People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A cloth diapering FAQ...

I'm working on my FAQ today. Here's the link to it on my cart. Please feel free to share the link with others: FAQ Link in my store, click here
It's still under construction, but I think I have it pretty well started. Since Emily pulled an all-nighter last night, I worked on my FAQ until I could actually go to bed. Here is what I have so far:

How many diapers do I need?

How many diapers you need really depends on how often you plan to wash, and how many you want to buy. A newborn baby will pee every 30 minutes toan hour. For a newborn, I tend to either keep them naked on top of a prefold, or keep them in a wool diaper with an absorbent cotton or bamboo liner, so that I only have to change the liner every 30 minutes or so. I try to never, ever leave them in a wet diaper, as their skin is so delicate and sensitive.... and they deserve to be comfortable.

If money is an issue, I recommend purchasing two dozen infant prefolds (unbleached Chinese or Indian prefolds). Do not bother with cheapo prefolds... get the good ones, as they are pretty low cost anyway, and work so much better you'll be happy you got them.

If money is no issue, have fun and purchase as many diapers as you want.When you are done, you can sell them or pass them down.

If money is only a slight issue, I would purchase a dozen fitted diapers and a dozen infant prefolds, a few wool covers, and maybe 2 All In One or Pocket diapers. Really, it depends on how much money you want to spend, what kind of diapers you want, and how often your baby pees and poops.

Many toddlers will wait 2-3 hours between pees. For these children, a dozen diapers is plenty.

Another thing to consider is whether you plan to change during the night. I always changed my children's diapers through the night. I found that they slept better in a clean, dry diaper. For this reason, I had to calculate how often they peed during the day, and how often I changed during the night.

I always keep at least 6 prefold diapers on hand. This is great for times when baby has an upset tummy,or when you aren't able to wash diapers. The more the merrier, I always say.

How do you wash cloth?

There are as many answers to this question as there are cloth diapers. I'll give the basic guidelines:

Rinse poopy diapers off with a sprayer to get rid of the solids. Solids should be flushed whether you are using cloth or paper diapers (read the package of paper diapers and it does say to dispose of poop in the toilet) You can store the cloth diapers in a diaper pail, or you could try my little trick -

After doing laundry for the day, early in the morning, I make sure my washing machine is empty. Through the day, when I change a diaper, I throw it in the washing machine. At the end of the day, I turn the machine on just a rinse cycle on cold, with some baking soda and dawn dish soap in it (just a small squirt). Once the rinse cycle is done, I do a regular wash cycle with my favorite powdered laundry detergent. I use about half the amount called for on the box,and use hot water. Once they are finished, I hang them to dry on my drying rack that I have inside my house. They hang there over night,and go in the dryer for a few minutes in the morning to finish drying, kill any germies that may be lurking, and fluff them up to their regular softness.

Do not use any bleach, unless absolutely necessary, as it will break down your fabric and elastic.
Do not boil your diapers, for the same reason.
It's best to wash your diapers on the gentle cycle of your machine, as this will help the elastic and fabric last longer.
The less time they spend in a dryer, the better for the elastic.
Liquid detergents do tend to leave a buildup, which isn't great on diapers.
Do not use fabric softener, but you can use some vinegar in the rinse cycle in place of fabric softener.
I highly recommend washing your diapers daily. The longer they sit in urine, the more your fabric will break down, and the more your diapers will stink. The more they stink, the harder they are to get clean. For me, throwing a load in every evening is very easy, since I don't have to hand wash them or anything. (and I have done that, by the way)
Although you may find many people online who have huge, complicated washing routines with their diapers, this is not necessary. Using cloth diapers can be simple and fairly easy. You might even find that you prefer it.

I've seen cloth diapering items that are wool. Isn't wool scratchy and itchy?

