Monday, June 29, 2009

Think you can't afford to cloth diaper? You can't afford *not to*!

It shocks me when people comment about 'how expensive' certain cloth diapers are. I suppose the immediate sticker shock of $30.00 for 'only one ' diaper (worst-case scenario, we sell many other lower-priced cloth diapers) is inevitable given that people are used to paying roughly that amount for a monster-sized bag of disposable diapers, but if you sit down and actually do a cost-comparison, even using the 'expensive' cloth diapers as an example, price-wise, they will always beat disposable diapers, hands down.

It's hard to peg an exact dollar amount on how much families can save using cloth diapers since a myriad of factors can affect the overall bottom line:
  • style of diaper; prefolds cost $38.00/dozen (infant, unbleached organic), Blueberry Simplex one-size AIOs cost $28.00 each, and there's a whole range of diapers inbetween.

  • number of diapers purchased; affects not only the initial expense, but how frequently you will wash your diapers, as well as how they will hold up in the long-run (buy more, wash less frequently!).
  • the age at which your child potty trains (your child will sit in disposable diapers for a longer time b/c they are designed to prevent potty learning... a diaper that keeps your baby's bottom wet will help with faster potty training).
  • how many children you have will affect how much money you save in the longrun. If you have more than one child who uses the same set of diapers, you'll save more money than somebody who only uses a set of diapers with one child (think of subsequent children as free!).
  • whether or not you sell your diapers when you have finished using them. Buy a well-known brand, keep them in decent shape, and you should expect to be able to sell them used for 50-75% of what you paid.

To give you an idea of the savings involved, here are some scenarios involving a few different stashes:
3 dozen small prefolds: $114.00
6 small Bummis SWW: $89.70
6 Thirsties hemp doublers: $30.00
2 dozen large prefolds: $120.00
4 medium Bummis SWW: $59.80
TOTAL: $413.50

36 bumGenius 3.0 one-size pocket diapers: $822.60
6 Thirsties hemp doublers: $30.00
TOTAL: $852.60

24 small Sandy's fitted bamboo diapers: $384.00
24 large Sandy's fitted bamboo diapers: $384.00
6 one-size RaR covers: $108.00
4 Thirsties hemp doublers: $40.00
TOTAL: $916.00

You'll notice the wide range in prices -- but we've saved the best for last! The cost of disposable diapers and gDiapers (billed as an 'hybrid system' that's an alternative to strictly cloth and disposable diapers, they are actually more expensive than disposable diapers).
Disposable diapers, assuming they cost $0.35 each (the price seems to vary with size, smaller diapers are cheaper, so this is an approximation -- I've looked at to average the cost of Huggies brand, purchased in "Giant packs").
first 8 weeks, 10 changes/day: $196
assume 6 changes/day for the next 2.5 years: $1916.25
TOTAL: $2112.25 per child

Curious about the cost of gDiapers? You have to buy a kit with 2 covers, and 10 refills (basically a maxi-pad that you sit inside a cotton cover with a little vinyl sling). The kit sells for $38.99, the manufacturer recommends that you purchase 4-6 'little g pants' in each size; there are 3 sizes, so the cost of two kits in each size would be $233.94.
The cost of refills is $19.99/40-pack, which works out to a whopping $0.50/diaper.
first 8 weeks, 10 changes/day: $224.00
assume 6 changes/day for the next 2.5 years: $2737.50
TOTAL: $3195.44

Of course, you have to factor washing costs into the above estimations, so assuming you were washing 3 times/week (realistic with the number of diapers quoted above, in fact, you would be washing less), at an estimated $1.60/load, for two years, that would cost approximately $500. Washing only full loads, line-drying, using high-efficiency machines, washing peed diapers with your white laundry that would be washed regardless (yes, you can wash diapers with clothing!), all these things can help lower your laundry costs.

Evening out the cost of laundry, if you're using disposables, you're likely wasting money on disposable wipes, and diaper cream (higher likelihood of diaper rash), and due to the inevitable blow-outs (poop between your baby's shoulder blades), there is a cost of laundry associated with using disposable diapers.

