Use Cloth Diapers!

Use cloth diapers and, in so doing, help Mother Nature.

Using cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers may seem like an archaic way to live, but cloth diapers have many advantages. Each child who wears disposable diapers contributes over a ton of non-biodegradable trash to our landfills before she's potty trained. And using cloth diapers will save you at least $1,000 dollars per child (and that's if you use the store brands instead of Pampers, Huggies, or Luvs).

Your child's skin will probably appreciate cloth diapers, too. The chemicals in disposable diapers can irritate babies' skin, but clean white cotton is as benign as those cotton sheets he sleeps on.

Once you know how to use cloth diapers, they really aren't much of a hassle. You just need the right equipment and the right information to get you started.

Buying Cloth Diapers: The first time you buy cloth diapers, you may think to yourself, "This can't possibly be a good deal," because each diaper costs about $1.00. But the least expensive disposable diapers cost about .25 each. So you'll have made up the difference in four uses.

You can find cloth diapers in places like Wal-Mart or Target. They come in packages of six or twelve. Buy about 4 dozen diapers to start with. You'll find two types of cloth diapers, pre-folded and regular. I highly recommend the pre-folded diapers. The others are so big and I think they're not as absorbent. The store will probably offer different types of fabrics also. Choose the diapers that look thickest.

Over the Internet or through specialty catalogs, you can find cloth diapers with built-in elastic and Velcro sides (so you don't have to use pins). I've used several types of these, but I still prefer the good old-fashioned diapers. The Velcro sticks to the fabric in the washing machine and can actually tear the other diapers. And these fancy diapers are very expensive.

You'll also need about four diaper pins and six pairs of vinyl pants. The most economical and most leak-proof vinyl pants come in packages of three or six usually. They look like vinyl underwear, with elastic around the tummy and leg holes. Near the vinyl pants in the store you'll notice a product called something like "diaper wraps." These go over the diaper like vinyl pants, but they have Velcro on the sides and feel soft like cloth on the outside. Not only are they more expensive, but they're also very leaky. Avoid "diaper wraps."

In the same store, you can find diaper pails. I advise buying a diaper pail with a foot pedal so you don't have to unscrew a lid while you're carrying a wet diaper (and possibly a baby). Also, look for a diaper pail that locks. This is a safety feature to keep small tykes from falling head first into the pail.

For you real bargain hunters, try looking at thrift stores for this stuff. I've found diaper pails, diapers, and vinyl pants in thrift stores, some of them never used.

Getting Started: Now you're home with your cloth diaper supplies. On the back of the diaper package there will be a diagram showing how to fold the diapers. If there isn't, here's a quick lesson.

Lay the diaper flat as a tall rectangle. Now fold each bottom corner in, so the sides slope in at the bottom. If your baby is very young and small you may need to fold the top down to make the diaper small enough. Put the baby on the diaper, and fold the bottom up to cover her. Then pull the wider ends around her from back to front and attach the diaper with a pin on each side. Then cover the whole thing up with a pair of vinyl pants.

At first, this may seem cumbersome. But in no time you'll be doing cloth diaper changes as quickly as you did with disposables.

Clean Up: When the diaper is just wet, all you have to do is toss it in the diaper pail until laundry day. If the diaper has poop in it that will fall into the toilet, dump the stuff into the toilet. If it sticks, just swish the diaper around in the water. Sometimes I flush the toilet and let the suction pull some of the gunk off, but be careful to not let go of the diaper! I've heard some cloth diaper users say they put their hands in the toilet water, but I don't know why. I've never had to do that.

Keep the diaper pail close to the toilet so you don't drip toilet water on the floor when you transfer the diaper. That's all you have to do until laundry day.

Laundry Day: A standard-sized diaper pail will fill up in about four days if you have just one kid in diapers. Drag that heavy diaper pail to the washing machine, and fill your washer with hot or warm water. If you're using standard, non-velcro diapers, bleach is acceptable. Those expensive, Velcro types don't like bleach. If your baby has sensitive skin, use a mild detergent like Arm & Hammer or Dreft. My first baby got rashes if I used anything but Arm & Hammer.

As the water fills up, take the lid off the pail and dump the whole mess in the washer. Don't use fabric softeners on cloth diapers as they will decrease absorbency. Some people will advice you to add vinegar to the water or to add an extra rinse cycle. I've never found these measures to be necessary, and the diapers come out as clean as can be. After they're done washing, dry as usual, and you're ready for another half-week of diapering.

Four days of diapering doesn't fill up the washing machine""only the diaper pail. So you can decrease your laundry buy using two diaper pails to one load of wash; you'll just need two diaper pails.

Benefits: I mentioned some benefits in the previous article I wrote, but here are a few more. Besides saving tons of money, your child may potty train earlier. Disposable diapers hide moisture so well that many children don't even realize when they wetted their diapers. With cloth diapers, however, they can feel the wetness right away, so their muscle control develops sooner.

The environmental aspects of cloth diapers can't be overlooked. Each disposable-wearing baby produces over a ton of non-biodegradable diaper trash before she's potty trained. Although more water is used with cloth diapers, the water is turned around and cleaned""recycled. And one set of cloth diapers can be used for all of your children if they're not bleached too harshly.

So that's the cloth diaper run-down. Give it a try. You'll be helping both Mother Nature and your wallet.

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