Cloth Diapers Frequently Asked Questions

Cloth Diapering F.A.Q

Most of the following information is extracted from


  1. Why Use Cloth?
  2. Types of Cloth Diapers
  3. Types of Cloth Diaper Covers
  4. Liners, Doublers and Inserts
  5. How to choose the perfect cloth diapering system
  6. How to measure for a perfect fit
  7. Getting Started Using Cloth Diapers
  8. Using Cloth Diapers While the Meconium Passes
  9. Using Cloth Diapers Away From Home
  10. Cloth Diapering at Night
  11. Stain Fighting
  12. Wet Pail or Dry Pail
  13. Why are my cloth diapers and/or diaper covers leaking?
  14. Why are my cloth diapers and covers stinky?
  15. Taking care of my diaper covers
  16. Washing Cloth Diapers

Why Use Cloth?

Cloth diapering has many benefits. Most important are: it is easy on your pocket, it is environmental-friendly and it is healthier for baby. For whatever reasons it may be, you are joining millions around the world to make a healthier, eco-friendly planet for our future generations.

  1. It is a lot cheaper
    The main reason why most parents use disposable diapers is because they are more convenient. By using the normal cloth nappy flats, parents need to change them when each urine or motion is passed and the poo stain can be difficult to get rid of. Being in this busy society, parents simply do not have the time to change the nappy flats so frequently or spend time to remove stain and washing, so disposable diapers seems to be the perfect solution. Afterall, each piece of disposable diaper is only a maximum of S$0.50. Well, you are WRONG!

    An average child is totally toilet-trained by the time they reaches 3 years of age. We shall assume that the child uses an average of 5 diapers daily each costing an average of S$0.30.

    For a child totally on a One Size Pocket Diaper system (assuming you wash daily), you will need 24 OS Diaper (S$35 each) plus 24 additional inserts (S$6 each). These can last for 3 years and can be used for subsequent child or sold off as used diapers for 30% to 50% of the initial purchase price depending on condition.

      Disposables One Size Pocket Diaper
    First Child S$1642.50 S$984.00 + washing costs
    Second Child S$1642.50 washing costs
  2. The initial outlay for cloth diapers is high but it is savings in the long run. Also consider the hassle of carrying bulky disposable diaper home and the petrol saved!

  3. Cotton is more comfy than paper
    From dioxins which are the byproduct of bleaching paper products, to the sodium polyacrylate gel which absorbs 100 times it's weight in liquid - babies in disposable diapers are exposed to far too many questionable chemicals in disposable diapers. Cotton is safer (unbleached is even safer), and more comfortable as well.

  4. Convenient
    These days, cloth diapers come with either velcro or snap fastenings and in different sizes. They are fully adjustable, ensuring a snug, comfortable fit for your baby and are easier to use and safer than pins. Plus cleaning them involves a simple wash in the washing machine: put them through a cold rinse first and then a hot wash. Hang to dry or tumble dry low.

  5. They come in really cute prints
    Disposable diapers almost all come in plain white with cute prints but most parents will wear a panty/brief over it since it is uncomfortable handling the plastic feeling of the disposable diapers. However, cloth diapers do come in just about any color or print imaginable and it is very comfortable to feel, no panty/brief needed!!!

  6. Fewer diaper rashes
    Most moms report significantly fewer diaper rashes for babies in cloth diapers.

  7. Nothing to be allergic to
    Many babies are allergic to chemicals and perfumes in disposable diapers, often causing bad rashes. Cloth diapers don't have these chemicals and perfumes in them.

  8. No chemicals or gels
    There is currently contraversy as for whether the chemicals and gels in disposable diapers are safe for babies to wear. With cloth diapers you just don't have to worry about that since there are none.

  9. Easier to count wet diapers
    To make sure your baby is getting enough to eat, most doctors recommend counting wet diapers. With cloth diapers that is easy since they actually feel wet unlike super-absorbant disposable diapers.

  10. Knows when to change diapers
    Also most families, like myself, are using maid as the main caregiver. I have a problem with them in their laziness to change the disposable diapers. With disposables, the child does not feel wet but his/her urine is interacting with their skin, this is bad especially with my daughters who have sensitive skins. With cloth, the child will complain. Also if not using waterproof diaper covers, the child will wet the floor, mattress etc and the maid will have an even harder time cleaning the place. So you can be sure that they will have no choice but to check the child's bottom regularly.

    Changing babies often is healthier. It means they are not exposed to the bacteria in urine for long periods. Plus, disposable diapers are hotter than cotton diapers - the more urine, the hotter it gets. And cotton breathes.

  11. Cloth diapered poo is easier to clean up
    Disposable diapers suck the moisture out of the poo sort of cementing it to the baby's bottom within a couple minutes of the baby pooing requiring a good scrub to get the baby clean. Cloth diapered babies don't have this problem.

  12. Cloth diapered babies tend to potty train earlier
    Disposable diapers and Pull-ups prevent the baby from feeling wet so they can't associate the "have to go" feeling with being wet. The average age of potty-training is 2 1/2. In children who use cloth diapers, it is 2.

  13. Better for the environment
    Please think about it! Compare using 5 -10,000 disposable diapers per baby with using 1 - 3 dozen cotton diapers that are washed over and over (most likely for more than one baby!). What would you conclude? The resources used to manufacture and dispose of those 5 - 10,000 diapers per baby are far greater than the resources used in the manufacture and laundering of 1 - 3 dozen cotton diapers. Also the fact is that each disposable diaper takes approximately 500 years to degrade in a landfill. Think also of the chemical byproducts of the bleaching agents (dioxins - one of the most toxic substances known to mankind) that end up in our streams and rivers.

  14. Don't have to remember to buy diapers every week
    With cloth diapers you always have a supply rather than having to buy new ones each week.