So are you convinced yet? Still having a hard time swallowing the start-up costs of cloth diapers? There are a few things you can do soften the blow:
  • register for cloth diapers -- I know it can be scary to navigate the world of cloth diapers before your baby is born, but you can always make an appointment to have a staff member help you set up your registry. On a similar note, when friends and family come in to make purchases off your registry, we can see what's been purchased, and make recommendations based on what's left (ie, covers to go with your fitted diapers or prefolds) -- navigating the world of cloth diapers can be just as scary for them!
  • purchase your diapers one or two at a time, while you're still pregnant. This will make the cost of getting set up a little easier, just like it seems easier to dole out $40 a pop on disposable diapers at a time, buying a couple of pocket diapes a month will seem a little easier on the budget.
  • pad your stash with prefolds -- hands-down our most cost-effective option, and most people who try them like them. Everybody should have a dozen prefolds and a couple of covers in their stash!
  • buy used diapers -- not for everyone, but you can save up to 50% off the cost of new diapers, and it's a great way to test the waters. We have regular used diaper swaps at the store, a great way for our customers to recapture some of what they've spent, and a great way for new cloth diaper converts to get started. You can also purchase used diapers at places like, or UsedOttawa, however, it's always nice to see something in person before you buy it.
The bulk of our diapers (mostly prefolds) have lasted through 4 children. Yes, they're thinner than when we started using them, but they still get the job done. I did replace covers between #2 and #3, but still, it's a nominal cost in the grand scheme of things. I simply cannot fathom how anyone could ever use the excuse "they're too expensive" as a reason to *not* use cloth diapers. No matter which way you slice it, cloth diapers cost significantly less to use than disposable diapers... and they're cute to boot!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Scoop on Poop!

It's inevitable. I'm not talking about death. I'm not talking about taxes. I'm talking about poop. If you have a baby, you cannot avoid it. Unless you're Angelina Jolie, in which case you likely have a team of people dedicated to the issue b/c you don't want to get it under your freshly manicured nails (come on, you *know* she doesn't change diapers!), but for the rest of us regular folks, changing poopy diapers is a fact of life, regardless of whether your child wears disposables or cloth diapers.

A common question in the store is "How do I deal with poopy diapers". When your baby is a newborn, if you're breastfeeding, her poop is water-soluble. What does that mean? It means you don't need to scrape or soak a poopy diaper before throwing it in the laundry bag or diaper pail -- the poop will just wash away in your washing machine (and don't worry, it won't leave a trace behind in the machine, we promise!). You may notice yellow staining, but sunning your diapers periodically will take care of that, and remember, if your diapers smell clean, they are clean (stains are just an aesthetic issue).

If you're formula-feeding, or if your baby has started eating enough solids to change the consistency of her poop, then you must remove the bulk of the poop from the cloth diaper before washing it. Fun fact: If you read a package of disposable diapers, you're actually meant to shake the solids out of the diaper into a toilet before tossing it, but how many parents do you think actually do that? Not very many! Our landfills aren't meant to handle raw human sewage (ewww, gross!), however, it's standard practice to wrap it up and throw it out.

There are lots of different ways to get the poop off your diaper and into the toilet, although to be honest, once your baby is eating enough solids, it will be a little ball (or log, if you will) that falls right off the diaper into the toilet, no muss, no fuss. The tricky stage is what experts (like myself) refer to as 'the peanut butter phase'. As your baby's poop is making the transition from runny, yellow breastfed poop to the aforementioned log-like poop (a gross, but accurate description), there will be a period when it will be sticky... like peanut butter! Fortunately, you have options...

