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Diapers 101

Types of Diapers
Why Use Cloth?
Environmental Effects

Types of Diapers - diapers 101

All-In-One Cloth Diapers - these have the distinct advantage of being literally just like disposable diapers except instead of tossing them in the garbage, you toss them in the wash! They come with a waterproof cover built right into the absorbent cotton making them the easiest diaper to use. Parents who are often reluctant to use cloth really love these because they really are so similar to disposables. Even if you don't think you will use AIO's, they are always great to have on hand for caregivers.

Fitted Diapers - these are tailor fitted diapers with either a snap closure or velcro-style closure ensuring a great fit for your baby. Fitted diapers are essentially the more sophisticated version of a prefold. Instead of you actually have to fold them, they are already shaped to fit your baby. Since the fitted diapers are only the absorbent part of the diaper, they do need a diaper cover to go with them. Fitted diapers are ideal for newborns as they hold the messy newborn poop in very well.

One Size Diapers - One size cloth diapers are a relatively new invention. They were invented to help simplify your life by allowing you to buy just one "size" of diaper and use it from about 8-30 lbs. We offer most of the one size diapers on the market including: happy heinys, fuzzi bunz, Bumgenius, Wahmies, and Rocky Mountain Diapers. Most adjust with a series of snaps on the front of the diaper allowing you to adjust the rise as your baby grows. All except Mommy's Touch and Growing Greens are a pocket diaper requiring an insert.

Pocket Diapers - Pocket diapers have a waterproof outer layer sewn together with either a microfleece or microsuede inner layer to create a pocket to "stuff". You then "stuff" the pocket with an insert, a prefold or even an old dish towel (although all of our pocket diapers do come with a free insert). An advantage of the pocket diaper is that the fleece layer is next to your baby and wicks the moisture away from your baby into the absorbent insert. This further reduces any chance of diaper rash. Another great aspect of pocket diapers is that you can stuff them with varying amounts of inserts to accommodate any type of wetter. We offer a number of styles of pocket diapers - happy heinys, fuzzi bunz, Bumgenius, Wahmies, and Rocky Mountain Diapers. Pocket diapers are fantastic to have in your diaper stash since you can stuff them with a hemp stuffin and be set to go for hours if need be!

Prefold Diapers - these are flat, rectangular, absorbent pieces of cloth that require a diaper cover. This is by far the most inexpensive diapering system around. And you no longer need to use pins anymore! Prefolds can be used as stuffins or inserts with some pocket diapers and they make great burp rags. You simply can't go wrong with having at least a few prefolds around even if you use a different diapering system.

Diaper Covers - these are used over prefolds and fitted diapers. You can even just put an insert inside of a diaper cover. They wrap securely around baby with either a snap attachment or velcro-style closure. These can often be used through several diaper changes if allowed to air dry and then thrown in the wash with the diapers (check manufacturers suggestions).

Diaper Inserts - diaper inserts are often made of micro-fiber terry or hemp. You use diaper inserts to put into pocket diapers for the absorbent part of a diaper or you can simply place one inside of a diaper cover.

Diaper Doublers - diaper doublers are such a great thing! They essentially double the absorbency of a diaper. These are great for using with all-in-one diapers to boost up absorbency. I absolutely love these!

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Why use cloth?

There are 3 main reasons people decide to use cloth diapers:

1. Better for Baby

"In disposable diapers, there are traces of dioxin and tributyl-tin (TBT), two highly toxic chemicals. TBT is known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals (Greenpeace, 2000). Dioxin is a by-product of the bleaching process. Dioxin is a carcinogenic chemical, listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals. It is banned in most countries but not in the U.S (Greenpeace, 1994)." An excerpt from the Real Diaper Association The Real Diaper Association also summarizes why your baby will likely have less diaper rash in a cloth diaper compared with a disposable diaper.

"Disposable diapers contain sodium polyacrylate, a type of super absorbent polymer (SAP), which becomes a gel-like substance when wet. A similar substance had been used in super-absorbancy tampons until the early 1980s when it was revealed that the material increased the risk of toxic shock syndrome." (RDA)

Furthermore, there is evidence1 that scrotal temperature is increased when boys are in disposal diapers. The study concluded that prolonged use of disposable diapers will blunt or completely abolish the physiological testicular cooling mechanism important for normal spermatogenesis.

2. Significantly more cost effective

You will save literally THOUSANDS of dollars using a cloth diapering system, especially if you plan on having more than one child since you can re-use the cloth diapers for more than one child. Cloth diapering systems are an initial investment, however they will save you a significant amount of money over the long run. Deciding which cloth diapering system to use will determine just how much you save. Choosing a cloth diapering system is very specific to your families' needs and many factors will go into deciding which diapering system is right for your family. Remember, you can sell your cloth diapers on auction sites when you are done with them and get as much as 50% of your initial investment back! Not bad!! Check this link to calculate your own household's savings when you use cloth diapers.

3. Exponentially more environmentally friendly

Here are some facts about disposable diapers:

  • EACH child using disposables adds ~4000-6,000 diapers to landfills consuming approximately 5-6 trees (RDA)
  • Since disposable diapers can take upwards of 500 years to decompose the environmental effects are basically unknown 2.
  • Did you know that using cloth diapers yourself are even better than using a diaper service? This is because diaper services often times use harsh use bleach or other harsh chemicals to clean their diapers
  • The human waste that is thrown away in disposable diapers poses a serious contamination threat to soils and groundwater supplies. Did you know that instructions on disposable diapers advise you to deposit all fecal matter in the toilet before discarding?

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Environmental Effects

Why are cloth diapers better for our environment?

  • Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills and represent about 4% of solid waste. Up to 50% of a household's garbage consists of disposable diapers (see RDA)
  • Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby EACH YEAR (see RDA)
  • The manufacture and use of disposable diapers uses 2.3 times more water than cloth diapers
    • You might ask why you hear that cloth diapers are more water wasteful than disposables? This comes from a very skewed report by the Environmental Agency of the UK in 2005 (see why it is flawed here). Additionally, this report did not take into account any of the modern styles of cloth diapers listed on sites like this one and made the assumption that you washed only 12 diapers at a time.
      • At least half of the "water use" figures for cloth diapers in the study are attributed to the production of conventionally grown cotton. This can be easily decreased by choosing more earth-friendly fabrics like hemp, organic cotton and bamboo.
      • On average, washing cloth diapers for one baby is the equivilant to flushing the toilet 4-6 times a day. Wouldn't that child be flushing the toilet that many times a day when they are out of diapers?
      • The water used to wash cloth diapers is reusable, whereas the water consumed in the process of making disposable diapers is much less usable afterwards because of the chemicals involved in making disposable diapers (Dioxin, TBT and sodium polyacrylate).
    • Isn't part of the point of all of this to teach our children to use our resources more wisely than we have? What better way to start then from birth?!?

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1. C-J Partsch, M Aukamp, W G Sippell Scrotal temperature is increased in disposable plastic lined nappies. Division of Paediatric Endocrinology, Department of Paediatrics, Christian-Albrechts- University of Kiel, Schwanenweg 20, D-24105 Kiel, Germany. Arch Dis Child 2000;83:364-368. Go to http://adc.bmjjournals.com and search by the title of the study.

2. Lehrburger, Carl. 1988. Diapers in the Waste Stream: A review of waste management and public policy issues. 1988. Sheffield, MA: self-published.

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