I knew I wanted to cloth diaper from the moment I found out I was pregnant. However, I wasn’t completely sure how to go about actually doing it. So I did a bunch of research on this wonderful tool called the world wide web and found a huge community of people advocating cloth diapering and willing to share their stories and advice. Hey, this post means now I’m one of them!
Pros to Cloth Diapering
- Monetary Savings – A baby will go through about 8-12 diapers a day, or about 9000 diaper changes by the time he/she is potty trained. At $0.24 a diaper, that adds up to about $2,160! Disposable wipes will cost at least another $400-$500. In contrast, purchasing your own cloth diapers and cloth wipes to wash them at home will cost somewhere between $300 and $1000. Considering your laundry costs (about $0.50 a load or $120 over the course of 30 months) you will save about $2,000 – $2,500 over an average 2.5 year period! And if you reuse your diapers over multiple babies, you can multiply the savings! (Source)
- Health – I have only been cloth diapering for a few short months, but I have noticed that Jessica tends to get a diaper rash when she wears disposable diapers (for instance when we spent 6 days in Midland over the Christmas holidays). I think there are 3 reasons for this. One, Jessica might spend longer periods sitting in a wet/dirty disposable diaper than she would a wet/dirty cloth diaper. Two, we use disposable alcohol-free wipes when we use disposable diapers. Disposable wipes are more moist and so leaves Jessica’s bum moist if you don’t fan it dry. A moist bum is more prone to diaper rash. And three, disposable diapers contain chemicals (see above source for information on these chemicals) whereas cloth diapers do not. This is especially important if your baby has sensitive skin.
- Environmental – Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills, and represent about 4% of solid waste. In a house with a child in diapers, disposable diapers makes up 50% up household waste. Why would I want to contribute to that?
- Potty Training – They say kids who are cloth diapered are easier to potty train. I will find out and let you know.
Cons to Cloth Diapering
- Convenience – Disposable diapers are definitely more convenient as you can just toss them in the trash, which is actually why we currently use disposables when we travel or expect to be gone from the house for more than an hour or so. Since we often take the used disposables with us (instead of leaving in our friends’ bathroom trash), I am considering cloth diapering when out and about also. I might need to get a larger water-proof bag though.
Now, I admit, I was a little scared about cloth diapering. I was especially concerned about how James would feel about cloth diapering, but it turns out that cloth diapering is way easier than I thought it would be and other than folding the diapers James doesn’t have any problems. We didn’t use cloth diapers right away, since the hospital gave us disposables to take home and we had received some packages of disposables as gifts. Also, I was concerned about the cloth diapers being too big and not being able to keep moisture away from Jessica’s umbilical cord stump (as moisture prolongs falling off). Now, I wish we had started sooner. We did start using cloth wipes as soon as we came home from the hospital though.
Cloth wipes are great. One cloth wipe is typically all that is needed per diaper change. I also only typically use one disposable wipe, but James typically needs multiple disposable wipes unless it is just wet. I use wet cloth wipes (the alternative is dry wipes with a spray solution) and I find they have the perfect amount of moisture, enough to clean Jessica’s bum, but not too wet to leave her bum moist.
All the forums and scads of user advice I had read recommended using a cloth wipe warmer. There aren’t many options for a cloth wipe warmer on the market and the Prince Lionheart Warmies Wipe Warmer received good reviews, so I bought it from Babies R Us, one of the few cloth diaper related items that big box stores sell. The 3 months that Prince Lionheart says the Ever-Fresh pillow will last is about right as that is about when I replaced it. The wipes do stay moist and don’t smell, so the Ever-Fresh pillow seems to do what it is supposed to do and I don’t re-wet it weekly like Prince Lionheart recommends. I probably only re-wet it two or three times in the first 3 months, but perhaps it would last longer if I re-wet it. So I am trying to re-wet it every other time I restock the warmer.
One of the nice things about the warmer is that it can be unplugged at the base of the unit and not from the wall. This is nice as I can take the warmer, a stack of clean wipes, and a small bowl (the incremented one I got from the hospital) into the living room and prep the wipes as I watch TV. I use approximately 16 ounces of water (I gave up being precise), a good squirt (but not too much) of baby wash, and a small squirt of baby oil to wet the wipes before I fold and roll to place in the warmer. I’ve discovered that too much soap can lead to diaper rash, so I find it better to err on the side of caution when adding the baby wash.
