With cloth, I easily chose a diaper/cover that color coordinated for pictures.
This is part of a series on all the reusable cloth stuff we're using!
Looking for information on washing cloth diapers? I posted about that here.
I started cloth diapering when Bean was about 6 weeks old. When I was pregnant, I planned to use disposables because I thought they were easier, less gross, more convenient, and I felt that I did plenty of other stuff to "offset" any environmental damage I would do. Afterall, we recycle! Convenience was probably the biggest barrier.
When I did the math and realized how much disposables would cost us (don't ask me now, I've completely forgotten the math I did personally, but I've seen the cost quoted at about $50-80/month), and I was looking at ways I might be able to bring down household costs, I looked into cloth. I'm so glad I did! I did discover that cloth is much less expensive (especially if you do your own laundry, rather than use a diaper service, and even moreso if you diaper more than one kiddo! Your exact savings will depend almost entirely on which diapering options you choose.). And now I consider cloth easier, less gross, and more convenient. Go figure!
Pros of Cloth Diapering:
- You never have to go to the store because you're out (though some keep emergency disposables in case they get behind on laundry or need to use a cream medication that they don't want to have to strip off the diapers alter).
- Money savings
- Better air circulation to baby's bottom (means fewer rashes)
- Cloth diapering is said to lead to earlier potty training because toddlers can feel the wetness. I think it is more complex than that, though Bean did potty train pretty early (25 months during the day and by 30 months reliably overnight).
- They're cute. (Not a huge reason for me, but it's still true. Great colors, prints, and you can even have diapers custom-made or make them yourself. Undeniably fun and adorable!)
- They're less gross, in my opinion, for a few reasons: the clean smell (I hate the smell of disposables); they must be washed frequently, so there's little chance for them to stink up the joint (and if they're immediately stinky, there's a problem!); when you get to the disgusting poops of a solids-eating baby, you get rid of the poop immediately (flush it down the toilet) rather than storing it in a bin or making a trek to the nasty outside garbage can while you try not to puke. (Diapering is gross no matter what!)
- No globules of chemical gel on my baby's most delicate parts. I don't care what the companies who make them say - it doesn't seem safe and harmless to have that stuff stuck to my baby!!
- They have resale value! So, even if your savings is fairly minimal in terms of purchase price of cloth versus disposables (and it's only minimal if you are using a diaper service or you buy the most expensive cloth diapers and then only use them on one baby), you will come out ahead when you sell your diapers! Try them and hate them? Sell them!
When you're starting cloth diapering, it can be very overwhelming! There are a lot of options nowadays. Outlining options and their pros and cons got so involved that I made a chart, which you can download here (PDF). It took me all day. I hope someone (anyone!) will use it!
After figuring out what type of diapers you'd like to try (don't commit to one kind straight out - try a couple! You can always sell what you don't like!), consider what kind of materials you would like to use. Here are your options for the absorbent portion of cloth diapers:
- Cotton (organic or not, bleached or unbleached)
- Hemp: Better absorbency than cotton, natural antimicrobial properties. We have some hemp doublers that we add to prefolds for nighttime use.
- Bamboo/Bamboo Velour (Often organic): Better absorbency than cotton, natural antimicrobial properties, very soft, very renewable resource (it grows quickly)
- Synthetic materials (i.e. microfiber): AVOID AVOID AVOID
- PUL - this stands for polyurethane laminate. It's simply a thin plastic-coated material that acts as a moisture barrier, keeping pee off your lap.
- Fleece - fleece, in a diapering context, is polar fleece. This is a synthetic fiber used in covers because it is breathable but very water resistant. It is usually used for nighttime diapering.
- Wool - wool is popular both for its for, and its function. Wool is naturally antimicrobial and very absorbent. You can also lanolize it to make it waterproof. As a cover, it is very popular for heavy nighttime wetters. You can also buy "longies" (pants), "shorties" (shorts), and skirts with built-in wool diapers - some folks will then forego a diaper altogether. You don't need to wash wool unless it gets stinky or it gets pooped on.
You have essentially the same options for materials as the diapers (cotton flannel, bamboo, and sometimes hemp). I'd avoid terry cloth.
To use, I just spray wipe solution directly on the poopy bottom or directly on the wipe if I don't want to shock the baby with cold spray. You can buy wipe solutions, but I make my own with water and a squirt of liquid castille soap. I used to add essential oils, but I got lazy and they're not necessary. I've also used a vinegar and water solution to treat thrush on me and yeast rashes on Squeak. In a pinch, I've used the soap and water solution to give myself a quick wash-up, too.
What you'll need
Once you decide what kind of cloth diapers you want, you can figure out what all you need to buy based on this list:
- At least 2 dozen diapers and possibly half a dozen or so covers (i.e. a waterproofed poop and pee catching device - see below for options!) - necessity of covers depends on the type of diaper you choose (see below). The number of diapers determines how often you'll do wash. With 2 dozen, I do wash every other day no problem.
- A bin (like a trash can, perhaps) and 2 liners OR no bin but 2 hanging wet bags to store dirties (this goes in the wash with your diapers, so you'll need to have one in use while the other is in the wash)
- 2 to 3 wet bags to keep in your diaper bag - store wet/dirty diapers, wipes, clothes, burp cloths, nursing pads....anything! Then dump it in with diaper laundry. Done.
- Cloth diaper-friendly diaper rash salve/cream (some popular creams can be staining or can make your diapers smell like fish as soon as they're peed in. Gross.)
- Cloth diaper-friendly laundry detergent (currently a bit of an issue for me as I try to cut the cost...). I highly recommend this chart for information and options! There's a chart for diaper rash creams and salves there as well.
- Possibly doublers/soakers/extra inserts for nighttime use (especially with toddlers, who often pee unbelivable amounts in the night, when you don't want to change them for 10-14 hours!). We have probably 6 of these.
- If you choose to use prefolds, contours, or flats, you'll also need some sort of fastener.
- For a baby/toddler with solid poops, you might want to get some biodegradable, flushable liners. They make it easy to get rid of poop into the toilet, and they keep the non-water-soluble solids poop out of your washing machine (breastmilk poop is completely water soluble. Raisin and corn poop? Sorry, no.). I just plopped those poops off diapers at our house, but I've always used liners when we travel, just out of respect for other people's grossness tolerance with their washing machines :)
- If you choose to use cloth wipes, you'll also need:
- 2-3 dozen Cloth wipes. The number depends on how often your particular baby poops, and what you start using them for. Cloth wipes end up being face wipes, tissues, quick hand-washes, etc!
- Materials for whatever wipe solution you intend to use (some even just use plain water)
- Possibly a small (8oz) spray bottle for diaper solution at home and a travel bottle (2oz) for the diaper bag - or some people choose to pre-wet all their wipes and keep them in a small wetbag in their diaper bag. At home they'll use a wipe warmer or reuse the box from disposable wipes.