Soakers vs Doublers

Sometimes cloth diaper terminology can be extremely confusing. One area that causes frustration for people is determining the difference between soakers and doublers and determining which they may need.

All Bottombumpers AIO diapers come with a Snap in Soaker. They are designed to be used with this system to provide absorbency inside of the waterproof outer shell made of PUL – Polyester Urethane Laminated Knit. These soakers are made with 4 layers of 100% Certified Organic Cotton and topped with Organic Bamboo Velour/Rayon, which stays soft next to baby’s delicate skin. Without the soaker, the AIO would likely leak if baby soiled it. If your soakers become worn out or stained, you can replace them with new soakers for only $5 and make the inside of your diapers like new!

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Doublers are only needed regularly for babies who are heavy wetters. Other babies may need them occasionally for long periods like napping, car rides, or for overnight use. Bottombumpers doublers are made of 2 layers of 100% Certified Organic Cotton and are designed to be placed under the Snap in Soaker. They are cut trim to add extra absorbency without adding bulk that would cause a poor fit for the elastic around baby’s legs which may lead to leakage.

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I normally advise people to buy about a half dozen doublers for their cloth diaper “layette,” but to find out what kind of wetter baby is before going overboard adding them to their stash. There is a strong likelihood that everyone will add doublers at some point during the cloth diapering years, but there is also a strong likelihood that most babies will be okay with the absorbency provided by the Snap in Soaker most of the time.

Diaper Laundry – It Doesn’t Have to be a Messy Ordeal

When I teach Cloth Diapering 101, there are a few questions that seem to pop up in every class. The topic that every family wants to discuss, in detail, is the wash routine. (A close second place- “What are all of these styles of diapers and how do they work?”) From my experiences with so many people, it seems that laundry questions and concerns are the number one barrier to a family choosing to use cloth diapers. They also tend to become the number one frustration for cloth diapering families. Perhaps this is because there is so much information online- much of it conflicting, or at least more involved than is really necessary.

 

I have seen some claims online that there is no need to tailor a washing routine. Having lived in three different geographic regions during my time using cloth diapers, I have to reject this “one size fits all” laundry fantasy. I have experienced the effect that different water types can have on the results of a laundry routine, and after some trials and tweaks, a theme has emerged. In my experience, a basic laundry formula exists, but special circumstances call for adjustments to the basic plan.

 

For me, the basic routine that has been constant from day one, is rinse – wash – rinse. I have a “traditional”  (aka OLD) machine, which I love because it allows me to easily adjust the water level to the needs of any given load of diapers. In the first rinse cycle I use cold water with my machine’s extra rinse cycle. It has a short agitation period, which helps to remove the inevitable gunk on the dirty diapers. I make sure to use a high water level in this cycle. Once the spin cycle is complete, I do a washing cycle with detergent. I finish my routine with a final cold rinse and spin, to ensure that my diapers are free of lurking detergent.

 

There are differing opinions about what the temperature of the detergent cycle should be. When my son was born, we lived in Germany and my washing machine did not offer warm or hot water! If I wanted to use the machine to wash my diapers (as opposed to doing wash in a bathtub) I had to use cold water. I spent a lot of time fretting over this, but after lots of research I discovered that if my water temperature couldn’t be above 140 degrees farenheit, the hot water wouldn’t kill the bacteria anyway. (Science News, “The Case for Very Hot Water” http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/37933/description/The_Case_for_Very_Hot_Water ) Instead of washing in moderately-hot water in my bathtub, I opted to use the cold water detergent cycle and to sun-dry, or machine dry, my diapers. Dryer heat, or the sun’s heat and UV rays, will help to kill many microbes lurking in diapers. Bonus points to the sun for helping to remove staining, naturally!

