The Basics of Cloth Diapering

LilEI’ll admit up front that I was scared of cloth diapering; it was my wife’s idea. Before Lil’ E was born I didn’t really have any experience with babies or diapering at all so I was a little nervous about changing diapers anyway. Now I would consider myself a “man of the cloth”. This post is just a few basic things to keep in mind when considering cloth diapering:

Choose your diaper
There are a ton of different options for cloth diapering including pre-folds, fitted, all-in-ones and the list goes on and on. Personally we decided to go with pre-fold diapers using Snappis (a nifty little diaper fastener) and diaper covers. It was the most economical option and was definitely the most practical for us. The Snappi may have been the saving grace for this decision, if I had to use safety pins with the way Lil’ E squirms we might have given up on cloth diapering a lot sooner or we would have switched to a different cloth diapering system. Try not to get overwhelmed with all of the options, you’ll figure out what works best for you.

How many do I need?
When you consider the amount of diapers to buy, take into account the age of your baby. Newborns typically need 10-12 diaper changes a day and Toddlers need around 8-10 (slightly more than disposables, but it doesn’t really take much more time). If you are going to go with pre-folds like we did, I’d recommend you start with 36 pre-fold diapers, 4-6 covers and 2-3 Snappi’s.

Other stuff you’ll need
Aside from the diapers themselves, you’re going to need a few other items mainly to deal with the diapers after your baby is done “using” them.

First, you’ll need a diaper pail system for those pee-pee diapers. A waste basket with a waterproof laundry bag is essential.

Then there’s the part no one REALLY wants to deal with…the soiled diapers. You are going to need to flush the poops down the toilet and keep a small covered diaper pail in the bathroom for storing those. I also recommend a diaper sprayer attached to the toilet to take care of those “messy” occasions. You can buy one of these or, if you are a ridiculous do-it-yourselfer with some crazy Yankee ingenuity like me, you can make one fairly easily out of some basic plumbing parts you can pick up at the local hardware store and a kitchen sink sprayer. Really.

Maybe this should have come under the “other stuff you’ll need” but you will need a washer and dryer. Based upon how many diapers and covers you buy, you’ll be doing a load of diapers every 2-3 days. If you typically go to a Laundromat you may want to look into a diapering service as this might more sense for you rather than lugging a load of pee-pee and poopie smelling diapers to the Laundromat every couple days. Particularly if you have to take a cab, the cab driver will thank you for choosing the diapering service.

You’ll also need to select a laundry detergent that works especially well for cloth diapers and is fragrance, dye and additive free. These detergents are usually recommended for something so close to your baby’s skin, we use Biokleen All Temperature Laundry Powder which works great.

As with anything else there are different ways to wash diapers, the method we use is to start with a cold water wash, rinse and then a finish with a hot water wash and rinse. You can also add about ¾ of a cup of vinegar to the final rinse cycle if your diapers don’t come out smelling fresh. If your baby is prone to diaper rashes you can try adding an extra rinse cycle at the end.

It’s a good idea to line dry the covers if you are able to. It will help extend the life of the Velcro enclosures and preserve their waterproofing ability.

Don’t be a hero
What I mean by this is, don’t feel like you have to do cloth all of the time, occasionally you are going to need a disposable diaper. When we first brought Lil’ E home we used the disposables with the cut-out until his belly button was healed. At night we use disposables because the wetness from a cloth diaper was consistently waking him up. You’ll figure out what combination works best for you and your baby.

The best part is cloth diapers hold up extremely well as the diapers we are using now are the same ones we used on Lil’ E when he was just a wee little one. These are the cloth diapering options that worked for my family but you might find something you like better.

What about you? Have you tried cloth diapering and do you have any tips to share?


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