Cloth Diapering 101
Cloth Diaper 101
Today’s Cloth Diapers
Congratulations, on your decision to go cloth! By now you have heard the plethora of benefits that cloth diapering has to offer your pocket book, the planet, and your precious one’s behind. After making the decision to go cloth I felt empowered; that is until I actually had to buy the diapers. There are a multitude of styles, variations, and brands that can be quite overwhelming. Ask fellow cloth families, and you get contrasting opinions. I spent months combing through websites and visiting specialty boutiques before I was able to understand the differences and choose the right system for our family. So before you get hooked on the adorable prints and solids, make sure you understand how the diapering system works and what that means for your family! The following guide will explain the modern cloth diaper and its variations.
All cloth diapers consist of two main parts, the soaker and the shell. The soaker which can also be referred to as an insert or pad, is an absorbent layer to collect waste. The shell is an outer layer that keeps clothing dry. How these parts are constructed and subsequently assembled is where the major differences appear. In general there are four major categories of diapers to choose from: 1) prefold and cover, 2) pocket, 3) all in one, and 4) hybrid.
1) Prefold and cover: This is the cloth diaper that most people are familiar with and the one your mom or grandmother will assume you are talking about. It consists of an absorbent layer, which can be a prefold or a fitted diaper, and an outer shell or cover (your Grammy will call these “plastic pants”). The prefold is a square of fabric that is sewn so that the center panel has the greatest absorbency. A fitted diaper can also provide absorbency in this duo. Fitted diapers are a sewn garment that resembles a disposable diaper that will either snap or Velcro around your baby’s bottom. In either case a waterproof cover is needed to contain the moisture. These covers, called shells, secure the waste using man-made (ie. TPU/PUL) or natural (wool) water repelling material. The shells adjust to your little one’s body by Velcro, aplex (a much nicer Velcro), or snaps. Depending on how you choose to secure the prefold, you may need to use pins or a less scary tool called a Snappi to hold it in place. There are Better Fit Prefolds that require only a trifold without the use of pins or Snappis.
2) Pocket: Pocket diapers are essentially a shell that consist of a waterproof outer layer and a soft, usually fleece, inner layer. These two materials are joined together on all sides except one to create a pocket. Pocket diapers require an absorbent layer be stuffed in the opening. Often the shells come with a soaker pad, however you can also use a prefold diaper in the pocket.
3) All In One: All-in-one diapers are the cloth version of a disposable diaper. There is nothing to stuff, fold, or secure. They consist of an outer waterproof layer and an inner absorbent layer sewn together.
4) Hybrid: Hybrid systems are unique in that they allow you to use a waterproof shell with either a cloth insert or a disposable insert option. Usually the disposable pad has been made to be more environmentally friendly than a traditional disposable.
Keep in mind that there are many variations of these diapers on the market. So once you have decided on a few to try, explore the options that each brand has to offer. Each company has its own methods to make your cloth diapering experience easier, more pleasant, healthier, and better for the environment. For example there are organic varieties, natural fibers vs. man made, fabrics with antimicrobial properties, snaps vs. Velcro, American made, and the list goes on!
So how do you decide which system is right for your family? Each system has its merits, and you may find that different systems work for different purposes in your family’s life. I would suggest trying several out to see which works best for your individual situation. You may find that a certain system works well for you, but your neighbor didn’t like it at all. To help you determine which to try, read through the following list of pros and cons for each system.
