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About Cloth Diapers

Quick Links:

Cloth Diaper Overview:
Cloth Diapering Tutorial
Luxury Model vs. Workhorse -- Where do I Start? -- Fasteners -- Waterproof Covers -- Overnight Doublers -- For the Pool -- For the Boys
Laundering & Maintenance
Cost Savings
Benefits of Cloth Diapers
How Many Will I Need?


 

Cloth Diaper Overview

When I first looked into cloth diapers, it was to save money.  I sifted through the haze of options (there are so many confusing alternatives), and settled on prefold diapers as the most economical.  Since then, I've saved over $11,000 on four little bottoms! What you will find here are the very best of the diapering supplies I've found (and still use on our little ones).

At my busiest point, I had:

  • a dry 5.5 year old son,
  • a wet-at-night 4 year old daughter,
  • a toilet training 2.5 year old son in diapers,
  • and a 9 month old boy in diapers.

Wherever you are in the continuum, I've either just been there or have been living there for some time!!  :-)

If you would like to read a very thorough investigation on the benefits of cloth vs. disposable, visit http://www.diapernet.org/whycloth.htm.

For many years, I sold all of these supplies - however, we feel that the Lord is leading us

down a different road now.  I would be happy to help you find a good source for diapering

supplies or answer your questions, though!  As of June 2014, I am selling off the last of my

brand-new diapering supplies at cost on Ebay.  My user name is smlovig, if you would like

to look for me there!


 

My Tutorial on Cloth Diapering:

"Cloth Diapering - Are You Nuts??"

Woman talking about diapers

When we decided I would stay at home with the children and home school, I began searching for ways to make up for the money that wouldn’t be coming in to the budget anymore. One of my decisions was to begin cloth diapering - and I fully expected it to be a sacrifice and a trial. I dreaded the diaper pins and the crinkling plastic pants…

Blessedly, I discovered that creative moms before me had come up with much better options. In fact, so many creative moms have tackled the problem that there are a stunning number of options and choices to be sifted through. Many moms call me up in a near frenzy of confusion as they try to weigh the options and understand the choices. I, too, have tried many different options, styles, and all-in-one diapers, in my search - and what I now offer on my website are only the best of what I have found and personally used.

So where do I start? You already know, but probably have never stopped to consider that there are 3 parts to a diaper: (a) its absorbent diaper core, (b) the way it fastens into place, and (c) the waterproof outer lining. With that in mind, you’re ready to discover the two basic kinds of cloth diapers: the luxury model with all the bells and whistles, and the simpler workhorse.

The luxury model is called an All-in-one (or AIO) diapers. These are diapers that have the diaper, fasteners, and waterproof cover all sewn together into a single, easy to use unit. I have had and used many different versions of these, but never really found one that worked as well as I wanted.

Variety of all-in-one diapers.

The Positives The Downside
  • They are daddy/in-law friendly.
  • They come in many attractive colors and prints.
  • They are quite costly.
  • It’s hard to find one that fits your baby just right (without gaps or pinches).
  • They take longer to dry (since the waterproof layer can’t be separated).
  • They must be replaced more frequently (since the sizes are very specific).
  • You need more of then in a wash cycle (since the entire assembly has to be washed each time the diaper is wet).

I keep a few of these around to ease Daddy when he’s in charge of the brood -- but if you decide to go with all-in-one’s, you will need to find another person to buy them from. I don’t use them, so I don’t stock them.

I prefer the simpler workhorse, which is the prefold. They are the key to economical diapering, forming the absorbent core of the diaper. In the olden days, diaper came as a single layer thick, and very large -- and had to be folded into the right size after every wash. "Prefolds" are the very same diaper, only sewn so that they stay folded in the wash. It has three sections -- two outer "wings" that are thinner, and a heavier center section. Each diaper can easily last through two babies and into the third before they begin to wear thin. Prefold diapers come in 6 sizes, from preemie to toddler - although the average baby will only use 3 of those sizes: infant, regular, and toddler. One does need to learn how to fold the diaper around the baby and fasten it, but this is not nearly as difficult as you imagine at first (newborns are very easy to learn on, as they don’t move very much - and even the worst diapering job will stay where you put it).

Stack of prefold cloth diapers.

