Hemp: Soak it, don’t smoke it!

Hemp is a fabric often used in cloth diapers, particularly in doublers or boosters meant to add absorbency.  What is hemp?

Well, first of all, the hemp plant used in making fabric is a different species of plant than is used to make marijuana, and has been specifically bred to have very low levels of THC (the part that makes it a drug.)  Nevertheless, United States law does not distinguish between the different types of hemp, and so hemp cannot be legally grown in the US.  This is one of the things that makes hemp more expensive than cotton.  So why would we use hemp when cotton will do?

1. Hemp is an eco-friendly fiber that requires few pesticides and no herbicides.  It also has a very high yield per acre.

2. Hemp has antimicrobial properties – great for diapers!

3. Hemp, unlike cotton, has hollow fibers and so is more absorbent.  This means that 1 oz of cotton will be less absorbent than 1 oz of hemp.  What this means for you is that a hemp doubler can be trimmer than one made of cotton, but still equally absorbent.  Hemp doublers are one of the best ways of adding absorbency to a diaper without adding a lot of bulk.

4. This is the part I’ve been waiting for: hemp is INCREDIBLY durable.  I realized as I was folding laundry today that I have a great visual of just how durable hemp is.  I have 3 identical Babykicks hemp prefolds.  One is brand-new, one has been used continuously for 1 1/2 years, and one has been in continuous use for SIX years or more.  (At this point I can’t remember exactly when I got it but I know the child I bought them for w-ill be 7 in August!) The 1 1/2 year old prefold is in near perfect condition.  The 6+ year old one has a few small holes on the edges but is largely intact.  But what is amazing is the serging on the edges, which was done with cotton thread, has almost completely worn away.

The new one is on the bottom, 1.5 year old one in the middle, and the 6+ year old one is on the top.

Close up shot of the red cotton thread on the edges.  I have never seen this before – the thread wears away before the actual fabric! That’s some heavy-duty hemp there!

The only sign of wear in the 1.5 year old one is the thread has broken in one spot.  My cotton prefolds (continuous use and washed in hot water 3 times a week) started to get holes in the top layer of cotton along the edges and seams after about a year).

 Close up of the oldest prefold.  Seriously, SIX years!  That’s like X-treme Cloth Diapering in my book.

So who thinks that was amazing?  Do any of you have a diaper that’s still going strong after 6 years?  What’s the oldest diaper you still use?  Do you have a super-durable superstar in your stash?

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Best Diapers For…

Frequently we will have new parents come to the store and ask us “What’s the best diaper?”  The thing is, I can’t answer that question, because it’s not the same for everyone.  But after getting to know the parents a little bit, learning about their lifestyle (stay at home parent or daycare?  Washer and dryer in home or laundromat?), preferences (Need the easiest solution?  Want only natural and organic fabrics?) and budget, we can help our customers find the perfect diaper for their baby.  Here’s a list of some of the “bests” for certain situations.

prefold diapers cost just $2-3 each

Least Expensive

The least expensive diaper will be a prefold or a flat diaper with a cover.  Used is even cheaper (we have quite a few gently used prefolds in stock right now).  We will teach you how to fold them and put them on with a snappi fastener (no need to use pins!) or you can fold them in thirds and lay them inside the cover.  The least expensive cover is the Econobum, a one-size cover for $8.95, however it will not usually fit a newborn.  The least expensive to fit a newborn will be the Thirsties XS cover at $11.25, or for $1.50 more you can get a size 1 Thirsties Duo Wrap which will fit up to 18 lbs.  You can also make your own wool covers from upcycled sweaters from the thrift store – super cheap!

Flat diapers dry the quickest because they are just a single layer, folded

Quickest Drying

A flat diaper is the quickest drying since it unfolds to only a single layer of fabric.  Pocket diapers with microfiber inserts also dry pretty quickly.  A quick rule of thumb is that man-made fibers dry quicker than natural fibers like cotton, bamboo, and hemp.  All-in-one’s generally take the longest to dry, except for the Mommys Touch all-in-one, which due to its unique design and being made of microfiber, will dry faster than even a prefold. 

Best Bottom shells are one-size but the inserts are sized - very trim.

Trimmest

In my experience there are two things that contribute to a trim diaper: cut and fabric.  A diaper that has absorbent material only down the center of the diaper and none wrapping around the baby’s hips will be trimmer than one that wraps thick absorbent material around the baby like a prefold does.  As for fabric, microfiber tends to be “fluffy” while tightly knit cotton, bamboo, and hemp can be denser and therefore trimmer.  Finally, a diaper that is sized as opposed to one-size (or at least that has the inserts sized) will be trimmer on a smaller baby because you will have less material on the smaller size.  Some of the trimmest diapers that we carry are the BumGenius Elemental (all-in-one) and the Best Bottom Diaper (all-in-two).  The hemp/cotton insert is trimmer than the microfiber insert in the Best Bottoms. 

BumGenius diapers are easy to change from small to large

Best for Two Kids in Diapers

The nice thing about one-size diapers is that when you have two different-size babies both in diapers, you can still use the same diapers on both kids.  So, one-size diapers are a given, but which ones?  For easier switching between sizes, steer clear of diapers that change size by adjusting the elastic (like Fuzzibunz, Charlie Banana, Rocky Mountain Diapers, and SoftBums) and pick one that changes size by snapping down in front.  The external snaps just pop open or snap down quickly so you can easily change the diaper’s size to fit whatever kid you happened to grab!

Best Overnight Diaper

Although some parents have success using pocket diapers overnight, for those that don’t, we recomend a  double-layered prefold or heavy-duty fitted diaper such as the Tiny Tush Trim with an extra doubler or a Happy Hempy stuffable fitted stuffed with a hemp prefold.  Usually PUL covers work fine, but for a super-soaker baby you can try a wool cover like the Tiny Tush organic wool soaker. 

What about you?  What special situation makes you seek out YOUR perfect diaper?

What About Wool?

The most common material for diaper covers is PUL, or polyurethane laminate, a durable, waterproof fabric.  However, second in popularity is wool.  Wool, you say?  How is wool waterproof?  Why would anyone want to use wool? 

Well, for starters, wool is a natural fiber and fully biodegradable, so it has a smaller ecological footprint than either PUL or fleece (another popular cover fabric).   Here are some more Q and A’s about wool, courtesy of the mama behind  http://hyenacart.com/mizknits

Q. So how often does wool need to be washed?

A. Wool needs to be washed about every 2ish weeks, more if you get poo on them or if the diaper under them has stink issues.

Q. Is it hard to care for? You lanolize it first, right? It sounds complicated, but I’m sure it’s not.

A. They are very easy to care for, hand wash in luke warm water, gently squish some baby shampoo through them or wool wash. Then soak in a bowl or sink with warm water and lanolin (melt lanolin in water in a coffee cup or something microwaveable before adding to bowl or sink), squeeze water out, lay flat on a towel to dry.   If you’re using lanolin spray, then you would spray it on after washing and rinsing, and massage into the wool.

Q.  How many wool covers would I need if I were to just use them at night? (Wool comes highly recommended as a nighttime cover both because of how well it works and how breathable it is.)

A. I would get 2 wool covers if using just at night so you have a back up when one has been washed and is drying.

Q.  My baby gets really hot, would wool make it worse?

A. Wool is VERY breathable, so it will actually keep him/her cooler at night.   As long as you have enough absorbancy underneath wool should work well.
 
Q. I’m guessing Longies are wool, just in a pants version and you can you use them to cover a diaper? Do they get wet?

A. Longies are wool just in pants version. and you can use them to cover a diaper. They get damp on the inside just turn inside out to dry after changing the diaper, occasionally they feel damp on the outside but not wet, its like they feel cool to the touch, like they could be damp.. but not quite.. its hard to explain.

Take a look at our Imse Vimse wool cover here: http://babiesbottomsandmore.com/imse-vimse-wool-wrap-cover.html

Diaper Fabrics

One of the important things to know when shopping for cloth diapers is what fabric it is made of.  Different fabrics have different absorbency levels and other characteristics, like care instructions and whether or not they feel dry to the touch when the diaper is wet.  But who really knows the difference between a hemp/cotton blend fleece and a bamboo french terry?  Read on!

The first thing to remember is that the name of a fabric will contain two words.  The first word refers to what fiber the fabric is made of, like cotton, polyester, silk, wool, etc.  The second word describes what has been done to the fiber, how it was woven or knitted.  You need to know both pieces of information to figure out what the fabric will feel like in your hand. 

For example, polyester fleece is made from polyester and has a thick, fluffy, stretchy texture.  There is also cotton fleece, bamboo fleece, and hemp fleece.  (All three of these are absorbent and used for inner diaper materials, polyester fleece is not absorbent and depending on the thickness can be used for a stay-dry liner against the baby’s skin or a water resistant diaper cover.)

We’ll go over absorbent fabrics today, and save the waterproof fabrics for another day. 

Diaper Twill,  flannel: Woven, non-stretchy cotton fabrics.  They are relatively thin, but usually are layered together to make absorbency.  Prefolds are made from diaper twill, which is also used inside some fitted and all-in-one diapers. 

Terrycloth: towel-like texture.  Regular terrycloth is not used often in diapers, usually it is french terry or burley knit terry.  French terry is knit (stretchy) and has tiny terrycloth loops on only one side.  Burley knit terry is like a very thick, chunky french terry. 

French Terry in several colors

*Microfiber terry is a terrycloth made from polyester microfiber.  It is very popular for pocket diaper inserts, but should not be used directly against the baby’s skin.

Sherpa: Kind of a cross between a knit terry and a fleece, sherpa is burley knit terry that has been brushed to cause the loops to puff out, fluff up, and get softer.  It is used mainly in fitted diapers and cloth wipes, chosen for it’s great texture that is soft, yet absorbs very quickly because of the large surface area.  Happy Hempy’s fitted diapers are made from sherpa.

Fleece: A fuzzy, thick fabric, very similar to the inside of a new sweatshirt.  Some fleece is only fuzzy on one side, like a sweatshirt, but other kinds are thicker and fuzzy on both sides.  Babykicks hemp prefolds are made from hemp fleece; Tiny Tush Deluxe cloth wipes are made from cotton fleece.

Prefold made from Hemp Fleece

Jersey and Interlock: t-shirt fabric.  Jersey is thinner while interlock is thicker and generally softer.  BumGenius one-size Elemental diaper has organic cotton interlock on the inside. 

Velour: like velvet with a stretch. Bamboo velour is very popular.

Bamboo Velour fabric