Rewind six years ago, before I was pregnant with my first daughter, I would have never considered using cloth diapers. I imagined big pieces of fabric and hot rubber pants. The thought of WASHING diapers seemed disgusting. Six years and three kids later, I write this with a load of colorful, squishy diapers washing away. So why go cloth when the simplicity of disposable is available? And how?
First of all throw out all mental images and sterotypes you might have about cloth diapers. No more pins. No more rubber pants. No more folding big pieces of cloth. No wet baby bums. No more diaper rash booties.
Now imagine: Snaps. Velcro. Stay Dry Materials. Bright Colors. Wild Patterns.
Cloth diapering has become its own little community. A community with lots of acronyms and options that came seem over whelming. Here is my number one tip for all things cloth diaper related : Do not overcomplicate. Keep it simple. From accessories to wash cycles just keep it simple.
Just as people prefer Pampers over Huggies. Cloth diapers have several options from brands to make. Here are the basics to help you decide what will work best.
These are probably the most common type of modern cloth diaper, and this is the type that I use. The diaper comes in two parts the cover and the insert. You “stuff” the insert into the pocket of the diaper. The cover is waterproof but the inside part that touches your baby is made of a stay dry material (this keeps your baby from feeling wet). The insert gets stuffed into the pocket and never touches your baby. When the baby pees the moisture gets wicked away through the stay dry material of the cover and into the absorbent insert. Keeping your baby nice and dry. For these diaper you 1) Stuff the insert into the cover 2)Snap or velcro the entire diaper around your baby.
Common brands: Bum Genius, Fuzzi Buns, Kawaii
Cost per diaper: Varies depending on brand. $8.00 – $24+
All In One:
These diapers are the most like disposable diapers. They too are lined with a stay dry material, but instead of having to stuff the absorbent insert into a pocket, the absorbent material is already sewn into the diaper. So for these diapers you simply snap or velcro the diaper around your baby. I do not own any of this style of diaper. These are generally the most costly diapers. Additionally, I have heard these diapers are more difficult to thoroughly clean and have a longer dry time.
Common Brands: Bum Genius, Rumparooz, Blueberry
Cost per Diaper: Varies depending on brand. $13.00 – $35+
These diapers are two part system (cover and insert) that mix the old school diapers with the new. For these diapers you 1) lay an insert into a cover. Most of these inserts have a top side (made of a stay dry material that should touch the baby) and a bottom side (made of an absorbent material that should not touch the baby) 2) snap or velcro the diaper around your baby (unlike with flats and prefolds these inserts are already sized for the diaper and there is no need to secure them with pins or a snappi. With Hybrid diaper you do not need a new cover with every diaper change. You simply remove the wet insert and and place a new insert into your cover. Change the cover at least daily (although I would change it after 3-4 diapers) or if the baby has a dirty diaper.
Common Brands: Bum Genius Flip, GrowVia Hybrid, Best Bottom
Cost per Diaper: Cover start at about $15 and up and inserts start at about $4 and up. Remember for this system you will not need a new cover with every diaper change just a new insert.
Covers and Flats/Prefolds:
This is basically the old school route. 1)You fold the flat or prefold (there are lots and lots of youtube videos) around your baby. 2)You secure the flat or prefold, but instead of a pin most people use a Snappi. This takes all danger of getting stuck out of the equation. 3) You snap or velcro a waterproof cover around the flat or prefold. These covers are what keep the wet flat or refold from wetting your baby’s clothes. This option is not stay dry (meaning your when your baby pees they will feel the dampness of the diaper). This is generally your most economical option. If it were me, I would want at least 5-7 covers and 24 flats or prefolds.
Common Brands: Covers: Thirsties, Bummis, Rumparooz Prefolds/Flats:Clotheez (Green Mountain), Bummis, Imagine
Cost per Diaper: Covers: Vary greatly starting at about $5.00 and reaching $22+ Prefolds: Average around $3.00 individually Flats: Average about $2.00 individually
What do I use:
Pocket Diapers. Specifically a mix of Fuzzi Bunz and Kawaii. I also have two Bum Genius Flip covers with six inserts, and about a 18 prefolds and a couple of covers. For daily use I only use pockets.I leave the Flip system and some extra prefolds in the car so we don’t get caught out without diapers.
