So you’ve decided you want to cloth diaper, but you’re overwhelmed by all of the information and not sure where to begin. Let me simplify it for you in a simple, straightforward guide: cloth diapering for beginners.
When my first son was two weeks old, he had a horrible chemical burn on his bum. He would scream in pain every time we would change him and I just wanted to cry. The burn was from either the wipes or diapers, so I immediately switched to cloth. Since then, he has not had one diaper rash and does not cry at diaper changes. This has been one of the best decisions I have ever made and I have now cloth diapered 2 boys.
When I started researching cloth diapers, I was SO confused. After reading a million articles, I still wasn’t sure what I was getting myself in to. So, I tried to compile everything I have learned in to an easy to follow article for you all. I hope it helps!
Cloth Diapering for Beginners
Why use cloth diapers:
- It is healthier for baby. Disposable diapers are full of toxins and even have carcinogens in them. That diaper rash your baby has may not just be because she sat in a wet diaper for too long. Many rashes can be a direct result of the chemicals used in diapers.
- It is healthier for the environment. Disposable diapers sit in landfills for years as they are not biodegradable in the environment. Some chemicals in these diapers even harm our water if it comes into contact.
- It is way cheaper. This is perhaps the biggest reason to cloth. You can save thousands of dollars by cloth diapering.
Types of cloth diapers:
– All In One: These are the ones that are most like disposable diapers. They pretty much work the exact same way, except you throw them in your wet bag or diaper pail instead of throwing them in the garbage.
All of the inserts are connected to the diaper, so you do not have to stuff pockets or fold the diaper. (My favorite AIO’s are the Bumgenius Freetime)
– All In Two: These have a waterproof cloth diaper shell and an absorbent insert.
Unlike a pocket diaper, the diaper insert goes directly against the baby’s skin. When the cloth diaper becomes wet, you simply change out the insert instead of washing the entire cloth diaper.
You simply lay the insert in (almost like a maxi pad) and then put the diaper on the baby. The great thing about this is that when you change your baby you can re-use the cover a few times and just keep changing the insert.
– Pockets: Pocket diapers are similar to all in ones, except there is a pocket that you stuff with an insert.
When the baby wets the diaper, the insert inside of the pocket will absorb it. When they’re done, you take the insert out of the pocket and throw both parts in to the pail.
– Prefolds/Covers: These are the most old school cloth diapers, but also the most cost efficient.
The prefold is the actual diaper, it looks a lot like a burp cloth.
You fold the prefold around the baby and then pin it and cover it with a waterproof cover. You can also just fold the prefold and lay it flat on the cover, and then place the diaper on the baby like an all in two diaper. These are nice because you can keep reusing the same cover and just changing out the prefold.
They are intimidating at first, but I promise you get the hang of it really fast! (My favorite prefolds are OsoCozy)
Snaps vs Velcro:
You may see the velcro ones listed as “hook/loop,” however, it is just a velcro strap.
The velcro is the most like disposable diapers, you do not have to snap anything in to place. It is also much faster. The problem is, with all of the washing and constant use of the velcro, it can wear out pretty quickly or just look bad.
The snaps do not wear out like that. I love the convenience of the velcro, but would much rather have my diapers last longer. Therefore, I stick to snaps for the most part. It really is just a personal preference.
How many cloth diapers do I need?
I wash every three days, but I know most people wash their diapers every two days. Because I wash every three days, I have a stash of 35 diapers. I have never ran out of diapers. If you want to wash every other day, I would say 25 diapers is a good amount.
I describe how I organize my cloth diapers here.
Diaper Rash Ointment & Cloth Diapers:
You should never use diaper rash creams with petroleum on your cloth diapers. Petroleum can cause your diapers to repel and you will have lots of leaks.
However, you can use a flushable diaper liner on the diaper if you really want to use a petroleum based diaper cream.
