A “New” Kind of Diaper

One of my favorite sights!


My mother used cloth diapers with all of us kids; just the prefold, pins and a plastic pull on cover.  I remember helping put them on my youngest sister and being scared that I might poke her, or myself, with the pin.  Great for the environment, not such a good design, (although it has been used for many, many years).   I know that many mothers opted for the disposable diaper for convenience when they became available, but when I became pregnant I checked out cloth diapers again and was pleased to see that since my mom used them they are new and improved!  They are now shaped more to the child which means less leaks and having to change not only the diaper, but the whole outfit.  There are multiple styles, colors and materials used, which makes them fun to show off instead of hiding under clothes. 🙂  The main reason I wanted to use cloth was because I didn’t want to have to throw the disposables away and add to the landfill problem.

Cloth also tends to be easier on those soft little buns and causes less diaper rash; did you know that the rate of diaper rashes has increased from 7% to 78% since 1955, and it’s comparable to the increased rate of disposable diaper use?  The culprit?  The chemicals, sodium polyacrylate and dioxin that are in the diapers.  These have also been linked to possible health problems for the infants wearing them and the workers in the factories that manufacture disposable diapers.  One more reason why I try to steer clear of disposables, although I do use them once in awhile.  Another plus for the cloth side is the cost.  At first you will spend more on the cloth diapers, but once you have a stash built up you can, over time and kids, save hundreds to a thousand dollars or more.  That’s a nice deal 🙂

There is one more fact that I wanted to share with you.  I have heard from different sources, including Joel Salatin and my grandma, of the cleaning/healing benefits of sunshine. And from being out of doors often I didn’t have a reason that this wouldn’t be true.  However, when it came time to cleaning soiled cloth diapers, I didn’t realize how noticeable the reaction to sunshine would be.  Here are two pictures to illustrate this fact.  The first is after washing but before drying a diaper insert. The second is after being hung in the sun to dry.

Do you have an opinion, one way or the other…?

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About Erin Phelan

Born and raised in western Michigan, Erin came to Polyface first as an intern in the summer of 2009. While here she met and got to know Grady Phelan, an apprentice at the time. The next spring they were married and after a couple years in Oklahoma they are back, working as sub-contractors for Polyface. Erin keeps herself busy with the jobs of a wife and mother, as well as helping with the animals, gardening, sewing, cooking, baking, knitting and reading.
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29 Responses to A “New” Kind of Diaper

  1. Melinda McCoy says:

    Very nice Erin!!!

  2. CroNo says:

    Sun! Also a great, and only, way to de-stink you kitchen sponge. No amount of bleach (ick!),
    or microwaving (ick!) or baking soda/vinegar will defunk your sponge, for more than a day at most, like the sun.
    UV rays are a miracle worker (humanoids use protection, obviously)

  3. keileigh says:

    I’m currently building up a stash for our second baby, due in February. I wanted to cloth diaper with our first, but the up-front costs seemed prohibitive at the time. Now, after buying disposables for 3 years, it’s easy to see how much we could have saved! Not to mention the fact that I would be using the same diapers for the new baby, making them even more cost-effective. I’m really excited to get started, though.
    Just wondering — there’s an overwhelming amount of info and advice on what to wash them with, but even the best (most expensive!) detergents seem to get their share of bad reviews. I’ve been making my own laundry soap for several years now, and I’m looking at a recipe for homemade cloth diaper detergent that uses equal parts washing soda, baking soda, and oxy-based cleaner. Have you tried anything like this?

