What's up with "prepping"?

The cloth diaper world has a lingo all its own. One "vocabulary word" you'll come across is "prepping" - the practice of washing a new diaper over and over to make it absorbent and ready for its first use. This practice is tedious and can take a long time- sometimes up to 10 washes! Is it really necessary?

Depends. 'Prepping' isn't just voodoo magic or unnecessary busy work- the practice of washing new diapers over and over DOES actually make them absorbent. Here's why.

Cloth made of natural fibers like cotton, bamboo and hemp has natural oils in the fabric (Using a synthetic fabric like microfiber, minky, zorb? This article is not for you. Skip to the last question and see why.) Some of these oils are removed during processing, including in the bleaching process. Oil repels water- so, a fabric full of naturally-occurring oils won't be absorbent. Soap repels oils- that's what it does on our dishes, in our shower, and in our clothes washer. To get the oils out of your natural-fiber diapers, they need to be washed with a little bit of soap!

In each wash, some oils are removed the from the fabric, the fabric is agitated, and the dryer helps fluff it and shrink it. All of these actions help the diaper become more absorbent. Depending on how processed the diaper was before it was packaged and sold, you may or may not notice the changes. In a new prefold, for example, the prepping will be more obvious- the diaper will visibly shrink and fluff up from its very-flat initial state. A hemp diaper won't get as fluffy, but will shrink some. Don't worry- the inserts are designed to change shape after prepping! They will fit in your diapers better once fully shrunk.

Do I really need to wash this brand new diaper TEN TIMES?
Maybe, but probably not. Manufacturers usually word their recommendations "will reach FULL absorbency after X washes". Usually, the diaper will be functional- but not fully absorbent- after washing and drying 3-5 times. If you have a new baby, this will probably be fine. If you have a heavy wetter or an older baby, you may want to put it through the process an extra couple times. Unbleached fabrics, organic fabric, hemp and bamboo tend to take more washes to become usable than bleached cotton.

Well, can I at least wash it with my other diapers/clothes?
Depends. When you wash the diaper, you want to make sure you're using a cloth-diaper-safe soap, as always. If you use a cloth-diaper-safe soap on your clothes in an appropriate amount, yes, you can throw your new diapers in with your loads of clothes to save on time, energy and water.

There is some debate as to whether new diapers should be washed with the rest of your stash. The theory is, if all those oils are coming off of your new natural-fiber diapers, you wouldn't want them sticking to the rest of your diapers, making them repel, too. I'm in the camp of, it's not a big deal, but if you're concerned, do your first couple prepping washes with your clothes or on their own.

Isn't there a shortcut, like boiling everything or something?
While the hot-hot water will shrink and remove oils from your diapers more quickly, I'm not a fan. It's somewhat dangerous to be dealing with boiling-hot water and boiling-hot diaper inserts. It's also messy. You can't boil natural fiber fitted diapers or all-in-ones, or inserts with snaps, as the elastic or snaps will be damaged by the hot-hot water and pan.

** What if I'm NOT using a natural fabric? Do I still need to 'prep'?
NO. Synthetic fibers like microfiber, microfleece, minky and zorb don't have any natural plant oil sin them, so don't need to be washed to remove the oils. They also won't shrink. They can be washed just like you would any new baby clothes to get off any dust or chemicals from manufacturing or shipping, but that's it. You're good to go!


So what's the buzz?

There's been a lot of talk of these "new Easy Fits" lately- what's so great about the new style? And, what's changed? This was a great diaper- why'd they mess with it??

The previous Tots Bots Easy Fit design was soft, trim, and had great prints. The bamboo absorbent layer next to baby gave parents a natural-fibers option with the convenience of an all-in-one. So what could possible be better about the new style?

