Several of my friends have asked me for cloth diapering tips, and everyone wants to know “is it hard?” (no!) or “does it really save a lot of money?” (yes!) It’s really easy, and it saves a lot of money! Not to mention it’s so much better for the environment, and great for your baby’s bum too. To give you an idea of how much money we’ve saved by using cloth diapers, let’s just say that most of our cloth diapers were given to us at our baby shower and we haven’t spent a dime on disposables. Even if you have to buy your cloth diapers and you’re dreading the big up front expense, I promise it will save you a ton of money over the 2-3 years that you use them! And even more if you re-use them with another child. I researched all the different brands when I was pregnant, picked a type of diaper that I felt would work best for us, and registered for them. Lots of moms enjoy trying various brands and buying the newest, cutest diapers. Don’t get sucked in to that if you want to save money!
I was really lucky to have a friend who already knew more than me about cloth diapers, and I relied on her to help answer some of my questions when the information I read online was too overwhelming. I’ve been using cloth diapers for over a year now, and I get asked a lot “how do we do it” and what type of diapers and accessories I prefer so I thought I’d make my answers available to everyone. If you read this and still have questions that aren’t answered here, leave a comment and I’ll try to help!
We waited for Silas’s umbilical cord to fall off to begin using cloth diapers. Disposables were easier to fold down around the waist to keep off the cord, and the hospital sent home a case of disposables so we just used them until they were gone.
We started out with Thirsties XS covers and Gerber organic prefolds. Prefolds and covers are super easy and you can reuse the covers a couple times before washing unless they have an explosive poop. There are lots of different ways to fold prefolds, but we stuck to one method that was easy for me and Jason (“the angel fold”). Then you just slide the cover under baby’s bum and snap or velcro on like a disposable, making sure all of the prefold is inside the cover (or else it will leak). Silas was a big baby (9 lbs 8 oz at birth) so the XS covers only fit him for 3-4 weeks. Looking back, I’m wondering why we didn’t just start using the BumGenius AIO’s right away. I’m sure there was a reason, but I can’t remember now. I do know that we couldn’t have used the prefolds forever. They’re great for a newborn baby, but I’m not sure how well they’d stay put on a wild toddler!
I never understood “fitted” diapers. We had a couple in the newborn size to use for the rare occasions that my mom or someone else might change his diaper, but we never ended up needing them and I didn’t like how they fit anyway. The leg holes on the fitted diapers were too big and didn’t hold anything in (and my son was a big baby, it’s not like he had tiny legs).
All-In-Ones (AIO’s) are the easiest diapers for “cloth rookies” to learn to use. They go on just like a disposable and don’t require any extra inserts or prefolds (although you can add an insert for added absorbency if you want). AIO’s come in various sizes, but BumGenius makes a great one-size option with an adjustable snap system which is what we have and love. If I remember right Silas moved into the AIO’s around 10-12 lbs, and he’ll stay in them until he potty trains!
Pocket diapers have a pocket, as the name implies, and inserts that fit into the pockets. You can layer the inserts as thick as you want for absorbency, but I think two is the norm for daytime use (some people use three overnight). Pocket diapers dry faster after washing, but they require an extra step of stuffing the inserts (which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but doing it 15x/day adds up quickly when you’re a new sleep-deprived mama). I highly suggest using AIO’s unless you just don’t mind the extra hassle of inserts. We use pocket diapers overnight with two layered inserts (they’re great for heavy overnight wetting) but we use the AIO’s the rest of the time. The pocket diapers were given to us by a friend; one is Happy Heinys with a velcro closure and the other is a Rumparooz with a snap closure (all of my AIO’s are snap closures). I prefer snaps, and Silas does too – he hates the way the velcro rubs his tummy.
