Ok I haven't been blogging because new baby is a time suck vortex. At some point I'll get back to the fun perfume stuff and histories, but today I am going to talk about "green diapering" because OMG people it has been a huge frustration and I hope this can help others who are going through/about to go through the same thing. This will be a long one so if you're in a time crunch, check out the tl;dr. There is a Spring 2014 Update at the end as well.
First I need to start by saying that I'm not a crazy hardcore environmentalist. I watched Ferngully a lot as a kid and these days I do my best to eat local and go for products that keep harmful chemicals to a minimum - but I'm human, I use Pantene on my hair and sometimes (a lot of times) eat processed foods. That said, when I found out I was pregnant, like so many other random things you need to research and obsess over, the issue of diapering came up. Cloth or disposable? One of the first things you will read is the insanely terrifying fact that disposable diapers can take upwards of 400 or more years to decompose in a landfill. My baby alone needs to be changed about 9 times a day. 4 million+ babies are born in the US every year...I'm not good at math but that sounds like a lot of shit. For a person like me who feels marginally guilty about such things, that's just too much waste to contribute to the environment.
So my first thought was alright! Cloth! All the way! ... Then people with babies (or who have had babies) laughed at me. "Do you really want to do THAT much laundry?" "The washing is just as bad for the environment what with all the electricity and water." "They leak everywhere!" I took all this into consideration and set about researching cloth brands. Pre-folds/regular cloths (the ones you have to origami with safety pins) were automatically out because I suck at origami and don't have the patience (now that I have the baby I can tell you they would definitely not work as baby girl hates being changed and screams/squirms through the whole ordeal). The all in one diapers (AIOs) that you put cloth inserts in look just like regular disposables and seemed like less of a learning curve so I set to work looking for those. The three names that came up the most in my research for AIOs were Fuzzibunz, BumGenius, and Charlie Banana. There's a billion more out there, but those were the ones that people repeatedly raved about in various blog posts and online forums. Doing a quick Amazon search, all three brands cost roughly between $15-$20 PER diaper. To cloth diaper full time, you need at minimum of 12 (like I said my kid usually gets changed 9x per day and she's just under two months old right now). That's a big initial investment. It's true that if you're reusing the diapers whatever you end up paying for your stash is all you will pay whereas with disposables you are paying monthly for new packs. That's all fine and dandy except, for the life of me I could not find a trial service that was convenient or worth it. Most of the ones I found required you to buy all the items you wanted to try and you could return whatever you didn't like with the caveat that anything that was stained etc could not be returned... It's poop we're talking about. Of course something might get stained and then you're stuck with it. A friend with a baby a few months older than mine said she was considering a monthly cloth diaper service where they supply you with clean diapers and pick up the soiled ones every week to wash. That sounded like a good alternative! Except when I read the how it works page, it turned out they were talking about the prefolds/inserts. You still had to buy the AIO covers. GRRRRR!!
With great irritation, I decided to put one box of disposable diapers (Huggies Pure and Natural in newborn size) on the registry so I would have something for the first week of baby's life. I had noticed that the hippie co-op across the street had a brand of cloth diapers called gDiapers so I figured I'd try those out to see if cloth really was for me. I was SO excited initially to have found the g's. Those are hybrid diapers which have a snap in liner that can be stuffed with either cloth or disposable inserts that are marketed as flushable for poop and compostable for pee. That sounded AMAZING so we got a pack of two and bought some inserts. For the first two weeks I loved them. They looked adorable on her and held in her messes as well as the Huggies Pure and Natural. But then, as baby got bigger her messes became huge. I've never had a leak with any diaper we've tried when she just pees...but baby poop OMG new parents, it's a fucking force to be reckoned with. It's watery and gross (but thankfully doesn't really smell for breastfed babies, not sure about formula) and gets EVERYWHERE. With the gDiapers it would leak out of the back part of her diaper and sit in the elastic band and would get all over and under the snap in liner. One reason I thought g would be great was that because the inserts go in the liner, you could use the cover multiple times. This is true with just pee diapers, but once baby poops the whole thing has to be washed so if you only have two or three total, that's a problem. The liner is also a pretty cheap material and gets permanently stained. You can buy more of the liners but isn't the point of cloth to be eco friendly AND cost effective? As far as the compostableness...I'll elaborate on this more below, but they are only compostable in approved facilities. And of course! there's not that many in America.
