Hello, and welcome to my authoritative, know-it-all post on cloth diapering!
I’m kidding. All I know is what works for me. I have gotten lots of questions from friends about cloth diapering — why, how, and what to do — and I thought it might be helpful for me to write out some of the basics — as well as the things I wish I had known when I embarked on my own bumgenius journey. If cloth diapering isn’t your thing, that’s fine. It doesn’t have to be. Disposables exist for a reason. BUT if you are intrigued by cloth diapering, I would encourage you to read on and find out a little bit more. Don’t be intimidated.
So! On cloth diapering. Here we go. Let’s cloth diaper. Go ahead and get your baby.
First, why I cloth diaper:
Cloth diapering was pretty much a no-brainer for me. I actually never even considered not cloth diapering. For a couple of reasons:
- I am a stay-at-home mom who owns her own washing machine
- Cloth diapering costs less than disposables*
- It’s good for the environment. Not only are fewer diapers lingering in landfills, but you also take away the financial and environmental costs associated with producing what is essentially trash.
- It’s good for baby. Cloth diapers are cotton, not chemicals.
- They’re so cute.
Let’s address point #2 for a minute — cloth diapering costs less than disposables. Yes, it’s true that there is a hefty payment upfront when you buy the diapers — I think we spent around $400 for 16 bumgenius diapers. Compare that with having to spend upwards of $20 at Target or Walmart to buy a pack of diapers every week or so, and our cloth diapers have already paid for themselves. And add that to the fact that I can use these same diapers for any future children we have, and the cost-effectiveness is pretty clear.
Now, some people point out that you do more laundry when you have cloth diapers, which uses more water — which costs money and is not always environmentally friendly. This is true. However, I feel that overall, the financial and environmental benefits of cloth diapering outweigh this particular detractor.
Second, what do I use?
I have been using the bumgenius 4.0 pocket diapers with snaps. There are about a thousand different types of cloth diapers out there — prefolds, inserts, pockets, all-in-ones, all-in-twos, you name it. It’s easy for the options to become overwhelming, like when you’re trying to pick out toothpaste or mascara at Target. (Or is that just me? There’s just too much choice.) Because the myriad options can make your cloth diapering unnecessarily complicated, I decided to just choose one type of diaper and stick with it. I like bumgenius for a couple of reasons — they are super easy to use, they are one size fits all, and they are very easy to maintain. (And they don’t have a stupid name. Fuzzibunz? Rumparooz? No.) I chose snaps because I had heard from a few other moms that the velcro closure can wear out after a few years, and I wanted something that I knew was going to last through at least two kids.
This is Will in a bumgenius diaper at about five months old.
I chose to use inserts because they are easier to maintain; all-in-ones take much longer to dry. Inserts are a little grosser, what with having to pull them out of the soiled diaper, but in the end I find them easier to use. For nighttime diapering, we ordered three velcro bumgenius diapers and stuff them with two liners (each diaper comes with two inserts) and that usually keeps him dry all night.
By the way, newborn-sized cloth diapers exist; bumgenius makes them. From a financial standpoint, I don’t think they’re necessary simply because your baby will outgrow them really fast, so I would just stick with the standard one-size diapers. I started cloth diapering when Will was about five weeks old and he fit into the standard diapers fine. That being said, if you have a particularly small baby, maybe you’ll get more use out of newborn sizes! I think when I have a newborn again I might (might!) try prefolds with covers. We’ll see. I’ll report back.
I also want to point out that choosing one diaper brand that works for me, and sticking with it, has made cloth diapering much simpler. I can see why people find it overwhelming when you find friends or bloggers who, when asked about cloth diapering, start talking in what sounds like a different language, complete with its own acronyms and slang. I did enough research to figure out what I wanted, and then I made a decision. Some people use different kinds of diapers for naps, overnight, going out, etc — that’s fine if you want to do that, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Simplify, people. Simplify. Cloth diapering does NOT have to be complicated or take over your life.
Again: Cloth diapering does NOT have to be complicated or take over your life.
Third, here’s how I cloth diaper:
This is a picture of liners and covers drying in the sun — or, well, attempting to dry in the sun. In front of a sunny window. It’s all I’ve got right now.
Let’s talk about changing diapers. This is where a lot of people find cloth diapering gross. I found that when I had a baby my standard of what’s too gross really changed, so it honestly doesn’t bother me, but I know it does other people! Anyway, when I change Will’s diaper I just pull the insert out and drop it and the cover into a rubbermaid bin lined with a trash bag. Since Will is breastfed, I don’t usually have to rinse any solid waste, but now that he’s eating table food I have had to do it a few times. (Still getting used to that.)
