This is a Guest Post by Evelyn Langdon a Stay at home mom to Trevor and Scott.
Why Choose Cloth?
This is different for everyone, but my reasons were pretty simple. First of all, it’s MUCH less expensive to use cloth diapers than disposables. Yes, there’s a big cost up front for the initial purchase, but there are adjustable size diapers on the market, as well as the opportunity to buy/sell gently used cloth diapers that your child has outgrown. It also costs money to wash diapers, but it’s a nominal amount if you don’t use a coin-op laundry. Secondly, if you plan to have more than one child, they can use the same diapers your older child(ren) used with no additional cost. Third, there are no chemicals, so no allergies. The biggest thing you have to worry about is what kind of laundry detergent to use when you wash them (and we’ll get into that, don’t worry).
I have a brother and sister who were born when I was 9 ½ and 12, respectively. My mom cloth diapered them part time, so I’ve always been around it. When I got married, I honestly didn’t know anyone did it any differently! It seemed so obvious to me, I couldn’t imagine using disposables all the time. Sure, I saw the benefit when we left the house, but at home, I didn’t understand why anyone would choose to go the more expensive route.
That brings me to my next point, which is that it’s the green alternative – a disposable diaper will take around 500 YEARS to decompose, though no one knows for sure because they haven’t been around that long. Plus, you’re literally throwing your money in a landfill somewhere. According to Consumer Reports, you’ll spend $1500-$2000 per child on diapers alone before they’re potty trained – think how many diapers that equals, rotting in a landfill somewhere. That thought alone kind of makes me gag.
Since I started cloth diapering, I’ve learned that disposables have been linked to problems like infertility. Wait a minute, say what? It’s true – have you ever noticed how many of our peers struggle to get pregnant these days? Studies have linked this trend to increased use of disposable diapers. The chemicals used to make them more absorbent can have horrendous effects on babies’ reproductive systems, plus the heat generated because they are not breathable makes baby boys more prone to problems as well. In fact, did you know that the key ingredient that makes disposables so super-absorbent has been BANNED BY LAW from use in feminine hygiene products? If I’m not going to put something on or in my body, I certainly shouldn’t put it on or in my child! That alone was reason enough for me. There are many factors that lead to this choice for my family, but the biggest one was a health issue.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I brought up the idea of cloth diapering to my husband. I cited the many benefits: save money, no chemicals from disposables (or sposies, as I’ll call then from now on), no dirty diaper rot in my trashcans, no need for any kind of diaper disposal system, and so on and so forth. He adamantly refused to entertain the idea. He insisted they were gross, smelly, and old-fashioned, and that sposies were the wave of the future, both convenient and hygienic.
Our son was born, and we started him off in sposies. He had sensitive skin, but we adapted his diaper changing routine to keep him from getting rashes. Everything seemed to be going well until we approached his first birthday. He developed a severe diaper rash that just would not go away. We tried everything we could think of – rash creams, ointments, powders, Vaseline, Mylanta, air drying, switching wipes, rinsing with plain water instead of wipes, switching diapers. . . we even went to the doctor for a prescription. Nothing helped. It kept getting worse. My poor baby was bleeding, blistered, and miserable. He ran away when he knew he needed a change. He cried as I carried him back. He screamed till he was blue in the face while I changed him as quickly and gently as I could.
I was out of ideas to keep my husband happy with the diapering situation while still seeing that my child was happy and healthy. So I sat down and did the math: to keep our son – an only child at the time – in sposies for one more year, assuming he didn’t go up in size and that he used the same average number of diapers per day would cost $620. That’s not even including things like wipes, ointment, powder, and our son’s constant misery and pain. I knew cloth had to be cheaper than that, but the only cloth diapering I’d ever been exposed to were the prefolds, pins, and plastic pants my mom had me help put on my younger siblings.
I started researching my options online and found that MUCH had changed in the cloth diapering world since my mom had started in the mid-80’s. Yes, there are still prefolds, pins, and plastic pants, but there are so many more options out there now too. There’s a LOT to try and make sense of, so here’s a run down of the basic styles of cloth diapers in use today. All of these will LOOK like a diaper once they’re on, they’re just made of cloth. They have Velcro or snap closures and elastic at the leg openings as well as along the back (usually). Some are front closure (like a sposie), while others have side closures. Neither is better or worse than the other, it’s mostly a matter of the fit on a particular baby and your personal tastes. I like side snap diapers best, but only because I feel like I get the best fit on my son with them. I only have 2 or 3 side closing diapers, the rest of my 3 dozen or so diapers have front closures. Keep in mind there are many variations on these, and this list is likely not all-inclusive. It’s just what I’ve seen, heard about, and tried myself. Here it is:
These diapers are fitted to a specific size and have no waterproof layer. When you’re home, you really don’t NEED a cover, as long as your baby isn’t wearing pants or shorts. If you’re putting him down for a nap or leaving the house, use a cover. Fitteds usually have inserts that snap into the diaper for easier cleaning and faster drying, as well as adjustable absorbancy. These are the diapers most people like for the really cute prints.
