Monday, March 31, 2008

07 Advice Cloth Diapers -Beyond the Baloney

Parents magazine recently had some guy write an article about Cloth Diapers and boy did he ever bomb. His “source” was some clerk at a baby store that didn’t help him much, and his research left much to be explained. So here’s what I think you need to know in one quick read, let’s call it Cloth Diapers – Beyond the Baloney.

If you are like me – i.e. you want to keep it simple, are willing to invest a couple hundred dollars to get the right stuff and not have to mess with it all, don’t want to break the bank, plan on having more than one child, and will be okay doing laundry every 2or 3 days – then this is how you do it. If you aren’t like me, this will probably be helpful anyway as you educate yourself about cloth diapers. And if you really don’t want to become an expert in cloth diapers, consider this the cliff notes.

Let’s begin.

There are all different types of cloth diapers and a whole new vocabulary to go with them. Here is what I feel you need to know.

Cloth diapers have 2 layers (for our purposes), an absorbent layer and a waterproof layer. One soaks up the pee and poo, the other keeps it in the diaper, hopefully. The absorbent layer (diaper) needs to be changed every time whereas the waterproof layer (cover) can be rinsed or just reused depending on its state post pee or poo. For overnight or long car trips, a “doubler” can be added to double the absorbency. A “doubler” is just an additional liner you put between baby and the diaper so they can wear it longer.

There are other options out there called All-in-ones (AIOs), Pocket Diapers, and fasteners. Don’t waste your time unless you have lots of money and aren’t doing your own laundry. They are one use diapers and so you need a lot of them and have to wash them constantly, not to mention they are expensive. There are also diaper services in which case you just pay them and tell them how much your baby weighs so they know the size to send to your home and you are done with it.

Pre-fold Cloth Diapers – These are sometimes called Indian/Chinese or Diaper Service Quality (DSQ). Who cares. Just go for the ones that are unbleached (Indian/more of a brown color instead of white) if you are given the option because they are softer and seem to be more absorbent. The difference between them is so minimal you should not stress it. Supposedly the bleached ones last longer. Flip a coin or get some of each. Oh, and the reason they are called pre-folds is because they have more layers in the middle for absorption. You’ll see them labeled as 4-6-4 meaning four layers on the sides, six in the middle. I think the more layers, the better so look for 4-6-4 or 4-8-4.

Covers – There are a ton of options in even more fabric/color/pattern options. I recommend the Thirsties PUL Covers (stands for polyurethane laminate if you must know). See "Why Thirsties?" below. I’ve also tried Bummis Super Whisper Wrap and they don’t have the inner leg gusset that prevents leaks except on the smallest sizes- but they do have cute patterns. Their Super-Brite might be better since it has the leg gussets.

My “Beyond the Baloney” recommendation is that you get at least 24 pre-fold cloth diapers and 6 diaper covers that will fit your baby for each weight phase they enter. Since I’m trying to make this as simple as possible, here is one option (Note: I’m not being paid by anyone to say any of this stuff but if someone would like to pay me, I’d happily accept.)

Get you credit card out.
Go to

Buy the following:
Diapers and Covers

For an infant 6 to 12 lbs:
6 X-Small Thirsties Brand diaper covers $10.75 each when you buy 3 or more. (Yes, that may seem expensive but again, if you are like me, you won’t regret it and if you do the research you’ll find that is pretty average for these things unless you buy the crappy ones.)

24 Chinese Pre-fold Cloth Diapers by Tiny Tush or from Cottonbabies (or another retailer or manufacturer)
Get the “natural” color cotton ones if possible as they are more absorbent and softer. I like the Indian pre-folds personally.

