Thursday, June 24, 2010

Choosing Cloth Diapers

What fabrics should I choose?

If you decide to use other types of diapers besides prefolds, you may be overwhelmed by the fabric options available.  Here are some things to keep in mind. 

Natural fabrics (cotton, flannel, bamboo, hemp, etc.) are going to be generally softer, more breathable, and less likely to cause skin irritation.  Flannel, bamboo, and hemp are very absorbent.  Bamboo even has antimicrobial properties.  Bamboo velour is probably the softest and most luxurious feeling while fleece made with bamboo and hemp offer great wicking and help to keep baby's bottom feeling drier.  Terry cloth (make sure it's French terry) is also a very soft and absorbent option.

Synthetic fabrics (polyester, microfiber, etc.) are going to be drier feeling and shrink less when washed.  Many people like to use polyester fleece as a nighttime diapering solution because of how well it wicks wetness away from the skin and how absorbent it is.  If your baby is prone to diaper rash, you may want to stay away from synthetics because they are warmer and may exacerbate skin irritations.

When it comes to waterproof covers, the only way around synthetic materials is to use wool, which is bulky and may be too warm depending the climate and time of year.

Pockets, and prefolds, and one-sizes, oh my!

No matter diapering solution you choose, you'll need more than one type of diaper and more than one size in order to go from birth to potty training.  You will also need a nighttime diapering plan once your little one starts sleeping longer.  Another thing to consider is how you want to approach cloth diapering for caretakers, especially if you're child will be in daycare or with a sitter while you work full-time.  You want to make sure your diapers are user friendly for full-time care takers to keep user errors and leaks to a minimum.

For newborns, prefolds or contours tend to fit the best, especially when paired with a well-fitted diaper cover.  The added benefit is that you'll be able to continue using them as your baby grows.  If you do prefer or need to use an AIO or fitted diaper for your newborn, keep in mind that your little one will outgrow the newborn size in 2 months or less.  Most newborn sizes accommodate up to around 10 pounds.  My son was over 12 pounds by his two-month check up.

For night diapers, be sure to choose something with plenty of room for extra soaker pads.  You want to start with a diaper that already has space because you don't want it to be tight after you add everything, and you want to make sure there's still room to grow.  Pocket diapers are usually best for this, but some AIO diapers can handle extra padding.  A handful of one-size diapers reserved for overnight use on a larger size setting can also be a good solution.

Soaker Pads, Liners, and Doublers

If you let a cloth diaper go too long without changing, leaks will be unavoidable no matter how well-fitted and absorbent your diapers are.  Most diapers will need a little something extra to hold the moisture.  You will definitely need more absorbency when your little one starts sleeping through the night no matter what you use.  Also, if you use petroleum based creams and ointments or any other treatments for baby's bottom that aren't made to be used with cloth diapers, the build up will make the diaper less absorbent or even repel moisture which will cause leakage.  Always use some sort of liner with these products.

You may need to add a liner to make diapers fit the newborn shape better.  My son's legs and bottom were too skinny at first to fill out his diapers, so we had a lot of leaks.  Adding extra padding helped.  When he plumped up, I was able to stop using them in some things.  In others, I had to keep using them because he started peeing a lot more.

Whether or not you choose soaker pads, liners, and/or doublers, will depend mainly on two things.  The first is what brand and style of diaper you are using.  Many diaper makers have a liner or soaker pad that is made to fit their specific diaper, and you will probably want to use these until you get a feel for what you can mix and match and how your preferences run.  The other thing that will influence your choice is the purpose of your extra lining.  If you are using it as a barrier for creams and ointments, a light liner will do.  If you are creating a nighttime anti-leak solution, you may need up to 3 additional inserts and might choose any combination of products in order to find what works best for you.

Snaps vs. Aplix

You may be wondering what kind of closures are best for your diapers and diaper covers.  The two main methods of self-fastening diapers and covers are snaps and Aplix.

Aplix closures are like velcro but softer.  Some people say that Applix doesn't seem durable, but I haven't noticed any problems with it so far.  It holds up well and hasn't lost its grip even though I have 2 diaper covers that I prefer and get almost daily use.  The one thing that does cause an issue is that my son is in a reach and grab phase.  He likes to pull the tabs on his diapers.  He's never actually undone his diaper yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if he did one day soon.  This is only an issue with certain closure styles.  I am able to leave him in just his diaper without problems in most styles.  When laundering, be careful about what you mix with Aplix fastened items.  If your diapers and covers don't have laundry tabs, you may find them sticking to other clothing items and causing snags.  This is also something to watch out for in bibs that close with velcro.

Snap closures are the most secure and most durable.  It is rare for baby to be able to open these by himself, but they lack the infinite adjust quality of Aplix.  Your baby might be best served by an in-between snap setting, and you will either have to wait until he grows into the next setting or let it be a little snug whereas you can make an exact fit every time with Aplix.

Diaper Fasteners

If you choose to go with prefolds and contour diapers, you will probably want to use some kind of fastener.  Diaper pins are still the most secure and durable options, but I can understand the aversion to trying to use a sharp pointy object on a wiggly baby.  

For those who don't want to use pins, there are Snappi fasteners.  They grip the fabric by rows of teeth on a plastic plate and stretch to fit.  They come in infant and toddler sizes.  The downside is that they don't grip certain fabrics like bamboo velour or birdseye because of the tight weave of the cloth.  Avoid Snappi knockoffs.  They don't have the same grip or durability.

Once you get used to cloth diapering, you may find that you don't even need a fastener anymore if you have a well-fitted cover.  I personally no longer use fasteners except on larger prefolds that require extra folding in front due to their size.  The fasteners keep them from shifting too much if my son is in an active mood.

Coming next...

Be sure to stay tuned for the next cloth diaper installment about cloth diaper care!

Miss the previous posts?  Find them and my growing collection of cloth diapering information by clicking the "Cloth Diapering" tab at the top of the page.

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