I’m preparing for my sister in law’s wedding this weekend. Our entire family is in the wedding and DD & DS will be some of the only children at this wedding so I figured it’s best to put together an entertainment kit for them. In the past the kids have made excellent use of their magnent drawing boards but they no longer hold their attention for very long. My kiddos are now obsessed with writing with pencil on notepads. (YAY! Practice with letters!) So, to keep them quiet during the ceremony, I put together a quiet entertainment kit with one small new toy, colored pencils, stickers and a note pad. I may throw in a small pouch of applesauce. These bags that our Squooshi reusable pouches arrived in have come in handy!
When I talk about cloth diapers to people that aren’t currently using them, I often get questions about how it’s possible to use cloth if you don’t own a washer or dryer. I also have many people concerned about how much it costs to start cloth diapering – even after I tell them that they can save $1,300 by the time their child is 2 years old!
In light of this question and concern, I want to talk to you about the Flats and Handwashing Challenge. Last year my kiddos were still in diapers and I joined Kim Rosas of Dirty Diaper Laundry in using flat diapers and handwashing them for one straight week. I have a hard time expressing all that I learned from this challenge but I will try to summarize it here.
First of all – what is the Flats and Handwashing Challenge? For one week, limit yourself to using flat diapers or single layer fabric folded into a diaper along with covers to diaper your baby/babies. During this week “unplug” from your washer and dryer and turn up the elbow greese and wash those diapers by hand! While this may seem like a silly challenge to many at first glance, I assure you, it is not. Below, I will explain why.
This challenge, in combination with discussions with Heather McNamara of the Real Diaper Association, made me realize that most any absorbent material can be a diaper. If you think you have to spend money to join in this challenge, I challenge you to use only what you already have! Do you have receiving blankets? Do you have flour sack or single layer dish towels? Do you have some old tshirts? Cut them in half (at the side seam) and you have 2 diapers! Have any old sheets you aren’t using? Cut them into squares! All of these items make for great diapers.
Flat diapers (what my grandmother used) are the easiest diaper to wash because they are only one layer of fabric. They dry the quickest as well, making them perfect for this challenge. Flats can also be folded to accomodate for different wetzones, absorbencies, and body types which makes them a great choice for families with more than one child in diapers.
This challenge does more than teach you that you can upcycle items in your home into a diaper. It also teaches you emergency preparedness. What if we had no electricity? What if there were no gas and stores were shut down and you couldn’t buy disposables? What if you had a limited water supply? Did you have to make some diapering changes during the recent hurricanes on the east coast? Ever wondered how to travel with cloth? Ahem… flats baby!
I used flats confidently on our trip to Mexico last year after having practiced during the Flats Challenge. I washed those diapers in the hotel sink like a pro! They dried on our balcony in less than 12 hours. I also took flats on a camping trip! Give me a bucket, a faucet, some detergent, gloves and half of an old tupperware meat marinade container (the little pyramid bumps on the container made a great washboard) and I’m set!
And…. I was able to put a combination of two flats, a trifolded washcloth (in the wet zone) and a fleece liner together for a nighttime diaper that worked for both of my twins! SCORE!
So, back to the original question. Can you use cloth diapers if you don’t have a washer? Yes. You can hand wash your diapers, take them to a laundry mat twice a week or use a diaper service. It’s totally doable. As for how much it costs to get started, you can buy an inexpensive cover for less than $10. Buy 6 covers, some diaper closures like pins, Snappies, or Boingos and upcycle some materials I suggested above and you can diaper a baby full time for under $100. If you want to get fancier over time, go for it, but you have the basics and will never have to buy a disposable diaper again!
P.S. I had a good time doing the actual handwashing also. It was therapeutic in the same way that most physical labor is. I also plugged my earbuds into my Kindle and blazed through a book that week while washing away. It was me time.
If you are interested in joining the Flats and Handwashing Challenge it runs from May 20th-26th this year! I highly recommend it. Even if you don’t complete the challenge successfully the experience is an amazing educational foundation! Cheers to Kim for dreaming up such a great educational experience of a challenge!
Here are links to the posts I wrote while taking last year’s challenge!
When using diapers there are a few reasons that diaper rash may occur. Baby may be sensitive to chemicals (in disposables or detergent with cloth), heat (disposable diapers don’t breathe well), fabric allergy, bacteria, yeast, teething (can change the pH of baby’s poo), eczema, and changes in diet (eating more acidic foods) can all cause diaper rash.
Through working with many moms, other leaders in the cloth diapering community as well as my own experience, I have learned some common causes of diaper rash in cloth diapers.
First – basic cloth diaper facts and washing recommendations:
Using cloth diaper safe detergent will prevent detergent build up in your diapers. Detergents with live enzymes can cause diaper rash. Detergents with optical brighteners are made to coat fabrics with a chemical that makes clothes appear whiter when light hits them. This coating will decrease absorbency of your diapers, may cause leaks, and may cause diaper rash.
