There are fifty zillion of these here blog posts in the world, but I feel I’ve something to offer on the topic in the form of simplicity. Go read Amy Storch’s three part series here, then here, then here for every iteration known to man (amalah has an admitted CD addiction problem – there is even a part FOUR). Go here for a more varied set of viewpoints from Snickollet’s copious comments from others, which you aren’t likely to get in my much quieter corner of the blogging neighborhood. Come to me for the very basics, and read me first, because those other links will have you drowning in a sea of information you never thought you needed, and it perhaps would make you give up before even trying. This post will be link-heavy, and I don’t vouch for any of these links. My brand (to which I am v. loyal) is Fuzzibunz, and I can give a shout out for them, but that’s it! (Oh, and I’ve tried Thirsties diaper covers, and they sucked.)
I cloth diaper(ed) both of my children. The motivation was equal parts The Poverty and The Love of The Earth. No amount of poverty or tree-hugging would be enough for me to keep this up, however, if it wasn’t surprisingly easy. Which it is. If you take one thing away from this, take that – cloth diapering takes approximately 1% more time than paper diapering, costs a great deal less, and OMFG the diapers are SOOO CUUUUUUTE! You can even save money on clothes, because you’ll never want to dress your child’s bottom half. I taught all of our various babysitters to use them, and since they’re just as easy to put on and take off as a disposable, it’s never been a problem for other caregivers. (I do the foul washing job my own self, though!)
The other thing you should take from this is that while it is easy, and cute, and can also be a little fun, it’s also gross. If you’re a parent, gross shouldn’t phase you . . . but I cannot deny that cloth diapering causes you to revisit your child’s excrement after you’ve already cleaned it off his bum, and that’s the biggest downside.
Basic Types (of which I am aware)
When I was little, my mom cloth diapered us (the first four – by the fifth baby, she embraced disposables as enthusiastically as she would the Second Coming). She would pin some Chinese prefolds to our butts, then pull on a pair of plastic pants over it. That’s not really how it works anymore – for the most part, you put them on just like disposables, using snaps or velcro, no pins required. They’re also much cuter now. We Americans – we are shallow people. If you make it cute and customizable, we are more likely to buy! CDs (keep up with the text-speak, people) come in several basic styles, which are:
1. Pocket diapers. This is what I have, a brand called Fuzzibunz. I love my fuzzibunz. A pocket diaper is two pieces of cloth sewn together with an opening at one end. It’s shaped like a disposable dipe. The side that touches the baby’s butt is soft and absorbent – the other side that faces the world is leakproof and can be cute and colorful. They usually either have snaps or velcro, and some have a sort of complicated snap/velcro deal that lets you make legholes bigger or smaller – ergo, letting the dipe grow with the baby. By itself, a pocket diaper would absorb virtually no liquid – you have to stuff absorbent things into it for it to work. There are a zillion stuffers/inserts out there, made of all different kinds of fibers, but we just use Chinese prefolds, which you can buy cheap from Target and wash with the diapers. Pros: (1) As your kid (and his bladder) gets bigger, you can stuff more and more into them, so they grow with your kid. (2) They have snaps or Velcro, so they’re easy to put on and take off. Cons: (1) You have to pull the stuffers out to wash, which means sticking your hands down in a sopping wet, possibly poopy pocket. (2) You have to re-stuff before using, which adds a little time.
2. All-in-ones. These are just like a pocket diaper, except they’re prestuffed and sewn shut. Pros: (1) No stuffing and unstuffing! The easiest system for a household where both parents work outside the home. (2) Snaps/Velcro make using them a breeze. Cons: (1) If your kid is a heavy wetter, tough luck – there’s no way to add more absorbent stuffing to it. (2) From what I hear, they take a while to dry.
3. Fitteds plus Covers. From what I understand (I have none of these), this system mirrors the system of Olde that my mom used, except they’re a littler easier and a little cuter. A fitted diaper is a soft absorbent piece of cloth, shaped like a disposable, with snaps or Velcro. (You can also get fitteds without snaps, and either pin them to your kid Olde Style, or use something called Snappis, which look to me like those things people use to keep ace bandages on.) You put this diaper on your kid, and then you get a leakproof cover and put that on top. Pros: (1) You can reuse covers as long as they don’t get poop on them – less washing. (2) You can get differing levels of absorbency, which means versatility. Cons: (1) You have to keep squirmy wormy baby still for enough time to fasten two diapers to him. (2) Keeping track of the different levels of absorbency of your stuffers could be a pain. *Side note – you can also just buy Chinese prefolds, fold ‘em up, lay them inside the cover, and snap it on. I have three Thirsties covers, and this is the method we use. It’s not my favorite.
