What's the deal with cloth diapers?
June 20, 2010 3:44 PM   Subscribe

Lots of questions about cloth diapers from a first-time parent. Please speak slowly and use small words!

My husband and I are just entering the second trimester of our first pregnancy. We're beginning to move from "OMG! Baby!" mode to thinking more specifically about the future, in particular caring for an infant and the first few weeks and months with a new baby in the house.. We've decided that we would like to try to use cloth diapers, mostly because of the environmental footprint of disposables. (Please note, I'm not judging you for using them! We'd just like to give cloth a go first.) We've also gotten feedback from interested parties (read: grandmothers) that cloth diapers are somehow better for the baby. Disclaimer: YBMV (your baby may vary) and until the baby actually arrives and we try different things we won't know what works best for our particular situation. Right now we're just trying to speculate in an intelligent way. Also, we're really new to this baby thing and don't have any other friends with kids who also used cloth diapers. And my mom's advice from 1979 is probably outdated, right?

So, I'm pretty clear on the process for disposable diapers: baby has a dirty diaper, remove diaper and throw it away, clean the baby, put on a new one. I'm not as clear on the process for disposables:

- When you take off the diaper, do you have to rinse it or do something else prior to placing it into the container that stores dirty diapers until they are ready to be washed? Is it different if you are at home versus if you are out with the baby? I'm basically looking for someone who uses these to give me their workflow for changing and then cycling the dirty diapers to clean.

- Are these diaper cover things the same as what I remember from my childhood as "rubber pants"? That is to say, waterproof outer coverings that go over the cloth diaper to prevent leaks?

- Is there anything besides cloth diapers, pins and diaper covers that are needed to successfully diaper a baby?

Other questions:

- We're assuming a diaper service is the best way to go - with the assumption a service picks up the bundle of dirty diapers and drops you off clean ones. Does anyone have recommendations for a good diaper service in Mountain View, California?

- If you were to wash diapers yourself, what's the process here? Is it worth the trouble? Would you need a washer capable of sanitizing-temperature water, or is a regular model okay?

- I'll be going back to work three days a week, so we'll have either a nanny or be using a daycare. The daycares I've looked at say they will support cloth diapers as long as we provide a container and take some extra steps to sanitize it regularly. Anything else to think about with respect to daycare/nannies and diapers that are more complicated than disposables?

Thoughts and advice are very welcome as we start to consider our options for the new member of the family!
posted by handful of rain to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
The alphamom site has a bunch of posts on cloth diapers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. I found these pretty useful (I'm also in the 2nd trimester and exploring options).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:55 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay. Here goes:

When you take off the diaper, do you have to rinse it or do something else prior to placing it into the container that stores dirty diapers until they are ready to be washed? Is it different if you are at home versus if you are out with the baby? I'm basically looking for someone who uses these to give me their workflow for changing and then cycling the dirty diapers to clean.

We wash our own cloth diapers, so the process goes something like: Place baby on changing table (conveniently located right next to bathroom door). Remove diaper cover. Throw paper insert (more on this later) in garbage. Throw cloth diaper in sink. Inspect diaper cover for contamination of cloth piping. If necessary, throw diaper cover in sink as well. Grab and fold new cloth diaper, placing it in old diaper cover, or new one, depending. Pull paper insert from roll and place on top of folded diaper. Rediaper baby. Place baby in crib. Go to sink and rinse dirty diaper (and cover, if necessary). Throw rinsed items in washer, where they will sit until the evening at which point we will run a small load of the day's diapers.

Are these diaper cover things the same as what I remember from my childhood as "rubber pants"? That is to say, waterproof outer coverings that go over the cloth diaper to prevent leaks?

Yes, I think. I'm not sure what "rubber pants" are, but basically the diaper covers are a waterproof shell that goes over the cloth diaper. They also serve the purpose of holding the diaper in place and on the baby, supplanting diaper pins. You can also get "all-in-one" diapers where the diaper cover and the diaper itself are one piece. They are substantially more expensive though.

Is there anything besides cloth diapers, pins and diaper covers that are needed to successfully diaper a baby?

