dave and i showed up at 6:30p to join three other couples in learning about the many different cloth diaper options available. so, first point: cloth diapers of today do NOT use pins like previous generations. they are also pretty technologically advanced with detailing added for adjustability, absorbency, durability, etc.
there are a few big name brands that have the biggest market share, but there are people cropping up everyday who are designing and sewing their own version of cloth diapers. again, i only first started having modern cloth diapers enter my knowledge base back when my public health friend was stocking up for her daughter (now three years old). back in ann arbor the emerging diaper place is the little seedling, and here in halifax, it seems like nurtured has more cloth diapers than i can hope to try.
for the workshop, the owner broke the diapers into a few categories: pre-folds, fitted diapers, pocket diapers, and "others" (which include some newer emerging trends that i wont bore you with).
a brief rundown:
pre-folds are basically the closest looking diapers to what your mothers or grandmothers may be familiar with. they now have more layers sewn together and are made with more absorbent, durable fabrics. often you can get organic cottons/fibers as well. you can fold them in a variety of ways as your child grows and to provide better absorbing coverage for a girl v boy. to secure them on baby, they come with a little snappi thing that is the alternative to pins. since this is an all-cloth situation, you need to buy outer diaper covers in order to prevent pee from getting on babys clothes. as for pricing, pre-folds are like $2-4 each and covers are maybe $13-15 each.
(a diaper cover; a baby getting suited up with a pre-fold and diaper cover)
fitted diapers are the next step up from pre-folds. these are still all fabric so you need to buy the outer diaper cover, but they look more like a disposable diaper. there is no folding necessary and no additional snappi thing, you just put it on and snap the attached snaps together and its on. these come in lots of different fabrics again, including hemp which is a natural fiber and SUPER absorbent, ideal if you have a heavy wetting baby. fitted diapers are about $15-19, not including the covers.
pocket diapers are the third major kind. the two major/popular brands are bumgenius and fuzzibunz. basically there are absorbent liners that you place inside the diaper pocket (one for regular situations, or possibly two liners for nighttime sleeping or if your baby is generally a heavy wetter) and then you just put the diaper on as a whole, like a disposable. most companies with pocket diapers now make the diapers adjustable so they can grow with your baby from birth to potty training. pocket diapers are like $23-26 each.
(the bumgenius 3.0 model adjusts to these three different sizes)
diaper care is really not that bad. if you are breastfeeding (and before solid foods) there isnt anything more you have to do besides throw the dirty diapers in a dry diaper pail (some people are tempted to want to soak them in a wet bucket, but this just encourages bacterial growth). it is recommended to not let dirty diapers go for more than about 2-3 days before washing. the women using them at the store said theyve never had a problem if things came up and they couldnt wash them for a few days more, or if they accidentally left them steaming in a hot car (gross). when your baby starts having more solid poop, you can still just leave it and wash it as is, or you can remove the poo by one of many methods/techniques.
while it may seem like lots of overwhelming information, i can just about guarantee that any diaper/baby store worth its salt would be more than willing to go over things with you. ultimately, you want to get lots of information up front so you can make the right (and most convenient) decision for you. the pluses to using cloth diapers are many, and not all of them involve hippy "saving the planet" motivations.
first, babies in cloth diapers typically have little or no diaper rash (unless going through a growth spurt). it is thought that disposables cause rash in one of two ways: the absorbent chemicals in the diaper react with babys skin and/or the fact that disposables arent made of breathable material so the area under the diaper can be 4° celsius (~7° F) higher than the rest of the body, making it a great environment to grow microbes. for a reality check, my 3-4 friends who had their babies in cloth diapers said they truly never saw rashes.
second, cloth diapers are cheaper than disposables. you buy the diapers up front, so yes, it is a higher one-time fee, but then you arent running out to the store each week to buy more. typically you buy enough to have a set of 24 diapers (newborns wet the most, at about 10-12 diapers per day). for one child, a set will cost somewhere between $400 - $1200 (depending on the style you buy) which is compared to a two year supply of disposables costing about $2000 (this then assumes your child is potty trained at age 2). plus, depending on how you cared for the diapers, how long you used them, and which style you bought, many people find the diapers are usable for their second child (obviously, this saves even more money!).
third, ive seen research suggesting that disposables put kids at an increased risk for asthma. this can be likened to the plastic shower curtain situation. youve seen the reports about how its bad to breathe in that plasticy smell you get when you put up a new, plastic shower curtain right? same idea with disposables. the chemicals being exposed and breathed in continuously have the potential to irritate babys lungs and possibly then go on to encourage asthma.
lastly, its been suggested that cloth diapers lead to children being potty trained at an earlier age. the idea is that, while cloth diapers are very absorbent and do pull moisture away from the skin, they do still provide the child with the sensation that their diaper is wet. they then make the connection earlier between the wetness and the need to go to the bathroom to prevent that from happening. the women at the store felt that this wasnt something contributing to a major difference of like one year earlier training for cloth diaper kids, but they certainly felt that cloth diaper kids train about 3 months earlier than disposable kids (again, then you are saving money compared to disposables).
anyway, i think i mentioned before, we are going with a diaper service. im not going up and down the stairs to use a public washing machine with a newborn. nope. there is a local diaper service that really isnt expensive that we are going to use. so, we dont have to choose between a hundred diaper styles. the diaper service does have both pre-fold and fitted diapers as options though, so we have some flexibility. plus, the service is roughly the same, or possibly a little cheaper than disposables, so we are still not breaking the bank. it will be my one luxury.
so, the workshop was packed full of useful information, even though we are using a service. it was educational too to see the other people there who were interested in cloth diapers. some people were super hyper about it, some people seemed like a deer in the headlights, and two of the dads seemed like total dimbulbs. even though dave is at novice status, he was very attentive and motivated to learn. i think he will be amply prepared, which will be good because i think he will be the diaper king to my boob queen role.