Some wool is. There is no simple answer to this question. Many cloth diaper makers have worked specially with fabric millers to mill soft wool. Most wool used for cloth diapers is purchased for its softness, and is therefore not scratchy or itchy. Many times, over processed wool will be scratchy, or wool that has been stripped of its lanolin. Sometimes over felted wool is uncomfortable, but sometimes wool that is not felted at all is scratchy. Your professional diaper makers take special care to make sure they felt the wool just right, and find wool that is nice and soft. Wool yarn does not need to be felted, and most knit wool items are not scratchy or itchy. Your professional diaper cover knitters take special care to find wool yarn that is super soft, not over processed, and perfect for cloth diaper covers. In short..... the wool used for cloth diapering should not be itchy or scratchy.

Why do my cloth diapers leak after a few hours?

Many people have gotten used to the idea of a paper diaper that has "super absorbent polymers" These polymers absorb the liquids and keep the diaper from leaking. Although many people have gotten used to keeping a disposable diaper on a child for hours at a time, it can't be comfortable, or healthy. When using cloth, one has to let go of the concept of the diaper lasting for hours, and change the baby when they are wet or soiled. Just as we don't want to have our own urine or feces against our skin for hours, our babies don't either. In short... change more often.

I've heard moms saying that a diaper only lasted 15 minutes? Does that mean that it isn't absorbent?

No. In order to understand why a diaper would be wet and need changed 15 minutes after putting it on, we need to first understand how babies pee and poop. A baby is not like a slow drip faucet. Rather than having urine or feces constantly leaking, they wait until the urge hits, then let it all out at once. When a diaper only lasts 15 minutes, this simply means that the baby peed or pooped 15 minutes after the diaper was changed. This is a good sign that the baby sat in the previous diaper for a while after soiling it, and might be a good sign that he/she needs changed more often. While some babies may hold their urine for 3 hours, then flood the diaper, others may actually urinate every 30 minutes. It's important to check often and get to know your baby's habits. This will help to avoid a diaper rash.

Is it really better for the environment to use cloth diapers?

It is. I would urge you to read this very informative article, in order to save me from having to write a looooong dissertation on this.

Is it more economical to use cloth?

Well, it can be. This really depends on how you cloth diaper. If you want the super fancy materials, like bamboo and organics, it will only be slightly less money in the short term. In the long term, however, you are able to re-sell those diapers and recoup some of your costs, or pass them down to the next child. There is no simple answer to this question. If you want to cloth diaper for economical reasons, it is easy to do. You can purchase prefolds and a few covers. Nice prefolds do not cost very much. I highly recommend unbleached cotton. They can be found on ebay, or by doing a simple search online. Many people are not cloth diapering for economical reasons, and they prefer the super boutique cloth diapers. This is a good thing, as it keeps the small businesses in business, makes cloth diapering fun, and makes the world a prettier place.

Why are cloth diapers so expensive?

Not *all* cloth diapers are expensive. If you are looking for materials like organic bamboo velour, organic cotton, etc, they are expensive. Let's do a small cost breakdown: I purchase bamboo velour for $11 per yard. Then, I have to wash and dry this bamboo a few times to shrink it and get the stuff off of it that was used to process it, etc. This uses some energy and water, that I have to pay for. It costs me about $6 in fabric to make your diaper, but I have to buy snaps, thread, needles, maintain machinery, pay for web hosting and cart hosting, pay for shipping materials, pay paypal fees in order to accept credit cards, and the list goes on. By the time I add all of this up, it costs me about $11-$15 to make your diaper. It takes me an hour to an hour and a half to make each diaper. I need to make at least minimum wage, right? And since I'm a business owner who has been doing this long enough to be considered a professional, shouldn't I make above minimum wage? And while it might take an hour to an hour and a half to make each diaper, there is still the time spent photographing the diapers, editing the background out of the photos, listing the items, answering at least 30 emails daily, sourcing fabrics, keeping an inventory of fabrics and of finished product, doing the "books", etc.

