After cloth diapering for five months I am by no means an expert and this is definitely not a comprehensive course on cloth diapering (hence the 101), but people ask about Hudson’s diapers pretty frequently so I thought I’d give an overview for you curious folks.
(for the sake of brevity, I’ll use cd or cd’ing for cloth diaper/cloth diapering sometimes, m’kay?)
What we’ll cover (aka class syllabus):
What are the different types?
How much does this cost?
How many do I need?
Eeww poop…how do I wash them?
Let’s get started! Pencils ready, class?
So many people, especially from the older generation, cannot seem to fathom why you would choose to cloth diaper over using disposables. Part of this, I think, is because the cloth diapers of old were much less convenient than our options now (which you’ll see later). But here are some reasons why you might want to use cloth.
- For some, the environment is a huge factor. I’ll be honest, this was not why I wanted to cd. Sure, I try to reduce, reuse, recycle, and all that jazz and I’m glad I’m not contributing tons more trash via disposables, but it really wasn’t the main reason that I decided to use cloth. But I know many people are very passionate about that and that’s why they cd.
- The main reason I decided to use cloth diapers was to save money. Have you seen the cost of disposable? Yikes. We decided to use disposables for the first few months until we got used to the whole new baby thing and I was mucho surprised at how much we were spending on diapers. We didn’t have any newborn disposables before he was born so we had to go out and buy a bunch of those…whoa nelly.
- Less chemicals. I know there are some babies with sensitive skin and the chemicals of disposables diapers irritate their sweet little bums. Cloth is a good alternative that isn’t chock full of icky chemicals.
I really can’t think of any other biggies – anyone want to weigh in here? I think mostly it’s an environmental or cost thing, but if you have another reason, please share!
(pssst….you don’t have to be a crunchy hippie to cloth diaper!)
What are the different types?
There are several options for cloth diapering (hint: none of them use pins…I mean, I suppose you could but I don’t think anyone really does that anymore). I’m not going to go into detail about all of them because I don’t want to overwhelm you (this is a 101 class after all), so I’m just going to share the three types that I have and that I think are typically the most “mainstream”.
1. Pockets – There are probably the most popular kind. You have a diaper that usually is made out of a waterproofing fabric (PUL) that keeps it from leaking on the outside and on the inside a fabric that wicks the liquid away from the baby. They use snaps or velcro to fasten. There is a pocket in the diaper where you slide an insert, a piece of fabric that absorbs the liquid – microfiber, hemp, cotton, and bamboo are all widely used materials for inserts.
Pros: easy to find since they are so popular, you can use whatever inserts you prefer, you can add more inserts if you need more absorbency, very similar to disposable diapers when it comes to putting in on baby
Cons: removing the inserts to wash and then stuffing after they are clean take an extra step
An example of a pocket diaper – a BumGenius 4.0. The insert slides all the way into the pocket, you don’t leave it hanging out the way I have it in this picture, but I just wanted to show you how it goes in
2. All in Ones – Also known as an AIO, these diapers are made just like they sound…all in one. The insert part (that absorbs the liquid) is sewn in to the diaper so there is no stuffing or removing inserts from pockets.
Pros: no stuffing/removing inserts; all one piece so less intimidating for those who have never used cloth, also very similar to disposables
Cons: most are made with microfiber inserts so if you don’t like microfiber (which many don’t) you are stuck with it; can take longer to dry
Two examples of All-in-Ones, a BumGenius Freetime on the left and a Thirsties one size AIO on the right. You can see that the BG inserts attach at the front and back but the Thirsties is sewn in on the sides.
3. Pre-folds or flats and covers: With this diaper system you use covers that are made of PUL and then some sort of insert that is folded into a rectangle and laid into the diaper. Essentially, a pocket diaper without the pocket. The ones I have include a rectangular insert that lays in the diaper and is already the right size, but many people use “traditional” cloth diapers (think: burp cloths) and fold them to fit. Usually the cover can be used for several diaper changes, just changing out the cloth insert.
Pros: Less bulky to take with you on the go because you can reuse covers and only have to carry inserts, typically cheaper
Cons: Can be more time-consuming if you have to fold the cloth
This is very, very rudimentary. There are several other types but these are the three that like I said, I use and have experience with, and I think are the most widely used types of diapers.
All of the diapers that I use are one size. They have snaps that can be adjusted as Hudson grows. Typically these can be used pretty soon after birth (they may be a little big right at first) all the way up to potty training, just adjusting the size as you go. There are also sized diapers that will work for a time but then once baby gets too big you have to move up and buy more in a larger size.
Of the three types of diapers we have, the covers are my least favorite. I’m not really sure why, I just don’t prefer those as much. I only have two covers, so I keep them in the car with a few inserts and they are my back-up diapers just in case something happens when we are out and I’ve forgotten to pack enough diapers. Some people love, love, love covers though, so it’s definitely personal preference.
I started out with all pockets, then added some AIOs to my collection. I like them both equally and they have pros and cons (as I listed above). Time will tell which one (if any) I like the best.
We mostly use BumGenius diapers, but have a few other brands so I put them side by side to show some differences. The BumGenius (blue) has three rise settings, the Rumparooz (green) has four, and the Fuzzibunz (orange) doesn’t have any rise snaps but instead has a button on the inside the adjusts the elastic.
Here’s a good post that goes into more details about the different types of cloth diapers.
How much does this cost?
The cost can vary widely depending on how you purchase and what you buy.
If you just want to buy your diapers all in one swoop and get it over with you can buy a starter pack of 24 BumGenius diapers for about $400 (24 is a pretty average “stash” that’ll have you washing every two-ish days).
