cloth diapering. whew! when i first started learning about it i was incredibly overwhelmed. i had no idea there were so many options, methods and opinions out there! all i knew is that i wanted to use cloth, but i had no idea where to start. so, i first started reading about them in the eco-nomical baby guide (which i highly recommend). i then reached out to everyone (i mean everyone!) i knew who was currently or had cloth diapered and asked for their opinions and advice. following that, i did a ton (and i mean a ton) of research online.
this is by no means an ‘all inclusive’ guide to cloth diapering, but i will share everything with you that i’ve learned so far, and also what i decided to do myself. i will also say that i think any one of these methods can totally work, you just have to decide what you want to go with. or as many moms have, go with a little bit of everything. cloth diapering moms, please feel free to add your advice in the comments section!
why cloth diaper? oh boy. where do i start? in a nutshell, it’s cheaper, healthier and much more eco-friendly.
in more than a nutshell:
cost: each baby goes through about 6,000 diapers during the first two years of life. thus, the average child costs about $1,600 to diaper for two years in disposable diapers (that’s about $66 a month). the cost of cloth diapering can vary considerably, from as low as $300 for a basic set-up to $800 for a more elaborate set-up. despite this large price range, it’s usually possible to buy a generous mix of everything you need for $300-500, most of which will probably last for two (or more) children. that means the cost of cloth diapering is about one tenth the cost of disposables.
health: disposable diapers contain traces of dioxin (an extremely toxic by-product of the paper-bleaching process) which is a carcinogenic chemical listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals. it’s also banned in most countries, but not in the united states (lucky us). they also contain tributyl-tin or TBT (a toxic pollutant known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals) and sodium polyacrylate (a type of super absorbent polymer or SAP, which becomes a gel-like substance when wet). there’s also a concern that scrotal temperature is increased in boys wearing disposable diapers, which will blunt or completely abolish the testicular cooling mechanism important for normal spermatogenesis.
environment: it’s estimated that 27.4 billion disposable diapers are consumed every year in the united states (whoa). though the instructions on a disposable diaper packages say that all fecal matter should be deposited in the toilet before discarding, less than one half of one percent of all waste from single-use diapers goes into the sewage system. over 92% of all single-use diapers end up in a landfill. no one knows for sure how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose, but it is estimated to be about 250-500 years, which is long after your children, grandchildren and great, great, great grandchildren will be gone.
disposable diapers are responsible for sixty times more solid waste and use twenty times more raw materials, like crude oil and wood pulp. they also use 2.3 times more water to make than cloth diapering. over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby EACH YEAR. basically, we’re spending over $300 million dollars just to discard disposable diapers each year, whereas cotton diapers are reused up to 200 times before being turned into rags and being used (still) around the home.
check out this article for more sources and info.
types of cloth diapers.
my biggest learning curve came when i started learning about all the different types of cloth diapers. here’s what i learned.
flat diapers: flat diapers are what are grandmother’s used. they are made from one large square of thin cotton that can be folded in a myraid of ways. you then secure them using pins or snappis. they are not waterproof so the use of a diaper cover is necessary. they are inexpensive and dry quickly, but are rather complicated and require the use of a lot of folding techniques.
prefold diapers: prefold diapers are made from several layers of cotton (or hemp) that are already sewn together with a thicker section in the middle, which saves you some folding time. you can then secure them using pins or snappis. they are not waterproof so the use of a diaper cover is necessary. they are inexpensive and dry quickly, but are rather complicated and require the use of a lot of folding techniques.
fitted diapers: fitted diapers resemble disposable diapers. they have a contoured shape and have gathered edges around the legs and generally close using snaps or velcro. they are not waterproof so the use of a diaper cover is necessary. they are more expensive than pre-folds, but are much easier to use.
pocket diapers: pocket diapers are fitted diapers with a pocket on the inside for inserting either a prefold or thick pad. they are more expensive, but easy to put on. they do require stuffing however which can get a little messy. most brands you’ll find contain a waterproof layer called ‘PUL’, so they do not need a diaper cover.
