One of the first eye-popping parenting moments for me was when I discovered cloth diapers. I knew I didn’t want to use a chemical laden plastic diaper. However I did not know of an alternative. When I chanced upon the cloth diapering world and discovered that a cloth diaper is made of safe cloth and is still efficient enough to hold for long hours without making baby feel wet, I was sold.
Cloth diapers soon became an obsession. I spent hours researching about them and soon became a self-proclaimed PhD holder in all things cloth diapers.
From using traditional Indian cloth nappies to complex systems of modern cloth diapers and many different brands from around the world, I have done it all. Cloth diapering is second nature for us and today, our world it is not just cloth diapers but many other sustainable models of living. And that’s what many families are doing – becoming conscious about the waste they are leaving behind.
I have a lot of posts on cloth diapers. Some of the important and helpful posts are here:
Getting started with Cloth Diapers
Cloth diapers are a good replacement for the modern disposable diapers in the function they perform. They score over disposable diapers in that cloth diapers are totally washable and hence reusable. You will not be sending 100s if not 1000s of diapers to the landfills which would pose a threat to the environment. A huge advantage of cloth diapers is that they save families a ton of money. An initial investment of say 10 to 20 diapers and a few thousand Rupees will see you for the entire tenure you intend to have your baby in diapers.
And that’s not all, once you are done with cloth diapering, you can save them for the next baby or pass them on to friends who have a baby to diaper. Cloth diapers can even be sold to other families which brings back some of the investment you had initially made on them.
But how do cloth diapers work?
To put it briefly, cloth diapers are made entirely of cloth which provides absorbency and also waterproofing. Cloth diapers contain an absorbent core made of fibres such as microfibre, cotton, bamboo. These fibres are capable of holding a considerable amount of liquid and that means multiple ‘pee’ sessions. So, unlike the traditional langots or nappies, you don’t have to change after every episode.
You also don’t risk making baby’s clothes and body and the bed etc. wet because cloth diapers contain waterproofing. The outer most layer of the cloth diaper is called PUL (Poly Urethane Laminate) which is basically cloth treated with a laminate to make it waterproof. This makes it leak free and you can use cloth diapers for extended periods without the risk of wetting everything around and making baby uncomfortable.
Buying cloth diapers in India
Cloth diapers are available in India in many baby product stores and online too. Most brands have an online presence. A mere google search with the keywords like cloth diapers in India will show you the best brands available here. I have had the chance to use most of these brands and vouch for their efficacy and quality.
However, a pain point many new starters have is what to buy and how much?
This is a highly individual choice and I have to come to realise that this depends on your baby’s patterns, your availability of time to change/ wash/ dry the diapers and of course own philosophy as to how soon you want to start potty training.
A good starting point, however, is to understand the various types of cloth diapers that exist and my post on the types will certainly help you. In my experience, I highly recommend going with a pocket or cover diaper for day-time diapering and All-In-Ones for night time diapering. I have a fabulous post on Night time diapering here.
How many you should buy depends on where you live (will cloth diapers dry quickly?) and if your personal patterns allow you to launder on a regular basis. However considering a mixed weather pattern like Mumbai – hot summers and heavy monsoons, coupled with laundry every alternate day, a stash of about 10 to 15 diapers should see you through.
Using cloth diapers
The ground rule of all cloth diapers is to wash before use.
All products (diapers or clothes) which you will wear on your baby (or your own for that matter) must be washed before use. Cloth fabrics are made in a manufacturing set up and subject to dust, dirt and human hands (in the making or packaging) and also see a coat of polish/ starch before they are sent off to the shelves to make them shiny and crispy. Some of these can cause skin sensitivities and in the case of cloth diapers hamper their function of absorption. Hence it is advised that you must wash all diapers before use.
The funny thing about cloth diaper fabric is also that they get increasingly absorbent with each wash. So if a new cloth diaper holds for about 2 hours within the first few uses, it can go up to hold for 4 or more hours once it has experienced repeated washes. My favourite night diaper brand holds for about 11 hours. It’s quite a mind-boggling thing to realise that this is a product made of cloth.
Washing and caring for cloth diapers may seem like an onerous task for a newbie but I promise it is just a matter of getting used to it.
Soiled cloth diapers must be rinsed off of any urine/ poop deposits and stored (till laundry time) in a cool, dry place away from warmth and moisture. A cloth that is left damp can encourage the growth of fungus which in turn damage cloth diapers.
Once you have accumulated a pile of dirty diapers they can be washed together either in the washing machine or by hand. Remember to use a plain, no frills detergent which does not have fragrances or softeners as these cause deposits on the diaper fabric leading to a drop in absorbency.
Also no dettol. The reason for this is the topic for a big blog post, but not today. You could google Superbugs and “over-sanitization” to know more.
Sometimes cloth diapers go funky and stink or have stains. There’s nothing like a good old bleaching that can’t help that.
When to “wean off” diapers
I believe in the principle of attachment/ natural parenting and one of the biggest core values is Trust – in your baby to know when they are ready for something. So, at 2+ years we are still in cloth diapers. Some children show readiness much earlier, some are still in diapers at age 4. Whatever works for you!
However, one big advantage of cloth diapers is that babies do understand the concept of wetness and when they are ready to hold pee and communicate the urge, they know it faster and better than with disposable diapers.
To wean off cloth diapers, one can indulge in diaper free time and take the child to the potty on a routine basis so that they understand the idea of peeing in the pot. 🙂 It will take time and effort but a cloth diapered child usually gets there sooner than a disposable diapered (in most cases.)
How will cloth diapering change you?
What I can promise you, if you do take on cloth diapering is that your whole life will change.
You will start thinking about how many sanitary pads you are tossing into the bin which are not biodegradable. You will worry about the plastic straws and earbuds and toothbrushes you discard. The plastic bags you bring the grocery in and the plastic lunch boxes you so lovingly pack for your kids’ school snack.
You will feel guilty and sometimes disgusted at the huge box the online shopping site sends to your home filled with innumerable layers of bubble wrap just to ensure a bottle of shampoo doesn’t break. That one doesn’t even make logical sense.
Slowly but surely you will start looking for alternatives to the plastic in your lives and find that plenty of sustainable choices do exist. From menstrual cups to steel straws, from bamboo toothbrushes to beautiful cloth tote bags, all these will find new places in your hearts and lives.
And you will start talking about it… you may encourage your friends by gifting them some of these. You may start a blog to talk about the new life you lead. You may influence just one household or many. But you will bring about a change.
And all that thanks to cloth diapers, imagine!
This blog post is a part of a series for the #AtoZBloggingChallenge where my theme is
New Age Parenting: Parenting in 201x.
Read my theme reveal post here.