Cloth Diapering 101 - The Frequently Asked Questions

There are so many questions that new parents have about cloth diapers and the wide array of choices seem bewildering. We know - we've been there before :-) Here we've tried to compile the most frequently asked questions about cloth diapers and if you still have a burning question that is unanswered after reading this, do email us. We'll get back to you as soon as we can and we may even add your question to this list!

Diaper under romper

1. What are the advantages to using cloth diapers ?
2. Is it a lot more work using cloth diapers than using disposables?
3. Won't my baby get diaper rash ?
4. How often do I have to change the baby ?
5. Don't cloth diapers cost a lot of money ?
6. How many cloth diapers do I need ?
7. What should I start out with if I want to try them out without investing too much?
8. Can the baby wear cloth diapers on the baby while going out and about ?
9. Terminology

• Prefolds:
• Fitted Diaper:
• Diaper Covers:
• Pocket Diapers:
• All-in-One Diaper (AIO):
• Diaper Inserts:
• Diaper Liners:
• Diaper Pail:
• Diaper Pail Liner:
• Wet Bag:

Chandler

10. Is it difficult -- my husband and babysitter be able to use the cloth diapers I buy for my baby?
11. How do you wash them?
12. Doesn't it smell and get really messy?
13. What about when baby is changed away from home - what do you do with the dirty diaper?
14. What about diaper pins? I don't want to prick my baby!
15. How comfortable are they?
16. Aren't they really bulky?
17. Isn't it bad for the environment because it uses a lot of water, electricity, and detergent to launder?
18. How long can you use them before they wear out? Can you use them for more than one child?
19. What if I only have one baby – is it worth it to go out and buy all those diapers?
20. What if my baby's a heavy wetter or has really long naps?
21. Won't they get stained?
22. Do you sell used diapers?
23: Are cloth diapered babies toilet trained earlier ?
24. Do male babies who use disposable diapers have a fertility problem as adults ?
25. Why should I buy these cloth diapers since these are more expensive than the ones I find in department stores?
26. How about cloth diapering while on holidays?
27. What can I put in the wash to get rid of any urine odor?
28. Why should I wash my new cloth diapers before using them ?
29. Most importantly, can my baby wear his rompers over his cloth diapers ?


1. What are the advantages to using cloth diapers ?
The short answer is to this question is that there are three-fold advantages. Cloth diapers are gentler for the baby's skin, easier on your pockets in the long run and better for our earth. For more in-depth discussion on this, click here.

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2. Is it a lot more work using cloth diapers than using disposables?
It is a little bit more work considering the fact that they have to be laundered. The work involved is not much more than washing an ordinary load of laundry. Certainly, cloth diapers are not as convenient as the use-and-throw disposable diapers but considering the cost savings and positive impact on our environment (and our baby's bottoms), I'd say, yes, the little bit of extra effort is certainly worth it.

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3. Won't my baby get diaper rash ?
Actually, it's been proven time and again that cloth diapered babies have a significantly less incidence of diaper rash. The gel-like chemicals (Sodium Polyacrylate) in disposable diapers absorb the wetness so the parent can't really tell when the child is wet and soiled. So the child wears the soiled diapers for a longer period of time. Plus, some babies are allergic to Sodium Polyacrylate in the disposables. All these factors are the reasons by babies are MORE likely to get diaper rash in disposables rather than the cotton cloth diapers.

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4. How often do I have to change the baby ?
With our fleece lined diapers, the baby remains quite dry, so I normally change my baby after about 3 - 4 hours. Of course, if the baby passes motion, it is imperative that the diaper be changed immediately.

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5. Don't cloth diapers cost a lot of money ?
Because the initial outlay of cloth diapers seems like more, many parents mistakenly think that cloth diapers are more expensive to use. As the calculations in dollars and cents section shows, even compared to using one of the cheapest disposable diapers, one can still achieve a significant saving.

We really don't feel the pinch of buying disposables because its cost normally gets buried under our grocery bills.

The cost savings don't even stop there. If taken care of properly, the cloth diapers can be reused for the subsequent child whereas you have to spend the same amount again for the disposable diapers.

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6. How many cloth diapers do I need ?
This really depends on whether you want to cloth diaper full time or part time and how old your baby is. Very young infants go through more than 10 diapers a day. A very economical way is to get 2 dozens or so prefold diapers for this stage and switched them over to the Bumwear one size diapers when they are more than 4kg.

I cloth diaper my baby full time meaning that I don't use any disposables at all. If you only want to diaper in the day time, our package B or C is a good one to get.