I never had any problems with the Huggies Pure and Naturals but I knew I didn't want to use that brand because they aren't super green (I've read that of the green diapers the Huggies are the least). That said, if the price is acceptable and they're easy for you to procure locally or online, it's a decent option. The g's made me not want to cloth diaper at all which my husband was mad at me for, so I decided that we would try some more types, ask around, and in the meantime, I would see if I could find an acceptable disposable diaper.
Enter 7th Generation. The hippie co-op carries this brand of diapers and I use a lot of their cleaning products. Seemed like a good transitional diaper. People online who don't want to cloth diaper but want their babies diapered in something with less chemicals and something more environmentally friendly rave about it. At first I really liked this diaper, but after using them for about 3 weeks, we began having blow outs literally every time we used one of these diapers. It would all go up the back and get everywhere. We upgraded to size 1, same thing. 7th Gen diapers just don't work for us. Their packaging makes the diaper seem biodegradable (a misconception I've noticed a lot of people online have) but while they are free from most harsh chemicals, they're basically the same as your average diaper.
After that fiasco (and a lot of loads of laundry later) I found a post on Babygearlab.com that tested 20 different disposable diapers and found that two green diapers were the best of the bunch. I decided to try both Bambo Nature (allegedly the best diaper in the world) and Earth's Best. In the newborn sizes, both of these diapers were so amazing that I initially couldn't decide which was better. I originally liked Earth's Best the most because I guess I had really high expectations for Bambo and was left disappointed that it wasn't a golden diaper or something. Bambo's are really soft and almost cloth like to the touch. They're also huge and can go up past baby's belly button. The Earth's Best did the job just as well and wasn't quite so big. They did feel waxy but I was fine with it. Again, both of these diapers I believed based on packaging etc. to be either biodegradeable or compostable, and it's just not the case with either. These ones definitely consist of more biodegradeable materials, but EVERY diaper on the market has SAP. I don't have strong feelings about SAP because I tend to be an optimist and don't think that anything super dangerous would be in the diapers...I feel like whatever is used is such a small amount that it's probably fine. However, SAP prevents the diapers from being fully biodegradeable and compostable. It's added to increase absorbency. In the case of Bambo and Earth's Best, my baby never got a diaper rash and seemed pretty happy and comfortable. Both of these diapers keep the additives and chemicals to a minimum, try to integrate renewable resources, and are owned by companies who do work to offset their carbon footprint. So in my opinion, if you want to use disposables and want to be as green as you can, those are the two to go with. They are way more expensive than supermarket brand diapers (Bambo being the priciest) but to me the price is worth it.
Now here's the big HOWEVER. So both of those were great in newborn and since I couldn't decide which I wanted to stick with and the baby had grown out of newborn size, I bought Bambos and Earth's Best in the next size. After a few days, I was so upset to find a pretty bad diaper explosion coming out of the sides of my baby's Earth's Best. I made a mental note of this as I was still comparing the two, and then a few days later...the same thing happened in the same spot with Bambos. And it only got worse from there. After that point (this all occurred around week 5 of my baby's life) every time she pooped, it came out of the sides of her diaper...didn't matter if it was Bambo or Earth's Best. I got so frustrated that I went to the store and bought Pampers Swaddlers against my husband's wishes.
In the hospital we had been given the Swaddlers to use and as far as absorbency, they work great. I also appreciate the wetness indicator so you don't have to physically open the diaper to check if baby peed. However, that's all the good I can say about them. After she soils these, I cringe when I look inside. It just looks like chemical stew and I shudder. But I was so frustrated with the poop leaks that I was willing to go against my green, chemical free approach. Until (and my husband laughed at me for this) the diapers.leaked.out.of.the.sides. This was my epiphany moment when I realized that there IS NO MAGICAL LEAK PROOF DIAPER. I also realized that the issue was with my baby's body type as much as it was with the diapers being used. She is a tall and skinny baby and it seems that all of the diapers tried thus far just weren't cut for her shape. Because of all the leaks, I was doing laundry every day so I figured I might as well just do cloth. I bought a Fuzzibunz AIO (on Amazon for $20) as that seemed to be tops in my research and a friend recommended it as well.