That’s it. You can mix and match these in infinite ways – put an all in one over a fitted, put a fitted under a pocket, blah blah blah. I’ve never really deviated from my fuzzibunz pocket dipes with inserts, but I could have!
Firstly, I didn’t start with the kids til they were 2 months old or so. Newborns go through like 15 diapers a day, and they grow very quickly, so it wasn’t economically feasible to buy enough dipes to fit an 8 pound baby and keep him in clean ones all day. And adding an unnecessary load of wash to a newborn parent’s life is just not worth it, to me.
I suggest having two dozen. I bought one dozen Mediums for Jack, and that’s all we used for a year and a half. I wouldn’t recommend it, but dipes are a bit pricey and we were way poor, so I just washed like a fiend. Once Jack needed a larger size, I bought one dozen Larges. For everyone who can count out there, that means we now have two dozen, and that’s perfect for one kid. (Liam can wear both sizes still – Jack is potty-trained now.) I wash every 2-3 days. Fuzzibunz now come in “The Perfect Size,” which is a one size fits all that really grows with your kid, but back in my day they had sized ones. They work fine, there are enough snaps and things to let you adjust it to your baby’s proportions (in my kids’ case, CHUBBY legs, slimmer tummies).
Each diaper system will come with its own set of instructions. Some people buy fancy soaps, buy wet diaper pails or dry, soak or don’t soak – there are as many iterations of washing as there are iterations of diapers. I keep it simple, and none of my children have died of worm or skin maladies yet. I dump the poop in the toilet and put all the dipes into the Diaper Champ, a dry diaper pail, which I have lined with a normal old garbage bag. When I wash, I unstuff them all and throw them into a pre-rinse. Then I run them through a hot wash with an extra rinse. I just use our normal household detergent – Gain – though a little less than I normally would for a load that size, because detergent can build up and make them less absorbent. Then dry in the dryer, and done! Occasionally to combat stink, I will soak the inserts for half an hour in the pre-rinse water with some bleach. (Don’t bleach your diapers, or they will lose color and softness.) I also have “charged” them before to remove stink – charging (aka stripping) is a way to get all of the leftover detergent and stuff out of them. Just google it, you’ll be fine. Finally, as time goes on and I get less afraid of ruining them, I’ve started adding 4 scoops of Oxi Clean to every fourth wash or so. I don’t want to be too hard on these hardworking pieces of cloth, so I don’t Oxi Clean every time, but hitting them hard once in a while with a deep cleanser keeps them from getting too stinky.
Cloth diapers don’t leave Baby feeling as dry as disposables do, so the kids have always worn a disposable at night. I couldn’t have an “icky wet diaper” feeling waking them up – heaven knows, they wake up at every darn thing as it is. Other people find that CDs work fine at night, too, so bully for them.
Other Things of Note
(1) Disposables. We always have disposables in the house, because there are those days when I find myself out of clean cloth dipes, and a kid has a poopy bum! I’m disciplined enough that these don’t make me lazy. If you feel guilty about this, you could always get G diapers – the earth friendly disposable. I just buy Pampers, G diapers are expensive.
(2) SO GROSS. I’m going to go there – maggots. If you don’t dump your poop before putting it in the pail, you could get maggots, especially in the summer. Super gross. Dump the poop immediately. (Also, if you think that’s gross, rest assured that your disposable diapers sitting in their diaper pail probably have maggots, too, you just don’t have to see them.)
(3) Daycare. Our daycare providers have always happily used these systems, since they don’t have to clean them and they’re as easy as disposables to put on and take off. But definitely check. I’d be willing to do a little foot-stamping to try to force my daycare to use these – they really are easy, and so much cheaper.
(4) Wipes. You can use cloth wipes, too, and wash them with the diapers. We don’t – we use flushable disposables. Using cloth wipes requires some sort of wetting-the-wipe system, and The Professor wasn’t keen on this, so in the name of compromise, we go with disposable wipes.
(5) Travel. I use cloth when traveling to somewhere that has laundry (like visiting family at Christmas). I use them for day trips, too – I had a waxy lined cloth bag that kept the stink out (I lost it recently, gotta get a new one!) But if we’re traveling to a hotel, for example, then we just do disposable. It’s a stink-thing – carrying around a heavy bag of stinky diapers in our car-that-has-no-trunk is not my bag, baby.