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?

Prefolds, they’re not as bad as you think!

Sorry I’ve skipped a couple days of posting.  My morning sickness has been especially bad for the past few days.  But I’m sure you don’t want to hear about THAT, so let’s get to diaper talk!

For today, let’s talk prefolds.  A lot of people get scared off by prefolds – one look at the rectangular burp-cloth type diaper and you start to think about pins, dunking, and rubber pants!  So let me assure you, it is possible to use prefolds without any pins, dunking, OR rubber pants. 

Folding a prefold isn’t hard, actually – there are a lot of videos on YouTube that show you how to do it better than I could describe here.  But you need something to hold the diaper on the baby, right?  Some people still do prefer pins, but I always struggled with keeping them sharp enough to easily go through all those layers of fabric and worrying that I’d stab myself or my baby.  Now there is a different diaper fastener called a Snappi – I like it much better than pins.  It’s a T-shaped piece of stretchy plastic that has little grippy teeth on all three ends of the “T”.  These teeth grip the diaper fabric just like those things you use to put on ace bandages.  So you fold the diaper onto the baby, run the Snappi across the diaper fabric on one side, stretch it to the other side and attach, and then pull the center part down and let it grip there.  Ta-da!  You’ve just put an elastic waistband on the diaper, resulting in a good, snug fit. 

How does a Snappi work?

Okay, so what about dunking?  Well, first of all, before your baby starts eating solids, you don’t have to do anything with a poopy diaper besides put it in the diaper pail for laundry day.  It’s all water-soluble and will wash right out.  If you already have a baby you’ll know I’m not lying when I say that breastfed poo really does not stink.  Once your baby starts on solids, you will need to shake any poop into the toilet before you put the diaper in the pail.  When your baby starts eating lots of solids (not purees), the poop will shake off quite easily.  For that in-between stage, I LOVE flushable liners.  Flushable liners are paper-towel sized sheets of flushable, biodegradable material that catch any solid waste.  They come in rolls of 100-200 and cost ranges between $8-12 per roll.  To use, you just lay one liner on the diaper before you put it on your baby.  Then, when changing the diaper, just lift off the liner and flush!  It will easily lift off any poop, and the amount of waste is comparable to the amount of toilet paper an adult uses.  If your baby usually poops at a certain time each day, you can even just use the liner for that diaper change only. 

Ah, you say, but what about those horrible rubber pants? I know, I’ve used them!  They don’t last very long, because if they get a hole in the plastic they’ll rip all the way down, and they always seem to be either too big (leaks!) or too small (red marks) around your baby’s legs.  Plus, if you have a really messy diaper, you have to pull them down the baby’s legs to take the diaper off, and I’ve found that in that case you have to wipe off so much of your baby’s bum AND legs that you might as well put them in the bathtub.  The good news is that today’s diaper covers are very different from the old rubber pants.  First of all, instead of being made of vinyl, they’re made of PUL, which is a waterproof polyester fabric.  That’s right, it’s a real fabric – not plastic-y feeling and won’t rip!  Secondly, the covers wrap around your baby and velcro (or snap) on in the same way that a disposable diaper would.  This is good news for two reasons.  One, you can get a better fit around the legs and waist with the adjustable velcro/snaps.  This means leaks and blowouts are almost nonexistent!  Yay!  Two, when you have those epic poopsplosions, you can change the diaper without getting the mess everywhere – just open up the cover, remove the snappi, and wipe your baby’s bum. 

Bummis diaper cover

One more thing about prefolds, and that is how to pick a good quality one.  Not all prefolds are created equal.  First, you want one that is 100% cotton (or hemp or bamboo, but the point is you want natural fibers).  Some Gerber prefolds actually have a layer of polyester in the center to pad it up, but unfortunately polyester is NOT absorbent.  Once you have narrowed it down to all natural fibers (let’s assume cotton), the next step is to figure out how many layers are in the diaper.  Most standard diaper-service quality (DSQ) prefolds are 4x6x4.  That means they have 4 layers of fabric on the side, 6 layers of fabric down the center panel, and 4 on the other side.  Slightly more absorbent and thicker are the “premium” prefolds, which are 4x8x4.  I prefer those because they are more absorbent.  Finally, you will encounter Chinese and Indian prefolds.  Chinese prefolds are a little sturdier, made from stronger fabric and the edges are sewn with stronger thread.  They tend to pill a little bit more than Indian prefolds.  Indian prefolds are softer than Chinese, but they are a little less durable.  Personally, I can’t really tell a difference by touch, but I prefer the Chinese because they last longer, and since we pass diapers down in our family of soon-to-be 4 kiddos, that’s important.