Thinking about giving cloth diapering a go?
Only days after hearing that I was pregnant with my little C-monster, my older sister asked if I was going to use cloth diapers. She had been using cloth for years and on multiple children, and suggested that I at least consider it. Even though the idea appealed to my semi-crunch side, I did not just jump on board, I had a few apprehensions.
“Cloth diapers are gross and will cause my house to smell.”
Proper storage for dirty cloth diaper is important. Contrary to how it used to be done, dirty diapers should not be stored in a wet pail or a diaper genie. In order to keep the smell under control, the diapers need proper ventilation and air flow. We have this large wet bag (a bag made from waterproof material with a zipper closure – not an actual bag that is wet) that we hang open in our laundry room. Wet and dirty diapers go into the bag and, as long as we keep the door open so the air can circulate, we have no smell issues in our house. The diapers only begin to smell when they are stored in a sealed container or a closed room.
“But what about touching the poop?”
If you are not ready to touch poop, please do not have a baby. They poop, and you have to clean it up. If a newborn baby is exclusively breastfed, their poop (that strange looking yellow seedy poop) is 100% water soluble, and can be thrown directly into the washing machine, no dumping or rinsing needed. This made poop diapers so easy for the first 6 months of Cillian’s life. When he started solid foods, we got a diaper sprayer that attaches to our toilet tank. His poops now goes right down the toilet with ours, and any remnants are sprayed off before the poop-free diaper goes into the wet bag.
If we were using disposable diapers, despite the fact that you are still SUPPOSED to flush all solid waste, (no one does, and we would not either) his poo would be rolled up inside the diaper, and would sit in the garbage until trash-pick-up day. Can you image how that would smell in the Florida sun? If we double or triple bagged the diapers in plastic bags, and put them directly into our outside trash after each change, that would be more work than walking the soil diaper to the bathroom, plopping the waste in the toilet, and flushing.
Once, Cillian and I took a trip to Virginia to visit my sister. I decided, for the sake of convenience, to use paper diapers on this trip. Every time C pooped, it came out the sides, the back, and the front of his diaper. Most times, it was all over his clothes and me too! That was the last time I ever used paper. He did have a stomach bug making things much worse, but blowouts are typically managed better in cloth because of the snug elastic around the legs and waist, and the quick absorbing materials. We had more blowout on that trip than we have ever had in our cloth diapers.
“Cloth diapers sound like a lot of extra work.”
I thought I would need to buy special soap, wash them 3 times on hot with extra rinses, and only line-dry them. I imagined the inconvenience of all that plus the extra water and electricity that it would take. And what about hurricane season? I can not line dry cloth diapers in a hurricane!
I was wrong on all counts. While there are certain things to be mindful of when washing cloth diapers, once you figure out your routine, it is quite simple. I use the same detergent that we have been using for years and most (if not all) mainstream detergents are just fine for cloth diapers. The diapers come just as clean if you wash them on cold, and they can go in the drier. Like with any garment, however, they do last longer if they are not subjected to the high heat of the drier more than necessary. I prefer to line dry my diapers when time and the weather permits because the sun bleaches out stains, gives them the most intoxicating fresh air smell (yes, I sniff my clean diapers), and also helps to kill off any remaining bacteria, just in case.
If your water is hard, whatever that means, you should use a water softener with your diapers. This helps to keep minerals from building up and ruining the absorbency of the diaper. I have heard that you should consider the same for your bath towels. No one likes a towel that just pushes the water around. But, due to my laziness in sorting all other laundry, I only use water softener with my diapers.
“How do you know what ‘wash routine’ is right for your machine?”
I did not troubleshoot it on my own. I used the internet! Fluff Love University has an index of every washing machine model, and every detergent. I just found mine and follow the instructions. I even wrote the instructions down so my husband did not have to risk my wrath if he washed my diapers wrong but really, it was quite a simple routine. For our machine, because it does not have a pre-wash cycle, I wash twice on heavy – once with detergent and once with detergent and water softener.
