When people discover that we use cloth diapers, we get one of two reactions. If they are a cloth diapering family too, we will usually start comparing diaper brands and talking about how much we love cloth diapering. If they don’t use cloth, we usually get inundated with questions. So for those out there who are curious about cloth, here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions:
Is it really cheaper to use cloth?
Not at first. You have to buy everything you will need for diapering up front, so the initial outlay can seem a bit pricey, but in the long run we are saving. The savings will go up exponentially when we have a second child and can reuse everything we bought for Zayden. We will likely spend $0 to diaper our second kid.
What do you do when you’re out of the house?
While some cloth diapering parents find it more convenient to use disposables when they’re out of the house, we use cloth when we’re out-and-about as well. The diaper bag really doesn’t look that different in the end. We pack the same number of diapers, but also bring a wet bag for dirty diapers. We also have a zippered pouch of cloth wipes and a small spray bottle with diaper wipes solution (a cup of water mixed with 5 drops of tea tree oil) instead of disposable wipes.
Doesn’t it make diaper rash worse?
Sometimes. It depends on how sensitive your baby’s skin is and how often you change your baby’s diaper. There are a lot of causes of diaper rash, but prolonged exposure to moisture is one of them. Cloth diapers don’t contain gel, so they don’t have the same “stay dry” properties as disposables. The easiest way to avoid diaper rashes if you use cloth diapers is to change your baby’s diaper as soon as you realize it’s wet. A good diaper cream can also help in situations where you won’t be able to change the diaper frequently (e.g. overnight). We have been known to switch to disposables temporarily in order to clear up a particularly persistent diaper rash.
If I wanted to use cloth diapers, how many would I need? What else would I need?
Depends on how often you want to do laundry and how old your child is. New and Green has a helpful article on what you need to get started along with other helpful resources for first time cloth diaperers.
Don’t you hate doing all that extra laundry?
Not really. It’s not as much extra laundry as you would think. I probably only do 2 more loads per week than I did pre-baby. And I would way rather do a load of laundry in the comfort of my own home than have to head out in the pouring rain and cold to buy a box of diapers when our supply runs out.
Cloth diapers seem so complicated. How did you figure out how to use them?
Not all cloth diapers are like origami with safety pins. We weren’t interested in a lot of fussing and folding ourselves, so we use pocket diapers. They look just like a disposable, no folding required. All you have to do is stuff an absorbent cloth pad inside them.
Aren’t cloth diapers much bulkier than disposables?
Yes. That is probably the one downside for me. Zayden tends to grow out of his pants a little sooner because of it. But the extra padding does come in handy with all the falls he’s been taking since learning to pull up.
Ew! Don’t you hate cleaning up a poopy diaper?
Don’t you? All babies poop the last time I checked. Even those who use disposables are supposed to knock the solids off a dirty diaper into the toilet so that the waste can be properly treated.
What do you do when you’re on vacation?
We use disposables and then switch back to cloth when we get home.
Is it true that kids who wear cloth diapers are potty trained faster than kids who don’t?
I’ll let you know in a few years when we actually tackle potty training, but that is the rumour. The theory is that because cloth diapered kids know what it feels like to have a wet diaper, they make the connection between the sensation that they need to go and using the potty faster.
I’m sure you know how to use them properly, but don’t you have issues with babysitters and daycare?
Because we use pocket diapers (see above), they are pretty straightforward and all our caregivers have caught on pretty quickly. There are some daycare centres out there that refuse to use cloth diapers; we won’t consider those types of centres when it comes time to put Zayden in pre-school.
Are cloth diapers less absorbent than disposables?
The gel in a disposable can absorb a freakishly large amount of liquid, but so can a lot of natural fibres. The hemp inserts we use for overnight are particularly absorbent.
So what are you, a big tree hugging hippie?
Sorry to disappoint you, but you won’t find any Birkenstocks or organic ancient grains granola in our house. Cloth diapering is not just for hippies and environmentalists. Concern for the environment is part of the reason we chose to go with cloth, but we also did it for our son’s health (we wanted to reduce his exposure to unnecessary chemicals as much as possible) and to save a bit of money. And to be honest, I did it because I think cloth diapers are cute. There are different colours and designs to choose from that make diapering a little more fun for me. In my view, when it comes to style, the difference between disposables and cloth is like the difference between a paper gown you get at the doctor’s office and a really cute sweater.
Yaarrrr! Diaper rash can be a real problem for me pirate booty.
Diaper rash is just a fact of life when it comes to babies. I’ve yet to meet a baby who makes it to his first birthday without mom and dad battling at least one bout. Babies who are cloth diapered, like Zayden, tend to get rashes a little more easily than babies who wear disposables because more moisture sits next to the skin.
