My Long Awaited Cloth Diaper Post

*This is a post I found in my unpublished drafts. I don’t even know when I started it! I had wanted to add pictures and links but had not gotten to it. I decided to edit and update it and publish it now. We are long out of diapers and ended up back with disposables for a while, but I still have all my diapers stored for when I get to have another baby.*

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My diaper stash as of a year ago when I packed it up. I could probably diaper triplets with this and I am sure I gave away a few things like the newborn prefolds and AIOs.

This one has been marinating for a while and I doubt it’s getting done in one sitting since I want to have pictures with it. But, I’m stuck in my chair with Wallace sleeping on the boob (latched on but not nursing and god forbid I move a muscle) and the box of too big diapers in front of me reminded me to do this.

I don’t know exactly when or how I decided I would cloth diaper. I think it was back when I was working with the L twins and trying to get pregnant the first three rounds of it. I had absolutely no experience with cloth diapers but I had read about all the toxic chemicals in disposables and how bad they are for the environment. I’ve also been in charge of cleaning a diaper genie for the S twins and it made me want to throw up…

So, I started researching and talking to people. More and more families that I knew of with babies were doing it so it became part of my reality. I had only changed one cloth diaper before Wallace was born. I think it was a pocket diaper and it was simple. My last boss-mom had cloth diapered her oldest and had got everything out for a late start with the baby. She asked me if I was cool with it, I was definitely enthusiastic, and then I didn’t hear anything more about it.

With Wallace, I decided I would use some Eco-friendly disposables until he was done with the meconium poops and then that turned into waiting until his cord stump fell off somewhere in week three. I also wasn’t supposed to do stairs or lift anything heavier than him the first three weeks so that made doing laundry quite difficult. Once I switched to cloth, I kept using disposables at night until I ran out and got the hang of the cloth. We are back to disposables at night because we just sleep better that way and he’s started peeing a lot at night.

The Acquisition

I decided to primarily use prefolds and covers since they are cheap and easy to wash. I found two batches of covers on Craigslist in Denver and drove around to get them. Both Thirsties brand and in very good condition. You generally don’t need as many as I have but I did go through a lot of them at first because of poop-splosions. I also bought three GroVia all in ones (AIOs) from a deal online. Then I got some flats from my last mom-boss and was given some cheap Gerber prefolds. An online mom friend sent me some really nice newborn prefolds, 3 more GroVias, and 3 other diapers. That got me squared away to start out!

As he got bigger, I needed to get more prefolds and flats. Some I got used, some were given to me, and some I bought from Walmart. We won one from an online giveaway and some were homemade by a local mom. In all, I probably spent under $200 for all of my diapering supplies.

The Accessories

Cloth wipes, some way to wet them, wet bags to put dirty diapers into, and appropriate detergent are all part of the deal. Cloth diapers take up more room than disposables so you need some sort of organizational system. Snapis and big diaper pins were also important for us. I went back and forth with what I used and sometimes just let the diaper cover hold the fabric in place. These aren’t needed with pockets or AIOs.

I also really liked babylegs with cloth diapers. They were easy to slip on and you don’t have to add another layer to their already big butt. Sometimes he wore just a onesie and babylegs but as he got to crawling they helped keep his knees from getting too banged up. In the winter in Chicago, I layered them under his pants and over his socks. They kept his legs warm and covered the gap created when he was in the carrier. I bought some and made others from adult knee socks, which was way easier than I thought it’d be.

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Homemade babylegs with a cover and prefold.

You also need butt cream that is safe for fabric since the traditional big name brands will ruin them (and aren’t in line with the ingredients I want to use). I have one cream that works but hurts him if his skin is already angry, so I primarily use coconut oil and some samples I got from the Great Cloth Diaper Change.

Cloth Wipes: Why the Hell Not?