No pins required. We do however use
flushable diaper liners
to catch the worst of the poops. They are optional, but they make our lives a lot easier.

Would you need a washer capable of sanitizing-temperature water, or is a regular model okay?

We do just fine with our regular model. We wash with bleach about every third or fourth time.
posted by 256 at 3:58 PM on June 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't use cloth diapers, but I have a friend who does. She washes her diapers in her own washing machine, and runs them through three full cycles before tossing them in the dryer. Not sure what settings/timing she uses, though.

Note: sometimes you may find that you need to use disposables for emergencies or the like. Buy the smallest pack you can find of whatever brand(s) look good to you, and try them on your baby BEFORE this "emergency" occurs. Some babies break out all over from the chemicals in disposables, and it'd be best to know this beforehand. Once you find a brand your baby can tolerate, don't stock up on them because the kid could easily outgrow them before you run out. Just make sure you've got SOME on hand.

Sorry I don't have much info on the usage of cloth diapers themselves, but I thought this was good info to pass on anyway.
posted by wwartorff at 4:02 PM on June 20, 2010


Amalah over at Advice Smackdown has written a lot about cloth diapers, so these pieces might be a great place to start.

The Lazy Mom's Guide to Cloth Diapering: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

The Straight Poop on Cloth Diapers


A Year In Cloth Diapers

Cloth Diapering and the Older Baby

Cloth Wipes 101

posted by mostlymartha at 4:02 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jinx, rabbitrabbit!
posted by mostlymartha at 4:03 PM on June 20, 2010


Oh, I should also say: once you've made the decision on what you're going to buy, totally try Craigslist first -- I've already bought some brand-new Fuzzi Bunz one-size for about $4 less per diaper than I could find anywhere else. People get a LOT of baby stuff that they don't end up needing.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:07 PM on June 20, 2010


my mom's advice from 1979 is probably outdated, right?

No. I realise there is a very confusing overload of information out there right now about cloth diapers. But -- in the end they are all just pieces of cloth that catch pee and poo. That's it. Beware the pitfalls of overthinking this, lest you end up with $25 soaps and similar BS. Do ask the grandmas-to-be!
posted by kmennie at 4:25 PM on June 20, 2010


My daughter is now 7, but I successfully cloth diapered her back in the day. I cloth diapered at home, but used disposables with the babysitter for simplicity's sake. We cloth diapered for about 8-9 months, and then ended up using disposables. When baby became highly mobile, we had some problems with the cloth diapers and I didn't have the time or money to do a lot of experimenting to solve it. That said, I LOVED cloth diapering and would definitely do it again and recommend it.

- When you take off the diaper, do you have to rinse it or do something else prior to placing it into the container that stores dirty diapers until they are ready to be washed? Is it different if you are at home versus if you are out with the baby? I'm basically looking for someone who uses these to give me their workflow for changing and then cycling the dirty diapers to clean.
I used a rubbermaid roughtote with a trash can liner as my diaper pail. I didn't rinse or do anything other than just put the diaper in the pail when baby was exclusively breastfed (~first 6 months). After that I would just dump poops into the toilet before putting the diaper in the pail. Pee-only diapers would just go right in the pail. As mentioned above, covers are ok to reuse unless visibly soiled. I washed every couple of days in my regular cheap-o washing machine. I didn't use bleach, washed with hot water, a little detergent (NOT as much as the bottle tells you to use - that is way too much) and vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser. Fabric softener is a no-no for diapers - it inhibits absorbency, but vinegar helps deodorize and sanitize, and you don't get lingering vinegar odors.

Away from home, I would put dirty diapers in a waterproof sack, which would then get emptied into the pail upon returning home. Sack also went into the pail for washing.

As long as baby is exclusively breastfed, the smell, etc. from diapers is really no big deal. Once you start introducing other foods, the stink gets worse and washing diapers more often is a good idea.

