Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cloth Diapers

So, we've been doing cloth diapers for a few months now, and while I'm certainly no expert on every aspect of them, I've gotten us set up and a system going that's totally working for us. I've had a few friends ask about them so I figured I'd put together a post with all the info I can think of.

Cloth Diapers Themselves

Trying to figure out what type of diapers to buy was daunting at first. There are All-in-Ones (AIO) and pockets; AIO's are literally one piece of diaper with the absorbent material sewn to the cover, while pocket diapers have a cover and a slit into which you stuff absorbent pads. There are one-size and sized; one-size diapers typically have snaps down the front so you can adjust the rise as Baby grows, while sized are just that - designed for a certain weight range. There are velcro tabs and snap tabs. There's the Flip system and the G Diaper system, both of which have their own idiosyncrasies. And then once you get past all of that, there are a billion different brands out there.

I bought up several different types of diapers before Julia was born. I bought most of them used, off of Craigslist, and picked up a few new ones here and there. We tried BumGenius (a very popular brand, especially locally), FuzziBunz, Rumparooz, Happy Heinies, Kangas, Kushies, and G Diapers. That's certainly not an exhaustive list of available brands, but I tried to cover off on the more highly-rated and more popular ones. In there, a few were AIO's although most were pocket diapers, most were one-size but a few were sized, and they were about half and half snaps vs velcro. Then, I planned to resell the types we didn't like as much (there's a vibrant secondhand market for well-maintained CDs) and purchase more of the ones we liked the best. An advantage to this system vs buying new was that I could see how well the diapers behaved even after they had been used for awhile.

We used disposable diapers for about the first 2-3 months. Even the one-sized diapers seemed HUGE on my newborn, and I was just trying to get through the days (and nights), meaning I totally didn't have the energy to set up a CD system then. But, when Julia was just shy of three months (and she was about 10 pounds), we made the switch. I wouldn't do that any differently if I had to go back and do it again.

Just for reference, Julia is a pretty average sized baby. She's been right in the 40%-60% range for height and weight since birth.

Pretty early on, I nixed the AIO's. Since the absorbent pad was sewn into the cover, and the cover could only be line-dried or dried in the dryer on low, they took FOR.EV.ER to dry. Like, a day and a half. I couldn't imagine having a set of diapers that required that much time for a cleaning cycle. Stuffing the pocket diapers takes about the same amount of time as opening up and stretching a disposable diaper, so even though I thought they'd be more work, it's totally not a big deal.

I wanted to like the velcro tabs, but I just couldn't. The velcro diapers have a little tab that you stick the velcro to for washing, but after awhile, the velcro sort of pulls back and ends up sticking to other diapers and wipes in the wash. The gripe with snaps is that most diapers have a row of snaps across the front of the diaper, but it's tough to remember which ones to use for the right fit, so you end up snapping one side, snapping the other, unsnapping the first side, and going back and forth a bit.  But, even though they're a little faster than snaps and a little more adjustable, it just felt like every time I opened the washing machine with a load of velcro diapers, there was a giant chain of diapers velcroed together and I was damaging them every time I pulled them apart.

See the velcro tabs pulling away? They look innocent, don't they?
Don't be fooled. They go mad destructive in the washing machine.
I also didn't realize how quickly Julia would grow into the one-sized diapers. I disliked them at first because – pretty obviously – all the extra material taken up in the front snaps made them pretty bulky and a little more leak-prone. But, Julia quickly moved through the snaps and by now – at 14 pounds and 5 months – we don’t use any of the front snaps, i.e. she’s in the diapers at their largest. Maybe I’m using them wrong or something, because this surprised me, but it was a pleasant surprise. The front snaps are just a short-lived thing.

However, we ended up purchasing FuzziBunz: sized, pocket diapers with snaps. FuzziBunz snap design eliminated the back-and-forth snap size issue since it's clear where the middle is, so that solved that issue for us. The medium FuzziBunz diapers fit 15-30 pounds, although we started using them on Julia at about 14 pounds and it's been fine. We're hoping we'll be into training pants or something by the time she's 30 pounds, although now that I've made that public I'm sure I've jinxed myself. I liked their simplicity, and the fact that the diaper covers don't stain. Other than Rumparooz, all the other diaper covers would stain, and my Rumparooz and FuzziBunz would come out totally clean every time. I know they say the stains come out in the sunshine, but I started this process in winter and seriously did not want to be putting loads of diapers outside to de-stain when there were brands out there that didn't stain in the first place.

Left to right - BumGenius (stains), Kushies (stains), FuzziBunz (no stains!)
So, I picked up 24 brand spanking new "gender neutral" diapers off of Amazon. Then I was sad that they weren't girly enough so I grabbed another 10 pink ones off of eBay. This has been way plenty enough diapers to do laundry every few days. They all come with a microfiber insert (sort of like a washcloth material), but I also picked up about 8 hemp inserts. Microfiber absorbs more quickly so will keep Baby's skin dry better, but hemp absorbs more liquid total, so the hemp ones are good for layering.


