Cloth Diapering…. Documenting An Experiment

I guess I should start out at the beginning with this. When I was pregnant with my first, I considered the idea of cloth diapering. I considered how much better it is for the enviornment, how much better it is for baby, how awesome it would be to not support the companies who choose to hold more value in making money than the safety of my child. I considered how I’d be able to feel like I was really doing my best by them, in all ways possible. I considered that if I was going to go part of the way, focusing on toxins and organic foods, breastfeeding exclusively until age 1 and then only organic solids – it only made sense to go all the way and do cloth diapers, too. I also considered that I was quitting my job, so I’d be home, making it all the more easy to cloth diaper. Right? Well, then to consider the cons, I considered the cost, the time, the mess and the less-than-convenient issue of carrying poop around with you in a bag until you could get home to wash it, how every rich mama was doing it as a status thing and I didn’t want to be roped into that drama and even though I asked for cloth diapers at my shower, I was given about 40 boxes of regular disposables as gifts. Ultimately at that point, I decided it was really not for me.
I’m enough of a hippy or, “crunchy mama” as they’re called now, to want to do the right thing, but still enough of a “silky mama” to not go all crazy about it. I make lots of crunchy mama decisions and I think I choose my battles pretty well. I figured it was okay to make a handful of silky ones, so I opted for Huggies. They fit great, rarely leak and I can buy them in bulk at CostCo. Works for me!

Well, my first is now 28 months old and this is where my cloth diaper experience begins. I am cataloging all of this so I can truly decide if this is the right thing to do. That, and I think some of my followers will have fun laughing at me.

This whole endeavor began with us because my oldest, Liam suffered some kind of reaction to something he ate the other day. He didn’t have a normal reaction like hives or redness like he does to red 40, instead he got a stomach ache and had explosive, acidic diarrhea. By his second nasty diaper, his whole rear end was covered in thick, waxy, red, raised, hives. His bottom was sore, spots were bleeding and he was very, very tender.

This is not the first time it’s happened, it was about a year ago last time and we were given some prescription strength cream to apply. Well, I did that for a day and it was getting worse instead of better, even with baths and only water and a cloth touching him to wipe instead of the alcohol-filled wipies that stung. So,we took about 5 baths hoping the warm water would sooth him and help him feel better. He was in so much pain from the sores that he wasn’t peeing because when he did, it hurt too much as the urine hit the sore spots. Baths didn’t seem to be working, so I paired up the prescription cream with some Calamine diaper rash powder.
STILL he was red, sore and bleeding each time I changed him.
So then I tried going the whole morning the following day wearing “big boy undies” with no diaper at all. (Are you laughing at me yet?)
Although I spent the morning cleaning up pee, I did see a slight improvement, but since he’s nowhere NEAR ready for potty training, I realized the only other solution I could (but hadn’t yet tried) was cloth diapers.
I’d had that idea sitting in the back of my mind, but remembered all the reasons I’d chosen NOT to do that and resisted… mainly because they’re expensive and we’re poor.
The tide turned drastically in favor of another option after a particularly tragic episode of poopy diaper insanity yesterday afternoon.
I felt desperate.
He was sobbing because it hurt so much just to wipe the poo off. He was bleeding, writhing around, screaming in pain and I had to just hold him down and make him deal with it while his giant crocodile tears went streaming down while he screamed “mommy owie!!” over and over again.
I didn’t know what else I could do and I felt completely helpless. Cloth was the only option left. I made up my mind to suck it up and deal with the expense.
I got in the car, drove to Target and picked up ONE cloth diaper, a package of disposable inserts and a box of something that looked like it would be useful that said it was made with bamboo. I left and came home to try it all out. Here’s how it went:

Day 1-

6’ish PM. Okay what is all this? There’s a package that’s all twisted with directions on both sides, none of which even tell you which side is the front or the back and the picture is a baby on it’s side so you can’t even see it! There are no directions on this package that I can see. There is no step-by-step on how to put it on, what to do with these inserts, or what these little bamboo wipe things are for.

I’ve checked the internet. I’ve googled “cloth diaper first timer”, “cloth diapering for dummies”, “cloth diaper step by step” and “cloth diaper disposable”. Every site I’ve found is some kind of mom blog that talks about their personal experience with them and NOTHING about how to do it! Everyone, even the FAQ’s on the company website itself, assumes you already know that part.
I have a sad 2 year old with a bleeding butt and an 8 month old who’s teething and won’t let me put her down. I have a broken cell phone, zero free hands, I’ve been tandem nursing on and off for the last 30 hours and I’ve had probably 4 hours of sleep in that time and migraine symptoms that are making my brain so scrambled I’m seeing double.
I just need someone to tell me steps a, b, c and d for putting the darn thing on correctly. Why can’t anyone on the internet just be clear about things? I’m posting the question on the mom blog FB page and we’ll see what I can find out.