- Are these diaper cover things the same as what I remember from my childhood as "rubber pants"? That is to say, waterproof outer coverings that go over the cloth diaper to prevent leaks?
Yes and no. Yes in the sense that they are waterproof or water-resistant, but the best ones are wrap-style with velcro closures. Many are a plastic-infused fabric, but some moms swear by (vastly more expensive) wool covers. The idea is that wool has a natural water-resistance and allows the baby's bum to breathe. A cover can help prevent a (poop) blowout, but the purpose isn't really to contain "leaks" in any other sense. If your baby is peeing through the cloth diaper, they need a more absorbent diaper or an insert to boost absorbency.

- Is there anything besides cloth diapers, pins and diaper covers that are needed to successfully diaper a baby?
No pins! Get a Snappi - similar to ace bandage holders on a bungee. Easy to use and no chance of stuck fingers or babies. A good-fitting wrap cover will usually hold the diaper in place without a Snappi or pin, but I usually used the Snappi as extra "insurance" particularly as baby got more mobile. I would also get a stock of inexpensive washcloths to use as cloth wipes.

There is a bewildering array of diapers and covers on the market. You can spend as much on this as you want to, but you don't have to spend a fortune to make it work. I used chinese prefolds and prowrap wraps. This is the basic, economy (boring) option, but it worked. When baby was a little older, I got a few all-in-ones and some fleece-topped hemp inserts to boost absorbency. I used two online stores for all my diaper purchases. One is no longer on the web, but the other is still out there. The other upside to prefolds is that now I have a lifetime supply of the most kickass duster/cleaning cloths known to man.
posted by jeoc at 4:41 PM on June 20, 2010


Another option is gDiapers. I used Bum Genius pocket diapers and g's with my twins, and also cloth wipes (target has packs of thin baby washcloths that are so cheap and perfect for wipes -- and later for hankerchief uses -- I have an unnatural love for those things!). The little g inserts are compostable, so we composted all the pee diapers.

And hemp is truly extra absorbent.

Everything else seems to be covered. ;o)
posted by MeiraV at 6:11 PM on June 20, 2010


Our diaper service supplied our diaper covers (rubber pants.) I used disposables for outings so that I wouldn't have to cart poopy diapers around with me. My friend did disposables all the way though, god bless her, and found it to be no big deal. Some daycares and caregivers won't deal with cloth though just FYI for other readers.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:17 PM on June 20, 2010


I used Fuzzi Bunz for two years with my daughter (who is now nearly 6) and LOVED them. They were so easy, and so cute, and so soft! My daughter never had a diaper rash or any irritation, and I credit the cloth diapers. I had made up my mind about cloth diapering when I was pregnant, and was glad to find that I did enjoy it despite the naysaying of just about everyone in my family. :) I had friends who used prefolds and covers, too, but I felt the pocket diaper was easier for my purposes. I just carried a waterproof bag in my diaper bag for the used ones and threw them in the diaper pail or washing machine when I got home.

Good luck!
posted by chihiro at 6:17 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a bunch of different methods: terry cloth flats, prefolds and shaped jobbies which require the covers; pocket style which have a cover with a pocket that you stick an insert into and all-in-ones that look like a disposable. We use liners now she eats solids - you can get flushables and disposables. We previously used disposable ones that weren't flushable but at the moment we're using cut up bits of chux that we wash if just pee and chuck out if it's poop (after shaking the poop into the toilet). They go into a bucket in the laundry and currently it's cold enough in there and we do the laundry often enough that it doesn't smell even without a lid. In warmer weather we've got a bin with a lid.

The routine for a nappy change is: prep cloth nappy if it hasn't already been done (insert the insert into the pocket, lay down a liner), lay the baby down, take the dirty one off and put it next to me, clean the baby off, chase the baby around, put the clean one on then deal with the dirty one. Dealing with the dirty one is either pulling it apart and sticking it in the bucket or shaking the poop off, chucking the liner then sticking it in the bucket. When she was still exclusively breastfed I would do a quick rinse before sticking it in the bucket.

Every day or so we wash - I do a rinse in cold (occasionally with Napisan if they're super whiffy or poopy) then a wash with a soak in hot with a quarter of the amount of washing powder. In summer they hang on the line in direct sun, winter it's in front of the heater. Winter isn't so great because the sun is a great stain remover and anti-bac.