As for the actual cloth wipes, I’ve used the Warmies that come with the wipe warmer, Thirsties Fab Wipes, BumGenius Flannel Baby Wipes, and BabyKicks Baby Wipes. The wipe warmer came with 4 of the Warmies and I also bought a package of 8. I wish I hadn’t bought the extras as the Warmies are super soft out of the box, but the more you wash them, the less soft they get. Plus the edges fray after just a few washes. You can also only fit about 12 of these wipes in the warmer. That means you’re refilling the warmer almost daily. That is way too frequent for me. The Thirsties wipes are also too large/thick for the warmer in my opinion, but they are super soft and so make better wash cloths. I’ve started carrying a few in the diaper bag. The other two brands of wipes are great. They both have gotten softer the more I’ve washed them. You can also fit about 2.5 dozen of them in the warmer, so a filled warmer will last 2-3 days. The only bad thing, well really more of an annoying thing, about the BabyKicks wipes is they are circular. If I had been more ambitious before Jessica was born, I could have saved even more money by buying a yard of flannel cloth, cutting it into squares and serging the edges, but I wasn’t that ambitious.
Cloth Diapers and Diaper Covers
There seemed to be a great many opinions on the various cloth diapers and diaper covers on the market, so I decided I would buy one or two of each of the kinds that seemed most promising to me and try them out to find what works best for me. There are four basic types of cloth diapers: flat folds & pre-folds, fitted, all-in-ones, and pocket diapers. I think they all serve the basic purpose of a diaper pretty well.
- Flat folds are a single-layer piece of cotton that are designed to be folded and placed in a diaper cover of some sort. I tried both diaper pins and Snappi cloth diaper fasteners, but found them unnecessary as the covers I use hold the diaper in place. They are a single-ply constructed diaper. I used these a lot in the first 2-3 months, but once Jessica started going longer between diaper changes and as she got bigger (meaning it wasn’t folded over as many times), these weren’t adequate and I had numerous clothing changes due to leakage.
- Pre-folds are diapers that you fold in thirds and place in a cover with the middle section typically being 6 or 8-ply and the outer sections having half the ply of the middle section. Flats and pre-folds are typically the only kinds of cloth diapers you can purchase at big box stores like Wal-mart and Babies R Us and Gerber tends to be the only brand that is sold. If you buy the Gerber ones, make sure you get the heavy-weight ones as they are more absorbent. I also bought some Chinese pre-folds. The Chinese pre-folds come in different sizes. I bought both newborn and infant ones from Baby Bunz. I liked these and would recommend them. They’re a little more expensive than the Gerber ones, so if money is a concern I would choose the heavy-weight Gerber ones if you can find them.
- Fitted Diapers. I tried a few types of fitted diapers. One of the fitted diapers I liked best was Sandy’s Diaper as it had snaps. Unfortunately, since the Mother-Ease online store is located in Canada, their shipping is super slow. I also like the Thirsties Fab Fitted diapers which use Velcro. Fitted diapers are pricey compared to using pre-folds and covers and because of that, I decided it wasn’t worthwhile for me to have more.
- Diaper Covers. The cloth diaper industry has come a long way from the rubber pants our parents used on us. I tried a number of diaper covers. Diaper covers are great because you can use them a number of times before washing them. It works out to be 3-5 times for me unless Jessica has a really poopy diaper the first time I put a clean one on her. I did not like the one Nikky All-Cotton Waterproof cover I tried at all. The Bummis Super Whisper Wrap Print newborn cover I bought was super cute, but it always seemed to leak. The Rikki Wrap Covers are also cute, but it always seemed to leak as well. I like the Thirsties covers I have. One sized x-small for 6-12 pounds or 0-3 months and one sized small for 12-18 pounds or 2-12 months. But for only $1.50 more, I liked the Thirsties Duo Wraps even better as it has snaps for adjusting the length, making the size ones (only two sizes) I have work for 6-18 pounds and up 9 months. I have 7 of the Duo Wraps. I like the Thirsties and Thirsties Duo Wraps because of the gusseting around the leg openings. This really prevents leakage. I recently bought one individual Flip diaper sytem and love that it has snaps. In addition to the Flip insert, I’ve used pre-folds in it. It is really cool that is truly a one-size cover and can go from 7-35 pounds. They also have gusseting around the leg openings. If I had discovered the Flip covers earlier, I would have more of them instead of the Duo Wraps. In fact, once Jessica gets close to out-growing the Duo Wraps, I plan to buy a few more of the Flip covers. It is also something I am considering for out of the house trips since they have disposable inserts that work with it.
