I am posting this due to a question I came across from someone planning to use cloth diapers for the first time. I wrote it probably close to four years ago and sent it to Mothering Magazine. I was so excited when they first reported they were saving it to see if it would fit in an up coming issue. Unfortunately they ended up publishing someone else’s cloth diaper article, and mine just stayed in the file. The article published was just a bit more in depth, and perhaps a fair amount more professional. Oh well, here it is now for anyone who is considering cloth diapering:
Cloth Diapers, Don’t Be Scared
Marica Natali Thompson
It all began when I was pregnant with my first baby. As a concerned person about the environment I wanted to use cloth diapers, but the idea of dipping my baby’s poopy diapers into the toilet bowl before washing and rewashing them just seemed a little too much. So we got diaper service. How perfect, environmentally friendly, no work diapering! But as it turned out I never seemed to have enough diapers, and since we couldn’t really afford it anyway, after about four months we stopped.
So straight onto plastic wrapped plastic diapering we went. I felt really guilty, but as a new mother, new to baby care and house keeping ~ I was only eighteen ~ I just felt I couldn’t handle the alternative. Three years passed, my son was finally toilet trained and I was pregnant with my second child. This time I felt a peaceful calm about cloth diapering and knew I could undertake the work involved. I searched far and wide through all sorts of catalogues eyeing everything from all-in-one fancy shmancy to pre-folds and flat diapers. I ended up with twelve pre-folds and about three Polar Baby covers. We were living in Eugene, Oregon at the time and I was so excited when I came across the guy who owned the Polar Baby business selling covers at Saturday Market. I eventually made a lot of polar fleece covers of my own, because it was so much more economical. I was a big advocate of cloth diapering by the time my second child was potty trained, which was around eighteen months. I couldn’t believe she had stopped so nonchalantly all on her own, and in some ways almost missed the diapers ~ Sort of.
As I waited for baby number three to be born, I had no questions as to whether or not I was going to cloth diaper. I couldn’t wait. It was with great care that I folded the beautiful cream flannel diapers with rainbow stitching a friend of mine had made. What a pleasant feeling it was to pin each diaper on; the soft texture on my hands, knowing this was what would be against my baby’s bottom.
It was only about a month into diapering my new baby that a friend of mine gave me a wool cover she had made. She swore by them, but I was a little skeptical of the itchiness of wool and couldn’t quite bring myself to use it. Then one afternoon when I was at her house, in her bedroom, where she was changing her baby boy, I couldn’t help but look at the beautiful cover she was pulling on him. I said maybe it was time I make my own son one. And to my new, desiring, lucky, surprise she said she had actually made one for me. So I went home with this beautiful cover and an excited feeling inside. One night was all it took, I was hooked. Never before had a whole night been so dry, the soft wool so cozy, the baby so cute. I quickly went out and bought my own wool yarn and lanolin wash. The simple pattern to knit was so tangible even I could knit this cover without fear.
As for washing, I throw the diapers into the washing machine with no pre-washing or scraping*. I do one warm soapy wash, and then rewash on a hot cycle. After line drying them, they are so fresh you feel the sun’s clean warmth kissing your baby’s bottom. I remember rationalizing when I used to use throwaway diapers that the waste of water must be equally bad for the plant as tossing a diaper in the trash. But deep down I new I was wishful thinking.
It wasn’t until my third baby that I started religiously line drying, but it makes such a difference. With cloth, wool and line drying, there is no diaper rash, no garbage, and no guilt. Only soft, cuddly, cozy baby and something soft and cozy for him to wear.
*Once they are older I do scrape solids into the toilet.
Here is the link to the knitted wool diaper patter:
For all of these, pinning the diaper first helps with leaks. During summer, just a pinned on flat diaper is great, so long as you’re prepared for leaks.
Here is how I made my own polar fleece covers:
- Start with cutting a rectangle out of soft polar fleece.
- Measure your baby’s waist, add 8 inches, this will be the length of A and B.
- For the length of C and D, divide your baby’s waist length and add 8 inches.
- Cut 2 pieces of 3/4-inch elastic, half the length of your baby’s waist plus 1-inch. Remember not to stretch it when you measure. Fold the edge of C over to sew a tunnel a little wider than the elastic. Slip the elastic through and sew up the ends. Do the same for side D. (This will be the waist)
- Cut two pieces of 1/4 inch elastic that are the circumference of your baby’s thy plus 1-inch.
- Sew these elastic pieces into tunnels on both the sides A and B, leaving 2 – 3 inches at each end of the fabric. Make sure the elastic is tacked at each end so it doesn’t get loose in the tunnel, but keep the rest of the elastic free from the stitching so it can stretch easily.
- Turn the diaper cover inside out folding it in half so it looks finished. Sew your last seams up the sides. I usually sew a regular straight stitch and than go over it as close to the edge as possible with zigzag stitch to make the seams durable and pretty.
Making tunnels . . .
Waist done . . .