Handy Guide: Choosing cloth diapers


GroVia fitted diaper. (Cloth Nook)

An earlier version of this story had the incorrect location for the Cloth Nook. The story has been updated with the store’s correct location in Centreville.

When my kids were little, I thought cloth diapers made great burp cloths, but I never dreamed of using them in place of disposables. Too much mess, too much hassle, too much risk of someone getting stuck with a diaper pin in the middle of the night.

But cloth diapers no longer mean the saggy white squares and plastic pants with itchy elastic that my mother used. Innovations, especially in the past five years, have made them much more user-friendly.

Parents who are concerned about the cost, the environmental impact or the chemicals that come with disposables can take heart: Reusable diapers are now a viable option, and there are lots to choose from, said Kelly Wels, author of the book “Changing Diapers.”

What’s new?

●Modern materials, such as hemp and bamboo, have made cloth diapers even more environmentally friendly. The natural fibers are also gentle on baby’s skin.

●All-in-one versions have made cloth diapering easier, Wels said. They are in one piece, just like disposables, so no covers or pins are necessary. Most use adjustable snaps to keep them snug on your baby.

Care and use tips

●Wash them separately. Segregate your diapers from the rest of your laundry, Wels said. Rinse them in warm water and wash on the hot water setting.

●Choose the right detergent. Wels said most brands are fine for washing diapers, but those marketed for babies or billed as free of dyes and perfumes can leave a waxy residue on the fabric and make it less absorbent.

●Make sure your diaper cream is safe for use with cloth diapers. Some creams can create a buildup on the diapers and cause them to repel — instead of absorb — moisture, according to the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.

Shop Smart

1) Start small. Wels suggests getting one or two diapers in a few different styles to see what works best for you before buying a full set. She said it’s kind of like buying blue jeans: Everyone will have different preferences. After you’ve found one that you like, you can stock up on that brand.

2) Get closure. Most cloth diapers have either Velcro or snap closures, Wels said. Velcro can be great for changing wiggly newborns in the dark, because it is quick and easy to use. But you might want to consider snaps for older babies and toddlers, she said, because they hold up better over the long haul.

3) Do the math. To figure out how many diapers you will need, multiply the number of diapers your child goes through in one day by the number of days you plan to go between laundry loads, Wels said. Most people have 24 to 36 for newborns, she said. Eighteen may be plenty for an older baby.

Find Handy Guides on lunchboxes, bottles, strollers and more at washingtonpost.com/parenting .

Mari-Jane Williams edits community news for Local Living.
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