Diapering The Bonzai Bum – Part I

July 8th, 2010 - filed under: The Farm » Family


“To cloth or not to cloth?”, that is . . . a different question. An important one, yes, and one that we’ll cover soon in this series. But today, the focus is on cloth. Because that’s how I roll.

To be clear, this is an opinion piece. If you want me to tell you which brands of diapers to buy and which materials are best and what sort of system makes the most sense, well, I can’t! I can’t do that because if there’s one thing I’ve learned on this crazy cloth diapering carousel, it’s this: every baby is different, every bum is different, and different bodies make for different diaper experiences.

For example, I know this sweet new vegan named Sula. Just a few months older than Waits, we met her parents by sharing a table at our favorite, particularly crowded, Sunday brunch buffet. Months later we ran into them again and discovered that we were both pregnant! And now when we bump into each other at brunch we talk babies, as new parents tend to do . . . and of course we also talk cloth, as crunchy folk tend to do.

Sula’s parents swear by the gDiaper system. LOVE THEM. They’re all she wears, with their cloth insert for home or the flushable option for going out, they say it’s the perfect diaper. Which is lucky for them, since gDiapers are one of the less expensive brands. I wish I could love them too – but I don’t.

I have one lovely lipstick red gDiaper and I every time Waits wears it, I end up getting peed on. It leaks. Every. Single. Time. And it’s not just him – I hear this complaint a lot from [ex] g-users. You either love ‘em, or they’re worthless. It totally depends on the shape of your baby.

This anecdote is meant to illustrate why I couldn’t just tell you which brand is ‘the best’. And, why I caution against investing in an entire single-brand system before your baby is even born. If I’d bought only gDiapers, I’d be screwed!

So here’s what I CAN tell you, and if you read this site I’m sure it will come as no surprise. When it comes to cloth diapers: 1) organic is better, and 2) shop secondhand. Here’s what I did . . .

I had *no* idea what I was doing when I jumped into the grand cloth-diapering game. All I knew was that cloth was in line with my values, so cloth it had to be. I imagined the diapers I wore as a baby, bulky fabric held in place with pokey pins, but we’ve come a long way since then. From prefolds to pocket diapers, all-in-ones to ‘longies’, there is an entire world of technology beyond the relics of our own infancy.

IMG_0525Someday Waits will inform me of his own gender identity. But for now, I have no qualms about putting my little boy in hot pink hand-me-down diapers. These are from Bonzai reader Eden – thanks again lady!

So I read the reviews, settled on pockets and covers, found a few highly-rated brands, and then I began my search. I’d hit the used baby store, which became one of my favorite haunts while I was pregnant. The good diapers disappear fast, so check back often! Craigslist is another excellent resource for secondhand diapers. Etsy is amazing if you want ‘new but ethical’, just be warned – it’s easy to lose control over there in the face of all that cute. You could do some serious financial damage!

Over the course of my pregnancy I amassed a modest collection of various brands, from bumGenius (my faves, but expensive) to Fuzzi Bunz (widely available, but S-M-L means you need more of them) to Swaddlebees (so awesome, organic and soft, but also come S-M-L) to Blue Penguin (really not my favorite), to the gDiaper and more. Some were pocket diapers (the Fuzzi Bunz and the Swaddlebees), some were size-adjustable (the bumGenius), some were all-in-ones (the Blue Penguins), and a few were off brand/homemade fitted diapers with off brand/homemade covers. All said and done I started motherhood with roughly 20 diapers.

IMG_0524The diaper drawer, with: cloth diapers, cotton inserts, emergency back-up unbleached non-toxic disposables.

I suggest starting with 15-25 diapers, depending on how much time you’ll have. You’ll need more eventually, but it’s better to start with a small varied supply. Then you can figure out what works for your baby and stock up on that. However, with only 15 diapers you’ll be doing laundry every day, so if that doesn’t seem realistic for your lifestyle you may want to start with a bigger stash. I should also note that we began with a box of newborn-sized disposables, which we ended up using almost exclusively for the first 2 weeks. Newborns are just so small for all that fabric! It’s a good idea to always have ‘sposies on hand (like for when the laundry slips your mind). We just started using them for overnights too, since Waits sleeps through the night (bless his heart!) and cloth ends up leaking. A lot. And we share a bed, so . . . yeah no.

. . . To Be Continued . . .

