When I first considered cloth diapering, the plethora of information was overwhelming and quite confusing. I am by no means an expert, but I have cloth diapered for a year and a half, so I’ve learned a thing or two – unfortunately some of it the hard way.
As friends and acquaintances are exploring this option, I know they have a million questions, so I decided to write out some responses & suggestions. This is obviously not the main focus of this blog, but I want to help so I created this internal page that can be linked to & shared. (Please note that this post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission if you purchase any products using the links on this page.)
So here goes…..my not-so-quick, probably-still-overwhelming, but hopefully helpful thoughts on cloth diapering….
How much time does it take?
In my experience it does not take much time. It takes slightly longer (around 30 seconds) to put on each diaper because you have to assemble it first (you put in the insert then put it on the baby). Or, you can assemble them ahead of time so the change is faster. It also takes slightly longer to clean up the diaper (depends on if it’s wet or poopy & what kind you use – ranges from 15 second to a few minutes for a poopy one)
Laundry is not a big deal. Depending on how many diapers you have you can do laundry every few days. I normally do it every 3-4 days with a toddler. Maybe every 2-3 days with a newborn. If you have a good system (which I’ll explain later) you can just throw them in the wash & then come back once or twice (depending on your washer) to restart cycles then switch to dryer.
The only thing that really takes time for me is folding the diapers and putting them away. And that really doesn’t take that long.
What kind of diaper should you use?
There are so many to choose from. The three best options (or which there are various brands for each) are all-in-one diapers, pocket diapers, and gdiaper-type diapers. (unless you want to use prefolds & plastic pants or prefolds & diaper pins or something like that like our moms did. Cheap I am sure but not worth it to me!!!)
- All in one diapers. These are what they sound like – all in one. They are one piece and you use the diaper once & then wash it. Some brands come in different sizes. Some are one-size-fits-all. Click here for an example of an all-in-one diaper.
- Pocket diapers. These have a pocket in which you can put cloth inserts. You still have to wash the whole diaper every time because the diaper itself gets wet (as opposed to gdiapers which I’ll explain in a minute.) But…you have more control over how absorbent & how big the diaper is because you can use more than one insert or different kinds of inserts to be more absorbent, less bulky, etc. – whatever you want. I have a few of these & like them. Many of these are one-size fits all. (Here’s an example.)
- gDiaper type. Okay I’m sure there’s more brands than gdiapers that are like this but I don’t know what else to call them. (We use mostly gdiapers, by the way – mainly because that’s what the person we knew who used cloth diapers used.) Anyhow – the big benefit with these is that the insert goes in the diaper but not in a pocket. Meaning, it goes in a little liner and the insert itself is up against the baby’s bum instead of the diaper being up against the bum. That way, many times you can just change the cloth insert and reuse the diaper at the next diaper change (without washing it) – because the pee only got on the insert and didn’t get on the diaper itself (there’s a plastic liner in between). This obviously means you don’t need to buy as many – a huge plus. With gdiapers, though, they come in different sizes – newborn, small, medium, large, and extra large. Which means you have to buy many more diapers than you do with the one-size-fits-all
Sizing: So about sizing – The benefit to one-size-fits-all is obviously that you don’t have to buy as many diapers. The disadvantage, though, is that for the first few months you have a huge diaper on a little tiny baby. With gdiapers & other sized diapers the diapers seem to fit much better. But then of course you have to buy lots more (but not as many because they are more reusable because of the liner thing). Okay…..kind of confusing I know. Haha. I personally ended up buying some cheap one-size-fits-all pocket diapers when I got into size large territory – and they work great. But I don’t know how they’d work on a newborn – I guess I’ll find out!
How much does this all cost?
Short answer – it depends. Some diapers are quite expensive. I got some for my shower and then started ebay shopping. Lots of them are expensive on ebay but then if you’re patient you’ll run across some great deals. Also people will often sell big lots of them.
If you want to go cheap I would recommend buying pocket diapers from China. They’re knock-offs of name brand US diapers (like FuzziBunz) and work great. And they only cost about $3 a diaper!! So that is a total steal…You can get them on ebay – just search “cloth diapers” It takes a few weeks to come in but I’ve ordered some from there & they work just fine.
Unless you use all-in-one diapers, you also have to buy cloth inserts – which I’ll talk about next.
