22 August 2008

covering the bean's bum (or cloth diapering 101)

I have been planning to use cloth diapers since long before we got pregnant. To me, it just makes sense; for the baby's bum, the environment and my bank account. The thing is, cloth diapers, while they are making a come back, they are not exactly mainstream. When you say "cloth diapers" most people have visions of those giant plastic pants of 30 years ago. Luckily I have a few friends who ventured down this path ahead of me and we live in a nice progressive community where you can find diapers locally and attend workshops on the cloth diapering options. The web is also a great resource to find more info then you could ever need.

Despite my good intentions and all of my planning, we did get off to a shaky start. Our little bean was, well, little... and those first few weeks were pretty hectic. I just couldn't get the diaper covers tight enough around her skinny little thighs to prevent leaks and the prefold diapers, while cheap, were really bulky and unwieldy. So, for 3 weeks, we used disposables and took out more trash then I ever imagined. We used the disposables for about 2 more weeks for nighttime diapering, because that took a little longer to figure out. The amount of trash helped to solidify my commitment to cloth. It just took a little tweaking to get everything to work best for us.

I wanted to give you my formula for cloth diapering. It continues to evolve, especially the nighttime system, but I am pretty happy with our current arrangement. So here you go...

First, I took the prefolds and cut them down to a more "fitted" shape. Actually, our wonderful friend Shelley offered to use her serger to make this transition more finished and smooth. This helped to eliminate the bulk. I saved all of the pieces that we cut off to use for doublers when needed.

For now, I don't need extra absorption during the day, so I haven't made too many doublers yet, but I have made a few for nighttime diapering. This allows me to leave them on for a longer period of time. I made them by sewing two of the scraps together with a little bit of overlap in the middle. Then to help keep the moisture away from her sensitive bum and to provide a little bit more absorbency, I sewed a piece of fleece over the top by stitching around the edge about a half inch in. For those of you who don't know, fleece is moisture resistant, which is why it helps keep the bum dry. After using them at night for a few weeks, I think I am going to find an old towel to cut up and sew to the back of the doublers to add a little bit more absorbency. Most of the time, these have been sufficient, but a couple times, I had to change her in the middle of the night because she had soaked it through.

The other thing that I did to help with nighttime diapering was to find/make some different covers. Modern diaper covers are light years ahead of the plastic pants of yore, but there are a few different varieties. The most common covers are made from a waterproof fabric called PUL (polyurethane laminate) . The fabric is water proof, but still allows for some breathability, but not as much as I wanted for nighttime. I didn't want to have to change her diaper all night long, but I also wanted to avoid any sort of horrible diaper rash. So, I needed to find something even more breathable. The options included wool and fleece, which are both water resistant but breathe very well. These covers are referred to as "soakers". The problem was that wool covers can be as much as $35 each and fleece were not much cheaper. After doing a bit of research, I found a fabulous pattern from Wired Up Designs that could be used to sew your own fleece or even wool covers. It includes 4 different sizes and even the option to make a "skirty", a diaper cover with a built in skirt. She also gives you some good tips and hints for using different qualities of fleece and wool. Oh, and she is really wonderful and helpful, emailing me to thank me for my purchase and later sharing her diaper rash woes in response to my comments. So, I have made 4 of these and they work really well at night.

So, here is my complete set up: (from top right) PUL covers for day, fleece covers for night, snappis to secure my new "fitted" prefolds, fleece lined doublers for night and a fitted prefold.

I realized that I forgot to get a picture of the diaper on the baby, which may be helpful for non-cloth users. I will add that tomorrow.

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