Kate, from Modern Alternative Mama, is guest posting today to tell us the how-to’s of cloth diapering! Be sure to pop on over and visit Kate for a ton of other wonderful posts on natural living!
Have you thought about trying cloth diapers, but you’re intimidated by all the different types and methods out there? It is overwhelming at first! I first seriously thought about cloth diapering just a few weeks before my first was born (prior to that, I had heard about it, but thought it was gross and weird!). Then I realized I could sew my own and save a ton of money, so I thought I’d give it a go. My husband was skeptical, but willing to try it with me.
Lo and behold, we love it! Four and a half years and three kids later (that is – we have three, and are expecting a fourth!), we’ve enjoyed using cloth diapers very much and have truly saved a ton of money! Our diaper stash cost us maybe $300 and it’s gone through all three kids so far! Our youngest is still in diapers. Compared to the disposable diapers estimate of $2000 per kid, that’s pretty huge. And since we’re (obviously) not done having babies, the savings will keep racking up.
So if the savings alone has you curious, but you’re still uncertain about the whole thing – maybe wondering if you have to have heavy, stinky diaper pails, pins, and plastic pants, let me reassure you: modern cloth diapering is much easier than that! Let’s dive in.
The Basic Supplies
You will need:
- 18 to 36 diapers
- Snappi or pins (maybe)
- A wet bag and/or diaper pail with lid
- Cloth-diaper safe detergent
That’s really it! You don’t need a lot, and you don’t need anything fancy. You don’t even need a Snappi (a neat little device for securing diapers without pins) if you use diapers with snap or hook-and-loop closures! Most styles do have these today; just the cheapest options don’t. You can read more about all the options and styles available, if you’re curious.
My recommendation? Start out with pocket diapers, and buy a few different brands. They fit different babies differently so there’s really no “ideal” diaper across the board. If you’re brave or looking for cheap, try out prefolds with wool pants. These, in my opinion, are the simplest options out there, and the most customizable if you find your baby is a light or heavy wetter or needs some adjustments.
You’ll find people who argue passionately for flats, AIOs, fitteds, and all the other styles too. And maybe you’ll love them. But there’s so much out there and it’s overwhelming. So stick with pocket diapers and/or prefolds with wool pants when you’re new, just to simplify things. Over time you’ll find out what works best for your baby, and create quite the stash! You might do some additional research later.
How to Use Your Diapers
Using your diapers is really very simple. I’ll describe it briefly.
For a pocket diaper – fold up the insert (if needed) and stuff it into the pocket in your diaper. Lay the diaper under the baby, pull the front up, and fasten to the correct tightness using the snaps or hook-and-loop. It’s really no different than using a disposable!
For prefolds and wool pants – fold the prefold in thirds, and lay it under the baby. If desired, place a scrap of fleece on top (it provides a stay-dry layer for the baby so they don’t feel wet, and can help prevent diaper rash, especially if you can’t change them immediately. You don’t need anything fancy; buy a ½ yard at a fabric store and cut strips that are about 8” by 3”). Pull the diaper up between baby’s legs. Hook the teeth of a Snappi on one side of the diaper, then stretch it across to the other side and hook it there. Pull the center down and hook it in the diaper. For little, non-mobile babies, you can even skip this part. Pull wool pants over the diaper (they’re like underwear). Bonus: wool pants naturally are breathable, but they help the clothing from feeling wet!
When it’s time to change the diaper, simply remove the diaper from the baby, cleaning the baby’s bottom if soiled. With a pocket diaper, toss the whole thing into a wet bag (a water proof bag) or a dry diaper pail. With a prefold and wool pants, toss just the prefold into the wet bag and keep the wool pants. These can be used several times before needing washed, although it’s good to have 2 – 3 pairs to rotate between, so they can dry a bit between uses.
The diapers can simply sit in this wet bag or dry pail for 2 – 3 days until washing time. I use a wet bag to line an old trash can, and I keep one upstairs and one down. Dry pails typically don’t smell, especially if you wash every couple of days. If they do smell, a lid and/or some baking soda can quickly take care of this.
For older babies, any solid poop should be dumped into the toilet before placing the diaper in the wet bag. This is not necessary for exclusively breastfed babies. Some people swear by diaper sprayers or scrapers for messier poop for older babies, but you know what? I never mess with that. I tried spraying/rinsing a diaper exactly once, found it messy and annoying, and never did it again. I’ve used two different washing machines and both have taken care of the poop just fine, and not left my diapers stinky or left any poop in my machine.
Then, you have to wash your diapers! It’s not really a big deal.
Grab your wet bag or diaper pail and haul it down to the basement. You’ll use only about ¼ the normal amount of detergent. A free&clear option is best; many people like Charlie’s Soap, Rockin’ Green, or soap nuts. I prefer soap nuts. I have used soap nuts on diapers and all my other laundry for four years and they remain my favorite. Your favorite will depend on the type of diapers you have and how hard or soft your water is. If something doesn’t work well for you, try something else.
Wash your diapers on hot, with an extra rinse. Dry them in the dryer, or hang them out on the line (always good to do from time to time, as sun will take care of any stains or stinkiness). My diapers have never stained.
If you’re curious, you can read my entire wash routine and thoughts.
Cloth diapers aren’t hard at all! They’re not stinky, gross, or messy. We have used disposables from time to time, like when our washer broke right after our third baby was born. My husband and I both vastly prefer cloth. Even when we’re traveling, or have a brand new baby, or people are sick. It’s the only laundry we actually keep up with. (And I hate laundry!) It has really worked beautifully for us.
Experiment to find out what works for you, but don’t let all the massive information and options out there prevent you from starting. There are lots of places where you can buy diapers used or borrow diapers so that you can try them out before committing. You can start part-time if you’re not so sure about using them at night or on the go. Cloth diapering isn’t all or nothing. Try it out! You just might love it.
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