Prefolds have been around for quite some time. Before prefolds, flat diapers—squares of cotton that were folded and pinned onto baby—were the most common way of diapering in Europe and the United States. However, one issue with flats was the time needed to fold them into the proper shape and thickness for baby. Folding one flat is fast. Having to fold six to a dozen flats or more a day, every single day, for every diaper change for a year or more, easily tired out families who were already swamped with cooking every meal from scratch and hand washing the laundry.
In the 1950s, the prefold was invented when someone had the bright idea to pre-fold and sew together a flat diaper. The prefold still had to be pinned into place, but the more time-consuming part of folding all the layers together was no longer an issue. Although cloth diapers have gone through many more innovations in the last sixty-five years, prefolds are still extremely popular. Part of the reason is that they are still fairly cheap compared to other cloth diapers—really, only flat diapers are generally less expensive than cotton prefolds—and the traditional cotton prefold tends to last forever. Ok, not really forever, since cotton is a natural material that breaks down organically, but they tend to last far beyond their uses as diapers.
It can feel like the absorbency of your cloth diapers decreases as your child grows from infant to toddler. That’s not really true. It’s just that the deluge of bodily fluids a toddler can unleash on a cloth diaper is so much more. Toddlers use more energy, water, and space and as a result your cloth diapers just don’t hold as well. This is particularly true during bedtime, but with a few tweaks to your nightly routine, doesn’t need to be a problem.
The Bedtime Changing
Cloth diapers should be changed right before everyone’s bedtimes. Once, right before your little one goes to bed and once before you go to bed. This is to limit the amount of saturation and uric acid your little one’s sensitive skin is exposed to. Multiple night changes also helps your little one stay comfortable and increases the chances for a better night sleep for all parties involved.
We all know that babies grow like a weed. While your cloth diapering days are limited, many cloth diapers and accessories can be upcyled for multiple uses extending their life far beyond the days of wrapping baby’s bum.
Prefolds and Flats:
A super frugal diaper in and of itself, prefolds have so many uses long after their diapering days.
- Prefolds, especially newborn or preemie size, can be cut and modified into mama cloth. A variety of tutorials can be found on Pinterest.
- They make awesome all purpose cleaning rags, no more worries about staining up those pretty unpaper towels.
- They can be used as reusable swiffer or mop pads.
- Pillow/couch/car seat/you name it protectors. When kids get sick the results can be gnarly. Lay them down as a barrier to catch any yucky messes.
- Convert into hotpads for the oven
We just addressed “prepping” diapers. But what about being a “prepper?”
I promise you I am not one of those crazy people that is building an underground bunker in her back yard. Still, I admit to being a preparedness junkie. I like to know that if we ever get snowed in, or if the power goes out for a while, we have what we need to still live comfortably. Cloth diapers and breastfeeding fit right into my prepping plans.
For one thing, if we are home bound for a while there is a good chance that the garbage pick up trucks may not be running during that time. One thing that you don’t want building up in your home are stinky diapers. In a home where disposable diapers are being used that’s just what could happen. Using cloth diapers aren’t just about being eco friendly, in an emergency situation they can be a sanitary problem. As long as you have an electricity free washer and soap, they can be soaked, washed, and reused. There won’t be old soiled diapers laying about the place you are living.
If you’re new to cloth diapers, or have been using secondhand diapers for a while and are just now buying your very first brand new cloth diaper, you might have heard that you need to “prep your new diapers in the wash before you use them.” But what does that mean?
“Prepping” sounds a bit like some new dumb social media meme, and it’s kind of tempting to just run up to random strangers and ask them “What do you think prepping is?!” and hopefully get some hilarious answers, but here’s the real one: it’s necessary because new cloth diapers are… new. I know, I know, this has been an extremely informative blog post so far. You must be stunned at the extent of my knowledge concerning such things. But factory-fresh cloth diapers, both cloth and synthetic, should be washed at least once before using them. They might have random residue from the factory or bits of packaging stuck on, and really, I’ve just always thought it a good idea to at least give things a good rinse before putting them on for the first time.
If you have synthetic-inner diapers, like microsuede-lined pocket diapers, one wash is all you need. Your diapers are ready to go! But if you have brand new natural fiber diapers or inserts, such as cotton or hemp, and especially ones made with organic unbleached cotton, you will need to “prep” them before they can be used.
A deliciously quilty pile of freshly washed prefolds.
Diapering at the best of times is only an okay chore. The up side is tickles and giggles. There is a time, however, when there is no fun to be had while diapering. That time is when your little one has the runs.
It Can Hurt
Cloth on a rash, especially when it’s a texture like a towel, can be very uncomfortable. If you add this to a child that is mobile, even when they are sick you end up with chafing along with a higher chance of infection. It may be best to find or make inserts with a gentler texture. Also try to only use one insert and change your child more often. This will reduce the amount of area that the cloth will rub on, the amount of saturated body acids in contact with your child’s skin, and the length of time the body acids have contact with your little one’s skin.
Keep It Snug
Keep your cloth diaper snug. It’s wise to do this for one very good reason. You want to keep your and your child’s environment clean. A loose bowel movement can and will leak everywhere. It will get on your floor and carpet. It will ooze into your little one’s bed clothes and even get on beloved stuffed animals. While you don’t want your cloth diaper pinching or blocking off any part of your child’s body they may experience gas, you do want your cloth diaper snug enough to keep leakage minimal.
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.