Saturday, August 22, 2009

Navigating the New World of Cloth Diapers

I experienced changing my first cloth diaper change at 12. The parents of this darling little boy were stereotypical birkenstock-wearing, organic food-eating, avid recycling Seattlelites. Perhaps the image many people have when they think of cloth diapering "types." They'd adopted their little guy in their 40s and spared little expense. I remembered being a bit impressed by these new-fangled diapers - an insert in a cover with velcro enclosures. The instructions seemed simple enough: place the insert into the diaper cover and placed soiled diapers in the bin for the service to clean. I dutifully did as instructed. No problem, except for the afternoon I showed up to babysit and the exasperated mother said, "You put the *#@^ in the toilet before you put it in the pail!" I recall thinking, "You didn't tell me that."

This was the early '90s with no diaper pins or plastic pants in site, but this is the image that pops into many heads when you say "cloth diapers." This is still an option, but not one I'm considering. There are a variety of choices that should meet most family needs these days. You can go strictly with one system or mix and match. Thank goodness for the Diaper Daisy trial because I'm still researching ease of use, cost, and durability. I've read more and solicited Tim's opinion since just a few days ago and I am perhaps changing my mind about the best option for our family.

Thankfully, I still have time to select the best styles for my family (and could always purchase a little now and more later). In the meantime, here are my thoughts on the different cloth diaper styles:

Pocket Diapers: These are considered by many to be the "modern cloth diaper." This clever design has the diaper cover with a soft lining sewn to it. Between the cover and the lining is a pocket, where you can slip in one or more insert, depending on the absorbancy you need. When the diaper is soiled, you remove the insert and put the whole diaper in the wash. Pocket diapers are available in sized or one size options.
What I like: These diapers are simple to use and the option to add extra absorbency, especially at night, is helpful. There's no folding and you can easily stuff your prefolds each time you take them out of the dryer, so they're ready to go when you need them. This is a great diaper to use on the go. They also tend to be trimmer fitting than some of the other options, which is a definite plus - especially when your little one is round like mine!
Considerations: I don't love reaching in and pulling out the wet insert, but it's not really a deterrent. Since the lining is sewn to the cover, the entire diaper has to be washed each time you use it. This can mean serious wear and tear on the fabric and fastenings. For this reason, I am considering going with sized pocket diapers, so each diaper won't endure quite so much washing. They are not the cheapest option, so this will add a bit to the cost, but should hopefully even out when used with multiple children. Also, if you want to resell diapers later, sized will probably hold their value better, in my opinion.

All-in-ones (AIOs): It couldn't get simpler than this. Cover, absorbent layer, all sewn together in one neat package. Use and toss in the wash. It's that easy, just like a disposable, with the exception that you might need to clean poo off first.
What I like: Simplicity. Easy to wash, easy to use, no extra steps needed.
Considerations: Since everything will get washed each time, these diapers will definitely wear down faster than, say, a diaper and prefold. But, if you buy them sized rather than one-size, they'll most likely last longer. This means an investment in several sizes, however. I think they will potentially resell better this way in the long run. With the Thirsties AIO I'm using, there's even a pocket for an extra insert. I'm liking these more and more! They definitely look bulkier on baby than pocket diapers, though.

Diaper Covers: These handy covers provide the waterproof protection and can hold a prefold, flat, or fitted diaper. Unless soiled, they simply need to be aired out, so they can be used a few times before washing. You can purchase sized or one-size covers.
What I like: The reusability factor means less washing and wear and tear. It also means you can purchase a few covers and multiple (less expensive) inserts. Thirsties covers are easy to use and have a nice fit on Ezra.
Considerations: Since covers require an insert, they can be a bulkier system than the others. You can pre-stuff your covers if you like with prefolds, which will save time. The easiest system would be to use a fitted diaper with a cover, but you get the most value with a prefold. If cost were not a factor, I would probably skip this system all together.

Prefolds: The rectangles of fabric you think of with cloth diapering. These come in different sizes and qualities. You can fold them different ways and place them inside a diaper cover.
What I like: Economical and fairly easy to use. When they're soiled, there's usually a dry corner to grab, unlike a pocket insert. They are also very absorbent and you can add an insert during sleep time for extra absorbency.
Considerations: Using a prefold does have a bit of a learning curve, but there's lots of tutorials on the internet. You can use a snappi fastener to help hold it in place as well, which I find very helpful. They look bulky to me and can be leaky if you don't get the fold right, but that's probably user-error. You probably wouldn't leave these with a babysitter or reluctant CD user.

