Cool Diapering in Hot Weather

Baby at the beach in summer

A sweaty baby bottom in the hot summer heat is more likely to get not just diaper rash but heat rash. Keep your baby’s bottom clear and dry by choosing cloth diapers carefully when it’s hot outside.

The main concern in extreme heat is air circulation. This should be a concern in all weather, but the consequences are more pronounced in the summer. Despite the wetness of a diaper, you need to keep your baby’s skin dry in order to avoid most diaper rash. When you read about cloth diapers and diaper covers and see claims of breathability, meaning that air can move through the fabric of the diaper, this is the time that matters most of all.

Choose cool diapers. When breathability is your main goal, don’t choose PUL covers, pocket diapers, or AIOs. These diapers and covers have a plastic layer laminated to the polyester fabric. Laminated fabrics keep moisture in, but they also keep your baby’s bottom hot in the summer. Some of these diapers might allow some air circulation, but your baby’s bottom needs the most air possible in the heat. Save these diapers for cooler weather. Use cotton fitted, flat, or prefold diapers for the coolest summer diapers.

Use wool diaper covers. That sounds counter-intuitive if you think of wool as a warm sweater, but wool actually absorbs moisture then evaporates it into the air around your baby. Wool diaper covers create a moisture and air insulator that won’t trap wetness and heat against your baby’s skin.

Change diapers often. When you need to keep your baby dry, change that wet diaper. You should be changing your baby’s diaper every time it is wet.

Go coverless. If you will be at home, you can allow a lot more air circulation by using no moisture barrier at all. Sure, you need to change the absorbent diaper more often to avoid wet furniture or floor, but you should be changing every time the diaper is wet anyway. If you aren’t using a cover, don’t put clothes over the diaper. That just begs for a wet mess.

Go diaperless. Especially if your baby is recovering from heat rash or diaper rash, the best air circulation comes from going completely bare. Be prepared to clean up. While your baby is diaperless, what better time to start infant pottying, if you aren’t using this method already.

Wear a swim diaper. When you want to cool off, stay home and swim. Hang out in the pool in the shade with your baby in a swim diaper. If you don’t have a pool, let your baby play with a bucket of water. It’s all fun and splashing.

Choose cool wool for a long car ride. If you will be going on a long car ride, you can still use wool to stay cool, but keep in mind that wool can leak when compressed for a long time. Think of squeezing a sponge. The moisture will wick toward the dry car seat. You can avoid that by putting a sheepie or sheepskin rug between your baby and the car seat.  The wool on the sheepskin will absorb the moisture and will not let it through to the carseat. If you don’t have a sheepskin rug, a wool changing pad will do a similar job, though it could leak if you wait too long to change a diaper. Just plan regular diaper change stops. If you use a sheepskin, make sure you understand how to adjust the carseat safely because the sheepskin will make the seat a bit tighter.

Summertime Bonus

Save energy by line drying your cloth diapers. This is especially helpful if you want to get rid of stains on cotton. Just leave them in the sun, and watch the stains fade. For diapers with stubborn stains, spray a little lemon juice on the stain before you hang the diaper on the line. Be sure to rewash that diaper so you don’t put lemon juice on your baby’s sensitive skin.

What do you do to keep summer diapering cool? Please share your tips.

Image © Markcarper | Dreamstime.com

What’s the Deal with Charcoal Bamboo?

Charcoal sticks

We often get questions about charcoal bamboo rayon and its emerging trend as a cloth diapering fabric. We don’t carry charcoal bamboo, and we want you to know why.

You may have seen charcoal bamboo rayon used for cloth diaper inserts or the absorbent inner layer of a diaper. You will notice because the fabric is charcoal grey. Charcoal doesn’t just refer to the nice, grey colour, though.

Charcoal bamboo is rayon with added nanoparticles of charcoal, which is made from bamboo. During the process of making rayon from bamboo (drying, aging, ripening—essentially cooking), other materials can be added. Any cellulose fiber can be used to make rayon, and many materials can be added to the goo phases of the process. In this case, bamboo is heated, creating charcoal, then the charcoal is ground into a very fine powder so small that the particles are called nanoparticles. (Nano refers to size. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter like a centimeter is one hundredth of a meter.)

