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Monday, August 29, 2011

Cloth Diapering 101 {The Basics}

Who says cloth diapering is hard?  I don’t buy arguments that it’s harder than disposables or not as convenient as disposables.  I’m the queen of “easy” and I swear, cloth diapering is definitely not challenging.  I do understand those people who have issues with getting their hands dirty… but really, that happens sometimes even with disposables! 

I made the decision to cloth diaper for many reasons, the first being that they are better for the environment.  Yes, washing the diapers uses our water resources, but that water is recycled through the environment naturally.  I truly want to limit the number of disposables that I contribute to the landfills.  Also, my husband has VERY sensitive skin, so we were both concerned about the chemicals in disposables if Lily ended up with skin like his; plus, we mommas know how desperately uncomfortable feminine pads are (I HATE THEM and am looking into cloth pads for myself!) and disposable diapers can’t be much more comfortable.  Most importantly (to me) is that cloth diapering is WAY cheaper than disposables. 

We used disposables when Lily was a newborn because of the nasty meconium days, and because the cloth system I initially invested in was just not working for her.  They didn’t fit properly (even the “newborn” size) and we had leaks EVERY diaper change.  Leaks = changing a crying newborn’s outfit and bedding in the middle of the night when mommy so desperately wants to go back to sleep.  This battle pushed me over the edge into disposable land. 

We still currently use disposables at night because Lily seems to hold her pee until bedtime and sleeps on her tummy.  This combination (thank you, gravity) ends up soaking an ENTIRE cloth prefold and leaks out the front of the diaper wrap, no matter how perfectly snug the wrap is fitted, and who in their right mind is going to wake a peacefully sleeping baby in the middle of the night to change her diaper??  Not this momma!  I’m currently experimenting with a couple different brands and combinations to find a leak proof system that works for us, so I’ll get back to you on that endeavor. 

All that being said, I don’t judge anyone for their diapering choices!  Do what keeps you sane!  However, know that cloth diapering is not difficult, there are options for everyone, and they are SO CUTE!  Cloth diapering has come a long way from plain cloth prefolds from a diaper service, secured with a safety pin!

So, if you’re interested in giving cloth diapering a go, here are my tips for making cloth diapering easier.

1. Get a washable wet bag for your diaper bag.  Mine has an inner waterproof section for wet, and an outer zippered pocket for dry.  This eliminates using a ton of disposable Ziploc bags ($$)!  I store all of my clean diapers and washcloths in the outside pocket, then pop the wet ones in the inside pocket.  It also has a strap with a snap, so it can be attached to a stroller handle.  It’s a great on-the-go diaper bag, so I don’t always need to bring my big bulky diaper bag.  Sweet.

2. Get a wet sack for your baby’s room.  I don’t personally like the idea of a wet pail in an infant’s room.  Too much of a hazard, even with a fitted lid… kids are resourceful.  I use a wet bag with an elastic top and use it to line a small box (no room for a full trash can, which is what they are made to line).  Then when it’s time for a wash, the whole bag gets dumped into the washer.  Hands free!

3. Get a baskets or cloth bins for storing clean cloth diapers and washcloths.  Or if you are diapering on a dresser and can dedicate an entire drawer to diapering supplies, awesome.  I use baskets and bins.  Staying organized makes cloth diapering life so much easier.

4. Wipes… Lily did end up with daddy’s sensitive skin, so I can’t use disposable baby wipes; even the “sensitive” ones make her break out into a rash.  Plus, why use disposable wipes when you’re using reusable diapers?  So I use baby washcloths dipped in plain water in a small bowl.  Be sure to change the water and the water bowl frequently.  Water gets slimy over time - this has nothing to do with diapering!  Standing water just gets slimy and gross.  That’s why the pilgrims drank beer coming across the Atlantic… but I digress.  You don’t want a slimy water bowl, so change it at least every other day. 

