Cloth diapers aren’t that complicated. That being said, this will a long blog, packed with information. Take time to read it section by section. I am reviewing all of your options, but you don’t need all of this info. I just want you to be informed about all aspects of cloth diapering, so you can make the best choice for you and your family.
There are several different types of cloth diapers and each of them come with their own short-hand or abbreviations used in the online world. For someone new to the cloth diaper world, it can be confusing to navigate. Start with learning cloth diaper acronyms by reading this blog. Each diaper is different and has various benefits and drawbacks, so really it just depends on what you end up liking best– every cloth diapering mom has her favorites. If you have cloth diapering friends, try to borrow a couple of theirs to try out, or order a few different kinds to see which you like best.
Here is a breakdown of the different types of diapers:
These diapers have a pocket on the inside to add inserts to. You add more inserts to make it more absorbent and less inserts to make it smaller, less bulkier or less absorbent. For instance, you would put more inserts in a night time diaper than a day time diaper. The picture below is an example of a pocket diaper. It is a Bum Genius 4.0 OS, snap closure diaper. These typically run around $25 per diaper brand new. Used ones can be found for as little as $8-10 per diaper.
All in 2 diapers have snap-in inserts. You can get a contour insert or a snake insert. A snake insert is long and can be folded to add extra padding where needed. A contour is not adjustable and usually only comes in one size. This picture is an example of an AI2 diaper. Poopy Doo’s diapers have been some of mine and my husband’s favorites. You can visit that store here.
Prefolds and Covers:
This is the cheapest route to go. I have both Chinese and Indian prefolds, and I like them both. This system is less bulky than the pocket or AI2 diapers and is a good fit for parents who don’t like the ‘bulky’ look of cloth. You can actually make your own prefolds out of old t-shirts if you choose (which I will cover in a later blog). The following picture is of a red Thirsty’s cover I was given by a friend. Later, I purchased more prefolds and covers from Econobum. You can use cloth from birth to potty for $100 with this system!
Hybrid Fitted Diapers:
This diaper is a cross between the All in One (AIO) and the Fitted diaper. The Fitted diaper requires a cover, while the AIO is fully water proof due to PUL. The Hybrid Fitted Diaper has a hidden layer of poly-fleece to deflect liquids back to the inner layers. This type of diaper is more breathable, but isn’t totally water proof. This picture is of a diaper I bought from a local WAHM and it is so super cute! These are great for baby when we are just bumming around the house and the waterproof factor isn’t super important. They add lots of padding to the bum for babies who are learning to walk and falling often, and are super cute by themselves or with t-shirts in the summer. You can find more of this diaper here.
No Sew T-Shirt Diaper:
Literally a t-shirt used as a diaper. This is great info if you are ever in a “diaper bind,” as I like to call it. If you forget your diaper bag, or you need one more diaper than you planned on, this is your answer. This is also a great way to increase your diaper stash without spending any money. You simply fold the shirt, allowing the arms to become the tabs. Here is a video I found on YouTube demonstrating this: http://youtu.be/ZylURee4klQ
Also, how to make a no-sew wool diaper: http://www.wearyourbaby.com/Default.aspx?tabid=312
Wool covers are great for babies who are super soakers! They are made by either knitting or crocheting wool yarn into little pants. You can also make your own wool covers out of up-cycled wool sweaters you don’t use any more by simply sewing them like cloth. Up-cycling old sweaters means your possibilities for colors and designs are endless! There are different types of “woolies.” First you have soakers, which are basically like wool underwear that go over the diaper. There are also shorties and longies which are either wool shorts or pants. And last but not least, some WAHMs make wool diaper covers with snaps for adjustability.
Example of Longies:
Example of a Soaker:
Disposable Inserts for on-the-go:
When we are traveling, we like to use disposable inserts inside our cloth diapers. This helps us have a full, clean diaper stash when we reach our destination and it helps keep dirty diapers out of the car. I simply line the inside of the diaper with a liner, then throw the liner away when it is time to change. This is also a great alternative for moms who don’t want the chemicals from disposables, but are intimidated by cloth. If that describes you, this is a great starting place! I really like the Flip disposable inserts.
Swim diapers are simple. They allow the pee to flow freely while catching any poo that might occur while swimming. I suggest getting swim diapers that have snap closure sides so you don’t have to pull the poo down your babies legs when trying to remove it. This just keeps things simple and less messy. These diapers come in sizes. My son is currently 20lbs, but he still wears a small that is said to only fit up to 17lbs because he is so tall and skinny. Each child will size differently depending on their height and how they are built.
Once you get a decent diaper stash going, you will begin to notice a few things. First, certain materials are better for certain situations. Hemp (7x more absorbent than cotton), charcoal bamboo (the most absorbent material for cloth diapers; also absorbs odor and is anti-microbial), and bamboo (4x more absorbent than cotton) are more absorbent than other materials, therefore are great for night time or travel diapers. We have a few hemp inserts. I always double stuff my son’s night time diaper with hemp to help ensure we don’t wake up in a wet bed. Inserts and doublers are also made of micro-fiber or micro-terry, and organic cotton.
The second thing you might notice is the different types of closures. There are pins and Snappis, Velcro and snaps, snap-down rise and newborn umbilical cord low-rise front. The type of closure you choose is nothing more than a personal decision. I really enjoy my Snappis, but my friend who helped me get started in cloth preferred her big colorful safety pins. I really like the Velco closure, but my husband prefers the snaps. We have mostly snap closure diapers now, due to the fun fact that my son learned how to remove the velcro and now takes his diapers off I also prefer the snap-down rise diapers because I can adjust the size of the diaper as my little one grows. My mom said I was a champion at pulling my diaper off and swinging it around in the air. This is why we stick to mostly snap closures. You can order Snappis and safety pins at www.cottonbabies.com.