What kind of inserts should you use?
Okay, the material the insert is made of really matters. I had my mom sew me some to save money. And this would’ve worked great except we didn’t understand what material we needed. Flannel – horrible. Dish towels – very bulky. Whether you’re gonna’ make your own or buy some, what you want is either microfiber or hemp. Both of these are very absorbent (hemp is more absorbent but also more expensive. I have a few of these hemp liners for nighttime.) For microfiber, you can actually buy microfiber towels like these to make liners.
The thing about microfiber, though, is that it irritates baby’s skin. So…..if you’re using pocket diapers it doesn’t’ matter – the diaper goes against the skin not the insert. But if the insert is touching the skin then many liners come with a top layer of fleece (bamboo fleece I guess is particularly good.)
My favorite inserts are these charcoal gray inserts made of 3 layers of microfiber + a layer of bamboo fleece on each side (5 layers total). I also have some made of 2 layers of microfiber + a layer of fleece on one side. Also good but obviously not quite as absorbent. (They’re such a great deal, though – 6 for $12. You can get them here.) Oh, my hemp inserts are actually better but I only have a few of these for at night since they’re more expensive.
I try to get inserts for around $3 an insert or so….that means sometimes I have to look pretty hard, but some of the links I included above are great deals. I just get whatever brand I can find – I look at the material & how many layers it has.
How do you do laundry (& other practical tips)?
It will depend on what type of diaper you use but here’s the idea…
- Buy wetbags (we have Planetwise ones – 2 larges like this one and then 2 small ones like this one for the diaper bag). These will lock in the smell & odor of the diaper so you don’t need a pail or anything.
- When diaper is soiled, pull out inserts & put them in wetbag. If diaper is soiled, put it in wetbag (if you use a diaper with Velcro you have to close the Velcro so it doesn’t stick in the washer. Also sometimes you have to detach liners – it depends on the type of diaper. If you use gdiapers let me know & I’ll give you all the details on them)
- For exclusively breastfed poo, you actually don’t have to do anything except put the soiled diaper (poo and all) in the wetbag. Believe it or not it is fine to go in the washer with all the poo….
- Once the baby starts eating solids & the poo changes, we started putting a paper towel (a half sheet) in the diaper so that it catches the poo. This is a HUGE lifesaver. It keeps us from swishing the diaper in the toilet or using a diaper sprayer or anything. Often we just take the paper towel out (with the poo in it) and flush it down the toilet. Technically paper towel’s aren’t flushable but we haven’t had issues. If you’re worried you could just put the paper towel & poo in a plastic bag & throw it out (like you would with a dirty diaper). There are still occasions where there’s too much poo & we have to wash out the diaper in the sink but overall this is a great solution
- A wetbag will hold in smell for at least a few days. I have 2 so if one starts smelling before I want to do laundry I take it downstairs in the laundry room so it doesn’t stink up the room. (even when it starts stinking it’s not very bad…..)
- Doing laundry – there are a million articles about it & what detergent you should use, etc. You really just have to figure out your own washer. But a prerinse cycle is a must. Meaning, before you actually wash them you have to run an extra wash or rinse cycle so that you’re not washing them in the pee/poo. In general, to wash diapers normally requires an extra cycle or an extra rinse or two.
- Going out – it’s really not a big deal to wear a cloth diaper out. They sell small wetbags & all you have to do with a soiled diaper is throw it in the wetbag & throw the wetbag in you diaper bag. No smell. No mess. You deal with it when you get home. Much easier than I thought….
Biggest pro of cloth diapers – at least gdiapers (in my opinion)
I don’t know if all diapers are like gdiapers, but I never once had a poo blowout with a cloth diaper. Never. And I had many during the times we had to use disposable diapers (traveling, nursery, etc.)
We did have some issues with leaks – mainly because I was trying to use flannel inserts – oops!! But not having poo blowouts is more than worth the payoff of sometimes having leaks, in my opinion. Plus my baby had leaks in disposables, too…..
Overall I think it’s worth it. And since we’re having more than one baby, we are definitely saving lots of money. But it just depends on you.
Lots of info, I know. I’d love to help answer any questions you have. Just ask your questions in the comments below. And moms who cloth diaper, please share any other tips you have or experiences with other brands.