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Babies of the Cloth: Cloth Diapering-- Who, What, When, How and Why

Updated on March 7, 2011

The Cloth Diaper Alternative

 This modern world is full of options.  Mayonaise or mustard?  Pickles or onions?  White or wheat?  Do I even WANT a hamburger?  Parents also have many options in regards to how to care for their child.  The moment the baby is born (although hopefully she has already made this decision before the actual birth) the mother must choose whether to breastfeed, bottle feed, or a combination of the two.  Before this, she has decided whether to have a natural childbirth or use painkillers.  The mother is never finished deciding what the best thing is to do for her child. 

One such option involves the choice of diapers.  For many years women had to use cloths to diaper their babies.  This seemed inconvenient to someone sometime, and this person invented disposable diapers.  There are some good things about disposable diapers, convenience being the first one to come to mind.  They need only be used once and then thrown away.  When traveling, there need be no bag or pail for used diapers, as they can be tossed in the trash can at the nearest rest stop or gas station.  They do not need to be washed, so there's no extra laundry. 

Conversely, these lumps of plastic run a higher risk of causing allergies to your baby's tender little bottom.  They grow expensive very quickly, because, of course, you use multiple diapers a day (and sometimes multiple diapers an hour!).  These diapers are also likely to cause rashes and infections, because the moisture stays so close to the baby's skin.  This is especially a problem during the night when diaper changes are almost certainly less frequent.  Add to this the fact that disposable diapers are steadily filling the landfills, and potentially polluting the earth, and you may be looking around for another option.

Target locked!  Cloth diapers to the rescue!




Cloth diapers can be for anyone. Regardless of their specific reasons, cloth diapers are available to a wide variety of people.

You may be thinking that cloth diapers are pricey. Indeed, many cloth diapers run up to $12 or more apiece. But cloth diapers are NOT an elitist option! An initial investment may seem like a lot, but these diapers pay for themselves very quickly.

Consider: A package of 40 diapers costs around $11, but let's say $12 just to make our comparison easier. Forty diapers last roughly three and a half days, with a diaper change every two hours. This adds up to about $24 a week to buy disposable diapers. This does not include wipes or diaper rash cream.

My stash of diapers, which is over 20 diapers, including all the inserts, some cloth wipes, a large hanging wet bag and a sling to carry my baby cost arounf $600. Don't freak out! In a year you will spend $1248 on disposable diapers using the above calculations. Again, this is without the cost of wipes. I wash my diapers every 2-3 days.

One source, the first link in the links section below, states that a family will spend $1600 in a two year period on diapers. Cloth diapers, in the highest price range, cost $1000. This is for six dozen diapers. Therefore, yearly the cloth diaper user will spend $600 dollars less if they buy high end diapers. If they buy cheaper cloth diapers, this source submits that they can spend around $300 for the whole lot. This means that this cloth diapering family will spend $1300 less than the family who uses disposables.

These figures are for two years of diapering. Of course, you only need to buy cloth diapers once, so your first investment is all there is.

It becomes easy to see, then, that cloth diapering offers a range of pricing, and will cost much less in the long run than disposable diapers. YOU can use cloth diapers!

For a more thorough breakdown of cloth diapering costs compared to disposables check out this great article.


There are several different types of cloth diapers. The first one to come to mind may be the simple squares of material that you fold together and close with pins. Cloth diapers have come quite a ways since these were all that were available.

  • Prefolds: The simple squares are still available, with a few added perks. New systems of closure and cute covers make these a practical option, as they are the least expensive of the cloth diaper family. The covers are generally sold separately though.


Fitted Diapers: Like prefolds, these diapers require covers.  They are available in a variety of absorbent fabrics, and there are many different colors and patterns of cover available.  These are usually sized diapers, but are sometimes multi-sized.


 Pocket Diapers: Pocket Diapers have two parts, a cover, usually lined with microfleece or suede, and an insert, sometimes called a soaker.  There are several well-known brands and varieties of pocket diapers.  The inserts are made of microfiber terry, hemp or bamboo. 

 All in Ones (Sometimes abbreviated AIOs): All in ones offer convenience and ease.  These diapers are a cover and an absorbent pad combined.  They are sized diapers, generally, and have easy closures, often velcro.


Snap 'n Wraps: This diaper system, available from Rainforest Babies, is very versatile. The diaper includes a cover, lined with fleece, and a soaker pad that you attach with snaps to the inside of the baby's diaper. These soakers are detached when soiled, and can be washed by themselves, while the cover can be used multiple times until it gets wet or dirty itself. The soakers, made from microterry, are available in some cute prints.  They are also sold separately.  Extra soakers enable you to use your covers several times. 


