Everybody poops, especially babies
September 18, 2007 7:22 PM   Subscribe

Looking for advice, recommendations, and experiences using cloth diapers.

We are expecting our third child in November. For our first two children we used disposable diapers. For our first, we used a diaper service at first, but eventually switched to disposable diapers b/c we didn't like the service, and we found the diaper covers inconvenient. However, now that we are expecting our third we are again thinking about switching to cloth diapers. When I do a Google search I see that there are lots of options.

What we are looking for are people's experiences using cloth diapers, and also recommendations for specific brands. For instance, I understand that cloth diapers are more convenient than in the past. Is this true?
posted by bove to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I used cloth diapers for my daughter (now four) and when we traveled I used disposables. I found that, over all, the cloth were more convenient. (Eventually I learned to travel with cloth diapers too, they were that much more convenient.)

We used a service, and that meant that we had lots of diapers around for all sorts of other uses. We'd cover her changing pad with them, and if they got soiled, we'd pop them into the hamper. Ditto using them for cleaning off the big stuff, using them as burp towels, wiping her hands and face off, etc. (We never used them for non-baby things, like cleaning the bicycle chain, since it seemed to violate the terms and the spirit of the enterprise.)

The covers we bought from the service were nice -- a very soft plastic lining inside, almost fuzzy cloth on the outside, velcro tabs to keep them closed. They allowed for a great deal of modification -- double diapering for bedtime or hiking, singles for the rest of the time, for example. They rarely leaked. I found that disposables were much more prone to leaking, as they couldn't be adjusted in any way, unlike the cloth-in-a-wrapper system. I don't know what brand these were, and I've given them all away to friends, so I can't look them up. They were white and came in two sizes. A good friend of mine loves the Fuzzy Buns he's raising his son in.

The other benefits of cloth are less diaper rash, shorter potty training time (it took our daughter about a week, and she did it herself, at age two), and less smell. I think that all of this comes from the fact that disposables are more absorbent, and pull the urine away from the baby's skin. So, you don't notice how often they're soiled, and thus don't change them as often. This traps all the nasties in there, all collected by chemicals that scare the beejesus out of me, and hold them a micrometer from baby's soft parts. This also make a difference when potty training, because for the first two years of her life, baby hasn't really experienced the connection between (1) feeling like she needs to pee, (2) peeing, and (3) being wet. This makes it harder to train her to avoid (3) by using a toilet.

Best of luck.
posted by Capri at 7:37 PM on September 18, 2007

We used foldable cloth diapers for about 3 months and then switched to fuzzibunz.

The fuzzibunz are awesome and are waaaay easier than foldable diapers. They're pretty easy to wash and don't retain any smell.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:42 PM on September 18, 2007

We used cloth diapers for my son and if we were to have another child, we would do it again. We used a service that came and took the dirties and dropped off clean ones once a week. It cost about $40/mo on average so we saved over using disposable plus paying for the extra trash bags we would have had to use.

The covers were easy and I got as fast with changing the cloth as I was with the disposable when we used them.

If you can find a good service with reasonable rates, I highly recommend going cloth.
posted by WhipSmart at 7:55 PM on September 18, 2007

My sister-in-law and her husband had all sorts of grand plans in place to use cloth diapers, but switched to disposables within the first week.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:55 PM on September 18, 2007

We used disposables for our second kid. I stuck it out for about six months, then I couldn't take the smell any longer -- the smell as the baby was wearing them -- and it was stinky with wet diapers, not just poopy ones. (I've got a wicked good sense of smell, though, and your smelling may vary). Other than the smell, I didn't see a big difference between those and the disposables we used with the firstborn. Changing them isn't a big deal, diaper services are cheap (although not as cheap as disposables from Costco), and if you don't mind doing the laundry yourself you'll save money.

Get Snappis. They are vital.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:04 PM on September 18, 2007

They are way more convenient. I grew up using traditional cloth and safety pins when my brother was born (I was almost 15 at the time). The newer, fitted ones are fast, easy, fashionable (if that's your thing), and more economical. We have been using cloth for a while with our now-2yo.

Diaper Pin is a great source for reviews and how-to. We used fuzzibunz when baby cocoa was doing regular baby pooping. We eventually got a lot of smell in the diapers, despite trying some of the fixes like baking soda and vinegar in the wash, etc. I think the problems were solvable (and that we may have been changing too many variables) but troubleshooting may be something you have to do.

