All about cloth diapers

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diapers, take 2 005For those who don’t use cloth diapers, the idea of being in close contact with your child’s p & p (pee and poo) isn’t that pleasant; however it’s… totally natural. Disposable diapers are a relatively new invention which became the norm only in the past two generations. For millennia parents used cloth rags to keep their children clean or even nothing at all. Today we’re lucky to have lots of types of cloth diapers using specialized fabrics with different qualities. Cloth diapers are easy to use, perfectly hygienic and much better for your little one’s health and the environment. Today’s diapers are no longer what they used to be, and there are no more excuses not to use them!

Why use cloth diapers?

TO PROTECT OUR PLANET These days nobody can deny that the environment is in critical condition: its non-renewable resources won’t last forever. The production of the disposable diapers used by a single child in one year requires 250 cups (560 l) of oil, 286 pounds (130 kg) of plastic, 440-880 pounds (200-400 kg) of wood pulp, and huge amounts of water and energy.

In the 1990s The Landbank Consultancy, an English organization, examining the results of a study concluded that, compared with one cloth diaper, the production of a single disposable diaper requires:

  • 2.3 times more water
  • 3.5 times more energy
  • 8.3 times more non-renewable materials
  • 90 times more renewable materials
  • from 4 to 30 times more land to grow the plants for materials.

And we need to remember that at each diaper change all those resources get literally thrown away, while a cloth diaper gets reused hundreds of times. A disposable consumes 70% more energy than a cloth diaper per change. And don’t forget that diapers are sold in plastic packaging: more trash.

Disposable diapers greatly contribute to the ongoing crisis of overflowing landfills. Let’s consider that a single child uses an average of 8 diapers per day his first year of life, 6 the second and 4 the third, therefore 6,570 diapers in three years. Each child therefore contributes 2,414 pounds (1,095 kg) of dirty diapers to our landfills. We’re talking MORE THAN A TON!! Only in 2008 576,000 babies were born in Italy, according to Istat. That means 630,720 TONS of disposable diapers are lying in landfills, ONLY FOR THE BABIES BORN IN ONE YEAR in a single country (the least prolific, at that).

It wouldn’t be such a big deal if we were talking about biodegradable materials, but the truth is that disposable diapers take 500 years to decompose. That’s about 15 generations. The materials of cloth diapers (with the exception of the waterproof layer), after being used hundreds of times, are recyclable and biodegradable. What’s more, disposables contain lots of chemicals which, besides being harmful to your health, while sitting in landfills get absorbed by the soil and contaminate the ground water, and sooner or later come right back to us.

The diapers that we throw in the trash also hold other less hidden substances: your child’s p&p. While herbivores’ poo, for example from donkeys or birds, is often used as fertilizer and enriches soil, carnivores’ poo (ours) contains viruses that can contaminate the ground water or insects, and therefore be retransmitted to humans and animals. P&p needs to be disposed of in a toilet so it can be treated properly.

TO PROTECT YOUR HEALTH The chemicals in disposables, before ending up in landfills to contaminate soil and water, are pressed against your baby’s bum’s soft and sensitive skin. 24/7. This often causes diaper rash but can also cause allergies and other ailments. It’s important to remember that most of these substances are used to create more absorbency: but leaving a wet diaper in contact with a cihld’s skin for much time can causes skin irritation and bacterial infections.

TO SAVE MONEY A lot of people are wary of using cloth diapers because of their cost. It’s true that they require a bigger investment at the beginning, but let’s look a moment at how much disposables cost. If the average pack has 24 diapers and costs €7 and, as we’ve already established, a child uses an average of 6,570 diapers in his first three years of life, that adds up to €1,905, let’s say more than €2000 if we’re also using disposable baby wipes to clean up. The more expensive brands come to much more than that.

On the other hand, if you invest in cucicucicoo cloth diapers, the cost is hundreds of euros less and, reusing the same diapers for a second child, that cost is cut in half per child. Cucicucicoo diapers can be used for at least three children, if used with care.

BEACAUSE THEY’RE FUN TO USE How many colors and prints there are! Your little one will have his favorites for sure, just like his has favorite toys. After using cucicucicoo diapers for a little while, you’ll look at white disposables and… they’ll look so incredibly drab!

