I wanted to use cloth diapers for a long time before we made the switch, when my oldest daughter was 5 months old. Why did we wait? Cloth diapering seemed complicated, and all the information out there confused me more! Below is some information that I hope you find helpful in your research about cloth diapers. If you have any questions, don't hesistate to use the contact form to ask!
Kinds of Cloth Diapers
Saving Money with Cloth Diapers
Your New Diapers
Washing and Caring for Your Diapers
If Your Diapers are Leaking
Kinds of Cloth Diapers
Once you make the decision to cloth diaper, you probably feel like you are all set. Then you start to look at all the different diapering options. You aren`t so sure anymore. What are all these kinds of diapers? Fabrics? How do I know which ones need a cover? If you`re overwhelmed by all the choices, you`re not alone. I wavered in my decision to cloth diaper simply because I wasn`t sure what I should buy. Here is a quick tutorial on the different kinds of diapers.
These are the diapers you may have seen in stores. They are rectangles that appear trifolded. Many of you have used them as burp rags-I did! Prefolds are also great diapers. They are cost-efficient and made of natural fibers. You fold them around the baby, fasten them with a pin or Snappi and add a waterproof cover so they don`t leak. Some parents prefer to "trifold" the prefold and simply lay it into the cover. This is the easiest and fastest way to use a prefold. Prefolds are great for allowing plenty of air to your baby`s bottom. To view prefolds, visit the prefolds section of my store. Prefolds seem like a lot of work at first, but after a while, many cloth diapering parents enjoy them!
Advantages: inexpensive, natural fiber, breathable, easy to wash. durable
Disadvantages: least like disposables, can be tricky to fasten, need to master different folds, need liners to be stay-dry
Like prefolds, these diapers also need a cover. Many fitteds are made of natural fibers, but they can also be made with microfiber. Fitteds look like other kinds of diapers (all-in-ones, pockets), but are not waterproof. They can fasten with snaps or aplix (velcro). Many cloth diapering parents do not use a cover with fitteds because they are often too cute to cover! Instead, they are vigilant about monitoring the wetness of the diaper and changing often. This provides excellent air circulation to your baby`s bottom, but is probably not recommended when you are out and about. For parents that like to use fitted diapers without a traditional cover, fleece pants make a great and breathable barrier for leaks.
Advantages: breathable, absorbent, very leak-proof when used with a cover
Disadvantages: need a cover, can take a long time to dry
All in One:
This is the kind of diaper that many parents who want something "like a disposable" choose at first. Upon first glance, these diapers seem to have many advantages, and they do. True to their name, all-in-ones (AIOs) are one piece and easy to put on. They come with snap or aplix closures. They are waterproof and do not need covers. They are a favorite of dads, grandparents, and daycare centers.
Advantages: One piece, easy, most like disposables
Disadvantages: More expensive, long drying time, can be hard to get clean, can leak more easily than a diaper/cover system
||Pockets take what`s good about an AIO and remove some of its negative features. Like AIOs, pockets are waterproof. They often have stay-dry inners to keep your baby dry. Instead of one piece, pockets have a pocket opening at the front or back of the diaper. You put an insert into this opening. Inserts can be made of hemp, microfiber, bamboo, the list is endless. Many parents stuff pockets with trifolded prefolds. The closures are identical to AIOs and just as easy to use.
Advantages: Can adjust absorbency, very much like disposables, waterproof, stay-dry, inserts are easier to clean and dry than AIOs
Disadvantages: Need to stuff pockets, is a more expensive option, can leak if used incorrectly
All in Two:
||All-in-two diapers (AI2) have soakers that snap on and off or lay inside of a cover. It's a blend between the all in one and prefold styles. Like prefolds, a cover is reused several times, keeping the cost lower. All in two soakers are similar to the inside of a pocket or all in one diaper-many are topped with stay dry fleece or use microfiber for absorbency. Unlike a pocket, the absorbency is snapped or laid in the cover (not stuffed). Simply change the soaker and you are good to go!
||Covers are go over fitteds and prefolds to make them waterproof. They have snap or aplix closures. Many cover styles also double as an all in two cover when used with the proper soaker.
Take a look at the different kinds, and think about what`s most important to you in a diaper. There's no one "best" kind or style. Remember that you don`t have to use just one kind. We started out with just pockets and AIOs, and now use a little of everything! Different diapers are good for different situations.
