Alright folks, call me ridiculous, but somehow I have this notion that someone(s) here on Permies is going to have good thoughts on cloth diapering systems. I'm not sure "financial strategy" is the right forum for this, but it'll have to do until we have the "permaculture family" forum.
I'm a new parent, and I'm looking for the perfect diapering system. A permaculture diaper would be:
(1) Inexpensive over the long-haul. maybe it would be expensive up front, but cheap when amortized over many years or several kids.
(2) Made of all-natural materials. Meaning they are cotton, and ultimately compostable at the end of their career.
(3) Durable. Will last through several babyhoods.
(4) Awesomely functional. Like many quality solutions, they would take a bit more skill to use but would work even better than their cheap consumerist alternative once you learned how to work it. Right now our almost-5-week-old is beginning to explode sideways and up his back. The cloth diapers we're using simply don't contain the awesome, undisciplined power of his youth.
And any ideas for how a diapering system could be stacked in with other functions in the household? When I spent time with subsistence farmers in the highlands of Vietnam, babies wore nothing. When they pooped on the dirt floors of their homes, the dogs ran over and ate it. Stacked! And their pee worked as a disinfectant on the floors, and was periodically watered in. Without dirt floors, no diapers is a non-starter...at least for my wife.
EDIT: Cloth diapers are the obvious answer, but I'm wondering which kinds, how many, what to use to cover it, and if there are any "hacks". Thanks!
Agricultural Lead for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Prior Lake, MN
I used the ones from bum genius for my son about 5 years ago. I bought 20 of them with the extra liners. I was washing diapers at least every other day. Usually washing was a process of first rinsing off solids into toilet and then running a rinse and spin cycle with cold water to get the bulk of the nasty off of them. After that they were washed again, using mild detergent and warm water, rinsed and then dried.
It took a little getting used to and I stuck with it until my son was about one. At that point we had moved to a new house and found that our water supply here was kinda hard (alkaline) so the diapers were accumulating minerals which inhibited absorbancy, causing leaks. I think the minerals were reacting with the urine causing a chemical reaction that was also beginning to chap his little ass. I switched to disposable ones after that. It was a tough choice but I couldn't find a way to keep him comfortable so... ya know.
You might want to look and see if there is a local diaper washing service near you. Some do pick-up/delivery too. It's usually expensive though.
Lessons I've learned:
They are a money saver, but a bit of an investment upfront. Do your research and don't just buy the cheapest ones you can find. Usually the first thing to fail is the velcro or buttons that fasten them on your child. If you're crafty replacing those things shouldn't be so tough. I'm sure you can through more than one child with a good set of diapers.
Once they grow out of them, the liners still make really decent wash cloths for cars and windows. I use mine on a tray to dry fresh washed eggs.
They will last for a long time if you take care of them.
Buy enough diapers that you have a supply of clean ones for a few days, but keep on top of washing the dirty ones. They get pretty foul in short time. Any longer than 24 hours and it get's to be a hard task to face.
Change diapers more often than disposables. I tried to change my son as soon as I noticed he was wet. Cloth doesn't wick urine away from the skin as effectively as the disposables so kids are more prone to chapping and rashes. Changing at least every 2 hours seemed to be the longest span one diaper can go.
I've done cloth diapers for a few years now -- yay, cloth diapers! There are lots of different ways to go about it, depending on what is the most important to you -- cost, convenience, all-natural?
We use a couple of different cloth diaper solutions in my family, depending on the day and situation. On regular at-home days, I use cotton flats with pins underneath knit wool pants (or shorts in the summer). The diapers are a great big square of hemmed cotton (sometimes sold as dish cloths or flour sack towels). They are easiest to wash by hand compared with prefolds (though I use those as well), but need to be doubled up for a heavy wetter. My pins are stainless steel, and they are the best closure system that I have tried yet. The best part of our diapers are the wool covers -- they are so cool! 100% wool, treated with a little bit of lanolin (natural oil produced by sheep) every time I wash them. The pants keep the moisture in while the baby runs around, but totally breathable unlike plastic covers, and super soft (not scratchy like I originally thought would be the case).
The pros of diapering this way are that everything is all-natural (something that was important to me), the diapers fit from day 1 until potty-trained (unlike sized diapers), diapers wash more cleanly than others I have used, and I just like that way they feel against the skin. Also, if you are creative, you can do this kind of diapering for very little cost. The cons are that the wool diaper covers must be hand-washed, but only once a month or so. There's also a bit of a learning curve to getting a good fit, more so than other kinds of diapers, but I find that it's easier to get a customized fit with fewer leaks with this diapering system than many others.
