Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Cloth Diapers

Your baby’s bum is so cute in those cloth diapers, but are they really worth it?

January 19, 2018
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When I was pregnant, I never dreamed I’d spend as much time as I do thinking about my baby’s diapers and bathroom habits.

But I do. And guess what? I LOVE IT. Because you know what? Even my baby’s stinky poops are adorable.

That said, I decided pretty early in my pregnancy that I wanted to cloth diaper. I’d heard it was better for the environment than using disposable diapers, and when you consider that the average baby goes through about 10 diapers a day, I figured reusable cloth diapers would be more economical in the long run.

I did my homework, and while there are definitely pros and cons to both disposable and cloth diapers, I ultimately decided I wanted to cover my baby’s precious tushy in cloth.

If you’re on the fence about cloth diapering, I’ve got you covered (Get it? Because diapers cover your baby’s sweet little bum).

Read on to learn more than you ever wanted to know about cloth diapering…

Save some sweet moolah.

Disposable diapers are really handy, but can add up to a a big expense. It’s estimated that the average family spends about $500 on diapers each year. Depending on when your kid is potty-trained, that adds up to about $1,500 in diapers alone.

By comparison, I spent about $400 for my whole cloth diaper stash, which I can use through potty training, and for any additional kids (if we survive the first one).

It ain’t easy being green.

One of the reasons I originally wanted to use cloth diapers was to be more environmentally friendly. Disposable diapers aren’t completely biodegradable, and it’s estimated that up to 20 billion diapers go to landfills each year.

No wonder landfills are so stinky.

However, cloth diapers aren’t without their environmental downsides.

Cloth diapers have to be washed almost daily on hot wash cycles, which requires a lot of non-renewable energy. Additionally, cloth diapers are often made of cotton fibers. Unless it’s organic, cotton production is pesticide-heavy, which isn’t great for the environment either.

So what’s a new mom to do?

I work from home, so I figured I’d be able to keep up with all the laundry, I liked that we’d save money by cloth diapering, and let’s face it: Cloth diaper prints are just so stinking cute.

So, I determined to cloth diaper.

I immediately realized that I misjudged how much time I’d have to keep up with the mountain of diapers that had to be washed daily.

Keeping a baby alive all day, every day is hard work, y’all.

Also, cloth diapers are a huge pain to use when you have to leave home. If you have to change a cloth diaper on the go, you also have to carry a gross diaper around with you all day long.

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Size can be an issue, too. Most cloth diapers fit babies starting at eight pounds. My baby weighed almost eight pounds at birth, so I figured he’d be able to wear his cloth diapers immediately.

Not so much. The cloth diapers we’d purchased were comically large on his scrawny little newborn butt, so we wound up using disposable diapers for about two months, until he fattened up a little bit.

Even though we’d practiced cloth diapering, my husband was intimidated by all the ins and outs of cloth diapers, and still uses disposables if he has to change a dirty diaper.

I’ll be totally honest: We’re really lazy. I estimate that we use cloth diapers about half the time—far short of our initial goal.

Whether or not you decide to cloth diaper is totally up to you, but  if you do decide to cloth diaper, here’s what you need to know before you start accumulating your stash.

Pockets, prefolds, and fitteds, oh my!

Cloth diapers usually contain an absorbent microfiber or cotton insert surrounded by a waterproof diaper cover. However, there are several different types of cloth diapers on the market, and choosing which type is right for your munchkin’s hiney can be totally overwhelming.

Before you buy, I’ve created a quick guide outlining the most popular types of cloth diapers.

All-in-Ones

All-in-one cloth diapers are exactly what they sound like. All-in-ones go on just like a disposable and the whole diaper can be popped into the washing machine, which makes it the most convenient type of cloth diaper. However, because they’re so convenient, all-in-ones are often the priciest type of cloth diaper, ringing up at around $25 a piece.

Want it all (in one)? I recommend BumGenious’s Freetime All-In-One Cloth Diaper.

Pocket Diapers

Pocket diapers are my personal favorites. A pocket diaper looks like an all-in-one, but has a pocket at one end that contains a removable microfiber or cotton insert. The insert is removed and washed when the diaper is soiled. While the insert adds an extra step in the washing process, I like pocket diapers because you can add extra stuffing if your baby is a heavy wetter. Pocket diapers are often less expensive, and can usually be purchased for five or six bucks per diaper.