11:30’ish PM – Found the part on the package that says disposable inserts go outside the pocket. Used two disposable inserts and figured out which way was the front. I think. There are more snaps on this thing than forks at a Victorian dinner table, but I think I did it right. It stayed on and we got through 1 wet diaper and one poopy diaper with no leaks. He’s asleep finally, so we’ll see how it goes, I’m guessing I may have to change him in the night, don’t know how absorbent these things are for the long haul.

Day 2 – AM – He woke up dry. I’m actually totally surprised. The cloth part isn’t even damp… which is good, because he’s still red, bumpy and bleeding. But, it does look like over a third of the bumps have healed and are no longer fresh wounds. Diaper change this morning didn’t involve tears, so that right there is an improvement.

1:30- Okay so far, so good. We’re still bleeding in some parts, but he is healing at a faster rate than I expected. The hives are almost all gone, just a few scab-like bumps and the one really bad spot that is bleeding, but that’s it. He is being a very brave boy, only cried a little this time. Poor guy.

8:00 PM- Okay so we’ve had two poopy diapers and 3 wet diapers so far today. I am using 2 inserts at each change and the bag came with 32 of them. I’m not settled on this idea and at this point I’m still looking forward to being able to go back to disposables. I think we’ll need to wash this thing tonight, it’s still dry- which amazes me- but I feel like I should wash it all the same just for kicks.
He fell asleep before I could take off the cloth diaper so I could wash it. Maybe I should have bought another one… but they’re just so darn expensive. 😦

Day 3-
I was ready to go back to regular disposables today. When he woke up, I had his diaper all ready to go with powder on it and waiting for him next to the clothes for the day that I’d laid out.
When he did finally wake up dry with no leaks for the second time in a row, I went to change him and I saw that the sores are much more healed now, the bleeding ones seem to be scabbed over and I don’t think they’ll bleed again. I was reaching for the Huggies and I just couldn’t do it. I don’t know why, I just felt compelled to go a little longer in the cloth. He had a poopy diaper about 3 hours later and when I changed him that time the sores were red again, but not bleeding. I used the bamboo wipes this time instead of the wet wipies and for the first time since this whole thing began, he didn’t start bawling when I wiped him clean. Even though I had his huggies diaper ready to go again, I once again reached for the inserts and put the cloth back on. *sigh* … what am I doing? I really don’t see myself as a cloth diapering mama, but… I can’t seem to stop myself.

…I just entered a contest to win a cloth diaper collection. I must be out of my mind.

5:45pm – I just agreed to go to a cloth diaper -sit-in thing at a local kid’s store that I love, this Saturday. Some kind of Guinness World Record event.. apparently it’s Cloth Diaper week? LOL Figures.

Day 4-

1:15pm- Used a disposable last night so I could wash the cloth. Liam woke up sore, when he pooped he ran from me and cried through the whole change. Those spots are bleeding again, too. 😦

8:00pm – Switched back to cloth after the spots started bleeding. I’m starting to feel guilty any time I reach for the disposable.

Day 5-

Cloth again today. His clothes fit better because he’s such a skinny butt, the bulk of the cloth fills him out so his clothes actually fit the way they’re supposed to. LOL Nothing terribly interesting to report, except that I’m running out of disposable inserts and I just looked them up on Amazon to find that the cheapest I could find are $20 for two. This cloth diapering thing is clearly a rich girl’s hobby.

Day 6 – Daddy changed him this morning, sores are all but completely gone now and the diaper got dirty with a poopy mess, so it’s going into the wash again. I really think I should buy another diaper so I have more than one, just in case.

Day 7- Disposable all day today and yes, easier- but guilt is pretty high knowing the cloth is so much better. Tomorrow is the “Great Cloth Diaper Change”, so I think I’ll pop down to the kid’s boutique and change a diaper and then see if I can pick up some supplies with the money I just made cleaning mom’s house.

Day 8 – So apparently I’m not “cloth diaper” enough to participate in the Great CLoth Diaper Change. You have to have the whole set-up be 100% reusable cloth, no disposable inserts. So we didn’t get to participate in the event and he’s been wearing disposables for 2 days anyway. Maybe this isn’t a good idea.