So, if you purchase hand made diapers, made with high-end materials, they can be expensive. If you go to a boutique and look for hand made clothing that is made out of high-end materials, I would guess you would be paying quite a bit more than shopping at Target for your clothing. You can use prefolds and keep the cost of cloth diapers down, but of course, it won't be quite as fun as enjoying the number of prints and dyes on high-end fabrics.

Why do so many cloth diapers come in pretty prints when you just cover them up with a diaper cover?

In short, because it's fun. If you go to Gymboree, you'll see little girls undies with pretty flowers, or ladybugs, etc. Why? Because it's fun. It is important to have fun with your infant, and enjoy even those tasks that seem so.... not fun. When you change your baby's diaper, they are focused on you, and seeing your reactions. If you open up a diaper and have a look of disgust, they see you looking at them with disgust. Ifyou open up the diaper and are smiling and enjoying your time, talking about the cute diaper you got them, kissing their cute little belly and feet... what a difference! So, if you want to buy the cute little diaper with giraffes all over it, do. Life is short, enjoy it while you're here.

Why do people use cloth diapers?

There are a few reasons why most people use cloth diapers. One of those is because it is SO much better for the environment. We are concerned about the environment and the future of our children. The impact that our choices have on the environment is important, and cloth diapering is a great choice for the environmentally conscious.

Another reason many people cloth diaper is to save money. Because cloth diapers are re-usable, you do not have to keep buying them. As a matter of fact, they can be passed down to the next child. If you spent $1,000 on cloth diapers, and those cloth diapers lasted through potty training, then on to the next kid through potty training, you have saved a great deal of money. Even using the high-end boutique diapers, you can save money in the long run.

Many people use cloth diapers for health reasons. Cloth diapers can be associated with less diaper rashes. Cloth diapers do not contain chemicals or heavy bleaches and perfumes that can irritate sensitive skin. You know those super absorbing gel beads that are in disposable diapers? They are Sodium Polyacrylate Crystals. They used to be used in women's tampons, but had to be removed because they were found to cause Toxic Shock Syndrome. And yet, we put those on our babies? Then there are the super bleaching agents used in disposable diapers. One of the by-products of that bleaching is dioxins. The archives of Disease in Childhood reports that trace amounts of dioxin are present on disposables. Dioxin is a strong carcinogen and an endocrine disruptor.

"Need more information? Not entirely convinced? Here ya go:

Study: Disposable Diapers Could Cause Male Infertility

By Anthony Browne
London Observer Service
September 26, 2000
Disposable diapers could be the cause of the sharp rise in male infertility over the past 25 years, according to an authoritative scientific study to be published this week. It is thought that disposable diapers heat up baby boys' testicles to such a degree that it stops them developing normally. Diapers lined with plastic raise the temperature of the scrotum far above body temperature and can lead to a total breakdown of normal cooling mechanisms, according to the study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. Doctors in Kiel, Germany, started the study after being alarmed at the temperature of the testicles of infant boys who were brought into hospitals with infections. The cells supporting sperm production are laid down in the first two years of life. However, their development and sperm production in later life is very dependent on temperature. Testicles need to be cooler than the rest of the body, which is why they are external.
Boys whose testicles descend too late in adolescence are often infertile because they have been kept warm for too long. In adults, exposure to high temperatures, during a fever or while in a sauna, can dramatically reduce sperm count. Tight jeans can also lead to higher testicular temperatures, possibly causing a reduction in sperm count. Dr. Wolfgang Sippell, professor of pediatrics at the University of Kiel, monitored the scrotal temperature of 48 healthy boys, from birth up to 4 years old, using a tiny thermal probe. His team tested the temperatures when boys wore disposable diapers and when they wore re-usable cotton diapers, both during waking and sleeping hours. The temperature was consistently higher when the disposable diapers were worn, with the highest temperatures recorded in the youngest babies. Scrotal temperatures were the same as rectal temperatures when cotton diapers were worn, but far higher when disposable diapers were worn.