There are other options like fitted diapers and wool covers but I do not know enough about them. If that sounds like something you may be interested in check out the resources listed at the end.
Snaps Vs Aplix (Velcro)
Regardless of which type of diaper you choose you will have the option of snaps or aplix (velcro). Both have their pros and cons. The pictured diapers are both Thirsties Duo Wrap Diaper Covers. The diaper on the left has aplix (also referred to as velcro or hook and loop) and the diaper on the right has snap closure.
Pros: Easy to secure. Aplix style diapers will be the most like disposable. You simply close each side around your baby, just as you would the sticky the tabs of a disposable diaper. This is especially good for others who may be changing the baby who aren’t familiar with cloth diapers. I try to leave these with the grandmas when I can. These are also good for middle of the night diaper changes with a newborn because they are so simple.
Cons: The aplix will eventually start to fray and wear out. This will result in diapers that simply do not stay on your baby good. This takes time though. The aplix on a few of my diapers is starting to wear out after completely diapering my eldest (she potty trained at 22 months) and using with my twins (eight months). Additionally, the aplix on some diapers is very thick and if you are not careful can scratch your babies tummy.
Pros: Snaps generally do not wear out like aplix. This means you should get more use out of the diaper. After cloth diapering for almost three years I have two snaps that have come out. Personally I think the snaps are very easy to use. You learn what snaps best fit your baby at their given size and you simply snap those every time until your baby is ready to move to the next set of snaps. Snaps are also not quite as stiff as velcro, so in my opinion, making the diaper a bit more flexible and comfortable.
Cons: Snaps can be intimidating a first. Trust me it simply looks overwhelming. This can be a problem for anyone who may be changing your baby who isn’t familiar with cloth. Snaps also don’t give you quite as many sizing option as the velcro. Sometimes the second set of snaps may be just a bit too big, while the third set is just a little too tight. I have never found this to be a real problem, but it is something to know.
What do I use: I have a mix of both. I would say about 60% of mine are snaps with about 40% being aplix.
How do I wash?
While washing can seem intimidating let me be very blunt: If you are a mom you are going to touch poo. Disposable diapers or cloth diapers at some point you are going to touch poo. Just get over it.
Now to the actual wash system. If you read other blogs or watch videos on cloth diapers you will find that some people have major problems with washing their cloth diapers and I think it is simply because they make it WAY TOO COMPLICATED. As I said in the beginning keep it simple. I have never had any wash problems.
1) Remove baby’s diaper and place in diaper pail.
- If it is wet simply put it into your diaper pail. I have a wooden basket with pail liner. All in one diapers- drop the whole diaper in pail. Hybrids, Flats and prefolds – place the wet part into the pail, reuse cover until you are ready to wash it too. Pocket diapers- pull the wet insert out of the pocket, and drop both the insert and cover into the pail.
- If the diaper is dirty and the baby is exclusively breast fed you can treat it exactly as you would a wet diaper. No need to clean off. Breastmilk poo is completely water soluble and will wash out fine in the washing machine. Once your baby starts eating baby food or if your baby is formula fed you will need to clean the poo off the diaper. Like I said if you are a mom you are going to touch poo so just get over it. I promise it is not going to hurt you. There are options though. You can use a disposable liner. This should contain most of the poo and you simply flip it into the toilet, flush and then put the diaper into the pail. You can buy a diaper sprayer. Similar in design to a kitchen sink spray, you place the diaper in the toilet and spray the poo away. You can also just dunk the dirty diaper into the toilet. The poo will fall away and then you place the diaper into the pail. While this all sounds absolutely disgusting. It is a part of mom life. Babies are going to poo out of their diaper (although this rarely ever happens with my cloth) so disposable or cloth you are going to be cleaning up poo.
2) Take diaper pail to the washing machine. With twins I typically wash a load of diapers a day. With my eldest daughter I washed every other day. It is recommended that you wash about every other day (with a load size of 20-25 diapers).
