Category Archives: Cloth Diapering Tips

Seriously, guys – they’re a third of the price of disposables!

Diaper Taxonomy

Since I’ve started cloth diapering, a few of my mom friends have started, too, and they’ve been asking a question repeatedly when they get started: How many of what kind of diaper do I buy? With that in mind, here is a (hopefully) concise and thorough explanation of the five major diapering systems, meant specifically for new cloth diaper-ers.

(Okay, I need a better name for people who cloth diaper. Perhaps I will run my first poll soon. Leave ideas in comments?)

Before we classify the diapering systems, some quick beginner’s shopping pointers:

Get a variety to start. Buy a few waterproof diapers, one cover, and a few non-waterproof ones. Buy at least two brands and know which brand you’re getting, so that you know whether or not to buy from them in the future (and whether to recommend them to friends!).

Another thing: eBay. It’s more than worth it to buy at least your first diapers used. This gives you the financial freedom to try a few options. A brand new pocket diaper will cost you at least fifteen or twenty dollars; a used one is only five to ten dollars.

Start with 4 to 6 diapers total. Use those diapers, wash them, and while you’re washing leave your baby in disposables. If and when you decide to cloth diaper full-time, you can buy a big enough stash to leave your baby in cloth while the laundry’s going. By then you’ll know what species you’re fond of and can buy accordingly.

There are five main kinds of diapers. And before buying any diapers, I seriously recommend knowing them.

Group A: Not Waterproof Alone

These diapers are the more economical option, but they take a little more work than the cushier waterproof options. They all require covers. You’ll only need a third to a half as many covers as diapers, since the covers don’t get soiled easily and can be reused. Covers are almost always made of polyurethane laminate or PUL.

Prefolds 
These are the diapers that our grandmas used. They are square, flat, absorbent pads which you fold and fasten in place. (You could use pins, but the Snappi is much better.) Most people are turned off by this option because it seems like a lot of extra work. The truth, though, is that putting this diaper on is as simple as folding the back edge down, pulling through and laying in place.

Contours
A contour diaper is just like a prefold, except that you don’t have to prefold it. It’s thinner in the middle to fit between Baby’s legs, and wider at the front and back for extra coverage. Downside: with a contour, you can’t add folds meant to catch any poo attempting escape.

Fitteds
Fitted diapers are a lot like contours, except that they have elastic around the edges so as to catch any runoff that a contour would idly let by.

 

 

Group B: Waterproof Alone

This second kind of diaper is, basically, a Group A diaper with the cover sewn on. These function the most like a disposable diaper, and because of that I recommend owning at least a few of them for babysitters and lazy days.

AIOs (All-In-Ones) 
As the name suggests, AIOs are meant to make diapering as easy as possible by eliminating all the extra pieces. They are diapers meant to slip on and off in one piece. There is an outer layer of PUL, and an inner wicking layer, usually fleece or polyester. Sewn into the soft wicking fabric is an absorbent pad (made often of cotton, hemp, bamboo, or other materials). The downside of AIOs is that over time, the inner part is more and more difficult to get clean. Many AIOs now have an opening in the back end of the diaper to allow water and detergent into the diaper, getting it much cleaner, thereby avoiding this problem. I don’t recommend these diapers without that opening, as they will collect stink.

Pockets
Pocket diapers are the most expensive and arguably the nicest diapers on the market. They’re also the most common (which makes sense despite being the most pricey, since over time they’re still only a third of the price of disposables). They’re mostly the same as AIOs, but they have a removable insert in order to combat the stink buildup I mentioned previously. Sometimes they’re called AI2s, since they’re all-in-two, but this always makes me chuckle since the same is true of any non-waterproof diapers (excluding Snappis, I guess).

My number one tip: Don’t worry. If you aren’t totally sure what you want to buy in the long run, start small. Ask questions. Take your time. Have fun.

In a month or two, you’ll be dispensing advice to your new cloth diaper-er friends.

Okay, seriously, guys, I need help with that.

 

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How To Cloth Diaper (No Pins Necessary)

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.

Anyway, though.

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).

You can buy cloth wipes, but I don't see the point - cut a standard flannel receiving blanket into sixteenths. Voila! Here they are after several weeks of use and washing.

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

Heck yes!

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.

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Why I Cloth Diaper (No, It’s Not Weird)

What People Picture When They Think Of Cloth Diapers

What It’s Actually Like

Seriously, guys, the cloth diapers on the market today are one of the best-kept secrets in parenthood. They are not your grandma’s diapers.

I could break down my cloth diaper routine, but I think I’ll save that for a later post. This time around, I’m going to clarify why I cloth diaper. These are the pros and cons that I’ve noticed most (starting with the pros, so you won’t get burnt out on the cons and stop reading).

