Cloth 101

Posted by  | Sunday, October 14, 2007  at 9:30 PM  
I was first introduced to cloth diapers when Lydia was two months old. It had always been something in the back of my mind that I thought I’d like to do, but, knowing we were moving overseas when she would be 4 months old, I just figured cloth would be way too complicated. But then I met some other young moms who were also moving overseas and were using cloth. I saw first-hand how easy it was and decided it would be doable for us as well. The real clincher, though, was when my husband happened to see the bumGenius! diapers on-line and realized cloth diapers were a far cry from what our grandparents used “back in the day”!

You may be thinking, “Why would I want to use cloth?!” Well, here are some of the benefits of cloth diapering:

1. It saves a TON of $$$ (look for Hollie’s post in the next few days on just how much money you can save).

2. It’s more natural. Did you know that disposable diapers have toxic chemicals such as dioxin and sodium polyacrylate? Dioxin has been shown to cause cancer, birth defects, liver damage, and skin diseases just to name a few. Sodium Polyacrylate is what makes disposables super absorbent. It is the same substance that was removed from Tampons because it was linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome.

3. It helps the environment. 18 billion disposable diapers are thrown into landfills each year, taking as many as 500 years to decompose! Disposable diapers are the third largest source of solid waste in landfills (Mothering Magazine, Issue 88, May/June 1998) .

For more information on great reasons to use cloth diapers, check out this article in Mothering Magazine.

Okay, so you’ve decided you want to try cloth. It can be overwhelming to know what to choose because there are so many options out there. The purpose of this post is to give you a crash course in the basics. Then, over the next two weeks, we will each post our diaper preferences, specific routines, laundering methods, etc. We also want to hear your comments and questions and hope to have a great discussion on cloth diapers!

Here are the basic types of diapers:

All-In-Ones (AIO)– A diaper and cover all in one piece. They do not require a cover, because the cover is sewn into the diaper already.

Pros: Very easy, convenient, no stuffing, no folding; most similar to disposable; easy for hubby to use

Cons: Most expensive of cloth diapers; can take longer to dry

Pocket Diapers – Two layers of fabric are sewn together so you can “stuff” them with the absorbency level you need. The cover is already sewn in.

Pros: Good for overnight and extended use between changings; line dries quickly; most similar to the convenience of an AIO

Cons: takes time to “stuff” before every use; can have the “bubble bottom” effect depending on how heavily they are stuffed

One Size Diaper (OS) - Fits your baby from birth until potty training. The BumGenius! pocket diaper is also a OS diaper.

Pros: Saves money in the long run because you don’t have to get multiple sizes

Cons: Initial investment can be pricey

Chinese Prefold Diapers (CPF, UBCPF, IPF) [UB = unbleached, or IPF = Indian Prefold] - Diaper already folded to have a thick center panel. (Contrast this to “flats”). You must still fold CPF’s before using them. They can be folded and used with a Snappi, or simply tri-folded and set in certain covers.

Pros: Most affordable of diapering systems; do not have to have as many sizes; versatile - can also be used as a doubler, burp cloth, etc.; fast-drying

Cons: Requires a diaper cover; takes time to fold

Contour Diapers – Do not have elastic at the legs or waist. They must be fastened with a Snappi or pins and used with a cover. An example of a contoured diaper would be if you serged your CPF’s so that you didn’t have to fold them each time. Or you could buy them already made, as in the Kissaluvs Contoured Diaper (shown).

Pros – Takes less time to fold than a CPF or flat; more cost effective than AIO's or pocket diapers

Cons – Need multiple sizes; still require more work than fitted diapers; most are not suitable for overnights; require a cover

Fitted Diapers - Have elastic at the legs and waist and has some type of closure (snaps, elastic, etc.) already in the diaper so you do not need to use a Snappi. Fitted diapers need a cover. There are many fitted diapers on the market, one example being the Kissaluvs (pictured).

Pros – Easy to use yet less expensive than AIO's; come in cute colors and styles; very absorbent

Cons – Requires a cover; must purchase different sizes; takes longer to line dry than pocket diapers, CPF's, or flats

Flats – This is what our grandparents used :). They look a lot like table linens in a large square shape and you can fold them many different ways to accommodate different sizes. They are then fastened with a pin or a snappi and used with a diaper cover.

Pros – inexpensive, fits every baby, dries very fast; can be used as an insert or doubler; versatile (great to use as a nursing cover up or to block the sun from your baby)

Cons – Most time consuming (must fold each one then snap on); can easily leak at the legs if you are a novice folder; don’t hold very long; need a cover

Diaper Covers – Cloth diaper covers or "wraps" are used to cover a cloth diaper to waterproof the diaper. They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, and fabrics. They can have snaps, elastic, or velcro. Some have a very trim fit such as the Bummis Super Snap while others are much bulkier like the Aristocrat Wool Soaker. They can range in price from something as simple as a Dappy Nylon cover ($5.00 for 2) to a LANA wool soaker ($39.95).