How many diapers? This is a common question for parents getting started in cloth diapering. There isn`t really a straight answer for this. How many diapers you need depends on three things:
1. How many children you are diapering
2. How old the children are
3. How often you want (or plan) to wash
The older your child, the less diapers you`ll need each day. Newborns can go through 10-12 (some days we used 15!) diapers a day. Infants will use 8-10, while toddlers may only need 5-6.
Take notice of your child`s patterns to see how often they soil a diaper.
Most peple find that washing every second to third day is manageable. This interval also keeps the diaper pail fresher. It can also help your diapers to wash better and stay fresher. Obviously, the more often you wash, the less diapers you`ll need. Some people go up to a week between washes. You`ll need a lot more diapers to do this, and may run into odor problems with your diapers.
Once you figure out a ballpark amount per child, add these together. Always allow for a few extra diapers in case you can`t wash on time.
The number you`ll need will vary on the factors discussed, but plan on having:
30-40 diapers for a newborn
20-30 for an infant
12-20 for a toddler
Don`t go overboard-buy a minimum and add as you need to. If your goal is to save money, you`ll want to slowly add diapers to your stash until you find a comfortable number.
What else will you need? Be sure to read about diapering accessories and use the checklist to keep track of what you'll want to get. Some accessories are really important and other are just nice to have. At a minimum, most cloth diapering household need:
~a wet bag for storing dirty diapers when you're out
~a pail liner or hanging pail to store dirty diapers at home
~a diaper safe laundry detergent
~36 cloth wipes (if using cloth wipes as well)
Saving Money With Cloth Diapers
When I first considered cloth diapers, I was shocked at how much they were! How could a diaper that costs 15-18 dollars really save me money in the long run? Cloth diapering requires a larger initial outlay of money than disposables. Over time though, it really does pay off.
In the newborn stages, babies can go through 10 diapers (or more) a day. Just about the cheapest I was ever able to find newborn-sized diapers was 20 cents a piece. That`s about 2 dollars a day, or $60 a month. Even a very economical disposable at 12 cents a piece would run $36 a month.
As babies get older, they tend to need less diapers. What I noticed is that disposables cost more per diaper as the size increases. Even at a really good sale price of 15 cents a diaper, they are going to cost about $30 a month.
Some people change their children less often to save money on disposables. Yes, they hold a lot, but should they? How often would YOU want your diaper changed? This is clearly not a way to save money!
At $30 (at least a month) for 30 months (assuming a potty-training age of 2 1/2), disposables cost at least $900. You can cloth diaper a baby in prefolds and covers for about $300 dollars birth-potty-training. If you wanted to use the more expensive diapers that are most like disposables, you could still get a good one-size package for less than $500. Sized diapers cost more, as you need to buy multiple sizes. Even spending $400x 3 sizes, you`d spend $1,200 and still come out ahead.
How is that? You can use your diapers for the next child! Even buying sized diapers for a greater cost, you`d still save money if you used these diapers on another child. It is this resuability factor that turns cloth diapering from a good deal to a great one.
Still having trouble making that initial purchase? Here are some tips:
1.Before the baby, set aside $30-60 a month. This is what you`d be spending on disposables. By 8 months, you`d have at least $240 dollars to buy a simple prefold set or most of a one-size set.
2. Start small. Buy 2 or 3 diapers each month until you have enough to cloth diaper full-time.
3. Shop sales. Think of what you want and watch for some good deals. I have some diaper packages in my store that can lower the cost of cloth diapering. I also offer a great customer rewards program, price-matching, layaway and link referral program.
4. Consider one-size diapers. After the newborn stage, most cloth diapers will take you right into potty training without a problem. Don`t worry about buying different sizes!
5. Consider prefolds and covers. There`s no cheaper way to cloth diaper than with prefolds and covers. While it may seem intimidating at first, prefolds are easy to use and clean. Even if they make up only a part of your diaper stash, prefolds save money!
Your New Diapers
When your diapers arrive…
Look over your diapers carefully. Check to make sure the diaper is the correct size and color. If you bought a package of diapers, you may want to try one before washing and using all of them. In the event the diaper isn’t working for you, you can return the brand new diapers for another brand, size or style.
To prepare your diapers for use…
Check the manufacturer directions for washing and prepping your diapers. In the event that you cannot find the directions, follow the general guidelines below. Remember though, that you’ll get the best results from the manufacturer directions.
Pocket diapers, covers, microfiber inserts
In general, washing and drying these one time is sufficient. You may want to toss your PUL diapers and covers in the dryer this time, even if you intend to line-dry your diapers. The heat from the dryer can help to seal any sewing holes.