Charcoal nano-particles can be added to any extruded fiber. You might find charcoal polyester fleece or charcoal microfiber in addition to charcoal bamboo rayon. All of these fibers are extruded—like pasta dough through a spaghetti press.

Charcoal bamboo and other charcoal fibers first came to the North American market through import co-ops—the same import co-ops that bring us cheap, unsupported diapers. We’ve talked before about the hidden costs of cheap diapers and of imports (labour, safety, quality, environment, sustainability). Basically, these products externalize costs. You save money in the short run while you and others pay in other ways. Cheap is only inexpensive when you don’t notice the ripple of consequences.

Questions We Hear about Charcoal Bamboo

Doesn’t bamboo charcoal nanotechnology kill bacteria?

First of all, what are you trying to kill? Washing diapers kills bacteria through heat and detergent. What more needs to be killed? Even if charcoal nanotechnology does kill bacteria, I’m not sure that this is a desirable characteristic of a diaper.

Second, I don’t know. I see that manufacturers of fabric make this claim, but I also see those selling bamboo rayon continuing to claim antimicrobial properties of bamboo rayon when the U.S. Federal Trade Commission absolutely states that there is no evidence in support of this claim for rayon. According to the FTC, “Even when bamboo is the ‘plant source’ used to create rayon, no traits of the original plant are left in the finished product.” Manufacturers and retailers continue to fight the FTC over this, and I see small cloth diaper sellers repeating claims that have been debunked. The only difference I see so far with charcoal bamboo rayon is that it is newer, so the claims haven’t been argued with regulatory bodies—yet.

Isn’t charcoal bamboo just another natural fabric?

What is often just called “bamboo” is bamboo rayon, a manufactured fiber. We wrote about the process of creating rayon from bamboo in “Hemp vs Bamboo Rayon for Cloth Diapers.” This manufactured fabric is made from natural inputs (bamboo and other cellulose), but the processing is far from natural. This is another issue that U.S. FTC takes seriously. Claim this is a natural or environmentally-friendly fiber, and they will sue. If you still see the claims, maybe they just haven’t gotten around to the lawsuit yet. They are already busy with bamboo rayon marketing and labeling claims.

I heard charcoal bamboo contain natural oils. Does it?

Sometimes I don’t even know where to start. Let’s start with no. Bamboo rayon has no natural oils. Even mechanically processed (non-rayon) bamboo has no oils. Rayon is not a natural fiber; it is manufactured fiber. If there are oils in your fabric, they are the oils added during the knitting or weaving process to help the fibers move through the machines as the fabric is created. Oils, sure; natural oils, not so much.

Is charcoal bamboo rayon approved for the North American market?

That is an interesting question, and I don’t know the answer.

I heard that charcoal bamboo rayon calms the mind.

I’ll just wait until the science comes in on that one.

Are You Willing to Submit to an Experiment?

I would like to go back to one very important point: safety. One of the most important complaints made about co-op diapers that are imported without regard for legalities is their lack of compliance to safety regulations.

The problem with cheaper materials isn’t just the potential de-lamination of a diaper cover, as an example. Smell that off-gassing? Those molecules escaping from unstable polymers have an effect on your brain and your body when you breathe them. That is why some phthalates have been banned in certain children’s products. Imagine what those unsafe soft plastics can do when placed against the most sensitive skin on your baby’s body. Soft plastics, though, are already under regulation. If you buy diaper covers that are CPSIA compliant, you know they don’t contain banned soft plastics.

What about nanotechnology? We mentioned the nanotechnology in conventional sunscreens last month. Those particles “are designed to be absorbed into the skin.” Can nano-particles of charcoal be absorbed into the skin? What are the potential consequences of that? Are other nano-particles added to rayon? Some textile processes use both nanosilver and nanocharcoal. Is that true of charcoal bamboo? We wrote about the use of nanosilver as an antimicrobial and found that the science showing potential harm is building up. Where is the independent science that shows no harm will come to your baby from absorbing nano-particles of charcoal through the genitals? What are the short-term effects? What are the long-term effects?

If that science isn’t available, using nanotechnology on your baby in this way is experimentation. This is the wrong way around. We don’t just try things out on our babies first then work out whether it’s safe. Prove safety first.

