Cloth diapering can sound a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.
Depending on the type of cloth diapers you choose to use, cloth diapering can actually be just as easy as using disposables! The fact that they’re cheaper, cuter, and reduce waste is just icing on the cake.
While I was pregnant, I was fortunate enough to get a quick cloth diapering tutorial from my sister-in-law, who has used cloth diapers with both of her children over the past several years. She taught me the difference between the main types of cloth diapering options, including prefolds, fitted inserts, pocket diapers, and all-in-ones. Oddly enough, I thought I’d like the pocket diapers best, but when it actually came time to put them into practice, the prefolds were the ultimate winner. They are SO easy, I haven’t felt the need to use anything else in the last 8 months!
There are a variety of folds you can use when working with prefolds (these can especially come in handy when working with small newborn bodies), but the easiest way to use them is by simply folding the diaper into thirds and placing it in the center a cloth cover.
For most diaper changes, only the cloth insert gets damp, so that’s the only part you have to replace at each diaper change– reducing your laundry load each night, when compared to using pocket diapers or all-in-ones. After using a package of newborn disposable diapers the first week or so (that were gifted to us), Austin and I both agreed that using prefolds was just as easy as using the disposable diapers. In fact, we preferred it!
The best part about prefold diapers? They are the cheapest type of cloth diaper available. The ones we currently use are actually hand-me-downs from our in-laws, but they got them from Green Mountain Diapers, which sells prefolds starting at just $25 for a dozen. Considering the fact that you can go through 12-20 diapers a day in those first few weeks, these diapers pay for themselves in no time! (And when you consider that they can be used for 3+ children, it’s seriously a deal!)
As an added bonus, I’ve found that we have virtually no leaks or blowouts when using prefold diapers, which wasn’t the case with the disposables and the pocket cloth diapers that we tried.
Choosing the prefold inserts was easy, but choosing the type of diaper cover you use can be a little more tricky– only because there are so many options available! We started off using extra-small sized Thirsties covers when our little guy was a newborn, which worked great. (They were another hand-me-down.) When he outgrew those covers, we tried a GroVia cover, which was gifted to use during our baby shower. We instantly fell in love with them, and bought several more! Not only have they fit our little guy perfectly as he grows, they also have a unique type of velcro that isn’t too “sticky” to make a loud noise during middle-of-the-night diaper changes, but it also securely holds diapers in place all day long. After trying several varieties, I tend to prefer velcro covers to snap covers, because they are faster and easier to change– more like disposables. However, I think any covers would work; it’s just a matter of preference.
Now, let’s get the next question that most people have about cloth diapers– how do you clean them? Again, it’s easy.
We use a diaper hamper, just like everyone else, but instead of using plastic bags that go into the trash, we use cloth pail liners that go directly into the washing machine. There’s no smell and no mess! If you live in a small space, or have multiple changing areas, you can also use cloth wet bags as an easy hamper alternative. (We use these bags in our bedroom for quick diaper changes– the large wet bag easily loops over a door knob or crib rail.)
For the first six months, or up until the baby starts solids, there’s no extra work when cleaning the diapers. You simply add an extra soak cycle at the beginning of the washing process, to help remove the waste, then wash on a heavy cycle with detergent, then add an extra rinse at the end to make sure all of the detergent is removed. We use Country Save detergent, which was recommended to us by all of my cloth diapering friends. (You only need a half scoop per load, so one box lasts a long time!) When your baby starts eating solids, there are sprayers available that easily connect to your toilet to help make removing waste a hands-free event.
What You’ll Need To Get Started
The hardest thing to figure out when you first start cloth diapering is deciding how many diapers you’ll actually need. Part of this decision will depend on how often you want to do laundry! We tend to do one load per night, so this is the number of diapers and wipes that works for us:
- 2 dozen prefolds in your baby’s current size (we’ve used the orange newborn and yellow small size over the last 8 months) This number is nice in case laundry gets delayed a bit, or if you want to keep a couple of inserts in your diaper bag.
- 6-8 covers (We like GroVia and Thirsties)
- 16-24 cloth wipes (I like GroVia wipes best)
And just to make planning easy, here are the other essentials we use regularly:
- Wipe Warmer (this one comes with 4 cloth wipes, too!)
- Diaper Dekor Plus Diaper Pail
- 2 cloth pail liners
- 2 large wet bags (if you have a changing area in another room)
- 2 medium wet bags (to carry with you in the diaper bag)
- Diaper Sprayer (once solids are started)
- Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm* (we also use regular coconut oil as a barrier cream)
*Note: We were advised not to use mainstream diaper creams with cloth diapers, so be sure that the diaper cream you use is safe for cloth diapering. We’ve tried Earth Mama Angel Baby, Motherlove, and regular coconut oil, all of which washed out of our diapers easily.
My son is currently 2 years old now, so we don’t use the prefolds as often because he is able to open the velcro on the GroVia covers– and that could lead to a messy disaster. We currently use the Bum Genius 4.0 Pocket diapers, which is what we originally registered for during my baby shower because they were recommended to us by other cloth diapering moms. However, we never used them when he was younger because they didn’t fit well and would leak all the time. Now that he’s bigger, they fit perfectly and we love them. The pocket-style diaper keeps him dryer and lets him go longer between changes, which is nice with his more active lifestyle now. We only use about 4 diapers a day at this point, and I think with our next baby we will use the exact same method– prefolds + covers for the first 12 months or so, followed by the pocket diapers when they fit correctly.
Once my son started sleeping through the night, we couldn’t find a cloth diaper that would keep him dry and comfortable (despite trying wool inserts, doubling up the pockets, etc.) so we eventually decided to let him sleep in a disposable diaper at night. This instantly solved all of our sleeping problems, so I would do that again in a heartbeat! We started using Honest Company diapers at night around 18 months, which is when he started truly sleeping through the night. That brand has been great at keeping our son rash-free during his 12-hour stretches of sleep, and don’t leak even without using an “overnight” diaper.
I hope this helps those of you who want to try cloth diapering navigate all the options available. We couldn’t be happier with our system!
Reader Feedback: Have you ever tried cloth diapers? Feel free to share your favorites and tips below!