I have had a few people ask about cloth diapers & have sent emails to others in the past, so for future inquiries I figured I’d just post a blog about it. Be forewarned, this is probably going to be an incredibly long post.
To start, let me give my reasons for LOVING cloth diapers.
1. I have NEVER (yes, never) had a “blow-out” in cloth. If you’ve had a newborn in disposables, you know what I’m talking about. That explosive poo that shoots up the back or front of the diaper, getting all over baby’s clothes, crib or momma. Never had it in any type of cloth diaper I’ve used, & EVERYTIME Grace pooped in a disposable during the first 3-4wks of life, we had a blow-out.
2. Cost. Plain & simple. To get started in cloth it will set you back a bit, but after a few months you will have re-couped the cost in most cases, but even with more expensive options before a year is up, you will have saved. If you add in multiple children, it’s like free diapers.
3. Environment. Disposable diapers take a large portion of landfills & are only used by a small percentage of the population. Don’t create a landfill with your kids’ name on it. Some argue about water usage &/or soap pollution. I don’t think that argument is incredibly valid…sorry I don’t remember my sources but if you’re really fighting that one, do some research & I bet you’ll be swayed. As far as soap, there are plenty of enviro-friendly options, even in typical name brands now (All-free, Tide-free, ect). Btw, if you look closely at your package of disposables….poop is supposed to be flushed, regardless of cloth or disposable…not many people catch that one.
4. Sanitation. I know cloth seems unsanitary, but now that I use cloth & frequently change my kids, the idea of leaving them in a wet disposable grosses me out. However, they’re so absorbent it seems like a waste of money to change the diaper before it’s soaked. They are dry, but they’re still sitting in close contact to pee. That’s just gross.
5. Airflow. Depending on what type of cover you use, cloth is much more breathable than disposable, thus more likely to protect against chapped rashy skin. If you do have a rash problem, letting them run around in the diaper without a cover on is just as good as going naked, but with much less mess.
6. Chemicals. This one I’m less inclined to care about, but I have had disposables leave a mystery gel on my kid’s bottoms. It’s assumable non-toxic, but still….what is that?
7. Convenience. I know, I know. When I read it back when I was contemplating the switch, I laughed. However, especially with two kids, it is SO much more convenient to do a load of laundry when I unexpectedly run out of diapers, as opposed to making a trip to the store.
8. Last but not least, I promise it’s so much easier than I thought it would be. I even find myself looking forward to diaper washing day. I think it’s the ex-catholic in me. Much like confession, you dread it, but after it’s all said & done, you’re on a weird “feel-good” high.
I have tried 3 different brands of fitted diapers & will give short reviews on each. The One-Size “Stay Dry” Motherease Diapers is what I use.
First, some diaper lingo to get you started:
Diaper Cover: A waterproof cover to put over diapers so they don’t leak all over everything. There are lots of different kinds & materials, some folks are die-hard wool fans (they are the MOST breathable/natural, but require more work), others go for Gerber “plastic pants” (cheapest but least breathable). I’m not going to review covers except that I like the Mother-ease Airflow covers best. Have tried bummis (worked great, but not as breathable) & Gerber (HORRIBLE in my opinion). Never tried wool. Don’t plan to full-time diaper without 4 covers in each size (buy them as you need them though as some kids are born a size medium & others never make it to large before potty training). They typically come in preemie (p), newborn (nb), small (sm), medium (md), large (lg), & extra-large (xlg) depending on the brand of course.
Birdseye: I THINK this is what these are called…could be wrong. These are the super old-school large pieces of cloth that you fold up into rectangles in varying ways depending on the size of your baby & pin or snappi. They require a separate cover. Most inexpensive. I’ve never tried them, so no idea on absorbency ect.
Prefold: The next step up, these are rectangles with extra absorbency sewn in the middle, so you do not have to fold them up as much (hence, PREfold). You do have to fold them around the baby though, & pin or snappi them (google snappi if you don’t know what it is). These are the least expensive option out of the “commonly used” types of diapers. I highly recommend unbleached Chinese prefolds vs. Indian prefolds. The Indian are softer, but not as durable. There are lots of different brands & I have no idea on brands. Green Earth is a tremendously popular brand. I do not really like prefolds as I just can’t seem to figure out how to fold them to hold poop in. Pretty much anytime my kid’s poop in a prefold it gets on the cover (if you have a bunch of covers you might not care, having plenty to spare before wash-day). Not to mention it’s a learned skill that skeptical daddy’s might not be willing to learn. I did use them on Grace until she fit in the mother-ease one-size (so for about 2wks). They come in p, nb, sm, md, lg, xlg. Sizes. Separate cover required.
