We cloth diaper, and I am often asked about our setup: which diapers we use, how we wash them, what we do when we are out and about or traveling. These questions have come frequently enough that they now merit their own post!
This post is not a comprehensive overview of cloth diapering — it’s just a personal account of what works well for our family. There are many cloth diapering options these days, and every cloth diapering family will find its own best setup. Some families will love the convenience of all-in-one diapers. Some families will love the economy of prefolds and covers. Most families will find themselves trying — and often using — a mix of diaper styles!
Before I begin, here is a list of helpful cloth diapering resources:
- Cloth Diapering Terminology – Cloth diapering lingo, demystified.
- The Cost of Cloth Diapers – Compare the cost of disposables versus different types of cloth diapers.
- 5 Simple Steps to Begin Cloth Diapering - Find the right diapers for you.
- DiaperPin - Extensive cloth diaper reviews.
- Green Mountain Diapers - Don’t let the retro-looking website put you off: GMD is chock-full of current, fantastic cloth diapering info and offers an extensive selection of cloth diapers and accessories.
- Global Enfant, Abby’s Lane, and Cottonbabies - These cloth diapering sites offer free shipping on all orders.
- Diaper Junction – Brick-and-mortar and online cloth diaper store in Virginia Beach.
- Franklin Goose - Brick-and-mortar and online natural parenting store in Richmond.
- For Mom and Keiki - Online natural parenting store, based in Yorktown.
- EcoExistence - Local cloth diaper service, for those who want to use, but not wash, cloth diapers.
And finally, here are the details of our cloth diapering setup, FAQ-style!
What type of diapers do you use? We love cotton diapers, rather than synthetic (polyester, microfiber, etc.). Cotton is so absorbent and so soft. Cotton rinses cleanly in the wash and is not as prone to the detergent/oil/additive buildup (and subsequent need for stripping) that synthetic materials are. We can wash our diapers every 2-3 days (rather than every other day) and on temp-boost/extra-sanitary with non-chlorine bleach (when needed) and not worry about voiding warranties or degrading the diapers (as we would with synthetic diapers). [Update: It should be noted that extra-sanitary cycles do degrade diaper covers and the elastic in cotton fitted diapers.]
What brand of diapers do you use? We use a mix of Cloth-eez prefolds and Cloth-eez Workhorse Fitted Diapers, paired with a variety of waterproof covers. Fitted diapers are convenient and great for containing runny newborn poo. GMD’s Workhorse Fitteds are the least expensive fitted diapers I found, and they are wonderful. They are made of super-absorbent prefold fabric, have a sewn-in flap-style quick-dry doubler, and can be ordered with or without snaps.
Even my husband agrees: prefolds are a breeze to put on with a Snappi (video proof here and here). A Snappi is a stretchy T-shaped piece of rubber with hooks at the tips. It works much like an Ace bandage fastener and fastens the diaper in seconds. We’ve never pinned a diaper!
What brand of covers do you use? We have tried many brands of covers. The ones we reach for most often are our one-size-fits-all Flip Diaper Covers and Thirsties PUL covers (we own sized Thirsties covers with velcro but wish we had all Flips or a combo of Flips and Thirsties Duo Wrap two-sizes-fit-all covers with snaps instead). Both offer great coverage over fitteds and prefolds. At night, we often use wool covers (Little Beetles Little-to-Big with snaps and LANAcare), which are breathable and dependable. The wool covers require hand-washing, but not often (every 6 weeks or so), because the lanolin is naturally antibacterial.
How many diapers and covers do you own? For each size (newborn on up), we own 18 fitted diapers (some with snaps, some snap-free that we fasten with a Snappi) and 1 dozen prefold diapers. For each size, we own at least 4 PUL covers and at least 1 wool cover. Diaper sites typically recommend 6-8 covers, but we’ve found that keeping 4 in rotation during the day (and 1 wool at night) works for us.
What are your thoughts on sized diapers versus one-size-fits-all (“one-size”) diapers? Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Sized diapers (which come in size newborn, small, medium, etc.) are sized to your baby and so fit trimly and well; however, you must buy a set of diapers in each size and find a place to store each set as your little one outgrows them. Typically, sized diapers can be used on several babies before wearing out, since the wear-and-tear is distributed across several sets of diapers. One-size diapers have a bulkier or sometimes awkward fit on smaller babies (due to the extra fabric present to accommodate your baby’s growth); however, with one-size diapers, you only need to buy one set of diapers. Typically, one-size diapers are used on just one baby and then replaced for the next baby, since they are often worn out by the time the first little one is potty trained.
What are your thoughts on snaps versus Velcro? I love snaps! They are so durable. Velcro (also called hook-and-loop, Aplix, or Touchtape) can fill with lint over time and become less functional; the tabs can scratch chubby baby thighs; and older babies can undo Velcro. Velcro offers a true custom fit; Velcro can be attached anywhere along the Velcro strip, while snaps are limited by their fixed locations. Despite that, I’ve always felt that my snap covers have given me a good fit.
If you were to buy an all-in-one type of diaper, what would it be? BumGenius Elemental Organic All-in-Ones. Cotton inner, synthetic outer, no pocket-stuffing required, great reputation (read reviews here and a super-detailed two-part post here and here). [Update: in Spring 2013, BumGenius released a new version of the Elemental AIO that is trimmer than the original; check DiaperPin.com for reviews in the coming months.] That, or GroVia All-In-Ones, which moms also really like, and are side-snapping (reviews here and here).