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7. What should I start out with if I want to try them out without investing too much?
We do recommend starting on the prefolds if you are a very young baby. They're durable, economical and with loving care, you will still be using these diapers around the house for years after your children are out of diapers :-) If you don't want to invest too much initially, just get one or two of the cloth diapers, try them on your baby and see whether both of you like it. You can always come back for more.

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8. Can the baby wear cloth diapers on the baby while going out and about ?
Yes, you can. Here's how we do it with our babies. We have 2 wetbags in our regular diaper bag. One contains 3-4 clean cloth diapers and the other one is empty. It will be used to store the soiled diapers after we change the baby. Changing the baby's diapers while outside is exactly the same whether one uses cloth or disposable diapers. Think about it for a minute :-) You still have to wipe the baby's bum and put on the clean new diaper. The only difference is that with disposable, you dump the dirty diaper into the bin but in the case of cloth diapers, you dump it into the wetbag to bring home. If you use disposable liners, you can throw away the soiled liners, leaving you with less mess to worry about when you get home.

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9. Terminology
Prefolds:
Prefolds are a multi-layered square of fabric, usually sewn into three panels with extra layers in the centre panel for added absorbency. They require snappi or safety pin to fasten them. They are not waterproof and as such using a waterproof coverwith it is a good idea.

  • Quick-drying
  • Must be secured using a diaper fastener/pin
  • A waterproof helps in preventing leak throughs
  • Most economical
Fitted Diaper:
Fitted diapers are cloth cut to an hourglass shape, have elastic at the waist and legs and are fastened with snaps or velcro. Fitted diapers don't keep a baby dry, they require you to keep a regular watch and, to change out as soon as you notice the wet diaper. A waterproof cover may be required.
  • Great for beginners who don't want to make a large investment but feel awkward about using prefolds
  • Multiple Sizes available for a custom fit
  • Wide variety of fabric choices, including organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, micro-suede insides
  • No folding required
  • More economical than pocket diapers or all-in-one diapers
  • Take longer to dry than prefolds
  • Secured with either snaps or Velcro-type fastener


Diaper Covers:
These are waterproof covers that you need to use over pre-folds and fitted diapers. They come with snaps or Velcro-type closures. They are made of Polyurethane Laminate (PUL). Our PUL covers are waterproof but breathable.

Pocket Diapers:
Pocket diapers are a two-part diapering system consisting of a waterproof outer layer (PUL) with an inner layer of fleece. These two layers are sewn together in such a way as to leave an opening at the back into which you insert an extra strip of absorbent material (called an insert). When your baby wets the diaper, the moisture passes through the fleece to the insert leaving the fleece relatively dry. Pocket diapers is comparable to disposable diapers in terms of ease of use.
  • Fleece insides provide a quick 'stay dry' feeling very similar to disposable diapers
  • Customizable absorbency by adding more inserts into the pocket
  • Convenient: no extra waterproof cover required
  • Very quick drying
  • Some come in multiple sizes available for a custom fit, while others are one-size
  • Some are secured with snaps or others velcro-type closures


All-in-One Diaper (AIO):
These are the most similar to disposable diapers. Absorbent material and a waterproof cover are built into the diaper. AIO's aim to provide the ultimate in convenience by providing everything you need in one step. No separate covers required and no stuffing like you would a pocket diaper. The downside to this ultimate convenience is that AIO diapers take the longest to dry if you linedry your diapers because there are so many layers inside them.
  • Convenient
  • Longer drying time
  • Multiple sizes for a custom fit or one-sizes are available
  • Secured with either snaps or Velcro-type closures


Diaper Inserts:
Made from micro-fiber material, an insert serves as the absorbent material to hold urine. They are usually placed inside a pocket of a pocket diaper. Another type of insert like the 'NV' inserts have a added micro-suede cloth layer sewn over the micro fiber allows. With the NV Insert, you can stick it to the 'outside' the diaper. Alternatively, it can be used on the inside as well.

Nappy Liners (Bioliner):
Diaper liners are placed down the middle of the diaper prior to putting it on baby. They are convenient because they catch most of the baby poo leaving you less to clean up. A liner should always be used if you are applying diaper creams or lotions, in order to avoid a greasy buildup that repels liquid on the diaper.
Some nappy liners could actually be machine washed with your diapers if they haven't been poo-ed on. Most nappy liners in the market today are not biodegradable, these should not be flush away.


Diaper Pail:
A container used to store dirty diapers. Choose something with a secure-fitting lid, if you wish. Dirty diapers do not need to be soaked in water.

Wet Bag:
A waterproof, machine-washable tote bag for carrying dirty diapers when you're away from home. On laundry day, throw the wet bag in the laundry along with your diapers. Wet bags are also great for bathing suits, soiled baby clothing and anything else you can think of!