Pleased by the pocket? I recommend Mama Koala’s pocket diapers.

Flats and Prefolds

A flat diaper is the kind of cloth diaper your grandma probably used to diaper your mom’s bum. They’re cheap, but you have to be an origami wizard to get them to stay on a wiggly baby butt. Prefolds are similar, but are made of fluffy cotton and can be folded into three sections, with the middle being a super absorbent layer. Both can be pinned on using a snappi (the modern equivalent of diaper pins). I like prefolds because if you’re lazy like me, you can simply fold the diaper longways and lay it in the cover. I also use prefolds for extra stuffing in my other cloth diapers at night so I don’t have to get up to change a midnight diaper.

Want to kick it old school? I recommend Green Mountain Cloth-eez Prefold Diapers for use with Wink Hybrid Diaper Covers.

Fitteds

Fitted diapers are also ultra convenient. They’re made of absorbent cotton and look like disposable diapers with snaps. All fitted diapers must be used with a waterproof diaper cover because the fitted cloth insert isn’t waterproof.  Fitteds, like all-in-ones, can be pricy, but are a lot less bulky than other cloth diaper options.

After the perfect fit? I recommend Mother Ease’s One Size Fitted Cloth Diaper.

Start your stash.

You’ll want to start preparing your diaper stash early. If you’re having a baby shower, cloth diapers and cloth diapering accessories are great items to register for because starting your stash is a totally upfront cost, unlike disposable diapers, which can be bought weekly.

A cloth diaper stash doesn’t have to be large, but at a minimum, you should have at least 10 to 12 cloth diapers on hand. With that many diapers, you’ll more than likely get through one whole day with your baby, but you’ll need to do laundry daily.

I recommend trying a couple different types of cloth diapers to see which ones you like best before purchasing too many of one type. For example, I found out I really love pocket diapers, even though I thought for sure I’d hate having to stuff them each time I used them.

You’re gonna need a bigger washing machine.

The nice thing about disposable diapers is that they’re well, disposable. You take it off, wrap it up, and toss it in the garbage. The biggest inconvenience with disposable diapers is emptying the diaper genie every so often.

Cloth diapers, on the other hand, have to be washed and dried before you can use them again. Depending on the size of your diaper stash (which is the number of diapers you have available for use), you may have to do laundry every day, especially if your baby is a super-pooper.

Before you use your cloth diapers, it’s important to run them through a hot rinse and spin cycle at least three times to ensure their absorbency. It isn’t necessary to dry them in between cycles, but you can if you’d like.

Once your baby starts filling his or her diapers, you’ll want to have a separate stink-proof bag to put the used diapers in until laundry day. You can spend a fortune on a fancy diaper bin, or you can visit the camping section of your local big-box store for a dry-bag with a cinch top, which will also do the trick and keep your nursery smelling fresh as a baby’s bottom.

Now, many cloth diapering blogs will tell you that newborn poopy diapers can simply be thrown in with the wash because newborn poop doesn’t stain cloth.

In my experience, this is a big, fat lie.

Newborn poop is a violent shade of neon orange, and it stains everything. EVERYTHING.

Before throwing a poopy diaper in the pail, saturate it with hot water to keep a stain from setting. If the diaper is still stained post wash, a couple hours in direct sunlight should remove the stain completely.

As for regular laundering, most cloth diaper instructions are ultra-intense, and recommend multiple wash cycles and special detergent, like Rockin’ Green each time.

Me?

Not so much.

I’m lazy. I only do one hot wash cycle with whatever detergent was on sale at the grocery store.

Occasionally, I will do a wash cycle with a couple drops of bleach to strip any residue that’s left behind, but that’s as far as I go.

Mama ain’t got time for multiple wash cycles.

Yikes. Cloth diapers sound like a lot of work.

I’ll be honest. Cloth diapers are a lot more work than I bargained for. But then, raising a kid is a lot more work than I thought it would be, too.

There are pros and cons to both disposable and cloth diapers.

I’ve been a mom for four months, so I’m basically a parenting expert, right? Take my advice: Go with whatever diaper you want! Before you stress spiral about whether or not the diapers your kid wears will affect his chances of getting into Harvard, ask yourself, Is my kid clean and dry in his diaper?

If yes, then you’ve chosen wisely.

That’s what I’d call a parenting win.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katie Martin
Katie Martin
Contributing Writer