  15. Lower risk of Asthma.
    Recent research has linked childhood asthma with disposable diapers. They believe the chemicals in the disposables is acting like a trigger for the asthma. (See


Types of Cloth Diapers

Flats Flat diapers are rather large rectangles or squares of thin material, generally birdseye. They are meant to be folded up quite a bit and pinned in place. These are the diapers that were used by our mothers and grandmothers. Virtually no one uses flats anymore since there are more choices that make cloth diapering a bit easier today. They must have a diaper cover over them.

Prefolds are much smaller than flats, but often made of the same material, though they can also be made of terry, flannel, a combination of the two, or hemp. The difference is instead of having to fold up the diaper, most of the folding is done for you.

Prefolds come in three major thicknesses. 2x6x2's are the thinnest, followed by 4x6x4's, with 4x8x4's being the thickest. The numbers refer to how many layers are in each third of the diaper. For example, a 4x6x4 has 4 layers in the two outside panels and 6 layers in the middle panel. Most newborn prefolds are 4x8x4's since newborns wet quite often.

One thing that often puts people off of using prefolds is the thought of using pins. Luckily, there are alternatives to using pins. Some parents use Snappis and they work quite well in keeping a prefold in place without pins. Other moms don't use pins at all, but instead simply lay the prefold inside a cover and put the whole thing on the baby. Some covers have a type of mesh inside to keep the prefold from shifting around. Still others have found that pinning prefolds isn't that bad once you get used to it.

Prefolds require a cover over the diaper.

Shaped Shaped diapers take the prefold concept one step further. They don't require extra folding as they are wider in the back than the front. Shaped diapers can be laid in a cover and then the put on the baby requiring no pins. They require a cover over the diaper.
Fitteds Fitted diapers are baby shaped much like a disposable diaper. They generally are flannel on the outside with a layer or two of terry cloth on the inside for maximum absorbancy. Fitteds absorb more urine than prefolds and many parents find they don't have to change the baby quite as often with fitteds compared to prefolds. They have "wings" on either side with velcro, aplix (similar to velcro), or snaps on the inside. Across the front they have a strip of velcro or snaps. The "wings" attach to the front of the diaper like the tape does on a disposable. Many fitteds that are velcro/aplix close also have a small piece of velcro next to the wing tab so that it can be folded down on itself for washing so that the diapers don't velcro themselves to each other. Another type of fitted diaper doesn't have velcro or snaps and require pins to close them. Fitted diapers require covers over them.
Snap/Fold to Fit Snap/Fold to fit diapers are like fitteds, but designed to "grow" with the baby. They come in one or two sizes and feature either snaps in specific places or strips of velcro. When the baby is a newborn, the snaps are done up or the diaper is folded down over itself and velcroed into place to make it the smallest possible. As the baby grows the snaps or velcro folding level are changed or left completely open to make the diaper bigger. Due to only needing one or two diaper sizes, there is a cost savings over diapers that have more sizes. The biggest drawback is most one size diapers are not small enough for some newborns to use even on the tightest setting. Snap/fold to fit diapers require a cover over the diaper.
Diaper Covers A waterproof layer to wrap up the baby so the caregiver and baby do not wet the surroundings.
All-in-Ones AIOs are the most like disposable diapers. They are shaped like fitteds, but have the cover built in. They are great for baby-sitters, dads who are resistant to using cloth diapers, outings, etc. They don't last as long as the other types of diapers since the cover is attached and tends to wear out from washing. Since the covers are part of the diapers, covers are not necessary for AIOs.
Pocketed Diapering System

These diapers 'sort of' fit into a couple of categories, but are different enough to warrant their own classification. Pocket Diapers are steadily becoming another household favorite as they are extremely easy to care for and effectively keep babies dry and rash free with their innovative design.

Pocket Diapers are made with two layers sewn together to form a pocket. The exterior layer is a soft waterproof fabric and the inner layer (that touches baby's sensitive skin) is a 100% breathable, lush poly fleece. The fleece does not retain moisture, but dries quickly. These two layers from a pocket where an insert is placed. When your baby wets, the urine passes through the fleece to the cloth diaper or insert inside where it is absorbed away from baby. The fleece leaves your baby feeling dry and comfy and the cover keeps the moisture from seeping into baby's clothes or your lap.

Created much like a fitted diaper or an all-in-one in fit, pocket diapers have 'wings' that wrap around baby and fasten easily at the waist and thigh with hardy plastic snaps or Aplix hook & loop closures. The snaps and Aplix are strategically 'set' to meet the adjustability your growing baby needs. Although Pocket Diapers do not have deep gussets, they do contain messes effectively and the elastic at the back waist and the legs is enclosed in fleece, so it does not leave red marks or grip baby's legs too tightly.

Pocket Diapers require absolutely NO diaper pins - a favorite of Dads, sitters, day care centers and nurseries. They can be put on just like a disposable, but of course still retain all the benefits of cloth!

They are easy to use, easy to clean, and dry very quickly. Unlike the traditional AIOs that can take up to two days! Pocket diaper dries very fast to allow more reuse while the inserts will take longer to dry but you can be sure of total dryness.

Fuzzi Bunz, Happy Heiny are just some examples of pocket diapers.


Types of Cloth Diaper Covers

Pull-on Pants Pull-on pants, also called plastic pants, go on the baby like pants. They are very useful, though if the baby has skinny legs or a skinny belly they tend not to fit quite right, allowing gaps in the legs or stomach area.
Wraps Wraps give a closer fit than pull-on pants and so they are ideal for babies with skinny or chubby legs or bellies. They have a strip of velcro on the front and velcro tabs on "wings." Some also have a second piece of velcro on the "wing" so that the velcro can be folded over on itself for washing.
Polar Fleece Fleece has an interesting property in that it is naturally water-resistant and dries rapidly. Polar fleece covers are very breathable and great for nighttime diapering. The biggest drawback is that when pressure is applied for a bit of time fleece will allow the urine to soak through making them not so great to use if the baby will be sitting in the carseat for a long time.
Wool Soakers Wool soakers, as their name implies are made of wool. They are also ideal for nighttime diapering. They are designed to become wet with urine on the inside, but the natural properties of wool prevent them from leaking. The biggest drawback to wool soakers is that they require a bit of care including lanolinizing (which maintains the waterproof barrier of the soaker) every once in a while.
Pocketed Diapering System

These diapers 'sort of' fit into a couple of categories, but are different enough to warrant their own classification. Pocket Diapers are steadily becoming another household favorite as they are extremely easy to care for and effectively keep babies dry and rash free with their innovative design.

