I’m not sure when or where I heard about modern cloth diapers. I remember when I was growing up my Mom always used old cloth diapers for cleaning, but they were just large pieces of thick fabric and I didn’t quite understand why my Mom called them “diapers”. I do now. And that type of diaper is still an option if you have a penchant for folding fancy shapes around baby butts, but I haven’t used flats (as they’re called) so I can’t comment on their ease or difficulty. My understanding, however, is that using flats is similar to using pre-folds, which I use, but can also be more elaborate. My diaper stash is composed of pocket diapers, all-in-ones, and pre-folds and covers. I have invested a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of so-called “life tuition” on my stash, so this is my bit on the topic after almost two years of daily use.
I have purchased diapers new and used, from the internet and from local ads. I have met people in parking lots and at daycare facilities. My Mom even bought a huge stash off a woman in my hometown three-thousand miles away and shipped it to me. I mean, when it’s a good deal, it’s a good deal! I watched videos and read every piece of advice I could find about using cloth, but I still made a lot of mistakes, purchased unnecessary accessories, and went a little mad. Ultimately, though, I think I have some insight to offer and, most importantly, I still use cloth and love it! Not to sound corny, but I get a little excited when I pull the fresh clean diapers out of the dryer. That’s odd, I know, but after the problems I’ve encountered, it’s like a little prize every time they come out smelling good! For awhile, that wasn’t the case…
I started building my stash before the Toddler was born, primarily one-size pocket diapers, but some pre-folds as well. Then I got more pre-folds after she arrived because they just worked better. Pre-folds are rectangular pieces of layered cotton with a waffled look to them that increases with each wash as the absorbency also increases. They are not waterproof, so you need a cover made from PUL (polyurethane laminate) or wool, which is naturally water resistant when cared for properly (I haven’t used wool because it’s a fine line animal rights thing for me, but I know some people swear by its efficacy). Pocket diapers are a layer of fleece covered with PUL between which is a pocket for a microfiber insert. Microfiber is drying, so shouldn’t be used in direct contact with a baby’s skin, hence the fleece layer to keep baby comfortable.
Pre-folds are more affordable but can require a bit more effort to get them on a baby. I have four different sizes of pre-folds, from newborn to toddler size that I haven’t even used yet. There are a few different ways to pre-fold them before placing them on baby, but I have only used two:
The angel fold, folding the diaper into the shape of a diaper.
The tri-fold, folding the diaper in thirds and laying it inside the cover.
The angel fold was great when the Toddler was an infant because she couldn’t really fight me off and it kept all the poo inside. The tri-fold is the only thing I can use nowadays because she is a wiggle-worm and the goal is just to get the diaper on! The angel fold works best when held in place by either diaper pins or Snappis, as shown above. Snappis have little teeth on each point of the T that grips the diaper to keep it together. There are protective pull tabs that block the teeth when not in use. They really are pretty cool. Don’t forget to put on the cover.
Pocket diapers are super quick and easy to get on baby, but there is a little prep involved here, too. As I said before, the microfiber insert has to be stuffed into the pocket, which can be done one-at-a-time as needed or after each washing so they’re ready to go. I’m a ready-to-go kind of person, so I dedicate about a half-an-hour to folding and stuffing all my diapers after they are dry.
I also use all-in-one diapers for overnight. Rather than a pocket they have layers that are stacked on top of each other and the whole body of the diaper is absorbent, hence overnight use. They are very bulky, but the Toddler can walk in them. Again, they must be under cover.
I also use double-stuffed pocket diapers for overnight if these are in the wash. I have some super thick charcoal bamboo/cotton microfiber inserts that I layer with a regular microfiber.
Some people can’t be bothered with cloth butt wipes, but I received so many flannel blankets for baby gifts that I decided to cut them into squares, sew the edges to prevent fraying, and use a spray bottle with water and baby soap for cleaning poopy bums. I also got a small collection of brand name wipes with the diaper haul from Mom and my she made a few nice thick ones.
All in all, I have a good mix of diapers in regular rotation and several that are in storage. I have a few that are boyish and a lot of newborn size options that I only bought after she had outgrown them in anticipation of our next baby because, again, a good deal is a good deal! My lot of daily drivers are perfectly timed with the rhythms of our week and I do a load of wash every four nights. I have a regular diaper pail with three wet bags that I use as pail liners and when they are all full, it’s wash time. I follow the directions for my machine available on Fluff Love University: http://www.fluffloveuniversity.com/
Their website has literally everything you need for using cloth, from what to buy to how best to use your washing machine to which detergents to avoid and troubleshooting. And let me tell you: if you need help, their Facebook page is where to go for advice. I had my wash routine down, but I changed detergents a couple times and started to get a funky smell even when my diapers were freshly washed. It was recommended to me that I do what’s called a “strip” to get the very deep layers of my cloth clean and basically reset to zero and start over with a better wash routine and detergent. After the strip, I also did a bleach soak and the two processes took up a day-and-a-half, so get some advice up front on the best routine for your stash and avoid the dreaded strip-bleach mess!