  • http://alternativehousewife.com J – Alternative Housewife

    Not sure if you’re psychic or saw my comment and wrote this post just for me but… Thank you! I’ve been waiting for it. :)

    2 questions: What are your fave baby shops (secondhand pref) in the SE Portland area, and what brand did you choose for disposables? (We registered for some Seventh Generation ones for the reasons you mentioned – emergencies and the newborn stage.)

  • Rea

    My partner and I are gladly childfree, but I very much enjoy seeing posts like these. I love hearing and seeing how parenting doesn’t have to mean tons and tons of dangerous plastic toys and horrific god-knows-what’s-in-them diapers and all that jazz–it can be very environmentally responsible and ethical. Are you practicing attached parenting, by any chance?

  • akeeyu

    I’m just going to throw out our nearly bulletproof overnight diaper sandwich. The layers are, in this order:

    1. Baby
    2. Homemade fleece liner (can be any rectangle of fleece cut to fit the diaper–good way to repurpose old baby blankets or ugly thrift store fleece blankies)
    3. Cotton prefold
    4. BumGenius snap to fit microfiber doubler
    5. Wrap of your choice
    6. Onesie

    Why it works:
    Fleece liners make the diaper feel dry against the baby’s skin all night.
    Microfiber is awesomely absorbent, but doesn’t absorb QUICKLY.
    Cotton absorbs quickly (and continues to absorb water when saturated), but doesn’t hold as much.
    When you combine these, you get quick absorption that is then wicked away and held by the microfiber doubler.
    The onesie is also important, as it helps prevent diaper shift and gappy legs.

    This combo holds twelve hours of toddler pee overnight.

    With regards to newborn diapers, we used a service until they were out of preemie sizes. They were in and out of the newborn sizes of prefolds pretty briskly, and we were able to resell virtually all of our newborn prefolds.

    I know a service isn’t exactly an ideal situation environmentally, but one of our daughters had issues with nasty diaper rash with disposable diapers, so our options were limited.

  • http://www.chewonthisvegan.wordpress.com windycityvegan

    We swore by organic hemp liners to make night diapers leak free. We put it behind the regular insert inside her Fuzzi Bunz. She was rarely left unchanged for more than five or six hours, so I’ve no idea if it would last the 12 hours that the previous poster’s method stands up to! Oh, and my daughter wants me to let you know that in your picture of Waits in the gingham/flowered FB, he’s wearing her “very most favorite diaper.” It made her smile.

  • Sarah B

    Ooh, cloth diapers, my favorite!!! I love how everybody does it differently…there are so many options that everybody can find something that works for them. Since the husband and I are proudly anachronistic on many levels, we went the bulky prefold poky pins route, even after trying out some all-in-ones. We just like pinning prefolds the best. Put a Thirsties Duo cover over that, never had a single leak (except due to user error and inadequate fastening of the cover). The diapers themselves wear like iron and should be good for multiple kiddos, so I bought them new and have passed the outgrown ones on to my buddies for their next baby. The deal is they give them back when we have our 2nd, and none of us spend money on diapers. Like you we went with sposies for the first week or so, until the cord stump fell off. That newborn diaper belly button cutout was key for getting things to dry out… we couldn’t get the cloth folded down and out of the way. Disposables are also kept on hand for weekends away, but I end up complaining the whole weekend about how they smell funny and are prone to blowouts, yuck. Our little Arlo is almost four months old, and we have yet to have a blowout using prefolds and Thirsties covers!

    Looking forward to how your post continues…

  • Leah

    Oh man, I don’t have any kids (if wishing made it so….), but I remember that my mom was using our old diapers as dusting cloths until I was in high school. Those things lasted FOREVER.

    I love the cloth diapers, and I’m so happy you’re posting about brands/methods. Good on you!

  • April

    Thanks for your opinion! I’ve been eyeballing the gDiapers website and thinking about investing in them, but given your advice, I think we will start out with a single diaper and see how it works for us. BabyBoy isn’t expected to arrive for another 13.5 weeks. w00t :)

  • http://quimbalicious.wordpress.com/ Q

    I’m on the same page as Sarah B here – been pinning regular old prefolds (and even flats when I forget to keep up with the wash!) with Thirsties/Bummis Super Snap Wraps on my son, who is now 18 months old. Something about using prefolds and pins is just so classic, I love it. :) I tried bumGenius diapers on him when he was younger and never had any luck with them. You are so right to say you never know which diapers will work out best! I’m really enjoying these baby-related posts of yours, can’t wait to see more.

  • Kate


    I would like to point out that g-diapers are only one of the less expensive options if you use their cloth inserts full time. If you use their disposable inserts full time, they are nearly double the costs of regular (or chlorine-free) disposables. If you use them half time…I guess it balances out?!!?!?! Whatever that means.

