Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cloth Diapers 101

With Jude we knew from the get go that we wanted to use cloth diapers.  The amount of information out there about cloth diapers is a bit overwhelming, there are so many different types.  I don't know all there is to know about it but I would like to share our experience.  Cloth diapering isn't for everyone but it has some major advantages.  It's also one if the biggest things people gave us a hard time about when we were pregnant with Jude, lots of comments about how "oh that sounds horrible" or "you'll never keep up with that".  And I'm here to tell you that it is easier than you think.  Even if you work full time, even if your kid is in daycare, you can do it.  You could even do it if you didn't have a washing machine though that does make it easier.

First off, why do it?  Everyone has their reasons for doing it or not doing it, but for us it was two main things.  One because it is cheaper in the long run.  Up front getting your "stach" together can be expensive depending on the type of diaper you choose.  By time we had purchased all of the diapers we wanted we had spent about $500.  Which is a lot of money, I know.  The diapers we picked were on the more expensive end of things and we got them new instead of used, we also liked having a lot of diapers on hand.  But, to diaper one child from start to finish is estimated by Baby Center to be about $80 a month.  And we used our cloth diapers from Jude being about three months old all the way to being potty trained at 2 1/2.  We also plan to use them with our next child as well so in all we have saved about $3,000 just by cloth diapering.  Of course there is some cost in washing them and accessories but that cost is small.  The second reason we decided to do it is because we really felt like it was healthier for Jude.  Not that disposable diapers are "unhealthy", but they are full of chemicals which is what makes them absorbent.  And those chemicals gave Jude diaper rash that was constant.  I liked knowing that all he had on him was soft chemical free cloth.  Lots of people cloth diaper because of environmental concerns like disposables filling up landfills and such, though I know there is some debate on how environmentally friendly some of them are due to manifacturing and the water used to wash them.  Another few good points is that we hardly even had "blow outs" or leaks.  They are super cute!  And pretty dang easy!  Also they have a pretty good resale rate through several online groups if you decide you don't like them or after you are done with them.

Now on to the details.  For Jude we used the Bumgenius free time diapers.  The majority of cloth diapers are pocket diapers that have washable inserts that you stuff into the pocket.  The Freetime diapers are different in that it is all one layered piece that just folds over.  

We picked these because not having to stuff and unstuff the diapers sounded good to us as it was one less thing to have to do and stuff like an insert so the sort of thing that we are good at loosing.  But I do have to note that this convience does make them more expensive then even the pocket style by the same brand.  These diapers come with either Velcro or snaps.  Initally we order ours half Velcro and half snaps because we weren't sure what we would like best.  In the end it seemed like some of the Velcro was crapping out and needed to be replaced very early on so we sold them to a friend and ordered more snap style diapers to replace the Velcros.  We also started with 12 diapers because again we didn't know anyone else at the time who was doing them and we weren't sure if we'd like it.  Eventually we ordered 12 more for a total of 24, but really how many you need depends on how often you want to do laundry.  With a little baby having 12 means doing laundry every day so with 24 we would wash them every other day, which we preferred.  For washing them we would throw them into the washer and do one cycle cold with no detergent, then one cycle hot with about two table spoons of All Free and Clear, and then an extra cold rinse after that.  I know that might not be the "official" way to do it, but they always came out clean and I think in two and half years of use I only had to strip them (where you wash them a bunch of times to get out any detergent residues that night be causing absorbency issues or smell issues) twice.  For drying we almost always just threw them in the dryer but on a nice day we did dry them on a drying rack in the sun.  On occasion we had stains but like magic if you lay them out in the sun it gets rid of them, so ours even after so much use are stain free and in great shape.

As far as the everyday use is concerned, we started off using this diaper bin that had a waterproof
washable liner.  We got two liners so while one liner was washing the other could go right in.  And so with wet diapers we just threw them on in and with poopy ones we flushed what we could of the poop and then threw it in the bin.  We bought a diaper sprayer but never ended up attaching it to our toilet so I don't think they are necessary, though it might be nice.  This worked pretty well when Jude was little and we were washing the diapers every night.  But once he stopped going through 12-20 diapers a day we only washed every other day and things started to get smelly.  So we ditched the diaper bin and started using these wet/dry bags.  We had three of the extra big ones and they would hang on the door knob of the rooms we changed him most in, with one empty for then they were in the wash.  And we would just dump the bag out in the wash and then wash the bag along with the diapers.  We also had a medium sized wet/dry bag that we kept in our diaper bag.  As far as wipes go, at the beginning we used cloth wipes and they were easy, you just used a spray that is made for them and then you can put them right in the wash.  Somewhere along the way we lost track of them and ran out of spray so we used disposable wipes in the end.  I think next time I'll use the washable wipes and just get a lot more of them along with buying a ton of spray and then use flushable wipes for the diaper bag or something like that.

Lastly, a few negatives.  Washing them is a bit of a pain.  It's easy to forgot they are in the wash and what cycle comes next.  We eventually made a magnet that had 1,2,&3 on it that we would turn to show what cycle they were currently on, which helped.  But washing the diapers really isn't a big deal, it's just remembering to do it.  They also give your baby, especially little babies, a big butt!  Not a big deal again, but it did make some onesies fit weird or not at all and Jude was always in a size bigger clothes because of them.  We also had problems once Jude started sleeping better (3-4 hours at a time) with them leaking at night.  I'm sure we could have gotten a more absorbent pad to add to the diaper to stop the problem, but in the end we just put him in a disposable for night time and that worked great.  So, you don't have to use them 100% of the time if you don't want to.  We didn't feel comfortable washing them at other peoples houses so we always traveled with disposables as well and used one of the rare occasion that all the diapers were in the wash.  We also used them on again
the very rare occasion that Jude had a diaper rash.  With cloth diapers you really arnt supposed to use diaper rash cream with them (unless it is a special cream made for cloth diapers) because it can mess them up.  They do sell paper liners you could use to protect the diaper but for us of was easier just to use a disposable, lather him in cream and normally within one or two days he was back in his cloth diapers if not sooner.

Ok so that was a lot of information!  I think I covered everything I can think of but feel free to post any questions in the comments!  Also if you cloth diaper and have anything to add please do!


  1. This is super helpful--thank you for posting it! -Brooke

  2. I found cheap pre-folds easy and really great for newborns. I found they absorbed and contained the mess the best.

    Vinegar as a fabric softener really helps with stripping detergent and ammonia build up.

    Wet bags are good for going out for the day.

    Tea tree oil works well (just a drop in the diaper bin) to mask the smell.

    Onesie extenders work to overcome the fluffy butt problem so your baby can wear the right size in onesies.

    I love those bumGenius. I also liked Mother-ease with covers.

    For night, I used fleece inserts over hemp and got another diaper called dry something. The fleece keeps them dryer so they don't wake and the hemp is excellent at absorbing a lot quickly.

  3. Not cloth diapering is the one regret we have with both our kids. This was probably enabled by the sheer amount of diapers that were gifted to us each time we got pregnant. We did not have to buy diapers with Little Monster until he was almost a year old! But we have LOTS of friends who do cloth diapers successfully, and their kids' big fluffy butts are the cutest!!!