all-in-one diapers: also known as AIO’s, all-in-ones are fitted diapers that have an outer waterproof layer. they are made from several layers of cotton or hemp and go on just like disposables. they are ideal for out of home use, but may not be practical for daily use since frequent washing and drying reduces the effectiveness of the waterproof outer layer. they are very convenient but the downside is that they cost more and the entire diaper must be washed every time it’s gotten wet or messy.
types of diaper covers:
after reading all of the different kinds of diapers, you’ll notice that several of them also require a diaper cover. and of course, there are several different types to choose from! if you decide to use flat diapers, prefold diapers or fitted diapers, you’ll need to couple the diaper with a diaper cover. you basically have 2 options:
1. waterproof pul diaper cover: most diaper covers come with a PUL lining is a type of waterproof plastic fabric. it can either be on the outside of the diaper cover or hidden within the layers of material. it’s convenient and very effective, but somewhat controversial. it’s of course made of plastic and not something you’d necessary want to eat off of (i.e. so do you want it next to your babies most sensitive parts?). if you’re concerned, do a little research on the use of PUL plastics in diapers and decide for yourself what you think is best.
2. wool diaper cover: wool diaper covers are by far the most eco-friendly and natural. wool is a natural, breathable, sustainable fiber that is also naturally flame resistant. it helps babies stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter (just like it does for sheep). it’s breathable, moisture-resistant, and anti-bacterial. wool can absorb a ton of moisture (30% of its weight) and still not feel wet to the touch. urine is neutralized by the natural oil in the wool, so it doesn’t retain any odors. while wool does require separate hand washing, they don’t need to washed after each wear: simply hang to dry and use again.
organic: most of the above options come in both an organic and non-organic version. do some research and decide what’s best for you (though i feel like organic is always the way to go!).
one size or multi sizes: fitted diapers, pocket diapers, all-in-one diapers and both types of diaper covers generally come in two options: either a ‘one size fits all‘ option or a ‘small, medium, large‘ option. the one size fits all options are usually made by sporting several snapping options to grow with your baby. you can also of course go with small, medium and large diapers, but you’ll have to buy more of each one which ups your costs considerably.
how many do you need?
diapers: you’ll need somewhere between 18-36 diapers, depending on how frequently you want to do laundry. keep in mind that newborns generally go through about 12 diapers a day. a great starting point would be 24.
diaper covers: somewhere between 6-12 diaper covers should suffice. less if you use wool (since they won’t need to be washed as frequently) and more if you use a PUL type cover.
other cloth diapering accessories:
along with diapers and covers, here are a few other accessories you may find essential.
doublers: doublers are used to add absorbancy to your diapers and are a great solution for naptime and overnights.
diaper pale: grab a bucket, pail or garbage can to keep by your changing station. line it with a wet bag (see below) and place your dirty diapers here. when it’s time to do laundry, take the whole bag out and wash everything together.
wet bags: you’ll generally need two wet bags: 1 large one for your in-nursery diaper pale and a smaller one to take with you. these are waterproof bags that you’ll use to hold the dirty diapers in until you get home to wash them.
wipes: cloth wipes go hand in hand with cloth diapers. again, grab 18-36 or make them yourself from old t-shirts or flannel.
snappis: snappis are used to fasten a prefold or flat diaper onto a newborn (you won’t need these if you’re using diapers that have a snap or velcro closure system built in).
diaper sprayer: affix a special sprayer to the toilet and use it to spray off the diapers before putting them in your pail.
what i chose:
with so many options, it really was hard to choose which system i wanted to go with. however, i felt that if i was going to go to the effort to cloth diaper, i wanted to do it in the greenest way possible. after much research, this is what we decided to get:
– the above accessories
– 24 organic cotton one-size fitted diapers from babee greens
– 6 handmade wool one size wool diaper covers from rebourne and babee greens
– 24 organic cotton wipes
– 12 organic cotton doublers
whew! i think that’s all i know. do you feel better or are you totally confused? mommas, feel free to chime in! xox, bonnie