 

When I returned to the US, I had the luxury of choosing between cold, warm, or hot washing cycles. Some people prefer to use the hot water option even if they know their water heater’s upper limit isn’t set high enough to kill bacteria, because the hot water makes them feel more comfortable in their wash routine. Others are of the opinion that warm water, in conjunction with machine or sun drying, is sufficient to kill germs and will be more gentle on the fibers of their diapers over time. Some people even go as far as to recalibrate their water heater so it will exceed 140 degrees farenheit. (If you choose this option, please remember that your water can scald during a shower, a bath, or dish washing and adjust the faucet accordingly!) Different diaper brands suggest different washing temperatures, which certainly can add to the confusion about which water temperature is the “right” one for your laundry. Personally, I take the middle route, opting for warm water and sunning, with occasional machine drying. I believe in making informed decisions, and understand that my choice won’t feel like the right one for every family, so in my classes I encourage people to consider the options and to choose the one that seems to be the best fit for their situation.

 

As I have mentioned, I prefer sunning diapers as the ultimate method of drying. But line drying can leave diapers stiff, so many families wonder if it is safe to put their diaper laundry in the dryer. In general, inserts that are free of elastics and PUL/TPU are safe in the dryer, though medium heat or lower is preferrable because repeated exposure high heat will break down fibers more quickly. Covers and items with elastic can go through dryer cycles occasionally, but again require medium or low heat to maintain the integrity of the waterproofing material or elastic long-term. In the end, will some electric dryer cycles hurt your diapers? Probably not that much. But if you hope to use the same stash for more than one child, minimizing the time the diapers spend in the electric dryer will help to keep the diapers in great condition. During the winter, I will sometimes use a combination method, where I hang my covers, pockets, all-in-ones, and hybrid shells on a drying rack by a window, and put my inserts and prefolds in the dryer.

 

I have tried a number of detergents and discovered that different options have worked well with different water types. In Germany our water was very average- not particularly hard or soft. I used a cloth diaper safe detergent very happily there, and it was not specially formulated for any particular water type. When I first returned to the US my son and I stayed in Pennsylvania with family for a number of weeks. My parents have well water that is treated with a house-wide water softener, which results in very soft water. (It tastes delicious, incidentally.) The detergent I used in Germany continued to work well during this time, though I discovered that I needed to use less than I had in Germany. If I used the same amount I had used overseas, I had some residual detergent in my final rinse. I decreased the amount of detergent from 2 tbsp to 1 tbsp- the amounts suggested by the manufacturer for regular and HE washers, respectively. Even though I was using a regular washing machine, the very soft water just didn’t need much detergent to get the diapers clean. It was nice to go through my detergent so slowly!

 

We finally settled in Colorado, where our water can only be described as horrifyingly hard. It is mineral-laden and every running of the shower leaves bright white water spots on the glass door. My old standby detergent suddenly left my diapers smelly and looking, well, not-so-fresh. I started to try samples of cloth diapering detergents specifically formulated for hard water. Some seemed to work for a little while, but none seemed to do the job quite as well as my old detergent in normal- to soft- water. I even tried non-cloth diaper detergents to see if they would help; my son (whose skin is fairly sensitive) had bad reactions and even my normal laundry didn’t seem as clean as usual. After a decent amount of frustration, some attempts at stripping, and even a foray into the world of bleach (which I generally avoid altogether) I finally figured out the trick to laundering with very hard water. Using a water softener such as Calgon can make all the difference if you have struggles with hard water laundering. This trick is especially useful if you can’t afford a whole-house water softening system. Adding some water softener to the detergent cycle can help the detergent to provide its most effective cleaning. I wish I had realized much sooner, that my hard water was preventing my detergent from doing its job!

 

Often people will ask me about various laundry additives such as vinegar, bleach, and tea tree oil. Full disclosure- I have tried all of these at different times in my cloth laundering journey. I had varying success with the products and overall I prefer to figure out a reliable routine that works without having to add anything that is potentially harsh on the diapers or a child’s skin. I also caution everyone to find out if an additive will influence the warranty on new diapers, and to take that into consideration before choosing to use something extra in the wash routine. In some cases it might be worth the risk- for example, I used tea tree oil on my prefolds when my newborn son had a yeast rash, and I am glad I made that decision. But that is going to be a personal risk versus reward assessment for any family.

