So this is the first decision I made as a mom, and one that I made before my baby was even born. I decided that I wanted to try cloth diapers for my baby when I was about 4 months pregnant. My initial reason for looking in to them was the cost. For the first time in my life I was paying attention to how much baby stuff costs and I saw that a box of diapers was $20! Now I’m not going to call myself poor, because we aren’t, but our household definitely runs on a budget. So when I did the math, I figured it was going to cost almost $2,000 to diaper a baby until they were 2. I figured we could do better somehow, so I started looking in to cloth. Once I started looking in I found that there were so many positives about them!
Babies with cloth diapers have way fewer blowouts, by way fewer I mean basically none. I’ve had Oliver in cloth since he was about a month old and haven’t had a single blowout while using one. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but it’s not likely. The tradeoff for this is the fact that cloth diapers can leak if they get too full. A disposable will hold the moisture in better, but as long as you change your baby regularly it really isn’t much of an issue. Also Oliver has never, not once, had diaper rash. I can’t really say if this is because he’s so awesome or because of the cloth. But they do say cloth babies get less diaper rash, so I’m going to say it’s because of cloth.
Then there is the thing that brings out the hippie in me. When you really think about it disposables are super gross and bad for our planet. Diapers in a landfill take 500 years to decompose. 500 YEARS. That’s not even considering the fact of human waste in the landfill. You’re really not suppose to throw away human waste right? Why do we somehow think it’s okay when it’s wrapped up in a diaper? Some disposables even say on their packaging that you should flush any solid waste before throwing away the diaper, but I’ve never heard of a single person doing that. There has been debate about whether cloth diapers are actually more environmentally friendly, the argument being more water and detergent use with cloth. I personally can’t see that extra load of laundry every few days being worse than nearly 6,000 diapers in our landfill.
One cloth diaper costs anywhere from $3-15, which sounds crazy expensive for one diaper. But you can use them basically forever. They grow with your baby, so that one time purchase will last until they are potty trained, with the exception of buying more inserts later on. I’ll get in to those details in a minute. Oliver is 8 months old right now, and I have spent about $100 on diapers total. Most of that was before he was born, when I bought the diapers we use. Since he has born I have spent exactly $0 on disposable diapers and about $20 on cloth. We were gifted a lot of diapers, because that’s what people gift you when you’re pregnant, and the hospital sent us home with a large box as well. For the little bit that we use disposables, we haven’t had any need to buy more than that. I do still use disposables at night, because they hold the moisture better and it’s less night time changing. I also use them if we are going on a longer trip, or somewhere where I won’t be able to wash them in a timely manner.
Once I had made this decision and starting tell people about it I got a lot of mixed reactions. Mauricio was on board as soon as he saw his friend purchase a box of diapers for his baby and realized how expensive that was going to be. My mom was supportive, partially because she had used cloth on me as a baby. She even helped me navigate the confusing world of cloth. But mostly, I got a lot of scrunched faces and “why would you do that to yourself?” responses. The worst response I think was from my mother-in-law who literally laughed at us and told us cloth diapers were for poor people. We explained to her that they were a lot different that they were 25 years ago when she was changing babies and that we were planning on using them to save money. She simply said “yo, no” (“Not me”, for those of you who didn’t take Spanish in high school). I won’t lie, that curt response kind of upset me. She was going to be watching Oliver 2 days out of the week, and I was willing to send diapers and a wet bag to her house and I would obviously do the laundry. But the quick I’m not doing that response made it very clear she wasn’t interested in learning this method. Some of the blogs and such I found online told how there was a learning curve for using cloth, but here was my thing. Neither Mauricio or I had been around babies, neither of us had experience changing diapers. So no matter what we did for our baby, we were going to have to learn it. Why not learn what we want and not listen to people who tell us how gross it will be. I did plan on using disposables for the first bit, while I figured out all of the new mom things. And that’s what we did. I used disposables for the first month or so before I started my cloth venture. It was a bit of an adjustment but it was pretty easy to get used to and we were pretty much in cloth all the time at 2 months.
Cloth diapers have come a long way even in the last 20 years. My mom used cloth on me as a baby and it was basically just really huge pieces of cloth that you had to fold and pin and put rubber pants over. While that is still an option of course, there are so many different and easier options now. When I first started looking in to cloth it was a little overwhelming. There is a lot of information online about the different diapers, but I feel like it’s all explained for people who already know what they are. So I’m going to give you the breakdown I needed, designed for those of you who have no idea what this cloth business is about, I sure didn’t a year ago.
