This piece was contributed by fan-favorite, Jenni Allen.
Whether you are just casually researching your options or trying to learn everything, this intro to cloth nappies is for you. So, sit back and keep scrolling while I tell you everything you have ever wanted to know and more about cloth diapering.
Oh The Many Types Of Cloth Diapers
Luckily for moms today, there are now many different types of cloth diapering “systems” so you can choose the one that will work best for you. You can also choose between having a Velcro (also called hook and loop) or snap closure. Snaps are known to last longer, but Velcro resembles a disposable diaper better, so some people prefer those for convenience.
You can even choose to get the different sizes for cloth diapers or get the one size (OS) diapers, which generally cover babies from around 8 to 35 pounds. The OS diapers have snaps in the front so you can adjust the “rise” and make the diaper shorter. Keep in mind, that there are many different brands to choose from. You’ll probably want to start with a couple of different brands to see what works best for you and fits your baby best.
All-in-one (AIO): All-in-one diapers resemble disposable diapers the most. They have an absorbent insert that is sewn into the diaper and the outer shell is waterproof.
All-in-two (AI2): All-in-two’s have an outer waterproof shell and an absorbent material that can be snapped or laid into the diaper.
Pocket Diapers: Pocket diapers have fabric sewn to the waterproof shell with an opening at the back of the diaper. This allows you to customize the absorbency by putting in an insert (a structured piece of absorbent fabric) of your choosing.
Prefolds/Flour Sack Towels/Flats: These are materials you can wrap and fasten around your baby using Snappis, Bandies, safety pins, etc. Prefolds come “pre-folded” with a more absorbent center. Flour sack towels and flats will need to be folded a few times first in order to size it for your baby. There are different ways to fold each onto your baby such as: the padfold, bikini twist, angel fold, newspaper fold, and the jelly roll fold. Believe it or not, many moms become quite intrigued by these folds and develop a love for trying different ones and mastering them.
Fitteds: Fitted diapers look like regular cloth diapers but are not waterproof. Some come with snaps or they can be fastened to your baby with something else (eg: a Snappi) and then covered with a PUL or wool (also known as woolies) cover.
Wool and Covers: Wool covers and PUL covers are put over fitteds, prefolds, flour sack towels, or flats. PUL covers can be reused for multiple diaper changes (around 3) as long as they have not been soiled. Wool covers are antimicrobial so they are self-cleaning. As long as they have not been soiled, they can be reused for 2-4 weeks. When using wool, you’ll want to do a lanolin soak after your wash; otherwise, it will leak. Some wool needs to be hand-washed, so you’ll want to keep this in mind as well.
Inserts: For pockets, AI2’s, or additional absorbency there are many different types of inserts you can choose from, such as cotton, microfiber, bamboo, and hemp. Cotton and microfiber absorb liquid quickly but don’t hold as much as bamboo and hemp inserts. Do note, you can combine inserts to find what works best for you. For example, you can have a cotton prefold wrapped around a bamboo insert.
What Is All Of This Going To Cost?
One of the benefits to cloth diapering is the money you can save from not buying disposable diapers. Depending on the diapers you would have bought, which cloth diapers you buy, and how many children you will be cloth diapering really changes your numbers. However, you can save a drastic amount either way if you cloth diaper more than one child. There are many different brands that range in price but you’ll be looking at $6 to $22 per diaper. If you choose to do wool, it is pricier than $22, but you reuse them and wool can double as pants so you aren’t needing to buy extra clothing.
The price varies widely depending on the brand you choose and if you buy used or new. Something to keep in mind is you’ll probably do 12-15 changes per day. Many babies also don’t fit into one size right away, so many people choose to use a newborn size until their baby is around 12 lbs.
Here are some reputable and popular brands that you can look into: Grovia, Smartbottoms, Thirsties, Alvababy, Bambino Mio, Happy Behinds, Charlie Banana, Bumgenuis, Ragababe, Mama Koala, Sunbaby, Lalabye Baby, Tidy Tots, BumBum Babies, Bear Booties, Fluffy Penguin, and FuzziBunz.
If you want to shop and support work-at-home-moms (WAHMs) or want more custom creations, try these brands: ALF Diapers, Kissing Blake, HumBird, 4ward Thinking Diapers, Picklefroggies Fluff and Stuff, Don’t Sew Angry, EmyJean Designs, Rayne & Rae, Little Butt Diapers, Snips & Spice, Cat & Wolf, Bella Luna, The Albino Squirrel, FabuFluff Cloth Diapers, Monka Dunk Creations, Lil’Shorties, Lily and Frank, Sow Much Love, Boogie Bear Creations, Little Moon Cloth Diapers + More, Rebell Inn Studios, Owl Be Green, Sassy Cheeks, Beautiful Babies Boutique, and Cloth Diapers for Less.
How To Wash And Care For Your Cloth
I know what you’re thinking: “Okay, maybe I’ll save some money, but don’t I have to deal with all that poop?” I’ve got great news for you! Exclusively breastfed (EBF) poop is water soluble so you can just toss it into the wash! But, if you are feeding formula or your baby has started solids you will need to add an additional step before putting it into the wash if the diaper is soiled.
You can either use a disposable liner to catch the poop, you can get a sprayer that attaches onto your toilet and spray the poop off into the toilet, or you can “dunk and swish” either in a toilet or a bucket. Once your baby starts solids, a lot of the poop is “ploppable” so you just need to drop it into the toilet before you add it to your wet bag.