We have a front-loading, high-efficiency washer and dryer. I wash about every two days, maybe closer to every three. The diapers go into a Planet Wise hanging cloth bag that hangs on our door handle in the bathroom. We wash our hands after every diaper change, so it's easy to de-stuff the diaper and toss it in the bag since we're in the bathroom anyways. We got a diaper sprayer but honestly haven't used it much yet. Julia is still exclusively breastfed, so all poopy diapers go straight into the washer. I've tried out the sprayer a few times and don't love it yet (probably because the first time I had it backwards and it went right into my eye) but I know it'll get more use once she starts solid foods.

Just hangin' in the bathroom...

Bein' useful...
So, when the bag is full, I toss the contents into the washer. I do a cold soak (30 min), two cold rinses on low (30 min total) (on low to not spin out all the water in the inserts - since they absorb so much water I don't want them soaking up all the water during the following wash), toss in the bag, and run a hot wash (Whitest Whites on my machine) with 1/2 a load's worth of Country Save detergent. If the load is closer to three days old, I'll sometimes do a second Whitest Whites without detergent.

Then, inserts and wipes go in the dryer on Normal, while the covers get hung on a rack in the laundry room. The covers are dry by morning if I hang them the night before, so I usually do laundry in the evenings. The hemp liners take awhile to dry but I just dry them with the rest of the inserts then pull them out and let them hang for a night with the covers.

Then, before I wash any of our other household laundry, I run a bleach cycle on our washer. It's a secret cycle that's initiated by a certain combo of buttons on the machine; the code is in the user manual. It takes 1/3 cup bleach and washes out the inside of the machine. Even though the internet swears that washing cloth diapers at home isn't unsanitary, it makes us feel a lot better about washing poopy diapers in the same machine in which we wash our clothes. The existence of this bleach cycle was probably was the one single thing that sold us on the whole cloth diaper experience.

Wipes and Outings and Overnights

It’s a no-brainer to use cloth wipes if you’re using cloth diapers. I think they’re definitely easier to deal with and more effective at getting messes than disposables. I’ve bought BumGenius Egyptian cotton wipes (hated them – so stiff), a pack of generic flannel wipes (nice), and cheap-o baby washcloths (also nice). I fold them so they pull up like regular wipes and put them in our wipes warmer. I add a cup of water with some aloe, vitamin e, and tea tree oil/lavender for scent (no magic formula here – just what I liked at Whole Foods).

Pretty adorable, huh? I get some crazy pleasure out of a nicely folded stack of wipes.
When we go out for a few hours, we use cloth diapers just as easily as disposables. The only difference is, I add a wet/dry bag to the diaper bag. It has the waterproof liner just like the bag we hang in the bathroom, and I put dirty diapers in there to deal with when I get home. (Bonus - you'll be happy to have it for the clothes too if Baby has a blowout.) Then it's easy when I get home; I just dump it all in the bathroom bag and it gets washed like normal.

We go back and forth on what we do for overnight. Sometimes we do disposables, sometimes we do two hemp inserts in the cloth, but what seems to be working best is a combo. We use a cloth diaper and stuff it with a microfiber insert, a hemp insert, and the center of a disposable diaper that I've cut away from the sides and tabs. Right now that seems to be keeping her dry without adding an unmanageable amount of bulk. I don't really have this down yet and I'm going to keep experimenting.


They're really not any more work than disposables, now that we're set up. There's definitely a heavy upfront investment, both in time and money. We probably spent $600 for the diapers, wipes, and bags, and it took awhile to get into a rhythm with the washing and all. But now we save the $80/month we were spending on disposable diapers, plus all the time we were spending on Walmart diaper runs. And, we plan to cloth diaper a second child too, for whom all that upfront cost will be negligible. (Although we'll do disposables for the newborn stage again for the same reasons we did it this time.)

Julia doesn't seem to have any more or less diaper rash with the cloth diapers, and when she does get a rash, we switch to disposables for a few hours to use Desitin to clear it up. (Do NOT use most conventional diaper rash creams with cloth diapers - they'll make the whole load smell like two-day-old dead fish. Seriously. Gross. Then you'll spend a day googling "stripping cloth diapers" and doing lots and lots of washes.) We also use disposables on long trips and when Julia goes to her grandparents' houses. But, we have WAY fewer blowouts with the cloth. It's worth doing cloth diapers just to avoid doing an outfit change with every poopy diaper and a load of poopy clothes every day. Maybe it's something that just breastfed babies do a lot, but that really makes it worth it for us.

Overall, we're really happy. Questions? Did I leave anything out of this Longest Post Ever? Let me know!


  1. Um, it is really disturbing how fascinated I am by this post since I currently do not have children and am pretty sure that I am not pregnant, haha! This was a great post though! A lot of my mommy friends CD and they love it, so it was great to see what you use and why and how you like it! Thanks for taking the time to share!

    off to bookmark this for future use...

  2. Yay, you're back! I've missed your blogging and seeing pictures of Lia. Glad you're back!

    Wow, this post is like Greek to me. There's this whole other language of "baby stuff" out there that I have no clue about. I'm both fascinated and terrified. Just promise me that you'll teach me everything you know one day if I'm ever lucky enough to get to learn all about baby poor and diapering. :)

  3. ditto what DAR said. very interesting...i dont know what we'll choose when we get there but i would like to breastfeed for as long as i can....