Use cloth safe diaper rash creams. Any diaper cream that contains Zinc Oxide, Fish Oil, or Petroleum will coat your diapers, decrease absorption and give bacteria something to cling onto. There are many cloth safe diaper creams. One of the safest and cheapest is organic coconut oil. (I put a small baby food jar in my diaper bag with coconut oil for any hint of redness.)
Basic washing directions for a full load of diapers (18-24 diapers) are:
Dump solid waste in the toilet
Hot wash with detergent (and water softening agent if you have hard water)
Rinse on warm twice
Dry inserts in your dryer and hang dry AIOs, and covers to increase the life and maintain the best function of your covers.
If diaper is stained, lay the wet diaper in the sun (UV rays still work on cloudy days). If the stain is stubborn, re-wet and squeeze a little lemon juice on the stain. Rewash any diapers with lemon juice prior to use on baby.
If you have a Front Loader HE machine please check out this post I wrote for DiaperShops.com blog HERE.
For more details about washing visit the Real Diaper Association HERE.
So, your baby has a rash. To determine what the cause of the rash is, you need to answer several questions.
1) Do your diapers smell clean out of the wash?
If yes, skip to question number 2. If you answered no, you may have bacteria build up in your diapers. There are two common causes for bacteria buildup in cloth diapers.
A) You are not using enough detergent and your diapers are not getting completely clean. Check your diapers when they are on their last rinse cycle. Do you see soap bubbles? (Bubbles from water agitation are fine and will quickly pop. Bubbles from soap will linger and look lather like.) If you do not see soap bubbles increase your detergent by 1/2 tbsp and rewash your diapers. Continue increasing your detergent until you either see soap suds on your final rinse (which indicates too much detergent) or your diapers smell clean. If you have hard water you will find that it takes much more than the recommended amount of detergent to get your diapers clean. You can either use this larger amount of detergent or you can buy a water softening agent to add to your detergent.
B) You are using too much detergent or are not rinsing your diapers enough to remove all of the detergent used to wash them (you may also have leaks from decreased absorbency). If you see soap bubbles on your last rinse cycle you need to rinse your diapers until there are no more suds. Bacteria like to cling to things like soap or any other chemical coating your diapers which is why it is important to use a cloth safe, clean rinsing detergent.
C) You have used a barrier cream that is not cloth safe, causing bacteria to cling to this coating (you may also have leaks from decreased absorbency). To get that cream off of your diaper you will need to hand wash it with Dawn dish soap until removed. I say hand wash because dish soap in your washing machine can clog your washer and may void your warranty. Rinse these diapers by hand until suds are gone.
Note about bacteria buildup: To disinfect diapers check with your diaper’s manufacturer. My favorite method of disinfection is a few drops of Tea Tree Oil at the start of your wash. Many cloth users recommend BacOut, however some babies are sensitive to the live enzymes and may get a rash from using it. If you use BacOut, make sure you use it at the beginning of the wash, use very little and rinse very well.
2) Do your diapers smell like strong urine (ammonia) as soon as your baby pees? Do his/her overnight diapers knock you out when you change them in the morning?
A) You probably have ammonia build up. This causes an ammonia burn and the rash can sometimes blister. According to my pediatrician ammonia is the most common cause of diaper rash. Ammonia can build up in diapers because of too little water in the wash cycle, too little detergent (in hard water this is commonly fixed by adding a water softening agent like Calgon, RLR or Charlie’s Laundry Booster if you use Charlie’s Laundry Soap). See my post HERE for treating ammonia buildup.
Side note about ammonia buildup: Ammonia buildup frequently occurs around 12-18 months when baby’s urine starts to become more concentrated and their bladder holds more urine.
3) Is your baby sensitive to wetness?
A) Some babies are very sensitive to being wet. In these cases it is helpful to use a diaper liner. Make sure that the top layer of your diaper is fleece (synthetic) or raw silk (natural). Many pocket diapers have a pocket made of fleece. Fleece and raw silk allow moisture to pass through them and help keep baby feeling dry. Fleece liners also help babies sleep longer if they are waking from feeling wet!
B) Make sure you are changing baby every 2 hours during waking hours (or when you know they are wet or soiled). Frequent changes keep baby’s skin dry and prevent skin breakdown!
4) Have you (if breastfeeding) or your baby taken antibiotics?
A) If your baby has been exposed to antibiotics he or she may get an overgrowth of the normally small amount of yeast that is present in the body. (Check for thrush in the mouth as well.) A diaper’s warm and moist environment is a nice place for yeast and bacteria to flourish and this can cause a rash. Talk to your doctor about taking a good probiotic while on a antibiotic which will help keep yeast in check. To diagnose a diaper rash caused by yeast you should have your doctor swab the rash and culture for a diagnosis. Contact your diaper manufacturer for their recommendations about how to clear your diapers of yeast. Currently, the Real Diaper Association is doing the first lab experiment on how to kill yeast at home in your own washing machine. Check it out HERE!