3:45pm- I just got home from the day of absolute chaos and at some point in the tornado of my day, I went to the store and bout 60$ worth of cloth diapers in a starter pack made by a company called “Flip”. Two covers and 8 reusable inserts. I’m gonna give this a go for real and see how I do. I am really anxious. LOL

Day 9- We did cloth all day, even while going out but we used disposable inserts. Seems easy, not sure I prefer the “Flip” brand, seems a little harsh on the skin because it’s much more plastic’ish than the Charlie Banana one that I bought at Target. I’m noticing some bright red rings around his legs where the elastic bands are and they seems like they might hurt… Not sure I’m into these.

Day 10- Earth Day Fail. Today is Earth Day and I think I’m officially broken in. I just experienced our first poopy diaper using the cloth insert. IT WAS HORRIBLE. I used the Flip brand cover and the cloth insert with a Charlie Banana bamboo disposable liner. First of all, it wasn’t a solid poop. It was a very squishy poop that was EVERYwhere inside the cover. The good news- it was ALL INSIDE the cover! Hooray! So it works! ….now what? I have a big pile of crap. So I gathered up the wet, bamboo liner that had the majority of the poop on it and tossed it into the toilet like the directions said to do. Then I realize… oh dear… there’s poo all over the cloth insert! Um… now what? Do I wash that in the sink? That doesn’t seem very sanitary… there are big chunks of poo on it still. I can’t just toss it in the washing machine like this, can I? No… I think that would be bad for my washer. I decided to rinse it off in the shower but since I don’t have a hand-held shower nozzle, it was really complicated. I then sprayed the shower with disinfectant and left it, and then tossed the cloth insert and the Flip cover into the washing machine because I realized I didn’t get anything to put the soiled diapers in to wait till I washed them! She asked at the store, but I thought… I’m already spending 65$ with you to buy all this, I don’t need any accessories. Heh… apparently I did. I was wondering why she looked at me strangely when I said no, but I figured it was just because she was disappointed I didn’t want to buy anything else. Joke’s on me, apparently. I should have spent the extra $15 and paid for the special soiled diaper bag thingy. We’re wearing disposables today now, because all the cloth covers are dirty.
So, yeah. Earth Day fail. But hey, I’m trying, right? 🙂

Day 11- I used disposables again today.  I was tired. Don’t judge. 😉  Maybe tomorrow.

Day 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16…. I went back to disposables.  His rash cleared, so it wasn’t a pressing sense of urgency to continue the cloth.  I use them on occasion, after the poop of the day has happened and we’ve done pretty well.  On day 14, I had him in a cloth diaper with a cloth insert (using the Flip brand) and he fell asleep before I could put him back in a disposable for bed.  He went ALL night in the cloth and didn’t leak at ALL.  It was amazing.  I expected to wake up to a mess, but there were zero leaks and he was totally fine.  Pretty awesome!

So here we are on Day 17, which is May 2nd.  Yesterday, we went to Disneyland and I noticed when I changed him in the afternoon, that he was a little red and in that crease at the inside of his leg/groin area on both sides.  I put a little powder on him and figured it would be okay, no biggie, just a little red.  About an hour later, he was walking like a cowboy who’d run his herd from New York to Arizona with no stops; bowlegged and holding himself.  I could tell he was trying to ignore it because he was having such fun running around the park, but after a while, he just couldn’t hang anymore and sat down in the middle of the sidewalk in defeat, crying.  It was terrible and sad and I wasn’t sure what to do.  I took him and changed him again, and literally dumped 1/2 the bottle of diaper rash powder on him and gave him a dose of pain killer and put him in the stroller so he could stop walking.  I hoped not walking would help him to stop chafing so badly in that nasty area, but I wasn’t sure it would work at that point.  He ended up falling asleep and when he woke up he did fine the rest of the day and night.

This morning however, he was clearly in pain again, so we put the Charlie Banana cloth diaper on him, (the Flip diapers squeeze his legs too much in those areas that are all raw and make them red and irritated anyway, so we stay away from them now) and he seemed to do okay.  About 35 minutes later, I hear this whimpering in the living room and he’s standing again like my little bowlegged cowboy, holding himself and saying “oh noooo…. owie…” over and over again.  Craig and I both go over to him and he had a very messy, loose diaper that leaked out the side and onto the floor.  Of COURSE I had put the cloth insert in this time… LOL just figures, right?  Well, Craig and I descended on him as fast as we could and had he, and the floor, and the diaper cleaned up in no time.  I had to put him in a disposable, because I only have one Charlie Banana diaper and the others are Flip.  Flip is not my favorite, it’s a poly-vinyl blend and fit REALLY tightly on his thighs and back when snapped tightly enough not to leak.  Last week I had him in it for only a few hours and it gave him red, raised stripes on his back that looked like I whipped him, so we aren’t using those.