Diaper rashes can be caused by a wide variety of things. In a cloth diapered baby, the most common causes are: being changed too infrequently and sensitivity to the detergent used to clean the diapers. Some babies who wear disposables will get a rash because the materials used to make the diaper irritate the skin; in these cases switching brands or switching to cloth diapers may help. Regardless of what type of diapers you use, a baby can get a rash from wearing a poopy diaper for too long, from changes in their diet (rashes become more common after starting solid food), and from general irritation from wearing the same diaper for too long or from wearing a diaper in hot weather.
We have tried a few diaper creams since Zayden was born and Dimpleskin’s Bum Bum Balm is our favourite by far. It’s locally made and all-natural, so it’s perfect for babes with sensitive skin. As cloth diapering parents, we also like it because it’s the only diaper cream we’ve discovered that you can use with cloth diapers without using fleece liners–it’s zinc free, so there’s no waterproofing build up on the diapers. Minor rashes clear up in a few days with Bum Bum Balm. If the rash is more severe, we temporarily switch to disposables until it clears up.
For a persistent diaper rash, the HealthLink BC offers some good advice for home treatment. If the rash becomes infected, you may need to see you family doctor for a prescription ointment.
Even the most streamlined cloth diaper is a little bulky, which has its downsides. But I have recently discovered an major upside: the extra padding functions as an extra layer of protection from falls and other hazards. Just the other day, Z was pulling up on our ottoman when he fell right on to some of his blocks. Now any parent who has ever accidentally knelt or stepped on one of these blocks can tell you they are sharp (I actually cut my knee on one once), so I expected at least a few tears when I saw where he landed. But he didn’t even bat an eye. He just picked up one of the blocks and started to chew on it.
His diaper had so much padding he couldn’t feel the sharp edges of the blocks even though he was sitting right on them. With his increasing mobility and increased number of dramatic falls, this “jock strap effect” has become one of my favourite bonuses of cloth diapering.
Zayden sporting a pair of bright yellow FuzziBunz.
When it comes to cloth diapers, fit is everything. You should definitely try out a few different brands before investing in a full supply of diapers to see which style fits your baby and your lifestyle the best. Some cloth diaper companies, like New and Green, offer tester kits for rental, but we decided to borrow a few diapers from friends and also bought individual diapers to try out before deciding to diaper our son in a combination of Flips and FuzziBunz. Here are the pros and cons of the brands we tried. Just be prepared: we tried A LOT of diapers, so this one is going to be long, but informative.
1. bumGenius (style: AIO, one size, velcro)
- Velcro closures: easy to use, allow for a snug fit reducing chances of a leak
- Similar to disposables, so they are easy for all caregivers to use
- AIO style so no pre-stuffing or folding is required, and you don’t need to deal with separating a messy/wet insert from the shell
- Can easily add a doubler for overnight use
- Grows with your baby, so there is no need to buy bigger sizes–a major pro if you plan to have only one child or if you are using cloth with more than one baby at the same time
- Attractive appearance, good selection of pastel colours
- The bumGenius took forever to dry–the longest drying period of all the diapers we tried
- Some babies startle at the sound of velcro, so not good for stealthy nighttime diaper changes
- Because of all the extra washes that a one size diaper goes through in its lifetime, you may have trouble with leaks if you plan to reuse these diapers with a second child
- Only offers pastel colours, so not a good choice if bright bold colours are important to you
Final Thoughts: While we didn’t end up using bumGenius as our primary diaper, we liked it enough to keep the sample one we purchase around as a back up diaper, and we do know of one family who quite happily uses them exclusively.
I wanted to do a review of the cloth diapers we tried before picking the ones we use with Zayden, but realized that I should probably do a vocabulary lesson first as things can get a little confusing if you’re not already a cloth diapering aficionado.
Prefolds and flat diapers are the traditional cloth diapers that most people think of first: a large piece of cloth that is folded and pinned into place. Fitted diapers are sewn together into the shape of a disposable, so no folding is involved; they can be fastened with velcro or snaps depending on the brand and require a separate waterproof cover usually referred to as a shell. The remaining types of cloth diapers can also be divided into three main categories. All in Ones (AIOs) are the most similar to disposables. They are a single piece with a waterproof outer layer and absorbent inner layer. No folding or stuffing is required. All in Twos consist of an outer shell where an absorbent insert is laid inside; occasionally the insert can be fastened in place with snaps or velcro. Pockets are diapers with an waterproof outer shell that is stuffed with an absorbent liner.
Most people buy diapers in small, medium and large as their child grows, but it is also possible to by one size diapers that can “grow” with your baby.
If the diapers you are using are a shell, the absorbent part is usually called the insert. Extra inserts used to increase absorbency (e.g. for overnight diapers) are typically called doublers. Liners are thin pieces of reusable cloth or disposable material placed inside the diaper to make clean up easier, to create a “stay-dry” layer or to keep diaper cream from coming into contact with the absorbent layers of the diaper (diaper cream build up can actually create waterproof diapers).