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A few years ago, I was contributed to Baby Shop Magazine with an article about what goes into making a quality cloth diaper. It all comes down to educating yourself in order to find the best cloth diapers for your baby. After being in the cloth diapering business for so many years, I have some insights to share on what to look for to ensure you invest in a high quality cloth diaper.
Cloth diapering today is not what it used to be. New choices of materials and high tech fabrics cause an increasing number of parents to reconsider whether disposable diapers are the best choice for themselves, their infants and the environment.
Cloth diapers can be grouped into 5 categories:
1) Flat, Prefolded or Contoured – These are the traditional diapers that have been available for the past 50+ years. These diapers are still on the market and have traditionally been the least expensive way to diaper your child.
Flat diapers are simple square or rectangular pieces of fabric usually made of birds eye or gauze cotton which is folded to suit the size.
Prefolded diapers have a few extra layers of fabric sewn into the center, making them more absorbent where it’s most needed. Contoured diapers also have extra layers of fabric sewn to the center but are shaped like an hourglass.
These traditional diapers are then pinned or clipped to keep them in place. They require the use of a waterproof cover over top of the cotton diaper to make the system waterproof.
2) Fitted Diapers – These expand on the contoured style of diapers by adding elastic to the leg and waist openings. This virtually eliminates any chance of bowel movement leakage. Fitted diapers are made from a variety of fabrics, including eco friendly organic cottons, bamboo, hemp and micro fibres. These diapers close using snaps or hook and loop closures (Velcro) which eliminate the need for pins. They are available in one size options as well as sized options for a more perfect fit. They require the use of a waterproof cover over top of the fitted diaper to make the system waterproof.
3) Pocket Diapers - With this diapering style the waterproof diaper cover is sewn to an inner (usually synthetic) layer in a manner that leaves an opening, usually along the back of the diaper to accommodate the addition and removal of an absorbent insert or liner. Once the absorbent insert has been added pocket diapers are as easy to use as All In One type diapers. Inserts are available in a variety of fabric choices. Pocket diapers have elastic at the waist back and leg openings. They close using snaps or hook and loop (Velcro) closures. They are available in one size options or sized for a more perfect fit.
4) All-In-One Diapers – These diapers combine the fitted cotton diaper with the outer waterproof cover into one product. These are the most convenient to use because the waterproof cover is attached to the diaper, making cloth diapering a one step process. This seems like the ideal alternative to disposable diapers. This style of diaper is perfect when convenience is a factor, such as a quick diaper change at the mall, or for care providers.
5) All-In-Two or Hybrid Diapers - The All-in-Two cloth diaper combines the absorbent diaper Insert with a co-ordinating waterproof cover by snapping them together before use, or apart, following use, for washing. Once snapped together an All In Two/Hybrid diaper becomes as easy to use as an All In One diaper. As only a few co-ordinating waterproof diaper covers are required, All In Two/Hybrid diapers are more economical than pocket diapers and All In One diapers where the waterproof cover is “built in”. Snap in a clean diaper insert when wet or soiled and reuse the cover. Absorbent diaper inserts are available in a variety of fabric choices. Diaper Inserts may have elastics all around for added security or they may be flat absorbent liners/inserts.
Outer Waterproof Covers - All forms of diapers require a waterproof cover to keep the baby’s clothing and bedding dry. Diaper covers are available in a number of different fabrics depending on your budget and preferences. The covers found in department or drug stores are usually made of plastic, are lower priced, and don’t last as long as the new high-tech fabrics. Some parents prefer wool covers, which have a natural water resistance. These are very breathable and can be good for children with very sensitive skin, but moisture does penetrate because they are only water “resistant”.
Most common in modern diaper covers are fabrics such as polyester or cotton bonded to a urethane laminate. This creates a waterproof barrier while giving the baby the feel of a cotton diaper cover. Knit polyester covers are the most durable and easiest to maintain of the high tech styles on the market. Modern covers usually wrap around the diaper and close using hook and loop (Velcro) or snap closures.
Absorbent Liners or Inserts - Absorbent liners are made of many layers of cotton or polyester micro fibre and can be added to a diaper to lend additional absorbency. They would typically be used during naps, overnight, or when going out for a few hours.
Flushable Liners - Flushable liners are an optional accessory in cloth diapering. They are placed on the cloth diaper and allow for a quick clean-up when the diaper is soiled. These liners are lightweight and can be flushed down the toilet. Please note that they may not be appropriate for use with all septic systems.
Diaper Sprayers - Simplify cloth diapering by using a Diaper Sprayer. Diaper Sprayers make rinsing your cloth diapers a more pleasant experience, while your diapers will have reduced staining and smell. A quality Diaper Sprayer installs in only a few minutes to your toilet’s water supply and makes clean up of soiled diapers much more pleasant.
Soft Cloth Wipes - Soft cloth wipes are available from most manufacturers. These usually come in a very handy size made of flannelette or knit terry and are chemical free. A thermos with warm water at the changing station is a very handy idea for moistening the cloth during cleanups.
Why Do Parents Choose Cloth:
Parents wanting to use cloth diapers have a genuine concern for the health of their children. They no longer trust the chemical laden disposable with their absorbents and perfumes.
Environmental issues which are always making the headlines, motivate some parents to absolutely refuse to use disposables. Some even cart their trusty cloth diapers with them onto airplanes and into hotel rooms.
Cloth diapers are far less expensive than the weekly purchase of disposables over a two to three year period.
Erika Froese, co-owner of Mother-ease Cloth Diapers, is the designer of the Mother-ease style of elasticized, knit cotton terry diapers and diaper covers.