I, personally, use the GroVia Magic Stick if I notice my little one getting a little red, because it is cloth diaper safe. The “Butt Paste” in the green tube, labeled “all natural,” is also cloth diaper safe.
Babies who are only on breast milk don’t have diapers that need to be cleaned over the toilet. Those poop diapers just go straight in your wet bag or pail and then straight in the wash when it is laundry day, because they are water soluble.
For other types of poop (formula, baby food) you can purchase a diaper sprayer that hooks to the toilet. This is the way to go if you don’t want poop on your hands!
Dirty Cloth Diaper Storage:
Wet bags are the most popular storage devices. You can even use a regular laundry basket if it has holes in it. The reason I say the ones with holes are good is because air flow is important for keep the smell down. You can also leave the lid on a hamper open to make sure it gets enough airflow and the room doesn’t start to smell like poop.
Prepping cloth diapers:
Wash your diapers 2 or 3 times before using them for the first time, preferably in warm or hot water. You do not need to dry in between washes, that can wait until the end. The diapers will be way more absorbent after they have been washed a few times.
How to Wash Cloth Diapers
1. Pre-wash cold or warm to ensure you are not trying to clean in soiled water. Some people use the pre-rinse setting and spin out the water prior to the main wash.
2. Heavy Duty wash with full amount of detergent. Use from Line 2 to the full scoop of detergent in the main wash, and add any water softeners or boosters as necessary at this time (if you have hard water).
The Best Detergents for Cloth Diapers
I discuss my wash routine here.
How to Dry Cloth Diapers
You can dry in the dryer or hang dry.
Drying in the dryer is actually fine, just make sure they have completely cooled down before you pull them out so that you do not stretch the elastic.
Hang drying will allow the elastic to last longer.
I go in to more detail about drying cloth diapers here.
What about poop stains?
If your diapers have a little discoloration after you wash them, the sun will remove the stain! The sun is great for removing stains.
Can I just say that I LOVE cloth wipes?!
These things are so simple, yet so amazing. They clean up poop way better than regular wipes.
They are also way more gentle on the baby’s skin. You have complete control of what goes on your baby’s bum if you use cloth wipes.
If you are going to cloth diaper, you might as well use cloth wipes. I just throw them in the pail with the diapers and wash them together.
The recipe to my cloth wipe solution for sensitive skin is here.
The Best Cloth Diapers
Discount Cloth Diapers
“China cheapies” are cloth diapers that are made in China, and usually cost about $10/ diaper.
I actually like these diapers a lot! They are well made and fit my son perfectly.
I haven’t even had any leak issues with them. By the time I decided these diapers were perfectly acceptable, I already had a stash of 32 diapers. Because I already had a large stash, I didn’t buy a ton of cheapies. However, I do wish I would have tried them out before buying so many more expensive diapers. I would recommend trying at least one of each brand to see how you like them before deciding that they are not for you. You may be pleasantly surprised like I was! Next to the Bumgenius Freetime’s, Alva’s are actually my favorite.
How Much Money You’ll Save with Cloth Diapers
When my son was a newborn, I used disposable diapers because my one size diapers did not fit him yet. On most occasions, $25 for 130 diapers was the cheapest I could find. We easily spent $100/month on disposable diapers. That would be $2,400 in the course of two years! If we go to 2.5 years, that would be $3,000!
I only paid a total of $500 for all of my diapers and accessories. I could have spent less, but there were just certain things I decided to splurge on since I would still be saving money. That means I have saved $2,500!
I also plan on reused the same cloth diapers and accessories when we had our second child, which means we saved a total of $5,300! And that includes spending $100 more on cloth diapers for the second child (not necessary).
Of course, this depends on how often you would need to change your baby’s disposable diapers- but you can do the math and I’m sure you will still save a ton! There were days that we went through extra diapers just because he used the bathroom right when we changed him or any other accidents, so keep that in mind.
The Best Diaper Bags for Cloth Diapers
I really hope this helped! Please let me know if you have any questions.