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Demystifying Cloth Diapers

We asked current cloth diaper users what their most common concerns or questions were BEFORE they got started with cloth diapering and we compiled all of that info along with my own personal experience into a list so that we can help crush any fears help and Make Cloth Mainstream™.

You can also watch the YouTube Webinar “Demystifying Cloth Diapers” hosted by Sarah from Sarah Wells Breastpump Bags and Nicole from Nizo Wear Nursing Bras by clicking on that adorable fluffy bum picture below:

1. Getting Started:

You really don’t need much to get started, although some parents find enjoyment in shopping for the extras that make cloth diapering more interesting and fun. Here are a list of the bare basics you’ll need to get started, along with the extras you might enjoy adding to your stash!

Must haves:

  • 12-24 cloth diapers.
  • A pail liner to hold the dirties.
  • Detergent

Honestly, that’s it. You can totally cloth diaper your baby from birth to potty training with that tiny list. The number of diapers varies like that because it will be based on your routine and personal preference. If you are ok with washing diapers every day, you can go with a smaller amount of diapers, but if you’d like to wash every other day, you’ll need more clean diapers to get you from wash cycle to wash cycle.

Extras worth having:

  • wetbags for outings
  • cloth wipes
  • cloth safe diaper cream
  • a diaper sprayer
  • a Spray Pal splatter shield
  • fleece or disposable liners
  • extra diapers for extra days between washing and less wear

Cloth wipes are another optional item that you will probably find once you start with cloth are a pretty easy transition. We started our oldest with disposables for her first 2 months, and when we made the switch to cloth it was really hard to break the habit of rolling up the wipes in the diaper during changes, which led to lots of wipes going through the washing machine. Might as well go ahead and keep the habit going with cloth wipes and just wash them with your diapers to save some extra cash and trash!

The diaper sprayer was another must have for us once we started feeding our oldest solid foods. But, after the first time using it, we realized we’d need a way to keep the splatter off our bathroom walls and floor, so we invented the Spray Pal splatter shield. That has quickly become another must have for the optional items because paired with a diaper sprayer it makes the question “What do you do with the poo?” easy to answer.

2. How to deal with the “Yuck Factor”

Dirty diapers can quickly and easily be sprayed with a diaper sprayer and a Spray Pal!

It seems that most people who start to consider cloth diapers are immediately concerned with how gross it must be. I get it, the thought of actually having to deal with the poop instead of just rolling it up into a disposable poop burrito to toss in the trash seems daunting at first. ;) I promise you, I thought the same way until I tried cloth, and then I realized a few things:

  • As a new parent, you are going to deal with poop and other bodily fluids more than you ever have before in your life, regardless of what type of diapers you use.
  • Even if you use disposables, you should technically dispose of solid waste in the toilet where it can be treated properly. Otherwise, that poop burrito I mentioned could end up sitting in a landfill for 200-500 years. Now THAT’S gross.
  • Cloth diapers REALLY aren’t hard. Seriously. They aren’t. Once you get your routine down, it’s a piece of cake, and TOTALLY worth it.

So, routines. Everyone will have a different method that works for them, and it can become very overwhelming if you try to Google answers to specific routine questions or ask in groups full of cloth diapering parents from all over the country/world. I’m not going to tell you what will work best for you, because I can’t. What I CAN tell you is what worked for me under my specific conditions, and then I can tell you that it only took me about a week or two to get into a groove. We haven’t had issues since, and that’s been 3+ years. We did strip our diapers with blue dawn ONE time about a year ago after my son got a yeast rash, but that was it. Every once a month or so we might throw in about a quarter cup of bleach into a full wash cycle just to keep things extra clean, but you have to be careful with that because the use of bleach can void some cloth diaper warranties.

Here’s the wash routine that works for us using a top loading regular washer with hard water in Southern California.

  • 0-6 months EBF poop, we did a hot pre-rinse, then a hot cycle (with detergent) and a cold rinse .
  • Once we introduced solids, we found that by spraying the dirty diapers first, we were able to skip the pre-rinse cycle altogether. So now we just do a hot cycle with detergent and a cold rinse.
  • We wash our diapers every other day. We spray poop as it comes (easy with a Spray Pal), we sometimes also spray overnight diapers if they get that ammonia smell and we aren’t doing laundry that day.

That’s it, y’all. It really doesn’t have to be overly complicated AT ALL. ;)

Now as far as the ‘yuck factor” some people want to know how you handle it if your baby poops while you’re on an outing away from home. For this, you can use liners. The disposable ones work great for out of the house because most public plumbing should be able to handle it if you flush them. We personally skip the liners and just roll the dirty diaper up and throw it in the wetbag if it’s not ploppable, and then we spray it when we get home.

