Cloth Diapers-An Explanation

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We started using cloth diapers when Liam was around 5 weeks old.  Damon wasn’t so sure about this idea but he went with it and learned to use them.  I prefer cloth diapers if you decide to use diapers at all.  Whenever I use a disposable I hate when a kid goes to the bathroom in them because then I think that is money that I’m just having to throw away.  For some reason when people hear that you use cloth, their eyes get really big and they look at you like you are a little crazy.  Responses range from, “Really,” “Wow, you’re brave,” “There is no way I would do that.”  Every once in a while, you get someone who says, “So do we,” or they are curious. 

I notice that more women seem to be open to it than men.  Men get worried about poop being everywhere.  Especially the washing machine.  I figure that you will end up with poop being in the washing machine regardless.  With disposables, you get blow outs up the back that cover your child in feces and their clothes.  With cloth, it gets on the diaper and then goes into the wash.  So either way, the machine gets poop in it and your hands probably got a bit on it too, more so with the disposables than the cloth in my opinion.  

I wanted to share our set up for cloth diapering so that others see that it doesn’t have to be so scary and in fact is not as dirty as one thinks.  We have our changing table set up in the bathroom.  Most people have the changing table in the nursery or they just use the floor.  I like having it in the bathroom because you have tile there. Any messes are easy to clean up.  Plus, since we do EC part-time, it makes it easier to put the baby over the potty when you take the diaper off, whether it be dry or wet. 

The Set-Up: 

Below we have a picture of our changing table.  Each bin holds different things that we have found necessary to cloth diaper. I’ll explain those in a moment.  

Changing Table Set-Up

 We also have a storage area for our cloth wipes.  Cloth wipes make a lot of sense to use, especially when you are at home.  We still use some disposable wipes for those times when poop is everywhere, but the cloth wipes actually are a bit grippier and can get a lot of stuff up too.  When using cloth wipes some people like to make up a diaper spray that includes things like some mild baby soap, I like Dr. Bonner’s, water,  some tea-tree oil, lavender or other essential oils that smell good.  I don’t use the spray as much as I just use water that I have in a peri-bottle.  I soak a cloth wipe and then wipe the baby down with it.  Then I just throw dirty diaper and wipe into our diaper pail.  I made my own wipes by using flannel and jersey zig-zag stitched together.  I decided that I don’t like the flannel as much because it leaves fuzz on my velcro diaper tabs, so since then I’ve made  a few more that are just made of jersey.  You can also just use a package of cheap wash cloths or even cut up old t-shirts.  

Homemade Cloth Wipes-Golf Theme
Earth's Best Disposable Wipes, Peri-bottle with water, Diaper Spray and some Snappis

 An asset to any cloth diaper set-up is a diaper sprayer.  I purchased one of these from Cotton Babies when Liam started on solid foods.  When a baby is exclusively breastfeeding, the poop doesn’t have to be sprayed off before putting into the diaper pail.  It washes right out, rarely causing a problem, however once solids are introduced, poop changes.  It gets harder to get out of a diaper and starts to smell.  So a diaper sprayer is great.  You can hold the diaper over the toilet.  The sprayer is attached to the toilet’s water line and you just spray the offending poop into the toilet.  Then you drop the diaper into the diaper pail.  We also use the sprayer sometimes to spray out our little potty.  

Diaper Sprayer
Sprayer in Action
Diaper Pail with Diaper Genie (We put or disposable wipes in it)

 After a diaper is used, we just throw it into this pail.  With a small baby, we wash diapers almost daily.  We use our smaller cloth diapers now as burp cloths.  Nick out grew them so we want to still get use out of them.  The larger ones we use as his diapers. You don’t necessarily have to wash your diapers everyday and when the baby starts going less in a day, of course you can space out the washing.  I always like to have a large amount in waiting. 

The Diapers: 

We use a combination of diaper styles.  If you ever visit Diaper Swappers it can be a little overwhelming trying to learn the lingo of cloth diapering.  There are pref0lds, pockets, all-in-ones, fitteds, covers, etc.  We don’t use the all-in-ones or the fitteds just because I found something that works for us with just the prefolds with a cover and the pocket diapers. If you have questions about the other two styles, send me a message.  

