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!


  1. If my son has an extra squishy poop that doesn't really fall off the diaper into the toilet, I don't worry too much about it. I just put it in the bucket, and take note that he's had some messy poops lately and do an extra rinse or two in my wash cycle. Or if the diaper bucket is almost full, I'll run a wash right away. I've never had problems with yucky diapers coming out this way, and I've never had to swish a poopy diaper around in the sink (I don't think I could handle that, even with gloves!).

    I would also like to add: Depending on how your baby poops, with disposable diapers it often comes up their back and out the diaper (eww). One great improvement with cloth is the back elastic, which prevented this with my son!

  2. We didn't soak, swish or use disposable paper liners. We used microfleece liners. They're like magic -- poop doesn't stick (any teeny bit around the edges that did was totally fine to toss in the washer). The extra bonus was that the liners were washable/reusable!

    We, too, had low standards. ;) My standard? I refuse to touch poop -- something cloth diapers managed so well that the toddler bum-wiping thing was really hard to get used to. ;)