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An easy tutorial on cloth diapering

Updated on March 10, 2014

Why Cloth Diaper?

Welcome to the world of cloth diapering! It’s really not as hard, time consuming, and or smelly as you imagine- I promise.

There are many different variations on CD’ing, ranging from Full time (including nights) to part- time, you have to go with what works for you. With Kid#1, we did EC (elimination communication), cloth diapers at home, and pampers at night and out. With Kid#2, we do cloth diapers both in and outside of the house, and Pamper him at night. Doing it this way, we end up buying one pack of pampers about every 3 months. We started both boys around 1 month of age- the first month is so overwhelming, and they poop SO MUCH, that for the sake of sanity, we went with Pampers for the first month.

Some pros: CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP. Even if you go ultra high tech and get the AIO (discussed later) your total cost is going to be around 300$-500$ from birth to potty training. Match that with the fact that at Sam’s Wholesale, a pack of Pampers is around 40$, and you’ll be going through those suckers like tissues- especially in the beginning, when the average newborn poops 10 times a day. Thaaat’s right. 10 times. That doesn’t include nights, or wet diapers, just the daytime poopy ones. – a newborn, in my experience will go through one entire 40$ box of 234 diapers in about 3 weeks. So. Considering the fact that the average potty training age is around 3 years, we’re talking a SERIOUS amount of savings.

Pro #2: Early potty training. Since the basic premise of potty training is that around 18 mos. Kidlets start to become aware enough of themselves to understand “wet” and “dry”, cloth diapered kiddos have the advantage over pampered ones, as with a pamper, they’ll never feel the wetness- just the heaviness of the diaper as it gets filled. So, you can skip the training pants step with cloth diapers, as they’re just padded underpants designed to feel wet.. like a cloth diaper. Kid#1 was urine trained a little before his second birthday, and about 80% poop trained now (2.5years old). Kid#3 was completely potty trained before her 2nd birthday. Kid#2 was my latest so far, but even he was done right before his 3rd birthday.

CONS: 1. more laundry (not TOO much more- I do about 1-2 loads of diaper laundry a week, on top of say, the 4 loads of ordinary clothes that we generate)

2. More bulky under clothes- which could be a pro if you have a teeny baby and want to fit them into the clothes designed for their age.

3. More bulky to carry in the diaper bag- I usually CD baby right before we go out, pack one extra prefold/insert set, and then put 2 pampers in my bag. I’ve never needed more than that.

All-in-Ones and Pocket Diapers

Ok. Now the discussion begins as to the different kinds of CD. In my experience, there are three basic subdivisions.

1. All- in-Ones, or AIO. These are the most expensive, albeit coolest diapers. AIO simply means that you have a cloth diaper, surrounded by a waterproof outer which either snaps or attaches with Velcro. Some brand examples are Kushies, BumGenius, Blueberry, etc. My older sister bought us a pack of kushies that I believe were around 50$ for 5. They fit from 10-22lbs, which more than worked for us, as we started using CD around a month, and my kids at age 2.5 has yet to break 25lbs. midget genes, apparently. Figure for 2 loads of laundry a week you’re going to want around 25 diapers. So if you went AIO, you could get a pretty decent start for 250$, and add to your stash as your obsession grows. Pros & cons: Pros- like I said, the convenience of these can not be beat. It’s pretty much like a pamper with regard to the ease of putting on a wiggly butt. As the name says, you don’t have to fuss with finding a cover to put over it, you literally just snap & go. Also- they are SO FLIPPING ADORABLE. always has people that make these, and the patterns are so cute. Cons: They’re pretty bulky. For an out & about trip, more than 2 is going to be a LOT of space in your diaper bag.

2. Pocket Diapers the basic premise is a waterproof cover with a “pocket” that you stuff with an absorbent layer, be it a prefold, or a thick doubler, or a specific layer that it comes with- the idea being, when the layer gets wet, you snap, or stuff, or whatever method it calls for a new layer in, and voila- clean dry baby. it’s not much cheaper than AIO, and WAY more $$ than prefolds, but it is a great way to give new life to newborn size prefolds. I’m going to go ahead and lump Gdiapers in here, as it’s pretty much the same thing, only a whole lot more of disposing into the potty- more info:


3. Prefolds. Oh how I love ‘em. My cheap, soul THRILLS at these. J Prefolds are simply a foldable piece of absorbent cloth with a thicker layer in the middle 1/3. They run in sizes from preemie to toddler, but you can get away with either JUST premium sized (right before toddler) folded extra for your infant, or like we did, buy infant size and premium size and you’re covered. The infant size are cheap anyway- something like 1$ apiece- we had 24 with Kid#1, and 36 with Kid#2, and really, the 24 did just fine- the 36 gave me plenty of time to juggle two kids and laundry. I should mention here that prefolds also have subdivisions: a flat, which is FOLDED to make the extra absorbency in the middle third, and a fitted, which is a prefold contoured and provided with a fastener built in so pins or snappies aren’t required. Again, I have no first hand experience here, I’m just giving you the scoop on different options you may want to try.

Prefolds, part II. Prefolds are a two part (well ok, 3 or maybe 4) process: The prefold, the fastener, and the cover, with optional doubler/insert. Can’t use a prefold without a cover, for obvious reasons- they’re not waterproof. But once you get the hang of it, it is so simple to fold, fasten, & cover – you won’t even think about it. We didn’t bother with pins- the new thing is called a Snappi- they run about 2.50$ a piece, and it’s basically a three armed, stretchy elastic with plastic gripping hooks on the ends that you attach left, right and center of the dipe to hold it in place. Love ‘em.