  1. Disposable paper liners. The idea behind a paper liner is that it provides a barrier between the diaper and your baby's bum; when he poops, you flush the liner. We sell two brands, Bummis biosoft liners (small) retail for $6.00 (100 sheets). Mioliners (wide) retail for $15.99 (200 sheets). Size aside, the major difference is that the Mioliners can be washed/dried with your diapers if they have only been peed on, they can actually be used 2-3 times before disintegrating. If they've been pooped on, they have to be flushed. I'll be honest, we tried disposable liners with Maddy (Pearson 1.0), but we found they just wadded up in the corner of her diaper. We do have lots of customers who come in to purchase them on a regular basis, so they obviously work for some babies.
  2. Mini-shower bidet. You can hook this baby ($48.00) up to your toilet's existing water supply line -- basically, it allows you to hold the diaper over the toilet, and spray the poop off. If you have a flexible water supply line, no tools are required to install it; if your toilet's water supply is a copper pipe, you will have to cut it to size, which is an easy enough task. Dad's generally like the mini-showers, my husband included.
  3. Special spatula. What is a 'special spatula'? Relax, you don't have to buy this one, just take a spatula out of your kitchen, label it carefully ("Warning, poop scraper!", perhaps), and keep it in your bathroom under the sink. When junior drops a load in his diaper, you can use the spatula to flick it off. Gross, yes, but highly effective. Just remember to label the special spatula!
  4. Old-fashioned soak and swish. OK, this is where I cop to the fact that I don't use any gadgets to deal with poop. I've got four kids, my standards are embarrassingly low. If Grace poops in her diaper, I shake what I can into the toilet, then I put it in a sink of water (don't worry, not the kitchen sink, I said "low standards", not "no standards"), and let it soak for a bit. Then I swish it around (just holding a tiny corner, I don't jam my arm in there up to the elbow!), drain the water, and dump (more like throw) the diaper into the pail. I have no shame! I'm not sure my husband has ever witnessed this act of bravery, likely because he runs out of the room screaming like a girl everytime a baby poops in a diaper, but hey, we all have our fears.
  5. Infant-pottying. You can't start too early, and it will certainly reduce the number of poopy diapers you have to deal with. If I see that Grace (she just turned one, so she has solid poops now) is pooping in her diaper (farting, followed by holding her breath, followed by a few grunts, followed by a red face....), I take her diaper off and let her finish it over the toilet. This is probably the easiest way to deal with poop, visit Diaper Free Baby for more information (there are local groups that meet in Ottawa and K-W).

In terms of when you need to start taking the poop out of the cloth diapers before washing them, you generally start your baby on solids around 6 months of ages, however, the poop won't change overnight, it's a gradual change. As a basic rule of thumb, the day you pick a chunk of food out of your washing machine is the day you want to start shaking (or spraying, or scraping) the poop out of your cloth diapers before washing them. I would say our kids were all about 8-9 months old when we (I) started removing the poop from their diapers before washing them.

So that's it. Are you impressed by how many time I was able to work the word "gross" into this piece of literature? Dealing with poop is not glamorous, no matter how you cut it. Unless you're Angelina Jolie, and perhaps you're making out with Brad Pitt while the nanny changes the twins' poopy diapers, but I digress. As I like to point out to parents-to-be, at least the cloth diaper can't move. When your baby poops in a diaper, you will have to clean his or her bits, while she is trying to stick her hands and feet in the mess. Trust me, dealing with the dirty diapers is easier!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hang your diapers out to dry!

It's a lovely day in Ottawa, the sun is shining, and there's a warm breeze to keep the humidity at bay.

Do you use cloth diapers? Then you know today is the perfect day to line-dry them! If you've never line-dried your diapers before you really should consider it. Cost savings aside, there are lots of great reasons to line-dry your diapers (or clothing in general):

  • the sun is wonderful for removing/fading organic stains -- those bright yellow breastfed poop stains won't last a half-hour in direct sunlight!

  • line-drying will help extend the life of your diapers and covers.

  • line-drying will help remove odors. When you take the diapers off the line, give them a good whiff -- people pay for scented detergents that recreate that fresh-off-the-line smell... line-drying will create that fresh scent for free!

  • The UV light in sunshine is a natural disinfectant... step away from the bleach (which you should avoid with most cloth diapers anyhow) and let Mother Nature work her magic.

  • Hanging your laundry outside gives you a great reason to get outside... let the kids play in the yard while you hang up the laundry... it's actually kind of fun, I promise!

I hung our laundry outside this morning at 9 am (our line gets full exposure in the sun until about 2pm), and as an experiment, I paid attention to the drying times of different types of diapers. Wanna know how long it took for our diapers to dry?

