Cleaning Cloth Diapers

Baby cleaning cloth diapers

If you are trying to settle on a cloth diaper washing routine, you may have noticed that every manufacturer and every retailer seems to have different recommendations for washing cloth diapers. Your own water, washer, and detergent make a big difference. How do you decide how best to wash your diapers?

We keep telling you that washing cloth diapers is easy. It is! Let’s take it back to the basics.

Basic Cloth Diaper Washing

Remember this sequence: cold > hot > cold > medium.

  • COLD pre-wash
  • HOT regular wash, with enough water to cover diapers and maximum agitation
  • COLD rinse cycle
  • Machine dry on MEDIUM or hang to dry

The routine for cleaning cloth diapers expands on this with a few details, but these are the basics every parent needs to keep in mind.

Variables in Cleaning Cloth Diapers

There are five variables in every wash routine[1].

Water. When there are a lot of dissolved minerals in water, we call it “hard water.” Because detergent isn’t as effective in hard water, we need more or tougher detergents to get diapers clean. If you aren’t sure whether your water is hard, check this hard water map of Canada—the U.S. map is just below. One of the reasons we like Rockin’ Green cloth diaper detergent is the different formulations based on water hardness.

Agitation. We may not always consider agitation. I hadn’t understood the importance of this until recently. Diapers need to rub against one another to get properly clean. Too much water in your washer, and your diapers are just going for a leisurely swim. Too little water in your washer, and the diapers don’t get free flow of water and detergent. Like Goldilocks, you need to work out what is just right by experimenting.

Time. Give your wash cycle enough time. With cloth diapers, this usually means longer cycles, though more heat can mean you need less time.

Detergent. Too much detergent, and you are left with residue; too little detergent, and you still have stinky diapers. No one set of washing instructions can tell you how much detergent is enough to wash cloth diapers because the quality of your water and the type of detergent you use make so much difference. Again, like Golilocks, you need to experiment to find out what is just right for you. If you are traveling with cloth diapers, be prepared to adjust your washing routine temporarily since your detergent will work differently as water and washing machines vary.

Temperature. You will find the best results and cleanest cloth diapers if you adjust the water temperature at different points during the cycle. A cold rinse (or body temperature rinse) works best in the beginning because it doesn’t set stains. Diapers will be cleaner quicker with a hot wash, but you may be avoiding high temperatures to save energy. Washing at lower temperatures will take longer. A final hot rinse will flush detergent better as well, but a longer cold rinse will also do the job.

These variable matter with all of your washing. We only notice more when we don’t hit that washing sweet spot with cloth diapers because not washing well can mean diapers don’t work as well or they just plain stink.

Once you consider all of these variables, you can see why there are so many different suggestions for the ideal cloth diaper washing routine. As with the ideal cloth diaper system, you control most of the variables, so only you can figure out the ideal for yourself. When you figure out what works for diapers, you will probably notice a difference in your sheets, your towels, and in all of your laundry as you get everything cleaner.

Manufacturers’ Washing Instructions

If you have a washer full of one kind of diapers, follow the manufacturer’s washing instructions. Not only does the manufacturer have the most experience washing their diapers, but you may void the product warranty if you don’t follow their directions.

Resources for Cleaning Cloth Diapers

[1] Cloth diaper industry professionals learned about laundry variables at a recent trade association meeting presentation by Mt Hood Solutions. Very eye opening. I thought I knew how to wash diapers after doing it for years, but there are always new tricks to learn from pros.

Image © Adam Larsen |

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The Business Case for Breastfeeding

Working mother with baby

If you could convince your employer that a program would help retain experienced employees, reduce sick days, and lower health insurance costs, would your employer jump to find out more? The program is The Business Case for Breastfeeding, a comprehensive U.S. government program to educate employers and human resource managers about the value of creating lactation support programs in the workplace.

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration has lined up the business savings with numbers that make it easy to see the benefit of companies supporting breastfeeding mothers. The numbers come from companies who have programs in place because they have studied the benefits for their bottom lines.

  • Twice as many absences to take care of sick children with formula-fed babies.
  • CIGNA found health care savings, fewer prescriptions, and fewer absences from work with lactation support.
  • Several companies found higher retention rates post-maternity leave with lactation support.
  • Even predominantly male workplaces have found an increase in loyalty of both male and female workers with introduction of lactation support programs.

