The Mommy Lyfe: Cloth Diapering Basics For Beginners
There are a bunch of reasons why a family might choose to cloth diaper. Personally, our initial reason for choosing cloth diapering was financial--it makes sense to purchase a reusable version of the single thing you will be using most often in your child's first couple of years, right?
And it's true, cloth diapering has saved us a ton of money. The initial investment was expensive (Upwards of $300) but we've already saved that amount over and over again since our initial purchase.
It took me a while to get the hang of cloth diapering, and I actually used disposables for the first eight weeks since babies poop after pretty much every meal in those first couple of months. But now that I've been devoted to cloth diapering, here are the items I use daily and that I would've put on my registry had I known how much I would need (and use) them!
How Should Cloth Diapers Be Washed?
Many sites and all-knowing parents will tell you that you need to buy special detergent to wash your diapers.
I'm going to go ahead and say no, you don't. In my years of using cloth diapers I have found that the best detergent for us is a hefty jug of cheapie Sun with Oxi-Clean from Walmart, Target, etc. But sometimes I use Tide if I have it laying around. My point is that you are literally washing crap out of fabric. You want the real-deal detergent, none of that sissy organic $30 powder, which I fell victim to for too many months until I noticed a terrible burn-like rash on my daughter. It turns out that "safe" detergent wasn't fully cleaning my diapers, giving my girl a nasty ammonia burn. The bottom line is, you aren't going to wreck your diapers with detergent if you've bought well-made diapers. I use Bum Genius 4.0 everything (diaper + insert, that's it) and they hold up just fine with regular detergent.
When my little one was brand new and her poop was more liquid than substance, I did remove the insert from the diaper and quickly rinse both with a sprayer before throwing them in the diaper pail, otherwise they will get stained.
Now that she is a big-girl I simply shake the fun into the toilet and throw the diaper in as is when I'm ready to do the wash. The agitation from the machine moves the insert out of the diapers and get them all nice and clean.
As far as actual washing, I pour the appropriate amount (there's no science--just eyeball based on how big of a load you have) in, wash on hot, then give 'em one more spin in plain ol' cold water just to make sure all of the soap is out so it doesn't irritate my little one's skin.
If a load is particularly horrific I will do a normal detergent wash, but instead of finishing up with cold water I do a wash with bleach (after the initial detergent wash, not before because urine = ammonia and ammonia + bleach is dangerous) and then one more rinse in plain water to make sure the bleach is all rinsed out.
I hang the actual diapers to dry and machine-dry the inserts because they're thicker and take on a smell if they don't dry all of the way through. I've been known a time or two to throw the diaper in the dryer too, though I wouldn't make a habit of it.
I never use fabric softener of any kind, I do believe this would jeopardize the integrity of the fabric and absorption and you don't necessarily need the fragrances up against baby's bottom.
A Cloth Diaper Safe Detergent
Do your own research and decide what detergent works best for your family, your diaper brand, washing machine, and day-to-day budget and lifestyle. But don't let the know-it-alls get to you. While many will claim you have to buy a fancy $15 bag of unscented, powdered diaper detergent, you'll do just as well with a classic gallon of Tide. Remember what it is that you're trying to wash the diapers of...
It is, however, important to stay away from fabric softeners and detergents that contain them. And I wouldn't go for anything heavily scented either (Try a "pure" formula by your favorite detergent brand, like ALL!)
Washable Pail Liners
Pick a liner that will fit your pail. GroVia Pail Liners (which can be found at various retailers including Amazon) fit a 13 gallon trash can perfectly. And the nice thing is, you just pull the whole thing out of the can and throw it in the wash with your diaps. Easy. Register for two or more, so you can rotate while you're washing.
Foldable Drying Rack
Although some brands will tell you that it's okay to throw their diapers in the dryer, it degrades the diaper's absorbency, plus it can get expensive if you're drying diapers every day. Instead, put one or two of these drying racks on your registry and use them next to the heater vent in the wintertime and on the back porch in the summer. Just fold 'em up when you're not using them and it's like there were never soggy diapers hanging out in your living room.