Do you ever use disposable diapers? Yes! We used Seventh Generation disposables for the first month and would do it again in a heartbeat. [Update: Seventh Generation changed its materials and new formulation gave our son a rash, so we switched to The Honest Company disposable diapers.] Particularly if you are first-time parents and won’t have much help at home in the early weeks, consider giving yourself the gift of not having to do diaper laundry for a few weeks (or even just the first week — sticky meconium is hard to wash out of cloth). We also use disposables when we travel, or if Bennett has diaper rash. Diaper rash ointments — even ones designed for cloth diapers — can build up on cloth diapers, reduce their absorbency, and are hard to strip off. When we need to use ointment, we either put Bennett in disposables or use Imse Vimse Flushable Diaper Liners to protect our cloth diapers (though we don’t flush the liners).
Do you use cloth wipes? We use a mix of disposable and cloth wipes. For poopy diapers, we will often begin with a Seventh Generation Disposable Wipe [Update: we now use The Honest Company wipes.] and finish with a Two-Sided Cloth Wipes wet with plain water. Like many cloth diaperers, we keep a Coleman pump pot full of boiled water near our changing area for this purpose. (We boil the water to minimize bacterial growth, since the water sits in the pump pot for a long time; it cools over several days, but be careful when it is freshly boiled! Twirling a hot washcloth/wipe in the air will cool it down quickly.) Some people use wipe formulas (like Homestead Baby Wipe Companion), but we have never found the need to, and in fact, the one we did try irritated B’s skin.
Do you use a diaper sprayer? YES! Diaper sprayers are brilliant. We rinse poo solids off diapers into the toilet. The rinsing presoaks the diaper (preventing stains) and simplifies washing, since there’s no need to run extra cycles to remove solids from the diapers. To be honest, sometimes we don’t get around to rinsing until a few hours after the poo was deposited; we might let a few poopy diapers stack up over the course of the day and then go rinse them out all at once later. We have the Potty Pail System, which is a diaper sprayer and a big plastic bucket with a hole in the bottom. You set the bucket over the toilet and spray into it; it reduces splashing, and all the waste water drains into the toilet through the hole in the bottom. We love it, but only because we have a spare bathroom we can leave it set up in at all times. If you are short on bathroom space, you might want to invest in a sprayer alone — the bucket is a convenience but not a necessity for happy diapering.
How do you store dirty diapers? At first, we bought two Mommy’s Touch diaper pail liners to put dirty diapers in; we’d use the clean one while the dirty one was being washed with the dirty diapers. But we found that the diapers got stinkier and mildewier when trapped in that anaerobic environment than when in a container that allowed air circulation. So, we have a run-of-the-mill plastic laundry basket dedicated to dirty diapers. We keep it in a cool place, and honestly, it barely smells. And I have a sensitive nose! Rinsing poo diapers with the diaper sprayer is key to the success of this method, I think. When diaper-washing time comes, we just take the laundry basket downstairs and pop the diapers in the washer. We have a separate laundry basket dedicated to clean diapers. And perhaps I shouldn’t admit this, but we don’t fold the clean diapers and put them away anywhere. They just live in the clean diaper basket.
What do you do when you are out and about and need to change a cloth diaper? It’s just like changing a disposable diaper, except you put the dirty cloth diaper in a wet bag, which is a zip-top cloth bag that has two compartments: one for holding clean diapers, covers, and wipes, and one waterproof compartment for dirty diapers. We use a large Planet Wise Wet Bag.
How often do you wash your diapers? We have enough diapers (~30) to wash only every 2-3 days.
What detergent do you use? How do you wash your diapers? We use Ecos Free & Clear Detergent (no additives or optical brighteners; available locally). We wash in a high-efficiency front-loading washing machine. Typically we do a cold permanent press cycle with Ecos and BioKleen Bac-Out; a regular hot cycle with Ecos and vinegar rinse (or occasionally Ecover Non-Chlorine Bleach) for disinfection; and sometimes an additional plain hot cycle. Green Mountain Diapers has detailed diaper-washing suggestions. If you order your diapers from GMD, you can check an option to receive their Diaper How-To Booklet, which contains extensive diaper-using and diaper-washing information and is worth its weight in gold (and then some).
I’ve heard you say you do Elimination Communication. What potty do you use for that? We do part-time E.C. with Bennett. We didn’t do it much when he was a newborn, but as he got older and it was easier to tell when he needed to potty, we begain E.C.ing more. We bought a white dish tub to use as a potty; we just hold him over it in one of the classic E.C. positions. We also have a Baby Bjorn Smart Potty, but he tends to spray upward when he pees, and for us the dish tub is better at containing that spray.
If you were to start your cloth diapering over again from the beginning, would you do anything differently? For certain, I again would choose cotton diapers. I would still use newborn disposables for the first 2-4 weeks, until baby grew to fit comfortably in size small or all-in-one diapers. I love our sized cotton prefolds/fitteds but would pair them with one-size-fits-all PUL covers with snaps, like the Flip Diaper Covers (rather than sized covers), to avoid having to buy multiple sizes of covers. We love wool covers for nighttime now that we have them, but we could have gotten along just fine with PUL covers only. Also, I would phase in some BumGenius Elemental Organic All-in-Ones or GroVia All-In-Ones, especially if the baby I was buying for was my last or only baby and I therefore wouldn’t be planning to use the diapers on a second baby.
And that’s it for our cloth diapering FAQ! (Whew!)
There are so many cloth diapering options these days! If ever they become overwhelming, remember: all cloth diapers will catch poop and pee. They all work. You don’t have to do weeks of research on cloth diapers or spend a boatload of money to have a positive cloth diapering experience. You can buy prefolds and a few PUL covers (the most basic and least expensive setup) and be a success! Other cloth diaper options may add convenience or style, but are not necessary for happy diapering!
Have any further questions? Feel free to pose them in the comments! I love to talk cloth diapering!