I've found three basic kinds of prefolds:

Indian prefolds are the best for babies' bottoms, in my opinion. They remain smooth, soft, and wash very well. This is the only kind I use/sell. They are available in unbleached or bleached. Unbleached prefolds are softer, more absorbent and will generally last longer than a bleached version - as well as being void of the chemicals and dioxins used during the bleaching process.
Chinese prefolds
are also acceptable, but they are a bit rougher in texture, and tend to "pill" more and more as they are washed. Chinese prefolds are best used for appliquéd burp rags, since they remain stiffer and more true to the original rectangle shape over time.
Gerber
, the brand we all know, also makes diapers. Mind you, they are about as absorbent as cheesecloth - and anyone who has tried them is likely to go back to disposable diapers in discouragement.

I only order the Indian Prefolds, as they are superior in quality to the Chinese Prefolds. When you get them, they need to be washed and dried 2-3 times in hot water before they are fluffy and absorbent enough to be used on baby's bottom.

Fasteners
Then comes the fasteners – or “How do I keep this thing in place?” Fastening is easier than you think, especially when you avoid the traditional pins (which I do sell – mainly to wrestling teams who want to keep track of their “pins”). I think the Snappi fastener is worth its weight in gold. Simply put, a Snappi is like the claw on an Ace bandage - it has little hooks at the ends of 3 stretchy arms that grab the diaper on the surface (over both hips and down the center), but it can’t poke through to the baby below.

Snappis cloth diaper closures

Waterproof Covers
Finally, for prefold diapers, there is a waterproof cover. 
To hold wetness in, of all the covers I’ve tried, the Bummi Super Whisper Wrap is by far the best – (so much so that I have become an authorized retailer for the company and wholeheartedly recommend and use their covers). They are soft, comfortable fabric with Velcro fasteners - and they can hold in all but the most explosive cannon-fire curds! They are so well made, that my original ones are still going strong on my fourth baby! When they do finally start to fall apart, it will be at the seams - and is easily fixed with a little sewing.

Variety of waterproof diaper covers.

Doublers
These are essential for overnight diapering – and can be added to all-in-ones or prefolds. Once your little one is sleeping through the night, adding 1-2 doublers will increase the diaper’s capacity, so changes are unnecessary.

Doublers for overnight diapering.

Swim Diapers
These are required by all pools - and I have a wonderful cloth version of these made by the Bummi company. You don’t need to put anything inside of them except the baby/toddler! They easily last through baby after baby – just like the diaper covers.

Variety of swim diapers.

For Toddlers
Training pants are a wonderful way to give little ones the ability to pull their pants up and down for easy bathroom runs. We also use these for nighttime wetters who no longer need daytime diapers. They do tend to wear out after 1-2 children (the lining will tear out of the seams) - but I love them. My best trick with a pair whose lining is ripping out – cut out the remaining lining and use them as pull-on diaper covers for toddlers.
What is the diaper leaks?
I have to add this section in for mothers of little baby boys - as you might have the same learning curve that I and many of my customers have had (those of us who never diapered a little boy before having one ourselves). It’s all a matter of aim! Think about it: little girls always wee in the same spot, but little boys have “pistols” that need to be “aimed”. This is just as true in the diaper as it will be when they get older! If that little pistol is aimed up at the tummy, or out towards the leg, the stream of liquid will come shooting out of the diaper before the fabric has a chance to absorb it! You must aim straight down the center - or you’ll be changing the diaper and his clothes much sooner that you had anticipated.

What if the diaper leaks? I have to add this section in for mothers of little baby boys - as you might have the same learning curve that I and many of my customers have had (those of us who never diapered a little boy before having one ourselves). It’s all a matter of aim! Think about it: little girls always wee in the same spot, but little boys have “pistols” that need to be “aimed”. This is just as true in the diaper as it will be when they get older! If that little pistol is aimed up at the tummy, or out towards the leg, the stream of liquid will come shooting out of the diaper before the fabric has a chance to absorb it! You must aim straight down the center - or you’ll be changing the diaper and his clothes much sooner that you had anticipated.




Laundering & Maintenance

So now that you have an idea what to get for your layette, the question arises of WHAT DO I DO WITH THEM?…

First Washing: Diapers will arrive in new (stiff and flat) condition. They will need 3 washings in hot water (with a drying on high heat between each washing) before they are ready for baby. This is standard for all new prefold diapers. You can tell that your diapers are ready for use with a simple water test. Dribble water on a dry diaper. If the water beads or hesitates before being absorbed, you haven’t finished washing the natural wax out of the fabric - give it another hot wash and high dry. If the diaper thirstily absorbed the water, you’re good to go!

Photo of wastebasket



…and HOW TERRIBLE

WILL IT BE??

