Cloth Diapering: Simple and Sweet!
By Elizabeth Pantley
Cloth diapering actually can be
very simple. There are several different ways to diaper a baby
in cloth and several different reasons why you should consider
using cloth diapers.
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Why use cloth?
Cloth diapers are gentler on the environment than disposables.
A baby can use more than 5,000 disposable diapers from birth through
potty training, which makes these the third largest single product
in the waste stream after newspapers and beverage containers.
This is certainly something to consider when you’re making
a diapering decision.
Another benefit of cloth diapers
is that they can save your family money, especially when the diapers
are passed on from one child to another. Depending on which kind
of diapers and accessories you purchase, you could save hundreds
Cloth diapers also can be beneficial
for children who are sensitive to chemicals and other substances
or who are prone to diaper rash (although some sensitive-bottomed
babies do as well with moisture-wicking disposables). Another
feature of cloth diapers is that with older babies they can ease
potty learning because the child can tell when he is wet.
The bottom line (excuse the pun)
with choosing which kind of diapers your family uses is that it’s
a personal choice, and cloth diapers are a good choice for many
How to cloth diaper your
The methods used in cloth diapering are as unique as children
being diapered. Below is an outline of the types of cloth diapers
and diaper covers most commonly available, with the benefits and
drawbacks of each. Space doesn’t permit a discussion of
every type here, but you’ll find many more kinds on the
Internet or through diaper distributors if you like one feature
of a diaper but not another.
These are essentially big pieces of fabric (about the size of
a dish towel, or slightly larger) that you fold down to fit your
of flat diapers Very
inexpensive; can be made easily at home; can be folded differently
as baby grows; can be passed down to siblings of any size
Drawbacks of flat diapers
Have to be folded before use; need pins, diaper covers, or other
product to secure diaper to baby
Cloth Diaper Prefolds
Prefolded diapers are just what they sound like: diapers that
are already folded. Diaper service quality diapers are rectangular
and have extra layers sewn down their middle thirds. They generally
come in newborn, regular and toddler sizes. (Often called chinese
prefolds, hemp prefolds or indian prefolds.)
of Prefolds Already folded and ready for use;
very durable; fit most babies very well
Drawbacks of Prefolds
Slightly more expensive than flat diapers; fit only a certain
size range; need pins, diaper covers or other product to secure
diaper to baby
These are already sewn to fit the baby. They typically have snaps
or Velcro to secure them and have extra layers of fabric sewn
down the middle for absorbency.
of fitted cloth diapers Very convenient; easy
to use; no pins involved
Drawbacks of fitted diapers
More expensive; may take longer to dry; may not provide as custom
a fit as flat or prefolded diapers
These fitted diapers already have a diaper cover sewn onto their
of All in One Cloth Diapers Most convenient;
easiest to use; no pins involved
Drawbacks of AIO Diapers
Most expensive; can be bulky; may take longer to dry
All of these diapers can be passed
on to younger siblings or resold if still in good condition. All
except for the all-in-ones require a cover to contain leaks.
A look at diaper
Pull-on plastic pants
These are what most people of my generation were covered with.
They’re plastic, pull-on covers just big enough to cover
the diaper area.
of plastic baby pants Inexpensive; easy to use;
easy to launder
Drawbacks of diapers and plastic
pants Often poor quality; don’t last very
long; not breathable
These wrap around the baby and are secured in front with Velcro
or snaps. They can be made out of plastic, nylon, nylon/taffeta
or even wool (see below).
Can be inexpensive; very easy to use; easy to
launder; usually last a very long time; some have “vents”
so baby’s bottom gets air
more expensive than plastic pants
Less popular (but becoming more widely used) are wool diaper covers,
fleece and some other unusual styles. Untreated
wool is naturally waterproof, breathes well and
is not scratchy like a wool sweater. Wool covers come in wrap
or pull-on styles and usually require special laundering ¾
but they’re worth it, since they don’t need to be
washed very often. Fleece diaper
covers are usually wrap-style, warm and good for
You’ll probably need two to three dozen of whatever type
of diaper you choose, as well as six to eight covers to go with
them. Your baby may need to wear two diapers at night if he is
a heavy wetter, so you may want to invest in one or two larger
covers as well.
How do I care for my cloth
Unless you have a special type of diaper cover (like wool), you’ll
be able to wash the diapers and covers together. Get a diaper
pail or garbage can with a lid, and toss the diapers in there
as they’re dirtied. With a breastfed baby, you won’t
have much worry about smell; before your breastfed baby start
solids, you won’t need to rinse dirty ones, either. After
the baby starts solids, dump the solid part of his bowel movement
in the toilet first. You don’t need any water in your pail.
BE AWARE: A diaper pail of water is
a drowning hazard.
When wash time comes, use a gentle
detergent - but no bleach! It ruins diapers and is bad for baby’s
skin. Do one cold wash or rinse, and then a hot wash to kill the
germs. Do an extra rinse if your baby has sensitive skin. Most
covers can be dried with your diapers, though they’ll last
longer if they’re hung to dry. If you want to get any stains
out, hang your diapers out in the sun for a few hours.
© Elizabeth Pantley; excerpted
from Gentle Baby Care
Parenting educator Elizabeth Pantley
is the author of numerous parenting books, including the widely
cited The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your
Baby Sleep Through the Night. Buy her books at Powells.com.
She is a regular radio show
guest and is quoted frequently on the web and in national family
and women’s publications. Elizabeth lives in Washington
state with her husband, their four children and her mother. Visit
her at www.pantley.com/elizabeth.