Ahhhh ...... cloth diapers. I get asked about cloth a lot because it can be a bit of a intimidating undertaking- especially when adjusting to a new baby.
Cloth is not for everyone because it truly is a commitment and a bit more work than disposable diapers ('sposies in the cloth world). I have heard probably every question or remark in the book when it come to our choice to do majority cloth with our kids. I would never deny that disposables are, many times, more convenient, but cloth has many perks as well and we love it. I wanted to do a post about how and why we transitioned to cloth, our methods/ routine, and letting people know that, yes we use disposables too! Cloth is not scary. Is it extra work? Sure. Is the work difficult? Nah.
So how did we start? With Kellen, I knew about half way into my pregnancy that I wanted to cloth diaper. This is my soapbox moment, but hang with me because it was part of my decision making for cloth. From what I had read a child from birth to when they are potty trained will use around 7,000 diapers. Considering that we were planning to have multiple children and the amount of diapers from my children alone seemed steep to me. Add in the fact that it takes approximately 500 years for a diaper to decompose I felt that this was something I needed to try. I also considered the cost of diapers and, while the initial purchase of the cloth diapers seems like a lot, cloth is generally much cheaper than disposables especially since we were planning for more than one child. My other consideration for cloth was reduced chemical exposure to our kids. Disposable diapers contain chlorine, polyacrylate, and other chemicals that haven’t been proven safe for prolonged use. I liked that since the diapers were more natural the chances of diaper rashes were greatly reduced as well. I realize that the explanation of why we started with cloth is a bit preachy, but I assure you it is not intended to be that way. Like I said, cloth is not the right choice for everyone and we use disposables too- no sancimommy business here!
So what did I buy to create our "stash"? I decided on Bumgerius 4.0 (I think it is 5.0 now, but same idea) for our primary diaper. I also bought a few Best Bottoms, but ultimately liked the Bumgenius 4.0 better. Bumgenius 4.0 is a pocket diaper. It has a waterproof shell and a microfiber insert that is in the pocket and very absorbent. Pockets versus no pockets have a multitude of opinions in the cloth world, and both have negative and positives. I like pockets because the absorbency can be customized and I did not have loose inserts all over the place. The Best Bottom diaper is a bit of a hybrid diaper and the only reason I did not continue to use it was that it did not fit Kellen well and we have many leaks. However, I have other friends that absolutely love this brand. I think that Bumgernius diapers are very durable and very well made. I also liked the elastic around the waistband (bonus of cloth- BIG blowout reduction due to this feature) and adjustable rise of the diaper to accommodate birth to potty training as the child gets bigger. To create out stash, I purchased 20 diapers over the course of my pregnancy starting from about 20 weeks in (1 diaper per week). I found that this method of purchase eliminated one big purchase and made the investment feel very easy. I opted to buy 20 because planned on about 10 diaper changes a day and that meant washing about every other day in the evening. I will tell you that over time I have accumulated about 30 diapers (I can't resist the cute prints), but I still do the wash every other day but we have a little more a buffer in our stash.
So what else do you need for cloth diapering besides diapers? The answer to this really depends on you. Some moms are cool with a big jar of coconut oil and calling it a day. I have a big jar of coconut oil, but am not one of those moms that puts coconut oil on everything and claims an instant cure.
Here is a list of my essentials:
1) 2 diaper good diaper pails. I like these, but size and style will depend on your needs. We had one upstairs and one in the downstairs bathroom. Once the kids started sleeping though the night we brought both downstairs.
2) Diaper pail liners. I went with reusable liners and love it. I liked that I can transport dirty diapers easily or use it for clean diaper storage as well. I would bring the whole thing to the laundry room and loved that the liner could go right in with the diapers and once they were clean and dry I could load it up- no clothes basket needed. My liner of choice is Planet Wise. These liners are amazing and I especially love my cow print one. I found having 4 of these was good for a rotation, but you could get away with 3.
3) Wet bags. Went bags are used for diaper receptacles when I am not at home or the baby is at daycare (most daycares allow cloth diapers)/ with Grandparents. They are also great for wet swimming suits and towels! I have 1 large wet bag for overnights, 2 medium and 2 small. I do not think you need that many, but I like a variety to choose from. I also buy my wet bags from Planet Wise (check out Amazon- especially if you have Prime for great deals).
4) Diaper cream. The drawback of cloth is that you can't use regular diaper cream with them because it can impact the ability of the diaper to absorb (I could always tell when a well meaning grandparent used diaper cream on the baby and I got to scrub my diaper...). I loved CJ's BUTTer and LuSa while the kids wear cloth. I also used regular coconut oil as well. However, if they happened to get a really bad rash I put on a disposable and painted their butt with Triple Paste because I have equal love for that stuff and it's ability to clear up a diaper rash in a flash!
