Okay, I can't really call this "cloth diapering 101" because I actually don't know a whole ton about cloth diapering, but I couldn't think of a clever title. Right, moving on.
Prior to getting pregnant, I was intrigued with the concept of cloth diapering, but not totally sold. What about all the poop? You mean I'm supposed to put poop in my washer? Sidenote: I cannot believe I have now typed out the word "poop" twice already for all the world to see. Motherhood changes you. I'd read all the convincing reasons why cloth diapers are so great - better for the environment, better for baby's skin, more budget-friendly in the longterm. But I still couldn't commit. Because, poop. Gross.
Thankfully, my awesome brother-in-law and his wife were also pregnant at the same time as us, and had our nephew just three months before Xavier was born. And Andrew and Jennilyn decided to cloth diaper, so they paved the way and made it super easy for us. I asked Jennilyn one zillion questions, and it all seemed much more doable once I knew someone that was doing it. Not just so she could do all the research that I didn't feel like doing (thanks for that, Jennilyn!) but also so we didn't feel like the family weirdos doing the hippie cloth thing. Jennilyn and I are veryyyyy similar, and I just sort of felt like if she could manage it, so could I.
So we just jumped right in! Matt and I took a cloth diaper overview class at our local cloth diaper store when I was pregnant, which was super beneficial. We got to see and touch all the different types of diapers, look at different brands and really have the process explained. I was pretty set on using a Flip system prior to the class and although we saw lots of different diaper types, decided to stick with my gut and go with the Flips. I stay at home with Xave, so I wanted enough diapers for 2-3 days' worth of changes before needing to do laundry. It was right around 2 days' worth in the beginning, when you're changing diapers 10 or 12 times a day. Now that he's a bit older, they last 3 days or so with 6-8 changes per day. The laundry thing was a big consideration for me; I didn't want to feel like a laundry slave, constantly washing diapers. I'm happy to report that it really hasn't added much to the household workload. Like I said, we do one diaper load every 3 days or so. I'll get to the laundry routine a bit later, but it truly is no big deal. Caveat: once Xavier starts solids, it might be a little trickier. As of now, we don't have a diaper sprayer and have never sprayed/dunked/rinsed the diapers. Because he's exclusively breastfed, rinsing isn't necessary yet. Maybe I'll update this post once that becomes part of our routine.
So here's the skinny on exactly what we have in our stash:
- 14 Flip covers (hook & loop kind, which basically means they snap instead of velcro. Everyone I talked to recommended snaps over velcro, because velcro tends to wear out much faster.)
- 28 Flip StayDry inserts
- 6 hemp doublers (we just started using these overnight and they are a GAME-CHANGER. Xave stays dry - no soak-throughs - from 9:30pm until 6:30am!)
- 3 small wetbags for the diaper bag
- 1 large wetbag for all-day outings (we used this when traveling to Hawaii and it held everything from our loooooong travel day)
- 2 wetbag pail liners (we have one of these and one of these)
- 45 flannel wipes
- diaper pail (a cheap plastic trash can with lid that you can step to open)
- wipe spray
- 4 BumGenius FreeTime all-in-one diapers (we keep these in the diaper bag or leave them for when someone babysits since they're as close to a "normal" diaper as you can get)
We also tried the Flip disposable inserts, but hated them. They didn't absorb very much and gave Xavier a diaper rash. And we do have a roll of disposable liners that we plan to use once he starts solids, we just haven't needed them yet. I also have a wipe case for the diaper bag to keep a stash of cloth wipes on the go. It holds around 10 cloth wipes.
How it works: it really doesn't feel much different from changing a disposable diaper - something I have done hundreds of times during my 12 years as a nanny. Unsnap the diaper cover. Grab the whole diaper out from underneat his little bum. If it's just wet, I shake the insert into the diaper pail and lay the cover out on the dresser to air out. If it's dirty, the whole thing (insert + cover) goes into the pail. You never touch anything gross and it's all pretty painless. We'll reuse a cover 2 or 3 times if was just wet before throwing the cover into the pail as well. It's the same when we're out and about, we just toss the whole diaper (insert + cover or all-in-one if that's what we used) into the small wetbag. The wetbags are truly awesome and hold up to the job - they never leak or smell. Once we get home we empty the wetbag into the diaper pail and toss the bag in too and that's that! Easy as pie.
