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FAQ: Ask Ottermama™

Using and caring for cloth diapers is easier than most people think!

Do you have a question you'd like to see addressed? Please ask OtterMama and she will respond here as soon as possible.

Note: all suggestions and opinions are based on personal experience and are not meant to replace medical advice.

I'm just getting started with cloth diapering, please help! TOP

Some things to consider before getting started with cloth diapering are

1. All the good reasons to cloth diaper:

A. It makes sense to choose a way of diapering that helps keep our world clean and beautiful. From Wikipedia: "An estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used each year in the US, resulting in a possible 3.4 million tons of used diapers adding to landfills each year."
B. Cloth diapers are healthy for baby: cloth lets your baby's skin breathe, keeping it healthy and rash-free.
C. Cloth diapers are more versatile than disposables and MUCH cuter! Diaper covers can often do double duty as swim diapers. Cloth diapers are made to show off and come in a range of beautiful colors and prints..
D. Cloth diapers are easy to use--often just as easy as disposables to put on and take off, and simple to wash and care for. You don't have to worry about running out of them in the middle of the night, loading bulky boxes of them into your car at the store, and keeping smelly mounds of them in your trash cans.
E. Cloth diapers can save you money, sometimes a LOT of money. The Diaper Pin cloth diaper forum has made a calculator that allows you to compare the cost of different kinds of cloth diapers vs. disposables: http://www.diaperpin.com/calculator/calculator.asp

F. Individual reasons too numerous to list: here is a link to over 340 testimonials from moms about why they cloth diaper their babies: http://www.realdiaperassociation.org/directory/testimonia...

2. Deciding what kinds of cloth diapers to use. Here is a link that compares 4 general types of cloth diapers: prefolds, pockets, AIOs and AI2s, and fitted diapers: http://www.diaperjungle.com/cloth-diaper-types.html

3. Deciding how many to buy. It's always best to buy just a few before you invest a lot of money in one brand or type of diaper. Your diapering style and personal preferences will emerge after a few months of trial and error.

Washing every other day, we recommend having: 

  • Newborn to 4 months: 24 - 36 diapers 
  • Infant (4 to 10 months): 16 - 20 diapers 
  • Toddler (10 months to potty training): 12 - 16 diapers

Here are some suggestions for how many diapers are needed http://www.diaperpin.com/howto.asp#gettingstarted

4. If your baby will be in daycare, you may want to approach the daycare about working with you to keep your baby in cloth. Here is a printable PDF with cloth diapering tips for daycares: http://www.realdiaperassociation.org/daycare/Daycare-tip-...

5. Figuring out a method for washing your diapers. This is not hard, but it is important to use detergents that are safe for your baby's skin and for the diapers, to rinse properly and to avoid things like bleach and fabric softeners which can reduce the effectiveness of the diapers. Here is a link to a "detergent determinator" that helps you choose the best detergent for your washing needs: http://detergent.realdiaperindustry.org/ and also a link to general cloth diaper washing instructions: http://realdiaperindustry.org/guide-to-washing-cloth-diapers

6. There are literally hundreds of brands of cloth diapers. My advice is to spend a couple hours on the internet looking at cloth diaper product reviews. Many mommy bloggers have done cloth diaper reviews which are helpful to someone trying to decide which diapers will work well for them. http://mamadweeb.com/2010/02/otter-babies-review-and-give... Often the most heavily marketed and biggest name diapers are NOT their favorites. Is your baby a heavy wetter? Does he or she have fabric sensitivities? Some brands and types of diapers work better for individual babies than others.

Good luck and have fun! Cloth diapering is fun and it's even more fun when you join an online cloth diapering community like Diaper Pin http://www.diaperpin.com/home.asp or find cloth diapering friends and support online (search #clothdiaper if you are on Twitter).

How much do cloth diapers cost compared to disposables? TOP

The "bottom" line is that you will almost always save money using cloth diapers, especially if you re-use them with other children and/or if you sell your cloth diapers after use. The Diaper Pin cloth diaper community forum has developed a calculator comparing the cost of different kinds of cloth diapers to disposables (including the energy cost of washing).

