The Down and Dirty of Cloth Diapers

Cloth Diaper System

Let’s get down and dirty, we’re talking cloth diapers here.  Yeah, most of you probably think we’re hippies for using the cloth but I have to tell you that I honestly LOVE them.  I never thought I’d use love and diapers in the same sentence, but there you have it.  The sad thing is that they don’t use them at the daycare so we’re currently using both, and can see the upsides and downsides to both.  Cloth diapers win, though.

Most of you, if you’re interested in cloth diapers have already seen a pros and cons list so we’ll jump right in to our actual cloth diaper system.  If you’re curious though, the second half of this extremely long post is our list of pros and cons.

 What’s the System?

First thing is the grocery list.  Here’s what we actually use for our cloth diaper system:

  1. 3 dozen cloth diapers in varying sizes.  Cloth-Eez Prefolds
  2. 6 outer shells.  Thirsties Duo Wraps
  3. 3 dozen fabric wipes. Two Sided Wipes
  4. 2 large wet bags.  Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag
  5. 2 large diaper pail liners.  Planet Wise Reusable Diaper Pail Liners
  6. 2 small wet bags for travel.  Thirsties Wet Diaper Bag
  7. Non-Zinc based diaper cream.  Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm
  8. Drying Rack. Moerman Laundry Solutions

Cloth Diaper Sizes

The Prefolds come in varying sizes, which is really nice because it eliminates a lot of bulk.  The newborn size only goes up to 10 lbs which means you might be able to get away with skipping them, especially if you have a giant baby like Harper who rolls out at 9 lbs 3 oz.  WASH THEM 6X at least.  I think they recommend 5x before using them but we discovered that they’re still not absorbent enough and the liquid just runs out the sides.  The first week or so I thought seriously about giving up because she was constantly wet, but after we ran them through the wash a few more times they worked beautifully.  They also shrink quite a bit and fit better in the shells.  Note that they are broken up into thirds with the center section being extra cushiony.

Cloth Diapers Shell

Just wrapping a baby up in some fabric without something to contain the wetness is a terrible idea.  Enter the shell.  These are really soft and thin and make cloth diapering just like disposable diapering with one extra step.  It took us a few tries before we got the sizing right.  She was in the smallest snaps for about a week, until she was about 10lbs and then she graduated to the larger of the bottom snaps and the top snaps moved out by one on each side.

Cloth Diapers Prefold

Actually putting the diaper together is easy.  Just lay out the shell flat and then place the folded diaper on top.  Basically you just fold the two outside edges so they are touching in the center, or slightly overlapping, and then flip it over and set on top of the shell.

Cloth Diapers Folded Up

Then you just use it like a regular diaper, just make sure none of the fabric is peeking out of the edges or you’ll end up with wet clothes.

Fabric Wipes

If you’re using cloth diapers, you might as well use cloth wipes.  And honestly, even if you’re using disposables, I would still recommend cloth wipes.  They just work better.  Ours are terry cloth on one side for the dirtier spots and a soft flannel on the other side for easier messes.  We just grab about 12 at a time and run them under water, wring them out and store them in this glass container we already had.  There are special solutions you can use with essential oils and castile soap but this is working fine without any added chemicals, just pure water.

Cloth Diapers Diaper Rash

One thing to be aware of is that the main ingredient in most diaper rash creams is Zinc which will make your cloth diapers less absorbent – a bad thing when it comes to diapering.  So make sure you get something that is zinc-free.  We love this Earth Mama Angel Baby that we got at a baby shower. It’s pricey but works great.

Cloth Diapers Diaper Pail

Just like with disposable diapers, you are going to want a diaper pail.  The only difference is that you’ll line it with a reusable bag instead of plastic.  We picked up this Dekor one and it is okay.  It fills up faster than we’d like which means doing laundry more often than necessary, and getting the bag in and out isn’t the easiest.  But, it does block any odor and the bags do fit.

Cloth Diaper System

So here’s our system.  We have everything easily accessible with the wooden crates above, the wipes and cream right on the table, and the diaper pail (for wipes and diapers that are just wet and not soiled) right next door.  The backup drawer is filled with the extra wipes, changing pad liners, plus a few of the next size diapers just in case we run out.

Cloth Diaper Bathroom Bag

In the bathroom we have a wet bag hanging for the soiled diapers.  So you’re probably wondering just how bad is it to rinse out a soiled diaper?  Honestly, not that bad.  Okay, so Eric gagged once but that was an epic diaper.  Really you just rub it together quickly under the water, wring it out and throw it in the bag and think about something else.  If you’re really squeamish, you can always splurge on one of those sprayers for the toilet but we haven’t felt the need.