  • and the winner is... pocket diapers! Dry in just under 2 hours, both the shell and the microfiber insert. I do flip the shells inside out so that they dry quicker.

  • our prefolds (4x8x4) were dry after 3 hours in the sun.

  • a traditional AIO diaper (a couple layers of flannel sewn into the body of the cover, with a flannel doubler sewn down at both ends) was dry after 3.5 hours.

  • the losers in the race were a fitted diaper (bamboo, which isn't surprising, since it's so absorpent), and a stuffable AIO, which was a little surprising. The stuffable AIOs should, in theory, dry faster than a traditional AIO (due to the pocket), but I'm guessing the microfleece lining the diaper increases the drying time.

You may think that line-drying your laundry will take more time overall than continuously running your dryer, however, one of the advantages of line-drying is that after a load is finished in the washing machine, you can put it out on the line, you don't have to wait until the previous load has completed the dryer cycle. We have a "Top Spinner Rotary Dryer", (which is currently 25% off at Canadian Tire), it can comfortable hold two large-capacity loads of laundry. I can get all of our laundry done in less than 8 hours if I line-dry, since I'm constantly rotating items off on and off the line (in a household of six people. that is no small accomplishment!).

If you're worried about your diapers being stiff after you take them off the line, you can add vinegar to your washing machine's final rinse, it's a natural fabric softener. Using a detergent that washes out well (all of the detergents we sell are low-residue), and using a minimal amount of detergent, will also help (that crunchy feeling could be detergent build-up). Finally, if the crunchiness really bothers you, you could always toss the diapers into the dryer for 5-10 minutes after you take them off the line...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Newborn diaper rental program

OK, so we came up with the ultra-fabulous cloth diaper loan program, the concept of borrowing a selection of diapers for a week or two. Our loan program helps new parents decide if they're comfortable with cloth diapering overall or, more importantly, what type of diaper they are comfortable using (say it with me, the hardest part of cloth diapering is deciding which diaper system you want to purchase). Our loan program has been implemented by many companies across Ottawa, and throughout North America now; directly or indirectly, we have helped thousands of parents make the switch from disposables to cloth diapers.
I just came across an innovative newborn diaper rental scheme thought up by the folks at Sunshine Diapers in Florida (hey, I like to give credit where credit is due!), they rent Kissaluvs size 0 diapers for a period of 3 months. I think this is such a brilliant idea that I'm implenting a similar rental program (to launch in July), with a few minor tweaks (a rental program with a loan program twist!).
We have sold Kissaluvs diapers for over five years now, and they are hands-down our favourite diaper for newborns. They fit from 5-15 lbs, they have an umbilical scoop so they won't irritate your baby's healing umbilical cord, and the texture of these diapers does an excellent job of keeping poop where it belongs -- in the diaper and not between your baby's shoulder blades!

Newborn babies typically gain weight quickly in those first few weeks, so parents are often hesitant to spend a lot of money on what may be a short period, however, if you keep your baby in disposable diapers for those first few weeks while he fills in, you are spending money that you will never get back, you risk an increased likelihood of diaper rash, and you will be throwing away hundreds of disposable diapers that will hang around for hundreds of years. Ew, ew, and double-ew! Disposable diapers will run you approximately $20/week (count on 10-12 changes/day -- Huggies "Little Snugglers", for example, cost $12.47 for a pack of 36 diapers). Rather than spend that $20/week on disposable diapers, you can rent 30 size 0 Kissaluvs diapers instead.
We will rent the diapers for 4-week blocks, for $80/block. When you return the diapers, you will receive a $20 gift certificate (for each 4-week block; rent the diapers for 3 months, receive $60 in gift certificates); each gift certificate can be applied towards a purchase of $100.00 or more (not limited to cloth diapers). Factoring in the gift certificate(s), the diaper rental works out to $15/week. How brilliant is that? If you were to purchase 30 size 0 Kissaluvs diapers, you would spend $448.50.

