In a previous post I listed the most significant factors in my decision to cloth diaper. So now that we’ve got the why out of the way, let’s do the how.
I think people assume that taking care of cloth diapers is more complicated than it really is. The two big things you’ll have to learn right away are (Thing One) how to change them and (Thing Two) how to wash them.
Thing One: Changing
This depends on the kind of diaper you’ve got. When I first started cloth diapering, I was so befuddled by the array of choices that I just dove into the only kind I had seen in real life – pocket diapers. (These are probably the easiest, but also the most expensive.) I sort of wish I’d explored a little more open-mindedly, though, because once I got a grip on how the different varieties work, I didn’t feel the least bit overwhelmed.
So some cloth diapers (pocket and AIO) change just like disposables – lay it under baby, pull through and fasten. Well, that’s cake. Then there are diapers which need covers (prefolds, contours, and fitteds). There will be the absorbent pad and a cover. It isn’t much different from putting on two thin diapers, one right on top of the other.
I think, if you’re going to cloth diaper, cloth wipes just make good sense. I have two reasons – one, price. It’s not like wipes are a bank-breaker, but why pay for them if you don’t need to and you’re already doing laundry? Second, and a bigger deal to me, is that once you’re cloth diapering, cloth wipes are such an easy transition. Some people make or buy cloth wipe mix, but I just run my wipes under a faucet and ring them out before changing. There is no additional care for cloth wipes. It’s all the same stuff (although maybe thirty extra seconds at the toilet).
After an on-the-go changing, a waterproof bag like this one is a must. This way you can carry the dirty diaper safely home. At home, if the diaper is just wet, take out any inserts and toss it in your diaper pail (which should be lined with a waterproof liner like this one).
If it’s poopy, you’ll have to get any solids off the diaper. This is The Big Bummer of cloth diapering – it’s not difficult, but it’s not fun either. You can get a toilet sprayer, which you install directly into the plumbing beneath your toilet tank, and which works kind of like a kitchen hose. Take out inserts, spray solids off of the diaper and the wipes, throw everything into the pail and wash your hands (as if I need to tell you that last part, right?). They say that breastfed poo is water-soluble and can go straight into your washer, but personally, I’d rather spray it off.
Thing Two: Laundry
When it comes to laundry, you’re pretty much guaranteed that you’ll make tweaks to any process you find endorsed. The basics, though – four steps.
- Run a cold rinse spin to prevent stains from baking on.
- Run a regular wash with half the suggested amount of a cloth-diaper-friendly detergent (I use biokleen, but there are a lot of options.)
- Run an extra spin to get out any residue. (You’ll probably have to strip your diapers from time to time, too, but more on that later.)
- Dry. You can tumble dry everything on low, or you can just do the inserts and then line-dry anything with PUL, the waterproof material. The dryer can wear PUL down, but it dries quickly on a line. I live in a wet climate, so I usually can’t sun-dry, but I hang them from clothespins tied to the closet rod in my son’s room and they dry in two or three hours.
After your diapers are washed and dry, if you have pockets/AIOs, you’ll need to stuff the inserts (you can also do this at changing time, but it’s quick and easy, so I like to get it done all at once in the morning). As for storage, everyone has their own style. Some people use wicker baskets. Some people throw them in a drawer. Some people stuff, fold and fasten their diapers, to make them look tidy. Some people toss them in wherever they go. I have a drawer for diapers and wipes, and I keep wet bags and extra inserts in a little box which I made myself (flaunt, flaunt :P).
It’s really common, I’ve noticed, for moms to feel overwhelmed by all the Stuff that goes along with cloth diapering – everything you’ve got to learn, all the new work you’ll be doing, the supplies you have to buy. I know it held me back from cloth for months and months. I’m glad I finally caved, though. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I have ample opportunity to take care of them. But I was so surprised by how easy they are – I can confidently say that I believe even a working mom will have the time and resources she needs to adjust quickly to the cloth diapering lifestyle.
My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.