Thursday, February 4, 2010

Let's Talk About Cloth.

My cloth diaper tutorial.

I spent a lot of time on a mothering forum while pregnant, and one of the topics I learned about was cloth diapering. At first, I was skeptical, and overwhelmed. But I kept looking into it and when I brought it up with my husband, surprisingly he was already on board. "Saves money? Okay then!" So that was that. We began building up our 'stash'.
I've found that a lot of people just simply don't know anything about cloth diapering.. and that is a shame because its actually really easy, better for the environment, and can save people a ton of money. Plus, cloth diapers are just more fun.. they come in tons of cool colors and designs and there are so many different types to try out.. It's actually quite addicting.

Cloth diapering has changed a lot over the years. They can be as easy to use as disposables. It might seem like a lot of information at first but trust me, it's easy once you learn the lingo. I'm going to try to cover everything you will need to know or at least provide some links to get you going.

Let me first just say, I'm not completely against disposable diapers..But really, I just think cloth diapers are more fun. But there's always the option of cloth diapering "part time", which is what I've done some of myself. Disposables are nice because they are soo trim, fast to put on and you DON'T have to wash them. However, they create a huge amount of waste and cost a ton of money. They also contain a carcinogen and a toxic pollutant, and supposedly "prolonged use of disposable diapers will blunt or completely abolish the physiological testicular cooling mechanism important for normal spermatogenesis." See Why Choose Cloth Diapers for more.

Cloth has it's downsides too. Like mainly, having to wash them. I probably wash them every 3 days. Yeah it's extra work, but you just get used to it.(and at least you never need to make any emergency trips to the store for diapers.) Also, it's a big cost up front. It really varies depending on the type you buy, but generally speaking we are talking at LEAST a couple hundred dollars here (unless you sew your own.) However no matter how much your up front cost ends up, it still saves you money when compared with disposables. One cloth diaper may cost anywhere from 10-25 dollars for a single diaper, but disposables will cost you more like 2,000- 3,000 dollars per child. You can end up saving thousands of dollars by using cloth. (You can reuse them for years, for multiple children.. and sell them when you're done.) Cloth tends to be bulkier than disposables. It's annoying because modern baby clothes are not tailored to fit over cloth diapers. Any pants that Aedan wears have to be at least one size larger than normal and even then it tends to be funny fit. If you use cloth diapers, buy your baby clothes extra big.

There are many different types of cloth diapers. Flats, prefolds, fitteds, pockets, and all in one's are the main types. There are also a million different brands of each type. has cloth diaper reviews by real parents and is very helpful in choosing brands! They all have their pros and cons, and vary in price. Usually the higher the price, the more convenient the diaper.

Time to explain the different types. I'll start with the most complicated to put on.

Flat diapers are those big white sheets that need to be folded up a bunch of times that your grandma may have used to cloth diaper her babies with, which she would proceed to stick pins in and then cover up with some plastic pants. Some mom's still prefer them. They are the cheapest option. I've never tried them so I can't say, but there are tutorials on youtube if you want to learn more.

Prefolds are similar to flats, but are basically already folded up. Its just a square of multi-layered fabric. (with more layers in the middle than the sides for absorbency.) These are intimidating to cloth newbies, but a favorite among many. Most people don't use pins anymore either (but you can if you want.) They can be held in place with something called a "Snappi" which is just a stretchy rubbery device with tiny plastic teeth that grip the fabric of the diaper to hold it in place. Then you can put the waterproof cover of your choice over them. I have a few of these but they aren't my favorite. Next to flats, they are the cheapest option. Green mountain diapers seem to have the best quality prefolds.
Here is quick video of someone putting on a prefold diaper and holding it in place with a snappi. Youtube is full of more demo's if you're interested. She's using the jellyroll fold which is what I also use. It's easy.

and here are other ways to fold a prefold if you're interested. (skip ahead to 1:20 on the vid.)

