In dealing with children, the question of diapers has to come up from time to time and does quite often on the SAH-AP list.  Compiled here is a list of frequently asked questions and common responses given from the list members.

  • Q. What kind of diapers do you use?

    A. Many list members use cloth diapers, some use disposable, and still others use a combination of cloth and disposable.  The basic prefolded cloth diaper with rubber pants or easy-to-use velcro diaper covers are the most widely used.  Some prefer the fancy all-in-ones and fitted cloth diapers as well.

  • Q. Why use cloth?

    A. Many list members use cloth to help save the environment from the great amount of waste/trash using disposables creates.  (It is estimated that for each child, 6000 disposable diapers are thrown into landfills)  A great many of members also have concerns about the chemicals used in disposables (like those gels beads that you sometimes find on a baby's bottom when changing him/her - there have been concerns about these chemicals and their possible effects later on the baby).  Another issue is money when considering disposable vs. cloth.  Living on one-income often demands the common-sense frugality of cloth diapers.

  • Q. What does using cloth diapers have to do with practicing AP?

    A. As one list member recently so eloquently explained... "AP isn't a specific set of practices -- if you do A, B and C you don't automatically get your AP card signed off and get to display the official logo on your window ;) -- it's an attitude. Starting with concern and respect for our children's unique needs, many people start to take that to a wider circle -- concern for the environment, and/or seeing how we can cut expenses to make staying at home more feasible. That's where the cloth diapers come in. It's part of making informed decisions and accepting the consequences of your choices ... they're something that, once many people get more information, they find are a good choice."

  • Q. What will I need to start using cloth diapers or to make the switch from disposable to cloth?

    To begin, you should have the following:
    • Approximately 2 dozen diapers if you plan to wash them every 2-3 days, more if you plan to wash less frequently.  There are some who wash very frequently and get by with a dozen quality all-in-one diapers. 
    • You will need pins or clips (usually a couple pairs are sufficient) if you plan on using regular prefolded or flat diapers with the traditional plastic pants or any other diaper cover that isn't fitted. 
    • Several diaper covers - You will need something to cover the diaper to serve as a barrier between diaper and clothing (some list members have their babies in only a diaper - no cover when at home to allow for maximum air flow).  Depending on which kind of diaper being used and the diet of the baby, the number of covers can vary from only 2 or 3 to 5 or more.  Of course, how often you wash them is another factor.   It is very handy to have a couple in one size and also a couple in the next size up - the larger ones can be used for overnight when you are likely to double up.
    • A diaper pail to store and/or soak soiled and wet diapers in till wash day. 

  • Q. What are my choices and what are the advantages of each?

    A. For diapers:

    There are basic flat cloth diapers, prefolded diapers, contour-shaped diapers, fitted diapers, and all-in-one diapers.  Here are some of the advantages of each:
    • The advantages of the flat diapers are:  they are less expensive, more adaptable to different size infants, and require less drying time.
    • The prefolds also share those same advantages as the flat diapers and also they are made with the extra thickness in the middle already so you spend a little less time folding each diaper.  You can also use both of these kinds without a cover from time to time to allow for some "airing out" time.
    • The contour-shaped diapers are even simpler to use.  You just need to lay them in a fitted diaper cover and velcro or snap to hold in place.  (These can not be used without a cover though.)
    • The fitted diapers are usually based on weight of the baby (which often requires buying different sizes as the baby grows) and are easily put on with either snaps or velcro.   They tend to hold in messy breastmilk bm's a little better.  They can also be used without a cover if you choose to let your child air out from time to time.
    • There is one main advantage to the all-in-ones - they are very simple to use and are most similar to using disposables.  They are also fitted based on the child's weight and are fastened with snaps or velcro on the front or the sides. And you do not need to buy separate covers if using only all-in-ones.

    For diaper covers:
    There are several choices of covers you can use too.  There are the basic plastic pants, cotton, wool, or other natural fibers.  The plastic pants do have the price advantage over the natural fiber covers, but the natural fiber covers tend to breathe much better depending on whether they are "water-proofed".  Most designs do allow for air circulation.  The wool diaper covers are naturally waterproof to a great extent and allow for the most air circulation of all the covers.   Besides differences in materials, covers also vary in design.  Some are pull ups.  Some use velcro or something similar.  And some use snaps.  Pull ups require a fitted diaper or a pinned diaper underneath and can be messy when removing at times but provide very good protection. Covers using velcro can sometimes irritate baby's skin if tabs of velcro lift and rub surrounding areas but overall, are the easiest to use.   Covers using snaps are easy as well and stay in place wonderfully.

  • Q. How should I care for them? (launder, dry, stains, etc.)

    Many prefer to presoak their diapers in the pail or overnight in the washer.   Vinegar or borax is sometimes used in the water to soak the diapers before laundering.  Others find soaking unnecessary especially when they use the disposable diaper liners - these help the clean up process after a bowel movement and help keep staining of diapers to a minimum.  Although people vary on the washing process, the majority run their diapers through two cycles usually hot/cold - first one with little or no detergent or maybe a little borax and the second one with a gentle detergent like Arm&Hammer or All Free and Clear and vinegar added to the last rinse cycle (those without fabric softener dispensers often use the "downy ball" filled with vinegar instead of softener - using fabric softeners on cloth diapers is not recommended because it decreases the absorbency of the diapers).  Using vinegar helps with control odor.  (*Make sure to use a gentle detergent on your diapers to help prevent diaper rashes that commonly occur if your child has sensitive skin.)  After washing, place in dryer on high setting till dry.  One list member suggests throwing in a dry towel or two along with the wet diapers into the dryer to help speed drying time! (the towel helps pull some of the moisture away from the diapers)  Many list members hang there diapers outside to dry.  The sun naturally whitens the diapers safely (bleach is not recommended - it shortens the life-span of the diapers) and it helps conserve power and money!  If the diapers seem too stiff after drying in the sun, toss them into the dryer for a few minutes.

  • Q. Is it possible to do cloth diapers without having my own washing machine and dryer?

    A. Yes!!!  You can use cloth diapers without owning your own washing machine and dryer.  A few people manage this quite well by doing their diapers at the laundry mat.  It can be done.  If it is possible to line dry your diapers outside, only washing them at the laundry mat would be necessary.  Another option is getting diaper service.  Many people choose to have diaper service the first month or so after having a baby to cut down on household chores and allow the mother and baby more time for bonding and for establishing their breastfeeding relationship.  Diaper service is still an affordable option for most, especially compared to the cost of disposables.

  • Q. How do you manage cloth diapers and traveling? Any tips?

    First you should know, it can be done - traveling and cloth diapering is possible.  Most people suggest taking along the diapers you estimate needing for the trip plus a few extra or making plans to visit a laundry mat while away or washing them at a friend's or family member's house you may be staying at.  You can store used diapers in plastic bags you can tie to cut down on odor and then put them all down in one big bag until you return home and can wash them. Another good idea is to use an old empty laundry detergent pail with a resealable lid to store the dirty diapers in.  (you would of course leave out the water and borax you would normally soak in at home)

Information for this FAQ was gathered and compiled by Donya Platt.

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