Heading back to work? If you've been using cloth diapers at home, you may be wondering how you can make them work at daycare too! In our Working Mom's Guide to Cloth Diapers, we share 10 tips for success with cloth diapers at daycare.
10 Tips to Using Cloth Diapers at Daycare
- Keep it simple for your provider: If you're planning to return to work, plan your cloth diaper stash accordingly. It can be fun to test out a number of brands and styles of cloth diapers, but your daycare provider won't thank you if you leave them guessing about how to use the diaper or get a proper fit. When you build your stash with daycare in mind, choose a single style (all-in-ones and pockets are usually most user-friendly) and aim to use only one brand if you can. If your provider is unfamiliar with cloth diapers, offer to demonstrate how to put on and change them. Hook and loop closures can be the easiest for those that are unfamiliar with cloth diapers, but your provider may not care (mine happily took snaps!). If you prefer snaps but your provider seems confused with them initially, some moms suggest sending a diagram showing which snaps to use, and others use "snap blockers" to take the guess-work out of getting a snug fit.
- Send more than you need: How many diapers you will need will depend a lot on your baby's age and elimination habits. Ask yourself, how many diapers does your child go through in a day at home? Be sure to send at least 2 or 3 more than you think you need. Some providers will ask you to leave a few extra diapers with them in case you forget or don't send enough one day.
- Stock up on Wet Bags: Ask your daycare provider to put wet and soiled diapers into a zippered wet bag that is stored inside your diaper bag (or clipped to it). If you can, ask about day care rules before you start: Some daycares prefer to bag each dirty diaper separately (and some centers may even require it), while others prefer a single large bag to store a full day's worth (that can be up to 8!) of dirty diapers.
- Make clean-up easy for yourself at the end of the day: Your daycare will not rinse or dump diapers (nor should you expect them to!) Use disposable/flushable liners or a diaper sprayer to make clean-up a bit easier for you. If you use a liner, pick one that doesn't shift around too much when you lay it in the diaper, since this can frustrate providers. We definitely got our money's worth from our cloth diaper sprayer after my son started daycare. Our childcare provider would pack the dirty diapers straight into the wet bag, and I would spray them all off later. I chose to do this after my little one was in bed for the night. Depending on the fabrics you use, won't want to leave them too long or stains can set in. If stains bug you, stain-resistant soakers are a must! Bamboo fleece and cotton velour can stain easily, while minky and suede cloth are less likely to stain and also clean up easily with a sprayer. If you do get stains, hanging your diapers out in the sun will usually make them white again.
- Make cloth diaper laundry part of your daily routine: Remember how when you first started out with cloth diapers, most people told you they would be a lot of work? And remember how, after you established a laundry routine and got over the newness of it, it didn't seem like that much work at all? That's how I found it was when I started using cloth diapers at daycare, too. Yes, there's a bit of clean-up required, and you need to wash and pack them in your bag each morning (even better if you can do it the night before!) but cloth diapers can work for you even once you return to work. When I asked on my Facebook page, several moms said that they wash cloth diapers one day, and assemble them the next. Make it a habit to put the diapers in the wash while you prepare dinner, and then into the dryer before baby goes to bed.
- Choose Your Baby's Wipes Wisely: Unless your daycare is especially cloth friendly, they will not likely accept cloth wipes. If you are using disposable wipes, coose a brand that won't disintegrate in the wash, since some will inevitably end up in the laundry! I actually preferred cheaper store-brand wipes, like the Teddy's Choice ones from Loblaws (a Canadian grocery store chain) since they didn't have a lot of added chemicals and scents, and they didn't gum up my Velcro diapers if they ended up going through the wash.
- Label your diapers: Many day cares require all items to be labeled. Even in home-based daycares, labels are important if more than one child is in clth diapers. I found permanent ink was messy and less than permanent. I love the tag mate labels from Mabel's Labels because they stay put but can be removed, and they are small enough to stick to my diaper's care labels, rather than directly to the PUL or brand labels. If you place the label in an inconspicuous place, be sure your provider knows where to look for it!
- Manage diaper rash disasters proactively: Ask in a cloth diaper Facebook group about using cloth diapers at daycare, and you will hear at least one horror story about a cloth diaper never being the same after an over zealous child care provider slathered baby's bottom in zinc-based rash cream and then plunked that bottom in a cloth diaper. I've been there, and I can tell you that diaper rash creams can be nearly impossible to scrub out of a cloth diaper. (I used Dawn dish soap and a lot of elbow grease, and I did get most of it out.) send your little one with a cloth diaper friendly rash cream such as Earth Mama Angel Baby, Balm Baby, or Grandma El's (labelled with your baby's name of course), or pack a couple of disposable diapers in the bag with your zinc-based cream for occasions when your provider does need to treat a rash. And please, remember (even when it's hard to remember!) that no one intentionally wrecks a cloth diaper - it really is just an accident!
- Have a Back-up Plan in Place: You never know when something may come up, whether it's a minor emergency, an unexpected late night at work, or a few sleepless nights in a row. A few disposables might be just the thing you need to maintain your sanity while you get back on your feet. If your baby has a sensitivity to the chemicals in disposables, consider flushable inserts, such as those made by g-Diapers, which have fewer ingredients to worry about and can be stuffed inside cloth shells.
- Do your research: Whether it's state, regional, or just child care center policies, make sure you take time to familiarize yourself with your child-care provider's expectations. Day cares may reject all-in-twos, as some regulations require a full change (not just an insert change) every time. Having trouble convincing your child care provider? Check out the list of regulations for all US states here.
About the Author
Celeste Ireland is the author of Thinking About Cloth Diapers. Every parent wants what?s best for their baby, but many parents don?t have time to do tons of research. Cloth diapers don?t have to be hard, but with so much information available, they can seem overwhelming! Thinking About Cloth Diapers is a website that was designed with busy parents in mind. Full of well researched articles, Thinking About Cloth Diapers has helped many new parents find the information they need to get started with cloth diapers.