In an earlier post, Cloth Versus Disposables, I mentioned that we would be renting newborn-sized diapers from a local cloth diaper company so that we could “test drive” a variety of diapers and accessories before purchasing our own. As the end of our rental period draws near, I feel that we have really gotten the hang of cloth diapering, and have a very good sense of what works for us and what doesn’t.
On the whole, we are quite enjoying using cloth diapers instead of disposables. We bought a single box of Broody Chick compostable (disposable) diapers for emergencies — such as running out of clean diapers or not having enough cloth ones in the diaper bag — and we had a handful of Pampers that came in a baby sample package, so we do have a small basis for comparison. The Pampers were, in a word, nauseating. They smell like what Procter and Gamble would like you to believe your baby should smell like: artificial baby powder – gross! The Broody Chick diapers are perfectly fine, but they definitely don’t fit as well as any of the cloth diapers we tried, and they are so darn compostable that they sort of start deteriorating from friction with Oliver’s clothing.We haven’t had any “blowouts” with the Broody Chick diapers, but to be fair, we’ve used them fewer than 10 times (and never overnight), so they really haven’t been sufficiently put through the paces for me to comment on their effectiveness.
From a cost standpoint, the cloth diapers are a clear winner. If we were to use disposables, we’d be using the Broody Chick diapers, or something comparable (free of chemicals and plastics, unscented, etc.), and those come at a steep cost — more than 55 cents per diaper. Unbleached, unscented, chemical-free wipes cost about $4.50 for 80 wipes. In the first few weeks, we were going through about 12 diapers and 20 wipes per day. Now, we go through about 10 diapers and 20 wipes on an average day. By my calculation, we’d be spending more than $45 per week to keep Oliver in disposables. At that rate, even the most expensive cloth diapers pay for themselves in fewer than six months.
Our newborn cloth diaper rental kit came with Kissaluvs fitted diapers and Bummis Super Brite covers, TotBots TinyFit all-in-ones, and FuzziBunz pocket diapers. It also came with GroVia cotton terry reusable wipes, large and small Bummis wet bags (for home and travel), and an assortment of other accessories such as liners, doublers and laundry detergent.
In addition to the rental items, we purchased a couple of BumGenius 4.0 one-size diapers with snaps (these were the ones I was most interested in, based on my research), a Kissaluvs anti-bacterial pail liner and Imse Vimse organic flannel cloth wipes. After a few weeks, the BumGenius diapers were the clear favourite, so we purchased an entire stash of them. Following are my observations on the various diapers and accessories we’ve tried.
Kissaluvs fitted diapers combined with Bummis Super Brite covers
Pros – the newborn sized Kissaluvs have a snap-down front to accommodate the umbilical stump. The combination of a fitted plus waterproof cover was basically bomb-proof — two sets of leg gussets meant that nothing leaked out. Ever. Can’t argue with that!
Cons – they really did not manage moisture very well on the inside. As soon as Oliver peed, he would have an absolutely soaking wet diaper next to his skin. As a result, he had his first bout of diaper rash at a mere four days old. We took to adding microfleece liners in order to keep the moisture away from his skin, but these diapers basically needed to be changed hourly, which was not practical if we didn’t want to have to wake him. As well, handling the sopping wet cotton diapers was rather gross. The velcro on the Bummis covers was not as sticky as I’d have liked, and I will also add that I wasn’t a fan of the two-piece system, as I found that changes were rather drawn out when he was fussy or squirmy.
TotBots TinyFit all-in-ones
Pros – overall, these were fantastic diapers. They fit well, were easy to use, and were quite trim under clothing. One of the key selling points of these diapers is that while they are technically an all-in-one because the insert is attached, they function more like a pocket diaper in that the insert actually agitates out in the wash, making the diaper easier to clean and faster to dry (and no handling dirty inserts!). With the insert attached to the diaper, stuffing takes just a couple of seconds. The inside of the diaper was super soft against Oliver’s skin, and they looked adorable on the outside. This was our hands-down favourite among the rental diapers, and was a strong contender for purchasing.
