Are you still using disposable diapers? Lots of American parents are — an estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used and thrown out in the US each year, and those stinky disposable diapers sit without decomposing for over 500 years (or more!) in landfill! Gross, right? To avoid a nasty, diaper-filled Wall-E vision of the future for your grandchildren, (and to help your kids potty-train earlier), we recommend all parents to consider cloth diapering. Getting started with cloth diapers can seem like a daunting task. But with well-designed hybrid cloth diapers that use a combination of washable inserts and super-stylin’ shells, green diapering is not what it used to be and it’s easy enough for even the most sleep-deprived new parents to handle. What’s more, chemical-free cloth diapers are better for your baby’s skin, will help your tot potty train earlier and you’ll save money in the long run. So we got together with Carolyn Sutton of Charlie Banana to get a primer in cloth diapering. Keep reading to find out what you need and how to get organized, the best ways to launder green diapers and the answer to everyone’s burning question, “What in the world do you do with the poo?”
Step 1: Stock Up On Diapers and Supplies
Charlie Banana suggests starting with 24 to 32 diapers. We’re not totally sure if you need THAT many to start, especially if you’re starting after your baby is 6 months old, but you certainly need at least 15-20. Go with the one-size diapers that fit from newborn to age 3 and this set of diapers will last you through potty training. One-sized diapers have different snap placements at the waist and legs and casing elastic at the legs that can be adjusted for a perfect fit. Charlie Banana’s cloth diapers are a 2-in-1 reusable diaper system so each diaper comes with two removable insets that can be tucked inside a front panel. Charlie Banana also offers disposable inserts, which can be a good on-the-go option or a smart solution when you know your child’s schedule for going number two. They’re biodegradable, plastic free, dye free and fragrance free. While you’re making the switch to cloth you may also want to start using cloth wipes. You’ll also need a waterproof laundry bag to toss all of the wet diapers, or alternately a bucket in the bathroom. (Editor Jill tosses her wet diapers directly into the washing machine, where they pile up before a load of laundry).
Step 2: Assemble Your Changing Station
Just like you’d stock your diaper changing station with disposable diapers at the ready, you can do the same with your cloth diapers. We used Container Store’s Eco-Stripe Drawer Organizers to keep the diapers neat and separate from inserts and wipes.
To make changes quick, pre-assemble diapers making sure they are on the right size settings and stuff the reusable or disposable inserts inside. Toddlers may even be able to help with the stuffing.
Step 3: Put On Your Cloth Diaper
Once pre-assembled, putting cloth diapers on your baby is simple. Just snap them on and you’re set. What about taking them off? If it’s number one, it’s easy, change the diaper like you would with a disposable, and toss the wet-ones in your bucket, bag or washing machine.
But the big question is, what if it’s number two? What do you do with the poo? You can dump and rinse disposable inserts in the toilet before adding to your wet laundry bag or bucket. Or if you’re using a disposable insert, it’s easy to whisk away the poo and toss the whole thing in the diaper pail. Even if your not using a disposable insert for poo, we recommend scraping all of the poop into your toilet and then quickly hand-washing the poopy diaper in the sink before putting in your washing machine.
Step 4: Wash and Dry the Cloth Diapers
Now what do you do with that pile of dirty diapers? Turn the diapers inside out to preserve their bright colors and patterns. You can wash them periodically with other loads of laundry, or you can wash them on their own. Choose a laundry detergent free of brighteners, dyes, softeners, enzymes, bleach and synthetic fragrances since they can cause allergic reactions or cause the diapers to break down and loose absorbency. While you can dry them in the dryer, if you dry them outside you’ll save money and electricity. Plus, drying them outside in the sunshine is one secret for keeping them white.
Step 5: Enjoy The Health & Potty-Training Benefits
Besides doing good for the environment, making the switch to cloth diapers has other benefits, too.
Cloth diapers are better for your baby. Disposable diapers contain three toxins that should have no place touching delicate baby skin all day and night.
- Dioxin: This known carcinogen is used in the bleaching process. It’s listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all chemicals linked to cancer and is banned in most other countries.
- Tributyl-tin (TBT): Known to cause hormonal issues in humans and animals.
- Sodium polyacrylate: This super absorbent polymer (SAP) becomes a gel when wet. A similar substance used to be found in tampons until it was linked to toxic shock syndrome.
While you may have to invest money to get started with cloth diapering, you will definitely see a major cost saving by the end of your diapering tenure. The average baby uses 6,000 diapers in the first two years and parents typically spend about $800 A YEAR on disposable diapers.
CLOTH DIAPERED BABIES POTTY-TRAIN EARLIER!
An even better advantage? With cloth diapering, your baby will be out of diapers and into big-kid undies sooner, because cloth diapering can help in early potty training success. When a cloth diaper is wet, babies are more likely to feel the wet sensation than if they were wearing a disposable diaper, therefore, cloth-diapered babies are more aware of their bodily functions and have greater motivation to learn to use the potty.
(Editor Jill’s comment: I used cloth diapers for my now 4 year old son, and he was potty-trained before he turned 2!)