Pocket Diapers are made with two layers sewn together to form a pocket. The exterior layer is a soft waterproof fabric and the inner layer (that touches baby's sensitive skin) is a 100% breathable, lush poly fleece. The fleece does not retain moisture, but dries quickly. These two layers from a pocket where an insert is placed. When your baby wets, the urine passes through the fleece to the cloth diaper or insert inside where it is absorbed away from baby. The fleece leaves your baby feeling dry and comfy and the cover keeps the moisture from seeping into baby's clothes or your lap.

Created much like a fitted diaper or an all-in-one in fit, pocket diapers have 'wings' that wrap around baby and fasten easily at the waist and thigh with hardy plastic snaps or Aplix hook & loop closures. The snaps and Aplix are strategically 'set' to meet the adjustability your growing baby needs. Although Pocket Diapers do not have deep gussets, they do contain messes effectively and the elastic at the back waist and the legs is enclosed in fleece, so it does not leave red marks or grip baby's legs too tightly.

Pocket Diapers require absolutely NO diaper pins - a favorite of Dads, sitters, day care centers and nurseries. They can be put on just like a disposable, but of course still retain all the benefits of cloth!

They are easy to use, easy to clean, and dry very quickly. Unlike the traditional AIOs that can take up to two days! Pocket diaper dries very fast to allow more reuse while the inserts will take longer to dry but you can be sure of total dryness.

Fuzzi Bunz, Happy Heiny are just some examples of pocket diapers.


Liners, Doublers and Inserts

Disposable Liners Disposable liners are designed to be laid in the diaper to catch the poo to be easily lifted out of the diaper. If you want, you may wash the liners (those not stained with poos) and reuse them.
Fleece Liners Fleece liners also catch the poo to be lifted out, but they have a more important purpose of keeping the baby dry. Due to the fast drying properties of fleece, the force of the baby peeing quickly moves the urine into the diaper, wicking the moisture away from the baby's skin. This helps to prevent diaper rashes from the baby being wet. Fleece liners should be washed seperately from diapers with velcro to prevent the velcro from pulling at the fleece.
Doublers Doublers are layers of flannel, terry cloth and/or hemp meant to make diapers more absorbant.
Inserts A new term for the cloth to be inserted inside the pocket of pocketed diapers such as Fuzzi Bunz and Happy Heiny. They can be made of any material like nappy cloth, flannel, terry, hemp as long as they absorb urine fast.


How to choose the perfect cloth diapering system

QUESTION: The initial outlay for cloth diapers seems quite high. Is it really worth it?

Most parents don't realize just how much they spend on "disposable" diapers, as the cost usually gets buried in the weekly grocery bill. By only purchasing one package at a time, parents often don't stop to add up the dollars spent each month. Single-use ("disposable") diapers ARE expensive. Depending on the cloth diapering system you choose, it wouldn't take long to recoup your initial investment. Simple flat squares and quality brand waterproof pull-on pants would begin paying their own way in less than TWO MONTHS. Even if you opt for the top-of-the-line fitted diapers and covers, they would begin to pay their own way in less than a year.

QUESTION: Isn't washing diapers hard work and time-consuming?

Parents no longer need to wash diapers. We have machines to do it for us. Try this routine:

Toss two dozen diapers into your washing machine, setting it to PreSoak/Superwash with Cold Wash/Rinse. Take your baby to your change area and change baby's diaper. Prepare yourself a cup of tea, and something to snack on. Return to your washing machine, and set it to Regular Wash with Hot Wash/Cold Rinse. As the machine fills, toss in 1/2 to 1 cup of non-phosphate, gentle detergent and, if your diapers are stained, non-chlorinated bleach.

Go relax in your favourite chair, put your feet up, enjoying your favourite radio or TV program or book, while baby nurses off to sleep. Lay baby down in a safe place, toss the clean diapers into your dryer, and enjoy the peace and quiet. When baby wakes up, you'll have fluffy, clean diapers ready to use!

Now, did that take any longer than bundling up baby, trekking out to the mall, hauling home huge bags of "disposable" diapers with baby in tow, and then lugging the dirty diapers out to the curb on trash day!?

If you breast-feed and use cloth diapers, you will save more than enough to treat yourself to a new washer and dryer!

QUESTION: But I'm used to "disposables", and afraid to change! What diaper system offers the maximum convenience?

All-in-One diapers are used exactly as a single-use diaper. The only differences are they fasten with Velcro® or snaps instead of tabs, and you toss them into a diaper pail instead of a garbage pail.

QUESTION: Is it important the diaper/cover be breathable? Diaper rash can be a problem for my baby.

All-in-one diapers tend not to be so breathable, so if your baby needs frequent airing due to diaper rash... you may be better off with a two-part diapering system (fitteds and diaper covers). If you prefer to purchase all-in-one diapers, do purchase some prefolds to use when baby's bottom gets rashy or simply let your baby go bottomless.

QUESTION: What are the disadvantages of All-in-One diapers?

Attached waterproof covers tend to result in a less thorough cleaning through the layers, since dirt and bacteria can become trapped. Further, this type of diaper tends to take longer to dry, since the dryer heat can only pass through one side of the diaper.

QUESTION: Should I buy one-size-fits-all? Or diapers that come in different sizes? Will one-size diapers really fit until my baby is trained?


Some one-size diapers fit the average baby, but SOME DON'T! Buying one-size diapers can save money over sized diapers, IF THEY FIT. Most one-size will fit a baby perfect from 3 months onwards. So we encourage flats or prefolds with diaper covers for the initial 3 months. These flats can be used later on as doublers for nighttime when baby wettings get heavier.

