Thursday, June 6, 2013

what I've learned about cloth diapers


  • Prefolds: flat cloth with more layering sewn into the middle
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  • Flats: Um...just flat cloth. Flats and prefolds are time-consuming to put on, but they are the cheapest cloth diapering option.
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  • Fitteds: cloth that is pre-shaped and has snaps. Fitted diapers are absorbent and offer great coverage.
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Prefolds, flats, and fitted diapers need covers because they are not waterproof. You can put the diaper inside your cover and then put it on the baby, or you can fasten the diaper to the baby with a fastener (pins or the non-pokey Snappis) for better coverage and then put the cover on. There is a bit of a learning curve; look up special folding instructions for prefolds and flats.

  • Pockets: waterproof cover with cloth pocket in which you stuff a liner/insert for absorbency. Pocket diapers wick away moisture from baby's bum and have customizable absorbency based on the number and type of inserts.

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  • All-in-ones: absorbent cloth is sewn into a waterproof cover. Sorry, AIOs, you don't get a picture. I guess these ones are the least effort because all components are combined.


Total Cost: Approximately $300, not including the newborn rental kit.

I honestly have no idea how much money we've saved doing this because we've used a mix of both disposable and cloth, but I think we've probably spent as much on getting to this point in cloth diapering goods as we would've spent on the disposables we didn't buy doing cloth.

We now have a stash of 19-ish diapers, which I feel is a perfectly adequate number with changes every 3-ish hours during the day.

  • 12 Alva pocket diapers ($5 per diaper from This site was such a find for me. Bonus, she gives you a sample of CJ's butter, a cloth-diaper-safe diaper cream!)
  • 5 BumGenius 4.0 pocket diaper (approximately $20 per diaper, which is so expensive, but I do really like them!)
  • 1 CharlieBanana pocket diaper (approximately $20 and not worth the cost, in my opine, but does have adjustable leg elastics, which is cool.)
  • 1 Kawaii Snazzy Minky pocket diaper ($9)
  • 1 Kawaii original diaper (approximately $7, but came free with a certain-size order at
  • 2 Thirsties covers (approximately $13 per cover)
  • 3 Gerber prefolds that we received as a hand-me-down


  • Reusable wipes ($12)—This expense is unnecessary, probably, because you could make your own easily or just use washcloths. We have used like one pack of store-bought baby wipes over the past 14 months for out-of-house diaper changes.
  • Pail liner ($15)—Nice to have, but you could probably just use a pail without a liner.
  • Pail ($6 for a garbage pail with a lid)
  • Diaper sprayer ($30)—Very nice to have for solid poop that doesn't knock off into the toilet easily. Also doubles as a bidet, which saves on toilet paper! Too much information?

Cloth diapering a newborn

If you're interested in diapering your baby from the outset, you'll probably need a set of diapers specifically for the newborn phase (which is why I think rental kits are a cool idea). Most one-size diapers don't work amazingly well with tiny legs and bodies, but I've heard a few do. Fitted and prefold diapers are good options for newborn diapers, from what I can tell, because they contain explosive (read: exclusive breast-fed) newborn poop really well. Make sure to use a cover with leg gussets in order to get maximum containment!

Newborn cloth diaper rental

We did a newborn cloth diaper rental from a lady in SLC who runs Cloth Diaper Utah. I did not love the cloth diaper rental from her. First of all, the newborn AIOs that she gave us didn't actually fit Shepherd until he was 3 months old. It was a trial package of used diapers, 24 AIOs, and the fee was $100, only $25 of which was refundable. There are rental packages with better diaper options and better refund options available from cloth diaper stores online. (If you want a specific list for ideas about rental options, request it in the comments and I can e-mail you mine!)

Velcro (hook and loop) vs snap closures

I didn't love the velcro, which we used on our AIO rental and one of the Thirsties covers, because it gets worn easily and is scratchy/snaggy, and is harder to maintain. (If you do go with velcro, remember to close it/attach it in the wash to keep it nicer.)

Rashes and diaper cream

Haven't had a problem with rashes using pocket diapers, though Shep's skin is not overly sensitive. In fact, I've heard some people have fewer problems with cloth diapers because there are not as many chemicals in contact with baby's bottom, assuming you're using some good detergent. You should not use most rash creams with cloth diapers, though, because they don't wash out easily and can thus cause absorbency issues.

Type of inserts

I've heard that more natural fiber inserts (e.g., organic cotton, bamboo, and hemp) are more absorbent than microfiber, which is the type of insert that came with all of the pocket diapers we own. You can also use prefolds and flats as inserts.

Using both disposables and cloth 

We use disposables at night and sometimes if we have a diaper change while we're out and about. The next step in my cloth diapering progression is to use cloth diapers at night. I'm hoping to get a few more inserts to double up before I try this.


Cloth diapers do require rather special laundry care. If doing laundry more often for you is a major problem, this may be a deal-breaker for you. Most detergents are not ideal for cloth diapers because they leave some residue on the diapers that make them less absorbent. I've heard some people say they use Tide Original without problems, but this seems specious to me. More environmentally friendly detergents that don't contain harsh soaps are usually a better idea, but they are also harder to find in stores and more expensive. (You really should not need to use much soap in your wash cycle, though.) You should also have at least one extra rinse cycle to get them really clean.

Hard water leaves mineral deposits and sometimes you'll need to "strip" your diapers to get rid of these residual deposits. RLR is a popular laundry additive used for stripping diapers, but like many detergents, it can be hard to get your hands on. I've also heard of stripping methods using Dawn, vinegar, hot water alone, boiling, and washing soda or baking soda. Boiling can harm the fibers of different inserts and ruin waterproof fabrics; hot water may not be incredibly effective; and RLR is basically the same thing as washing soda/baking soda, but in a more concentrated form. I really have a lot of faith in the power of stripping to increase the absorbency of diapers.

Make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions on the diapers.

I never put my diapers in the dryer. I either hang them inside or outside to dry on a line. Hanging outside is nice because the sun does wonders on stains!

Getting used diapers

I wouldn't have any qualms about getting a rental kit of used diapers, especially from sellers that have care guidelines that renters agree to. Also because you only use rental diapers for a short time. I'd be careful about buying used diapers for a permanent stash, though, because you don't necessarily know how they've been treated, and many cloth diapers need a pretty assiduous wash routine in order to stay nice, absorbent, and functional. There are plenty of people who do not follow these recommendations and eventually it degrades the diaper. So that's why I would be wary of buying used. But if you have good, reliable information about the diaper's history before buying, why not?

Making your own cloth diapers

I actually know nothing about this, only that it's possible.