Cloth Diapering Unexpectedly: How We're Making It Workfindingmagnolia
There were many things that put Elvie’s little body into enough distress to land her in the hospital shortly after we arrived on U.S. soil. Our primary concern was her malnutrition, but we knew from medical evaluations that there was more driving her diagnosis than just lack of nutrition alone. After all the tests were done, they discovered that she had a parasite and a urinary tract infection that was caused by four different bacteria, two of which were antibiotic resistant. The only treatment that would work for all four bacteria was a strong intravenous antibiotic. The antibiotic alone would wreak enough havoc on her intestinal flora to cause some diaper, ahem, issues, but add in the parasite, and her bottom region was taking a serious beating. By the time we were headed home, Elvie had a diaper rash that was inflamed and raw enough to bleed. We were given a prescription cream to combat the yeast that was worsening the rash, but it wasn’t working very quickly. I knew there was one more thing I could do to help, but I wasn’t sure how that would work out. Because the thing we’d need to do was start cloth diapering.
We’d been planning to cloth diaper all along, but not until after Elvie’s big reconstructive surgery months down the road. We figured that it would be enough work to get her home and get her medical plan worked out, and that cloth diapering could wait. Thus, the cloth diapers we’d laid aside and registered for were of a larger size than the ones she came home fitting into. So initially, we decided just to put the thin fleece liners into the disposable diapers, to minimize chafing and put a layer of protection between her skin and whatever might be irritating her in the diapers. On a whim the first night, I put one of our cloth diapers over her disposable and discovered that it mostly fit. On the next diaper change, as I instructed Jarod where the fleece liners were and how to put the soft side up, he asked, “Is there a reason we aren’t just using the whole cloth diaper?” And well, no, there wasn’t. Not really.
That diaper change, we put a cloth diaper on Elvie and didn’t look back. After just one overnight in the cloth diapers, her rash was noticeably better. Nearly a week later, it is almost entirely gone. Using cloth has worked for us, even though it has meant a little more physical work to do. I used to roll my eyes at all the blog posts of people saying, “It’s so easy! You really can do it!” I shouldn’t have rolled my eyes so forecfully; because if we can do it in our circumstances, anyone can. Really. It does take commitment, and I will honestly say that if Elvie didn’t have the rash, we wouldn’t be doing it yet. But seeing that rash clear up so quickly, with just the simple change from disposable to cloth, has me convinced that the extra load of laundry each day is not that big of a deal in exchange for that level of results.
Our cloth-diapering method is pretty simple. We use one type of cloth diaper so we don’t have to deal with multiple stuffing methods for various types. The only thing we do that varies is that for night diapers, we put in an extra liner so we can go twice as long between changes. We are only keeping track of one type of diaper, one type of liner, and one kind of cloth wipe. (Because oh, yeah, as long as we are washing waste matter out of cloth, we might as well go for broke; the flannel wipes we have are also much gentler on Elvie’s skin than disposable wipes.) We only have nine diapers right now, though we have extra liners. We use a wipes warmer to keep the cloth wipes moist, because far be it from me to have to spray each individual wipe with liquid as I use it. You really can cloth diaper and keep it very, very simple.
Besides using the same type of diaper all the time and using a warmer to keep wipes moist, the best thing I’ve done to keep things simple is to use a detergent that can work just as well for all of our laundry as it does for cloth diapers. I do the diapers and wipes in their own separate load, but I don’t have to worry that, in my sleep-deprived state, I’ll put the wrong detergent in and ruin my diapers. I also use the baby wash I already have and oil I could grab off the shelf at Trader Joe’s to make a solution to pour over my wipes in the warmer. Everything I need is readily available and already at hand.
As for the fit of the diapers, we’ve found that if we tighten the velcro as much as possible, we only have minor leaks, and not very often. So in a few days, six more diapers of the same size will show up on our doorstep, making this even easier. The bonus is that the total cost to get us caught up with what we need is not even half of what we would have spent on disposable diapers before the earliest anticipated date of Elvie’s big surgery. So it’s a win-win, no matter how you look at it. Elvie’s rash is nearly gone, we’re not doing an excessive amount of extra work, and we’re saving money to boot. For us, cloth diapering, even unexpectedly, has most definitely been worth it.