Let’s back up a long way and start over with the first question.

Why don’t you carry bamboo charcoal diapers?

We prefer domestic products over imports, and bamboo charcoal fabric and products are all imports. The same companies referred to in our Cheapie Leakies post are importing a lot of charcoal bamboo rayon products. Low-quality imports like this are just a non-starter for us.

We will not test new technologies on your baby. Until a product or material is proven safe, we will not carry it in our store.

We choose the simplest solutions that work for our customers. When there are already basic, natural materials that do the simple job of a cloth diaper, there is no need for nanotechnology just for the sake of the technology—especially when questions of safety remain.

So, no, we won’t be carrying charcoal bamboo products until or unless we become convinced that it is safe for your baby, until the benefits have been proven, and until the benefits of nanotechnology outweigh the benefits of natural fibers.

You can count on bynature.ca to look into new products, but we will not jump on bandwagons.

Yesterday, we asked what our Facebook followers thought of charcoal bamboo in diapers. Not one of the dozen people who answered was willing to experiment with this nanotechnology in diapers.

Related Articles

Cheapie Leakies - Cloth diapers in general have SO much value compared to single-use products. And, many cloth diapers that seem higher priced actually reflect the value of products made ethically and sustainably, not cheaply and without care for workers or the environment. These high value products are also safety tested to the highest standards, so you can be assured you’re buying something that is safe for your little one.

Cheap Products—At What Cost? - You already know what we think of cheap imports if you read our 6-part “At What Cost?” series last year on labour, safety, quality, environment, and sustainability.

Antimicrobial Overkill – Use of disinfectants such as nano silver in everyday situations is overkill. Even in more extreme situations, there is a lot of debate about whether the antimicrobial benefits outweigh the potential risks.

6 Questions about Natural Sunscreen That We Hear Daily – What are nano particles, and why does it matter if my sunscreen is free of these? The concern is that nano particles could enter the human body.

Hemp vs Bamboo Rayon for Cloth Diapers – There are efforts to add nano-particles of charcoal to make the fiber antibacterial.

Image © Dianazh | Dreamstime.com

Baby Needs a Swim Diaper

Mother-ease Swim Diapers Poolside

Uh-oh. Baby in the pool! Do you worry that your baby will leave a mess in the pool? The answer is easy: use a swim diaper. The idea of a reusable swim diaper is very simple: catch poop and let the pee flow through.

A soggy, leaking mess of a plastic or paper diaper leaks everything, not just urine. That is what gives swim diapers a bad name. Avoid those.

A swim diaper is not designed to hold in urine. If it were absorbent, it would weigh the baby down, which would make swimming a much less pleasant activity for a child. Babies need swim diapers just to hold in solids and prevent those getting into the pool. A great reusable swim diaper also has mesh to hang on to what needs to stay and to let flow what needs to go.

Reusable Swim Diapers – How novel!

Anything but a reusable swimsuit, even for a child, confuses me. After adults and older children swim, they don’t toss their suits in the garbage. We rinse, dry, and repeat.

It’s very easy to do the same for your baby. Your baby deserves a soft, comfortable swim diaper that won’t weigh her down or get in the way of her doing what we should be doing in the pool— having a great time and learning how to swim.

We’ve noticed at byNature.ca that even parents who use disposable diapers otherwise will often buy a reusable swim diaper for the pool because it just makes sense. Granted, some of them are completely wowed by how cute reusable swim diapers are.

Really, Use a Swim Diaper

Cloth diapering parents ask us if they can just use a diaper cover for swimming. Yes and no.

If you use a diaper cover as a swim diaper, you risk chlorine destroying the laminate that makes the cover waterproof. More chlorine means greater chance of leaky cover. Leaks don’t matter with a swim diaper, since they are designed to let urine and pool water flow through.

If you do use a diaper cover as a swim diaper then as a diaper cover again, you may find that you have leaks. If your child has grown out of the cover or it isn’t holding in leaks well enough to pass it on to another child, you can use a polyester or laminated cotton diaper cover as a swim diaper. (Don’t try this with wool! Wool absorbs and stretches, so you will have a baggy, soggy mess.)

