Cloth diapering essentials

This is our second round of cloth diapering, and we are still loving our BumGenius diapers. We primarily use cloth on Harper when we are at home, with the exception of using Pampers Baby Dry diapers for overnight. We also use disposable diapers when we are away from home for convenience.

Since I get a lot of questions on using cloth diapers from friends, I thought it would be nice to share more specifics. Here are the things we use:

cloth diapering essentials | must have items and tips for using cloth diapers

cloth diapers / bamboo diaper inserts / diaper sprayer / laundry detergent
wet bag / diaper pail liner /  diaper pail

Choosing a diaper

There were three main types of cloth diapers we considered: pocket, all-in-ones, and fitted.
Pockets are a waterproof outer layer with a pocket; an absorbent insert fits into the pocket.
All-in-ones have a built in insert that is not removable.
Fitted diapers are an absorbent (but not waterproof) diaper that requires putting on a separate waterproof cover.

We ultimately decided to to with the pocket design for a couple of reasons.
Reason #1: You can “customize” the absorbency by doubling up on the inserts or changing the type of insert. For example, our diapers came with microfiber inserts, but we switched to bamboo inserts to increase the absorbency. (We also double up on the bamboo inserts.)
Reason #2: They are easier to clean. Because you can pull the insert out and spray off the shell, the diaper doesn’t soak up a lot of water and get “soggy.” They dry faster than all-in-ones because they inserts can be removed and dried separately.

After doing some research, BumGenius 4.0 seemed to get the best reviews. They’re adjustable to fit babies size 8 lb – 35 lb with two different sized inserts – one for newborns and a larger one for bigger babies. As an added bonus they come in fun colors and cute prints. We used them for about a year with Noah and loved them, and have been loving them again this second go around with Harper.

Cleaning/Laundering

This is the part that is most intimidating to people, but honestly it isn’t that bad. Investing in a waterproof diaper pail liner, the right detergent, and having a decent washing machine certainly makes things go more smoothly.

Wet diapers – we pull the insert out of the diaper cover, then toss both the insert and the diaper cover in the diaper pail. It’s as easy as that.

Dirty diapers – we still pull out the insert and toss it in the diaper pail. We then take the dirty diaper cover (the outer shell of the diaper) to the toilet and spray off the mess with the BumGenius diaper sprayer. After the diaper cover has been sprayed off, we put it in a wet bag (waterproof, zippered cloth bag) that we keep in the bathroom to avoid carrying a dripping wet diaper on back to the nursery.

We use this Dekor diaper pail, which does a great job at preventing any odors from escaping and has a nice large opening to allow the diapers to pass through. We also use a cloth diaper pail liner (we have two of these), which comes in handy since you can just toss them in the wash with the diapers.

To launder the diapers, we just take the diaper-filled liner out of the pail and empty it into our washing machine (as well as the wet bag with the dirty diapers from the bathroom). The diaper pail liner also gets tossed in with the rest of the load. We wash on sanitary cycle (extra hot water) with the soil level set to medium-high, and add in an extra rinse at the end of the cycle to get them extra clean. After trying a few different detergents, I can’t say enough good things about how well Rock N Green works. I only use a rounded tablespoon of this powdered detergent, and it does an amazing job of not only cleaning the diapers, but also maintaining their absorbency. I initially balked at the price, but one bag of it lasts us over five months since we only use it for diapers. Good stuff.

Once the wash cycle is done, we air dry the diaper covers by draping them over the side of the laundry basket (they usually dry within a few hours in our dry Colorado air). We throw the inserts in the dryer. The only downside to having super absorbent bamboo inserts is that they do take a bit longer to dry, but throwing a few towels in seems to help toss them around so they dry a little more quickly. After everything is dry, we stuff the inserts back into the pockets of the diaper covers. This is a little time consuming, but it only takes a few minutes to get them all done.

And that’s pretty much it! A little wordy, I know, but I hope this information can be useful to those considering cloth.

