Friday, November 16, 2007

Cloth Diapering Manifesto: Part IV

OK. Now you know why we use cloth diapers, you know about all the different kinds of cloth diapers available, and you know how to wash them. So what else do you need? Accessories!

Here’s what you need:
diaper pail
2 pail liners
2 wet bags
diaper sprayer
rubbing alcohol
rubber gloves

And, if you’re going to use pocket diapers:
Trader Joe’s bar towels

For a diaper pail, all you need is a trash barrel of some sort. The Husband and I splurged a bit here and bought this Simple Human can. Yes. It’s quite expensive. But we wanted something that would last and that would hold the smell in, and this can delivers. We smell nothing until that lid is up, and then…. wooooeeeee! Not having tried any other pail, I can’t say that a cheaper one would not have sufficed, because the liners do a good job of keeping in the smell. But in my experience, cheap trash cans fall apart. So we got the fancy one.

As for pail liners, there are a myriad of choices out there, and they probably all work just fine. We use Wahmies pail liners are quite happy with them. I told you that you need two of them so you are never without when one is in the wash. I should also mention here that there are hanging diaper bags available if space is an issue; in this case, you don’t need the pail at all, just the bag.

You will also need something to carry the dirty diapers when you are out and about. This is called a wet bag. I recommend getting a small wet bag for shorter outings and a larger one for longer trips. Again, lots of choices abound here, and I’m sure they’re all great. We have a Dinkerdoodles bag that holds about 10 or so diapers. The pull string kind of broke so now it doesn’t really close properly, but that doesn’t matter as far as you are concerned because Dinkerdoodles bags are no longer available. We also have a small Bummis tote bag; it can hold about 4 diapers and is ideal for a typical day’s outing. It also seems to be impermeable to odor.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have finally arrived at what you have all been anxiously awaiting: the explanation of the diaper sprayer. A diaper sprayer is a fixture that you attach to your toilet and works just like the sprayer on your sink. You use it to spray the diapers clean, saving yourself from having to dunk and swish the messy diapers. Because although the diaper websites tell you that you don’t have to rinse the diapers because the poop just rolls right off the fleece, they are lying. Yes, sometimes you don’t have to rinse, but, as Kerflop notes, sometimes you do. Trust me, you’ll be able to tell the difference.

Technically, you don’t actually need the diaper sprayer because you can just dunk and swish, but you will probably want the diaper sprayer because, ew. I have been places with no diaper sprayer at critical times, and boy, do I miss it. When you tell your mother (or possibly your grandmother) you are going to use cloth diapers, watch how her skeptical expression changes to amazement when you tell her about the diaper sprayer. My diaper sprayer has impressed cloth diaper veterans far more than my fancy designer pocket diapers.

The diaper sprayer we use is no longer offered at Cotton Babies; instead they have this one and they claim that it does not splash or drip. I hope they are correct, because ours splashes and drips. We have solved the dripping problem by closing the valve when we’re not using it, and I actually recommend getting one with a valve you can shut off if only to thwart your eventual curious toddler. The splashing remains a problem, but we always wipe down the toilet with toilet paper soaked in rubbing alcohol and then flush it, so it’s no big deal.

As for the rubber gloves, we just leave a pair by the toilet and use them when we need to. It’s not totally necessary because you can just wash your hands, but we are squeamish. Again, I have dunked and swished when out somewhere without gloves and I’m still alive, but it’s nice to have the gloves.

I also listed cloth wipes as a needed accessory. While not actually a requirement, I like using cloth wipes when he’s really messy, just to get the bulk so that I can rinse the wipe in the toilet and not have smelly disposable wipes stinking up my bathroom. Diapering sites usually sell special washcloths designed to be wipes, but you can just use a regular baby washcloth. I also keep my Peri bottle from the hospital filled with water to rinse him off if necessary. I always end by wiping with a disposable wipe, though, because I can’t seem to maneuver the cloth ones into all his cracks and crevices.

Last but not least, I would be doing you a disservice if I did not tell you about the Trader Joe’s bar towels. (Trader Joe’s does not have them on their website, so I can’t give you a link.) We ran into a problem with the bumGenius One Size pocket diapers when Jack was about 5 months old or and starting to sleep through the night, because the diapers could not contain a full night’s worth of pee. We tried stuffing them with two inserts, but that made them too tight. In desperation, I emailed Moxie, and she suggested I get some bar towels from Trader Joe’s. They are made of viscose which is thin but highly absorbent, and they CHANGED OUR LIVES. The combination of the insert plus bar towel is enough to keep Jack comfortable all night. We still have occasional leaks, but they don’t wake him up and we are all much happier.

