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Thursday, December 20, 2012

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Not all Sensitivities are Created Equal

We started cloth diapering our older boy when he was two-and-a-half. I thought I had everything figured out by the time we had our second child, but baby number two has proven to be difficult. As much as we loved our pocket diapers with our first child, our second has sensitive skin, and almost all man-made fibers give him diaper rash, especially polyester. For those who don't know, microfiber and fleece both are made from polyester- that's a lot of diaper material!

At first, I freaked out, wondering if we were going to be able to cloth diaper him at all. Then I realized that disposable diapers would only made the problem worse, and I bucked up and started trying things. We have destashed and restashed three (yes, three!) times in the past four months, and here's what I've learned:

  • Not all sensitivities are created equal. Technically, our son does not have any allergies to diaper material. Some kids do have allergies to certain materials, and those allergies will result
    in a rash that looks like hives. Sensitivities, however, are much harder to figure out. Generally, kids with sensitive skin will get diaper rash when they wear an incompatible diaper, and this rash may be difficult to get rid of. The resulting rash will usually be at its worst in the morning, after baby has had the diaper on the entire night.
  • There are some obvious materials that cause sensitivity. The most common causes of sensitivity are man made materials or wetness. Some kids, like mine, cannot tolerate synthetic materials such as polyester, so these kids need to steer clear of anything marked “stay dry”. On the other hands, some kids are very sensitive to wetness, so these children need to use stay dry products all the time or use a fleece or suedecloth liner against their skin when they have on natural fibers.
  • Some sensitivities are harder to figure out. In addition to intolerance to synthetic fibers, our son also has sensitivities to rough fibers. He cannot have any wool or hemp products touching his skin. The long, rough fibers in hemp and wool irritate some babies' skin, and they should be avoided. Usually, fiber sensitivities run in families, so if you or your spouse can't tolerate wool, there's a good chance your child can't either. Some kids also have difficulty wearing diapers with dyes or inorganic compounds, like pesticides, in them. For these kids, unbleached and organic is the way to go.
  • It can be very easy to diagnose skin sensitivity and allergies. If your child suffers from constant diaper rash, try switching to organic, unbleached materials for at least a week. If the rash is cleared up by switching to pure, natural fibers, there's a good chance your child has either skin sensitivity or allergies.
  • There are plenty of diapers out there for sensitive-skin kids. Diapers labeled “organic” and “unbleached” are usually pretty safe for kids with sensitive skin. For all-in-one users, try Bumgenius Elementals or Grovia All-In-Ones. You will probably have to skip pocket diapers because of the stay-dry pocket, but Flip, Grovia, and Best Bottoms all make easy to use all-in-two systems with organic options. For a less expensive option, try unbleached prefolds or flats. Bamboo fitteds are also an excellent option for kids with sensitive skin because bamboo is both natural and a short fiber. Bamboo fitteds are also good for a kid who is both sensitive and a heavy wetter, like my little guy.
If you have a baby with sensitive skin, rest assured that you can find a cloth diaper option that will work well for you. It may take some trial and error, but cloth is the best option for delicate skin.

Bio: Heather is a fourth-generation Montanan, mom to two crazy-boys, and wife to one amazing husband. You can follow her eco-sensible lifestyle at

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