Saturday, November 30, 2013

The low down and dirty on diapers

Babies wear diapers nonstop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Diapers cover some extremely important body parts and the delicate skin on their tushes is very absorptive. Definitely not a place I want to expose to toxins….

I learned about what conventional diapers are made of from The Honest Company's website and it's an eye opener. The basic anatomy of conventional diapers (Huggies, Pampers, etc) is an absorbent core covered by plastic, plastic and more plastic then doused with synthetic dyes, lotions and fragrances. The core, where all the tinkle gets sucked into, is made of a highly absorbent compound made from tree cellulose and synthetic chemicals. Those gel crystals found in many diapers are made up of sodium polyacrylate (SAP), which is a common irritant. It is then covered with a petroleum based woven plastic to keep the moisture in and then covered with a different plastic to allow the tinkle through. Pretty much the whole diaper is composed of several types of plastic and the shady plastic industry doesn't reveal ingredients, RED FLAG! (for more on plastics read this post).  In 1999 The Archives of Environmental Health found that conventional disposable diapers release the VOCs toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and dipentene, which are all linked to asthma. GREAT! Diaper makers then add fragrances (read about the hormone disrupting phthalates here), lotions (read about parabens here) and synthetic dyes. Conventional diapers must be perfectly white so they are bleached. This process creates one of the most potent cancer causing chemicals known to man - dioxins. To summarize, conventional plastic diapers emit VOCs, are linked to asthma, skin irritation, cancer and endocrine disruption - we're supposed to put these on our precious babies?

Four years ago when my sister Molly was pregnant and said she was going to use cloth diapers I thought she was CRAZY. What a huge hassle and poop in your washing machine?! Twenty years ago I babysat for a family that used cloth diapers (I was only 5 years old…) and remember being paranoid about pricking the baby with safety pins. They had this huge, smelly cauldron in their basement used to boil diapers and I constantly dealt with leaks. Not a positive experience. Never would I have imagined I would become advocate myself - I was so wrong and my sister so right!  Cloth diapers have come a LONG way in just the past decade and no more intimidating safety pins thanks to great new options like velcro and snaps. I LOVE the cloth diapers we use for Olivia. They're cute, easy to wash, non-toxic and have saved us boatloads of money. If you have time to do one load of laundry every other day and two minutes to stuff diapers with inserts you can fit cloth diapering into your schedule. It's that easy! Not to mention you'll be saving your baby from exposure to synthetic plastic conventional diapers full of chemicals. For me it's a total no-brainer!

My daughter Olivia in her Fuzzibunz pocket diaper with hemp liner
The most overwhelming part of the whole process for me has been choosing which type of diaper to buy. I have a hard time making decisions and suffered from severe baby brain so I selected my sister's favorite - Fuzzibunz. They've worked out great for us and I've never looked back. Many people suggest trying several different brands and types to see what you prefer. The website Kelly's Closet has a 30 day money back guarantee to try out cloth diapers - zero risk! In Charlotte we have a family run children's store called The Milky Way that focuses on cloth diapers and nursing - they offer a monthly cloth diapering class and are a wealth of knowledge for mothers.

There are three basic types of cloth diapers: prefolds, pockets, and all-in-ones. Fuzzibunz are pockets and the only type I have experience with. My friend Whitley uses the prefolds with Thirsty brand covers and swears by them. Another great hybrid option that my friend Cassie loves are G-diapers which are reusable diaper covers with disposable inserts that you flush or toss G diapers website.