Our workhorse diaper that is very inexpensive to use is the prefold.  We have Chinese prefolds.  There are also Indian prefolds and truthfully, I don’t know what the difference is.  Prefold run between $0.60 to $1.50 a diaper.  They are multiple layers of cotton sewn together to make them more absorbent.  These are not the Birds Eye diapers that you see at Wal-Mart, although those diapers can work, I think that prefolds are hardier and less expensive.  Save the Birds Eye diapers for burp cloths.  They come in different sizes.  We have 36 of them in two different sizes.  The smaller size is obviously less expensive and we were able to use them with Nick and Liam until they were about two months old.  Our kids grow quickly and we have a certain way that we like to fold the diaper so the smaller diapers don’t work as long for us.  Check out Green Mountain Diapers for a ton of images on how you can use prefolds. Some people don’t fold the diapers, but just lay them in the diaper cover. 

Cotton Prefold
Cotton Prefold with a Snappi

Prefolds typically require a cover though, unless you are trying to see how often your child wets themselves.  A Snappi is a wonderful invention that allows the diaper to stay on without using safety pins. On the ends of each Snappi, there are little claws that grip into the fabric.  You do have to be careful not to snag your finger when using it, but that has only happened to me twice.  You won’t accidentally hurt the baby using these.  Like I said before though, a lot of people just lay the diaper on top of a cover and never use the snappi. I just like how they keep the diaper in place and we’ve used them from the beginning, so it is what we are used to.  

Thirsties Cover over a Cotton Prefold

 We prefer the Thirsties diaper cover, a homemade wool cover or a fleece cover.  Wool is wonderful to use as a cover.  It doesn’t get too hot in the summer and keeps you warm in the winter.  Wool is very absorbent and naturally antibacterial. You just have to lanolize wool periodically. You must wash the wool by hand though, otherwise you will have shrinkage problems.  We only wash the covers if they get soiled by poop or start to smell.  The fleece cover is great too and very comfy.  I plan to make some fleece covers myself, but you have to use the right kind of fleece, Malden Mills.  It is the same kind of fleece that they use in North Face jackets.  If you use fleece from the fabric store, you will end up soaked in urine.  It is not very absorbent unless you use the Malden Mills fleece.  

Fleece Diaper Cover by Dancing Bears
Homemade Wool Cover-I love this one


 At night-time we use Bum Genius pocket one-size diapers.  

Bum Genius Diaper-See the opening at the top, you stuff it with inserts there

These diapers you stuff with inserts that make them more absorbent.  My only complaint with them is the velcro and elastic leg-gussets can wear out faster than the fabric does. They offer kits to fix these issues and isn’t too hard to do yourself.  Also, the micro-fiber inserts can start to hold an odor after a while but there are different washing techniques that can help this.  I’ve never paid full price for these diapers.  On the Cotton Babies website, they often offer seconds or even used diapers for a lot less.  Full price the diapers are $17.95 per diaper.  I’ve purchased them at $5 a piece and one time as low as $2 a piece.  At those prices, I’m willing to have the velcro a bit worn.  If you don’t like the velcro, Cotton Babies has come out with a new addition that uses snaps to close the diapers.  I got tired of having the velcro on our diapers and converted some of them to snaps.  The problem with snaps can be when your child is in-between sizes. The velcro tabs work better to get it sized correctly.  With an older child you can still run into leaking issues because they don’t always wake up to urinate and they pee a lot more.  We will use fleece pants over the diaper to help prevent leakage issues.  I find these at consignment sales and many times at Old Navy in the clearance section.  

Bum Genius Diaper-These can fit both Nick and Liam

 Bum Genius diapers can fit both of our kids because they have snaps in the front that can shorten or lengthen the diaper.  These types of diapers don’t always work for everyone.  Some kids react to the microfiber liner that is in these diapers.  

