Cloth Diapering Meconium (and Stains) Myth

“I just use disposables until baby has ‘normal’ poop.”

“That tar stuff is impossible to get off!”

Meconium stains cloth diapers!

How many times have we heard this from well-intended mamas giving advice to those asking about using cloth diapers right from birth? These mamas all have one thing in common: they never actually dealt with meconium in cloth.

How can I make such a bold statement?

Because I have dealt with meconium in cloth diapers twice now. Any mama who has actually cloth diapered through meconium will tell you that all the tales of impossible to remove poop and staining is a myth.

If I can, I intend to take some pictures of my experience if I can. Lord willing, come January, we will be holding another baby in our arms.

So why the common myth(s)?

Anyone who has used disposables on a newborn may recall the pain it can be to wipe that slimy, tar-like substance off their baby’s tush. One can only fathom how impossible it must be to remove it from a cloth diaper, right?

Wrong.

In fact, meconium is just as water soluable as EBF (exclusively breast fed) baby poop is. Yes, you can cloth diaper your baby from birth, throw those diapers unrinsed right into the machine, and not have to worry about finding a horror show when the cycle completes. Meconium completely breaks down and is washed away effortlessly.

But what about stains?

Stains can happen, but only hardly, and it will never be a stain the sun (or repeat washings/oxiclean stain lifter) cannot easily remove.

In fact, when I took cloth diapers to the hospital, in the 36 hours we were there, we went through 12 diapers; only one was just pee. I brought home 11 meconium-filled diapers. After I got unpacked, I dumped those diapers, as well as some more meconium diapers, into the washer. No rinsing, no spraying with oxyclean or rubbing with Buncha Farmers. Dump in, add detergent, push a button, walk away. I came back to a washer filled with clean diapers. Of all the meconium diapers, only 3 diapers had any amount of staining, it was only trace lines of staining near the edges of the inside of the insert to the all-in-ones, and every one of those 3 sunned out the minor stain within an hour.

Have you ever dealt with EBF poop in cloth before? If not, prepare for constant yellow stains and make sure your load is an optimal size for proper agitation or you may find traces of actual stool left behind (mostly a problem for load sizes too small and/or diapers that have been sitting longer than 3 days). Don’t get me wrong, EBF still washes out fairly easily with zero effort, but the staining for those who are bothered by stains, are nightmarish. Personally, I don’t give a hoot about stains as long as the diapers come out clean.

By the way…

STAINS ≠ DIRTY

So many people lose their minds over stains as if the diapers aren’t clean. They’ll even go nuts at the thought of buying diapers with shadow staining, as if that’s an indicator that there is still poop lingering in the diaper. Absolutely not. That is not what a stain is. A stain is a reaction between a substance and the fabric that leaves discoloration. It doesn’t mean that substance is still there, but rather you’re seeing the effects of the fabric’s interaction with the substance. For instance, if you tie dye fabric, it alters the color of the fabric. You can rinse the dye fully out and you will still see the color. That’s because there was a reaction between the dye and the fabric, and you’re seeing the results of that interaction. Some stains are more stubborn than others. There are different kinds of stains that require treatment based on the type of stain it is (and it’s age).

There are many different types of household cleaners because there are many different types of messes to clean up! Stains can be roughly grouped into four different categories: enzymatic (such as grass or blood stains); oxidizable (stains such as coffee or tea), greasy (butter or oil) and particulate (your typical, run-of-the-mill dirt stains).

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/no-stain-no-pain/

Body fluids are protein-based enzymatic stains, which can be considered amongst the most difficult to remove, especially since they can really set in when exposed to heat or great lengths of time. Fortunately, many widely-available mainstream detergents are already loaded with the enzymes you need to ensure that the diapers are properly cleaned, and many of the stains left behind respond well to bleaching agents. (You can find a list of the “Best Enzyme Laundry Detergent Brands”.) This is why sunning diapers (or any poop-stained clothing) is rather successful. The sun interacts with the chemicals in the stain (imagine how the sun interacts with the chemicals in plastics that cause them to discolor over time when exposed to sunlight) and can “bleach” out the color, just like an oxi-clean product would.

In summary…

Meconium is easier to deal with than EBF stools. You do not need to rinse the diapers, nor do you have to “pretreat” spots before washing them. You won’t likely see half the stains you’d see from EBF stools, but if you find a few bothersome stains, after the washer is complete, lay any stained, damp diapers in the sunlight and watch the stain magically disappear, even in window light!

Furthermore, stains don’t equal dirt. It’s a chemical reaction that discolors the fabric, which can be effortlessly treated by laying them while still damp in the sunlight and allowing nature to safely bleach your diapers.

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