Cloth Diapering 101 – What I Have Learned
Are you interested in cloth diapering but nervous about how it will go? All I can say is that once you get past the first week or so it is totally worth it! My only experience with cloth diapering had been from what my mom told me about the white cloth diapers with the safety pins and plastic pants. She warned me that it was not worth it, but I was convinced diaper technology had improved enough to make the process easy! Below is what I have learned in the past year and some helpful tips to get you started.
Types of Cloth Diapers
There are soooo many different types and brands to choose from when starting cloth diapering. Here is a quick run down of the different types that I personally considered (there are some other types as well that are actually cheaper but I don’t find them as convenient):
These diapers do not require a cover, but they do have a pocket on the inside that must be stuffed with the absorbent layer before each use. There are many different types of absorbency layers you can use depending on your preference or absorbency level needs – microfiber, cotton, hemp, or bamboo. The inside of the diaper (and the part actually touching your baby’s skin) is usually fleece. Snaps or velcro are used to close the diaper. Bumgenius is a fairly common brand for pocket styles.
These diapers are popular for those that want to just put a diaper on a baby similar to a disposable and not have to worry about inserts or covers – everything is already there! I have not tried one of these, however I have heard that they take a long time to dry, so some convenience is lost in that respect. Thirsties is a brand that I looked at and have heard is popular for AIO styles.
All-In-Two (AI2) or Hybrid
This is the style that I ultimately narrowed my search down to and chose. AI2 diapers come with a cover and snap-in cloth insert. I loved this idea because many times the cover can be reused for multiple diaper changes. Hybrids are very similar but also have the option of using a disposable insert in place of the cloth insert. These styles do have a higher initial investment cost and can run you more money in the long run if you choose the disposable insert route, but they do cut down on some of the environmental impact. The two brands that I considered were GroVia and gDiapers.
In the spirit of truly saving money in the long run, ultimately I chose to go with GroVia Hybrid diapers for multiple reasons. Their hybrid diapers are one size which means that they grow with your baby through a snap system from 8-30 lbs. The other thing that I realized is that gDiapers are actually geared more towards using the disposable inserts and while GroVia offers disposable inserts as an option, they are still marketed more as a cloth diaper. I wanted to use cloth mainly and I also did not want to have to buy different sized diapers so my decision was made.
Cloth Diapering Questions to Consider
When choosing what type of cloth diapering system you will use, here are some options to keep in mind and consider.
Do you want to have to buy more diapers as your baby grows? Many companies now offer one size diapers that grow with your baby. Other companies offer different sized diapers – which may actually fit your baby better when they are smaller – but the cost savings is what got me in the end. When answering this question, take into consideration if you are planning on having multiple kids and if you would want to reuse the diapers with each kid. If you are not planning on reusing the diapers then you could sell your sized diapers and use that money to buy the next size which would probably save you money in the end. If you are planning on reusing them, then I would think about getting the one size.
Do you want to use snaps or velcro/aplix? I personally bought half of my diapers in snaps and half in velcro because I had read that the velcro was easier when your baby is smaller. Honestly, I wish I had just gone with all snaps from the beginning. The velcro would get stuck on each other in the wash (even though there was a place to hook the velcro for washing purposes) and I just felt that it did not hold up as well in the long run. We ended up using GroVia’s snap conversion program after about 8 months of use.
How much “diaper” do you want to drag around with you? Another reason I like the hybrid system is that I don’t have to pack 3 entire cloth diapers in my bag every time I go out. I just pack an extra cover and 3 inserts and I am ready to go! There is definitely a learning curve to know how many covers you might need to pack depending on your baby, but any space savings in your diaper bag is a win in my book because babies have so. much. stuff.
How much time do you want to spend on laundry? I have not actually used an AIO or pocket style to know the true difference in drying time, but I have heard that they can be considerably longer. As for the GroVia hybrids, I wash them on a cycle that runs a little over an hour and then run them through the dryer once with two additional touch up cycles – probably one more hour. I barely notice the time since I usually do her diapers at night.
Laundry and Cloth Diapering
Most people do not want to try cloth diapering because they are afraid of the laundry situation. It really is not that bad. We have Kenmore HE front loading machines and I really have had no problems with smell or anything. For the first six months or so if you are exclusively breastfeeding, you literally don’t have to worry about anything. Basically, when I would change a diaper, I put the dirty diaper in a wet bag and every other night I throw all the diapers AND the wet bag into the washer and put regular Tide detergent in and that is it! I didn’t have to touch anything at all and everything washed out.
Once E started solids, it was a little different. My husband used this blog post as a guide and built us a diaper sprayer for the bathroom. It works great and really gets all the mess off the diapers. Then we follow the same cleaning protocol as before. Recently, I also bought a roll of disposable liners that catch anything solid and let liquid through onto the diaper – it basically looks like an oversized dryer sheet – they are awesome!
In the end, the only issue I really have with laundry is that I have to do a load of diapers every other day but it really isn’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. The process of changing a diaper is really no different than a disposable for the most part – just gets a little extra messy when they start solids, but nothing that isn’t tolerable.
Cloth Diapering Accessories
There are a few accessories needed to cloth diaper effectively that most people do not know about or think of right away. Make sure you build these costs into your initial investment estimate.
Cloth diaper-safe diaper cream – GroVia makes a great one that smells amazing too but there are a few others out there as well. You don’t want to put most brands of diaper cream on cloth diapers because it will cause a build up on your diapers and affect the absorbency.
Diaper sprayer – these can be bought or made easily if you are handy like that. This is basically a hose that attaches to your toilet to spray off your diapers once your baby starts solids.
Disposables – yes this is on my list! There are definitely people out there that NEVER use disposables, but I think that is pretty hardcore and not necessarily the norm. I have bought a couple of packs of disposables over the past year for travel or when E had a yeast infection and some people use disposables at night.
There are of course other types of cloth diapers and other accessories you can use depending on your type of diaper and laundry system but this is what I have found works for us – and I LOVE it! Even my husband agrees that it really isn’t bad at all. He is not too fond of the messier diapers now but honestly he is not the one changing most of those so he doesn’t have much to complain about!
Do you have any other helpful tips for those looking to start cloth diapering? What is your biggest fear to begin cloth diapering?