We get the occasional rash but it's mostly dietary/got stuck in a nappy for too long. Baby anachronism HATED our terry flats but is fine in the pocket style (microfibre). Listen to our grandparents about how to deal with the nappies because they will have perfected the routine.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:19 PM on June 20, 2010


- When you take off the diaper, do you have to rinse it or do something else prior to placing it into the container that stores dirty diapers until they are ready to be washed? Is it different if you are at home versus if you are out with the baby? I'm basically looking for someone who uses these to give me their workflow for changing and then cycling the dirty diapers to clean.
-First 6 months the breastmilk feces is very loose and so you just take the diaper off and put it in the diaper pail
-After 6 months, you shake the feces into the toilet, and then put it in the diaper pail (You're *supposed* to do this even with disposables, I'm told). You can get a diaper sprayer, which is basically a kitchen sink sprayer to attach to the back of the toilet. This instrument is worth its weight in gold.
-When we're out and about, we use disposables or we have a little traveling wet bag. They can get bulky if you're going to be out all day, so get a big diaper bag.

- Are these diaper cover things the same as what I remember from my childhood as "rubber pants"? That is to say, waterproof outer coverings that go over the cloth diaper to prevent leaks?
They aren't rubber anymore, they are PUL. Same material that is used to make spring jackets.

- Is there anything besides cloth diapers, pins and diaper covers that are needed to successfully diaper a baby?
This will depend on which system you go with. I use Gro-baby, so we don't use pins. If you do pre-folds, you can use something called a snappi instead of a pin. Less scary.

- We're assuming a diaper service is the best way to go - with the assumption a service picks up the bundle of dirty diapers and drops you off clean ones. Does anyone have recommendations for a good diaper service in Mountain View, California?
Just a note, if you use a diaper service, you'll have to go with prefolds and covers. Some of the systems that I found to be more user friendly won't be available to you.

- If you were to wash diapers yourself, what's the process here? Is it worth the trouble? Would you need a washer capable of sanitizing-temperature water, or is a regular model okay?
Super easy to do. Just wash like you would wash any other load of clothes, but do a quick rinse before. The quick rinse function on your washer should only take about 15 minutes. We wash with hot water and rinse with warm, but it will depend on what system you use. We use Allen's soap. Some people use bleach, but there is concern about it reacting to the ammonia in urine and causing skin issues.

- I'll be going back to work three days a week, so we'll have either a nanny or be using a daycare. The daycares I've looked at say they will support cloth diapers as long as we provide a container and take some extra steps to sanitize it regularly. Anything else to think about with respect to daycare/nannies and diapers that are more complicated than disposables?
Just a couple quick notes, don't spend extra for the 'diaper pail'. We did, and felt foolish. Any small garbage can from someplace like target will work, just make sure it has a lid. I like the ones with a foot pedal, because I don't want to spend time wiping off the handle after I wash my hands every time.
Also, you'll have to be a little careful with diaper rash creams. Some can have chemicals which will cause the diaper to be less absorbent. We use Burt's Bees, and its great.


Overall, I'm so glad we went the cloth route. Our daughter has only had one diaper rash, and we never have to run to the store for diapers. We're not fanatical about it, but we've used less than a box of diapers per size. Its really quite easy, once you get past the jargon. Buying used to figure out what brand & system you like might make sense for you. Feel free to contact me if you want more info.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 7:46 PM on June 20, 2010


Cloth diapers aren't by definition more sustainable than disposables.

It all depends on what inputs you measure and what you care about in terms of sustainability. Here's a pop-science article to get you started. Obviously, you don't throw away cloth diapers. But the energy inputs you need to wash them and dry them are quite intense, especially because you frequently wash them by themselves (for obvious reasons), and in small batches (1 days worth). Also bleach is very bad from a sustainability perspective, both to use and to create it. So if you're counting that part of the process (on both the disposable paper-bleaching, and the cloth bleaching), you're going to find that cloth diapers use more bleach over a baby's diapering years (usually, though it'll depend on how often you wash and how much bleach you use).

From some reading that I did, that I can't seem to dig up, I think that a diaper service was the worst. It has a lot of the fossil fuel use of delivering diapers, along with a ton of bleach usage, along with the energy inputs of regular cloth diapering.