Can you explain the different types of cloth diapers available? TOP

Cloth diapers are available in a wide array of styles and systems. It can seem overwhelming and confusing at first, especially since a lot of jargon and acronyms are frequently used to refer to the types of cloth diapers. One of the most comprehensive explanations of the different types of cloth diapers available along with the meaning of common abbreviations can be found here.

Why should I use cloth diapers? TOP

  • With a new baby, it makes sense to choose a way of diapering that helps keep our world clean and beautiful. From Wikipedia: "An estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used each year in the US, resulting in a possible 3.4 million tons of used diapers adding to landfills each year."
  • Healthy for baby: soft, safe cloth lets your baby's skin breathe, keeping it healthy and rash-free.
  • Cloth diapers are more versatile than disposables and MUCH cuter! Diaper covers like Otter Blottersmulti-size AI2s can do double duty as swim diapers. Cloth diapers are made to show off! They come in a range of beautiful colors and prints and look and feel fabulous. 
  • Cloth diapers are easy to use--often just as easy as disposables to put on and take off, and simple to wash and care for. You don't have to worry about running out of them in the middle of the night, loading bulky boxes of them into your car at the store, and keeping smelly mounds of them in your trash cans.
  • Otter Blotters™ cloth diapers are designed to be the best cloth diapers available, with exclusive features including leak-resistant seams and the Lock-It Pocket to prevent chafing, laundry snagging and babies taking off their own diapers.

How can I get my daycare to use cloth diapers? TOP

The best way to encourage cloth diaper use at your child's daycare is to find a daycare that is flexible about using cloth. If you already have daycare arrangements in place, the best way to encourage a switch to cloth is by suggesting a trial period of use, which allows you to work with the daycare to address their concerns that come up. The Real Diaper Association (RDIA) has prepared a PDF daycare tip sheet (with links to state regulations about cloth diapers) for introducing your daycare to cloth diapers. This helpful brochure can also be printed and given to your daycare provider.

How should I prep my new diapers? TOP

Please wash diapers before wearing. You can expect Otter Blotters™ diapers and Otter Trotters™ shoes to shrink up to 5%. Prefolds may shrink 10% or more. Washing will remove any chemical residue or dirt from the manufacturing process. Otter Blotters™ diapers are designed to work well (and not leak) without any additional special prepping.

Should I soak my diapers before washing? TOP

Soaking before washing is not necessary. Yucky microbes will grow in the water and the diapers/diaper bucket will smell bad, plus it’s a safety hazard with small children. Just unsnap pads from the covers and throw the wet diapers in a dry bucket until wash day (hopefully that’s within a day or two). For more efficient washing and drying, pull the semi-detached flap out of the O-Pads™ microfleece sleeve. Messy diapers get emptied into the toilet. If necessary, diapers can be rinsed briefly after dumping the solids. A toilet sprayer is handy for this purpose. Breastfed-only baby poop does not need to be removed before the diapers go in the wash.

How much detergent should I use? TOP

To wash, use about 1/3 the recommended amount of detergent, then wash diapers on hot/cold in as large a water setting as you have and do an extra rinse. Don’t skip the extra rinse—it's important to get out all detergent residue. Detergent can cause rashes and will build up in the diapers. I use and recommend Lulu's Glamour Wash powdered laundry detergent and the natural fiber fabric used in Otter Blotters™ is prewashed with Naked Booty (unscented) Glamour Wash before sewing. The Real Diaper Industry Association (RDIA) has developed a detergent determinator which allows you to find detergents based on their content (enzymes, dyes, fragrance, brighteners, fabric softeners, etc.) Every third wash or so, you can do a second entire wash cycle with no detergent just to make sure there’s no residue. NO bleach or fabric softener please. Bleach causes fabrics to disintegrate over time; fabric softener liquid and dryer sheets can leave a residue that makes the diapers less absorbent. Washing diaper covers in warm/cold water (not hot) will extend the life of the covers. The RDIA has also prepared a standard washing guide for cloth diapers that describes how to wash the fabrics in cloth diapers (cotton, wool and polyester), along with specific washing instructions for HE washing machines.