I price-checked diapers all over the internet and we registered (through Wishpot) for the Thirsties covers from Amazon and the Bum Genius AIO’s from Thanks Mama. If you can manage to buy them during a Cyber Monday or Black Friday sale, you can get great discounts on cloth diapers & accessories then. Search Google for other cloth diaper retailers and follow them on Facebook to keep up with their sales. If you want to shop for gently used cloth diapers, I’ve heard Diaper Swappers is a good place to start.
To wash the diapers, I usually do a cold rinse cycle first (not always if we’re in a hurry for clean diapers) and then a hot wash cycle with Rockin’ Green detergent, and end with a cold rinse cycle. Every once in awhile the diapers begin to smell like pee even when they’re clean, and I soak the diapers with Rockin’ Green Funk Rock and that usually helps with the smell. I have also added 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle every now & then to remove alkaline irritants that may cause diaper rash. We use the dryer a lot, but the sun helps tremendously with stains if you have the patience to dry them outside, and I think lemon juice helps too. I need to get better about doing that!
We use Thirsties & Swaddlebees cloth wipes and love both! The Thirsties are really soft and the Swaddlebees are a little thicker (better for sticky poop). So far we’ve just been using water in a travel size spray bottle to spray his butt & then wipe with a dry cloth, but we’re going to start adding a homemade soap mix to the water soon. I’ve heard great things about diaper area sprays from California Baby, Thirsties and Kissaluvs, but I already have some tea tree oil so I’ll just make my own. If you’re interested in going the homemade route too, some simple homemade recipes include various combinations of natural baby wash, oil, essential oils and water.
*I did end up making some homemade diaper spray, and we love it! His bottom gets much, much cleaner with it than just the water we were using before. (Duh, right? I was bathing him after any nasty diapers before, but now I just wash him good with the diaper spray & wait til regular bath times to bathe him.) Here’s the solution we’re using:
1/4 cup olive oil (extra virgin not necessary)
1/8 cup gentle baby bath (I use Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap)
A few drops tea tree oil
4 cups water
You’ll definitely need a couple wet bags to store dirty dipes & wipes on the go. I have an off-brand wet bag and an Itzy Ritzy one. The off-brand bag didn’t last long (the outer seam ripped in the washing machine after 2 or 3 uses). The Itzy Ritzy inner lining tore after 6 months of use. Even though the Itzy Ritzy bag held up longer than the other bag, it’s less useful now since the waterproof lining is the most important part. I’ll be sure to read reviews for other brands before buying another one.
You’ll also need a diaper pail & liner, which we keep in the bathroom. Here’s our pail & liner (both of which have worked out great!)…
We have two liners so we always have one to use when the other one is in the laundry.
We also have this diaper sprayer attached to the toilet which makes “dunking” much easier!
If you’re super handy, you could try making your own diaper sprayer with this DIY tutorial.
Lots of websites will suggest having approx. 36 cloth diapers in your stash. We only had about 9 Thirsties covers and 55 prefolds (which we bleached and then re-used as burp cloths), and we’re only using 16 BumGenius diapers now. It’s plenty for us and we usually do diaper laundry every 2 to 3 days. If we had more diapers I think the dirty diapers would end up sitting in the pail for too long between washes, or we just would never use all of them. So don’t get overwhelmed if you read somewhere that you need 30+ diapers – it’s not necessary! (Do stock up on cloth wipes though – you will need them! We have over 50, and sometimes I wish we had a few more.)
Whenever Silas is ready for potty training, I have my eye on these cute cloth trainers from Blueberry or these pocket trainers with side snaps from Happy Heinys. I should also look into getting him a swim diaper since we’ll be at the pool a lot this summer, but we’re still using up an old package of disposable swim diapers from before Andrew was potty trained!
Here are some more cloth diapering resources:
Change 3 Things: A Cloth Diaper Challenge
The Cloth Diaper Whisperer
Dirty Diaper Laundry
The Great Cloth Diaper Change
Green Pixie Baby
Rockin’ Green Detergent
Velcro-to-Snap Conversion & Elastic Replacement