Cloth diapering 101: everything you need to know

When I was pregnant with my daughter I looked up everything about natural birth, natural products, and how to have a healthy pregnancy. I’m not exactly sure who or what intrigued me about cloth diapers but somewhere I must have seen a cute picture of a baby wearing one and thought to myself “well those are cool, what’s this all about?”.  Naturally when something piques my interest, I Google or Pinterest the heck out of it to find out more.  So I started reading tons of articles about cloth diapers and reaching out to some people who used cloth diapers.  One of my husband’s fellow Marine’s wife who follows me on Instagram and must have seen a post I wrote about them, so she contacted me and gave me the email of someone she knew  who said I could contact her anytime with questions. If you’ve ever been interested in cloth diapers and googled about them, I’m sure you are aware how many different articles, opinions, and guidelines there are about them. The whole thing is a little daunting especially if you’ve 1- never used them before, or 2 – never even had a baby before! Here are some things that ran through my mind. Where do you even start? How do I know what brand to get? Are the more expensive ones really that much better? How many times do you change them? How do you wash them? Aren’t they going to have poop stains all over them?? (This was honestly one of my bigger concerns. Forget the absorbency – are they going to have skid marks all over them so I will be too embarrassed to show them to people?) Microfiber vs. hemp vs. bamboo vs. organic cotton…. make it stop! I did contact that girl who was gracious enough to give me a good starting base of info. The rest I had to learn on my own through trial and error.  So without further ado here are some tips to help those who are in the same boat I was – the “holy crap, this is scary. I think I changed my mind” boat.

IMG_20160426_214245Why do cloth?

Here’s a few reasons why I personally became interested in cloth diapers.

  1. They save you money in the long run

  2. They are better for the environment

  3. They are soft and more comfortable for baby

  4. There are no chemicals in them

  5. They are cute

  6. They contain messes better (IMO)

At first cloth diapers can be expensive to invest in, especially if you buy them all at once.  Some people see that it’s between 20 – 30 dollars for one diaper and think “well why the heck would anyone pay that?”. But hear me out. Yes one diaper is say, an average of 25 dollars. Well that diaper fits a baby from 8-35 lbs. So hopefully your baby will be potty trained or near it by the time the diaper no longer fits. If you take good care of the diapers you can reuse them for your next kid or resell them. You should ideally have at least 25 diapers so you don’t have to do laundry everyday. If you buy them all brand new at 25 dollars each you will spend 625 dollars on diapers. However , they will last, and you will spend much more than that buying disposables- Google it.  Now of course you can buy them used as well, which will save you money.  This price is also based on all in ones , but you can definitely find cheaper ones if you do prefolds.

Reusable diapers = less waste. I love being able to wash my own diapers and not have bags of trash to throw out all the time. I did use disposable diapers for the first month and a half of my daughter’s life and let me tell you, you go through a lot of diapers. I felt bad creating that much trash. Now I know some super environmentalist people will say I’m wasting more water and using more resources washing them. Maybe it does use water. But honestly I do laundry everyday anyway and I’d rather not add to landfills. Water can be a renewable resource. If you’re super conscious you can even use cloth wipes. I’ve thought about it several times, but I still don’t do it. Perhaps someday I will be just that granola.

There’s no denying that cloth diapers are soft and comfy. What would you rather wear- a scratchy paper like material or actual soft cloth?

Most cloth diapers are made from natural fibers and if you’re super picky about fabric you can also buy organic cotton ones. There are minimal chemicals in the diapers compared to the chemicals that are put in disposable diapers. Those disposable diapers are super absorbent, I’ll give them that. But what makes them that way? I’m not sure I want to know. A baby’s skin is super sensitive and can absorb almost 100% of what is put on it. I didn’t want to expose my daughter to more chemicals than she needed to be. On a side note did you know that there are also chemicals in maxi pads and tampons? I used to wear either tampax or playtex tampons and I always felt sick and achy but just attributed it to having my period. Once I switched to organic cotton tampons and pads I don’t have any issues. (That’s a topic for another post)

They are cute. Well enough said. Look up some of the patterns. They come in just about every design you can think of. Adorbs.

I’ve personally never had a poop blow out yet with a cloth diaper.  They fit better and contain the mess better in my opinion. I’ve used disposables several times and can never get it to keep a huge poopy mess from going right up my daughters back. I know, it’s gross. I’ve lived it folks.

What to buy?

