I knew what cloth diapers were. My mom had used them on us as kids, but they were this huge undertaking in my mind. I was starting to learn about them prior to having kids, and I loved the idea of them, but I was hesitant to commit. I thought my family would think I was insane for even thinking about it…
Then my mom and sister asked me if I was going to cloth diaper…and encouraged me to do so. THEN we saw adorable cloth diapers in the store…SOLD!
Once Little Man was actually here, it took a while to really dive in. I never really received or purchased any diapers before he was born (well, he was born 3+ weeks early, so there was actually A LOT I had not done yet!) As a brand new mom, with a brand new cold, and a brand new level of exhaustion, I embraced the “ease” of disposable diapers. Let me say, I don’t feel cloth diapering has to be more complex than disposables, personally, but I still hadn’t quite figured it all out, so it was this HUGE thing to me at the time.
Before I get too far, let’s start off with some vocabulary:
Types of Diapers:
Flats: THE ORIGINAL. These are just a large, flat, thin piece of cloth. It can be folded in many different ways (depending on size, age, gender, etc), fastened with pins or snappis, and then has to be covered with a waterproof diaper cover. They can also be used in other diapers for additional absorbency.
Prefolds: These are similar to flats, that they are a square/rectangular cloth that has to be folded and placed on the baby with pins or snappis, and covered with a waterproof diaper cover. The difference are that these have a thicker section in the center of the cloth. These are often used by both cloth diaper and non-cloth diaper parents as awesome burp rags.
Fitteds: These are basically a prefold that has been shaped more like a commonly known “diaper” shape, so no folding is needed. Simply wrap around baby like a disposable and secure. There are ones that require pins or a snappi, or there are ones that have snaps attached that you use. These require a waterproof cover.Pocket Diapers: These are waterproof “shells” that have a thin inner layer of fabric. There is an opening at one or more ends of the diaper to place inserts between the layers for absorbency. You buy the diaper and the inserts separately, usually, so if you decide you like one type of shell and a different type of insert, you can mix and match. The ones that have two openings (one on each end), are sometimes called “Sleeve” diapers. There doesn’t seem to be many of them around that I have seen. The benefit of these “sleeves” is that you do not have to remove the inserts after use. Simply drop them in the wash and they agitate out. With pocket diapers with only one opening, you must remove the inserts prior to washing.
All-in-Twos: The same idea as a pocket diaper, but instead of going inside a pocket, it lays or snaps directly on top of the diaper. This means the insert is directly touching the baby’s skin. Again, as long as the shell/cover is not soiled, you can simply replace the insert with a clean one and use the same cover again.
All-in-Ones: These are probably the closest to a disposable. They are a waterproof diaper with 1-2 strips of fabric attached inside, and sometimes another strip to snap in. You basically lay baby on top, and snap or velcro the sides down like a disposable. These tend to cost more than the others, and they take longer to dry.
Hybrids: These are like All-in-Twos, but they can be used with cloth inserts, or disposable inserts.
One Size or OS Diapers: These are adjustable diapers that are made to fit babies from birth to potty training (actual sizing is slightly different for different diapers). You simply snap the length of the diaper up or down to fit baby, and then tighten or loosen the waist accordingly.
Sized Diapers: These are self explanatory. They come in different sizes just like disposables. You have to move up in size as your baby grow into the next weight range.
Inserts come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and materials. There can be a lot to take in, but if you take the time to try it out, it can be great! Also, for anyone trying it out for the first time, I HIGHLY suggest getting an assorted supply of different types/brands and testing them out. Each person is going to prefer different things, and sometimes things fit one baby better than others! (Just like disposables!) Many cloth diaper stores have “bundles” that you can purchase to test out diapers styles/brands, and then you can return what you don’t like for store credit.
Wash, Wash, Wash:
When I decided to start trying cloth, I knew I needed a wash routine. I tested my water hardness and headed over to Fluff Love & CD Science on Facebook. Some people don’t agree with them, but I understand all of their reasoning behind the things they do, and it works for my diapers. A LOT of people use them (hello, almost 100,000 members at the moment). There are a lot of beliefs on washing routines out there, and even the manufacturers each have their own directions. Less detergent, more detergent, extra rinses, no rinses, this detergent, that detergent, etc., etc. Just go to Fluff Love and dive in. They even have pages dedicated to specific washing machines to tell you, based on their own testing, what methods work best for each machine!