5) Diaper liners. The exception to the rule above is diaper liners. They protect the diapers and you could use a little more heavy duty cream with them. They are also great when the baby starts to eat solids and the poop is not able to be tossed in the washer like it is when baby is getting breastmilk only. We did not use liners often, but I liked having them as an option. We actually plan on using them more often with Rowan than we did with Kellen.
6) Extra inserts. Bumgenius gives a standard and a newborn insert with each diaper. In the beginning this is perfect, but as the child gets older or at night extra inserts might be needed. I purchased additional microfiber, but I also purchased hemp and bamboo because they were much trimmer than micro fiber for nighttime. Again, it is really up to you and what you prefer.
7) Diaper sprayer. I had this diaper sprayer and loved it.
We have one each primary toilet (2), but you can easily get away with one in the main bathroom you intend to do your cleaning. This is something you will use a few months in because dirty diapers from babies that exclusively get breastmilk can go right into the wash. If you are supplementing with formula, feeding totally with formula or baby has started solids you will want to rinse. I kept one diaper pail right by the sprayer so it was easy to drop the wet diaper into the bucket after rinsing.
So, that is a list of my favorite things. Like I said before, cloth is an investment and while is looks like a lot it really is not and many things you would already be purchasing for a baby anyways.
I think it's important to explain our transition to cloth now that I went over all the details of the things we bought. We started with Kellen around 4 weeks and Rowan at 6 weeks. I did not do newborn diapers with either of the boys and waited till the regular Bumgenius diapers fit them. The packaging says 8 lbs, but I found the fit was best around 12 lbs. I also used disposables at night until I was able to get a good idea of how long it took to wet though a diaper and what additional inserts were needed. Unlike, disposables cloth is not meant for a 10 hour night and it can depend on the child and what type and how many inserts are used. I found myself changing the boys every 3 hours (sometimes more, sometimes less). Once I started using cloth at night (about 6 months) I added an additional hemp insert and those diapers were set aside as "nighttime diapers". The only advise I can offer with figuring out what will work at night is trail and error. There are a lot of group for cloth mamas on social media and it is a great place to get advice and troubleshoot. We used disposals for a long time will we got brave enough to figure out what worked for Kellen (Rowan is still in a disposable at night). I always kept disposables in the house in case there was a need for something fast or if someone got sick and changing was happening very frequently. Thankfully, our family members were very open to cloth and were happy to use it when the kids would visit. However, I know that is not always the case and keeping some disposables on hand for that reason is a good idea too.
I found the transition to cloth very easy with both kids. I think slightly easier with Kellen because we had more time because it was only 1 child, but with Rowan we already had a process and there was less to figure out as we went. I think Rowan is in cloth slightly less than Kellen was at this time because sometimes we just forget to stuff the diapers, but I would say he is in cloth 70% of his awake time.
I get asked a lot about the washing process for cloth. I will say that it is recommended that you hang dry the diapers..... I don't do that very often. I spray off the diapers as I go (if needed), pull them apart, and thrown them all into a hot wash. I will sometimes throw a little tea tree oil in or some vinegar to help if there is a smell or build-up. Sometimes cloth can smell a bit "barn yardy" and that might be a good indication it is time to "strip" your inserts. I have done this by hand with blue Dawn dish soap or it can be done (faster) with bleach. I found us doing that every 1-2 months. After I do a normal wash (I use Tide Free & Gentle or Rockin' Green for soap), I thrown them into the dryer to dry on low. I am committing a cloth diapering sin and it feels good. Plus, I live in Wisconsin and line drying is not an option the majority of the year. However, there is a good reason for line drying. The diaper shells are lined and waterproofed. The dryer can cause them to breakdown and leak quicker than line drying- shortening your diapers life. However, the convenience factor for me trumped that. I have been doing this for 3 years and now with a second child and my diapers have not leaked at this point (not to say they won't, but they haven't yet). I do like to get them in the sun during the summer because it is great for getting out stains and smells. I think I line dry 3-4 times a month during the summertime. Once diapers are dry the go into the wet bag for Ron and I to fold while we watch t.v. after the kids are in bed (couple bonding at it's best). After they are folded we divide them up between the different changing areas in our house and them some go to daycare.
That is my experience with cloth in a nutshell. Yes, it is a little more work, but I love never worrying about buying diapers and I feel good that we are reducing waste from our family. Plus, the prints and colors are absolutely adorable- here are some cloth snaps:
If you are interested in cloth I would see if there is someone that will sit down and show you their process in their house. We did that with two friends and it was awesome to see how things worked and made cloth feel very easy and something we were excited about! Once you make a decision, join a few of the groups on Facebook to find great deals on diapers and advice on all kinds of cloth questions. As always, if you have questions for me and want to talk my e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment!