Note: This was originally posted on April 8, 2014. As of August 5th, I have made updates and edits based on continuing experience.
I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but I struggle with how much detail to go into since there are much more informative sites out there. I’ll try to keep it simple, but I doubt I will succeed, although cloth diapering is not difficult.
In the beginning…
We cloth diapered from the start using a diaper service. (Eco Existence for those in the Hampton Roads area.) This was how I got Josh on board since we wouldn’t be washing any dirty diapers.
The service dropped off clean diapers once per week and picked up the dirty ones. They provided the pail, a deodorizer disk (monthly) and two pail liners (one in the pail and one to replace it when it was time for the diapers to go out). They also gave us four newborn diaper covers.
Like most diaper services, they only provided pre-fold diapers. These are pretty much what most people think of when they think of a cloth diaper. It’s a cotton (or hemp or bamboo) piece of fabric that is sewn with extra layers in the middle.
(Picture from Green Mountain Diapers)
Unlike what you think of with these diapers, though, no pins are required (though some people do still use them). Generally people use Snappis.
They’re a little like bungees with plastic teeth to catch in the fabric.
Since the cotton isn’t waterproof (obviously) a diaper cover is required.
We always used PUL lined ones, mostly Thirsties and Blueberry which are fantastic quality and have a more generous fit. Micro-fleece and wool can also be used for covers.
I loved our pre-folds and covers. Leaks out of the cover were almost non-existent. We never had to change outfits or throw clothes away. Leaks onto the covers weren’t uncommon, but also normal. Those we did wash at home.
From pretty early on, since Nolan slept through the night at a young age, we used disposables for nighttime since the pre-folds don’t wick away moisture (like a micro-fleece would). By themselves they aren’t all that great for more than 2-3 hours. EDIT: That’s totally my opinion about pre-folds. I know there are people who do use them overnight, And at out current stage where he’s barely wetting at night, they might work with a stay-dry liner.
The only real negatives of the service were:
1) cost: $78/month (probably about the same as disposables – at least in the beginning),
2) smell: Since they only got picked up once/week, sometimes the pail would smell strongly
EDIT 3) lack of variety: i.e. using disposables at night since pre-folds didn’t cut it
Back in October, when we switched to a new daycare, we decided to cancel the diaper service. The new daycare was $140/month more than the old one. I figured $80/month would be a big help to have back. Pre-folds are cheap and we already had covers and Snappis. Pre-folds are also the easiest to wash (I mean…they’re just cotton).
A couple of days into it at the new daycare, and I was told that their state licensing rep would require me to have a new cover and Snappi with every change. Keep in mind that this was their first time allowing cloth diapers.
Now those covers aren’t cheap $10-$18 for new, good quality ones (and I hadn’t learned about the world of buying and selling used diapers, yet). Snappis aren’t cheap, either (which usually isn’t a big deal because you only need a few).
I figured, at that point it was cheaper to buy pocket style diapers if they’re going to change the whole thing anyway.
A pocket style diaper is a diaper cover with a lining sewn in (usually stay dry fabric) and a pocket on one end to stuff an insert into. Sometimes they have a pocket on both ends that is supposed to allow the insert to agitate out in the wash rather than you having to remove it before washing.
Most come with a micro-fiber (MF) inserts. More absorbent inserts can be purchased and are made from bamboo or hemp (the most absorbent). You can even stuff them with a pre-fold.
Many people have problems with the MF, but we, luckily have not, though I do have a few hemp ones. Microfiber should never be placed next to baby’s skin as it is very drying.
I didn’t consider all-in-one diapers at the time (no inserts to stuff) because of their purported long drying times.
I got lucky and there was a pocket diaper lot on Craigslist with the inserts for $75. I think there were about 20 in the lot.
