It was never really a question of whether we would cloth diaper or not. Of course we would. I knew my husband would insist on it, even if I didn’t. And really (as someone who had maybe changed one diaper in my entire life and so had no idea how to deal with ANY kind of diaper), I felt more familiar with cloth diapers than disposables because most of my friends who’d had kids in the recent past used cloth diapers.
Still, I didn’t quite get it. I did research, I learned terms like ‘pockets’ and ‘prefolds’ (and thought WTF), and I tried to figure it out. But finally, Dan and I just asked a couple of our friends if we could visit their houses and view their ‘system,’ which really demystified everything.
I’ve been asked a few times about our routine, and in response to one of those questions, I recently wrote up the information below in an email. Sharing here as a resource for anyone interested – with pictures!
There are three types of diapers:
- Prefolds with covers (ie, a cloth square that you fold three times and then a waterproof cover that you put over it. There are a few variations on the inner part that absorbs the moisture – it’s not always a trifold.)
- Pocket diapers (a cloth insert goes into a pocket in a cover)
- All-in-ones (ie, the cloth insert and cover are all connected in one piece).
We use pockets and AIOs. The AIOs are generally the least fuss and what we usually send to daycare. We used prefolds with covers when Gabriel was a newborn because a friend donated a bunch to us. The prefolds are useful as rags/burp cloths/etc. also. We still have some, even though we don’t use them as diapers.
My favorite brand is Thirsties natural All in Ones. We also have some Charlie Banana pocket diapers (note, the link is confusing b/c it calls these AIOs, but they aren’t), some SmartBottom AIOs, and some BumGenius AIOs. They all get the job done. The covers we had when we did prefolds/covers were also Thirsties. (Note – most resources will tell you you have to wash diapers 6-10 times before using them the first time because they’ll leak if you don’t. I thought this was hogwash, but it was actually true. A lot of diapers leaked at first, and I thought it was just the brand or we sucked at putting them on. But now they all work fine, so I think it just required washing and re-washing.)
Don’t get many newborn diapers, but you will need some. Or just use/supplement with disposables for that period. They grow out of them quickly. We had one BumGenius AIO newborn size, and then maybe 24 prefolds and 6 covers.
Now we have about 20 cloth diapers that we rotate through. Most resources will tell you you ned 24-36, depending on how often you want to do laundry. We do laundry every 1-2 days.
FluffLove University provides a ton of resources on washing diapers (and cloth diapering in general). Their top recommendation is to use Tide detergent (we use free and clear). Wash just the diapers once on hot, but just the quick wash. (The purpose of that cycle is to get all the yucky stuff off the diapers and out of the water/wash before introducing other items and before doing the more cleansing wash.) Then wash them a second time with other items to have a full load on the heavy duty wash setting (any temperature). Especially in high efficiency washers, it’s important to wash with other clothes to ensure they get enough agitation to clean them. Then either dry outside in the sun (which also bleaches them) or use dryer. The dryer of course will wear them down more over time, but so far ours have worked fine for a year with no sign of wearing out soon.
When exclusively breastfeeding, the poop is water soluble and usually not chunky and it’s fine to go in the washing machine. Once they start eating solids (or formula, I think), it’s more important to try and NOT have the poop go in the washer. We use GroVia liners that mostly capture the poop, and we throw away the liner with the poop. We’re a little lazy with cleaning the rest of the diaper if it’s not all captured in the liner, so sometimes (probably often), some poop goes into the wash. The diapers come out clean anyway, as does the wash. Side note, not sure where this belongs: You don’t want to use petroleum-based diaper paste with cloth diapers, I think because it won’t fully wash off and will affect their absorbency. I’ve also heard you don’t want to use zinc-based, as it might stain them. We use a zinc-based one (Boudreaux’s natural butt paste), and it’s fine.
We only had one diaper pail at first, which we used for the cloth diapers. We have two reusable liners/wet bags. The bag goes into the wash along with the diapers. For all other trash (Q-tips to smear on diaper cream, wet wipes) we just used a normal open trash can. Once we started having to throw away poop, we got another diaper pail. The one we use for cloth diapers is Ubbi. The other one is Decor. We were thoughtful about the Ubbi one (it’s what we registered for). I can’t remember how we decided on the Decor one.
Lay baby down. Unsnap diaper. Remove GroVia liner, throw away in trash pail. Wipe butt with either wet wipes (we use water wipes) or reusable wipes (we have Bumkins and use Baby Bits dissolvable cubes that you dissolve in water to spray on the reusable to make them wet). Throw disposable wipes in trash or reusable in cloth diaper pail. Remove cloth diaper, put in diaper pail. (If it’s a pocket diaper, remove the cloth insert before putting in diaper pail because you don’t want to wash it with it in. This step is annoying and you may touch pee or poop, which is a reason AIOs are nice.) Put a liner in the new diaper, and snap it on. Voila.
We were getting a lot of leaks overnight, especially when Gabriel started sleeping longer stretches. (Actually, the truth is that we went through a period of a month or so where he leaked through his diaper every time he slept, including naps – he’s always slept on his stomach, and his stomach would be wet upon waking. I don’t know what changed… maybe he was just a weird size at that time and the diapers didn’t fit him well.) We tried a few options, including adding extra inserts to the diapers for overnight and a new type of diaper (Cloth-eez workhorse fitted diaper) with cover (we again used Thirsties). Those didn’t work. We finally switched to overnight disposables (Honest brand). Now that Gabriel eats and drinks more like a normal person, I bet we could switch back to cloth and it would be fine. The disposables aren’t as full in the morning as they used to be.
We send 5-6 diapers to daycare prepared with a liner in them. We also send wet bags and have a trash can there. Daycare just takes the diaper off and throws it in the wet bag, liner and all, so we have to remove pocket liners (if daycare got a pocket diaper) and poop liners before putting the diapers in our diaper pail for washing at home. We also usually keep a small stash of disposables there just in case… but not too many, because otherwise daycare will just use those.
We usually use disposables for traveling due to lack of access to a washing machine and our small supply. And they take up less room.
So that’s that!