Wednesday, March 14, 2012

all about cloth diapers

Becoming a parent has it perks but it also brings the pressure of about a billion and one decisions you need to make. When I found out I was pregnant for the first time, I remember spending countless hours on the web reading about cloth diapers. Should I use the disposable kind that looked simple to use or should I venture into a territory I knew nothing about?  At first, I just could not wrap my head around all the information that was before me. At the time, I was the first of my friends to be welcoming a new bundle and living in a foreign country... I did not have a support system of others who knew what they were doing when it came to using cloth diapers. I had always wished I had someone I could call up on the phone or send a quick e-mail to answer my questions in this department.

I am happy to report that a few years and a lot of research later, I have been able to make a great network of parents who are using cloth diapers. Starting this blog has allowed me to connect with people from all over the world. To my surprise, the topic of cloth diapers seems to be a hot topic these days, and always seems to lead to a great debate. I have several girlfriends who are entering into motherhood very soon, and still sitting on the fence when it comes to using cloth diapers. I asked readers to send me some of their burning questions when it came to cloth diapering. You guys asked, so now you shall receive. Today, I have had the honour of interviewing Kristie from Bums Away Diapers. She was so kind to take a few minutes to answer some of our readers' questions in the hopes it will help you make an informed decision when deciding what you will be putting on your little one's behind.

Can you tell us a bit about you?
I am a work-at-home mom of a very active 4-1/2 year old girl and a soon-to-be mom of a boy due in late March/early April.

We always knew we wanted to use cloth diapers but didn’t know a lot about them. Originally we ended up choosing a brand that a good friend of mine was using and since then we’ve diversified into other brands and styles of diapers. (Or maybe I should say I’ve diversified into other styles … my husband doesn’t see why anyone would ever use anything other than a pocket style diaper.)

Can you tell us a bit about your company and why you started it?
We moved to Brockville when our daughter was 9 months old. In Ottawa, we lived 2 blocks away from a cloth diaper store, which was really convenient. Once in Brockville, I found it a pain to have to drive to Ottawa or Kingston to pick up an extra diaper, wet bag, etc. So, I thought, why not start a store here? I asked around and people seemed interested so Bums Away began.

What is the biggest misconception about cloth diapering?
Do I have to pick just one? There are a lot but I’ll try to limit my answer to just a few.

One big misconception about cloth diapering is that people think it’s a lot of work. Having kids means more laundry irrespective of whether you use cloth or disposable diapers. I remember people saying to me “you’re really going to notice a difference in your laundry once she’s out of diapers” (I didn’t) and I kept saying to myself “I’m going to really notice a difference in my laundry when she stops playing in the mud and learns to eat without getting food all over herself” (still waiting for that to happen).

Another thing I hear parents say is that they don’t want to get poo in their washing machine. The poo goes in the toilet (like it’s supposed to with disposable diapers). There are trace amounts on the diapers that go in the wash. However, as anyone who’s ever done baby laundry knows, there are all sorts of bodily fluids that end up in your laundry including spit up, pee and poo. So, unless you’re prepared to throw out all clothing that gets poo on it, there’s going to be poo in your laundry no matter what kind of diapers you use (incidentally, people who’ve used both cloth & disposable diapers report that cloth diapers are much better at containing blowouts).

Diapers that are on the market today are extremely easy to use – most are used just like a disposable diaper except that they are washed afterwards instead of thrown in the garbage.

Cloth diapers usually don’t smell and are usually better at preventing diaper rash. (The only exception is if there’s a washing issue. If you do have smelly diapers and/or rash, please call either the manufacturer or myself. This problem can be easily fixed with the right detergent and washing routine.)

The last misconception is that cloth diapering is expensive. Cloth actually costs significantly less than disposable diapers especially when used on more than one child. The only difference is that, if you are buying all your cloth diapers at once, it can be expensive. That being said, there is no need to buy all your diapers at once. If you are expecting, you can buy a couple of diapers a month while you’re pregnant. If you already have a child in disposables and don’t have a lot of spare cash, you can buy one or two cloth diapers at a time and slowly build up your stash of cloth.

