Cloth Diapers 101

This post is mostly in response the numerous comments and questions we receive about cloth diapering.  The inquiries seem to have ramped up here lately due to the large number of friends and family members having recently had or expecting babies.  I also always find myself answering questions to curious onlookers in public restrooms while changing Greta’s diaper.  So, here is the down and dirty on diapering in our household.
Greta is a cloth diaper baby and has been since the very beginning.  We made this choice based on the items below.
Cloth diapers cost less. Infants may use up to 10 diapers a day, and somewhere between 6, 000 to 9, 000 diapers from birth through potty-training.  Not to mention the wipes that seem to disappear into thin air – they are disposable, why not use 10??  The dollars spent on these diapers will start around $1, 380, depending on diaper brand.  Check out this great graphic on diapers costs, courtesy of FuzziBunz.   If you plan on having more than one child, the cost is even less with subsequent users as you are completely set up with diapers.
Reduce reuse and recycle.  The disposable diapers a child wears today will still be in the landfill when he or she is an adult.  Cloth diapers can be used by multiple children or even reused for other household cleaning such as dusting or washing cars.  If you have a newer washing machine, the amount of water used to wash diapers is minimal.
Comfort.  I know I would prefer soft fabric to scratchy plastic on my behind.
Convenience.  This was Eric’s number one reason behind the cost savings.  His argument was, I don’t want to be driving to the store in the middle of the night or on a holiday trying to find diapers.  As long as we plan for one diaper and 2:17 minutes to wash, plus some drying time, we always have diapers.  We have never actually ran out of clean diapers.
How did you choose your diapers?  What’s with all the styles, sizes, and types?
When Greta was itty bitty, she wore Thirsties brand diapers.  We chose these diapers because of reviews we had read, the sizing options, the ease of washing, and the fact they are made in the USA.
This is an example of the Thirsties diaper.  The covers we opted for had snap closures and other than one snap coming off, we had no problems with these diapers.  The snaps can also be easily replaced.  The inserts are on the right side, they consist of two layers which snap together.  They are simply laid inside the diaper cover (the inside of the this cover is facing down on the table).  This style diaper allows you to flip out the liner and reuse the cover again, or to dump the entire diaper into the diaper pail.  To me, this is what makes it a great infant diaper – its options.  When you are changing 10 plus diapers a day, options are handy.
The left diaper is the larger size – 18 – 40 pounds.  The smaller one, on the right, is for 6 – 18 pounds.  We also used the Thirsties hemp inserts to add extra protection at night without a lot of extra bulk.
Once Greta outgrew her smaller Thirsties diapers, we started shopping around for diapers to fit her through potty training.  We ultimately decided we really liked Thirsties, but wanted pocket diapers for one more layer of dryness.  We tried the larger Thirsties diaper (blue one on the left), but she seemed to be bothered by how quickly she felt wet.
Next, we tried FuzziBunz pocket diapers.  These are great diapers, but they felt small, like they would not grow with Greta.  The liners are super soft and absorbent though.
We finally settled on bum Genius diapers – specifically bumGenius One Size Pocket Diaper 4.0 (Snap).  We have with Velcro closure tabs, but it is worn out enough that Greta can pull it off.  The snaps are steadfast and we have had yet to have a single one break or wear out.
The multiple snaps allow for custom fit that grows with your child.  The image above this one shows the current setting that Greta wears her diapers on.  The diaper on the left, directly above, is shown with the pocket open.  This is where the inserts are placed.  I promise, it is easier than one would think to pull out the inserts and to keep your hands clean.
Here is the diaper with the insert placed inside the diaper.  The opening is covered by the top flap, and then the opening faces the back of your child.
How do you do cloth diapers with daycare?
We searched for daycares that allowed cloth diapers and found one that we are extremely happy with.  We send Greta to daycare with 5 stuffed cloth diapers and a Planet Wise Wet/Dry Bag,
.
The floral design one on the right, is the one that goes to school with Greta.  This bag is made by Planet Wise, and would also work for wet swimsuits, workout clothing, shoes, etc.
The yellow bag on the left, rolls up nice and small.  This is the bag that goes with us, when we are out and about.  It fits perfectly in the diaper bag, is waterproof, rolls and snaps for a tight closure.  It also happens to be a dry bag, the kind normally used by outdoor enthusiasts.  We got ours at REI.
When she comes home from daycare, the wet diapers are in the zippered pouch and the b.m. diapers are bagged neatly like so.  All we do is separate the inserts from the cover, dump them into her diaper pail, and start over for the next day.  We have enough diapers that we only have to wash diapers every other day.
How do you wipe?
At home, we use rags for wiping.  Honestly, the cheap washcloths work the best.  We have one pack of the round hemp washcloths, left.  These are much thinner and end up being used for her face and nose more often than her rear.  From experience, give me a rag over a diaper wipe any day – there is more to keep your hands clean.
Do they smell? 
Of course they smell – some worse than others.
 
