Warning: This is a very long winded entry. Don’t read it unless you are bored or want to be educated on something new today.

I like to make stuff. I got Bryan a subscription to MAKE magazine for his birthday this year and we have all had fun reading the first edition that came in the mail. Frankly we are a family of makers. Bryan makes stuff out of LEDs and other odds and ends. I make stuff out of fabric and whatever else strikes me as useful. Isaac makes things out of paper. Micah makes stuff out of Legos. Reece makes messes out of everything… You get the idea.

My latest project: Cloth diaper covers.

You may have heard that is it very likely that we will find out Bryan is going to be laid off at the end of this month because his project at HP was canceled. So to save money in case that happens, I am making the switch to cloth diapers. I had started to do it before Christmas, before we even found out that his job was in question.

Cloth diapering has actually come a long way in the last few years. There are a ton of cute diapers out there that work really well. I am not doing this to save a landfill somewhere from being completely filled up by my kid’s diapers. I have no thoughts about saving the environment. I am doing it so that Reece will start to recognize when he pees so he can hopefully potty train faster. And it is nice to only spend the money once and then just keep washing the diaper. Very thrifty.

My beef with disposables is that Huggies and other diapering brands are great and the technology they use is amazing. The kids don’t even realize they are wet because the diaper is so absorbent. Heck, we only used 3 a day for him really (in the morning, when poopy, and before bed). It was the same way for the older boys… They were happy with that set up from age 1 all the way till they were 3 and a half! Since I carried Reece the most in a mei tai baby carrier, he learned to balance and to walk the fastest. I am hoping that cloth diapering will have a similar affect.

Since each diaper cover costs roughly $15 to $20 each and then you have to pay for an insert to soak up the pee too, I decided to make some covers. My favorite diapers so far are the pocket diapers by Drybees and Fuzzi Bunz. I thought naively that I would only need 3 diapers a day just like with disposables… HA. These have to be changed much more. They leak if you leave them on for too long with out the bulkier soakers in them. For bedtime, two soakers is fine, but day time when they have to fit pants over them? Not gonna happen. They would hate walking with all that bulk down at their crotch.

So this is what I learned. Soakers, or diaper inserts, are not all created equal.

Cotton= okay. Absorbs some, but has to be changed after each void (when the kids pees) to prevent leaking, therefore making you have to use more diaper covers in your day and increasing your need for a supply of pocket diapers. Or you just wash laundry alot, which gets old fast. Average cost=? I am just using my Chinese pre-fold cloth diapers that I used as burp clothes when the boys were babies. And I am not sure why they are referred to a chinese. So don’t ask.

Microfiber= Better. Absorbs a lot more and very quickly too. It is very thristy, but it doesn’t do well next to the skin. Very irritating. Sucks all the moisture out I am guessing. If it is in a pocket diaper, it is fine, or if it is covered by any fabric like flannel or fleece for instance, is won’t irritate the skin. It does have a saturation point though and won’t last through the night. Average cost= $3.25 per insert.

Bamboo= Haven’t tried it. Supposed to be pretty thirsty and better than cotton. No clue on the cost.

Hemp= Absorbs the most, but very slowly. If they pee, it might leak out before it gets soaked up. Average cost= $5 per insert.

Wool= the best. More costly, not sure how much. Has to be lanolinized occasionally.

So for the day time what works best? For me I switch between cotton and microfiber. I go through about 4 or 5 diapers in the day time. Sometimes 6.

At night I use a pocket diaper with both a microfiber and a hemp insert. It seems to work well. Reece hasn’t leaked by morning, and he doesn’t stink as much as he used to with the disposable diapers after the long night. I wonder if the stuff in the diapers stinks when saturated with urine? I just had thought it was the pee smell, but now I am not so sure anymore. Or maybe he does smell like pee and I just don’t notice anymore?... Don’t tell me if that latter option is the truth. I would rather remain clueless on that one.

So now to the trick of the day I just learned. I went to go buy more microfiber and hemp inserts today and the store that normally carries them was out and the owner suggested just going to the auto parts section of Target and getting those microfiber towels they stock for drying your car with after you wash them. Fold them into thirds like a chinese prefold and you are good to go. Ok, so I went to Wal-mart- I know I hate that store and you are shocked I went there, checked out their selection of microfiber towels and sure enough, they have them 8 for $5. I bought some. I am happy to report, they work. And Reece thinks they make a great superhero cloak too.

Since each diaper cover costs about $15 to $20, I decided to make some instead. I thought, heck, I can reverse engineer these things and make them for myself. All you need is some PUL fabric, elastic, and something to line it with. After 4 attempts all I can say is this: buy them. I didn’t estimate how much the elastic changes the final size. Whoops. The first one didn’t even go all the way around the kid. It was also too deep in the crotch (the rise was too long) and so it gaped at the legs. I then tried to make it small, but it then leaked at the new seam I made and I pretty much think it should be trashed and was a good one to teach me about the don’ts of diaper making. The second one was usable, the third was ok, the fourth, not too bad. None of them are pretty. If I hadn’t already bought the fabric for more, and wasn’t a cheapskate, I would scrap the project and just go buy some new Drybees. Seriously, I suggest buying them.

Another thing I learned from this is that the fabric you line the diapers with should really be a fabric that wicks moisture away from the skin. I am not talking going and buying some cool max fabric, but lightweight fleece works well (lightweight fleece sheets are on sale at Wal-mart for $12 for a twin set which will make a lot of diapers if you use it for fabric) and certain polyesters work too. Cotton is not so great.

So there you have it. I have been a maker. Would I suggest you make cloth diapers? Yes, if you have infinite patience, or really good sewing skills. No if you don’t have a reason to.

Do I like cloth diapering? I actually do. My garbage output has been has been reduced by half. I will save $40 every two months once I change back to the smaller garbage can. Also, I won’t really just run out of diapers and have to go to the store desperate for more. And I am going to save $70 a month on not buying disposables. And I feel more prepared for emergencies like losing a job (sigh). And, with these, the poop isn’t really a problem. So I kinda like it. And hopefully it won’t last long because Reece is gonna learn to use the potty faster (in theory at least).

Wish us luck on the job hunt!


steffenie February 4, 2009 at 2:08 p.m.

Ily, sometimes it makes me laugh how completely opposite we are!!

Ily February 6, 2009 at 9:46 a.m.

Our differences make things more interesting! And for the record, I am slightly insane.