What I’ve Learned About Cloth Diapering

Back in May I decided to get off my butt and start cloth diapering teenie’s butt. For at least two months I hemmed and hawed trying to decide if it was worth getting into because I was so sure that as soon as I started cloth diapering, she would be ready to start potty training (which pretty much turned out to be right). Knowing how expensive cloth diapers could be, I didn’t know if they would pay for themselves in such a short period of time, especially if we don’t end up having any more kids down the road. Plus, I was a little freaked out by the whole process.  This all kept me stalling until I could no longer stand the sight of disposable diapers piling up our garbage.  After talking to a couple friends who cloth diapered, it seemed like I could do this. It wouldn’t be this huge undertaking to start this late in the game and I could easily find them used.  I felt like if I was going to do it, I wanted to buy the diapers second hand, because I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t be using them long and that way the environmental cost (not to mention the purchase cost) associated with manufacturing a new cloth diaper would be eliminated by keeping one that already exists in circulation. Both gal pals were members of cloth diapering groups and would frequently see people trying to sell off their used diapers. Having little success with a local group here, I turned to eBay where I found a bunch for a really great deal but got out bid at the last second. This ended up working out better in the long run because then my close friend who lives in NC found several being sold in her area that she said she could pick up for me.  Not only did this allow me to get her expert eyes on them to make sure they were in good shape, but she ended up getting an assortment which gave me the chance to try out three different styles.

Picture of the stash of used diapers my friend picked up for me in NC. I basically paid $5 a diaper (including the insert). All of this total cost me $60 whereas if bought new would have cost over $200.

Now that my daughter has successfully transitioned to using a tiny toilet, I’ve hung up her cloth diapers for the last time and will eventually be passing them on to live with someone else.  It was an interesting road and glad that I did it! Even if only for 3 months, that was 3 months of fewer disposable diapers being created.  While I’m not sure if we’ll have any more children in the future, I figured I can at least pass on what I’ve learned on to other prospective cloth diapering mamas and papas!  There was a lot I picked up through the process, which at first seemed overwhelming, and honestly there is still a lot I don’t know. Most of the information I have been working with was through asking my friends who cloth diaper what they do and looking up the occasional question as it arose. I still felt like I was running on training wheels even towards the end but I’m hoping that by consolidating all the info I learned into one place that this will make the process of learning about cloth diapering a little easier for the next parent who might be interested.

Look at that cute bootie!! One of the coolest things about cloth diapers is how pretty they are. 🙂

BRAND/STYLE

There are soooo many brands of cloth diapers out there but the ones below are what I tried out. All three of them have snaps making them adjustable to fit babies throughout their diapering lifetime (from 8 to 35 pounds).

Bumgenius “Orignial 3.0/4.0/5.0”: One size; Pocket style

This style of diaper has a little pocket where an absorbable insert is placed into. There are three different styles of inserts –  adjustable, standard full length, “doubler” or newborn insert. Upon drying, stuff each pocket with an insert and it’s ready to go.

From the left: adjustable insert, regular insert, newborn insert (or “doubler”).
Shown: pocket diaper with regular insert and smaller doubler for added absorbency.
Pocket diaper stuffed with a regular insert as well as a doubler.

Pros:
– Once it’s stuffed its ready to go when the time comes.
– You can stuff with an extra, smaller liner for added absorbency (aka “doubler”), which is helpful during long outings, naps and overnight.
– Great for caregivers because it most closely mimics a disposable diaper.

Cons:
– One and done (meaning once its wet or soiled, its off to the diaper pail).

Bumgenious “Freetime”: One size; All-In-One

Stay dry lining built into the diaper so there is no prep work involved at all to get it ready for use once it is washed and dried. This lining is semi-attached, crossing over in the middle, but this did not seem to cause any sort of discomfort.

The flaps can actually be adjusted to provide greater absorbency according to your baby’s needs (folded in the middle for a girl or in the front for a boy).

Also to provide extra absorbency an additional insert can be placed under the flaps!!

I didn’t actually try any of these last few tricks because I didn’t pick them up until the end but they really bump up the awesome factor.

Pros:
– We only had one of these but it was one of the easiest because there was no stuffing or inserting required.

Cons:
– One and done style like the pocket

“Flip” Diaper Cover System: One size; Cover with exchangeable inserts

With these diapers, inserts are laid into an open waterproof shell (cover).  They can be exchanged over and over again until the shell becomes soiled with the brown stuff.

From the left: one size stay dry insert, organic cotton insert, waterproof cover.

There are a variety of compatible inserts available:
One Size Stay Dry
Day Time Organic Cotton
Night Time Organic Cotton

The two covers I got with my bundle only had one stay dry insert with them so I ended up buying a box of stay dry as well as a box of organic day time. I figured the organic cotton option was going to be better environmentally but didn’t know how they were going to do. They basically are a large cloth that you fold in half and then again into thirds until the shape mimics that of the stay dry. Having used them both I feel like they are pretty equal. Both sometimes bunched up in the middle, causing the occasional leak, but the organic cotton inserts tended to do this a bit more.

Folding of an organic cotton insert.

