Inside: How to start cloth diapering, a comprehensive quick-start guide
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There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to cloth diapering. It’s a little foreign to some of us, so all the information out there can become overwhelming for someone who’s considering making the transition.
Some of the questions I had before we tried cloth diapering were:
? Why are there so many different forms of cloth diapers and what’s the difference
? What are the best brands
? What do the sizes mean
? What’s the difference between the fabric options
? How do I take care of them and wash them properly
It can be a lot to take in! So if you’re interested in how to start cloth diapering, consider this your quick-start guide to help you learn all the basics and send you on your way to becoming a fluffy butt pro.
Fair warning, we’re about to talk about poop. Maybe a lot.
The Most Popular Types of Cloth Diapers
Don’t think these 3 types of cloth diapers are the only ones available. There are plenty of others! These are just the most popular forms of cloth diapers to get you started.
(P.S. I love them all! ♥)
Lots of moms adore these because they’re just so easy. The inserts you need already come sewn-in, meaning that there is no stuffing or prep before you can put them on baby.
The downfall: the inserts sewn into the diaper aren’t always absorbent enough or can slip to the side and allow your baby’s urine to leak through. When putting the diaper on baby, be sure to watch how you’re positioning the insert and baby’s legs so that it’s less likely to slip. (I’ll also include a link further down in this post to a video on how to put cloth diapers on your little one because it’s slightly different than disposable diapers.)
So what brands are the best? Our favorite all-in-ones come from Smart Bottoms and Imagine, both of which work great!
These are awesome too! The diaper is a cover that has a fabric pocket sewn into the inside. This enables you to put whatever inserts you prefer into the pocket and play with different combinations for absorbency. We’ll talk more about the differences in fabrics for your inserts in just a minute!
As far as pocket diaper brands go, we use Rumparooz and ALVABABY. AlvaBaby is the cheaper option, and they’ve never let us down!
Covers with Prefolds or Flats
This method is super versatile (and it’s the cheapest way to cloth diaper)! The diaper cover is completely empty (no pocket or anything), and you put whatever you want on the inside. (Well, almost whatever you want. Microfiber inserts aren’t good to use with covers because microfiber should never be left directly against baby’s skin!)
The big plus with this way of cloth diapering is this: if baby only pees, you can take the insert out, wipe the inside of the cover with a baby wipe, and just put a new insert in. No need to switch covers unless it gets poo on it, meaning less laundry for you!
You can use the prefold or flat insert by folding and wrapping it around your baby then pinning with classic diaper pins or devices like the Snappi. Or you can just fold it up and lay it on the inside without anything to hold it in place like I do (see the picture above). The choice is yours!
ALVABABY, Rumparooz, and Imagine all make covers that are super cute, effective, and easy to use!
What do the Sizes Mean?
There are two basic sizes when it comes to the majority of cloth diapers. You can either buy them in:
- Newborn or
- One Size
There are also training pants, but those won’t come until later on.
Newborn sizes usually fit babies up to 15 pounds, meaning they don’t last long, and for the rest of your diapering career, you’ll be using one-sizes. For this reason, some moms suggest skipping the newborn size altogether. After all, we do get lots of diapers in the hospital, and a family member or two is likely to buy you some newborn disposables.
Plus, some moms claim that meconium–that gross, black tar poop–can be hard to get out of your cloth diapers.
For those reasons, many cloth diapering mommas opt to just use disposables in the beginning until one-sizes fit their little ones. Or at least until the sticky black poo phase is over.
Still, others choose to cloth diaper from day one in newborn covers with prefolds, and they say the meconium comes right out. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with buying and cleaning!
I personally used disposables until the meconium was all done. Then I alternated between using disposables and newborn covers made by Rumparooz with prefolds.
Like I said, these are the diapers you’ll be using for quite a while.
They’re highly adjustable to make it through all the growing your little girl or guy will do. The front is covered in snaps to adjust for leg room, height, and circumference of your baby. This is great for making sure that their diaper is tight enough to prevent leaks but not so tight that they get angry red marks on their legs and waist.
How Do I Put a Cloth Diaper on My baby?
You can check out this quick video:
How Many Cloth Diapers Will I Need?
Ah, the famous question. But it really depends on:
- How many kids you’ll be cloth diapering
- How often they need to be changed and
- How often you feel like washing your cloth diapers.
I wash mine every two or three days, and I’m only diapering one child. He only uses one diaper at night and usually 5 diapers during the day. Add a few diapers to have while the others are going through the wash, and it’s good for us to have right around 20 diapers for him.