For a baby 12-20 lbs
6 Small Thirsties Brand diaper covers, 24 Pre-fold Cloth Diapers

For a baby 18-27 lbs
6 Medium Thirsties Brand diaper covers, 24 Pre-fold Cloth Diapers

For a baby 25-40 lbs
6 Large Thirsties Brand diaper covers, 24 Pre-fold Cloth Diapers

Wet Bags
2 Small Wet Bags :A small wet bag for each diaper bag and a backup in case the one you need is in the laundry. (Ziplock Gallon bags work too but we’re trying to save the environment here so at least label and reuse them a few times if you do have to go that route.) I like the Bummis Wet Bags way better than the Mommy’s Touch but I’m sure there are better bags out there. Bummis have a drawstring closure whereas I’d recommend a zipper closure but the Mommy’s Touch fabric feels slimy and feels wet to the touch. I don’t think either of them are all that “waterproof” for long periods of time but they both wash up nicely and really, they don’t have to be perfect for Pete’s sake. They are just keeping the poo enclosed until you get home.

2 Extra Large Wet Bags: These go in the diaper pail to hold the stinky dirty diapers until you do laundry. One will be in the wash with the dirty diapers so you need two.

6 Diaper Doublers
For overnight to prevent leaks, add a diaper doubler to baby’s diaper for extra absorbency. I found some at a local store on clearance. If you need a specific recommendation because you really want me to do all of the work for you… Kissaluvs Diaper Doublers are what I have and they work fine. I have four of them but would prefer to have six or eight since you never know when the last change is before the baby goes to bed and it is good to have a few backups in case you guess wrong.

Why these items you ask?
A) Because I said so.
B) To make little girls/boys like you ask questions (My father’s answer to everything.)
C) If you must know, these covers are the best in my opinion because they are high quality, have the Velcro closures(no pins, no snappis fasteners, no pulling the darn things up/down when they are covered in poo), have a fold-over laundry tab to latch the Velcro when you wash the covers so the Velcro lasts longer and doesn’t get stuck on other laundry, and if you look at the leg holes, they have an inner elastic that holds snug to your baby’s legs to prevent leaks, unlike other covers.
D) Because I married an architect and DESIGN MATTERS DARN IT. Pay the extra couple of bucks to get something that doesn’t suck. And just think about the money you’re saving by not running to the store every other day for a pack of disposables.

Why 6 of each diaper cover?
It turns out that’s how many I’ve needed or wanted to have. More would be great and I’ve tried to get by with less but when baby has a poop filled day with five blowouts that slime each cover, you’ll be glad you have six covers. And only six covers should do as long as you are lucky enough that baby doesn’t have a lot of blow outs and you can reuse them. I tend to alternate them so that if she is wet, I switch to a different cover when I change her so I can let the wet one air dry and use it again next time. If you aren’t cool with that, buy more covers, do laundry more often, put the baby in the next size up while you wash and dry one, or go rinse and dry them out between uses.

How do I wash them?
And I recommend Charlie’s Soap. You’ll read once you get these that you shouldn’t use Dreft or other detergents as they will build up on the diapers. You can use Oxiclean once a week to strip them of any build up but don’t use it more than that as it is said to strip the fibers. They also recommend Bio-Kleen, Seventh Generation, Ecover which can be found in grocery stores like Whole Foods. Don’t bleach them as that will weaken the fibers and shorten their life span.

Why or
They have been good to me. My orders have been correct, timely, and they called to confirm something that was confusing on my order. The website is pretty good for a diaper website, and they have reasonable pricing, free shipping on orders of $100 or more and quantity discounts. I don’t know Kelly, I don’t have any affiliation with them. I found her site in the “Baby Bargains” book and liked it. Same with Feel free to shop around of course.

And when you are done having kids, consider selling your diapers and covers back to them or passing them on to a friend or someone in need. That’s the true spirit of reduce, reuse, recycle.

Moral of the story: Cloth diapers take some getting used to, you need to educate yourself about them a bit, and the investment is upfront, but they make you feel good for keeping the disposables out of the landfill and that makes it all worth it. And they are really cute on baby’s bottom.

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