According to my cloth diapering pal, some people also use cloth pre-folds like these or flour sack towels. Since with this system the insert touches directly against the babies’ skin, those used with the pocket system should not be used here as the microfiber material can cause irritation.  I read where one mom would double up her stay dry inserts at night so there is the option to “double up.”

Pros:
– You can reuse the same cover multiple times in the same day. As long as it is not soiled with poo, you can simply replace the insert and keep going. Sometimes when a cover was really wet with pee, I would switch it with another diaper, rinse it off, hang to dry and then use again later in the same day.

There were days where I got 7 diapers out of two covers (because thats how many inserts I had) and days where I only got two because each happened to get soiled right out of the gate.

Cons:
– The liners would sometimes bunch up in the middle and cause to leaks.
– Harder to judge how many diapers you’re going to have to work with. There have been days where I got 7 diapers out of two covers (because thats how many inserts I had) and days where I only got two because each cover happened to get soiled right out of the gate.

My top pick?

Out of these three I honestly think my favorite turned out to be the pockets because once they are stuffed, they are ready to go. There is no exchanging of liners or being disappointed if a cover you thought was going to last you longer gets pooped on early into the game. You probably end up paying more upfront but thats only if you were to get three diapers out of one cover and that’s a roll of the dice.

A little price comparison:
1 Bumgenius 5.0 pocket (or even Freetime) = $20 (with adjustable insert and doubler for pocket)
3 diapers = $60 (if not buying in higher quantities, then the price per diaper goes down)

1 cover $17, set of 3 organic liners $22, 3 stay dry $15.
3 diapers (1 cover, 3 inserts) = $32-39 (assuming one cover carries you through).  If you were to get three covers and 1 pack of three inserts it’s about the same price or a little more as three pockets.

My top pick was based on the experience I had.  Of my two cloth diapering buddies – one prefers the covers while the other prefers using the pockets (both for the above brands) so everyone is different.  There are a LOT of different brands available at different price points so if you are interested but aren’t sure about the price of the above three, definitely take a look into all of the options. Also consider buying used like I did. Its a great way to try out different styles at a lower cost. Check your local area to see if they is a cloth diapering group available through Facebook where you may be able to find used diapers being sold near you. This way you can see them in person before purchasing and make sure they appear to be in good shape. eBay also has a lot of used cloth diapers for sale, often in bundles so you might be able to luck out and find a large set at a decent price.

WASHING

There is a cloth diapering website called Fluff Love University that both of my friends recommended to me as a good resource. It really has anything and everything when it comes to cloth diapering. My friend who bought me my diapers pretty much got me up and running with a very nicely consolidated how-to, but if I were someone who was new to the game and figuring it out for myself then this website would a good place to learn the in’s and out’s. Through this site I learned all about how to wash my diapers like how to run the load (its amazing what you don’t realize your washer does until you need to use a certain function) as well as what detergent I should use and how.

As far as detergent goes…

One of my friends uses Tide powder because she said that Bumgenious brand detergent resulted in too much build up of ammonia that eventually irritated her baby’s skin. She said that after switching to Tide powder (which is basically the popular favorite amongst cloth diaperers) she no longer had this problem. Hearing this I decided to start with the popular favorite. I didn’t want to chance ruining my new (read: used) diapers right out of the gate and wanted to make sure they were starting out clean, especially since we were buying them second hand. Up to that point we’d been using unscented detergent since teenie was born so this was a major change for my senses but it worked very well. This being the case, I couldn’t get used to the perfume smell plus I really missed using a plant based detergent. I saw that Seventh Generation had come out with an Ultra Power Plus, which turned out to have decent reviews on the detergent index! So for much of the remainder I used this.

How I washed…

Rinse cycle hot. Heavy duty cycle hot. Detergent used in both cycles (amount per Fluff Love detergent index). Line dry, in the sun most of the time (or inside at night/when raining).  Sometimes I’d tumble dry the cotton inserts for the covers when I was in a hurry.  I’m pretty sure the stay dry inserts for the covers could have been tumble dried as well but given my experience with laundry – drying tends to cause shrinkage where you don’t want it so I pretty much stuck to air drying.  Luckily it was summer and on a warm sunny day, these diapers would be dried in no time!

DEALING WITH #2

At first, I admittedly used Vida paper towels as a barrier to catch any poo that came along (idea from one of my cloth diapering buds). This could be tossed into the garbage and then the diaper straight into the pail making the process super easy with minimal ick. Then I ran out……………………… Being the stubborn person that I am, I couldn’t justify buying them not knowing if I would use them all up and wanting to avoid the plastic film.  After a while of putting it off, I decided just to keep sticking it out because for the most part it wasn’t the worst thing in the world as long as it wasn’t all wet and pasty. Then it required a little bit of process along with some moaning and groaning. Basically I’d scrape the bulk off into the toilet with toilet paper and flush. To get what was left off I let the diaper and/or insert sit in the clean toilet water to soak. Once soaked I’d scrub it together to get as much off as I could, drop it in the pail (which I’d brought TO the toilet – this is an important detail in order to not drip poo water all through your house) and immediately wash my hands. Now, because I was going bare bones cloth diapering here, I did most everything the very basic way.  Many cloth diapering moms have an adapter on their toilet to spray off the brown. This would have been amazing and probably would have eliminated a lot of the ickiness from the clean off process.  And really it was only every now and then because most of the time I could walk to the bathroom, plop the terd right into the toilet, flush and put the diaper into the pail without so much as a single flinch.  I reminded myself that this is still so much easier than how our fore-mothers had it where they had no choice but to use cloth and they didn’t have washing machines to clean off the rest of the poo.  So really its not THAT big of a deal. And this is coming from someone who always had the heebie jeebies when it came to poo (hence the reason it took me until 3 months ago to start).