    Pack of 40 g-diaper refills: $14.99, 37 cents each.
    Pack of 180 Pampers Size 1: $41.99, 23 cents each
    Pack of 44 7th Gen Size 1: $10.99, 24 cents each.

    Flushable inserts are of course WAY better than putting a whole diaper in a landfill, but that’s where my ethics and my wallet would be fighting with each other! I’d personally rather just stick to cloth and carry a wet bag.

  • Sarah

    We use prefolds and big flats. I love the flats since we line dry because they dry *instantly*. Seriously. I was scared of them at first, and then I realized that they were just unfolded prefolds! They get cleaner more easily too.
    All the shaped diapers (not the covers) we were given fell apart with heavy use along the seams even with line-drying/no bleach and all that. Newborn/small sizes were fine, but once we hit a size that we stuck to for a while, they started wearing down pretty quick for us. They’re only going to be mildly useful for babby #2 here.

    Also, I <3 Snappi(e?)s for prefolds/flats. They're like little ace bandage holders-with the teeth. They are plastic/rubber, I guess, but I'm planning on using them for a long time. I use old (clean!) socks as big bandages, so they work for that too :)

    @akeeyu = love your toddler sammich. My 2yo is just learning what being wet means since he goes around naked/pants-free a lot during the day <3 So, he's been getting distressed at night when he wets lately. Poor guy. It wasn't really a problem until his bladder got bigger or pee got more serious or something! I'll have to try sticking a fleece liner in there.
    Do you just use polyester fleece?

    Question for all you vegan mommas too-is there a non-synthetic cover alternative that you prefer? I do use wool covers rarely , but I know that many shearing practices are pretty bad.

  • Melisa

    My sposie-using friends were perplexed that I could LOVE diapers, but cloth mamas know–they can be so much fun!!
    Have you been to Diaperswappers.com? I bought and sold some used diapers there. Very good resource. I was blessed with a whole big set of one-size Bumgenius pockets from my mom, and some of them have been in use for over two years and are still hanging in there.

  • Eden

    Love cloth diapering posts! :)

    Most folks on here know already, but another good website for pre-owned cloth diapers is diaperswappers.com. Maiya’s medium-sized FuzziBunz came from there for a fraction of the cost of them being new.

    Also, for those who love BumGenius, FuzziBunz now makes a one-size diaper that is pretty good (from what I hear, I have plenty of sized diapers), so if sizing is an issue, that can be resolved there.

    Lastly, the big debate I now have with myself regarding diapers is the cotton versus microfiber debate. I’ve had a much more pain in the ass issue with laundering the synthetic microfiber than plain ol’ cotton, in terms of mineral build-up from our well water.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ J – Alternative Housewife – Aw, I do remember your comment, it helped get my butt into gear to get this article done! =D

    My favorite shop by far is on SE Division, Children’s Exchange. It’s around 33rd, and it’s got TONS of great stuff. I also like Milagros in North Portland (33rd right before Killingsworth) but it’s a bit nicer/pricier and they have new stuff as well. There’s a GREAT one in the NE too, on 27th and Broadway. It’s called Bella Stella and it’s new and used mixed. They have the best carrier selection and the owner is so rad. She’ll have you try on every kind of carrier until you find the perfect one. So great!

    I use 7th Generation and like them a lot, but hear that Tushies are even better. Don’t know where to get them in town though.

    @ Rea – That’s so great to hear, that child-free readers still enjoy these posts. Thanks for letting me know, I worry about that! We do practice attachment parenting. It has been very rewarding but I must admit, so very much more challenging than I’d anticipated. Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    @ akeeyu – Thank you! I will totally try that!

    @ windycityvegan – Aww, that is adorable. So you guys use Fuzzi Bunz? What do you think?

    @ Sarah B – Oh, I hope I didn’t offend! I love anachronism as well and there’s something so sweet and tender about the pinning process. I totally understand! Maybe I’ll give it a try some time . . . maybe with the next one! ;-D

    @ Leah – Haha, I have the same memories! We always dusted with old prefolds.

    @ April – I totally think that’s a safer route. Glad I could help!

    @ Q – Well, I love hearing from all of you guys and all your experiences. So expect more baby articles! Love all the sharing! =D

    @ Kate – Great point, thanks!

    @ Sarah – I think I’ve seen those snappis, or something similar. Now I’m curious, I’ll look into them. I love how everyone has their own personal diaper style. =)

    About the vegan covers, I only use synthetic right now. I buy secondhand and use them so much that I don’t worry too much about it, but I understand the concern. I’m not sure there’s a natural fiber that is comparable to wool though, in terms of remaining dry on the outside. I’d love input from others!

