Yes, this lazy millennial has chosen to solely cloth diaper her baby. You can say it’s because I’m a hippie, or a hipster, or because I spend too much time on Pinterest. But let’s face it, one things millennials lack is MONEY, and cloth diapers are CHEAP! These aren’t your mother’s version of cloth diapers either. The cloth diaper industry has evolved, and you’ll be surprised to see how much they’ve changed.
To start, let’s talk about the most convincing reason to choose cloth over disposable. Cloth diapers can be up to a $500 investment if you choose to buy brand new diapers. This seems like a ton, especially to a young family who usually won’t have $500 lying around. The problem is, as millennials we tend to think short-term and forget to consider our investments. $500 will buy you diapers for your baby that will last through potty training, basically the next three or so years of your life.
The average parents will spend thousands of dollars on disposables in that same time span, so cloth diapers are much cheaper long-term! Personally, I bought almost all of my diapers used. The only new diapers I have were purchased off of my registry. I recommend having around 25-30 diapers to start. My total investment was about $100… I spent $100 to diaper my baby from birth to potty training, which is less than most people will spend in the first month of using disposables. On top of the economic advantage, cloth diapers are better for the environment and don’t put a ton of chemicals on your sweet baby’s skin. Are you interested now?
I started my journey by taking a cloth diapering class. It’s a short introduction to all the overwhelming information there is on cloth, and a good way to decide whether or not it is for you. I took mine at the Nappy Shoppe in Plano, Texas, a crunchy friendly store that sells new and used diapers among other crunchy mom accessories. It was here that I first learned about the different types of cloth diapers, and where I bought the majority of my diapering tools.
There are three main types of diapers that I use on my baby: the pocket diaper, the flat or prefold and waterproof cover, and the all in one (AIO). All my diapers are one size fits all, so I don’t ever have to worry about sizing as baby grows. The Velcro or snaps on the diapers allows the diaper to grow alongside baby.
The majority of my diapers are pockets. This type of diaper is a cute outer shell with a “pocket” in the middle where you insert whatever type of pad you want to use. They work great and are easy to use if you make sure to stuff the pockets ahead of time. If you have a screaming baby, the time it takes to choose a pad and stuff the diaper feels like a lifetime. I usually stuff mine straight after washing/drying them so that they’re ready to grab and go when baby needs them. Putting on pockets aren’t much different from using a disposable diaper, but you pay for the simplicity because a pocket diaper can be $10-$20 each.
Waterproof Covers and Liners
The covers are cute, waterproof shells that do NOT absorb at all. I like these because you can coordinate outfits with your diapers since you can reuse the shells as long as they don’t get dirty. Sometimes I can get up to five uses out of one diaper cover. This also cuts down on laundry since the pocket diapers are pretty fluffy and take up a ton of room, but I mostly just end up washing a ton of pads and a few covers when I use these. The downside is that they are a little more complicated to put on because they take more time.
The pad is not connected to the cover and this is the part that absorbs everything. You have to take the cover off and center the pad before putting it back on baby. I have some covers that come with snaps on the inside so you can actually snap the pad in instead of just trying to center it yourself, but even then it is slightly more time-consuming. Like I mentioned, I usually only use these if we’re matching the diaper to our outfit or if we’re going to be out and about for a long time because it is much easier to carry around a few used pads in a wet bag than it is to carry a bunch of super fluffy pocket diapers! Cost wise, a cover can run you around $10 used, and pads can be 10 cents each… which makes this very cost-effective. Also remember even though a cover can cost the same as a pocket, a cover is reusable while a pocket can only be used one time before needing a wash.
Waterproof Covers and Flats
This is the cloth diaper that everyone immediately refuses to use. Flats are your typical old fashion cloth diaper that you imagine would be held together with a couple of pins. They’ve gotten slightly more modern too, but they are honestly the most complicated to use. I love them because they take up very little space in the washer, they hold pee and poop great, and I can use them with covers so the benefits I previously talked about still apply.
