Monday, October 15, 2012

A Crash Course in Cloth Diapering

I love cloth diapers. Love, LOVE, LOVE cloth diapers. I think they are not only practical, economical, clean, and environmentally friendly, but really, really cute as well. Maybe you've entertained the thought of giving cloth diapers a try. Maybe you've even done a bit of investigating and been overwhelmed by the options. If so, know that it's not you. Cloth diapering has made HUGE strides since the days when my parents stuck themselves and me with diaper pins and pulled on those ugly plastic pants. There are sooooo many options out there now, so if you're feeling overwhelmed it's completely understandable. (And even if you have no interest in cloth diapering, this is my blog and I've been wanting to do a cloth diapering post for a while, so your only choice at this point is to stop reading if I'm boring you. Otherwise, you are going to get the said crash course in CD-ing.)

The actual diapers themselves:

Prefolds: Prefolds are cloth diapers that come in various sizes and do not need to be folded in any fancy way, except in thirds to be placed in a diaper cover, like this:

Prefolds mostly come in cotton, but you can find them in hemp blends. I do not recommend hemp diapers as they are very slow to dry and develop a weird smell. Cotton is the best diapering material out there. Newborn size prefolds with newborn size covers are the most ideal option for cloth diapering a newborn baby as they will fit a lot better than small size covers which usually start at 8-10 lbs.

Flats: Cotton "birdseye" weave flats are the "old school" diapers that used to require a lot of folding and pinning. 

Now, you can fold them in quarters and then fold them in half and put them in a cover, much like a prefold. (This is what I do.) Flats have a number of advantages. First they are cheap. You can get a set of flats for about a $2 a diaper and use them from birth until potty training. They also dry really fast too since they are thinner and gain absorbency by folding. They are great as a simple "one-size" solution. Please, please, PLEASE for the love of all that is good in the world, DO NOT BUY GERBER FLATS!!!!!! Let me say it again: DO NOT BUY GERBER BRAND FLATS!!!!!! Gerber flats that you see in Babies R Us are made to be burp cloths not diapers. They are only about 3-ply thickness and you will be in trouble! Deep, deep trouble! I highly recommend Osocozy (available on Amazon) or Green Mountain Diaper flats.

Pocket Diapers: These are inserts of various types of materials that snap into a cover. They often come in microfiber or fleece. Please, please, PLEASE for the love of all that is good in the world, DO NOT BUY MICROFIBER OR FLEECE DIAPERS!!!!! I'll say it again: DO NOT BUY MICROFIBER OR FLEECE. These are synthetic materials that can cause your baby to have rashes. They dry faster than cotton inserts or refolds, but they get residue on them after a few washings and have to be "stripped" (i.e. remove the gunk) before they can be used again. Without fail, when I hear someone say they tried cloth and their baby developed a rash, they have been using microfiber or fleece. Cotton is the very best material for diapering.

All-in-ones: This is basically a reusable cloth disposable. The PUL cover and the diaper are all-in-one (thus the name), so you  just put the AIO on the baby and when it is dirty or wet, you toss it in the diaper pail, wash and then reuse. They use snaps or velcro, so no pins are needed. AIO's are great for babysitters and daycare centers. Many brands come in different sizes, but bumGenius makes cotton one-size AIO so you can adjust the size with the snaps as your baby grows and don't need to buy new ones every time baby hits a growth spurt. The most common type of AIO has been microfiber or fleece (see the above if you need a warning on this again), but cotton AIO's are becoming more and more popular. Green Mountain Diapers has a great selection of cotton AIO's. For all their convenience, there are a couple of downsides to AIO's. One is that they dry slowly because they are on the thicker side. The other is that they do cost more than a prefold or flat and cover set-up, running about $15-$25 per diaper. If any of you out there are reading this blog and have a more or less unlimited budget for CD-ing, you could afford to spend somewhere in the range of $800 on diapers to have 3 1/2 dozen AIO's on hand so you never have to add anything to a cover. Otherwise, you might consider getting just a few for when you have a sitter over.

Fitted Diapers: These are diapers in various sizes that are designed to fit without any folding at all. 

Most fitted diapers fasten with snaps, though some require pins. Some people really like fitted diapers. But they're pricier than flats or prefolds and you still have to use a cover, which means double the snapping, something Duckling won't hold still for.

Diaper Covers (The things that hold the diapers onto the baby's bottom.)