Debunking cloth diaper myths:

1. It’s hard to put cloth diapers on. Not at all! Cloth diapers have evolved from what our grandparents and parents used. Cucicucicoo pocket and AIO (All-In-One) diapers are super easy to use. Look below in the section “What are cucicucicoo diapers like?” to learn more.

2. It takes way too long to wash cloth diapers. Luckily most of us have access to a washing machine: you put them in, choose the program and you hang them out to dry (or pop them in the dryer). All done, and it only took a few minutes of your time. It takes more time to rush out looking for an open pharmacy after you realize that you ran out of disposables at home.

3. Cloth diapers aren’t hygienic. Disposables contain tons of chemicals which cause rashes and other irritations on genitals, not to mention all the other possible complications from such substances. Washing cloth diapers in the washing machine in medium hot (60°C) with a prewash cleans them very well, killing bacteria. You can also add a bit of Napisan or other disinfecting additive, but it’s really not necessary.

4. Cloth diapers are expensive. A single cloth diaper does cost more than a single disposable but, seeing as cloth can be used hundreds of times, in the end cloth diapers cost much less. Look at the above section “To save money” for more information.

5. My child goes to day care and so he/she can’t use cloth. Cucicucicoo All-In-One diapers are worn just like disposables. If you explain to your child’s caretakers that they can simply put the dirty diapers in a wet bag or in a regular plastic bag to give back to you, they won’t have any problems.

6. Cloth diapers don’t absorb as much as disposables. Disposable diapers are as absorbent as they are thanks to lots of chemicals, which you obviously will not find in cloth diapers. While it’s true that cucicucicoo cloth diapers absorb a lot, it is still necessary to change them slightly more often than disposables. But remember that keeping a child in a wet diaper for much time is very bad for his poor little bum, so it’s actually much better to change it more often anyway.

What are cucicucicoo diapers like?

There are two types of cucicucicoo diapers: pocket and all-in-one (AIO). (There will also be cucicucicoo prefolds in the future!) Both types come in four sizes (S, M, L, XL) and have an outer layer of PUL, cotton or polyester, in either solid colors or prints, whose backside is laminated, making it waterproof, though breathable. The lamination is on the inside of the diaper, so it never comes in contact with the child’s skin. The layer in contact with the skin is in microfleece or suedecloth. These fabrics, which are thin, super soft and stain-resistant, are wicking fabrics, meaning they pull the liquid down to the absorbent layers beneath, leaving the surface in contact with skin dry. What’s more, poo comes right off of these fabrics, so cleaning is make that much easier.

Cucicucicoo diapers close with touch tape, a very resistant velcro. There is a long strip across the front which the wings attach to. The wing pieces can be folded back to keep them from attaching to other diapers in the wash. A size label sticks out from under the velcro and the edges are finished with fold over elastic, a special elastic made for washable diapers, which gathers along the legs and the back to better fit the child’s body and keep the diaper’s openings closed.

Cucicucicoo POCKET DIAPERS are just that: a pocket. They consist of a single external layer of PUL and a microfleece/suedecloth one inside with an opening along the back. You need to fold an insert and slip it inside to absorb p&p. You can use the special cucicucicoo insert (sold separately) or just old t-shirts or towels you have hanging around the house. There are two sizes of cucicucicoo inserts: one for sizes S and M diapers and one for sizes L and XL. (for more information about cucicucicoo inserts, see here.) The advantages of pocket diapers are:

  • they cost less than AIO diapers
  • they air dry quickly
  • there are only two sizes of inserts, so you don’t need to keep buying new ones
  • you can use more than one insert in the diaper at night, when the child wets more

Cucicucicoo ALL-IN-ONE (AIO) DIAPERS are the easiest diapers to use because they are used just like disposables, but with all the benefits of a cloth diaper. The body of the AIO consists of an external layer of PUL, inner core of absorbent cotton terry cloth, and the inside of cotton flannel. Attached to the inner backside is a fold-out soaker for extra absorbency but which opens up to wash and dry better than if it were all sewn together in one piece. This part is made of cotton flannel below, inner core of absorbent cotton terry cloth and upper surface of microfleece/suedecloth. It is this surface that the child’s skin is in contact with and which pulls wetness into the lower absorbent layers.