  • Absorbent inner - In the new Easy Fit design, the bamboo+microfiber inner has been replaced with super-soft MINKY. Bamboo tended to stain, and, when hung dry, bamboo got a stiff, "crunchy" feeling, like most natural fibers. Microfiber can cause stink issues as well. The minky fabric loses the natural-fibers advantage, but cleans easily, dries quickly, and is equally trim and absorbent as the previous design. Plus, it's SO SOFT.
  • Stay-dry fleece - When the absorbent part of a diaper is up against the baby, with no stay-dry layer in between, the baby feels wet. While this is great for some stages (potty training!) it's less good in other instances (sleeping through the night!) The Easy Fit with bamboo had no stay-dry layer, so the babies felt wet. The new Easy Fit comes with a fleece liner that came optionally be used between the baby and the  diaper, keeping Baby drier.
  • SNAPS! - The Easy Fit has excellent hook-and-loop- I have been so, so impressed with this closure. Some people just prefer snaps, though, and the old design didn't provide that option. Snaps are now available! And, even better, the snaps match the color of the diaper, and so does the hook-and-loop, giving the front of the diaper a very clean appearance. How cool is that?
  • Prints - The previous prints were great, but parents are just melting over the cute fairy tale prints they're being replaced with! Three Little Pigs, Chicken Little, Hansel and Gretel, The Enormous Turnip, and Jack and the Beanstalk are bright, fun, and perfect for your babies' behinds. The Jubilee limited edition series reminds us of the UK heritage of these diapers- Tots Bots is based in Scotland, and the diapers are manufactured there.

We still have some of the old style left- so if you like the old Easy Fit prints or are looking for an all-in-one with natural fibers against your baby's skin, snatch up our remaining stock, since we can't order any more! If you want to try out the Easy Fit with new improvements, though- we have the new prints in stock with the minky style, and hope to have the solid colors in the near future. Buy a whole stash- 12 or more- and get $1 off each diaper. A great deal for a great diaper!


The Enormous Turnip

Because I know I'm going to get this question all the time in the coming months...

 This Russian fairy tale isn't known very well in the US, but is a cute, simple story of a family working together to harvest an overgrown turnip. Our friends in Scotland were inspired by the story and included the story in one of the new Tots Bots Easy Fit prints!



On Diapers & Daycare

Cloth diapers are not just for home! Registered daycares will use cloth diapers, too! Even for working moms and dads, cloth diapering can be a way to reduce your trash and lighten your budget. There's a misconception, even among daycare owners that cloth diapers are not legally allowed to be used in regulated facilities. Cloth diapers and even cloth wipes are allowed! While the daycare teacher will have to alter their routine a little bit, cloth can be just as easy to use as disposables.

I've copied the applicable regulations below. In summary:
  • You'll need to bring a day's worth of diapers every day to the center, and take home the dirty diapers every day. 
  • If you use a two-piece diaper system, with a cover and insert, the cover may not be reused at daycare, so you'll need enough covers to provide one for every diaper change while your child is at the center.
  • Your daycare will provide a diaper pail, but you'll want to bring them wet bags for transporting the diapers.
  • Some sort of "deodorizing solution" needs to be used in the diaper pail. I recommend providing this to the daycare facility, so you know they won't use something that's not safe to wash with your diapers. Try our Rockin' Green Shake It Up! Pail Freshener for an easy solution.
Here's the specific regulations in Indiana:
470 IAC 3-4.7-96 Cloth diapers
Authority: IC 12-13-5-3
Affected: IC 12-17.2-4
Sec. 96.
(a) Staff shall use a deodorizing solution or granules in diaper containers.
(b) Staff shall clean and disinfect diaper containers when emptied.
(c) Caregivers shall handle cloth diapers furnished by the center as follows:

