Diaper duty

Five things you should know about cloth diapers


Expectant mothers and fathers are bombarded with advice from well-intended family members and friends. First-time parents want only the best for their wee ones, but it helps if all of the toys, cloths and other items of baby-gear are affordable, practical and eco-friendly … right?

Cloth diapers have made a resurgence on the parenting scene. Oddly enough, they have been called a trend, which pretty much ignores the hundreds of years parents used cloth or other materials to diaper their children. Disposable diapers offer convenience, but they also can irritate baby’s skin and cause diaper rash. Not to mention, they can get expensive, and often end up sitting in landfills. Here’s what to keep in mind before making the jump.

You’ll have to change your baby more frequently, but that’s probably a good thing. According to the Archives of Environmental Health, disposable diapers are made with chemicals and materials intended to soak up fluids. While it reduces the amount of changing, it makes it more difficult to tell when your child is ready for a change. However, changing more often cuts down the potential for diaper rashes or infections. As a mother on the BabyCenter.com message board said, “I don’t sit in wet pants, why should I make my baby?”

There are different models intended for different purposes. DiaperJungle.com gives an overview of the four styles available: prefolds, all-in-ones (AIOs), pocket diapers and fitted diapers. Prefolds are the least expensive—around $15 for a dozen. They generally need a waterproof cover and a set of fastens—snaps, such as Snappis, are significantly less brutal than old-fashioned safety pins—but all it takes to change your child is replacing the prefold and tossing the dirty one in the wash. They can also be used on their own but can soak through quickly. An AIO has all the bells and whistles which makes them convenient but a bit more expensive than prefolds. Pocket diapers are waterproof and fasten-ready but need a liner, so these are a good option to pair with prefolds. Fitted diapers are the most expensive but can allow for the most mobility for your squirming 1-year-old.

It takes time to wash them. If you plan ahead this doesn’t have to be any less convenient than doing other laundry, but it does require some preparation to reduce the smell and also keep the material sanitary. Parents and physicians recommend two options to treat diapers before tossing them in the wash: wet buckets, in which dirty diapers are soaked in water before going into the wash, or closed dry buckets, where the soiled cloth is stored in a container to keep the smell at a minimum.

Develop a collection. When you’re out and about at the store, and your little one needs a change, it’s good to have some extra diapers stored in your bag or in your vehicle. Because most parents only wash the diapers a few times a week, this requires an additional stash and may cost a bit more upfront. But after the initial investment, you have a reusable assortment of diapers.

Cutesy is fine, but unnecessary. Baby clothes are undoubtedly adorable, but think of what your child is doing inside of the sparkly, zebra-printed diaper fastened to her 5-month-old bottom. Babies grow rapidly, which means keeping your diaper stash updated. Also, if you’re looking for organic material, you won’t find it with artificial dyes. The fun prints work well as the child ages, and the style factor can be a helpful incentive when starting the potty training process, but for infants, stick to the fun onesies and accessories that will embarrass them when they are older.