I’m not the world’s greatest conservationist, but after spending a decade of my life living in Asheville (aka: hippytown, USA), I do consider myself a bit of a greenie, especially when it comes to choosing reusable items rather than disposable. When you have a baby, you’ll quickly find that suddenly your trashcans are just overflowing with diapers. Babies go through a lot of diapers. An average of 2,500 diapers in the first year alone (according to my quick google search). And – little known fact – these dirty diapers don’t actually go away any time soon. They sit in landfills year after year after year after year for five hundred years. Yep, you read that right. FIVE HUNDRED YEARS. That’s…pretty gross. Primarily for this reason – but also because they’re just so dang cute – I knew for years before I ever actually had kids that I’d want to use cloth diapers on them. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely use disposables now and again. Especially now that I have two kids. But I still primarily enjoy using cloth diapers. It can be confusing and overwhelming to dip your toe into the world of cloth diapering, because there’s just so much out there and every single person has their own opinion on what’s best to use. As annoying as that is, I promise that setting up your stash is the hardest part of this whole process- once you have a good routine established, it really is quite easy! That said, here’s my two cents on getting started.
First things first, you need to decide when you’re going to begin cloth diapering. Are you planning on starting immediately with a newborn, or waiting until your baby fits into OS (one-size) diapers? If you’re planning on starting with a newborn, read the next paragraph. If not, skip.
Newborn: Your baby is only going to be teeny-tiny for a few months. There’s a whole world of beautiful, AIO (all-in-one) diapers out there for the newborn size, but honestly? I don’t feel like they’re worth it because of the price per diaper v. time used. Plus, the newborn stage is the EASIEST stage to cloth diaper – especially if you EBF (exclusively breastfeed), since EBF baby poop is 100% water soluble and can be tossed directly into the wash machine with no rinsing. For this reason, I highly recommend using Prefolds, which are flat cloths that you fold and secure, then put a cover over. Not only are they way less expensive than other kinds of cloth diapers, but they are also very easy to learn to use. No really: when my mom first saw them, she thought I was getting in over my head. After practicing for a day or two on my newborn, though, even she declared them easy-peesy. They’re incredibly simple to wash – you can throw them in the washer and dryer without any fuss. Plus, you only need about three covers, because you can wipe and reuse multiple times and they dry quickly after being washed. Cons: You do have to learn to fold them and they require two steps: putting the prefold on, then putting the cover on. Once you get used to the process, however it only takes a minute. A few pro tips: be sure to get a good brand, or else they won’t absorb a lot of pee. Also, be aware that they need to be washed and dried two or three times before being used on a baby for the first time, because this makes them more absorbent. I personally recommend getting 24 newborn sized Green Mountain Diaper (GM) prefolds (orange edge) and 24 of the small sized (yellow edge). I also highly recommend Flip, Thirsties, and Rumparooz covers. I have two newborn sized covers (the newborn sized ones usually have a dip for the umbilical cord, as well as just being smaller) and two or three OS (one-size) covers. If you’re trying to save money, just get the newborn sized GMs and two covers. Unless you have a premie, your baby will likely be able to go from those to the OS diapers pretty quickly. You’ll also need snappis, which are small rubber fasteners used to hold the prefold in place. If you REALLY don’t want to use prefolds or snappis, you can always get Fitted Diapers instead, which are basically Prefolds with sewn-in snaps.
My newborn stash:
24 newborn Green Mountain Diaper Prefolds
24 small sized Green Mountain Diaper Prefolds
5-pack of snappis
OS (One-Size) Diapers: My kids are able to go into OS diapers around two months or so. (usually once they hit about 10-12 pounds). They probably could wear them a bit earlier than that, but I enjoy using the Prefolds, instead of having them swallowed up by a huge diaper. There are a nine basic types of cloth diapers, but I exclusively use Pockets and AIOs (all-in-one’s). Pockets are annoying because you have to stuff them (put the insert into the diaper after you launder it – this takes five seconds, but adds up if you’re laundering an entire load of Pockets), but they do dry faster. You also have to pull the insert out after you take the diaper off your child, which is a bit annoying, but is handy if your child pees a lot and needs an extra insert. I usually use AIO’s when we’re out and about, so that I don’t have to unstuff the diaper when I’m sticking it in a wetbag. They’re a bit more expensive, which is another reason I don’t use them exclusively.
Different brands: The more people you talk to, the more opinions you’ll get on the best brand of diaper. It’s not only a personal choice, but also very much dependent on specific kids. Some babies are allergic to a certain types of fabric, others are super-soakers and pee through certain brands, and of course if your child is very skinny they might not fill out a diaper the same way as a really chunky baby would. For this reason, I would highly recommend trying several brands and not opening/washing all of your diapers immediately. Wait until your baby is born and try a few at a time. BUT, you obviously want to register immediately and get an entire stash, just keep in mind that you might return some of them.