Side note about yeast: Many a grandmother will tell you to put corn starch on a diaper rash to dry it up. Do NOT put corn starch on a persistent rash. If it is yeast, it will feed on cornstarch and get worse!
5) Have you introduced a new diaper fabric? Has baby grown sensitive to your diaper fabric?
A) Some babies can be sensitive to synthetic fabrics and some can be sensitive to wool. Natural fabrics include cotton, hemp, raw silk (liners) and wool. Bamboo is a wonderful material for diapers because it is a fast growing plant, causing less of an environmental impact than many other materials. Bamboo, however, is turned into a rayon in the process of becoming a fabric so that it is no longer a “natural” fiber. If you suspect your baby is sensitive to a fabric, try using cotton or hemp absorbent material (no need to buy all new diapers – fold up some dishtowels or t-shirts to see if the rash improves).
6) Is your baby sensitive to a chemical?
A) Babies can be sensitive to chemicals in detergents, barrier creams, wipes, cleansers and disinfectants. Have you introduced a new product that has brought on a rash? My son grew sensitive to disposable wipes and I found his skin cleared up quickly after we switched to cloth wipes! My pediatrician told me that all I needed to clean my baby’s bottom was water and I should have listened! Water cleans great and coconut oil is naturally antibacterial, so if using only water leaves you feeling uneasy, apply a layer of coconut oil after every diaper change.
B) If you have changed detergents, try changing again or going back to your previous detergent. If it cleared up, take note of what was in the new detergent and compare the ingredients to your previous detergent to gain some insight to what your baby might be sensitive to. You could also try adding a rinse cycle to see if detergent residue caused the irritation.
Do you have another rash question I didn’t cover? Please leave a comment! I’m sure there are other issues that arise but these are some of the most common (and this post is already L O N G). I hope this answers many questions. I’d love to hear about your experiences and diaper rash cures!
This post includes affiliate links.
While I am busy working to get everything ready for the twins’ 4th birthday party, I though you might enjoy a peek at my friend Amanda’s fantabulous party creation. Amanda and her family put together an amazing 2nd birthday party for her son. I know you will appreciate it!
Check out what Amanda had to say about this party!
“I had so much fun putting together my son’s 2nd birthday party! The theme was “Monkey See, Monkey Do, Our Little Monkey is Turning 2!” and we held the party at a local zoo. The party colors were monkey brown and banana yellow Our dessert table was full of banana flavored treats – banana nut Cheerios, banana runts, banana candy sticks, banana chips, gummy bananas, banana flavored candy sticks, and banana flavored cupcakes with chocolate frosting (in addition to bunches of actual bananas of course!) I made a monkey head cake for my son, and LOVE the way it turned out (I followed the tutorial on marthastewart.com) We used stuffed monkeys for party decor and party favors! We even made my son a special shirt to wear to his party with a monkey wearing a party hat with the number 2 on it! It was such a great day, and we had a blast monkeying around at the zoo to celebrate him turning 2!”
Of course I focused on the eco-friendly elements of how this theme was brought to life…. Hover over the photos for my favorite eco-highlights!
Thanks to Miggy Photography for the great photos!
When my husband and I started talking about having children I made it clear to him that it was very important to me to be a stay at home mom. I know that decision isn’t right for everyone but it was right for us and we made it work. Staying at home to raise our twins was far from a dream – although it was a dream come true. It was riddled with self doubt, tears, and bitterness. It was also filled to the brim with snuggles, firsts, belly laughs and love. You all know the story. Mom stays at home to care for baby. Baby sucks the life out of mom while simultaneously being her life blood. Parenting is the hardest job in the world – so why wouldn’t we put it on our resume?
I had no plans to look into going back to work until our twins were in Kindergarden. However, slowly, paid opportunities for writing, teaching (about cloth diapers), and nursing have made their way into my line of sight. My children love preschool so much that I have begun to feel comfortable with the thought of working outside of the home 1-2 days a week. So when a part time Dr.’s office nursing position came to my attention I mentioned it to my husband and he responded “Awesome! That would be great!” While I’m sure his main focus was on the increased income, I started to day dream about being a valued employee and putting my nursing skills to good use.
Then I updated my resume. That 4 year gap between my last paid job and now didn’t sit well with me so I knew it wasn’t going to look great to a potential employer. If you find yourself in a similar position, I ask you to take a look at what you have been doing. What skills have you used or mastered while working uncompensated – because let there be no doubt that you have been working. You just don’t have a pay stub to prove it.
Put together all of the volunteer time and projects you have worked on. Have you been a board member of your local moms club? Have you written a newsletter for a club? Have you been a scout leader? Have you organized church functions? I look around at my fellow stay at home moms and these are the extra duties they take on while parenting full time – with no sick days or vacations.
Fill your resume up with your volunteer work and the skills this work required. And don’t forget to add SAHM (or SAHD) as your most recent job position. Check out the snapshot from my updated resume for some of the skills I believe are key to parenting. Did I miss anything? What are the most important skills you have gained from being a SAHM or SAHD?