One complaint we hear about cloth diapers is that they’re too bulky. Babies sporting disposables boast a trim and lean figure, while cloth-wearing tots have what we may affectionately refer to as a “basketball butt.” How can you avoid this dreaded condition? Here are some ideas:
Embrace it. If you have a skinny baby (as I did), you’re in luck, because you’ll find clothes will fit much better with the cloth diapers than without. In fact, once my daughter potty trained, she couldn’t fit in most of her pants anymore! Also, don’t babies look adorable sporting hu-u-ge diapers like this one? You can’t get that look with a boring old fitted disposable diaper!
Switch to pocket diapers. Prefolds with covers will be bulkier than pocket diapers, which usually have just a thin terry insert.
Buy bigger clothes. One of my friends confessed that she almost gave up on cloth diapering because none of her daughter’s pants could fit over the Bulge of the Cloth. Then she had a flash of insight: She could buy bigger clothes. Problem solved!
How have you overcome the challenges of bulky cloth diapers . . . or learned to accept them?
Want to repair your tired diaper covers for just a few bucks and an hour of your time? I learned how recently from my good friend Valerie Perrot. As she began to cloth diaper her second child, she noticed the covers she had used with her first weren’t fastening correctly. Upon closer inspection, Valerie found that the soft part of the Velcro closures wasn’t as deep as it should be. Considering that she had purchased the covers used, she wasn’t surprised that they were worn–but she wasn’t about to go out and buy a whole new set for her second child.
After getting advice from a seamstress, Valerie decided to take matters into her own skilled hands. She found an outdoor gear website called thegreenpepper.com that offered soft Velcro and heavy duty sewing needles for just under ten dollars. The Green Pepper has loads of patterns for making your own backpacks, fleece jackets and other notions, as well as fabric and materials. Honestly, the website is a bit difficult to negotiate, but they are very helpful if you call or email.
Valerie stitched the soft looped part of the Velcro on right across the old, and within an hour had completely repaired all of her diaper covers. She didn’t need to replace the hook side of the Velcro at all! Not only will the covers work better on baby number two, but the high quality Velcro she used will allow them to be passed onto other babies for years to come.
You might be able to score diaper covers in consignment shops or garage sales that are marked down because of faulty Velcro. With just a little bit of work, they can be repaired and provide an easy and inexpensive solution for diapering baby.
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Don’t get me wrong–I think pocket diapers (like these pictured from BumGenius) are adorable. They come in a variety of prints and colors, look cute flapping in the breeze on the clothesline, and go on just like disposables. That last reason is why I see many parents recommending pocket diapers to new parents or cloth diaper novices. Joy went on and on about pocket diapers here and here. Pocket diapers are advertised as “daddy and daycare approved;” meaning, I suppose, that once they are stuffed with an absorbent liner, they go on just as easily as a disposable.
Before my daughter was born, I stocked up on three dozen prefold diapers (like these pictured) and about six Velcro covers (like these basic Prorap covers Audrey is wearing). I chose this system because they were the more economical choice. Prefolds run about $1.25 each, whereas a Fuzzibunz costs about $17 new and $7 used.
Now I’ve had the chance to try a variety of pocket diapers in addition to the prefolds and have come to an unconventional discovery: I prefer prefolds to pocket diapers. Here’s why:
1. It takes me less time to fold the prefold in thirds, place it on the cover, and put it on the baby than it does to individually stuff every pocket diaper. Sure, pocket diapers are “daddy approved,” but this seems to go along with the sexist assumption that the mom does the diaper-stuffing beforehand.
2. I spend less time doing diaper laundry with prefolds. I can wash a full load of prefolds every four days because three dozen can fit in the washer at a time. The pocket diapers, which look trimmer on the baby, actually take up more space in the washing machine. About fifteen to twenty pocket diapers make a full load.
3. Because I do less diaper laundry, using prefolds is better for the environment than pocket diapers. With my high-efficiency washer, I use 12.4 gallons of water a load. If I wash every four days, I’m using just over 1,000 gallons a year on diaper laundry. Washing pocket diapers every other day would use 2,000 gallons–and multiply those figures by four if you have a top-loading machine.
4. Dirty diapers are easier to handle with prefolds. Cleaning out dirty pocket diapers is a mess if you don’t use diaper liners. Cleaning out prefolds is actually fun! (Okay, just joking about that one.) Seriously, though, I found that when a dirty diaper necessitated the dreaded toilet-dunk, it was easier to do with a large piece of cloth rather than a pocket diaper, which has little gussets and seams.