Not trying to give you or anyone a free pass on disposable diapers, but it's not as easy as "things that I don't throw away" are good for the planet and "things that I throw away" are bad.

P.S. - I'm expecting my first in a month or so! Still deciding on how to diaper the little rascal.
posted by zpousman at 8:16 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Everyone else here has pretty much covered the basics, so I'll just stick with breaking down the types and how I felt about them, after 16 months of diapering and being very smug about only having needed 4 packs of diapers in that time.

I have a big "wetbag" where I throw all the diapers, large enough to fit inside a kitchen size trashbin. I wash every 3rd day or so, and only after we introduced solid food did I clean off the poo into the toilet first. That's the worst part, but even being pregnant and puking at the drop of a hat, the chore isn't that bad. I have an "extra rinse" cycle I use first, in cold with baking soda, then hot with 1/4 cap of detergent.

While my son was tiny and new and peed very little, we went the prefold/cover route, and used snappis, but snappis are optional. The prefolds are really, really easy to figure out and the covers I used were Thirsties, which come in very cute colors. It worked well when we had to change 10 diapers a day because the covers lasted through the day, until at some point poo leaked on them. I think we had 2-3 dozen prefolds and 3-4 covers and it all worked fine.

As he grew, we used mostly bumgenius one-sized. They are awesome, but not the easiest at newborn stage, perfect at 2+ months though. Except that he learned how to take off his own diaper, and then a lot of fuzz and lint got trapped in the velcro. I eventually sent off a bunch of them to a girl on livejournal who replaces the velcro with snaps for $2 each, and they were awesome again.

Now I still use those same bumgenius, with a smattering of Fuzzibuns. If I had it all to do again, I'd probably stick with Fuzzibuns, because right after his birth (after I bought my diapers) they came out with a really solid, awesome one-size. I tried Happy Heinies, but didn't like them as much. I was also not really sold on the very expensive and very couture GoodMamas, which require covers. Getting a baby past 8 months to stay still for a diaper change is hard enough, requiring two layers would just be impossible. I know moms who still at one year use prefolds and covers, but they have more patient a child than I.

I just cannot recommend cloth diapering enough. It's awesome, it's easy, it's cheap, and it's saving so much landfill space. So many people looked at me funny when I mentioned it, but I feel like my kid isn't making this huge nasty negative impact on the earth before he can even talk. And I've saved thousands of dollars at this point. Win-win.
posted by kpht at 8:29 PM on June 20, 2010


FWIW, I never ever rinsed out my cloth diapers; just let whatever could fall into the toilet fall, and then tossed them into the diaper bin. Like Nickle Pickle said, start with a rinse, then run a normal wash with hot water. I used to put vinegar in the rinse (you can add it via the fabric softener dispenser) and it seemed to help with smells. I would also run a second rinse most times; it was very exciting to get a washer with an automatic second rinse.

You will be amazed by the variety of diaper covers and cloth diapers out there now. I bought samples of a lot of fancy stuff but found pre-folds and diaper-service style plain covers the easiest and most durable. Diapers with built-in snaps and stuff just seemed to me to add an extra inconvenient step and slow the process down. Just fold the diaper into thirds and lay it in the cover; fold over any extra, usually at the back because that seemed more comfortable. Make sure the whole diaper is inside the cover; I would usually run my fingers around the leg opening tucking in any stray bits. There is no need for pins or snappis (I tried snappis and also found them to be an unnecessary extra step; likewise the many fancy twisty folds you will sometimes be shown. A nice cotton pre-fold, folded in thirds, did fine for my kids.

Again, as Nickel Pickle said, we used a regular lidded garbage can. Some odor escaped when opening it to toss a new diaper in, but IME I was washing diapers so often that it never got really bad. Get a couple of diaper pail liners (like nylon laundry bags) and you can just dump the diapers into the washer and toss the liner in after them.

A neighbor of mine used a diaper service and loved it; one advantage was that if you stayed with them for two years, all your diapers after that were free. She really cleaned up what with having twins and all. But washing at home was no big deal and much cheaper.