If you don’t have a bunch to spend but really want to cloth diaper, I think you could easily find a stash for around $100. A very cheap and quite popular option for inserts/flats are flour sack towels. They are thin but very absorbent squares of fabric that you can find at Walmart in the kitchen hand towel section. I think you can get a pack of 5 for $5. Using those inside some covers would be a very budget-friendly option. Here is a great post from Kelly’s Closet (my go to for all things cloth diaper related) about buying diapers on a budget)
I bought almost all of my diapers used (or “pre-loved” as some like to say…sounds better than “used” I suppose). I have 25 diapers and have spent about $200. Before Hudson was born and I was buying diapers I thought that was so much money, but after seeing how much we were spending on disposables at first I realized we would have burned through$200 worth of disposables super fast anyway!
You do have an added detergent cost, which I haven’t figured up. We use homemade detergent for our clothes but you can’t use homemade for cloth diapers so I have to purchase detergent (I like Tide). As far as water goes, we have not seen a significant increase in our water bill (we do have a High Efficiency washer and some sort of special heat pump that Michael tried to explain and I didn’t really understand…but regardless, there may be some people who see more of an increase in cost just based on how your washer uses water).
How many do I need?
I covered this already, but I think 24 is a really good number to shoot for. That should be enough to wash every other day once they get past the newborn stage (they go through a lot more diapers at first!).
Here’s a “stash shot” of my diapers. Four of these don’t get used (one is a sized diaper that Hudson has grown up of, two are Flip covers that I keep in the car for backups, and one is a Fuzzibunz that is too big still) so in all I have 22 that we use regularly. Some of the colors are my favorites and I’d love some more fun prints, but almost all of these were bought used at a very good price so I can’t really complain about the colors!
Eeww poop…how do I wash them?
Ok, this depends on what your kiddo is eating. If your baby is exclusively breastfed then this is super easy. Breastfed poop is water soluble, so you don’t have to spray them off or anything…you just toss it in the washer and that does the trick! If your baby is on formula or once you’ve started solids then you’ll have to do a little more work – most people get a diaper sprayer that attaches to the toilet so they can spray the poop off before washing or you can dunk the diaper in the toilet to rinse it off. If you’re baby’s poop is more solid and will just fall off into the toilet then you can just plop it in there.
So my routine. After I change Hudson’s diaper I pull out the insert (if I’m using a pocket diaper) and toss both parts in a wet bag (if he has eaten something recently besides breastmilk recently and there are chunks in his poop then I spray it off). On wash day I dump all the diapers and the wet bag into my washing machine (I have a top loading HE washer). I do one cold rinse, then a heavy duty hot was cycle with an extra rinse.
After they are washed, I like to hang mine to dry. You do not have to do that, but I like to if I have the time. The sun bleaches out any stains so I try to set them out on my porch to dry. If I’m in a rush, though, I’ll toss them in the dryer and dry on low or medium.
Washing diapers is very specific to your washer, your water (soft or hard), the detergent you use, etc. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. I highly recommend this Facebook group if you need help figuring out how to wash your diapers.
Again, this post was very rudimentary. This was meant as a brief overview of diapers and to maybe pique your interest about learning more. If you decide you want to know more or are ready to dive in and get started there is more to it than just this, of course. Thankfully we have the internet at our fingertips!
There is a TON of information on Pinterest! If you go to Pinterest and search “cloth diapers” you will find so much to help you learn more. I read many, many blog posts on Pinterest about cd’s while I was pregnant with Hudson and that helped so much.
Here are some Facebook groups I like
Also, if you know anyone in person who cloth diapers ask them to let you look at theirs (trust me, people who cloth diaper LOVE to show them off and educate others about them so she won’t mind!). I have a friend who showed me several of hers so I could look at the different types, which was very helpful.
I love cloth diapering! We don’t use them 100% of the time. We use a disposable overnight and occasionally during the day if the diapers are in the wash or when we’re traveling out of town for more than a few days. But when we do use disposables I miss my cloth!
My best advice: just buy some and try them out. If you aren’t sure what you want then get a variety. Cloth diapers resell really well so you won’t be out a lot of money if you decide to sell them. In fact, if you buy used you can usually make back what you originally spent.
I asked Michael to read through this post before I hit Publish in order to see if I left anything out that was crucial to a beginner. He typed up some of his comments and I thought it would be great to hear a his perspective
“I love saving money so I was on board. But actually using them takes some figuring out. A question I had at first was how tight should I make them? I don’t want to cut off his circulation, but I definitely don’t want poop to come flying out around his legs either (I later learned sometimes poop explosions are unavoidable regardless of the type/design diaper).
Caitlin’s note: There are lots of YouTube videos that show you how to use a cloth diaper; this is the one that I used and I think it’s very helpful.
My advice is once you find a diaper you like, sell all the other kinds you tried and buy more of the preferred type. Its easier to remember where the snaps go if they are all the same type. When you start mixing brands and types the snaps are in different places and you’re thinking “on the red diaper go in 1 snap, on the orange diaper go in 2 snaps, on the blue diaper go in 3 snaps… wait this diaper has hip snaps too! I can’t remember!”
The diaper sprayer is an easy install at the toilet. You’ll need a flexible supply line, which you can get at local hardware store for about $6.99. Price will vary with length. Be sure and turn the spray water valve off and relieve the pressure from the sprayer after every use. Otherwise you are inviting flooding and an unplanned major remodel.”
Thanks, Michael for a daddy’s perspective!!
I hope this was helpful! Let me know if you have questions.