Ask any cloth diaper advocate or cloth diapering mom, and they'll give you two reasons as to why cloth diaper cost, and the environment. What wonderful reasons!! There have been many studies and information provided on both subjects, and I'd be happy to quote some of that for you, but what I'd really like to tell you is why I cloth diaper my own son. It's what's best for him. Cloth diapers, especially with natural fibers (cotton, hemp, or wool) , that are gentle upon a baby's skin, that breathe and allow air to circulate, are healthier for your child. Make sense? Of course it does!! No gel, no chemicals, no paper, no sticky stuff, no plastic. In choosing our baby's clothes and blankets we look for what will be the softest against their tender skin, we surround them with healthy choices of bedding, wall & furniture paint, we protect them from UV sunlight, we breastfeed them, (you do do all that, don't you?) and cloth diapering is another healthy choice.
So what do you need to know to get started?
Cloth diapers come in three basic styles: prefold, fitted, and all-in-one. Prefold diapers are the most basic, as they are simply squares of cloth, usually gauze, twill, cotton or hemp terry & fleece are also popular. They may be pined, or held in place by a cover. Cotton prefolds will become softer with each wash and will last a very long time. Hemp is extremely durable and absorbent, so are great for heavy wetters and nighttime diapers. These will fit your baby into and possibly through toddler hood, with you only needing to upsize the covers you use. Fitted diapers provide a more secure fit with an elastic gusset at the leg openings and often the waist, and the diaper fit is adjustable by snaps, Velcro or ties. They, and the all-in-ones, will fit a range of sizes, but usually come in newborn, medium, large and sometimes extra large. You will need to buy larger sizes as your baby grows. All-in-ones are fitted diapers with a diaper cover (to be waterproof) sewn right on. Some all-in-ones are also pocket diapers, meaning that they have a little pocket in them for inserting another smaller cloth pad for extra absorbency. These little pads may also of course be used in a regular cloth diaper with no pocket! Rice paper liners are flushable and can be placed in a diaper add a barrier for wetness on baby's skin, and are also helpful in changing & cleaning messy diapers.
Diaper covers are often made of nylon, or polyurethane laminate, and can be used more than once if allowed to air-dry and are not visibly soiled, or you can use my favorite cover, wool soakers.
Wool soakers are made of natural wool, with the lanolin still preserved in the wool fibers. With these, the urine is wicked from the cloth (hopefully cotton or hemp) diaper to the woolen cover, which neutralizes the ammonia in the urine. It is the ammonia that usually causes diaper rash in babie: no ammonia, no diaper rash! No ammonia, no urine smell either! And, as the wool absorbs the wetness it gives off warmth. Babies are commonly bothered by the coldness of a wet diaper, so with a wool soaker babies can sleep through the night! Something else really neat happens when you use a wool soaker: when the lanolin in the wool comes in contact with the urine, a chemical reaction occurs, and creates lanolin-soap. This is antibacterial (no rashes on baby!) and this also means that the wool is self-cleaning! It is only after about a week of use that you may begin to notice a slight smell of urine, indicating that the lanolin has been used up and you need to add lanolin, and this is easily done with a hand wash in 100% lanolin soap, available wherever wool soakers (and other natural wool products) are sold. Until then, whenever you change the wool soaker just place it near a low heat source to dry (never ever put it in your clothes dryer though!!!) Wool soakers are so easy to use, so good for your baby, and so good for the planet!
You are using cloth diapers, use cloth wipes too! They are often made from the same material as the diapers themselves, simply cut to wipe size or you can use a washcloth. You may simply wet them with plain water or use a homemade solution. Store them soaking in a container of the solution, or stack them dry and keep the water or solution in a spray or squeeze bottle and wet the wipes as needed. Wash them along with your diapers.
Care for cloth diapers:
Always wash and dry new diapers a few (four or five) times before use in order to maximize their initial absorbency. For your baby's soiled diapers, after disposing of any solids into the toilet, simply keep the soiled diapers in a container with a tight fitting lid in between wash days. You may use a dry pail, or if you choose to use water for soaking you may want to add a little baking soda. Hot washes (one or more) and cold rinses are the usual method for washing. Use very little detergent as you do not want build up on the diapers, and a little bit of white vinegar in the rinse helps disinfect. Drying outdoors in the sun is the best thing for cloth diapers, but if dried in a dryer never use any sort of fabric softener sheets as they will coat your diapers and reduce their absorbency.
Suggested cloth diaper inventory:
This is what you need to get started and possibly all you may ever need:
* One to two dozen pre-folds or fitted or combination of both.
* A package of diaper safety pins or other fasteners.
* Three wool soakers, or three to six other diaper covers
* A diaper pail container
Cloth wipes and all-in-one diapers suggested but optional, as are wonderful products now on the market such as a diaper "shower" that attaches to your toilet, or washable waterproof bags for transporting soiled diapers while out and about.
Enjoy your baby, enjoy the environment you protect, and enjoy the money you'll save!
(Copyright, Dawnella Sutton 2005)