One of the many things that we had to address when preparing for Sweetie’s arrival was diaper choice. Both wife and I were cloth-diapered and we turned out well, so we were inclined to go with cloth. Add the economic factors, the environmental factors and the health factors and we were sold. The decision was straight-forward and did not become complicated until we tried to buy our supplies because in the cloth diaper market place there are many options. So I want to take a minute to break down the cloth diaper “system” to try to save some of you Dads the frustration that I dealt with. (On a funny note, Sister Older-Older thinks it is hilarious that it is a now referred to as a cloth diaper “system” when they used to just be called diapers – how pedestrian.)
We went online to look at our cloth diaper options. I quickly become tangled in the terminology, trying to sort out a cover and a hybrid and a pocket and a soaker and so on. We eventually placed an order with a diaper boutique (again, S.O.O. thinks that is too funny) for a few different styles. We figured we wanted to try a little of everything. When we went to the store we were invited to a class to learn how to use the diapers. I was hoping for some clarity and explanation, which there was. But there were also comparisons and anecdotes and even a mention of the wool diaper movement which only muddied my understanding. Many people have asked about the cloth diaper system and we have explained it many times. And one day Wife and I were standing at the changing table and the explanation became clear:
There is a cloth diaper and a cover (see Photo 1). The diaper traps the waste. The cover is waterproof to prevent the wet diaper from touching anything else. Done. That is the story, everything else is extra.
Photo 1: tri-fold diaper and cover
One of the confusing things that I found in the online information was the different names for the stereotypical cloth diapers. They are also referred to as “tri-folds” or “pre-folds”. This is not a different type of diaper and makes more sense when you see the stitching on the diaper (there are two stitches running the length of the diaper, dividing it in to three panels). The options branch out quickly: bleached or not, organic, etc. And the covers are even more varied. Some have hook & loop tabs for closure, some have snaps. Some are sized others are adjustable. Covers can be “just” covers, but they can also be hybrids and pocket diapers also. I will leave it up to you to keep digging and asking if you want to go that deep in to diaper systems.
One side note here about pocket diapers. Pocket diapers are a cover with a fast wicking liner permanently sewed in (See Photo 2). The liner is open on one end so you can add “soakers” as needed. The soakers are inserts that wick or absorb moisture to dial in the diaper according to your use (like overnight). When these were introduced at the boutique they were also referred to as “Daddy” diapers. It was meant as a joke because historically Dads are bad about diaper changes. I get it and I know Dads who fit the image. Hey, I have already admitted I have an issue with feces. But I regularly use a tri-fold with a cover for Sweetie. I tried it, got used to it, and now it is routine. Dads – part of my motivation for writing this blog is to change the perception of Dad as a bumbling fool. If you and your partner decide to go cloth, don’t get stuck on all the options. Just choose a style and get used to working with it – make it routine so it is not the butt of someone else’s joke.
Photo 2: pocket diaper w/ “soakers”
After multiple test drives we settled on unbleached, organic cotton tri-folds with an adjustable cover for our everyday use. This works the best for us. We do use them when we leave home and have invested in the supplies to carry the soiled diapers safely. We do wash them at home and we have the hardware for rinsing them before they hit the wash machine (more on that later). We have found that a pocket diaper, with hook & loop tabs, is great for doctor visits. The pediatrician is able to easily work with it for the exam since it is similar to a disposable diaper. We have tried disposable inserts and sometimes even use disposable diaperss. And I can use them all so all of our diaper options are “Daddy” diapers. Again, find what works for you and make it a part of your routine.
In trying to make the cloth diaper system accessible I know that I am over-simplifying it. If it helps, remember it as Sister Older-Older puts it: you have the diaper and the “rubber pants” (I know, “The what?”). I have tried not to go in to too much detail, so I did not talk about the “Snappy” bands (no more pins), wet bags or soap choices. I will get in to some of that stuff in other entries. I have already said it a couple of times, but like everything else in the parenthood adventure, this is about finding the routine that works for your family.
In general, our society prefers disposable diapers. They can be very quick and easy – our family even makes use of them. Wife and I decided that we were not going to use them all the time, that’s all. That was our decision. And as I mentioned, we bought different styles of cloth diapers from different systems so we could find what worked for us. Overall, I hope this is helpful to anyone out there trying to make a diaper decision and considering trying cloth diapers. The online information about this stuff can be overwhelming and make it seem like a big deal, but it’s not. It is a lifestyle choice, however, and worth the time to investigate. I suggest also talking with your local diaper boutique. The employees know what’s up and will probably give you more information than you expected. And of course, ask other parents. I can’t tell you how many times I land in a dirty diaper conversation. Unfortunately, in the end there is one crappy reality: no matter which route you go, you still have to deal with a dirty diaper.