These were what are generally called “rebranded Alvas”. Alvas are a brand of pocket diaper made in China. You can buy them directly from their site with a MF insert for under $6. Sometimes people/companies buy them wholesale without labels and put their own label on them, thus the rebranded part. EDIT: If you buy them direct from the Alva site, shipping can take quite a while since they’re coming from China. There are USA sites like SuperStash.net and Motts Tots Diaper Boutique who buy wholesale from Alva and can get them to you faster in the US for the same prices as straight from Alva.
I, personally, have never had any issues with our Alvas. No leaks or fit issues. Some people do, though, and prefer to stick with USA made diapers or even diapers made by work at home moms (WAHM). Unfortunately, I have had terribly luck with the no-name WAHM diapers I’ve bought.
As I did more research I started finding out about Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade (BST) pages. This is where you can buy, sell or trade items such as diapers. Sometimes a group is for a particular brand, but The Cloth Diaper Swap is the biggest one and it’s for anything cloth diaper related. I started trying out different brands and also selling off some of my Alvas (prints or colors I didn’t like) in order to do so.
Yes, I put USED diapers on my baby. ::GASP:: Whatever. You bleach them once, then wash them and they’re good to go.
For a while there I was a little obsessed with cloth diapers and getting cute prints. I was constantly selling and buying.
MAYBE half of my stash, not including the prefolds I never use anymore.
Eventually I decided to try All-in-Ones (AIO), specifically Blueberry Simplex because sometime in the near future Nolan will start potty training. The Simplex have stretchy, side snapping flaps meaning they could be pulled up and down like training pants. They are also pretty fast drying for AIOs because they have a flap that is attached only on one end and can be out for faster drying (and can agitate out in the wash). You don’t technically have to stuff it into the pocket, you could just lay it on top. These are lined with cotton, not a stay-dry fabric, also ideal for potty training because baby will feel when they’re wet.
The Simplex are so versatile because the openings allow you to add extra absorbency. EDIT: Since Nolan is not a heavy wetter (in fact, these days, at almost 2 years old, he often wakes up after 12+ hours with a dry diaper) I can put an extra hemp insert in and use them overnight with a fleece liner (to keep the moisture off his skin). They do make a stay-dry version called Basix, BTW.
The Simplex comes either sized newborn, medium, large or one-size. I only have sized ones (M & L) because I love how super trim they are. Blueberry also has the cutest prints.
Full disclosure: One of these is not Blueberry Simplex…figure it out and you get a prize.
I bought all but one of these used on Facebook BST sites. These are puppies are NOT cheap. Brand new they’re about $28. I paid anywhere from $15-20 a piece for mine. If I take care of them then they should hold that value.
I’ve been lazy and throwing them in the dryer and also because being that they’re cotton, they get “crunchy” when line dried. However, I have noticed that a seam is coming out of one so I need to be a little nicer to them so I can re-sell them.
So…we use a combo of pockets and AIOs now and almost never use pre-folds.
As I said previously we generally used disposables for nighttime since Nolan slept long stretches from the very beginning and our diaper service pre-folds wouldn’t cut it. Once we cancelled the service I very cautiously stepped some toes into night-time cloth diapering. EDIT: More and more, since Nolan isn’t a a heavy wetter, we use cloth at night because I can pretty much use anything on him. I just put an extra hemp insert or two in it and make sure it has a liner if it’s not stay dry.
If you DO have a heavy wetter I recommend the diapers listed below.
*A fitted diaper is a cloth diaper that is shaped to fit the baby but needs a cover to be waterproof. Some have layers of fleece or wool in between layers to help them last longer and many people use them without covers around the house as they can last quite a while before being wet on the outside. I have a few, but they aren’t really practical for us because we aren’t home much and it’s too much to ask for Josh to understand what needs a cover and what doesn’t. I was pretty much done with fitteds during the day when I was at Target with Nolan and realized he had one on with no cover. EDIT: I have actually sold off all my fitteds except the overnight ones.
But, I digress.
