More often than not the biggest hang-up people have when considering cloth diapers is what to do with the poo. This is especially true for first time parents, and let me tell you I was no different when I became a mom. I’d never changed a diaper before in my life before I had kids, so when books talked about 'sticky meconium' or 'seedy breastfed baby poo' I had no idea what that meant, and more importantly it made no sense to me that cloth diapers covered in it could go in the washing machine. Eww right?
So here you go…(don't read this right after you eat ;)) real photos of newborn poo in cloth diapers and full explanations of what can go in the washing machine and what needs attention (scraping, flushing etc.) before being laundered. This post is not for the faint-hearted, but boy will it all make more sense when you’re through.
This is the thick, dark, tarry stuff that makes up baby bowel movements for the first few days of life. Can it go straight into the washing machine without scraping or dunking? YES. Why? Because it is water soluble, easily dissolve-able and washes right out of diapers. This pic is of my own newborn’s diaper and I threw it in the wash without a second thought. It came out perfectly clean.
*Caveat: meconium can stain your diapers and it will stain natural fabrics worse than synthetics. If this bothers you, consider fleece or disposable liners for the first few days. Meconium did stain some of my diapers with grayish shadows. This doesn’t bother me, I did nothing about it, and now a few washes later the stains are gone. They fade over time with subsequent washes.
*PRO TIP: Meconium is quite sticky stuff. For easier cleanup of baby's bum, put a little cloth safe bum ointment or coconut oil on baby’s bum as soon as you can after birth and wiping up will be much easier.
This is what you’ll start to see 4-5 days after baby is born. The meconium clears out and is replaced with this yellow stuff. Often described as seedy or mustard-like, this is what you will contend with until baby begins to eat solids. Now, this photo represents a breastfed baby. Did this diaper go straight into the wash without scraping or dunking? YES. Once again, breastfed baby poo is water soluble, rinses easily away during the quick rinse cycle before the main wash cycle, and causes no laundry problems.
*NOTE: If you have a formula-fed baby, or baby receives breast milk and formula, you’ll be dealing with a little more volume than this photo as formula isn’t as thoroughly digested by baby as breastmilk, so use your judgement. In the first few weeks formula fed diapers will look similar in volume to this pic anyway so wash them straight away. If there is enough volume that some could be flushed, then do so before laundering or use liners for easier cleanup. But the point is, don’t get overly paranoid or make things too complicated for yourself. You really shouldn’t have to do much to a dirty diaper before laundering.
Babies & Toddlers
Once baby starts solids, just keep one thing in mind. If there’s enough poo to scrape, or toss into the toilet, do so. Whatever is left on the diaper your washing machine can handle. I promise. I'll spare you the pictures of toddler poo. You're welcome ;)
Stick to the simple and easy wash routine of
RINSE >> WASH >> RINSE
- A light rinse or short initial wash cycle – no detergent or small amount of detergent
- A hot wash (heavy duty and max water settings or something similar if available for your washer) – with recommended amount of detergent for the load size as stated on the detergent package.
- An extra rinse if desired
- Line dry or machine dry on medium setting
*No fabric softeners, dryer sheets or petroleum/zinc based rash creams
Need help choosing a detergent? You can use pretty much anything without fabric softener. Here's more tips. And if you’d like something to replace traditional chemical filled dryer sheets, consider wool dryer balls.