You can use the same formula to figure out how many cloth diapers you’ll need:
There are so many fabrics! What’s the difference?
It’s awesome to have so many choices of fabrics for your cloth diaper inserts. But what exactly is the best fabric for you and your little one? Compare them below.
Microfiber is super cheap and often comes with whatever cloth diapers you order. But while it’s absorbent, it doesn’t hold as much as some of the other inserts. For that reason, it may be best to double up and put two inserts into your baby’s pocket diaper at night.
Plus, as I mentioned above, microfiber inserts can’t go in plain covers since they would irritate baby’s skin.
So overall, they’re inexpensive and get the job done but are best to only put in pocket diapers.
Natural and easy to come by, cotton is always a good choice. Many moms even make their own inserts from old cotton sheets or t-shirts. So if you’re looking for the absolute cheapest way to cloth diaper, it’s using plain covers with cotton inserts. Even the cotton prefolds that you can buy are fairly inexpensive.
For cotton prefolds, I recommend OsoCozy. They come in small, medium, and large sizes. And don’t be fooled by how big they are when they come in the mail. This organic fabric shrinks after washing.
Ah, bamboo. It’s my personal favorite fabric for cloth diapering. But it can also be a little more expensive. 100% Bamboo inserts are super absorbent and all-natural.
They’re great to use at night when there’s longer periods of time between diaper changes.
Hemp is the most absorbent fabric of them all. The only downfall is that it absorbs slower than the others.
I love to use them in combination with other inserts. For example, I’ll put a Thirsties hemp insert (they come in small and large sizes) under a bamboo or microfiber insert in a pocket diaper at night or if we’re going on a road trip. That way, the liquid hits something that quickly absorbs first but the hemp is below it to soak up any extras before we have a chance to get baby’s bum changed.
Dirty Diaper Storage
So after your little one goes #1 or #2, what happens to the cloth diaper?
First, take out any inserts you may be using. This will make doing laundry easier for you later since all the inserts need to be taken out of the diapers while they’re washed.
Next, dispose of any poo. When they’re little, this means rinsing the cloth diaper off (although many moms choose not to rinse breast milk poo out of diapers). As they get older and their stool becomes more solid, its fairly easy to just make it roll right off into the potty and flush it.
For occasions when they need to be rinsed, I LOVE my cloth diaper sprayer By Easy Giggles! It attaches directly to the tank of your toilet. You just hold the cloth diaper over the bowl and spray! When it’s all rinsed, just flush the toilet, and voila! All done.
It’s also helpful to have a spray shield like the Spray Pal to keep anything, ahem, “unpleasant” from spraying back at you or onto the surfaces of your bathroom.
Finally, put all diaper parts into your dry pail, pail liner, or wet bag (if you’re out and about). They’ll stay there until it’s laundry time.
Note: Some people use a wet pail, where they store their dirties in a watery bath. I don’t suggest this! They can be a breading ground for bacteria.
There’s lots of info out there about washing your cloth diapers. So I’ll simplify it by sharing my personal washing routine.
For a list of detergents and the pros and cons of each, head over to Fluff Love University’s Detergent Index. It includes pretty much any detergent known to man. Their chart will tell you if your detergent is recommended for use and any special instructions for using it. For example, you may use a weaker detergent, meaning you need to use a little more of it to clean your diapers well.
If you have hard water, you’ll also need to add Borax or something similar to your wash routine. For more info on that, you can visit The Monarch Mommy’s blog post about washing cloth diapers in hard water.
Extra Tips on How to Start Cloth Diapering
♥ It can be handy to keep a small pack of disposable diapers in your child’s size if you plan on having relatives watch your child who are not comfortable with cloth diapering.
♥ Desitin may be your go-to bum cream but DO NOT use it with your cloth diapers. Instead, Grovia makes a bum stick that works great and is safe for your fluff. You can find their Itty Bitty Magic Stick on Amazon.
♥ You’ll likely need a larger diaper bag than what you would normally use, especially if you’re also using cloth wipes.
♥ Chemicals like bleach, baking soda, and vinegar can be hard on cloth diapers and even cause the fabric to wear down and tear. And they’re not necessary! I steer clear of them all.
♥ DO NOT use fabric softener or dryer sheets with your diapers. They can cause a build-up that will make them less absorbent.
♥ Any inserts or all-in-one diapers with organic fabrics will need to be washed 8-15 times (you don’t need to dry them in between) before use so that they reach their full absorbency potential.
Are you taking the cloth diapering plunge? Or maybe you already use cloth diapers and have a few tips of your own? Either way, I’d love for you to drop a comment!
Until next time,