They concluded that the insulation properties of the disposable diapers impaired the normal cooling mechanisms of the testicles. They found that in 13 boys, the cooling mechanism failed altogether. Sippell concluded: "A prolonged increase in scrotal temperature in early childhood may have an important role in subsequent testicular health and function, with implications for male fertility." Repeated studies have shown that average sperm counts have fallen by almost half from 1938 levels, and are continuing to decline as fast as 2 percent a year. The Absorbent Hygiene Products Manufacturers Association, which represents makers of disposable diapers, said the study had dubious methodology. Association spokesman Peter Stephenson said: "There is no evidence to support the assertions made by this study, which would appear to be implausible. The safety of our products is of paramount importance. Disposable diapers are, and remain, safe."

New Tests Confirm TBT Poison in Proctor & Gamble Pampers

Greenpeace Demands Worldwide Ban of Organotins in All Products
May 15, 2000
HAMBURG -- New tests carried out by Greenpeace found the hormone pollutant TBT (tributyl tin) in "Pampers Baby Dry Mini" babies' nappies (diapers) sold in Germany by the company Procter & Gamble. Last Friday, Greenpeace uncovered that TBT and other organotin compounds were found in Procter & Gamble's Pampers "Baby Dry", in the Paul Hartmann company's "Fixies Ultra Dry", and in Ledysan Spa's "United Colours of Benetton Junior unisex". All tests were proven by scientific analyses made on Greenpeace's behalf.
The new test, during which several parts of "Pampers Baby Dry Mini" were analyzed, found the highest contamination in the belt section of these nappies. "Pampers Baby Dry Mini" contained up to 38.4 micrograms of TBT per kilogram, a much higher level then in the first tests of a pool sample. (1) Furthermore the inner and outer layer were found to be contaminated. Greenpeace also found other organotin compounds in the Pampers, including DBT and MBT. If all discovered organotin compounds were added, a total of 53.2 micrograms per kilogram were found.
Greenpeace'sscientific test results contradict a statement by Procter & Gamble, in which the company denied that its nappies were contaminated with organotin compounds. Greenpeace toxics expert Thilo Maack said: "The reaction of Procter & Gamble is a scandal. The company is downplaying the danger instead of actively searching for the source of TBT in Pampers. It is absolutely irresponsible to expose babies to these extremely toxic substances".

"Fact is that TBT is one of the most toxic substances ever made, and it is being spread through the skin and contaminates the environment as well as people," he noted.
This environmental pollutant, which has been in the headlines for months because of its extremely high toxicity, has a hormone-like effect. The smallest concentrations of TBT can harm people's immune systems and impair their hormonal system. "The German government must ban this toxin in all areas of use immediately," says Thilo Maack. Greenpeace last January found TBT in fish for human consumption, and in March detected TBT in football shirts despite textile manufacturers declaring them safe again. TBT has furthermore recently been found in plastic PVC floorings. Witco, a company in Bergkamen/Germany, produces 80 per cent of the TBT used in the world. The smallest quantities of TBT kill algae and mussels and for that reason it is used in ships' paints to stop their growth on hulls.

Greenpeace has been calling on the chemical and ship industries to ban it production or application. There are less harmful alternatives to TBT in all the spheres in which organotin compounds are used. Greenpeace is at present analyzing other brands of nappies on sale in Germany.

Chemicals In Diapers Cited As Possible Asthma Trigger

Penny Stern, MD
October 6, 1999
NEWYORK, Oct 06 (Reuters Health) -- Childhood respiratory problems, including asthma, may be linked to inhaling the mixture of chemicals emitted from disposable diapers, researchers write in the September/October issue of Archives of Environmental Health.

Lead author Dr. Rosalind C. Anderson, of Anderson Laboratories in West Hartford, Vermont, told Reuters Health that chemical emissions of some disposable diapers have immediate health effects in animals breathingthe diluted chemical mixtures. ''Upon analysis, the diaper emissions were found to include several chemicals with documented respiratory toxicity,'' according to the paper.

