All You Need To Know About Cloth Diapers
Psst… did you know that cloth diapers are making a comeback? With people looking to go green and find planet friendly options disposables are looking more and more wasteful. There hasn’t been a single disposable diaper out there that’s actually broken down and decomposed yet. Crazy right? Cloth diapering your baby can seem overwhelming at first. With all the different kinds of cloth diapers out there it’s enough to make any mama furrow her brow and look the other way. Fear not, I’ll give you the low down on everything cloth diapers.
Types of cloth diapers:
AIOs (All in Ones):
These are like disposables without the waste. Simply fasten on to baby and go. They have snaps for the rise and waste so that the diaper can be used from newborn to toddler.
Pros: Quick diaper changes. Easy for daycare and nana. The closest diaper to disposables without the waste and chemicals of course!
Cons: More material packed into one diaper means a longer wash and drying time. This can easily be the most expensive cloth diapering method. AIOs can be on the bulkier side.
Hybrid / AI2s (All in Twos)
These come with a waterproof shell and snaps inside to fasten an absorbent insert into. If baby only pees you can usually just remove the insert and reuse the shell a couple times provided the cover is still clean and dry.
Pros: Quick diaper changes. Simple enough for nana to help. Faster drying times than AIOs.
Cons: Once you commit to buying the inserts for AI2 shells you can’t use the snap in inserts with other brands but the shells can be used with other inserts without the snaps so you don’t necessarily have to fully commit to one diaper brand.
These diapers are the absorbent part of a diaper and come in several sizes from newborn all the way up to 35LBS +. You need to put a cover over the fitted diaper to make it waterproof.
Pros: Easy to put on baby without any prep time required. Nana could snap this onto baby easily.
Cons: Fitteds can be costly as you need to move up in sizes as baby grows. Those who don’t normally change baby can forget to put the diaper cover on. Ahhem… pay attention hubbies!
Pocket diapers have a waterproof shell. Inside the diaper there is a pocket, usually made of moisture wicking microfleece that you stuff with an absorbent material. The whole diaper needs to be changed at each diaper change. You can also lay the insert on top of the cover.
Pros: Great nighttime solution to stuff with extra absorbent inserts or boosters to last baby through the night. Washes and dries more quickly than AIOs.
Cons: Require more prep time to stuff the diapers
Flats and Prefolds
Flats are just as they sound… a flat piece of absorbent cloth that you fold and fasten to baby with pins, a snappi, or just placed folded in a diaper cover. Prefolds are like a flat but stitched into thirds to make folding easier. Yes, you still need to fold these despite the name! The center piece has more layers of material to put the absorbency where it’s needed most. These require a diaper cover.
Pros: Least expensive option. Quicker drying time. There are many different folding options to customize to your baby’s needs.
Cons: Daycares are not likely to support the use of prefolds and flats. Prefolds and flats can be difficult for others to help with diaper changes.
Diaper inserts are rectangular or hourglass in shape and can be used as the absorbent material with a diaper cover.
Boosters are smaller than inserts and are intended to be used in conjunction with a diaper like a prefold, insert, a flat, or fitted diaper.
The fun part of cloth diapering is that you do not have to fully commit to one brand and one type of cloth diaper. You can mix and match to find the combination that best works for your baby and build your stash over time.
Cloth Diaper Materials
Cloth diapers come in many different materials. I’ll talk about the most common ones out there.
Cotton – great absorbency, can be on the bulkier side
Hemp – Best material to hold the most amount of wetness and is surprisingly trim but is typically a slow and steady absorber. It’s best to use this behind something like cotton, microfiber, or bamboo. Hemp does not leak when compressed.
Bamboo – great absorbency, trim, and soft against baby’s skin. It’s usually made of rayon (a material derived from bamboo but is manmade) and blended with cotton. Bamboo does not leak when compressed.
Microfiber – A manmade material this sucks in liquid very quickly but does suffer from compression leaks. Microfiber cannot go directly against baby’s skin as it’s so absorbent that it will take away baby’s natural skin moisture leaving her dry and chapped.
Microfleece – A manmade material with a stay-dry effect. This is specifically used to go directly against baby’s skin to make them feel dryer longer. Wetness quickly moves through this material. Microfleece is not intended to hold liquid. It must be used with an absorbent material behind it.
How do I cloth diaper?
When I found out I was pregnant I knew I didn’t want to use disposables. As a first time mom I also did not want to worry about laundering cloth diapers while learning how to do everything else with my new baby. The alternative? I used a cloth diaper service for the first several months. The cost for that time period was comparable to that of disposables. All I had to do was put the used diapers on the doorstep each week and a new batch would be delivered. I used this time to learn my baby’s elimination needs and research and test out different cloth diaper options for my baby before building out my full stash.
What’s in my cloth diaper stash?
For daytime I use GroVia shells with Thirsties inserts made of a hemp/cotton blend. I have never had a leak thus far and my son is 9 months old now. I also use the AppleCheeks training pants for light daytime use, specifically when I can concentrate on my son 100% and catch him before he needs to go.
For nighttime I use an AppleCheeks pocket diaper. I have a few different combinations on the go for stuffing the diaper none of which has ever led to a leak. Here are some of the different combinations I use:
1. AppleCheeks pocket diaper stuffed with a Bummis Organic Cotton Prefold – bulky but great absorber.
2. AppleCheeks pocket diaper stuffed with an AMP hemp/cotton flat and one AMP hemp booster.
What you stuff the diaper with for nighttime depends on how much your baby goes in the night. I’ve been able to cut back as his night feeds reduced. My son is also not a fast super soaker so I can get away with using the hemp and cotton blends.
How I Wash My Cloth Diapers
Getting the right rhythm and method down for washing cloth diapers can be tricky, more so if you have a high efficiency front loader. Cloth diapers need a lot of water to wash while HE machines are designed to wash with less. After some tweaking with my Samsung front loader, this is what I find works best washing every other morning. Note: I always thoroughly rinse out the nighttime diaper first thing in the morning under running water.
1. Put all diapers in the diaper pail with a towel. I usually use one or two change table cloths in need of a wash. Fill pail with water. I do this to increase the weight, which directs the machine to call more water for the wash.
2. Place all contents into the washing machine.
3. Use the recommended amount of a cloth diaper friendly detergent.
4. I set the machine to do a prewash first without detergent. Then I do a heavy duty wash on hot water. This setting will call even more water for the wash. I then finish with an extra rinse. You want lots of water to help clean through the layers of cloth in the diapers.
5. This particular wash cycle runs for 1.5 hours.
6. After the load is complete I always smell some of the diaper inserts. They should smell like nothing. If I detect some detergent I put on the rinse and spin cycle to wash out any remaining soap. Detergent build up on diapers can cause repelling so this is something you definitely want to avoid.
7. In summer I hang all diapers outside to dry. In winter, I hang inside with a fan directed on them. This helps speed up the drying time without a big hit on your electricity bill. In the evening I put all diapers excluding covers, into the dryer for 20 to 30 minutes on high. This gets the diapers fluffy and removes any remaining dampness.
A Note about Poop
Poop from babies who are breastfed only can go directly into the washing machine. Poop from formula fed babies and babies who have solids are not water soluble and will need to be removed from the diaper first. If the diaper comes out of the wash with stain marks but does not smell you can use the best of Mother Nature to zap the stain and place the diaper in the sun to remove the stain for you.
What questions do you have about cloth diapering? Is anything holding you back?