5. Prefolds are adaptable. Because my daughter is so small, I used just one set of prefolds–the size with the green stitching–until she potty trained. I just had to buy new covers. If I don’t have another child, I can use the diapers as rags or even resell them. (To be fair, pocket diapers have an excellent resale value as well.)
Again, the point of this post is not to diss pocket diapers, but to give the underrated prefold a chance to share the cloth diaper glory. I keep hearing how pocket diapers are so easy to use, so cute, and so wonderful in every way, and I wanted my poor little prefolds to know that I loved them, too. In many ways, I loved them more. So thank you, prefold!
#1 They have a high resale value. Many people find it odd to consider the resale value of their diapers, but pocket diapers often sell for more than half of their retail value AFTER baby has used them. They cost more up front, but it’s important to factor in how much they’ll earn you at a consignment shop.
#2 They’re easier for traveling. We always use our prefolds for weekend trips or even all-day excursions. They’re easier to put on and take off when we’re doing those creative diaper changes in a public restroom, your car trunk, or on your great aunt’s living room floor.
#3 They’re easier to line dry. Prefolds air dry into stiff, shingle-like sheets that aren’t easy to fold and use with baby. But pocket diapers air dry extremely quickly and always have a soft fleecy layer close to baby’s skin. They may require more washing, but they’re much easier to dry in any season just by hanging them on a rack in your home.
Stay tuned for Rebecca’s rebuttal to these pocket diaper posts when she professes her love for prefolds!
Here’s something disposable diaper-using parents may not understand: I truly enjoyed cloth diapering my daughter. I didn’t just put up with it because I wanted to save money. Nor was I slaving over those diapers as a sacrifice for Mother Earth. Before my daughter was born, I pored over websites on the Internet, reading all about prefolds and diaper covers and laundering techniques. Once I got my diapers, I admired their softness and cuteness; I couldn’t wait to try them out. I even took pleasure in laundry days–ah, the anticipation of waiting for a nice, fresh batch of diapers to emerge from the dryer!
Yes, I took a picture of myself holding a cloth diaper
Scouring consignment shops for my preferred brand of diaper covers became my new focus in life. Discovering a new cloth diapering tip (Sunlight removes stains! You can wash diapers in cold water!) would send me into a frenzy of delight. I know what some of you are thinking: this lady has no life. I am exaggerating only slightly when I say that cloth diapering gives me a sense of accomplishment one must feel upon ascending Mt. Everest, winning an Olympic gold medal, or discovering a cure for diaper rash.
Starting the Green Baby Guide added a whole new layer to the thrill of cloth diapering: now I could impart my cloth diapering insights to others. Some might have no interest in the practice whatsoever. This is hard for me to understand, but I hear it’s true. After all, only ten percent of the population uses cloth. Others eschew disposables out of economic necessity or perhaps out of obligation to the planet. And then there are those like me . . . those who can write three whole paragraphs on What Cloth Diapering Means to Me. Those who don’t just tolerate cloth diapers, but actively like them. A lot.
#1 One set lasts throughout baby’s diapering. Pocket diapers like bumGenius and Happy Heiny’s have adjustable snaps that make it possible to use the same diaper for any baby from eight to thirty five pounds. While prefolds are far cheaper overall, you may have to buy different sizes as baby grows whereas with a few dozen pocket diapers, you’re set!
#2 They’re easier to put on than prefolds—especially at three in the morning when you’re diapering your colicky baby and haven’t had more than three consecutive hours of sleep for days on end. All you need to do is snap or Velcro them into place and you’re set to go.
#3 Once they’re stuffed, you’re set. After you launder pocket diapers, the inserts just need to be gently tucked into the diapers. That’s it! Prefolds have to be folded and then arranged a bit in the cover before they’re on. It may be just a ten second difference but when you have a squirmy toddler like mine, ten seconds counts!
#4 They’re cuter—hands down. Even skeptics can’t help but gasp with admiration when they see Roscoe in his cow-print Happy Heiny’s. For friends and family who are a bit critical of cloth, seeing your baby’s tush in adorable cloth diapers may just win them over.
#5 Less bulk. Pocket diapers fit more like disposables, which means that your child will fit in their clothes more easily. I would presume that they’re also more comfortable for baby since they allow more movement and are less binding.
