One of the BIGGEST decisions we made back when we had our first child was one that many people might not even remotely consider ~ using cloth diapers.
While I was fully on board and convinced that was what I wanted for my kids, my husband was NOT having any part of it. Perhaps that was due in part to the stigma of how they worked – he remembers the flat white diapers that you had to “pin” with these HUGE needles. Not only were they entirely different than what we have now, they were a huge burden.
He thought it was a disgusting idea.
I remember him saying “But the poop – what about the poop?”
And I said “well, there is Poop with disposables, and if you read the package it even tells you to PUT the poop in the toilet…” – so really, little difference.
Now, 4 kids later, I can’t say he is against them – but then he doesn’t wash them, I do that part.. and although some may say it’s easier because I stay home, it’s not harder if you work – I worked full time with the first baby and we used Cloth just fine (and yes, we were able to use them at the daycare, too).
As a child, I remember my mom’s laundry room was stocked up with flat prefolds – 2 full shelves. We had plastic training pants. We had several pails with stinky diapers. I don’t remember much else but my mom was the one who washed and took care of them because my Dad was forever at work.
Thankfully we have come a LONG way – and yes, we used cloth on our kids and I was happy with our decision 4 kids later! We have one more to put through diapers (baby 5…) and we’ll be finding a forever home for our cloth to pass on to someone else.
Making the Decision to Use Cloth
There are MANY reasons someone might want to consider cloth diapers – from cost, to the waste factor or even just because you are concerned about the chemicals in your disposable diapers.
Unlike disposable diapers, there is an up front cost with Cloth Diapers – look at that up front cost as an investment – we probably spent $400 – $500 on everything we needed and that was for ALL 5 kids. Great deal when you see the cost spread over time in comparison to buying disposables weekly or monthly.
You then will also need to decide what type to use – as there are several… how you will store them, and even more, how you will wash them. Do you want to try several? Or do you want to get all of the same variety?
Diapers have changed drastically since the 70’s or 80’s – what we remember as the white refolds are now Snap-type all in one styles, or styles with hook closures. PUL Covers and Wool Diaper Covers are now used instead of those ugly plastic pull on covers – they allow the wetness to be kept inside but yet the skin can still breathe, leaving for a cool bottom.
Buying used cloth diapers that have been worn in is a great option – while many may assume that you have to buy new, ours were all purchased used, and cloth diapers gain absorbency with use. The newest cloth diapers including the all in ones are great at containing messy accidents, they have great leg gussets that ensure you are not left with a blowout while you are out and about.
And they DO make waterproof diaper bags – both large and small, so you can still tote that with you if you have to change your child on the go, too.
Types of Cloth Diapers
The first thing I learned when checking out cloth diapers was that there are MANY different kinds – it makes your decision easier but yet harder at the same time. If you are new to cloth diapering it may be hard to know which variety will work the best for you…
We tried several varieties before settling on the type that worked best for us.
All in One Cloth Diapers
All in One Diapers are SO easy – they are great for someone who wants something more similar to a disposable. The waterproof layer is permanently attached to the outside of the diaper and doesn’t need to come off. The layers of absorbency are built-in, and the diaper closes with snaps (buttons) normally.
In most cases, they have All in One Diapers in a variety of sizes – so you will need several of each size for your children.
While they might be easy to use (especially for people with limited time), they take a considerable amount of time to dry because the layers are all built-in – we used to hang ours outside on a garment rack to dry in the sun (which also worked as a natural bleach).
Pocket Cloth Diapers
Pocket Diapers were my ultimate pick with my kids – the Pocket Diaper consists of an outer shell (that’s waterproof), with a pocket that is sewn into the shell to allow you to stuff an absorbent liner within… you can stuff that liner in there or you can lay the liner in the middle (if you are lazier.. I admit sometimes I was!)
There are NO PINS needed.
They operate with snaps – and most of my Pocket Diapers grew with my children – so while they got bigger, the diapers just adjusted through the snaps.. I loved them! They were also easier to wash and dry since they were separate layers – we tossed them all in the washer and hung them on the clothing rack in the back patio.
Prefold Cloth Diapers
Prefold Cloth Diapers are what our parents used to use! They were economical during their time of raising kids – they are rectangular in shape and they require you to fold them into a desired shape and then fasten with a few pins or, fasten with a Snappy.
We DID have a few sets of these, and believe it or not, I used them for a while. Though once I discovered Pocket Diapers I was SOLD on switching over – but I did keep the prefolds for burp cloths… and they are handy to have in the diaper bag for laying down during a diaper change.
Covers were usually the waterproof – but if you use them now you can pick up Wool Diaper Covers. One of the advantage of prefolds is that they are really inexpensive and easy to clean.
Fitted Cloth Diapers
Fitted Cloth Diapers have elastic leg gussets, back elastic and fit on baby with a snap OR hook closure. They don’t have a waterproof layer, so you DO need to use something extra to prevent the wetness from traveling through.