We just transitioned out of regular diapers and into training pants. For that we're using a mix of Snap-Ez (based on the reviews at Diaper Pin) and fitted disposable training pants from Seventh Generation. Both of the cloth diapers I mention are all-in-ones ("AIOs") meaning they don't need waterproof covers put on over them.
posted by cocoagirl at 8:10 PM on September 18, 2007

We used cloth with our first until 15 months. At that point, we were in a car accident and unable to do the physical work of putting clothes into a washing machine and dryer. It was fine up till then and we even travelled with cloth diapers. Now that we are expecting our second baby, we are planning to use cloth again, although, given our whiplash, we will make allowances for disposables.

We use cloth from Kushies, including some made under the Sears brand.
posted by acoutu at 8:32 PM on September 18, 2007

Best answer: I have twins, almost a month old, and I've been using cloth diapers that I wash at home. Ask Moxie has a couple of good posts (part 1, part 2) I used to get an overview of the options. So far, I'm happy with the basic prefolds and some basic proraps and bummis covers. Some of the online cloth diaper stores sell sample packs, so you can try out a bunch of different diapers and covers.
posted by gnat at 8:52 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

We used prefolds most of the time (hint: if you buy them brand new, you should boil them or wash them on hot a few times to release all of the oils in the fibers and make them more absorbent) with Snappis and covers, and for nighttime diapers, pocket diapers (like Fuzzi Bunz or bumGenius!). We're currently using disposables (we recently moved and don't have as easy access right now to laundering facilities), and we kind of hate it - we generate so much trash right now and have had more diaper rashes than we care to count.
posted by cajo at 9:14 PM on September 18, 2007

Response by poster: gnat: Those Ask Moxie posts are really informative. Thanks. So far all of the information has been great. I was kind of expecting more people to jump in and say, "Tried it and hated it."

I would still love to hear more people's experiences, especially with regards to using cloth diapers outside the home and at night.

Any other brand recommendations (or seconding or thirding existing recommendations) are also welcomed.
posted by bove at 9:48 PM on September 18, 2007

We've used these up until now with our 14-month old. The outside is synthetic, the inside is...I don't know, something soft and cottony. And they have hemp inserts.

We've found them to be pretty good - they're easy to wash - just scrape off or rinse off the poo, and put them in the wash, no need to soak in bleach or anything. The sizing is easily adjustable. We don't use them overnight because disposable diapers are simply much better at going the full 12-hours, and we don't use them when we go out, because we're lazy and can't be bothered carrying soiled ones around with us until we get back home. But for general day to day wear, they're really easy, last a long time, and have saved us quite a bit of money so far.
posted by Jimbob at 11:51 PM on September 18, 2007

We used a diaper service for the first couple of months, then switched to washing them at home. (Either way, poop goes in the toilet first. This gets less messy once baby is eating more solid food.) It's quite easy - we don't pre-soak, but we do use a bit of chlorine bleach and the "heavy wash/extra rinse" cycles on our front-loading washer.

We bought these velcro covers and these contour diapers. I'm very happy with the prices and service from that company. We use a slightly larger size at night, and these days (with fewer nighttime feedings) a single diaper will last the night.

For day trips, we pack a few diapers and plastic bags along. For multi-day vacations, we bought some gDiapers disposables.
posted by mbrubeck at 6:22 AM on September 19, 2007

When we had our third (he's now a year), I decided to try my hand at cloth diapering as well. Mothering.com has a wonderful forum for cloth diapering.

I was overwhelmed with all the options. It seemed very complicated to me. My main focus was saving money. However, I wanted it all easy enough that my husband wouldn't be adverse to cloth diapering either.

I'm afraid of pins, so pinning was out. I tried Snappis, perhaps I did them wrong, but they didn't work very well for me. I went with some classic chinese prefold diapers and a bunch of prorap covers. They work well, BUT, they are pretty bulky.

So, I decided to try a few bumGenius pocket diapers. They are wonderful, but pricey.

I now have a large collection of prefolds, covers and bumGenius diapers. If cost is an issue, I would stick with prefolds and Proraps. and maybe purchase a few bumGenius for going out.

