I'm using cloth diapers on my
5-month-old baby. It seems that cloth diapering
is becoming a lost art. I couldn't even find
diaper pails for cloth diapers in the stores!
The diapers sold in discount stores are generally
of poor quality--maybe to convince more people
to use disposables?
Why am I using cloth? Well, I
started so I could save some money. Since then,
I've found plenty of other reasons to use them.
They are very soft on my baby's skin. I'm uncomfortable
with the chemicals found in disposables (the
polyacrylates that turn the urine into that
weird gel). I don't want my baby's poop to
be hanging around in the landfill hundreds
of years from now. Plus, they just look so
darn cute! And I find homemakerly satisfaction
in hanging up clean diapers on the clothesline.
So...here's some basic cloth
diapering questions and answers.
How do cloth diapers work?
In a diapering system, you need an absorbant
diaper and a waterproof cover.
What is the cheapest quality
cloth diapering method?
I use Diaper Service Quality (DSQ) prefolds,
fastened with pins, covered with nylon pants.
DSQ prefolds are about $25 per dozen mail order,
pins are $1.50 for 2 pair; nylon pants are
about $2-$4 each. These diapers and covers
are supposed to last through two babies.
The diapers in the discount stores are less
expensive, ($10-$12 per dozen), but also less
absorbant. (Gerber DSQs, found in some stores,
are the exception--they are absorbant and long-lasting,
though not quite as soft and thick as mail
order DSQs.) As the baby gets older, you'll
need to double diaper, so you'll need to buy
more diapers. You would wind up spending just
as much money. Vinyl diaper pants don't breathe
well and they crack with age eventually. Nylon
diaper pants are nearly indestructible. Dritz
brand diaper pins, available mail order and
in some fabric stores, work the best.
What other kinds of cloth
diapering methods are out there?
Some people are looking for more convenience
or want to avoid using pins. For these people
there are fitted diapers which attach with
velcro or snaps. There are also diaper covers
made that attach with velcro or snaps. With
an immobile baby, you can lay a prefold in
velcro or snap cover and put it on the baby
without using pins. There are also all-in-ones,
which are a diaper and cover in one, like disposables.
These options are generally more expensive.
Sometimes they are more convenient, but sometimes
they cause new problems. For example, velcro
sticks to itself in the dryer, can wick the
urine outside of the cover, and some babies
can figure out how to work the velcro. Pinning
isn't that hard, in my opinion! But some of
these are nice to have on hand for babysitters.
How many diapers and covers
will I need?
You can get by with 2 dozen diapers, but 3
dozen is better. With 3 dozen I wash every
3 days. You'll need about 6 covers in each
size. (You only need to change the cover when
it gets poopy.)
What other equipment will
You'll need a diaper pail for cloth diapers--the
stores don't seem to sell these anymore, so
look at yard sales, or use any bucket or trashcan
with lid. You need a diaper bag big enough
for cloth diapers (or just throw your supplies
into a backpack with a changing pad). Some
nylon ditty bags are nice to have in your diaper
bag to put the wet ones in when traveling--you
can wash the bag as well! When the baby gets
bigger and eats solid foods, many people use
disposable liners to catch the poop.
You'll also need washrags for wipes. You can
buy these mail order, or just get a few dozen
cheap washcloths from a discount store. Wash
them with your diapers.
Do I have to dunk and soak?
You can if you want. But some people let the
washing machine do the work. They dump the
solids into the toilet and put the poopy diapers
through an extra cycle or two in the washing
machine to get them clean.
How do I wash them?
Everyone has their favorite method. I wash
the poopy diapers in cold with detergent. Then
I add the wet diapers and wash on hot with
detergent. I then give the diapers an extra
rinse with a half-cup of vinegar, which neutralizes
the ammonia in the diapers. Then I hang them
on the line. Not only does this save energy,
it also gets any stains out of the diapers.
But it makes the diapers a little stiff, so
I run them in the dryer a few minutes to soften
them up. Do not use bleach or fabric softener
on your diapers! Bleach prematurely wears the
fabric, and fabric softener makes them less
Sara Rands is a new stay-at-home mom and
The Basics of Cloth Diapering
by Mary McCarthy
When we think of using cloth
diapers, we don't think of how beneficial it
is for our babies, for our pocketbook, or for
our environment. However I hope to share with
you in this article about the benefits of cloth
diapering, what you'll need to get started
and how to wash them. This article does not
cover all of the benefits or attributes of
using cloth but I hope it is enough information
for you to make the best decision for your
baby, for your family and for our earth.
Better for Baby
First of all, it is important to know why choosing
cloth is superior for your baby. According
to studies, 78% of disposable-diapered babies
have diaper rash, compared to 7% of cloth-diapered
babies. Cotton diapers are better for your
baby because cotton "naturally breathes",
while disposables (made of paper and plastic)
don't have the breath-ability that cotton does.
Thus, diaper rash occurs in more disposable-diapered
babies. As I state in my email signature, "If
you had to be in a diaper all day, wouldn't
you want to sit in soft cotton?"
Caring for the Earth
As for environmental concerns, using cloth
is just plain superior! There is beginning
to be quite a problem with disposables in landfills.