With cloth diapers, you need wet bags. Wet bags are where you store dirty diapers before washing. I recommend having at least one for on-the-go and preferably two for the house, although you can get by with a large one just fine. If you are frequently on-the-go, you may want to get two smaller wet bags instead of just one. As with the diapers, there are different kinds of wet bags. Some have an open elastic banded top and are meant to be pail liners. Then there are wet bags with handles and zippers, to help enclose smells better. These are great to hang on the back of a door or on a hook. They also make great wet bags to travel with so your diapers won’t spill out. The on-the-go, smaller wet bags come with a draw string top or a zipper. I recommend the zipper because it contains smells better. Also, I wouldn’t waste my money on an expensive diaper pail. Go to the dollar store and get a cheap garbage can. It does the same thing.
Now that you have your diapers, and you have used them, you must wash them! This part takes a little work, but is much more simple than you probably have envisioned. There are so many ways you can go about this next part, so again my advice is this: find what works best for you, your schedule, and your family. A huge laundry sink is wonderful for soaking diapers, but many families don’t have this luxury. I actually soak my diapers in the bath tub with a little bit of Odoban and some baking soda (bicarb). Feel free to add a few drops of essential oil, such as tea tree or lavender to help with smell and bacteria as well. You can also soak your diapers in your washing machine if you choose. I typically allow mine to soak for a few hours before I wash them. I wash my cloth wipes and diapers together, and I try to keep my loads of diapers to 12 or less so that each diaper gets cleaned well.
Laundry detergent has been a longtime debate for cloth diaper mamas. I fully recommend making your own, but this isn’t feasible for everyone. I know mamas who use Tide, Gain, or whatever they use for the rest of the family, on their diapers too. First, I want to say that those are the two most chemicalized detergents on the market today and I avoid them altogether, not to mention how expensive they are. I make my own detergent, yielding 20 gallons for less than $20. You can also wash them in Oxiclean safely. Secondly, I want to say, don’t let detergent type prevent you from using cloth. You can experiment and figure out what works best for you. I usually use two rinse cycles to make sure everything is super clean for my baby’s gentle skin. Line drying is recommended, as sunning your diapers helps get out stains and smells. This way also saves on electricity. You can dry your diapers in the dryer also. This method helps re-seal the waterproof layers, but diapers should not get too hot or be left in dryer any longer than necessary. Do not put the Snappi closures in the washing machine or dryer, as they have potential to get damaged. I only hand wash these.
When I tell people we use cloth diapers, I almost always get asked, “What do you do with the poo?” And my response is the same every time: “What do you do with your poo?” I usually get a laugh, sometimes I get a weird look, but the answer is that easy. You put the poop in the toilet. Now, there are several kinds of baby poop. Baby poo is a subject all of its own, but for now, we shall keep it simple. EBF (exclusively breastfed) baby poo is completely water soluble. This means you can just soak and wash and it will be clean. If you have stain issues, sun your diapers. If baby is formula fed, or does any kind of mixed feeding (breastfed + supplement of some kind), the poo can be a mix of solid and breastmilk poo. In this situation, you have to do more before you put it in the washing machine. No worries! There are tools for this! One great tool is the diaper sprayer. It is an attachment piece that hooks to your toilet to spray the poo out of the diaper. Once your baby is on mostly solid foods, the poo should be more solid, making it easy to “flip” out of the diaper into the toilet. After this step, be sure to soak diapers before washing.
If you ever come across a time where you can’t seem to get the smell out or your diapers begin to leak, no worries! You can use a process called “stripping” to help restore your diapers. This process can be done several ways.
Stripping Diapers-Method 1:
Simply use the “heavy duty” cycle with hot water and no detergent. This will help eliminate any detergent build up that may be causing your diapers to leak or stink.
Stripping Diapers-Method 2:
RLR Laundry Treatment is great for removing mineral deposits caused by hard water. Again, continue rinsing diapers until you see no more suds or white foam.
Stripping Diapers-Method 3:
One drop of blue Dawn dish soap does wonders for build-up in diapers. With this method, just like the others, be sure to rinse until all the suds are gone.
Last item on our list is cloth wipes. These are super simple to make from up-cycled hospital receiving blankets. Simply cut into 6”x6” squares, or whatever size suits your fancy, and then sew the edges together. If you are dedicated, you can even do this without a sewing machine. I have found that two dozen cloth wipes is a good number for my family. With cloth wipes, comes cloth wipe solution. Again, you are overloaded with options here. Many cloth diaper stores (online and local) sell cloth wipe cubes or solution you can purchase for a reasonable price. You can also make your own. I recycled an old mason jar into my “wipe solution jar” and I make my solution in it. Here’s my recipe: 2-3 cups of water, 1 spoonful of coconut oil (melted), and a few drops of essential oils. I always add Tea Tree Oil (2-4 drops) to eliminate the possibility of bacteria growth. This also helps keep down the smell in my wet bag. Double win!
Cheers to you for checking out the world of cloth diapers! It is such a great place, filled with so many super friendly mamas who are always willing to help. Facebook is full of cloth diaper groups, where mamas exchange info on how to treat diapers and wash them, which ones worked well and which ones they wish they hadn’t bought. You can also find BST (buy, sell, trade) groups on Facebook for used diapers. I have bought a few diapers this way. The only thing I wish I had known before beginning cloth: cloth diapers are soooooo addictive! People actually “stalk” diaper sales and listings online to get specific diapers because they are so cute! And it gives that baby bum a little bit more padding for the fall. Not to mention, fluffy butts are the cutest!
Be sure to check out these links for cloth diapers and more!