Flips Diapers: Flips diapers are a brand that provides three options for inserts.  One is a regular stay-dry insert, one is organic, and one is disposable.  This allows for convenience in traveling.  These diapers are available in three sizes and quite a few different colors.  They have snap closures. 



 Cloth diapers can be worn from birth.  They are available in very small sizes up to toddler training pants.  Some parents find it easier to use disposable for the first little while, since babies tend to go through more diapers at the beginning of their lives than later on when their stomachs are bigger and can go longer without emptying.

Training pants are the cloth alternative to pull-ups.  Some are available at  These are a better choice for potty training than disposable ones, because pull-ups do not allow babies to feel the moisture.  Thus the child does not recognize when she has soiled herself.  Children who use training pants feel uncomfortable when they soil themselves, and can therefore be more easily taught to control their bodies.


Cloth diapering may seem complicated, but there is only a little more effort involved in using cloth diapers than there is when using disposable ones.  Here are some step-by-step instructions for cloth diaper use:

  1. Stuff or put together: If your diapers need an insert or soaker, it is easier to stuff or attach these all in advance, so you are not scrambling to find an insert for your cover when your baby is sitting in a dirty diaper.
  2. Diaper: Putting the diaper on the baby is easy as pie.  Some close with velcro, some with snaps.  The good thing is that, with snap closures especially, the diaper's fit is very adjustable.
  3. Remove and Store: Of course, removal is very simple, too.  When you remove the diaper, also remove the insert or soaker.  These should wash outside of the cover to ensure that they get clean and dry.  You can put your diapers in a pail or wet bag to await washing.  However, do not put your diapers in water while they wait to be washed.  There is no need, and it smells bad.  Wet bags are available at Bumbledoo, Sweetbottoms Baby Boutique, and many other places online.  *Wet bags are also available in travel sizes.  You will need to carry one in your diaper bag for storage of soiled diapers while away from home.*
  4. Wash: Washing your diapers is not difficult, but there are a few important things to remember.  One thing to know is to only use additive free detergent.  There are a few types that are good specifically for cloth diapers, such as some from Bum Genius and Rockin Green Detergents.  When washing, it is a good idea to run the diapers and inserts through an extra rinse cycle to remove any residue.  If you are unable to do this, you can wash them once without detergent and then again with detergent.  Many people recomend drying diapers on a line.  This also helps keep the inside from staining, as the diapers get bleached by the sun.  If you cannot do this, it is allright to dry them in the dryer.  Just remember NOT to use any fabric softener or dryer sheets at any time during the washing process.


Now that you know quite a bit about cloth diapers you may be feeling a little overwhelmed.  "Why rock the boat?" you may be thinking.

Don't worry, you can do it!!

You have already heard reasons NOT to use disposable diapers, but why use cloth diapers? 

  1. Comfort:  Cloth diapers are soft and cushy.  The fabric used inside them is specifically designed to wick moisture side to side instead of leaving it right against the baby's skin.  The fit of cloth diapers is a little more adjustable, too.
  2. Health: Some children cannot wear disposable diapers due to allergies to the materials used to make them.  These children may have chronic diaper rash.  Other problems can come from disposable diapers, specifically for little boys, who need more air circulation down there.
  3. Cost: Beyond your intitial investment, cloth diapers are very affordable, and really cost only what it costs to launder them.
  4. Environment: As previously mentioned, disposable diapers, made from non-biodegradable materials, are currently filling landfills all over the nation.  Cloth diapers, obviously, are not thrown away after each use.  According to one source, one stash of diapers can last through two children.  Even if they are thrown away at this time, they are made of cloth, and often organic fabrics, which will not pollute the earth in such a huge way.

Whatever your reasons, cloth diapers are a wonderful option for you and your baby.  Check out the links below for more resources.  You are not alone.  There is a whole world of cloth diapering people ready to welcome you and yours with open arms!


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    • ggenda profile image

      ggenda 6 years ago from USA

      Awesome! We just started cloth diapering and love it. So far Fuzzibunz are my favorites. Thanks for the hub!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 7 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I never really thought about all the choices although my wife was responsible for all those choices.

    • RainbowRecognizer profile image

      RainbowRecognizer 7 years ago from Midwest

      This is very comprehensive - I love the explanations & photos :o) Cloth diapering eventually led me to elimination communication and everyone in the family is happier because of it. Thanks for sharing this!