I went to Target and bought him another Charlie Banana 2 in 1 diaper.  When I came home, he had another messy diaper and his whole bottom was red and sore and the bad areas now looked like a gory mess; red, raised, fleshy and very painful.  He cried big crocodile tears as I cleaned him off and I put on his new diaper with some powder.  Within about five minutes he was up and walking around, within ten he didn’t seem to notice at all.  He’s sleeping now, so I am hoping when he wakes from his nap he will be in much better spirits.

As a side, but related story; I have to share an amazing experience I had today.

When I opened his new Charlie Banana diaper, I found it came with two cloth inserts!  The first one I purchased two weeks ago was bare, just the cover by itself.  Well, apparently they are supposed to come with two cloth/reusable inserts and mine was just missing the inserts!  So my immediate thought was that it really IS worth the 20$ when you get the diaper AND two inserts.  Then, my second thought was, oh man… that means I should have gotten two inserts and I paid for two, but never got them!  Thinking there was NO way I would be able to get my money’s worth on a purchase I made over two weeks ago, I called Target customer service anyway and asked.  I made sure I had my story straight beforehand so I didn’t sound like an idiot on the phone or sound like I was being shady.

I said, “I was in a few weeks ago and bought a cloth diaper, it was my first time buying anything like that and I had NO clue what I was doing.  I’ve used it for a few weeks and realized I needed another, so I  came in today to buy a second cloth diaper.  When I got it home, I realized it came with two inserts but the one I bought a few weeks ago didn’t have that and I didn’t know it was supposed to come with it until I got this one- I know it’s been a long time now, but is there ANYthing that can be done??”

After thinking for a moment, she said she had an idea for a solution but had to run it by her manager first.  She placed me on hold for right around two minutes (it was actually “mute”, but I overlooked that), came back and says, “Okay so here’s what you’re going to do; just come in and get another cloth diaper, bring it to customer service and we’ll damage out the item and let you have the inserts.  I’m so sorry for the trouble, will that work for you?”  !!!

“Seriously??” I asked her, “are you really going to let me do that? Wow! Thank you so much!” She laughed a little and very compassionately said,

“It’s my pleasure, I’m glad I could help.”
I told her I was SURE I would be out of luck because so much time had passed and I was so very thankful she was willing to provide me such an awesome resolution.  She seemed surprised by my gratitude and kind of laughed again, saying she was happy she could help.  I asked for her name and her manager’s name and let her know I’d try to get in before the end of the day.

So, once Craig gets home, I’ll be heading down to Target again to get the cloth inserts that aught to have come with the first diaper I purchased in April.  I have already written a HUGE “thank you” letter that I’ll be posting on their Facebook page, sending to their corporate office email AND on Yelp as soon as I get back and am sure the issue is 100% resolved.  Pretty awesome story, right?!?  Well, that’s all for now… babies are still sleeping so I have to go clean something while I have the opportunity.

May 11th- Day 28

Two nights ago, Liam was asked if he wanted to use the potty to go pee.  He said yes, so we went in, the diaper came off and he climbed up his little latter stairs to the special seat cover, gingerly turned around and sat down.  Instantly, he went!  No fuss, no strangeness, just pee!  I was shocked and excited for him and gave him a big hug, told him he was awesome, gave him a kiss and helped him down so he could wash his hands.  Since then, he has pee’d in the potty a total of 14 times and each time has been easy.  His incentive has been the “washing hands” portion of the experience.  He LOVES water.  All I have told him is if he pees in the potty, he can wash his hands in the sink.  That’s been enough for him and it’s been a piece of cake so far.  There have actually been three times in a row where he had a dry diaper when we took it off to pee in the potty.  I ask him about every 3 hours, or so.  I don’t want to overwhelm him or make him bored of the idea, so I’m not inundating him with the question “Do you need to go pee” like I know some people do.  I’m just casually suggesting it as something fun to try right now, that’s all.  The coolest part so far, was he actually asked ME last night if he could go use the potty.  I replied, “you have to go pee?” He says, “umm yes!” I said, “okay then we better go!” He ran into the bathroom, helped me unsnap his diaper and up he went onto his potty seat to instantly pee with zero hesitation.