For cost savings, I made my own wool covers. Some are wool sweaters from the thrift store that I cut apart and sewed into pants. Some, I bought 100% wool yarn at the craft store (Paton's classic wool is my fave) and knit and crocheted my own wool pants from free patterns on the internet. To make your own diapers, I recommend buying thrift store sheets (or upcycling some old ones around the house) and cutting them up into rectangles and hemming them with a rolled hem. This is the only cost-efficient way to make them, as new fabric costs for high-quality cotton (not quilting fabric) can be prohibitive. I also made my own cloth wipes using flannel receiving blankets (two layers, rolled hem).
We have many more diapers than we actually need. To start, I would say that you should have around 2 dozen diapers, and 4 wool covers. I alternate between 2 wool covers during the day (hang one pair up to dry while the baby is wearing the other pair), with two back-ups. We wash diapers around every 2 days. I do a cold rinse, then a hot wash with our ordinary laundry soap (around 2 tablespoons for a full load). One more rinse, with 2-3 tablespoons of borax in the water to help get things really clean. Then hang in a sunny place to dry (or our indoor line during inclement weather). To wash the covers, I rinse in warm water and then I pour a combination of melted lanolin and soap into the water and let the covers sit for a few minutes, rinse with clean water, squeeze out excess moisture, and lay flat to dry (drying takes a full day or two). I only wash covers about twice a month, or whenever they get soiled. The pins, I keep in a cake of soap to help them to slip through the cotton diapers well, and I sometimes sharpen the ends with an emery board. Sharp pins are less dangerous than dull ones.
At diaper changes, I just wet down a dry flannel wipe with some warm water, clean what I need to, rinse solids in the toilet, and throw the diaper in a pail with a lid. If the baby is a bit rashy, I apply some coconut oil to his bum before putting on the clean diaper. If his wool pants are a bit damp, I will turn them inside out and put them back on (they are reversible) or put on his second pair over the clean diaper.
So that's how I diaper, in a nut shell. Good luck with finding what works for you!
Ask your wife to join the forum mothering.com then look up elimination communication or wool diaper covered and flats. That's what got me through two kids in cloth. My oldest was out of diapers by one and my youngest by two. Wool diaper covers can be made from up cycled materials like blankets or old sweaters and flats out of anything, and I do mean anything. You can buy a skeen of organic bamboo and put in hems and voila cheap absorbat organic... Also omotheering there is a for sale ectio and lots of moms give away diaper stashes for cheap or free. I acquired some of my stash n there and gave it away on there too...
Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
posted 6 years ago
my husband and I used cloth diapers for both of our sons, this is back in the mid-seventies. We were 'off grid' then and rinsed and washed by hand...hung in the sun to dry and sometimes all over our small cabin in rainy weather. We liked the large one layer ones and folded as was useful, instead of the extra padded in the middle ones which would mildew if the weather was particularly damp for too long. Cloth diapers, real diaper pins and rubber pants at night or if we were going visiting. We were living where neighbors were no constraint and we were usually all outside for much of the day so they could go bare bottomed...it was pretty much the norm among their peers....colder weather shoes/boots and top half layers as necessary...and as Craig says the cloth has a long life after diapers...I may still have some bits in the rag bag
With what I know now....I think I would see if organic cotton diapers are even available and affordable....maybe try for yardages and make some. Recently someone showed me ones they were making out of recycled t-shirts...I am not sure about diapers with dyes , although they were beautiful and fun in bright colors. She was also making wool covers made from felted wool sweaters that were really cool looking.
these are the links to the sites she used to make diapers...
We did elimination communication with our son, along with cloth. The cheapest, easiest diapers are the flat-fold terry cloth ones; we had a couple dozen, they wash and dry brilliantly, and we used a little device called a Snappi rather than pins (we initially tried pins, but were just too nervous using them). I got some wrap around PUL covers off ebay (used: cheap), and also made some wool covers from felted sweaters using this tutorial: http://www.myfrugalbabytips.com/2012/09/frugal-diapering-make-your-own-baby-bum.html
If we have a second child, I will try to do EC from birth (started at 5 months with our son), and rely less on diapers. Part of it is being constantly in tune with your baby, and I would do this by wearing my baby--something I didn't really know about until my son was a bit older. It also has to do with having easily accessible clothing. However, I would still probably use cloth part time--at least at night!