 

In the end, the key to successful cloth diaper laundering is finding a routine that works for you (again, I highly recommend the basic rinse-wash-rinse method) and when troubles arise, discovering the reason for the issue. You don’t necessarily need to involve yourself in some confusing, excessive washing routine. If your root problem is the condition of your water, fix that. If your root problem is going too long between washings, adjust your laundering frequency. If your diapers hold on to ammonia, rinse them right after use (including urine-only diapers) and wash frequently- add an ammonia bouncer if better rinsing and more frequent washing doesn’t help. Don’t be afraid to ask a manufacturer, local store, or online retailer for help discovering your root issue. And as much as possible, keep it all simple! Your cloth diaper laundry should not become a major source of anxiety in your life. You’re a parent, you’ve got enough to worry about.

When to adjust the settings on your one size diaper

One-size diapers are fantastic for getting a perfect fit on your baby. Bottombumpers One Size AIOs have several color coded settings available to make achieving a great fit a breeze.

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Here are some signs that baby’s diaper needs to be adjusted:

1. It falls off baby when they move around.
2. When baby sits, it gapes out around their tummy.
3. It droops down off their bottom and around their legs.
4. It leaks. Leaking does not necessarily mean poor fit, but poor fit can cause leaking.
5. It chafes baby’s skin.
6. Any part of baby’s anatomy that shouldn’t be showing outside the diaper is (i.e. butt crack or penis). If so, the rise of the diaper needs to be increased.
7. Baby’s circulation is being cut off (their legs appear purple).
8. Baby has red marks that seem to bother him or her. All red marks are not bad news, as most clothing, especially with elastic, can leave marks on delicate skin. If the mark is light pink and looks like an elastic imprint, it is probably fine. If they are deep, purple or red, and don’t fade away quickly they may be hurting your baby and you should adjust the fit immediately.

Getting rid of and preventing ammonia build-up

If you’ve ever caught a whiff of a cloth diaper and almost fainted, there’s a good possibility you are smelling a build up of ammonia. These diapers can be tricky, because they smell clean and fresh right out of the washer, dryer, or off the line, but as soon as urine hits them…BAM! The knockout burn-your-nostrils ammonia smell emerges. This occurs because tiny ammonia crystals become trapped within the diaper layers. These crystals are activated by the urine, which is why they smell fine after a wash, but nearly knock you out after baby pees. I am not a chemist, but as I understand it, the urea in urine and ammonia have similar chemical compositions and react with one another. I even read that a single molecule of urea can turn into two molecules of ammonia, leading to a stink fest before you know it.

If this has happened to you, keep reading. I’ll explain how to get rid of it. If this has not happened to you, keep reading. I’ll explain how to avoid it. A general rule of thumb is, if you don’t *know* it is ammonia, it isn’t ammonia.

If you have ammonia, “stripping” your diapers is the first line of defense. The way in which you strip your diapers will depend on the type of diapers, the hardness of your water, and what you personally feel comfortable using. Like most things cloth diaper related, it can take some trial and error to determine what works best in your situation.

Here are a few options for stripping:

1. Repeated hot water washes without detergent – I have heard that people with soft water have successfully removed ammonia crystals by running diapers through 3-4 hot washes of water only. I have not heard of this method being efficient with any other water types.

2. RLR – At only a few dollars per packet, this is a very economical choice. This works for moderate or hard water, but is not suggested for soft water conditions. To us RLR, start with clean diapers. They don’t have to be dry, but I have had the best results when I have used RLR following a wash cycle. Open the packet of RLR and sprinkle it on top of the diapers inside the washer basin. Set your washer for a long, hot wash with extra water. Follow it with several cold rinses. I normally do four. You can check while it’s washing to see if there are a great deal of suds. If you still see suds, keep rinsing. If not, I’d still suggest between 3-5 cold rinses.

