When I decided to cloth diaper, I veraciously read EVERYTHING I could find on the internet. I read all the blogs and articles, watched videos, and one thing I noticed was that everyone did it a little differently. Everyone had an opinion about what kind of diaper was THE best, “trust me, you’ll only want this kind!” And each one said something different! So I decided not to spend a bunch of money on one kind yet. I got a few different types of cloth diapers, and waited for my baby to get here before I bought a bunch of one kind.
What I didn’t realize was that my “favorite” diaper would change as he grew (and peed in much more volume), or that I could have a different preference with another baby. Basically, it’s good to have a few options, and then tweak it as you have leaking problems. I don’t know if you’re aware yet in your cloth-diaper journey, but they are GREAT for poops! I’ve almost never had a blow out where poop escaped the diaper when my kid was in cloth. Pee on the other hand… that takes some trial and error. You don’t have all those chemicals absorbing all the liquid like you would in disposables.
Here I will give you some basic tips for getting started with cloth diapers. When I went to my first cloth diaper workshop, I was TOTALLY overwhelmed by all the information. If I hadn’t already been determined to do it, I may have given up before I started! So I hope to keep this simple for you. I’ll come back later with more of the nitty-gritty things you may wonder as you get started.
Why would I use cloth diapers?
This is a question you will undoubtedly face. If not from yourself, from anyone you talk to about it who asks “Why??” They’ll insist – “Disposables are so easy!” “You won’t stick with it long…” Even with a super supportive family, I saw the looks when I first told them I was using cloth diapers. Here are three basic reasons for cloth diapering (in order of priority for me!)
1- It’s healthier for my kid.
I’m all about avoiding harsh chemicals when I can! Do you even know what’s in those disposables?? And sure, you can pay big bucks for some more “natural” versions, but cloth will still beat them in this respect. You also tend to change them more often than disposables, and if this is true, they aren’t sitting in pee or poop as long (because believe it or not, your kid will probable sneak a poop in, and you’ll go to change the diaper and say “Oh no! How long has this been here!?” It happens.)
2- It’s SO much cheaper!
Money was a big factor for us as well. It’s true – if you are in the cloth diapering community long, you’ll see those people who are NOT doing it to save money. “Ooh, my favorite brand has a new limited-addition pattern! I must pay top dollar for it in three colors!” Yeah, this wasn’t me. Cloth diapering CAN be so much cheaper in the long run than disposables, and still be stinkin’ cute!
3- It’s better for the environment.
Do you know how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose? And how many just one family uses in a year? I’ve read that it takes 500 years for a single diaper to decompose, although I’m sure it’s just an estimate because diapers haven’t been around that long. But suffice it to say our landfills have a LOT of diapers that aren’t going anywhere soon.
And the unofficial 4th reason – cloth diapers are cute!!
I’m glad that my diapering choice is a little better for the environment, but the fact that it helps meet my family’s more immediate needs (health and saving money) is what really convinced me to give it a try. But know your reasons! People will ask! Here are some interesting statistics:
Types of Cloth Diapers
In general, I would group cloth diapers into three categories. You can break them down farther, but this will give you a basic idea of where to start.
1- Prefold with covers
Prefold diapers are some of the most basic and simple. There is just a piece of fabric used to absorb liquid or catch poop, and a water proof cover to contain it. You can buy a set of 6 prefolds on Amazon, and choose from two sizes, for pretty cheap!
I also really like these hemp/cotton blend prefolds. Did you know some kinds of fabric are better at absorbing liquid than others? Hemp holds more pee than most other fabrics! We use these in diapers at night.
Like the name suggests, these diapers are all one piece. This saves time on prep, just wash, dry, and they’re ready to use again! Several brands have all-in-one versions, like Grovia and Smart Bottoms.
3- Pocket diapers with inserts
These diapers have a basic shell with a pocket, and you can stuff it with whatever inserts you want. After trying all three, these have become my personal preference. Unlike prefolds with covers, once I prep these diapers, the fabric stays where I put it. When I pull them out of the drawer, it’s ready to put on the baby. And unlike all-in-one, I get to choose what kind of fabric I use. When I started, I used cotton inserts, and my growing boy started peeing through it really quickly. I got some bamboo fabric inserts, and they didn’t leak as often. These Sunbaby diapers are pretty cheap (on sale, 6 for $21??) and they work perfectly for us!
Keep in mind, you can buy any of these diapers used on facebook groups! Most brands have a buy/sale/trade page. You can also sell your diapers after you’re done with them, saving even more money in the long run!
Washing Cloth Diapers
One of my biggest concerns when I started cloth diapering was how to wash them. Well, let me assure you – it’s not as complicated as you might think!
I’m all about natural approaches to just about anything, so before baby #1 came, I made some natural homemade laundry detergent. Unfortunately, as I learned more about wash routines, I found that what I was making would not get poop out of fabric. Boo! Fortunately for me, there are experts in this very thing who put together a great list of possibilities! Check out this comprehensive detergent index. Oh my, they have a chart with columns for type, cost, whether or not it’s recommended for cloth diapers… I am seriously in love with how organized it is! You can find just about any detergent and see how it rates. (In fact, check out Fluff Love University and all their great information!)
Your wash routine depends on your detergent, your water hardness, and your specific washer, but they are all similar enough. (Join the Fluff Love Facebook Group and ask for help about your specific routine!)
Each load has to be washed two times – the first time you’re just getting all of the pee and poop residue out of there, and the second wash is to actually clean everything. And I don’t just mean put “extra rinse” on one wash. You have to do two complete washes. On my washer, the first wash is on “Quick Wash” at the highest setting. You don’t need to use a whole lot of detergent this time around.
After the first wash is finished, you’ll want to fluff everything up and make sure nothing is stuck to the sides of the washer. Then you can add any other baby clothes or other items that need to be washed. Did you know that small loads don’t clean as well? You want your washer to be around 3/4 full this time.
Then wash on a heavy setting. I set mine to “Normal” at the highest setting. This is a 70+ minute wash! This time you’ll want more detergent than the first wash.
Finally, it’s time to dry. Remember- a lot of these fabrics are made to absorb water, so it can take a while to really get them dry. Some people prefer to hang-dry parts or all of the load. Personally – who has time for that?? I have never had any fabrics damaged by the heat in the dryer, even the outer waterproof layers. (Although I don’t put the dryer on high heat, just in case.) I actually run the dryer a second time on Wrinkle Release to get any extra moisture out of the inserts.
It’s a little time consuming, but washing cloth diapers is not difficult! It’s totally doable!
Helpful Tips and Tricks
The more you wash many kinds of fabric, the more it will absorb. This is one reason many new diapers instruct you to wash several times before the first use. This is also why the older or used diaper inserts work better than brand new ones.
This Spray Pal Sprayer and Splatter Shield are not super cheap, but have been so worth it! We keep the Splatter Shield in the corner behind the toilet. I spray it with a bleach cleaner and set it in the bathtub to dry after each use, so it doesn’t drip poop or bleach water on the floor.
Did you know you can throw a poop diaper straight in the washer without spraying it if your baby is exclusively breastfed?? That stuff is totally water soluble. After 6 months, when you’re adding some solid foods, this is no longer the case.
Another investment for starting is a decent diaper pail. This is the one we use, and it has lasted us through cloth diapers on three babies! We also got two cloth liners, so when one is in the washer with the diapers, we have a spare.
What other questions or concerns do you have about cloth diapering?
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