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10. Is it difficult –– my husband and babysitter be able to use the cloth diapers I buy for my baby?
Modern cloth diapers of today are as easy to use as disposable diapers. In the case of Bumwear diapers, they are practically "snap and go". You might want to put diapers that are already stuffed up in the diaper bag for the babysitter to use.

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11. How do you wash them?

  • Wet diapers can either straight into the diaper pail or be rinsed first.
  • If your baby is exclusively nursing, soiled diapers can also go directly into the diaper pail without rinsing, since breastfed poop is water soluble. For me, I prefer to rinse off the poo first using the mini toilet spray.
  • For babies eating solids and for formula-fed babies, solid poop must be plopped into the toilet and flushed. Rinse the poopy diaper in the toilet. You will find mini toilet spray very useful.
  • Remove inserts and liners. They can be washed as well (even liners as long as they are not pooped on).
  • Set your washing machine settings (if possible) to: PREWASH, REGULAR WASH, EXTRA RINSE.
  • Use fragrance-free, bleach-free, additive-free detergent.
  • DON'T USE: bleach, fabric softener, dryer sheets as they leave a residue and reduce absorbency.
  • Dry on low heat or line dry.

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12. Doesn't it smell and get really messy?
Using reusable diapers is not any smellier or messier than using disposable diapers. In fact, a garbage can full of disposables smells significantly worse than reusables!

For wet diapers and runny poop (before your baby starts solids): The only difference is that you toss your cloth diaper into your dry diaper pail, instead of into the garbage!

For a soiled diaper, after your baby starts solids: There is one extra step - dumping the solids into the toilet, prior to putting the diaper in your dry diaper pail.

You might want to rinse the soiled cloth diapers before tossing them into your diaper pail, but this doesn't even take longer than one minute.

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13. What about when baby is changed away from home - what do you do with the dirty diaper?
For wet diapers, I just placed them in my wetbag. For poopy diapers, I throw away the soiled nappy liners, toss the soiled diapers in the wetbag. Once I get home, I will rinse them before putting them in my diaper pail to await for the next laundry load.

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14. What about diaper pins? I don't want to prick my baby!
Gosh, I have not had to use safety pins ever since I tried cloth diapering my firstborn about 12 years ago :-) With modern cloth diapers, you don't need pins. Bumwear diapers use snap buttons. Even the humble prefolds can be fastened using the SNAPPI fasteners.

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15. How comfortable are they?
Babies can't tell us which sort of diapers they prefer but many toddlers have shown their preference for cloth trainers over paper ones.

If I have to wear paper underwear all day long versus cloth ones, I know which I would choose :-)

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16. Aren't they really bulky?
Modern cloth diapers are a lot trimmer than their predecessors but they do make baby's bum a bit bigger than today's slim and trim chemical-laden disposables, so keep that in mind when picking out their pants.

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17. Isn't it bad for the environment because it uses a lot of water, electricity, and detergent to launder?
While laundering cloth diapers does use water and electricity, the alternatives (using and supporting the manufacturing of disposable diapers) are much worse. Also, you will use much less detergent, because when washing your diapers, you should only use about a quarter to half the amount of detergent that you would normally use. Research shows that the environmental damages caused by disposable diapers far outweigh those of reusables.

ENVIRONMENTAL FACTS
(The following is taken from www.motherease.com)

  • Waste water from washing cloth diapers is relatively benign while the wastewater from pulp, paper and plastics contain solvents, sludge, heavy metals, unreacted polymers, dioxins and furans.
  • Although cloth diaper use emits air pollution, the air pollution from the manufacture of disposables is far more noxious.
  • Pulp bleaching emits dioxins and furans into the air, as does incineration.
  • Single use disposable diapers use 37% more water than home laundered.
  • Disposables appear to produce less sewage because in them, human waste goes to dump sites. This practice violates World Health Organization guidelines and is technically illegal. Washing cloth diapers at home uses 50-70 gal. of water every three days. For perspective, a toilet-trained person, flushing the toilet 5-6 times a day, also uses 70 gal. of water every three days.
  • Landfill sites do not provide the conditions necessary for diapers to decompose. They are in effect "mummified" and retain their original weight volume and form. Human feces can contain harmful pathogens (for example, babies who have been vaccinated for polio will excrete poliovirus) when feces are discarded with disposable diapers there is potential for public exposure (via rodents, pets, flies or birds).

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18. How long can you use them before they wear out? Can you use them for more than one child?
How long your diapers last depends on many different factors. The answer to this question would be the same as if you asked me how long a pair of jeans might last. Some people get holes in their jeans after a few months, while others have a pair that lasts them 15 years. So there is no concrete answer to this question. A few things to consider that will affect your diapers' life span include whether you hang to dry or use a dryer and how often you do laundry.

