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Cloth Diapering 101 - by Mary McCarthy

This article does not cover all of the benefits or attributes of using cloth but I hope it is enough information for you to make the best decision for your baby, for your family and for our earth. 

Better for Baby 

First of all, it is important to know why choosing cloth is superior for your baby. According to studies, 78% of disposable-diapered babies have diaper rash, compared to 7% of cloth-diapered babies. Cotton diapers are better for your baby because cotton "naturally breathes", while disposables (made of paper and plastic) don't have the breath-ability that cotton does. Thus, diaper rash occurs in more disposable-diapered babies. As I state in my email signature, "If you had to be in a diaper all day, wouldn't you want to sit in soft cotton?" 

Caring for the Earth

As for environmental concerns, using cloth is just plain superior! There is beginning to be quite a problem with disposables in landfills. When using disposables, people generally do not flush solid waste down the toilet (as the instructions on the package recommend). Instead, the waste remains in the diaper and goes off to the landfill. The problem with this is that there is over 5 million tons of untreated solid waste in landfills and they may contain intestinal viruses. It is estimated that there are almost 100 intestinal viruses out there; this is how our groundwater becomes contaminated. Insects transport these viruses around and thus diseases break out. 

On the other hand, cloth diapers with solid waste are shaken off into the toilet (or if liners are used, simply flushed down the toilet). The waste is taken care of the way it is meant to, that is, it goes through a sewage treatment center. This ensures that we are not contaminating our earth and each other. 

How Many Do I Need? For washing every other day: 
Prefolds or Fitted Diapers: For Newborns: 2 ½-3 dozen 
For Infants/Toddlers: 2-2 ½ dozen

Diaper Covers: 6 is a minimum, 8-10 make life easier! 

The Savings

As for the monetary value of using cloth, you might be surprised at how much you will save! According to some mothers, you will save on average about $1,500.00! Other mothers who use the most convenient cloth diapers (all-in-ones) save around $1,000. Even other moms save around $2,000.00 when they use an inexpensive cloth diapering system. 

On the other hand, when you finish using diapers with your child, you're done. All you have left is a huge mountain of trash. However if you have used cloth diapers, you are ready for the next child, thus saving even more money! Some mothers have purchased a new appliance with the money they have saved using cloth diapers. What a great idea! 

Okay, Now how do I get started?

Here comes the fun part! You now know that cloth is better in so many respects, so which products do you choose? Well, there are so many quality cloth diapers out there that it's hard to make a decision! However, it is so much fun to "test" different products. Many of the moms I know who use cloth diapers rave about how they "love cloth diapering." However, I have yet to hear one mother using disposables say the same thing! There are basically three different components of cloth diapering: prefolds, diaper covers and all in ones. 

Prefolds are the square, flat diapers you fold. Prefolds are used to soak up urine and to hold solid waste. These are available in a variety of layers and materials. There is cotton flannel, birds-eye cotton and terry material ("terry" is what towels are made of and is super absorbent) used for making prefolds. Prefolds have no outer layer to hold wetness in; therefore these are used with diaper covers or wraps. 

Contoured diapers are cut and sewn to resemble an hourglass shape. They are made of the same materials that prefolds are made of. The only difference is their shape; some parents like using these "contoured" or "shaped" diapers better than square shaped prefolds. This is totally a matter of preference. Contoured diapers are also used with diaper covers or wraps. 

Fitted Diapers cover baby's entire bottom. To use fitted diapers, just place under baby, bring front up to baby's tummy, and either Velcro® or snap. With fitted diapers, a diaper cover or wrap is still needed to hold wetness in because they do not have any wetness protective layers in them. 

How Many Do I Need? 10-12 per day for newborns, 6-8 per day for older babies 

Diaper covers are used with prefolds, contoured or fitted diapers. You simply fold the prefold and place on the cover. Then you bring the diaper and cover under baby (just like using a disposable). Diaper covers either have Velcro®, or snaps to fasten them. Diaper wraps may also be referred to as "pull-ons", meaning that instead of using Velcro® or snaps to fasten, you just pull up over baby. There are some great quality fleece and woolen wraps out there to choose from. Many moms prefer to use these covers or wraps at nighttime because they are so effective in preventing leaks and blowouts. And we love to prevent those little incidents from happening! 

How Many Do I Need? 6 are a minimum, 8-10 make life easier! 

All In Ones are probably the most convenient cloth diaper on the market today. If you are really used to disposables and are afraid of transition, perhaps you should try using these first. These have layers of absorbent cotton sewn inside and have a nice protective layer preventing wetness from leaking onto the outside of the diaper. You just put on the baby and go! There are also some wonderful all in ones products out there. If you are traveling, shopping, or having Grandma over to help with the baby, try using an all in one. People are always amazed at how they look and function. These are definitely worth the investment. However, some moms prefer to use these minimally because they may be more expensive than using diaper covers/wraps and prefolds. When used every day, the outer protective layer may deteriorate quicker due to washing more often.

How Many Do I Need? 10-12 per day for newborns 6-8 per day for older babies 

Miscellaneous Items Used for Cloth Diapering

Doublers are long, wide strips of cotton (or cotton and terry) layers laid on a prefold or inside of an all in one. These are beneficial because they have all of the absorbency of an extra diaper, but not all the bulk. Doublers are generally used for heavier-wetting babies, for traveling long distances, or for nighttime. Usually moms purchase a few for these occasions; they are nice to have on hand. 

Liners are used to eliminate the need to shake off waste in the toilet and to rinse off dirty diapers. There are reusable cotton liners and there are also flushable, biodegradable liners. The cotton liners are reused again after being washed, and the flushable liners are just flushed down the toilet. These are also convenient products to have on hand. 

I hope this information has been helpful to you! Cloth diapering has been one of my greatest experiences with my baby. It is my hope that you will appreciate cloth diapering just as much as I have! If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me at Good luck and happy diapering! Remember, your baby will be so thankful for your decision, and so will your pocketbook! 

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