We use the Tiny Tush Elite One-Size diapers, each of which comes with a water-proof diaper cover, a small (infant) insert, and a longer (large) insert. The tips listed here apply to these diapers, but they may apply to other types/brands of diapers as well. We have a total of 28 diapers now, and daughter # 2 is going on 15 months of use.
When baby is tiny, use the small insert and snap the sizing snaps (3 rows of snaps along the front of the diaper cover) to the bottom row to fit your little one. Move up to the next row when the diapers start to get a little tight. Below is the diagram of how the snaps are laid out on the Tiny Tush diapers we use.
Of course I didn't pay too much attention to the point at which this next transition took place, but somewhere around when we started solid food I think, we started using BOTH the small and large inserts in each diaper. We continue this way until baby is potty trained. This has always worked best to prevent leaks, especially at night. Come to think of it, the transition may have been around the time she started sleeping through the night, about 3 or 4 months old.
Cloth Wipes Too
We use the plainest of plain cotton baby washcloths for our wipes. The flushing bottle I got for self-care after delivery of daughter # 1 makes the perfect water bottle for the diaper station. Just squirt a little water on a clean wash cloth and you have the most gentle, chemical-free wipe you could expect! Just toss them in the wash with the diapers and re-use!
Two things about this are worth mentioning. We purchased baby washcloths with a wrapped edge for use in the kitchen to distinguish the washcloths in case one is found laying around the house. Because even though the ones used for wipes are clean, it still feels better to keep them segregated.
Second, because we use plain water on our wipes, sometimes baby's bottom is a little wet after cleaning. Most of the time a little fanning with the clean diaper is all you need to dry the bottom, but sometimes it doesn't happen fast enough. For this purpose we also keep a roll of Viva paper towels at the changing station. Viva are by far the softest paper towels, and this works better then another washcloth for getting baby very dry before a clean diaper.
Part of the system we have for diapering has to do with our diaper changing station. We try to replicate as much of the system as possible in the diaper bag for easy changing on the go.
At home, we use a wire basket to wrangle all the cloth wipes, water bottles, paper towels, and coconut oil (more on this in a few minutes) and keep them within reach.
Maybe I'm nuts, but I have never once used the straps to strap down either of my children to the changing pad. I understand the manufacturer is required to put the straps there, but they just sit underneath our changing pad. BUT, the changing pad is a little slick, and since we just set ours on top of the normal dresser in the nursery, I use the bumpy shelf liner/rug pad material cut to the size of the changing pad to make it stay put. It works like a dream!!
In the diaper bag, we use a large Planet Wise wet bag I got at my local Eco in Chico to keep all the soiled diapers until they can be "dealt with" and put in the diaper pail at home. The bag can be washed and dried and is just awesome!
A Little Hands On
Once you are past the meconium stage, but before solids, you don't really even need to do anything but toss the diapers in the wash after baby poops. As soon as the poop gets a more solid consistency, or there are chunks of solid food, the poop should be disposed of in the toilet prior to washing. We keep our diaper pail in a bathroom and take the diapers straight there after changing, eliminate any poop in the toilet and toss the diaper and wipes in the pail until the pail is full. With our 28 diapers, as soon as the pail is full, it is time to wash diapers to ensure we always have plenty of clean, dry diapers at the ready.
They make sprayers that you can hang near the toilet and tap into the toilet's water source to spray the diapers out, but I've never found much more than a couple of repeated dunks in the toilet water necessary to remove the chunks enough for washing. The sprayer seems like it would be a magnet for toddler play and mess-making more than a useful cleaning tool, but to each his own. I have never tried it.
It has never bothered me to get my child's poop on my hands during this process and then wash my hands well after the diaper goes in the diaper pail. As an alternative, a pair of rubber kitchen gloves dedicated to this purpose work quite well for my mother-in-law, who watches my daughters regularly.