The SBish diapers, made by Sloomb, are pricey, but can be found on the B/S/T pages, which is where I got mine. Remember, you’re only using them overnight so you don’t need more than 4 or so. I have three. They are VERY bulky and it’s pretty funny to see Nolan waddle around in one. I have
two eight? (some of them are getting too small) pair of micro-fleece pants that I use as covers (these are very cheap) at night. Fleece and wool are more breathable than PUL liner covers. Wool is more waterproof and breathable than fleece, but more upkeep. I have some wool, but have never used it.
The OBF are not stay-dry, therefore I use some type of fleece liner next to his skin, sometimes just a cut up piece of fleece fabric if my other liners are MIA.
I also have one Kawaii GNHW pocket that I stuff with one MF insert and two hemp inserts. This is already lined with a stay-dry fabric. EDIT: I can’t find the damn thing. It’s either in Josh’s diaper bag or car as an extra, or there was some kind of excessive blowout and he’s scared to tell me he threw it away. LOL
I still sometimes use a disposable, mostly if I don’t have any clean overnight handy or if he’s getting a rash and I want to use a strong diaper cream (most mainstream diaper creams are damaging to cloth diapers). Since I use a liner most of the time, though, I’ve even been using the cloth when he needs a cream. (::pats self on back::) Josh uses disposables often, but it’s mostly just to be ornery.
Nolan sleeps 11-12 hours a night regardless of whether he’s in a disposable or cloth.
So this is the scary part. It was for me. And not the ick factor. Poop doesn’t bother me. It was all the special laundry detergents and horror stories about stink and leaks and repelling.
I have not had any of those issues in my 6 months of washing (now 10 months). Keep in mind that I’ve heard that it can take 6 months to a year for issues to arise as detergents supposedly build up. A lot of it also depends on your water (soft or hard).
Powdered Tide is the most commonly used, accepted, and effective laundry detergent in the cloth diapering community. Yep. Tide. And, yes, you can use a powder detergent in a front loading machine and they make an HE version.
I keep a wet bag in the nursery and a pail with liner in our laundry room/downstairs bathroom. I have diaper sprayer hooked up to the toilet and a Spray Pal to prevent mess. Yes, it seems like a lot of equipment and expense but keep in mind it can ALL be re-sold. Nothing to do with disposables can.
For daycare I have a wetbag that both zips and has a drawstring. I brought in a small step trash can and every morning I put the wetbag in and every afternoon I take it and the dirty diapers home. They put all dirty diapers in there, wrapping up poopy ones in plastic grocery bags.
Every night I empty the wet bags and rinse poopy diapers that need it and throw them in the pail in the laundry room. Every 2-3 days I do a load. On the weekends I wash the daycare wet bag.
I have a Whirlpool front loading HE machine. I do a pre-rinse with NO detergent. ALWAYS do a pre-rinse to get rid of any ick still on the diapers. Then I do a hot wash with Tide HE powder (NO FABRIC SOFTENERS) with an extra rinse at the end to get rid of any lingering detergent.
I then hang my pockets, covers, and wet bags on a clothes line we have in the laundry room. Inserts go in the dryer. That’s it.
Cost: CAN be cheap or can be $$$, depends on you. BUT everything can be sold if you take care of it. I highly recommend buying pre-loved whenever possible.
Potty Training: I can’t attest to the rumor that cloth diapering promotes faster potty training. We just aren’t there, yet. Also, I think it totally depends on the kid. EDIT: We’re getting closer. He will sometimes go on the potty and has occasionally told me before he goes that he needs to. I expect daycare will start potty training in the next couple of months after he turns two.
Rashes: We very rarely have more than just a little redness unless he’s got diarrhea.
Blowouts: I don’t think we’ve had more than a couple of blowouts (out of the covers-onto clothes) in 20 months of cloth diapering.
Environment: I’m no expert and I know some people say the water use in washing outweighs other environmental savings. I think that’s bull. It’s 2-3 extra loads of laundry a week (more in the beginning). And since you have more blowouts in disposables you’re probably doing more laundry anyway. Oh, and one disposable takes 500 years to degrade in a landfill.
Cute Factor: Through the roof. Fluffy butts are adorable.