If you’re already washing diapers, why not wash wipes too? It is minimal work and they do a much better job than disposable wipes. In the first weeks, it could take me 5 disposable wipes to get the meconium off while it only took me 2 cloth to do the same job. Another good reason to use cloth wipes is that if a disposable wipe gets in your wash, it will delaminate, aka ruin, any cheap PUL, the part of the diaper and wet bags that makes them water proof. I found that out the hard way but only ruined my wet bag. On top of all the benefits of cloth wipes, Wallace reacts to disposable wipes, especially the sensitive kinds. They dry out his skin bad and the ingredients are much less innocuous than people assume.

Some people opt to use a wipes container that they fill with a homemade wipe solution but I have a couple peri bottles of water with a few drops of liquid castille soap in them. I wet each wipe as I need it and it works just fine for me. I can also use a clean wipe to clean his drooly neck or hands and to wipe covers clean if I need.

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A pile of wipes that I made from two baby blankets. Fast and cheap!

I have three kinds of cloth wipes: two layered flannel squares, flannel and mini terry cloth rectangles, and some hurriedly cut pieces of receiving blanket that are now fraying quite badly because I never got around to sewing them. I use the thicker ones for poop and the thin ones for pee. Wipes have continued to come in handy through potty training and now we both use them for pees, putting them in a small wet bag that hangs in the bathroom. I made some by sewing small rectangles right sides together and flipping. Then I made more of the same size with a serger, which is so much faster. I found that most WAHM wipes are much bigger than I like, which is about 2.5 by 5 inches.

 

Types of Diapers We Have Used

Covers are an essential and simple piece to cloth diapering. They are usually made from PUL and either snap or velcro to adjust the size and fit. There are also wool and fleece soakers that do that same job and slip on over the absorbent layer. My mom made Wallace a few wool soakers and I made him a fleece one for a little night time protection during potty training. PUL covers come in all shapes and sizes but the perks are that they can adjust to fit for quite a while, are easy to wipe clean, and have a short drying time. If the leg elastic is dry, you can reuse the cover. If you only have a few covers, you can hand wash them and hang them to dry at night. I generally left the rise snapped how he needed it and adjusted every few months as he grew. One morning, I found I had to start snapping his diapers tighter as he had grown and lengthened overnight.

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Some newborn and 3 month size soakers I made for another mom. I then made one like this for Wallace for night time to go over his Gerber training pants.

Prefolds are one of the most common absorbent layer used and can be made from cotton, bamboo, and hemp. They come in various sizes of rectangles with a thicker layer of fabric running down the middle. Steer clear of the cheap Gerber ones as they have polyester batting inside, which is not absorbent at all. I do not know how I came to own some, but they were horrible and I have no idea how they are still being sold. Prefolds can be easily used with covers, soakers, and pockets, so they are pretty versatile. Thick ones might take a while to dry and they are hard to wring out when hand washing.

Flats, oh lovely flats! I was very reluctant to try these at first. I thought they would be complicated or fiddly, but I found they are the most versatile, the cheapest, and the easiest to wash and layer. They are simply a big square of absorbent fabric. That’s it. You can fold them to be like a pocket insert or a rectangle to use as a prefold. You can also get fancy with them and find a fold that works best for your baby at each stage. The fancy ones are a bit like origami but I had found one that I liked enough for a while to pre fold them after I washed them. I kept a stack of them on the changing table and just slid it into the cover as I went. The cheapest prefolds come in a pack in the kitchen section at Walmart and are about $1 a piece. Ten of those and three covers could be enough for anyone to diaper a baby for a day for very cheap. I ended up relying heavily on flats when we lived in Chicago and I mostly hand washed the diapers every few days. As he got older and peed more, I would use two flats folded together or add one folded into a pad in the cover for extra protection.

Pockets are usually PUL and fleece with a pocket you pre-stuff with an absorbent insert. This is what most of my friends use and are good to have when other people will be changing diapers such as Grandparents and reluctant coparents. I only had one of these for a long time, but ended up having a few more made for me from material and a pattern my mom had purchased and gave up on. I found them helpful in the squirmy toddler stage and for being out and about. It was easy to just flip off the old, shove it in the wet bag, and put on the knew one.

