Most people understand the benefit of cloth diapers, but can’t imagine putting in the time and effort to do it. Obviously cloth diapers are environmentally friendly, especially by reducing the overwhelming plastic waste problem in the United States, and the world. Cloth diapers help many children from sever diaper rashes. My personal reasons for using cloth diapers include environment, diaper rashes, avoiding the chemicals present in disposables, but mainly the economical benefit. I spent an afternoon during my first pregnancy comparing costs (in extreme detail) of cloth diapers versus disposables. I came to a very convincing conclusion: The one-time investment in all the needed cloth diapers, pocket diapers, all-in-one diapers or covers, cloth diapering accessories, laundry soaps, and energy and water bills comes out to LESS than the average person might spend in 1 YEAR on some of the CHEAPEST disposable diapers. Not to mention, you can use your cloth diapers and supplies for all your children. It just made sense to me!
Next, I researched what it would take to actually do it. The hardest part was getting over the negative reactions from friends and family, meaning well, but offering anything but encouragement (“We’ll see how long that will last!” “Yeah, wait till you have more kids!” “No diaper service…ha!” – You get the picture.) I read articles on websites and in magazines and books, and bought everything I thought I needed. My beautiful baby girl came, and we started using the cloth diapers when she was 4 weeks old (she was too small for my smallest diapers. I felt a little less guilty using the non-plastic, paper-like newborn disposables.) Now that I’ve been successfully using cloth for a few months, I figured I might help others who are interested in “cloth” by spelling out my own system. Getting an organized system down is the hardest part. After that, I swear it is EASY!
The basics of what you’ll need:
40 diapers (cloth prefolds or liners plus covers of choice…read below*)
2 medium sized nylon tote bags
1 plain diaper pale (I use a $10 one from a mega store)
Washing Machine and Dryer (Energy Efficient is a good idea)
Laundry Detergent (Natural ingredients are a good idea)
Optional Stuff that I use:
50 cloth wipes for homemade wipes (*see homemade wipe solution below)
10-15 “doublers”- for extra absorption when needed, such as night time
Waterproof zipper tote (for your diaper bag when you’re out)
One-time purchase of baby wipes in plastic containers: regular size, and travel size
2 stack-able laundry baskets (this makes it all much easier to keep the system going!)
*Homemade Wipe Solution
(I do not get any measuring tools out, so all measurements are approximations. You are aiming for a solution that is not too soapy, but clean feeling when you wipe it on your arm.)
– 2-4 tablespoons concentrated liquid body soap- I use Dr. Bronner’s lavender castile soap, available at most natural markets
– 2-4 tablespoons aloe vera gel
– 4-6 cups water
Whisk ingredients together and use to soak wipes. Store extra in the refrigerator for next time! Another easy option is to make solution and keep in a squeeze bottle. Wet dry wipes only as needed.
There are many different types of what I call “covers”, and this is where it becomes a little confusing. There are wraps- kind of what plastic pants used to be. Then, there are pocket diapers, all-in-ones, fitted diapers, swim diapers, and whatever else is invented! Many diapers are made out of organic cotton, polyester, and expensive wool. I use pocket diapers and wraps, and that is what I will talk about. The websites I list at the bottom of the page have tons of information and guidance on all cloth diapering systems.
First I have my 40 Chinese prefold diapers, or liners, made of organic, unbleached cotton. When you buy these they are rough and non-absorbent. Directions guide you to wash them on a hot cycle with detergent 5 times before you use them. This makes them extremely absorbent, and you only do this once. You use prefolds under the wrap covers, or inside pocket diapers. They can also be used as towels/wipes for anything!
When I’m at home, it is easiest to use a prefold with a wrap. I use “Bummis Whisper Wraps.” You simply fold the prefold in thirds, then place it in the wrap, then on the baby. These wraps use Velcro to close. What is nice about these is that they are waterproof and you can switch quite a few prefolds out before it is dirty. (I practice “Elimination Communication” or “Diaper-free Baby”, and this is good because baby knows that they are dirty. There is no sitting in a dirty diaper for hours.)
At nights, when I’m out, and often at home, I use a “Baby Kanga” pocket diapers. They have many snaps that make them one-size fits all diaper, which means a one-time purchase, which is nice. With these you simply fold the prefold and stuff it in the pocket diaper. A zipper shuts it in, then you put it on baby. These are made out of polyester, and the lining is fleece. The fleece does not absorb liquid, so the urine soaks into the prefold, and keeps baby dry. When I change her, I pull the prefold out and throw everything in the laundry (you cannot reuse the dirty pocket diaper.)
Start by buying baby wipes in the large plastic container, then a travel size pack. Use the wipes, or put them in a zip lock plastic bag and in the car for emergencies. Make your wipe solution in a large bowl, then soak and ring out cloth wipes so that they are damp, and place them in your empty baby wipe containers. Use them just like disposable wipes, then when they’re dirty, throw them in with your dirty diapers. I usually have leftover solution, so I don’t have to make solution every time I make wipes.
What you do with dirty diapers:
I do the laundry about every 2 days. I place a medium sized nylon tote in my diaper pale, and it seems to fill at the perfect rate to not get too stinky, and fill a load. With this system, I always have clean diapers. The nylon tote is nice because you shove the dirty diapers into the machine by turning the tote inside out, then you wash the tote with the load. You never have to touch the dirty diapers!
That’s pretty much it! There is a lot of info out there, and I suggest researching a little more to figure out what might work best for you. I hope my input helps a little, and I hope you are encouraged to go with cloth!
Use these websites for some help, supplies, and some nice small business owners!