A Lazy, Cheap Mom’s Guide to Cloth Diapering

Be forewarned, this post is long. And full of pictures. I wanted to give as much detail as possible. None of this post is sponsored and I have not been paid by anyone that I mention. Brands are mentioned purely for my likes of them. 😀

When I was pregnant, I felt totally overwhelmed by the idea of cloth diapers. I knew it was what I wanted to do, but I there are so many options and everyone has a different preference based on their own routines and needs. While so many speak of the benefits, not so many actually tell you what to do. The ones that do tell you how they do it have extensive routines that I just couldn’t keep up with.

It took me until this second baby to find what really fit for us: prefolds with wool covers. I wrote a bit about why this is my favorite method here. Yeah, it sounds complicated and confusing, but it’s not. There’s also a wealth of benefits in using wool. Plus, of course, it’s all pretty dang cheap. At least if you do it my way.

The Goods

I almost exclusively buy our cloth diapering items at Diaper Swappers. It’s a site where you can buy and sell used cloth diapers. Sound gross? It’s really not. Washing cloth diapers gets any of the grossness off and drying, either in the drier or especially in the sun, makes sure its gone for good. If you’re concerned, there are various products you can get that are supposed to get rid of any bacteria in diapers. Buying diapers used means you can save a significant amount. With the brand of prefolds I buy, I’ve hardly lost a dime in buying them used and selling them when we go up a size.

Which gets me to the brand. I did a lot of research on prefold brands before buying them. Green Mountain Diapers had nothing worse than amazing reviews. After comparing them to some Gerbers I use as burp rags (it was a not-enough-diapers-while-out emergency) I can happily agree that they are awesome. They are spendy for prefolds, but prefolds are one of the cheapest options in the cloth diapering world. Two dozen easily gets me by and if you buy them new, that’s only $70. One prefold all night (since Twig hates to get out of bed to be changed) and zero leaks. For the lots-at-once wetting toddler, I use one of sister’s smaller prefolds folded into thirds as a doubler for her toddler-sized prefold. Part of the leak protection, of course, is the wool cover.

Peanut’s bum is so full of diaper that she waddles. It’s pretty hilarious.

Wool covers. There’s a billion places you can buy them. And they’re quite often expensive. Diaper Swappers is another great place to get them, but also Hyena Cart and Etsy. There’s probably a mom near you selling handmade wool covers right now! Or, if you’re cheap like me, you can make your own. Learn to knit (here’s my favorite pattern on Ravelry), crochet, or follow a tutorial on how to make them out of recycled wool sweaters. Even if you do buy them, I easily get by with 3 (though currently that’s two with a third being knit) and a backup or two of something non-wool (I have 1 PUL and one fleece) just in case, so it’s not super expensive.

Useful accessories: snappi (some prefer pins, but I could never get them figured out) for securing the prefold, cloth wipes (wish I could tell you where I got them, but they’re just cotton with surged edges), wetbags (more on that later), and some coconut oil for diaper rash cream.

The Method

While it’s certainly not as easy as throwing on a pocket diaper or disposable, prefolds aren’t as difficult as they look. There’s an array of folding options. I toyed around with a lot of them trying to get Twig’s huge breastfed poops to stay off her cover, but none of them really ended up working 100% of the time. Luckily, she stopped pooping in such big bursts, so it ended up being only an occasional problem. Now that she’s eating some solids, there’s no problem with that at all.

The trick is to get the diaper on the baby before she pulls this move.

Since none were preferred for keeping poop in, I just picked the one that was the quickest and easiest for me: the jelly roll. Kept the poop in most of the time and it was super fast and mindless. Plus, having a chunky baby, it was nice to be able to fan out the top easily. Secure with a snappi and pull on a cover. Voila!

The wipes all piled in the changing table drawer next to covers. Coconut oil is in the jar with the blue lid.

When baby has just a pee diaper, I don’t wipe. Really, it seems to cause more irritation to my kids rubbing the wipe over their skin than just letting the pee dry. For poop, I just run a couple of wipes under the tap and ring them out (not too much!) before walking to the changing table. I switch between wool covers if the current one feels wet and sometimes just for kicks. Dirty diapers go in the wetbag. Dirty wool goes straight to the sink.

