I'm very happy to have found Permies. I feel like I can ask anything on here. I've been reading through the posts here, but I've been seeing a lot of green washing/"it's a great option and 10% of it is plastic." Has anyone heard of or used truly 100% biodegradable re-usable diapers? It's a must for me.
Any and all input I appreciate.
Harold the 3rd
For 100% natural, washable diapers, I'd go for a two-part method of a "cover" and "insert." I put the words in quotes because it took me a long time to realize that the cover wasn't actually a diaper, it's the diaper cover. And the insert is actually the diaper.
For this, you'll probably want a 100% wool covers. I think people try to sell other natural material covers, but I think those usually end up leaking, or are treated with something. Maybe there's been some new innovations in the last 5 years since I was diapering. But, wool covers are a good bet.
You can buy wool covers These can be made out of old wool pants, or your can purchase wool diaper covers online. These can look like typical diapers, and snap in the front, or look more like wool underwear, or they can even be wool pants. I'll post pictures with links to where to get them (just click on the picture to go to the website):
Or, you can make your own wool diaper cover (that's what my sister-in-law did). Just know that you'll likely need to make new wool covers every few months as your little one outgrows them. This seems to be a pretty good video:
For inserts, you can go for a variety of natural materials, such as cotton, organic cotton, hemp, or even bamboo. The bamboo is HIGHLY processed, and requires a lot of energy to create, so if you're wanting a lower-impact material, go for cotton or hemp. You could even use old cloth you have to make inserts.
These inserts can be FLATS, which are just long thin cloth. These offer a lot of versitility. You can pin them onto the babies bum, like in the old cartoons, or you can fold them into a pad that you just stick inside the diaper cover. They also open up and wash a lot easier, because the water is only going through one layer, rather than through multiple layers all sticked together.
The inserts can also be PREFOLDS. These are basically flat diapers that have been folded and stitched. This makes them easier to stick on a baby's bum, but you really only have two folds to use. You can pin them onto the baby, or fold them into thirds and lay them into the diaper cover. These wash more easily than inserts, but less easily than flats.
You can also get INSERTS. These are the least versatile, but the easy for people unaccustomed to cloth diapers. You just stick the thing in the diaper cover, and you're good to go! These are often found in all sorts of materials. Read the descriptions closely. Don't make the mistake I did, and get a bunch of polyester ones!
Lastly, you can get fitted diapers. These look like covers, and some people use them without a cover (some people use prefolds and flats without covers, too), but leaks will happen!
What I used
I ended up using mostly flats and prefolds, and I folded them like a pad and just stuck them in the diaper cover (I did use PUL diaper covers, but I only needed 15 of those covers for both my kids. I probably could have gotten away with just 10 of them, but I didn't realize that hanging them in the sunlight denatured the PUL). My sister-in-law used wool covers with good success. She used both the ones she made, as well as ones we bought her.
The flat diapers I liked the most were oso cozy organic flats, but since I used Target for a gift registry, I did end up with Gerber prefolds (Gerber flat diapers are TERRIBLE! They are thread, shed lint like nobody's business, and don't absorb much. Their prefolds are pretty good).
I tried using diaper pins and snappie diaper fasteners, but I found that it was easier to just use flats as folded inserts, rather than trying to attach them to my baby.
I would suggest getting flat diapers, because they can be used in so many ways, and they wash really easily. Get some diaper pins to try them out, and find a wool cover (or try a few different types) to see what works best for your baby. Babies are all a bit different. Some poop and pee differently than others, and so different inserts and covers might fit/work for you baby better than they might for someone else's. There's no perfect solution for everything, but there might be a solution that works perfectly for your baby!
Nicole's great post above is very thorough. I'd like to add one more option, "elimination communication" or EC for short. Basically you learn to pay attention to the baby and learn their schedule and cues and hold them over the potty whenever they need to go.
I still use diapers because I get distracted but I'm on my fifth baby and once my babies get to about three months, I rarely have to change a poopy diaper (like less than ten times ever for each kid, usually only if they have an upset stomach) and I'm talking exclusively breastfed babies which poop more often than formula fed. My youngest is 18 months and she has had 2 poopy diapers in the last year. Pee is a little harder but if I'm not lazy, I only have a wet diaper once or twice a day or even less.
The first time I became aware that not everyone in the world used diapers, I was a teenager visiting a friend at her family's house in China. She had two cousins that were not potty trained yet (EC is not potty training, more like parent training). The baby was probably about four months old and her brother was three. The kids didn't wear diapers but instead had split pants. If the kid crouched, the pants naturally opened up, making it easy for the toddler to go potty without having to unbutton anything. The baby was just held so as to keep her legs out of the way. I was so nervous to hold her because I was sure I'd end up soaked in pee. But I didn't understand yet that babies don't just leak pee constantly.
When our first was born, after the first few months I started noticing that she was dry when I would go to change her at certain times of the day. Rather than put the dry diaper back on, I started holding her over the toilet and to my surprise, she would pee after a minute or two. We ended up buying a tiny baby toilet that she could sit on. The baby potty actually helps them go poop since the position makes it easier and gives their feet something to push against.
Our pediatrician is new to our family and when he asked at baby#5's 1 month appointment how many wet and poopy diapers she was having a day (to gage if she was eating enough), we said one or two (babies pee and poop every hour or two at that age) and then had to explain and show him a picture. He didn't believe us and was laughing and thought we were joking until we showed him the pictures.
I'd post pictures of my adorable babies except I don't think they are appropriate for a public forum (twenty years from now, I don't want anyone getting mad at me for posting a picture of them on the toilet even if they were only a few months old) 😂 But maybe I'll get a picture of the potties.
I also used a form of Elimination Communication with both my kids! I kept them in diapers, but (especially with my son), if I was sitting on the toilet, he was sitting on his tiny toilet. I'd entertain him by doing sign language and silly sounds (I'd run through all the animal and transportation signs I knew: I'd make the sign, say what it was, and make the sound the thing made), as well as sing song. If he went pee we'd make the "pssss" sound, and as he got older, we sang a song "Buddy went pee, buddy went pee. Yay yay yay, buddy went pee!"
I also had him sit on his little potty when I'd read him stories, etc. I mean, if he was going to be sitting, he might as well be sitting on the toilet!
I also seize the moment of when the kids was interested and ready to potty train. For my kids, it was between 15 and 21 months. I could have potty trained my son at 15 months, but we were going to be going on a big 8 hour trip to my sister-in-laws' wedding, so I didn't want to have to stop and get him on the potty constantly, or undo all our work.
When we potty trained, we did the 2-day method, where you take off their pants, underwear, and diaper and follow them around like hawks for two days. Every time they start going pee, they go straight to the potty. We sang songs and celebrated for every successful pottying. And it worked! They already knew the toilet was for potty, and the 2-day training got them in the habit of always using it.
It did mean that we had to carry our potty along with us everywhere (yeah, we put it in the back of the car so we could pull over so they could pee), and I'd bring it outside for them to pee. But, it worked! Potty training was over for both months before they were 2, and there was no battle.
I honestly think it works a lot better to potty train a kid BEFORE they hit the "terrible twos." Developmentally, at the age of two, they are learning independence and that they want their own things, and this often results in potty-battles that can last for YEARS. (I used to teach preschool, and had potty training older kids is hard, because they're comfortable and in the habit of using their diaper, and don't want to change because they are scared or they are stubborn, etc.)
Natural fibre diapers also help with early potty training because the babies can tell when they are wet and poopy. A lot of synthetic diapers absorb the moisture so well that the baby feels dry...and so doesn't realize what they've done.