When Fuzzibunz arrived I was so excited and filled with giddy hope that my diaper troubles were about to be solved. A huge advantage the cloth AIOs have is that they are highly adjustable. With Fuzzibunz, not only can the front snaps be adjusted so it fits baby from newborn to toddler, but you can also adjust the elastic in the waist and thighs - AWESOME SAUCE since Ms. Chicken Legs was giving me so much grief. We decided to just pull out the big guns and test it for overnight first. For you new parents, you will soon learn that you might need two separate diapers, ones that work for day time use when they are changed frequently, and ones for night time use when the baby could go up to 8 hours or more (my baby is a sleeper, I win) without a change. Anyway, I had read in reviews that for overnight cloth use, it's best to use two inserts for absorbency. So I dutifully stuffed the inserts into the diaper, adjusted the elastic for my skinny baby and stuck it on her. The diaper was HUGE. I had heard people complain that they were bulky but I just thought they were being vain and crazy. What do you care if your baby's ass looks big? They're not going to baby prom. After putting the bulky diaper on her I suddenly understood why it could be problematic. For my baby, it made it hard to snap her onesie into place. The second reason (for me, not sure about others) was apparent the next morning. When we woke up to change her around 5:30am, not only did the diaper leak out of the sides!!!!!! but she also had heat rash. My husband thinks it was because the diaper was so wet that it made it super hot in there for her. I thought it was a combo of that plus just how big and all the material there was. I looked on the reviews and saw a few other people say the same. It was really disappointing since Fuzzibunz basically says that cloth won't give diaper rash and with all the crazy adjusting it still leaked in the same spot. Oy vey!
I put the Fuzzibunz in the wash (I will say that if you get an AIO washing is super easy! Just toss it in) and put the Pampers back on her because at that point we were out of Bambo and Earth's Best. Within three diaper changes, she got a diaper rash because at this point God was just laughing at me. I have a trial size of Burt's Bees Diaper Ointment and it cleared it up pretty quickly.
Later that day on this Quixotic diaper quest, I happened to see on Facebook that the Honest Company (Jessica Alba's thing) had a "free trial" of diapers. I say that in quotes because you pay $5 shipping and it automatically signs you up for their monthly $80 diaper service. You can cancel at any time but you have to do that I believe within one week of receipt of the trial by telephone only. My friend who exclusively cloth diapers but keeps disposables for babysitters/family visits had told me that Honest is what she uses (in addition to Earth's Best). So I ordered the trial and started researching the company. Their mission statement is great and I feel like they really summarize my feelings on the issue - they strive to be as green as possible without harsh chemicals and additives where possible, but they do the best they can and aren't perfect. Totally reasonable. Their diapers sound similar in green value to Earth's Best and Bambo, made of mostly biodegradable and plant based materials, but of course they still have SAP and aren't compostable. This is fine with me. Especially since their company is upfront about this and not misleading as I felt that Bambo and Broody Chick (a brand that says they are 100% compostable...yes only if you have a facility nearby that accepts that and these facilities aren't super common) like to say that they're compostable with the caveat in small print.
The Honest Diaper Discovery Kit is really small, just 7 diapers and 10 wipes...but I really appreciate that they have a trial program at all. (Someone please start a diaper trial company that deals in both disposables and cloth diapers. You will make so much money and everyone will love you!) The diapers themselves are freaking adorable. Unlike basically any other disposable they have pretty stylish prints (floral, skull and crossbones, ice cream cones, hearts, dinosaurs etc). That was a point for them but definitely not what I would base my decision on. Since there are only 7 of them total I tried to use them strategically suited to her patterns so I'd get a good idea of how they'd work for us. In looking at the diaper construction, it's basically the thickness, size, and same materials as Earth's Best. But for me there was one HUGE distinction. THE HONEST DIAPERS FIT MY SKINNY BABY!!! Before these diapers, I didn't realize that the others just didn't fit her well. The side flaps that you fasten rest above her thigh whereas every other diaper cut across her thigh. She didn't get the same red marks from fastening them. Skinny LegsMcGee was kind enough to poop about 4 times the day that I used the Honest trials so I got lots of opportunities to test the leak problem. The leg gussets in these were a little longer and better suited to her body shape than the others had been including Earth's Best. We only experienced one poop leak and i should mention that when it happened she was on her side nursing. I think because of her shape that if she's on her side this is just a forever problem for her with any diaper until she starts eating solids. The other times she pooped, the liquid was trying to escape but didn't make it past the leg gussets. I decided to call this a win and for now this is the diaper I'm going to use. I am keeping a pack of Bambo's as a backup.
I still really want to make cloth happen, as does my husband but he's now open to me using the Honest diapers because of the insane research project this put me on. I have decided to buy a BumGenius brand AIO as it was recommended by several people I know and has good reviews for the specific issues I'm having. Fingers crossed.
