Cloth Wipes 101
Some do’s and don’t’s of reusable baby wipes.
I’m 37 weeks pregnant and admit that I’ve religiously followed both your pregnancy column, and all baby-related questions you’ve answered. (Okay, I really just follow your entire column religiously). When I was attempting to convince my husband to cloth diaper, he heard all kinds of advice and pointers that my “friend” had given me on her experience. I’m sure I was so not-suave about it, he probably thinks I have an imaginary friend or something. Who just happens to really love to talk about cloth diapering.
Anyways, I’ve convinced him to grudgingly and reluctantly give cloth a try. After many, many hours of obsessive blog reading and online shopping, I’m now the proud owner of 11 Bumgenius and 12 Fuzzibunz diapers, both in the one size styles. [Grain of salt sidenote: without a real live baby to experiment on, I think the new FB look awesome!].
My question actually relates to the various squares of knit, flannel, and terrycloth that I’ve also managed to acquire. At the risk of sounding super-obsessive, how, exactly does the whole cloth wipes thing work? We have the Prince Lionheart warmer, and I bought a bottle of diaper lotion potion concentrate from Kissaluvs. But how do I go from there? Do I have to make cute little wipe rolls like on the box (fitting maybe a dozen) or can I just fold the wipes in half, lazy-style, and fit closer to 24, which I’m guessing will be closer to what we’ll need for a couple days worth of changes? All in all, I’d say I have a stash of close to 40 wipes. Do I mix up some water and ‘potion’ and pour it over the wipes, or do I need to make a bowl of solution, and dip everything first? Is a pricey “potion” even necessary, or will water and a little baby wash do the trick? Is the “stayfresh” pillow even necessary with cloth, or is it just for disposable wipes? Please tell me that there’s some sort of system for all this, because right now it’s sounding like I could be adding a whole lot more work to the cloth diapering deal.
thanks for all the great baby advice you’ve already given,
PS. I’ve been put on modified bedrest by my doc due to blood pressure issues. So, if this question sounds just a tad on the obsessive side, please bear in mind that I have kitchen cabinets that need to be cleaned out, drawers to reorganize, filthy baseboards, bottles that aren’t yet sterilized, and I’m not allowed to leave the couch. Virtual internet research nesting is all I’ve got right now! I must have a preplanned wipe system!
Let me promise you one thing: cloth wipes are EASY. Like, stupid easy. But like all things baby-related, they’re also easy overthink and over-accessorize.
First up: That diaper potion. I assume you’re talking about this one, probably in the concentrated version? (Since you’re mentioning using it as a wipe solution.) Huge thing that I simply must say: one of the ingredients is essential lavender oil. DO NOT USE THIS PRODUCT ON A BABY BOY. Oh my God, this drives me insane, the number of baby products that still contain lavender oil. (Update January 2016: Amalah has been gradually changing her conservative position on lavender oil in children’s personal care products. Her latest view on lavender oils in children’s products can be found here. FYI– Her opinion from 2012 can be found here.) Lavender oil, in its “pure” form, has been found to cause hormone changes and breast growth in prepubertal boys. (Personally, I’m not really sure I’d use it on a baby girl either, if there’s a chance it could unnaturally boost her estrogen levels.) Sorry to get all up on a yelly soapbox, but everybody: please double-check your baby’s lotions, shampoos, soaps, diaper balms, etc. and see if they contain lavender (or tea tree) oil. Especially if you’re a fan of the natural-type brands and formulations. (Note that lavender “fragrance” is different, and usually artificial or very diluted.)
Ahem. So! Obviously, I don’t use that particular wipe solution. I use bumGenius Bottom Spray, which emphatically does NOT contain either suspect oil (or parabens or phthalates). I never mix it into the wipes. Just spray it directly on the butt, Bob. And I only use it occasionally — not every change, just the messy ones when a wipe and water could use a little boost in power. This means a single bottle lasts for a long, long time.
As for the wipes and the warmer — every time I’ve recommended the warmer someone has most emphatically disagreed with its necessity, so let me just get this out of the way: I don’t give a baby rat’s ass about the TEMPERATURE of the wipes, I just care about the CONVENIENCE. If I had to trek over to the bathroom sink to individually wet a cloth wipe for every diaper change (while wrangling a poopy-butted baby in the other arm) I would NOT be using cloth wipes. That’s just me. I’m all for the environment and the long-term cost savings of cloth wipes, but I also love, love, love those convenient pop-up tubs of disposable wipes. I like having a nice fat stash of wet wipes ready to go right on my changing table, and I like being able to go back and grab a second or third wipe if things are a little messier than I first anticipated.
So for that purpose, the wipe warmer is a glorious thing. We started out rolling each precious little wipe like they show you on the package, but pretty soon just started folding them in half and dumping as many in as possible. After I wash them (and I wash them with the diapers), I either take them damp right from the washer or toss a big dry pile in the sink and wet them all at once. Fold quickly, toss in warmer on top of the wet stay-fresh pillow (yes, you want that — everything dries out otherwise), and then I usually add a small cup of water on top just to make sure there’s enough moisture to keep things wet for a few days. If you notice that the pillow is scalding or stuff is drying out, just pour more water in.
My advice regarding your 40-odd wipes would be to dedicate about half of them to regular rotation and put the rest away for later, in a place where they aren’t taking up valuable space. You aren’t going to be able to cram that many in the warmer, and you’ll be doing diaper laundry frequently enough that the wipes will be getting cleaned at a nice steady clip. Cloth wipes do fray and wear out, so you can replace them as needed with the rest of your stash.
I do want to say onnnnne last thing, about cloth diapering in general: it might not be your most favorite thing at first, with a newborn. I’ve personally never cloth diapered a newborn, but have known quite a few moms who tried it and quit in frustration, usually because their beloved, adorable diapers didn’t FIT, or because the volume of dirty diapers was absolutely beyond anything they’d expected. Personally, if we do have another baby (My Husband: HA. HA HAHAHA.), I will opt for a cloth diaper service for the first couple months and wait until the baby is bigger before switching to one-size pocket diapers. (I do think the “one-size” promise is overstating things a little — newborns are TEENY and it’s tough to say a diaper designed to last through toddlerhood is going to fit properly, no matter how much snapping and cinching is involved.) I’m not saying this to give you One More Thing to obsess about from the couch, but just want to make sure you know that 1) it’s okay to come home from the hospital with a couple packages of Pampers, and 2) cloth diapering does NOT have to be an all-or-nothing, right-from-the-get-go undertaking. You can be a successful, long-term cloth user who reaps all the cost-savings and environmental benefits…after you settle in and figure everything else out first, because SERIOUSLY.