Based on our schedule and how many diapers Cillian uses in a day, I have found that it works best for us to wash diapers on Wednesday and Sunday. That is only two extra loads of laundry a week. Perhaps if you despise laundry, and only wash once a month when your entire family is out of socks and underwear, maybe cloth diapers are not for you. But to me, laundry is the easiest household chore. The machine does the work for me. All I have to do is push a button and walk away.
Besides washing, the diapers that I use do require some assembly. The insert, or the fluffy absorbent layer, needs to be folded and put inside the cover, the cute waterproof layer. Call me crazy, but this is my favorite part of all the laundry in our house. Usually, I fold and my husband stuffs while we watch TV in the evenings, or I will fold and stuff while he and C play guitar. It is a lot like folding a load of towels. Each one is done the same way and the motions are very rhythmic and relaxing.
When the older generation hears that I am cloth diapering, they respond one of two ways. Either with shock and disgust because they think it is just like it used to be – rubber pants and safety pins, or with nostalgia because they cloth diapered all of their babies, and it is fun to see things come full circle! But cloth diapering today is so different than it used to be.
Putting on a cloth diaper is easier than it used to be, and is the same as putting on a paper diaper. Open the diaper, lay the baby down, bring it between the legs and over the hips, snap, done. I have had family, friends, teachers, and babysitters use our cloth diapers, and never once has anyone said they could not figure them out. They might not be as snug or positioned just right each time, but I have seen people struggle with paper diapers too. I am notoriously bad at putting on paper diapers, even on my own kid. I always seem to leave one butt cheek exposed, or the diaper ends up sagging to his knees.
“What else will I need to consider if I want to use cloth?”
Because cloth diapers are becoming more and more popular, there are a bajillion different brands and styles to consider. I use (almost) exclusively Apple Cheeks. I say almost because I was gifted a few other diapers and we do not discriminate. If it catches poop, we use it! I also use a few inserts that are not Apple Cheeks brand again, because we were given them.
Apple Cheeks are pocket diapers meaning the diaper or “cover” is completely separate from the insert and has a pocket design to keep it all together. There are also All-in-Ones, All-in-Twos, Flats, Sleeves, and probably some I have never heard of. Dirty Diaper Laundry is a great resource for learning some of the more boring points of cloth diapers.
I did not land on Apple Cheeks for any reason other than it was what my sister was using as the time, and I fell in love with the brand, the colorful prints of the diapers, and the community surrounding them. There is an entire cult-following (I use that term most affectionately) and a huge Facebook group for this brand. We consider cloth diapering a hobby.
The inserts we use are mostly bamboo as it is a material that absorbs and hold the most without being overly expensive, but, much like the diapers themselves, there are many different types of inserts to provide just the right amount of absorbency. We have found that one bamboo insert is enough for Cillian during the day, but at night, he needs a combination of inserts to last 12 hours. Just Googling “cloth diaper absorbency test” will provide you with many videos showing how much the different inserts can hold.
“Will cloth cause rashes or be too hot in the summer?”
Cloth diapers are often accused of causing more rashes than disposables, but that is actually not the case. Because cloth diapers can have compression leaks (meaning if you squeeze them, the liquid will come out, just like a kitchen rag) they need to be changed more often than a disposable diaper.
It is recommended to change a cloth diaper every 4 hours at least, while some paper diapers brag 6 – 8 hours of absorbency. In reality, a diaper should never be left on that long unless the child is sleeping through the night. Because cloth is changed more often, they cause less rashes. We have never had a rash that one application of cream did not clear up.
One thing to remember when using cloth diapers, is that not all diaper creams or baby powders are safe for cloth diapers. This is because some ingredients like petroleum, can clog the fibers of the cloth and cause the diaper to repel liquids. Fluff Love University has a list for that too.
As for the heat, most cloth diapers have a layer of micro fleece that goes directly against the skin. This layer is designed to be quick drying and moisture wicking, making cloth diapers a little like Nike dry-fit underwear. If you ask me, I would rather sit in that than be wrapped in paper of any kind in the Florida heat! So far, we have not had any heat related issues or complaints from C.