I can’t speak a whole lot to these, because I don’t use them. But from what I can gather, it’s basically super absorbent fabrics that you can fold up and use snappis or pins to close. You could use fleece blankets or anything absorbent really. Then you’ll have to have some sort of plastic cover that will go over this, otherwise all the babies clothes will get wet. The fabric will absorb but it’s not going to keep in all in like a disposable. This is the same method you’d use for the giant pieces of cloth I mentioned earlier.
These are basically a step up from the flour sack towels. They are already folded for you in the right form. All you’ll have to do is lay baby down on them, fold it around, pin/snappi closed, and then use a cover to hold the moisture in. These come in different sizes, so they aren’t going to be able to be used as diapers forever. But when baby outgrows a size, they are still good to use for burp cloths or just rags to have around. Keep decent care of them though, you can still use them on future baby! I used these when Oliver was around a month old, and I was really happy with them. I went through 2 different sizes and I still use both as something to lay Oliver on instead of the sheet of the changing table. That way if it gets dirty under him, I can just wash the prefold instead of changing the whole sheet. Below is a step by step of me putting a diaper on a stuffed animal. This is also the method I used on my child.
Once you get the prefold on, you’ll need a cover to hold the moisture in. Then you’re done!
This is what we use and I’ve come to love! They are basically a waterproof shell with a super soft inside with a pocket opening. In that pocket you put whatever you use to absorb, called an insert. Most pocket diapers will come with microfiber inserts or bamboo inserts, but you can also use prefolds, FST or whatever fits in there to absorb. The inserts are the nicest because they will keep the diaper from getting too bulky. It’s actually pretty surprising how absorbent the inserts are. One bit of advice on inserts: wash them a lot before you put them to use. I thought it seemed silly to do, but they actually do take about 10 washes before they start absorbing really well. I don’t know why…that’s just the way they are. After time, the inserts will start losing their absorbency, and you’ll start having more leaks. It’s either time to double up on the inserts, or look in to getting some new ones. They aren’t that pricey, microfiber being the cheaper option. Microfiber has always worked well for me, but I’m curious about bamboo and may get them the next time I need to get new ones.
I wanted to update this post a bit. At about the one year mark Oliver was soaking through 2 microfiber inserts pretty quick so I needed to update our stuffing routine. I did some research and it turns out there are a lot of insert options and I wanted to cover them for you all.
Microfiber inserts are the inserts that are going to come with your new pocket diapers, they absorb quick but don’t hold a whole lot of liquid. They also will leak if they’re compressed, so we have had leaks with them on long cars rides. Microfiber also shouldn’t go against baby’s skin, the rest of the options are softer and safe to go right on baby if you want to do that sort of thing. Doubling up worked well for a while but we eventually needed something different.
Bamboo inserts are pretty common as well, they will absorb slower, and hold a little more than microfiber.
Charcoal bamboo is the option I ended up going with for some extra absorption. They absorb slower, but they can hold more liquid and are as subject to the whole compression leaks thing. They aren’t the best to use on their own because they absorb so slow. I use a microfiber on top and a charcoal bamboo on the bottom so that the microfiber absorbs quickly, but when it leaks out a bit the charcoal bamboo is there to absorb that.
So, to prep your diapers all you have to do is stuff an insert into the pocket opening and make sure that its sitting as flat and smooth as you can make it. When you go to take these off, you just pull the insert out, rinse off any poop from the diaper and throw it in your wet bag. I’ll go over my washing process in a bit in more depth, don’t worry.
Many pocket diapers are one size, so they’ll grow with your baby by adjusting how you snap them on, super easy. I have 2 brands and I like them both in different ways. I have Charlie Banana, which are on the more expensive end, and AlvaBaby, which are the China cheapies. I was really surprised with how much I liked the Alvas. I thought they’d be cheap and blah, but really they are more slim and possibly more absorbent than the Charlies. AlvaBaby has tons of fun designs, but I also really like the solid, clean look of the Charlie Bananas. The one negative about the Charlie Bananas is the way you adjust the leg opening for when baby grows a bit. I’ve only had to do it twice so far. Buts it’s kind of a pain in the butt, while adjusting the Alvas is just done when you put the diaper on..no extra time during prep. I’ve been super happy with my pockets, but there is still one more option I want to address.