4. Changing a cloth diaper is just as easy as changing a disposable, with one extra step of dumping solids in the toilet.  I use this time as an early potty-training tool.  I use a kleenex to take the poop out of the diaper and set it aside... unless it’s really mushy, which happens when Lily eats too much squash, in which case the diaper goes out into a bucket of water in the garage to soak, then gets rinsed out in the garage sink before going into the washer.  After removing the solids with a kleenex, the wet diaper goes in the wet sack.  I wipe her down with a washcloth and plain water, which also goes into the sack.  When she’s diaper-clad, we go to the bathroom together and put the kleenex-wrapped poop in the toilet, while I sing the "Poo poo in the potty, poo poo in the potty!  Bye bye poo poo!" song.  Yes, I am outrageously silly and my husband shakes his head at me when I sing to the toilet, but I am hoping this experience of equating poop with toilet will help her with potty training in the future.  That’s what I tell myself anyway…

5. Washing!  I wash my cl0th diapers on average every other day.  I use a very small amount of generic free & clear detergent (not even 1/3 cup), 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of vinegar (give or take – I don’t measure anymore, I just pour).  I probably don't even need the detergent to be honest.  I wash once on cold then again on hot to fully rinse them, and dry on medium heat.  The diaper covers are hung to dry.  I haven't had any smell issues – the baking soda and vinegar get rid of the ammonia pee smell, which is worse than any poop smell in my nose’s opinion.  Any pesky stains get sun therapy - hanging in the sun works wonders for whites!  

6. Don’t limit yourself to one style of cloth diaper!  And DO NOT fall in love with a brand on the internet and spend a bunch of money on all sizes and colors only to find out that that particular brand doesn’t work for you (yes, I did this, and no, they didn’t work for me, so I’ve been selling them on eBay and craigslist).  Purchase one or two and see if you like them before you commit.  Trust me and my wallet on this one.  You may end up loving one brand for day time at home, another brand for travel/babysitters, and yet another brand for naptime and bedtime.  Give yourself the flexibility to try different brands.  In the long run, it’s SO MUCH cheaper than disposables, so why not invest an extra few bucks into finding the perfect setup for you?  Especially when you can reuse cloth diapers for subsequent children!

Good Momma friend Kiel: 
"I would also add, as far as investing a bunch of money, don't waste money on the special 'cloth diaper detergent' like I did... Only to find out that your little one is allergic and that your stash of pre-folds (or what have you) are totally ruined. Also, my changing/storage situation was a little different. We changed diapers in the bathroom and kept our bin in there. If she pooped we would rinse the diaper in the toilet just by flushing and that did the trick."

Good Momma friend Ricki: 
"You may want to add that EBF {exclusively breast fed} babies have water soluble poop so no presoaking until the kiddo starts solids :) that's always nice to hear because in those early days almost every diaper has some amount of poop on it. And you let people know that if they do want to do cloth from the day one invest in coconut oil. It keeps the meconium from sticking to the baby butt and diaper!"

Please contact me if you have any questions or if I didn’t cover something.  I am not an expert but I am a good researcher, so if I don’t have an answer I am more than willing to try to find it for you!




  1. I love cloth diapers and used them on my daughter from 7 months until potty training. Now I'm working on a stash for my little boy, due in December. The only thing I would add is that life is just much easier after they start eating solids if you invest in a diaper sprayer. You don't even have to buy one of the name brand ones from a cloth diaper store. I googled "make your own diaper sprayer" and made a shopping list for hubby when he had a free weekend. It is just SO MUCH easier then scraping poop out of the diaper with toilet paper or a Kleenex!

  2. Nice through tips. I'll be sharing this with a pregnant friend who is palnning on CD'ing the squishy when he/she gets here.

  3. Great tips!! I definitely agree with you on not committing to one brand or type of cloth diaper before trying them out.

  4. I'd also mention that cded babies tend to
    pl much earlier and that there are hybrids with semi-disposable (compostable) parts...

  5. I have been cloth diapering my daughter from day 1 and I love it! I have even gotten a few friends to start cloth diapering!!


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