We use two different kind of inserts in the Bum Genius pocket diaper.  Microfiber and hemp.  The microfiber is bulky and less absorbent, but is less expensive.  The hemp inserts are very absorbent and extremely thin.  With hemp inserts and the prefolds, you have to wash them  a few times when you first get them to get them to get full absorbance.  

Microfiber Insert
Baby Kicks Hemp Insert

 With any diaper set-up you need to have a potty close by so that you can help your child learn that the goal is to really use a toilet or potty.  So, from an early age, I recommend holding your child over the toilet or over a potty often so that they associate going to the bathroom in the proper place.  It can be harder to get a kid to use a potty at a later age if you’ve never exposed them to using a potty until they are three.  Liam still wears diapers for nighttime.  We’ve tried nap times without a diaper but he still wets the bed often.  I don’t have the energy now for night-time EC so for now, both boys wear the Bum Genius diapers at night-time or naps (for Liam).  

One of our many potties

Washing Routine: 

Our wash routine is pretty simple.  We wash everyday or every other day. We take our wetbag to the washing machine.  Dump the diapers into the washing machine (rarely ever having to touch the diapers).  Turn the knob to the water level that is necessary based on how big your load it.  We start it out on a cold rinse cycle with some vinegar in the water.  Then the second round we wash in hot water with some free and clear detergent.  If any of the diapers have any staining on them, I hang them outside and let the sun bleach them back out.  It only takes a couple of hours for the stains to disappear.  I don’t line dry my diapers most of the time just because they come out pretty stiff.   We do hang dry our clothes part of the time to get that line dry smell and to save some energy.  When drying the diapers in the wash, we do not use any type of fabric softener.  Fabric softeners leave a film on the diapers making them less absorbent.  We actually stopped using fabric softeners at all after we started using cloth diapers and I don’t notice a difference.  I’ve heard that if you add baking soda to your wash, which we do sometimes, it acts as a softener on your clothes.  

If the diapers are retaining a smell, we wash the diapers in dishwashing liquid.  This strips any odors and other things off of the diapers and they begin to smell fresh again.  You do not use much dishwashing liquid, only a tablespoon or two, otherwise you will end up with a ton of bubbles.  

No since we are on the subject of cloth, something for the women to consider.  If you aren’t already using a Diva cup for your menstrual cycle, you might consider using cloth pads.  They are more comfortable, do not have any toxic substances in the pads and a lot of women say that when using cloth or a Diva cup, they experience less menstrual cramping. So check them out as something to consider.  Also, if you are breastfeeding and have leakage issues, think about cloth breast pads, my favorites are Lana Wool Pads, highly absorbent and very comfortable.  

Cloth Mama Pads

4 thoughts on “Cloth Diapers-An Explanation

    Holly said:
    July 25, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Excellent post! I’m going to send a local friend who is pregnant and askingCD questions here. :). We have always washed about every third day and a I use a large plastic spoons for when the poop changes from breast fed only, couldn’t talk Theo into a sprayer. I’m one of those who doesn’t use a snappy but I’ve always thought they were so cool looking. Lol

    I also use BG pockets and fill them with wash cloths. Since we EC, I want it to absorb no more than one wet. ;). We only use cloth wipes, again with the washcloths.

    I made mama cloth once but found I like a trifolded (you guessed it) washcloths best. It’s the same ones I use to stuff the pocket diapers since mama cloth isn’t needed right now.

      lahancock responded:
      July 25, 2010 at 1:27 pm

      Thanks Holly. I don’t know a whole lot of people that use the snappi. I just happen to like them and like I said, it is what we are used to now. I don’t have a need for the mama cloth right now either, hopefully not for a long time but I have used them when I’m going for a run sometimes. Still working on strenghening the pelvic floor. 🙂

      Wash cloths are very handy and you can get a huge pack of them at discount stores, which make them a very economical option.

    Alicia Anderson said:
    July 25, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Great post! I’ve worked out my own little routine for the washing of my diapers and scored some great tips from your post. Thanks!

    Kristen said:
    July 26, 2010 at 12:44 am

    This post should really come in handy by January 😉 At least V’s almost out of diapers…only at night. Yay!

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