Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cloth Inro 4: What to Buy

If you are interested in using cloth diapers full time then most people recommend 24-36 diapers although I have gotten by with only 12 during some stages. Actually, I think 36 is too many. 12-24 is plenty. If you are using prefolds or fitted diapers then you will also need 4-6 covers. If you'll be using cloth wipes you'll probably also want 24-36 of those.

What kind of diapers you use depends on your personal preference. I recommend trying some of each to see what you like the best before you invest in a whole stash. A good way to start is to buy 24 prefolds, 4-6 covers, and a couple fitteds and/or pockets and/or all-in-ones. Then after you figure out what you like you can buy more.

A great resource for cloth diapering is You can read reviews of different diapers and diaper products and there is also a lot of info about cloth diapering and forums for asking questions.

My personal favorite for cloth diapering is fitted diapers with PUL covers when baby is awake and wool covers when he's sleeping. My husband and I both feel like fitted diapers are the easiest to use, and I prefer natural fibers to synthetic.

Fitted Diapers
To be even more specific I like fitted diapers that have two rows of snaps. I prefer snaps over velcro because velcro can get ratty looking and you have to remember to fold the velcro closed before you wash it or it will snag other diapers in the wash. Also, I've heard that kids can undo velcro and take their diapers off, but snaps are harder for them to undo. I prefer two rows of snaps because I think you get a better fit. The top row is to adjust the fit at the waist and the bottom row is to adjust the fit around the legs. I have tried one-size fitted diapers (they adjust so you don't have to buy differnt sizes as the baby grows), but I don't recommend them. They don't seem to adjust enough to really be a one-size diaper and they don't fit as well as sized diapers.

I have two favorite fitted diapers. One is made of bamboo and one is organic cotton sherpa. The bamboo is trim yet absorbent and stays soft and flexible wash after wash. The organic cotton sherpa is also very absorbent and soft and durable. Sherpa refers to the finish of the fabric. I like sherpa better than fleece cotton because it looks nicer and seems to be more absorbent, but the absorbency could relate more to the brand of diaper. I don't know for sure.

I also use prefolds and pocket diapers when the fitteds are being washed or when I feel like a little variety.

You can get Chinese, Indian, bamboo, and hemp prefolds among others. Chinese and Indian prefolds are both cotton. I've tried both and at first I thought the Indian prefolds were softer, but after months of use and washing I can't tell much difference. Chinese and Indian prefolds come in bleached or unbleached. I prefer unbleached because it's more natural. I've also tried hemp prefolds and as far as I'm concerned if you're going to spend that much money for hemp or bamboo you should just get a more convenient diaper (i.e. a fitted). The real advantage of prefolds is their economy so if you start spending a lot on special fabrics they loose their advantage.

Pocket Diapers
I've tried pockets with snaps and velcro and I've tried one-size diapers and sized. Although the velcro tends to get ratty and you have the laundry hassle I think you get a better fit and the diaper stays on better with velcro than with snaps. The one-size pocket diapers I've tried fit well at different sizes so I think they are better than the ones where you have to buy different sizes because you have to buy fewer.

Although I prefer snaps on a diaper, I think I prefer a PUL cover with velcro. It fits a little better than snaps. Since I've made all of my wool and fleece covers I can't say much about what I like best except that ones that wrap around are a little easier to use than ones that pull up.

Cloth Intro 3: Diapering Accessories

You may want to consider some of these accessories if you are going to use cloth diapers.

You should store wet and dirty diapers in a dry diaper pail. Any pail or trash can with a lid will work. Before baby is on solid food the poop is so runny that it will wash right out in the wash. After baby starts solid food, shake the solid poop in the toilet and put the diaper in the pail.

It's a good idea to have some kind of pail liner in your diaper pail. Then you can just shake the diapers in the wash and throw the liner in with them. You can buy PUL pail liners, but I have found that making my own out of a used sheet works just as well.

If you are using cloth diapers you may as well use cloth wipes as well. In my experience the cloth wipes work a lot better than disposable wipes anyway. You can buy cloth wipes or make them or use cheap washcloths. Terry materials work the best. Flannel doesn't work well because it just smears the mess around instead of wiping it off (much like disposable wipes). You can throw your wipes in the wash with your diapers.

You can use plain water to wet your wipes or you can use a diaper wipe solution. You can buy concentrated solution that you mix with water. I have an 8 oz bottle that has lasted me more than a year.

There are several ways to store and use your wipes and solution. You can store wipes in an old disposable wipe container and pour the wipe solution or water over them. You can spray baby's bottom directly with solution or water and wipe with a dry cloth. Or you can store the wipes dry and then wet them with a squirt bottle as you use them. The last method is what I do.

After baby starts eating solid food flushable liners can help make cleaning easier. The liners are sort of like rice paper that you lay in the diaper and then when the baby poops you just lift the liner out and flush it down the toilet. If the baby doesn't poop on the liner you can let it dry and use it again or wash it with your diapers and use it again.

You may want a stay-dry liner in the diaper to wick moisture away from the baby's skin. You can buy them or you can make them by cutting up fleece from the fabric store (you don't have to sew the edges of the fleece). They can be thrown in the wash with the diapers. I used these for the first several months because I thought that it would be better for my son's skin and I thought he might be more comfortable, but as it turns out I don't think it matters. I quit using them about 10 months ago and he doesn't seem to care and it hasn't affected his skin.