"Mice were used in this study because of their general physiological and biochemical similarity to humans", Anderson explained, "adding that both humans and mice develop bronchoconstriction as a response to certain (odors and substances)". Bronchoconstriction refers to a narrowing of air passages in the lungs that is associated with respiratory difficulties.

"Upon exposing the mice to various brands of disposable diapers, a decrease was observed in the ability of the animals to move air during exhalation", Anderson said. Noting that this finding accurately describes asthma or an asthma-like reaction, she added "that if mice and humans respond in a similar manner to diaper emissions, disposable diapers could be important with respect to the worldwide asthma epidemic.''

In contrast to the results obtained with disposables, new cloth diapers produced very little respiratory effects and appeared to be the least toxic choice for a consumer, the researchers write.

"Though the disposable effect was noted even when the emissions of a single diaper are diluted in the air of a small room,'' Anderson said, she cautions that it is too early to indict diaper chemicals. "Whether the diaper chemicals initiate clinical disease, simply trigger an asthma-like response or are not implicated (at all) in human disease will not be known until after a vast amount of human data has been accumulated,'' she commented.

Therefore, Anderson believes that formal epidemiological investigations must be extended to infant products in order to evaluate these items' possible role in triggering or aggravating asthmatic conditions. She and herco-author, Dr. Julius Anderson, have (previously) published similar findings associated with other products used in infants' environments." A number of these manufactured materials -- air fresheners, mattress covers, fabric softeners -- have many rapid-onset toxic effects in common,'' she pointed out.

In Anderson's view, the current epidemic in childhood asthma cannot be explained solely on the basis of what she termed, ''the usual suspects: dust mites, cockroaches, maternal smoking". Maybe child-care products such as plastic diapers... plastic baby bottles, and plastic toys are important factors through the release of chemicals with toxic effects.''

Until such time as this asthma-inducing effect can be confirmed in humans, Anderson reminds parents and healthcare professionals that precaution costs nothing. When you are dealing with a toxic chemical or chemicals, avoidance is the only proper action. ''She suggests that parents and doctors... believe themselves if they think a product is harming the breathing of the mother or the baby.''

SOURCE: Archives of Environmental Medicine September/October 1999.

Disposable Diapers Linked to Asthma

January/February 2000
Harsh perfumes and chemical emissions have long been known to induce asthma-like symptoms in children and adults. Now, researchers have found that disposable diapers might be a trigger for asthma.

A study published in the October, 1999 issue of the Archives of Environmental Health found that laboratory mice exposed to various brands of disposable diapers suffered increased eye, nose, and throat irritation, including bronchoconstriction similar to that of an asthma attack. Six leading cotton and disposable diaper brands were tested; cloth diapers were not found to cause respiratory problems among the lab mice.

Dr. Rosalind C. Anderson, lead author of the report, "Acute Respiratory Effects of Diaper Emissions," explains that the diapers were tested right out of the package, and one at a time. Even in a mid-sized room, the emissions from one diaper were high enough to produce asthma-like symptoms. Solvents and other substances are typically added to products during the manufacturing process in order to affect malleability and other properties, Dr. Anderson explains."Even if you don't want these chemicals in the final product, it's hardto take them out. We are finding chemical off-gasses in all sorts ofbaby products besides diapers, including baby mattresses and mattresscovers," she says.

What chemicals were released from the diapers? Tolune, xylene, ethylbenzene, styrene, and isopropylbenzene,among others. Dr. Anderson says these, like certain scents, are bronchial irritants. "It's similar to when asthmatics smell perfume and all of a sudden their chests get tight." Although mice are much smaller than humans, they were chosen for the study because their physiology and biochemistry are similar to that of humans. Of the brands tested, three diaper brands were found not to affect the breathing of the lab mice: American Fiber and Finishing Co., Gladrags organic cottondiapers, and Tender Care disposable diapers.

Further study is needed to determine what level of diaper chemical emission triggers infant respiratory distress. In the meantime, Dr. Anderson advises asthmatic mothers to avoid exposure to these chemicals, and to be mindful of the fact that their children may be sensitive to these and other asthma antagonists such as dust mites, roaches, and smoking. Asthma rates are on a sharp incline in the US and worldwide, particularly among poor and inner-city children.