Doublers, Liners, Inserts, Soakers – Inserts are used to stuff in your pocket diaper. They are usually made of microfiber, hemp, etc. Doublers and soakers add extra absorbancy to any diaper. Inserts, doublers, and soakers could all be made from flats or CPFs, purchased with your diapers, or you could even buy a microfiber towel at the store and cut it to fit your diapers. Liners are used to prevent stains to diapers or protect from diaper rash cream (which can harm diaper material) and are typically made of fleece or are disposable.
Diaper Fabrics - Diapers are either made of performance (synthetic) fabrics, or 100% cotton, hemp, etc. Here’s a BRIEF introduction of the differences:

Performance Fabric: Holds more as well as wicks away the moisture from your baby’s bum. Excellent for overnight use and extended time between diaper changes. They will also retain urine and detergent easier and can develop a strong ammonia smell over time. Therefore, your diapers may require “stripping” (ex. adding bleach or dish soap to the wash, additional rinse cycles, etc.) on occasion. An example of a performance fabric diaper is the bumGenius!.

Cotton Fabric: Much more forgiving than performance fabric when laundering and usually does not retain odors. However, it will not hold as much moisture. Your baby will feel wet and you will need to change the diaper more often (although this is not necessarily a bad thing). An example of this type of fabric is the CPF.

Now that you have the diaper basics, here are the other items you’ll need to consider if you decide to use cloth.

Diaper Pail – This is a must. You could use a trash can for this purpose.

DiaperPail Liner – You could use a trash bag. Or you could get a tote such as this one that can be washed each time you launder your diapers.

Wipes – If you use cloth diapers it is SO much easier to use cloth wipes. (Otherwise, you’re trying to keep a separate pile for the wipes and then must take them to a trash can.) With cloth wipes, you can keep them with the diaper and wash everything all together. Plus, they also save money in the long run! I got 2 dozen wipes for $24.

Spray Bottle – If you use cloth wipes, keep a spray bottle nearby and just wet a wipe when you use it.

Diaper Sprayer – This is not a must, but it makes cloth diapering so EASY! I simply rinse all of my diapers (whether dirty or just wet) and then toss them into the diaper pail. When I wash, I don’t have to worry about doing any pre-rinsing or other additional wash routine because rinsing with the diaper sprayer has taken care of it.

How many diapers do you need to get started? If you have a dryer, 24 diapers for one baby is very doable.

Here are some helpful links:
Diapering Tips & Discussion Board:
The Diaper Pin

Cloth diapering resources:


NotesbyNewsome said...

What do you do when you go out to church and other places? Do you have to take along all the diapering stuff, and something to hold the dirty diapers in? Samantha is sure to have a "blow out" everytime we leave the house...I just feel sorta bad about nursery workers having to worry about all the things that go with cloth diapering...suggestions?

Christina said...

Good question. One thing to realize about cloth diapering is that it doesn't have to be "all or nothing." When I first started, I wanted to do it ALL the time. I think we took them to church one week and the workers were willing, but when I realized I would have to explain cloth almost every week, I decided it wasn't worth it. So for church we use disposables.

Traveling is another time when I sometimes don't use cloth. If it's longer than a couple of days, I either don't bother with cloth OR I just use disposables for the first part of the trip and save cloth for the end (so they don't sit stinky for too long).

Just normal day to day outings are not hard in cloth. I just simply bring the cloth diapers, disposable wipes (although you can bring along cloth wipes), a waterproof wetbag (for carrying dirties) and that's it. I have had NO blowouts since starting cloth. We typically had at least one a week when we were using disposables even at 9 months old.

Leah said...

Michelle & Everyone Else,
Be sure to keep reading this week and next as all five of us share even further on our personal use of cloth - this will give you a little more insight as to how cloth can work on a day to day basis.

NotesbyNewsome said...

Thank you so much!! Now that you mention it I was thinking in an "all or nothing" mentality. That alleviates most of my worries, and I'm excited to hear more!! It sounds like something I'd really like to do...considering I'm spending about $40.00 everytime I buy diapers since I now have 2 kids in them!

O'Behave said...

One idea: Instead of buying cloth wipes, I recieved a ton of baby wash cloths as gifts and so I use them. I also put warm water and some tea tree oil in a wipes warmer for the cold months, it works great.
Bethany O'Bryant

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