Cloth diapers are making a comeback and they’re better than ever. But “new and improved” also means a lot of options to choose from. And with so many choices to make, the jump to cloth diapers can feel overwhelming. Here are 10 questions to ask yourself in order to simplify the start of your cloth diaper journey.
1. Why do I want to use cloth diapers?
You may already think you know the answer to this, but it is worth asking yourself again so you can be really clear about your answer. Are you cloth diapering to save money? Is your goal to be environmentally conscious? Do you prefer natural products when it comes to something that touches your baby’s skin all day? Your intention will impact many of the choices you make. Just like any other investment, know what is important to you before you start.
2. What type of cloth diapers do I want to use?
There are a few different styles to choose from. I’ve kept the following descriptions as simple as possible.
Types of Cloth Diapers
Like the name suggests, these diapers are all one piece. That means no messing with inserts. This makes them the simplest diaper to use, but also means longer drying time in the laundry. They also tend to be the most expensive.
Popular Brands: bumGenius Freetime, bumGenius Elementals, GroVia, Blueberry Simplex
All-In-Two (AI2) /Hybrid
These are one of the top choices for cloth diapers because they are a great balance of convenience and cost effectiveness. They include a waterproof cover and a separate insert that usually snaps in or tucks in. Although AI2 and hybrid diapers are basically the same thing, they are slightly different in that hybrid diapers can be used with disposable inserts. After each use, the diaper cover can be wiped out and reused with a clean insert. Also, using inserts allows for a variety of different choices in budget and absorbency. Make sure to use skin-friendly inserts. (Note: See question 6 for more detailed information regarding inserts v.s. liners.) This style is more economical than pocket or AIO diapers.
Popular Brands: Flip Hybrid, GroVia Hybrid
Pocket diapers are made up of a waterproof outer layer and an inner layer of fabric with an opening (thus creating a “pocket”). An insert is then placed inside the pocket. Because both the diaper liner and the insert are soiled, both the cover and the liner are washed after one use. Use of inserts allows for more customization of absorbency. They are fairly convenient to use and dry faster than all-in-ones. (Note: See question 6 for more detailed information regarding inserts v.s. liners.)
Popular Brands: bumGenius 4.0, FuzziBunz Elite
Traditional Cloth & Cover
Diapers can be either flat, prefold, contoured or fitted. A flat diaper is a large piece of cloth that needs to be folded. A prefold is a rectangular piece of cloth with a thick center, which still required folding. Contour diapers are shaped like an hour glass and usually need to be secured with some kind of fastener. Fitted diapers resemble disposables, except that they require a cover. They’re shaped like an hour glass with elastic around the legs and waist and built in fasteners. These could be considered all-in-two systems when used with a cover.
Popular Brands: Thirsties Duo Wrap with Duo Hemp Prefold, OsoCozy Unbleached Prefold
Things to Consider When Choosing a Style
All-in-one diapers are convenient for use at a daycare or on-the-go, but they cost more and need longer time to dry. Pocket diapers still run slightly more expensive than other choices, they are fairly convenient and you can dry the inserts, but you also have to spend time re-stuffing the inserts. Hybrid diapers have more customizability and are more cost effective, but care providers may find them a little more intimidating. These might be the most efficient to wash because the covers dry quickly, and the liners can be put in the washing machine and most don’t need to be folded. Traditional cloth can be very cost effective, but may require additional time to fold. Consider what is important to you, whether that be spending less time doing laundry or spending less money when you are choosing your style.
A final note: These descriptions were intentionally kept as simple as possible. If you are interested in more detailed descriptions, tutorials, or reviews of each type of diaper, YouTube can be a very helpful resource. Also, the following website has a very thorough comparison of brands: http://www.babygearlab.com/Cloth-Diaper-Reviews?n=0&sort_field=#compare.
This is another decision you will want to make with your intention from question 1 in mind. Are you cloth diapering to save money? Some brands cost more than others. Are you cloth diapering for baby’s health? Choosing a brand with natural rather than synthetic options will be important. Do you want to go with the top rated brand? Or would you prefer to buy a few different brands and try them out yourself?
Other things to consider: Do you prefer snaps or velcro? (Velcro tends to wear out faster.) Some brands offer both and some don’t. Do you plan to line dry your diapers or do you need the convenience of being able to dry them in the dryer? Each brand is different. For example: FuzziBunz Elite pocket diapers can be run through the dryer on low heat whereas bumGenius 4.0 pocket diaper covers must be line-dried (the inserts can be run through the dryer).
For a thorough comparison of brands, visit this website: http://www.babygearlab.com/Cloth-Diaper-Reviews?n=0&sort_field=#compare
4. What size do I need?
Most come in a “one size fits all” style but some don’t so be aware of what you are buying.
