Cloth Diapering 101 [from a mom who went from overwhelmed to LOVE]

I’ve recently had a lot of moms or soon-to-be-moms ask me questions about cloth diapering. And even though there are already a bazillion different opinions and informative posts out there, I thought I’d give my two cents and write my own informative post based off of some of the FAQ’s I’ve received. Because cloth diapering can seriously be overwhelming, I know I felt that way when I began researching it, but I have come to really, really love cloth diapering! And I hope maybe this post will help take you a step away from overwhelmed, and a step towards loving cloth!

Where do I start?

The decision to cloth diaper can feel SUPER daunting. Like I said, there’s a TON of information out there, and for some reason everyone seems to have a different opinion. So when it comes to seeking information, I’d suggest starting with a friend or at least someone you trust who’s already cloth diapering. I realize that everyone who’s reading this (is anyone reading this? ha) may or may not be friends with me IRL, but if you’re reading this blog post, I consider you a friend, so that takes care of that ;)

But anyway, start with researching BRANDS. There are a ton of different brands out there, some better known that others. When you begin researching, you’ll also quickly notice that prices greatly vary from brand to brand. The more expensive ones can seem a little overwhelming for those of us without a limitless budget, but in my opinion, and from what I’ve heard from friends who’ve tried different brands, you get what you pay for. The cost can be a lot up front, but my husband did a TON of number crunching, and especially if you have more than 1 child, you really do save money!

Pockets or all-in-1’s?

This is mostly personal preference, and I’m sure there are a ton of blog posts designated specifically to the comparison between pockets and all-in-1’s, but I chose the pocket type diapers that have inserts in them. When I was doing my research, I read that although the all-in-1’s are a little more convenient, they lose their absorbency sooner because they can’t be washed and dried separately from the shells. This may or may not be true across the board, but I haven’t been disappointed with the pocket style, so when asked, I always suggest them.

How many diapers do I buy?

This is also personal preference. It depends on how much money you have to spend and how much time you can devote to washing/drying/stuffing your diapers. From what I read, 24 is a good average, although I know some moms who make it work with only 12 diapers!

I received a good amount of diapers at my baby showers, so I actually have 32, but I could probably get by with less than that. Although now that we’re cloth diapering 2 kids, even 32 diapers run out fast!

It’s important to note that cloth diapers need to be changed more frequently, because they’re not as absorbent as disposable. And since my sons have both been babies that pee a LOT, I usually change them before and after each nap, adding up to about 5-7 times a day. [As they get older this amount decreases, so my 5 month old goes through more diapers in a day than my 2 year old.]

What about nighttime?

There’s basically two options for nighttime diapers. Since cloth aren’t as absorbent as disposable, you can either use disposable at night, or cloth with an extra insert. I’ve never attempted cloth diapers at night because my sons just pee WAY TOO MUCH [my 2 year old was peeing THROUGH nighttime disposable diapers at one point…] so for the sake of my sanity,  and not having to change sheets every single night, we use disposable [sometimes even with an extra absorbent insert inside!]. But I do know people who use cloth at night, so if you’re committed, and your babies don’t pee as much as mine do, it is possible!

When to start?

There are brands of cloth diapers that make diapers specifically for newborns, and if you’re a super crunchy, save the earth type person, more power to you. But personally, since you change newborn’s diapers SO often, it just didn’t seem worth it. Not to mention, how sleep deprived you are, with hardly any extra effort to do EXTRA loads of wash. So anyway, we began cloth diapering both our boys when they were around two months. By this point, they’re peeing less, and the cloth diapers don’t swallow them entirely. But this is a personal preference, so there’s nothing wrong with starting before or after that either!

Washing

Ok here’s the doozy. The MOST frequent question I get asked. Because when it comes to the number of varying opinions, this one takes the cake. So although you could probably find 52 million other ways to wash cloth diapers, I’ll tell you the way I’ve been doing it for 2 years, which has worked wonderfully for us!