3) Empty diapers and liner into the machine.You do not have to touch the diapers at this point. Simply lift out the liner and dump into machine, just as if you were dumping a load of clothes. You will also want to wash your pail liner or wet bag.
4) Run a cold rinse cycle. DO NOT ADD ANY DETERGENT.
5) Once the cold rinse cycle is complete. Add detergent. This is when some people make things very complicated. This is the detergent I use. I buy it at Walmart. You aren’t really supposed to use normal detergent on cloth diapers, because some of the ingredients can cause buildup in the diapers and make them less absorbent. There are detergents made specifically for cloth diapers, but these are not available locally to me. I could order them off Amazon or drive about an hour to buy them, but my Walmart ECOS works just fine.
5)Run a HOT wash cycle. Regular hot. You want these diapers to get clean. I have a very basic top load machine. I understand that some new machines have a sanitize cycle. I have heard this gets too hot for the diapers and can actually damage them. So I wouldn’t advise using it.
6) Dry Diapers. I put the inserts into the dryer and dry as I would anything else. Since they are meant to absorb liquid they take a full cycle on hot (sometimes a little more) to dry. I do not put my covers into the dryer. Covers are coated in PUL, which is the material that waterproofs the diaper, keeping the wet stuff from soaking onto the clothes. PUL can be damaged by the high heat of the dryer. I either hang my covers on the clothes line or drape them over some hangers. The covers are not meant to hold a lot of water so they dry after a few hours.
These lovely photos are from my diaper laundry. It is cold out and I haven’t wanted to hang outside so my diapers are drying on hangers and the inserts and wipes are in the dryer.
What do I need?
Diapers – I personally had about 35 diapers with my singleton. And I have 50+ with my twins. I have heard of people getting by with 12, but I would suggest having at least 24 per child. Twenty-four diapers means you can wash one days worth of diapers and still have about a days worth of diapers to use while the other set is washing and drying.
Wipes- I used disposable wipes with my first born. I now use cloth wipes at home and disposable when we are out.
Diaper Pail/Liner – I use a wood hamper with a liner. You will want two liners so that while one is in the wash you have a clean one to use.
Wet Bag – This is to put your cloth diapers in when you are out. I have a medium planet wise that holds about eight diapers. They also sell large wet bags that you can use instead of a diaper pail and liner if you prefer. Wet bags are excellent at keeping the smell contained as well.
Cloth Diaper Friendly detergent – I use ECOS from Walmart.
Cloth Diaper Friendly Rash Cream – I use Motherlove Diaper Rash and Thrush. It is a awesome.
Other information and resources
Youtube can be an excellent source to learn more about the different types of diapers. Here are some videos you might want to view.
There are retailers all around the country that sell cloth diapers in store. There are also tons of online retailers. Shop around for the best price. These are some of the sites I would suggest.
So Why Cloth
Skin Sensitivity – My babies have all had very sensitive skin and cloth diapering has worked wonderfully for us. I generally switch my babies to cloth at about two months old. Using disposible for the teeny tiny newborn stage. My babies rarely ever have any rash at all. I have used two/three rash containers with my eight month old twins and with my eldest I used one tube the entire time.
Cost – The upfront cost of cloth diapers seems a little high. It will vary depending on what brands and styles of diapers you choose. I think you can build a great stash and get your accessories for $300-400. This seems like a lot but babycenter.com estimates the cost of disposable diapers at an average of $72 per month. Your cloth will be saving you money after 6 months. Plus cloth can be reused with multiple children. And cloth can be sold when you are finished diapering your babies.
Comfort – I would rather have soft cotton up against my bum, so I think my babies would too.
Additionally I like that we never have to run out and buy diapers. We simply wash. The cute factor doesn’t hurt either. Many people also like that they are environmentally friendly.
I never thought I would cloth diaper but I’m really glad I decided to give it a try. I cloth diaper at night, when we go out, and now I have twins in cloth. It isn’t for everyone, but it also shouldn’t be dismissed by everyone either.
Stock photo’s all taken from Amazon.com