So, I had pictures for this post. And then the computer ate them/I’m technologically illiterate and my husband will find what I need immediately making me feel like a complete ding-dong because, well, I am one. So, please imagine this post full of colorful, artfully composed pictures of adorable babies with adorable cloth diapers on their bums. Thank ye, kindly!
My high school friend, Beverly, is expecting her first baby soon (!!!) and I promised her I’d do a post on cloth diapering, preferably before the baby comes. Writing this post has taken way longer than it should have, so I owe Beverly my unending apologies (grovel, grovel, grovel)!
There is a ton of information out there about cloth diapering, which can be pretty daunting. I’m going to share the links and info that helped me the most when getting started, plus a few tricks, if any, I’ve learned along the way.
The first thing you need to decide is what kind of diapers you want to go with. There are about four zillion and one different kinds of cloth diapers, all with ninety different names/brands/make ups. Want organic hemp pre-folds? Done. Want a pocket diaper with disposable inserts? Done. Want diaps with adorable patterns/colors/textures/your baby’s name embroidered on them? Done and done.
I think the most important thing to consider when choosing a style of cloth diaper is convenience for your family, which means mama and daddy, of course, but also the well-meaning aunties, besties, and mothers-in-law who will be dying to help out, but might not be comfortable with a complicated system.
Our family went with the bumGenius system, which consists of pocket diapers that you stuff with inserts. This is nice because they’re made pretty much the same as disposable diapers, but you can adjust the absorbency for nighttime, etc. I also like the fact that they change sizes with your baby. Snaps on the front convert the diaper from small to two sizes bigger, which makes them last longer. Plus you don’t have to worry about guessing the right size for your baby’s bum. There’s definitely not much of a learning curve on using these diapers, which is nice for the people in our lives who don’t use them every day.
Keep in mind that the world of cloth diapering is a big one. I found myself getting overwhelmed by the number of options and really just went with what was recommended to me and what looked like the most accessible option. Follow your heart, Sacagawea, and you’ll be fine.
This really depends on how frequently you want to wash diapers. I suggest having enough diaps so that you’re only washing every other day. Any longer than that and things will get stinky. And by ‘stinky’ I mean ‘staanky’. I think we’ve got about 20 or 25 diapers and that’s done us just fine.
So, when using cloth diapers the main goal is to avoid anything that will cause buildup, as buildup leads to moisture repelling issues which is poo-tastic (pun intended). This really isn’t that hard. Avoid laundry detergents with additives like fragrances, softeners, etc. We go with our store brand free and clear formula and it works great. I know a lot of companies out there make all-natural soaps that are supposed to be wonderful and a lot of the diaper manufacturers make their own detergents to “go with” the diapers, but I’m honestly more interested in the money-saving route, so just go with whatever works for you! Never use fabric softener or dryer sheets with your cloth diapers, either.
If you’re looking for yet another awesome reason to breastfeed, search no further, since breast milk is water soluble, huzzah! This means that as long as baby’s exclusively breastfed, you don’t really need to rinse poo out of diapers! As soon as baby starts eating solids, though, you’ll need to dump/rinse your diapers.
This is the part where a lot of people get all squeamish and grossed out. I say, if baby poop grosses you out that much, your baby is laying down on the job. I’d much rather scoop it off a diaper than off my own chest (which has totally happened to me, thanks Mags) so just chalk it up to another awesome part of parenting and more fodder for “the things I did for you” speeches. It really isn’t that bad, though.
I will say, you have to get a spatula for this job. Nothing scoops poop better than an old, hard sided spatula and I’m really sad I didn’t discover that trick until after I’d been cloth diapering for two years. Le sigh. I know you can get diaper sprayers that hook up to the toilet tank, but a spatula works for me!
Also, just so’s you know, we dry store our diapers. You can definitely soak them in a pail, but I don’t think it’s totally necessary. Like with the detergent, there are a lot of products that you can spray on your diaps to keep them smelling fresh as a daisy, but I haven’t found them to be necessary.
Okay, to the actual washing! BumGenius’ washing instructions are as follows:
“Pre-wash cold. Wash hot (100F/40C) with bumGenius detergent. Extra rinse. No laundry additives. Line dry cover. Tumble dry insert. No fabric softeners. Use 1/4 cup or 60 mL bleach in the hot wash once per month.”