I always did part-time cloth/disposables. I'd do cloth for short outings, but sometimes take disposables for all-day outings, because of the weight and bulk of cloth diapers. After some experimentation, we ended up using disposables at night almost all the time, though I know a lot of people who cloth-diapered overnight successfully.

Oh, one piece of advice: if you start out with cloth and start to get discouraged, switch to disposables for a few weeks and then try again. I know so many parents who tried cloth with newborns and decided it was too much trouble, and never went back. I have this whole theory that that first two weeks with the first child is one of the best times to use disposables, and then once you're in the groove with that baby you can deal more easily with the learning curve you might have with cloth. Instead of stacking learning how to use cloth diapers on top of learning how to nurse and change onesies and what to do when the baby cries, all while you're at your most sleep-deprived, you can add cloth into the mix at 2, 3, or 4 weeks old, when you already feel like an old pro at all that other stuff.
posted by not that girl at 8:30 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


zpousman: I don't ever use bleach, and every cloth diaper I've owned says explicitly NOT to bleach them. If you line-dry, the stains are sunned out - it's interesting to watch. Even if you use the dryer, you don't get a lot of set-in stains. I was unaware of the bleach argument, which I guess makes sense logically, but only if you're using bleach - and you shouldn't have to with any diaper made in the last 10 years.

Also, you don't need to wash every day, unless you've got precious few diapers and it's a necessity thing. I've done every third day with no ill effects for 16 months now. If I did wash every day, there's also a "small" setting on the washer, so it only fills up 1/4 of the way, thus using much less water than a full load.

I'm not here to pretend there's no impact to cloth diapering and it's 100% always better than disposables, but we've had no real increase in water or dryer usage (on the electric bill). Far less than a 5% increase.
posted by kpht at 8:38 PM on June 20, 2010


As a babysitter myself, I strongly encourage you to have disposables on-hand for sitters and any other caretaker that is not comfortable with the cloth routine.
posted by radioamy at 12:06 AM on June 21, 2010


zpousman: It all depends on what inputs you measure and what you care about in terms of sustainability. Here's a pop-science article to get you started. Obviously, you don't throw away cloth diapers. But the energy inputs you need to wash them and dry them are quite intense, especially because you frequently wash them by themselves (for obvious reasons), and in small batches (1 days worth). Also bleach is very bad from a sustainability perspective, both to use and to create it. So if you're counting that part of the process (on both the disposable paper-bleaching, and the cloth bleaching), you're going to find that cloth diapers use more bleach over a baby's diapering years (usually, though it'll depend on how often you wash and how much bleach you use).

I'm a statistical outlier in the one wash per day and it is rarely not a full load - I will chuck a towel in there if there's not many nappies, or the drop cloth we use under the table. I don't know anyone who uses full on bleach either, certainly not for regular washes. I use maybe a quarter more laundry powder than pre-child and I probably do a third more loads of laundry - cloth nappies are part of it but now I've got a child on solids, the mess is huge. I don't use the dryer for nappies (again, manufacturer's recommend against it, particularly for the wraps/cover) so a lot of those studies have a predetermined 'routine' that's not much like an actual routine used by a cloth nappying parent. It's much like handwashing vs dishwasher arguments - personal methods count for a lot and for significant differences in energy use.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:39 AM on June 21, 2010


Rather than engage all the good info already here, I'll just give you our story. We're currently diapering 8 mo old twin girls and have used cloth from day one. We chose Kissaluvs diapers with Thirsties covers. Rather than buy a bunch of newborn diapers we rented from Sunshine Diapers in Florida. Now that we go through less we actually bought them, when they graduated to a larger size.

We wash every two days. The covers go longer, they probably are worn about five times before they become stinky with pee. To wash newborn diapers, we just chuck em in the washer (frontloader). Breastmilk poops wash out cleanly every time; I don't know about formula. They get washed in hot, on the "heavy" cycle, with about 1/4C of vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser. The vinegar is supposed to get any detergent residue out of the diapers. For detergent we use a dye/fragrance free standard HE (All brand, usually). We were told not to bleach them as it weakens the cotton of the diaper.