Cons – The only con, in my opinion, is that they’re not available with snaps. The velcro is quick and makes it easy to get a good fit, but every so often, one or the other of us would forget to fold it back on the laundry tabs before throwing the diaper in the pail, and it would come out of the wash stuck to something or full of lint. Velcro also does not have the same longevity as snaps.
FuzziBunz pocket diapers
Pros – these diapers had a very soft, wicking fleece liner that kept Oliver’s skin nice and dry. I liked the snap closures, as they felt more durable than velcro, and we didn’t have to worry about what might happen to them in the laundry. One of the key selling points of these diapers is that the insert can simply be shaken into the diaper pail, so there’s no handling wet and/or soiled inserts.
Cons – to me, these diapers just didn’t feel as sturdy as others. They were very soft on the outside, and it made me think they might start to fall apart or lose their waterproofness prematurely. Also, the design of the pocket opening, while great for hands-free removal of the insert, tended to allow pee to seep up the back of the diaper and on to Oliver’s clothing if we didn’t fold it over just so.
BumGenius 4.0 one-size diapers with snaps
Pros – these diapers have a soft microsuede liner that does a great job of keeping moisture away from Oliver’s skin. The pocket is generously sized to accommodate extra inserts for different levels of absorbency. The one-size design was a little bit bulky for him at first, but fits quite nicely now that he has reached 12 pounds. These diapers look very solidly constructed, and with the snap closures, I suspect they could easily be used for more than one child. The double row of snaps means that the waist and leg openings can be adjusted separately, giving a more customized fit and better leak-proofing. We’ve done more than 250 diaper changes with these and have not had a single blowout. They also look super cute!
Cons – the microsuede liner and microfibre inserts tend to absorb liquid more slowly than natural fibres, so if Oliver pees while the diaper is being fastened (which takes a bit more time with snaps than with velcro), the pee will simply roll off the surface and out the leg or waist openings. The so-called “replaceable” leg elastics look very difficult and time-consuming to replace, so we air dry the PUL shells in order to maximize their lifespan.
Imse Vimse organic flannel versus GroVia cotton terry wipes
I prefer the cotton terry wipes, hands down. Because we can’t use fabric softener with the cloth diaper laundry, the flannel wipes come out of the dryer feeling crunchy, rough and staticky, whereas the terry wipes are always nice and soft. The texture of the terry wipes is much more effective at cleaning messy bottoms, and the thickness of them ensures the mess does not get on our hands. We simply wet our wipes with plain tap water and store them in an unplugged wipes warmer. Because there is no heat and no cleaning solution, and the wipes do not remain in the container for more than a day, we have no issues with mould or buildup in the wipes warmer.
Some general observations:
1. Cloth diaper laundry is simple, and only needs to be done every two days. I dump everything straight into the machine and run the laundry through a cold rinse cycle. Then I add Rockin’ Green detergent and set the machine for a 10-minute hot soak, followed by a wash and two rinses (the second rinse is necessary to ensure the detergent is thoroughly removed). The microfibre inserts, cloth wipes, pail liners and any wet bags go in the dryer, while the empty PUL shells get hung up to dry. When everything is dry, it takes me less than 10 minutes to fold all the wipes and stuff all the diapers. Over the course of a week, the cloth diaper laundry probably takes about an hour of actual hands-on work.
2. Cloth diapers do stain. This is to be expected, and doesn’t mean they are not coming clean in the wash. By adding the hot soak to my laundry cycle, I have found that the staining on the shell liners has been eliminated, but the inserts still stain. The real trick to removing the stains is to line dry the diapers in the sun, but that’s pretty much impossible when you live in a balcony-less condo in rainy Vancouver!
3. Cloth diapered babies don’t have blowouts — or at least ours doesn’t. We haven’t had a single one in more than six weeks, and I have seen some nasty, nasty diapers. Some pee will tend seep out of them when they are soaked and under pressure for a long period of time (i.e. overnight, when Oliver is laying on his back for hours on end), but this is a rather small inconvenience in comparison to the dreaded blowout. My friends who use disposables deal with blowouts on a very regular basis.