3. “Rock the Soak” – This method involves soaking your diapers in Rockin’ Green Soap , preferably overnight, but for at least a few hour minimum. Since I have a front loader that doesn’t allow for easy soaking, I cover my diapers with water in the bathtub and add 6 scoops of Rockin’ Green. I hand rinse them in the tub, then bring them to the washer for my regular wash routine. I follow the wash up with two extra rinses to make sure everything is removed.

4. Funk Rock Soak – Soak up to 20 diapers using 4T of Rockin’ Green Funk Rock. Place the diapers and Funk Rock into the tub or washer as you would if you were “Rocking the Soak.” With this product, the diapers only need to soak for 30-60 minutes instead of overnight. After you use Funk Rock, rinse and wash as normal.

5. Dawn dish soap (the regular blue formula) – I haven’t personally used this method, but I see it recommended frequently. People report that a squirt of Dawn and several rinses removes stinky residue from diapers. I’ve also heard of people soaking them in Dawn and following the procedure outlined above in “Rock the Soak.”

5. Line drying in the sun – I have never found this method to work by itself, even in the Arizona sun in the summer, but adding line drying in after the stripping methods above are performed may certainly work as UV rays are a natural bleach and fresh air is always goof.

Here are ways to avoid ammonia build-up:

1. Use a cloth diaper safe detergent from day one – The chief culprits for ammonia smell are detergent scent and detergent residue. Many cloth diaper stores now sell detergent formulated for cloth diaper washes, but if you want to use a different type, it is a good idea to check the ingredients first to make sure there is nothing listed that may be detrimental to cloth diapers. These are the main offenders to look for:

Enzymes – naturally break down materials, may also cause children to break out
Dyes & Fragrances – harsh chemicals that may lead to skin irritation
Brighteners – leave build-up leading to smell issue
Softeners – waterproof the fibers so that diapers will no longer absorb

2. Use the correct amount of detergent – Most people find that 1T of detergent is good for HE machines, while those with regular top loaders need to use 2T. Once again, finding what works for you may take some trial and error. Remember, clean has no smell. If you are pulling out diapers that smell like detergent, you are probably using too much. If you are pulling out diapers that smell musky or poopy, you are probably using too little. If you see suds at the end of your wash cycle, you are also probably using too much.

3. Find a wash routine that works – We suggest a short cold wash/rinse to get the messes off the diapers. Then wash on HOT with a cloth diaper safe detergent to sanitize, sterilize, kill bacteria, etc. Follow that up wth an additional hot rinse if you see suds in the washer. Then tumble dry or line dry. Other routines may work as well, but this is our suggested method.

4. Pre-rinse or spray all wet diapers – This should be done immediately after they come off baby if possible, or before placing them in your diaper pail or wet bag if you are unable to do it at changing time. You can swish them in the toilet, use a diaper sprayer on them, or rinse them in a sink or tub. This will rinse off most of the urea and prevent it from reacting with the ammonia in your pail, wet bag, or beyond.

5. Add Rockin’ Green Funk Rock to your wash cycle – Used preventatively, this ammonia bouncer helps neutralize the ammonia crystals.

Good luck keeping the stinkies away! Let us know what works for you!

My Cloth Diapering Journey

My earliest memory of cloth diapers is from my childhood, but the diapers weren’t used for my younger sister, brother, or even for myself. My great-grandmother gave my mom some soft prefolds when I was born. We used them to dust the house. I would spritz some kind of artificial lemon-scented dust-busting spray on the quilted surface when it was my turn to wipe down the furniture. I don’t remember thinking of them as diapers at that point- to me, they were just rags that my mother had been reusing for years. It wasn’t until I started learning about cloth diapers, over 20 years later, that I made the connection and got the back story from my mom. She said the convenience culture of disposables was too tempting when compared with those folded cloths, sharp pins, and plastic underpants.

