Cloth diapers have been around for hundreds of years in one form or another.
The introduction of disposable diapers for mainstream use in the 1960’s totally transformed the way in which moms dealt with the messy business of changing their babies. Convenient, but not necessarily eco-logically sound.
The tide is turning once again, as more moms are now switching cloth diapers to keep their babies clean and dry.
Modern cloth diapers and accessories have come a long way from the white cloths and huge pins of yesteryears. Today, there are so many different styles of cloth diapers, some of which are just as convenient as disposable diapers! Not to mention, they are way CUTER.
Why Choose Cloth Diapers Over Disposables?
If you are thinking of using cloth diapers for your newborn or looking to switch from disposables to cloth for your baby, here are some great reasons why cloth diapering can be the way forward for both you and your baby:
Cloth diapers save you money
Do you know that an average baby uses 6000 disposable diapers? Cloth diapers will save you a significant amount of money over the course of your child’s diapering years as they can be reused.
Most brands allow you to adjust the size so that the cloth diapers can grow with your child, providing a perfect fit. Moreover, they can be handed down, so it really provides great savings if you have more than 1 kid.
Do your part for the environment
You will also be able to do your part for the environment as cloth diapering helps reduce both your carbon footprint and reduces landfill waste.
Better for your baby
Most importantly, there are SO MUCH harmful chemicals in disposable diapers!
These chemicals may irritate a baby’s sensitive skin, giving rise to diaper rash and discomfort. Your baby will definitely benefit from wearing a comfortable cloth diaper made from natural materials, such as cotton, hemp or wool.
Helps with Toilet Training
Cloth diapers may also help in the potty training process. Cloth diapers are not as dry as disposables, so the toddlers will be able to feel the wetness and discomfort when they have an accident.
Cloth diapers are cuter than disposables
Last but not least, cloth diapers come in such a wide range of SUPER CUTE diaper cover designs that you will be spoilt for choices!
How to Choose the Best Cloth Diapers for your Baby?
Thankfully, choosing a cloth diaper is not just about finding a piece of material and wrapping it around your baby’s bottom.
On the flip side, this means that it could be overwhelming for a new cloth diapering mom to decide which type of cloth diaper is best for the family.
There are many different types and styles of cloth diaper, all designed to suit your baby’s individual needs, and also your time constraints and budgets.
Cloth Diapers Types
Also known as AIO cloth diapers, these nappies resemble disposable diapers as it consists of just 1 single piece.
For an all-in-one cloth diaper, the inner absorbent layer is already sewn onto the waterproof cover that prevents leaks.
They are practical and super easy to use as you do need to insert any stuffings or pull out the liners for washing. It offers the added convenience for changes on the go as no foldings are required.
Most of them features easy to use snap closures. (p.s. I prefer snap closures to velcro closures as velcro may get worn out more easily over time.)
But it tends to take longer to dry.
Popular brands like bumGenius offer all-in-one diapers in a wide range of lovely colors and cute patterns. It also features a 3 x 3 adjustable snap system so that you can customize the size to fit your growing child from birth to potty training age.
bumGenius also introduced the Elemental 3.0 series which makes use of 100% organic cotton for the inner lining. While some parents prefer such natural fabric, a downside of such natural fibers is that it takes longer to dry.
Pocket nappies are a two-part cloth diapering system. They include a waterproof outer shell (or pocket) and a separate absorbent insert tucked inside via an opening at the back of the shell.
The inner layer of the pocket diaper is made of wicking material, so your baby will feel dry as the moisture is drawn into the insert. You can make these as absorbent as you need to.
What I like about using pocket diapers is that you can customize the absorbency by switching the insert material (e.g. microfiber, bamboo or hemp) and the amount of inserts to meet your baby’s needs,
ALVABABY pocket diapers also feature a 1 size fit all all snap system so that you can adjust the size to fit your child.
All in Two cloth diapers (also known as AI2) is a 2 piece cloth diapering system, similar to that of pocket diapers. It consists of a waterproof shell and an absorbent insert.
Most AI2s feature snap-in or lay-on inserts, which are easier to use as you wouldn’t need to stuff the inserts into the pocket.
However, the snap-in feature loses the flexibility to customize the absorbency though some brands may offer inserts of different absorbency. If so, you will want to buy higher absorbency overnight inserts.
Lay-on systems may allow you to use the shell along with prefolds or flats, in addition to the brand specific inserts.
The advantage of using All-in-Two is that if the cover is not dirtied, it can be wiped and reused with new fresh inserts.
Popular All-in-Two cloth diapers include Grovia, which also feature adjustable snap closures to fit babies from 8 to 30 Ibs.