So these guys are similar to the design of a pocket, except the insert is essentially sewn in to the diaper. So there’s no taking the insert out before you wash, or having to stuff diapers before they’re ready to wear. I can see the appeal of this, but I’ve never used them so I can’t speak much to them. The only negative I see with the all in one design is you can’t easily put a new absorber in them. So if the diaper starts losing its absorbency, it’s basically unusable, whereas with a pocket you’ll just have to buy some new inserts.
I’ve found that I really like pocket the best. They are easy for me and they really don’t take much effort. But I’ll give you the rundown of what washing and caring for these are. If you’re thinking about using cloth, try not to get overwhelmed with the idea of tons of extra laundry and work. I wash my diapers about every other day. I don’t like to let them sit longer than that, and I have about a two day supply with my 12 pocket diapers. When I take a diaper off, if it’s wet, I just pull the insert out and throw both of those pieces in my wet bag. The wet bag is just a trash can with a cloth liner in it, if we’re on the go we have a smaller bag that clips on to the diaper bag. If it’s a dirty diaper, I set it to the side and get a new diaper on Oliver and then set him on the floor to play. Then I take the dirty diaper to the bathroom and gently slide the insert out, over the toilet so the poop can go where it’s supposed to go. Then I lay the insert on the edge of the toilet and use my diaper sprayer to spray off anything that didn’t come off already.
Do not put off getting a sprayer if you’re wanting to use cloth. Seriously. I just barely got one and it made things a thousand times better. I don’t know why I waited so long. And as a side note, it has lots of uses other than rinsing diapers. For me, I’ve used it to clean my turtles filters, the bathtub, the toilet itself and I’m sure I’ll find more stuff as times goes on. The only reason for waiting would be while your baby is exclusively breastfed, if you’re breastfeeding. It seems super weird and kind of gross, but EBF poop is 100% water soluble and will come right out of the diapers. So while it’s totally fine to rinse them off, it’s not necessary until baby starts eating anything other than breastmilk.
Anyways, after you rinse off the diaper, put it in your wet bag. Some people have one in the bathroom as well as by their changing table. Olivers room is right next to the bathroom so I just have one in his room, but whatever works for you. Keep this up until you’ve got enough diapers to wash. You really don’t need to wash every night, unless you go through A LOT of diapers that day. It’s actually better to have more bulk to the wash than less, so wait until you’ve got a decent load to wash. As I said earlier, I don’t use cloth overnight, so once I get Oliver in pajamas and laid down for bed, I take his wet bag and empty it into the washer, bag and all. Usually my load is about 10 diapers and inserts as well as the bag, I also throw in any sheets or clothes than may have got peed on that day. Because you know…boy mom. I’ve found its best to not wash his clothes with the diapers, but a few rags are alright. I set the load size to low, and turn it on to rinse and leave the door open. This means the tub is going to fill up, but not run a cycle. And I leave it like that overnight. Yup you read that right, I let them soak in water all night. Then in the morning I close the lid and my washer runs the rinse cycle on them. I don’t bother with a whole normal cycle, just enough to get the water they’ve been soaking in out of there. Once that’s done I start the actual cycle with a cup of Tide Free and Gentle liquid detergent.
There’s lots of options for detergent for cloth, and I suggest doing some specific research about what detergent you should use. But a main thing is you want to make sure that you use a fragrance free one. Tide Free and Gentle is the same detergent I use on all of Olivers clothes as well. I’ve considered using a more eco-friendly detergent for our family, but the budget isn’t allowing that right now, and Tide has always worked well for us. If you want to see a good list of all detergents check out Fluff Universities Detergent Index.
Once the cycle is done, what I do next really depends on the weather. Yeah, I mean it. All summer long, I would lay out the diapers and inserts in the sun and, because I live in the desert, they would be dry in about an hour or two. But, if it was a windy day, or the one day a year it rains here I threw them in the dryer. Now that it’s winter, and a very cold winter at that, I always put them in the dryer. Air drying them is best, but it’s not always going to work. I haven’t noticed a difference in the last month of drying in the dryer, but if you’re looking to get some stains out, try air drying. The sun is seriously amazing. Then once they’re dry, if baby is asleep, you get to turn some tv on and stuff diapers. Since I only wash 2 days worth at a time, it really doesn’t take me long to get the diapers put together, but I use it as an excuse to catch up on a show since I don’t really watch a lot of TV anymore. And that’s it! Fresh diapers ready for another day of not buying a box of disposables!