Common Questions About Cloth Diapering

BB's First Day In Cloth Diapers
When I told my family that we were going to cloth diaper they looked at me a little bit like I was crazy. My mom, who was a poor refugee who had immigrated to the US with an infant (me), had no choice but to cloth diaper and hated it. She remembered the horrors of smelly diapers, the difficulty of washing and drying while living in a small apartment and having to hand wash and hang dry them indoors because there was no where she could hang them outside. When she was gifted a disposable for the first time, she thought it was the most amazing thing.

 Now that everyone is doing well financially, it boggles her mind as to why anyone would choose to go cloth over the infinitely wonderful experience of disposables.

Why Cloth Diapers?

First, there have been huge advancements in cloth diapering!  Sure, the old style cloth still exists but now there are adorable covers, no need to use safety pins and aside from having to wash and dry them, they are a lot like the disposables.  

Honestly, as a first time mom I was a little over the top in trying to shelter my baby from toxins and saw one too many pictures of chemical burns and allergic reactions to disposables. I also heard about diaper rash problems that cloth diaperers swore their kids never got. I definitely drank the Koolaid.

But now, I'm not against disposables (Baby Buckshot wears them when we go out, overnight and for part of the day three times a week when he's at my mom's) but I prefer cloth diapers at home. Once we started, it was easy to keep going. Just a couple of extra loads of laundry a week. It feels like just putting him in underwear. Adorable, chemical free, fluffy butted underwear that holds pee and poop.

And I'm not a huge environmentalist but I do absolutely hate repetitive waste and love saving money. The thought of throwing out $1+ a day in diapers 6 diapers a day 2.5 years in diapers plus the cost of the diaper pail bags just seemed ridiculous.

I have yet to see this for myself, but another reason we keep cloth diapering is because experienced cloth diaperers claim that cloth diapered babies get potty trained sooner because they can feel the wetness after they pee, something they don't feel with disposables.  Some children have a problem learning to control their urination because they don't feel the wetness that results in urination while wearing a disposable.

I have only been using them for about 5 months (as we used disposables for the first month of BBs life so I didn't overcomplicate the first month of parenting) so take the following information with that background in mind.

How much money does cloth diapering save?

It depends on when cloth diapering starts in the home and how often baby gets changed, how long it takes to potty train and the cost of your cloth diaper stash.

For instance, if you start at 6 months, the average baby is potty trained by about 2.5 years of age, he gets changed 6 times a day and you pay about $0.20 a disposable diaper.

2.5 years - .5 (for starting at 6 months) X 365 days a year X 6 changes a day X $0.20 a diaper = $876 on disposable diapers.

If the cost of the diaper stash plus the cost of washing the diapers  is significantly less than $876, then here are significant savings.

For an easier method of calculating whether the math works out, visit The Diaper Pin Calculator

How many do I need?

The recommendation is 24 cloth diapers per child to cloth diaper full time.  Personally, I have closer to 30 and cloth diaper less than full time.

With cloth diapers, changing the baby more often is common.  A baby that gets changed 6 times a day might go to being changed 8 times a day.  With 24 diapers, that's a mandatory load every 2-3 days. With 36 diapers, that's a mandatory load every 4-5 days.

Cloth diaper experts also recommend not washing more than 24 at a time. And personally, I wouldn't let a cloth diaper sit more than a few days anyway.

How much are they?

This depends on what type you'd like to use. There are 4 major types: Prefolds, Prefolds with Covers,  All-In-Ones (AIOs) and All-In-Twos (AI2), Pockets and Fitted. The Stork Warehouse does a great rundown of types.

As for the cost of each over the course of baby's life,  Diaper Decisions has done a great job of calculating this down to the littlest details.

What do I use?

I picked One Size Pocket Diapers because:

1. They wouldn't require me to buy an infant stash and new sizes at each interval BB outgrew his old size.  If his clothes are any indication, I wouldn't have bought the right amount at the right size anyway. One Size diapers allow me to simply use the same diaper throughout his diapering years thus making it cost effective and simple for me.

2. Pockets allow me to separate the insert from the cover which makes washing and drying much easier and effective.  I've heard that the AIOs don't dry very well and in some cases, the interiors don't get as clean as they should, especially with the new high efficiency washers.

3. Pockets also allow me to upgrade to hemp or charcoal inserts if I feel the need to whereas with AIOs, that is not an option.