QUESTION: My baby is a very heavy wetter. Any suggestions???

Look for a diaper with high absorbency or those that allows you to custom add doublers easily to increase the absorbency when needed. We may need a trim diaper during the day where we can afford frequent changes but a heavy duty diaper at night for 10 hours of undisturbed sleep.

QUESTION: What are the advantages (and disadvantages) of Velcro®?

Velcro® offers an infinite range of adjustments, and makes diapering fast and easy enough for even Daddy to try. Middle-of-the-night changes are a breeze. Velcro® needs to be protected for laundering and drying - to keep them from hooking and tangling one another. If you use bleach and machine-dry, Velcro® tends not to hold as securely after time. Velcro®with loose edges, that are easily grabbed, is often undone by baby... very much to the distress of their parents! Some diapers do not provide long enough Velcro® for a secure hold. Watch for sharp corners or rough edges, which may irritate your baby's skin.

QUESTION: What are the advantages (and disadvantages) of snaps?

Snaps tend to provide a more secure fit, but have a slightly less adjustment range than Velcro®. Two snaps per side holds more securely, and offers a better fit. If snaps are not securely fastened, they may fall off during laundering. Metal snaps that touch baby's skin may irritate it.

QUESTION: Why are waist and crotch fit so important?

Like any clothing, diapers need to be designed properly to fit well. It needs to prevent messy leaks, without being overly bulky. If the diaper is to narrow at the crotch, it will leak. If it's too wide, the fabric will bunch up and make your baby uncomfortable. If diapers are cut too high at the sides and gaps at the front, you will need to overly-tighten it at the waist to make the diaper fit properly at baby's legs.

The waist should adjust to fit your baby - too wide, it will fall off a newborn. Too small, it won't fit around a chubby belly. The crotch depth should be deep enough to last till training, yet adjust small enough that your newborn won't be lost!

For a newborn or small baby, start out with the smallest diaper cover, using night liners inside. These are big enough to cover a newborn's bottom and can be used until your baby fits into the larger size diaper. Then use the liners again inside your baby's diaper for extra absorbency!

QUESTION: Why shouldn't I just choose the most absorbent diaper? Isn't that all that's really important?


The most absorbent diaper will not necessarily meet all your needs. It might require buying several sizes, be a poor fit for your baby, not offer the convenience you are looking for (perhaps not an AIO?). It may have a synthetic padding, when you demand all-cotton. It may fasten with Velcro®, when you wanted snaps, ties or clips. It may take longer to dry, leak at the legs, or be poorly constructed. You must also take your finances into consideration. PLUS, babies should be changed every two to three hours anyway. Unless your baby is a heavy wetter, you may have bought more diaper than you need, while losing the features that are more important to you. So choose the diapering system that fits all your needs and budget best, and add extra liners for night-time or heavy-wetters.

QUESTION: Tell me more about these diaper covers, pull-ons and wraps?


PLASTIC - Cheap plastic pull-ons are not a smart investment. They harden and crack with repeated launderings, and the elastic at the waist and legs tends to irritate baby's skin. Because plastic doesn't allow moisture to evaporate, it can contribute to diaper rash. It is worthwhile spending a few dollars more for good waterproof pull-ons that will last.


PINLESS COVERS - Waterproof pants not only prevent messy leaks, but can also (depending on how snugly it fits) hold the diaper in place without pins. If you want to avoid using pins, consider Velcro®, snap or tie-on diaper covers.

BREATHABLE COVERS - There are many types of diaper covers that come in 100% wool, polyester, fleece or cotton, are 100% breathable and water-resistant. They are an excellent choice to help prevent diaper rash - and they eliminate the need of pins at the same time. The disadvantages are if baby is left wet for more than one to two hours, or is a heavy-wetter - these covers do tend to leak. Plus, some brands are VERY expensive. Try double diaper or use extra liners. Use breathable covers during the day, when you are able to change baby more frequently.


How to measure for a perfect fit

Your baby's age and/or weight won't always ensure a comfortable, leak-proof diapering fit. Diapers and diaper covers need to be tailored properly to fit well. Their design needs to prevent leakage, without being overly bulky.

Three critical areas are waist, crotch depth (from the front waist band, through your baby's legs to the back waist band) and crotch width (measurement between your baby's legs).

The waist should be able to adjust to fit your baby . . . too wide, it will fall off your newborn. Too small and it won't fit around your baby's chubby belly. For your diapers, the crotch depth should be long enough to last till toilet training, yet short enough that your newborn won't be lost! For your diaper covers, the crotch depth must cover your diapers to prevent leaks. If the crotch fit is too narrow, your diapers will leak; too wide, and the fabric could bunch up, making your baby uncomfortable.

For longer wear, your baby's measurements should be closer to the lowest measurement range of the listed diaper or cover. (For covers, remember to measure over your diapers and any liners used). The closer to the top range of measurement, the shorter the wear your baby will get, and the tighter the fit! However, once your baby is mobile, that chubby belly and fat thighs will slim right down.

For best leakage protection, your baby should be at least at the lowest measurement range around the legs and waist. Otherwise gaps will form, allowing leaks through to your baby's outer clothing.

Here's a great suggestion to fit your newborn, or skinny baby! Consider getting the smaller wraps, and using night liners inside to ensure a good fit around your baby's legs to prevent leakage. Then you can get larger diapers that will give your baby longer wear, and use the night liners again to double diaper when your baby wettings get heavier!


Getting Started Using Cloth Diapers

Getting started using cloth diapers is very easy. The first thing you need to do is decide how often you want to wash diapers. Most people wash them every 2-3 days. The next thing you have to decide is what types of diapers you want to use and what brands you want to use. Because different types and different brands work best for different babies, a good idea would be to buy a few samples of diapers and covers and try them. Once you decide which you like best, you can buy more of your favourites.