Some systems are designed specifically for newborns. These will only fit your baby for a short time. Others use snaps or other mechanisms to make the diaper customizable as the baby grows. Some diaper styles and brands are bulkier than others, and may not be practical on an infant. It can be helpful to read reviews from other users on the brands of diapers you are considering.
If you’re cloth diapering to save money, you may not want to over-invest in newborn size diapers as your baby may outgrow them before they can pay for themselves. Some families choose disposable diapers to get through the first weeks with baby and then switch to cloth. Other families may use one style for newborns and switch styles as the child grows. Be clear on what your goals for cloth diapering are and make the decision that’s best for your family.
5. How many diapers do I need?
Most sources recommend having at least twelve diapers. How many you will need depends on a variety of things. For example, how often will you do laundry? If you do laundry every day, you will need fewer diapers than if you wash them every 2-3 days. Also, how old is your child? Older children tend to use fewer diapers during the day than newborns. Will you use diapers exclusively or use some disposables? Will you travel with cloth diapers and how will that affect your needs?
If your intention is to be economical, start small. You can always add more diapers. Also, if you are using a hybrid system, you may only need a few covers with a larger number of inserts, since you can reuse the cover.
6. What other accessories do I need to get started?
Liners – If you’re using hybrids or traditional diapers, you may use a liner to help wick the moisture away from baby’s skin. You may also use a liner to protect diapers when baby poops. It can make cleanup easier to rinse out a liner (or use a flushable liner) than trying to rinse out a whole diaper.
Inserts – Inserts are the part of the diaper that holds the moisture. Microfiber can be used inside pocket diapers but it can’t touch baby’s skin. Other inserts for pocket or cloth diapers include bamboo, hemp, minky, or organic cotton.
Laundry detergent – It’s important to use laundry detergent that is safe for cloth diapers. Some laundry detergents can leave a residue that builds up on diapers and inhibits absorbency. The best ranked brand I’ve found is Charlie’s Soap, and can be purchased on Amazon.
Diaper pail liner – A reusable pail liner can be thrown in the washing machine with the diapers and makes transporting from the diaper pail to the laundry easy. They can be purchased on Amazon.
Travel wet bag – If you’ll be using cloth diapers when you’re not at home, it can be helpful to have a bag to put soiled diapers in. Like the pail liner, it can be thrown in the wash with the diapers and makes diapering on the go a breeze.
Diaper cream – Some diaper creams can ruin the absorbency of cloth diapers by building up on the cloth. It’s important to choose a brand that is safe for use with cloth diapers. Popular brands include Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm or California Baby, both available on Amazon.
Drying rack – If you don’t have a clothes line available, you’ll want to have a plan for where to hang diapers that need to be line dried. A simple fold-up drying rack can be easy and convenient, and can be found at Walmart.
7. How much money do you want to spend?
When you figure out your budget, it’s important to consider how much you want to invest, and remember to include the additional cost of accessories, not just diapers. It can be easy to get carried away with purchasing diapers and accessories, so know how much you want to spend before you start. If you’re not worried about cost, you may want to try a few different diaper styles and brands and accessories to see what you like best. If you’re trying to be budget-conscious, you may want to do some research ahead of time and know exactly what you want before you buy.
8. What do I need to do before using my diapers?
Read the instructions for each type of diaper. Every brand is different. Most need to be washed in hot water before they can be used. Some inserts need to be washed multiple times to maximize their absorbency.
It’s also a good idea to know how to wash your soiled diapers before you start using them. Most diapers are run through a cold rinse cycle, then washed on a hot cycle in the deepest setting your machine has, then run through an extra rinse. It’s important to familiarize yourself with YOUR diapers, because they are all different.
9. How will I set up the diapering area?
Where will you store clean diapers? They take up slightly more space than disposables, so you will need to have space that is accessible from your changing area to keep them in.
Where will you put dirty diapers? You’ll want to have your lined diaper pail nearby so you can reach it.
10. How will I handle poopy diapers?
If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you can throw poopy diapers right into the washing machine because breastmilk poop is water soluble. However, as soon as your baby is consuming anything other than breastmilk, you will want to rinse any solids into the toilet.
There are attachment hoses/sprayers available that can be hooked up to your toilet to spray diapers directly into the toilet. If this isn’t possible for you, you can also purchase flushable diaper liners. They are available through Amazon.
Honestly, I never expected to be a cloth diaper mama. I was curious, dipped my toe in the water, and then cannonballed in. And I’ve never looked back. There are some awesome benefits to using cloth diapers, and with the right preparation it can be a great experience for both babies and families.