Fitted: No folding involved, just lie the baby down on it & snap or Velcro it together (depending on the brand). Most come in the usual sizes (sm, med, lg, xlg). The other option in fitted is “one-size”. The upside to a one-size is just that. You only buy one set of diapers for all of ‘diaper hood’. That is why I chose a one-size. Certainly much more cost-effective. The downside to one-size is that they are typically the bulkiest option. My kids definitely have to wear a size larger pant than in disposables. I used to be embarrassed by the “big booty”, but somehow along the way, stopped caring. Take note though, nearly all cloth diapers will be considerably more bulky than disposables. Just the way it goes. Another downside is that you likely won’t get as snug a fit. I do occasionally have “poop leakage”, but not every time, & I’ve NEVER had urine leak out (note that I’ve never had poop leak out of the cover onto the clothing, only onto the inside of the cover). I have tried One-size Motherease Dry-line Crickette’s, & Kissaluvs. Short reviews below. Separate cover required.
All-In-One (AIO): A fitted diaper that is sewn into a cover. These are the “easiest” to use as it’s just one step. Very “daddy” & day-care friendly. There are a couple brands that offer a one-size aio, but I’ve never tried them. The pros to these are pretty obvious, even as an avid fitted fan, I must admit aio’s are tempting. The cons are that they are by far the most expensive option, & the life of the diaper is diminished as you can’t abuse covers like you can the diapers. Since I’m not an AIO user, I don’t know for sure, but I have read reviews & it makes sense to me, that they are not as easily used for diapering multiple children. If you only plan to have one kid, then this might be the way to go, but if you want more, they might not live to see the 2nd or 3rd child. I will note though that the small size will likely go the distance as that size only lasts a few months at the most & during those first couple months before the baby’s sleeping through the night it could be worth the extra expense for aio’s. A lot of people recommend having a few AIO’s on hand for the diaper bag & babysitters if you’re really avid about cloth. I have tried Bumkins (size small) & really liked them, as they were so easy & crazy trim. They were nearly as trim as a disposable. However, they definitely require a doubler, as they actually leaked urine with Grace during a nap. They were also not as breathable as what I regularly use. No separate cover required.
Pocket Diaper: I’ve never tried these (or seen them in person) so I can’t really give much of an opinion & don’t totally understand how they work. From what I gather, they are very similar to an AIO, but for the absorbency you stuff a “pocket” with a special insert, or in some cases a prefold diaper all folded up. Tons of people really seem to LOVE Fuzzi Bunz, which is a brand of pocket diaper. Pocket diapers are in the expensive category as well. No separate cover required.
Doubler: Strip of diaper material that you lay inside a diaper to add more absorbency (i.e., “double” the absorbency). For heavy wetters or not so absorbent diapers, you use these with every diaper change. For Asher I used them almost all the time. For Grace I use them for naps, nighttime & if we’re out & about & I won’t likely change her for over an hour. For nighttime I use a small size prefold as a doubler.
Fleece liners are a thin piece of fleece material that wicks moisture away from baby & draws it into the diaper, creating a “stay dry” barrier. These are great for times when the baby will be in the diaper for an extended time (naps, night-time ect.) and if baby has a rash. I use them most of the time for Grace. I no longer use them for Asher as he’s only in diapers for nighttime & naptime & I want him to be able to feel that he’s wet for potty training reasons.
Disposable liners are like a piece of thick toilet paper that you lay on the diaper that basically holds the poop so you can lift that piece off & throw it in the toilet. Makes cleanup easier. I have started using them for Asher….I don’t think it’s very economical, but 2-year old poop is extra gross & his aren’t the only diapers I’m dealing with right now.
Crickette’s: Pros: Great snug fit/adjustability, trim fit, good absorbency & very soft (not plush, but soft to the touch). Cons: Skin feels quite wet in them, even with a fleece liner, take a long time to dry in the dryer, & rather expensive.
Dri-Line: Pros: Great snug fit, good absorbency. I can’t remember wetness as it’s been a really long time since I’ve used them. Cons: Velcro closure, which wears quicker than snaps. I don’t know what the cost is, the one I used was borrowed & didn’t looking into buying them.
Kissaluvs: Pros: Snug fit, really cute. Cons: Not great absorbency, the doubler is a MUST (these diapers are the only ones that have ever leaked urine onto clothing as the size 0 (newborn) is not big enough to fit a doubler). Take a long time to dry in the dryer.