What is the usable life of a cloth diaper?
That depends on (a) what kind of diaper you buy and (b) how you treat it. There are a lot of cheap diapers on the market today (mostly made in China). I’ve heard of some of these disintegrating in the wash after only a few uses. On the other hand, I’ve also heard of people using the diapers that their mother used on them. Like everything else, you get what you pay for (that being said, you don’t have to pay a lot to get quality diapers – and, even the most expensive cloth diapers are cheaper than using disposables for one child, and are much much cheaper than using disposables for several children).

If you want a diaper that will last through several children, you should look for diapers that
  1. are made by reputable companies that stand by their products
  2. preferably (but not necessarily) are made of natural fibers (cotton, bamboo, or hemp)
  3. purchase diapers that are not attached to the covers (i.e. pre-folds or fitted diapers) as the diapers themselves tend to outlast covers
  4. use diapers according to manufacturer’s directions including using approved laundry detergents, only cloth diaper safe diaper creams, using a liner with diaper creams, etc.
Points (a) and (d) are the most important points above. Diapers that don’t meet the criteria of (b) and (c) can last through several children but may not.

Is it one size fits all or will we have to buy multiple sizes?
The answer to this depends on what brand and style of diaper you choose. Buying one-size diapers doesn’t necessarily save you money (for example Bummis pre-folds are an excellent example of a very reasonably priced, high-quality diaper where buying newborn, small, and medium sizes will still cost you less than buying one set of one-size diapers).

One-size diapers are available in pocket diapers, fitted diapers and all-in-one diapers. It can be difficult to find a one-size diaper that will fit a child from birth to potty training. It depends on the brand – some are more likely to fit all the way through for most kids. It also depends on your child’s size & shape at birth and at potty training.

It is recommended that you purchase enough diapers to wash every 2-3 days. Washing every day can be a little much. If you wash less frequently than every 3 days then you can have problems with buildup of nasty stuff on your diapers.

For newborns, the starting recommendation is 24 diapers. Once a baby is about a year old, the recommendation is to purchase 18 diapers. Again, that’s a starting point. Some children will need more, others will need less.

What should we know about storing cloth diapers?
Dirty diapers can be stored in either a diaper pail or hanging wet bag. Small wet bags are available to carry with you when you’re out and about. Wet bags and diaper pail liners get thrown in the wash with your diapers so they’re really easy to keep clean.

Clean diapers can be stored however you wish. Some people fold them nicely in a drawer. Others have a laundry bin where they keep their clean diapers and use them out of the bin as needed.

Are cloth diapers suitable for all night use?
Cloth diapering at night can be a bit trickier than during the day. Some babies wear their daytime cloth diapers at night with no problems whatsoever. For others, an extra insert is needed. And for the unlucky, specialized overnight diapers are needed to keep baby from soaking through. Overnight diapers can be a bit pricey but are still cheaper in the long run than disposables. I also have an overnight diaper loan program so that parents can try different overnight diapers before investing in them.

If a baby wakes up during the night, their diaper should be changed when they wake. If baby sleeps through the night, one cloth diaper can usually be used for the entire night. If using for the entire night, I’d recommend some sort of stay-dry liner to keep wetness away from baby’s skin. Also, a more breathable cover (like fleece or wool) should be used.

Are there any sanitary reasons preventing us from using cloth diapers on other children? (for example sharing between siblings).
No. Some parents have more than one child in diapers at the same time – there’s no reason that they’d have to keep each set of diapers separate if the diapers were the right size for both children.

If using for successive children or if purchasing used diapers, I’d recommend stripping the diapers between children to get them extra-clean and get rid of any buildup that may be on the diapers (especially if purchasing used diapers).

What would you say to someone who is still on the fence about cloth diapering?
Just try it and you’ll be amazed at how easy it is. You could pick up a couple of cloth diapers to use in rotation and see how it goes. Alternatively, several cloth diaper stores have programs where you can borrow diapers for a week or two to try them out. (Our program is at

A great opportunity to try cloth diapers is coming up at The Great Cloth Diaper Change on April 21st (details including pre-registration information at This is a fun even where we will be trying to break the world record for number of cloth diapers changed simultaneously. The first 30 registrants (who also show up) get goody bags, which will have some cloth diaper related products. We will also have door prizes (which will include some cloth diapers).
Kristie showing us a selection of her diaper collection. It's a family affair!
There you have it folks, some of your burning questions answered. Thanks, Kristie for sharing your expertise with us. Happy diapering everyone!!

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