THERE IS NO PERFECT DIAPER!!! No diaper is as green as we want it to be, including cloth (they are just more green than disposables). How good a diaper is depends on a lot of stuff - diaper construction, materials and chemicals used, and something that isn't really talked about before baby comes...your baby's shape. Had I known this prior, I would have done the following:
-research different brands of both cloth and disposables. For disposables I highly recommend you read the information on babygearlab.com.
-try to define your values and set boundaries for what you will put up with. In my case, I was so fed up with leaks I momentarily gave up on green and my baby got a rash. Not cool.
-after you've identified 2-3 brands of both cloth and disposable that you think could work for you, put a pack (or a single diaper) of each on your baby registry. This way you can test everything without spending as much money jumping around as we have.
My Quick Impressions of all Diapers Discussed in this Post:
Prefolds - haven't used and would not work for our lifestyle. A lot of people really like these though and they are SO inexpensive. Only a few dollars for each one, you can even get big packs for not too much money. You have to either origami these to your baby or put them in diaper covers.
Fuzzibunz - I like the control I have for adjusting, but the fleece and bulkiness of this diaper gave my daughter heat rash. Despite the adjustments, it still leaked through the sides. This didn't work for me, but others really like it.
gDiapers - Dislike. I thought this was going to be the best thing ever and I was SO incredibly disappointed. For the disposable inserts, as with other brands, they harp on about how they are compostable but that is only in certain facilities. If one is not near you, you can't compost it. You can flush the poop diapers which I think is a positive point. If you use cloth inserts it will obviously be greener. What really sealed it for me however was two things. One, the liners that you need for the diaper are flimsy and stain permanently if poop gets on them. You can buy boxes of replacements but that seems ridiculous if the point of the diaper was to be green and cost effective. I believe the liners are made of biodegradeable materials, so I guess I feel better about throwing them away frequently? Secondly, they do not come in all in one sizes. You have to buy sizes based on baby's weight. So if you want to cloth/hybrid diaper full time you need to buy 6-12 in every size. That's just stupid in my opinion, better to get a different all in one. Because these diapers have liners, they say you can make do with less of them since you take out the liner and reuse the cover, however, for us the cover consistently would get soiled and since it's fabric it has to be washed and not wiped clean. I think I would be ok with gDiapers if they made an all in one size and if I just used cloth instead of the disposable inserts. These fit my baby very well.
BumGenius - jury is still out, will update
BestBottom Cover with Prefold Inserts - I'm too disillusioned to keep pouring money into diapers that don't work for me so I'm not trying this right now, but my friend who cloth diapers full time says this is her favorite system. It works like the cloth gDiapers but can be wiped down if the cover gets messy.
The Honest Company Diapers - We are going with these diapers unless I find a cloth I'm happy with. They aren't as green as Bambo, but they are on par with Earth's Best. They are free of most harsh chemicals (have SAP but all diapers do), made from plant based materials, are somewhat biodegradable (all diapers that claim to be biodegradable need to specify SOMEWHAT), have adorable patterns, and most important of all, had an excellent fit for my skinny baby. The elastic at the waistband did a better job than all other diapers, including Bambo, at keeping blowouts contained. The leg gussets fit my baby well and we've only had one leak from the sides that happened when the baby was laying on her side. We are doing the diaper and wipe monthly bundle in which they send you the full month's supply for $80. This is pricier than all the other diapers, but I will pay for something that works. They also have other baby/household products I'm interested in trying so definitely a company to watch.
Bambo Nature - These Danish diapers are alleged to be the best in the world and are basically the greenest disposable I've found. They are 80% compostable (or 0% compostable if you do not live near a composting facility that accepts diapers) are made from plant based renewable materials and have been awarded high honors for sustainability. Super rad! Except for if you live in America as we do, I think the transit probably negates a lot of that carbon footprint. YOU CAN'T WIN, I'm telling you. Anyway, these diapers are great for the most part. They are pricey, a pack of 30 diapers is $18 on Amazon. My daughter didn't get a rash, they were comfortable and soft. Very absorbent. She had frequent poop leaks out of the side and once out of the back. We started positioning the diaper higher...over her belly button and that helped a little bit. A lot of parents complain about how big these diapers are...they are very big, for us it was good because our baby is tall. But the width may have been contributing to her side leaks as she is very thin.
Earth's Best - These were my original favorites until the side leaks started happening. But again, my daughter is skinny. If you don't have a freakishly skinny baby they might be fine for you. Free of most of the bad stuff, made in the USA, soft, absorbent, trim. These diapers are seriously great and I'm sad we can't use them for the time being...I might try again when she's on solids and not having so many blowouts. These are cheaper than the Bambo and I agree with babygearlab that they are the best value. If you were planning on a regular supermarket variety diaper, spend a little bit more on these and no rashes! I would also like to add that the Earth's Best wipes are by far my favorite. They are very thick, moist, chlorine free, hypoallergenic, and I love the feel of the aloe. Even if you don't go with their diapers, consider Earth's Best wipes.