I married somewhat young, right after I graduated from college. My husband was in the Army and within a few weeks my life changed substantially. I started my first adult-type job and moved to a new city in a new state. The only person I knew, was my husband. I was so thankful when he introduced me to Jennifer, a bubbly and warm woman who took me under her wing despite our difference in ages. Jennifer’s house was one of those places filled with humor and creativity. Her two children benefited from their mother’s incredible energy, love, and her insanely well-honed cooking skills. Jennifer and I loved to shop online together, showing each other Doc Marten’s and wrap dresses we longed to be able to afford. “Next payday!” we would say. And this simple ritural of online window shopping, revealed to me to world of modern cloth diapers.

Jennifer was never one to do what was easy or what was the social norm- she would embrace the more challenging path if she thought it was the right thing to do. When she became pregnant with her third baby, she started telling me all about the amazing cloth diapers she was discovering online. She told me that it was going to be easy to deal with cloth diapers- which seemed unrealistic to me at the time, but then again, I saw how she was capable of anything. She talked a little bit about all the money she was going to save, but at that point I mostly saw the sticker prices of an individual pocket diaper. I wondered how people could afford enough diapers if each one cost fifteen dollars or more. I wondered if her washing machine would be able to handle the mess. I wondered if it would be a huge pain whenever she wanted to leave the house. And despite all of the doubts, I also had a feeling that she was on to something really smart.

It would be another five years, and a move to Germany, before I was pregnant for the first time. I hadn’t spent much time considering cloth diapers during that time, but it was one of the first things I began to research after I got a positive test. I spent so many hours reading about cloth diapers- the different styles, positive and negative aspects of various designs, about a million different laundry routines and opinions on the best brands. I started realizing that if cloth diapering was something I really felt compelled to do, I could find solutions for all of my early doubts. I set aside money from my own paychecks so that I would be able to afford to try a variety of diapers. When I presented my well-researched desire to cloth diaper to my husband, he was actually excited! He listened to my endless debating over which items to purchase online. We were doing everything with only our internet research- like so many families, the first time we actually saw a modern cloth diaper in person was when our first box of “fluffy mail” arrived.

I chose a fairly representative variety for my original diaper collection, including pockets, all-in-ones, hybrids, and prefolds with covers. My husband and I practiced putting the diapers together and wrapping the prefolds around teddy bears. As our fingers fumbled with the Snappi (“Am I going to stab him?”) we bonded over this new adventure. From acquaintences, I regularly heard that I was “crazy” and that I would give up pretty soon. My friends were more supportive, hopefully because they realized that I like to follow through when I make a decision, but possibly because they didn’t want to be rude or incur my pregnant anger.

When my son arrived in 2010, my husband and I had been given a few packages of disposable newborn diapers. We used them along with our newborn-sized prefolds, until the disposable diapers ran out. At that point, we stuck with our cloth diapers. Every time I changed a diaper for those first few weeks, I was so happy- I could already tell that I was going to save money because of this choice. When my mom visited, she said she wished these modern diapers had existed when I was a baby!

At home full-time with a young baby, I had a fair amount of “down time” for a little while. My son liked to nurse very frequently. I would sit with him, nursing, and reading things online pretty often. At the same time, I had friends asking me lots of questions about cloth diapering. I found myself typing the same answers repeatedly. I decided to start a cloth diapering weblog, where I reviewed diapers, talked about the money I was saving, and discussed different laundering routines and options. Cloth diapers became a hobby and I loved helping friends and complete strangers alike. As my son became more mobile, I had less and less time to write in my blog. But thankfully another exciting life change was just around the corner.

