Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Flats Challenge: Day 4

We're 4* days into the Flats Challenge and going strong! Truthfully, it's going significantly better than I ever expected.  We've still had just one leak (we're still not using flats overnight, either).  I've been pleasantly surprised at how well they are working for us. And I am thinking I just may leave them out and continue using them, for around the house if nothing else. Also, the hand-washing isn't nearly as bad as I'd expected it would be.  Sure, it's time-consuming and I'm doing it every day, but it really isn't bad. I have plenty of diapers but washing a day's worth of diapers and covers takes about 20 or so minutes. And washing and rinsing IS work. I definitely feel like I'm getting a good workout for my arms.  But it is all manageable.  I've been fortunate that I've been able to put everything outside to dry the past few days, too.  I have a clothesline in my laundry room for indoor drying too, but I really love to dry diapers outside.  The sun bleaches stains and UV rays work to help sanitize them - both of these things amaze me.  A clothesline is a cloth diapering mama's best friend! I've been shocked at how quickly the flats dry, too. They are completely dry after a couple hours in the sun on these breezy days. The covers dry very quickly as well.

I have discovered that not everything is rosy about hand-washing. Namely, pocket diapers are definitely harder to get clean than flats and covers. But they have still come cleaner than I expected they would. I may have a couple more stains than I would normally have they look pretty darn good.  I also have to work on them a little more, though. I'm also finding that it takes our overnight diapers a long time to dry (we use a Flip organic insert and a Flip stay-dry insert).  They seem heavier than normal when I hang them up to dry, so I assume I'm just not getting the extra water out of them like my washer does. If I were doing this long-term, I'd probably try rolling these in a clean, dry towel to get the extra water out. But I'm too lazy to do anything else at this point...they're just taking a couple hours longer to dry than they usually would.

All in all, I'm feeling much more confident about recommending and using flats. We'll see how I feel after another couple days ;-)

*If you've read the official challenge information, you've seen that it just started yesterday and goes through next Sunday. Since we have plans for the long weekend, I opted to start two days earlier and will stop the  challenge this Friday. I'm still getting my full week in, but didn't want to mess with the project while traveling and enjoying the holiday.

Flats Challenge: Day 2, Laundry

Today's the day that I've been anxious about - laundry day.  In general, laundry has always been the scariest part of cloth diapering.  Buying cute little diapers and putting them on my baby is easy! Most people who have never tried them are terrified of the poop, but even that isn't bad. (Really, cleaning it off the baby is almost always the worst part.) Anyway, I digress. The host blog for the Flats Challenge is Dirty Diaper Laundry. This is the second time they hosted this event and they have several resources posted on their blog, including a tutorial for building a camp style washer. After watching their YouTube tutorial, I was convinced that the bucket washer was definitely worth the $12 or so it would cost me.  So off I went to buy a 5-gallon bucket with a lid and a toilet plunger. Basically, you drill a hole in the lid of your bucket which will allow the handle of the plunger to fit through it. Then, you can drill holes in the plunger itself but this is considered optional (from everything I've read, this is well worth the time and energy it takes). Apparently, if you don't drill holes in the plunger, it will suction to the bottom of the bucket pretty strongly.  Since I've used a plunger for its intended purpose, I decided to trust the online recommendations to drill the holes.  Here are a few pictures of my finished product:

I think the bucket is pretty self-explanatory - you put the diapers (or whatever you're washing) in it with some soap and water and seal the lid, then plunge away!  I have been taking them out and hand-rinsing once they've agitated and soaked in the soapy water (I'm using our rarely-used, extra bathtub for this project.) . All in all, I've been pretty pleased with how clean the diapers appear to be getting from hand-washing.  Here's an example of a once-poopy pocket diaper after it was cleaned in the bucket washer:

There's a slight stain, but as any mama, cloth diapering or not, would tell you, poop frequently stains.  After they're all washed and rinsed, I hang the diapers on the line outside to dry (please ignore my ugly propane tank in this photo - there are a few things about country living that aren't beautiful and serene and this is one of them).

In my next post, I'll update you all on how this challenge is going, from diapering to the hand-washing.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Flats Challenge: Day 1

Flats Challenge Rules (summarized):

  • Use flats for one week
  • Doublers or additional inserts can be added
  • They can be used in pockets
  • The flats and everything used to diaper baby must be hand-washed
Well, we survived our first day of the Flats Challenge! I was sick with allergy issues yesterday, so that made this experiment extra "challenging".  I bought flats and tried them a few months back. They are so economical and easy to care for that I really wanted to love them, but they weren't the right tool for us. Still, they are so cheap and versatile, I hung onto them. They are great for cleaning (mopping, cleaning glass, soaking up messes, etc). They are also much easier to get clean since they're so thin, and they line-dry quickly. And they're cheap! You could, theoretically, diaper a baby from birth to potty-training for less than $200 using these and some basic covers like the Thirsties Duos. These virtues make them ideal for many budget-minded mamas. And many other mamas get them for camping or mission work, where resources are scarce.