The wetbag connected to the changing table.

Speaking of wetbags, I made mine. Well, my mom made my carry around wetbags and then supervised me making the at-home one and I still need to make one more. Currently there’s no pattern, but I’m hoping to make one in the near future to share. Before making these, I used a small trash can lined with a reusable grocery bag (the kind that you can fold up into a ball). This worked well when we used gDiapers, but with the prefolds being larger, it filled up too quick. Plus the pooch thinks diapers are AWESOME and she figured out how to open the trash can, so we had to keep it up high. Unfortunately, this was perfectly nose-height. Hence the new system. I’m happy to say that the PUL fabric at Joann’s is smell-proof.

The Washing

First off, do not wash the wool in a machine. It will felt, especially on hot. I neglected to tell my mother-in-law this and now I have a newborn sized felted soaker. I’m saving it for any possible future babies.

We wash diapers every time the wetbags are all full or I’m running low on diapers, about every two days. It’s really more of the former than the latter now that I have 30 diapers. For a month or two we were getting by on a dozen, so they were washed nightly because I can’t get through 2 days with only 12 diapers.

Generally my lovely husband does the diaper laundry. Isn’t he grand? First it’s a cold rinse (we have a really basic top loader, so each step is done manually) without soap. Just set the dial all the way to rinse and start it. It can be on hot/cold because the cold means that it’s a cold rinse. Then we do a full hot/cold cycle with Country Save. Even if it’s a bunch of diapers, we only use somewhere around 1/8 of the cup. Diapers don’t need much soap.

The cold rinse setting.

Wetbags are hung to dry, as is the PUL cover if it needs a wash (rarely). The fleece can go in the dryer. We have to dry the prefolds twice to get them fully dry. If I’ve done the diapers myself in the daytime and I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll hang them out on the line. Stains are simply zapped out by the sun. Isn’t nature great?

Wool doesn’t need to be washed every time you use it. Actually far from. It only needs to be washed if A. It gets poop on it, B. It needs to be lanolized, or C. It gets stinky. I have yet to experience C.

When poop gets on the soaker, you can spot clean it. I use some wool wash soap samples I got from a friend and all you do is run some tepid (feels neither hot nor cold to the skin) tap water on it and rub on some soap, rinse the soap off and dry. Drying means rolling it up in a towel and then hanging it to dry on the line. This time of year and using the knit wool (as opposed to felted), it’s dry in a couple of hours. You know your wool needs to be lanolized if it starts to feel wet or leaks. Honestly, I just end up lanolizing sometimes when poo gets on the cover. I use this method.

Out and About

The diaper bag necessities.

Really, this whole method transfers well to the public realm. I have a changing pad and I carry a squirt bottle and sanitizer in case there’s a poop when we’re not near a sink. I bring one, sometimes two covers. Most often 3-4 prefolds, more if we’ll be gone longer. Dirty diapers go in the travel-sized wetbag.

What’s your favorite cloth diaper? Any suggestions for my methods? Any questions? 

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Budgeting Hurts my Brain

Our current envelope system. I’m going to change it for envelopes that have zippers to keep change in and change gas (which we do through debit at Costco for cheaper) to entertainment (which I forgot to include).

I’m serious. My actual brain throbs. It doesn’t make sense, but I swear the feeling is there.

So, as I’ve talked about in the past we’re doing the debt snowball method to rid ourselves of debt, I’m awful with money, blah blah blah. Everything kind of got put on hold with having a baby. I didn’t even track our spending for a month after she was born, which is something I’ve done for the last two years. It felt like we were back at that place where we were a few months ago where we couldn’t put a full tank of gas in the car for fear of not being able to buy groceries before the next paycheck. It’s not a place that I like to be.

