Hey everyone! We're going to do a fun guest post today about "A day in the life of a cloth diapering mama"! Tonia Neal Johnson, a former eLeMeNO-Pee consultant and mother of three was kind enough to get us started! Don't for get to follow her on facebook (mooshka sees)!
I recall a few amusing conversations with my sister, both of us pregnant and wanting to use cloth, and both of us confused as all get out.
Me: "Let's use cloth diapers!"
Sister: "Duh! So you like...do what now?"
Me: "You like put them in a bucket of water. There's different kinds and stuff."
Sister: "Yea. Totally. And then you just, what? Change the baby and plop the diaper in the washer? With water? I think it takes like twenty minutes to pin a diaper on. No biggie. If other people do it, we can do it!"
Me: "Yea, um...I dunno. There's this hempamboofleecottonylozorb blend so I think you just let it do it's thing. Let's watch some ridiculously outdated Youtube videos!"
Both of us: Google google google...Youtube youtube youtube
Four years later, I have a good thing going. I found reliable information resources and held on for dear life. But for those of you still trying to imagine how your life will be different while using cloth, I'm here to tell you that what actually helps is seeing how someone else makes it work. I'm going show my version of that by describing my small-human-dictated, coffee-fueled, cloth-diaper-using, crazy-fun-beautiful life:
6:00am: Either Mooshka, who bedshares, or Little Guy, who sleeps in another bed in the same room, wakes me up. They're usually pretty chipper. So chipper.
6:05am: The chipper is contagious. Whichever small person was still sleeping, is no longer so. Mooshka nurses for a bit, we cuddle, play peek-a-boo, ya know. Cute morning stuff. If it's a school day, Sis-Sis, my oldest daughter, usually joins us for a few minutes after she gets up and gets dressed.
6:30am: We get out of bed and the first thing I do is head down the hall to the kid's bathroom, where my changing station is set up and all of our diapers are stored. I change Mooshka's diaper. Before putting it in my dry pail (an open trash can with a reusable Planetwise pail liner), I rinse it with cold water in the bathroom sink and wring it out. Little Guy rarely wakes up wet, but just in case, he still wears a nighttime diaper. If his is wet too, I rinse that one as well. Otherwise, I take it off and put him on the potty. I try to take a few minutes to go ahead and get the kids dressed for the day, but it doesn't always happen.
6:55am: Kiss Papabear & Sis-Sis goodbye as they head off to work and school.
7:00am: On wash days (every third day), I start diaper laundry. The pail in the upstairs bathroom is usually full with about a dozen GroVia all-in-ones, a half dozen soaker pads or prefolds, a handful of shells, and 3-4 nighttime diapers. There is an additional hanging wetbag in the downstairs bathroom that usually has 8-10 diapers in it. It's where I empty out my smaller wetbag when we come home from outings. I gather both of those, take them to the laundry room, empty them into the washer, add a little detergent and start a 34-minute quick cycle. Then I replace the liner in the pail and hang a new wetbag downstairs.
7:05am: All too often, as soon as the washer starts, the baby poops. Why!? I lay Mooshka on the changing table, unfasten the diaper, wipe her clean, and apply GroVia magic stick if she needs it. We use disposable wipes, so I put them in a plastic bag in the trash. Cloth wipes would go straight in the pail. I fasten on a new diaper. She's wiggly, so this is my least favorite part of the process. Once she's in a fresh diaper, I set her down to play or put her in the carrier. If she had just wet her diaper, I'd put it in the pail and be done! Since this was a dirty diaper, I put gloves on, and either plop the poop into the potty or dunk the diaper in the potty and swish it around until the poo comes off. This technique is easy once you get the hang of it and friends who have seen me do it sometimes even remark on how simple it seems compared to what they thought it would look like. Other options are using liners (reusable or disposable), or using a sprayer and Spray Pal splatter shield. Once all of the waste is in the toilet, I put the diaper in the pail, I scrub my hands and move on with my day!
7:10am: Debate starting the diaper laundry over so I can put the newly dirtied one in the wash too, depending on how bad the poo was and which diaper it was in. It's so tempting! I used to start it over multiple times, but I've come to realize that there will always be dirties in the pail so I might as well get the current load washed without delaying it each time I change the baby. Once you have a solid wash routine, it won't matter if even a really messy diaper sits at the bottom of the pail for a few days, because you can trust that it will come clean regardless.
7:15am: I mess around on facebook, do a little blogging or reading if I'm lucky, and we eat breakfast. Usually I hear the washer beep at me to let me know the quick cycle is finished around 7:35-7:40, but we take our time eating. Little Guy may or may not watch PBS. Mooshka may or may not make a horrendous mess of her highchair.
8:00am: I start the main cycle. The cycle itself takes about an hour and a half, but it takes me less than one minute to get it going. I just run upstairs, add my detergent and whatnot to the machine, and push a few buttons.
8:01am: I come back down, clean up the kids, clean up breakfast, and put Mooshka in the carrier. She nurses, then falls asleep for an hour or two. While she sleeps on me, Little Guy and I play, read, do puzzles, sometimes take walks, or whatever strikes our fancy. Sometimes, he might play on my phone or watch another show while I write some more or do a few chores. On days that I'm not doing diaper laundry, this is usually when I start a regular load.
9:30am: Mooshka wakes up. This is the happiest time of her day. She's full, clean, cozy, rested, and properly snuggled. If I need to shower, this is when I do it. We all get dressed and I prepare for an outing if there is one that day. I make sure to change her again before we leave. It's just wet this time, so it goes straight in the pail.