Typically, "flats" are simply one big piece of birdseye cotton or flannel. We have a couple dozen Diaper Rite large flats which I'm using this week, which are birdseye cotton. We also have a couple dozen small flats which I have kept for diapering a future baby as a newborn.  I bought ours at Diaper Junction for $22 per dozen (the small flats are cheaper). I originally purchased flats thinking I could stuff our pocket diapers with them but they can be used folded in a variety of ways too.  Since they are just cotton, a cover must always be used to create a waterproof barrier.

Here is a picture of a flat and some covers we like:
This is a large flat, completely unfolded and two of our covers. We use Blueberry Coveralls, Flips and Swaddlebees Capri covers but we usually use Flip organic inserts in them. We also use pocket diapers for daycare, grandparents, sitters, etc. I also greatly prefer the pockets when A is having tummy issues...they're much easier to clean poo out of. I like the simplicity of pad-folding the flats and using them in the covers.  So, for this project, we really are just substituting a flat for a Flip organic insert...pretty easy!

Here is a picture of the pad-folded flat in the cover, ready for A to use:
Again, we use these covers with a similar system on a daily basis. I greatly prefer covers with the flaps built into them (our Blueberry Coveralls do not have these but they are great for nighttime).  The flaps just hold the diaper in place nicely.

As I mentioned before, you can also fold flats in a variety of different ways and put them on the baby in that way. Here's an example of the flat folded into an origami fold:
This fold (and most others besides the pad-folded flat) require using pins or a snappi to attach the diaper to the baby. Truthfully, I don't have the time and patience to fold diapers like this all day, nor to master the skill of getting them on my squirmy, active baby. But I have to say that they look pretty cool!

Anyway, our first day was fairly uneventful.  Flats aren't as absorbent as our standby, the Flip organic inserts, so I have to change A every 2 hours or we're risking a leak.  A seems to pee more than the average kid, though and these really work great for many kiddos.  I'm finding that these work better now than they were a few months ago (likely b/c A is eating more solids and drinking less milk than he was).  We made it through with one little leak (mama pushed over the 2 hour mark). Otherwise, they worked better than I'd remembered from a few months back.  I also did not use them overnight (which I'm supposed to do). My plan was to use our usual Flip organic insert with a flat (we usually use a Flip Stay-Dry), all in a cover.  But the flat was bulkier than the Stay-Dry and I just couldn't get a good fit. I knew we were destined for a crying kid with wet sheets. And sleep is worth more to me than this project. So, he got his usual solution, but I'm hand-washing it with our flats and other daytime solutions.

Tomorrow, we'll talk about the scary part of this experiment - the whole hand-washing thing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cloth Diapering, Old School

I just signed up for this year's Dirty Diaper Laundry Flats Challenge!  I'm really excited about this and have pondered it for some time before deciding to take the plunge. Basically, I'm committing to diapering A for one week with only flats and covers (I can add something extra for overnights) and to hand-washing all diapers. Yes, hand-washing! (Although homemade camp-style washers are allowed, which I have bought materials to make.) 

My husband thinks I've gone mad but I'm really, really excited to try this! When I began cloth diapering, I chose to do so for a variety of reasons (it's healthier, friendlier to the environment, saves money, etc).  I've bought so many fun diapers that I've probably just broken even, though. Still, I'm intrigued by the fact that  people could diaper their child for $3-400 from birth to potty training, if they used really basic diapers. Flats are the most basic of diapers. They are generally made from birdseye cotton or flannel. One doesn't even have to buy official "diapers" for diapering their child - you can buy flour sack towels from your local discount store or use old receiving blankets. These were what our great-grandmothers probably used to diaper their children. Since they are just cotton, a cover of some sort must be used to create a waterproof barrier. I already own a couple dozen flats which I purchased for stuffing our pocket diapers (which are a more expensive, modern cloth diaper). Truthfully, I didn't love them for this purpose but they're very easy to hand-wash, so I kept them in case of  emergency. As someone who 1. lived without power for a couple weeks in 2007 due to a major ice storm and 2. lives in the country, I think about these things. For my $35 I have invested, I'm hanging on to those bad boys!

Anyway, what I'm most excited about, is seeing what true budget diapering is all about.  Is it as easy as it's touted? If so, I'd love to help those who are less fortunate in our community. I've read too many statistics about needy families who need diapers but just can't afford them.  I've even read that people are commonly re-using disposable diapers. ICK!!! I can't even fathom how this is possible! If you can't tell already, I'm very passionate about cloth diapering. It's much easier than most people envision, but I can say that as a mother who has had the luxury of trying different things and buying nice, big-brand cloth diapers at a variety  of costs. And I had the money to invest up front, which many mothers do not.  I would like to really KNOW that one can diaper their baby with a small investment up front. And that not owning a washer doesn't have to be a deal-breaker. I currently choose to line-dry our diapers frequently, so I can confidently say that not having a dryer isn't a big deal.

So hang on, this could be a wild ride. I may decide this whole idea is a nightmare and quickly quit. Or I'll end the challenge more passionate about cloth diapers than ever! Regardless, I'll post pics and thoughts along the way about the materials and how they're being used, starting with building the camp washer.