First things first- why wool? What is it that makes wool so great? Oh so many things, where do I even start?! I am passionate about wool. Let me convince you, too.
Wool stash of my own woolie spoiled princess-
Well first of all, wool diaper covers are probably most widely known for their wonderful leak protection. Wool will keep baby’s clothing, bedding and your lap dry. It initially resists moisture forcing the diaper underneath to soak up as much as possible. Of course your first line of protection IS that absorbent diaper underneath your cover. But once the diaper has reached it’s soaking point, the wool will now begin to soak moisture up itself. The porous outer layers of the fibers quickly absorb (and then evaporate) moisture. It will absorb up to 30% of it’s own weight in moisture without feeling wet to the touch.
Secondly and closely related to the above, wool is naturally breathable and temperature regulating. Meaning it’s warm in the winter, cool in summer. It is after all meant to keep sheep just the right temperature. The transmission of moisture in and out of the wool keeps baby from getting chilled or sweaty (and over heating). Felting (or fulling) the wool intensifies this feature adding even more air pockets as the fibers are matted together creating even more air pockets within the wool. Air is constantly circulating in and out of these air pockets allowing baby’s skin to breathe, stay dry and rash/redness free. Allowing skin to breathe is, after all, one of the popular reasons caregivers choose cloth diapering. Happy skin = a happy baby!
Summer or winter, wool is the perfect wardrobe choice for the hip and fashionable youngsters:
Wool is also easy to care for and odor/bacteria resistant. You don’t need to wash your wool each time it’s used. Stink is caused by bacteria. Since moisture vapor constantly absorbed and evaporated it’s not just sitting there waiting for bacteria to grow. Now add in that fact that lanolin in the wool (either natural or added) can actually neutralize ammonia. Simply allow a damp cover to air dry between uses and it will remain stink free! If it does start to smell the lanolin has probably worn thin and it’s time to wash (adding more lanolin). As a bonus, if your cover is dirtied with solids (dirt, food, and “other”) the combination of lanolin and the overlapping scales of the wool make it easier to clean those off, acting as a sort of non-stick surface.
On a similar note, I’ve found we do not have problems with static when using wool. During the dry winter that is one of my enemies! But we never have a problem with static and wool. I just love that! If you battle static, too you know exactly what I mean. We’ve even installed a whole house humidifier but static still remains a problem, especially with certain fabrics like polyester (as in fleece or PUL).
Wool can also be an economical choice. It can be as budget friendly (or not) as you want it to be. From inexpensive recycled wool to hand knit with premium yarns right up to down right artistic pieces. But at the most basic level, only a few pieces are needed even an exclusively wool stash. And if you are using wool longies/shorties (pants and shorts) that IS the clothing and cover all in one, no additional clothing is needed. You can get by with a rather small wardrobe saving both space, money and laundry. Of course it’s fun to have a larger variety, but not necessary ;).
Wool in general is a tough fiber. Microscopically, each wool fiber is a corkscrew. The spiral shape gives it a memory to bounce back into to original form. It will stand up over time and not break down as quickly as other fibers, for instance cotton. A wool fiber can bend back on itself approximately 20,000 times without breaking vs. about 3,200 for cotton. So your wool clothing items have the potential of being passed down to the next generation if properly stored! Now how that fiber is used in an end product does affect how much abuse it can withstand. But that’s a post for another day. You might unintentionally felt the wool into a smaller size, but the actual fibers themselves are still strong (probably even more so now!).
On the opposite end of the subject, wool WILL biodegrade. If your beloved woolies meet an untimely end and somehow make their way to a landfill, they will over time break down. Exposed to the elements like that, it will happen much more quickly than a synthetic fiber.
Just because it’s tough doesn’t mean your diapering woolies won’t be comfy. Later I’ll talk about the different types of wool fabrics and yarns used in diapering. But for the most part, those used in diapering are made from finer, shorter wool fibers which means they are going to have at least some level of next to skin softness. Assuming you’ve got that covered, wool is generally stretchy and moves well with your baby as she stretches and bends, wiggles, crawls, jumps and runs. An active little one needs active clothing, of course! All without an annoying plastic, crinkly sound. Soft, breathable and stretchy...sounds comfy to me!
Additionally, wool is fire resistant without the addition of chemicals. It does not easily ignite and will generally self extinguish quickly. This is due to both the chemical structure of wool and the fact that it naturally holds moisture. Therefore wool is a great choice for night time diapering when you consider it has both superior leak protection as well as fire resistant properties.
Here’s one of my personal favorite reasons to love wool- it can be good for skin! My daughter suffers from severe eczema, particularly on her legs. Anybody that deals with eczema knows you just can’t get enough moisture into that dry skin. One little trick I’ve learned to help with that is I use a good quality, unscented lanolin spray on the inside of her longies. Lanolin has great healing abilities and it does help keep her legs moisturized as well. Some people will try to tell you people with eczema should not wear wool at all because they are likely allergic. Truth is, most people allergic to wool are either sensitive to the type of wool (scratchier varieties) or the chemicals used in processing wool. Most wool used for diapering is the ultra fine variety and minimally processed without those chemicals. Also keep in mind TOO much lanolin will clog up those wonderful air pockets and that will do you no good at all.
If you are dealing with eczema, you might also be dealing with a dust mite allergy. Dust mites cannot tolerate the lanolin in wool. So no need to worry that just because you aren’t constantly washing your wool that you’ll have a breeding ground for dust mites. Allergy or not, that is a comforting thought ;).
Last but definitely not least, wool is darn cute and gives you that warm, fuzzy, “homey” feeling. Wool has been used for generations as diaper covers. There’s just something that feels good about carrying that tradition on in our modern, “newer is better”, world. If you’re into doing it yourself, you can have the added attraction of lovingly making (be it sewing, knitting, or crocheting) woolies for your baby. They might even become a family heirloom! There’s something special about making something that your baby can wear, especially when it will most likely attract a lot of compliments.
Sew it, knit it, crochet it- making woolies is fun!
If you’ve read this far I hope you are as convinced as I am that wool is the obvious choice for your diaper cover needs. At least give it a try if you haven’t already. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain! Of course, you may also find you too, have a new found addiction to all things wool!