The wash routines are always two-step: a short wash to get off any solids and a long wash to get everything clean. Exclusively breastfed baby poo will come off in the wash, so there’s no precleaning required when the kiddo is only eating breastmilk. Formula fed baby poo and solid food poo needs to be dumped into the toilet, not just because it shouldn’t go in your washer, but also because all poo, even from disposable diapers, is supposed to be flushed, not dropped in the trash. Don’t believe me? Go look at the side of your disposable diaper box. Go ahead, I’ll wait. See? To get the solids off, some people have more elaborate setups, but I just hold the diaper low over the toilet and give it a gentle shake. Not the most elegant choice, but the poo usually falls off, especially solid poo. Formula poo and sticky poo might require a bit of coercion, so I just use toilet paper and extract the poo off the surface. Again, not elegant but effective. I also have a deodorizing spray from Melaleuca that I spritz on the poopy diaper to keep the small down. There are other options like Bac-Out and I don’t even need to do this step, but my husband likes the reassurance that the smell is thoroughly contained, so I humor him.
My wash routine is simple: I do a short wash using hot water and detergent with the settings on heavy soil and max spin speed. Then I do a regular long wash using twice the detergent and hot water, heavy soil, max spin. I have used other detergents, but powdered Tide is the most highly recommended option in fluff circles, so who am I to try to reinvent the wheel? Tide it is and now I use it for everything. I fill the detergent scoop to line two for the first wash and line four for the second wash. To dry I put all the microfiber inserts, pre-folds, wipes, and overnight diapers into the dryer for sixty minutes on high and hang the covers, pockets, and wet bags on a drying rack. The covers don’t need to be washed unless they’re super gross. Otherwise, I just wash any small soil off in the sink and allow to dry on the towel rack. I do my entire wash routine after the Toddler has gone to bed so everything is clean and dry in the morning. Then I stuff and fold and start over! How thrilling, amirite?!
I use cloth because of the environmental impact of disposable diapers. I have tried several brands and several accessories, so here are my recommendations and tips:
• Join your local cloth diaper group on Facebook and watch for people selling parts of or their entire stash. Check local classified ads, shop at used children’s clothing stores, and check discount websites regularly for deals. I bought a bunch of Awesome Blossom diapers off Zulily and several Bum Genius diapers from Amazon. As I mentioned before I have also picked up several secondhand. I got a dozen newborn Bum Genius diapers in basically new condition for $12! That’s crazy cheap! There are diaper exchanges online, too, so browse around for your best options.
• I bought a diaper sprayer that I attached to my toilet’s water system to use for spraying solids off my diapers. We have only used it a handful of times because toilet paper is straight forward enough and one time it launched poo all over the floor around the toilet. Not cool. We do, however, use it as a sort of bidet and it was quite pleasant when I was healing after childbirth. So it’s your call about the sprayer.
• If your baby develops a rash that’s not yeast, either use a diaper cream that doesn’t contain zinc oxide or petroleum, or use whatever you want and add a liner to your diaper to prevent staining and repelling problems. Liners can be purchased online, but some people have reusable ones that I assume are similar to wipes. Disposable ones are simply dropped in the toilet after use, but some people don’t recommend this. It has worked fine for us to flush them, but do some research if you’re at all concerned.
• Do your laundry after your baby has gone to bed. That way you can get everything in and out so it’s at least dry before a new day of changes. If you have a larger rotation of diapers, do your wash every three to four days; if you have a small rotation, every two days. You’ll get into a rhythm. Just wash when you have enough for a full load and try to establish a predictable routine so you are not scrambling to finish the diapers before breakfast when there are kids screaming and spouses crying! Early on you may find yourself just winging it when it comes to wash timing, but you’ll get it down to a schedule. Most important is having a good routine!
• Try not to put anything made with PUL into the dryer to avoid delamination and loss of water resistance. Let those things air dry. Invest in a good rack or solid outdoor line.
• Don’t get discouraged by setbacks. If you want to keep a box of disposables around just in case, don’t feel bad. Just don’t give up. Like I said, it can be oddly satisfying to survive cloth diapers and raising children. Added bonus: apparently using cloth will encourage earlier potty training because the sensation of wetness isn’t hidden so deep in the absorbent layers like disposables. I’ll let you know how that goes.
• The brands I like best are Awesome Blossom, Bum Genius, Rumparooz, Fuzzi Buns, and Oso Cozy pre-folds. There are cheaper options like Kawaii and Alva, but I haven’t been impressed with their performances. There are a lot of brands, though, so try different things. Check if there’s a diaper service in your area.
I think that covers everything, so leave any questions, comments, or advice you have for me. Happy Wednesday loves.