I have never used a diaper service. There have been times that washing and drying and folding diapers seemed a little overwhelming. When that happens, I use disposables. Most likely I'll just take a break from cloth for a week or less.

For night time I use disposables. I'm sure cloth would work just fine but truthfully I'm scared to try. I covet my sleep and I don't want to experiment with getting the correct absorbency layers in a cloth diaper.

Don't feel like you have to be "all or nothing." Definitely use cloth when you can but use the disposables as needed (I tend to take a break from cloth when I'm sick and not wanting to deal with washing diapers and that hassle).

Best of luck!
posted by Sassyfras at 6:54 AM on September 19, 2007

We got some hourglass-ish shaped diapers from some friends (Rainbow might have been the brand, if they still exist), and Nikki covers, which we liked a lot. We washed them ourselves. For a while there was a book called "Diaper Changes" which reviewed all the current brands. Dunno if its still available.
posted by rikschell at 7:04 AM on September 19, 2007

I was a devoted cloth diaper mom until my son was potty trained. I used chinese prefolds and snappis at home with different covers and fuzzi bunz when we were out in public. We never had a leak at night with the prefolds when I used a doubler in the center.

I absolutely second Diaperpin.com and Mothering.com for advice on cloth diapers and where to get the cute ones. It became almost a fashion statement for me since there aren't as many cute boy accessories as there are for girls. I washed mine at home and sometimes line dried them, depending on how ambitious I felt.

Ebay actually has quite a few cd accessories and even some used ones to try if you can get past the squick factor of used diapers.
posted by hollygoheavy at 7:08 AM on September 19, 2007

Here are some links for you:

AIOs (all in ones-just like a disposable)
Chinese Prefolds
Doublers (for nighttime)
Snappis (instead of pins) Aristocrats wool soaker (my favorite cover) Bummis cute patterns for covers

Cocoagirl gave you the link for Diaperpin-the mothering.com diaper board has a lot of information as well as a lot of wahm that make diapers custom for your baby.

I've never been a fan of Starbunz diapers-they're cute but they tended to fall apart after a couple washings. The initial cash outlay might make you gulp, but you really are making an investment rather than throwing them away several times a day.
posted by hollygoheavy at 7:23 AM on September 19, 2007

The initial cash outlay might make you gulp, but you really are making an investment rather than throwing them away several times a day.

And remember after your wee one is potty trained, you can sell your cloth diapers and get a little money back!
posted by Sassyfras at 7:47 AM on September 19, 2007

We bought a dozen BumGenius 2.0 diapers and I wish we'd used them from day 1. They're expandable (8 to 35 pounds) and we deal with them pretty much just like disposables (besides throwing them out!). If you get a couple of extra inserts you can double up a few diapers for nighttime. Highly recommended overall.
posted by mattbucher at 8:06 AM on September 19, 2007

We used cloth with our first, and plan to with our impending second. While I admit to liking the disposables, the cloth are really no different or harder to use -- I just prefer the ease of, well, disposal of a soiled diaper when I can chuck in the garbage immediately, rather than the diaper pail.

We used a service for the first couple of months; then me wife started creating patterns for various sizes of diapers based on the samples the service offered. Then she bought old towels, sheets, quilts, etc, and made them. It has saved us lots of money - we don't pay for a service or for disposables. She used velcro for securing the diaper. After they were made, we went out and bought several plastic covers for them.

The amusing thing with them is that when he is wearing a disposable (which we do when on extended trips away from home; largely because of issues of bulk in packing and lack of easy access to laundry facilities), some of the outfits we usually dress him in no longer fit - his waist is no longer wide enough to hold up his pants.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:12 AM on September 19, 2007

I guess I'll be the one disposables advocate. We used cloth for our daughter's first four months (with a service), then switched to disposables because we were travelling and never went back. My main motivation for using cloth in the first place was environmental, but the ease and convenience of disposables won me over. I don't remember the exact brand(s) of covers we used over the diaper service prefolds, but we definitely had leakage issues (inexperience was surely partly to blame), where we never have with the disposables. We've also never had much problem with diaper rash -- only a few incidences that quickly cleared up. She's 19 months now, so we're starting to think about potty training. I can't imagine stripping her out of pants, diaper cover, and clipped-on diaper every time she needs to go. As ridiculous at they seem, we'll probably try the "feels-wet" pull-ups. We also used the flushable gDiapers for a bit early on -- expensive, messy, and clogged the plumbing.
posted by libraryhead at 8:55 AM on September 19, 2007

Response by poster: Again, thanks for all the comments and advice. If anyone is checking up on this thread, my wife and I still have a couple of questions.