If your baby is an especially heavy wetter you may need extra absorbency in your diaper. You can buy doublers that you lay in the diaper to add absorbency. When you are shopping for doublers be sure that you buy doublers and not inserts. Inserts are for going inside a pocket diaper. Sometimes doublers and inserts can be used interchangeably but in the case of something like microfiber you definitely don't want that touching your baby's skin as a doubler does.

You may want some kind of bag for storing wet diapers when you are out. You can buy wet bags made of PUL or wool or make your own. I use a wool one that I made from an old sweater. Zip lock bags work too.

Cloth Intro 2: Diaper Covers

All prefold and fitted diapers need a waterproof cover of some kind. There are three basic kinds.

Polyurethane Laminate covers are kind of like Gortex. They are waterproof but fairly breathable. The most common PUL covers are wraps. They wrap around the diaper and velcro or snap closed. You can also get pull-up PUL covers. PUL covers come in all kinds of fun prints and colors depending on the brand you use. They are a very economical cover. You can wash them with your diapers if you need to, but they will last longer if you wash them in cooler water.

Wool covers are great b/c they are natural fibers so they are completely breathable and naturally antibacterial and odor resistant. Wool is just amazing stuff. One of the drawbacks of wool covers is that they are usually pretty expensive to buy. However, you can sew your own out of old sweaters or knit or crochet your own for a much lower cost. Another possible drawback is that they do take a little bit of special care. They need to be washed by hand and lanolized (lanolin is what makes them waterproof). However, you only have to do this once a month at most (I do it much less often). You do have to make sure that you have an absorbant diaper under the wool because if your diaper isn't absorbant enough and you are carrying your baby on your hip when he pees you could get wet because of the compression of the wool against your hip. If your baby is just haning out and the wool isn't compressed it won't leak. You can get wool covers that are soakers (pull-on style) or wraps.

Here's a good site with info about wool:

Other posts in my blog have links to sites for making your own wool covers.

Fleece covers are also very breathable, and they are easy to care for because you can wash them with your diapers. They are usually a little more expensive than PUL but less expensive than wool. You can have the same problem with compression causing leaking that wool covers have. If they seem to loose their waterproofness you can dry them in the dryer with a fabric softener sheet to restore their waterproofness. You can also get fleece covers as soakers or wraps.

A benefit of both wool and fleece covers is that you can get them or make them as shorts or pants (longies) so they can work as both a diaper cover and as pants and you don't need to put pants over them.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cloth Intro 1: Diaper Overview

I hope that the following information will be helpful for people looking into using cloth diapers. There are several different types of cloth diapers. Here is an overview of each kind and my opinion of the pros and cons. I've also given approximate costs. The cost depends a lot on the fabric and where you buy them; I just wanted to give rough ideas.

Prefold diapers and rubber pants were the standard when I was a baby. Today prefold diapers are still a popular option, but waterproof covers that are more breathable than rubber pants have made them a little nicer. A prefold diaper is essentially a rectangle of absorbant material that you fold or wrap around the baby and cover with a waterproof cover. When shopping for prefold diapers you'll notice they are labled with numbers like this: 4x8x4. Those numbers refer to the number of layers in the diaper - four layers of fabric on each side and eight in the middle. Many people get by with two sizes from birth to potty-learning - infant and premium, but there are other sizes if you want a more customized fit. You can fasten the diaper on with pins or with a snappi (see picture below), or you can just lay the folded diaper in the cover and let the cover hold the diaper on. The last option works better with older babies who have solid poop.

Least expensive.
Easy to wash and care for.
Moderate dry-time after washing.
Natural fibers (breathable).
Can be used as burp cloths or rags later on.

Can be tricky to learn how to put them on at first, so not good for babysitters.
Can be a little bit more bulky than other diapers depending on what end of the size-range baby is on.

Approximate Cost:
Cotton - $1-$3 each
Organic Cotton - $6-$10 each
Hemp - $6-$10 each
Bamboo - $8-$12 each

Fitted diapers are contoured to fit baby more like a disposable diaper, and they have snaps or velcro closures to hold them on. They have lots of layers sewn in the middle to make them absorbant. They require a waterproof diaper cover. These are my personal favorites and my husband's too.

Very easy to use, so good for babysitters.
Natural fibers (breathable).
Fairly trim.

Long dry-time after washing.
More expensive than prefolds.

Approximate Cost:
My favorite fitted diaper is about $15.

Pocket diapers do not require a seperate waterproof cover. They are waterproof on the outside and usually fleece or another synthetic fiber on the inside. Then you have to stuff the pocket inbetween with an absorbant insert. They are held on by velcro or snaps. Many pocket diapers come with a microfiber insert. Microfiber is very absorbant but not very bulky. Some people use a prefold diaper as an insert. The fleece lining on the inside wicks moisture away from the baby's skin into the absorbant inside.

Keeps baby's skin dry.
Easy to use once they are stuffed, so good for babysitters.
Fairly trim.
Fast-drying (if you have microfiber inserts)

Most of them are synthetic fibers which are less breathable than natrual fibers and more prone to buildup of detergents which compromises their effictiveness.
Don't last as long as diapers with a seperate cover.
Some people don't like stuffing them with the insert.

Approximate Cost:

AIO diapers look similar to a pocket diaper, but the absorbant layer is sewn in so there is no stuffing involved. It's a one-step cloth diaper fastened on with velcro or snaps.

Very easy for anyone to use.

Long dry-time
Don't last as long as diapers with a seperate cover.
If they are synthetic material same problem as with pockets.

Approximate Cost: