Our Experience with Reusable Diapers

Our experience with reusable diapers did not start on day one. We started once our daughter was 15 months old; so we don’t have experience with infant needs or the number of reusable diapers needed for that time. We did however use elimination communication starting at 3 – 4 months old. If you are interested in elimination communication; using signals, timing, cues and intuition to address baby’s elimination needs please read this post: Our Elimination Communication Journey. It is a great alternative to diapers and transition to potty independence. It is also an amazing journey towards communicating with your little one and being sustainable as well!

In our home we like to practice sustainability; I like to call it conveniently sustainable. What I mean by conveniently sustainable is that it can’t take a lot of time, effort or energy. It needs to be easy enough to smoothly transition into our lifestyle with minimal tweaks to our daily routine. I share this because when I started doing research on reusable/cloth diapers before our daughter was born I was easily overwhelmed. Inserts, pouches, separate laundering, planning for enough dry time, folding a certain way to catch the mess, etc… I said, “That’s just a bit much right now”. I completely understand the sustainability practice of doing it that way but it just didn’t fit with our conveniently sustainable lifestyle. And there was no way I was going to get my husband on board if there were too many steps.

While we were getting the hang of being new parents we used disposable diapers. I am not a disposable diaper guru so please read this post: Gimme the Good Stuff Safe Disposable Diaper Guide. Their guide is very informative and has all the highlights for review.

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Why Choose Reusable Diapers?

Yes, we did and still do use disposable diapers. But my goal when pregnant with our daughter was to adopt as many sustainable practices as possible so she has a world to grow up in. Every little bit I can do to make sure she has fresh air to breathe, an ocean to swim in, and animals to admire I will do.

According to the EPA’s website, “The estimated generation of disposable diapers in 2017 was 4.2 million tons, which was 1.5 percent of total MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) generation that year.” Disposable diapers will sit in a landfill for 500+ years. Well… since they haven’t been around that long we don’t really know but they are made of plastics. Plastic hasn’t been around that long either, so 500 + years is a projection. Think about that; that is a long time. What is it doing to our environment? Modern disposable diapers started being manufactured in the late 1940’s; those diapers are still sitting in landfills. That alone got me to pick up elimination communication and then revisit reusable diapers when the time was right for us.

The estimated generation of disposable diapers in 2017 was 4.2 million tons, which was 1.5 percent of total MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) generation that year.

EPA website

Check out these links for more information:

What to Look for in a Reusable Diaper?

There are a lot of options out there but this is a post about our experience with reusable diapers so I will share what we looked for. In order to get my husband on board a reusable diaper had to be easy. For me the material in direct contact with our daughter had to be organic. I also did not want to buy multiple sizes. I feel like multiple sizes negates my principle of buying one thing that can serve multiple purposes. The reusable diaper also has to stand the test of time and be easy to clean. I researched a lot and came across bumGenuis; it ticked all the boxes for us. Figure out what your must haves are in a reusable diaper and start your research from there.

How to Use Reusable Diapers?

bumGenius makes it really easy; you put the diaper on just like any disposable diaper. Yay! No inserts, no special folds, no layering. Whew! There are a couple rows of snaps you can adjust to size the diaper for babies 8 – 35 pounds.

That is it, husband was sold! And so was I!

How to Care for Reusable Diapers?

This is where my head spun when doing my initial research on reusable diapers. Things like, “Scrape the poop into the toilet”, “Use this water sprayer attachment”, “Do a load of laundry just for diapers”, etc…. None of that was for me. I think that held me back from using reusable diapers for a long time. But it shouldn’t! Once your little one is eating solids (approximately 6 months old) their stools become easier to work with and scraping or spraying reusable diapers is no longer a requirement. When babies are infants and consuming breast milk or formula only their stools are loose and definitely a mess. If you are practicing elimination communication you may be able to catch most of the poops in their toilet and just clean the toilet. If you miss some, that is OK, we used disposables during that time for convenience.

How do you clean a reusable diaper?

Our diapers are soiled with pee only so I include them in with the regular laundry; excluding delicates and bulky items. My experience with reusable diapers is to wash them in warm water with an extra rinse cycle using a detergent. Then tumble dry on medium for one or two cycles until dry. I like to make sure they are washed within 24 hours of being used; so they aren’t sitting soiled for long periods of time. Doing a wash every day is not a stretch; since having a little one we always have a load of laundry to do!

Check the label of your reusable diaper for instructions. bumGenius’ instructions are to wash warm with detergent. Wash hot (140F/60C) with detergent. Extra rinse. No laundry additives. Line dry (I don’t have a line to dry on; use what works for you. For us, we went with using the dryer because the time to dry is much shorter and like mentioned earlier, I don’t have a line).

As for detergent I picked a one that could be used for everyone’s clothes. I don’t understand why adults detergent needs to be different than kids. For me if it is good enough for kids it is good enough for adults; probably better because it doesn’t have the extra additives that cause skin irritations, etc…. I despise having multiple products that do the same thing; instead I like a single product that serves multiple purposes. Without going further on my tangent we use Molly Suds detergent.  This product is Certified Cruelty Free, Certified Vegan, and Rated “A” in EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. We also use the Molly Suds dryer balls. I won’t go on a tangent as to why dryer sheets are unnecessary (yet!); instead check out this post from EWG: Skip the Fabric Softeners.

Who is the EWG?

EWG, Environmental Working Group, is a group of people who have come together to dive into the chemicals of the products we come in contact with on a daily basis and inform us on their impact to human health and our environment. The mission statement on their website reads, “The Environmental Working Group’s mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. With breakthrough research and education, we drive consumer choice and civic action.” Please keep in mind, it’s the consumer’s responsibility to be informed not a company’s responsibility to keep us safe. This is a resource I tap into daily.

Closing Out

This in a nutshell is our experience with reusable diapers. I hope I was able to share a very real experience that is sustainably flexible. Do I wish I could use no disposable diapers? Sure but that just wasn’t how it played out. I do know that with practicing elimination communication and making the transition to reusable diapers we did lessen our environmental impact and that was always the goal. So now I leave you with a couple tips.

Tips from Our Experience with Reusable Diapers

  • Start small, you don’t have to buy all the reusable diapers you think you need at once. This is an investment in money and time. So before dropping a pretty penny find out with one or two reusable diapers if this is for you.
  • If you are practicing elimination communication you won’t go through as many diapers. The diapers most likely won’t be filled with poop so you don’t don’t have to clean a dirty bum or diaper.
  • There isn’t a blue line on reusable diapers to let you know when baby is wet but if you are practicing elimination communication you don’t need the blue line; signals, timing and intuition will let you know when it is time.
  • Change a soiled diaper right away. It helps reduce the chances of a diaper rash and reiterates to baby that they don’t need to be OK with a soiled diaper.
  • We have a stash of disposable diapers for nap time and bedtime. Sleep is our number one priority so knowing that our daughter can sleep through the night and not be uncomfortable works for us.
  • Don’t wash your reusable diapers with bulky items like towels. I find that the dry time on them is just too long. But if it works for you by all means do it!
  • If you make it through the day with a clean reusable diaper make sure to wash it anyways just like we do our undies.

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