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Preemie essentials (for bringing home baby)

Bringing home your preemie is exciting but nerve-wracking. After spending all that time watching the NICU monitors alerting every episode of bradycardia and apnea, you feel a bit anxious about “unhooking” your baby. The important thing I kept reminding myself was that they would not be sending my baby home if she wasn’t fully capable of breathing by herself and regulating her own heartbeat. Here are some of the things we found most helpful in the first weeks at home with Harper.

preemie essentials top ten must have items1. I mentioned Dr. Brown’s bottles in my NICU essentials post. It was what our nurses recommended for reducing reflux, and Harper never did have an issue with reflux or spitting up. 4oz bottles will be plenty big in the beginning. Harper started on a preemie nipple when she was first learning to take a bottle, but by the time she was discharged she had graduated to a level 1 nipple..

2. You will likely need to fortify bottles if you had a preemie, even if you are breastfeeding. We used Similac Neosure (there is also Enfamil or whatever your doctor recommends).

3. A multivitamin with iron was recommended to us by our NICU docs and pediatrician. Preemies don’t have enough stores of certain vitamins and minerals like a full term infant, and therefore need a daily multivitamin.

4. Dr. Brown bottle warmer. This is my absolute favorite bottle warmer. It’s digital, which makes it super easy to set an accurate time to warm different volumes of milk. We’ve tried the Munchkin brand as well, but it doesn’t compare to this one.

5. Microwave sterilizer – so awesome and easy to use. We use it to sterilize bottles, pump parts, pacifiers, teething toys, etc. Keeping germs at bay is essential with a preemie, especially in those early weeks at home.

6. Angelcare monitor. Honestly any baby monitor will do, but due to the aforementioned apprehension we wanted this one to alert us if she were to stop breathing.

7. Breastmilk storage bags. If you are breastfeeding, it may take quite some time for your preemie to catch up to your supply. This means you will need to freeze and store a lot of milk. My favorite are the Lansinoh because they freeze relatively flat. (I found the Medela bags to be bulky, even after removing all the air.) The thinner, flatter Lansinoh bags stacked well in a drawer (a shoe box also works well) in the freezer. I put my newest milk in the back which makes it easy to take the older milk from the front.

8. Hand sanitizer. Baby is leaving the safety bubble of the NICU, and entering the real world. It’s ok to ask well meaning friends and family to sanitize their hands before touching or holding your babe. They know what you’ve been through and they won’t be offended.

9. Preemie sized diapers. Our developmental therapists said it was important to have the appropriate size diaper so you don’t spread their hip bones. For many preemies being discharged, even newborn diapers may be too big.

10. Swaddleme infant wrap. Preemies get used to being swaddled in the NICU to give them that snug feeling of being in the womb. A SwaddleMe or Halo sleep sack works well.  We preferred the SwaddleMe in the warmer summer months because it was thinner cotton and didn’t seem quite as warm. They also run a little small, so Harper fit well in the small/medium size even though she was only 6.5lbs when we brought her home.

Other thoughts:
There were a lot of doctor’s appointments in the early weeks at home. Because Harper came home on oxygen, it was a bit bulky lugging around her oxygen tank, a diaper bag, and car seat. Having a stroller that the car seat snaps into made it easier to get from the car to the doctor’s office (especially with a toddler also in tow). Also, people love babies. Rightly so – they are precious! I never thought I’d be that mom that didn’t want people touching her baby, but with a preemie susceptible to germs, you just can’t be too careful. I found a car seat canopy to be helpful in discouraging any unwanted contact, and as an added bonus, shielding Harper from unexpected coughs and sneezes. Before bringing Harper home I also stocked up on saline spray, mylecon, and baby Tylenol in addition to the other baby hygiene essentials.

I felt anything but prepared to care for my sweet baby girl without the aid of our wonderful nurses and doctors. However, we made it through the transition (by the grace of God!), and each week got a little easier. My goal is not to give advice, but to share our experience in hopes that it may be helpful. I was certainly grateful to everyone who shared their NICU story with us during this time!

* You can find my NICU essentials post here.