All-in-one diapers, fitted diapers, prefold diapers, doublers, natural fiber soakers and inserts
These diapers take at least three washes and dryings (and even up to 8-10 complete washings) to reach maximum absorbency. Wash and dry natural fibers (hemp, bamboo, unbleached cotton) separately from micro fleece until the natural oils are washed away (about 3-4 washes).
Using your diapers for the first time... and getting a good fit...
For best leakage protection, the diaper should completely cover your child’s bottom. Parents and children have different preferences for how far the diaper reaches in the front. A rise that reaches too far past your child’s belly button may cause discomfort. Too low of a rise may cause leaks. You may need to adjust the fit of the diaper until you find a comfortable rise.
Diapers should fit snugly, but not constrict. Diapers that are too loose will leak. Adjust the diaper so that it does not pull or gap. You should be able to fit a finger or two into the waistband. The leg elastic should be snug but still have some give to it.
Be sure that your prefold diapers and fitted diapers are completely covered by your waterproof cover. With pocket diapers, the insert should be entirely in the pocket opening. For all-in-one diapers and all-in-two diapers, it's important for the soaker not to peek out of the cover. Check that any tags are tucked in. Hanging tags can cause leaks.
Your child’s pants and shirt should not be tucked into the diaper. If using a onesie, make sure that it is not pulling at the crotch of the diaper and that it is not too tight. This can cause leaks.
You may find that you need to use a diaper cream. Many manufacturers caution against the use of diaper creams or approve of certain diaper-safe creams. Consider using a liner in the diaper to protect it from creams you use. There are many diaper-safe creams on the market, but differences in local water supply, detergent and wash routines can affect how well the creams wash out of your diapers. Test on a small spot or use a liner until you are sure the cream will wash out.
Stay away from creams with fish oils. Many zinc oxide creams will not harm your diapers, but may stain them. In general, micro fleece and suedecloth will have the greatest chance of diaper cream build up or stains, and natural fibers will be less affected.
Washing and Caring for Your Diapers
If you've done any reading about cloth diapers, you might have found that there are as many wash routines as there are brands. Before you start to go crazy with a complicated routine, keep it very simple!
The first place you should check when figuring out how to wash your diapers is on the care tag of the brand(s) you purchased. Many brands have very specific directions on how to wash their diapers. Additives like fabric softener and bleach might harm the diaper or void its warranty. Soaking diapers in vinegar or soapy water for a long time can weaken the elastic. Always start with the basic directions provided by the manufacturer.
What if you have a combination of styles and brands that recommend different things? Below is my wash routine. I find that it's fine for most brands. I might use detergent in a different place than a brand or two suggests, but there's nothing in this routine that will hurt your diapers:
1. Shake any solids into the toilet before washing.
2. Toss your diapers into the machine, making sure you've secured any laundry tabs. If you're using pocket diapers, you may want to shake the insert loose from the pocket so that it comes apart in the wash.
3. Run a cold cycle with water only-no detergent. My washer has a "quick wash" setting that's good for this. Your washer might have a fast wash or rinse only setting. Play around with it to see what works. Even a quick soak and drain can help. This allows the washer to rinse out the urine and leftover stool from the diapers. That way, when you add the detergent, it has less soilage to compete with.
4. Run a warm or hot cycle with the recommended amount of a diaper safe detergent. Depending on the size of the load and the efficacy of your washer and water, you may find you need to adjust the detergent amount for your needs. It's always best to use less and work your way up. That way you won't need to do a bunch of extra rinses to wash out any detergent build up.
Depending on your washer, you may be done. Some people feel more comfortable adding an extra rinse to their wash. It's really up to you.
5. Separate inserts and prefolds from pockets, all in ones and covers. Anything without elastic should be fine in the dryer on low to medium heat. Items with elastic will last longer if you hang them dry. An occasional dryer trip on low heat is fine, but be sure not to leave them in too long. Heat shortens the life of elastic.
If your diaper are leaking…
There are many reasons why a diaper may leak. If the diaper is very wet or soaked when you notice the leaks, follow these trouble-shooting tips:
Change more often. Most diapers are designed to be changed about every 2 hours.
Add absorbency-if your child is soaking a diaper very quickly, you may need to add absorbency. Hemp fibers are very trim and make excellent doublers or extra inserts.
If the diaper does not seem very wet:
Check the inserts. Pocket diapers that are under stuffed will cause leaks. Make sure the insert fills the pocket opening without bunching. If you have overstuffed your diaper, there may be gaps that are causing leaks.
Check the fit. Diapers that are too loose, too big, too tight or too small will leak.