3. Different Styles and Terms

One of the biggest hurdles many parents mention when they are trying to figure out cloth diapers is the long and sometimes confusing list of terms. acronyms and styles related to cloth diapering. Many will become clear once you start doing your research, but there are a few that can be more elusive. For me, it was NWOT (new without tags)…that one took me forever!

Here is a great list of cloth diapering terms from Dirty Diaper Laundry:

As far as the different diaper styles, here are the basics:

  • Most ecomomical: Prefolds, flats, and covers. Basically in order to have a diaper, you just need an absorbent layer and a waterproof cover. You can even use flour sack towels or old cut up t-shirts for absorbency, it really doesn’t matter!
  • Most convenient: While I don’t personally find the other options difficult, many are looking for the option that is most like a disposable, especially if they are asking a child care provider to use cloth on their baby. For those people, I would recommend either an AIO (all in one), AI2 (all in two), or a pocket diaper. The AIOs are probably the easiest because they are just as described, all in one piece. You don’t have to do anything other than wash and put on your baby. Then repeat. AI2s are similar, only they have the option of using a disposable insert instead of the cloth insert. And pockets, once stuffed with their absorbent layer, are also very easy to use.
  • Most absorbent for overnight or heavy wetters: Fitteds are a very popular diaper for those who are looking for something super absorbent. They are not waterproof, although some WAHM (work at home mom) diapers are made as hybrid fitteds, which means they have a layer of fleece sewn inside that provides a little extra wetness protection, but the moisture can still make it’s way to the outer edges. So basically, just like the prefolds and flats, they will need a cover to maintain outer dryness. They are also often paired with a wool cover to provide all natural and breathable coverage. You don’t HAVE to put a cover on them if you would rather not. Just feel for wetness and change more frequently to allow that bum to breathe a bit. Perfect for hotter times of the year when you want to avoid heat rashes.

4. Expert Tips

After 3+ years cloth diapering two kids, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way that I like to share with parents who are just starting out. These are the “things I wish I knew when I started” also known as “If I could do it all over again, I’d do it this way.”

  • Snaps vs. Velcro/aplix/hook and loop. When I started, I thought for sure I wanted Velcro because it would be so much easier. Then I discovered snaps. They are seriously not hard, and the bonus is that they don’t wear out with washings, they don’t snag on other diapers, and they are harder for your child to figure out how to take off. So, yeah. As you can probably surmise, I’m a snaps girl all the way now. ;)
  • If you aren’t sure brand or style you want to invest in, start with a rental program. We did this with my daughter and it was the greatest thing ever. They sent us a box with 12 different brands/styles of cloth diapers, and we tried them all out for 3 weeks. This is smart since each baby is a different shape and size, and what works for one may not work for another. Plus, you’ll get to test out your routines for a while.
  • To buy newborns or not to buy newborns. With my daughter, we started with one size diapers because we made the switch when she was 2.5 months old. With my son, we used newborns. In fact, we used preemie cloth diapers before newborns even fit him because he was born at 25 weeks weighing 1lb 13oz. The decision as to whether or not you want to invest in newborn diapers is your own, but keep a few things in mind. You don’t know how big your baby will be when s/he is born. It may be a great investment if they are going to take a few months to grow into their one size diapers, or you may give birth to a toddler sized baby who will skip right past the newborn size. Either way, you could look into buying them used since most don’t get much wear and tear in a the short amount of time they are in use. And when you finish, you can resell them and recoup some of that cost.
  • Dealing with skeptics. When you first start letting people know that you’re planning to use cloth diapers, you may be surprised to find that not everyone will be supportive. If the negative comments are hard for you to deal with, here are some tips for coping. First, try politely sharing some of the amazing reasons why you feel cloth is better. You’ll be saving money, you’ll be keeping chemicals off your baby’s most sensitive skin, you’ll be helping the environment, and the list goes on. If they don’t seem to respond to those facts, then the best second step is to just prove them wrong. Keep at it and show them that cloth diapers are easy and adorable. They’ll have to concede your point eventually, and if not, they aren’t worth the stress.

I hope that this information is useful for you. Here at Spray Pal, we are all about helping #makeclothmainstream™, and we love helping people find the benefit to cloth diapers with great success! Feel free to send me a message on our Facebook page if you ever have any questions about cloth diapering, I’d be happy to help! - Jen (Mrs. Spray Pal)