We will have scheduled in-store pick-ups on a bi-monthly basis, on the first and third Sunday of the month. You must sign up in advance; you must give us at least two weeks notice that you are returning the diapers so we can plan accordingly. You may pick up the diapers before your baby is born, but the clock starts ticking when the diaper rental leaves the store, not when your baby is born, so please keep this in mind.

You are required to purchase the covers and any accessories (wetbags, doublers, wipes, etc.) for the diapers -- as a general rule of thumb, we recommend one cover for every six diapers, so 5-6 covers would be ideal. We will provide a laundry bag, and a set of dryerballs (to decrease drying time) that must be returned with the diapers at the completion of the rental. At the time of rental, you must purchase one of our laundry detergents, all of which are approved for use with cloth diapers; the laundry detergent will be discounted 40%, all of our natural detergents are cost-effective, and excellent for all your laundry needs. You will receive a set of washing directions (easy-peasy, we promise), you can expect to launder the diapers every 3-4 days for the duration of the rental.

Each set of rental diapers will be retired after 20 weeks, after which we will sell them at one of our regular diaper swaps for half of their retail value ($115 for 15 diapers, they will still have lots of life left in them!). Rental diapers will be sold on a first-come-first-serve basis. Proceeds from the sale of the rental diapers will be donated to various local charities.

Who would use this rental program?
  • Parents of multiples, or preemies
  • Parents who have purchased diapers that may not fit at birth (if your baby is born weighing 5 lbs, s/he won't fit size small Fuzzibunz for several weeks, for example)
  • Parents who want to bridge the gap between their baby's birth and their turn in the diaper loan program (currently a 4-6 week wait)
  • Parents who are starting cloth diapers with their last child, so reusing the newborn diapers with a future child is not an issue

If you want to sign up for the rental program, please call us at 613.321.7249 (Ottawa) or 519.342.0867 (Waterloo). Alternately, you can e-mail me at

The following dates are available:

  • July 5th, July 19th
  • August 2nd, August 16, August 30
  • September 6th, September 20th

If our newborn diaper rental program is anywhere near as popular as our diaper loan program, these spots will fill up quickly.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Potty training tips

We sell a variety of training pants at our stores, so naturally, the topic of potty training comes up quite frequently. It's one of those things that as a parent, you can't avoid, but you can make it easier by following some simple rules:

1) You can't start pottying your child 'too early'. It was common practice in previous generations to start pottying babies well before two or three years old (ask your parents!), which is the current standard in North America. In other cultures, babies are pottied from birth. The concept of waiting to start potty training a child until she can walk and talk, and pull her own pants up and down independently is nonsense. The earlier you start pottying your child, the easier it will be on both of you!

2) As soon as your child has solid poops (um, solid food begets solid poop!), and it becomes obvious when she's having a bowel movement (farting, grunting, going red in the face, you get the picture?), if you're around and you notice what's happening, take the diaper off and let her finish it on the potty. If you continually wait for her to finish it in the diaper, and then you give her a fresh diaper, you are training her to poop in the diaper. If your child poops in a diaper, make it a point to let her watch you dump the contents of the diaper into the toilet -- let her wave bye-bye, let her flush the toilet... let her know where poop belongs!

3) Don't ask your child if she wants to use the potty, you are just providing an opportunity for her to say 'no'. Watch the clock, and take her accordingly; start by pottying her on a frequent basis, then slowly increase the time between potty trips.

4) When you begin actively potty training your child (ie, trying to get her to self-potty), move her right out of diapers into underwear, don't rely on training pants. Training pants are meant to hold a wetting, there will be no repurcussions for your or her if she has an accident. The onus is on you at the beginning of potty training to take your child to the potty (see point #3). If she is wearing training pants, you will be lazy about it (trust me!). If she is wearing underwear, you will be more likely to potty her on a consistent basis. Only use training pants for excursions outside of the house.

5) Reward your child for self-pottying. There is nothing wrong with providing an incentive for your child to potty herself. Whatever her button is, you've got to push it! At the beginning, when she is getting used to self-pottying, reward her every time she takes herself to the potty (even if it's every twenty minutes to squeeze out a drip!). Then reward her every two times, then every three times... you get the picture? Don't worry, she won't require a Smartie to pee when she's 18 years old, lol.