My personal opinion: I love Bumgenius (BG) diapers. I had a lot of experience using them for past nanny families and I just liked how simple they were, that they were well-made and held up after years of use, and that they’re easy to buy (Buy Buy Baby carries them in stores). They are in the mid-to-pricey range, but I didn’t see that as a drawback, since I was registering for them and not buying the entire stash myself. Plus, I figured if they didn’t work for my kiddo, that would just mean I’d get back enough money to still have some flexibility in what I was gonna buy. You do want to make sure to buy the snap diapers, and not the velcro (which wear out faster). Also, be aware that the one big complaint often expressed by users is that the gussets (the elastics around the legs) wear out after using the diapers for several kids. This is apparently a really easy fix, though, if you know how to use a sewing machine. Plus, I figured if a diaper wears out after being used for multiple children, that’s pretty normal wear and tear. I try to protect my diapers by not putting them through the dryer (we have a rack we use to air dry). From everything I’ve read, the diapers are made well-enough these days that the dryer really doesn’t shorten their lifespan. However, I am also aware of how much energy a dryer uses, so I figure that air drying them just helps us with both our electric bill and conserving energy. Plus, air drying them is really not that big of an inconvenience. In the summer, this helps keep them white, too, because the sun helps bleach the stains out. Another way I maintain the life of each diaper is by never hanging the AIO’s with their flaps hanging down, since this pulls on the gussets. I either spread them out horizontally, or use a clothes pin to pull the flaps together. I find that about 28-30 diapers is the perfect number to have so that you only have to wash them roughly every three days. When creating my baby registry, I registered for about twenty BG pocket diapers, ten BG AIOs, and then a few other brands I wanted to try. I couldn’t stand the Nicki’s Diapers I got because I thought they were very poorly made and leaked a lot. Same thing for the Kawaii Diapers and Charlie Banana diapers. A lot of people LOVE GroVia diapers, but they were just huge on my kids and leaked constantly through the gussets. They’re also extremely expensive. Diapers I’ve heard highly recommended, but haven’t tried myself: Blueberries, Lighthouse kids, and Smart Bottoms.
Thoughts to consider: Microfiber is not the greatest for containing leaks. It’s a synthetic fabric, so many people hate it. All of our diapers have microfiber inserts, because they were only just coming out with the Elementals when Povi was born and they were a good bit more expensive. As my diapers start to wear out, I would like to try to replace them with these and see how they do as compared to the older microfiber models. That said, NO cloth diaper is made to handle more than a few hours of peeing during the day. (during the night, folks will often stuff the diaper with more inserts so they can handle the longer length of night peeing. We have hemp inserts for our night diapers). Cloth diapers will need to be changed about every two, sometimes three hours, or they will leak – usually around the legs.
You want to test your water and establish a good wash routine IMMEDIATELY. Don’t wait until you’re having problems. Fluff Love University is an amazing resource and if you go to their Facebook group, they will help you set up a wash routine. Don’t follow the instructions on the diapers, because often (weirdly enough) the manufacturers have terrible washing advice. This might be because many of them are trying to push their own (inadequate) detergents. Stay far away from soaps and detergents that market themselves exclusively for cloth diapers.
I highly recommend avoiding used diapers when you’re first starting out. I know of many people who bought used diapers, not realizing how badly used (or poorly washed) they were. These folks quickly found themselves frustrated by the constant leaks and lost motivation to cloth diaper. If you have the money, it’s better to start with a couple of new diapers, so that you really can figure out what works for your kids, then potentially buy used from there. Because we’re planning on having a big family, though, I’m highly in favor of just buying new and being able to put the wear and tear on them myself as we continue having kids.
Besides the diapers themselves, you’ll also need wet bags (bags that you can put the wet and dirty diapers into until you wash them). I recommend getting two travel sized wet bags (just make sure not to get the tiniest size, like I did!) and two full sized wet bags. Many folks in the cloth diapering community prefer to store their dirty diapers in open hampers, but I’m personally grossed out by that. I use a Dekkor Plus Diaper Pail with the reusable cloth bags and I have never had an issue with smells. The one drawback is that the pails aren’t huge, but I make it work.
Speaking of dirty diapers, the biggest yuck-factor of cloth diapering definitely comes along when your baby starts eating solids and then pooping ’em out. Unlike lovely EBF baby poop, this solid-food poop is gross. And needs to be cleaned off the diapers before they go into the wash machine. Most people use a diaper sprayer to wash the poop off directly into the toilet. We have this toilet sprayer, although – confession: I hate dealing with poop and found that practicing Elimination Communication with my kiddos got my out of all that poop-scraping business. My five month old is already pooping on the toilet for me and I’m a huge fan. But even if you have an EC kid, you’ll still want this sprayer for any misses or bad days.
One last bit of equipment you’ll need are wipes. Some people just go ahead and do disposable wipes and that’s fine, but it is kind of a pain to have to toss your diapers in one bin and your wipes in another – especially if you’re out and about. Cloth wipes are incredibly easy to make – you can literally just cut up an old receiving blanket or any flannel laying around. If you want to get fancy, just sew the edges so they don’t constantly have threads coming off. My mom made me about fifty wipes from two blankets and I use them with a small spray bottle of water. Works perfectly! I actually prefer them to the thicker (and harder to use) cloth wipes that are sold online. You’ll probably want to invest in a cloth diaper friendly butt paste, too, for any rashes your baby gets – be sure to check Fluff Love University before you buy one, because many of the mainstream creams and pastes don’t work with cloth diapers. They’ll get into the fabric and cause leakage issues. I bought Boudreaux’s Butt Paste (the green box) at Buy Buy Baby and it’s always worked perfectly.
Keep in mind that while cloth diapering IS becoming more and more mainstream, many people still don’t know much about them and – from what I hear and have experienced – most baby shower participants seem to avoid buying cloth diapers. I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t think the mom will actually end up using the cloth or if they are just unfamiliar with the brands and would rather buy something they know and like. I would highly recommend trying to make the process as easy as possible, though, if you’re hoping to get as much of your stash as possible at your shower. Have an easy to navigate baby registry, be sure to talk about how excited you are about cloth diapering to friends and family, and maybe even put a note on the top of the registry about how you’re hoping to use cloth and would love to get as many cloth diapers as possible to start out your stash!
My OS Diaper Stash & Equipment:
20 Pocket Diapers
Phew! Well, I think that’s it! Adding a photo of adorable, fluff-butted baby-Povi from back in the day to finish out this post. Hope this helps!