I almost always take her upstairs to change her, but it would be easy to keep a few supplies downstairs. Up until she started solids, I actually changed most diapers downstairs. Exclusively breastfed poop doesn't need to be flushed down the toilet, so I didn't need one near my changing station. If I did need to thoroughly clean a diaper before putting it in the pail, I could use the small bathroom on the first floor where I kept the pail. I stored all of diapers in an end table, and just changed her on the floor or couch. At the time, it was more convenient because she was going through 15-18 diapers a day. I wasn't about to climb the stairs that many times. Little Guy was also younger and I didn't feel comfortable taking my eyes off him, lest he completely destroy the house. Plus, I was still changing 3-4 diapers of his a day at that point! Now, he uses the potty, I can trust him alone for a few minutes, and I'm changing less diapers. I just go ahead and count going up and down the stairs as my daily workout.
10:00am: The main cycle has finished, so I check the diapers. Not everyone does this, but my machine is finicky, so I've learned to take out each diaper and inspect it to make sure it got clean. If I need to, I might run another cycle or set a few diapers aside that need to dry in the sun to remove stains. That process takes about 15 minutes or so. Finally, I either hang things up to dry or put them in the dryer. You can dry most diapers on high, but I prefer to save a little energy by setting it to a longer cycle at a lower temp.
10:15am: After I get the diapers drying, the next few hours are open. We might just play at home. Sometimes we have people over. I might run errands or clean. A few times a week, we go to playdates. I almost always change at least one diaper during this time.
Noon: It's lunchtime! Luckily, Little Guy is not a super picky eater and usually eats what I give him or plays in the living room while ignoring what I've placed on the table for him. As long he's not throwing a fit, 'sallgood. He almost always get a little somethin' in his belly. I scarf down some soup or leftovers while nursing Mooshka, then put her in her highchair for some solid food. She eats a little and throws food everywhere. A good portion of our "lunch hour" is me picking up after her.
1:00pm: I spend a little time folding laundry. On diaper washing days, I ignore other laundry and marvel at my pretties -- fresh, clean, lined up. Guuuuush!!! Even with neglecting our regular laundry every third day, I usually stay caught up if I make myself fold and put away after lunch. I'm either wearing Mooshka or listening to her and Little Guy play in the playroom. If I'm not wearing her, she usually crawls over and knocks over my piles every five seconds.
2:00pm: Eventually, I get to a point where I can't face anymore folding, re-folding, and putting away. I give up, and usually start checking Facebook. By this time, Mooshka needs another diaper change anyway. Sometimes this is a poopy one. I get her cleaned up and join them in the playroom, or we head outside for some fun time. If I'm having a supermom day, we might even do a project, bake something, or leave the house again. During this part of the day, I'm trying to be better about spending a little time in the kitchen doing something to make dinner prep easier.
3:30pm: Sis-Sis and Papabear get home! We are super lucky in that my hubby works for himself. He keeps appointments during the day and is able to pick up Sis-Sis from school. When they get home, he disappears into his home office to finish up paperwork and make phone calls. Mooshka goes back in the carrier to nurse and take another nap. Little Guy goes back outside, plays independently, or runs around the house like a banshee. I reconnect with Sis-Sis, ask her about her day, and usually help with whatever school project she's working on.
4:30pm: Sis-Sis meets up with her bestie down the street. I change Mooshka's diaper, do the dishes and straighten up the kitchen. This is also usually when I bring in anything that was sunning outside. If I need to, I finish up a blog post before bath and dinner.
5:30pm: I take Mooshka and Little Guy up for baths. Papabear usually emerges from the office and starts preparing dinner. Bless him!
6:00pm: Sis-Sis comes home, bathes, sets the table, and we eat! For the next hour or so, we talk, we catch up, we play outside, the baby nurses, and we just enjoy the evening as a family.
7:15pm: Me and the kids head upstairs. I change Mooshka again, put a nighttime diaper on Little Guy, and everyone brushes teeth. We all go to Sis-Sis's (how many S's can I put in one word, right?) room to read a story and tell "favorite parts" -- a family tradition where we talk about all the things we have to be grateful for that day.
7:30pm: Lights out for Sis-Sis because she needs a billion hours of sleep or she turns into queen of all the wild things.
7:45pm: I lay down to cuddle Little Guy to sleep. Sometimes, this lasts a few minutes. Sometimes it takes an hour. Sometimes Mooshka falls asleep too, but most often she just nurses or plays.
8:00pm-10:00pm: We clean up the kitchen, talk, and cuddle the baby. I used to put her nighttime diaper on at the same time I put on Little Guy's, but lately she has been wetting two or three diapers between then and when she actually falls asleep. Until I got hip to what was happening, I kept putting on a new nighttime diaper. We only have five nighttime diapers to last both babies between wash days, so I learned to just wait until after the big kids are in bed to get her set up in her overnight gear. If she happens to fall asleep early in a daytime diaper, so be it. I'm not going to stress over one leaky night. While she's nursing to sleep, I might read or mess around on my phone. Once she's sleeping, I straighten up downstairs and sometimes we watch a show before heading up to bed ourselves.
So, you see, once you commit to fitting cloth into your lifestyle, it's just a few minutes here and there. Diaper changes take a little longer, but not much, and the extra load of laundry isn't as bad as it seems. I change 8-10 diapers a day, and have to dunk n swish one or two. Every few days, I spend a few minutes loading and unloading the washer, and starting cycles, then a little time folding diapers. It's not as scary as it seems! Yes, there's a toddler underfoot with oh-so-specific demands, and a baby who, as you noticed, wants to nurse and be carried all day. Yes, I have a partner and an older kiddo that need my time, too. But I've found that a cloth diapering routine is totally doable for our family. There are some days that are harder than others, but I hope that hearing about how I go about my day with a baby in cloth helps you picture how you could do the same!