To put it super simple:

1. Take dirty diaper off baby

2. Pull insert out of shell and toss in wet bag [I’ll get to the difference between breastfed/formula poop and solid food poop later]

3. When you’re ready to wash diapers, put everything in washer, including wet bags [I flip them inside out so that the part that was probably touching some poop gets washed really well.]

4. Wash COLD with NO detergent

5. Wash HOT, WITH detergent

6. Extra rinse

7. Dry inserts in dryer [but you can also hang these]

8. Hang or lay shells flat to dry

Now, I realize there are different types of washers out there. Most common, either regular or high efficiency. Although you CAN use an HE washer, due to the fact that lots of water is necessary to clean the diapers, you might need to use some extra rinses with an HE washer. So if you plan to cloth diaper for the long haul and you haven’t already bought a washer, I’d suggest a regular top-loader washing machine. But if you’re gung-ho about an HE, just maybe add an extra rinse, and always select “large” load no matter how many diapers you wash at a time.

Breast/formula fed vs. Solids

The best time to cloth diaper is when your baby is still exclusively breast/formula fed. Because their poop is water soluble so you can literally toss their poopy diapers right in the wash! No pre-rinsing necessary! It’s wonderful. Kinda gross when you think about it, but so convenient.

However, once they start solids it’s a whole different ball game. When my 2 year old started solids, we honestly switched him to disposables for a while because as their bodies get used to digesting solids, their poop gets very runny. And since you can no longer just toss it in the washer, it’s not very fun to take care of. BUT if you’re committed to saving the earth through less disposable diapers, more power to you! There are two main options [other than the old school “dunk & swish” in the toilet…self explanatory I think] either a toilet sprayer or diaper liners. We actually have both. Sounds like overkill, but the liners are super convenient when the poop is contained to them, but if its smushy [is that a word?] at all or gets outside the liner, it can be tough to take care of without getting it all over your hands…thus, the sprayer. I believe we got our sprayer off Amazon, but most stores like Lowes or Home Depot would probably sell them. And there are multiple options for liners, but my favorite [we’ve tried several] are these.

Detergent

At first we used Bum Genius detergent specifically made for cloth diapers, but then my cousin said she just uses Tide powder detergent, so when we ran out of Bum Genius, we started using Tide and it’s worked great! I also have friends who use liquid detergent, but most of what I read suggested using powder, as it doesn’t build up as quickly on the diapers [causing you to need to strip them…]

Speaking of…Stripping!

[No, not that kind…] ;) Sometimes, after you’ve been using your cloth diapers for a while, gunk gets built up from washing them, and they just need some extra cleaning. It’s normal for the wet diapers in your wet bag/diaper pail to smell of ammonia, but if they’re smelling like that when they’re supposedly clean, or when you go to change your baby, you might need to strip them.

Again, there are a million different opinions out there on stripping diapers, but here’s my method [taken from Kristen Ann James]. And remember this shouldn’t be something you do every month, we’ve been cloth diapering for over two years, and we’ve only done this once so far.

1. Start with CLEAN diapers

2. Rinse on cold

3. Add 1 Tablespoon of Dawn dish detergent [yup, the blue stuff.]

4. Wash diapers on a long, hot cycle

5. Wash again on a long, hot cycle [DON’T add more detergent]

6. Rinse SEVERAL times…basically until you don’t see anymore bubbles. [Probably around 3 times.]

I hope this post has been helpful for those of you about to begin cloth diapering, or feeling overwhelmed by the thought of diving in. I was SUPER overwhelmed and went back and forth about whether or not to do it, but ultimately, the financial aspect won me over. [Not to mention, when babies are wearing only a cloth diaper, they look SO cute!]

If you have any questions that I didn’t answer, feel free to comment or email me. And if you’ve cloth diapered in a different way than me, I’d love to hear about it! I was a little wary at first, but I’ve really come to love cloth diapering, and have found that once you get in a rhythm of washing/stuffing, it’s really not difficult to tackle.

Other great resources:

Kristen Ann James [she has a 3 part series, and it’s been my go-to!]

Simple Steps to Start Cloth Diapering

Kelly’s Closet

Cotton Babies [this is where we bought most of our diapers, you can sometimes find ones that are on major sale!]