What about drying? TOP

To keep Otter Blotters™ and other diaper covers looking like new, drying on a low heat setting or line drying is recommended. Inserts, doublers, prefolds, and fitted and contour diapers may be washed and dried separately from the covers on hot.

Do you recommend the stretchy wings for a slim baby? My 13m boy is very wiggly but is small and lean. I am worried that adding the stretchy wings might make the diaper cover too loose on him. TOP

The mesh wings are useful if you plan to pull the diaper on (as a swim diaper or if you need to do stand up changes). The trade-off is that the mesh is not waterproof, so if you are using the diaper as a cover over a fitted there may be leakage at the hips through the mesh. The stretchy wings should not affect the fit of the diaper.

How do the AI2s work as a pocket cover? TOP

The snap-down panel also functions like a pocket diaper because an insert can be stuffed into the open front panel between the inner suedecloth lining and the outer (waterproof) shell. With our daughter I mainly used our OBs as AI2s with a snap-in pad, then added the pocket insert in that front panel at night. That way I could re-use the cover between changes. If you prefer the stay-dry lining against your baby's skin and using a pocket style of diaper, the cover can function as a pocket diaper with an insert stuffed in the front panel (without the snap-in insert). You may want to consider using an absorbent pocket stuffer like the bamboo fleece pocket stuffer.

My boy just developed the most painful diaper rash he's ever had! TOP

Please consult with your pediatrician to determine whether the rash requires any medical treatment.

Cloth diapered babies have fewer rashes
Disposable diapers are made from plastic (even chlorine-free diapers are also made from plastic polymers) which is less breathable than cloth and retains heat which can ultimately lead to rashes.

There are several things that could be causing a diaper rash, so it's hard to tell you what the best option is but here are some things you can try.

If the rash is caused by friction, chafing, or fabric sensitivity, then a softer, natural fiber fabric may help. Bamboo is a useful fabric for sensitive skin because it is very soft and non-irritating. Babies with allergies to other fabrics or synthetic fabric can usually tolerate bamboo. Putting a "moisture barrier" cream on the baby is helpful too. A very thin layer of Lansinoh
(very pure food grade Sheep lanolin) or organic virgin coconut oil rubbed into the affected area at least 10 minutes prior to putting on a clean diaper should not affect the diaper absorbency. Don't wait for a rash to appear; Lansinoh and coconut oil are also excellent diaper rash preventatives, and will help keep skin healthy, supple and resilient. Sweetsation Therapy Organic Bum Bum Balm and Chub Stick are compatible with cloth diapers.

Some skin reactions such as eczema, psoriasis and yeast infections may require consultation with a physician. If the rash is caused by yeast (a raised red rash that is warm to the touch and does not respond to diaper cream) you may need to treat the rash with an antifungal, like nystatin or gentian violet, and expose your baby's bottom to air as much as possible, then disinfect your diapers with hot water washing, lots of rinses, and high heat drying. Laying your diapers in the sun is an excellent way to rid them of bacteria naturally and it helps whiten, brighten and remove stains. Tea tree oil (1/2 tsp in the wash water) is helpful and you can try a small quantity of bleach as a last resort.  Try to avoid sugar, fruit, juice and starchy foods that can feed the yeast in your diet and your baby's diet (yeast in mom = yeast in baby). Make sure your diapers are totally dry without a trace of dampness before they go on the baby.  Since yeast thrives in warm and moist areas it's especially important to change your baby regularly.