6) Relax. Don't get stressed out about accidents (which are inevitable), your stress will make your child anxious. Potty training is not going to be an overnight event, it's a gradual process, there will be accidents, but no parent has ever sent a child to university wearing diapers.

When it's time for you to purchase training pants for your little one, we have a great selection:

- Bummis training pants ($12.00) feature a PUL outer, and a cotton flannel inner, with extra absorbency sewn into the wet zone. S: 20-30 lbs; M: 30-40 lbs; L: 40-50 lbs

- Mother-ease training pants ($13.00) feature a PUL outer and a cotton terry inner, with extra absorbency sewn into the wet zone. S: 20-30 lbs; L: 30-40 lbs

- Happy Heiny pocket trainers ($20.00) feature snaps that make it easier to deal with poopy accidents; they are lined with a microfleece lining, so your child will not feel wetness. XS: 15-25 lbs; S: 25-35 lbs

- Starbunz learning undies ($20.00, ETA end of June) have a pocket so you can customize absorbency; they feature a cotton lining (especially made for us!), and snaps to make it easier to deal with poopy accidents. They have stretchy sides, to make it easier for your child to pull them up or down.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What's new at the Shoppe?

Hello hello! Since our dollar has been a little stronger, I've been on a buying frenzy! We've got a lot of great new items coming our way, here's a sneak-peak!

You love wetbags. I mean, you all *really* love wetbags! We have a couple new options on the way, including zippered totes and hanging pails from Mother of Eden, the geniuses behind our best-selling Fuzzibunz diapers. Mother of Eden's new "In and Out" mess-free diaper bag features a zipper at the bottom -- how genius is that? Maybe not so genius to those of you with toploading machines, gravity helps empty the bag when you shake it over the machine... Have you ever tried to shake dirty diapers out of an elasticized bag? Not fun! The new zippered hanging pail is brilliant! Simply place the entire bag in the machine, and unzip the bottom... no fuss, no muss!

So that's cool, right? What else??? Oh yeah. Wetbags. We have the new Mother of Eden zippered totes coming in, and yeah, it's a zippered tote, and yeah, it's Mother of Eden, so you know it will be well-made, but do you like a little pizzazz? Perhaps a little salt with your vinegar, some sugar with your spice? Well then Planet Wise's new Wet/Dry bag is for you! This bag features a zippered pocket that you can use to store things like, oh, I don't know, a clean diaper and a couple of wipes, or perhaps a pair of babylegs, or maybe even your keys and your bank card. Whatever you can fit in it! This is a great instead-of-the-diaper-bag alternative for toting what you need for a quick trip. These bags come in a variety of whimsical cotton prints, and they feature a snapping handle, so you can hang it from your stroller. Fun and functional, just how we like it!

Accessories aside, we have some new covers coming to us. We've been asked numerous times to stock Thirsties covers, and you may have noticed some new shelving in our stores... well we finally have the room to add more options (you want choice, we've got it!). Thirsties covers have a solid reputation, if you check their reviews at the Diaper Pin, you'll see what we mean. If nothing else, we know you'll love them for their great selection of colors... we all know half the fun of using cloth diapers is the fashion! In a similar vein, we are awaiting our first shipment of Loveybums wool crepe covers. A grandmother came in to the store with one, and I couldn't resist, I had to have it! These covers also come in an array of colors, in fact, they are two-toned, how yummy is that? Good looks aside, they are also a top-rated cover on the Diaper Pin.
We have a few other tricks up our sleeve, but you'll have to check back for more information.
We do love to get product suggstions from our customers, as Ottawa's one-stop diaper shop, seven years strong, we've got the selection and the knowledge to help you succeed with your cloth diapering endeavours. Please keep those suggestions coming!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Alright, my attempt at a blog -- to keep ppl up-to-date with what's happening at the shop! We've got a Facebook group, but I know that not everyone has a Facebook account, so the Facebook group does them no good. I've got a Twitter account (spearso), but I'm still on the fence about that, simply for the fact I have a hard time limiting myself to 140 characters, and really, do you need to know the finer details about what's going on?