapered kids) for one full day and night. I think that's the minimum number of diapers you'll need to get to try it out. If you only get enough diapers for a few hours then you may not be able to find out how you feel about mid-night changes or super-poopies, and we all know that those are facts of diapering, so if you're really considering cloth then you should try them for a full 24 hours.
  • Remember that some parents choose a middle ground--they use cloth diapers at home or during the day, but still use disposables when going out or for nights. There isn't a right or wrong way to cloth diaper, it's just a matter of finding what works for you. This is one reason I recommend trying out cloth for 24 hours--maybe you'll find that you love cloth, maybe you'll hate it, and maybe you'll just realize that you're a middle-ground parent, and that's ok too!
  • Some diapering styles are cheaper than others...but not everyone likes all the styles. The cheapest is prefold diapers (held closed with a snappi or pins) with some form of cover over them. Next come fitted diapers (with their own elastic and velcro/snaps but no leak-barrier layer and still requiring a cover). Then there are pocket diapers, and finally all-in-ones as the most costly options. There are single-size diapers (which come in S, M, and L), and one-size-fits-most diapers (which adjust to fit different sizes, but of course cost more per diaper). Cotton flannel or birdseye is pretty budget-friendly, bamboo velour is quite expensive. Recycling old fabric of your own is the cheapest of all! Even the diaper covers come with choices--fleece, wool, or PUL--each with their own options and price ranges. I recommend doing a little research at DiaperPin or one of the other diapering forums linked below to learn about the pros and cons of the various types of diapers.
  • If you know someone who cloth diapers, especially if her children are different sizes from yours, she may be willing to let you borrow some of her diapers for a short period to try them out. Most cloth diapering mamas that I've known really love cloth, and are typically eager to help convert someone else to the world of cloth. ☺ Even if she doesn't have any spares, at the very least she'll let you look at her diapers and get an idea of what various styles are like without having to buy one of each of yourself.
  • There are a lot of online shops that offer discounts if you buy big diapering packages. They tend to run $1-400 (depending on the diaper style, materials, or brand), and typically include a full set of diapers in one size, or some of the larger ones have everything you need to last from birth through potty training. Yes, that's a big monetary investment all at once BUT consider this: If you decide you don't like them, cloth diapers (especially barely-used ones) have a resale value. Yep, you read that right, you can re-sell your used cloth diapers, so if you buy a discounted package set, then decide you don't want to stick with cloth, you can probably resell all those diapers for very close to what you paid for them. So it's a lot of money up front, but it's not really a risky investment because you can get it back if you change your mind.
  • Of course, that leads us to the next option--yes, you can buy used cloth diapers. I know several moms who have bought a variety of types of diapers so that they could try them all out. They keep the styles they like and re-sell the ones they don't care for. There are a variety of options from practically new diapers (sold for nearly new prices) down to "FFS" (free for shipping) which means that the diaper is old and worn but still works ok and you can have it for free if you'll just pay the cost of mailing. There are several places where one can do this: DiaperSwappers, and ClothDiaperNation are the most well known. (There are a few people who try to sell secondhand cloth diapers on ebay, but technically this is against ebay policy and they do police the listings, so I don't recommend trying to buy or sell diapers there.)
  • There is at least one online shop which has a "try them out" kit where you can rent a set of a couple dozen diapers to try out. You do have to make a deposit for the full value of the diapers, but after the rental period if you decide that cloth is not for you then you can return the diapers and get back your deposit. If you do like them, they are yours to keep. I believe you can even exchange the (gently used) rental set for new diapers if you want. There may be more than one place that does this--search around a bit and see what you can find!
  • If you know how to use a sewing machine (even just a little bit) then you can make diapers for a fraction of what it costs to buy them new. Depending on the type of diapers you want, you can save even more by making them with old flannel shirts for the outsides and old towels for the inside layers--your monetary investment can be limited to a snappi or some velcro and elastic, plus some covers. If you worry that your sewing skills are not good enough to make a diaper, remember these two things: 1--I know two different people who learned how to sew by making diapers and 2--diapers are to catch poop, not to win beauty contests; it's ok if they look a little funny. ☺
  • If you have questions, ask a cloth diapering mama!! Like I said, we tend to get excited about new cloth-diaper-converts. There is also some useful information about various aspects of cloth diapering (such as information about diaper sprayers or cloth-diapering on the go) at the EtsyClothDiapers blog.