What kind of diapers to use is not just a choice among Huggies, Pampers, and Luvs. The new generation of Cloth Diapers adds a whole new dimension to your diapering decision. There are three main reasons today's parents are choosing cloth over disposables:
1. Increased Savings.
2. Better Health.
3. Reduced Environmental Impact.
As any new parent can tell you a baby uses A LOT of diapers especially in the first few months. The cost of diapering a child in disposables for the first six months of life is approximately $270. That may not seem too bad until you realize that you will be diapering your child until they are at around 3, which will cost approx $2675, or if until age 4, then $ 3540. Now that is A LOT of money.
To cloth diaper a newborn with infant prefolds and covers for 3 months is approximately $117, diapering for 3 years with prefolds and covers costs $330, and for 4 years it’s only $390. Other types of cloth diapers, such as "All in Ones" or the "Pocket Diapers" will cost more money than prefolds and covers, but they still save money over disposables and add convenience over the prefolds.
Many children suffer from diaper rashes and allergic reactions to the gels used in disposable diapers that make them absorbent. Some diapers are so absorbent they can cause babies’ skin to dry out leaving it sore and tender. The plastic covers don’t breathe, creating an environment where bacteria can thrive, and the leg casings can chafe and cause irritation. Cloth diapers are made from many different materials, and in many different shapes and styles, so it is easy to find ones that won’t irritate babies’ skin.
Reduced Environmental Impact:
Reusing cloth diapers that can be made from materials that are naturally or organically grown such as cotton, hemp, or bamboo keeps millions of pounds of paper waste and chemicals out of the landfills and waterways. While you'll use water, detergent and energy to wash them, most agree that this has less impact than the manufacturing and disposal pollutants of disposable diapers.
Making Sense of Cloth Diapers:
There are many cloth diapers on the market today. While there are many brands of diapers out there they all are one of the following types:
1. Flat or Prefold Diapers.
2. Fitted Diapers
3. Pocket Diapers
4. All-In-One Diapers.
Flat or Prefold Diapers:
This type is simply a rectangle of cotton or hemp material that can be folded to fit most any baby. Prefold diapers are thicker in the middle while flat diapers are one layer of material throughout. These are the cheapest diapers to use and they wash and dry easily. They come in different sizes from preemie to toddler and are used with diaper covers or pants. Some people use pins or snappies (a small plastic gripper) to hold the diaper on the baby, while some people find a snug cover to be enough. Many people find these are easy to use and good for at home and when baby is little and needs frequent changes. You can also keep a supply of prefold or flat diapers to use as doublers or stuffers for other styles of diapers to customize the absorbency levels.
The following diapers come in a range of sizes from preemie to toddler, or you can purchase what are called one-size diapers that have different snap settings and a roll down waistband to fit babies from 8-35 lbs. All of these diapers also have a choice of snaps or velcro type fasteners.
These are like prefold diapers in that you need a cover to make a waterproof system but they are cut to fit a baby’s shape better without the bunching that can occur with rectangular diapers. These can be made from different fabrics and are easy to wash & dry.
These are our most popular style. They have a waterproof outer layer with usually a fleece inner layer and an opening at the back of the diaper to create a "pocket" between the layers. This allows the parent to add absorbent inserts to customize the absorbency level depending on the age and size of the child. The outer pocket and inserts come apart for easy washing and quick drying. Many people like these for naptime or overnight use and they can be convenient for daycare or a short trip.
Known as "AIO" on the message boards, these diapers are the closest to disposables in terms of convenience and ease of use for most people. These diapers have a waterproof outer cover and an inner layer of absorbent materials. These diapers are ready to go with no stuffing or folding. Some people find them not quite as absorbent as they would like, but you can lay a prefold diaper or insert into the all- in-one to add absorbency if you like. Many people like these for daycare, the sitter, or traveling as there is no prep work — you put it on and go. They do take a little longer to wash and dry since they are thicker, though some styles have liners that can separate to speed up the process.
Most people find that a combination of several of the above types of diapers works well. Prefolds and covers for around the house, pocket diapers for naps and nighttime , and all-in-ones for daycare or trips. Enkore Kids carries a wide assortment and offers discounts on larger purchases. This will allow you to design the cloth diapering system that works well for you without a huge upfront investment.
Cleaning Up the Mess:
Washing diapers is something that many people seem to fear until they learn just how simple it can be.
After dumping any solids that you can into the toilet, place the diaper in a ventilated pail or bag until wash day. Keeping diapers in a closed container creates odors and can breed bacteria and yeast.
When ready to wash, put diapers into the machine and run a small cold rinse or prewash cycle with no soap. After the rinse cycle, gather the rest of baby's laundry, add your detergent and run a normal wash & rinse cycle. Most diapers can be washed in warm or hot water and also machine dried. Some covers need to be line dried so check the labels. If you notice staining, line drying them in the sun wll naturally bleach out stains.
There is no need to buy fancy detergents. The more basic, the better. Avoid: Enzymes, Softeners, Fragrances, Bleach, Optical Brightners, and Soap. All of those can leave a residue that can harm baby's skin and make the diapers less absorbent. Also, use 1/4 to 1/2 the recommended amount to prevent buildup.
A note for high efficiency washers - adding a couple towels to the load helps to get enough water in the load to get everything clean.
Maybe not quite as easy as throwing the mess all away, but to save money, reduce allergic reactions, and produce less environmental waste, we hope you'll give cloth diapering a try. Plus, many cloth diapering systems have a great resale value!
By Susan McCarthy & Jennifer Guenther