Some systems also feature disposable inserts, which can be convenient for travelling, making it a hybrid system.
Flats (also known as Flat Diapers or Unfolded Diapers)
Like the traditional cloth diapers our Grandmother used, these are rectangles of flat fabric.
The cloth is then folded to fit your baby, and held together with diaper pins or the more modern snappi cloth diaper clips, which are t-shaped grip fasteners that hook the fabric in three places (left, right and middle).
You can choose from natural materials such as 100% cotton, wool, bamboo or unbleached hemp.
There are a number of benefits of flat diapers. They are cheap, and easy to wash and dry since they are essentially just 1 piece of cloth.
However, there is a steep learning curve to picking up how to fold the cloth diaper as there are many different folding techniques. (p.s. you may take more time in the beginning.)
Once you have mastered the art of folding cloth diapers, you can customize the folding to meet the absorbency needs of your child. For example, you can increase the folds at the back when your child is sleeping or increase the thickness in front for boys.
By itself, the cotton flats may not be as good as pocket diapers or AIO in containing masses. So you might want to consider getting a diaper cover.
Similar to flatfolds, prefolded diapers are rectangular pieces of cloth. However, they are thicker and more padded in the middle section to increase the absorbency.
Here’s a quick video on how to use prefold cloth diapers:
Contours are pieces of hourglass-shaped fabrics. It has a narrow crotch and wide wings, so you will be able to wrap the cloth around the baby’s waist without having to fold it around the leg area. Similar to flats and prefolds, contours need to be secured with pins, snappi fasteners or velcro.
Fitted diapers are made entirely with the absorbent material, unlike AIO or Pocket Diapers where only the central area is absorbent. As the material is not waterproof, you will need use them with another waterproof diaper cover (such as a wool or PUL cover), which are often sold separately.
It is much easier to use compared to flats as the fitted cloth diaper is already fitted to the baby with the contours and elastic legs, so no folding is required.
Fitted diapers, such as Ecoable, also include extra night booster inserts that can be easily snapped-in to increase the absorbency, so that it holds up well overnight without leaks. You can also choose from natural materials such as bamboo/cotton and hemp/cotton.
Similar to AIO and Pocket Diaper, the fitted diaper also features a system of snap buttons so that the size is adjustable for babies from 10 to 30 pounds.
How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need?
Your cloth diaper stash will be one of the most important pieces of baby kit you own for the first 2-3 years of your little ones life.
Considering how much you will be relying on these cloth diapers, you may be tempted to buy a gazillion of them in a desperate bid to never, ever run short of them.
The truth is, you don’t actually need to buy that many.
Given that washing the diapers on a regular basis is paramount for good hygiene and keeping your baby clean, a typical diaper stash of around 20 diapers should suffice. With this amount, you can comfortably count on a wash cycle every other day.
A newborn baby will need changing around every 1-3 hours. Of course, this will be around the clock for the first few months at least. As they start on solid food, you will be able to get away with changing them less often (at least, that’s the plan).
You should also consider your storage options, budget, washing and drying facilities and the amount of space you have to store them before any buying spree.
Purchasing too many cloth diapers could actually defeat your objective of keeping your costs down and carbon footprint low, as well as keeping your home and baby sweet smelling. Having too many dirty diapers stored in a pail would cause the stink to set in.
Moreover, the longer you keep the dirty diapers, the harder it is to wash off the stain. TIP: Try not to keep more than 3 days between washes.
The other problem with planning how many cloth diapers or diaper covers to include in your stash is the fact that they are SO CUTE!
You many well start off with a set figure in mind. But before you know it, you will have a huge pile of brightly colored, cute patterned diapers piled high in your nursery.
Cloth Diaper Storage
It’s a common misconception that being a cloth diapering mom requires you to give up a huge amount of storage space for bulky piles of folded diapers and their many accessories.
In reality, storing your stash will only take up as much or as little space as you want it to. While cloth diapers are a little on the bulky side, they are not much bigger than disposable diapers.
You might want to set aside a designated space as the changing area in the nursery or bedroom, and your cloth diapers will fit in there just as well there as disposables would.
If you and your baby are spending more time outside the nursery or bedroom, you may want to consider setting up a secondary changing area as might not want to be dashing half way across the house when you are in the middle of a messy change.
The diapers can be kept in a drawer, on a shelf or even on a trolley. Most importantly, make sure they are easily accessible from your changing pad. You will also need a dedicated space for accessories like wipes, wet bags, diaper cream and of course, the all important, diaper pail.
If you don’t want to buy a whole new storage unit or changing table, why not re-purpose something you already have?
