At the risk of compromising my “modern mom” street cred (let’s be honest, most of that is already gone by this point), today I’m writing about a subject I get a fair number of inquiries about: cloth diapers.
I am a low-effort parent, but I used cloth diapers with all 3 kids and loved them. They were cheaper, worked well, and saved me from running to the store in the middle of the night for more diapers! The summer Isaac was born, there was a terrible heat wave in Texas. As a result, he got unbelievably bad diaper rash. My friend loaned me a few cloth diapers and recommended that I try them. The diaper rash healed within a few days starting the cloth diapers, but we kept using them because they were cheaper than disposables, and worked just as well. We used the same ones again with Liesl, and then with Patrick. (Despite the claim that cloth diapered kids potty train earlier, we have found that this is not the case with our kids. Patrick just turned 3, and we haven’t even started training him yet…)
The internet is full of tons and tons and tons of information about cloth diapers, but it’s really hard to know what works for you until you start. This is a super long post, but hopefully it will give you enough information to get you started.
For newborns, my best advice is to wait a few weeks until you have settled into a routine, and all the meconium is out of the baby’s system before starting with cloth diapers. Usually their umbilical cord has fallen off by then, which is also handy. It can help to borrow a few diapers from someone else to uses cloth, just to see what might work. If you don’t know anyone, I would just buy 1 or 2 of a few types, and see what works for you. You can always buy more later.
I never bought any fancy equipment for my cloth diapers. I bought two small flip-top trashcans, one for trash and disposable diapers, and one for cloth diapers. When the trashcan is full, I know it’s time to run a load. Then, just begin to use cloth diapers instead of disposables. I really didn’t find them to be too much additional work.
What I use:
I started using cloth diapers with Isaac when he was about 2 months old. I primarily use FuzziBunz, but I also use BumGenius, and some prefold diapers as well. The FuzziBunz I use are the ‘perfect size’, NOT the one size. This means that I have a set of small, medium, and large diapers. Update: Apparently these are unavailable until June! In any case, I recommend going with a perfect-size diaper rather than a one-size diaper, especially if you have a small or skinny baby. The “one size” diapers were just too bulky for me when my babies were small. The FuzziBunz is a pocket diaper, which means it has a cloth insert that you put in the pocket in the diaper. I really like this diaper, and it was held up very well. All 3 kids wore the same set of diapers. Patrick is currently using the large set, the mediums and smalls are in storage.
I also have a few BumGenius extra-smalls and smalls and I really like those as well. The XS fits newborn and small babies really well. I also used some prefold diapers with covers. These are the ‘old school’ cloth diapers, but I find that they work very well once you get the hang of it. With prefolds, you can ‘customize’ the fit, which helps with skinny legs. The prefolds also come in sizes, and I used Thirsties and Bummis wraps. Instead of pins, I used a Snappi to keep the prefold diaper on. I wish I had started prefolds earlier.
Washing cloth diapers is a bit of a ‘dark art’. What works for some people doesn’t work for others. Because cloth diapers are so absorbent, you need to use a low-residue laundry detergent on them. Otherwise, the residue will buildup in the diapers and they won’t be as absorbent. I use Ecover. The diapers should be lined dried, if possible.
When I don’t use cloth diapers:
I am definitely not someone who is 100% in the cloth diaper camp. I used disposables at night with Patrick and Liesl, but I didn’t when Isaac was a baby. He wore FuzziBunz at night and was fine. (We were also very poor graduate students at that point, so I didn’t want to spend the money on disposables!) Now, I value my sanity/sleep more, so I use disposables at night. Besides nighttime, I also used disposables when the kids were in daycare or with a babysitter. We also use disposables when we are going to be away from the house for several hours, or when we are traveling. I always keep an extra gallon-size ziploc bag in my diaper bag to carry home dirty cloth diapers. (You can buy really cute waterproof ‘wet bags’, but again – when we started using cloth diapers I was really cheap!)
Here are some websites that are helpful:
The Art of Simple – Cloth Diapering This is a great resource about different diapers and what works. .
Diaper Pin – provides reviews about multiple brands
Kelly’s Closet – online retailer
Finally, a disclaimer. I am a big believer in the ‘whatever works’ philosophy. If you find something that works for you and you and your family are happy with it, by all means ignore what I have written and stick to what works for you. There really isn’t any “best” solution out there.