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Cloth Diaper How-To
by Sara Rands

I'm using cloth diapers on my 5-month-old baby. It seems that cloth diapering is becoming a lost art. I couldn't even find diaper pails for cloth diapers in the stores! The diapers sold in discount stores are generally of poor quality--maybe to convince more people to use disposables?

Why am I using cloth? Well, I started so I could save some money. Since then, I've found plenty of other reasons to use them. They are very soft on my baby's skin. I'm uncomfortable with the chemicals found in disposables (the polyacrylates that turn the urine into that weird gel). I don't want my baby's poop to be hanging around in the landfill hundreds of years from now. Plus, they just look so darn cute! And I find homemakerly satisfaction in hanging up clean diapers on the clothesline.'s some basic cloth diapering questions and answers.

How do cloth diapers work?
In a diapering system, you need an absorbant diaper and a waterproof cover.

What is the cheapest quality cloth diapering method?
I use Diaper Service Quality (DSQ) prefolds, fastened with pins, covered with nylon pants. DSQ prefolds are about $25 per dozen mail order, pins are $1.50 for 2 pair; nylon pants are about $2-$4 each. These diapers and covers are supposed to last through two babies.  The diapers in the discount stores are less expensive, ($10-$12 per dozen), but also less absorbant. (Gerber DSQs, found in some stores, are the exception--they are absorbant and long-lasting, though not quite as soft and thick as mail order DSQs.) As the baby gets older, you'll need to double diaper, so you'll need to buy more diapers. You would wind up spending just as much money. Vinyl diaper pants don't breathe well and they crack with age eventually. Nylon diaper pants are nearly indestructible. Dritz brand diaper pins, available mail order and in some fabric stores, work the best.

What other kinds of cloth diapering methods are out there?
Some people are looking for more convenience or want to avoid using pins. For these people there are fitted diapers which attach with velcro or snaps. There are also diaper covers made that attach with velcro or snaps. With an immobile baby, you can lay a prefold in velcro or snap cover and put it on the baby without using pins. There are also all-in-ones, which are a diaper and cover in one, like disposables. These options are generally more expensive. Sometimes they are more convenient, but sometimes they cause new problems. For example, velcro sticks to itself in the dryer, can wick the urine outside of the cover, and some babies can figure out how to work the velcro. Pinning isn't that hard, in my opinion! But some of these are nice to have on hand for babysitters.

How do you put the prefold at the baby?
This is somewhat hard to describe in writing. Weebees, a cloth diaper company, has instructions with pictures at their website:

How many diapers and covers will I need?
You can get by with 2 dozen diapers, but 3 dozen is better. With 3 dozen I wash every 3 days. You'll need about 6 covers in each size. (You only need to change the cover when it gets poopy.)

What other equipment will I need?
You'll need a diaper pail for cloth diapers--the stores don't seem to sell these anymore, so look at yard sales, or use any bucket or trashcan with lid. You need a diaper bag big enough for cloth diapers (or just throw your supplies into a backpack with a changing pad). Some nylon ditty bags are nice to have in your diaper bag to put the wet ones in when traveling--you can wash the bag as well! When the baby gets bigger and eats solid foods, many people use disposable liners to catch the poop.  You'll also need washrags for wipes. You can buy these mail order, or just get a few dozen cheap washcloths from a discount store. Wash them with your diapers.

Do I have to dunk and soak?
You can if you want. But some people let the washing machine do the work. They dump the solids into the toilet and put the poopy diapers through an extra cycle or two in the washing machine to get them clean.

How do I wash them?
Everyone has their favorite method. I wash the poopy diapers in cold with detergent. Then I add the wet diapers and wash on hot with detergent. I then give the diapers an extra rinse with a half-cup of vinegar, which neutralizes the ammonia in the diapers. Then I hang them on the line. Not only does this save energy, it also gets any stains out of the diapers. But it makes the diapers a little stiff, so I run them in the dryer a few minutes to soften them up. Do not use bleach or fabric softener on your diapers! Bleach prematurely wears the fabric, and fabric softener makes them less absorbant.

Sara Rands is a new stay-at-home mom and loving it!

The Basics of Cloth Diapering
by Mary McCarthy

When we think of using cloth diapers, we don't think of how beneficial it is for our babies, for our pocketbook, or for our environment. However I hope to share with you in this article about the benefits of cloth diapering, what you'll need to get started and how to wash them. This article does not cover all of the benefits or attributes of using cloth but I hope it is enough information for you to make the best decision for your baby, for your family and for our earth.

Better for Baby
First of all, it is important to know why choosing cloth is superior for your baby. According to studies, 78% of disposable-diapered babies have diaper rash, compared to 7% of cloth-diapered babies. Cotton diapers are better for your baby because cotton "naturally breathes", while disposables (made of paper and plastic) don't have the breath-ability that cotton does. Thus, diaper rash occurs in more disposable-diapered babies. As I state in my email signature, "If you had to be in a diaper all day, wouldn't you want to sit in soft cotton?"

Caring for the Earth
As for environmental concerns, using cloth is just plain superior! There is beginning to be quite a problem with disposables in landfills. When using disposables, people generally do not flush solid waste down the toilet (as the instructions on the package recommend). Instead, the waste remains in the diaper and goes off to the landfill. The problem with this is that there is over 5 million tons of untreated solid waste in landfills and they may contain intestinal viruses. It is estimated that there are almost 100 intestinal viruses out there; this is how our groundwater becomes contaminated. Insects transport these viruses around and thus diseases break out.