We use cloth diapers and make our own baby wipes. Click here for our homemade baby wipes recipe. This natural disinfectant stacks well as a deodorizer in the cloth diaper pale and as an extra cleaner when the used baby wipes (cut up t-shirts) are mixed with the cloth diapers in the wash.
If you do decide to purchase diapers, a friend directed me to greenmountaindiapers.com
They have pictures of the diapers on babies, so you can a better idea of the sizes and how they fit on babies. That is the problem we keep running into, but those wool cover sound pretty awesome. Good luck!
“The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.” Robert Louis Stevenson
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
posted 6 years ago
Re: baby wipes. We used cut up t-shirts too, double thickness, but just used plain water for wiping. We had a few dedicated small bowls for diaper changes--just dip the wipe in the water, and refill the bowl for every change. Wipe goes in the pail with the diaper. Super simple.
As an aside, if you have a dog, EC clean up can be pretty easy (or more disgusting, depending on how you look at it). During bare bum time, our dog was very helpful at locating and cleaning up "accidents." She used to watch our son very closely; in fact, once or twice I only knew he'd used the potty when I found her giving it one last shine! When I told my husband about it, he said adult dogs always clean up after puppies.
Note: I do not think this behavior should be encouraged in dogs: just an observation.
Galadriel Freden wrote:we used a little device called a Snappi rather than pins (we initially tried pins, but were just too nervous using them).
I'll second that. Poke around with pins in the middle of the night without turning on a light? Maybe if you're pretty skilled, but not me. The Snappi, though, no problem in the dark.
The other thing that was/is a huge help is a "diaper shower." It attaches to the water supply line feeding your toilet, hangs on a little holder on the side of the tank, and it sprays pretty fiercely. So when it's time to rinse solids into the toilet before putting diapers in the pail, you've got a strong sprayer right there at your left hand.
Turns out, it's also great to have for toddlers who can get themselves onto the john but aren't great at wiping themselves yet (you just spray their butt while they're still sitting on there). And rinsing out buckets. And spraying the cleaner off the walls of the shower, and all kinds of other things. Just a great device all the way around.
Side story: We have an old babushka at our church. She fled the Revolution in Russia, lived a couple places, and eventually ended up here in Michigan. She likes to tell us how when her son was little, she had three diapers for him. At any point in the day, one diaper would be on him, one would be in the pot of boiling water on the stove, and one would have just been ironed dry to get ready for the next change. She helps me and my wife keep things in perspective.
For diaper rash, we use a product called All Good Goop. My wife and I swear by it. You can also make your own if you have some bees wax, plantain in the yard, and other ingredients. We do use insert cloth diapers so we rarely do use it. But it has its uses when camping and all you have is some extra disposable diapers. Then red butt happens. Out comes the All Good Goop.
I used cloth diapers for all of my children (1983-1990). In those days there wasn't a lot of choice when it came to diapers... You had two choices... Pampers, or traditional old-fashioned cloth diapers. Most everyone I knew (neighbours, friends, family) were using cloth diapers and rubber pants, so choosing the same in my home was automatic.
I opted for easy-care flats, as I wanted a versatile diaper that laundered well and dried quickly. As for fastening I used diaper pins, and to waterproof the package... old-school white pull-on elastic-opening rubber pants with the stretchy waistband and leg holes... diaper liners, too (beginning weeks after each child's birth).
I double-diapered almost from the very start... triple diapered at night or when needed (travel, visiting, etc), and diapers were laundered every second to third day. Diapers and rubber pants were hung outside on the clothesline to dry, which helped keep the diapers looking white, while at the same time bleaching unsightly stains out. Natural sunlight works to kill bacteria and sanitizes, which IMO helped keep diaper rash away in my home, though with the rubber pants which held in the heat and moisture, diaper rash still made it's rounds now and then. No matter what type of diapers you choose, diaper rash will happen. I tell people, "diaper rash is the price baby pays for wearing diapers".
As for using diaper pins, I babysat and changed many a baby that wore cloth (long before I had children of my own), so pins never scared or bothered me, and pins made for a secure fitting diaper.
posted 2 years ago
Hey there! We have a page linked with our YouTube videos of cloth diaper tutorials, and a wide selection to buy.