Check that your waterproof covering is completely covering the diaper or insert.
Make sure that a onesie or other piece of clothing is not pulling or shifting the diaper.
Make sure that you have completely prepped the diaper. For those with hard water, even microfiber, microfleece and suedecloth may require additional prep washes.
Check to make sure the rash cream and detergent you are using are diaper-safe. A build-up of these products will cause micro fleece to repel liquid.
Consider microfiber. Some natural fibers do not absorb quickly enough if your child has a heavy stream. Combining microfiber with absorbent natural fibers can be a successful combination.
For many families, cloth diapering happens in stages: First, getting used to diapering at home while the baby is awake. Next, trying out diapering during naps. Then, testing cloth while on short outings. When that works, using cloth when going out for the day. Finally...using cloth at night.
Why is night diapering often the last step? Many parents are intimidated by finding a diaper that must last up to 12 hours. Others try night diapering right from the beginning and are discouraged by leaks.
Is it possible to diaper at night from the beginning? Yes, it is! You just need to be prepared with the proper absorbency.
Newborns If you are diapering right from the newborn stage, night diapering is simpler at first.Since "sleeping through the night" is really just a longer nap, maximum absorbency is not necessary. You can usually add a doubler to your preferred diaper without any other worries.
Infants As they begin to sleep for longer periods, the absorbency needs of infants begin to grow. During this stage, it's a good idea to double up on inserts in pocket diapers. If using prefolds, a good hemp doubler and well-fitting cover can contain most infants. An absorbent one-size fitted may be fine on its own or need a hemp booster.
Toddlers and heavy wetters: For older babies, heavy wetters, or those lucky enough to go 12 hours, maximum absorbency is needed. It may be necessary to use 2 prefolds or more than 2 inserts. Using trimmer fabrics like hemp and bamboo can help to add absorbency without a ridiculous amount of bulk.
Great products for night diapering
Fleece covers: For many parents, fleece at night is an essential. Pull on covers, wrap style covers or fleece pockets like Drybees offer great leakage protection. Some people even use fleece over a PUL cover like Thirsties.
Wool: People love wool for many of the same reasons they love fleece. It's worth a try!
Hemp-it's trim and absorbent. Hemp makes a great addition to any night diaper.
For side sleepers and tummy sleepers, it's important to make sure the absorbency isn't concentrated in the back of the diaper. For these babies, pockets may not provide enough protection in vulnerable areas. Prefold and fitted diapers that wrap more completely around the body may be more effective. Pull-on covers are also a good idea for tummy and side sleepers.
The trimmer your diapering combination, the more comfortable your baby will be. Consider trim doubling fabrics such as hemp to increase absorbency without increasing bulk.
If you are opting for prefolds and fitteds at night, you may find your baby needs some wetness protection for her skin. A good barrier cream or fleece liner can help your baby's skin stay dry.
Sometimes overstuffing a diaper can create gaps at the legs and cause leaks. Make sure you maintain a good fit around the legs.
PUL: short for polyurethane laminate. This is laminated fabric that is used for waterproof outer coverings. Pocket diapers and many covers are made of PUL.
microfiber: This is the material many inserts are made out of. Microfiber holds a lot of liquid and is not very bulky.
hemp: Hemp is also very absorbent, but is a natural fiber. It is also used to make inserts.
bamboo: Bamboo is becoming more and more popular in the cloth diapering world! The three most common kinds are bamboo velour, bamboo terry, and bamboo fleece. Bamboo is wonderfully soft and fairly absorbent. It is used for both the outside and inside of many diapers.
microfleece: This is the stay-dry inner of most pockets
suedecloth-This is also a stay-dry fabric of some pocket diapers
When people start cloth diapering, there is so much terminology to explain. It would absolutely be easier if the names microfleece and microfiber weren't so close. Microfleece is often used in the lining of pocket diapers. It's a "stay-dry" fabric, meaning that urine and wetness pass through and the smooth fabric itself retains a fairly dry feeling. Microfiber, on the other hand, is very absorbent and feels like terry. Little loops like terry increase surface area and absorbency.
Why shouldn't microfiber go against the skin? It's too absorbent. This is great for a diaper insert, but not so great against the skin. If there's no urine to catch, it begins wicking away moisture from the skin. After a short time, the skin can become chapped and irritated.Since microfleece is not absorbent, it doesn't continually drain the skin of moisture. It will allow liquids to pass through, however, making it a good choice for a stay-dry pocket diaper.
©2009-2011 Michelle Rivenburg