Fitted Diapers: Sized diapers that look like a disposable diaper, but made out of cloth, with everything sewn together. These are not waterproof and need to go inside a cover.
What I like: So simple to use and I really like the fit. They've worked well during bedtime for heavy wetting and are very soft.
Considerations: These look a bit bulkier than a pockets or AIOs because you have two layers on baby. Since they're quite a bit pricier than prefolds, I think you'd choose them for fit mostly. Other types of cd seem to have a similar price without requiring two items. These also take a long time to dry.

One Size Diapers: Instead of purchasing multiple sizes for baby, these clever diapers use snaps, velcro, and elastic to grow with your baby. You can purchase AIOs, pockets, and covers as one size.
What I like: Less diapers to buy. You purchase the one and it should last through toddler years.
Considerations: 7 to 35 lbs is alot to ask of one reusable diaper. Washing is certain to wear the fabric and fasteners over time. If you have future babies in mind to hand these down to or resell value is a consideration, I'm not certain they'll hold up. I'm also not crazy about dealing with the fancy snaps on a squirming baby and I'm having difficulty getting a secure fit with these. They are the most likely to leak at bedtime. I also don't really like how bulky they look with the extra fabric - they would probably require you to up-size your clothes on a little baby. Everyone keeps recommending Bum Genius to me as awesome one size diapers and I like they're simplicity, but they seem very small and Ezra will likely outgrow them before toddler years. Maybe I simply haven't found the right all in one brand. Lastly, it sounds like these aren't terrific for newborns, so you probably will need some sized diapers to get through the first month or two.

Have you actually made it this far? Good for you! Here are my final thoughts on fasteners and styles I haven't tried:

Wool: This pricey(!) option sounds incredible. Requires much less washing, is supposed to be very breathable, and is awesome for night time. I'm planning on getting some wool inserts for bedtime until I can afford a cover.
Snaps: A smart choice to endure washing, but I don't like the fit with snaps quite as much as with velcro.
Velcro: I like the snug fit I can get with velcro, although seems like it would wear out faster with washing than snaps.
g-diapers: The are covers with inserts that you can flush, toss, or compost! Awesome idea! They are pricey, though, so I won't be trying them. I definitely care about the environment, but I am not looking for cloth diapering to cost more than disposables. I have heard that people love to use the covers with other cds, though.

Any moms out there with their own cloth diaper recommendations? I'd love to hear 'em!

My website for the day:

Lastly, for anyone who is thinking, "Enough with the cloth diapers already!", here's some fun photos of the kids!

Can you say, "Nap Time!"
Telling Daddy how it is.
Bubbles in the pool are the best. Ezra actually thought this was funny.
I've got a cat on my back!


Jeff9 said...

The best way to clean cloth diapers is to pre-rinse them off in the toilet using a Hand Bathroom Bidet Sprayer. So convenient and if you are trying to help the environment (and your pocket book) you can give it a double whammy by virtually eliminating toilet paper use at the same time as you benefit from using it on the diapers, by using it on yourself. I'm not sure how many people know this but that is what they were originally created for. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: "if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn't wipe it off with paper, would you? You'd wash it off" Available at they come in an inexpensive kit and can be installed without a plumber. Now we're talking green and helping the environment without any pain.

Mindy said...

Serving a mission in Argentina for our church for 2 years totally sold Tim on bidets. He's been trying to convince me that we should purchase one for 5 years. Now that I've seen this comment and I'm all about provident living, this just might happen. I'm adding up the toilet paper savings right now....

Charndra at Part Time EC said...

Hi Mindy!
We use a shower extender thing in our tub as a sort of bidet for washing baby's bum, they love it! (we have continuous flow hot water, mmm)

This is a great post on cloth diapering and the ins and outs, I was a bit shocked at the way that woman spoke to a 12 year old, I must say!

Have you thought about baby Pottying? Use can do part-time elimination communication to REDUCE your washing and have less poopy diapers to manage.


Lisa said...

I have to say, I didn't think about the wear and tear of the One sizes vs. buying sized diapers. Dang!

I plan to use mine as covers with prefolds at first, but I've heard once the little guy gets a big bigger, I'll want to just use them as pockets. Oh the choices! I can't wait to read your next post to see what you came up with as your faves!!