Cloth Diapers Drying Rack

For the laundry, we throw diapers, wipes, shells, bags and changing table liners in the washer together.  We set it on heavy duty with a pre-rinse and use fragrance-free detergent with vinegar and essential oil as a softener.  The diapers and wipes get dried on heavy duty and the rest are air-dried.  So you’ll need a drying rack, which does take up some serious space.  They’re all technically machine-dryable, but they’ll last a whole lot longer if you throw them out to air dry.  Since they’re that wicking material, they dry in a couple of hours.

Cloth Diaper Butt

So what are the benefits?

1.  COST.  This is what sold Eric on the cloth diapers.  There can be some significant cost savings associated with cloth diapers, depending on how you go about it.  According to some stats, disposable diapers cost over $2000 per child and you can do cloth diapers for around $300 for all of your children.  Now that we’ve bought everything, we went way over the $300 but we could have spent a lot more.  Also, we were able to register for a lot of the stuff and we waited for sales for the rest.  Using today’s pricing on Amazon and Green Mountain Diapers, however, here is how much you would end up spending over two years:

Disposable vs Cloth Diaper Cost

Basically, we decided to use Babyganics as our disposable diaper choice because they were a nice compromise of eco-friendly and economical at $9.99 (Target) for 40 and basing this on the theory that Harper will go through an average of 6 a day (so far it has been more like 12) and that she’ll be potty trained at 2 years, we would spend about $1094 on disposables.  The cloth shopping list is a whole lot longer, and this is just the type of cloth diapers we went with.  If you do all-in-ones you’ll be spending a whole lot more.  This includes the whole system that we use, not just the diapers.  But, it doesn’t include the water bill for washing them.  Since the cloth are reusable, they would be a whole lot cheaper the second time around.

2.  ECO-FRIENDLY:  This is probably the biggest reason you’ve heard of and why you probably muttered hippie under your breath at the start of this post.  Basically, most kids go through around 6,000 diapers which don’t break down in landfills for over 500 years.  (Even compostable diapers won’t break down because the enzymes etc to break them down are absent).  The United States alone puts 3.4 million tons of diapers in our landfills each year.  That’s gross.  On top of that, most diapers are made over seas so you have to consider the impact of the plastics, water, and trees to make the diapers, package them, ship them to your local Target, your gas to go get them, and the plastic bag you put them in to take them home.

3.  NON-TOXIC:  Paper diapers are full of chemicals and babies are in these things around the clock for 2-3 years.  Bleach, chlorine, latex, and petroleum are big ones.  Then there is Dioxin which is banned in most countries because it is a likely carcinogen.  It has been linked to nerve damage and birth defects.  Sodium polyacrylate has been linked to toxic shock syndrome, is lethal to pets and may be a cause of asthma.  Not only are there long-term health concerns but also allergies and diaper rash.

4.  MORE ABSORBANT:  As long as you have diapers for the right size baby, and they have been washed enough times, they are more absorbent than the disposable.  They are also better at containing blow outs, from what I’ve read.  And judging from how many times they’ve had to change her outfit at daycare I’d say it is true.  However, that doesn’t mean that the baby can stay in the diaper longer.  They are actually wet, unlike with the disposable which means you have to change her more often but it also means that she isn’t sitting in her own filth for as long.  It also means that she’s uncomfortable in her diaper which means that it is easier for potty training in the long run.

5.  SOFTER AND CUTER:  Unless you’re dishing out the cash for Honest diapers, disposables are just plain ugly.  The cloth ones come in cute colors and patterns and the cloth is a whole lot softer.  I’d prefer it on my bum if I had to choose.

Cloth Diapers

What are the downsides?

1.  TIME:  Especially the first 6 weeks when she wasn’t in daycare, we were doing a load of laundry daily.  Plus having to dump her in the crib to run down the hall and rinse out a diaper while she cries isn’t a lot of fun.

2.  POOP:  Yeah, you have to get down and dirty with it to rinse it out in the toilet, especially before introducing solid foods.  The good news is that if you get through the first 8 weeks or so then you’ll only have to rinse one out every other day or so instead of 12x a day.  YAY!

3.  SIZE:  cloth diapers are kind of huge so it makes her clothes look a lot lumpier.

All in all, the downsides really don’t measure up to the pros.  So, yeah we might be hippies but we’ve come to terms with that because we genuinely think cloth diapers are better for baby’s health, for the environment and her future, and for our bank account.  And, to all you Debbie Downers out there – we made it through the first week!  And we’re still going strong.

Author: Jamie Forbes

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  • Thank you so much!!! This was super helpful. I have been doing research on cloth diapers and Stephanie, a mutual friend of ours, shared this post with me. So many great tips!! And congrats on your beautiful baby!!