Monday, February 20, 2012

Cloth Diapers - Update #3 The Importance of Wash Routines

It is another cloth diaper post. Skip now if this doesn't interest you. It's a looooong one!!

I've done specific posts on cloth diapering several times:
We started cloth diapering when Elyse was a month old - so that means we now have sixteen months of cloth diapering experience under our belt. I have learned a lot just in the last six months and there are some things I want to share. This is hard for me because sharing this might scare some off from trying cloth, so I want to start by saying I am still a huge advocate of cloth diapering and I in no way regret our decision. However, I need to tell you more about what we experienced and how we came very close to giving it all up.

Just after that last post, at about eleven months old, we started having problems with rashes. Elyse had been sick and we thought it was connected. We we were at the doctor for other reasons, she checked out the rash and prescribed some cream. There was a spot on the inside of her leg that looked like a friction rash from the snaps and then there were spots that would get bright red and even blistery in little circles in her diaper area. I'd slather on the prescribed and over-the-counter creams (using fleece inserts for protection), try baby powder to keep everything dry, frequent bathing to keep her clean - whatever I could think of. Things would get better, but I'd still see flare-ups. Things just wouldn't go back to normal.

In early Fall, Bill and I decided to just use cloth diapers at home (no more cloth diapers at the Grandmas' houses) so we could try to get to the bottom of what the problem was. We first eliminated the BumGenius Organic Elementals. I wondered if the surging on the cotton and the how saturated the cotton layers could get when she was heavy wetting was creating the problem. This seemed to get better - but again - the rash  would re-appear. It wasn't until November when we went to Hawaii and Elyse was in disposable diapers for ten plus days that I knew what the problem was. I was saddened to realize - the rashes only got better when she wasn't in her cloth diapers. Probably sounds silly to you, but I was very disappointed.

In one last desperate attempt, I sent an e-mail to the owner of Simple Cloth - our local cloth diaper store. I told her my problems and my concern that we were going to have to give up on cloth diapers. She responded with a number of questions. What I found out made me feel terrible. It seemed our laundry routine was causing the problems with the diapers. They had build-up from detergent. She gave me an explicit plan of how to "strip" the diapers and the washing routine I needed to ensure we strictly followed in the future.

I followed all of her instructions to a "T" and guess what? Everything is back to normal! I feel horrible that by not following the instructions that come with the diapers and just going along with what was easier and what I'd read so many others did without problems had created issues with our diapers that was hurting my daughter's skin!

I share this so you don't make my same mistake. We are now religious about how we wash our diapers. I never just "wait that extra day" or skip one of the cycles. I have no idea if just "one" of the changes we made is what makes the difference, but I don't plan to find out. I'll do whatever I can to avoid something that hurts my baby! Here's how things go now:

We wash our diapers every other day. I didn't do this before. We washed diapers twice a week - equating to every three days and yes, sometimes the three days stretched to four. This is a problem for many reasons. It allows for a longer period of time for soiled diapers to sit and bacteria to grow (gross). It also allows for a larger accumulation of diapers in the machine making it harder for the diapers to get wet and soapy enough to get them really clean and then even harder to ensure they are well-rinsed out.

We do two full cycles - first a Heavy Duty cycle on COLD. We only did one cycle on warm. I read on-line tons of times that others said they'd done the same thing with no problems. I just thought I was saving a step and that because we sprayed our soiled diapers this was enough. Yes, the heavy duty cycle takes longer (and on our machine it is ridiculous), but this step is important because this is where waste that the diaper sprayer missed is removed and stains are eliminated.

We do a Heavy Duty cycle on HOT second with an extra rinse. This is where the diapers really get cleaned and sanitized and that extra rinse makes sure all of the detergent is rinsed away, preventing build-up. We also still make sure to add a sopping wet towel at the beginning of all of the washes to help get the water level up since we use a front loader. I do realize this step washing on hot means TWO separate cycles. It means you have to pay attention to when the washer finishes the first and get up and start the hot cycle. Yes, it can be a pain, but funny - it is just the new routine now.

Use only 1/4 scoop detergent. I eye-balled it before, but now I've drawn a line on the scoop to be more accurate. We use 1/4 scoop in both the cold and hot washes. Too much detergent causes build-up and it is really important to not use too much.

Stripping diapers is important. Using the regular diaper routine, add a tablespoon of original blue Dawn dishwashing detergent. The extra rinse usually gets all the suds out, but if there is any evidence of remaining suds - do one more wash or another rinse cycle. We've done this twice now in the last six months and it really makes a difference.

We only use cloth diapers three-quarter time now. This is just part of life working outside the home. For the most part, we use cloth diapers Thursday through Monday and disposables Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This is simply to make it easier for laundry on days we're both working. I do find I use disposables less on the weekends because of this. I used to put Elyse in a disposable when we're heading out the door for simplicity's sake. I still do this if we'll be gone for a while, so I don't have to carry around soiled diaper(s). But, if we're running a couple of errands or going to someone's house - I use cloth even more than I used to given we're turning to disposables now at other times in the week.

Julie at Simple Cloth explained how to avoid that friction rash - you have to make sure all of the baby "chub" is not inside the diaper. This is really hard to explain in writing, but you basically need to make sure the diaper isn't fitting down the leg like a boy short, but rather at the top of the leg and any little fat folds are not inside the diaper. I can't believe paying more attention to this little detail eliminated our problem. No friction rashes since.

This was all a tough lesson for us, but I've learned so much. For instance, diapers shouldn't smell funky as soon as they are soiled. Since I did the "stripping" last Fall, I started noticing the diapers smelling a little funny again even after a monthly bleach wash. Stripped the diapers one more time and they are once again as good as new.

Everything I'd read said that cloth diapers mean less rashes. I should have called Julie earlier. If we had rashes that weren't going away in cloth, I should have known something was wrong. Cloth diapers are more popular than ever before, but really - they still aren't commonly used. I only know of two other people (personally) who are cloth diapering right now. What that means is, I don't have the same circle of resources on the topic like I do about all the other things related to babies and toddlers. Chalk it up to a (painful) lesson learned.

PS: I replaced the BumGenius Velcro and BumGenius Organic Elementals with new snap pocket BumGenius. I just sold the used diapers on EBay and made over $250.00 for a dozen of those diapers. Not bad for re-sale value!

PSS: Julie also told me that one of my remedies for resolving the rash could have been what made it much worse! Do not use baby powder with cloth diapers - it can cause a yeast problem. Oh my.

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1 comment:

ThePerryFamily said...

I'm so glad that you have posted such a wealth of information about cloth. We started a few weeks ago and things are going really well but I'll admit the "stripping" was still somewhat unknown to me so it's good to know how important it really is.


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