Cloth Diapering 101 | Your Comprehensive Quick-Start Guide

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How to Start Cloth Diapering

We’ve recently started cloth diapering our youngest daughter and will be doing the same with our new baby boy when he arrives. And I am a fan of the fluff! But there’s definitely a learning curve with all of the info.

?  The different forms of cloth diapers
?  Brands
?  Sizes
?  Fabrics
?  General care & washing

It can be a lot to take in! So if you’re interested in how to start cloth diapering, consider this your quick-start guide to help you learn all the basics and send you on your way to becoming a fluffy butt pro.

Fair warning, we’re about to talk about poop. A lot.

The Most Popular Types of Cloth Diapers

Don’t think these 3 types of cloth diapers are the only ones available. There are plenty of others! These are just the most popular forms of cloth diapers to get you started.

(P.S. I love them all! ♥)

All-in-one’s

How to Start Cloth Diapering

Lots of moms adore these because they’re just so easy. The inserts you need already come sewn-in, meaning that there is no stuffing or prep to put them on baby.

The downfall: the inserts sewn into the diaper aren’t always absorbent enough or can easily slip to the side and allow your baby’s piddle to leak.

So what brands are the best? We use Smart Bottoms and Imagine, both of which work great!

Pocket Diapers

How to Start Cloth Diapering

These are awesome too! The diaper is a cover with just a fabric pocket on the inside. This enables you to put whatever inserts you prefer into the pocket and play with different combinations for absorbency. We’ll talk more about the differences in fabrics for your inserts in just a minute!

We use Rumparooz and ALVABABY. AlvaBaby is the cheaper option, and they’ve never let us down!

Covers with Prefolds or Flats

How to Start Cloth Diapering

This method is super versatile (and it’s the cheapest way to cloth diaper)! The diaper cover is completely empty (no pocket or anything!), and you put whatever you want on the inside. (Well, almost whatever you want. Microfiber inserts aren’t good to use with covers because microfiber should never be left against baby’s skin!)

The big plus with this way of cloth diapering is this: if baby only pees, you can take the insert out, wipe the cover out with a baby wipe, and just put a new insert in. No need to switch covers unless it gets poo on it, meaning less laundry for you!

You can use the prefold or flat by folding and wrapping it around baby then pinning with classic diaper pins or devices like the Snappi. Or you can just fold it up and lay it on the inside without anything to hold it in place like I do (see the picture above). The choice is yours!

ALVABABY, Rumparooz, and Imagine all make covers that are super cute, effective, and easy to use!

What do the Sizes Mean?

There are two basic sizes when it comes to the majority of cloth diapers. You can either buy them in:

  • Newborn or
  • One Size

There are also training pants, but those won’t come until later on.

Newborn

Newborn sizes usually fit babies up to 15 pounds, meaning they don’t last long, and for the rest of your diapering career, you’ll be using one-sizes. For this reason, some moms suggest skipping the newborn size altogether. I mean, we do get lots of diapers in the hospital, and a family member or two is bound to buy you some for your baby shower.

Plus, some moms claim that meconium–that gross, black tar poop–can be hard to get out of your cloth diapers. Some cloth diapering mommas opt to just use disposables in the beginning until one-sizes fit their little ones. Or at least until the sticky black poo phase is over.

Still, others choose to cloth diaper from day one in newborn covers with prefolds and say the meconium comes right out. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with buying and cleaning!

I’m personally going to use disposables until the meconium is all done and then switch to newborn covers made by Rumparooz with prefolds.

One Size

Like I said, these are the diapers you’ll be using for quite a while. They’re highly adjustable to make it through all the growing your little girl or guy will do. The front is covered in snaps to adjust for leg room, height, and circumference of your baby. This is great for making sure that their diaper is tight enough to prevent leaks but not so tight that they get angry red marks on their legs and waist.

How Many Cloth Diapers Will I Need?

Ah, the famous question. But it really depends on:

  1. How many kids you’ll be cloth diapering
  2. How often they need to be changed and
  3. How often you feel like washing your cloth diapers.

I currently wash mine every two or three days, and I’m only diapering one child (for now). She only uses one diaper at night and usually 5 diapers during the day. Add a few diapers to have while the others are going through the wash, and it’s good for us to have right around 20 diapers for her.

With our newborn coming soon, we’d need to at least double our stockpile if I’d want to keep my laundry schedule! But since I stay at home and do other loads of laundry every day anyway, we opted to just start washing them more often after he arrives.

You can use the same formula to figure out how many cloth diapers you’ll need:

How to Start Cloth Diapering

There are so many fabrics! What’s the difference?

