CLOTH VERSUS DISPOSABLES – PART III

Read: Cloth Versus Disposables – Part I

Read: Cloth Versus Disposables – Part II

…Once I had more or less settled on the idea of using cloth diapers, I started by searching for cloth diaper services — the type where I wouldn’t have to wash anything; rather, a bag of clean diapers would magically appear at the front door each week in place of the dirty ones I’d left to be picked up.  I discovered that such services cost more than $20 per week once all the little extras (wipes, liners, etc.) are included, and that there is still an initial outlay for the waterproof diaper covers, which will then need to be replaced as many as three times (four sizes) throughout the child’s diapering years.  As well, the selection of diapers is fairly limited, with a choice of either traditional pre-folds (the “old school” cotton flannel sheets that need to be folded and pinned), or more modern, shaped liners.  In either case, these options require pins and covers, and additional layers for sleeping.  While a diaper service would certainly cut down on the amount of diaper-related laundry that needs to be done, it won’t eliminate it completely, and at $20 per week, there is no appreciable cost savings over using disposables.

Next I investigated our options for purchasing our own diapers.  There is a dizzying array of brands, styles, fabric combinations and sizes; each of which comes with their own set of advantages and disadvantages in terms of durability, cost, effectiveness and ease of use.  In general, the  more modern and “user-friendly” the diaper, the more expensive it seems to be.  I have also noticed that “one size” diapers (those which claim to fit from newborn through to toilet training) are more expensive than the sized diapers, but of course, great cost savings can be had by not having to buy three or four different sets of diapers over the course of two to three years.

The least expensive (yet probably the most durable) diapers are the old style flannel pre-folds (as in you get to sit there and pre-fold them before you can use them).  These require fasteners (e.g. pins) and waterproof covers to be effective. According to people I’ve spoken to, they are not nearly as difficult to use as one would imagine, and are in fact quite effective, but there is a learning curve to becoming proficient in their use, and they are not the easiest option for quick, on-the-go diaper changes when away from home.  They are also not generally accepted by daycare centres and other external caregivers.

The next step up from pre-folds are the shaped or fitted diapers, some of which are self-fastening (Velcro or snaps) and do not require pinning.  These diapers also require waterproof covers, but are quicker and easier to use, since the inner layers are already shaped like diapers and therefore do not need to be folded.  These diapers also tend to be fairly low cost.

Pocket diapers, as they are known, combine a waterproof shell with one or more separate liners that are stuffed into a pocket between the waterproof outer and wicking inner layers.  These are extremely versatile, as the amount of absorbency can be easily adjusted by varying the thickness and/or number of liners.  The liners are removed during laundering, allowing the diapers to be cleaned more thoroughly and dried more quickly.  They can be “pre-stuffed” after laundering in order to allow for quicker and more efficient changes.  Some pocket diapers have liners that are designed to agitate out of the diaper in the laundry, thereby eliminating the need to remove soiled liners by hand; however, the stuffing and un-stuffing of liners can be a major deterrent to the use of pocket diapers when this is not the case.

Finally, we have all-in-one diapers, which are those that combine the wicking layer, absorbent layer and waterproof layer into a single unit that functions almost exactly like a disposable diaper (minus the disposing part, of course).  These are by far the most convenient and user-friendly of all the cloth diaper varieties, but they are also generally the most expensive to purchase. Laundering is simple, as there are no parts or layers to disassemble and reassemble, but they do tend to take much longer to dry than other varieties of diapers.

Cloth diapers can be fastened by a variety of means, including pinning, Velcro and snaps.  Pin type fasteners, such as the Snappi, are inexpensive and relatively easy to use, but need to be covered in order to keep them away from prying fingers. Velcro is the fastest and simplest to use, and offers the opportunity to make infinite adjustments to the fit, but tends to wear down over repeated uses and laundering, and can also very easily be undone by curious toddlers.  Snaps, on the other hand, are extremely durable and toddler-proof, but can be a little bit fussier than Velcro, and offer more limited options for fit.

