Our baby is now a year old...actually it's been nearly two months since his first birthday, I'm just a little behind on this post. So, that means we've cloth diapered over a full year now! Some people thought I'd give up quickly, which by the way, is totally offensive, because that means they don't have much faith in me or know me very well! But here we are, one year later, and I'm so happy we chose this route. So, for anyone who is curious or looking into cloth diapers for their own babies, here's what I've learned after one year.
1. There's a Learning Curve
There are people who seem to knock it out of the park right away, but for others, myself included, using cloth diapers can come with some trial and error, particularly when it comes to laundry. However, fret not, there's a whole community to support you and help you figure it out. You are definitely NOT alone.
2. Don't Use Too Much Detergent
I probably say this in every cloth diaper related blog or vlog, but it's worth repeating. If there's one thing I can advise anyone on before starting cloth diapers, don't use too much detergent. How do you know if you're using too much? You can check by doing a swoosh test. We ended up with detergent buildup, and thankfully ours wasn't horrible, and by horrible I mean, we didn't have overflowing suds in our machine or in our diapers when swooshed. I don't know if our soft water has anything to do with masking those suds, but even without the overflowing suds I've seen some people end up with, it still was a HUGE pain to rinse out. And that's the only way to get rid of it--to rinse until it's gone. So, swoosh your diapers after your first few laundry days to make sure you have a solid routine. And if you do wind up with detergent build-up, consider it a rite of passage in the cloth diaper world. Also, don't follow Fluff Love University's recommendations for wash routines. They recommend way too much detergent. That being said, there are people who have had success with their routines, but I personally would caution against it.
3. It Can Become Addicting
Buying cloth diapers can become addicting, especially once you get in the game of buying, selling, and trading. Thankfully, I tend to be frugal, and next to sustainability, one of the main reasons we use cloth is for budgetary purposes.
4. Don't Be Afraid of Flats
We started off going the prefolds and covers route--easy, budget-friendly, and versatile. But then we ran into detergent build-up issues and I was so traumatized by that experience I switched to flats, because flats are just one layer of fabric folded up however you want and need, so they're easier to wash. After switching to flats, I couldn't believe I was so intimidated by it. I think many people are, because they're just one large piece of fabric. That being said, now that we have our routine down, I have recently taken out our prefolds again, because there have been a few times I ran out of diapers on before wash day. Also, our bamboo flats have shrunk ridiculously and though I can make them work, they're now short and for some reason bulkier, so the prefolds have been nice in place of those. They also seem to be washing well. The detergent we use is Unicorn Clean, and it is an AMAZING earth-friendly detergent created by a small family owned business that lives on an alpaca farm. However, even though flats are one layer of fabric, I can fold them up in such a way as to get just as many layers as my prefolds padfolded, or more. So, I'd say they're just about as easy, more budget-friendly, and versatile as refolds.
5. They're a Gateway to a Whole World of Sustainable Products
At least for me, cloth diapers opened me up to thinking more resourcefully and to more sustainable products. You can read about some of the eco-friendly swaps I've made at home here.
6. People are Weird
As related to cloth diapers, I say this for two reasons: 1) Some people are grossed out by cloth diapers, but then somehow it's normal when their babies poop up their backs out of disposable diapers (that doesn't happen with cloth); and 2) people can create drama around anything...even poop catchers. In this case, cloth diaper laundry can be a cause for a lot of strong opinions and contentions.
7. The Cloth Diaper Groups are the Best Parenting Groups
I'm actually only in one non-cloth diaper Mommy or Parenting group, but that one is enough to show me that cloth diaper groups are the best. Maybe I got lucky, but the Cloth Diaper Communities I'm in, have been for the most part very warm, welcoming, and supportive. Of course there are always going to people who like to stir up drama, I've found a few groups that I really enjoy.
8. There's Extra Pressure to Getting it Right
For some reason, because cloth diapers aren't mainstream, I sometimes feel a pressure to be perfect with our diapers at all times, but it's ridiculous. People have leaks with disposables, and as mentioned above, blowouts are a common thing with disposables. Yet for some reason, if baby leaks out of his cloth diapers, my parents are quick to judge them and say these diapers don't work, and I feel pressure to defend myself and the diapers. I feel like this when I talk to friends about cloth, too. I guess I feel judged, and probably because some people are judging; but not everyone. But that's why I try to just tune everyone out and do my own thing. Like when I was going through the trial and error of our laundry routine, or when I was endlessly rinsing out the diapers to get the detergent buildup out. I just kept going.
9. Try not to get rid of all the diapers that don't fit well at first
There were a couple brands in the beginning that just did not work for us, no matter how many times I tried. I gave up on those two after 4 months. One of the brands is Totsbots. I love what the company stands for and does, and the covers are super cute, so I saved the two covers that I have and put them on baby's stuffed animals. Recently, our son has started taking off the diapers and playing with the velcro, so I like to think of it as a good developmental tool. The other brand that didn't work for us was Luludew, and I gave one cover away to a friend to use over her son's disposables, but then I had two and I kept trying to sell them and couldn't. Eventually I started using them as our night time covers, and one day I noticed these covers started fitting really well. So, now I enjoy having them in our stash, and use them in our day time routine, because currently we get a great fit out of them.
10. There's a great community of mamapreneurs out there
I'm pretty sure I mentioned this in my first cloth diaper journey check-in vlog, but one thing that continues to amaze, inspire, and make me smile is that so many mothers out there are solving problems and turning their solutions into businesses. I love especially supporting the diaper companies that are mom-founded and owned, but then there are others who make pants that fit over fluffy booties, or those that make diaper cream and balm solutions. It's really opened my eyes to how amazing mothers are, because moms seem to start businesses to support other moms. That's what inspired me to turn my freelance copywriting into my own business, and especially seek out other moms to help grow their businesses, because when we lift up mothers, we are lifting up entire communities.