Shoe storage trolleys make excellent diaper storage, as do those wooden units that contain small tilted boxes used for toys. Bonus points for these, as you can turn them back into toy storage once your baby is past diapering age.
What to Do with Soiled Diapers?
It’s nice to keep your costs down while doing your bit for the planet. It can also be really fun and addictive to shop for cute diapers.
But when it comes to dealing with dirty cloth diapers, things can start to get a little trickier and undoubtedly smellier for a new mom.
If you are dealing with a wet diaper, you have 2 options to collect them before it’s time to wash:
- a diaper pail with a waterproof washable liner
- a hanging wet bag
For really dirty diapers, you’d need to take the extra step of knocking or spraying off the solids (and by this, we mean poop) from the cloth nappies into the toilet.
Only then do you toss the poop-free diaper into the diaper pail system or wet bag. The job gets easier as time passed. As your baby move on to solids, their stool becomes more solid and easier to shake off. A diaper pail system is a simple and effective way to store the soiled diapers between washes.
They are usually operated with a foot peddle so it’s hands-free. Such convenience is much needed as you’ll probably be holding your baby in 1 hand and the soiled diaper in the other.
Here are MORE TIPS to ensure that your nursery is always hygienic and fresh smelling, free from stinky diapers smells:
- Buy two wets bags or pail liners (if you are using a diaper pail), so that you will always have one on hand when the other is in the wash.
- Use a diaper sprayer to wash off the poop from the soiled diapers right into the toilet. The high pressure spray nozzle can be easily installed to the side of your toilet without much plumbing expertise.
- Baby proof and pet proof (if you have pets) the wet bag and diaper pail. If you are using wet bags, hang them high enough to keep them out of reach of the curious hands and noses. Look out for diaper pails with child proof features or purchase separate child proofing locks. You wouldn’t want your curious toddler to be rummaging through the soiled diapers or tossing fresh cloth diapers into pail.
- In the past, our grandmothers may have used a wet pail to soak the used diapers in water (or a solution containing some baking soda). However, keeping a pail filled with water in the bathroom poses a drowning risk for babies and toddlers. Soaking the dirty diapers for more than a few hours may also cause the stains to set in.
How to Wash Dirty Cloth Diapers?
Before you start washing your cloth diapers for the first time, ALWAYS check out the manufacturer’s washing instructions.
With our modern day washing machines, generally speaking, you can transfer the dirty diapers (free from poop) from the diaper pail directly into the wash.
I typically run a pre-wash or pre-soak with cold water, especially if there’s a few messy ones. Some parents have found that this is not really necessary.
This is followed by a regular wash with detergent in hot water to help destroy as much bacteria as possible, unless the manufacturer’s wash instructions said otherwise. Cotton should be washed in hot water, but some waterproof diaper covers or outer shell may spoil under very high temperature (such as the sanitizing cycle of some wash machines).
Finish with an extra rinse cycle so that the diapers are free of soap. However, do not carry out the extra rinse if the water in your home is hard water. Always check that the water is detergent-free by the last cycle. If the cloth diapers are not fresh smelling at the end of the wash, re-wash the diapers.
Any faint odors may mean that there’s lingering germs, which may lead to diaper rash on your little one.
Try not to overload the washing machine as it will prevent the diapers from getting a good clean, and all that friction will start to make the fabric bobble.
Most modern machines can handle up to 24 diapers in one go. I typically wash the soiled diapers separately from other laundry. This means saving them up in the diaper pail for a day or so until I have enough to warrant a full load. You can check out more washing tips here.
How to Dry Cloth Diapers?
After the wash, you can hang them on a clothesline or a rack to dry. Most diaper covers and pockets are not recommended to be used in a dryer. For the inserts, you can opt to tumble dry them on medium heat. Remember to always read through the washing advice and care instructions by the manufacturer.
I like to hang the washed diapers out to dry in the sun. Sunning just work wonders in terms of removing stains and smells. Position the cloth diapers such that the insides of the diapers are exposed to the sun to allow the UV light to do its work on the stains! Because the wet diapers are pretty heavy, I prefer to lay the diapers flat on the rack or hang them longitudinally so that the elastic do not get overstretched easily and hence last longer.
What is the Best Detergent for Cloth Diapers?
When it comes to choosing the detergent for the cloth diapers, go for gentle scent-free detergents. I prefer plant-based natural cloth diaper safe detergent.
Check that the ingredients are natural and free from harsh chemicals, fragrances, enzymes and other additives (e.g. for brightening and whitening). These ingredients might irritate the baby’s sensitive and delicate skin, resulting in rashes.