- All-in-ones. I decided not to try any of this type.
- Pocket Diapers. I have only tried one pocket diaper, bumGenius 3.0 One-Size, and these are now the only diapers I use at night. I also try to use these at nap-time. The reason is the soft, sueded inner fabric wicks moisture away from your baby’s skin. I think this is why Jessica doesn’t get many diaper rashes and she sleeps 12+ straight hours per night. I have never had any leakage when she wears these. I have 7 of these diapers and if you subscribe to the blog of Cotton Babies (the makers of bumGenius and Flip products), you can get news of their sales which make them more affordable.
- Diaper Doubler. These are essential. The bumGenious 3.0 pocket diapers come with a newborn insert in addition to the regular insert and I use both of these at night. I also have 3 bumGenius Stay Dry Doublers and they are great for naptime if I don’t use a pocket diaper.
There are a few things that I feel are must-haves for the cloth-diapering momma.
- Diaper Pail. I use Safety 1st Simple Step diaper pail, and while not perfect, it does the job. My problem with it is when using a diaper pail liner in it, the step mechanism doesn’t always work since the liner often causes the lid to move. But I like the fact that you can place a deo-disk in the lid and keep it from getting too stinky. Once Jessica starts eating solid foods, I will probably have to replace the deo-disk more frequently.
- Diaper Pail Liners. It is imperative that you have two of these. I wasn’t thinking and only started out with one, which made it very difficult when the liner was in the washer. I have a Mommy’s Touch Diaper Pail Liner and a Planet Wise Diaper Pail Liner. I prefer the Planet Wise liner as the Mommy’s Touch liner sweats. Make sure you wash the Planet Wise separately the first time if you get a red (or other bright color) one like I did. Otherwise you’ll have pink doublers and pocket diaper inserts.
- The bumGenius Diaper Sprayer is so important. It didn’t take James very long to install it to the toilet in our front bathroom. You can simply spray the poop off the diapers and into the toilet. No dunking for me. Currently Jessica is only breast-fed, which makes her poop water soluble, so spraying is not truly necessary. Once she starts eating solid foods, this will be essential.
I normally do a load of diapers every other day. Now that Jessica is older and doesn’t go through as many diapers per day, I could probably stretch it to every third day, but I’m kinda in a routine. I do a soak/pre-wash cycle with cold water and no detergent. Then a whites cycle with hot water followed by an extra rinse cycle with hot water. For diapers, you only need about half of the amount of detergent you would use for regular clothes. I use Allens Naturally Detergent. This detergent is awesome. I still have half of the 32 oz. bottle I started with left and I’ve been washing diapers for almost 5 months now. When I use up the Dreft and Tide I have, I plan on switching to Allens for all my laundry. I occasionally add some Borax in the soak cycle. My internet research suggested that you should pre-wash all your diapers 5-6 times prior to using them so that they are at their most absorbent. As I did this with all my diapers, I cannot tell you if it truly makes a difference. However, I can say that the pre-folds don’t look very absorbent prior to this pre-wash and they really fluff up afterward. The cycles and detergent quantities are subject to change when I get a high efficiency washer, but Allens is okay for HE, you just need to decrease the amount.
I currently use a dryer for the diapers, but hang-dry the covers and any fitted diapers with Velcro. I would like to get a clothesline so I can hang-dry outside. The sun is supposedly the best natural bleach to get stains out.
Some people say that diaper creams will affect the absorbency of your diapers, but I haven’t noticed this being a problem. However, when I use up the 16-oz. container of Boudreaux Butt Paste I have (only about one-fifth of the way to empty), I am going to try out Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm as it is supposed to be okay for cloth diapers. There’s talk of “stripping” every so often if you use creams. However, I haven’t been able to figure out what this entails. As I don’t seem to have a problem, I’m not too worried.
My recommended shopping list for new cloth diaper mommas:
- 3 dozen pre-folds for each size
- 6 Flip covers
- 6 bumGenius 3.0 pocket diapers
- 3 diaper doublers
- 1 diaper pail
- 2 diaper pail liners
- 1 bumGenius diaper sprayer
- 1 wipe warmer
- 3 dozen flannel wipes
- Allens Naturally detergent
I might also suggest some fitted diapers and covers for small newborns.
This post has been a long time coming, because I wanted to have enough experience to be as helpful as possible. Please let me know if you’ve found this post helpful.