Cloth Diapers work for us!


When I was pregnant I became an intense researcher. (go to the bottom of the post if you just want info on how many diapers I used and for how long) There was a lot to learn that isn’t easily available to you. Media and advertising are pretty powerful. There are so many books out there with contradictory information. Parenting has too many grey areas, which can be overwhelming. What works for one person may not work for another, kids can be so different so even though you plan and read and plan, life happens. I can’t say cloth is for everyone, but I can say it’s worth a try. Worth a try to reduce landfill waste (estimated 450 years for 1 disposable diaper to break down) and your garbage bill.

You can also save money buy choosing cloth and your child’s skin will not be exposed to a lot of chemicals that are in disposables. Geneveve has been in cloth since day 3 and has never had a diaper rash. I am proud that we’re still on the cloth wagon and documented a lot of details in case someone out there is wondering, “How much will it cost?” “How many do I need?” “Is it horrible and gross?” and on and on. It’s hard to jump in and try something new when disposables have become the norm and appear to be convenient. I must add that it does help to have a parent at home, but there are more and more daycares that will do cloth diapers if you provide them. Anyways, I won’t make any more excuses. If you are interested, read on. If you are not, it’s your choice. We all are doing our best with what time we have and where our priorities are.

Showing off her tie-dye

But where to start? There are so many types of cloth diapering systems out there! Thanks to the internet people are selling used items, doing product reviews with honest opinions and providing information that can encourage and support your chosen path in pretty much any realm. And it’s creating community. I found a lot of support on the forums of I bought most of our cloth diapers off craigslist and diaperswappers. When I was pregnant I had two friends with kids and they lived across the country. I liked the idea of cloth diapers, but was it feasible? It sounded like a LOT of work…and poop is scary. And time is precious. But the environment is important to me. And diapers create a disgusting amount of trash that I wanted to make it work. And I’m scared of all the chemicals in disposables. Here I am, 17 months later, still cloth diapering and honestly, it isn’t and wasn’t that much extra work. Instead of putting dirty diapers in the trash and carrying it out to the curb, they went in the bucket and carried to the wash. So I had an extra load of laundry but I also never had to run to the store to buy diapers, these diapers are reusable and can get used for the next kid and/or resold to another mom to use on her kid. I’d honestly use a little extra water than have an extra bag of trash full of poop and chemicals sitting in a landfill for close to 500 years, among other reasons.

The hardest part for me was maybe the first month getting into a laundry rhythm since newborns dirty diapers a LOT which means laundry every few days. And when it’s so new it’s hard to gauge when to wash before you run out. That’s honestly a learn as you go since not every newborn has 12 dirty diapers a day (I know one who goes through more like 20!) We cut down on diaper laundry a lot when we started EC (infant potty training) which I have another post here if you are interested. But heads up because there are potty strikes, when Geneveve started walking I couldn’t get her to sit on the potty for at least a month. So now we’re not at an 80-90% potty success, more like 50% but I can’t force her to use the toilet at this point in her little toddler independence.

Just outgrowing orange edge

I kept track of how many diapers I bought, what I liked, didn’t like and when she had to go up in size. There are SO many cloth diaper options out there it can be overwhelming. I was overwhelmed at first. Matt was scared. But I have overheard him tell other dads-to-be that cloth diapering was the easiest part of having a baby. After my exhaustive research I wanted something simple but not time consuming. I wanted natural materials, not synthetic. Karen says it simply enough over at GMD: “Cotton has been proven to be a safe diapering fabric for many generations. It’s easy to wash and doesn’t hold stink like synthetics and stay-dry pocket diapers do. No repelling issues, either. It works. It’s easy.”

Flats are the old fashioned kind, a large square of cotton you fold and pin (or snappi! we love snappis! that was Matt’s condition on the diapers-no pins!) The next simplest method is prefolds, which I love. They are a little tricky when your baby gets in the wiggly phase but Geneveve has gotten past the wiggly phase and helps us put on the diapers now. But when she started walking I thought pull-ups would be the way to go. Regardless, I stuck with prefolds. Prefolds are basically layers of cotton sewn together with the middle third twice as thick as the outer third (usually 4 layers on the edges and 8 layers in the middle). Folding them is easy, I prefer the newspaper fold with a snappi but you can just fold in thirds and put in a cover. I prefer my fold because it creates a little pocket for poop and greatly reduces your chances of diaper blowouts. Prefolds come in about 3-5 sizes but they are significantly cheaper then the next step up, the pockets, all in ones etc etc. We tried those diapers (BumGenius, Happy Heiny) and they didn’t work for us. It was too much work to stuff the pocket then when it’s wet you unstuff it and have to get a whole new one on them. It also gets expensive if your newborn is going through 12 diapers a day.

A flat diaper, tie-dyed by me

A prefold costs about $2 each and a BumGenius is $18 each. (Flats are cheaper than prefolds and are usually one or two sizes so that is the most economical way if you don’t mind folding them. I think it’s fun, but Matt’s not interested. Flats clean up well, wash and dry really fast. I love the concept of flats but didn’t fall in love with them.) Since we are talking money and math, let me point out that you don’t have to pay full price or buy new diapers. You can diaper your baby from birth to potty training for under $100. Disposables average around $2,000 from birth to potty training for one kid. Cloth you get to reuse on the next one and not buy more diapers. And when you are done you can resell them! It’s pretty easy to buy them used (and it’s not gross). I bought most of my diapers and covers used off diaperswappers. It’s free to join and it’s basically a bunch of moms buying and selling diapering related items. The prefolds I love (and a lot of other moms love) are from Green Mountain diapers. Their prefolds are sized just right to fit into Thirsties covers (my favorite cover) and the owner Karen is SO very friendly and helpful. Her website has a LOT Of information on sizing as babies are just so individual sometimes. I think one of the reasons I love prefolds is that they are folded to fit her body every time. Pocket diapers have elastic legs and my little girl had barely a crease of fat on her thighs so leakage happened every time we tried to use those diapers.