You can choose how often you want to do diaper wash but most people do it every 2-3 days. You’ll have a prewash and a main wash. Your prewash will be your washer’s shortest cycle and your main wash will be your washer’s longest cycle. For the prewash, you’ll add a little bit of soap and your diapers. You’ll want to use the quick wash with warm water and the “heavy soil” option.
Once that cycle is done, then you can add the rest of your baby laundry that is the size of a receiving blanket or smaller—spit up cloths, clothes, etc.—to “bulk” and help get enough items to agitate in your washer well. Then you’ll do your main wash on the “heavy duty” cycle and make sure it uses hot water and the “heavy soil” setting with the appropriate amount of soap. Inserts can be dried, but you’ll want to air dry diapers with elastic or anything with wool. If you do choose to do wool, you will also need to lanolize it after your wash.
Remember, some types of wool need to be hand washed. And that’s it! Pretty simple, right? If you do run into any problems, there are some great Facebook groups you can use as resources to help you figure out what is going wrong.
Extras You Need To Know
Now that you have the basic gist of what you need to know about cloth diapering, here are some extra things that are good to know:
Double gussets: These are the best! They help prevent leaks so you’ll want to see if the diapers you choose to buy have them. You can cloth diaper without them, but I always checked to see if the diapers had them before buying them.
Wetness Sensitivity: Cloth diapers won’t wick away moisture like a disposable and so your baby could get a rash if they are sensitive to being wet. If this happens, you can get a cheap fleece blanket at Walmart and cut it to size to lay between your baby’s bum and your absorbent material. This will help wick away the moisture and help them feel dry.
Microfiber inserts: The soft baby skin we all love is sensitive so if you use microfiber inserts you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t touch baby’s skin. It either needs to be in the pocket of a pocket diaper or have something on top of it/wrapped around it.
Diaper Creams: Diaper creams that have petroleum or mineral oil in them can cause repelling issues with your diapers. It is better to find a cloth safe diaper cream, but if you do choose to use one with petroleum, you’ll want to use a liner between your baby and cloth diaper. Zinc oxide is also sometimes found in diaper creams and can stain your diapers but should wash out. If you have any stains on your diapers (from poop or anything else) you can “sun” them or put them outside in the sun while they are wet and the sun will bleach them out!
Pros Of Cloth Diapering
Just in case you need any more convincing to transition to the “fluff butt” life, here are some of the bonuses of cloth diapering.
Better For The Environment: Tons of disposable diapers end up in landfills every single year and it takes about 500 years for it to decompose. We can easily help protect our earth by doing something as simple as cloth diapering.
No Chemicals: Disposable diapers have lots of chemicals in them that is not good for your baby’s skin and some babies actually react and get rashes from them. My baby would often get rashes from disposables while she doesn’t get rashes in cloth.
No Smells: They contain smell! It’s true! When my baby was a newborn, she would poop while nursing. I had been using cloth diapers, but we started using disposables for a little bit and I remember the first time I was nursing her in a disposable and she pooped I was surprised I could smell it. It kept happening and I didn’t realize it was because of the diaper until we put her back into cloth and then I never smelled it anymore. Since then, I’ve also realized that disposables have a smell when they get peed in and cloth diapers don’t.
No Blow Outs: None of my baby clothes—or my clothes—have newborn poop stains on them. Why? Well, blow outs rarely happen in cloth diapers. I personally have never had a blow out in a cloth diaper and when I asked others, they said maybe once a week, but it was usually because they had put the diaper on incorrectly.
Potty Train Earlier: Cloth diapers can help your baby potty train sooner. Did you know with the increase of disposables diapers in America that the age that a child is potty trained has also increased? Cloth diapers help your child understand when they pee because it allows them to feel wet. They become aware of their bodies and its functions and can be out of diapers sooner.
Customizable Absorbency: As I mentioned previously, you can cater your absorbency to your baby. Depending which type of inserts you use and if you combine some together, you can make it more absorbent or less depending on your needs.
Resale Value: Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m fairly positive that once you use that disposable diaper, you can’t reuse it or sell it. Contrary to disposables, cloth diapers have an excellent resale value. If your cloth diapers are in great shape, you’ll be able to sell them to another mama who is trying to build up her stash. Wool in particular is very durable and has amazing resale value.
How I Cloth Diaper For Less Than $200
I spent countless hours scheming what would be the perfect system for my family and my baby. I needed something easy and affordable. I had originally planned on using the newborn diaper hack on my OS diapers to have them fit my baby, but I ended up buying a few newborn diapers and using those until she was 12 lbs. I only bought 6, but it was not enough. I was washing the poop off by hand after she soiled the diaper and then would hang it to dry.
If you want an actual newborn “stash” you’ll want to plan on using 8-12 per day. Don’t be intimidated by covers and prefolds. We just padfold (fold into thirds) the prefolds and lay it into the cover so no need to learn how to origami your own diaper. Here is what I did and how much I spent:
50 used prefolds: $50
13 Alvababy covers: $55
6 newborn covers: $35
1 flannel blanket for liners: $3
30 reusable cloth wipes and travel wet bag: $35
2 wet pail bags: $20
Grand Total: $198
Two additional things that I’ve liked having are biokleen’s bac-out and a grovia magic stick. I spray poopy diapers with the bac-out before I put them in my wet pail. It helps with stains and the smell until I’m able to wash them.
I love cloth diapering because it saves my family money. It doesn’t feel like extra laundry and cloth diapers come in such stylish prints it can feel fun to dress your baby up in a cute diaper. I also feel good knowing that I am helping the environment in a small way. Cloth diapering doesn’t feel much different that using a disposable diaper and I’ve found I prefer cloth because of the pros that I mentioned above. Besides, who doesn’t love a big fluff butt?