A mom who has 15-20 diapers might find that her diapers last longer than another mom who had 5 diapers simply because each of the diapers belonging to the first mom gets laundered a lot less often than the second mom's diapers. The more times an article of clothing is laundered, the faster the wear and tear shows. As simple as that.

And yes, we do hand down our diapers :-)

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19. What if I only have one baby – is it worth it to go out and buy all those diapers?
YES, I would, for 3 simple reasons:

  • You will still save lots of money. Click here to read more.

  • You will do something good for the earth: You will prevent thousands of diapers from ending up in landfills.

  • They are simply better for baby's skin: No chemicals coming into contact with baby's sensitive skin. Less instances of diaper rash because cloth diapers "breathe" whereas disposables do not.

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20. What if my baby's a heavy wetter or has really long naps?
You can easily increase a diaper's absorbency by adding an insert

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21. Won't they get stained?
No, the fleece doesn't hold on to the stain, even the bright yellow colour of the breastfed baby poo. However the insert may get a bit stained (because they are made from different materials from the fleece). Keep in mind that even if an insert has stains, it's still clean if it has been laundered properly.

You may use oxygen-based bleach on the inserts once in a while if the stain really bothers you.

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22. Do you sell used diapers?
No, we only sell new diapers. We do not wish to sell you diapers that repel liquid, leak, or have been damaged by bleach because someone else laundered them improperly. We want your experience with cloth diapers to be totally positive, so we don't sell any products that may discourage you in any way

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23: Are cloth diapered babies toilet trained earlier ?
In general, yes ! The cloth diapered babies can recognise the wet feeling and will generally have an easier time learning to use the potty.

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24. Do male babies who use disposable diapers have a fertility problem as adults?
The findings to this question are somewhat controversial, but a German study have indicated that when male infants and toddlers wear disposable diapers, the temperature of their scrotum is higher than they wear cloth diapers. The researchers claimed that the increased warmth could lead to bodily changes that may affect sperm production and even carry the risk of testicular cancer.

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25. Why should I buy these cloth diapers since these are more expensive than the ones I find in department stores?
Good Question! The diapers you will find in local retail stores are less expensive but much lower quality in terms of absorbency and you will find that they will leak! Not only that, they will not last nearly as long as these will! We only carry very high quality cloth diapering products and you will find that ours don't leak, and they keep the baby dry for a much longer time! They are much more absorbent and will last through more than one child if cared for lovingly. This is much more economical in the long run than buying lower quality cloth diapers just to find out you have to change them twice as often and they don't last as long.

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26. How about cloth diapering while on holidays?
For me, this pretty much depends on where we are holidaying. When we visit beach resorts with plenty of sun, the cloth diapers come along. I'd handwash them and dry them out in the sun. If we are staying in an apartment that has a washing machine and a dryer, the diapers follow us too since it would be a cinch getting them cleaned. But, if we are going to a holiday and staying in a hotel room and have no access to cheap laundrymat, then for the one week or so that we are on the holiday, the baby will just have to wear the dreaded disposable diapers. That was what happened when we visited Tokyo in November 2007.

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27. What can I put in the wash to get rid of any urine odor?
If an ammonia odor remains on your diapers, the most likely culprit is leftover detergent on the diapers. Try adding an extra rinse or stripping them. If there are any suds left in the washing machine after you are done washing the diapers, you need to do an extra rinse. Stripping refers to the removal of residue on diapers. To strip diapers, simply hand wash your diaper with your regular dish soap (gets the oils out). Add a bit of dish soap to the fleece, either rub the fleece vigorously together or use a medium bristle dish brush or hard bristle tooth brush to scrub the fleece. Turn it inside out and repeat on the other side. Rinse well, making sure that the water runs clear.

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28. Why should I wash my new cloth diapers before using them ?
New fabrics have a special chemical finish on them that gives them that "new fabric" smell and feel. Most times this finish is water-repellent, and must be removed by machine washing before use.

We cannot stress often enough on how important it is to wash your new diapers and inserts at least three times before using for the first time.  This will ensure the absorbency of the cotton and will make the diaper "fluff up."  If not pre-washed, the diapers will not absorb urine properly because during the manufacturing process, there is a waxy buildup on the cotton. A great way to pre-wash your diapers is just to wash them with your regular clothes for 3-4 times.
If you put any brand new cloth diaper on a baby and he/she wets it, urine will simply bead up and run right out of the diaper. The machine washing swells and fluffs the cotton fibers maximizing your absorbency. Once this is done, you will notice that your baby's pee stays in the cloth diaper and doesn't run out the sides (like at first).

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29.

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