My first daughter never had a diaper rash with disposables. Ever. But when we switched to cloth diapers and got a front-loading washing machine, that changed. Her rashes were always minor, usually appearing after long stretches of me using cloth diapers on her at night.
To make a potentially long and gross story short, after a lot of trial and error and rashes, I stopped cloth diapering and went to disposables. And she never had a rash again.
I was happy with disposables, but then when my second daughter was born and with the cloth diapers I had from my first sitting idly in her closet, crammed between her dresser and the wall, I decided to “give it another go.”
I’ve been cloth diapering now for almost three months. With my second daughter, I cloth diaper full time during the day and sometimes at night.
So far, we haven’t had any rash episodes (fingers crossed). Through my experiences with cloth diapers and rashes, I know that the most common variables leading to rashes are excessive moisture, inadequate or insufficient wash routine, detergent buildup, detergent ineffectiveness, etc.
So, in cloth diapering my baby, I keep each of these variables in mind and I do all of the following to prevent rashes:
Let her lay/crawl around naked. Usually, I’ll just place some pre-folds or towels beneath her and let her hang out awhile. This is sometimes messy, but I do it because it lets her bottom air out.
Only buy non-irritating wipes. Some mainstream wipes contain potentially irritating dyes and chemicals that can dry out your baby’s bottom. When buying wipes, I always go for the ones that are fragrance free and as free of irritating chemicals as possible. Or, as an alternative, and when I don’t feel like spending the money, I wipe her with a cloth wipe with water and a bit of mild soap (I prefer Dove for Sensitive skin).
Change her diaper often. In my experience, cloth diapers must be changed more frequently than disposables. This is just my experience, however. With my daughter, I change her as soon as she soils her diaper (usually every 2 hours). This is particularly important since she is now eating some solids.
Evaluate my wash routine often. About two months ago, I was doing a cold rinse, a normal wash, and a cold rinse. Now, and after too many smelly diapers, I’ve been doing a Normal cold wash (sans detergent), a Normal hot wash (with detergent), and a Normal cold wash (sans detergent).
Check my detergent. I tried natural detergents with my first daughter but didn’t have much luck. Now, I use regular Tide. That keeps my diapers clean and my baby’s bottom happy. Sometimes, if a detergent is too harsh, it can dry out your babies skin. When choosing a natural detergent (or any detergent for that matter), be sure to do a double rinse.
Unless I’m using a diaper liner, I use a cloth diaper approved balm or cream at night. There are a number of great diaper rash balms and creams on the market currently. One of my favorites that I use on the occasions I decide to cloth diaper my baby overnight is Angel Baby Bottom Balm.
And lastly, be flexible. I’m a cloth diapering mom who supplements with disposables on most nights with my baby because I know that’s what works for us.
Note: If your baby is getting chronic rashes and you’ve tried all of the above tactics, consider getting your pediatrician involved. They can test for food allergies to see if there’s something else that’s causing the rashes in your child.
Cloth diapering parents: How do you prevent diaper rashes when using cloth diapers?