The diapers you will need for your baby from birth to potty-training are:

Infant (0 to 6 mths)
  • 300 pcs of disposables nappy liners
  • 36 pcs of diaper doublers or diaper inserts (*)
  • 12 pcs of diaper covers (newborn, small and/or one size)
Baby (6 mths to 18 mths)
  • 24 pcs of flats or diaper doublers or diaper inserts (*)
  • 6 pcs of diaper covers (one size)
Toddler (18 mths & above)
  • 6 pcs of training pants

(*) These doublers and inserts can be used throughout the entire period of cloth diapering the child. Each can last for at least two years.


Initial Cost
Once you have selected the diaper system that you will be using, you can get just the ones necessary for the infant age and buy the next sizes as needed. Depending on the system you select, the initial cost will vary widely.

Everything Else
In addition to diapers and covers, there are a few things that are nice and/or necessary for use in cloth diapering.

Pins or Snappis are necessary if you choose to use pinnable flats. You will need at least a dozen pins as they tend to get lost easily. If you choose to use snappis, you will need at least 3 of them.

A diaper pail is also necessary. You can be creative when it comes to pails. The main goal is that it should be odour-proof and hold the number of diapers you will be using between washings. You do not need to get a pail specifically marketed for holding diapers. Make sure the lids latch securely, and are child-resistant (to prevent curious toddlers from getting into the dirty diapers). Some people like to use two pails, one for wet diapers and the other for poo diapers, or one for dirty diapers and the other for wipes, liners, doublers, etc.

Cloth wipes are also a nice thing to have. These can be made specifically for the purpose of being used as wipes or you can use baby washcloths. You can wet them with plain water or homemade wipe solution. Regardless, they are cheaper than disposable wipes and don't have any chemicals in them.

Diaper liners are placed inside the diaper to catch the poo and/or to keep the baby dry.


Using Cloth Diapers While the Meconium Passes

Meconium is the sticky, tar-like first poo out of newborn babies. The meconium passes over the first one day to one week of the baby's life. Cloth diapering presents an interesting challenge while the meconium passes as it stains horribly. There are a few options to prevent staining (and possibly having to throw away badly stained diapers).

Since disposables are simply thrown away after being soiled, there is no worry of staining.

Disposable Liners
Disposable liners can be put in the diaper to prevent the meconium from staining the diaper. Once the baby has pooed, simply throw away the liner.

Washable Liners
Flannel liners can be put in the diaper and used like a disposable liner. Some parents choose to wash and reuse these little pieces of flannel, others just throw them away.

Helpful Hint
Apply a very thin coat of petroleum jelly or Olive Oil to the baby's bottom while s/he is passing the meconium. Since meconium is so sticky it is difficult to clean off, the petroleum jelly allows it to be wiped right off. If you are using cloth diapers, be careful about using petroleum jelly so that it does not stain the diapers.


Using Cloth Diapers Away From Home

Using cloth diapers away from home is as easy as using them at home, with few or no modifications.

Away for a Few Hours
A small dirty diaper pouch is ideal for when you will be away from home for just a few hours. Just stick the pouch in the diaper bag and go. When you change the baby's diaper, put the soiled diaper in the pouch, tighten the string, and put the pouch back in the diaper bag. When you get home just transfer the dirty diapers to the diaper pail. Don't forget to wash the dirty diaper pouch with the diapers the next time you wash them.

Away for a Few Days
Being away from home for a few days prevents more complications. If you will be gone longer than the number of days your diapers will last, you will need to know if you will have access to a washer/dryer. If you will not, you can use disposable diapers. If you will have access to a washer/dryer, cloth diapering away from home is very easy. It is almost like you are at home except you need to be creative when it comes to the diaper pail. Perhaps you can use a pail liner instead. If your baby is exclusively breastfed that is not a big deal as breastfed baby's poo does not smell very bad. If your child is on formula or eating solids, you may have an odor situation to deal with if you only use a pail liner.

Using wipes away from home, whether for a few hours or a few days, can be more complicated. I would simply use simple wash at the basin/sink or disposable wipes. Or, you can use cotton wool with water or your favorite homemade wipe solution stored in a ziploc bag.


Cloth Diapering at Night

Using cloth diapers at night isn't all that different from using them during the day. Some babies can, in fact, wear the same cloth diapers during the night as they do during the day without problems. Others need extra absorbancy to keep from waking up soaked. In most cases, once the baby has passed the newborn period when they poo every time they eat, you will not have to change the baby at all during the night.


Disposables Some parents use disposables at night for their babies.
Prefolds If you use prefolds, you can place two together and fold them as if you were folding one. This results in a very thick diaper.


Put one or two pieces of diaper liners or doublers inside the fitted diaper. Wrap around with a diaper cover.
AIOs Add one or two pieces of diaper liners or doublers inside the AIOs.
Pocket Diapers Add inserts as required into the pockets.
Covers You may find you have to use the next bigger size cover at night when double diapering, especially if you are using fitteds. Good nighttime covers that help prevent leaks are fleece covers and wool soakers.


Stain Fighting

Given the nature of what diapers are for, stains do happen. There are several stain fighting techniques to try. (These work for some stains on other clothes, too!)

Sunshine Nature has provided us with a great stain fighting tool: the sun! Hang or lay a diaper to dry in the sun for a few hours and the sun's rays will naturally bleach the stain.
Dew Another natural stain fighting tool is morning dew. Lay the diaper outside on the grass at night. The dew, combined with the sun, will help get the stain out in the morning.
Lemon Juice Apply a little lemon juice to a stain and set it out in the sun. The stain will be gone in just a couple hours.
Hydrogen Peroxide Hydrogen Peroxide can be use like lemon juice (no sunshine needed) to bleach a stain. It is much gentler on fabric than bleach, yet works the same way.
White Vinegar White vinegar added to the rinse water helps get stains out. It also helps whiten and brighten whites.
Cold Water Plain old cold water is also an excellent stain fighter. Either soak or rinse the diapers in cold water or run a short cold water wash cycle before a hot wash cycle will work wonders in getting stains out. Protein stains, such as poo, come out easily using cold water (they are set by hot water).

