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Cloth Diapers and your Baby’s Health: Common Irritants

ESTIMATED READING TIME: 4 MINUTES

irritants

Choosing to use cloth diapers over disposables has numerous benefits: they are environmentally friendly, cost efficient and, best of all, healthy for your baby. We will explore the health benefits of cloth diapering with our series, Cloth Diapers and Your Baby’s Health.

Today we’re talking: Common irritants and diaper rash

I have previously talked about the basics of and how to prevent diaper rash, but the causes of diaper rash are very broad. Every baby is different, which means I can’t tell you exactly what is causing your baby’s sore bum. What I can do is explain some of the common irritants that may be causing your baby’s diaper rash.

Detergents

Eco detergents are leading cause of residue build up in cloth diapers. Dissolved magnesium and calcium are the primary minerals that make water hard (manganese, iron and other mineral ions too). Many eco detergents don’t contain sufficient surfactants (Surfactants are the part of detergent that softens and releases soils from fabrics) Dissolved minerals act like dirt and use the surfactants making them unavailable to the work of cleaning the diaper. Over time residual material becomes encrusted in the diaper fabric. The diaper loses its softness and tend to be rough on the skin which can lead to irritation.

Although it is completely safe to toss most types of cloth diapers into the dryer we always like to recommend line drying them, which not only bleaches out stains naturally, but also preserves better longevity of the diapers. Commercial “big brand” fabric softeners and dryer sheets are not recommended.  They coat the fabrics they come in contact with and leave a water repellent finish on your diapers, which means liquid won’t absorb very well.  The fragrance can also cause irritation.  There are a few brands of fabric softener available that are made without petrochemicals.  These are completely safe to use with cloth diapers.

Paraben

Paraben is a preservative found in some creams and ointments. So, if you are using a cream on your baby’s bum to try to get rid of a diaper rash and it isn’t working, the problem might be paraben. Make sure you read the ingredients list carefully before using any creams and ointments.

Baby wipes

When it comes to disposable baby wipes, there are a number of ingredients that can irritate your baby’s bum. In fact, a January 2014 study found a preservative found in many popular baby wipes brands that can cause an allergic skin reaction for some children. Antibiotics did not cure the rash from the preservative, but discontinuing use did make the rash clear up.

On top of this, wipes can leave your baby’s bum quite wet, so when you are cleaning up after a soiled diaper, allow time for your baby to dry fully before putting a diaper back on.

Cloth wipes are a completely chemical-free solution to cleaning your baby’s bum. You can also control how wet the wipe is before you use is. Bonus — think of the money you will save by reusing your wipes instead of buying new ones every few weeks.

Disposable diapers

If you are using disposable diapers, there are many things that could be contributing to your baby’s rash. A number of chemicals are constantly directly against your baby’s skin. A disposable diaper exposes your baby, quite intimately, to harsh chemicals like plastics, perfumes and chlorine bleach — all of which can contribute to diaper rash.

Beyond chemical exposure, disposable diapers can lead to diaper rash based on their design. They do not effectively breathe the way cloth diapers do. This means that moisture and heat get trapped against baby’s skin, causing irritation. As well, disposables are made to hold more liquid than cloth. While this may seem like a perk, it is far from it. The ability to hold more liquid means fewer changes, and infrequent changes means baby will be sitting in a wet diaper for far longer than is healthy.

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