When my son was eight months old, we moved from Germany to Colorado Springs. An internet search prior to our move revealed that the Springs was home to real, live, brick-and-mortar cloth diapering stores. I visited one the day after I arrived. It was so exciting to me that I was living in a community that was able to support multiple storefronts dedicated to cloth diapers. In the past two years I have worked at one store, taught Cloth Diapering 101 classes there, and was even its interim owner and operator. I love meeting families who are considering cloth diapers and watching their eyes light up as they realize how many options they have. It is pretty amazing to help someone overcome obstacles and make a plan to use cloth, and to see them succeed with their goals over time.

I’m thrilled to be involved with the Bottombumpers blog. I hope that I can provide helpful information and relatable anecdotes to those of you following along. Happy cloth diapering!

 

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Meet Susan, mama to 4 cloth diapered boys!

Hi there!   I’m Susan, mama to four boys (10,7,5, and 2) and married to my husband for twelve years.  Until early this summer our boys were raised in the suburbs of the Phoenix area.  My husband accepted a job in Spokane, Washington, so our family is now busy exploring a new and very different area.

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My hubby and I have 4 boys: Atticus (10), Creeley (7), Townsyn (5), and Dempsey (2)

We decided we would breastfeed, cloth diaper, and homeschool our children when we were expecting our first son.  Eleven years ago there weren’t too many options for cloth diapers locally, but I made myself familiar with the Internet and helpful sites like mothering.com. I researched for many weeks, and decided to begin our cloth diapering journey with 24 All In One diapers, mostly white, but a few weird animal prints thrown in for fun.  We persevered for a while, but I didn’t like how long the diapers took to dry with many layers sewn down together.  Even in the Arizona heat, they did not dry quickly.  I researched more options and decided to give prefolds and wool covers a try since they seemed like the cheapest addition to add to our “stash” at the time.   I ended up loving wool and passing those AIOs along to another family.

Around the time of my second son’s pregnancy in 2005, the cloth diaper industry seemed to explode!   There were about a million more options for cloth diapers than when I started searching in 2002, and online cloth diaper shops and WAHM diapers were easy to find.  I was working out of the house at a breastfeeding store that we owned and planned to take my toddler and baby with me.  I decided to add a couple of pocket diapers to my stash to make diaper changes simple and quick while I was assisting customers.  Luckily I made a friend at the La Leche League conference that year who had just opened Wildflower Diapers in the Phoenix area!  I was able to create a registry online and received many diapers from friends, both locally and from afar.

Our third son was a surprise, and came well before our second was out of diapers.   I loved having pocket diapers for out and about, because it was easy to fit changes for two in the diaper bag.   I used our wool on both the baby and the toddler while we were at home and at night time.  After our third son was born, we ended up closing our breastfeeding business.  About a week later, I was offered a job at the showroom that was opening for Wildflower Diapers since the local response to cloth had been so great.   I loved having the opportunity to try a plethora of different diapers, help people pick the perfect cloth diaper, and help troubleshoot cloth diapering problems as they arose.

I continued to work for Wildflower Diapers until it closed during my pregnancy with our fourth son.  After he was born, I started helping out at GoGo Natural and writing blog posts about cloth diapering on The Cloth Diaper 411.  I have enjoyed trying all of the one size diapers that started to grow on the market while my third son was in diapers.  This lead me to my love of Bottombumpers diapers, which lead me to like the Facebook page, which lead me to blogging here.  I look forward to sharing some of the knowledge, tricks, and tips I have picked up along my parenting journey with you!

In addition to cloth diapering, I love to talk about all things related to natural family living…breastfeeding, extended nursing, natural birthing, homeschooling, whole foods eating, co-sleeping, baby-lead weaning, gentle discipline, and babywearing, to name a few.   I stay at home with our kids, but moonlight as a blogger.  I am a Master Babywearing Educator for Babywearing International (BWI) of the Inland Northwest, serve as Vice President on the Board of BWI, and am Co-Chair for the next International Babywearing Conference in Phoenix in 2014.  I love to knit and read, and make sure to take a little time to myself each day to do both.  I also enjoy cooking, sewing, running, hiking, pilates, and DIY crafting.

Let me know what you’d like to read about here!