Baby Swim Diapers Made in Canada

A note from Nature Mom:

“I realized when talking with a customer in the store the other day that all of the swim diapers we carry are made in Canada. That wasn’t done intentionally, but I certainly wouldn’t change it!”

Swimmis from Bummis is a version of their original diaper cover with fun cotton prints on the outside and a cool mesh lining inside. Lycra bindings are stretchy and comfortable for babies. Made in Canada.

Swimmis Bummis baby swim diaper

Mother-ease swim diapers are made of soft, stretchy, bathing suit material. If you have ever caught hook-and-loop closures from you baby’s swim diaper on your swimsuit, you will understand why some parents prefer snaps. Netting on the inside of the swim diaper catches messes. Made in Canada.

Mother-ease baby swim diapers

 

AMP swim diapers have two layers of micro mesh to catch messes. We like that snaps will last a long time, but wiggly babies and anxious toddlers might not stick around long enough for snaps. Made in Canada.

AMP swim diapers

Apple Cheeks swim diapers have one layer of knit and one layer of mesh to let the water flow through easily. This two-size system adjusts with a snap at the waist and another at the thigh. Made in Canada.

Apple Cheeks swim diaper

When you get home, either toss the swim diaper in the diaper pail if soiled or rinse the swim diaper and wet bag with the rest of the swimsuits if it’s just wet.

Have a great swim!

Infant Pottying Enters the Conversation

Mother holding baby

Infant pottying, or elimination communication, has entered the mainstream conversation several times recently. It’s easy to laugh, unless you’ve seen it work.

Every day my children, both teenagers now, come to me to talk about the news. They get their news from Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report (which, I tell them often, is only a start. “You could read news online. I could show you how to get news in your Facebook feed.”). Last week, my son was laughing. He wanted me to know how weird it was that some parents didn’t use diapers at all, because they just get their babies to pee in bowls around the house.

 

“You know,” I told him, “we did that with you. You wore diapers, but I don’t remember you pooping in diapers.”

Yes, that did quiet him. Of course, it became a lesson in not being so quick to judge what is unfamiliar as just weird, and we deconstructed the needs of a comedy news show to exaggerate for effect. We got past the news quickly. He asked why we did it and how it worked. I planted the seeds for my son to look past mainstream pressures to avoid “weird” and look at parenting choices on their own merits.

One of the themes, as my children and I talk every day and call it homeschool, is the need to look beyond the surface of what we read or hear to get to the pattern of facts, the bigger picture, the deeper need. I have been reading a new book by Jennifer Margulis, The Business of Baby. This investigative journalist looks at mainstream cultural practices around birth and babies as they are shaped not by science but by corporate interests. Marketing pushes us to choose actions that serve corporate profits. Ultrasound, ceasarean, formula feeding, vaccinations. These choices are the norm. They are often expected. Parents who do not follow the full mainstream path are pushed or shamed by those around them who have also been conditioned to accept the marketed norms. As my children get closer to their own parenting than to their babyhood, I want to make sure they realize they can get past the pressure to laugh at the weirdos to understand their real choices. So, I’ve been talking to my children about each section of The Business of Baby as I read it. I don’t want them just to know they were born at home and think, “That was the weird choice of my weird mother.” I want them to understand that I looked at the evidence and specifically made that choice because I was confident it would serve them best.

My son isn’t a particularly awkward teen. He asks questions easily. After the laughter, he slows down and thinks through issues. Comedy news gave us a learning moment to push back against the kind of pressures he feels every day to fit tidily into the norm.

For some parents, cloth diapers are too far outside the bounds of their norm. The idea of washing soiled diapers is difficult to process if you have been conditioned to think of diapers as a thing that is thrown away. For many parents, even those who find washing cloth diapers to be perfectly acceptable, the idea of holding a baby over the toilet is too unfamiliar to find a way to fit it into their idea of normal.

One point that I find really disappointing in The Business of Baby is the author’s speculation that perhaps infant pottying isn’t mentioned as a third option in the diaper debate of disposables vs. cloth because no one makes money from parents who choose no diapers at all. On the contrary, most of the cloth diaper retailers and activists I know include a range of possibilities when they teach classes or talk to customers in a store. Many of the cloth diaper professionals I know have used elimination communication with their babies. Few cloth diaper business owners I’ve met are in it for the money. I think the idea that there are discrete choices (disposable diapers, cloth diapers, elimination communication) is a convenient way to draw a comparison without being an accurate description of how parents really choose to deal with a baby’s elimination. It makes each choice weird to those who choose otherwise when the reality of our parenting practices is far more fluid. We cloth diaper; we potty. It isn’t either/or.