Fitted diapers are next in line. More convenient than prefolds but more costly as well. They don't need folding, pinning or a snappi because they come with either velcro or snaps and go on the baby just like a disposable diaper. They are shaped like a regular diaper, very soft and absorbent, and VERY reliable at holding in messes! I like the brands thirsties fab fitteds and kissaluvs. The only catch is these also need a diaper cover to keep the wetness from getting onto clothes, etc. so it's a two step system. I really like using fitteds though.

With any type of diaper that needs a cover (flats, prefolds and fitteds), you don't need to have one cover for every diaper. The covers can be reused or just simply rinsed off in the sink and set out to dry. instead of going through the whole wash all the time, because they aren't the part that gets really dirty. So it supposedly saves you some money in that way. I would probably buy a little more than half as many covers as I had in prefolds or fitteds.

There are different types of covers. Wool, fleece, and PUL. You can get covers in fun colors or pretty much anything you want. I've seen some with everything from chinese symbols to farm animals to skulls. You can even have some of them personalized.

Wool covers need to be hand washed and lanolized. I have never used a wool cover, but most people that do use them absolutely love them and claim they don't need washing that often because wool is MAGIC. Well actually, it can hold up to 35% of it's own weight in liquid without feeling wet, and doesn't overheat your baby. See here for more info.

Fleece covers are similar to wool but more simplified because they can be washed with everything else and dont need lanolin like wool does. They are very soft and hold in messes really well, I believe some people prefer to use these overnight in particular. They dont have a waterproof lining, but they dont seem to need one either. I haven't had any problems with them, they just look a little funny to me. Dancing bears makes quality heavy duty ones, otherwise there are some really cute cheaper ones on Etsy and elsewhere if you google fleece diaper covers.

PUL covers are what I mainly use, and are probably the most well known and widely used. PUL stands for polyurethane laminate. which basically means they have a thin waterproof lining inside the cover so nothing gets out. These covers can snap on or velcro on. Thirsties are a very popular brand, definitely a favorite, and what I personally use the most of.

Here's another prefold demo, where she uses a Thristies brand cover.

^Notice how her prefold is green? You can dye your white diapers with Dylon brand dye to add some color to your stash if you want.

Next up on the list of diaper types are Pocket Diapers. These don't require a cover, because it's already built in. These go on just like disposables. The only difference is they have a pocket where you insert the absorbent part. You just stuff it in there and put the diaper on. They have a layer of fleece on the part that touches the baby's skin so it wicks moisture into the diaper and keeps baby dry. These are very popular.. I have a few qualms with them though. I think its annoying to have to shove my hand in the diaper to get the absorbent part in there just right. Once it's soiled you have to pull it back out before you wash the diaper otherwise it just gets bunched up inside and doesn't get clean. and the fabric is touchy. They have very specific washing instructions and I must have screwed it up with my bumgenius pockets because the pee would just run right out the diaper instead of soaking through to the absorbent part no matter what I did. I do have some expensive rumparooz diapers that don't give me any trouble. Fuzzi Bunz are also a popular pocket brand that I'm warming up to.

Here's a quick video showing what a pocket diaper looks like.

Here's Aedan sporting his one size fits all pocket Rumparooz, as a newborn and again at 8 months:

*ETA: He's now nearly two years old, and the one size Rumparooz STILL fit him. :)

On a side note, some diapers claim to be one size fits all (like the one Aedan is wearing)but that isn't always an accurate claim. They usually come with snaps to adjust the rise of the diaper to grow with your baby. This is intended to save you money by not having to buy a whole stash of diapers in each size. Often times they are either too bulky for tiny newborns, or too small for older bigger babies. They are still nice to have, but depending on your baby's size and which brands of diapers you buy, you may still want some smalls and larges if you go this route.

Now for All in one diapers. They go on just like a disposable and super easy, great for people that may otherwise be resistant to cloth diapers. Similar to pocket diapers, only they are permanently stuffed. they also wick moisture away from baby's skin to keep them dry. These are the least intimidating type of diaper, but not quite the most popular. There are no steps in the middle, just put on and take off like a disposable. The cons are that it's supposedly a little harder to get clean in the wash and takes longer to dry, because you can't take the absorbent part out to wash it separately. I like them a lot though, especially when I'm feeling lazy or have an extra squirmy baby. There is definitely something to be said for simplicity. Check out these reviews to find brands to try. There are "all in two" diapers which have snap in inserts, so they are sort of halfway between a pocket diaper and an all in one. Softbums diapers are an example of All in twos.