Prefolds, part III- COVERS!!! Here’s where the fun-ness comes in. remember how I said I loved the AIOs because of the cuteness? Covers are where you get your cuteness fix. There are (again!!) many different types of covers, but again, I’m going to go with my experience- I’ve tried all types listed here.

  1. The wrap: Contoured shape, Velcro or snap. Velcro will wear out after repeated washing, but they are WAY quicker to fasten once baby starts getting aggravated at diaper changes, around 9 months. They are usually made of PUL fabric. You have the option of folding a dipe in thirds and laying it in, no snappi needed (super fast, but best for baby who’s made the switch to solid foods- otherwise you’ll end up washing the cover every time baby has a newborn blowout). The method that I ended up liking was folding the diaper, securing a snappi, and putting the cover over all. Easy as pie. I like the Bummis Super Whisper Wraps- they run about 14$ each, and are bulletproof. CONS: some people don’t like the PUL material- it’s not as soft as say, fleece or wool, so around the legs & waist where it touches baby it’s not going to be as comfortable. Never seemed to bother my kids..
  2. Wool covers: Wool, glorious wool. I wish I’d discovered these with Kid#1, but subsequent kids have reaped the benefits. Antibacterial/microbial = NO SMELL. Once felted (washed in hot water, dried hot hot hot) and lanolized (1t of lanolin (lansinoh is ok) with a squirt of baby soap boiled in 1C water until liquid. Place wool cover in large bowl and cover with water, then pour the lanolin water over & stir. Let soak overnight, then dry by laying in a towel and rolling up- don’t wring.) virtually impervious to liquid. Warm, soft, and keeps the diaper at body temp even when wet. I make these in about 20 mins. From a Goodwill salvaged sweater. A starter pattern is at this link: Even hand sewing these take 20 mins. CONS: must hand wash with baby shampoo if soiled- can’t throw in with regular diaper wash.
  3. Fleece covers: Same principle as wool- in that it“wicks” moisture away from baby so he stays drier, and provide a soft, water-proof barrier between diaper and clothes. CONS: not good for naps, as when the fleece is pressed in one place long enough, it can wick moisture right through and wet underneath. But that’s really only if baby is in it for HOURS & HOURS, which rarely happens. I use these mainly for keeping a pamper leak free at night.

Prefolds, part IV: doublers & inserts- I just discovered the wonder of doublers with Noah. Cuts my washing down to ½ , and reduces the number of changes in a day. Basically, a doubler is a piece of material that is laid in the middle of a folded diaper and provides double the wetness protection, or if not increasing absorbency, pulls moisture away from baby so he feels dry even when the dipe is soaked. I went with function #2- and bought fleece inserts. Same principle as fleece covers; they function to pull moisture away from baby and into the diaper backing it. With one of these in, I can leave Noah in a “wet” diaper for about 3 hours- with Ben, I changed him EVERY HOUR, because I never wanted him to feel wet for longer than that. Fleece makes that worry moot. These can also be made quickly & cheaply with microfiber hand towels cut up & serged on the ends to prevent fraying, then topped with fleece.

What's in a Stash?

In my diaper stash I have:

3 snappies

36 Infant prefolds (green edge)

36 Premium prefolds (blue edge)- Noah still wears these, at 32 pounds

4 Bummis Super Whisper Wrap, size M (15-30lbs)

2 Wick-Eez wraps size S (5-10 lbs)

3 fleece covers, size S

4 fleece covers size M

and then all of the woolies I’ve made- I’ve ended up with 2 “longies” (basically a cover with legs) for each size that the kids have used so far, and 2-3 covers. I’m a big fan of longies- they’re made from the arms of sweaters and are super easy & quick.

Other CD accessories:

2 diaper pails ( we used 8 gal buckets with push button lids)

2 Wetbag liners for the Wets pail, that you can throw right in the wash, usually made of PUL fabric..

1 small wetbag for your diaper bag.

cloth wipes (assuming you’re using these too)

wipes solution( to spray onto baby or onto wipe = wet wipe)

How Do I Wash These, Anyways?

Our method is pretty simple & straight forward. As mentioned above, we use 2 buckets. One is lined with a PUL liner, that can be tossed in the washer as needed.

In this bucket go the wet diapers & wipes- NOT poopy ones.

The poopy ones go in bucket #2, which is ½ filled with water + a scoop of OXY.

Newborn poop is way too runny to do anything but just dump the whole mess in the bucket, as baby moves to solid foods, more and more poop can be scraped, swished, or dumped into the potty, and then the skid marked dipe can go in the poop bucket. I know, it ‘aint pretty, but that’s the facts.

When the time comes for washing, dump the poopy bucket in the laundry, and run a rinse cycle. Once the cycle finishes, add the wet diapers & some laundry detergent- we use All Free & Clear. Run a Hot load. Then dry. DONE! Heavily soiled loads can get a scoop of Oxy, and any stains will come out by drying in the sun. NO BLEACH, NO FABRIC SOFTENERS! These degrade the diapers.

Some Useful Websites

***LOVE THIS SITE: (forum for diaper swaps- if used diapers don’t gross you out, this is a great way to try a bunch of styles until you find what you like (this is where I got my prefolds- 36 prefolds & 4 Bummis wraps for 80$+ shipping- comes to around 100$ and you’re done)


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