When Little Man was tiny, I fell in love with flats. I bought 20-30 flour sack towels at Walmart, washed them a few times, and folded them into a fold for newborns. I kept the stack by the changing table and just laid Little Man on top of one, wrapped it around him, snapped it into place, threw on a cover (we were gifted a few) and we were good to go. Cheap, easy, and kinda fun. I think the towels cost about $10 for 10 of them at the time. Once Little Man was 3-5 month old he started out peeing them. Insert my next love…
Fitteds! I decided to give fitteds a try. I bought three. I LOVED them. I bought the sized ones from Green Mountain Diapers that had snaps. I quickly bought more. Lay baby down, wrap it around, snap to fit, slap on a cover, or leave it without a cover if you are just hanging out around the house. Change when you start to feel dampness. They were super absorbent, so I never really had a “leak” issue if I left a cover off. His diaper just felt kind of moist or rigid, and I would change it.
I briefly tried sleeves. I still feel like I’m too lazy to do pocket diapers (stuffing before use AND removing insert after use? Bah!) Sleeves allowed me to just toss the in the wash and go. I liked the concept, but I could only find them still made in one brand, Thirsties, and I just wasn’t impressed with the diaper quality or the fit for Little Man. They quickly became my least favorite.
When Little Man started to outgrow his fitteds, it was time to decide if I wanted to buy the next size up, or try something else. I had won some Sweet Pea AIOs (All-in-Ones) in a giveaway and was kind of liking the ease of them. I was surviving on a tiny stash of those and my Thirsties. Like me Thirsties, I wasn’t in love with the fit of the Sweet Pea diapers. They worked great if I got them on him just right, but they were super bulky, and tended to leak. (Many people LOVE this brand, I just didn’t have a great time with them).
Eventually I purchased some GroVia AIOs and some BumGenius Freetimes (AIOs).
GroVia AIOs snap differently than other diapers. The side wings fold in and the squared off front snaps on top of them. They create a nice, trim fit and look. I love it. They are cotton inside, so that means that you can feel the moisture on them, which means Little Man can feel the moisture against his skin. Some people prefer this, because the theory is that it gets baby use to the idea of wet vs dry, so they aren’t just sitting around in a wet diaper all day without caring. Some think it helps in potty training, because little ones can associate the feeling of urinating with the feeling of a wet diaper.
BumGenius is a very popular brand. You can buy them in cloth diaper stores, as well as more mainstream stores like Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby. They also come in super cute colors and patterns (SO important!). I went with the Freetimes because I wanted to have AIOs. I wasn’t really thinking about the microfiber, stay dry liners. It has two inserts sewed in like flaps that you lay over one another and place on baby. These stay dry materials do just that, they feel “dry” even when wet…much like a disposable diaper. In hindsight, I might have got with the BumGenius Elementals, which are cotton, but I didn’t really know about them at the time. It’s not a hug deal, and I may try them in the future, but if you are wanting to stick to cotton, BumGenius does have that option!
Eventually I got rid of all of my other diapers (There are lots of places and Facebook groups online to sell diapers, as well as many cloth diapers stores will buy back for store credit), and am a full GroVia and BumGenius convert. Honestly, I’d be 100% GroVia if I could, but the convenience of a local supply of BumGenius, as well as their much larger selection of cute colors (I am not a hug fan of about half of the GroVia prints/colors), means that BumGenius stays around!
I think if/when we have more kids, I will stick my with the flats and fitteds for when they are little, but once they get more active, and begin fighting changes more, AIOs are just easier for me.
So ultimately my advice is:
- If you want to try cloth, don’t be afraid, just test it out!
- Look for starter pack deals with cloth diapers stores to test out before committing to a specific stash
- Don’t invest in all one type/brand of diaper before even testing things on your baby
- Find what works for you and your baby and then try to ignore the desire to BUY ALL THE DIAPERS
- If you try it out and it’s not for you, that’s fine!
That’s the story of my journey through cloth diapering so far. Some time I’ll share about some of the other things I like to use with my cloth diapering routine, but I think the above is PLENTY to absorb for now!
NOTE: I feel like my experience talking to other cloth families, that pockets are the way most go. They are middle of the line price and “complexity” and allow for a more dynamic mix of materials based on specific needs. I, again, just feel too lazy to stuff and unstuff them. That may just be in my head…I may try them one day…I’m actually already leaning towards trying out some hybrids!