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Friday, July 31, 2015

The Ghetto Guide to Cloth Diapers, Part I

Before Darija was born, my husband and I debated about whether to use cloth diapers or disposable ones. While disposable ones are readily available and have the perks of convenience (not to mention keeping pee off of baby's bottom better), the costs of buying packs and boxes of diapers every other week adds up pretty quickly. Cloth diapers, while notable for their eco-friendliness and long-term austerity due to being reusable, have a higher up-front cost and are guaranteed to result in higher water/utility bills due to the frequent laundering required of them.

So, what to do?

While we landed on a compromise of using disposables while out and about and cloth diapers at home, living in poverty has a way of educating you to take advantage of whatever life hacks you can find to stretch your limited resources further. I've found that the use of cloth diapers has been an essential part of keeping our baby care expenses lower than the average.

Like alot of millenials, especially ones with a conservative background like myself, I initially scoffed at the idea of cloth diapers. In my mind, cloth diapers had a stigma in that it was only for hippies, granola yuppies, and rich/middle class suburban stay at home mothers, while "real", hardworking, and/or impoverished people like me used disposables. But, after doing some research, I found it actually WAS more beneficial in the long run to use cloth diapers, environmentally and financially. Some of my mommy friends who'd used cloth diapers at church also encouraged me to use them as well. That, plus help from my husband who'd had experience in both childcare and cloth diapers, convinced me it actually WAS possible for a low-income mother like myself to keep my child adequately diapered and not go broke in the process!

But then came three big questions-what kinds of cloth diapers to acquire? Where do I find them? And can I afford to launder them without breaking the bank?

With those questions in mind, I've come up with a practical guide to cloth diapers for the low-income individual. Each of the three questions above will be addressed in a separate entry for this short series I'm calling The Ghetto Guide to Cloth Diapers. Cloth diapers shouldn't be something associated with the affluent segment of the population. They're for everyone regardless of income levels, and I can help you decide if this is a truly practical option for your wallet and your baby.

Let us begin.


There are three, generally different types of cloth diapers. There are flat diapers, pocket diapers, and all-in-ones (commonly abbreviated as AIO).

Flat diapers

These are the most common cloth diapers, and the first image that comes to mind when one thinks of what a cloth diaper looks like.


Technically, it's a "prefold", but this is one of the flat diapers we use on our daughter

While I suppose this would be classified as "prefold", the middle strip is not thick like in the diaper pictured above. This diaper has a more uniform thickness, like a traditional flat diaper

Traditional flat diapers are soft cloth sheets that are folded into thirds for absorbency. One minor variation on flat diapers is that they can contain a thick absorbent strip in the middle to pick up the pee and poop that baby excretes. One can fold diapers along the lines of the absorbent strip in a three-fold pattern (which is what "prefold" cloth diapers essentially are) for easy storage and for liners, as well as actual diapering. Flat diapers are not waterproof so a waterproof cover, such as plastic pants or a formal diaper cover, are essential for keeping the excretia contained. The diapers themselves are secured to the baby by safety pins (or if one can afford it, specialty attachments that don't involve sharp points), as is demonstrated in the pictures below.

Folded

Opened to put on the baby (this is called "angel wings" style)

Fold the unopened end towards the middle

Place under baby's bottom as shown. The fold boosts absorbancy as well as ensures a comfortable fit

Pin in place

Put on plastic pants or cover
A more formal diaper cover


Pocket diapers

These are a newer, but more convenient and versatile option when looking at using cloth diapers. They are named for the pocket between the waterproof outer cover and the inside of the diaper, where a folded cloth diaper, specialty liner, washcloth, blankets cut down to size, etc can be inserted for absorbancy as shown in the pictures below.


Open pocket diaper

Specialty liner. This one is made of cotton

Into the pocket it goes

Liner is in the diaper

Open pocket diaper, exterior

Snaps on front adjust to baby's size

All done!
Some kinds of pocket diapers also come with elastic bands along the back end and where the legs are which can be adjusted for size (the ones in the above pictures do). Others have snaps which can be adjusted for length, and others have a plastic pouch where you can put in a folded flat diaper or other liner (see below).


Snap adjustable pocket diaper

Inserting liners
Finished product






















Pouch pocket diaper, with folded cloth diaper. Any absorbent cloth will work

All in One (AIO) diapers

These are cloth diapers which, in addition to the waterproof exterior, have the liners already inserted and sewed in. These are the most like disposable diapers in terms of convenience-just put on and go. AIOs are not a bad choice for beginners or busy moms. Keep in mind, however, that owing to their construction, AIOs are the more costly types of cloth diapers. I do not own any of my own to show you, but they don't look too different from the pocket diapers.


Regardless of what types of cloth diapers you choose, there are some big advantages to using them. An obvious one is not having to always go out and buy disposables, but there are also less instances of diaper rash in babies who use cloth diapers (the cloth diapers help baby's bottom breathe), leading to less usage of zinc oxide creams or other rash treatments. It is also that breathability that translates into more comfort for the baby; waste is kept away reasonably well and there are no chemicals present to cause irritation (unlike some of the absorbency chemicals used in disposables). The soft cloth texture helps too. Also, the flat diapers can be quite versatile, lending themselves to such uses as burp cloths, changing pads, reusable wipes, face wipes, etc. For the more eco-minded mother, cloth diapers also don't wind up in the landfill and contribute to land pollution the way disposable diapers do.

As great as cloth diapers are, they do have some pitfalls. Cloth diapers can and do leak more easily, particularly if they're not properly adjusted (as is the case with all diapers, but the learning curve is much larger with cloth diapers). The up front cost is a major deterrent also; you see a pocket diaper or a pack of flat diapers for like $20 and wonder if it's worth the expense of getting them when there's other stuff you can think of spending that $20 on. In addition to cost, there is a bit of work and an uptick in the amount of water involved with keeping cloth diapers clean, since they need to be laundered after every use. Going out in public or sending the baby to daycare also means having to put in some forethought; diaper bags need to have extra plastic bags to contain the dirty diapers, as well as extra sets of diapers to replace the soiled ones (this is why we settled on using disposable diapers when out and about. They're less unwieldy than cloth ones). Eco-minded mothers also need to be aware that while cloth diapers don't wind up in landfills, the frequent laundering can raise concerns about water pollution due to detergents used for laundry, and use.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post where I address the question of where to find cloth diapers and the best tips for acquiring them.

All the best!

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