When I had my fourth child, I paused to reflect on the toll my little clan was taking on the environment. I imagined our own ancestral landfill, where the mountain of family diapers would still be taking up space, generations from now. Not a pretty sight. So I told friends and family that I was thinking about cloth diapering. I had to duck the streams of spewed forth coffee from the spit takes. “You!? Washing diapers?” they all snorted, “Good luck with that!”
Like many cloth diapering virgins (aside from the fact that I myself was cloth diapered) I initially had a very out of date and labor intensive mental image of the process. Something about my mother, boiling stinky diapers with bleach in the basement of a three story walk up, and then hanging them to dry in her 100 degree air conditionless apartment. Knowing my diva self, I thought my cloth experiment might at best yield some humorous stories and expected it to last a month or two at most. But cloth diapering has been so easy, so pleasant and so economical for us, that we have decided to stick with it for the long haul.
Today’s cloth diapers are not my mother’s – nor are the washing machines, soaps, or accessories. Once upon a time when you said cloth diaper, you got a square of white cloth. That was it. Nowadays diapers are as diverse as shirts. Many styles, many materials, many fits and everyone has their picks and pans. In fact there is so much out there, it can be daunting to start. What do you really need?
Over the next few days I am going to introduce you to all the diapers styles we have tried, and try to show you how simple it is. One thing to keep in mind is that all a cloth diaper system is, no matter what the style, is something absorbant, covered by something waterproof. There are a million ways to achieve this, but every system has this in common! We will look at several systems, separately, over the course of the next few days. But before we dive into the specifics and the reviews, here is a glossary for you to refer to and to familiarize yourself with the assorted terms and most common types of diapers out there. Don’t let it scare you. Remember the absorbant/waterproof rule.
Continue reading for the 411 on cloth diapers and the end of cloth diaper confusion!
Flat folds & Pre folds: These are the old square of white (or more recently beigey unbleached organic) cloth. They are called a prefold when the center has be folded over and stitched down, so that you have three or four layers of cloth in the middle. In the old days you had to fold your own. Many companies use prefolds to make burp cloths, so you might have some diapers around the house already! These need to be worn with a waterproof cover. They also need to be secured with a pin or another fastening device.
Fitted diapers: These are essentially prefolds that have been tricked out with elastic and Velcro or snaps. Often they look similar to a disposable diaper. They come in various sizes and shapes and are made from assorted materials such as cotton, hemp and bamboo.
Diaper Covers: These are what you put on top of the fitted or flat/prefold diaper. The waterproof fabric of choice these days is called PUL and is a hospital grade material. It is wondrous stuff in that it allows water vapor to escape but not liquid. So your baby’s clothing stays dry but they are less likely to get a rash because the diapers can “breathe”. Diaper covers come in every color of the rainbow, have snaps or velcro. They may comprise of a simple layer of PUL with elastic, or may be a more couture affair made from minky and microfleece with the PUL hidden in the middle. They are a popular etsy/boutique item and custom embroidered and decorated diaper covers are in high demand.
Soakers:: Another type of diaper cover, but this one is made from knitted wool or microfleece fabric. These fabrics wick moisture naturally and prevent soak thru quite effectively. They are a good choice for overnight. It seems counter intuitive to use wool rather than something plastic-y, but it is amazing how well soakers work. Soakers are often subclassified as “longies” and “shorties”, depending on whether they are made as a bloomer, shorts or full on pants.
Pocket Diapers: Invented by Fuzzi Buns, this system of cloth diapering is a utilitarian dream. It consists of a diaper cover with an internal pocket. Prior to putting a pocket diaper on your child you simply stuff the pocket with a presewn insert made of some absorbant material – usually a microterry. Pocket diapers are easy to customize with appropriate inserts, depending on how much you child wets. They can also be used, with or without the insert, as a regular diaper cover, over a prefold or fitted diaper.
AIO’s or All in Ones: This is as close to a disposable as it gets in the world of cloth diapering. It is simply the absorbant diaper and cover, all sewn together as one piece. It has velcro or snaps to attach the diaper.
Inserts/Doublers: These are fabric “pads” made from cotton, hemp, bamboo or microfleece that allow you to customize the absorbancy of your diaper. They are used inside the pocket on pocket diapers and can be added to any diapering system when extra absorbancy is called for, such as overnight or on a road trip.
Common Cloth Diapering Accessories: Here are some of the items cloth diaper users find come in handy. I have placed an asterisk next to the ones that are essentials!
• Snappi – device for closing a flat diaper
• *Lotion Spray & Washcloth – used in lieu of disposable wipes, to clean baby’s bottom
• Diaper Sprayer – Attaches to toilet, is used on diapers of older children to rinse away solids
• Liner – a flushable or washable cloth that keeps solids from sticking to the diaper
• *Wetbag – a waterproof bag for holding soiled diapers
• *Diaper Pail – can be an inexpensive trash can with a lid
• *Diaper Pail liner/laundry sack – a waterproof bag that holds all your diaper laundry. Line your pail with this and then simply throw it into the wash along with the diapers