Monday, June 3, 2013

Cloth Diapers: The Basics

Group leader Jillian D. shares her cloth diapering expertise with us,  outlining the different types of diapers available, addressing washing concerns and giving us the basic 101 class alongside pictures of her very cute, fluffy-bummed toddler daughter. 

Venturing into the world of cloth diapering can be a very overwhelming process.  Who knew there could be so many choices? Cloth diapers have come a long way since our parents used them on us or maybe chose not to use them.  There are so many brands, styles, colors... it can be hard to pick which ones to use. 

Some of the big reasons people cloth diaper is because it saves money, it is better for the environment and there are no chemicals against sweet baby's skin like there are in most disposables.  So let's break it down by styles of diapers.

Prefold held together with a snappi laying on a Thirsties cover (PUL)
Prefolds:  This type of diaper is what most people think of when they think of cloth diapers.  It is a layered piece of cloth made typically from cotton that folds around the baby into a diaper and can be held together by a Snappi.  A Snappi is a modern day diaper pin, no need to worry about poking the baby.  Most of the time a prefold is used with a diaper cover. Prefolds can also be used as an insert for a pocket diaper.  For a more in-depth look, read this wonderful post specifically about the prefold.
Pros: budget friendly, dry quickly
Cons: a small learning curve, requires a cover to be waterproof

Flats:  This diaper is similar to a prefold but instead of a multilayer piece of fabric it is a single layer.  A flat can be folded in many different ways to put the most absorbent part where the child needs it the most.  This site shows 10 different ways to fold a flat.  Like the prefold this diaper can also be used as an insert for a pocket diaper and requires a cover or frequent changing.
Pros: a variety of folding techniques, fast drying time
Cons: learning curve, requires cover to be waterproof

Fitteds: This diaper is a personal favorite of mine.  A fitted diaper is a piece of fabric with a soaker that is either sewn, snapped or laid into the diaper.  It has elastics in the back and legs which makes it great for keeping messes contained.  This diaper goes on similar to an all-in-one or pocket, it just does not have a layer of PUL, therefore it is not waterproof.  While PUL is nice for keeping clothes and mommy dry, it does not allow much air to get to the skin.  I like the fact that the baby's skin can breathe, especially on hot summer days.  Again, these diapers require a cover or frequent changes.  Fitted diapers also come in the cutest prints!
Pros: baby's skin can breathe, super cute
Cons: requires a cover or frequent changing

Wool longies (diaper cover)
Covers: These are typically made of polyurethane laminated fabric (PUL), fleece or wool.  PUL covers are a simple piece of fabric with elastics in the legs and back that either snap or velcro over the prefold/flat/fitted diaper.  They are waterproof, easy to clean and affordable.  The downside to PUL is that it does not breathe.  Wool covers are simply a cover made from wool.  Some snap on and some pull on.  They come in the form of soakers, shorts and pants.  Wool is the most natural way to cover and is very breathable but can be expensive and hard to care for.  Fleece covers are like wool but not quite as breathable and are synthetic.  They also come in the form of soakers, shorts and pants.  Fleece is a much more affordable and easier to care for choice than wool.

Pockets:  This type of diaper is probably the most commonly used.  Once it is assembled it is the simplest to put on.  It is an outer waterproof layer, like PUL, and an inner softer layer, typically fleece, that you place an insert between.  This is a very customizable option, more than one insert can be added to increase absorbency.  There are also a variety of inserts that can be used, microfiber, bamboo, hemp, cotton... and don't forget about a prefold or a flat. Here you can read more about the different types of inserts. Pockets come apart in the wash so there is no need to pull the insert out before laundering.
Pros: inserts can be added to customize, simple to use
Cons: requires assembly after laundering 

All-in-ones (AIO): AIOs are exactly their name, everything all sewn together in one diaper.  There are no inserts, no covers, no assembly, just put it on and go.  This seems like the obvious answer to what to get, however there are some down sides to this diaper.  It can be more expensive than the other options, there is a much longer drying time because the layers do not come apart and they can be harder to get clean, again because they do not come apart.  I think a couple of these are great in every stash, they are great diapers for out and about.
Pros: ready to use after laundering
Cons: longer drying time and can be harder to clean