4. I didn't want to deal with prefolds.  I didn't believe they would be more absorbent than microfiber, I didn't want to fold anything and I needed a diaper that would be as much like a disposable as possible for the Hosh and BB's other caregivers.

What brand do I use?

I've tried a sampling of all the different pocket diapers.  Currently in our stash we have Bumgenius 4.0s, The Hero, GoGreen Champs, Bumkins Stuff Its, Rumparooz, Fuzzibunz, Kawaiis, Charlie Bananas, Shinebabies, Alvas, Sunbabies and a hand made diaper from Etsy.

I think the Go Green Champs are by far the best designed diaper (double gusset, colored snaps, top band barrier) and go for about $17.99.  The best bang for the buck though are the Kawaiis at about $11.99 on average.  They have the top band barrier which is so important and good snap placement.

The worst diapers I bought were the Shinebabies.  Stay away from those! They are cheaply made and poorly designed.

Unfortunately, what fits well for one baby doesn't not necessarily fit well for another.  Everything from thigh size to belly shape can influence which brand will fit a baby best.

Luckily, there are cloth diaper trial programs where for as little as a $10 investment, a new mom can try a number of different diapers for a few weeks.  Jillian's drawers is a popular program. There is also a list of all the cloth diaper trial programs on Diaper Swappers.

What about poops?

Prior to starting solids, I just threw them in our cloth diaper pail (a cheap Home Depot 5 gallon bucket with lid, kept in the bathroom) and did my usual cloth diaper laundry routine.  They never stained, were always thoroughly clean and I had no issues.

After starting solids, I realized that it would be easier just to put in a paper liner in the diaper until BB had his daily bowel movement.  (If you opt to go this way, add it into your calculation since liners run about $0.05 each.)  Other parents opt for things like sprayers (I've heard this can get messy) or they dunk and swish in the toilet (haven't tried this yet but probably will) which costs virtually nothing additionally.

There is no denying that dealing with cloth diapers is much dirtier than using disposables.  Those of us who do cloth diaper just get used to it the way we get used to dirty children's clothing.

How do you really wash them?

There is a lot of "Woo Woo" around washing cloth diapers, from build up of detergent causing absorption problems, needing to "strip" the diapers with an alternate wash routine when they start leaking, even the voiding of certain warranties if a non-approved wash method is used.

Personally, we have a high efficiency washer so I soak the diapers first.  Then I run the diapers once on cold water bulky using All Free & Clear.  Some say you shouldn't use this but I haven't had any problems yet. Then I wash them again with hot water to make sure all the residue is gone.

Here are a couple of lists of detergents and how well they're supposed to work with cloth diapers from Pinstripes and Polkadots and Jillian's Drawers.

I do occasionally "strip" the diapers just in case there is residue build up by washing them with blue Dawn. Padded Tush Stats has a comprehensive list of stripping methods.  

What are the drawbacks?

I love cloth diapering.  I don't guru cloth diapering and it's not for everyone.  Here my downsides to cloth diapering:

1. I don't know that I'm really saving that much money.  I bought some pricier pocket diapers, I don't cloth diaper full time. I use paper liners.  I'm fairly certain that I at least breakeven.  People say the real savings is with the second child.  *shrug* I don't have a second child nor do I know if I will have one.

2. Some people get really addicted to buying cloth diapers to the point that it would have been cheaper just to buy disposables.  There is always the belief, however, that when you're done with the cloth diapers, they can be resold to recoup a bulk of the cost. I'm not entirely sure that I would really recoup a bulk of my cloth diaper expenditures.

3. You are going to have to touch poop. There's just no denying it. You will touch much more poop cloth diapering than you will with disposables. #FACT

4. You will change your baby much more often.  Cloth diapers aren't meant to be left on babies for hours on end nor designed so that the baby always feels dry. They are cloth.  If the baby sits in a diaper after he's peed, he's going to feel it and probably tell you. Further, if a wet cloth diaper is compressed, it will release liquid which may result in leaks.  Expect to increase diaper changes from 6-8 times a day to 8-10 times a day.

5. There will be leaks.  There will be leaks until you figure out the right diaper, right fit on the baby, the right inserts to use and the little nuances that go into cloth diapering.  Leaks don't bother me so much, I just change baby and change his clothes if he's leaked. This might bother other people.  It would bother me if it happened while we were out of the house.  That's why we use disposables when we're out and about.  He doesn't usually leak, however, if he's being changed regularly.  Surprise, surprise.

But since I'm already cloth diapering, stay tuned for reviews on cloth diapering when I finally get a chance to write them.

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