Before I was a parent, I thought diapering your child was simple. You take the diaper, you put it on the baby's bottom, and we all go on with our lives. That is what I thought. I was devastatingly wrong on this issue, and your choice can draw glares and up-turned noses from parents at the park for different reasons depending upon where you live!
Given that, I will share with you what your choices are for covering your baby: conventional disposable diapers, green disposable diapers, hybrid diapering, cloth diapering, and elimination communication. I won't spend much time on elimination communication except to say that it is a parenting method where diapers are not used and instead the parent relies on the cues of the baby or toddler to know when to hold them over the toilet or pee pad. If you choose this path, you may want to plastic wrap your couch - strike that - you may want to plastic wrap everything!
Conventional disposable diapers are a one-time use product constructed of paper, plastic, and a number of chemicals depending on the brand. They are undeniably convenient, easily accessible, and the most common choice among American parents. Cost is usually not prohibitive and many stores even have a low cost brand of their own.
Most brands on the market are reasonably trim thanks to the chemical sodium polyacrylate. It has the ability to absorb 200-300x its own mass in water! This means that you can expect very few to no leaks with this method. If you have ever been unfortunate enough to have been around when a diaper malfunctioned, you may have seen a gel substance. That gel substance was sodium polyacrylate after it had presumably absorbed urine. Limited research exists on how exposure to sodium polyacrylate will affect our children after they are done with these diapers. A second chemical, dioxin, can be found in conventional disposable diapers as they are a by-product of the chlorine bleaching process which turns white the materials that are used to make the diapers. Dioxins are carcinogenic and can lead to troublesome health problems down the road. Dioxins can also be found in commercial tampons and pads, so many people who choose to avoid this chemical also switch to alternative methods of menstruation containment such as cloth pads (www.ecomenses.com) or a Diva Cup (www.DivaCup.com).
If disposable diapers sound like the ticket to you, but you are hesitant about the chemicals in the conventional brands there are still options for you! Two popular options worth noting are Earth's Best Diapers and Honest Brand diapers. Earth's Best website claims their diapers are 'Chlorine Free Disposable Diapers...available in seven sizes and made with renewable resources and fewer petro-chemicals to reduce your baby's environmental footprint.' Boxes of 160 count were listed on Amazon for around $45 dollars, but be sure to check for free shipping as that can be a BIG hidden cost. Honest brand diapers are a very CUTE option that is also good for your baby! Honest Company has the option to sign up for monthly diaper bundles automatically shipped to your house for $79.95. This is pretty reasonable considering Honest Company diapers come in patterns , are naturally biodegradable, have a pure plant-based PLA in the inner and outer sheet, and a bio-based wheat/corn super-absorbent material blended with reduced sodium polyacrylate gel. These diapers are just too cute not to take a look (www.honest.com)!
Hybrid diapers are just what they sound like. They are cross between cloth and disposable diapers. Generally, they are a waterproof cloth cover and a disposable insert which can be replaced when soiled leaving the cover to be reused. This can be a good option for people who want to reduce their carbon footprint but cannot or are not willing to do the extra laundry. A popular brand is gDiaper (www.gdiapers.com).
The last option is cloth diapering. Modern cloth diaper is nothing like the cloth diaper of years ago with a bulky prefold, sharp pins, and plastic pants. Now there are as many types and brands of cloth diapers as possible. Cloth diapering can be done with synthetic materials such as microfiber or can be done with organic natural materials such as cotton, hemp, or bamboo. Some brands which are very cost effective are Alva Baby (www.alvababy.com), Sunbaby Diapers (www.sunbabydiapers.com), and Kawaii Diapers (www.theluvyourbaby.com). These three brands offer bundles at great prices to help get you started. Try looking at reviews online to see which might be the best fit for you. With such affordable prices, it would be a good idea to order a few and try them out before ordering a bundle and being unhappy! More expensive brands that are wonderful and worth the extra buck are Tots Bots (www.totsbots.com), BumGenius (www.bumgenius.com), and Apple Cheeks Diapers (www.applecheeks.com). Tots Bots was my personal favorite having the Easy Fit ($23.95) and Bamboozle Fitted ($19.95).
The most important aspect of cloth diapers regardless of how you do it and your choice of style is washing your diapers properly. Not all soaps are safe and can cause a build-up on your diapers causing them to repel moisture and smell!!! Many people have great success with cloth diaper safe soaps such as Rockin' Green which comes in a variety of formulas for hard water, soft water, and very stinky diapers! I personally enjoyed Rockin' Green Hard Rock ($16.99). Some people claim plain old powdered Tide works for them (DO NOT use the liquid as it has a different make up and WILL cause a build-up on your diapers). Whatever detergent you would like to use I recommend checking out it's cloth diaper safety at Diaper Jungle (www.diaperjungle.com/detergent-chart.html) or Pinstripes and Polka Dots (www.pinstripesandpolkadots.com/detergentchoices.htm).
With cloth diapering, I have found one rule to hold true through it all: if it works for you and your baby, it is NOT wrong! Feel free to mix inserts of different brands with a cover you like from another brand. Perhaps you like a diaper from one brand and the doubler insert from another - go ahead! I hope you have found this helpful, and have benefitted from my personal journey through diaper exploration. I could probably have written a whole book on what I learned about cloth diapering alone, but that would be too much for readers! If you have questions please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!