NOTE ON ALL 3 DIAPERS ABOVE: they all 3 have a really great snug leg fit, that doesn’t let any poop escape, ever! However, this is due to a gusseted thin elastic in the legs, that seems to me will stretch out over time (I have definitely read reviews about this with the kissaluvs), especially if you line-dry them, which I like to do in the summer.
Motherease One-Size (I use the “stay dry” version): Pros: Good fit, great absorbency, decent wetness protection, affordable. Cons: Bulky, not super soft (but not scratchy), not a super snug leg-fit & if you use the “stay-dry” variety there is a polyester lining inside the diaper, some are opposed to non-natural fibers.
That’s it for the actual diapers. Here are some other tips:
Wipes: w/my cloth diapers I use cloth wipes. I find it easier, b/c then I don’t have to make a separate trip to the trashcan just for wipes. Before Grace was born, I just used water, which I kept a little bowl next to the changing table, and baby washcloths (from the dollar store). It was kind of annoying b/c it would get REALLY cold (colder than normal wipes get), so I’d try to remember to go put warm water in it before putting Asher on the changing table, but that happened about once a day. so Asher learned how to say “cold!”. Then I decided to try home-made pre-wet wipes (a tip in the “superbaby food” book), where you make up the wipe solution & put the cloth wipes in an empty disposable wipes container & pour the solution over it. They were ok, but again, really cold & hard to get the right amt. of wetness. Another tip I’ve read is to put the solution in a spray container then spray the cloth (or hiney) right before using it. however, I haven’t tried it. instead, as a baby shower gift for Grace I received a wipe warmer & I put my wipes solution directly in that and dip each wipe before using it. so I get the perfect amt. of wetness (these wipe off sticky poop so much easier!) & they’re nice & warm. You can buy “cloth wipes” off the internet but this just seems silly. The dollar store washcloths work great.
for my ‘solution’ I use 4cups water, 2TBS unscented baby-mild dr. bronner’s castile soap (or you can use 1TBS of any baby shampoo), & 10-20 drops of lavender (or tea-tree, though there are allergy warnings for this. That’s what I use with no problems) essential oil . This is a nice smell, plus anti-fungal so your water doesn’t get moldy. For the essential oil you need to get it from a natural foods store or herb shop, make sure it’s really essential oil not just scented massage oil or something. otherwise it won’t have the anti-fungal properties. I have to make the solution about once a week. it takes all of 30 seconds.
I also do a ‘dry pail’ for the diaper pail. I use a diaper dekor+. I don’t recommend the dekor. it’s just what I had so that’s what I use, plus Ryan prefers it as it is small & is rather ‘stylish’ for a diaper pail. Since I keep mine in the bathroom next to the toilet, it matters to Ryan what it looks like. It doesn’t hold enough diapers & you have to buy special bags for it. It’s not really cost-effective or the most environmentally friendly option. I feel like the smell is either the same or less than disposable diapers b/c w/cloth you flush the poop down the toilet, so it’s just a strong ammonia-type smell from the pee. but w/washing every other day I don’t notice a smell at all. When it was just Asher (and he was 14+ months, so less diaper changes) I washed every 3rd day…sometimes 4th. that got stinky. it’s esp. easy with breastfed newborns (or babies that are exclusively breastfed, no solids). You don’t have to flush that poop, it washes out in the washing machine (rinse cycle first). once they start eating food though you’ve got to flush it. A tip I’ve picked up off someone’s website is to use the washing machine as a ‘wet pail’. Between laundry days I will often empty my (too small) diaper pail into the washing machine, fill it up with cold water & add a cup of baking soda. Then I let it rotate for just a bit, to mix up the baking soda & let it sit until it’s time to wash them.
For washing instructions, you will find everyone has their own ideas & opinions on the best way. I would imagine it depends on your diapers, your water (hard or soft), the detergent & machine. Here’s what I’ve found works best for me: A cold water rinse, then Hot water wash with 3TBS of All-free & clear. If it’s especially stinky I will also add either 1/2 cup of baking soda or 10-20 drops of tea-tree oil. Then an extra rinse cycle with 1/2 cup vinegar. I NEVER dry my covers in the dryer or let them soak overnight in water!! Other “no-no’s” are bleach on the diapers (messes with absorbancy & weakens the fibers) & fabric softner (creates a waterproof layer on the material, & puts chemicals on the diapers).
That’s just about everything I can think of. If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, you sure are patient. I believe you might have it in you to “go cloth”.