Cloth Diapers and your Baby's Health - Common 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.
Today we're talking: Common irritants and diaper rash
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.
Eco detergents are the 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 do the work of cleaning the diaper. Over time, residual material becomes encrusted in the diaper fabric. The diaper loses it's softness and tends 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 (we offer KIND Fabric Softner that uses silk fibres to soften fabrics). These are completely safe to use with cloth diapers.
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.
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 wipe 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 it. Bonus - think of the money you will save by reusing your wipes instead of buying new ones every few weeks.
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 sensitive 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 longer than is healthy.