Note: As a last resort, if you must get the stains out and nothing else has worked, use bleach. Remember to rinse well, preferably with white vinegar, to restore the pH balance and hopefully prevent irritation to the baby. Also, keep in mind that bleach does shorten the life of the diapers.


Wet Pail or Dry Pail

Most parents now use dry diaper pails rather than soaking the diapers in a pail half full of water, though many do use a wet pail. Others use a combination of both a wet and dry pail.

Dry Pail
If you choose to use a dry pail, simply put the soiled diapers in the pail until wash day. If you have a problem with odors, sprinkle a little baking soda in the pail. Any that gets on the diapers will just be washed out. Another natural deodorizing option in to soak a cloth wipe in vinegar and put it in the bottom of the pail and wash with the diapers.

Wet Pail
If you choose to use a wet pail, fill the pail halfway with plain water, or water mixed with any combination of detergent, baking soda and/or white vinegar. When you change the baby's diaper, put it in the pail to soak. You will probably want to change the water in the pail every other day or so. Make sure the lid fits on the pail very tightly, preferably childproof, to prevent a curious toddler from drowning in the water.

Both Wet Pail and Dry Pail
Prepare the wet pail as described above. That pail is for the diapers with poo in them. The dry pail is for the diapers that are just wet.


Why are my cloth diapers and/or diaper covers leaking?

With a good quality cloth diapering system, you should be experiencing almost no leakage. As a matter of fact, even "disposable" diapers are not leakproof - many parents find themselves trying several brands of "disposable" diapers before they find the one diaper that fits their baby best - to prevent leakage.

However, if you are experiencing leaking problems with your cloth diapering system on a daily basis, something is wrong. Below is a list of things to check, that should help solve the problem:

QUESTION: Did you wash your new cloth diapers before using them for the first time?

New fabrics have a special chemical finish on them that gives them that "new fabric" smell and feel. This finish is water-repellent, and must be removed by machine washing before use.

Make sure to wash your new cloth diapers several times to remove this special finish on the fabric, before using them to diaper your baby. This also fluffs the cloth diapers up and brings them closer to their proper size. (Cotton shrinks 5-10%.)

Your cloth diapers will not reach their most absorbent state until after three complete wash/dry cycles.

QUESTION: Is the leakage mostly around the leg openings of your diaper covers?

Leaks in diaper covers often occur due to improper fit, especially if the cloth diaper inside doesn't seem that wet. The cloth diaper and diaper cover need to fit snugly (though without leaving red marks) around your baby's legs and waist to prevent leakage.

If your diaper covers are leaking, your baby may have outgrown it or the cloth diaper inside - are either of them too small or tight? Time to move up to the next size!

On the other hand, sometimes parents buy overlarge cloth diapers and/or diaper covers, in hopes that their baby will get longer use out of them and save a bit of money as well. But if the cloth diaper and diaper cover cannot be pulled snugly around your baby's legs and waist, the resulting gaps will allow leaking.

If both fitted cloth diapers and diaper cover wraps (with elastic at the waist and leg openings) are used together, this will allow for the best adjustment in the fit around your baby's legs and waist, and offer double protection from those messy leaks.

Some brands of cloth diapers and diaper covers may just not fit your baby well. Tall skinny babies will not fit well into the same diapers and diaper covers as short, chubby babies. If you can, try out a few brands before you invest in a new cloth diapering system.

QUESTION: Is any of your baby's diaper sticking out of the diaper cover?

This is the most common reason for leaking cloth diapers. Make sure to carefully tuck all parts of your baby's diaper securely inside the diaper cover, or moisture will wick out on to your baby's clothing. Even one tiny corner of the cloth diaper sticking out of the diaper cover can cause leaks.

QUESTION: Do you think your diapers are absorbent enough?

The second most common reason for leakage is that the cloth diapers you are using just aren't absorbent enough.

Your cloth diapers should offer almost double the absorbancy capacity of your baby's average wetting.

An average newborn-6 mth. baby wetting is 60-110 ml. during the day or at night.
Average 6 mth.-1 yr. baby wetting - 110-140 ml. during the day and 143-182 ml. at night.
Average toddler wetting - 130-160 ml. during the day and 195-240 ml. at night.

You could also try weighing your baby's cloth diaper after a diaper change to see how much your baby wets.

You don't have to replace your diapers even if you should find they are not absorbent enough. Just increase your diapers' absorbancy by adding a second (or third) layer of flat or prefold diaper or using (one or more) diaper doublers or night liners. If you run out of diaper liners late at night, a folded washcloth makes a great emergency substitute!

However, watch for gaps around the legs and waist of your diaper covers if you are double (or triple) diapering. You may need to use a diaper cover in the next size up, to make sure the diaper cover will completely cover the bulky cloth diaper and still fit snugly around your baby's legs and waist.

QUESTION: Are you using fabric softeners in your diaper washing?

The use of fabric softeners can actually make your cloth diapers water-resistant, due to the build-up these products can create on your diapers.

Fabric softeners leave a coating on your cloth diapers' fibres that decreases its ability to absorb moisture. They can also be the cause of skin rashes.

Drying your cloth diapers in your clothes dryer will make them soft, but be careful not to overdry. This makes cloth diapers feel hard and is hard on the diaper fibres. If you have just a few thicker cloth diapers that take a longer time to dry, such as All-in-One diapers, hang them up to finish drying rather than running the whole load for a longer time. If you prefer to hang your cloth diapers up to dry, putting them into the clothes dryer for 10-15 minutes will help to soften them up.

Or add 65 ml (1/4 cup) of vinegar to your final diaper rinse for a natural fabric softener that removes all trace of detergent and ammonia from your diapers and lowers the pH level - which helps to prevent diaper rashes. It even helps to whiten your diapers!

