A billion years ago (so it seems), the only diapers that were used were flat-style diapers. Many cultures across the world did and still do practice elimination communication, but many cultures also still use flats. Don’t get me wrong, flats have plenty of upsides—they’re easy to wash by hand and quick to dry, and you can make a flat diaper out of almost any spare fabric you have lying around, in a pinch. I totally went through a “flats phase” and understand the benefits. One of the reasons I liked flats for a while was because my daughter did best in cotton fabrics. Anything else she was more prone to getting rashes in, but that good ol’ 100% cotton was cheap and breathable.
Flats: as close to a universal diaper as you can get
However, the upsides of flat diapers can quickly become the downsides as well. They can be difficult to fold quickly, and aren’t as absorbent as some modern manmade fabrics. Another downside I only discovered after my second child was born: Some kids simply do not like sitting in a wet diaper.
All-in-one diapers are very popular, for good reason. Every part of the diaper comes sewn together in one neat piece, rather than having multiple pieces, such as inserts or covers, that must be assembled to make a complete diaper. The convenience comes at a price—they are more expensive than other diaper types—but they are especially well-liked by daycares and other temporary caregivers that may only be familiar with disposables. However, because all-in-ones are all one piece, they require a little different care and look different than other diapers. To make things even more confusing, some diapers that are actually pockets, especially foreign-made ones on eBay, are often labeled as “all in one diapers” even though they are what we call “pocket diapers.” Let’s look at the parts of a true all-in-one diaper below.
One of the biggest concerns with cloth diapers is how good they are to travel with. With disposables, you have your diaper bag with diapers and wipes (and possibly additional things like trash bags and creams). After a change, you throw it all away whenever you find a trash can, which we’ve found is sometimes harder than others. At someone’s house, you may have to be creative since they don’t want stinky diapers in their trash can.
It’s not that much different with cloth, and I actually think it’s better. You still have your diaper bag with diapers and wipes. You will change the diaper, just like you would disposable, but instead of throwing it into your closest trash can (complicated or not), you pull out your travel wet bag and dump the diaper in that. It is water proof (same PUL material as some cloth diapers), locks in odors, and zips or ties shut. And they stay in there until you are ready to do a load of laundry.
Have you ever tried to diaper a newborn while receiving aid from a toddler? It’s one of the most frustrating things to do. On one hand you want to encourage the helpful nature of your toddler. On the other hand you would rather not have the contents of the newborn’s diaper decorate your home’s carpet. Luckily, for us all, there are ways to nurture your little helper and keep your carpet refuse free.
Let your toddler help with snaps. The best way to allow this is the unsnapping of the diaper. This is because there is a pulling motion rather than a pushing motion. It’s not likely that, with your supervision, the toddler will fall on the baby. At the same time toddlers are fascinated with things that can open and close. This could also help the toddler with motor skills. The upside for you is as long as your little guy has a part to play he will most likely be fine letting you do the rest without trying to help more.
Have your toddler be your gopher. Have him help get the wipes, the Desitin, or an insert for the diaper. Make sure all the materials are close by and then, as you need an item, ask for them. Between eighteen months and two years of age a toddler should be able to carry out simple requests. It will take some time for them, so be patient.
I recently wrote an article here about my woes with my cloth diapers in a hard water location, namely the entire state of Utah. Since I had recently moved, I had not yet found the way to clean my cloth diapers and hoped that someone would be able to give me the answer since my research had not found anything that worked. After talking with my sister-in-law, who works at a cloth diaper store, and consulting with many other cloth diapering mothers, I have found what worked for us – Tide original powder and Calgon.
Calgon is a liquid water softener found in the laundry aisle in Walmart. I haven’t found it anywhere else besides online. Calgon contains the active ingredients zeolite and polycarboxylate, which interact with the hard water ions in water to prevent them from forming limescale or interfering with soap lathering. The bottle says that it can also be used as a laundry enhancer, making whites more white and all that jazz. I’m not as fussed about those benefits, but I thought it would be nice if it helped my laundry be better overall.
I started off with a strip where I did a cold rinse to remove all the icky stuff and then added one tablespoon of Blue Dawn Original dish soap and did a series of hot washes until all the bubbles were gone, which took all day. I used a capful of Calgon with every wash. When I was done with the strip, I did one more wash using the Tide Original powder, then threw them all in the dryer for a low heat spin. And VIOLA! It worked.
So you’ve been suckered into the cloth diapering world. Congratulations, and say good bye to your money. But wait! Before you have a small heart attack at the cost of a single all-in-one name brand diaper, you might want to ask the question: Will I be buying my cloth diapers new, or used?
While you may assume you’ll be buying your cloth diapers new—after all, especially if this is your first child, you’re probably buying or being gifted mostly new baby items—there is actually a very large secondhand cloth diaper market (hint – the For Sale or Trade Forum here on DiaperSwappers is the best place to start!), if you know where to look. Used diapers can sound kind of icky at first, but let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
I’m a huge advocate of cloth diapers. Really, I think they’re one of the Most Amazing Things Ever, Plus Our Ancestors Used Them, and yadda yadda. They’re cute and seem comfy and it’s kind of nice seeing them all lined up on a shelf.
