Congratulations on choosing to cloth diaper your sweet little one. Not only does it save your pocket book and protect your infant, but it also protects our environment. On average parents spend $1500 per YEAR on disposable diapers! Compare that to anywhere from $300-$500 TOTAL for cloth, it just becomes a no-brainer to cloth diaper.
The sheer number of diapers being bought, used, and disposed of in our trash are truly mind-boggling. Industry statistics indicate that as many as 18 billion disposable diapers are used in the U.S. per year (and this is based on 1988 stats) –the end products of a market valued at more than $3 billion. Chalk up more than half of that to Proctor & Gamble, maker of Pampers and Luvs; 30% to Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies; and the rest to various generic or “house” brands. Those numbers add up. In the midst of a baby boomers’ baby boom, 98 percent of all households using diapers use some disposables. And, as many parents know, a child can run through 8,000 to 10,000 diapers before becoming fully toilet trained. That’s a lot of waste!
Did you know it takes on average 500 years for disposable diapers to break down in a landfill?!?!?! Mind boggling isn’t it?
A little while ago I blogged about the diapering issue (see “How to Take a Dump” http://alchemyofmothering.blogspot.ca/2012/07/how-to-take-dump.html) having been stunned by visit the dump and seeing what a mess we are making of our world. Mind not the nay-sayers who argue that washing a few extra loads of laundry is just as bad as plasticking your child’s rear end 10-15 times a day with toxic chemicals. It adds up in savings for both your pocketbook, the health of your baby, and the planet.
Disposable diapers are laden with hormone modulating and cancer causing chemicals! Many have not been properly studied and, as your baby will be wearing diapers for at least 2 years (and sometimes up to age 5!), this can lead to a lot of toxic build up.
Here is a list of some of these chemicals used in conventional disposable diapers:
- Tributyltin – This is toxic to humans and environment, is a persistent organic pollutant, causes irreversible damage to aquatic life, and is linked to obesity in humans (triggers genes that cause the growth of fat cells).
- Xylene – This is toxic to the respiratory and central nervous systems. Breathing
high concentrations in an enclosed space can cause irregular heartbeats which can cause death.
- Ethylbenzene – This chemical is listed as possibly cancer-causing. It is mutagenic (capable of causing mutation). The substance may be toxic to the central nervous system. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage. It may cause central nervous system depression, is an aspiration hazard if swallowed and can enter the lungs and cause damage. It causes eye, skin, and respiratory tract irritation.
- Styrene- This substance is cancer-causing and is toxic to the nervous system and upper respiratory tract. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage. It is very hazardous to the eyes.
Propylene – This chemical is an anesthetic at high concentrations. Inhalation may cause central nervous system depression producing dizziness, drowsiness, headache and similar narcotic symptoms. Extremely high concentrations can cause asphyxiation and death by displacing oxygen from the breathing atmosphere.
- Toluene – The substance may be toxic to blood, kidneys, the nervous system, liver, brain, and central nervous system (CNS). Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage.
- Dioxins – Dioxin is an extremely toxic, cancer-causing chemical that is found in disposable diapers as a result (by product) of the chlorine bleaching process. According to the Environmental Health Perspectives: There is “No Evidence of Dioxin Cancer Threshold” and “the range is consistent with a threshold of zero” – meaning there is no evidence of an acceptable or safe level of exposure to dioxin. Dioxin is cumulative and slow to disintegrate. Of all the dioxins and furans, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is the most toxic.
- Sodium polyacrylate – Sodium polyacrylate is a super absorbent polymer (SAP) that can absorb 300 times its weight in tap water. It is the “diaper gel” found in wet diapers. It has been found to dry out the skin, cause respiratory issues and is an eye irritant. This has not been studies for long term use in babies!
If you find this unacceptable for your child, as I did, you will want to now research cloth diapers and how to use them. I tried many kinds of cloth diapers myself and found the best price and ease of use to be the snap, pocket, microfiber diapers. I also liked to use pure cotton diapers for over night with a cover or to use highly absorbent bamboo liners for overnight in my pocket diapers. At $10-$13 per diaper, this was the best price for our family.
If you have chosen to use microfiber cloth diapers here is how to use them: all you need to do to prepare (prep) your diapers is wash them once (hot with detergent (NOT SOAP), double rinse) than put them in the dryer (med-hot for 20-30) to seal the PUL layer. Then they are ready to use.
For future washes please follow manufacturers instructions. No bleach, wash in cold/cool or warm. If you want to wash the microfiber inserts occasionally in hot, just separate them from the outer shells. This will preserve the PUL layer and give a longer life to the diaper so you can pass them on to another mother or use for another child. DO NOT boil microfiber, you will damage them, possibly permanently. I do know mothers who were not so delicate with their diapers and did not have an issue. So if you go ‘off book’ and wash and dry on hot all the time, I am sure things will work out just fine. You just may not get a second child’s wear out of them.
If you have hard water this will affect the absorbency of your diapers so you may need to look at water softeners. Using a few tablespoons of borax can help with this. Don’t use vinegar if you have hard water, it will make the ammonia stay in the diapers and can cause ammonia burn on your baby. If you do get ammonia build up on your diapers, soak them in a bathtub of water and a cup of baking soda. It will neutralize them nicely.
In the rinse, it helps to use some baking soda to reduce smell and cut oils. You can also use a few drops of essential oils to reduce bacteria and hence, odour. If you can, sun your diapers to naturally bleach them and add some extra disinfectant from the UV rays.