Dealing with Messy Diapers: This was my greatest trepidation when I first considered cloth diapers. How smelly and messy would it be? Thankfully, it's not bad at all (the worst of the mess sticks to those little bottoms – no matter what kind of diaper you use!)

 

Liquid waste is easy, and needs no pre-treatment before washing. I've simply set up the changing table and a diaper bin (standard open trash bin that uses plastic grocery bags) next to the changing table, and wet diapers go straight into the bin. If you find that odor is a problem (the ammonia can be potent), simply drape an extra diaper over the top of the bin between changes. The bin will still be able to breathe, but no nasty smells will filter through.

Solid waste is also surprisingly easy. For the first 6 months, it's a loose yellow curd that can go straight into the bin (and washer) with no rinsing. After that, when the baby is on solid foods and is producing more solid waste, simply shake off any pieces into the toilet and/or rinse the diaper before putting it in the bin. There is no need to get every little bit off, as your washer can handle the small stuff just fine.

Hint: As long as you're washing diapers, why buy disposable wipes? Cloth wipes (small wash cloths) go right into the diaper pail with the diapers, and save you lots of money! Just keep a stash of them near the sink - or have mini crock pot as a source for warm water near the changing table. I do have terry/flannel wipes available for sale, as well.

Washing: Is the washing a burden? Not for me - running to the store & hauling trash irks me more. I've had 2 babies at a time in cloth diapers for the past 5 years, and even that isn't much of a fuss. When one of my grocery bags (in the diaper bin) fills up, I simply knot it shut and toss it into the laundry room. I generally wash two full bags at the time, using gentle laundry detergent, warm water, and very importantly - a second rinse.

Drying: If you are using your dryer, you can expect a 2-bag load of diapers to take 80 minutes on high to dry. However, on a nice sunny day, I always hang the diapers out on the line to dry. The sun naturally bleaches away any yellow curd stains, and if the wind is high, the diapers whip up nice and soft. I do find that diapers dried on a windless day are stiff and scratchy - but a 5 minute tumble in the dryer takes care of that.

Child helping hang up diapers to dry. Close up of diapers hanging out to dry.

If you really want to save money, hang-dry your diapers year-round. I figured out the math, and we are saving $.95 per load this way - over $50 per month. Regardless of the time of year, I hang our diapers and washcloths on regular clothes hangers with cloths pins. In the winter, those loaded hangers are hung from the basement rafters and in any room that is uncomfortably dry. In the spring, summer, and fall, my older children run those hangers out to the clothes line, and hang them in little loops that Daddy has tied to the line for just such a need. If it rains on my laundry - I just consider that a courtesy rinse from God & give them an extra day to dry!

Do I have to be a purist…? Heavens, no!

If you are headed out on a long road trip, where will you find a washing machine (and do you really want bags of stinky diapers in the same car with you)? Or if your husband turns shades of green at the thought of diapering, spoil him with a secret stash of disposables for when you are gone. This is life - be practical, not dogmatic! Besides, buying a few packages of disposables will help you appreciate how much money you’re saving the rest of the time!



Cost Savings!
What kind of costs and savings are we talking about? The financial savings of using cloth diapers (over disposables) is staggering – check out the chart below! By the time my fourth baby toilet trains, I will have saved $10,488 by using cloth diapers & roughly $680* by using cloth wipes! That’s a savings of over $11,000 just for my time & effort doing laundry!

Cloth
Diaper
Size

Average
Age
Range

Cost for Cloth:
(4 doz. Prefolds
& 4 Covers)

Average
Diapers
Needed
/Day
Total # of
Disposables
Needed for This Stage
Cost for
Disposables
(Based on an
average of
$.32 each)
Infant 0 - 4.9 months $72
+ $46
= $152
12 1800 $576
Regular 5 - 12.9 months $80
+ $46
= $164
10 2400 $768
Toddler 13 - 33 months $108
+ $46
= $240
8 5040 $1613
Total Cost of Cloth Diapers = $556

Total Cost of Disposables = $2957

Cost Savings Per Child, Cloth vs. Disposable
1st Child -- Save $2401

2nd Child -- Save $2957 (no need to buy replacement diapers)

3rd Child -- Save $2679 (about 1/2 of the diapers need replaced)

4th Child -- Save $2679 (the other 1/2 of the diapers need replaced)

If you only have one child you can resell your diapers & covers on Ebay for about 30-40% of your original cost!
Note: Disposable diaper prices are as of 5-1-11, and may change rapidly.
*The average use of wipes is 1-1/2 wipes per diapering. Disposables cost an average of $.05 each.


