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How to Start Using Cloth Diapers

For those unfamiliar with cloth diapering, the term alone often engenders anxiety, disgust or possibly immediate dismissal. But contrary to common myths, cloth diapering does not involve spending hours soaking your hands in poop-filled water or worrying about sticking a squirmy baby with sharp pins to secure a diaper. Choices in modern cloth diapers differ to accommodate the size and build of the baby, the need for absorbency, as well as a family’s lifestyle, budget, preferences, etc. Although beginning the process often seems overwhelming, many parents discover that cloth diapering can be both simple and convenient.
Why cloth diaper?

  • To save money. The average cloth diapering household saves a few thousand dollars on their first baby and even more if they reuse the cloth diapers on subsequent children.
  • Cloth diapers are better for the environment. Using cloth diapers instead of disposables cuts back on the waste you add to landfills.
  • Cloth diapers are softer and safer for baby. Cloth diapers are void of the toxic chemicals found in disposables.
  • They simply look cute. The possibilities for different designs, colors and fabrics are limitless.
  • Bye-bye blowout! Most babies experience few (if any) leaks due to the secure fit of cloth diapers.

When do you start cloth diapering?
Any time! Some parents start with baby’s first diaper. Others prefer to wait a few weeks in order to surpass those yucky meconium diapers (which often stain). Some first-time parents wait a few months longer, after making the initial adjustments that accompany their transition to parenthood. Still others begin cloth diapering once they run out of their initial diaper bank and realize the high cost of disposable diapers. It’s never too early or late to start.
How do you start cloth diapering?
It doesn’t hurt to purchase one of several types of cloth diapers and try them all on your little one rather than purchasing 18 all-in-twos that you later discover don’t fit your child well. Trying multiple brands and styles allows you to learn how to use the different kinds while developing preferences and determining what best fits your family’s lifestyle. If your child is in daycare for any length of time, the preference of the caregiver may also have an effect on which diaper you choose to use.
If you plan to wash every other day, you need anywhere from 18–24 cloth diapers, depending on the age of your child and the frequency that he soils the diaper.
The Different Kinds of Cloth Diapers

  • Pre-folds/flats are the most economical variety. These diapers can be wrapped or folded various ways around baby and are usually fastened with a detachable, separate fastener (such as a Snappi).  Pre-folds and flats require a cover.
  • Fitted Diapers look, function and fit similarly to a disposable, with multiple fastening options. They require a cover and prove to be very absorbent.
  • Contours are similar to pre-folds and fitted diapers. These diapers require a cover and are contoured to baby’s body shape more so than pre-folds. But unlike fitted diapers, contours require an additional fastener.
  • Pocket or Sleeve Diapers contain an opening on one end (pocket) or both ends (sleeve) that can be stuffed with an insert. These are very absorbent and often prevent baby from feeling wet, since the urine passes through the layer touching baby and absorbs into the insert.
  • All-in-twos are similar to pocket/sleeve diapers, but instead contain an insert that snaps into the diaper cover.
  • All-in-ones appear to be the easiest (but often the costliest) cloth diapers as they most resemble a disposable diaper. They require no cover and no stuffing before wearing. This is a great option for caregivers who feel less comfortable changing cloth diapers. All-in-ones also make a quick and easy option for traveling.

How to Store and Wash
Wet and soiled cloth diapers are both stored in wet bags. Smaller bags (that hold 2–4 diapers) prove handy if you plan to be running errands for a few hours or spending an evening at a friend’s home for dinner. Medium-sized bags can hold a day’s worth of diapers (8–12), and the larger wet bags (that hold two days’ worth of diapers) fit well in kitchen-sized trash pails with lids.
Simply deposit wet diapers into a wet bag until time to wash, but how you handle soiled diapers depends on the baby’s age and food intake. If a baby is fed only breast milk, his diapers require no preparation before washing – just store them in the wet bag along with wet diapers until time to wash. However, if a baby receives any formula or solid foods, the poop must first be removed from the diaper before storing. Many parents purchase or install homemade diaper sprayers, handy gadgets that connect to the side of your toilet to clean dirty diapers effortlessly. Another option is to use flushable liners, which catch the majority of the waste, making removal simple (check out Bummis Bio-Soft Flushable Liners). Without a sprayer or liner, it helps to have some sort of tool to remove waste from the diaper (like an old kitchen spatula – obviously, retire it from the kitchen!). If the diaper still contains remnants of waste, flush the toilet while holding the top of the diaper. The swirling water often removes any remaining waste. 
Cloth diapers should be washed at least every other day. Always read individual labels for specific care instructions, but the following is a good rule of thumb for washing:

  • Begin with a cold rinse.
  • Add a cloth diaper-approved detergent (such as Rockin’ Green, Country Save and Charlie’s Liquid Soap) and wash with hot water. Add an additional rinse to this setting if your washer allows.
  • Hanging your diapers to air-dry is preferable, but if labels approve machine drying, always choose the lowest heat setting on your dryer.

Published April 2014