The Neat Chemistry of Wool

I love cloth diapers. Love. Them. W has only had diaper rash twice in her whole 8.5 months on this planet, and then only when she (or I) was on antibiotics. I have a really water-efficient washing machine and we line-dry, so I feel good about what we’re doing for the environment, and to be honest (and this is just a weird thing about me) I hate the smell of disposables. We’ve started having trouble with cloth at night, though (which, according to all the Internet forums* on cloth diapering, almost everyone does around this age). She nurses all night long, and pees through everything I’ve tried. Literally, I am pretty sure I’ve tried everything that modern diaper technology has to offer. And I’ve given up. So I’ve decided (again, with the help of all those awesome mommies on the Internet and my amazing local diaper shop**) to take a big step back in time and go with the tried-and-true; I’m putting her in prefolds and a wool cover. Prefolds. Like, those big rectangular things that you associate with cloth diapering from the 1900s. It turns out they’re super-absorbent and awesome. As far as the covers go, I knit, and the covers come out really cute (shorts for summer — see picture — and long pants for winter). She sleeps in these. And wool really, really appeals to the chemist in me. Because there’s no plastic, the pee chemicals don’t get trapped against her skin and start to break down, which can cause diaper rash. The natural lanolin on the wool reacts with the urea in the pee (isn’t that cool!?) and just like fat reacts with lye to make soap, the lanolin and urea literally make soap in her diaper. No, it doesn’t foam. But it doesn’t smell like pee, either! Also, wool absorbs a tremendous amount of liquid, so she doesn’t wet the sheets even though there’s no plastic pant over her diaper. The next day, I air out her wool cover for 24 hours (I rotate two of them), and it’s clean- and fresh-smelling by the following night. I have to wash and re-lanolize her covers about once every 3-4 weeks (which is really, really easy and not nearly as scary as it sounds). That’s it. No more pee in the bed (which, since she’s in my bed, is a really big deal to me). And super-cute wool-covered baby bum.

*The decline of the English language sometimes makes me sad. Like all regular gender-neutral Latin nouns, “forum” should be pluralized “fora.” But no one says “fora,” (in fact, I have to keep fighting with my word processor autocorrect to keep it from changing “fora” into “for a.” Everyone says “formus.” So I will too. But my brain autocorrects it.

**My amazing local diaper shop also has a website, so I just want to say thanks to GoGo Natural.


Do you cloth diaper at night? If so, how do you do it?


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anna Eaton
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 20:01:10

    I like your comment about fora vs forums. I was corrected in grad school regarding the pronunciation of vice versa.

    I love wool too….discovered it 2 weeks before my older child decided she was done nursing. I probably dont need it now, but I still use it cause I love it!


  2. Alice Callahan (@scienceofmom)
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 04:24:03

    I love this post! I didn’t know why people used wool covers, and you’ve explained it for me! We use pocket diapers, which I love. We had no problems with them until around 7 months when BabyC started eating more solids and the ammonia stink got out of control, especially the overnight diapers. We had occasional leaks then too. When I was researching that problem, I was like, “geez, why didn’t I try prefolds?” bc it sounds like cotton is so much better than the microfiber for this problem. Anyway, I switched to Rockn Green detergent and started using their Ammonia Rock product, and that solved both the stink and leaking problem. I think we must have been getting some detergent buildup. Anyway, I spent way too much time on CD forums:) Wish I had had this post then!

    Also, you are doing way better on the Thursday paragraph thing than I am:) My posts always end up “wanting” to be expanded, which I guess is OK – the important thing is to post!


    • SquintMom
      Nov 02, 2011 @ 05:54:39

      I have trouble keeping my paragraphs to paragraph-length too, sometimes (like the one on Free Range Kids!)

      Agreed that it gets hard to keep the stink under control starting with the solids. I, too, found Rockin’ Green, and that has really helped. Adventures in cloth diapers! 🙂


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