How we got started using cloth
This is a follow up to my initial cloth diapering post. In response to that article, I’ve had several people ask me about the practical information–how to get started, how to wash the diapers, etc. I wrote the majority of this when my first son was 6 months old and while I’ve tried to update it to the best of my knowledge, I feel obligated to warn you that it may still be limited and dated. Good luck to anyone interested in giving cloth a try!
When my first was born, we used Pampers Swaddlers on him. It seemed like every day, we had a poop leak or full blowout. I also hated the strong baby powder odor of disposables. My husband and I started looking into cloth diapers (CD) when our son was just a week old. I was really overwhelmed at first. There were so many diapers to choose from and I didn’t really understand all the different possibilities. We sampled three types of cloth diapers, found one that worked great for us, and ended up using cloth for the rest of my son’s diapering days.
The four main type of cloth diapers that I’m aware of are basic chinese prefolds (CPF), fitted diapers, all-in-ones (AIOs) and pocket diapers. CPFs are cotton diapers, similar to the CD’s you think of when you hear CD. Fitted are similar to CPFs but are fitted! In order for prefolded or fitted diapers to work, you also need a waterproof cover. Kissaluvs are an example of a fitted diaper. We tried them when our son was a newborn and while they worked fine, I found it a hassle to have to put a diaper and cover on each time. I know several moms though that love them, so it’s really a matter of preference. They certainly are inexpensive.
All-in-ones are just that–everything in one diaper! So the waterproof part is on the diaper and you don’t need a separate cover. These are as easy as disposables. Then there are pocket diapers, which are a lot like all-in-ones. There is a waterproof outer layer built in. But pocket diapers also have a fleece/suede inner liner that touches baby’s skin and wicks moisture into the pocket of the diaper where you put something to absorb it. The absorbent material is called an insert. These diapers are neat because the material against baby’s skin stays dry and you can customize the absorbency of the diaper.
I think it’s a good idea to try out a few CD and see what fits your child the best. We did that and fell in love with pocket diapers. The concept is just so great! Baby’s butt stays dry and you get to decide how absorbent the diaper needs to be. For example, at night you can put in two inserts. There are many different types of inserts, from hemp to cotton ones. We like the microterry cloth ones the best. When we first started using pocket diapers, many websites included a free insert with the purchase of a pocket diaper. Unfortunately, now I believe in many cases you need to but them separately. (It appears that www.nurturedfamily.com includes one free Fuzzi Bunz insert with the purchase of the pocket diaper, but the diaper costs $3 more now than it did in 2005 so really that new price just includes the cost of the insert).
To date, we have tried 4 different pocket diapers–Fuzzi Bunz, Wonderoos, Swaddlebees, and Happy Heiny’s. All use snaps to keep the diaper on, except for Happy Heiny’s, which uses velcro. Our favorite is the Fuzzi Bunz. We have also been fairly happy with the Wonderoos, although this diaper is a one-size-fits-most, so I find it to be a bit bulky. It works great as a nighttime diaper though! The trimmest is by far Swaddlebees, but it also means you can’t stuff the diaper as much so it isn’t as absorbent. I have heard great things about bumGenious diapers which, like the Wonderoo, is a one-size-fits most diaper. We have never tried it though. We have only tried one AIO diaper and that was the Rumpster. We were very happy with it, but the cost of the diaper kept us from buying many more. We’ve bought all our cloth diapers online. I don’t know of any stores that carry worthwhile cloth diapers so unfortunately, you have to buy them without seeing them in person. The stores that we shopped at in 2005 and were happy with were nurturedfamily.com and cottonbabies.com.
Fuzzi Bunz (FB) comes in different sizes. At first, this can seem overwhelming. Not only do you have to buy many diapers at once, now you have to get new sizes every few months. We have run the numbers though and even with buying new sizes, we will still spend less on CD than on disposables. The small FB fit our son until he was 4 months old (26.5″ and 15 lbs). We didn’t expect this to happen, but the mediums fit our son from 4 months of age until he was potty trained at 26 months. He’s a skinnier kid (25th percentile for weight) so perhaps that is why, but I have heard of this happening to other families as well. As soon as the baby becomes more mobile and a bit trimmer, the diaper continues to fit and you may even have to put the snaps on a tighter setting (as we did with our son. In fact, now at 2.5 years of age, when he wears the diapers to bed, we have them on a tighter setting than he wore as a baby). We did buy some large and petite toddler sized diapers so that we could stuff them with multiple inserts for bedtime, but we didn’t really need them.
We get by just great with about 18-22 diapers. This set us up for doing laundry every other day when our son was a newborn, and every three days when he got older. It is very easy to wash our pocket diapers, especially for a breastfed baby! We never scooped or dumped anything when our son was exclusively breastfed. After taking off a dirty diaper, we just pulled out the insert and threw the diaper and insert into a rubbermaid pail. On wash day, the diapers and inserts went into the washer. We did a prewash cycle to remove the yuckies, then a regular cycle with hot water and one ounce of detergent. We used to use Tide Free and Clear on our diapers, but after becoming more aware of what was in traditional laundry detergents (see Green Cleaning post), we switched to a more natural detergent. If your child is not sensitive, you can try a scented detergent. It is nice to have a diaper that smells good. After washing the diapers, we try to air dry the diapers and inserts. The FBs absorb very little water so they dry quickly. Every once in a while, we dry everything in the sun, which is great at bleaching out stains and lingering odors. When we’re pressed for time, we dry the inserts in the drier and air dry the pocket diapers. We’ve found that hemp products (either AIO diapers or hemp inserts) really have to be dried in the dryer or else they become stiff as cardboard.
Once in a while, you can do some extra things to keep your diapers super clean. A search on google will reveal many “stripping” protocols. These instructions help you remove any build up on your diapers that might interfere with absorbency. Detergents can build up on the diapers, and if you ever use a diaper rash cream with your pocket diapers (which you should not do!), you will need to strip your diapers. We do this by adding baking soda to our wash cycle, and vinegar to the rinse cycle. We actually often add baking soda to our wash cycle, and not just for our diapers, to enhance the detergent. I have also heard of people adding one drop of Dawn liquid dish detergent to the prewash cycle to strip them. You don’t need to strip your diapers regularly–only if you notice decreased absorbency. For stains, you can try scrubbing the pocket diaper with baking soda and a brush, or like I mentioned above, dry the diapers in the sun.
When your child starts eating solids, the stools will change considerably. I must be honest and say that cloth diapering is much more enjoyable while babies are breastfed only. There are many fancy tools available online to remove solids before washing diapers, but we personally used a little toilet paper to wipe the yuckies into the toilet, then let the washing machine do the rest. This is when it’s really important to do a prewash cycle.
When my first son was a year and a half old, he started asking us to change his diaper when it was dirty (by signing “change”). By two years of age, he was clearly bothered by his diapers when they were wet. Shortly after, we tried potty training him and it happened fairly easily. I really believe that cloth diapers helped with that.
I hope this is helpful. Our experience with cloth diapering is really limited to pocket diapers only, so if you’re interested in trying something else, please look it up online. There are many chatboards that discuss cloth diapers and many moms who are quite the pros when it comes to cloth. Best of luck to anyone willing to give cloth a try!
A site worth visiting:
A great site I have to mention is diaperpin.com. There are hundreds of reviews of different cloth diapers. Here is the link to pocket diaper reviews: http://www.diaperpin.com/diapers/itemlist.asp?subcat=POCKET