Ten Reasons I'm Flat Over Flats
The first disposable diaper was used in 1948. It still hasn't decomposed. Sitting in a landfill somewhere, likely smelling of the poop that very few disposable diaper users bother to deposit in the toilet before discarding, that solitary first diaper has been joined by several billions of other diapers, every single year afterwards. I read that statistic somewhere, long before I was promised. It prompted me to start researching cloth diapers in earnest even before the two blue lines on my pregnancy test had a chance to fully dry!
I've to admit, I had my doubts. Would cloth diapering involve coming in close contact with a lot of... unsavoury... stuff? News flash: Having a baby involves coming in close contact with those things anyway!
But what about the work involved? Would using cloth diapers mean washing the dipe plus the baby's clothes plus any surrounding bedsheets every time the baby did its business? As I read more about cloth diapers, I realized it was no longer 1948. The cloth diapers that are available in the market today are functionally no different from disposables - they can hold in absolutely everything! Also, they are completely adorable, with a wide variety of prints to choose from. I admit I almost turned the 'cloth diapers are cheaper' statistic on its head, given how much I spent on them when I started shopping!
It's kind of ironic that after over a year of cloth diapering, with a closet full of amazing top-range pocket, cover and all-in-one diapers, my go-to diapering solution is the same one that my grandmother or great grandmother are likely to have used. It's the humble, versatile, all-purpose flat. A flat is exactly what it sounds like - a flat piece of cloth. Folded in multiple different styles, a flat is the quintessential nappy that comes to mind when you first think of cloth diapers. Why stick with that despite everything else that I own? Here are the first ten reasons that come to mind.
1. Infant to toddler:Unlike the langots which you typically see in India, a flat is completely unrestricted by size. The 100x100cm muslin flats I used on my two month old are the same ones I'm using on my toddler, with plenty of room to grow. And when she's eventually potty trained? My handy flats can still be repurposed into rag cloths, or used for art projects. You never stop needing reasons to use flat pieces of cloth.
2. As cheap as it gets:Sure, Ikea started a new range of flats and you can buy expensive organic ones. But at its core, a flat can just as easily be fashioned out of an old veshti or sari, a soft bedsheet or even a terry towel.
3. All-weather diapering:When it's sweltering hot in summer, I don't like to put my daughter in anything other than a light cotton material. Voila! Exactly what flats are. As for the monsoon, flats dry faster than anything else I use. Just in case all my flats are out of commission, a new flat is easy to whip up with the materials I have at home (see point 2 above).
4. Completely natural:I'm a fairly crunchy mama, with a leaning towards eco-friendly solutions wherever possible. While the PUL/TPU polyester materials used in the outer coating of most cloth diapers is breathable, I still breathe easier when I'm using something completely natural like bamboo, cotton, or hemp. Flats, of course, are made with these materials.
5. Ninja creds:I absolutely love it when people like my mother in law appreciate how quickly I fold and wrap a flat onto my baby. There's something very cool about watching someone efficiently fold a nappy. Thanks to YouTube, I keep learning new variations too! My favourite reliable fold is the Origami, which provides 8 layers of cloth throughout the diaper.
For bigger flats, I default to Gaynor's Fold for Girls, which provides 9. When a flat becomes a little too snug, I padfold it into a cover - voila, 12 folds for heavy wetters!
6. Decent waterproofing:I would probably not have persevered with flats if they worked exactly the same way as they did fifty years ago. The materials flats are made with now are often far better at holding in leaks, and even poop explosions. A flat can easily hold 1-2 pees, depending on what it's made of and how it's folded.
7. Rash control:Since you can easily spot exactly when a flat gets wet or needs changing, it's possible to keep the diaper area clean and dry at all times. It's easy to add a staydry microfleece liner if your baby, or you, minds the 'wet' feeling that comes with a used diaper. Liners also make on-the-go cleanups so much easier.
My daughter was underweight at birth, and I used to keep a hawk's eye on her nappy count (6+ wet nappies in 24 hours indicates a month+ old baby's getting enough milk). Flats are the easiest way to monitor pee count, without relying on guesswork or estimation.
8. Health check:
Flats are so easy to maintain. They don't require any prepping before being used, they don't need any prior stuffing like pockets do, and they take up minimal space in a wardrobe. If you're thinking of unwiedly safety pins and accidental pricks while trying to pin down a baby and get a nappy on them - don't. Thanks to modern cloth diapering, there are easy options like snappis and boingos that secure flats within seconds. It's also very easy to just pop a cover diaper on over a prefolded flat when we go out - technically, I don't really need anything else in my stash.
9. Low maintenance:
10. Customizable:Baby's sensitive to wetness? Add a staydry fleece liner to the flat. Baby's a heavy wetter? Add extra padding into the folds of your flat. One of my favourite trim diaper solutions for quick outings is a charcoal bamboo/microfiber insert, folded within a trifolded organic cotton Kaupina flat , and tucked into a cover. If you want it even thinner, try a hemp insert instead. Trim absorbence at its best!
Lean thighed baby? Chubby thighed baby? Narrow waist? Poops up his back when lying down? No matter what the diapering challenge, flats have a way to address it. Completely customizable size, material and fold styles mean you can get the diapering solution that works best for your baby at different stages, all with one single piece of cloth.
That's my story! It's why we have a museum full of pockets and all-in-ones that I stare at lovingly once in a while, while using flats day in and day out. What's your favourite cloth diapering go-to?
- Akshaya Nandakumar
About the Author
Eight years into her journey from digital marketing newb to ninja, Akshaya has worked with the giants (Google), as well as startups (Anahat), and start-ups on their way to becoming giants (Zomato). She’s now working with the most challenging startup of them all – her baby girl – while freelancing. Every now & then, she gives up on the three hours of sleep available to her, and blogs at New Girl in Toronto.