Prefolds/Inserts and Covers:
-Cheapest of the systems to purchase new, so you are able to get a large stash
-Absorbency of natural fibers increases with use
-Many folding and pinning options to meet the needs of your baby’s body
-Covers can often be used multiple times before washing
-Prefolds are very absorbent, easy to care for, and dry efficiently
-Large variety of shell material
-Wool shells don’t need to be washed frequently due to the natural fibers and are super soft
-Man made shell material can often simply be wiped out after use
-For one child you can easily function with a small number of shells
-Requires the purchase of multiple sizes of prefolds, fitted layers, and shells to meet the needs of your growing child
-You will need to experiment to find the right folding method unless you use Better Fit Prefolds
-May require the use of securing devices such as a snappi or pins
-Tend to be more bulky
-Lack the newer “stay dry” technology
Cloth Diapers, Inc.’s favorite cover/prefold system is Bummis Super Whisper Wrap with Better Fit Prefolds
-Easy to use, especially for dads, grandparents, and day care
-Inner layer often exhibits “stay dry” feature as moisture is wicked through the fleece layer to the absorbent layer below
-Usually provides a trimmer fit when compared to prefolds
-Most require the purchase of at least two sizes to meet your child’s needs through potty training
-You have to stuff the diapers
-You have to un-stuff dirty diapers
-Each shell can only be used once before needing a wash
-Need to have enough pockets and inserts for about 2 days of diapering (approximately 18 to 24)
-Very easy to use, functions just like a disposable
-Easy for dads, grandparents, and day care
-Don’t have to un-stuff the diaper, just throw the whole thing in the wash
-Trim fit, not bulky like prefolds
-Many brands offer a “one size” option that adjusts as your baby grows through potty training
-Diapers are on the high end of the price scale
-Need to have enough diapers for about 2 days of diapering (approximately 18 to 24)
-Take longer to dry
-Easy to use, cloth pad snaps in and disposable pad has sticky tabs
-Convenient choice for on the go or when a disposable may be more desirable
-Shells can be used multiple times before washing, just replace the inner pad
-Many brands offer a “one size” option that adjusts as your baby grows through potty training
-Diapers are on the high end of the price scale
-Disposable pads may be pricey
Lastly there are a few other items that will enhance your cloth diapering experience. Doublers are an additional absorbent layer that can be added for increased absorbency. Think about your own needs, at certain times of the day you visit the restroom more. Your little one’s body works the same way, so doublers are great to have on hand for added over night protection or whenever you find you need a little more absorbency. I highly recommend that you find and use a cloth diaper safe ointment or balm. Using traditional diaper rash treatments can lead to decreased absorbency of your cloth due to build up on the fabric. In the same regard, I suggest a cloth diaper safe detergent as regular detergents can also lead to decreased absorbency due to build up. While it may cost a little more than a regular detergent, you will still be saving money using cloth. Lastly wet bags are a must have for cloth. Gone are the days of soaking diapers in a pale, in fact this is often discouraged by manufactures. Wet bags are generally constructed of the same waterproof materials as the shells. They come in many sizes and can be kept in your diaper bag or nursery to collect dirty diapers. When it is time for laundry, simply dump diapers and bag into the wash!
There are many options and styles that can meet your needs. Start slowly and choose a few styles to try!
Alexis B. works part time as a science instructor and is the mother to a beautiful baby girl. She is enjoying her exploration of everything “mama” and “baby”. Currently she is delving into the concepts of attachment parenting, baby wearing, and baby lead weaning. She has a wonderfully supportive husband who loves science just as much as she does and is most importantly her best friend.
So you’ve decided to cloth diaper your baby. Great! It’s a great way to save money, great for your sweet baby’s bum, and good for the environment. If you’re like me, you’ve done the math and figured out just how many diapers you need. My experience has taught me that you need about 25 diapers depending on which type of diaper you use and how often you want to wash.
But there are some other things you need to cloth diaper successfully. A few accessories, such as a wet bag, added to your stash can make cloth diapering on a day to day basis easier. Others items, like cloth diaper detergent, help take care of your diapers so they’ll last longer.
So here’s a brief list of things I recommend purchasing when you cloth diaper, besides cloth diapers, of course.
Cloth Diaper Detergent- When I first started using cloth diapers, I didn’t think special detergent was really a need. After all, I was doing this to save money. Spending more on special soap didn’t make sense to me. So I went with a free and clean you can get at the grocery store. Well 3 months later, my diapers were leaking like crazy. I spent an entire day stripping the soap out of them. Now I use Rockin Green, from Cloth Diapers Inc. My diapers come out of the wash soft and smelling great.
Special Diaper Rash Cream- The common brands of diaper rash cream you can purchase at the drug store are made to go with disposable diapers, not cloth. If you use one of these creams with a cloth diaper, it won’t wash out and cause the diaper to not repel moisture. I use the Grovia Magic stick. It works great and won’t affect your diapers. And it’s super easy to get on a squirmy baby.