If the rash is because the diapers are not getting clean, you may need to alter your wash routine a bit. Try putting your nose right down in a clean diaper and smelling it. The diaper shouldn't smell like anything, not even detergent. If it smells bad, you can try using 2 tbsp of Bac-Out in the wash water. If the diaper smells perfumey, there could be detergent residue and you need to wash your diapers in hot water without detergent several times until there are no bubbles in the wash water. You can also try RLR laundry treatment to get rid of residue. If there is detergent buildup on your diapers your child may be reacting to the buildup or he may truly have a sensitivity to the particular detergent. Try washing the diapers several times in hot water with no detergents or additives to ensure the diapers are free from detergent residues to see if that resolves the issue. If a true allergy to the detergent is suspected then it's best to discontinue use of the product.

Diaper Creams, Medicated Ointments and Powders  Be sure to choose diaper creams and ointments that are cloth diaper-friendly and/or use a liner. I strongly recommend Lansinoh (sheep lanolin) and/or organic virgin coconut oil as a diaper rash preventative/treatment. Coconut oil is anti-fungal and anti-microbial and speeds wound healing, making it ideally suited for treating diaper rash.

This was our general method for getting rid of a rash:
1. No diapers at all for as long as possible. This is easier if it's warm outside and your baby can be naked in the back yard but if not you can try gating a room off and cleaning up puddles or staying in the bathroom. A great time to see if EC (elimination communication) is in your future!
2. If no diapers weren't a possibility, I used a loosely pinned prefold or contour diaper (no cover) and changed as soon as it got wet. If we had to go out I put a cover on then checked often for wetness and changed right away.
3. Once the rash started clearing and I was using diapers again, I used Lansinoh on the affected areas at every change to speed healing.
Lansinoh (sheep lanolin) forms a very effective moisture barrier layer and really helps keep urine from irritating an existing rash. As long as the rash is not caused by yeast, a moisture barrier can be therapeutic. Since Lansinoh can affect the absorbency of the diapers and may cause them to repel liquid I used a very thin layer and waited about 10 minutes before putting the diaper on and also laid a clean rag or strip of microfleece on top of the absorbent layer to protect the diaper.
4. I had to rule out things in the diet that were associated with rashes. Juice was a problem for us and I had to ask our daycare to stop giving it.

How should I go about potty training? TOP

I really support the idea of introducing the potty early. Our kids, the girls especially, started waking up dry as early as 5-8 months. This made it easy to get them up and sit them on the potty first thing in the morning. After a couple days of this, they started peeing as soon as I put them on the potty. The potty/pee association made it really easy to transition to complete potty training later. How much later is up to you. Some people favor elimination communication (EC) from the time babies are really tiny. I was working when our kids were very small or I probably would have used EC more as they were babies. The trick to getting EC to work is to have as little between the baby and the potty as possible. People use crotchless pants, tunics with no underwear, etc. etc.

Here is my advice for potty training:


1. Choose a week when you are not busy because your life is going to be focused on the potty for several days.
Roll up the carpets if you have any or gate off carpeted rooms. Get a minimum of 2 little potties so you'll always have one handy. We have 3 plus 2 potty seats for the big toilet. You'll also need to have one in the car.


2. Show your son the potty, read books about it, put dolls on it, talk about it, get him used to sitting on it.


3. Before your son has a chance to pee in his diaper in the morning, take him to the bathroom and take off the diaper. Wake him up if necessary. Bring some books and toys in the bathroom and wait. When he starts to pee, put him on the potty. Say, "you're going pee-pee! Pee-pee in the potty!" If he doesn't talk, use the sign for "potty," as well as saying it. Lots of praise for sitting on it, lots of praise if anything goes in it. Let him help put toilet paper in the potty and flush. "Bye-bye pee-pee!" Put on a pair of big boy underwear and take a break from the bathroom. Give him lots of water. Then back to the bathroom after an hour (or less if you find he needs to pee more often) and repeat the process. This will be your life for the next 2-3 days!


4. Keep your son in the same room with you. Gate the room off if you have to. Don't let him wander off to the next room while you wash the dishes--that is where the accident will happen and every accident is a missed opportunity to go potty in the right place. We did the same thing with our dog, except I actually tied a leash to my waist so she was right next to me.


