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Cloth Diapering 101: An Interview With A Pro

22 July 2013
Photo Credit: Melanie McDermott

Photo Credit: Melanie McDermott

Through four years of baby-hoping, and 40+ weeks of pregnancy, I never planned to use cloth diapers. But then I decided to try it … and it wasn’t so bad. And then I started to really look into it … and now I’m hooked.

(Thinking about trying it? Already hooked? Check the bottom of this post for a sweet discount code, just for Spits and Wiggles readers, for one week only!)

A couple of months ago, I stopped by a little cloth diaper store I had heard about through another mama friend.

That’s right – I said, “cloth diaper store.” They exist. Who would have thought?

I was blown away – both by the huge selection and the number of options, and by just how cool this place was.

So I got in touch with Justine, the founder and owner of Fluff Envy in South Elgin, Illinois, and we had a little chat about cloth diapers and about her awesome store.

It kind of seems like cloth diapers are making a little come-back with a new generation of mommies. Why do you think that is?

People are realizing that disposables might not be the best option for everyone. There are so many benefits of cloth diapering, and for some it just makes sense to make the switch.

Benefits like … ?

They are certainly more environmentally-friendly. Each year, billions of disposables enter landfills. And while there is no definitive answer, they calculate that it takes at least 500 years for each disposable to decompose.

There are no harsh chemicals against baby’s skin. SAP was banned from tampons in the 80’s due to it causing Toxic Shock Syndrome. Yet SAP is still allowed to be used in disposable diapers, where it is in contact with our babies’ sensitive skin 24/7. Many disposables also contain dioxins from when they go through the bleaching process.

And families that choose cloth over disposables can save an average of $2500 for one child. If they use the same diapers on subsequent children, they save even more!

And really, who can resist a cute print or color that matches their outfit?!

Photo Credit: Ethan John

Photo Credit: Ethan John

Cloth diapering has come a long way from white, cotton towels and big safety pins. How do they work these days? 

Cloth diapers have definitely evolved from the pins and rubber pants that our parents used. While some people still choose prefolds, there are so many other options out there. It’s hard to generalize how they work, there are really so many choices these days. Even options from a year ago have evolved and gotten better and easier.

Just to give you an idea – when I started cloth diapering, there were pretty much two brands to choose from. I got 12 of each and was set. Now there are literally hundreds of different types and brands, and it isn’t quite so easy to choose.

So you started with two different kinds? I’m a little OCD, so I picked one and went all in, but do you find that a lot of mamas you talk to have a variety? Is that a better idea?

I would say that the majority of families choose a variety of diapers. A lot find that different diapers work great for different circumstances. i.e. all-in-one’s (AIO’s) are great for daycare, all-in-two’s (AI2’s) are perfect for when you’re running errands, and fitteds with wool are a bulletproof overnight solution.

Backing up to the hundreds of types and brands – Where, or how, would you recommend a mama start if she’s new to all this cloth diapering stuff? Just walking onto your small sales floor is a little overwhelming.

The best thing to do is find a local cloth diaper retailer, and attend a class. You would be surprised how many are out there, and many offer consultations or classes for this very reason. Many online-only stores are willing to offer consultations to their local customers as well.

Attending a class means you can learn the pros and cons of the different types, and can actually touch and feel them. Seeing a diagram online, or reading cloth diaper forums is no comparison for seeing them in person and being able to ask questions as you go!

So is there a specific system or brand that is your personal favorite?

If I were to start from scratch today, i would choose mostly AIO’s. They are the simplest and easiest to use – no inserts to match up and stuff into pockets.

The brand that I always point out first is the Blueberry/Swaddlebees Simplex. This diaper is amazing! It’s made of a birdseye cotton and is super trim and absorbent. In my opinion, they also have the cutest prints, hands down!

So the AIO systems are pretty much a one-piece, fabric diaper, as opposed to the all-in-two (AI2) systems or the hybrid options?

AIO’s are everything all in one piece – no separate inserts, no cover required. AI2’s are, by definition, anything where the inside absorbent layer is replaced, but you can reuse the cover more than once before washing.

Pocket diapers are similar to AIO’s, but the absorbent insert is a separate piece that you have – you stuff inside a pocket.

Hybrid systems use both a disposable component, and a cloth component. The insert is disposable (generally compostable too!), and the cover is reusable cloth. Most (if not all) hybrid systems also offer a cloth insert option.

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How did you decide to open a whole store for cloth diapers?

When I started to cloth diaper our third child, I found that the selection had gone from two brands to dozens and dozens. I “did research” online and bought a stash of diapers that I thought I would love. When they arrived on my doorstep, I found that they were just okay. I didn’t love them like I thought that I would.

I remember wishing that there was some place that I could go and touch and feel them before buying. I wanted to be that place.

After many sleepless nights of not being able to get the idea out of my head, I started to research opening up my own shop. With an accounting/business background, and a lot of connections in the industry, I made the dive.

I saw the Events page on your site. It looks like Fluff Envy does a lot more than provide cute cloth diaper retail. Tell us about some of that.

We like to hold classes and meet-ups for our customers. When making the transition to cloth, some people may feel a bit alone if they don’t have support from family or friends. So we like to get like-minded people together as often as we can.

We have Baby-Wearing and Cloth Diaper classes. We also have regular breastfeeding support groups. Occasionally, we’ll have some other specialized classes like Mom and Baby Yoga. This summer we hope to add a Storytelling Time, How to Green Your Home A-Z, and a few others as well!

 —

So if you’re in the northwest Chicagoland ‘burbs, check out Fluff Envy in South Elgin! Definitely worth a visit. You can also connect with Justine and the Fluff on Facebook, and Twitter.

In the area or not, you’ll want to check out their website. You can order online, get in on their rewards program, check their blog, live chat if you need help, and get free shipping on orders over $50!

And – just for Spits And Wiggles readers, and just for this week – Justine is offering a killer 15% off your order – through July 29 – when you use the discount code WIGGLES at checkout!

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