Wetbags-When you leave the house, you’re going to need something to put the wet and stinky diapers in. You don’t want your diaper bag or your car smelling like a dirty diaper! I recommend getting as many wetbags as the amount of days between washing. Ex, If you wash every 3 days, get 3 wetbags. Cloth Diapers Inc. carries some super cute wet bags.
Pail liners- I store soiled diapers in a trash can with a pail liner. I recommend purchasing two pail liners. One for the pail, and one for the wash.
A clothes line and clothes pins- When the weather is nice, it’s a great idea to dry diapers out in the sun. It helps remove stains and saves money by not using the dryer.
So those are the cloth diaper accessories I have found to be must-haves in our home. Purchasing these items has truly made cloth diapering an even more pleasant experience for us.
Stephanie P. lives in Oklahoma with her husband of 10 years and 3 children, ages 5, 2, and 4 months. She taught middle school for several years before becoming a stay-at-home mom, her real dream job. She began cloth diapering over two years ago to save money and has been hooked every since.
Picture this: You are at the grocery store, down the baby aisle. You need diapers but you cannot possibly force yourself to pay $20 for a SMALL package of disposables! You’ve been thinking about switching to cloth diapers for a while. One of your friends uses them. At first you thought she was nuts, but now you are wondering if she might be on to something. You’ve decided. It’s time. ‘Honey, we’re switching to cloth diapers!’
So you start looking around. There are so many questions to be answered. Do you want an AIO or a pocket diaper? What kind of soaker: hemp, microterry, bamboo? Are we going to use cloth wipes as well? Which detergent do you use? What if you have hard water? How exactly DO you wash a cloth diaper? How often should you wash? The list could go on forever!
Let’s just say you answer all those questions. You start filling your shopping cart. One thing you forgot to figure out. How many diapers should I order? Wait, I don’t know how many to order! Oh no, the anxiety attack begins. Ok, just kidding! :)
We probably get asked this question more than any other. So, how many cloth diapers do you need? Whether you are converting from the dreaded ‘sposies or you are starting your newborn out with cloth, it can be hard to decide how many to buy.
If you are converting from disposables the best way to figure out how many you need is to see how many disposables you use during the day. Multiply that number by 1.5 and that’s how many cloth diapers you need if you want to wash every day. If you want to wash every other day then multiply that by 2. For instance, my son was changed about 6 times a day in sposies. Switching to cloth, I would need 9 diapers a day. If I’m washing every day that would be great. I may have an extra just for nighttime. I do NOT want to wash diapers every day, however, so I would buy 18. That way I can wash every other day.
Now, it’s a little more difficult if you are starting out cloth diapering because every baby is different.
You won’t know how often or how much the baby is going to pee or poo. In this case, manufacturers/stores often suggest a starting amount. At the FuzziBunz Store, we suggest 15-18 for newborns, 12-15 for infants, and 10-12 for toddlers. Now, that will vary depending on how often you want to wash and how much your baby pees and poos, but it’s a good base. If your baby is a heavy wetter, I would err on the side of caution and buy a couple extra. You never know.
We hope you’ve found this information helpful in your cloth diapering pursuits. Have a great day.
I must confess that although I have been very familiar with cloth diapers, I had never heard of cloth reusable wipes until very recently. The concept had simply never occurred to me. Now, I am fascinated with this concept. Here are some of the reasons why….
- Cloth wipes are healthier for babies. They contain no harsh chemicals and are made from natural materials such as hemp or cotton. You get to decide what wipe spray is best for your baby, from mere water to whatever naturally scented herb and oil combination you choose. Disposable wipes contain many chemicals that have been deemed unsafe, such as Peg 75 Lanolin and parabens. This particular form of lanolin has been found to be carcinogenic, while other chemicals such iodopropynyl butylcarbamate have suspected neurotoxicity and gastrointestinal toxicity, as well as being a known teratogen, or a substance that causes birth defects. (1) Parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen when absorbed by the body which has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer and other reproductive abnormalities. (2)
- Cloth wipes also simply feel better on the skin. Most cloth wipes are made from either hemp or cotton. They are so soft! When compared to a disposable wipe, there is simply no comparison! Cloth wipes are at room temperature so you don’t have to worry about warming them up. Most of all, babies like them! They are gentle on skin and don’t irritate.
