Thursday, January 13, 2011

How to Cloth Diaper

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As I mentioned in the Cloth Diapering Myths post, cloth diapering is no big deal. Really. I haven't met anyone yet who has tried it and would go back to disposables. The following post is a rundown of the different types of cloth diapers available, how many you would need, how to wash them, how to put prefolds on and where you can buy them.  Enjoy!

Types of Diapers:

These are giant squares of cotton that you fold “origami-style” so that there are many layers in the middle of the diaper and fewer on the sides. These are by far the cheapest diapers you can get, but require some work (lots of folding) to prepare before each change. I have never used these, since I don’t want to work that hard.

Sometimes called “Chinese Prefolds”, these diapers are probably the style that comes to mind when people think of cloth diapers. They are “prefolded” such that there are many layers down the middle and fewer layers on the sides and then sewn together to form a rectangle. Prefolds are very reasonably priced (around $30-$40 per dozen). If you find cheaper prefolds (like at department stores) don’t even bother buying them. They don’t have as many layers, they are VERY thin and as a result don’t absorb much. I would recommend unbleached prefolds since they are more friendly to the environment and the tan colour doesn’t show stains as much. Prefolds are secured with either pins (if you like to stab yourself) or a Snappi (if you don’t). Prefolds require a cover on top to keep messes in.

In the higher price range ($12+), but very convenient. Fitted diapers are cloth diapers that are shaped like disposable diapers, with snaps or velcro (no pins or Snappi required). They are quicker and easier to put on than flats or prefolds so Dads, Grandparents and babysitters love these. Its probably a good idea to have a couple of these on hand for rookie diaper changers. Also, you can get liners that attach to the inside to add extra material for overnight. We use fitted diapers with liners for nighttime and it works very well for us. Fitted diapers also require a cover on top.

All In Ones
By far the most expensive ($16+), but most convenient as well. These are fitted diapers with the covers sewn on already, making it a one step change. Same as with the fitted diapers they are great for rookies.

Covers keep the mess in. They are either pulled over the diaper or wrapped over top and secured with snaps or velcro. If you plan on using the covers for multiple kids, you might want to think about getting the snaps because velcro can wear out after awhile. The biggest secret to keeping leaks in is the cover. Make sure it fits (not too big) and make sure ALL THE DIAPER IS INSIDE. Seriously, this is the biggest mistake. If little bits of diaper are outside the cover, they will get wet and pee will be on your kid’s clothes. If the cover does not come up over top of the diaper at the back you will have poo traveling up there too. There have been many a poo change that I have thanked the wonderful cover for keeping all the mess in. If the cover is on right, no leaks.

How Many You Need:

Depends on how often you want to do laundry. Me, I'll do a load every 3 days. Newborns pee/poo about 10 times a day so I use about 3 dozen diapers. For this, I need about 4 or 5 covers.

To start off with, you'd need about 3 dozen diapers in an "infant size" and 4 or 5 covers. Eventually your little bean will grow and you'll need to move up to a "toddler size" and then start thinking about training pants. So typically, you'll have two or three major diaper purchases during your cloth diapering experience. I would estimate that we have spent about $600 on diapers for our oldest child. If this seems like a lot, think about how much it would cost to diaper him in disposables: about $2500 from birth to age 3. This is just for ONE KID. I now have a full supply of cloth diapers that we are using for our newborn, so it won't cost us a penny to diaper her. Now that's savings! Dads like this.

How to Wash Diapers:

Cold Rinse, Hot Wash.

You do a cold rinse cycle first, to get rid of the pee/poo and then you put the soap in and do a real wash, on hot or sanitary, to disinfect. Some people are kind of weird about washing diapers in their washing machine. If your diapers came out of the wash with poo on them still, then I would understand, but they come out clean, therefore the washer is clean - so what’s the problem? I read somewhere that someone did a study on how clean diapers were after a wash, and it turns out they are just as clean as a regular load of clothes coming out of a non-diaper washer. Let the washing machine do its job and don't give it another thought.
Line drying is said to brighten/bleach and soften diapers - some people swear by this. For machine drying, one rule: no fabric softener. Fabric softener leaves a coating on fabrics that acts as a water repellent - and this really defeats the purpose altogether, doesn’t it? So, to fluff and soften your diapers, use “dryer balls” . Dryer balls are plastic balls with little nubs on them that roll around in the dryer with the laundry. You can get them at most department, linen or healthy-lifestyle stores. Or just throw the diapers in the dryer by themselves - they just may come out a little less fluffy.

You want to get the most baby-friendly detergent you can find: free of dyes, perfumes/fragrances, enzymes and brighteners. There are many different diapering websites that will list out several good brands, but I found many recommended “Charlie's Soap”. In addition to the baby-friendly attributes mentioned above, it is phosphate free and biodegradable. So, good for the environment, good for baby! I order Charlie's direct online from the Canadian distributor - one little bag lasts for months and months.

Cloth Diapering Instructions (for Prefolds):

1. Place baby with the top of the diaper just above their bum.

2. Fold in the corners.

3. Lift it up between baby's legs (This baby has extremely short legs).

4. Fan out the top corners.

5. Grab one of your Snappi's.

6. Use the Snappi to secure the corners (see no pins!).

7. Place cover under baby.

8. Pull cover up between legs and secure Velcro tabs (or snaps).

Look how happy this baby is!!!

A quick check for these two no-no's, and you're done! See these bits of diaper sticking out of the legs and back? Tuck these back in!

If you have All-In-One's your cloth diapering change will only consist of steps 7 & 8 (it's really no different than putting on a disposable).

Other Cloth Diapering Tips:

-Stock a couple of plastic grocery bags in your diaper bag to store the dirties in.
-Have at least 2 Snappi’s on hand in case you lose one behind the change table.

Where to Shop:

Here are a few of the cloth diapering stores we have come to know and love!



Cheeky Monkey

St Thomas

Bump Maternity and Baby

By Nature

Mother Ease

Mother Ease also has a great info and education section. Show this cost savings page to your hubby and he'll be on board in no time! Mind you they are calculating using their fitted diapers so if you were to use the flats or prefolds you would save even more money.

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