Anderson,Rosalind, and Julius Anderson. Acute Respiratory Effects of Diaper Emissions, Archives of Environmental Health, 54, October 1999.

1)Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 1990Update. (1990). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA 530SW-90-042. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

2)Lehrburger, C. (1988). Diapers in the Waste Stream: A Review of WasteManagement and Public Issues, P. O. Box 580, Sheffield, MA.

3) Rathje, W. L. (1989). "Rubbish" The Atlantic Monthly, 264 (6), 99-109.

4) Hollis, R. W. (1989). "The ethics of diapering"; Mothering (Fall), 29.

5)Little, A. D. Disposable Versus Reusable (Cloth) Diapers:Environmental, Health and Economic Considerations. Cambridge, MA:Arthur D. Little, Inc.

6) Lyman, F. (1990) "Diaper hype" Garbage: the Practical Journal for the Environment, 2 (1), 36-40.

7)Clark. G.S., et. al. (1974). Incidence of viral infections among wastecollection workers. Institute of Environmental Health, Cincinnati, OH:University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

8) Energy andEnvironmental Profile Analysis of Children's Disposable and ClothDiapers. (1990). Prairie Village, KS: Franklin Associates, Ltd.

9)Dallas, M. J. and Wilson, P. A. (1989). "Diaper performance:maintenance of healthy skin" Proceedings: Association of CollegeProfessors of Textiles and Clothing Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA.

10)Bartlett, L. K., Moore, M., Gary, W., et. al. (1985). "Diarrhea illnessamong infants and toddlers in daycare centers" Journal of Pediatrics(107), 495.

11) Berg, R. W. (1990). The effect of diaper type onthe potential for fecal contamination in group daycare settings. TheProcter and Gamble Company, Cincinnati, OH.

12) Stone, J.(1990). Groundwater quality: the diaper dilemma. Iowa CooperativeExtension Service Publication No. Pm-1401, Iowa State University, Ames,IA.

13) Joseph, L. E. (1990). "The Bottom Line on Disposables" The New York Times Magazine (September 23), 26 ff.

14)King, L. W. (1990). A Study of Municipal Solid Waste Composting on theImpact of Paper Diapers. The Procter and Gamble Company, Cincinnati, OH.

What other things can I do to help the environment?

Each person/family has their own level of contribution to helping our environment. There are many small steps you can take. A few examples:
Buy energy saving light bulbs.

Change your household cleaners to simple and natural. You can look up online how to make your own cleaners usingmostly baking soda, vinegar, borax, lemon, and salt. It's much better for the air in your house as well.

When you wash your hands, don't sit and wait for the water to get hot... just wash in cold. You are not going to get the water hot enough to kill germs anyway, and it wastes alot of water to run it until the hot comes out.

Don't keep water running while you are brushing your teeth.

Try using your bath water to water the garden.

Turn off the lights when you aren't in the room.

Shut down the computer when it's not in use.

Turn down the water heater, and take shorter showers.

Try hanging your clothes to dry. We purchased a drying rack at Ikea and hang our clothes on it in our bedroom. It takes as much energy to run most clothes dryers as it does to run an air conditioner.

Don't hold the refridgerator open, as this takes an enormous amount of energy.

Try not to drive when you don't have to. Wetry to run all errands in the same day, once a week. Carpool.

If possible, try to use renewable energy, or go with an electric company that supports renewable energy. I use Green Mountain so that I am supporting renewable energy.

Try bringing your own re-usable bags tothe grocery store, instead of using their plastic bags.

You can make a HUGE difference in many things by supporting small business whenever possible. Many small businesses are more concious of their impact on the environment, not to mention the focus on quality and customer service.

If you have any further questions that youfeel should be added to this FAQ, please email me. I am happy to spendtime doing research and answering as many questions as possible. This is a work in progress!