They are also sized .. so you will need various sizes for each stage of your kids growth. Because they are GREAT in terms of absorbency, they are also more expensive too… but as an advantage, they are easy to fasten and great at containment.
Hybrid Cloth Diapers
Hybrid Diapers consist of an outer shell (cover) in which you insert absorbent layer. The only difference between these and an all in one … is that the Hybrid can be used with cloth absorbency (at home) and then with disposable absorbency (for when you are out).
While they are more convenient for some, they can actually be less effective at leakage… depending on the brand in which you buy. You can find that some styles will grow with your child and some will offer different sizes for different ages.
Making the Switch is MORE than just Cloth Diapers
If you DO opt for Cloth Diapers, you’ll need a few extra things to make the transition easier…
If you are planning on going out with your kids, you need a waterproof bag to put the diapers in… it makes it a little easier to manage! At home, you don’t need a fancy storage
Storing Cloth Diapers
Storing them is SO easy – at least for us. We had several huge wicker baskets in the house and we would wash them, put them in the sun outside, and then throw them in the basket without even folding.
Washing Cloth Diapers
When washing cloth diapers, you’ll want to avoid scented Washing Detergent, so aim for something without scent… we make our own detergent so ours is free of fragrance as well.
When it comes to Cloth Diapers, you will also want to avoid ANY and ALL Fabric Softeners and dryer sheets. If you DO need to use something in the rinse cycle you can use Vinegar (1/2 c. per load).
Dryer Sheets and Softener will cause a film on the diapers that will repel water, so it’s important that you avoid using them, as well as bleach. If you continue to use them, the film will build up and the diapers won’t be as absorbent over time – which will require you to “strip” the diapers (that will come in a future post!)
Are they DIRTY to wash?
Of course to some extent they are. But nothing a washing machine can’t handle. I exclusively breastfed, so for my babes, their poop was different — but once children are doing solid foods, you can just flip the diaper over the toilet to toss the poop in (which is what you are supposed to do with disposables, too) and put the rest in the pail. If you feel inclined you can spray the diaper a bit with the sprayer – though I’ll admit I never used a sprayer with 4 children.
Wet or Dry Pail?
You’ll want to decide if you are going to have a Wet or Dry Pail in your Laundry Room. A Wet Pail allows you to place the dirty diapers in the pail and then wash every 2-3 days (or sooner if you need to).
Unfortunately a wet pail did not work for us, because I have little ones at home so I always worried about having that water standing with kids around – not to mention my front loader is hard to load when you are putting something in that is dripping wet (without getting water all over my laundry room floor). Even if you have a secure lid ON that pail, the risk of hands getting in there is still there – the pail with lid is only as good as the adult making sure it’s closed (much similar to having a pool with a fence… that’s an entirely different post!)
Instead, you can opt for a Dry Pail, which allows you to toss the dirty diapers in there, and wash every 2-3 days. You’ll want to use a Wet Liner in that pail, as it makes it easier for you to pull out on wash day, and dump in the washer. Then flip the wet liner inside out and throw in WITH the diapers.
Let the wet liner air dry and then put back in the bucket or can as a liner and continue on.
When washing your cloth diapers, you’ll want to rinse on cold, then wash on hot with 1/4 of the detergent you would use versus a regular load. It’s important you don’t overdo it with detergent as if you do, the build up will rise in the diapers and it’ll cause the diapers to smell later on over time. Don’t over-do the detergent!
Then, do a second wash on hot to rid of all the residue and rinse one last time on cold. We use our back patio to hang them on a garment rack – except in the cooler weather, then we would hang the covers and dry the pocket diapers sans covers in the dryer before throwing back into the basket.
Looking for a DIY laundry soap? We love the laundry powder we use and it’s Borax-free – which is great. It’s also cloth diaper safe – and HE friendly.
How Many to Buy?
When you are starting out it might be hard to determine how many diapers to buy… you might even want to try several varieties to see what works best. I think we tried 3 different varieties out at first before making a decision on the type that we thought would be most effective.
We were fortunate enough to pick up our diapers in some local Mom’s Groups that had them for sale, and at the time, they were available on Ebay (although I don’t know if they still are!) Another local Mom sold hers through Craigslist to us, and I met her down in Phoenix to pick them up – though be wary about Craigslist.. as it can be a scary place to buy OR sell 😉
Here’s what I recommend:
Newborn Babies: 24 – 30 diapers to start + covers (I recommend 4 or 5 Wool)
Infants – Toddlers: 18 – 24 diapers + covers, if needed (I recommend 3-4)
Once your children outgrow their diapers, hold onto them – we have held onto ours for the most part.. we did have an incident last year where David tossed out a HUGE tub by accident (that was a GOOD majority of my cloth diapers) – but thankfully I had a few tubs and was able to salvage some.
We were fortunate enough to find another sale to pick up more shortly after we had Baby 4. I’m thankful we did.. because we ended up having Baby 5 not long after.
Have you tried cloth diapers? If not, have you ever considered using them?