 

Benefits of Cloth Diapers

Health and Comfort:
•    Cotton is more comfortable and breathes unlike disposable diapers, reducing bacteria and heat build-up, as well as the possibility of diaper rash. Would you rather wear a crinkling paper diaper or soft cotton on your rump?
•    Cloth diapers contain no chemicals or dioxins like those found in disposables – chemicals that have begun to raise concerns for infant health.
•    Potty training is done earlier – by an average of 12 months – when one uses cloth diapers. After all, it’s much easier to teach the concept of “wet” when the toddler can feel it! And – even if your little one takes a long time to train, there is no daily cost of disposables building up to frustrate you. Your toddler diapers can go on and on, as long as your child needs them.

Environmental Benefits:
•    It takes less water to launder cloth diapers than to manufacture disposable diapers.
•    Disposable diapers are the 3rd largest source of consumer landfill waste in the USA.

•    It takes 20-40 trees to diaper a child in disposables.

Convenience and Savings:
•    There are enough things we can run out of. Not running out of diapers is worth a lot to me. I’d rather run to the dryer than the store for more diapers!
•    The savings were my initial motivation. You can save $2195 with 1 child, $4782 with 2 children, $7177 with 3 children, or $9,764 with 4 children! Save even more by using cloth wipes.
•    We don’t even have to sacrifice ease of use to save money and time. As you’ve seen, diapers have developed into virtual replicas of the disposable version we are all accustomed to, making it quite comfortable to switch.




The Bottom Line -- How Many Will I Need?

This depends on how often you can get to your washing.

Washing daily: If you can do a load every day, you can survive on 2 dozen diapers, 3 covers, and 2 Snappi’s per baby - although you probably won‘t have enough diapers to fill the washer.
Hint: don’t wash baby clothes with diapers that have yellow curd in them, or the clothes will come out stained. If you forget and do that anyway, hang the stained clothes out on the line for a sun-bleaching.

Washing every other day: This is more economical, since you can always have a full washer, and it’s probably more realistic, too. For this, you will need 3-4 dozen diapers, 4-6 covers, and 2 Snappis.

Personally, with 4 little ones clamoring for my time, I end up washing every third or fourth day - and for that I need 5 dozen diapers and 6-8 covers per baby to make that work.

For your first cloth diapered baby, it’s okay to start small - you can always add more diapers and covers to your wash cycle as you find you need them. Then, too, if you are planning on having more children, you can ease your wash cycle by buying ahead for them (and using their diapers for this child as well). Since a small wash cycle of diapers will last through 2-3 babies, and the Bummi covers won’t wear out their seams until the fourth baby, you have an excellent long-term investment for your family.

When should I not use Cloth Diapers?

If cloth diapering is a “dishwasher” issue between you and your spouse, then go with disposables.

Yes -- there’s a back story to that advice. Two things have ‘saved’ our marriage: a dishwasher and an ice maker. You see, neither of us like washing dishes -- in fact, my husband can’t stomach it at all. When I would visit his bachelor pad, I’d find 9 different colors of mold on the dishes in his sink! When we realized that this was going to be an issue for us, we decided we’d better spend any wedding gift money on a dishwasher - and remove that source of frustration. (We both forget to fill the ice trays, too, if you’re wondering – but he does help me get the laundry done.) So, if cloth diapering was to cause a strain/ frustration between you and your spouse - then disposables are worth every penny.

 

 

Susan Lovig, Owner and Seamstress of Mama’s Love

563-920-5427
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Testimonials

Thank you for [your diapering] video! I was so impressed that I looked up your website. I was so impressed with your website, that I ordered from you. Then, I am so impressed with your personal customer service, that I'm going to tell all my friends about you and mention you in my blog!

I purchased cloth diapers from you at NICHE this year, thinking I would "give it a try" and "as a stay at home mom, I could just use the cloth ones at home." Well, this has caught full fire in our household, going nearly all cloth even on days when we leave the house from 8:30am to 8:30pm!

“Thanks for all the info, you really helped to clear up my confusion about how much stuff we need.” --Melody

“I just wanted to say thank-you for having such a detailed and helpful website! I'm due in 5 weeks with my 1st and have decided to go cloth. Cloth is SO confusing!!! I've been reading everywhere online and still have tons of questions. But your website answered more than the professional cloth diapering blogs!!!! So thank-you thank-you thank-you!!!” --Shyloh

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