Prefolds and flats:
  • The most economical diaper system available. A pack of 6 Bummis organic cotton prefolds go for about $40 and a Thirsty cover costs about $12. 
  • This "old school" method uses a piece of rectangular, absorbent cotton folded into thirds and laid inside a waterproof cover. 
  • Traditional pre-folds are cotton but bamboo and hemp have recently joined the market because of their super absorbent qualities and softness. 
  • This option takes up very little space and washing is easy because the covers are reused.  
I found a great blog called Elisa Loves that details everything you need to know about this easy option.
My friend Whitley's darling son Worth and his truck in his Thirsties cover/ Bummis hemp liner
Pocket diapers:
  • The most popular style of cloth diapers 
  • Bargain brands like Kawaii cost about $12 each, Fuzzibunz that I use cost about $15 each and a deluxe Blueberry cost $24. 
  • Feature a cover that has a wicking pocket that you stuff with an insert. It takes me about 2 minutes to stuff a dozen pocket diapers, so easy!
  • Typical inserts are made of absorbent microfiber, which is a fabric that you don't want to directly touch your baby's skin. I like to place an additional hemp insert on top of the inner layer of the pocket for extra protection. Olivia went through a heavy wetting phase and had a leak almost every day - adding this hemp layer immediately solved this problem.
  • Some pocket diapers are one size fits all that adjust with age and can be used on babies ranging from 10-35 pounds. Others are available in sizes and tend to be more fitted (this is what I use).
  • Some pocket diapers use snaps and others close with Velcro.
  • I have heard great reviews on Kawaii, Sunbaby, and Rumparooz.
My precious niece Evie getting into the toilet paper in her FuzziBunz
All-in-One (AIO):
  • Easiest to use with no stuffing or folding
  • No cover required and the absorbent material is sewn into the diaper cover
  • Great option for anyone thinking cloth diapers are too much work
  • Tend to be more expensive, the popular BumGenius is about $20 each
  • Require more laundry, take longer to dry and take up a lot of space in your drawers
bumGenius one size pocket diaper
  • A hybrid between a disposable and cloth
  • Feature a reusable diaper cover with disposable inserts that you can flush or toss
  • When the insert is soiled, remove from the gPant, dispose and tuck in a new insert for a fresh change. Use the same gPant through multiple changes and change when dirty
  • A pack of 32 inserts cost $15 and the gPant cover costs $15
Ben, my friend Cassie's sweet little boy, striking a pose in his gDiaper
The process:
  • We have about 16 diapers that I keep in the top drawer of Olivia's changing table stuffed and ready to go. 
  • I keep a Fuzzibunz hanging diaper pail on the back of her bedroom door and I love it. There is a zipper across the bottom of the bag, so when you do laundry you just unzip it and dump the diapers - you don't have to touch anything dirty! The bag gathers up tight at the top to help manage the smell. I also carry a "wet bag" in my diaper bag for dirty cloth diapers on the go.
  • For poopy diapers you just drop the poop into the toilet. (I can't really describe this without it sounding gross) The poop just peels off the liner and falls into the toilet. The only time we've had problems with poop sticking to the diaper is when Olivia has been sick. Some parents use a little sprayer that attaches to the toilet water line to rinse off the poop, but we've never needed one (I'm convinced this has to do with Olivia's clean and healthy diet).
  • I do a load of laundry every other day and use Molly's Suds detergent. You cannot use traditional laundry detergent like Tide because they build up a residue that cause the diapers to repel moisture not absorb it. Plus conventional detergents are loaded with artificial fragrances and dyes that are harsh and toxic to little one's skin. For more on detergent check out the diaper jungle website.
  • There are many different washing techniques and I follow the instructions suggested by Molly's Suds.
    • Warm rinse with no soap
    • Hot wash with soap
    • Warm rinse
    • Warm rinse again
    • Dry in laundry machine 
  • For pocket diapers you do not have to separate the insert from the cover before washing - thankfully the wash cycle does this for you! I usually have two or three inserts that don't come out and I make sure to remove them for the dryer or else they won't dry.
  • Every few months you may have to strip your diapers if they start to smell like ammonia (trust me, you'll know when it's time). We've only had to do it once and there are many different techniques. I scrubbed the diapers and inserts with blue Dawn and did three hot washes - this did the trick for me. 
  • Not all diaper rash creams can be used with cloth diapers because the ingredients can build up and cause the diapers to repel moisture - avoid zinc oxide and cod liver oil. For additional info on specific creams and recommendations check out this link. We use Ava Anderson Non-Toxic diaper cream and love it.
There are thousands of handmade cloth diapers available on Etsy for amazing prices. I'm a member of a cloth diaper coop that I found on Facebook - do a google search and you'll find tons of buying options! Another great way to save money is to buy gently used diapers on Craigslist or Ebay. I bought very gently used Fuzzibunz pocket diapers on Ebay for about $5 each and bought new inserts and hemp liners - they've worked great! I found a lovely lady named Adriana that sews hemp inserts and may also make cloth diapers - her email is

We do use disposable diapers when we travel, when Olivia goes to the church nursery and overnight. The only diaper brands I trust are The Honest Company and Seventh Generation. I LOVE the Honest Company's diapers which they describe as "ultra absorbent, eco-friendly, extra soft, hypoallergenic, free of chlorine processing & risky additives (like fragrances, lotions, and latex). Oh, and did we mention how adorable they are?" I only wish they offered overnight diapers for heavy nighttime wetters like my daughter. For bedtime we use Seventh Generation diapers, which aren't as cute or soft as Honest but definitely get the job done. We've never had any problems with leaks and Olivia has only had minor diaper rash a handful of times. I always buy them on eBay for much cheaper than Amazon or Target prices. The Honest Company has a bundled deal with wipes for $79.95 a month, which is very comparable to conventional diapers.
My friend Courtney's munchkin Miles admiring his Honest diaper 
We are very happy with the diapering choices we've made for our daughter. My husband Ed surprises me with how much he prefers the cloth over disposable - he raves about how they are so much more comfortable for Olivia and easy to use. I would have never in a million years thought I would be such a fan!

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