The diaper pail lives next to the toilet in the guest bathroom. In a complete stroke of luck, as soon as the 8 gallon diaper pail we use is full, it is time to wash diapers to ensure we always have plenty of clean, dry diapers at the ready. If I wait until it is completely overflowing, or I have a separate bag full in addition to a full diaper pail, I am in danger of running out of diapers before the load is clean and dry.
A normal wash cycle consists of a cold-water rinse, followed by a hot water wash. Since my tank-less hot water heater allows me to select the hot water temperature (as I have mentioned before), I am able to wash my diapers in 140 degree F water and then turn the water heater down for baths (which I love!). No soap or anything for the first rinse, and I use a full scoop (which I'd estimate to be 2 Tablespoons) of Charlie's Soap for each wash-load, although the diaper manufacturer says you can use less soap with good results. Although not directed by the diaper manufacturer, I also fill the fabric softener dispenser in my washer with white vinegar and then add an extra rinse to every cycle. I'll go over the reasons that this has been an awesome addition to our system with daughter #2 in the next section.
When the diapers are brand new, it is best to put them through 2 full rinse and wash cycles to help the inserts gain absorbency and get them ready for baby.
After washing, I hang the diapers and wipes on the dry rack to dry. The inserts CAN go in the dryer, but they maintain their absorbency much better when they air dry. Here in the Northern California foothills, during the hot part of summer, the diapers will dry in a few hours outside in the sun. Likewise, in the cold part of winter, the diapers will dry in a few hours hanging by the wood stove. During the spring and fall, they can take a little longer to dry, maybe a whole day, unless they can sit in a room under a ceiling fan on high. For reasons explained in the next paragraph, I let mine dry outside whenever the weather permits.
When I put the diapers together after they dry (I like them to be ready to throw on baby), I always orient the inserts the same way, positioning the tags at one end of the inserts to face each other, with the large insert on the outside of the diaper cover (closest to baby's bottom). That way any staining that may occur from poop is always on the same side of the longer inserts, and I just hang them with that one side facing up in the sunshine to let the sun fight the stains, since you can't use bleach or any other chemical stain remover with the diapers. I must say the sun is a pretty amazing stain-fighter!
Cloth diapers and traditional diaper creams do not get along. Although they say with the gentleness of cloth diapers, diaper rash is less common with cloth diapers, I say diaper rashes will happen no matter what. It is imperative that diaper creams aren't used without a barrier between the cream and the cloth diaper. Diaper liners are sold by most of the cloth diaper manufacturers. They provide a sufficient barrier to use diaper cream and protect the cloth diapers. As an aside, they can also make poop clean-up easier, if you just can't get past that part.
We have used a couple rolls of liners only when baby has diaper rash, but more recently we have discovered the use of coconut oil (we like Dr. Bronner's brand) to combat diaper rash. The rash seems to clear up just as quickly as with traditional diaper creams, but the coconut oil doesn't harm the cloth diapers in any way! So this would definitely be my suggestion!! We put some coconut oil in a re-purposed baby food jar for travel and keep a jar at the diaper station.
Stripping the Diapers
If you do accidentally get diaper cream on the diapers, or you notice that you are having regular leaks, you may need to "strip" the diapers. Baby's skin does have natural oils that can build up on the diapers and prevent them from being properly absorbent. The stripping process goes as follows:
- Run the diapers through a rinse cycle like normal.
- Wash the diapers in hot water (should be ~140 degrees F if possible) with 1/4 cup dish soap (I use Ajax lemon - I'm told the stripping may not work as well with an all natural dish liquid; you want that strong degreasing capability).
- Run a rinse cycle with 1/4 cup to 1 cup of white vinegar.
- Run two more rinse cycles with nothing added to rinse the diapers thoroughly.
- Air dry and use as normal.
The addition of vinegar to the rinse cycle of every wash-load has made a big difference in the frequency with which I have had to "strip" the diapers with daughter #2 (and the SAME set of diapers!). That is to say I've stripped them only once, at about 11 months.
Have I forgotten anything??
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