The issue is that flats are literally a huge piece of thin cloth, so you need to learn a few ways to fold them and then pick your favorite. Yes, you need to fold a flat from a huge square into the “diaper” shape you will then use on your baby, and after that you “pin” it in place and put the cover over it to prevent leaks. I refused to use them at first but after my diapering class I decided I would use them! There are a bunch of ways to fold them, but we use the origami fold. We both watched a ton of videos to learn, and now we have them prefolded so that we can grab them as needed. They are also the cheapest type of diaper (because they aren’t as convenient) and can cost you under one dollar each, plus the cost of the cover. Honestly, I really like using these and once you do it a few times it’s like muscle memory.
AIO (All in Ones)
AIO diapers require almost no effort from you. The pad, waterproof cover, etc are all connected and so you just grab this diaper and put it on baby like you would a regular disposable. You throw the entire thing in the washer after and repeat once it’s dry! They’re super simple and I use them when I’m dead tired at night or going out somewhere that changing a diaper may be an inconvenience. They are, of course, the most expensive of the main three that I use. A reputable brand can be $20-$30 per diaper. I bought them used because I’m crunchy mommin’ on a budget.
As far as brands go, everyone will have their own favorites. It depends on how big your baby’s poops are, how often they poop, etc etc. I personally love Bumgenius brand, even though they’re expensive. Sunbaby has also been good to us as well as the Best Bottom covers and inserts. We have a ton of “cheap” diaper brands also that work just fine, but don’t buy a ton of one brand until you get a chance to try them out and see if they’re right for you.
“What do I need to buy to get started?”
There are a bunch of accessories that will make your cloth diaper life easier. Some are just extra and not super necessary, but others are things you cannot live without.
Things You MUST buy:
– Snappies! These are the 21st century version of the pins that were used to hold together folded flats. These snap onto the cloth and keep the folded diaper in place on the baby, without potentially poking their sweet little tush.
– Good quality detergent. I use regular Tide. Some will tell you that you must use fancy detergents that are made for cloth diapers, but personally I just say you must use a brand name detergent. It needs to be something that easily gets out stains and dirt, so the off brand just won’t work.
– Coconut oil. You CANNOT use diaper rash cream with cloth diapers!!! It will waterproof the fabric and make them no longer able to absorb, which will be a headache for you to fix. Coconut oil is a natural alternative when your baby seems to have redness, but honestly you are way less likely to get diaper rash when using cloth diapers. I haven’t had to deal with any rash so far but we use coconut oil on our son just to make it easier to wipe the poop off and to avoid using harsh lotions. We bought a gallon of it!
– Peri bottle. You should have one that you used postpartum. You can use this to spray your diapers down into the toilet when there are thick pieces of poop on them. I haven’t had to use it with breastfed poops, but will need it for on the go when we start solids. I decided to be fancy and use a bidet at home.
– Wet bag. This is a bag you can use for when you’re out with baby that will hold dirty diapers without letting the smell escape. I carry mine around and it doesn’t smell at all. One of my concerns when I considered cloth diapering was what I would do when I was in public, but it’s been so simple!
– Apple cider vinegar. You can drop some into the washer now and then for a deep clean.
Extras that will make your life easier:
These aren’t necessary, but are nice to have.
– BIDET. BIDET. BIDET. Go get a bidet toilet extension! We originally bought it because it was recommended for spraying down big poops off of the diapers. Breastfed poops are super watery and simple to clean, you just throw them in the washer. When you add solids or if you have to use formula, however, those poops can be too thick to just plop in the washer. You can use a bidet to spray the majority of the chunks of poop off of the diaper and into the toilet which you can flush. Then you can drop the diaper in the washer with no problem. I also wound up using the bidet instead of the peri bottle postpartum because the bottle just did not make me feel clean enough! The peri bottle will still be useful to use when you’re not at home and near the bidet.
– Wool Dryer balls. You are NOT allowed to use fabric softener or dryer sheets in your dryer or your washer, even for your regular clothing. The chemicals in these will waterproof your diaper. An alternative is to drop essential oils onto dryer balls and throw those in with your diapers and clothing! It will reduce static, add a fresh scent, and fluff your clothes and diapers up.