If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s and you run into this problem with a pocket diaper, check the online diaper stores for “doublers.” Or consider going with a different type of diaper for overnight. Tallulah Baby, for example, offers “Simply Nights” diapers; maybe they’ll work. And you would only need two or three of them, because the diapers should be washed every two or three days anyway.

So that’s it! That’s cloth diapering! It may seem overwhelming at first, but once you actually start experimenting, you will find that it is not nearly as complicated as this four-part dissertation makes it seem. And remember, you are allowed to buy things for your baby even after he’s born! So if you try a few diapers but don’t like them, you can try a few others until you find the system that works for you. You can start with one wet bag and then add another later. You can even decide not to buy the diaper sprayer and then change your mind!

Good luck, and feel free to email me with any questions.

Manifesto Part I: Why cloth?
Manifesto Part II: Diaper types
Manifesto Part III: Washing the diapers


Salome Ellen said...

I was waiting for the end of the series to comment -- You are SO YOUNG! I know that no mother feels young, but there WERE diapers before pre-folds, that you folded yourself. (Why do you think they called them "pre-folds"?) They were big rectangles of gauze (thicker than bandage gauze, lighter and smoother than summer-skirt gauze) that you folded to fit your own baby! I loved them; they were easier to get clean (though I did use both bleach and borax), one size fit all, if you needed them thicker you folded two together. (One of my late potty-trainees was up to three.) They did require pins and rubber pants, but those were CHEAP. All my kids wore them, including Arwen, (which is how I got here.)

I must admit, I would really have loved the diaper sprayer!

Dr. Maureen said...

Hi, Arwen's mom! First of all, I actually do feel young and am quite convinced that I am in my mid-twenties. (Note: This is not the case.) So no problems here with being called young! Second, I have, actually, wondered why they call them prefolds, as to me, they're not folded. They're still just square! Not diaper shaped! So you have me wondering what you mean by "folding to fit." Isn't that what I do?

Wait, it just occurred to me that you must mean folding them into a square that is the right size to start with! Ah-ha! Sometimes, I'm slow.

Anonymous said...

I love your manifesto!! This is so great. We featured it in the weekly web wrap at


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this very informative manifesto - it's a real eye-opener for me! I still have some maybe very stupid questions on the logistics of cloth diapering. I have recently purchased an initial 12 bumgenius onesize pocket diapers in expectation of our baby boy in October. As the instructions are more for people who have a clue, I still am left in the dark on the following:

1. Do you dump the dirty diapers in the pail and rinse off the excess poo all at once before washing or do you have to do it straight away? I ask because I'm not sure how I will manage a newly-changed baby while operating a sprayer at the same time. Any tips here would be appreciated.

2. The one size bumgenius came with two inserts. One is adjustable and one is I think the doubler. When you need both, do you stuff them both in the pocket or do you leave one as a layer above!?! Is the doubler for newborns or do you use the adjustable one? I bet you didn't factor in my level of ignorance on this one!

3. When you wash/dry the bumgenius, do you separate the inserts from their pockets?

I hope you can help!

Dr. Maureen said...

Hi, Kate! Since you commented anonymously, I don't have your email, so I hope you read this reply.

1. IMMEDIATELY. Oh, dear lord, do NOT put the poop into the diaper pail. You will be very very sorry later when you pull them out to clean them. Yuck. There will be no problems rinsing the diaper even with a new infant, because you can just put the baby in the crib or bassinet or sling or bouncy seat or wherever you end up putting the baby when you're not holding him. The baby will stay right there till you're done! And if the baby is screaming and needs attention, sure, you can wait to deal with the poop, but just put the diaper somewhere else until you can rinse it. We usually sort of roll it up and put it on top of the diaper pail when necessary; that way we definitely won't forget it.

2.I think the small one is supposed to be for when the diapers are on the smallest size. They are actually a new feature, and I've never used them. You can also use it as a doubler, but when we tried to use two inserts, the diapers were too tight. With a newborn, you won't need a doubler because they eat so much you'll be changing them all night anyway. When the baby is older and (hopefully) sleeping all night, you might need an extra layer or he will wake up due to wetness. This happened to us around 6 months (I think), and that's when we started using the Trader Joe's bar towels as the doubler. They're much thinner than the insert, and hold enough. They're made of viscose, so if you don't have a TJ's near you, you can look into some sort of supershammy thing and cut it to size. Or maybe the second insert will work just fine! But put them both inside the pocket.

3. Separate the diapers and inserts to wash them.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a million. I think despite the widespread skepticism of other parents at our decision to use cloth, we're now mentally prepared to go forth and test it.

krisfun said...

Thanks for an excellent husband and I have cloth diapered both our girls, when everyone around us said "yeah, we'll see how long that lasts!" And I LOVE LOVE LOVE our diaper sprayer and also have impressed those from the days who cloth diapered because disposables were not available.
If only more people could see that once you get the hang of it, it is not that bad at all!