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Guide to Cloth Diapers

Updated on September 5, 2014

Ten Reasons to Use Cloth Diapers

As an exercise in being positive, here are ten things I like about cloth diapers.

  1. I never run out of diapers/no emergency trips to the store for diapers!
  2. Great fit, no slipping.
  3. Leaks are rare.
  4. I never have to worry about where to throw a diaper away.
  5. Good for sensitive skin, less diaper rash.
  6. They look cute .
  7. No chemical smell.
  8. You can use them for multiple children or donate them for others to use.
  9. Conversation starter!
  10. And of course, using cloth diapers saves $$$$.

Why I Use Cloth Diapers

Most decisions you can make after your baby arrives, except for three. You need to buy a car seat, decide how you are plan to feed your baby and how you will diaper your baby, unless you are brave enough to try elimination communication which involves no diapers.

When I was pregnant, cloth diapers intrigued me. It was weird. I didn’t know anyone who used cloth diapers. I had never even seen a cloth diaper, but I had this little birdie in my head telling me that I should at least educate myself about the option. I read about cloth diapers online and became borderline obsessed.

My intrigue turned into resolve. We would be a cloth diapering family. I was excited. I loved looking at cloth diapers online and picking out cute ones to add to our registries. I was terrified to tell people about our decision and it turns out, with good reason. Responses ranged from skeptical to combative. Some of my friends placed bets about how long we would last. My friends are funny.

I don’t consider myself a strong advocate for the environment. I’d like to be, but I can’t say that I’ve spent much effort changing our lifestyle to coincide peacefully with the environment. We try to reduce, reuse, and recycle in our household, but that’s about it. We usually choose the environment when that choice is also the frugal one (i.e. buying secondhand).

The environment wasn’t the main reason we chose cloth; it was money. Nine times out of ten, if I tell another mom that we use cloth diapers, I hear, “You know it’s not really better for the environment, right?” I always respond that it’s a better fit for our family, but secretly think cloth diapers are better for the environment. You reduce, reuse, and potentially recycle with cloth and do none of the three with disposable diapers. You can also wash diapers yourself and line dry them to reduce the impact. Scientifically, I have no proof, but I’m sure it’s out there. I’m just too lazy to do the research or argue about it.

Although I seem to be opening myself up for attack, I always ask pregnant women and new moms if they are using cloth or disposable. I am dying to find one other soul who lives in my zip code and uses cloth. Until that happens, I’ll keep asking, nodding politely as my choices are criticized, and use the Internet for support.

Cloth diapers are cheaper. I’m not into science or math. You can Google information about long-term costs on your wallet and the environment for cloth diapers and you will get more than enough information. But I know they are cheaper because I don’t have to go to the store each week and buy new diapers. I used credit from returning gifts, like disposable wipes and diapers, to stock up on one-size pocket diapers that should fit our little one until potty training and 6 diaper covers. I spent $48 on prefold diapers to use while she’s a newborn and about $30 buying wet bags to hold dirty diapers. I spent $78 total. You can Google what an average investment costs for cloth diapers, but rest assured, unless you are doing something very wrong, it will be cheaper than a lifetime of disposables.

I don’t like change. Who does? Our family would have to change several habits for disposable diapers to work. I hate going to the store. I hate buying things just to throw them away. Our dogs get into our trash. We sometimes forget to take the trash out to the curb and it sits in the can for an extra week. I don’t feel like we’ve changed a thing for cloth diapers to work for us.

You have to decide the best fit for your family. Visit a cloth diaper class, online forums, and cloth diaper websites. Watch YouTube videos about cloth diapers. Educate yourself and then decide what’s best for you. There is no judgment here if you choose cloth or disposable diapers or a combination of both. I am a little freaked out by elimination communication, though.


Detergent Scoop
Detergent Scoop | Source

Wash Routine

Washing cloth diapers is simple in our house. We must have good luck, good diapers, and/or good water because after 7 months we don't have problems with smells or absorbency.

One tip I regrettably ignored for 4 months is to pull the inserts out as you go along. I thought, "It's just easier to get my hands dirty all at once." I was totally wrong. It's so much faster to just dump the diapers in the wash without having to pull out each insert. It's also a lot less gross. One piece of advice I (mostly) follow is stuffing the diapers straight out of the dryer. It's true, it saves so much time.

This is how we wash our diapers:

Step 1. Put the diapers in the box. Just kidding. Dump the diapers into the washer. Flip the wet bags inside out and add them to the washer. Wash on cold for a full regular cycle.

Step 2. Add 2 tbsp. powder detergent and wash on cold for a full regular cycle. I use this chart to choose detergents. I prefer powder to liquid, but I think it's because I really like the Rockin' Green's magnetic scoop (see picture).

Cloth diapers drying in the sun.
Cloth diapers drying in the sun. | Source

Reader Poll

Do you use cloth diapers?

See results

Overnight Solutions

Finding an overnight solution for cloth diapers is not that simple. I want a no-leak cloth diaper solution without spending more money on diapers. When you're using cloth diapers for the savings, you have to be careful. It's easy to spend more money than you originally planned, especially when you hit a bump in the road.

Some people use disposables for nighttime, but I find that they are more likely to leak than cloth. And I don't want to spend extra money when I've already invested in a decent stash of cloth diapers.

For now, we'll keep using our imperfect solution- a double-stuffed BumGenius 4.0 or a BG 4.0 with a prefold and small insert. Both work most nights. We have a leak about once every ten days. With 1-2 nursing sessions a night, sometimes I change the diaper during the nighttime to eliminate the risk of leaking. I'm also knitting a wool cover to add to our nighttime solution (using yarn from my stash) or use instead of the BG 4.0.

Have you found your perfect nighttime solution? I'd love to hear about it!

Organized Diaper Stash

Newborn Prefold Diaper
Newborn Prefold Diaper | Source

Q: Should I Skip Newborn Size?

Short A: Maybe? I don't recommend it! We used our Green Mountain Diapers newborn size (orange-edge) prefolds for 5 months as diapers and now use them for cleaning (and more).

Long A: Our baby is on the smaller side (10%). We knew she was small before we delivered, so we planned accordingly. We bought 2 dozen of the Green Mountain Prefold newborn size. What I didn't realize is that we would use them for almost 5 months as diapers and continue to use them to clean our house. Before they retired as diapers, I gave one dozen of them to my cousin to use for her baby due any day now and kept one dozen to use for cleaning. According to GMD's website, the newborn size is usually worn by babies who are 6-10 pounds, or approximately 0-2 months.

We used the prefolds often not only as diapers, but as mini changing pads. We also put one down on the changing pad for quick urine absorption and had one on hand to throw on top when needed.

I think you can buy only the infant (yellow) size and use them for many months, depending on the size of your baby. In the beginning, it will probably require some additional adjustments and folding to get a good fit on the baby (aka extra work).

If you are having a larger baby, I'd still recommend getting a dozen of the newborn size. Even if they stop fitting as diapers, you can use them as burp cloths, swiffer covers, pot holders, etc. Green Mountain Diapers also explains "the preemie or newborn size can be used a doubler later on."

If you don't want to invest in a full dozen, you can email GMD and ask if they'd sell you 6 of each size (orange and yellow). Can't hurt to ask, right? I thought they used to sell them by the dozen and individually...but it looks like this changed (or I don't remember correctly).

How to Fold Cloth Diapers

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