PUL: PUL stands for "polyurethane laminate", a waterproof chemical. Many diaper covers are made of polyester material with lots of cute pictures on them. with a PUL coating. Some covers have the PUL exposed so that it touches the diaper directly, some have an extra layer of polyester added over the the laminate so the PUL is hidden. PUL covers can be washed in your washing machine. They are cheaper than many wool covers. They don't last as long as wool covers though and they do use chemicals. PUL covers come in wrap style (meaning they wrap around and fasten in the front like a disposable) and use either snaps or velcro as fasteners. Velcro is really quick to use; easy on-off. The problem with it is when your little sweet pea figures out that he can easily take his diaper cover off. I favor snaps myself. PUL covers come in various sizes, but also in one size covers that are adjustable in size for babies six weeks to three years.

Plastic/ Nylon Pants: These are the "old school" cover option. They're little pants made of nylon or plastic that you pull on and off. They're usually pretty cheap, but not very cute. My dad says they were something of a nightmare with especially messy, runny diapers because they pull down and get the mess everywhere. I've never had that problem with wrap style covers.

Wool: I didn't think I would like wool initially. The covers I found when I was pregnant the first time didn't look very cute and they were way expensive. Most wool covers I found were soakers, meaning they are the pull on and off type (no fasteners) which require pins. Wool also has to be lanolized to keep its waterproof quality. But, I LOVE my wool covers! The first thing was finding covers that I liked. I found one-size wrap style covers with snaps through Etsy. MamaBear Babywear makes really cute wool covers from up-cycled wool sweaters and they aren't much more than PUL one-size covers when you buy a five pack. I have found that lanolizing actually hasn't been hard at all. While wool has its drawbacks, it also has lots of benefits. It's really breathable, which is why even moms who live in hot climates still use wool. Wool covers are also made from soft, merino wool which isn't scratchy or irritating. Wool covers don't have to be washed until they get messy. If they are just damp, you can just air dry them and use again. They last longer than PUL covers and I have found them to be even better at stopping leaks than PUL. So, yeah, I love my wool. =)

Accessories (Fasteners, liners, etc.):

Pins: These are pretty obvious. (Don Diego: Do you know how to use that?  Alejandro: Yes. The pointy end goes in the other man. - The Mask of Zorro. Except the idea with cloth diapering is to put the pointy end in the diaper and not in anyone else.) Some moms don't mind pins, but I decided to opt out. It's simpler not using pins and Malamute has been a lot more comfortable with diapering Duckling when he's not faced with puncture wounds. =) Duckling is a wiggle worm too and I have done so many diaper changes in motion that using any kind of fastener would have been next to impossible.

Snappis: These are a new thing for keeping cloth diapers held together; kind of like pins but without the sharp pointy end. 

These are three sided fasteners that fasten much like an ace bandage. Again, my kid never stops moving, so I just snap the covers on and let him go.

Wetbags: "What do you do when you're out and about?" This is a question about CD-ing that seems to scare the crap (no pun intended) out of people. Seriously, it's not that scary when you have a PUL lined wet bag. (Haven't seen wool ones yet.) You simply take the dirty/wet diaper and place it in the wet bag and take the diaper home. Once home, you spray it off with your sprayer hose (that you have attached to the toilet previously), throw it in the diaper pail and launder as usual. I do NOT sit at home and cower about going out places and needing to change a diaper. 

Flushable Diaper Liners: All that being said, flushable liners can make going out and about a bit easier. If your baby messes, you take out the liner and flush it down the toilet. (If you have a septic tank, you may or may not be OK to flush.) I actually don't use flushable liners much, since I don't feel a strong need to. However, once Baby #2 shows up, we will use them some because they are great for protecting your cloth diapers from lots of meconium stickiness. I have heard a number of moms say that flushable liners make CD-ing newborns sooooo much easier. I can't comment with complete authority on this though since Duckling spent the first two weeks of his life in the NICU in disposables and by the time he was home, he was past the meconium phase.

Doublers: Basically an extra piece of cloth you add in with the diaper to increase absorbency. Especially good for night time diapering. While you can buy doublers, you can also use newborn prefolds on a bigger baby as a doubler in combination with an appropriate size diaper and cover.

Cloth Wipes: Yep. There are even cloth wipes. You get a tiny little spray bottle, fill it with a bit of soap and water and and spray that onto your fantastic cloth wipes and/or baby's tush to help with cleaning up the mess. I really like Osocosy's flannel wipes with the cute little rainbow colored stitching around the edges. Some people like the two-sided wipes that are smooth flannel on one side and terry cloth on the other. Every kind of cloth wipe you can imagine is available on Amazon. Green Mountain Diapers also has an impressive selection. You could probably find them on Etsy too. I personally think cloth wipes should replace toilet paper. They're more durable and soft.

So there you have it folks. A crash course in cloth diapering.

1 comment:

  1. awesome, thank you! If you are handy with a sewing machine, there are also lots of patterns available for you to make your own diapers and cut down costs.