Here’s two more links about disposable diapers and the environment (and I will get off my horse):

And don’t forget there’s a whole grey area with hybrids and biodegradable diapers. I do hear some controversial stuff as they still use the chemical gelling agents that are in standard disposables, but at least it’s a decent middle ground. Planning our vacation to Thailand this year I started researching alternative options and I just feel so nauseous about bringing a suitcase of diapers to fill their landfills up. It doesn’t feel right to me. Seventh Generation makes a chlorine free disposable but it’s still going to take as long to break down. I just learned about Nature Babycare diapers which are 60% biodegradable and GroVia and GDiapers sell 100% biodegradable inserts which sound like a pretty good option. I priced out these options and they all tend to run about $0.40 each with no reuse or resell value :) But luckily my husband is on board with me and we’re going to do flat diapers and wash them in the shower. I’ll let you know how that goes but I’m pretty happy to not have left a footprint yet in diapering.

Eve showing off her tie-dye prefold yet again

If you need detailed info on washing diapers, go here.

Prefolds are usually white. It was fun to have some colorful ones

And without further ado, here is my diapering log.
(born just under 7#, falls in the 10-12 dirty diapers a day category)

Diapers: I had 54 orange edged newborn prefolds (GMD) in rotation. I could have gotten by with 30 but it was nice to have an extra day to stretch laundry day. Laundry was probably happening every other day or every third day.

I tried kissaluvs because a friend LOVED them, but I didn’t care for them. They are cute and fit nice but i seriously love prefolds. hands down. I’m not much into snap diapers, I think I get a better fit with the snappi.
I was lent some second hand bumgenius and hated them. They leaked like crazy and stuffing and unstuffing them drove me crazy. They could have leaked because Eve has skinny thighs…I know some people love them but have heard that over time they get stinky (synthetic material!) and you have to strip them to make them absorbant again and the velcro wears out pretty easily.
I also tried happy heiny all in ones and at the smallest setting they didn’t fit Eve until 3 months of age, but I had the same issues as the bg’s.

Covers: The tiniest covers I liked were bummis xs whisper brite
Once she outgrew those I pretty much stuck with Thirsties.
I had 8 newborn covers. On a typical laundry day I had 4 covers in the wash. I could’ve gotten by with 5 or 6.

The orange edge lasted 3 months but some people skip this size if they know they will have a bigger baby or want to save some money and just start with yellow edge (Eve was a small baby and slow to gain weight…but if your baby is a chunky one they probably will grow out of orange edge fast. They were just nice to have when she was itty bitty (and resell well so i’m not worried about it).

3 months:
We switched to yellow edge gmd prefolds and I had 30 prefolds and 3 thirsties small covers in rotation.
We do laundry every 3 days and have about 2 covers per load. It also helped that we were dong EC pretty regularly at that point so you may still be doing laundry every other day. You could always get by with less diapers and do laundry more often.

5 Months:
Eve was 14 lbs and was awesome at the potty so diaper laundry was every 4 days and the yellow edge gmd’s were getting snug.
At 5.5 months I switched to red edge gmd’s and she’s in thirsties small. I had 18 red edge prefolds and 6 hand me down unknown brand blue edge prefolds (same width as red edge, a little longer) and 3 thirsties medium covers (and 3 thirsties smalls as backup) in rotation. I had barely 1 cover in a load of laundry because most of her poops are in the potty at this point.

7 or 8 months:

Diaper laundry was once a week but that was because she used the potty so much. Still in red edge. At some point I supplemented my diaper stash with 6 blue edge Imagine prefolds to stretch wash day. She had a “potty pause” as learning to crawl was more exciting.

13 Months:

We’re in brown edge gmd’s right now and we have 18 brown edge prefolds and 1 thirsties duo size 2 cover in rotation. I do diaper laundry once or twice a week. I do have a dozen flats on hand (from trying them out and not loving them). I like having them just in case I need them but lately they work great for accidents and spills.

She sleeps in homemade lanolized wool pants but under that is a prefold layered with a babykicks hemp soaker and fleece fabric cut to the size of the soaker so that way if she pees at night the hemp soaks up most of the pee and the fleece keeps her dry. It’s just a backup since she maybe pees once a month at night. During the summer she slept in wool shorties. I have one disana pair and one hand knit pair that are lanolized and the hand knit weave is too loose (and it takes too long to make! I’d rather just sew another pair with felted wool from old sweaters like I did with the pants. I did make newborn soakers with wool with the previously linked pattern but with a frog-legged newborn I didn’t want to wrangle her legs into pull on styles in my tired stupor. Velcro and snappis were simple and easy. I do love wool now, though. Wool is more breathable than the PUL covers, but bulkier. So we tend to do wool at home and PUL when out and about.

First steps!

I do need to put in a plug for legwarmers and ease of diaper changes and potty training. Eve spends a lot of her time at home just in legwarmers (babylegs are the popular brand (and easy to find used) but a local Portland mom makes some really fun ones as well).

I hope this helps someone out there!

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