It’s awesome to have so many choices of fabrics for your cloth diaper inserts. But what exactly is the best fabric for you and your little one?

Microfiber

Microfiber is super cheap and often comes with whatever cloth diapers you order. But while it’s absorbent, it doesn’t hold as much as some of the other inserts. For that reason, it may be best to double up and put two inserts into your baby’s pocket diaper at night. Plus, as I mentioned above, it can’t go in plain covers since it can’t touch baby’s skin. So overall, they’re inexpensive and get the job done but are best to only put in pocket diapers.

Cotton

Natural and easy to come by, cotton is always a good choice. Many moms even make their own inserts from old cotton sheets or t-shirts. So if you’re looking for the absolute cheapest way to cloth diaper, it’s using plain covers with cotton inserts. Even the cotton prefolds that you can buy are fairly inexpensive.

For cotton prefolds, I recommend OsoCozy. They come in small, medium, and large sizes. And don’t be fooled by how big they are when they come in the mail. This organic fabric shrinks after washing.

Bamboo

Ah, bamboo. It may be the most perfect fabric there is for cloth diapering. But it can also be a little more expensive. 100% Bamboo inserts are super absorbent and all-natural.

They’re great to use at night when baby will go a while without being changed!

Hemp

Hemp is the most absorbent fabric of them all. The only downfall is that it absorbs slower than the others.

I love to use them in combination with other inserts. For example, I’ll put a Thirsties hemp insert (they come in small and large sizes) under a bamboo or microfiber insert in a pocket diaper at night or if we’re going on a road trip. That way, the liquid hits something that quickly absorbs first but the hemp is below it to soak up any extras before we have a chance to get baby’s bum changed.

Dirty Diaper Storage

So after your little one goes #1 or #2, what happens to the cloth diaper?

First, take out any inserts you may be using. This will make doing laundry easier for you later since all the inserts need to be taken out of the covers or pocket diapers while they’re washed.

Next, dispose of any poo. When they’re little, this means rinsing the cloth diaper off (although many moms choose not to rinse breast milk poo out of diapers). As they get older and their stool becomes more solid, its fairly easy to just make it roll right off into the potty and flush it.

For occasions when they need to be rinsed, I LOVE my cloth diaper sprayer By Easy Giggles! It attaches directly to the tank of your toilet. You just hold the cloth diaper over the bowl and spray! When it’s all rinsed, just flush the toilet, and voila! All done. It’s also helpful to have a spray shield like the Spray Pal to keep anything, ahem, “unpleasant” from spraying back at you or onto the surfaces of your bathroom.

Finally, put all diaper parts into your dry pail, pail liner, or wet bag (if you’re out and about). They’ll stay there until it’s laundry time.

Note: some people use a wet pail, where they store their dirties in a watery bath. I don’t suggest this! They can be a breading ground for bacteria.

Washing Basics

There’s lots of info out there about washing your cloth diapers. So I’ll simplify it by sharing my personal washing routine.

How to Start Cloth Diapering

Other Resources

For a list of detergents and the pros and cons of each, head over to Fluff Love University’s Detergent Index. It includes pretty much any detergent known to man. Their chart will tell you if your detergent is recommended for use and any special instructions for using it. For example, it may be a weaker detergent, meaning you need to use a little more of it to clean your diapers well.

If you have hard water, you’ll also need to add Borax or something similar to your wash routine. For more info on that, you can visit The Monarch Mommy’s blog post about washing cloth diapers in hard water.

Extra Tips on How to Start Cloth Diapering

It can be handy to keep a small pack of disposable diapers in your child’s size if you plan on having relatives watch your child who are not comfortable with cloth diapering.
Desitin may be your go-to bum cream but DO NOT use it with your cloth diapers. Instead, Grovia makes a bum stick that works great and is safe your fluff. You can find their Itty Bitty Magic Stick on Amazon.
You’ll likely need a larger diaper bag than what you would normally use, especially if you’re also using cloth wipes.
Chemicals like bleach, baking soda, and vinegar can be hard on cloth diapers and even cause the fabric to wear down and tear. And they’re not necessary! I steer clear of them all.
 DO NOT use fabric softener or dryer sheets with your diapers. They can cause a build-up that will make them less absorbent.
Any inserts or all-in-one diapers with organic fabrics will need to be washed 8-15 times (you don’t need to dry them in between) before use so that they reach their full absorbency potential.

Are you taking the cloth diapering plunge? Or maybe you already use cloth diapers and have a few tips of your own? Either way, I’d love for you to drop a comment!

Until next time,

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