    • Erin Phelan says:

      I make my own laundry detergent from a mix of 2 cups washing soda, and baking soda and 2 bars of grated and dried Fels-Naptha soap, (although I have heard of using other soaps including homemade) and I wash my diapers in that. So far so good for me. I haven’t done my research on these products that I should, but it hasn’t caused any problems so far…
      Glad you are excited to use cloth and thanks for sharing that you could have saved money on them for baby #2. Being that I only have my one little man so far, I wonder sometimes if I will really save in the long run 🙂

      • keileigh says:

        Thank you! The detergent I use for our normal laundry is very similar (it adds borax, though I’ve been reading mixed opinions about that), and I love it.
        As far as savings go, here’s how I look at it (and how I’ve been explaining it to my husband and the family members who think I’m crazy!): one cloth diaper (of the types I’ve been buying) costs about the same as a box of store-brand disposables, and before we started having some recent potty training success, we were probably buying two boxes a month (and more than that when he was an infant). So I figure it will take about a year to recoup up-front costs if I start with a 24-count stash, but from then on, I’ll be saving every day that this next baby spends in diapers. And if we have more children, we’ll practically be diapering them for free. We’ll have some increased energy and water costs, but we’ll still be saving money. 🙂

        • Erin Phelan says:

          That is great! Oh, I just realized that I said baking soda instead of Borax…not sure why that happened. 🙂

  4. Leilani says:

    Great post, disposable diapers are a great example of a pure convenience item with MANY drawbacks for the child, the environment and our wallets.

  5. Bev says:

    I used several styles of cloth diapers and a variety of velcro covers and styles back in the 80’s and early 90’s, for exactly the same reasons. My first child rejected plastic diapers when he could speak, saying “not itchy diapers, mama.” Line drying got them sparkling clean, and there wasn’t the motivation to have the children stay in them a little longer to get maximum use out of extra-absorbant diapers. They were changed often and freely, and were less bothersome than people think. Make great cleaning clothes later (the large rectangular ones). Never bought formula or baby food in jars, either, and the three kids are grown now and thank me for doing that for them.

    • Erin Phelan says:

      🙂 That is great Bev, thanks for sharing. It helps to have others that are/were on the same boat, and stuck with their ideals, and hear their stories!

  6. Catherine says:

    Sunshine is natures bleach. Also really good for nappy rash. Let your baby go bare bum for a while each day. When mine were little I was told 10mins every day. I know mums who have been a bit sore down there and done the same thing for themselves (making sure no one is around to see anything).
    My oldest two had good old fashioned cloth nappies (disposables at night for the no leak advantage and they slept ages) with the ‘safety’ pins. They might have been safe for baby but my poor thumb got stabbed more times than I like to remember. With the second these new ones really were new and we tried a all in one brand with velcro but they cost heaps, we didn’t like the velcro and they took an age to dry. We have the new insert nappies with domes for our third child and I love them. Nappies get placed into a bucket during the day then first change of the next day everything goes into the washing machine. Easy pesy and dry quickly too.

  7. I used cloth with both kids – I actually used a diaper service (we lived in an apartment building with no laundry ) for the first child. They provided the diapers (velcro tabs), and a bin to keep them in when used – I just had to soak them first before putting them in the bin. The guy came twice a week to pick up the old and bring the new. Though I don’t remember the actual dollar amount (she’s 17 now), I do remember that for two years it worked out cheaper than buying disposables. Obviously it was convenient for me, too, since someone else did the laundry. In retrospect, though, it wasn’t terribly eco-friendly – the bleaching and sanitizing process for example. But still better than disposable. Baby number two had a mixture. I used velcro tabbed cloth diapers most of the time, but packed disposables when we travelled (which happened several times in her first two years). I washed my own by then, as I had a clothesline and my own washing machine. She invariably got rashes when I used the disposables.

  8. Marie says:

    I found that my kids who wore cloth potty trained sooner, because they could feel the wetness. I liked then so nuch more than disposables. They were easy to use and I could tell my baby liked then. I am saving ours for our grandkids. I found they worked best with a nylon overpant.

  9. Cyndi Lewis says:

    I must confess to using disposables on all of my children (and happy to announce that since was youngest was recently trained, we are diaper free!) but your post has made me consider the possibilities of cloth if the Lord should bless us again. I like the idea of not have to buy diapers every month. My mom always used cloth on me because disposables had just come out and were terrible. I really appreciate the photo of the washed pad and then the sun-dried pad. That is good proof of the power of the sun!

