Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cloth Diapering 101

As promised, this is the first installment in my cloth diapering series.  In this post, I'll cover the basics of cloth diapering including the different styles of diapers and pros and cons of each one.  For quick reference, you'll find links to this series and future articles in the "Cloth Diapering" tab.


The most simple and basic way to approach cloth diapering is by using prefolds.  They come in different sizes from preemie to toddler, launder easily, and can be bleached as needed.  Obviously, you need a separate waterproof cover in order to use prefolds.  You may also want to use some type of fastener to keep it in position, especially if you have a looser fitting style of diaper cover.

As far as sizing, I have been using the preemie size (9.5"x13").  The suggest weight range is 4-10 pounds, but when I first started using them my son was over 10 pounds and I still had to fold the tops down so they wouldn't stick out of the diaper cover.  He is now 19 pounds and they still have a lot of use left in them.

There are two main kinds of prefolds--Chinese and Indian.  Both are 100%  cotton twill, highly absorbent, and easy to use.  Indian prefolds are softer, fluffier, slightly smaller, and tend to shrink a bit more on the first wash.  Chinese prefolds are more durable, handle the frequent laundering better, and are less bulky.  I personally use Indian prefolds because I like the softness.  I've used both kinds on different babies, however, and they both work well.  

There is a third type of prefold that is harder to find in bulk but that many like to use for traveling, camping, and outdoors activities because they are absorbent without the bulk of Chinese and Indian prefolds and dry quickly for those on the go.  This is the cotton birdseye flat weave prefold.  It is much larger in dimensions than Chinese or Indian prefolds.  Your mother or grandmother probably used used these.  Because most people don't use these as their primary diaper option, I will not discuss this type further in this article.

Before you begin using your prefolds, wash and dry them on high heat a few times to fully shrink and fluff them.

·      Inexpensive--Preemie size is $14/dozen at several suppliers
·      Can be bleached
·      Can be used as inserts in All-in-One or Pocket Diapers
·      May be used from birth as there are sizes to accommodate the smallest babies
·      No special laundering needs

·       Need for separate covers and diaper fasteners
·      Takes time and practice to figure out how to fold and fasten them
·      Hard to teach others how to use them

Contour Diapers

Contour diapers are the descendents of prefolds.  They are a basic coverless diaper that have been contoured to fit baby without having to fold them first.  They can have leg gussets or not.  The gusseted version will have a more tailored fit and hold in messes more effectively.  Some contour diapers come made with built in fasteners or in one size fits all options.

·      Easy to make your own
·      Can be bleached, depending on type of fabric
·      No special laundering instructions depending on fabric
·      May be used as inserts for AIO/pocket diapers
·      Fit  a wider weight range than prefolds
·      Bigger selection of fabrics than prefolds
·      More user friendly than prefolds
·      Sizes for newborns available

·      Much pricier than prefolds starting around $5/each when not on sale
·      Not usually as absorbent as prefolds and may need additional inserts 

 All-in-One/Pocket Diapers

All-in-One (AIO) diapers and pocket diapers have a built in waterproof shell and soaker pad for added absorbency where you need it.  They are very easy to use because they work like disposables.  If you need extra absorbency, you can lay an extra liner inside of it. of either style

AIOs come in a variety of colors, patterns and styles so you can coordinate outfits and baby accessories with your diapers as well as choose gender specific color schemes.

Unless you invest in a one size fits all style, you'll need a full set in every size as your baby grows.

·      Easy to use
·      No separate cover or fasteners needed
·      Many colors and styles to choose from
·      Easy to add extra absorbency without too a lot of extra bulk
·      Premie size prefolds are the perfect size to add absorbency to pocket diapers

·      Expensive--AIOs and pocket diapers are anywhere from $15-30 a piece
·      Must be replaced as your baby outgrows each size
·      Cannot be bleached as it will destroy the waterproof lining and/or ruin the colors
·      Must use care when laundering the velcro/applix fastened styles
·      May not fit newborns right away even in the smallest sizes

One Size Fits All

Many cloth diaper manufacturers offer a one-size fits all style of AIO/pocket diapers/diaper covers.  These are an attractive option because it removes the necessity to restock for each size as your baby grows and they still come with many color options.

There are several one-size kits  and multipacks on the market right now such as the Econobum diapering system which is a prefold and diaper cover solution or the package sets by Fuzzi Buns, bumGenius, and others.  The kits and multipack sets are the most economical solutions, but they will be bulky on babies at the smaller range of the spectrum.  This is especially true of the Econobum since larger prefolds are included in order to accommodate baby's growth.

I personally couldn't afford to invest upfront in the amount of one-size AIOs needed for full-time use, so I use them as my night time solution and stuff a prefold into it for extra absorbency.

·      Most economical way to cloth diaper with AIO/pocket diapers
·      Grows with baby
·      No separate fasteners or covers required for the one-size AIO/pocket diapers
·      Requires less diapers over time

·      Don't fit newborns
·      Can still be quite costly
·      Cannot be bleached
·      Must use care when laundering the velcro/applix fastened styles
·      Bulky on smaller babies, especially the Econobum

Up Next...

Stay tuned to my diaper series by subscribing to my feed.  Tomorrow we'll be covering how to stock your cloth diaper stash!