QUESTON: Is your leakage problem mostly at night, because your baby is sleeping through, or you are avoiding changes to keep baby (and mom!) sleeping longer?

I have never had to resort to "disposable" diapers, and my babies tended to wake several times at night to nurse - so they wet a lot! I only changed them in the morning, once they stopped pooping with every feeding.

I would sometimes triple-diaper with flats or prefolds, or add at least two extra night liners for absorbency if using fitted or all-in-one diapers.

If your baby is waking up in the night simply due to the feel of wet diapers, you could try using a stay-dry liner, which is a water-permeable non-absorbent material that keeps wetness away from your baby's skin. Some diaper doublers come with this type of stay-dry liner attached.

QUESTION: Is your baby wetting through everything - with a totally saturated diaper, wet cover, and wet clothing?

First, check the absorbancy capacity of your diapers, as suggested above.

Do you change your baby often enough? Some "disposable" diaper users boast about only using 3-4 diapers a day, but your baby really does need to be changed more often. Imagine how it must feel to your baby's tender skin to sit in a wet, clammy diaper for hours, brewing with bacteria and causing friction every time your baby moves. Frequent changes, even with "disposable" diapers, are important to the health of your baby's skin.

Infrequent diaper changes make it difficult for your baby's skin to protect itself from the many causes of irritation in the diaper area. Frequent changes will help to minimize the effects of all irritants.

Newborns often need to be changed every 1-2 hours. They can wet frequently (i.e. 8-20 times a day) and in small amounts.

Even an older baby needs changing every 2-3 hours until they begin to hold their urine for longer periods of time. At one year, babies may wet 7-10 times a day, but in greater amounts.

At two years, your child will need a greater absorbancy capacity in your diapers, but may only need 5-8 changes a day.

If you are only changing your baby every 4-6 hours, the diaper may become so saturated the wetness has nowhere to go but out!

It may seem like a lot of work at first, but soon you will get into the rhythm of frequent changes. If you keep your changing supplies well organized and choose an easy-to-use cloth diapering system, your diaper changing can be FAST. With practice, you can change your baby in less than a minute - well, until they become mobile and run away!

Enjoy this short time with your baby. You won't believe how fast this time will go - until it is already gone. Every diaper change offers opportunities for making eye contact, playful interaction and bonding with your baby - reciting nursery rhymes, making up silly songs or stories, identifying body parts or that funny thing called a "belly button", etc.

QUESTION: Are you using a waterproof diaper cover over your cloth diapers?

One reason for leakage (that has totally surprised me!!) is that some moms didn't realize that they needed to add a waterproof cover over top of their cloth diapers.

QUESTION: Are you using the right type of diaper cover?

If you are changing your baby's diaper fairly soon after baby wets, you can use most any type of diaper cover without leakage, including the natural fiber breathable styles. But if you find yourself changing less frequently and experiencing problems with leakage, you may need to use the most waterproof cover possible.

Breathable diaper covers need to be "cycled". This means, hanging up one diaper cover to air out while you use another. Then, at the end of the day, put all your diaper covers in the wash or hand-wash them in the sink in warm water, and hang up to dry.

QUESTION: Are you using diaper wraps to hold your baby's diapers in place?

If your diaper cover wraps are too big for your baby, they may not be holding the cloth diaper in place as your baby moves about. This can result in leakage, as there may no diaper in the place that it is needed.

If your baby's cloth diapers are ending up all twisted inside your diaper covers, you may need to use smaller diaper covers; wraps with mesh inside, which helps to hold the cloth diaper in place; or fasten the diaper more securely with diaper pins or a Snappi Diaper Fastener.


Why are my cloth diapers and covers stinky?

Several things can lead clean diapers to smell - vinegar in the rinse, too long between washing, soaking in poopy water, hot rinses, too much laundry detergent, dirty diapers not unrolled, polyester, hard water, washing soda, overloading the washer and diaper rash remedies.
Let's talk about these different factors:

  1. Vinegar rinse:
    Some parents find that if they use vinegar in the rinse water, everything stinks! According to a recent poll, it seems not to matter whether you have hard or soft water, vinegar can still cause or solve your problem. There didn't seem to be more one than the other. Vinegar seems to work in some water conditions, but not others. It could also depend on what other minerals are in your water. Your best bet is that if you are currently using vinegar, and have stinky diapers, stop and see if it makes a difference? If you aren't using vinegar and have stinky diapers, give it a try.
    If you are using vinegar, 1/4 to 1/2 cup is all you need. Adding too much vinegar might be your stinky diaper problem!
  2. Too Long Between Washing:
    Diapers really need to be washed about every two to three days. If that isn't possible for you, it would be better if you rinsed out at least the poopy diapers, or used diaper liners. If you are soaking in a diaper pail, make sure to change the soak water every day. If you can only wash once a week, try rinsing even the pee diapers before storing.
  3. Soaking in Poopy Water:
    If you are soaking un-rinsed poopy diapers in a diaper pail, doing a long soak in the washer, or washing the diapers in the soak water - you are probably soaking the stink right into the diaper fabric! If you are soaking your diapers, don't add your polyester diaper covers. Store and wash them separately.
    The best thing would be to rinse out all poopy diapers before putting them into the pail. If you can't, try to wash your diapers every other day, or every day, if possible. Rinse out the soak water before running the diapers through a pre-wash.
  4. Hot Rinses:
    Hot water not only can set stains, but it can lock in the smell too. Try a cold pre-wash, a hot wash, then a cold rinse to clean your diapers thoroughly.
  5. Too Much Laundry Detergent:
    Most detergent companies advise you to use way more detergent than you really need. If the detergent is not thoroughly rinsed out, it holds onto smells, and when baby pees - look out! That combination of too much detergent, old urine and new is a eye-tearing knock-out! If this is your problem, run your diapers through several wash cycles, without adding anything to the water. Keep washing till the water runs clear - no bubbles. (No need to dry them in-between.) After you get your diapers completely detergent-free (you may be shocked at how many washes it will take!), cut back to at least half the amount of detergent you were previously using, even 1/4 if you feel brave enough. You only need to break the water surface, not create a mountain of bubbles!
  6. Dirty Diapers Not Unrolled:
    Do you roll your diapers up into a tight ball, and then toss them into the diaper pail? Unless you take each diaper and "snap" them open as you load the washing machine, they may not be opening up inside the washer. As a result the diapers are not being properly cleaned, through all the layers. This is especially important with thick fitted and all-in-one diapers.
  7. Polyester:
    Polyester is famous for holding in smells. Check to see if your diapers or covers have polyester in them. Even a small amount can be a problem. Here's what Betsy, manufacturer of Bummis, says: "We advise people with stinky diapers and covers is wash them with a hydrogen peroxide based product - it neutralizes the acidity which is the main problem with stinky diapers and covers. Older kids have really acidic urine - and it stinks!! Vinegar is acidic as well, so it will only exacerbate the problem."
  8. Washing Soda:
    This may only apply to those with very hard water, I have heard over and over that washing soda will ruin your diapers. If you feel you must using it, just 1/8 to 1/4 cup per wash load is all you need. Baking soda works great for helping odors and freshening things up.
  9. Overloading the washing machine:
    Make sure you aren't overloading your washer. Those diapers need lots of room to move around to get clean. An optimal load is 24 diapers, plus any wash-able liners, doublers and cloth wipes. Too many diapers stuffed in there and your diapers just won't come clean.
  10. Diaper Rash Remedies:
    Some diaper cream contains ingredients such as cod liver oil and is often the culprit when diapers smell fishy! Use baby balm, diaper balm instead, make sure to study the ingredients.
    If you already have a problem with diaper rash cream damage on your diapers, soak in the diapers in a strong detergent solution for a few days. Then wash with detergent and 1 cup of baking soda. Dry your diapers in the sun for a day or so, and wash them again as you normally would.