LASTLY, there are Tongue-Style All in Ones . (or at least I believe that is what they are called.) Basically they are like an All in One diaper and a Pocket diaper mixed together. Because the absorbent insert is attached at one end. it works it's way partially out during the wash to help it get clean and dry faster but it's easy to stuff back in. These are my new favorite type! The brands I have are Bummis Easy Fit (my favorite, they come in snaps or velco) and also Kissaluv's Marvels.
This video shows you the bummis easy fit diaper

PHEW! That's pretty much all the different kinds of cloth diapers.

Just do a little surfing around and pick a few that appeal to you and give those a try. If you hate them, you can always sell them later. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people out there dying to snatch up your used diapers for a discounted price. If you like them you can reuse them for each kid you have, then sell them when you're done. Craigslist or Diaperswappers are some online places to do this. More people cloth diaper than you realize, and the numbers are only growing!

Another thing to keep in mind is every brand's sizing is a bit different. And every baby is different too. Remember that until you actually use the diaper on your baby a few times, you can't know for sure what type or brand you are going to like the most. I would not recommend ordering a ton of one thing until you've tried it, as tempting as it may be. And also don't be quick to give up on cloth diapering if your first choice of diapers dont seem to be working out! For example we had tried some cheap no-name diapers off of Ebay that just turned out to be a total joke.

Now lets cover the other details of cloth diapering.

For a diaper bin, I use a plastic trash can, and line it with something called a wet-bag. A wet-bag has a PUL lining just like the diaper covers, so it keeps all the mess inside. When its full I just grab the bag and dump the diapers in the washing machine, and throw the wet-bag in right along with them. You're gonna want to buy two, so you have one to use while the other is washing. Some have drawstrings, some have elastic which is great for trash bins, and some have loops to hang from doorknobs. You'll need the large sized ones.

If you use cloth wipes instead of disposable wipes, which only makes sense, you are saving another few hundred dollars per kid. They are washed right along with the diapers.

For wipes, I use mostly baby washcloths since they are cheap, and colorful, but they aren't quite as thick as I would like. I love thiristies fab wipes, but don't have a lot of them. has reviews for cloth wipes too, to help you choose. (Or you can sew your own pretty easily if you're into that.)
What I do is I fold them in half and stack them into my Prince Lionheart wipe warmer. Then I pour water over them. I keep the water in a gallon jug right next to the warmer and refill as needed. When I'm filling up my jug of water, I usually squirt a little baby wash or aloe vera gel and a few drops of tea tree oil to water, and shake it up, to make my own wipe solution. You can buy concentrated wipe solution too if you want, or look up recipes online, (or just use plain water cause it really doesn't make that much of a difference). You'll want to be sure to clean out your wipe warmer regularly. Otherwise you can keep your wipes dry just stacked in a bin, and spray them with a spray bottle as you need them.

For each size of cloth diaper, you're going to want maybe around 20 diapers? More for newborns, less for older babies. I don't really know for sure.. We've never owned as many as is recommended and we've gotten along just fine. We don't change the baby the minute he wets himself so that probably cuts down the amount of diapers he goes through in a day. It kind of depends on how often you want to wash them too. The more diapers you have, the less you'll need to wash them, but you don't want them to sit too long (like a week) dirty either or the ammonia will eat away at them or they'll get really stained.
Cloth diapers usually do an awesome job at holding in messes. In general they are more reliable than disposables, and you never have to worry about an overly wet diaper "exploding" like disposables can.(I've seen it happen, pretty crazy!)

Babies are probably going to get rashes now and then whether you are using cloth diapers or disposables, but a lot of rash creams are not good for cloth diapers because they can build up on the fabric, ruining the absorbency. You either need to put a strip of fleece or flannel in between your baby and the diaper if you use one, or find a rash cream that is not going to hurt the diapers. Most stores I've been too have not carried the right kinds, so be careful. (This) is a great page talking about diaper rash, and has a chart to rate which rash creams are compatible with cloth diapers. Good to know!