Stephen Colbert’s newsie item was based on a New York Times article, which was less unflattering that you might expect. Despite the somewhat dismissive tone of mainstream stories about natural parenting choices, you could learn a lot about infant pottying from reading this New York Times article and watching the Colbert Report. If you haven’t considered going diaper-free at least some of the time, use these pieces to think about it. Don’t be swayed by the peer pressure to join in the laughter. Or, laugh, but try it anyway. You might be surprised how easily you and your baby take to pottying. You might be surprised how close you feel to your baby when you become responsive to needs in this way.

As Jennifer Margulis wrote in The Business of Baby, “Unless you actually try it, it’s easy to dismiss infant pottying as too hard or too messy or simply too weird.”

Image © Iliuha007 | Dreamstime.com

Cloth Diaper Laundry Hub

Dad holding baby in laundry basket

Once you understand the basics of pH, water quality, your machine, and your materials, you will be able to choose the best laundry routine to get your diapers clean. Once you really get those basics, washing cloth diapers is easy.

Seeing through a mystery and mastering your own choices is invigorating. That’s how understanding laundry science feels for me. I’m not a scientist, but I have plenty of scientists who have willingly answered my questions over the past couple of months as I’ve been writing about cloth diaper washing, and now I GET the science of cloth diaper laundry.

If you want the easiest possible solution for washing your cloth diapers, use Allen’s Naturally laundry liquid (the cleanest rinsing laundry detergent we have found, but not the only detergent we recommend) and follow Real Diaper Association’s simple 5-step guidelines.

  1. DUMP solids into the toilet
  2. RINSE on warm, because soils come out better at the temperature they went in (body temperature)
  3. WASH with detergent in hot water
  4. RINSE twice in warm water
  5. DRY

For most people, that’s all you need to know.

If it doesn’t work every time, that doesn’t mean cloth diapers don’t work. It means that you need to adjust your laundry routine for your situation. If it seems too difficult to understand your situation, remember that you could just dump your diapers in the garbage after every change. If you are here, you probably don’t want to do that. So, just invest a little time to learn laundry science, so you will no longer have to rely on advice that isn’t grounded in evidence. Back away from secret, proprietary formulas and mystery fixes to take charge of your own wash.

Laundry science knowledge will set you free.

Just wash the diapers and focus on the rest of your life!

 

The Basics

Get Cloth Diaper Washing Right from the Start

Mother with Stinky Baby

Our customers come to us for troubleshooting when cloth diapers are stinky or leaky. We can help, but we also know that you will save time, money, and grief if you understand your situation before you get into a laundry routine that will leave you with a stinky mess. Look at water quality, your washing machine, the materials used to make your diapers, then start simple.

Your Washing Machine and Cloth Diapers

Cloth diaper washing machine

When you are washing cloth diapers every few days, your washing machine is one of the important variables in the laundry routine. Whether you use top-loading or front-loading, HE or an old clunker, you can get your diapers clean with some adjustments. Keep in mind, though: your washing machine is far less important than your washing process. Read that twice if you need to because I’m telling you that you can get your cloth diapers clean in any washing machine.

Baby Diaper pH: An Intro

Stiny baby diaper

pH is measure of whether a solution is acidic or alkaline. Did you know that newborn skin is more alkaline than yours? A little background in science will help you keep your baby healthy and your diapers clean.

Wet Pail or Dry Pail?

Diaper Pail

Which will work better for your diapers? We will walk you through the pros and cons of your diaper pail choices. The short answer: there isn’t a lot of difference in choosing wet or dry pail. Starting with a dry pail is simple, and many families don’t find the need to try a wet pail.

 

Common Issues

Residue in Cloth Diapers

Residue on Cloth Diapers

Are your diapers repelling and your covers leaking? Do clean diapers smell like a barnyard and wet diapers burn your nose? You may have residues in your diapers. Before you contemplate throwing it all away, learn the fix.