Pro Number One: Moolah

This is by far the most compelling reason, for me, to cloth diaper. I’ve never found a decent disposable diaper for less than a quarter apiece. (I found a brand that went for 13 cents apiece – but honestly, I may as well have used a piece of cardboard for all the comfort and absorbency that thing offered.) You can find a used cloth diaper on eBay or diaper swap forums for as cheap as $5. This means, in order for a cloth diaper to be as cost-efficient as a disposable, it needs to make it through at least twenty diaper changes. That’s gonna take two weeks, max. If you buy a more high-end brand like FuzziBunz, BumGenius or Charlie Banana, you might pay as much as $25 per diaper. Yeah, that number sounds outrageous (and it is a little steep), but it’s a hundred changes. You’re still saving buckets of dough.

At birth you’ll need about eighteen diapers (and may end up doing the laundry daily sometimes). If you buy a solid one-size diaper, that stash will get you through potty training. Say you buy Charlie Banana (my personal favorite) in six-packs. That will cost about three hundred dollars.

You’ll need at least two waterproof diaper pail liners (we use this one), and at least two portable wetbags (this one). A toilet bidet makes cleaning up the poopy diapers much, much easier (trust me on this). This BumGenius model goes for about fifty bucks – we installed our own and paid about the same, but I have a friend who did her own and spent $10. Another good addition is cloth wipes (why not, if you’re using cloth diapers?). I didn’t spend a penny – I cut two old receiving blankets and one old shirt into pieces. Then there’s the cost of laundering – I’ve heard from fifty cents to a dollar per load. Plan on doing the laundry at least once every two days.

At most you’ll spend about $700, from birth to potty training. That includes a batch of brand-new high-end diapers, a toilet bidet, wetbags and liners, and laundry expenses.

Disposables run, on average, about $60 to $85 a month. So if your child potty trains at two and a half years old, you’re looking at about $2200, total.

That’s three times as much!

… Why don’t more parents know this?!??

Pro Number Two: Garbage (Or The Lack Thereof)

I don’t need to elaborate on this, I’m sure. It’s not uncommon for a newborn to have five to ten poopy diapers a day, and that’s not considering the ones that are just wet. Even now, my eighteen-month-old goes through at least five diapers each day and often many more. Picture the pile of diapers accrued in two and a half years. It would be nice not to have to throw all that away, right? Even if it’s just for the slight benefit of extra space in your trash can (and less trips to the curb).

Pro Number Three: No Diaper Rash (That’s Right – NONE!)

In the six months before starting cloth, my son has annihilated no less than ten bottles of diaper cream. The poor guy’s bottom was nearly always red and sore, often with open sores and often with serious pain. The magic bullet? Cloth diapers. When I found out I couldn’t rely on diaper cream, it was almost frightening enough that I backed out. Thank heavens I didn’t. My baby’s bottom is blissfully smooth since the switch.

Con Number One: Reluctant Babysitters (And Some Reluctant Daddies)

I have yet to find a babysitter who’s been excited to face cloth diapering. It’s pretty easy to explain, though – at changing time, a cloth diaper isn’t very different from a disposable, and with the waterproof bag, it’s no more difficult. An added kick: if it’s an older woman (or man) watching Kiddo, they’ll often claim to know exactly what they’re doing (they have done it before, after all) – only to be totally flabbergasted by the cushy new models. This always ends with a fun conversation. “It’s all one piece? No pins? They can do that?”

Con Number Two: Maintenance

In my book, this applies mostly to velcro. I hate taking care of velcro, even though some moms swear by it. I use diapers with snaps. There’s also the need for cloth diaper safe detergent. You can’t use diaper rash ointment with cloth diapers, and in time your diapers will of course wear out – holes, thinning, elastic breakage, stitching ripping out. Just like with clothing. Two months in, I’ve already taken a sewing machine to one of my diapers. (I did buy used – and it’s worth the price break.)

Con Number Three: Yes, You Have To Clean Up The Doo-Doo

There’s no getting around the cleaning factor. It’s not as gross as most people figure, so give me a chance on this! But … yeah, washing them isn’t my favorite way to pass twenty minutes. Here’s the breakdown: change it just like a regular diaper, then take the yucky one to the bathroom. If it’s just wet, take out the insert (more on diaper construction later) and dump it in the pail with your wipes. If it’s … you know, the other kind of yucky, spray it down with your bidet, which is no fun and takes some practice, but is far more efficient than dunking (that’s what Grandma did, poor gal). Then into the pail. On wash day, the whole pail liner comes out, you empty it into the washer and throw it on top. A cold rinse-spin, then a regular cycle. You can line dry or use your dryer – if you use your dryer, take the outer parts out fifteen minutes into the cycle. They’ll be dry by then.

A quick breakdown:

If I’m willing to launder diapers, bother with maintaining them and deal with the weird stigma people have about cloth diapers, I can drastically reduce my garbage output, eliminate diaper rash entirely and spend a third of what I would have on disposables.

And that’s no contest, in my book.

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