Way back in another lifetime...you know, before we had children...my husband and I used to enjoy all sorts of outdoorsy adventures. We loved hiking and backcountry camping especially! These days we are in the life stage where the baby won't sleep unless he is in a real bed (not even in the car!) and my pregnancy necessitates a minimum of 37 pillows in the bed to be comfortable. Add to that the fact that we now live in south Florida where the highest elevation you'll see is if you catch some air going over a train track too fast. So the backpacking days have been shelved temporarily, but one key concept from backpacking-culture has stuck with me: The Ten Essentials.
The Ten Essentials are a list of items that every hiker should have with him/herself at all times; basic things like food, water, flashlight, etc. The most minimal and "essential" equipment for wilderness survival and success.
Many of my friends are becoming first time mamas and want to know all about this "cloth diapering thing" that has experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years. I find myself writing these humongously long emails back to them with all my enthusiastic advice, boiled down to 10,000 words or less. So I started thinking, "What are 'The Ten Essentials' of cloth diapering?" It seemed a much more simplistic way to go about initiating a newbie. So here (in my personal opinion) are the ten most basic things you need in order to have cloth diapering success! (not necessarily in order of importance)
1. Diapers! In order to cloth diaper your baby full time, you'll need a stash of enough diapers to get you through three days. For example, an older baby might go through six diapers a day, needing a minimum of 18 diapers total if you wash them every other day. The diapers from
days 1 and 2 will be in the wash, while you're using the diapers for day 3. Once you know how many diapers your baby goes through on an average day (plus a few extras, just in case of emergency), you can decide how many diapers you'll need to have in your stash.
2. Wipes! Once you transition to cloth diapers, you'll find that it just makes a lot of sense to use cloth wipes. They go right into the wash with your diapers and are no extra work! Plus, you don't have to worry about rationing them out and using every scrap of clean space on that
one wipe to clean baby's bottom. You can use however many you want because it doesn't cost any extra money! There are other posts on this blog with more specifics about making, storing and washing cloth wipes. They're so easy!
3. Pail Liners! A reusable pail liner is what you put into your diaper pail to contain the mess until wash day, in lieu of a trash bag. You'll need two of these - one in the pail and one in the wash.
4. Wet Bag! When you are out and about, you'll need a "wet bag" in your diaper bag. This is a small to medium sized waterproof pouch where you put your dirty diapers until you get home.
5. Detergent! Unfortunately, you can't wash cloth diapers in the same detergent you may use for your other clothes. The residue will build up over time and cause the diapers to become unabsorbent and incredibly stinky! You'll need a clean-rinsing detergent, like Rockin' Green. Man, I love that stuff. I went through a lot of diaper-wash-related-headaches before I finally started using Rockin' Green. No more residual stink!
6. A Place to Wash! Mamas who live in apartments, or other situations where there are communal/public laundry machines, may find the idea of washing cloth diapers a little daunting. Never fear! You're not alone - many other mamas have had great success with cloth diapers, regardless of their laundry situation. There have been several other blog entries on this site from mamas who have overcome some pretty significant obstacles in order to wash their diapers. Read them and be encouraged - you can do this!
7. A Place to Dry! Many cloth diapering mamas prefer drying diapers outside to save money, save wear and tear on the fabrics and get the disinfecting benefits of sunshine. Again, you might have obstacles (i.e. lack of a yard) but there are many creative ways to use a collapsable rack or even just a line strung up along a balcony railing. Most cloth diapers can also be dried in a dryer, if line drying won't work for your situation.
8. Rash Solutions! How many tubes of butt paste and other rash creams did we all receive at our baby showers? And yet, these are like "the white death" for your cloth diapers! The same thing that makes them seal your baby's skin against moisture will seal your diapers against moisture, which means a massive operations failure! Many cloth diapering mamas have found that their babies get rashes much less often after switching to cloth, however it still happens to the best of us from time to time. There are several rash creams that are specially formulated for use with cloth diapers, such as Grandma El's and CJ's Butter. And there is always also (my personal favorite) tea tree oil that works wonders on a baby's bum!
9. Need Fasteners? Many of us now use diapers with built-in fasteners - snaps, hook and loop, etc. However, if you plan on going a more economical route, using prefolds or flat diapers, you'll need to decide what sort of fastener you prefer. Basic pins? Snappis? Just trifolded under a cover that fastens itself? The nice thing is that these are all pretty cheap, so it's easy to experiment with a few different kinds.
10. Diaper Change Central! No matter what kind of surface you decide to change your baby upon, you'll need some sort of set-up with all your tools close by. So what does a cloth diaper changing set-up consist of? There are lots of different things you can experiment with, but as long as you have a sturdy, safe surface, diapers, wipes, pail, and possibly rashfixing-stuff, you'll be all set! It's really not any more complicated than a disposable diaper set-up.
Good luck getting started on your cloth diapering journey! If other veteran moms can think of different items that are essential to their cloth diapering routine, feel free to add them in the comments below!