The materials available include a brochure for managers, a brochure with easy steps to support breastfeeding employees, a tool kit (flyers, posters, forms, and other resources), employee guide, marketing materials, and a training webinar.

If you anticipate wanting to return to a breastfeeding-friendly workplace, you can also use many of the educational materials in The Business Case for Breastfeeding kit to give your employer reasons to consider lactation support as a small business move.

Business Case for Breastfeeding

Image © Robert Bocian |

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What’s Wrong with My Organic Potato?

Plastic wrapped organic potato

Meet my organic potato. Potatoes are among the Dirty Dozen foods most likely to have pesticide residues. They are one of the foods we should always buy organic.

My husband, who buys the groceries in our family, is a sucker for a sale. He has also agreed to buy only organic potatoes. Combined, organic and sale resulted in his bringing home the potatoes you see above. If you read closely, you will see that the potato comes with cooking instructions: “Microwave in 7 minutes.” Yes, that’s an instruction to microwave in the plastic shrinkwrap.

Those of us who pay attention to the issue of organic do so because we want to choose what is best for our families. So, is my organic potato better for my family?

What’s Right with Organic

Chemical pesticides and fertilizers can leave residues, and antibiotics and growth hormones in milk and meat can be passed on to humans. Organic standards prohibit or limit those potentially harmful inputs. Canada Organic Regime (COR) and USDA National Organic Program (NOP) provide standards and certification to those standards.

In short, an organic potato should not poison you or add to your chemical body burden. This is a very big plus.

What’s Wrong with Organic

Threats to Clean Food. While USDA certified organic foods still can’t intentionally include GMOs (genetically modified organisms), the trend in the corporate organic industry is toward “co-existence”—which will quite likely lead to GMOs in organic foods in the future. That’s not an issue with my organic potato, but this and so much else about the compromises of corporate organic lead me to be suspicious of the organic brand even while I support the extreme importance of clean food. Within the organic movement, there are coalitions of farmers and organizations working to maintain trust in organic by making sure organic food is clean food. I ask myself how far the grower of my organic potato pushed against the rules.

Pointless Packaging. While I may see petroleum-based shrinkwrap as pointless packaging, I do understand that this keeps the higher priced organic potatoes separate from the non-organic potatoes. I suspect adding the packaging also adds to the price. Yes, I understand that pricey organics give them a different demographic. First rule of marketing: know your audience. I can’t help but think that the plastic wrap doesn’t endear organic potatoes to the target market. Maybe that’s why they were sitting in the bin so long that they had to be discounted when entertained husbands could pick them up as conversation pieces. This has nothing to do with standards or certification and everything to do with marketing and sustainability.

Microwaving Plastic. In general, it’s best not to store or heat foods in plastic. The toxins that can be found in plastic softeners (phthalates) and in some ingredients (BPA or bisphenol-A), make it difficult to know which plastics are stable and non-toxic and which plastics present a potential health hazard. You have plenty of non-plastic choices to store and heat food.

Heating plastic can degrade the chemical bond. That chemical reaction could then leave toxins in the plastic that can be released. In a microwave, the particular dangers come with fatty foods cooked at high temperatures. Even the most conservative advice urges us not to let plastics, like thin plastic wrap, touch foods in the microwave. ~“Plastic-free Products: Feeding”

Again, this has nothing to do with organic standards. Despite the USDA’s refusal to say organic is better for you, most people buy organic because they want to avoid toxins in their food and in the environment. Those who care about toxins or have paid attention to the harm toxins can cause are more likely to limit their exposure in packaging and preparation as well as in the production of food before it reaches their kitchen.

A label won’t guarantee that food is good for you. I don’t have any idea whether an organic potato wrapped in plastic and microwaved is better for you than a tv dinner of processed organic potato flakes, but I’m thinking there are better choices than both of those. Whole foods stored and prepared without exposure to potential toxins are the best choice for your family.

We ate the organic potatoes, but we tore off the plastic first and created just a little bit more solid waste to send to the curb. Alas.

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Getting Started with Cloth Diapers

Babies leak. You’ve noticed? Cloth diapers provide a very simple, sustainable solution. Like breastfeeding, though, knowing how to diaper a baby is not automatic. You as a parent need to learn a few simple basics to get started cloth diapering. You need the right stuff, the right knowledge, and the right attitude.

