Oof. After an unintended (really long) break from my own Zero Waste challenge, I’m back! If you’re not sure what #InspiringZeroWaste is, be sure to catch up on the explanatory post here, or you can read my other ZW goals for 2019 here. Have you kept going with the challenge? I’d love love love to hear about it!
When I found out I was pregnant with Aria, I knew, deep down, that I’d be giving cloth diapers a try. With my other girls, I had no idea that anyone even used cloth diapers anymore (other than the most woo-woo hippy-dippy of mamas). But now that I “know better”, I couldn’t let myself not give it a shot.
Anyone who has looked into cloth diapers before knows how overwhelming it can feel at first. Once you go down the cloth diapering rabbit hole on the internet, it’s hard to recover (or even comprehend most of what’s being said). There are an array of opinions, diaper styles, insert materials, liners, wet bags, nighttime routines, washing methods, and weird terminologies to make you go nuts.
But the biggest piece of advice I got from other mamas was just to "jump in and figure it out along the way”. And so I did.
This post, the first of many in partnership with Glowbug Cloth Diapers, is an introduction to cloth, if you will. I hope to answer most of your questions (from my friends over on Instagram) and share a little bit about how the first few months of using them has gone so far. Keep in mind that I’m no expert…I may use the wrong terminology (sorry, Reddit), and I’ll be the first to admit that like all parts of sustainability, it’s not black and white.
When to start…
This is different for every parent and every baby. Aria was fairly small when she was born (7 lbs 14 oz) and there was no way that the One Size snap diapers I had were going to fit her. Although newborn size diapers exist, buying some that I’d only use for a few weeks or months seemed silly. So we used disposables for the first two months until she grew enough to fit into the one-sizes.
The newborn phase is HARD no matter how many times you do it, and so this time around, I intentionally built in extra grace for myself, and disposable diapers was one of those things. Of course, lots of people use cloth from the get-go and that’s amazing too.
How many diapers do you need…
I don’t need to preface each question with “it looks different for everyone”, but truly, that’s the best answer to most situations. How many diapers you buy will depend on your situation, how much storage space you have, how often you can do laundry, etc. For me, I knew I’d need a few extra diapers because we don’t have a washing machine in our RV (this will of course change when we move out…but for now that’s our reality), so I haul our diapers up to my parents’ house nearby and wash diapers about twice a week. We need enough to last 3-ish days, so my grand total is close to 25+ diapers. If you can do laundry once a day or every other day, you can get away with less than that.
What’s my washing routine…
I plan to do a full blog post on this soon, but I’ll go over the details because this was the most common question by far. As I mentioned, I wash diapers 2-3 times a week (I don’t have specific days, but usually at the beginning of the week and again at the end of the week. Once on the weekend if I need to.) This wouldn’t be sustainable if my parents didn’t live nearby, so it’s due to the easy access to their laundry room that I’m even able to use cloth currently.
When I wash, I typically run them through a rinse cycle first using cold water and a bit of vinegar to get rid of the smell. From there, I wash again on hot/heavy duty/extra rinse using a mild detergent and a bit of Borax to clean deeper. I air dry in the sun when I can but on cloudy/cold day I just hang them inside.
What about stains? Do they actually get clean?
When you think about how dirty kids get and how frequently blow-outs happen in the baby phase, cloth diapering doesn’t really seem all that strange. Clothes wash out normally, so why wouldn’t diapers?
As long as you’re washing adequately, the diapers will be good as new each time you wash them. For baby poop stains, you can use a regular stain remover, but believe it or not, sunlight works wonders on stains. If all else fails, rub a bit of blue Dawn dish soap into the stain and then wash and let dry in the sun.
Do they work as your baby grows?
Yes! One of my favorite things about Glowbug’s diapers is that they “grow” with your baby. They’re easy to adjust and are supposed to last from newborn to toddler-hood. So far, they fit Aria perfectly at three months. This size guide from Glowbug was helpful for me when I started using them.
There is A LOT of information out there and it can get super overwhelming, especially to a new mom who has no experience with cloth. This blog post from Glowbug is super helpful for breaking down each type of cloth diaper and the pros and cons.
How to prevent leaks at night
Double up on your inserts! For my pocket-style diaper, I use two inserts one bamboo and one hemp (with the hemp on top) for nighttime, as per Glowbug’s recommendation. I also use bamboo liners to help keep her dry (and make poop clean up easier). These are the ones I’ve used so far.
I can’t afford to buy as many cloth diapers as I need
Although using cloth diapers ends up being far more cost effective (it’s a one-time purchase that will be used for 2-ish years, as opposed to a weekly/bi-weekly purchase that only lasts a week or so) it can be a sizable cost upfront. If you can’t afford to buy brand new cloth diapers, there are TONS of resale groups on Facebook and other resell sites. If the diapers are in good shape you won’t even be able to tell they’ve been used before. Affordable AND sustainable.
If you’re a first time mama, take all of this with a grain of salt. Adjusting to motherhood for the first time is H.A.R.D whether you have an easy baby or a tricky one. Don’t feel pressure to do cloth diapers perfectly (we still use disposables at night sometimes!) and know that it will get easier with time. Make changes that you can make when you’re ready to make them and know that your mental health and your baby’s health always come first.
What questions did I miss? Let me know in the comments and I’ll answer them next month!
*This post is part of a longterm collaboration with Glowbug Cloth Diapers. All photos/storytelling/creative direction is my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make SL&Co. possible*