(photo credit: Short Rounds Diapers)
The most popular type of pocket diapers (which we own 18 of, though at one point we had 4 dozen) is the BumGenius One-Size 3.0 pocket diapers. About a year ago, BumGenius came out with a One-Size 4.0 Pocket Diaper, which is basically just a newer, better version of the 3.0. These diapers are basically a pocket – the outer layer is waterproof and generally a solid color (not always though, sometimes you can find some really fun prints), while the inner layer is microfleece or some other soft fabric that wicks moisture. Then you have liners you stuff into the pocket based on the baby’s size and absorbancy needs. The nice thing about the ones we have is they’re adjustable size – My 2 ½ year old wore them as a newborn and they still fit him now! They fit up to 35 lbs, give or take, which is really nice. There are other brands that are not one-size-fits-all, so keep an eye out for that.
(photo credit: CottonBabies)
These are exactly what they sounds like. These diapers have the waterproof cover, absorbent layers, and soft fabric against baby’s skin in 1 piece. There are no separate covers, no snapping in or stuffing layers for more absorbancy – just put it on and go. These are the closest to a disposable diaper that you can get with cloth. However, they take FOREVER to dry – 2-3 times longer than other types of diapers – so they can be a hassle in that regard. They also cost more than other styles.
(photo credit: Swaddlebees)
These diapers combine all the convenience of AIO’s with the drying time of a fitted by using a snap-in liner that you can remove for washing and drying purposes. However, these tend to be the most expensive type of diapers.
(photocredit: Diaper Junction)
Prefolds and Flatfolds
These are the cloth diapers your mom and grandma used. Prefolds are rectangular and usually have 2 lines sewn length-wise down the diaper, dividing it into thirds. There are as many ways to fold a prefold as there are babies. YouTube has a ton of videos to demonstrate the more popular techniques. Flatfolds are what a prefold would look like if it hadn’t been sewn into that nice, neat little rectangle. There’s more folding involved, and I’ve never personally used one, but everyone I’ve ever heard of that tried them absolutely loved them and never went back. They’re one of the most customizable diaper styles out there, so you can get the exact absorbency your baby needs exactly where they need it.
(photo credit: Green Mountain Diapers)
Hybrid diapers are things like gDiapers. They combine a washable, waterproof cover with a disposable (generally flushable) insert. Many people who use them will use a prefold as an insert at home and save the disposable inserts for when they’re out and about.
(photo credit: gDiapers)
See what I mean? There are so many options! Now, you may have noticed, a few of these styles don’t have a water-proof layer (fitteds, prefolds, and flatfolds). There are nearly as many options for covers as there are for diapers. You’ll need 2-4 covers total – 1 to use, 1 to have ready. Just alternate throughout the day and wash when they get messy on the outside or it’s time to wash the diapers (wool is a different story, but I’ll talk about that in a minute). Here’s a basic list:
This is what my mom used when her kids were in diapers. They’re vinyl with elastic at the legs and waist. They go on like a pair of pants. They’re cheap, they’re easy, and they wipe clean in a pinch. I haven’t used plastic pants with my kids, but I know they work. They’re also the cheapest option. (photo credit: CottonBabies)
PUL is a laminated polyester fabric. It’s popular because it’s much trimmer and cuter than the plastic pants of yesteryear, but it’s still affordable. There are many companies that make these kind of covers – some have snaps, some have Velcro. It’s all a matter of personal preference. Solid colors are most popular, but you can find prints if you look hard. PUL covers are nice because the inside is laminated, so if it gets messy, you can just wipe it off and hang it to dry.
(photo credit: CottonBabies)
Wool is by far the most expensive, but also, in my opinion, the cutest. I have a few pairs of wool pants (also known as longies – there are shorties and skirties too) that I use on my toddler in the winter. I like them because they’re just knitted pants that do double duty as a waterproof diaper cover as well. These require special care and HAND washing. They need to be lanolized after each washing to ensure they remain waterproof. Unless they get poop on them, you don’t need to wash these more than every 6th or 7th use. Lanolized wool has antibacterial properties, so not only are they waterproof, breathable, natural fibers, but they’re good for your baby or toddler as well.
(photo credit: Cranky Pants)
Fleece covers are a great alternative to wool when you want something warm, but don’t have a ton of extra money to spend. They’re waterproof, though sometimes you’ll experience compression wicking (small amounts of leakage where something presses against a wet diaper, like a carseat buckle). I personally have never had this issue, as I buy only the highest quality fleece for diapering purposes.
Helpful Links and Resources:
www.youtube.com (for tutorials on how to use cloth diapers and their accessories, as well as how to make your own diapers if you want)