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Cloth Diapers - 10 Big Questions and Answers

Aug 26, 2008
Deciding whether to use typical disposable diapers or more natural cloth diapers can be tough. New moms and moms using disposable diapers don't know what to expect with cloth diapers. So even though using cloth can save you about $500 per year for each child in diapers, not knowing what to expect can keep you from switching. Are they dirty? How do I clean them? Do they stain? Here are some questions and answers that may help you:

1. What are the different types of cloth baby diapers?

Chinese Pre-fold - These are the most similar type to what people think of when they conjure up the image of cloth diapers. There are made of cotton with 3 panels - 2 outer panels which are two layers and a four layer inner panel. These are folded and wrapped around the baby, then fastened with pins. You'll need to use a diaper cover when using these though, as they are not waterproof.

Fitted Cloth Diapers - Fitted cloth baby diapers are made of cotton and fashioned in such a way as to conform to the shape of the baby. They are shaped like an hourglass and have multiple layers in the center where soiling is heaviest. These may be fastened with pins, snaps or hooks and eyelets. You'll need a waterproof cover for these baby cloth diapers as well.

All in One (AIO) - This is a fitted diaper and cover together.

Pockets - One of the greatest inventions of all time, a pocket diaper is shaped to fit a baby's shape and has an external waterproof cover which keeps things dry. The part of the diaper which will get soaked, however is in a pocket and can be removed; this allows you to customize based on the needs of your child - you can add two absorbers if needed! These are also far easier to wash. With a pocket diaper, just remove the inserts and wash the diaper as you would normally; it also takes less time to dry than a traditional cloth baby diaper.

2. How do I handle cloth diapers with my daycare, sitter or grandparents?

We all had to adjust to cloth baby diapers, but the new, easier to deal with designs present much less difficulty than old fashioned baby cloth diapers. Just show them to your sitter or daycare provider and explain how easy they are to use. While daycare can't be expected to clean the cloth baby diaper for you, they can wrap them and send them home so you can clean them later; not ideal, perhaps, but it lets you keep your baby in cloth rather than disposable plastic diapers.

3. How many cloth diapers do I need for one child?

You'll need around two dozen cloth baby diapers per child. Remember, average diaper usage per day is about eight, so you may need more just to be on the safe side.

4. How much does it cost for baby cloth diapers for one child?

For Chinese prefolds, the cost for 24 is about $150 and it goes up to around $400 for 24 one-size-fits-all pocket cloth baby diapers. You only have to buy them once and then re-use them for the whole time the baby is in diapers. When all is said and done, using cloth lets you keep about $500 per year in your pocket compared to disposable diapers.

5. How are diaper inserts used and are they necessary?

Your set can last longer and be more effective if you also get diaper doublers to be used for extra absorbency at night.

6. How often will I have to wash them?

If you have 24 cloth baby diapers per child, you need to wash them every two or three days (usually three).

7. How do I wash cloth diapers?

There are a few different ways to wash baby cloth diapers, but here are two favorite ways:

I. Always do a rinse cycle first of all or wash them in a small wash with about 1/4 cup vinegar (distilled white). Doing this will help remove stains and odors as well. Cold water is fine for this - the whole process takes only about 20 minutes.

II. Wash the cloth baby diapers on warm or hot and if your machine will do so, add an extra rinse cycle. 7th Generation Free and Clear works well. Use less if you have an efficient washing machine; really (otherwise you'll have an "I Love Lucy" episode on your hands!). We also like to ad Oxyclean or Borax to this wash for extra cleaning.

8. How do I remove the stains from baby cloth diapers?

This is very simple - you can get the stains out of cloth diapers by simply leaving them out in sunlight to dry. Try it yourself, this really does work! If you have a stubborn stain which just won't fade, you can try using a little bleach on the pocket inserts. However, with modern brands of pocket diapers (Happy Heiny's and BumGenius, for instance) this should be a very rare occurrence - the material which is used to make these diapers is stain resistant. You can also eliminate this concern entirely by using biodegradable or flushable diaper liners instead.

9. How do I remove the smell from cloth diapers?

Just put the diapers through a rinse cycle, using hot water and about 1/3 cup of distilled white vinegar; this will do the trick.

10. How do I remove the feces from cloth diapers?

Probably the easiest way to do this is with a diaper sprayer attachment for your toilet (bumGenius makes one of these). These are great at removing feces from baby cloth diapers. Again, diaper liners also make this easy - just remove the liner, rinse and residue and that's it!

Knowing these answers should help you make a decision that is informed and right for your family. Cloth diapering is actually quite easy. Many moms say it is actually kind of addictive. It may seem odd when you first consider it, but as you get into cloth, it becomes easy and gratifying to know that you are saving money as well as the environment.
About the Author
Nick Lombardi is a life coach who helps families save money and go green. You can find more information about cloth diapers and how they help families save money (a lot of it) at http://www.BabySproutNaturals.com
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