You're Thinking of Doing What? Cloth Diapers in the 21st Century By Sherry Henderson, Associate Director of The Nurture Center

bumgenius organic one size diaper

The above phrase is what my mother would have uttered if I had suggested to her that I was considering using cloth diapers on my first baby born 9 years ago. For many of our parents, changing and washing cloth diapers is one of the worst memories of caring for babies - swishing the diapers in the toilet, sticking the babies with diaper pins, the endless loads of laundry, etc.

I won’t go into a discussion here on the environmental and health benefits of cloth diapers vs. disposables. There’s lots of information out there, and depending on your point of view, you will probably find an article on the internet that will support your position. But there is no question that cloth diapers are a more economical choice. And many parents just can’t stand the thought of all those disposables sitting around in landfills for the next thousand years!

Because of their convenience, disposable diapers have dominated the diaper market for the last 30 years. However, a few recent innovations in diaper design (in both cloth and disposable) have led to more options for parents to consider.

One of the best innovations in cloth diapers that makes them (almost!) as convenient as disposables are “pocket diapers”. A pocket diaper consists of a waterproof outer barrier fabric that is sewn to the second component, an inner moisture-wicking fabric that keeps the skin feeling dry.

These two fabrics form a pocket for the third component, an absorbent insert, to be placed inside. The diapers use adjustable snaps or velcro to fit your baby securely.

bumgenius one size diaper

We first started carrying BumGenius diapers about three years ago on the recommendation of some local parents, and we are selling a ton of them now! This is a one-size diaper solution to fit your baby from birth to potty training without buying any more diapers! BumGenius currently comes in four systems - Version 4.0, Freetime, Elemental (organic) Econobum, Flip, the retired version 3.0, and besides solid white there are many cool colors. These are all one-size diaper systems, you do not need to buy diferent sizes. If you DO want a newborn-sized BG diaper, that is available, it fits from 6-12 pounds.

Many parents report that their older babies can wear pocket diapers for the same length of time as disposable diapers (4-5 hours during the day), because the fabric next to their baby’s skin stays dry - all the moisture is absorbed into the insert. The insert can be anything absorbent - cloth prefolds, terrycloth towels, or micro-terry or hemp inserts made especially for pocket diapers. For overnight, simply increase the amount of inserts to keep baby dry all night.

Pocket diapers are also easy to clean. Solids “plop” right off the diaper in to the toilet. The diapers and inserts (separated) are run through a rinse or soak cycle first, then washed with hot water, and tumbled dry on low or hung to dry. They don’t stain or retain odors, hold up well after dozens of washings, and dry very quickly.

For those not wanting to invest in a dozen or more pocket diapers, or who intend to use a diaper service to get around washing their own diapers (still an economical option), we’ve gotten great feedback on two diaper wraps from Basic Connection, LiteWraps and Cot’nWraps. These Velcro® diaper covers are worn over a cloth prefold or fitted diaper to prevent leaking and to secure the diaper without old-fashioned pins! Many parents do use a pocket diaper for overnight if they use cloth prefold diapers during the day, because they control leaks better.

prefold diapersOur founder, Meri Levy, used a diaper service with two of her three children, and reports that it is really nice to have all those cloth diapers lying around the house for the inevitable messes!

If you want to wash your cloth diapers yourself, you can use cloth prefold diapers made of Indian cotton gauze (highly absorbent!). We also sell a starter-kit of organic prefolds and diaper covers by Bummis, a Canadian company that has been making quality cloth diapering products since the 90s.

"All In One Diapers" are different from pocket diapers in that the absorbent middle does not come out for washing. the diaper is permanently sewn into one piece. See the photo to the right - the bumGenius organic all-in-one has several layers of absorbent fabric that are sewn at the front and back of the diaper, but not sewn on the sides. This allows for complete cleaning in the wash and faster drying time than other all-in-one brands out there. Since it is still a one-size solution form birth to potty-training, it is the only all in one cloth diaper our store carries.

bummis diaper coverFinally, if you just can’t get into the cloth diapering scene, you can stay environmentally conscious. Look for more environmentally friendly disposable diapers, which use less material, are not chlorine bleached, contain no perfume or harsh chemicals, use vegetable dyes only, and have an outer layer made of cornstarch film rather than plastic for superior breathability and biodegradability. These diapers use a small amount of superabsorbent polymer (gel) to last as long and keep your baby as dry as any diaper on the market.

For babies with sensitive skin, chlorine-bleached and scented disposables can contribute to rashes and eczema. Occasionally, even cloth diapers can irritate if they have been bleached or accumulated a buildup of detergents. Do take care to follow the manufacturer's instructions for washing cloth diapers. this will ensure the best results for your baby and the longest life of your diapers. Cloth diapers properly cared for should certainly last for your baby's entire diapering career, and well into your 2nd or even 3rd child's use, which just increases the cost-savings of your initial investment. Nurture Center owner Christine had good luck selling hers locally on craigslist, and recouped most of her diapering costs that way.

cloth diapers To sum it all up, there are many options to consider in the diapering world. You may decide that a combination of disposable and cloth is right for you, or that one or the other suits you just fine. Many people use cloth at home and keep a few disposable diapers on hand for travel or overnights.

At The Nurture Center, we are happy to relay our experiences, as well as what other parents tell us - if you can't drop by our Lafayette California store, visit our website and check out the options!

For more great information about cloth diapering options, visit, a great font of information on cloth diapering. They have a fantastic calculator tool to figure out your personalized cost for cloth diapers compared to disposables. It is completely customizable to whatever diapers you are thinking of buying and however long you plan to use them. When Nurture Center owner Christine had her first baby, this tool told her exactly how many months until her investment in cloth diapers would breakeven compared to what she had been spending for disposables at Target. She switched when the baby was 4 months old and 15 pounds, and he fit those same diapers all the way until potty training 2 years later.