So I decided to do something about it. I never did start up our cash envelope system that everyone recommended. I still didn’t start it until the 20th of last month (one of the days my husband gets paid). I kept thinking that if I took our income and subtracted the bills, we’d have a number for spending and we’d just put it where it needed to go at the time. That just wasn’t working. Every. Single. Paycheck. we’d end up spending into the next before it came in. I was constantly worrying if we had enough. I was avoiding doing the math on my tracking sheet because I knew that we’d be in a deficit when I did it. Something had to change.

That’s when I saw this post by That Mama Gretchen. Probably nearing a year ago, when I finished reading Total Money Makeover, I made copies of all the sheets at the back of the book that you’re supposed to write your money information on. I put those copies on my desk with the plan on filling them out in the near future. I’m living proof of why that first page where you say when you’re going to finish each page is important. I just never did them.

After reading Gretchen’s blog post, I finally decided to take the plunge. Wow. Some of those numbers were terrifying. Seeing on paper how much we’re “worth” was horrifying. Even if you don’t count in the mortgage, it was an awful number. On the other hand, some of the pages were amazing, like the one where you take your expenses over a year in categories where you’ll end up paying a lump sum and divide it by 12. How did I never know to do that?!? I feel like I’m budget illiterate. It amazes me that this sort of thing isn’t taught in schools. I need this much more than I’ll ever need algebra (though I still think we should learn that too).

An example of the ledger I keep in the envelope to tell how much we’ve spent and where.

The most important form, in my opinion, is the monthly cash flow plan that Gretchen mentions in her post. It was difficult determining exactly what we needed where. And I’ll be honest, I’ve messed up in multiple places. I forgot my student loan payment (since I took spring semester off and one of my loans is through a different company with a weird policy, I didn’t have a grace period) for April, thinking that we wouldn’t pay it because I was starting school again and therefore would get deferment again. Yeah, school doesn’t start until May. I also didn’t expect to make some money from selling diapers and one of my secret shop companies. I also entirely forgot to put spending money in our entertainment category. Like that’ll happen!

So things have been modified along the way. I’ve had to take money from one envelope and move it to another. I’ve been wrong on how much we’ll need in one category from this paycheck versus the next paycheck (obviously you can’t put all of your cash into your envelopes at the beginning of the month if you’re paid multiple times a month). Things have been changed around a lot. I’ve gotten frustrated a lot. I’ve literally called my husband near tears telling him I can’t figure out where such-and-such money went. With work and determination though, it’s worked out.

I’m proud to say that we lived through a whole pay period without overspending. Beyond that, some of the envelopes still had money in them. We made it through two weeks without overspending. It may not be much of an accomplishment to some people, but it is to me. And we managed to pay an extra $155 to our credit card as part of our debt snowball too.

I’ll continue sharing our financial journey with you all. I know that budgeting may seem off topic for this blog, but it’s an important part of parenting. Other moms often tell me that they could never be a stay at home mom because they need the income. This world is truly not made for one income families anymore and I understand that. It’s a battle every day to make ourselves survive on less and, beyond that, thrive on less. For our family, it’s important that I’m the one here raising our children. I know that not every mom has the ability or want to do that and I have no problem with that, it’s just a priority for our family. It gives me the opportunity to do many of the things that I talk about on this blog, such as breastfeeding, gentle discipline, and so on. I also know that working moms can do a lot of those things too. That’s not my point here. My point is that budgeting does fall in the realm natural parenting because in my world, part of natural parenting is surviving on one income in a two income world. So I’ll continue to share in hopes that it helps some of you out there thrive on less money.

Zinny Jane Wool Soaker Review and Giveaway! Ending 4.29 Worldwide!

We had A LOT of problems with Peanut and diaper rash. She spent so much of her first two years with actual open sores on her bum that I’m surprised that she doesn’t have scars. We did everything we were supposed to do to both prevent and get rid of rash. Plenty of airing-out time, wiping with water only, cloth diapers, etc. When all of that didn’t work, we ended up getting various creams from the doctor, which still didn’t do much. Eventually the rash would go away, just to turn around and come back for virtually no reason. Even when the open sores weren’t there, she always was pink.

