When I was pregnant with my first daughter, my doula introduced us to cloth diapering. She had shown us some varieties, and explained how it could save us financially in the long run. Money was tight, and was about to become tighter once I left my job to stay home. I added a bunch of varieties of cloth diapers to our registry, and dove in with the help of the internet and a local natural baby store.
Four years later, and I’m still cloth diapering with my second daughter. I’ve learned a lot over the years!
Here’s how to get started and some pointers on how to care for your diapers.
1) There are tons of varieties to choose from
When it comes to cloth diapers everyone thinks of flats and baby pins with rubber pants.
These days you still have prefolds and flats, but you can use a dandy little contraption called a snappy to hold it in place. No more poking fingers or babies. In place of rubber pants, there are snapping or Velcro covers made of PUL (polyurethane laminate) to protect from leaks.
Next up are pocket diapers. These go on just like a typical diaper (no folding involved like a prefold), but include snaps or Velcro closures. The PUL makes up majority of the diaper with cotton or minky in the center. The back of the diaper has an opening to stuff in inserts for absorbency, and can be varied. Inserts can be made of various material, including cotton, hemp, or bamboo. These come in cute patterns, and can be bought in a variety of sizes or adjustable fit.
All-in-ones go on like a regular diaper, no folding or stuffing. Use, wash, repeat. They are probably the easiest to use, but are a more expensive option for your stash compared to prefolds.
2) How do I pick? Which kind will work for us?
This is the hardest part. My advice is to try a few of each kind, and see what works for you and your baby.
I like that flats and prefolds are economical, easy to stash and strip, and I only need a few covers to diaper full time. Pockets have cute prints and are easier for my husband or babysitter to put on. All-in-ones are easy, but I find they were difficult to strip over time (more on stripping later).
Usually we used prefolds for newborn stage, and pockets going forward into infancy.
The best thing about cloth diapers is that they resale really well when taken care of. You can buy lightly used diapers to see if they work for your little one. If they don’t work out? You can sell them, and move on to the next variety.
3) How do I care for my diapers?
There is a learning curve at the beginning with cloth diapers, but then it’s just as easy as doing an extra load of laundry every few days once you get the hang of it.
Some things you’ll need:
Trash can with a lid/diaper pail
Large and medium size wet bag
Cloth safe detergent (no dyes, no fragrances, etc. I recommend Charlie’s or Country Save)
Do not use commercial diaper rash creams while baby is in a cloth diaper! This will cause build up in diapers, causing them to stink and become water repellent (causing tons of leaks). If you need to use a cream, make sure you use a liner. It can be cloth or disposable, but puts a barrier between the diaper and cream.
Whenever possible dry your diapers in the sun, laying flat. This will protect the elastic, and sunshine helps to remove stains. If you ever need to use your drier, follow the drying directions for your brand of diaper. Some are fine to put in the drier with heat, but others will wind up with cracks in the PUL, ruining your diapers.
When diapers become soiled put them in the diaper pail or wet bag if you are away from home. If baby is eating solids, you’ll need to rinse off any poop into the toilet. I suggest using a diaper sprayer. It easily attaches to the water line of your toilet, and can double as a cold water bidet.
Washing routines will vary, depending on your washer. I use a top loader. We do a hot wash cycle, followed by a cold wash cycle with detergent. We finish up with two extra rinses. It’s important to get all the detergent out of your diapers to avoid build up.
I always use the maximum amount of water I can for each load of diapers. Even if the diapers only fill the washing machine halfway, I still use the, “High” setting. Having enough water for your diapers to tumble in and rinse through will ensure they get properly cleaned.
4) When to strip your diapers
Stripping diapers refers to removing excess build up of minerals or detergent. If your diapers have a strong ammonia smell, are causing rashes, or are leaking, it may be time to strip your diapers. These issues are caused by hard water, too much detergent, and often just regular use.
There are several ways to strip diapers depending on what kind you have:
Flats/prefolds: boil in a large pot on the stove top, usually about 10 minutes. Dry in the sunshine.
Pockets: can be stripped by washing with blue Dawn in a sink or washing machine. In a washing machine you don’t want to add more than a tablespoon or two of blue Dawn to wash a cycle. You can guess what the agitator would do with that many bubbles.
For all diapers you can use commercial stripping agents like RLR or Grovia Mighty Bubbles Laundry Treatment. You simply put the powder over clean wet diapers in the wash cycle. A few extra rinses and your cloth diapers are stripped. This is my preferred method, unless I’m storing my diapers for long term, then I opt for boiling or sunning.
Lay diapers flat to dry on a laundry rack, over the shower rod, or an a sheet on the lawn in the sun (I’m sure my HOA loves me). Laying them flat versus hanging by the ends prevents the water weight from pulling the elastic of the diaper. The pulling will lead to the elastic wearing out, causing leaks and shortening the lifespan of your diapers.
Do you have any cloth diaper questions? Concerns?