5. Any accidents (and there will be plenty) no scolding, just firmly say "uh oh, it looks like you need to go to the potty!" Put him on the potty and wait a couple minutes (even though you know he doesn't have to go because he already went). Wipe him off and let him flush the potty. Let him help clean up, put the wet or soiled underwear in the wash and let him help put the fresh underwear on himself.


6. If he resists sitting on the potty, there are a couple things you can do.
We used a potty seat on the big potty so they couldn't get off as easily and run away. We also used some bribery. Start with the healthiest, most innocuous bribe (like grapes or stickers). Sometimes I had to be firm and gently hold them on the potty but you can also say, "ok, let's try again later!" Then try again in 5 minutes : )


7. When he gets the concept that potty=pee and you can say "go potty!" and he does, then you are released from being totally chained to the bathroom.
You can give yourselves a little more freedom, but it is still your job to take him to the potty every 1.5 -2 hours so he can go potty before he has an accident.

8. Once the diapers come off, they don't go back on (except for nighttime and naptime). Using diapers part-time during the day sends the confusing message that "sometimes it's ok to use the bathroom in your pants, and sometimes it's not."

9. It's helpful to use training pants that are basically very absorbent underwear that children can pull up and down themselves. It's especially important that the underwear feel wet with an accident. Wet underwear and even wet pants are natural consequences that teach a child that it's uncomfortable and inconvenient to have an accident.


10. When your child starts to tell you he has to go potty (teach him the sign for this if he doesn't talk), throw a big party and buy yourself a nice pair of shoes.

How should I wash my Otter Trotters™ shoes? TOP

Otter Trotters™ may be washed on a warm/cold setting and turned inside out to tumble dry on a low setting or line dry.

I see that you have several different kinds (multisize, multisize snap down and two size) and I'm relatively certain that I have the multisize ones. Can you explain the differences? TOP

There are several differences between the multi-size and the 2-size, although both styles have hidden hook and loop and wipe-clean gussets.

Do you want a diaper that grows with your baby, is daddy and daycare-friendly and can be used as a pocket diaper?  The 2-size comes in 2 sizes (size 1 fits 8-20 lbs and size 2 fits 15-35 lbs). There is an adjustable rise with 3 rise settings. The adjustable rise snaps are hidden by the front pocket. This front pocket can be unsnapped to fasten the diaper and adjust the rise. There is an inner lining of athletic mesh, which is a stay dry fabric, so that the cover can also be stuffed with an absorbent insert or prefold and used as a pocket diaper or used with both a snap-in insert and stuffed with a doubler for extra absorbency at night/naptime. The 2-size is only available with supplex outer fabric.

Do you want a simple, trim-fitting diaper that can be used with flushable inserts and is available in solid or print minky fabric? The multi-size comes in multiple sizes (S, M, L, XL) and is narrower through the crotch. The front pocket hiding the hook and loop does not snap down and there is no rise adjustment. It is a trimmer fitting diaper because it is sized to fit a smaller weight range (S fits 8-15 lbs, M fits 15-25 lbs, L fits 20-30 lbs, XL fits 25 lbs and up). There is a hidden layer of WindPro fleece for increased leak resistance in the wet zone. The wet zone also has a layer of wipe-clean PUL facing the baby (the front and back have "facings" with the PUL reversed so only the soft knit side is in contact with skin). This type of cover can be used with a prefold or flushable insert tucked into the front and/or back facings. The multi-size is available in minky or supplex outer fabric.


Or a trim-fitting diaper that has a snap-down front and can double as a swim diaper?
The multi-size snap-down is a hybrid of the 2 styles: it comes in multiple sizes, has a snap-down front panel and an inner lining of mesh so it can be used as a pocket diaper or swim diaper and it can be stuffed for extra absorbency. It is cut a little wider through the crotch than the multi-size but is still a very trim-fitting cover. The multi-size snap-down is only available with supplex outer fabric.

Which type of cover you choose depends on what is most features are most important to you. All types of covers can have snaps added to accommodate the Econ-O-Pads and/or the O-Pads.

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