    I don’t want to erase your words without your permission, but if you’d like I’d be happy to erase one of the double posts. But no worries, dp happens to the best of us, haha.

    @ Melisa – Yes! Diapers are SO fun, it sounds so weird but cloth-users know!! Yay diaper geeks!

    I’m familiar with diaperswapper but haven’t used it yet. Such a cool resource.

    @ Eden – Ooh, exciting about the Fuzzi Bunz one-size. Gotta check that out! Microfiber is the only option for the waterproof shells, isn’t it?

  • Sarah

    Oh, please delete the double! I hate it when that happens :)

    I use the PUL whisperwraps (can’t remember the brand) most of the time too. I agree-it doesn’t seem so bad when they’re getting such heavy use. It’ll be over at least 2+ babies too. They’ve been used for my 1st, my neighbors 3rd, and my second on the way.

    Oh, I was talking to my decidedly non-vegan, cloth diapering neighbors about non-animal diaper covering yesterday. They were thinking some type of naturally bacteria resistant material, like bamboo, plus a wax coating would work. But, what waxy substance… I don’t know if that would work or not, but I think I’ll look into it. I’m in the home stretch with baby boy #2 here and nesting is *really* kicking in…

  • Eden

    The microfiber is what constitutes the inserts of most pockets like BumGenius and FuzziBunz. We have well water where I live and even though I use that Calgon water softener in addition to it being mega filtered through the whole-house system, I still find that some of my inserts hold the minerals on them. I’ve heard tale that the issues are not as pronounced with cotton since cotton is the superfabric! If you need to waterproof them, you still need a cover (Bummis Whisper Wrap and Thirsties are two of the more popular ones), but when Mai trucks around the house, we just leave her in a snappi’d prefold. Even if she wets, it takes about 20-40 minutes for it to soak completely through the prefold layers.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ Sarah – Yeah, I love the idea of bamboo but you’d still need something waterproof and I’m thinking it would have to be synthetic.

    @ Eden – Whoops! Haha, brain fart, I was thinking microfiber = PUL. Don’t mind me . . .

  • http://www.windycityvegan.wordpress.com windycityvegan

    We loved loved LOVED the Fuzzi Bunz! We only needed two sizes, and have been able to pass them on to friends and family, so the financial investment was well worth it. The adjustable one-size FB came out shortly after she started wearing mediums.

    More importantly, Nina loved her FB…she initiated toilet training at 18 months, but dragged it out until she was three because she didn’t want to give up her diapers for undies. Basically, she would pull her wet diapers off herself (which was no problem, we didn’t mind her being bare-bottomed most of the time) and then ask us for a new one if she needed to go. (And then she would hand it right back to us, the little stinker.)

    Once she was ready to actually use the toilet, though, she went from 0 to 90% in the first day, and the whole process/learning curve took less than two weeks.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ windycityvegan – Awesome, thanks for the info. And yeah, I’ve heard cloth babies have a much easier time toilet training, which is very awesome!

  • Meghan

    Do you know of a good place to go for SUPER BASIC info on cloth diapering? I have recently realized that I have ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE WHAT I’M DOING. Like… you write, “From prefolds to pocket diapers, all-in-ones to ‘longies’…” I don’t know what any of these words even MEAN!!!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Haha, I SO remember that feeling! How about some good old Livejournal? – http://clothdiapering.livejournal.com/

    Especially in the memories –> “just getting started”

  • Meghan

    WOW, you responded FAST! (result of the MMM?)

    I kept meaning to check out the cloth diapering lj scene, I don’t know why I hadn’t yet! Good idea! (As if my lj world were not newly full-enough with breastfeeding, baby wearing, attachment parenting, natural birth… eeeek!)

    I’m feeling pretty generally prepared for having a baby at this point, aside from the diaper situation. And possibly the sleeping situation. We were going to get an Arm’s Reach, but now we’re thinking about side-carring a crib… I guess I still have 12 weeks, give or take, to figure it out!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yup, hopefully this is the new standard (for questions at least).

    Oh LJ, I have such a love/hate relationship . . . anyway, I love the arms reach BUT, if I had the room on the side of the bed, I would probably get a convertible crib -> toddler bed and side car it for as long as we were co-sleeping, then transitioning it to the kid’s bed when they were ready. Just takes out the step of having to eventually go out and buy a toddler bed. =)

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