First, on the sites linked to they make it seem like the process of washing cloth diapers is really a lot of work. Do you really have to do all of those steps?

Second, I am still a little confused about the pocket style diapers. How do they work? Do you just change the interior liner? If you change the whole thing, how are they better than an All-in-One?
posted by bove at 9:05 AM on September 19, 2007

First, on the sites linked to they make it seem like the process of washing cloth diapers is really a lot of work. Do you really have to do all of those steps?

We just wash them (every day) in hot water, dry on medium heat. We do use organic detergent so as not to irritate the skin so much, but that's about it for multiple "steps."

Second, I am still a little confused about the pocket style diapers. How do they work? Do you just change the interior liner? If you change the whole thing, how are they better than an All-in-One?

Here's what we do: baby pees/poops, we take the diaper off, pull out the insert, put both in the diaper pail, and put on a new diaper. After you wash a load of diapers you do have to assemble them by putting the inserts back in the covers, but that's about it. I don't know that they are "better" than all-in-ones, but you can double up the inserts to make them extra absorbent at night (when frequent changes might wake up the baby).
posted by mattbucher at 9:18 AM on September 19, 2007

We have used a mix of cloth and disposable for two children, and plan to for the third.

We tend to use prefolds (the flat ones you fold up and use safety pins) for when they're really young, and then transition to fitted diapers with the snaps (which we generally bot in lots, used). We do not have a diaper service in the area; we use our washing machine.

One thing that helps enormously is to use a flushable liner; this gets the majority of the solids out of the way. The wash isn't anything particularly special--we use a presoak, a small load, and a vinegar rinse (in place of liquid softener). Liners can be reused a few times if they weren't flushed--they don't break down completely with the first wash.

We've tried many brands, and I can say that for us, the Mothereaze(sp?) brand is the winner, hands down.

Oh, and as for all-in-ones--we have a few (we've cobbled our collection together, remember), and although they save a step over a cloth diaper and cover they seem to tend to leak a bit easier. For the separate cover, depending on circumstances the cover can be reused a few times before chucking it in the pail.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:22 AM on September 19, 2007

I definitely second RikiTikiTavi's recommendation of Motherease and disposable liners (we use the ones from Kushies). The disposable liners make it much easier to deal with poops, since they can just be picked up and flushed with a minimum of mess.

We used the Motherease all-in-one diapers from day one with our first child, and used them almost exclusively until we transitioned to pull-ups. Now we've got a second child (he's 2 weeks old right now) and the Motherease diapers are still going strong - we anticipate using them until our son is starting potty training.

The Motherease all-in-one diapers are as easy to use as a disposable diaper. Really. The snaps work really well, and everybody that's seen us doing a diaper change comments on how easy it seems.

We don't do anything special with regard to washing them - they just get dumped into a diaper pail, and when the pail is full, it gets dumped into the washer - hot water wash, extra rinse. Most of the time we just dry them on a drying rack rather than in the dryer.

The initial cost of the diapers and covers was fairly high (about $400) but when you factor that they'll easily last through two or more children, the cost isn't really that bad. We're only planning on having two kids, so we'll probably put them up on eBay after we're done with them - based on past auctions, we'll probably get back about 50% of the original purchase cost when we sell them used.
posted by gwenzel at 10:43 AM on September 19, 2007

First, on the sites linked to they make it seem like the process of washing cloth diapers is really a lot of work. Do you really have to do all of those steps?

I had a diaper pail in the laundry room (dry pail) that I just tossed the diapers in and then did them all together in one load about every other day. Just wash on hot water with the teensiest bit of detergent and rinse twice. You never ever use fabric softener on them, it coats the fibers and makes them repel liquids. What you might have read about is "stripping" the diapers, which is what you do when you buy them new and need to get the waxy stuff off or when they have detergent builtup. That's a total pain in the ass, but it works.

Second, I am still a little confused about the pocket style diapers. How do they work? Do you just change the interior liner? If you change the whole thing, how are they better than an All-in-One?