Ok so now that I’ve convinced you (sort of) where do you start? Which brand do you buy? Well this is a tricky question but I have a few pointers. There are a lot of great diapers out there and everyone you talk to has a different favorite. I only buy either all in ones, or pocket diapers. I have mostly all in ones. All in ones are the most like a disposable in the fact that it’s literally all together so you just snap or velcro (aplix) it on your baby and go. I can’t be bothered with trying to learn how to use prefolds with a cover. It just seems like too many steps. I’m sure it’s easy once you learn but if you are like me then get the all in ones or pockets. The pocket diapers have an insert you have to put in but that’s it. It’s really not that complicated. My personal favorite brand now is Bum Genius which is crazy because before I even had my baby I kept telling myself that I didn’t like bum genius, they weren’t good enough, and I was going to buy only the high end more expensive cloth diapers and those would be my favorite. Ha. The Universe wins again.  Here’s what’s in my “stash” as they say – Bum Genius, Thirsties, Tots Bots, Bambino Mio, Blueberry Simplex, and I did have one Fuzzibuns and one Applecheeks. I also had 3 Ecoables but they all got trashed. If I have one piece of advice it’s you get what you pay for. Ecoables are cheap and they are made in China. (I try to avoid made in China at all costs if possible). They have cute prints so I bought 3. They all didn’t even last 3 months. They stunk and started leaking. IF you are going to invest in cloth diapers, invest in cloth diapers. Bum genius, Thirsties, and Blueberry Simplex are all made in America. Tots bots are made in the UK. Bambino mio I thought was made in Europe but they may be made in China now, that’s why I only have 2. Applecheeks is made in Canada. It’s a good diaper but it never fit my daughter right and it always leaked. I didn’t like the style of snaps either. Fuzzibuns is also made in China which I am not a fan of. I had one and it had the same style of snaps as Applecheeks. I didn’t fit right and leaked so I donated it. My daughter is a heavy wetter so Bum Genius works best for us. The Blueberry Simplex ones also last overnight. I love the Thirsties and Tots Bots but they only last about 2 hours. Thirsties do not have a pocket so it’s hard to add more absorbency. Tots bots you can, but I like the stay dry liner of Bum Genius.

Buy a few different types and see which one fits your baby the best.  I don’t have any organic ones, just the regular ones and they work just fine.

How to clean

If you search you will find various do and don’t of washing cloth diapers with ominous warnings of ruining them if you don’t do it right. Here’s what I found. I’ve been using cloth diapers for 8 months now and I’ve never ruined any of them. The only 3 that stopped working were cheap and not good quality. Here’s what I do. I have an old top loading non- HE washer. I put them in on medium load. I have 25 diapers and I try to wash them when I am down to 2 left. I do a hot /cold prewash with some regular non HE powdered tide. Then I do a hot/cold heavy duty wash on the longest time with a little more powdered tide. Then I do a short regular cycle with no detergent so I know they got rinsed. Then I put them in the dryer for an hour on medium heat.(No dryer sheets ever) In the summer sometimes I put them in the sun. There are NO poop stains on any of my diapers.  And I can assure you they have all been crapped on …. a lot. Once a month (or when I remember) I will try to soak them overnight in RLR and then just do a plain cycle with no detergent to strip them so the ammonia doesn’t build up. Sometimes I add a small amount of bleach to my regular wash routine as well. My washer machine water does get super hot (I think it’s between 135 and 140 degrees) so I know they are clean. Remember, poop isn’t sterile so don’t buy into the hype that you have to sterilize your diapers. I also run some bleach through an empty cycle in my machine to keep it clean every now and then.

Do you have to rinse the poop off?

If it is liquid, no. If you are breastfeeding and the poop is not solid, you do not have to rinse the diapers first. Around 5 months my supply dropped when I went back to work and I had to start supplementing formula. I did a lot of internet searching and what I found was that even if you are feeding formula , as long as the poop is liquid you do not have to rinse it off. I have washed many diapers this way and no poop has ever been left on the diapers or in my machine. If the poop is pasty, or more solid than yes you must rinse it off. I have a diaper sprayer I bought a few months ago when I started solids with my daughter and it’s the best invention ever. I spray off my diapers into the toilet and put them in the wet bag. It’s really not that bad. Then again, I’m a nurse and have cleaned up old men who crapped the whole bed. So I guess it’s all your perspective. But really, it’s not that bad!

What else?

Now just so you know, I am not totally against disposables. Like I said, I used them for almost 2 months when my daughter was first born because she was small and did not fit into the cloth diapers I had. Then when she could almost fit we both got thrush and I did not want to have to worry about having a yeast problem in my diapers. As soon as we were both cured I put her in the cloth ones.  I have also used disposables a few times this winter when my husband and I took a trip up to Vermont. I did not want to have to worry about not having a place to rinse the diapers off when my daughter pooped. I also did not want dirty diapers sitting there over a long weekend and then have to worry about washing them first thing when I got home.  There are a few low chemical/ natural brands of disposables these days to choose from.  I’m not going to lie, when the baby is first born using cloth can be overwhelming just because of the sheer volume of diapers you will go through. That new baby is a peeing and pooping machine. It does get much easier as they get older and you have more practice with the diapers. I’m so glad I decided to give them a try and stick with them.  I can’t imagine having to buy boxes of diapers all the time. It’s hard enough for me to get to BJ’s to buy a box of wipes. Maybe I should start doing cloth wipes. ;-).

Whatever you decide to do , do what is right for you! If you want to try a few, go for it.  If you want to use disposables when you go on a trip, do so. There’s no cloth diaper nazi who’s going to tell you what you’re doing is wrong. (If there is a cloth diaper nazi reading this, please don’t comment on my blog telling me I’m doing it wrong.)

I hope this helps make cloth diapering a little less scary.


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