So, how have we decided to proceed?  Looks like you’ll have to wait until the next post to find out! 😉

8 responses to “CLOTH VERSUS DISPOSABLES – PART III

  1. good work compiling all this info! I really think picking out what kind of diapers to buy is the hardest part of cloth diapering!!

    Just want to mention that we primarily use prefolds/covers (Thirsties covers) and that we do NOT use fasteners or pins. We also have about a dozen AIO/pocket diapers for the grandparents and when we leave the house….but it’s not really too hard to change a prefold and cover, either, once you are used to it. And of course, it will vary for everyone, but I’ve found one-size diapers really don’t work WELL for newborns (less than 8.5 pounds) or large babies. They sound like a great idea, but in practice, for me….I just ended up buying the more-expensive one-size diapers, PLUS the larger size. And the one-size diapers didn’t really contain poop very well in the newborn.

    But whatever you choose, good luck! Just wanted to share my experiences.

    • I have heard a lot of good things about pre-folds — everyone who uses them definitely seems to have only positive comments. My only concerns are the other caregivers’ openness to using them (daycare, babysitters, etc.), and the fact that if our little guy is super active, it might start to become difficult to pin him down long enough to do the job correctly once he is mobile.

  2. Have you found that any daycares will accept any form of cloth diapers? I’m not sure if you’ll be staying home or using a daycare, but I’m curious as I would love to use cloth diapers, but am afraid what the response of the daycare provider will be!

    • We did a survey of daycare providers in the Lower Mainland and found that the majority were very happy to use cloth! They requested that you provide a wetbag to store dirty diapers in and enough simple-to-use diapers to last the day. Also, pre-lining the diapers with some flushable liners makes managing solid waste much easier (and nicer for you when you pick up the bag of dirty diapers at the end of the day).
      If you are dedicated to using cloth, finding a care provider who is also open to using cloth shouldn’t be a problem. When looking for someone to look after your little one, it’s so important to find someone who shares your values and beliefs in raising children. If a daycare provider refused to use cloth, I would question whether or not they would be a good fit to care for my child!

      • That’s great to know – thanks, Jessi! I was optimistic that daycares wouldn’t have a problem with cloth, as long as we weren’t asking them to do anything terribly difficult. Most of the AIO and pocket diapers seem just as simple to use as disposables.

    • Well it sounds like Rachel and Jessi answered that one for me… we’re pretty lucky here in Vancouver 🙂 I would guess that most daycares would be open to something like an all-in-one or a pre-stuffed pocket diaper with velcro/snaps. I don’t see how it’s any more work for them than disposables, other than maybe having to change them a little bit more frequently (but then again, any daycare worth it’s salt shouldn’t be letting kids sit around in wet disposables either for hours on end). I mean, they’re not the ones who have to do all the gross laundry afterwards 🙂

  3. You are so thorough! Love it.
    We’ve been cloth diapering since our son was two weeks old. He is now 18 months and we are still, mostly, cloth diapering (we switched to disposables for overnights at 14 months). Initially we did 3 months of diaper service because I was chicken/overwhelmed by the idea of doing them myself. Then I had to convince my husband that I could actually keep up with the wash/maintenance. I have tried a lot of diapers – pockets, AIOs, fitteds, multi-size fitteds, wool covers, PUL covers and prefolds – they all have their pros and cons.
    I found that even with a lot of research I just needed to try out the different options before figuring out what worked for us and our kid. We now use pockets for daycare (VSOCC daycares downtown will do cloth for you) and a mix of pockets of fitteds and prefolds with PUL covers, for home.
    It’s really not a lot of work and I’m not much of a housekeeper so that says a lot.
    Of course, I am rooting you go with cloth.

    • That’s great to know that the VSOCC daycares will do cloth, as our little guy will most likely end up at one of their centres (unless we somehow manage to get him into Pooh Corner, which currently has such a long waiting list that they aren’t even taking names anymore!). After reading oodles of reviews on different diapers, I agree that we’ll probably just end up having to try a bunch of styles to see what works best for him and for us. The extra laundry will not be a huge issue for me, as long as there’s not a lot of folding and re-assembly required. I hate folding 😉

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