Conveniently Green Presents…Cloth Diapers: A Beginning Guide for Beginning Beginners Part 1

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When I mentioned the words “cloth diapers,” my mother gave me this look that said, “Are you out of your mind?” Well, actually her look said, “I love you, you’re my daughter, I’m not going to tell you how to parent, and you have some kooky ideas sometimes, but ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR EFFING MIND???”

I know, it’s a lot from one look, but I’m telling you, it was there.

And no, I’m not out of my mind. We use cloth diapers. And you may be surprised to learn that cloth diapers are nothing like what our moms used. Now I know a lot of you in the audience are familiar with cloth diapering, but many of you are beginners. And the world of cloth diapering can be very confusing and intimidating, so I am creating a Beginning Guide for Beginning Beginners. If you don’t consider yourself a Beginning Beginner, then go ahead and forward this link to a friend who is!

So I can hear you from here–where’s the Convenient part of this Conveniently Green, Scriv? Because cloth diapers seem like a whole lotta work. Well, they are and they aren’t, but here’s some food for thought. First, take a look at how much you’re spending per diaper for your disposable diapers. For argument’s sake, let’s say you’re paying 25 cents per diaper. Now, you can buy a single one-size diaper (which is just like it sounds–one size and it grows with your baby)–just ONE diaper, and use it every night. Say you purchased one of the popular brands like the BumGenius one-size diaper for $17.95. Using one disposable diaper at 25 cents per diaper every night for a year will cost you $91.25. Now subtract the cost of one (that’s right, ONE!) cloth diaper for use at night, and you have a net total of  $73.30. Yes–you can save $73.30 by using ONE cloth diaper a day! Hot Damn!

BumGenius 3.0 One-Size AIO

But what about the washing? Isn’t that disgusting? Well, if your child is more than 6 hours old, you have already learned new and exciting definitions of disgusting. Is washing a single cloth diaper really more gross than that poo-splosion you had that one time where you had to change your shorts AND your shirt AND your underwear because ew, that was liquid? Or that other time when the projectile vomiting made you just throw that bra away and step directly into the shower? Trust me, Mom. You’ve washed worse.

Cloth diapers these days are not what your mother used. They’re actually easy, convenient, and believe it or not–cute. Let me take you through it.

Diapers need three essential parts: an absorbent layer, a waterproof layer, and something to hold it all together. A disposable diaper is, of course, all of these in one. But did you know that there are cloth diapers that are also all of these in one? And that they’re cleverly called “All In Ones”?

That’s our first category. An All In One (AIO) diaper is just like it sounds–a sewn-in absorbent layer, a waterproof layer, and either velcro or snaps to hold it all together. Many AIO’s also have a pocket where you can add additional absorbent inserts if you like.  It’s basically the same as a disposable diaper, except you throw it in the laundry instead of throwing it in the trash. These are the easiest diapers to use, and the easiest way to convince other caregivers to use as well. AIO’s sound great, don’t they? They are! But they can also suffer from two problems: one, because there’s a very absorbent layer sewn in, they can take forever to dry (and I mean, and two, sometimes they are hard to customize to your absorbency needs and can get bulky. They’re also on this high end, price-wise.

Our second category is All In Twos (AI2). I know you’re saying, “Scriv, I just got the hang of AIO’s–what’s this 2 thing about?” Well, an AI2 is just like an AIO, except instead of a built-in absorbent layer, that layer is snapped in. This helps with the washing part, because once you separate the absorbent layer from the rest of the diaper, the whole thing dries a lot faster. However, you can still have that absorbency problem (there are exceptions, but we’re keeping it basic here).

FuzziBunz Perfect Size Pocket Diapers (click image for larger view)

Is there an easy diaper with truly versatile absorbency? Where you can put exactly as much or as little as you need? Why yes! Yes there is! Meet your new friend, Pocket Diapers. No, this is not a diaper that fits in your coat pocket (har har har). It’s a diaper that has a waterproof layer and an inner layer, and in between you can stuff an absorbent insert. You can customize your inserts to be light or heavy, so you can double-up at night and slim down during the day, or whatever. Again, like the AI2 they are quicker to dry than the AIO. If you pre-stuff your pocket diapers, then anyone can use them like an AIO, and by “anyone” I mean Dad, Grandma/Grandpa, Day Care Worker, and, you know, YOU. Lots of people love pocket diapers, including me!

Once you move past the diaper that has it all together, you have the diapers and covers category. This is where the absorbent diaper and the waterproof cover are two separate things. I’m going to start with the diaper.

Kissaluvs V2 Fitted Diaper (click image for larger view)

One style is a Fitted Diaper. A fitted diaper is an absorbent diaper that is already shaped like a diaper (you know, that familiar hourglass shape) and attaches with either snaps or velcro. Fitted diapers often come with a snap-in insert for extra absorbency. Another style is a contour diaper which is just like a fitted except it requires fastening, like with a pins or a Snappi. More on the Snappi in a second.

On the end here, there are the traditional flat and prefold diapers. These are the ones your mother will recognize. They’re either square or rectangular and require some folding and fastening to attach them to the baby. Once attached, they also require a cover. Now I know this sounds very Inconveniently Green, but they are your least expensive option and many people really love them. These are also the diapers you get from a diaper service. We used a diaper service for several months after Mouse was born, and loved it. And guess what? You don’t need pins anymore! Some incredibly smart person invented this thingy called a Snappi. It’s an elastic doo-dad shaped like a T with plastic claws on all 3 ends. You hook the claws across the diaper and it holds it all in place. It’s pretty much the handiest thing ever to happen to cloth diapering. You can also use a Snappi to fasten a contour diaper.

Snappi Diaper Fastener

So that’s pretty much your intro to the different types of cloth diapers. Within these categories, there are many brands and varieties to choose from. In subsequent posts on this topic, I’ll take you through more aspects of the joyful world of cloth diapering. Happy diapering!

The Scrivener

Please also see our Conveniently Green–A Word About Energy and Water Consumption post.