I knew I wanted to but I was really intimidated about figuring out how to cloth diaper. Covers and all-in-ones, friends and family who raised their eyebrows (I’m looking at you, mom, who was skeptical even though you’d cloth diapered me and my brother as babies!) — it all made me insecure. Plus, I had my own worries: would it be unsanitary? would it be gross? would it be one of those things that sounds easy but that “real parents” know is unrealistic?
Happily, it was as doable as I thought it should be. If you don’t mind laundry and want to do it, cloth diapering isn’t difficult. It can be overwhelming during that first month of baby’s life, when you’re trying to figure things out and disposables are that much easier, so if you need to give yourself a break and ease into them as you get your feet under you, please do and know that it’s OK. (Most parents wait until the baby’s meconium phase is done, also, getting a tight fit can be difficult with some diapers when the baby is really small). Like with most parenting things, cloth diapering doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing, so do what works for you and your family!
Here’s what you need to get started:
How to cloth diaper essentials
1. Cloth diapers. There are a lot of kinds of diapers out there, and from what I hear from others, they are all pretty much great. There are roughly two main kinds: one-piece kinds that you put on and take off similar to a disposable, and the two-piece system when you combine a prefold or a liner and a waterproof cover.
Advantages of the one-piece system are that many are one-size-fits-all, so you invest once and are set for the duration, and they are easy for grandparents and babysitters to use. Advantages of the two-piece system are you do less laundry (since you can typically reuse the covers a few times) and it’s easier to get a snug fit.
We tried both, since a friend was gracious enough to pass on her newborn and size 1 waterproof covers (we bought prefolds to use with the covers from Green Mountain Diapers). Both kinds were equally effective in preventing leaks and blowouts, but the prefold/cover combo was a bit harder to put on our wiggly girl, so but when Beatrice outgrew her hand-me-down covers we didn’t buy more and stuck with the all-in-ones.
One-week-old Beatrice in a small-sized prefold with a newborn-sized cover. (Usually the diaper is wrapped a little more neatly around her, but this was the result of a middle of the night diaper change).
So what we use everyday and love are BumGenius all-in-one-cloth diapers. They are meant to fit babies 7-35+ lbs, so you don’t have to buy diapers in different sizes. They are “all-in-ones,” in that when they’re dirty (or wet), you toss the whole thing in the wash.
Why I love them: they’re easy to use (for you, diapering a squirmy seven-month-old), they’re lined with microfleece so they keep baby dry, they’re sturdy enough to prevent most blowouts, and they’re cute. We have 16 (eight sets of two, put on our Target registry). We got the version that snaps instead of velcro, as I’d heard the velcro wears out and is a pain in the wash. It is an investment, but these are pretty much the only diapers you’ll ever buy, and they should diaper baby #2 as well someday. I follow the recommended care instructions (cold wash, hot wash, machine dry the inserts, line dry the covers (or machine dry a few if I’m in a hurry, or line dry them all outside when it’s sunny). I use my usual free detergent that I use for all our wash. If they start to look dingy I put them out in the sun and turn bright white again.
Four-month-old Bee in a BumGenius. We did monthly photo shoots in her BumGenius diapers since she could wear the same one as she grew and we wouldn’t have to buy special matching outfits.
Pro mom tip: Courtesy of my friend, Rose: When your baby is sleeping through the night, shove an extra liner or a prefold into the BumGenius for a leak-proof night.
2. Cloth wipes and a regular old spray bottle filled with water. As long as you’re washing diapers, you might as well wash wipes, too. As on board on this cloth diapering thing as I was, I felt kind of guilty about the wipes — don’t you need some sort of germ-killing alcohol? But we learned later on from our pediatrician that water and cloth is the best method, and one they especially recommend when your kid has diarrhea or diaper rash. I got a set of these nice cloth wipes as a baby shower gift and also sewed up a dozen flannel squares.
3. Something to contain your used diapers near wherever you change the baby. Any pail/garbage can will work. We use a step can and a pail liner; the liner can go in the wash. (Pro tip: by two pail liners so you don’t have to remember to bring the liner back or wait for the liner to be clean from the wash).
4. A wet bag for your diaper bag, for putting used diapers in on the go. (I worried that this would not contain the smell: no worries, it does. Also, this can go in the washer and dryer as well).
Bonus gear: Nice to have
1.If you’re planning on cloth diapering, think big when picking out a diaper bag. This will be the only time you’ll envy your disposable-using friends: cloth diapers take up a lot of room. When we’re going to be out for the day I throw in a second bag full of diapers and leave it in the car.
2. A diaper sprayer. This attaches to your toilet and you use it to spray off dirty diapers into the toilet. We were intimidated by this so didn’t install it before she was born. (Diapers don’t get too messy until they start solids). When it became apparent that this would improve our life, we bought and installed it. We are not handy but were able to install it ourselves (and by ourselves I mean Adam did it).
3. High-efficiency washing machine.
4. 1 pack of disposable in various sizes, to use as emergency back-ups in the diaper bag, etc.