Because the creation of the AIO diaper is more labor intensive, the cost of the AIO is higher than that of a pocket diaper. The absorbent cores sewn on the inside also require longer periods of time for drying. That said, it’s still useful to have at least a few for when the child is in the care of another person who, not being used to pocket diapers, might not be willing to use separate inserts, for example at day care or with a new babysitter. The advantages of cucicucicoo AIO diapers are:

  • they are absolutely easy to put on the child
  • there’s no need for separate inserts
  • anybody can use them

How many cucicucicoo diapers should I have and what sizes?

A newborn dirties a lot of diapers, in average 10 per day, while older children, who eat solid food, dirty a lot fewer. I therefore suggest 25 size S diapers (6-13 pounds/3-6 kg), 15 size M (9-20 pounds/4-9 kg), 15 size L (15-40 pounds/7-18 kg) and 10 size XL (24-55 pounds/11-25 kg). Size XL might not be necessary if your child starts using the potty on the early side or if she is petite.

With this number of diapers you will need to wash every two or three days. If you buy more, you can wash them less frequently and they will last even longer. It is always advisable to have more diapers than necessary, and that way your child will also have more fun with a bigger selection of colors and prints. It’s also a good idea to buy cucicucicoo cloth wipes to clean up messes without chemicals or environmental consequences and one or two wet bags for when you’re out and about with diapers.

How do you wash cucicucicoo diapers?

There are two ways to wash cloth wipes and diapers. I use the “dry pail” method, which means you put dirty wipes and diapers into a large plastic garbage can with a locking top. When it’s full, you just dump the contents of the bucket into the washer and every two or three washings give the inside of the bucket a quick rinse and air dry.

The other method is “wet pail,” in which you fill the bucket with water (and optionally baking soda) so the articles stay wet until they are washed. I find the dry pail method eliminates odor better, is easier and wastes less water.

If there’s any poo, it’s best to dump it in the toilet before putting the diaper in the pail. Bigger kids’ poo is harder and usually falls right off the diaper and into the toilet without having to do anything else. If the poo is more liquid, as is the case with infants, you can rinse the diaper in the bidet, use toilet paper to get most of it off or use a toilet bowl brush to get it off. If you use pocket diapers, you need to take out the insert or it won’t get washed properly.

Wash the diapers with wipes if you use them, but not with any other washables, at 60°C (warm/medium-hot), which is hot enough to kill bacteria without using too much energy. Don’t forget to add a pre-rinse cycle to rinse away most of the p&p. It’s important not to wash diapers with too much detergent and to add an anti-limestone additive if you have hard water to avoid the accumulation of deposits on the fabric, which reduces its absorbency; the use of fabric softener and diaper cream also diminishes absorbency. It’s best to air dry diapers in the sun to further eliminate stains and any remaining odor, but you can also machine dry. As with all cucicucicoo products, it is suggested that you wash them prior to use.

It really only takes a few extra minutes to use cloth diapers. Your child will have lots of fun wearing different colors and prints, and you can feel good knowing that there aren’t any chemicals in her clothes, you’re helping the environment, there’s more money in your wallet and you’ll never again have to worry about running out of diapers at 3 am!

For information on where to find cucicucicoo products, look here.

last updated 13 march, 2012

10 thoughts on “All about cloth diapers”

  1. interessante e quando avrò un bimbo, credo che comprerò questi in tessuto 🙂 sopratutto per l'ambiente. Cerchiamo il più possibile di eliminare la plastica dal nostro uso quotidiano!

  2. infatti, quando uno ci si pensa, la plastica si trova dovunque. fa un po' impressione… se avrai bisogno di info riguardo i pannolini lavabili quando è il momento, fammi sapere! 🙂

  3. grazie per tutti i commenti, sweet! se hai delle domande su qualunque prodotto, mi puoi sempre inviare una mail: cucicucicoo [at] gmail [dot] com. o, in alternativa, visto che abiti a napoli, è molto possibile che avrò un tavolino con i miei prodotti per dare informazioni nella zona chiaia il giorno 27, credo alle ore 16 durante questo evento:

    quando so qualcosa di sicuro, posterò sia sul blog che su facebook ( spero di poterti vedere lì! 🙂


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