Huggies Pure and Natural - this is an example of green-washing. They claim to be eco-friendly but doesn't seem all that true. We only used these in the newborn size and they worked just fine for us, no leaks or anything (that was before she started having regular blowouts as she got bigger). If you're going with a supermarket variety diaper, this one was the best.
Pamper's Swaddlers - These are super absorbent and fit well but dear God, it looked like chemical stew in there whenever she soiled a diaper. They feel very waxy and gave my daughter a rash pretty immediately. The rash went away when we put the Bambo's back on her. My friends who use disposables use these exclusively and swear by them. If the green thing isn't a big deal to you and you get a good fit, these are great utility diapers that you can find basically anywhere. In reviews I've seen and in my experience, sensitive babies are prone to rashes in these however.
7th Generation - These have rave reviews from a lot of parents. They were terrible for us. Leaked consistently and they are extremely misleading in terms of how green they are (not very). If you buy diapers locally and want to skip Pampers and Huggies, these have less harsh chemicals so if you have a good fit, should be fine.
Anywayyyyy I'm happy with the Honest Diapers for now and am hopeful about the BumGenius cloth. If anyone knows of a better trial service that allows you to try various cloth diapers I'd be so happy to hear from you. I really want to make cloth happen but am tired of spending so much money on things that don't work. I hope this post was helpful :)
Baby is now 10 months old. We used the Honest Diapers from the time that I wrote this post originally until now. They've been great quality wise (except for size 2 which was defective and the diapers had SAP getting on her skin, no rashes but I was livid and their customer service was not great). Otherwise fine. Just recently I decided to try cloth again due to a nasty rash she got from wipes we bought when we ran out of Honest wipes early. We let her go diaperless quite a bit which helped but that plus cream was not doing the trick. I had a Bum Genius, a Fuzzibunz, a Grovia fitted, and a couple more second hand fitteds that I had gotten from a nearby consignment shop. I did not know what fitteds were and had no idea that I needed a cover for them (if you don't know a fitted cloth diaper is just a non-waterproof cloth - great for when you're just at home and baby is naked or just in a onesie, throw a cover/shell on if you take baby out in it). Anyway, after I started this the rash got better fast without cream. I still hate the Fuzzibunz. Pockets are irritating and gross I don't know why they're so popular. The Bum Genius Freetime is sufficient. It has a decent fit and good absorbency but the leg gussets could be better and are the reason why I'm not going to go full on with their stuff. LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT GROVIA THOUGH. Grovia is basically the non-terrible version of gDiapers. They are a hybrid system so you can use cloth liners/prefolds or their disposable inserts. I like that the liners actually snap in so you don't have to worry about them moving around as with other brands. Unlike the g's they come in AIO size so you don't have to buy a bunch in each size! Hooray! I actually really like their fitted diaper as well. My baby seems to be way more comfortable and now that it's getting warmer I like the fitteds because they breathe better and don't get all sweaty. Like I said though, the fitteds aren't water proof so as soon as you feel that baby is damp you change baby (otherwise make sure you have the shell on). I like the Grovia shells better than Best Bottom because they have a nice mesh that is soft and breathable whereas the Best Bottom just has that weird plastic-y material up against baby's skin. That's just me though, otherwise they're good, snap in as well. So our new diapering routine is Grovia fitteds and Grovia shells with cotton liners. At night we are doing the disposable insert because she gets heat rash from overnight cloth. We do exclusively cloth during the day. The Bum Genius and the Grovia shells are what we use when we go out. No problems!
What I've learned from all of this - as in all things parenting, do what makes you feel comfortable and sane. I wanted to cloth but couldn't make it work til now because the first few months are hard enough as it is and I couldn't add the frustration of not making it work for all the reasons outlined above. With the amount of water in laundry I don't think it's thaaat much greener, but I definitely was really bothered by the amount of waste and plastic going to the landfill so I definitely feel better about that. As far as diapers and fit - if it doesn't work out in the beginning because of poop explosions/fit, give it a break and try again after baby is on solids and fills out better.
*I was not compensated by any of the companies reviewed. I am a person who has spent way too much time and money trying to find a good, green diaper for my child and want to help others by saving some frustration.*