(1) Waterproof diaper covers must be provided.
(2) Caregivers shall use a fresh, clean diaper cover with each diaper change.
(3) Caregivers shall keep the diapers and diaper covers in tightly covered containers between pick-ups.
(4) A commercial laundry service shall launder the diapers and the diaper covers.
(d) Caregivers shall handle cloth diapers furnished by the parents as follows:
(1) The diapers shall be kept separate from diapers used for other children.
(2) Waterproof diaper covers must be provided.
(3) Caregivers shall use a fresh, clean diaper cover with each diaper change.
(4) Caregivers shall place the soiled diapers in a plastic bag, store them through the day in a tightly covered container, and return the diapers to the parent daily.
(5) Caregivers shall keep the diaper covers in tightly covered containers or plastic bags and return them to the parent daily.
(e) The center shall provide washable, plastic lined, tightly covered containers for soiled cloth diapers and linens.
(f) Containers shall be conveniently located for caregivers, but inaccessible to children.
(Division of Family and Children; 470 IAC 3-4.7-96; filed Aug 11, 2003, 3:00 p.m.: 27 IR 146)
Most of our families who use daycare will use a pocket diaper or all-in-one diaper for the simplicity of the daytime caregivers. At home, they may use prefolds and covers, to have a more economical choice. Here's a list of tips from Fuzzibunz on talking to your daycare about cloth.

We're trying to compile a list of local daycares that are cloth-diaper friendly- let us know about yours!


Sized vs One-Size Diapers

When some parents first lay eyes on a one-size diaper, the whole thing and look overwhelming. The 3x3 grid of snaps on the front, plus the row of snaps around the waist, can make for upwards of 25 snaps on the front.

How on earth would a parent be able to figure all that out during a bleary-eyed, middle of the night diaper change? Thankfully, one-size-fits-all products aren't that hard to figure out- but they do have pros and cons when compared to comparable sized products.


When we talk about the "fit" of a cloth diaper, we're looking for the way the diaper hugs the legs and waist. Is it too tight and leave red marks? Does it gap, allowing poo to escape? A poorly fitting diaper is frustrating (and messy!). Different brands of diapers fit in different ways, but, generally, sized diapers will fit better at any particular size, since they're made for the baby of that particular size. This is more obviously true at very small and very large sizes. Although one-size products advertise they fit from 8 to 35 pounds, often a sized cover is needed until the baby reaches 10 or 12 pounds. Some toddlers will outgrow the rise of a one-size diaper before 35 pounds, too- but many potty train before this point.


As far as sized and one-size covers go, one isn't really more trim than another- it's what's inside the covers that make them bulky! One size inserts tend to be bulkier on smaller babies (since they're designed to work for toddlers, too). Same goes for one-sized all-in-ones- the absorbent layer is overkill for a younger baby, so there's more "fluff" than necessary. Sized all-in-ones, like the bumGenius newborn AIO, are much trimmer, since they have just enough absorbency for the child's size. Using the appropriate size prefold or hemp insert in a cover affects the trimness as well.

Ease of Use

The one-size covers, while intimidating with all the snaps on the front, really aren't terribly hard to use. Once the rise is set correctly for the baby, no changes need to be made to the snaps until the baby's ready to move to the next size. Sized products are ready to go- no settings necessary!


The length of time these diapers will be used will affect their lifespan, and durability over multiple children. A one-size diaper will be used on one child for around two and a half years- birth to potty training. After one child, the diaper may be worn out. A sized cover will be used for a much shorter span of time, so will last through more children or be in better shape to resell when it is no longer needed.


One-size and sized products tend to fall in the same price ranges, so, for each diaper or cover, there's not a huge difference. The economic difference comes when looking at how many diapers you'll have to buy over the child's birth-to-potty-training years. For a one-size product, you'll theoretically only need one cover, while you'll need 2-4 sized covers for the same time period. (Some parents choose to skip the Newborn size if they have a large newborn, and some children potty train before hitting the Large size.) When taking into account multiple children, though, the costs tend to be about the same.

The decision on whether to go with one-size or sized diapers really comes down to preference. If you truly want to cloth diaper from birth, we do recommend getting newborn-sized covers or all-in-ones, since one-size diapers don't fit skinny newborn legs particularly well. After the newborn stage, consider the above pros and cons, and pick what works best for your family!