When it comes to choosing between snaps and Velcro -otherwise known as hook and loop closures:
Snaps are better for long term use because they don't wear out, and its harder for your baby to undo on his own when he's older. But, they are more tedious to put on. Velcro is nice because its more adjustable and faster to put on. It just doesn't last forever, and sometimes if you forget to stick the Velcro to the laundry tabs it catches on other diapers or gets strings stuck in it that you have to pick out. The velcro may start to curl or look frayed after heavy use so that can decrease the diaper's resale value.

Cloth diapers usually require an additive free detergent so the absorbancy of the diapers wont be ruined. And only a SMALL amount, like half of what you would normally use on your regular laundry.
A few good brands off the top of my head are Country Save, Charlie's Soap, or Allens Naturally or Rockin Green. Wherever you buy your diapers from may also sell the recommended detergents.
Here's a cloth diaper detergent chart to help you choose. Unfortunately it can be very difficult to find compatible detergents at your local stores, so you may have to resort to ordering them online. (Some people can get away with using any brand of detergent, but do so at your own risk.)

Some people wash their diapers twice to make sure they are clean. First a cold soak to prevent staining, then a hot wash to sanitize.
I just do one heavy duty hot wash with an extra rinse. If you have a high efficiency machine, you HAVE to do an extra rinse and be SURE to use only a small amount of detergent.

If you get staining, hang them outside in the sun and it will bleach the stains out for you. (some people use laundry bleach on their diapers once in a blue moon if they absolutely have to, but bleach at your own risk.) and NEVER use fabric softener, it will ruin the absorbancy of your diapers and its bad for people anyway.
If your diapers ever develop a funky smell (mine haven't) a lot people recommend the product bac-out by bio-kleen.

Ideally you should hang your diapers outside to dry them, since it gets any stains out, is easier on the diapers so they last longer, and its better for the environment, and saves you money, but I'm way too lazy for that and just throw them in the dryer. Some diapers take longer to dry than others, so you can adjust accordingly, but I dry once on medium and sometimes another on low to get them completely dry.

Now, what about when you leave the house?
You can cloth diaper on the go. You just throw a mini spray bottle in your bag and some dry wipes, and spray the wipes as needed. another method is to put wet cloth wipes in a ziplock bag or reuse a disposable wipe plastic container.
Get yourself a medium sized zippering wet-bag like these for your dirty diapers and wipes. Don't forget a washable changing pad. I like these happy heiny's ones. Throw the wet-bag, the wipes, the clean diapers and the changing pad into your diaper bag and you're good to go. If you're going on a longer trip, you can still cloth diaper, but you'll need access to a laundromat or somewhere to wash your diapers. I haven't tried it myself. Last time we went on a trip we just used disposables.

Last thing:
the poo. If your baby is exclusively breast fed, no matter how poopy the diaper is, it can just be thrown in the wash as normal and it should come out easily. If your baby is formula fed, you can probably also get away with that, but you may have more trouble with stinking and staining so having some bac-out on hand may be especially helpful for you.
Either way, once your baby starts having more solid poo that you don't exactly want to throw into the washing machine, you may find it helpful to buy flushable liners that you line the diaper with to hold the solids, or you may want to get a "diaper sprayer" otherwise already known as a "bidet". They are the same thing.
A diaper sprayer is something that easily attaches to the side of your toilet and it works exactly like the dish sprayer on the side of your sink. No getting your hands dirty, just spray the poo into the toilet. (you may also use it to help clean your own bum should you feel so inclined.)

Here's more cloth diaper tips in case I missed anything.

That is about all I can think to say about cloth diapers. I hope I didn't scare anyone too badly. It sounds more complicated than it is. and it's really not that much more work, I'm the laziest person ever and I still manage. Sorry it turned out to be so lengthy. If you have any questions feel free to ask and I will try to help as best I can.