I only used pocket diapers when I fell in love with a print that I just HAD to have (because I'm shallow and that mattered to me), but one thing that's kinda cool about them is that you customize where the thickness is, in front for the boys or between the legs for girls. It didn't make much sense to me to stuff diapers, but I did have some and they weren't too much of a hassle. An all in one is BULKY and they take a loooooooong time to dry, which is definately a drawback for some people.
posted by hollygoheavy at 10:51 AM on September 19, 2007

we are currently using fuzzi bunz for our 2 month old, and they are working out great. we use them while out (you just need a small waterproof bag to keep the dirty ones in) and overnight (you can add an extra insert if you want, which makes them more absorbent and dryish for longer. our baby still wakes up at least once a night to eat, though, so I do generally change him once). they are so easy to put on (one piece with snaps, after you put the liner in the pocket) and to wash (so far, we don't even have to scrape them off, just dump them in the washer with an extra rinse cycle)

the bad part is we got 24 diapers plus a few extra liners, which cost around $400, and he has already outgrown the small size and had to get the medium recently (he's a very big baby, so many might go more than 3 months), plus we will probably have to get the large size when he's about a year old. so that gets expensive, but for us it was actually the only big ticket item we needed, so we asked for them as gifts. plus, we only needed so many because we don't have a dryer and have to leave time for them to air dry-- I bet if you machine dry them and wash every day you could get by with 18, or even possibly 12. also, I haven't really compared much with other brands. some might work fine and be cheaper, and I'm pretty sure some are more adjustable so that you might be able to buy only one set. oh! and the cost can also be offset because they can be used for more than one child and even, if they're in good shape, sold on ebay for not much less than the original price.
posted by lgyre at 10:53 AM on September 19, 2007

We use an empty cat litter bucket as our diaper pail. It has a nicely snapping lid on it. After flushing the poop down the toilet, we'd pull the insert out of the pocket diaper and put that and the "cover" in the pail. When it was time to wash, I run a cold rinse cycle on the lot and then run a regular hot cycle with detergent. We either hang dry the diapers or chuck them in the dryer, depending on our laziness factor at the time.

I, too, was confused with all the washing instructions - some claiming you need to add vinegar or baking soda and pre-wash and pre-soak. I don't have time or patience for all that. You might have to do a bit of experimenting to figure out what works best for you. But really a regular wash should be all you really need. Read up on the forums listed above for ideas from people actually going through the process.
posted by Sassyfras at 11:03 AM on September 19, 2007

they make it seem like the process of washing cloth diapers is really a lot of work. Do you really have to do all of those steps?

That might refer to the initial washing for new diapers. Some need to be washed 6-8 times (or more!) before they reach their maximum absorbency (I think hemp inserts, especially, need a lot of pre-washing before use). But most people get enough diapers (10-16) so they just do a bunch of washes all at once before you start using them. I just did this with the 10 cloth training pants I got for my son. Yeah, it's kind of a pain, but you just pick a day you're around the house anyway, and change things every hour or so.

Oh, one other thing. One of the reasons I found the reviews so helpful is that the websites for some of these places are terrible to navigate or understand. They are cottage-industry sites sprung up by (usually) women who are doing this because there's an interest, not because they're website gurus. The combinations of how the diapers go together can be overwhelming. I felt like even once I chose a brand to go with, I spent time over three days trying to figure out which combination of exterior fabric, liner, insert fabric, insert thickness and then, if there was a diaper that fit those specs, was there a fabric in a train print vs. a flower print.
posted by cocoagirl at 11:21 AM on September 19, 2007

Response by poster: Based on this Metatalk thread, I thought I would post an update here. After reading all of the great posts here, my wife has decided to stick with disposable diapers. This is our third child and she is intimidated by all the extra work. I actually thought it would be great to go with cloth (cost, environmental friendliness), but because she bears most of the burden of actually changing the diapers (she is a stay at home mom), I can't really argue with her decision.
posted by bove at 10:46 AM on October 5, 2007

I started using cloth diapers on my third child and have felt kinda stupid spending so much money on them knowing that he's my last child and that had I started with my first - the money savings would have been pretty great (being able to pass the diapers on to the next child).
posted by Sassyfras at 11:24 AM on October 8, 2007

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