Stainless Steel Trash Can
With a lid to keep that stink where it belongs! And size does matter. 13 gallons will hold a little more than 2 days worth of diapers.
A Few Good Wet Bags
Besides the cuteness factor they lend to your diaper bag, wet bags are essential for storing dirty diapers when you're going out. And like the washable pail liners, you just throw these in the wash with the diapers and hang them to dry. Register for a size medium or higher. They're also great for stashing soiled baby clothes!
How Many Cloth Diapers Do You Need?
That depends on when you decide to start cloth diapering. If you want to begin from birth you will need to purchase newborn sized cloth diapers. One-size-fits all won't actually fit a newborn! And you'll need a ton. I probably changed around 16-20 diapers a day in that first month of newborn babyhood. That's why I decided to go ahead with disposables until I felt like things slowed down (plus, you're pretty exhausted after the work of physically having the baby).
I started my daughter on cloth diapers around four months old. I have a stash considered small by most mom's standards-- about sixteen. Because I still put a disposable on her at bedtime, this allows me to only need to wash diapers about once every other day. I honestly wouldn't need more because it's gross to let those diapers sit more than 48 hours. Keeping your stash small allows you to invest in quality made diapers.
I just want to add that were I to do it all over again, I would have been fine to start with 16 diapers but I probably would have bought like one or two new diapers each month to keep them rotating. After two kids and just as many years of using the same 16 diapers they did start to wear out. I think that considering how much use they received we did great, but if you want your stash to last, add just a couple new diapers every so often to keep from overuse.
A Cloth Diaper Safe Rash Cream
As if cloth diapering doesn't sound complicated enough (and it is at first and then it gets really easy, I promise) there are some diaper creams that will ruin your cloth diapers. Oh snap, you say! Not so much. The Diaper Wrecker breaks down the do's and don'ts of diaper creams in the post Diaper Rash Creams and Cloth Diapers on her super helpful website diaperwrecker.com
If you don't have a utility sink where you can spray poop (yup) off the diaps before you throw them in the wash, definitely beg someone to buy you a diaper sprayer. These things just hook right up to the toilet so you can spray that crap where it belongs.
Solid, Odor Absorbing Air Freshener
Babies are awesome but their poop stinks, and even with a covered lid, sometimes the laundry room can get a little stinky. Keep it fresh with a solid air freshener that both absorbs and combats odors.
Something Cute to Stash Clean Diapers In
Okay, this isn't essential but a cute laundry hamper, basket, or fabric storage bin keeps things organized and that's how you stay sane when you're a new parent.
So, What Happens to The Poop?
In the beginning, your babe's bowel movements will be thin and watery just like their formula or milk. This means that you can easily rinse the poo of your diapers either in a utility sink under warm water or with a diaper sprayer attached to your toilet. It comes of and goes down the drain very easily.
Once your little one's poops get bigger you can just shake it off into the toilet. This is easier even than those new baby diaper days, I promise!
Cloth Diapers, Duh!
The choices in cloth diapers can be overwhelming, but once you see what's actually out there it's pretty basic.
So what kind of cloth diapers do you need? Check out BabyCenter's article Cloth Diapers: A Quick Guide to Your Choices for cloth diaper types and help deciding which type is the best fit for your family (or try a few!)
If you're expecting, you can register in the usual places, like Target and Amazon or you can register with a site like TheGreenNursery.com for extra discounts.
Can You Cloth Diaper at Bedtime?
You certainly can, but it didn't work for us. I would have to get up at least twice a night to change her diaper, otherwise she would wake up in pee-soaked sheets. For those that are hardcore about cloth diapering in every situation, do your research and find the best way to stuff and button those diaps so you're not a slave to them in your sleep.
Got a question I didn't answer? Leave it in the comments below and we can discuss!
© 2014 Kierstin Gunsberg