ODDS & ENDS

For collection of dirty, wet diapers until wash time…

For this I used a 5-gallon bucket and rinsed + wiped it out with a little rubbing alcohol on a cloth rag once emptied (it had a lid which I kept cracked for air-flow).  One of my CD friends uses an old 5-gallon bucket with a reusable pail liner that gets washed with each load.  The other just uses a large wet bag.

For on the go…

Its pretty standard for cloth diapering mommas to have a couple of wet bags to use when on the go so there is somewhere to store wet, dirty diapers until you get home. I (being the stubborn person that I am) did not want to buy a wet bag when I didn’t know how long I would be using cloth diapers. Instead I used empty wipes bags, rinsing and wiping them out with running alcohol after use if they weren’t too gross or turning them into trash pail liners for the disposable diapers and wipes.

Additional recommendations when leaving the house…

I pulled my diaper bag back out of attic storage when changing to cloth diapers so that I’d have something to carry all of my necessities (which for me was several cloth diapers, extra clothes, changing pad, wipes and a “wet bag”).

Definitely have at least one change of clothes, maybe even two pairs of bottoms until you get the timing down. In the beginning of life babies are pooping all the time and prone to blowouts. If you are coming into cloth diapering after using disposables for a while, there may be an adjustment period to length of time your child goes between changes. Doublers reduce the chance of leaks during long trips out.

I never traveled by plane with cloth diapers but did stay at our family river cabin for a week and several overnight trips away. For the week I brought the diaper pail with me and planned to wash them there. For the overnights away I just had a couple extra plastic bags that I had leftover from my pre-wastefree days that I used to contain the dirty diapers until we got home.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Cloth diapers are definitely worth it if you are at all considering it (or even if you aren’t). I don’t think you need to be scared of them because they operate almost exactly as a disposable except you don’t have to run out to the store to buy more when you run out. You just run a load. I’ve had days where I was just over buying diapers and was like “eh, if we run out we will just have to see what its like to use a cloth diaper overnight.” While this situation never arose, it was nice to have the piece of mind that we still had diapers to use if the disposables ran their course.

I do wish I had more as I think it would have been even easier (but I didn’t want to buy too many since I knew I wouldn’t likely having to diaper too much longer). My stash provided me with anywhere between 10 and 15 diapers. I’d often run out within two days, finding myself having to bridge with disposables until they were clean and dry again. The time between washings really came down to how many wears I would get out of my two covers before soiled. If it was the first wear, then that was pretty much game over for that cover. But if I got a couple plain ol’ wet diapers first then I could go longer because I was getting more use out of that cover. With covers, in situations where not all inserts were used before doing a load, you don’t have to wait nearly as long before you can start using them again because covers dry very quickly.

If you are transitioning late in the game, keeping disposable diapers around makes it more tempting to use them outside of bedtime (if thats why you are keeping them around). My goal was to use cloth during the day and disposables only at night. For the most part, this was things went, unless we ran out of cloth diapers before starting a new load or my husband was changing her and a clean one wasn’t within reach, or sometimes if we hadn’t yet seen that morning poo… When you don’t have a crutch, you’ll be less likely to lean on it.

How did my husband like it? He didn’t love it but he tolerated it. By tolerated I mean he was all for the reasoning behind it, supportive and changed them when they were clean, ready and available. If I didn’t have any ready to go (stuffed/loaded) diapers nearby, a disposable would be more likely to end up on her bum. Poop filled diapers ended up in the sink for me to deal with since it wasn’t something he was all that thrilled about but he did remove the liners from wet pockets before putting them into the pail (whereas I just waited until I washed them) which I thought was nice.

So that’s it. That’s everything I know about cloth diapering. Hopefully this is useful to you if you’re thinking about making the change. It’s a cool club to be a member of so definitely consider joining. 😉

xo, Erica

4 Replies to “What I’ve Learned About Cloth Diapering”

  1. You def made cloth diapering sound less scary to me! I’m so proud of teenie girl and her potty training. She needs to send some of that skill to her cousin, lol!

    1. Yay!! I’m glad – its def not the daunting process I’d thought it to be! haha Thanks girlie – maybe they’ll chat about it tomorrow. 😉

  2. Ankita Bardhan says:

    Thank you for sharing such a detailed post, I have heard of cloth diapering before but never knew that so much goes into managing it!

    xx
    http://realgirltalks.com/

    1. You’re welcome, thank you for checking it out!! It was fun to look back at everything I learned in such a short period of time! 🙂

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