  10. Tammy says:

    My kids are both (almost) out of diapers at 3.5 and 2. My daughter still needs one at night. In retrospect I wish i had cloth diapered as now we are rejoicing at saving nearly $1k/year from the cost of diapers! Im not sure how many more kids we will have, but i will definitely think about it more seriously should we be so blessed.

  11. Maria says:

    We used cloth with our second daughter for over two years, but had to switch to disposable, because she was getting horrible diaper rashes with the cloth, even though we were using mild detergent (Charlies Soap). At 3 years old she’s still in diapers, and I wish she’d hurry up and be finished with them!

  12. Melinda says:

    I switched to cloth when my first babies (twins) were 9 months old. We’d used cloth diapers (the pre-fold kind) as burp rags. At 9 months, I looked at my large pile of cloth diapers, my dwindling supply of disposables (we’d been blessed with LOTS of diapers for baby gifts!) and decided, What the heck 🙂 My mom used that kind on all 5 of us and, being the oldest, I helped with the last 3. So, I bought a new 5 gallon bucket with a lid for a diaper pail, borrowed my mom’s diaper pins, bought some new plastic pants and we were in business. That was 10 years ago and I didn’t even know other options existed! I used the same kind of diapers with baby #3 (but started at birth; we quickly discovered she was allergic to all disposables and wipes- so we used baby washcloths for that). It was easy, simple and cheap. Very little monetary investment and no headache trying to do research on what kinds of diapers might be best. I’m a firm believer that simple is better 🙂

  13. Ruth Henson says:

    I used cloth ones on my kids except when travelling. We renamed “disposables” as “non reusables” because we couldn’t actually find a good way to dispose of them and you can’t use them again. We had a cool three ended clip instead of a pin. Much easier and no pricked fingers. And after the last child the clothones all got recycled for kittens or orphan lambs bedding and floor mops.

  14. Sarah says:

    I did a project in school on a Green detergent called “Rockin’ Green.” They have a website, but they are all natural and focus primarily on the cloth diaper target. A lot of people who use cloth diapers had left comments about their eco-friendly, bio-degradable detergent actually working and keeping the smell away. Just thought I would share!

  15. Daja says:

    Been cloth diapering for 11 years! I LOVE to think of the money I’ve saved over disposables! Investing in quality cloth is a really sound investment!

  16. Tonya Everett says:

    Loved this! I cloth diaper now and wish I had done it with my other children. I babysat twins in 7th grade and the pins, plastic pants and the ammonia smell turned me off early on! But with the convenience, super cute prints available and the health benefits as well as the environmental savings I’m a believer! Kenzli is just turning 8 months and it is a snap, and my fiancé is a great support as well!

  17. Holly Lowe says:

    We used fuzzis for both of our children… one tip I would highly reccommend is to ditch the microfiber inserts alltogether and get some 4-layer hemp inserts, they are SO much more absorbant. I don’t know if he’s still around but I got mine from a guy named cothdaddy.

    • Erin Phelan says:

      I have just been looking into hemp inserts as my little man is a very heavy wetter at night and the microfiber inserts do not work well for me. Thank you, I’m going to check into this company.

      • Holly says:

        We also use a wool soaker over the diaper at night. We occasionally have leakage if she’s sleeping on her side and this catches it and can be used many times before you need to wash it (wool only).

  18. Adela Deeks says:

    I could say that these cloth diapers are eco-friendly because you don’t have to dump them anywhere. Your mom is the best though. She just know how to love the nature.

  19. Holly says:

    There was a recent article regarding some component of disposable diapers and the shortage of it due to a factory accident overseas. The price of disposables is up posed to increase dramatically as this plant made 20% of the world’s supply of this chemical!
    We are cloth diaperers here (Bum Genius is our favorite) and always have been. Each year we look forward to spring so our diapers can get nice and white again!

  20. I love my cloth diapers! I’ve got four kids, and used cloth for the last two. After three and a half years, my pocket diapers are still going strong. I love drying them in the sun…world’s best bleach. I wrote a post about my diapers in my blog: http://kathyschronicles.com/2012/07/30/the-cloth-diaper-revolution/