AIO stands for all-in-one. They have an absorbent layer that is connected to the PUL. They are also good for reluctant diaper changers. They take longer to dry and don’t have the option of changing the absorbency per your needs. The GroVias are AIOs and I have one other kind. I found that I really did not like the GroVias that I had and rarely used AIOs. They were harder to adjust the fit around my scrawny baby’s legs and waste.

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Wallace’s first time in a cloth diaper for his photo shoot with In The Moment. It is an AIO newborn size that snaps down in order to not bother the umbilical stump.

All in Twos are made with an insert that can snap into place. This allows the diaper to dry faster and for you to add different layers if needed. Pretty fancy! We won an AI2 from a giveaway on Facebook from a work at home mom. It was really fun but I had the same issue as I had with the AIOs. We used this one occasionally and I would have forgotten it existed if I hadn’t read it here.

Overall, there is no one right way or best product. What works for your life and baby, might not work for someone else, and might not even work for you in a few months. It was nice to have such a variety of products allowing me to try everything and switch things up as I needed.

Washing and Yuck Factor

A lot of people don’t like the idea of cloth diapers because they think it will be gross and a lot of work. It really wasn’t that much work when we had access to a washing machine, though hand washing was very hard for me. Breastfed baby poop is water soluble and does not need to be rinsed. As they start to eat foods, their poop changes and needs to be scraped, sprayed, or plopped into the toilet. I was not looking forward to this but it turned out to be not much of an issue.

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Potty time! By this point, he could get up and walk away but was accustomed to pooping on his potty. When I started him on it, he was not crawling yet.

Because of Wallace’s hypotonia, he had constipation as soon as he started solids. I began sitting him on a little potty every morning at about 9 months. We sat there together and I read him books until he could poop. He became accustomed to pooping in the potty at a very young age and I could notice his signs that he needed to go if it wasn’t at our usual time. From about one year on, I changed maybe half a dozen poopy cloth diapers and a few more that were in disposables. He was also pretty easy to pee potty train because he could feel the wetness and we did lots of naked time as soon as he could walk. This decreased the number of diapers I needed each day as well as the duration of time he used diapers. Win, win!

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Wallace helping with washing diapers while wearing a cover and flats.

The wash routine can take some time to sort out with your particular diapers, detergent, washer, and water type. It’s confusing and just takes trial and error, but there’s a Facebook group all about it! At my dad’s house, diaper washing was pretty easy but I had some ammonia pee smell issues and had to strip them a few times. There is also a lot of conflicting advice out there and there is no one size fits all wash routine. There is a tried and true way to get stains out via drying them in the sun! I did that a handful of times at my dad’s house. When we moved to Chicago, washing became a bigger ordeal and I switched to using disposables at night and then disposables all the time. Hand washing is doable but I had limited time and energy and was dealing with chronic pain in my hands and feet. I decided I needed to use my hour of downtime in the evening to relax and read or crochet instead of wash diapers. The main reason I didn’t wash and dry them in the building’s laundry room was that I couldn’t control what detergents were used in the machines and that fabric softener and dryer sheets can ruin the PUL and absorbency.

Final Thoughts

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Near the end of diapering, he was wetting so few diapers a day that I switched back to disposables. Over the course of a week, it wasn’t making enough laundry for a load and they were sitting there too long getting stinky. I think that cloth diapering and starting Wallace on a potty early helped with potty training a lot, even though I did not do a full elimination communication thing. Washing wasn’t always easy but it was worth it considering the money saved, the ideal of not creating more waste, and the fact that many diapers and wipes caused eczema for Wallace.

 

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About JennP

Single mom by choice, lesbian, natural living, parenting, car free, Chicago.Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a comment!
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