You will need to choose a suitable detergent based on the type of washer you are using and the type of water (hard or soft water).
If you are using HE (high efficiency) washers, you will need HE detergents to avoid bubble overload. HE-safe detergents include Seventh Generation and Method. Non-HE detergents include Biokleen.
Hard water contains more mineral compounds compared to soft water. When these minerals deposit and build up on the fabric of the cloth diapers, it can trap detergent, residues and bacteria. This can adversely affect the absorption of the cloth diapers and lead to ammonia issues, leaks and rashes.
If the water in your home is hard water, you will need to add water softeners, such as Borax, directly into the washing drum during the main wash.
If you find that the diapers are not washing well, you might need to experiment to find the one that’s compatible with the type of water you are using (especially if you are using hard water). Also, avoid using too much detergent.
What Other Cloth Diaper Accessories Do You Need?
As a clothing diapering mom, there’s a wealth of accessories to help make your diapers work better and make your cloth diapering years easier.
Cloth Diaper Pail
A diaper pail looks somewhat like a trash can. It is used to collect dirty diapers between washes, while locking in the odors to keep your room smelling fresh. As cloth diapers are a tad bulker than normal disposals, you will need to make sure that you purchase a diaper pail that’s suitable for cloth diapers.
Dekor Plus Hands-Free Diaper Pail is probably one of the best cloth diaper pail. It is bigger than it’s classic model. Dekor also manufactures a compatible waterproof cloth diaper pail liner that is washable and reusable. Other great features include the hands-free design, triple odor control features and childproof lock.
Diaper Pail Liners
Waterproof diaper pail liners are necessary for keeping muck off the inside of your pail. Whenever you clean out your diaper pail, simply replace the washable diaper pail liners and throw it into the laundry with the dirty cloth diapers.
Dekor cloth liners also feature a drawstring design. When it is time to do the laundry, simply bring the entire bag filled with dirty diapers to the washing machine, turn the bag inside out to empty out the diapers and wash the cloth bag together with the diapers.
Diaper Pail Deodorizer
Even with liners, diaper pails can still smell. You can buy disks that will eliminate the smell.
Alternatively, you can even make your own DIY deodorizer using a little distilled white vinegar, or sprinkle some baking soda into your diaper pail every time you change the bag.
Cloth Diaper Wet Bag
Wet bag is an alternative to a bulky diaper pail. However, you will need to hang them high enough to keep them out of reach from curious pets or toddlers.
They are very convenient to use as you can simply toss them into the washing machine with the dirty diapers. You don’t even need to spend any effort to clean the pails regularly. You can even use these waterproof wet bags on-the-go. The downside is that this isn’t a hands-free option. You’d probably need to use both hands to unzip the bag to throw in the wet diaper.
Cloth Diaper Toilet Sprayer
You don’t really need much plumbing skills to attach this high pressure spray to your toilet.
Use the diaper sprayer to quickly spray off the poop from the soiled diapers into the toilet directly, before tossing them into the diaper pail or wet bag. This allows you to clean the soiled cloth diapers without creating a mess in your bathroom or on your hands.
This is optional, but will certainly make life easier. To be honest, it is not that easy to hold onto a dirty diaper and keep it straight while spraying.
With the spray pal, you can just clip the soiled cloth diaper firmly in place and use the diaper sprayer on the highest pressure without splattering onto your arms, legs or the bathroom.
Cloth Diaper Wipes and Solution
After deciding on the type and brand of cloth diapers to use, you’d still need to weigh in on whether to use disposable wipes or cloth wipes.
There are biodegradable disposable wipes or water wipes available, which can be very handy, especially when you are out on the move.
However, when I am at home, I prefer to go with 100% cotton cloth wipes which would be soft on the baby’s delicate skin.
Cloth diaper wipes are more economical in the long run compared to disposable wipes. Moreover, you do not need to throw the diaper wipes into the trash bin separately. Hence avoiding accidentally throwing disposable wipes into the washer with the cloth diaper!
If you enjoy DIY homemade stuff, you can make your own baby wipe solutions using natural ingredients. It is cheaper and you have full control of all the ingredients that gets into contact with your baby’s skin.
If you are looking to buy a baby diaper wipe solution that would be gentle on a baby’s sensitive skin, you can give the Baby Bits Wipes Solution a try.
It is derived from 100% natural plant based ingredients, including coconut oil glycerin soap, organic plantain, chickweed herbs, virgin olive oil, and pure tea tree and lavender essential oils, so that it is suitable even for sensitive skin. Tea tree essential oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, lavender essential oil has a calming and soothing effect while the coconut and olive oil are lubricating and nourishing on the skin.