Laundry: as I mentioned earlier, the laundry situation really isn't that hard at all. Every 3 days or so, I take the pail liner out of the pail, carry it to the washer and dump it in. Throw the liner in too, along with a couple of old towels to bulk up the load and ensure everything gets clean. We use regular Tide powder detergent. And before you say it - I KNOW Tide is full of chemicals and terrible-for-you ingredients. But we've now tried two different all-natural detergents (Rockin' Green, which was expensive and recommended by our cloth diaper store, and Thieves Laundry Soap from Young Living) and neither one got our diapers clean. So the dilemma was this: get totally clean diapers and not have the nursery smell like a porta-potty at a NASCAR race, or use all-natural detergent and not get the diapers totally clean. We picked the clean diapers. And to make up for it, we try to go with all-natural products for everything else as much as possible. Which leads me to my next point...how to know if your diapers were clean. For the first few weeks, everything seemed fine. And then we started to notice a lingering smell in the nursery. We figured it was because we weren't using a pail with a lid - originally we were told that airflow is better to dissipate the smell, so we just had a wetbag hanging on the door. Enter: the pail with lid. The smell didn't really go away. Then I started noticing a lingering pee smell when I was taking the inserts out of the dryer, which didn't seem right since they had JUST been washed. I texted Jennilyn to ask if they'd had a similar problem and she pointed me in the right direction. She recommended switching up our wash routine and using Tide powder instead. I found our exact washer listed on Fluff Love University, and use the wash routine they recommend. Once we changed how we wash + switched to Tide, the smell disappeared. I just tried the Young Living detergent over the last few weeks, however, and the smell came right back. So back to Tide we go. Basically what happens when cloth diapers get washed is that the ammonia present in pee has to be neutralized. If it doesn't get neutralized, once the insert gets used again, the new pee hits the old pee and the result is a TERRIBLE smell. From my experience, the all-natural detergents just aren't strong enough to neutralize the ammonia and the result is not-so-clean diapers. As for the poop in my washer, it's really a non-issue. Breastfed babies' poop is liquid anyway, so there's nothing solid in there. We just don't wash anything else with the diapers (except those old towels to bulk up the load) and that's that. It's really no different from washing blood out of a pillowcase when you get a bloody nose, or anything else. I truly thought I'd be squeamish about this but it's just all so contained that it really doesn't gross me out!
Okay, whew. That was a lot. A few more points to wrap up:
- Diaper rash cream: it's important to use a cream that's cloth diaper safe (and there aren't many options.) We personally just use plain old coconut oil, and it works great. And for what it's worth, we've dealt with so few diaper rashes thanks to cloth. Occasionally he'll get one if we go too long without changing him, or when we've used disposable wipes. And blowouts? Nonexistent. He has not had one single blowout in five months. He's soaked through a few times overnight, but absolutely zero poop-up-the-back blowout deals. And that, my friends, makes it all worth it in and of itself!
- Babysitters: from our experience, it's really not that big of a deal for babysitters or anyone who watches your little one, once you show them how to do it. This also can totally depend on the kind of diaper you use. There are definitely much less user-friendly versions, so if you're little one is going to be cared for by lots of different people, maybe plan on using a system that's pretty easy.
- Cost: we spent about $350 up front (and actually, our whole system was gifted to us, which was a huge blessing) and that's pretty much been it. We have to buy detergent, obviously, and the wipe spray about once a month (but you could use water or make your own to cut costs.) It's been really, really convenient to not be constantly running to the store for diapers and wipes. Between breastfeeding and cloth diapering, our monthly expenses have truly barely increased since having a baby. Here's an in-depth cost breakdown that was really helpful for me if you're interested.
- Size: our Flip system is one-size-fits-all. Because of the adjustability of the snaps, it's the only diapers we'll need until he potty trains. They don't fit very well until a baby is 10 pounds or so, so you might need newborn specific ones to start out, or just use disposables until the cloth ones fit well. We personally rented a newborn set from a cloth diaper store in Kansas City. They shipped the diapers to us a week before my duedate and we used them for 6 weeks until the Flips fit. It was SUPER affordable, too. We paid a $300 deposit up front, but they only charge you $12/week for however many weeks you use the diapers, and refund the rest. So it only ended up costing us $72 for the 6 weeks we used them, and we got the rest back as a check in the mail. Definitely more affordable than buying a whole newborn set! You can also rent a trial set from them and have it shipped, if you're on the fence about it.
- Bulkiness: I haven't personally found the bulkiness of cloth to be annoying. I think Flips are pretty trim (cloth diaper lingo for not-so-bulky) and it really hasn't been an issue. If you're trying to stuff your baby into skinny jeans super often, or maybe if you have a girl are trying to dress her in leggings or tights or really tight clothing, it might be an issue. Also, they make these adorable pants called Maxaloones that are made specifically for cloth diapers and they are SO CUTE. They're on my wishlist fo' sho.
And one last thing: I don't have much experience with any other brands or types of diaper except the ones I mentioned. We did try a Rumparooz pocket diaper, a Thirsties cover + insert, and a Gerber all-in-one and weren't impressed with any of them. Xavier soaked through them all super quickly, and the Thirsties are specific sizes so you'd need to have several sizes as baby grows. We're just going to stick with the Flips. But there are tons of resale groups and consignment sales all over the place for cloth diapers, so it's pretty easy to get different styles and brands for relatively cheap to try some out before you commit. And lastly, it's really only cost-effective if you don't get sucked into all the cute prints and things. The world of cloth diapering can get CRAY CRAY and people pay crazy amounts of money for limited edition prints and all that jazz. I personally just bought all solid colors because a) I'm boring and b) he does POOP in these after all. Keep that in mind and maybe spend your hard-earned dollars on something a little more fun, eh?
Leave any questions in the comments and I'll do my best to answer! Thanks for reading this doozy of a post; I hope it's helpful! XOXO!