Easy peasy, right? So, yeah…wash ’em once on cold, again on hot with a minuscule amount of detergent, bleach ’em when you want and you’re good to go! I do bleach mine once a month and I’m definitely guilty of tossing my covers in the dryer with the inserts (remember, no dryer sheets!). This is especially common for me in the winter when I have no incentive to hang things up since the drying rack isn’t as pretty as the clothesline and I’m kind of lazy anyway. A word for the clothesline: I’m obsessed with them and think everyone should get one! They’re so wonderful, in general, but nothing makes cloth diapers smell better or shine whiter than the sun. Plus, a line full of pretty cloth diaps is so, so lovely.
Wink, wink! Unfortunately, this kind of stripping isn’t usually that exciting, but feel free to improvise! Ahem. Sometimes you might have to strip your diapers when there’s a buildup of some kind. Most manufacturers warn against doing this too often, however, I know of some people who strip their diapers once a month. I’ve only stripped mine once or twice.
To strip your diapers, just put ’em through the regular cold/hot wash cycle with 1/4 c. of bleach and a small squirt (like 1/4 tsp) of liquid dish soap like Dawn. If you want, you can do a sanitizing wash on just the inserts with more bleach to really seal the deal.
Stripping diapers removes excess buildup and helps get rid of leaking issues, which is never good and also helps with odor.
We’ve had the same set of bumGenius diapers for three years now. I haven’t added to my stash once, nor have I thrown any diapers away. Holla atcha boy.
As I mentioned before, there have been times when I’ve dried the covers in the dryer, so I will say that my velcro tabs are a bit curly (I keep meaning to use and iron to straighten them out, but I’m really just not the type who irons her diapers, you know?). Some of the fabric that the velcro sticks to on the front (whatever that’s called) is a bit mangled and coming unstitched, as well. It’s really nothing a sewing machine couldn’t fix…if I had a sewing machine or the sewing prowess with which to fix it. I’m clearly not too worried about this…
Out and About
A lot of people worry about how they’ll store cloth diapers when they’re out running errands or otherwise away from home. Again, there are companies that make adorable travel bags for diaper storage. I prefer the less-adorable, and less-expensive grocery bag option, cause that’s how I roll. (The more I write this post, the more I realize I am a complete cheap-o…sheesh.) Really, as long as it’s waterproof there’s really nothing to worry about. Just make sure whatever bag you use doesn’t escape the diaper bag and roll under the driver’s seat…’cause that would be baaaad. Not that that’s ever happened to me…
My biggest advice to first time cloth diaper-ers is as follows: Don’t do it when you’ve got a newborn. Seriously, there are far more important things for you to worry about with a brand new baby than washing diapers…like snuggling and rubbing your lips on their velvety head. Wait till you’ve got your groove and then tackle the diapers. Plus, their tiny little butts will probably be too small for the reggo diaps in the beginning, anyway, and I just think it’s silly to buy newborn sized cloth diapers.
As a woman who has traveled cross-country with infants both by car and by plane on multiple occasions, I also recommend not cloth diapering when on a trip. I’ve never tried it and I never plan to. The sheer mathematics of trying to figure out when/where/how to wash and dry cloth on the road frightens me. I do, however, love the mental image I get of clean diapers line drying out the car windows at 70 on the highway.
If you have ever done this, you are all that is woman/man and I salute you. And I kind of want to know how you accomplished this mammoth task. (Seriously, if you’ve done it, tell us how!)
Cottonbabies is an incredibly thorough resource that will help get your started. They’ve got great descriptions of what the different kinds of diapers are, how they work, how to wash them, etc. This is also a good place to purchase diapers. We ordered ours through them and never had a problem. You can also do registries here, too!
A Collection of Passions has a great post on bumGenius 4.0’s specifically, plus lots of good pictures and info.
Diaper Swappers is a cool site where you can get more information plus they’ve got lots of forums and spaces where you can pick up used/never used diapers for a significantly reduced price. I haven’t done the swapping myself, but have friends who recommend it.
Valerie has a great post about cloth diapering with a lot of good pros/cons in the comments. Check it out!
Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas has another good post with more how-to’s, more links, more pictures ’cause she’s not a ding-dong.