Without a medical degree or testing this at all, since it only occurred to me in hindsight, I think it might have been the lack of breathability of her diapers. Especially at night.

This realization made me want to use more breathable diapers on Twig when she came. I also needed something that I could easily remove for elimination communication. After reading this post by Hobo Mama on prefolds and That Mama Gretchen’s Wool Week posts, I decided that was the route I wanted to go. I started in search of prefolds and wool covers.

That’s when I stumbled upon Zinny Jane on Etsy.

This lovely woman knits the cutest wool soakers in the world! I’ve been using the small one she sent me in combination with other covers and I have to say, it’s by far my favorite. It is absolutely darling. I know that soakers generally go under clothes, but I often find myself putting Twig in this one with leggings just because it is So. Frickin’. Cute.

And it’s not just cute. It’s really well knit. Knowing some about knitting myself, I can recognize a plain pattern versus an intricate one. This one has special ribbing in all the right places rather than just around the legs and middle. It has different colors of yarn used for the stripes, but I’ve had zero problem with the seams leaking or anything of that sort. It’s all perfectly the same tension and it’s really tightly weaved. I’ve heard others say that they can’t use knit covers for nighttime, only felted will do. This one has had zero issue, even with me finding out the other day that I had only partially been lanolizing my wool (I was using wool wash with lanolin, but not any pure lanolin). Zero leaks even when her prefold is literally sopping in every square centimeter. And, teamed with a stay dry liner, very little pink rash.

Beyond that, it’s super easy to clean. Twig has monster poops. She only poops once or twice a day, rather than the probably 4-5 times Peanut used to when she was this age, and she definitely makes up for it all at once. I’ve seriously tried Every. Single. Fold. that is supposed to contain breastfed baby poop, but it still gets on the covers (any tips or ideas on this would be great!). If you use wool, you know how much of a pain it is for poop to get on the wool. You can’t just throw wool in the washing machine, you have to hand wash it. Some of my wool covers seem to just hold the poop in. I spend upwards of 2 minutes scrubbing to get it all out of the fibers, which is difficult when Twig is screaming to be picked up and Peanut is screaming to be played with. This cover has it all come off instantly and there’s zero staining, even in the off-white colored yarn. It’s awesome! And it dries quick too!

Beyond that, Molly, the owner of Zinny Jane, is amazing. She spent quite a few messages back and forth with me explaining what to measure, how to measure it, and what sizes would be best. Since Twig is such a huge baby (13 lbs 13 oz at 9 weeks!), she sent me two covers to review! One small and one medium. How nice is that??! I know how much time and effort goes into knitting a project, so in my mind that gives her extra props. Honestly, I wish I owned more of them even. I just love this soaker so much! I’m sure that I’ll be talking my husband into getting some more soon.

So do any of you want to win a wool soaker?! You can! (make sure to leave a comment for each entry!)

*Mandatory*  1 entry – Go check out Zinny Jane’s Etsy store and tell me which product is your favorite in a comment! (don’t forget to include your email in your first entry so I can contact you if you win!)

1 entry – follow me on Twitter. If you already follow, you still get an entry!

1 entry – Tweet about this giveaway (leave a link to the tweet in the comment). You can tweet about this giveaway once every day for an entry. That’s up to 31 entries just from tweeting!

2 entries (make 2 separate comments) – follow this blog by RSS or email.  If you already follow, you still get an entry!

2 entries – become a fan of The Adventures of Lactating Girl on Facebook. If you’re already a fan, you still get an entry!

2 entries – become a fan of Zinny Jane on Facebook. If you’re already a fan, you still get an entry!

1 entries – Write a post on your Facebook page about this giveaway! Make sure you link to The Adventures of Lactating Girl on Facebook in the post and leave a comment here each time you do it. You can do it once per day! That’s up to 31 entries!

4 entries – blog about this contest (leave a link the comment). Once per giveaway.

This contest is worldwide. The winner will be chosen on Sunday, April 29th at 5PM Mountain Standard Time by random. The winner will be emailed and must respond to the email within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen. Good luck everyone!