If you have friends who are using cloth diapers, invite yourself over for a crash course and a chat.
If you’re a cloth diaper pioneer (and chances are you will be, since plastic diaper companies have been advertising and brainwashing the American public so effectively that only something like five percent of American moms and dads are using cloth these days), Internet groups, like the cloth diaper forums on Mothering.com, are a great place to go to ask questions and learn.
More conventional sites (like BabyZone.com) also have good cloth diaper information these days and many of the diaper company Websites have video tutorials.
But if your head is spinning trying to figure this all out, don’t fret. It’s like everything baby-related, soon you’ll be a pro and you’ll chuckle at how overwhelming it all felt at first.
So how many cloth diapers do you need?
You need 12-15 cloth diapers a day, especially at the beginning when your newborn will be peeing and pooping like crazy. If you use diapers with covers, you’ll only need 2-3 covers in each size. If you use all-in-ones (my husband’s favorites because they’re so easy to change), you’ll need about 15 a day to start with. I may be overestimating here but it’s better to have too many than too few.
If you plan to do laundry every day, get 15 diapers. If you plan to do laundry every other day, get 30. Every three days, buy 45. That’s the absolute max you’ll need (I don’t think I have that many) because you end up doing laundry every three days with a spitty farty poopy baby anyway.
What kind of cloth diapers should you get?
This is tricky. There are so many kinds out there, which is fantastic. But also totally overwhelming (to me anyway).
The cheapest option is to get a pile of flat diapers (called “pre-folds”) and some covers that close with snaps or velcro. You don’t need pins or anything like that anymore. I like my hand-me-down Mother-ease covers. A super healthy eco-option is to buy wool covers. I have friends who swear by these. The covers can get pricey but remember, you only need 2 or 3 covers in each size.
You can get a little fancier and buy cloth diapers that are contoured or have snaps or velcro to close. These are nice for avoiding blow-out poops and you don’t have to fold them into place. We have hand-me-down Mother-ease diapers that I like a lot (but my husband doesn’t like them because he hates everything that has snaps). We also have a few raggedy contour diapers. If I had all the money in the world, I would buy more fitted cloth diapers. Fitted diapers are nice because they shape to a baby’s tush. Pre-folds are nice because you can use them as spit-up cloths and later as kitchen rags. You can also use them in a pinch if you need some, eh-hem, feminine hygiene.
What about All-in-Ones (AIOs)?
All-in-ones are great because the cloth diaper inside and the waterproof cover are together in one system. This makes them super easy for babysitters, grandparents, and clumsy co-parents to use. They usually fasten with velcro and they are easy to change. The problem is that you need to get a stack of all-in-ones in each size and your baby outgrows out of them pretty fast. I really like Bumpkins AIOs, which have held up for ten years and three other babies (they have holes in them but they still work!) and we also have Kushies AIOs that we bought for cheap cheap at the consignment shop and that work nicely (though now Leone is too big for the size mediums, sniff.)
What else is out there?
A million other options but you’re probably tired of reading this post so I’ll only mention two:
Pocket diapers, like Fuzzibuns, have been gaining in popularity because you don’t have to change them as often as traditional cloth. The outer layer wicks away the moisture and the insert (or folded pre-fold) gets heavy with pee. I used these as nighttime diapers with my older three (now we do EC so Leone usually just sleeps on a waterproof pad or wears a diaper with no cover at night) and they were great.
I’m not sure, though, that they are the healthiest option. These days I worry that having a synthetic fabric next to a baby’s private parts is not the best way to go.
There’s also a cool one-size-fits-all diapering system called SoftBums, which has an adjustable drawstring in the leg so it grows with your baby. This is a very well made, high concept diaper design (and in the interest of full disclosure: I have one because the owner sent it to me to test it on my baby) that includes snap-in cloth inserts that aren’t as bulky as more traditional diapers. I like this diaper but I don’t love it. I think I want natural fibers–even though they get wet and have to be changed more often–next to my baby’s skin.
Oy, what do you do now?
You’re already on information overload and we haven’t even talked about laundering diapers.
That’s the downside of having so many options!
If this feels overwhelming, you can start with a diaper service. They’ll deliver the diapers to your door, and pick up the dirties, and wash them. Let the service do it for you (ask friends and family to pay for it for the first few months. This is a way better gift than anything you could register for!) and check out all these different diapering systems at your leisure. After you’ve adjusted to having a new baby and being a parent, you can choose a system and start washing your own. Or systems. Although my husband wishes we just had one kind of cloth diaper system, we use a whole bunch of different systems, because our budget doesn’t allow for uniformity. That might work for you as well.
So now you’ve got the diapers, then what?
We have a drawstring waterproof bag in the hamper for wet diapers and we pile them in there. But we also put them in the other laundry baskets around the house. Maybe this will change when the baby starts eating food, but the wet diapers really don’t have a noticeable smell.
You can wash wet diapers with the rest of the family’s laundry.
We have a bucket in the shower where we catch gray water while the shower water is heating up. Before Leone we used that gray water to flush the toilet. Now we use it for her diapers (though she rarely poops in a diaper, which is another miracle of EC).
The poopy diapers soak in the gray water until we’re ready to launder them. It doesn’t have a lid but it does have a handle. We dump the gray water into the toilet and throw the diapers into the machine.
Breastfed poop (a friend calls it “pretty poop”) washes clean in warm water without staining.
It’s important, though, to use a mild (preferably dye-free and eco-friendly) detergent.
If your baby gets a rash with cloth diapers, either you aren’t changing her often enough or her skin is sensitive to the chemicals in the laundry detergent.
What about wipes?
It’s a testimony to the genius of those with advanced degrees in marketing that disposable wipes are so popular considering they’re completely unnecessary.
Just use water and a washcloth to clean your baby’s bum.
Invest in 5-10 cloth washcloths. But you may not need them. When the baby poops, you can easily clean her tush in the sink with some mild soap and warm water and then dry her with a towel.
I Heart Cloth Diapers
Next up: How to travel with cloth. I’ve done it twice now. You can too! I survived and I’m doing it again, going to L.A. this Thursday (for work), baby and cloth diapers in hand.