We also do a lot of impromptu water play in the summer, and the great thing about cloth is that no matter how wet it gets, it never gets soggy and saggy!
“Cloth diapers save a lot of money!”
Yes! Well, technically, they can. Unless you become obsessed with a particular brand and have to have every color and pattern ever made and even pay a little extra for a few that are only available in Canada. I even paid to have one customized! Yikes. I told you, cult following. My husband was not kidding when he called it my hobby for the first year.
Newborns use about twelve diapers a day because of how often they need to be changed. Because of this, a recommended minimal yet doable size stash is about twenty-four diapers, because no one wants to wash every day. As your child gets older and goes less often, they will only use six to eight a day including one for over night. The average diapering system (diaper and insert) costs about $15. That means an entire stash could cost only $360! Not per kid, or per year, in total. These same diapers can be used year after year, child after child, and be sold or given to a family in need once you are done.
The average cost of disposables is roughly $1,000 per kid per year. That means that if your child potty trains by three, you would have spend $3,000 in diapers. Literally, money in the garbage.
My stash is about fifty diapers. Way more than necessary, I admit. Each new diaper, not accounting for sale or second hand prices, cost $17 and each bamboo insert cost $9. That means each diaper system cost $26. That is a lot of money for one diaper! My entire stash could have cost (but I promise, Jon, it did not!) $1,3000. Over a thousand dollars on poop catchers! But that is it. I am done spending on diapers. That is, until the next new pattern comes out and I just have to have it! These diapers will last me until Cillian is fully potty trained, and then be used for child number two, and three, and seven!
“Do daycares accept cloth diapers?”
According to all regulations, yes. The only two states that currently have any laws against cloth diapers all together is Washington, DC and New Hampshire. Unfortunately, that does not mean that daycare centers have to accept cloth. In fact, most places, when asked, will say no. We were lucky enough to find a daycare that not only accepted our cloth diapers, but also worked with us to find ways to continue to use them when DCF regulations changed.
According the Florida state regulations, all solid waste needs to be disposed of in the garbage, so my daycare required that I use disposable liner. These liners look, for lack of a better description, like drier sheets. They are gauze-like sheets that go on top of the diaper, catch the poop, and can be flushed or thrown away, leaving little to no waste behind.
DCF also requires that dirty diapers be “inaccessible” to the children in the classroom. My daycare ask me to provide them with a plastic bin with a secure lid that was small enough to fit on a high shelf. This shelf can not be reached by the tallest kid standing on the tallest movable object in the room. That is, apparently, what “inaccessible” means to DCF.
C’s diapers come home each day in a wet bag, and I send six clean in his backpack the following day. So far, we have had no complaints about our cloth diapers being difficult or inconvenient, and we have had few accidents requiring a change of clothes. All I hear is how cute and easy they are!
If you want to consider using them in a daycare, you can look up your state’s regulations here. Perhaps daycares just do not know how easy they can be!
“Put on a real diaper!”
When we first started out with cloth diapers, I thought we would do cloth at home and paper out and about. I told my husband he did not have to use cloth if he did not want to. I promised my in-laws that I would send paper diapers if they ever watched C. I figured uing cloth 50% of the time would still save a little bit of money. Now, 19 months later, my husband calls cloth “real” diapers, my mother-in-law prefers using them over paper, and I think, or at least I hope, I have encouraged a few friends to choose cloth too! I mean, who can resist the cuteness of these little diapers?
“What do I need to embark on this journey?
A large wet bag for home storage
Smaller wet bags for day trips
A diaper sprayer – not necessary but a great convenience for those gross diapers. Also, I keep a pair of rubber gloves on hand because, shit happens.
Sprayer splash guard – possibly the best companion to a diaper sprayer!
Disposable liners – to make poo clean up easier
If you would like more information on beginning cloth diapers or if you have any other questions, please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am always happy to share my resources!
*Every one of these diapers is the same size and fit C from newborn through 24 months when we potty trained!*