When using disposables, people generally do
not flush solid waste down the toilet (as the
instructions on the package recommend). Instead,
the waste remains in the diaper and goes off
to the landfill. The problem with this is that
there is over 5 million tons of untreated solid
waste in landfills and they may contain intestinal
viruses. It is estimated that there are almost
100 intestinal viruses out there; this is how
our groundwater becomes contaminated. Insects
transport these viruses around and thus diseases
On the other hand, cloth diapers
with solid waste are shaken off into the toilet
(or if liners are used, simply flushed down
the toilet). The waste is taken care of the
way it is meant to, that is, it goes through
a sewage treatment center. This ensures that
we are not contaminating our earth and each
As for the monetary value of using cloth, you
might be surprised at how much you will save!
According to some mothers, you will save on
average about $1,500.00! Other mothers who
use the most convenient cloth diapers (all-in-ones)
save around $1,000. Even other moms save around
$2,000.00 when they use an inexpensive cloth
On the other hand, when you finish
using diapers with your child, you're done.
All you have left is a huge mountain of trash.
However if you have used cloth diapers, you
are ready for the next child, thus saving even
more money! Some mothers have purchased a new
appliance with the money they have saved using
cloth diapers. What a great idea!
Okay, Now How Do I Get Started?
Here comes the fun part! You now know that
cloth is better in so many respects, so which
products do you choose? Well, there are so
many quality cloth diapers out there that it's
hard to make a decision! However, it is so
much fun to "test" different products.
Many of the moms I know who use cloth diapers
rave about how they "love cloth diapering."
However, I have yet to hear one mother using
disposables say the same thing! There are basically
three different components of cloth diapering:
prefolds, diaper covers and all in ones.
Prefolds are the square, flat
diapers you fold. Prefolds are used to soak
up urine and to hold solid waste. These are
available in a variety of layers and materials.
There is cotton flannel, birds-eye cotton and
terry material ("terry" is what towels
are made of and is super absorbent) used for
making prefolds. Prefolds have no outer layer
to hold wetness in; therefore these are used
with diaper covers or wraps.
Contoured diapers are cut and
sewn to resemble an hourglass shape. They are
made of the same materials that prefolds are
made of. The only difference is their shape;
some parents like using these "contoured"
or "shaped" diapers better than square
shaped prefolds. This is totally a matter of
preference. Contoured diapers are also used
with diaper covers or wraps.
Fitted Diapers cover baby's entire
bottom. To use fitted diapers, just place under
baby, bring front up to baby's tummy, and either
Velcro® or snap. With fitted diapers, a
diaper cover or wrap is still needed to hold
wetness in because they do not have any wetness
protective layers in them.
How many do I need? With
using prefolds, contoured, or fitted diapers
you will need: 10-12 diapers per day
for newborns; 6-8 per day for older babies.
Diaper covers are used with prefolds,
contoured or fitted diapers. You simply fold
the prefold and place on the cover. Then you
bring the diaper and cover under baby (just
like using a disposable). Diaper covers either
have Velcro®, or snaps to fasten them.
Diaper wraps may also be referred to as "pull-ons",
meaning that instead of using Velcro® or
snaps to fasten, you just pull up over baby.
There are some great quality fleece and woolen
wraps out there to choose from. Many moms prefer
to use these covers or wraps at nighttime because
they are so effective in preventing leaks and
blowouts. And we love to prevent those little
incidents from happening!
How many do I need?
6 are a minimum, 8-10 make life easier!
All In Ones are probably the
most convenient cloth diaper on the market
today. If you are really used to disposables
and are afraid of transition, perhaps you should
try using these first. These have layers of
absorbent cotton sewn inside and have a nice
protective layer preventing wetness from leaking
onto the outside of the diaper. You just put
on the baby and go! There are also some wonderful
all in ones products out there. If you are
traveling, shopping, or having Grandma over
to help with the baby, try using an all in
one. People are always amazed at how they look
and function. These are definitely worth the
investment. However, some moms prefer to use
these minimally because they may be more expensive
than using diaper covers/wraps and prefolds.
When used every day, the outer protective layer
may deteriorate quicker due to washing more
How Many do I need? 10-12
per day for newborns; 6-8 per day for older
Miscellaneous Items Used for
Doublers are a long, wide strips
of cotton (or cotton and terry) layers laid
on a prefold or inside of an all in one. These
are beneficial because they have all of the
absorbency of an extra diaper, but not all
the bulk. Doublers are generally used for heavier-wetting
babies, for traveling long distances, or for
nighttime. Usually moms purchase a few for
these occasions; they are nice to have on hand.
Liners are used to eliminate
the need to shake off waste in the toilet and
to rinse off dirty diapers. There are reusable
cotton liners and there are also flushable,
biodegradable liners. The cotton liners are
reused again after being washed, and the flushable
liners are just flushed down the toilet. These
are also convenient products to have on hand.
I hope this information has been
helpful to you! Cloth diapering has been one
of my greatest experiences with my baby. It
is my hope that you will appreciate cloth diapering
just as much as I have! If you have any other
questions, please feel free to contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck and happy diapering!
Remember, your baby will be so thankful for
your decision, and so will your pocketbook!
Mary McCarthy is the proud mommy to Timothy
Michael Patrick McCarthy III, born 5/13/99.
She and her husband Tim live in Littleton,
Colorado where they operate Mary's business,
Comfy Bummy Diapers, out of their home. http://www.comfybummy.com