Cloth diapering has come a long way since Mom had to dunk cotton rectangles in the toilet before throwing them in the stinky diaper bin.
Now cloth diapering is being crusaded as a money and time saver, and new products are making the practice more efficient, convenient and – face it - less gross.
Melissa Huynh of Coral Springs has cloth-diapered her kids Leah, 3, and Tai, 1, since birth. In May 2012, she opened Lalabye Baby, an online cloth diaper store.
Huynh got into cloth diapering after she lost her job and became pregnant with Leah. "We were looking for ways to save money," she said.
The average cost of cloth diapering is $300-$450, a savings of about $2,000 from birth to potty training, Huynh said.
THE SCOOP ON POOP"Some people are afraid of cloth diapers because of the poopy aspect of it," said Melissa Huynh of Coral Springs, who owns Lalabye Baby, an online cloth diaper store. Good to know:
- Baby poop is OK to wash in the machine.
- When solids start to form, plop in toilet, or use a diaper sprayer, a type of handheld bidet that attaches to your toilet. It allows you to spray the solids off before you toss the diaper in the hamper.
- Disposable diaper liners, similar to a disposable dryer sheet, can be inserted inside of a diaper. Solids stick to them, then everything can be flushed.
- When washing, use a rinse cycle, then a full cycle in hot water, then an extra rinse cycle. Custom diaper maker Ashley Brown said be careful with high-efficiency machines, which don’t use a lot of water in the wash. It’s best to wash with a lot of water to dilute the urine in the diapers, she said.
- Dry newborn diapers in the sun. "Especially with newborns, because they stink," Huynh said. "The sun bleaches them, and it’s another way of saving money, because you’re not using the dryer."
"And that’s just for the first child," she said. "If you use the diapers on a second child, it’s more." (Check out the diaper cost calculator.)
The products are getting better and better, cloth diapering advocates say. Retailers like Toys R Us, Bye Bye Baby and Walmart are starting to carry better cloth diapers, not just the old cotton squares, Huynh said.
Now products combine organic cottons with linings of material like polyurethane laminates (known as PUL), microfleece and thermoplastic polyurethane (known as TPU), to keep wetness away from skin.
Today’s cloth diapers promote air flow, keep baby dry and decrease leakage, advocates say. Parents also have dispensed with old diaper pins and rubber diaper covers in favor of snaps, Velcro and plastic fastening systems, and breathable covers adorned with adorable prints.
Claudia Rojo Limerick, owner of Stinkin’ Cute Natural Baby Boutique, sells several types of cloth diapers on her website. Find her primer on the most common types of cloth diapers here.
Limerick’s best sellers are Fuzzibunz one-size pocket diapers, in which an absorbent liner is inserted, and Thirsties duo all-in-ones, which has a waterproof layer built in.
"Cloth diapering is so different now. People make a face – 'ick!' – when they hear it, but now they’re as convenient as disposables," Limerick said.
The Coral Springs resident became a cloth diaper retailer two years ago, after the birth of her son, Colin.
"I didn’t like having something not natural against my son’s skin. I wanted an alternative to having part of his body sealed in a plastic bag 24 hours a day," she said.
Limerick says that health reasons, not necessarily costs, are driving a resurging popularity in cloth diapers.
"Moms are more concerned with the chemicals in disposable diapers, and the 24-hour exposure every day for three years," she said.
The options for cloth diapering today offers a dizzying array of products in fabrics ranging from bamboo to wool to fleece.
Lalabye Baby sells one-size pocket diapers that can accommodate babies from 8 pounds to 35-pound toddlers, Huynh said, because of snaps that adjust the size. Made of a TPU exterior layer and a microfleece interior layer that wicks away moisture, the diaper has a removable absorption pad made of microfiber or bamboo that can be doubled up at night.
Solids are sprayed off with a diaper sprayer that attaches to the toilet, and everything goes in the wash. Lalabye’s pocket diapers are one for $10, three for $24 and six for $50. Huynh recommends you start with a dozen, to see if it’s for you. She said a total of 24-30 should last you from birth to potty training.
On the go, Huynh uses wet bags that retail for $10-20. They are made of TPU and are reusable and washable. At home, she uses a reusable bag to line her covered trash can. On wash day, the bag and all the dirty diapers go in the wash.
DIAPER HANGOUTSee our cloth diaper discussion via Google Hangout on YouTube.
Limerick said that while any type of soft cotton, including an old T-shirt, can be fashioned into a diaper, "what’s hot lately are work-at-home moms who make their own diapers with custom features," she said.
Ashley Brown of Plantation, who makes custom cloth diapers for online retailer 3E Crafts, is one of those moms. She sells her diapers on a Facebook page.
Brown uses high-quality fabrics to make all-in-twos, an outer shell with a reusable liner. Customers can pick prints such as flowers or dinosaurs for the outside of the diaper. Inside is a custom-selected list of options including bamboo terry or velour, polyurethane laminate (PUL) and microfleece. "The options are limitless. I can make whatever people want," Brown said. The product line also includes cloth wipes and wool dryer balls. Diapers are $20 without the insert and $25 with an insert.
Brown said the biggest trend of late is hybrid fitted diapers - a cloth fitted diaper with a core of fleece that is used with an absorbent insert. The product combines maximum breathability without a need for a cover, she said.
If you can’t get into washing diapers, services like Mother Earth Diaper Service in Coral Springs, which serves Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, will do the dirty work for you.
Owner Mia McDonald said when she was pregnant with her daughter Melanie, 1, she wanted to follow the family tradition of cloth diapering. But she just wasn’t up to washing. She found Mother Earth Diaper Service, learned the owner was looking to sell and bought the business in September 2011.
Mother Earth uses prefold diapers, the cotton rectangles with a thicker, more absorbent layer running down the middle.
The unbleached cotton diapers are of higher quality that what you can buy in a store, McDonald said. "They use gauze weave. We use twill weave, which is a tighter weave that’s more comfortable and more absorbent." Plastic "snappis" hold the diapers closed, so there are no pins. The diapers are paired with covers made with a cotton exterior and polyurethane laminate (PUL) interior with a Velcro-like closure, the covers allow air in, but not wetness out, McDonald said.
For a $125 start-up fee, Mother Earth Diaper Service will deliver a diaper pail and liners, waterproof diaper covers, cotton diapers and other goodies to your home. Weekly service is $25 to exchange a bag of stinkies for a batch of laundered diapers.
Two Facebook groups: South Florida Cloth Diapering (Brown is an administrator) and the Real Cloth Diaper Circle of South Florida (McDonald and Limerick are circle leaders) offer support and education for cloth-diapering moms in a friendly forum.
"All these things make it so simple," Huynh said. "You’re going to be wiping poop anyway, but this way you’re nicer to the environment and saving money."
BUY, SELL, SWAP, GIVEHere are some websites for donating used diapers, or for buying and selling them. • Giving Diapers, Giving Hope – accepts donations of used diapers, repairs and gives them to families in need.
• RealDiaperAssociation.org – nonprofit advocate for cloth diapering, has links to national diaper banks
• Diaperswappers.com - for buying and selling