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Paper AND Plastic? Try Cloth Diapers!

July 30, 2008

Every new parent has to think about diapers. It was actually the thing I was most worried about. Little did I know there would be so many other things that are so much more worthy of worry. Maybe you yourself have thought, “I would use cloth, but…fill in the blank”. Keep reading—there are so many good reasons to use cloth!

The first reason is that cloth diapers are more comfortable for the baby. Think about what you would like to wear: stiff paper and plastic underwear with chemicals embedded, or soft fabric underwear in cool looking colors and prints?

The second reason is that cloth diapers are environmentally sound. Some argue that the impact is the same as disposables because they use too much water. You could make the argument that your showers and baths aren’t as long now that you have a baby, therefore zeroing out your water use. Even if that weren’t the case, I believe it is better to wash with water, which will go to the wastewater plant to be treated, then released, than to bury plastic and chemical encased poop into our earth for hundreds of years. A baby uses 6-10 diapers a day for years—that is a lot of plastic and chemicals buried. Besides, with cloth, it is only one wash load every day or two—not a lot of extra water considering many people water lawns and landscaping that use more water than that. You could install some drought resistant plants, or save water in another area if this is your main concern.

The last reason is that it is nicer for the parent. What? You may say, nicer for the parent? Practically, cloth diapers are about as easy as disposable diapers. The only extra step is washing them. But the big secret about cloth diapers is that they are not as yucky as disposable diapers. I was one of those that wanted to use cloth, but assumed it would be way worse than disposables, since you kept them! What I found was that one: the laundry is less of an issue than I ever suspected, and two: cloth diapers are fun!

First, let’s address the laundry fear. You don’t have to touch cloth diapers any more than a disposable diaper. Washing diapers is just like doing another load of laundry. A dirty diaper from a breastfed baby goes directly into the diaper bag, you don’t need to do anything to it. If you care about stains, you can dip it in water to keep it wet until you do the wash later that day. Instead of dumping the full diaper bag into the trash (which you aren’t even supposed to be doing, did you know that? You are supposed to rinse each disposable diaper first!), you empty the bag into your washer (and then throw the bag in too, because it is also made of cloth!). AND, if you hang them in the sun, all stains disappear!

Next, let’s talk about why they are fun! There are so many kinds to choose from, lots of colors, and cute covers. But don’t they leak? you may ask. I rarely find a leak. With cloth, you can find the diapers that work for your baby’s shape, creating a more customized, comfortable and contained fit. You might get lucky with your first covers or you might need to experiment a little. You can add extra layers inside if you have a heavy wetter. There are different fabrics for diapers and their covers, from cotton, to bamboo (60% more absorbent than cotton, resulting in a thinner diaper) to hemp and wool (naturally leak proof). Part of the fun is figuring it out. Try it!

A Brief Guide:
Check out for lots of options. It is where I fill all my diapering needs. My minimum recommendations for a new baby:

12 prefolds infant (can later be used as doublers for heavy wetters)
12 prefolds premium
6 kissiluvs size 1 (these last for months size-wise)
3 swaddlebees newborn (a great fitting newborn diaper)
4 bamboozles size 1 (absorbent, great fitting and soft!)
4 thirsties size small (these thin diapers are great for the diaper bag)

2 thirsties
2 imse vimse or bummis
1 Stacinator cover for night—fleece or wool
(experiment with different covers to fit your particular baby)

I like some of each bamboo, swaddlebees velour and predominantly kissiluvs terry wipes

You may think, “I’ll just use disposable wipes, it’s way too gross to keep wipes.” But it really isn’t! Just toss in the diaper pail with your diapers. Order some extras for baby’s spit up and drool, it is so great to always have some nice little cloths around for these uses.

fleece liners (Don’t use paper liners, or you defeat the purpose of soft comfy diapers! But if this is the only way you will use cloth, by all means go for it! Fleece gives a staydry layer to the diaper, thirsties diapers have fleece on the inside already. My baby actually doesn’t care that much about being wet so it isn’t an issue here and we don’t use them, but you could if your baby is sensitive about being wet right away.)
fleece doublers (these are for when the baby starts wetting a lot, we do use these)
snappies (no one uses pins anymore, and these are easy to use on a prefold)
2 diaper pail liners (they come in pretty colors)
1 regular garbage pail with a lid
2 “wet bags” for the diaper bag to stash your dirty diapers when you are out (they come in lots of beautiful fabrics) just empty it out into the washer or diaper pail when you come home and throw the bag in with it. Use your second bag for your next outing if the wash isn’t done.

Allens Naturally or charlies soap (won’t leave residue)
stain bar (if you care about stains)
foaming wipes solution (to foam onto wipes when changing)

Suggested Procedure:
1) When you order your diapers, follow directions for prewashing before use (before the baby is there!)
2) After the baby is there, maybe use your liners or disposables for a few days until there is no more meconium—that will really take its toll on a cloth diaper! (Be careful, you might be tempted to keep going if you start with disposables—don’t lose your nerve!)
3) On day 4 or so, start regular use of your cloth diapers. Then toss them into the diaper pail when they are used. You can reuse the cover again and again until poop gets on it.
4) When you have a day’s worth of diapers (around 10 or so) take the entire pail liner out of the pail with the diapers inside, dump them into your washer tossing the pail liner in after them, and run a cold rinse cycle. Then run a hot wash with a scoop of charlies soap or a cap of Allens Naturally. Use this soap for all your wash or residue from your other laundry will get on the diapers. I like to do one more rinse with some vinegar, but you don’t have to. Dry in dryer and/or hang in the sun on a line. I dry them to keep them soft, then hang them so they enjoy the benefit of the sun’s natural bleaching of stains (they totally diappear!) and fresh scent. The diapers also look really cute hanging in the sun. That is it!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2009 5:23 pm

    Thanks. This is a great post!

  2. karenhess permalink
    January 12, 2009 3:48 am

    Great! I’m glad it was helpful!


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