I am so excited to see what happens with this!  I know there is a very high probability that he’ll get bored and stop wanting to at some point, but I’m hoping he finds this new accomplishment as awesome as the rest of us and continues it.  He even kind of pooped a little one time, but I think that was on accident.  So that’s a super exciting thing going on right now in our house!

Onto the cloth diapering saga…

The last ten days have been interesting.  Liam’s diaper rash got worse, so much so that I went into urgent care and paid a massive co-pay to have him looked at.  Turns out it was a yeast infection all along.  I felt horrible  something I could easily have prevented from getting as bad as it was, had I known that’s what was going on!  I honestly didn’t know that boys could get yeast infections.  It never occurred to me since I have never before heard of a boy having one!  No one ever produces commercials for yeast cream for men, it’s always directed toward women and I have never personally known a man who had one.  I have learned my lesson and am now aware that yeast infections are not gender specific ailments! Who knew? Apparently everyone but me. So… we were given an anti-fungal cream and sent home with instructions to change diapers hourly and apply the cream twice daily.

With two Charlie Banana diapers and two Flip diapers, I have been able to keep him in cloth pretty much all day, every day.  I do put a disposable on at night and and I go back and forth between cloth and disposable, basically whatever I feel like at the time.  I try to make sure he’s got a disposable on when the daily poop happens just to make it easier, but I’ve also found that if I use the cloth cover and use disposable inserts until he poops, that works just as well. Well, unless it’s messy, in which case I end up having to do more laundry than I would like.  That has only happened a few times, though.  Now that he is no longer on antibiotic for his ears and his rash is gone, things are much easier in these departments all the way around.

Hooray for no more tears at changing time!  In fact, with the introduction of the potty into the mix, changing isn’t so bad.  He is happy to take off the diaper so he can get onto the potty.  We’ve started a new thing that so far, has proven successful in allowing him to be a little less crazy.  I call it the “poop check” and it’s pretty simple.  I say, “Hey Liam!  We need a poop check!”  I run over to him and check his diaper to see if there is any poop and usually there isn’t so it takes all of 3 seconds and then I say, “okay no poop! Thanks!” He says “thanks mom” back to me nearly every time, and goes back to what he was doing.  When there IS poop, I say, “okay it’s poop time!” I ask him to lay down and we change his diaper really fast.  The faster I can go, the less traumatic it is for him, but I’ve discovered talking him through it and explaining it’s to get RID of the yuckiness not to hold him up from what he wanted to be doing, he seems to be better with it.  I have also noticed that he is much better with it as a whole, since we’ve started cloth.  I wasn’t sure at first if this was coincidence or not, but I think now that it isn’t.  I think the cloth doesn’t wick away the wetness and it’s uncomfortable. He’s less content to let it just sit in there now and he is finally (after two years of fighting me) happy to have his diaper changed, so cloth diapers seem to have solved a HUGE behavior issue that we’ve been struggling with for most of his life as a toddler. VERY exciting!

Fast Forward to January 2014….
Liam is in underwear throughout the day, while wearing either cloth or a pull-up at nap and bedtime.  He still poops in a diaper and is literally afraid to do it in the bathroom on the potty, but he thinks going pee in the potty is awesome.  Well, most of the time.  We like pull-up’s because it gives him the freedom to pull up and down on his own and continue potty time for peeing like underwear, so we do this most often.
Cloth diapering was fairly messy and inconvenient, but I do believe it was worth it.  I would do it again and have with Lottie who is now almost 18 months old and has similar rash/allergy issues to her brother due to diaper chemicals but girl’s clothing is less forgiving of the extra bulk, so I’ll be honest, I am not as diligent about being consistent.
I wish I could be a totally green and healthy mama in this department, but I have discovered that even I have limits and I’m not ashamed to admit that.  I LOVE cloth diapering and I will encourage ANYone to try it but I just couldn’t do it every time.  My water bill couldn’t do it, either.
After nearly a year of experimenting with cloth, I never really felt that I was “one of the gang” on this particular topic and although I have lots of reasons to love it, I really just don’t and I do it, but mostly when I run out of diapers and pull-up’s and want to wait to spend the money on more of them.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you for sharing. I love to hear happy stories, and it’s refreshing to hear (well, see) compliments to customer service people.

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