I had wanted to try cloth for a while but until I became a stay-at-home mom, the circumstances weren't favorable for anything but disposables. I've now been at home since mid 2008, so when baby L came along, I decided to take the plunge and give cloth diapering a whirl. I was hesitant at first, worrying about how I would keep up with the extra laundry, grossed out at the thought of putting dirty diapers into my washing machine, and whether or not cloth would hold up to the almighty power of the newborn superpoop. Well, I've been using cloth diapers since L was born late last summer, and I can 100% say that I love it!
There are a multitude of different types of diapers- prefolds and covers, all-in-ones, all-in-twos, pockets, and fitteds. If you'd like to read more about each type, this chart is a great starting point!
I decided to start out with prefolds and covers, as this was the cheapest option. I didn't want to invest much money into my cloth diaper stash until I was confident that we would like using cloth.
Above is a photo of my prefolds and covers. I chose unbleached Indian cotton infant prefolds (you can get bleached or unbleached, and there are Indian cotton and Chinese cotton- it is ultimately about personal preference) and Thirsties DuoWrap covers. I purchased 36 prefolds and six covers. In hindsight, I'd probably have ordered 8 to 10 covers, as I found myself running out of clean covers on wash days. When the prefolds arrived, I had to "prep" them by washing them several times to get them nice and fluffy and absorbent. I washed them about three or four times before I felt like they were ready to be used.
These diapers and covers held up great and I rarely had issues with leaks as long as I changed her at reasonable intervals. My only distaste for prefolds and covers was that the diapers didn't wick the moisture away from her skin- this meant that if she peed while we were out or she was sleeping, she was sitting in moisture until I changed her. That in mind, I decided to upgrade to something nicer when L outgrew her prefolds.
I chose to use BumGenius 4.0 pocket diapers next. I ordered 18 of these in an assortment of happy colors. They're pretty pricey at roughly 18.00 per diaper, but I was able to get them for slightly cheaper during a big sale. These diapers consist of a waterproof shell with a pocket for stuffing, and microfiber inserts in two sizes- a small one for newborn use, and a larger, adjustable(with snaps) insert for use with an older/larger baby. You can also double up the absorbency by using both inserts at once, though this does significantly increase the bulk of the diaper, so something like this would be best for nighttime use only.
These diapers are fantastic. I lovelovelove them! I have no leak problems and the microfiber wicks the moisture into the pocket so that L isn't sitting in a wet diaper. They wash up well, and I have not had any trouble with stinkiness. Now that L is nearly 11 months old and eating more solid food, I use flushable liners so that I can dump (heh) the poop into the toilet before tossing the diapers into the wetbag.
So now you're asking, "What the hell is a wetbag", right? Well, it's pretty much what it sounds like- it's a bag that is used to contain wet items. A wetbag is made from waterproof fabric, and they typically close with a zipper or a drawstring. Personally, I like the zippered type as they are better at containing odors. You can find wetbags all over the web from a number of merchants, and they come in a variety of adorable prints. I purchased two large and one small- I use a large bag around the house, and carry the small in my diaper bag. The extra of the large bags is so that I always have a clean wetbag available on wash days. Now- most pocket diapers have to be unstuffed before washing so that they can be fully cleaned. I choose to unstuff mine BEFORE I put them into the wetbag so that I am not touching stagnant dirty diapers on wash day. I simply open the flap of the pocket, pinch the very edge of the insert(s) and remove, and put all diaper parts into the wetbag and zipper it.
Which brings me to the final chapter of this novelesque post- the wash routine! Cloth diaper laundry requires a bit of special care. Rule number one- no fabric softener or dryer sheets, ever! These will cause your cloth diapers to repel moisture, and thus render them more or less useless.
The second crucial factor is choosing a cloth-friendly detergent. This chart is chock-full of great detergent information. Many people worry about using high-efficiency machines to launder cloth diapers, as these use less water than the traditional top-loading, non-HE machine. I have HE machines and have had virtually no troubles getting my diapers clean. I personally have had great success using Arm & Hammer's HE formula to wash my diapers- the detergent washes out well and I have not had any problems with stinky diapers.
I wash my diapers every two days. Here is the low-down on how I launder my dipes:
- I unzipper the wetbag and stick the open end into the machine. I use my hand to push the bottom of the wetbag up until it turns inside out, thus ensuring that I don't have to touch any funky diapers.
- After the wetbag has turned inside out and all of the contents have landed in the washer, I toss the bag in with them to be washed.
- I run a "quick cycle" with a tiny amount of detergent and use cold water.
- Next, I run a "heavy soil" cycle with hot water, the normal amount of detergent, and I put about 1/4 cup of bleach into the bleach dispenser cup. I also utilize the "extra water" feature my washer offers, which adds more water to the wash cycle than normally would be used.
- When the cycle has finished, I run a rinse and spin cycle to ensure no suds are left behind. Residue = odor, so this is important!
- I dry my clean diapers on medium heat.
To summarize this epic post, at eleven months in, I am very happy with cloth diapering! I love that I never have to run out to the store for diapers, and I love knowing that we're keeping all those dirty diapers out of the landfill. An added plus? Cloth diapers are super cute!
PS: I almost forgot- believe it or not, there is a huge market for used diapers. I was able to sell my used prefolds and covers and get back about half of what we originally paid for them- awesome!