…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! 😉