Cloth diapering for the complete clueless
I am a fluff mom, and I am proud to be one. Fluff, the modern (or colloquial) term for cloth diapers, has come a long way since your grandparents were young parents. Gone are the days of terry cloth towel nappies that had to be folded and secured with either a nappy pin or a snappi (although some moms still prefer the old fashioned way, or that is what they can afford). Today, you buy your nappy already “shaped” or folded. With some, you can use it as is, with others you have to stuff the outer cover with the absorbent material, and yet others you use flats (like terry cloth) that are then covered with a water-proof cover. Now, I am not big on the jargon, the different names, brands, etc. within the cloth community. And yes, it is a community. Some of these moms spend hours on the web looking for that one perfect nappy (that comes at a less than perfect price), willing to do almost anything to score it. They have their favourite WAHMs (Work At Home Moms – moms who make cloth nappies from home, either as a money-earning hobby or as a home-based entrepreneur), import nappies from countries where cloth seem to be the norm more than the exception, and know what to look for when buying pre-loved nappies. I missed all of that, opting to instead of falling down this rabbit hole to rather keep on reminding myself of why we decided to try fluff.
There is a long list of reasons why you should at least give cloth a try. Ranging from how economical it is (one of the most-used reasons. Even if you buy a few of the very expensive nappies it will still work out cheaper having a few kids in cloth than having even one kid in disposables. Visit this website for a great cost-analysis) to how pretty the nappies are, every fluff parent has his or her own reasons. For us, the cost was a factor, coupled with my strong belief to at least try and minimise my kids’ exposure synthetic, chemical laden products. Natural, is well, natural, and cloth resonated that with me.
When we decided to go the cloth route, so many people advised against it. They said I would not have the time, it would be gross, it is not really that much cheaper, etc. etc. And boy did we proof them wrong! To give you the facts like we see them:
Cloth diapering is very easy. At first I was overwhelmed with the various different brands and products. You get AIO and covers and pockets and flats and… I refused to learn all the different names. I wanted to put my kid in diapers, not teach a class. So I decided on pockets since they were the easiest to understand, use, and also one of the cheapest options. Keep in mind that someone else might have to change your child’s nappy on a regular basis, and they might not understand how to fold a “kite-fold”, so pockets are a nice compromise.
Basically, they are a waterproof cover with a slip in the inside in which you stuff the absorbent material of your choice. I used micro-fibre for the most part, once again since they are the cheaper option. The pocket brands I decided on is Snugglybum, Bumble Bee Babies and Biddykins.
Later I got a few hemp flats from Pee Nat Nappies and bamboo inners from Kanini, plus I used flannel receiving blankets, but that is another part of this story. What makes the pockets so nice is that you can pre-stuff them, and then pack them in a nappy bag as you would disposables. If someone else then needs to change baby, they don’t first have to get a degree in nappy folding, it is like changing a disposable. So I started my stash with 20 nappies, enough for part-time cloth (we still did disposables at night since I could not get a sufficient night-time solution). The convenience part wasn’t that bad. During the day, you change baby as normal, just instead of throwing the nappy away you place the dirty nappy either in a wet-bag (if you are out and about) or in a diaper pail. If it was a no. 2, for breastfeeding babies you simply wash the nappy as is, and for babies who eats solids, you tip the solids out into the toilet, and then store the dirty nappy as before. When you have enough to make a load (usually every second day) you simply load your machine, put in your washing powder minus fabric softener, and wash on a long cycle or just give them an extra rinse. Cold wash, nothing more than 60C although 40C are optimal. I add a few drops of tea tree oil to make sure the wash is disinfected. Then you hang the nappies out to dry. Direct sunlight works best – the UV rays whitens any stains that the nappies might have, as well as also disinfecting the nappies. Pockets dry very easily, same with flats and covers. Should you opt for the AIO or AI2, they take longer since they are made up of various different layers of material. So where is this taking exorbitant lengths of time? So far so good.
They also warned me it would not necessarily be that much cheaper. Liar liar pants on fire! I increased my stash to just under 40 pockets, and 4 covers, with a few flats. In total this worked out to R 2 500.00. I added a few hemp inserts, and used the old receiving blankets and burp cloths. Let us say that I have spend a total of R3 500.00 on cloth nappies and related products, with a further R 3 500.00 on electricity and soap for the duration of their use. That gives me a total of R 7 000.00. Now let us say I used disposables, at an average of 7 nappies a day, at R2.70 a nappy. Total per day = R18.90 and per month = R567.00. For the 2years and some months until potty training, it equates to roughly R 17 000.00. And that is for one kid! Now take into account the bum cream (you generally do not use any creams or balms with cloth) as well as wipes and you have a down-payment on a car. Versus my “investment” of R 3 500.00 with electricity and soap cost. Mmmm not economical? Come again?
Now I have a second child, and although the first one is potty trained (at 27 months, over a long weekend. Something else that I think cloth has made easier), I still reap the money benefits. And this time we are doing cloth full-time. I didn’t buy newborn cloth (usually from birth to about 9kg), since my very industrious Ouma knitted a few woolen covers that I used with bamboo washcloths snapped on with a snappi. That worked very well for a few weeks. Then, as A2 grew, we transitioned to receiving blankets folded, held in place with the covers. At 10 weeks A2 was big enough to fit in the pockets at their smallest settings.
Moving on. The other benefits. With cloth, no, or at least a lot fewer, nappies end up on landfills. At this stage, in SA, there are only 2 products that cannot be recycled: disposable nappies and polystyrene. At least I am not actively contributing to this problem. Then, a big one, health. A1 never struggled with nappy rash. She was a happy, content baby, until you put her in disposables. Then she was unhappy, even red at some times. Plus, when she started getting ready to be potty trained, she could very easily take off her disposable. With the cloth she struggled a bit, which is great when you need enough time to get to her before the nappy (and its content) touches the ground.
Of course, the nappies also have a resell value (not that I think that will be our path. Giving them away seems more my style) and can be used until they delaminate, get micro-tears, or look so bad that nobody wants them, not even for free. But we are about 2-kids-full-time-on-cloth far from that happening. So for now they still have value, at least half of what they initially cost me. Again, so economical.
Of course, it has not been without its disasters. Ill-fitting folds when I use flats, relatives putting the pocket on without stuffing it first and then telling me our nappies don’t work (true story!), poop-plosions leaking over baby, her clothes, the couch, and everything in general, and once or twice a power outage while the soiled nappies were in the pre-wash cycle (read: hand wash nappies in the bath). But all in all, if I had to do it again I would put A1 in full-time cloth from day one.
Cloth has been a learning curve, and it took me some time to establish a habit (and to convince those around me to support our decision), but ultimately we are very happy. Not only are we considering our pocket, our children’s health, as well as the environment, but I also feel damn good about myself 🙂