The Baby Bits Wipes Solution is also super easy to use. It comes in the form of cubes, which you will first need to dissolve in hot water. I usually boil the filtered tap water first to make sure that any bacteria in the tap water is killed.
After making your own DIY baby wipe solution or dissolving the Baby Bits cube into a solution, you can:
- Add the solution into a spray bottle. As it contains essential oil, I prefer to use an amber glass bottle. Shake the solution well and spray the solution onto a clean dry cloth wipe before each.
- Alternatively, you can pre-soak the cloth wipes. First place the clean cloth wipes in a repurposed baby wipe container or wipe warmer. Then pour solution over them until they are moist, but not drenched.
How to Prevent Cloth Diaper Rash?
Not changing your baby often enough, using soap-filled baby wipes or harsh detergents may irritate the babies’ delicate to cause this sore, painful rashes. Even teething and illness can increase the risk of diaper rash.
In fact, if your baby is changed often enough, cloth diapers are less likely to cause diaper rash compared to disposables.
Do make sure that you wash the cloth diapers in gentle detergent and strip them from time to time to ensure that there is no build-up of detergent and that they remain soft and absorbent.
What Is a Cloth Diaper Safe Diaper Cream?
Most of the regular diaper creams are not suitable for cloth diapering.
Keep in mind that you will need to use a cloth diaper rash cream that is safe and compatible for cloth diapers. Diaper rash products and Vaseline affect the absorbency of your diapers as they will build up in the fabric over time.
There are a few ingredients you should be aware of. Petroleum products such as petrolatum and mineral oil can cause repelling issues when used on synthetic fibers, such as microfiber, hence affecting the absorption.
Here are some cloth diaper safe cream which are made of natural ingredients. These are petroleum and fragrance free products that are also suitable for sensitive skin.
Zinc oxide is a common ingredient, which is still present in the above diaper creams. While it does not cause absorption issues, it can cause white or gray stains on the cloth diapers. To help prevent your cloth diapers becoming stained from the diaper cream, consider using a liner when your baby is having a tough time with a sore bottom.
Prevention is always better than cure. Coconut oil has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and super moisturizing properties, which is great for the sensitive and delicate baby skin. You can use it in your wipe solution or apply it directly on your little one’s bum. However, do remember that not all coconut oil are made equal. I would recommend looking out for cold pressed, extra-virgin and organic coconut oil, with no added fragrance. Even though allergy to coconut is not so common, it’s always a good practice when trying something new with your baby, to first test using a small amount to look out for any signs of allergies or irritations.
Will I Still Need Disposable Diapers?
This is very much up to you. When it comes to cloth diapering, it does not have to be all or nothing.
Even if you have decided on cloth diapering, there can be occasions when you are out and about that you would prefer the convenience of a disposable. Your baby will not suffer any ill effects from wearing disposable diapers from time to time.
What is most important is comfort for your baby, and convenience for you.
If you plan to use only cloth diaper, you may need to spend more time and effort to educate your relatives or babysitters on how to use the cloth diapers if they are helping you to take care of your little one from time to time.
Whoever is taking care of your baby, be sure to provide them with the cloth diapers, wet bags, diaper wipes and your preferred diaper cream while you are away.
Are Cloth Diapers Allowed in Daycares?
While daycare centers may not advertise that they accept cloth diapers, most will be willing to continue with your cloth diapering regime. Always check if they are open to cloth diapers before enrollment.
If the daycare providers need convincing, consider options that would make it easier for them, such as providing them with wet bags and using AIO.
Cost Analysis of Cloth Diapering
Cloth diapering may involve a larger investment from the outset, but it will save you plenty of money over time.
Here’s a rough cost comparison. The exact costs will vary depending on the brand you choose and the type of cloth diapers.
Depending on the size you need and the brand you buy, disposables can cost between $0.17 per diaper for store brands and $0.25 per diaper for brand names. The accumulative cost for the first 2 years of your baby’s life could be anywhere between $1250 to $1850 per year.
You can probably get started with cloth diapering with under $300. Keep the stash of cloth diapers in good condition and you can use them again for your next baby, or even resell them.
Becoming a Cloth Diapering Mom
Using cloth diapers is a great way to save cost, do our part for our environment and reduce our babies’ exposure to harsh chemicals.
Getting started on cloth diapering may seem challenging and scary at first, especially new moms. Hopefully this article has helped to prepare you on how to use cloth diapers.
To get started, instead of buying a stash of 20 cloth diapers of the same brand, you might want to try out 3-5 of cloth diapers of different brands or designs to see which ones suit you and your baby best. Every child is different, so what suits others may not necessarily be the best for your baby.