However, choosing the right pail makes a difference.  Our diaper pail came from the hardware store – it is one of those locking lid cans used to store dog food, bird seed, or grass seed.  It is meant to keep rodents out, however, it also keeps little hands out and odors in.  They are cheap and can be moved to the garage after diapering is finished.  I do recommend rinsing this bucket out frequently and it may even be worth spraying the bottom with a rust-proof coating to prevent rusting from damp diapers.
How do you wash cloth diapers?
When it is diaper washing time, we just take the entire pail back to the washing machine and dump it into the machine.  This bucket fits inside the opening of our machine – no touching required.
We use Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder.  Just one tablespoon per load – actually we use ½ of a tablespoon for diaper loads – this small amount helps to avoid residue which can cause diapers to be less absorbent.  This laundry powder cleans well, is odor-free, and does not add any residue to cloth diapers, as some other brands tend to do.  I also love that it is made in North Carolina.
We use mostly vinegar as a rinsing agent when laundering cloth diapers.  I pour it into the fabric softener slot.  Sometimes we use bleach – especially if Greta has been sick.  However, as a reminder, these two should never be mixed together, as they produce a toxic gas, chlorine.
Once everything is loaded, the machine is set to sanitize wash cycle, extra rinse and heavy soil level.  This entire wash takes 2 hours and 17 minutes.
Our laundry room is in the play/art room at our house.  Sometimes Greta likes to come over and watch the diapers spin around – though she has to be kept away when the water is heating during a sanitize load, as the sides of the washer can be very hot.
How do you dry cloth diapers?
Hanging up diaper covers and inserts is the most environmentally sound way to dry diapers.  If you get a sunny day, the inserts dry in a fraction of the time.  Otherwise, if the dryer is used, we still recommend hang drying the covers.
Do you ever have to strip your cloth diapers?  
This is something that I hear people talk about in the cloth diaper world, but have never ever had to do. Supposedly this happens when diapers get smelly and less absorbent.  However, this has never happened to any of Greta’s diapers.  We do not use diaper cream with the cloth diapers and do not use detergents that will cause a build up of residue.  So choosing the right detergent and not using too much detergent are two really important factors to increasing the life of your cloth diapers.
 
 
 
Other FAQS
Do you use a service to clean them? 
 
We thought about it initially, but decided to try it ourselves first and see how it went.  It was always an option with us, but we found our washing machine was just fine.   
 
Did you have any kick back from your husband, friends, or family members?
 
Eric and I talked about this as soon as having children came up.  I always knew I would cloth diaper and was lucky that Eric saw the benefits.  In fact, he is into gear and figuring out how things work, so for him this was another interesting challenge to figure out.  It was at least a week (maybe 2) before I even changed a diaper and he had to teach me how to use the cloth diapers.  
 
Do you feel like it’s saved you money? 
 
We know it has saved us money.  Cloth diapers cost a lot up front – each diaper running anywhere from $8 to $14, depending on the brand.  We figured that they paid for themselves in about 4 months, and the smallest ones we used lasted about 9 months until they would no longer hold enough liquid to last through the night.  We purchased the bigger sizes that we have used for the last year and these have long been paid for as well.  
 
Where do you buy your diapers? 
 
We bought our diapers from Amazon, Target, and a local baby shop in Greensboro, called All About Baby.  We bought Thirsties Snaps, they worked well for infants.  We bought more liners than shells as you could sometimes change out a liner and keep using the shell.  This was really nice with the amount of diapering you do with a newborn.  We bought a small assortment of other brands to try, FuzziBunz, KawaiiBabby, bum Genius velcro and snaps, and size two in the Thirsties.  We ended up going with the Bum Genius snaps (toddlers can undo the velcro), the size and adjustment was just right.  The pockets aren’t bad, you just have to tug out the liner before you wash them, this is another reason we decided not to get them for an infant.  
How many diapers do you need to keep yourself stocked?  
 
We had more than 20 liners of the infant ones and did a load every day for a while.  We also had hemp inserts to make the Thirsties last through the night a little better.  We have 17 of the Bum Genius and they come with extra inserts.  We usually double up and do a three layer for night, now that she is older and drinks more liquid.   

Do you ever use disposables?
 
Sometimes we do when we travel, especially if we are not going to be with family who do not mind us washing diapers.  If we are going on trips less than 2 days we take a large paddling dry bag to store the dirties.  We usually keep a few disposables on hand, just in case we forget to wash diapers – hasn’t happened yet, or if she has really bad diaper rash – has only happened twice.  Diaper cream should not be used on cloth diapers as it can hurt the absorbency.  But like I said, she’s only had that problem twice – that is an upside to cloth diapers – no diaper rash. 

How often do you wash diapers?
 
Every other day, or when the diapers are getting low, or if the pail is stinky.  
 
How do you rinse out poop? Right in to the toilet? Do they stink?

We dump poop into the toilet.  When she was younger, and breastfed, it was different.  It looks and acts more like mustard, so you honestly can just wash as they are.  Or, if that freaks you out, flip it into the water of the toilet, shake lightly and most will go into the toilet.  You can get hoses that attach to the toilet to help with rinsing, but we have never found any sort of need for that.  Daycare allows us to use cloth diapers, but they will bag the poop diapers and then we clean them when we get home.  In between washes, the dirty diapers are stored in a metal pail we got from Lowe’s.  It supposed to be for bird seed to keep out rodents, but it locks nice and tight to prevent odors from escaping.  
 
Do you use disposable wipes or cloth wipes? 
 
It doesn’t make much sense to use disposable wipes if you are already doing all that laundry for cloth diapers.  Just throw them in the with the diapers.  Otherwise, you have a trash can and a diaper pail to trip over in the middle of the night, or you end up washing disposable wipes on accident.  Their skin is sensitive  – you don’t need to wipe for pee, just poop.  

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