If the thought of pulling a wet insert out of a cover is too gross for you, I understand. That’s why they make all-in-one diapers! There’s a solution! Don’t let the gross factor keep you from cloth diapering if you’re interested in trying it out.
While we’re on the subject of poop, I also want to say that a lot of parents swear by having a spray nozzle attached to their toilet to rinse the diapers. We don’t seem to need one at this point, but you may decide that’s something you could use. We may get one in the future.
A note on fit:
Getting a proper fit with your diapers is essential if you don’t want leaks. We had a fair amount of leaking in our early months because of this. See this picture?
THIS IS AN IMPROPERLY FITTED DIAPER.
First, it is too big for him. I should probably have at least one more snap closed. Second, the insert is stuffed too far up the diaper: the topmost part, against his tummy, should be flat. The insert should only come up as far as the fleece lining. My one gripe with bumgenius diapers is that when you buy them, they do not come with any instructions as far as fit, and I had to learn all of this the hard way — through lots of leaky diapers, outfit changes, and Googling.
When fitting a diaper on your baby, make sure the top of the diaper is flat against his or her belly, and that the legs are snug with no gaps. You don’t want the diaper to be too tight and leave sad red marks around baby’s thighs, but it should definitely be nice and snug. I will say that it is MUCH easier to get a good fit if you’re using velcro diapers — the snaps last longer, but it’s definitely a tradeoff. We use velcro diapers at night in order to ensure the best, tightest fit possible and it’s worked out great.
Laundering cloth diapers does not have to be intimidating or a huge, giant chore. I wash Will’s diapers about every other day, like so:
- Cold rinse
- Hot wash with a small amount of detergent
- Hot wash with no detergent
All cycles heavy-duty. I line dry the covers and machine-dry the inserts, usually with a separate load of wash just for the sake of economy. During the summer, I used to line dry the diapers and covers outdoors on our back deck in the sun:
The sun really does bleach out any stains (which are, by the way, completely normal). In the winter we get very little sun on our back deck so I have resorted to drying them in front of the window if I need to bleach out any stains. I usually line dry the covers because it’s better for the elastic (and it really doesn’t take very long for them to dry), but if I am low on clean, dry diapers I will throw them in the dryer once in a while. Since I use pockets, I have the extra step of stuffing them once the diapers are clean, but I don’t mind. (All-in-ones really are much more low-maintenance but for whatever reason, I just prefer using inserts. Better fit [for us], easier to stuff with extra liners, easier to maintain. But they do have drawbacks.)
Now, everyone will find a diaper-washing method that works for them, but the essentials are hot water, heavy-duty cycles, an extra rinse, and (very important) only a very small amount of detergent — like, a quarter of what you would typically use for a full load of wash. Your cloth diaper laundry routine will depend on your washing machine. You’ll figure out a routine that works for you. I typically throw the diapers in the wash first thing in the morning, but others find that washing later in the evening and letting them dry overnight is a better routine.
You can also “strip” your diapers if they start smelling or showing signs of less absorbency, but I haven’t needed to do that. It involves using blue Dawn dish soap and running the diapers through the wash upwards of five times in a row. You can use bleach too, but I also haven’t needed to do that.
One more important note that I missed when I started cloth diapering:
Do not use diaper cream! If Will gets a diaper rash, we do one of two things:
- We use some diaper cream and put him in a disposable diaper for a little while
- We use coconut oil, which works as an all-natural diaper cream and it agrees with cloth diapers. Win win!
When Will was about two months old his diapers started leaking a lot because we were using diaper cream on him almost every night! I ran the diapers through the wash many, many times to rid them of the diaper cream residue and we haven’t had any more trouble. So don’t use diaper cream on your cloth diapered baby.
Lastly, see how cute they are? Will’s giant cloth diaper butt can sometimes make his clothes fit differently (especially pants) but I don’t mind sizing up from time to time. The cuteness more than compensates.
So there you have it! A very long and detailed blog post on cloth diapering. If you have thought about cloth diapering, don’t be grossed out or intimidated. It does not have to be an overwhelming, expensive, overly complicated process. You don’t have to start using words like “rumparooz” in conversation. You don’t even have to cloth diaper full time, especially if you work outside the home and your daycare provider isn’t as into it as you are. It really can be a simple, easy, and no-fuss part of your (and your baby’s!) life. Go for it.