All-in-twos (AI2): The name, all-n-two, also describes this diaper well.  It is basically and outer shell made typically of PUL that you snap an insert into.  One of the great things about this diaper is that the shell can be used a few times before washing.  Most can simply be wiped clean and a new insert can be added.  This is assuming that a major blow out does not happen.  With this diaper only one cover is needed for every 2-3 inserts. 
Pros: cover can often be reused
Cons: cover can get dirty after one use

Just a cute fluffy bum!
Washing: Washing cloth diapers always tends to be a scary process for moms, it shouldn't be.  That being said, every person washes differently.  Maybe this is why people are always so nervous about the washing process, there are so many opinions on how to do it correctly.  Here is what my process looks like, wet diapers go straight into the diaper pail, poopy diapers get sprayed off into the toilet (more on the diaper sprayer in a minute) and tossed into the diaper pail. Note: exclusively breastfed (EBF) baby poop does not need to be sprayed or rinsed, it can go directly into the diaper pail because it is water soluble. Once solids or formula are introduced spraying or rinsing is necessary. Now for the actual washing part, put diapers, covers (not wool), wipes, wet bags... into the washer, one cold rinse cycle with no detergent, one full wash cycle on hot with detergent (I use Tide powder, gasp, no I don't use cloth detergent) followed by an extra cold rinse cycle. This final rinse cycle is in addition to the rinse cycle that the washer automatically does when it washes.  I always wash on the biggest load size.  When the diapers come out they should smell clean, not like poo.  If they smell like poo the process needs to be adjusted.  Often people think they need to use a lot of detergent because the diapers are really dirty; this is not the case.  Using lots of detergent causes build up which results in stink.  As for drying, I line dry almost everything (I actually use the octopus hangers form Ikea) followed by a ten minute fluff in the dryer with no heat to make them soft.  The dryer is hard on the elastics and on any PUL.  If you choose to use the dryer, dry on low heat.

Diaper sprayers (like a sprayer on the kitchen sink but for the toilet) are not necessary and not everyone uses them.  Some people just swish the diaper in the toilet to rinse.  I personally think a diaper sprayer is a lifesaver and makes my life easier.  The installation to the toilet is also really easy, I installed ours all by myself.
 As for the quantity of diapers that are needed, the rule of thumb is 12 diapers per child per day.  So if there is one child in diapers and washing is going to happen every other day (this is what I recommend), then 24 diapers would be needed.  Lots of people, myself included, have many more than this for a variety of reasons.  The more diapers in rotation, the less they get used which makes them last longer.  Also, sometimes things come up and washing every other day doesn't happen.  The biggest reason I have more than 24 is because buying them is just plain addicting, they are so cute and there are so many different kinds to try. 

Aplix diaper that I had converted to snaps by a local mama
I should also mention that most diapers come with snaps or aplix (velcro).  While the aplix is easy to fasten and unfasten, especially in the middle of the night, it does tend to wear out.  Snaps are a little more difficult to use, not much, and last much longer in my opinion.  I always go for snaps!

I know there are so many options and it is hard to know what will work best for you.  I suggest going into a local cloth diaper store and touching things for yourself.  When I started using cloth diapers, I bought a few of each kind.  That is the way I like my stash, there is a diaper for every situation.  Some people prefer to have all of the same kind, that is also fine.  It is all personal preference.  Now it is time to go out and put more fluffy bums into the world.  Fluffy bums are the cutest!

1 comment:

  1. This article was great in suggesting new brands and
    styles to try out.
    , I thought this article was suppose
    to help those of us who have never used diapers,
    Thank you so much for this comprehensive list!
    I have read many reviews and done a ton of research
    . This has helped me make decisions
    on diapers.I am completely happy with your website
    . All comments and articles
    are very useful and very good. Your blog is very
    careful-take control.
    I am loving all of the inside ,