Cloth Diapering 101

Newcomer cloth diaper moms have one hundred and one questions. My partner and I had about a gazillion when we went the cloth diapering way:

‚How do I fold this big handkerchief thingy (flat diaper) and make it fit on the baby’s bum?‘

‚What’s this other smaller handkerchief thingy (liner) and does it go over or under? What does it do anyway?‘

‚How do I stick this safety pin into the diaper without sticking it into the baby (Yikes!)? Why is it called a safety pin anyway, it does not look safe to me.‘

Believe me when I say we were both more clueless than a snowman in the Sahara desert.

But to keep it short and sweet (although diapers and sweet do not belong in the same sentence), today I will answer ten of the most commonly asked questions in our Cloth Diapering 101 class.

1. How Many Diapers Do I Need?

The number of diapers you need primarily depends on the age and weight of your baby. Newborns go through more diapers than toddlers. With a newborn, you will need a minimum two dozen diapers, but as few as one dozen will be sufficient for a toddler. Other factors that will come into play are whether your baby is a heavy wetter, the absorbency of your diapers, and the materials from which your diapers are made.

2. How Do I Strip My Cloth Diapers?

Stripping is one of those necessary evils of being a cloth diaper mom. Hate it or love it, you MUST do it every now and again. A detailed guide on how to strip cloth diapers is available here. When stripping, keep in mind that you should NOT add any detergent to your diapers, as this beats the purpose – you want to get traces of detergent out. When stripping, you should also know whether you have hard or soft water as this determines what you can add to your load (stain remover, baking soda, vinegar, etc.) and how effective it will be.

3. Which Are the Best Cloth Diaper Brands?

There is no ‚best‘ just what works well for you and your baby. When choosing diaper brands, consider size, absorbency, washing, lifetime of the diaper and your budget. If you are just starting out, you can buy a few of each brand and then buy more of what works best for you. Some popular diaper brands are: Osocozy, BumGenius, Kawaii and Rumparoos.

4. How Do I Choose My Cloth Diaper Detergent?

If a detergent is indicated to be safe for your baby’s clothes, it is not necessarily safe for his or her diapers. Choose a very gentle, natural cloth diaper detergent that is free of any additives. If your baby gets a rash and you suspect it is because of your detergent, change it. You should also try using less detergent when washing your cloth diapers.

5. Is it Advisable to Use Cloth Diapers through the Night?

Yes it is! You may worry that since cloth diapers wet faster, your little one may not sleep comfortably all night because of leaks. With newborns, you will need to change the diaper three or four times which is okay because it will probably correspond with his or her feeds too. For older babies who sleep through the night, add a doubler under the diaper and you and your baby get a restful, dry night. You can also choose more absorbent diaper brands (like one with a suede or fleece booster and a wool cover) to guarantee a dryer night for your baby.

6. What are the Differences between Flats and Prefolds?

The most basic diaper is the flat; it is the big white handkerchief-like thingamy your parents probably used. You fold it into a triangular shape, fit the baby’s bum into the center of this triangle, gather the ‚points‘ of the triangle at the baby’s front and then pin it into place (with safety pins) at the baby’s hips. A prefold is just like flat, but eliminates the folding stage because this has already been done for you and sewn in place so that it does not unfold. The primary advantage of prefolds over flats is that prefolds have more layers at the center where absorbency is needed the most to keep your baby dry.

7. What are the Differences Between All-in-Ones and All-in-Twos?

An ‚all-in‘ diaper combines the diaper itself and the waterproof cover so that you do not have to put them on the baby separately. The diaper and the cover come sewn together and you just have to snap it or Velcro it in place on the baby’s waist. All-in-ones have the inner absorbent cloth and the outer waterproof cover and that’s it. All-in-twos are fashioned such that you can remove the inner absorbent cloth from the outer waterproof cover. Its advantage is that you can re-use the waterproof cover with a fresh diaper and it makes for easier laundering.

8. What are the Differences Between Inserts and Doublers?

Inserts are used with pocket diapers for extra absorbency. Pocket diapers are basically like all-in-twos but with an allowance beneath the inner absorbent layer and the outer waterproof material where you can add another layer of cloth (the insert) so your baby can go drier for longer. Doublers are thick, rectangular cloth pads that are also added for absorbency and used with the traditional flats or with prefolds. They are fixed between the diaper and the waterproof diaper cover.

9. How Do I Wash My Cloth Diapers?

Wash your diapers every two to three days. In between washes, keep your diapers in a diaper pail and add a sprinkle of baking soda into the dirty diaper pail to keep away the stunk. The standard diaper wash is: one cold wash, one hot wash with your cloth diaper detergent, and then a cold and warm rinse. You can add an extra rinse if you still see bubbles in the wash.

10. How Do I Stop/Control Diaper Rash?

If your baby has never, ever had a diaper rash, I salute you; you are officially the Best Mom in the universe. Also, would you please let me in on the secret? Now, to the rest of us ordinary moms, to limit the probability of your baby getting diaper rush, you can take these preventive steps:

  • Change your baby as soon as they get wet. This does not mean that you can feel or see the wetness on may start crying or fidgeting when they are wet. Check every two hours for newborns, and at least every four hours for older babies.
  • Use alcohol-free wipes as they may cause irritation on baby’s skin. Choose baby-friendly wipes or use cloth wipes instead.
  • Dry baby’s skin well before putting on a diaper. Humidity encourages bacteria and formation of rash/yeast infections.
  • Use a cream or ointment on baby’s skin with every diaper change. Plain petroleum jelly or zinc oxide work well. Your cream of choice should be mild and baby-friendly.
  • Clean diapers very thoroughly and make sure to rinse out all detergent with every wash. Left over detergent can irritate baby’s skin.

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