If you did, we want to hear from you! We are often amazed by the ingenuity and commitment of our readers and use your stories to share with other new parents. Many families are overwhelmed by the idea of cloth diapering one child, let alone two or three. If you’ve managed to use cloth with multiples, even part of the time, we’d love to hear your stories. We’d love to know how many diapers you bought, how much laundry you did, and how cloth may have been unexpectedly convenient. Please comment on this page or email us if you have some experience that might help other parents.
If you’re lucky, your child will make a seamless transition from full-time diapers to full-time underwear. That said, it’s pretty common for most kids to phase the diapers out gradually: at first they cut down during the day, then they’re “day trained,” and then–sometimes years later (according to my sources)–they stop needing diapers for naps and overnights.
We are in one of these transitional phases now. While my daughter does not need a diaper while she’s awake, she still wears one while she sleeps. I’ve been using cloth diapers since she was born and never want to buy another pack of disposables again, so I’m continuing with cloth diapers even now that I have much less diaper laundry to do. This leaves me with a diaper conundrum:
If I wash my diapers just as frequently as before–that is to say, every three or four days–I’ll be wasting a lot of water and energy on partial loads.
If I wait until I have a full load of diapers, I’ll be letting wet diapers fester in the diaper pail for almost three weeks.
So what is a water conservationist who does not want to smell a three-week-old diaper pail to do? My solution was simple, though it may gross some clean freaks out a bit: I wash a small load of diapers every week. I feel comfortable washing them this infrequently because they are always just wet diapers–no dirty diapers now that she’s day trained. Because I have so few diapers even after a week, I hang them to dry. I could never do this before Audrey became day trained because I couldn’t wait for several days for her diapers to dry on the rack during Oregon’s drizzly months. Now I have so many spare diapers that I can afford to wait.
One day I will no longer need to wash any diapers, but until then, I’ll stick with my once-a-week method. This compromise should please both my inner tree hugger and inner clean freak.
I often hear people say that cloth diapers are no better for the planet than disposables because of all the water used to wash them. This argument has never made too much sense to me. Water is a renewable resource, but the trees cut down to make disposable diapers are often harvested unsustainably. The plastic used on each diaper is a petroleum product-definitely not a renewable resource. Then there’s the whole landfill issue. . . .
Not to say that I don’t care about wasting water. If you wash diapers every other day in a top loader, you’ll use a whopping 7,200 gallons water a year. Do you use a wet pail to soak your diapers? That’s 360 more gallons a year, for a grand total of 7,560. The good news is, it’s not necessary to blow through that much water. I estimate that I use under 1,200 gallons water a year washing diapers. I have a front loader that uses 12.4 gallons per wash, and I wash diapers every four days instead of every other day.
I came up with the brilliant idea of “offsetting” the amount of water I use to wash diapers. The concept is simple: you try to make up for an environmental sin by doing a good deed for the planet. (Disclaimer: I realize that this whole “offsetting” concept is suspect, and we should all be doing the most to conserve resources at all times.) The first step in my personal water offsetting mission is to use as little water as possible on laundry. It would be difficult to offset 7,560 gallons of water a year, but by practicing just a few extra water conservation techniques, I can easily offset the 1,200 gallons I use.
Of course there are dozens of ways to reduce water waste. I was surprised to find that my first two water-saving ideas conserved more than enough water to make up for my diaper-laundry water.
1. Double up your toilet flushes. The average person flushes eight times day. At 1.6 gallons per flush, that equals 12.8 gallons a day. Double up just one flush and you’ll save 584 gallons a year. That’s almost half the amount of water I’d use washing diapers already.
2. Reduce showering time. I am guilty of wasteful showering. The average shower uses 2.5 gallons of water a minute. A ten minute shower uses twenty-five gallons of water. If two adults each take ten-minute showers and reduce them to five-minute showers (or shower every other day), they could save twenty-five gallons a day, or 9,125 gallons a year! Now I’ve more than offset the amount of water used to wash diapers. It’s interesting to note that two adults taking daily 10-minute showers are using fifteen times the amount of water needed to wash a year’s worth of diaper laundry.
Does anyone else feel guilty for washing cloth diapers in water? How do you assuage your guilt? Any crazy water-saving ideas you care to share with us? Please tell!
We love gathering up green parent advice and are already thankful for the tips we got from last week’s post on potty training. This week, we turn to cloth diaper users for their experiential wisdom.
What are your favorite brands/styles of cloth diapers? We’re especially interested in which diapers have provided the least leakage and the best fit, but we’d also like to hear about brands that turned out to be total duds. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!