The Right Stuff

What kind of diapers you need depends on your general approach. Anything absorbent will work. You can make your own cloth diapers. You can even use found objects. Some of my favorite diapers, flat terry nappies from the UK, resemble hand towels. Frankly, a hand towel will work just as well. If you are curious and don’t mind research and experimentation, the world is open to you.

If you prefer to get your hands on the diapers and get started, a cloth diaper package may be right for you. Add a diaper pail and a few baby wipes to any package, and you are ready to go.

The Practical Cloth Diaperer

Bummis cloth diaper starter kit

If you just want basic, time-tested cloth diapers that do the job so you can get on with life, the Bummis Complete Cloth Diapering Kit with organic cotton prefolds is for you. This kit has everything you need to cloth diaper full time, including a care guide with washing and folding instructions. I would call this no frills, but you do get cloth diaper covers in those cute Bummis prints. Let’s call it minimal frills.

The Experimental Cloth Diaperer

Cloth diaper sample package

If you like to try things out, collecting data before you make your decision, don’t buy a full set of diapers before you start. Just don’t! You’ll be sorry. Get one of each type of cloth diaper and see how it works for you and for your baby. Our Dazed & Confused Cloth Diaper Trial Kit includes a prefold diaper, a fitted diaper, a diaper cover, and two pocket diapers with inserts. Cloth diapering can be personalized to fit any family. This kit will help you do your own cloth diaper tests before you invest in full-time cloth diapering.

The Quick Cloth Diaperer

Happy Heinys cloth diaper starter kit

If you want what you want right away without any fuss, you might be a future pocket diapering parent. One-size pocket diapers are very easy to understand, so you will find yourself well up the learning curve on your first day. Happy Heiny’s starter package includes three diapers along with inserts in small and large. Three diapers is enough to get started with cloth diapers as you realize just how easy cloth diapering will be.

The Right Knowledge

Every diapering system needs to combine moisture absorbency with moisture resistance. This might mean a cloth diaper (absorbent) and a cloth diaper cover (resistant) or a pocket diaper (resistant) and an insert (absorbent).

As for the logistics of putting on a cloth diaper, you can often figure out the basics by experimenting with a doll or stuffed animal. I spend a good amount of time diapering and nursing a bear before my first baby arrived. Learning those basics before it counted helped me to be confident when I first diapered my baby.

If you need support or want to talk to an experienced parent about cloth diapers, look for a Real Diaper Circle. If there isn’t a Circle or other support group near you, call for pointers. We want you to be successful, and we will do our best to help.

The Right Attitude

First of all, how hard can it be to catch baby pee in a diaper? It is not hard, and you will be an expert in no time at all. Know that it’s going to be easy for you, and it will be. You will face issues. There are always issues whether it’s a stinky pail or a leaky leg opening. There are solutions to the issues you will face.

Like so much you do for your babies, cloth diapering is a loving act of helping your helpless, gorgeous little people do what they can’t do for themselves. Smile while you diaper your baby. Show your love so this is a happy time for you both.

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Thanks to Mothering, I’ve never felt alone

Mothering Magazine

Tuesday, Mothering announced that they would no longer publish a print magazine. They will continue as a web source of information and support for natural parenting.

This week we mourn the loss of the magazine that has literally helped me find direction in my life as a woman and mother.

Mothering magazine has helped me learn to be a better, more patient mother. It has inspired me to start a business. It’s made me feel accepted and supported in my less than conventional ways of parenting. Needless to say, it has had a profound affect on me since I started reading it more than 6 years ago now.

My oldest daughter was born in 2005, and I came across my first print magazine in my midwives’ office during my pregnancy. I was immediately attracted to the images of parents holding and carrying their babies in slings. The images of breastfeeding mothers inspired confidence in my own ability to nurse my babies, and, importantly, nurse them confidently in public (I don’t know that this would have happened without Mothering). I adored the stories, sense of community, and even the ads. In fact, it was these ads of the small, mostly mother-owned businesses in the USA that inspired me to start Parenting By Nature. There wasn’t any business quite like this in Canada 6 years ago, and at the time I had to order my first baby sling – the sling that started it all – from an online business in the USA.

I’ve spent many hours on the Mothering website and forums and will continue to support them in this way. I also truly believe they have much opportunity to reach many, many parents via their website and online. I thank them dearly for everything they have brought to my life. Thanks to Mothering, I’ve never felt alone.

Tamara Champion

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