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Real Life Cloth Diapering: Full time Cloth Diapering with Daycare

This post is included in a series of posts about real parents cloth diapering in a variety of life situations. You can read about parents that work full time, cloth diaper without a washing machine, cloth diaper part time and more! Stay tuned for more Real Life Cloth Diapering Stories from parents like you!

My education and my career have always been incredibly important in my life.  When my husband and I became pregnant with our daughter, I was in the final years of a graduate school program and working to obtain my Ph.D. in the life sciences.  Although I was passionately pursuing a degree and working full-time in a research lab, I didn't want to make sacrifices in my new role as a mother.  I knew that I wanted to cloth diaper full-time, and exclusively breastfeed.

Here are some tips that are key to full-time cloth diapering despite a busy work schedule:

A. Establish a routine

We quickly found that cloth diapering full-time required a good routine to keep us organized.  By keeping a mental record of how many clean diapers were available and how many diapers our child used per day, we could easily decide if we needed to do laundry that evening. A typical day in our cloth diapering lives included:

1. Take baby and soiled diapers home from daycare at the end of the day
2. Bring soiled diapers to the laundry room (how many clean diapers are left- do we need to wash tonight?)
3. Wash, and line dry diapers if we're running low on diapers
4. Fold any clean diapers hanging on the clothes line
5. Pack a bag of clean diapers and wet bag to go to daycare in the morning

1. Grab the pre-packed bag of clean diapers to go to daycare with our child
2. Re-stock clean diapers in our child's cubby/storage area in the diapering station

Preparing diapering supplies each evening allowed us to keep track of when we needed to do laundry, and kept mornings as stress-free as possible.  Even on busy days, cloth diapering never seemed like a burden to our family.

B. Purchase enough cloth diapering supplies for convenience
Although some parents manage to cloth diaper full time with a minimal stash of only 15-20 cloth diapers, this number isn't very realistic for most full-time working parents.  If your budget allows it, shoot for a stock of at least 30 diapers.  This will allow you to stretch the time between washing diapers and allow time to line-dry your diapers.  Line drying was very important to our family, so we opted for a larger stash of diapers to allow for extra dry-time.  We almost always had clean diapers left over at daycare, but erring on the side of caution ensured our child never ran out of diapers.

Newborn: 6-8 diapers per 9 hour work day

6 months- 1year:
 5-6 diapers per 9 hour work day

1-year to potty training: 3-5 diapers per 9 hour work day (possibly a need for extra-absorbent nap-time diapers)

You'll also want to keep a good stock of wet bags available so you will have a clean wet bag to send to daycare each morning.  Our cloth diaper stash grew with time, and soon we had enough cloth diapers to wash them 2-3 times per week.  Although my husband sometimes questioned if we really needed 5 different wet bags, the convenience of having enough clean supplies during the work-week was priceless.

C. Divide and conquer if you can
Our family has always operated under the philosophy that if you are in a two-parent working household, both parents have equal responsibilities in childcare and chores.  In the early days of cloth diapering, my husband played a huge role in laundering and hanging cloth diapers to dry.  I usually tackled the task of folding, packing diapers for daycare, and performing drop off/pick up.  After we moved and switched daycare centers, my husband took on the responsibility of dropping off and picking up our daughter, and I began doing the majority of the diaper maintenance.  It is certainly feasible to cloth diaper as a single working parent because cloth diapering isn't an unreasonable time commitment. However, if your situation is a two-parent working household, it should be expected that both parents contribute to diaper maintenance and childcare (it's only fair!)

Our family used cloth diapers full time at daycare for over two years, and we wouldn't have changed a thing about the experience. We have some friends who work full-time and use disposable diapers during daycare and cloth diapers at home.  I always encourage friends to give cloth diapering at daycare a try for two weeks just to see how it goes.  Cloth diapering at daycare isn't for everyone, but most people are surprised how easy it is and end up continuing to cloth diaper full-time.

Additional resources:
1. Cloth Diapering and Daycare: Informational Database

Nissa writes about cloth diapering and eco-friendly parenting on her blog Cloth Diaper Guru.  She has a particular interest in cloth diapering at daycare centers, and teaches Cloth Diapering Lunch and Learn sessions in her community.

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