Cloth Diapering Made Easy
If you’ve ever thought about trying cloth diapers, my advice is to DO IT! We’re on our second kid in cloth diapers, and I still love them as much as I did the first time around. Why?
– Cloth diapers are cheaper than disposable diapers.
– Cloth diapers produce less waste and are better for the environment.
– Cloth diapers give you the peace of mind of knowing exactly what you have resting 24/7 against your baby’s most sensitive parts.
Now, if you start trying to shop for cloth diapers online, you will likely fall down a rabbit hole of adorable $25+ all-in-one diapers with the most beautiful prints you have ever seen. These diapers are the most like disposable diapers in shape and function, and they require very little guesswork since the waterproof cover is attached to the absorbent diaper. These make good diapers for a babysitter or daycare, but for everyday use … RESIST THE TEMPTATION! Your life will be so much easier.
Once you open the door to fancy diapers, your life becomes a laundry nightmare. Or at least it does if you have a laundry brown thumb like I do. I have no room for the balancing act of trying to get diapers just clean enough to avoid giving my kid a rash but not so clean that bleach has destroyed the waterproofing and the elastics … and my $25 investment. Whenever I have to think about my cloth diapers as an investment, I feel like collapsing under the pressure.
If you think about cloth diapers as a totally functional workhorse of a baby item, however, your life will turn around. The easiest way to do this? Spend less money on them! My cloth diaper drawer is full of boring-looking formerly white diapers that now range in shades of yellow to grey (told you, I have a laundry brown thumb), but they totally WORK. Who can argue with a diaper that does its job?
My favorite cloth diapers these days are flat cloth diapers, which are just big squares of a single layer of cotton birdseye weave. They are magical because you can fold them in any number of ways to get the absorbency right where you need it, and one size will fit most babies. Here’s my tutorial on folding flats: https://talesofexpansion.com/2015/03/05/how-flat-diapers-saved-my-winter/.
Flats are SO. MUCH. EASIER. to wash than any other cloth diapers because, again, they unfold to a single layer of cotton and have no finicky elastics to worry about. They can handle diaper cream. They can handle hot water. They can handle vinegar in every rinse cycle. They can handle bleach if necessary. They can handle the dryer.
And if they reach their limit of laundry abuse and you have to replace them, they’ll run you about $20-$25 for a dozen, which won’t break the bank. In fact, most of our flat diapers came from the hospital for FREE because our hospital hands them out as burp cloths when you give birth to a new baby. I spent the summer asking every about-to-deliver friend I had to grab more for me, you know, in between contractions.
If you’re thinking about cloth diapering, I suggest you start with:
– 2-3 dozen flat cloth diapers
– 6 waterproof/water resistent covers (Wool covers are my favorite because my rashy babies need breathable diapers. Otherwise, I recommend Bummis Super Whisper Wraps because they seem to last much longer than other PUL covers on the market.)
– a 3-pack of Snappi diaper fasteners
– 3 dozen cloth wipes
– a 5-gallon plastic bucket (an empty paint bucket will do!) for dirty diapers
Here’s the wash routine that works for us:
– If your baby is eating solids, plop any, err, diaper solids into the toilet before washing. If your baby is still exclusively breastfed or formula-fed, you can skip this step.
– Run one express cold wash cycle with detergent in order to wash off any remaining “debris.”
– Run one hot deep wash cycle with detergent (I also add ¼ cup white vinegar in a Downy Ball or in the fabric softener dispenser), and add an extra rinse at the end.
– Dry on high.
As usual, this is just the system and routine that works for us. Everyone is different, and if beautiful investment diapers (or disposible diapers!) make you happy, then you should absolutely use them. Trial and error have taught me that simplicity works best for us, and I like to spread the cloth diaper love wherever I can. Happy diapering!
Sarah McLanahan, M.S.Ed., LICSW, lives in Gloucester, MA with her husband and two daughters. She has worked for several years supporting families of very young children through the daily highs and lows that accompany the transition to parenthood. With her own family, she tries to make sustainable and healthy choices when time and budget permit, a journey you can read more about on her blog, Tales of Expansion.
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