Taking care of my diaper covers

Covers can be thoroughly washed about once per week, unless they are badly soiled. To wash them, toss them in the washer with any other load of clothes and wash. Avoid using vinegar on the covers as the acid eats away at the waterproofing and they do not last as long. The exception to this rule is Bummis Super Whisper Wrap. They are designed to be washed in industrial chemicals so they can stand up to most things. Also, wool soakers should not be washed with regular laundry.

It is best to avoid drying covers in the dryer. The heat shortens their life, especially breaking down the elastic. After the covers are washed as you are transferring the clothes in the load from the washer to the dryer, pick out the covers and lay them out to air dry. Most covers air dry in two or three hours.

Between Wash Days
The most important thing in prolonging the life of diaper covers is care between wash days. Rotate the covers each diaper change. For example, if you have four covers, each would be used every fourth diaper change. If poo gets on a cover, promptly wash it out in cold water and let air dry. Every night or every other night, wash the covers in plain water to get the urine off of them. Let them air dry during the night and they will be clean and ready for use the next day.


Washing Cloth Diapers

There is no one correct way to wash cloth diapers. Choose whichever method suits you and your family best.

First, Some Basic Cautions

  • Bleach leaves a residue on diapers and can cause irritation to the baby's skin. It also breaks down the fibers in the diapers, shortening their life.
  • Fabric softener (including dryer sheets) adds water-resistant properties to fabrics. Some babies are sensitive to the softener residue left on diapers as well.
  • Tide and other similar detergents leave a residue that is very hard to get out of the diapers and can cause a rash in some babies with sensitive skin.
  • Desitin and other similar diaper rash ointments are difficult to get completely washed out of the diaper.
  • For sensitive babies, use a detergent that is perfume and dye free to prevent irritation to baby's skin.
  • White vinegar helps get out detergent residues, restore the pH balance, whiten whites, and soften the diapers when added to the wash/rinse in the fabric softener dispenser or Downy Ball.
  • Cold Washes get protein (poo) stains out.
  • Hot Washes kill germs.
  • Washing diapers does not require very much detergent. Usually 1/4 scoop is plenty.

Double Short Wash

  1. Wash the dirty diapers on a medium, short, cold wash/cold rinse cycle with 1/4 scoop detergent.
  2. Do a second wash on a small, short, hot wash/cold rinse cycle. Use no detergent (the diapers will be clean from the previous wash; this wash is to ensure the germs are killed), but instead use 1/2 cup white vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser or Downy ball.

Cold Rinse Before Wash

  1. Run a cold rinse and spin cycle.
  2. Run a normal length cycle with warm or hot water. Use desired amount of detergent, plus one-half cup white vinegar.
  3. Run another rinse cycle with another 1/2 cup white vinegar.

Cold Presoak Before Wash

  1. Fill washing machine with cold water. Add diapers. Allow to soak for about 30 minutes or so.
  2. Spin the diapers to remove water.
  3. Wash on warm or hot, normal length cycle. Use desired amount of detergent and 1/4 cup or less of white vinegar.

Single Hot Wash

  1. Wash for desired length of time on a hot wash/cold rinse with desired amount of detergent and white vinegar.

Regular Wash, Second Rinse

  1. Wash as desired.
  2. Run a second rinse with one cup of white vinegar added.

Soak, Long Wash, Short Wash

  1. Run a cold prewash/soak.
  2. Run a 15 minute hot wash/cold rinse with detergent.
  3. Run a 5 minute cold wash/cold rinse with vinegar, but no detergent.

Drying Diapers
Diapers can be air dried or dried in a dryer. Air drying can be done outside on a clothesline or inside on a string going across a tub. Be careful drying diapers outside if your family is prone to allergies as pollen can stick to the diapers. Air dried diapers tend to be a little rough, but can be softened up with a few minutes in the dryer. Drying in the dryer can take up to three cycles, though diapers will dry faster with a towel or two in the dryer with them. Prefolds take the shortest amount of time to dry, fitteds and All-in-Ones take the longest time.


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