Sure, I would say things like, “Of course everyone must use the diaper system that fits into their lifestyle,” but I won’t lie, when a family member discovered he had run out of disposable diapers for his son and refused my offer of a loaned cloth diaper with a, “Well, thanks, but we’re not into cloth, that’s kind of icky,” I felt VASTLY superior for a while. I mean, *I* got over the ick factor! There you are, polluting landfills with your son’s waste for the next several hundred years while I am responsibly using eco-friendly cloth…and accidentally clogging the toilets with disposable wipes, but never mind that!
Cloth vs disposable: One catches poop. So does the other.
While I was pregnant with my second child, we went camping with family. I dragged along a tote of cloth diapers because I simply refused to buy disposables for a three day trip. To be fair, my daughter often broke out in rashes when she was in synthetic diapers, so I liked putting her in 100% cotton. She was comfortable and rash-free that way—that was what worked for us.
Then, my son was born. You know how they say every kid is different. Well, I knew that. But I didn’t know that until I had my second child. While my daughter would happily sit in an overflowing diaper without making a peep, my son seemed highly distressed if he felt even a drop of liquid in his diaper. We quickly learned that when he cried, it usually wasn’t because he was hungry (like my daughter), it was because he wanted his diaper changed. The moment we changed him he went from loudly shrieking monster to sweet, cooing, baby-commercial baby.
Prefolded diapers were totally revolutionary at one point. Instead of having a large flat diaper to fold over and over again, prefolds were sewn so you only had to make a couple of folds to get the diaper on your baby! This ease, combined with prefolds’ durability and relative cheapness compared to the cost of other types of cloth diapers make them a well-loved staple of many cloth diaper stashes even today. Over the years, people have come up with a million different ways to fold prefolds! Some may work for you and some may not, depending on the size of your baby (and their temperament—some babies will happily let you spend five minutes trying to get a diaper to perfectly fit on them, others are lucky to give you five seconds). Here are five common ways to fold a prefold diaper, as illustrated by the good-natured and hard working Mr. Koala:
Also called the “trifold.” This fold requires no fasteners such as pins or Snappis, and thus must be used with a wrap-around style diaper cover to hold it in place (no pull-ons here!). You simply fold the prefold in thirds, like a business letter, and place it in the center of the cover. Super quick and easy! With my firstborn, we used this fold the most. This fold is also neat because you can easily pre-stuff a few covers with the prefold before changing your baby!
This is probably the most common fold when using a fastener. The bottom two corners are folded into the center, leaving two longer “wings” at the top that wrap around baby’s hips and are fastened. This is also a very quick and easy fold.
When my hubby and I decided to cloth diaper, we did not at all consider cloth wipes. It wasn’t something we had heard much about and cloth diapers seemed like a big enough change anyway.
We got our first diapers from a nice woman on raigslist and they were pretty much brand new. She also hooked us up by including two diaper bags, three travel bags, and a dozen cloth wipes and wipe soap. She hadn’t been a user of cloth wipes, but had exchanged the diapers she had because they were faulty. The diaper company sent her cloth wipes along with the replacement diapers as an apology. She then told me she wished she had known about them sooner because she loved using them.
Now, I had nothing against disposable wipes. Really, when my husband started using them he lamented not knowing about these miracles wipes when he was a bachelor. We used them for everything from bottoms to dirty hands and faces to table wiping to dusting. Any surprise mess was a job for the wipes. They were convenient, easy to use, have-on-hand tools. But I made a point of trying the cloth wipes because of this kind woman’s passion and I had to say goodbye to the disposable miracle wipes.
You’ve decided to start using cloth diapers, part time or full time, for one or several reasons. Congratulations, and say good bye to all of your money, because cloth diapering can get pretty addictive pretty fast. Well, it doesn’t have to be addictive, but more often than not you’ll start hearing those trendy prints calling out your name and you’ll find yourself reaching for your wallet. If you can resist the temptation, well, double congratulations! For the rest of us with weak willpower, here are some places to buy cloth diapers:
As this article is being published on a website called Diaperswappers, it only feels right to start off my list with the “online” option! Most people are connected to the internet these days and indeed, if you live in an area without any fancy stores this might be your only option! Sites such as Diaperswappers provide an online marketplace where members can buy and sell used diapers. It’s not as gross as it sounds; as long as the diapers are washed well they are good to be used on your child! The advantage to buying used diapers is that they are often cheaper than new diapers, so you can get a decent deal. If you are savvy with a sewing machine, some members list old diapers in need of repairs for just a couple of bucks per diaper, so if you are able to put in a little bit of time repairing these old diapers, you can get some amazing deals!
If you’re not so keen on used diapers, or if you’re buying friends some new diapers for a baby shower, then there are many, many cloth diapering stores online to choose from. All of the major brands such as bumGenius, Blueberry, Fuzzibunz, etc., have their own websites you can purchase diapers directly from. There are also many online cloth diaper boutiques which sell dozens of brands—great if you want to try a few different brands all at once— and also have their own customer rewards programs, often offer free shipping over a certain purchase amount, and have “extras” such as cloth wipes and liners you can buy as well.