– Diaper Pail. We use the Diaper Dékor because it is easier for cloth diapers than the diaper genie. The genie will try to wrap each diaper up which is unnecessary and complicated with a fluffy cloth diaper. We have cloth liners, but the disposables are also really easy to use in the Pail. I have the pail right by my bed and you can’t smell a thing! We got the smaller version and I’m happy because it forces me to wash and not let the gross diapers pile up, but it’s up to you and how many diapers you have if you want to go 2-3 days without washing. Some people just use a trash can but I’m glad we invested in a pail.
– Clothing line or shelf. Sun bleaching is the easiest and cheapest way to get rid of stains in your diapers. Poop is going to stain eventually, and having a way to lay a ton of diapers out in the sun to bleach them is cost-effective and easy. You can do this every time to save on electricity, and it even makes your diapers last longer. It all depends on how much time you have to wait for them to dry.
“But how do you wash all that gross baby poop off?”
What do you do with the poop? This is usually the first thing people will ask me.
To start, when we’re talking breastfed babies, the poop is completely water-soluble. The washer will get them clean just fine. There are a few different systems people use to get them clean, and you can research your options, but I personally use the rinse-wash-rinse system. I’m currently washing diapers every day and a half, but mostly because the longer you wait the harder it would be to clean and the grosser the diapers get. I never run out of diapers because we have so many. I have a 2 month old, so this should actually decrease over time as he will make less poop as he gets older. When he was a newborn I washed every day! It would take maybe an hour to do the wash, everything included. It’s not that bad!
- I grab the bag from my diaper pail and dump it in the washer. Don’t overfill the washer. You need room for the diapers to be able to agitate and get clean. It’s an art form you will learn eventually! Most recommend up to 24 pocket diapers in one wash. You can fit more covers and inserts than that since they take up less space. You’ll learn to eyeball it. I can wash about 30 or so diaper changes in my washer.
- I start with a cold rinse. No detergent, just dump all my diapers into the washer. I separate all the pads and flats from their covers.
- Once the rinse is done, I start a hot wash. I add in Tide detergent, but not too much because you will have detergent leftover in your diapers and prevent absorption.
- I switch back to a cold rinse to end my laundry process. Remember NO FABRIC SOFTENER.
- I throw everything in the dryer. It is a little tougher on the diapers, but I don’t always have time to air dry them. NO FABRIC SHEETS in your dryer! Use the wool balls and essential oils. I use a low heat setting on the diapers.
- As soon as they’re done, I stuff my pocket diapers with an insert and organize everything. I have a shelf with fabric boxes for my diapers to stay organized! The LAST thing you want is to have a screaming baby with a diaper filled with poop, and not know where your clean diapers are. The entire process is about an hour, with whatever breaks I may need to feed baby and love on my baby in between. It’s totally doable!
The only extra step that occurs when you have a baby eating solids is that you should scrape or rinse off the huge chunks of poop into the toilet before putting them in the washer. As soon as baby poops, use a bidet or peri bottle to get the chunks of poop to drop into the toilet. Then you can drop the diaper in the pail and it’s ready to be washed when the time comes.
Do everything that you need to do to get your diapers ready to wash when they’re fresh! I remove the inserts from my pockets and separate the covers and the inserts as soon as take them off of baby. If you wait until you’re ready to wash then the diapers are old, smelly, and probably hardened up. It’s much easier to do them when wet and then just dump them straight into the washer when it’s time.
“Why on earth would I go through all of this trouble?”
Cloth diapers are better for the environment, and better for your baby. disposable fill up landfills for years. The chemicals in diapers cause rash and can really irritate your baby’s little tush, and the diapers in general just hurt your bank account! The time invested is worth all the benefits you and your baby will have. Plus, are they not just so freakin’ adorable? I’m a lazy mom. I’m always try to do what’s easiest but still best for my little one, so if I can do it I promise you can.
I hope you choose to join me in the fluffy butt club.