Hard Water and Cloth Diaper Washing

Cloth Diaper Washing Water Hardness and pH

Hardness refers to mineral content in the water (usually calcium and magnesium). Most of us have hard water, and some of us have very hard water. Hard water doesn’t react as much with soap. Why? That’s a science lesson. And, once again, basic science has saved your cloth diapers.

How to Ruin Your Cloth Diapers

Don't ruin your cloth diapers

You can avoid laundry crazy by understanding laundry reality. We walk you through the Goldilocks Laundry Solutions—not too much; not too little; just right. With detergent, water, bleach, heat, sun, enzymes, or essential oil, it does sometimes matter whether you use too much or too little.

 

Detergent & Additives

Cloth Diaper Detergent Choices

Cloth Diaper Detergents

Understand hard water, pH, washing machine, and residue before deciding on your cloth diaper detergent because these factors all matter. Unless you just want a very simple detergent that does the job. We’ve got that.

Artificial Fragrances in Your Home

Fresh outdoors smell

Artificial fragrances lurk unmarked in many of your household cleaning products. These fragrances can be bothersome as they leave residues, irritating when they are allergens and harmful when they pose known health risks.

Fabric Softeners

Cloth Diaper Fabric Softeners

We all love truth in advertising. “Hydrophobic chemicals in fabric softeners reduce absorbency of your cloth diapers but feel smooth against your baby’s skin.” Making your cloth diapers soft has to be a good thing, right? Of course, but don’t be fooled into using chemical fabric softeners to do it or you will be in for a leaky, repelling surprise. First rule of fabric softener for cloth diapers: don’t use it. There are natural ways to soften cloth diapers.

Enzymes

When to use enzymes with cloth diapers

Enzymes are naturally occurring, biodegradable, and they help break down the organic matter in dirty diapers. What’s not to love? Enzymes too often end up on the list of bad additives, and that place just isn’t justified. Learn what enzymes do to clean cloth diapers, when they work, when they don’t, and how to use enzymes. Don’t be the person who says, “Enzymes don’t make sense to me, so I don’t use them.”

Cloth Diaper Detergent Additives to Avoid, Usually

Cloth diaper detergent additives to avoid

The no-nos, the naturals, and the basic cleaners. There are some firm rules, but a lot of additives matter only depending on your specific situation. Once you understand the additives, you can choose a detergent that works well for your diapers, your water, and your machine. Stop believing that some additives are just bad for cloth diapers.

Do You Use Baking Soda and Vinegar?

Using baking soda and vinegar to wash cloth diapers

You will find a lot of advice about using both baking soda and vinegar on cloth diapers. Do you know which situation calls for which solution? If you don’t know the difference and you use the wrong cleaner, it won’t help. We explain for each: what it is, what it does, when to avoid it, and when to use it on your cloth diapers.

 

Materials Matter

Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?

Woman outside with laundry

Different materials need different treatment to keep them functioning well for diapering. Animal (wool diaper covers), vegetable (cotton, hemp, bamboo rayon), and mineral (polyester, laminate, microfibre) are easy ways to understand diaper fibres and what they need to get clean.

Hemp vs Bamboo Rayon for Cloth Diapers

bamboo plants

We get a lot of questions from customers in the bynature.ca store asking why they would want to choose bamboo vs. hemp for cloth diapers. Short answer: choose hemp for environment or absorbency, and choose bamboo rayon for softness.

Cotton Diapers: Do You Choose Organic or Not?

Organic cotton prefold cloth diapers

We were surprised when we asked customers about organic cotton diapers because their reasons for choosing organic don’t always match what we know about the benefits of organic. We recommend organic over non-organic, but our reasons might not be what you expect.

Cheapie Leakies

Unhappy baby

Why we don’t carry cloth diapers that come without support or warranty. In our eight years of experience, the bottom line is: you get what you pay for. When you buy your diapers from us, you’re also investing in our experience helping thousands of clients along the way to getting off to a great start, with product support, laundry advice, and troubleshooting.

We Can Help!

If you have laundry issues, come by the bynature.ca store in Orillia.  We want you to succeed in using cloth diapers, and a very big part of your success is getting the care of your diapers right. We can help you find solutions that work for your cloth diaper laundry.

Image © Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com