Cloth Diapering 101

Let me say this first; I DO NOT CARE what you put on your baby’s arse, so long as it isn’t battery acid. I will not lecture anyone for using disposables… that would make me a pretty large hypocrite, since we occasionally used them, too. There are reasons, though, that we used cloth diapers for a good part of our diapering career, and I’ll let you know what they are down below. If you’re on the fence, I may also have some tips that can tip you onto the cloth side.

Why we used cloth:

  • In the long run, they are much cheaper than disposables. Cheaper still if you save them from the first baby and use them on subsequent babies.
  • You don’t run out and have to make a midnight trip to WalMart.
  • They make your baby’s butt look really cute.
  • They are great for potty training older kids (though we just let ours run around naked on the hardwood floors and pee down their own leg).
  • They will help you win the crunchy olympics, if you’re into that kind of thing.
  • Really, it is better for the environment, as well as your baby’s butt, and I often stated that as a reason when I was feeling especially self-righteous.
How can you say no to this??

Why we used disposables on occasion:

  • It was easier for traveling.
  • We found a cheap brand that worked well (still more expensive than cloth, though).
  • We sometimes got lazy or busy.

How we did cloth diapering:

1. Purchasing —

We ordered Chinese pre-folds and “Bummis” brand covers off the internet after doing a bit of reading and research. They came in and we ran the pre-folds through the wash twice to fluff them up. Later on, we found a cool local hippie baby store that carried our favorite brand, so we started to buy there and hang with neat crunchie parents.

We tried a couple other types of diapers, like the kind that are “all-in-one,” but they were kind of pricey and awkward to use (for us; your mileage may vary.) We ended up loving the Bummi’s Super Brites and the Super Whisper Wraps for covers, and had about 5 or 6 of them at a time (note – this was in 2010, so there’s a good chance that these specific kinds aren’t made anymore!) I’m sure that there are other wonderful covers out there… feel free to plug your faves in the comments section. We had about 30 pre-folds, and ended up doing laundry about every three or four days (which, honestly, is how much laundry you’ll be doing anyway with a new baby).

2. Putting them on the baby —

For the first couple of weeks of baby’s life, we were too tired to try out the cloth diapers, so we used the tiny newborn disposable diapers that came free with the baby. (Well, I was really tired, so that’s how I remembered it.) Finally, we decided to see how cute they would be on the baby… also, their “sprue” had finally fallen off and we felt like it was safer to put something bulkier on their belly.

Folding them for a newborn to smallish baby is easy – you just fold it into thirds and put it on, then secure with pins or a Snappi (this is optional – the cover will actually keep it on really well until baby starts crawling). Important – Don’t stab the baby. At this point, you can also choose to use a disposable poop liner, which we didn’t do at first, then kicked ourselves later when we realized how handy they were. Here’s an example.

Then you put the cover on, snap or velcro, and, Voila! Diapered baby. Folding them for toddlers takes a bit more finesse. You can find tutorials and videos on You Tube, of course. After a bit of practice, it becomes kind of fun, like organic origami.

Multi-functional. You wouldn’t want to do this with a disposable.

3. Taking them off the baby —

This could be the part that scares you. After all, they don’t just get dumped into the trash after use. This is how we did it: We would have the new diaper and cover ready before starting (we didn’t have boys, but I understand it’s really important to be prepared if you do). We would then undo the cover and assess (har har) whether the cover needed cleaning or not. A quick glance and sniff will let you know if it can just be put to the side to dry or needs to be tossed into the pail with the diaper for washing. Any poo or a strong pee smell, and it’s time. Otherwise, you can use it once or twice more – just set it aside to air out.

Next, we undid the pins or Snappi and took off the diaper, threw away (or flushed) the poop liner, and tossed the diaper into the pail. We used a “dry pail,” meaning we had a covered bin with some borax and baking soda sprinkled into it. You’ll want one with a foot stompy opener, and line it with a trash can liner. Butt was wiped, new diaper went on the baby, and dirty diapers were left to hang in the bin until laundry day.

4. Laundry day —

This is easier than you might think. We dumped the whole pail into the washer, added in any baby clothes that also had breast milk, pee, poo, vomit, or mushed baby food on it, washed them in hot water with our favorite brand of detergent and an extra rinse cycle, then popped them in the dryer with NO DRYER SHEET (this is important – Dryer sheets will coat the cloth diapers with a substance which will make it harder for them to absorb liquid). The covers went in the dryer, too, so long as it was on medium or low heat. Then we just stored the diapers flat on the shelf near where we changed the baby (which was on the bed, since we were totally fancy).

Some people use diaper services. We didn’t do that… I hear that they are pretty convenient, but I’m not sure how economical they are.

5. After potty training —

Now that we’re done with diapering altogether, we use the cloth diapers as rags for cleaning, drying dishes, and mopping up spills. Back in the day, they were also excellent burp rags and mini blankets. Now they still work perfectly, and make for a funny story (“This used to be used for WHAT?  And I just wiped my FACE on it?”) Yes. Yes, you did.

Bonus Material – What to say when you hear:

“Those things must take forever to change!” – “No longer than trying to get any other type of clothing on! Those onsies were created by a real asshole!”

“God, you’re such a hippie.” – “So was your grandma/great grandma. Disposables weren’t in common usage until the 1970’s.”

“Gross.. you have to touch pee and poop when you mess with the diaper pail!” – “Have you ever encountered a baby? You’re going to get messy.”

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