- Cloth wipes are great for the environment. They don’t generate more landfill waste and don’t produce pollution during the manufacturing process. One baby can generate tens of thousands of wipes from birth to potty time. That’s a ton of disposable wipes!
- Cloth wipes are also much more cost effective than disposable wipes. Let’s break it down:
- At the average price of 4.4 cents per wipe, an average household could spend $500 on wipes from birth to potty time. (3)
- That same family could purchase 6 six packs of cloth wipes at an average price of $60 from birth to potty time. (4)
- That’s a savings of $440! Think of what you could do with an extra $440!
These are just a few reasons to use cloth wipes instead of disposable wipes.
Cloth Wipes come in many different choices. We’ve got a great selection. You can click on the link below to find a wipe system to meet your needs.
Why did you switch or what is keeping you from switching? We can’t wait to hear what you have to say!
When I gave birth to my son, Gavin, almost 2 years ago, I wanted him to have the best of everything. He has the best clothes, shoes, bottles, burp cloths, bedding, car seat, stroller…all of that…except for diapers. I don’t think I ever questioned using disposable diapers or cloth diapers. In my mind, there was no way I was going to wash all those dirty diapers. Sorry. Not happening. I preferred the convenience of disposable diapers.
That all changed today…
Today, I started working for my friend, Susan, who owns this company. I was hired to write blogs, articles and a devotional. One problem…I don’t use cloth diapers. So I started reading other people’s blogs and sites to get a feel for why people use cloth diapers. I was amazed at the wealth of information I have found. Disposable diapers are unhealthy for my child. And, for a mother who wants absolutely the best of everything for her son (like most mothers do), this was depressing and scary! So, these are my reasons for wanting to change from disposable to cloth diapers…
- Sodium Polyacrylate-This was number one in my book just for the health concerns it presents to my child. Sodium polyacrylate are the gel crystals found in the diaper that make it super absorbent. One time while changing Gavin, I noticed the diaper had fallen apart and all over his private areas were these gel crystals. I had to put him in the bathtub to get them off. They stick to the genital areas and can cause allergic reactions. In 1985, this product was banned from being used in tampons for causing Toxic Shock Syndrome. There have been children die from ingesting just 5 grams of this awful product. (1) HELLO, PEOPLE! What was I thinking!? I can not continue to do this to my son.
- Dioxin-This is a by-product used in the paper bleaching process to make diapers. This chemical is listed by the EPA as the most dangerous of the cancer-linked chemicals. It has been banned in many countries, but not the United States. (2) Why?
- Cost-My husband and I currently use Luvs diapers. Gavin is in a size 5 diaper which comes 150 diapers per large box. They cost us $35.99 per package. We buy 2 of these large boxes per month. That’s about $72 a month, $864 a year, not including shipping or driving to the store in the middle of the night to pick them up. If your child is 3 before you start potty training, disposable diapers can cost $2,592. That price does not include all of the Diaper Genie refills you have to buy to keep your house from smelling like poo! Now, let’s compare the cost of a cloth diaper. The average price of a pocket diaper is between $14 to $18 including the diaper and the soaker. Now, let’s say you will need about 45 diapers and soakers until your child is ready for potty training. That’s about $810 for the entire time your child is in diapers. Let’s say you pay about 57 cents a load to wash the diapers (water and detergent) and you wash them 3 times per week. That’s about $1.71 per week in laundry costs, which calculates to $20.52 per year. Your total cost for cloth diapers is about $830.52. So, your total savings on diapers would be $1,761.48 over 3 years!
- Being Green-Let’s face it, disposable diapers only add to the land-fill problem we have in the US. The EPA estimated that in 2007 disposable diapers contributed 3.7 million TONS of trash to our landfills! (3) Wow, that speaks for itself.
I don’t know about you all, but these are convincing arguments for me, the convenience-seeker! I want my son to have the best and healthiest things! I am only sorry that we didn’t start him out this way. If you are as interested as I was in switching to cloth diapers, or starting out that way, there are tons of resources online. You can check out our websites at www.clothdiapersinc.com and www.fuzzibunzstore.com.
Have a blessed day!
(1) Article written for the FDA Consumer magazine March-April 2000 – Taken From the Food and Drug Administration Site http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2000/200_tss.html
(3) From “Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2007,”