Now that they are eating solids and we are in Solid Turd Country, I rigged up a sprayer in our laundry sink. I separate the poop diapers from pee only, which go right in the machine, and I spray the solids right into the sink where the spray breaks them up and they go down the drain (oh, we don't soak them, they all go dry into our diaper pail, which is just an old 5 gal drywall mud bucket). Once a week or so I try to use a 1/4C of Oxyclean laundry booster which helps with the stains (there will be stains). Oxyclean makes a dye/fragrance free version too but it's tough to find.

That's it. Our motivations were somewhat environmental but also financial - we did the math and with twins we're saving several thousand dollars by the time they're toilet trained. We do have a few disposables around for Grandma or convenience or whatever.

If there is one thing I could stress, it is that cloth diapers have far exceeded our expectation in terms of ease and performance. We have had far more blow-outs with the disposables. The thick cloth diapers grab pee and poop and assimilate it, whereas the disposables absorb a small amount of urine and then everything else just slides around and out. Also, we have never had any diaper rash. And washing them really has been far less onerous (and gross) than I expected.

Basically, before the kids were born, we decided "we'll do cloth diapering, but we'll go into it knowing it will be a little tougher, cause it's worth it."

Now we're like "cloth diapering is totally just easier and better!"

One caveat: can't prove it, but I suspect that the big round padded cloth diaper butt made it harder for our kids to learn to sit up, maybe up to three weeks later than they "should." They're fine with it now, but this is one issue you never hear about. Also, that same big diaper butt makes clothes fit funny sometimes.
posted by werkzeuger at 7:12 AM on June 21, 2010


I just wanted to jump back in to thank everyone for taking the time to respond. I appreciate the personal anecdotes a lot as it helped me to envision how using cloth diapers would work for us. And the links (especially to the alphamom and Katie's Kisses sites) were super helpful. This was really new territory, so the information about little details (what people use for diaper pails, detergent, what to do with poop) was extremely helpful. I can't thank everyone enough.

I will add that my husband and I are set on doing cloth after all this information, and we are also going to go the self-wash route! I am very excited to try some different types and figure out what will work best for our little guy or girl.
posted by handful of rain at 8:44 AM on June 21, 2010


It's really rather easy no matter what you choose for diapering. You have to deal with it one way or another, right?

First week - use disposables - meconium is pretty much impossible to wash out of... anything...

We chose cotton 'pre-folds' mostly because a co-worker had a supply from his child and gave them to us. We tried using pins like our parents used on us, but ended up with a 'snappi' instead (like this: http://www.snappibaby.com/products/snappidiaperfastener.html)

After the change, solids were scraped into the toilet and the diaper went into a pail of water and borax. In the evening the pail went into the washing machine, given a spin, and then a wash with soap and borax. Once a month we gave them a wash with bleach, and then an extra wash/rinse. I'm not sure I'd want a pail sitting around for a week waiting for a service to pick them up. I'm not sure I'd want disposables hanging around for a week waiting for garbage pickup either.

For covers - there are some great covers made of modern materials that beat the pants off the old plastic covers. We used 'mother-ease' covers, and I'm sure there are others on the market as well.

We weren't purists - We used disposables when traveling.
We found changing the cotton was easier than changing disposables. Most don't believe us
Most thought we were crazy using cotton but we got over it, and so did they.
We did at least a load of laundry a night - the diapers. Really though, the machine did most of the work. We just folded them and put them away. It was a quiet time where my wife and I reflected on the day.

The benefits we experienced:
- No diaper rashes... ever
- We saved a small boatload of money
- Trained to use the toilet almost perfectly at 24mo. I think those disposables do such a good job wicking away the wetness that the children barely know they've had an 'accident'.
- After you are done diapering you are left with the softest towels and rags in the land.

Hardships:
- We changed way more often than our disposable using peers. Just a little wet, and it was time for a change where disposables wick away almost all moisture.
- We sometimes found it hard to find cloths that fit the little guy with a huge cotton swaddled bottom.
- We sometimes had 'containment breaches', and the rare poo-splosion which created extra laundry.

Good luck!
posted by csmason at 8:58 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


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