On the other hand, cloth diapers with solid waste are shaken off into the toilet (or if liners are used, simply flushed down the toilet). The waste is taken care of the way it is meant to, that is, it goes through a sewage treatment center. This ensures that we are not contaminating our earth and each other.

The Savings
As for the monetary value of using cloth, you might be surprised at how much you will save! According to some mothers, you will save on average about $1,500.00! Other mothers who use the most convenient cloth diapers (all-in-ones) save around $1,000. Even other moms save around $2,000.00 when they use an inexpensive cloth diapering system.

On the other hand, when you finish using diapers with your child, you're done. All you have left is a huge mountain of trash. However if you have used cloth diapers, you are ready for the next child, thus saving even more money! Some mothers have purchased a new appliance with the money they have saved using cloth diapers. What a great idea!

Okay, Now How Do I Get Started?
Here comes the fun part! You now know that cloth is better in so many respects, so which products do you choose? Well, there are so many quality cloth diapers out there that it's hard to make a decision! However, it is so much fun to "test" different products. Many of the moms I know who use cloth diapers rave about how they "love cloth diapering." However, I have yet to hear one mother using disposables say the same thing! There are basically three different components of cloth diapering: prefolds, diaper covers and all in ones.

Prefolds are the square, flat diapers you fold. Prefolds are used to soak up urine and to hold solid waste. These are available in a variety of layers and materials. There is cotton flannel, birds-eye cotton and terry material ("terry" is what towels are made of and is super absorbent) used for making prefolds. Prefolds have no outer layer to hold wetness in; therefore these are used with diaper covers or wraps.

Contoured diapers are cut and sewn to resemble an hourglass shape. They are made of the same materials that prefolds are made of. The only difference is their shape; some parents like using these "contoured" or "shaped" diapers better than square shaped prefolds. This is totally a matter of preference. Contoured diapers are also used with diaper covers or wraps.

Fitted Diapers cover baby's entire bottom. To use fitted diapers, just place under baby, bring front up to baby's tummy, and either Velcro® or snap. With fitted diapers, a diaper cover or wrap is still needed to hold wetness in because they do not have any wetness protective layers in them.

How many do I need?  With using prefolds, contoured, or fitted diapers you will need:  10-12 diapers per day for newborns; 6-8 per day for older babies.

Diaper covers are used with prefolds, contoured or fitted diapers. You simply fold the prefold and place on the cover. Then you bring the diaper and cover under baby (just like using a disposable). Diaper covers either have Velcro®, or snaps to fasten them. Diaper wraps may also be referred to as "pull-ons", meaning that instead of using Velcro® or snaps to fasten, you just pull up over baby. There are some great quality fleece and woolen wraps out there to choose from. Many moms prefer to use these covers or wraps at nighttime because they are so effective in preventing leaks and blowouts. And we love to prevent those little incidents from happening!

How many do I need?   6 are a minimum, 8-10 make life easier!

All In Ones are probably the most convenient cloth diaper on the market today. If you are really used to disposables and are afraid of transition, perhaps you should try using these first. These have layers of absorbent cotton sewn inside and have a nice protective layer preventing wetness from leaking onto the outside of the diaper. You just put on the baby and go! There are also some wonderful all in ones products out there. If you are traveling, shopping, or having Grandma over to help with the baby, try using an all in one. People are always amazed at how they look and function. These are definitely worth the investment. However, some moms prefer to use these minimally because they may be more expensive than using diaper covers/wraps and prefolds. When used every day, the outer protective layer may deteriorate quicker due to washing more often.

How Many do I need?  10-12 per day for newborns; 6-8 per day for older babies.

Miscellaneous Items Used for Cloth Diapering

Doublers are a long, wide strips of cotton (or cotton and terry) layers laid on a prefold or inside of an all in one. These are beneficial because they have all of the absorbency of an extra diaper, but not all the bulk. Doublers are generally used for heavier-wetting babies, for traveling long distances, or for nighttime. Usually moms purchase a few for these occasions; they are nice to have on hand.

Liners are used to eliminate the need to shake off waste in the toilet and to rinse off dirty diapers. There are reusable cotton liners and there are also flushable, biodegradable liners. The cotton liners are reused again after being washed, and the flushable liners are just flushed down the toilet. These are also convenient products to have on hand.

I hope this information has been helpful to you! Cloth diapering has been one of my greatest experiences with my baby. It is my hope that you will appreciate cloth diapering just as much as I have! If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me at Good luck and happy diapering! Remember, your baby will be so thankful for your decision, and so will your pocketbook!

Mary McCarthy is the proud mommy to Timothy Michael Patrick McCarthy III, born 5/13/99. She and her husband Tim live in Littleton, Colorado where they operate Mary's business, Comfy Bummy Diapers, out of their home.


More Information about Diapering:

Do It Yourself Cloth Diapering Handbook
by Sarah Zmuda

Diaper Changes
Diaper Changes: The Complete Diapering Book and Resource Guide
by Theresa Rodriguez Farrisi, Janet Primomo

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