Be careful with certain rash creams as they can build up on your diapers and affect their ability to absorb. If you find they are leaking at all then it may be time to strip them. YumNaturals sells all-natural diaper creams that are safe to use on your cloth. Even so, it is best to use a viscose liner or a cut up piece of flannel when using any creams…it just makes life easier.
If you ever start to notice some leaking or stinking (like garbage) then it’s time to strip your diapers. You can simply wash with detergent twice in a row and then a third time with just some borax, baking soda or a product called RLR. Alternatively you can soak in RLR overnight and then wash normally. Then sun them or put the inserts in the dryer and the outer shell on the line or else in the dryer on a cooler setting. You can also soak them overnight in baking soda and water and then wash them twice through their cycle.
Certain detergents can build up on cloth, so you may need to experiment with the right detergent for you. Never use detergent with whiteners in them and the more natural and unscented, the better. Why add extra toxins to your diapers when you are trying to avoid them in disposables?! More on detergents later…
Your diapers should NOT leak, that is not normal. It is an indication that the PUL is damaged or they are not being cleaned properly (or they are not being fit properly on your baby). You may need to change your detergent or washing style (or play with the snap level) to get it right.
Do not fret, once you figure out your diapering ‘system’, it becomes easy and second nature. When you have this rhythm, you can enjoy cloth diapering even more. It is really no more work than taking out the garbage. Plus it is fun to create outfits and play with colour.
For breast fed stools, no pre-rinsing is necessary, they can go straight in the bin. In an older child eating solid foods, if you wish to prevent staining, then dump the solids into the toilet (I use a dedicated spoon to do this if it’s hard to remove) then rinse in the shower/bathtub if you have a handheld shower head or else you can invest in a diaper sprayer or use the sink. Then squeeze out the water and place in your diaper pail until wash day. If there are any stains, again, the sun is your bleaching agent.
It is rare, but sometimes defects occur on your diaper so if you find something is not working properly do let me know and the manufacturer may replace it (for example if stitching fails or a fastener breaks).
If you are practicing elimination communication or during toilet learning, place a natural bamboo insert or microfiber insert not in the pocket, but sitting on top of the microfleece layer. This is ONLY recommended for short term use, they should not sit on soiled microfiber for any length of time. Bamboo is a little more tolerated. Your child will feel that he or she is wet and either let you know or cry, showing slight discomfort. Then you can take them immediately to the toilet and the diaper is very simple to be removed (especially if you use the system of legwarmers and a cloth diaper as there are no pants to remove).
Regardless, infants who wear cloth diapers generally potty learn faster than their disposable wearing counter parts. Another bonus to cloth diapering! They feel the sensation of urination and associate the act with it. Disposables wick away the urine too quickly, so they usually don’t even notice they are urinating!
A wet/dry bag is essential for traveling with your cloth diapers. Consider purchasing one with your diaper set. Your wet diaper goes in the top pouch while wipes and creams can go in the front pouch for easy access. Plus they make excellent bags for going swimming or camping to keep items dry and the child can use this when he or she is older.
The amount of diapers you will need depends on your budget and how often you wish to do laundry and of course how many children you have currently in diapers. I recommend someone on a tight budget to start at 12-14 but ideally 25-30 diapers is a nice range and means you are doing laundry every 3 days (average 10 diapers per day). You can then have a few in the car and in other places so you can easily grab one when needed. This also prevents having to do laundry daily.
Plus, with these diapers you have lovely styles and textures to choose from. Cloth diapering can be fun and stylish! Why not!? Colour matters, as it is a vibration, some days red is the colour and some days it’s green! 🙂
Now for night wear. I recommend either purchasing some bamboo liners or bamboo charcoal liners (that MUST be prepped separate to your synthetic diapers or it will coat them with oils making them lose absorbency) or else doubling up the microfiber. I found if I didn’t and I missed my little girl’s first morning elimination she would leak a little at the leg. My girl nursed a lot in the night so there was a lot of urine, but still as they grow their pee’s grow too!
To prepare your bamboo liners, boil in a large pot on the stove for 10 minutes, then let cool, rinse and wash in your washing machine normally, with detergent. The next few washes it is recommended (but not absolutely necessary) to wash these inserts separately because IF there is any bamboo oil present, it will affect your diapers negatively, albeit temporarily (but it is a hassle to have to strip when it could have been avoided).
Now back to detergents: again, please consider using natural detergents that are scent-free as it is best for baby and the planet (and your diapers). Rockin’ Green detergents are made specifically for washing cloth diapers that can be ordered online or else I have had success with a product called Blue Planet from Canadian Tire. Nellie’s All Natural Detergent is another great product that is safe for your cloth diapers and also HE safe for front loading washing machines. Do let YumNaturals know if you have found another all-natural detergent that works great on your cloth diapers. We would love to know and help other moms with this information!
Top loading washers work best for cloth diapers as the more water than goes through them the better, however there are tips and tricks for washing cloth diapers in front loaders, like wetting a towel and adding it in, or filling your wet/dry bag with water and tossing it in. Otherwise a trip to the local laundry mat every so often may be necessary.
For the pocket diapers, there are three sets of snaps on each diaper. A set that lengthens them, a set that fastens at the hip area and a set that fastens at the waist section. Play with the sizing to get the right fit. If you are getting leaks on a fresh diaper you may have to adjust the diaper snaps.
Enjoy your cloth diapering adventure and if you have any questions please ask me and I shall do my best to assist you.
Love and health,
Amandha D Vollmer
BSc, Herbalist, Reiki Master,
Holistic Health Practitioner,
Degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine
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