Cloth diapers, that is. The delay in posting is reserved for another day.
When I originally started this post, it was day three of the 3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge, and I figured it was about time I filled you in on all of this cloth diaper stuff.
When most people think of cloth diapers, they think of the kind their grandma used to use, complete with pins and big rubber pants. Well, for the purpose of this Challenge, that’s pretty much what I was doing. However, the modern cloth diaper is vastly different from Grandma’s diapers. The sheer variety of what’s available now is mind-boggling. For anyone new to cloth diapering, it can be so overwhelming. Add in that every baby is different, and what works well for one may not work for another, along with parents’ and caregivers’ preferences…it seems like you’ll never be able to decide on what to use.
For the purpose of this post, I’m just going to share the styles I’ve tried, and my experiences with them, along with some basic terminology.
The closest style of diaper to a disposable as far as ease of use goes is the All-in-One, or AIO. It’s really as simple as you put the diaper on, you take it off, wash it, dry it, and done. The construction of this diaper is a waterproof outer shell(most commonly fabric fused with a layer of polyurethane laminate, or PUL), with absorbent materials sewn inside. The ones I own all use cotton on the inside. What you gain in simplicity, you lose in dry time and cost. Because these are all one piece, they take much longer to dry than other styles of diapers. And due to the work put into constructing them, they are probably the most expensive style. I’ve found these to be best for babysitters, and for the cloth-shy. They’re handy in the diaper bag, too.
The style of diapers used most often in this house are pocket diapers. These diapers have a waterproof outer shell with an inner layer of fabric. An opening is left on one end, so that you can stuff it with an insert. Most of these diapers come with an insert made of microfiber. Any moisture is wicked through the inner fabric layer, and into the insert. This prevents the baby from staying in contact with the moisture until you change the diaper. These diapers require washing at every change, but the two pieces dry faster than an AIO. If you put them together once they’re out of the dryer, they aren’t too different in usage than the AIO, so these can also be good for caregivers and the diaper bag. A word of caution about microfiber: It should never be allowed to stay in contact with skin, as it’s extremely drying.
The next in line for me are flats. This is the original, folks. A flat is a large, single layer of fabric that can be folded in a variety of ways to customize absorption and trimness(Trimness=How thick the diaper is on the bum.). They require fastening, and they require a cover. There’s a much larger learning curve with these, but I believe they are worth it. They wash easily, dry quickly, and are the least expensive diapering option out there. Because of the versatility and adjustability of the folds, you likely will only need one size from birth through potty training(depending on when they potty train, some toddlers may need one larger size). I’ve replaced all of my microfiber inserts with these, and one regular flat with one hemp flat make for a very absorbent night time diaper for us.
Somewhat similar to flats are prefolds. A prefold is a flat that’s been folded and sewn. When you look at one, you’ll see that it is separated into thirds, with the center section being thicker than the outer two sections. To put one on, you just do a quick fold, fasten, and put on a cover. You’ve got the easier washing and lower price point than pocket or AIO diapers, and you don’t need to do a lot of folding as with flats. Because they are sewn, you’ll need multiple sizes as your child grows, so that will bring up the overall cost a bit.
When both of the kids were newborns, I used tiny little diapers called “fitteds.” Fitteds require no folding, no special fasteners, are very absorbent, and were wonderful for holding everything in during those early days. They don’t have a waterproof layer, so they do still require a cover to keep things dry. Fitteds aren’t just for newborns, though, many people love them for older kids, too.
As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of styles that require the use of a cover. This is just something you put on over the diaper to keep you from having to shampoo your upholstery every day. You can get them in a variety of fabrics and styles, but most of mine consist of the kind you can wipe clean between uses(excluding poo, of course). Just some fabric covered in PUL. You can still find covers similar to the rubber pants Grandma used. Also there is wool and fleece, both of which have a unique way of wicking moisture, while not getting baby’s surroundings all wet, and a fast drying time that many people love. (And that, folks, pretty much sums up my knowledge of wool and fleece covers.)
Another style, that more people are becoming familiar with, is the hybrid diaper. This is a pretty awesome set up, especially if you’re transitioning to cloth from disposables. A hybrid is a cover that can be used with either a cloth pad or a disposable insert. We used this(with the disposable inserts) during our move from Alaska to Ohio. It’s a nice option for traveling, since there’s less laundry to worry about. I’ll admit, I’ve never tried the cloth pad in it, but I have had success with a flat folded inside it.
I briefly mentioned fasteners already. Really, all it comes down to is that you’re fastening your diapers, or you’re fastening your covers. If you’re using a flat or prefold(generally), you’ll need a way to hold them in place. The cover can work, especially if your kiddo isn’t really mobile. Once it is, all of the wiggling and squirming are pretty much guaranteed to cause the diaper to shift-which can cause a pretty large mess. After this, pins and Snappis become your best friends. Pins are old school, that’s what we always associate with cloth diapers. And yes, you can still buy them. Snappis are a tricky little innovation that combines pins with elastic bandages. They are in the shape of a “Y” and use little teeth to grab a hold of the diaper from the hips to the crotch(Sorry for the crudeness). There is another item out now, called Boingo, that is a cross between a Snappi and a diaper pin-if that makes any sense. I’m curious about them, but I’ve yet to actually try them. For pockets, AIOs, and covers, you have a choice between a hook and loop(a.k.a. aplix or Velcro) closure, or snaps(which are almost always plastic). While I like that you can get the most exact adjustment with the hook and loop closure, it wears very quickly. Also, wee ones tend to figure out how to-and have the strength to-pull off a diaper fastened in this way. So, my preference is snaps. Even though you can’t fine tune it as well as hook and loop, you still usually get a very good fit.
Well, there you have it, cloth diapering according to Jamie. I am no where near the be all and end all when it comes to it, so here are a few of my favorite resources: First off, Dirty Diaper Laundry. Kim has reviewed just about every diaper known to mankind, has shared loads(no pun intended) of information, and is the mastermind behind the Flats Challenge. Next is Diaper Pin. This site is most known for its product reviews of cloth diapers and accessories that have been submitted by consumers. In addition to this, they also have a forum where there are many people willing to share their wisdom and experiences. Finally, there is Kelly Wels. She wrote the book on cloth diapering. I’m serious! It’s called, “Changing Diapers: The Hip Mom’s Guide to Modern Cloth Diapering.”