I know what you are thinking. Cloth diapering, yuck, do I have to touch poo? Is there going to be poo in my washing machine? How can poo go in my washing machine? Do I have to fold things, or pin them? On a squirming baby? Seriously? What about when I am out and about?? Will I have to carry poo around in my purse? That’s not going to happen.
I’ve heard all the objections, and I’ve thought them all myself. I did not cloth diaper my son 13 years ago. I thought that it would be difficult, costly, and disgusting. I thought that I would have to touch poo. I envisioned daily mountains of soiled cloth waiting to be laundered and carefully hung to dry. I envisioned a squirmy baby eluding my carefully folded poo catcher only to jab itself, or me, with the safety pin.
My fears were irrational; cloth has come a long way, my friends. Everyone is doing it now. Thanks to some sage advice from my partner and dear friend (thank you Kirsten Wallace), I gave it a shot with my daughter and found that it was absolutely none of the things I anticipated. I also realized that every mom has to touch poo. It’s inevitable. For all you pregnant mamas out there, brace yourself for an entirely new relationship to poo. You will not only touch it, you will have long and lively conversations about it; when it happens, the quality, the texture, the contents, the frequency, and everyone’s favorite, the poopsplosion!
So here is the method that I use. I have not struggled with lingering odours or diaper rash, which are common problems that can be related to cloth diapering. I have struggled with ratio of mommy changed diapers to daddy changed diapers, but that is another post entirely.
1. Identify the type of cloth diaper that is going to work for your family
I really liked the all-in-ones. However, my friend whose son consumes more food and beverage than your typical 250 pound adult (no exaggeration) finds that the all-in-one’s are not ideal for the heavy wetter. I used Kawaii but I hear that Bumgenius or Mother-ease are very good for those heavy soiling babies. Get enough diapers to last 3-4 days. After about a month, you will likely change 5-8 diapers per day. I own 24, and that is more than sufficient.
2. Plan to use disposables for those first mec filled weeks
What’s this ‘mec’ you say? Is that like the store? No. No it is not. It is a tarry substance that will plague your baby’s bottom for the first couple weeks. And it happens frequently. Sometimes up to 18 times per day. (If you are reading this post chances are it’s already too late for you, sorry new parent.) Save yourself the grief of what truly might be an overwhelming pile of laundry and be okay with disposables for a little bit. You will probably get them in a cake at your baby shower anyway. You will have a much better chance of sticking to cloth if you don’t get completely turned off by the experience of coping with the needs of a newborn and a mountain of shit.
3. The water efficient cycle is not your friend.
The recipe for avoiding the funk is simple. Wash your diapers every 3-5 days. You can store them in a wet bin, I have never bothered. I simply remove the insert, fold the velcro tabs back in on themselves and chuck them in a plastic lined bin with a lid (the lid is key). First wash, hot water and vinegar. Second wash, hot water and detergent. Not just any detergent, but the type of detergent that is not going to build up on your cloth diapers and render them completely useless. Repellent, even. Ahem. Tide. I really like Claudia’s Choice. I have not tried Rocking Green, but it’s supposed to be quite good also. In some of the newer machines you will have to add water to these cycles to ensure that the machine is filled. Dry in the sun to bleach, or just in the dryer if you live somewhere where outside makes your skin hurt for six months of the year.
4. On the go
Find yourself a really nice wet bag. In Calgary, Babes in Arms, carries them. Alternatively, my brilliant partner sews them. Check them out at Birdy and Bug! You may have poo in your purse, but that person standing next to you in line at the grocery store will be none the wiser. You just toss these little smell proof miracles into the laundry with the rest of the diapers on day 3, 4 or 5.
On vacation, you may find it awkward to ask your dad’s girlfriend if she is okay with poo in her washing machine while you stay with them. That’s reasonable. Let go of that self judgment and be okay with disposables for that week. Same thing goes for attendance at your best friend’s destination wedding, and that week long family camper van vacation. The wet bag has its limits.
5. After six months, liners are acceptable. Actually, liners are necessary.
Seriously. Once those little darlings start eating solids, it does get a bit more interesting. Unless you are okay with scraping those bits into the toilet then do yourself one last favor and be okay with the flushable, biodegradeable liners. Once you start using these, you will drive across the city, in a snow storm, in rush hour, to ensure a ready supply. A bad day is a day that you forget to put the liner in. Or grandpa does. Or worse yet, grandpa thinks that those (rather pricey) liners are actually ‘newfangled baby wipes’ and uses them to clean up the mess, rather than shield your diaper from it.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Now you can sit back, and enjoy the smug feeling that accompanies being a new mom, and an environmental crusader. Subtly and without judgment, of course.