cloth diapering 101

Cloth Diapers for Beginners

So, you’ve decided to give cloth diapering a try. YAY!  Let’s dive into the beginner’s guide to cloth diapers. I’ve cloth diapered twins since birth, and am currently cloth diapering baby number 4. I’ve also filmed over 80 cloth diapering tutorial videos. That’s a lot of fluff.

cloth diapers for beginners

Shopping for Cloth Diapers

If you’re lucky enough to live in a town that boasts a cloth diaper store, awesome.

My personal reality has been online shopping – and to be honest, I’ve loved every minute of it. Stalking the mailman has become my favorite pastime. When inundated with feedings, crying and spit up, those cloth diaper deliveries can become pretty darn exciting.

There are numerous online diaper sellers. However, the first decision you’ll need to make is if you want to buy used or new diapers. If you choose to buy new, I suggest spending a few extra minutes comparing the major sites, since many of them offer reward opportunities or coupon codes which will gain you loads of freebies and free shipping.

My personal favorites are:

Nicki’s Diapers

Kelly’s Closet

If you are hesitant to use cloth, or have a partner who is not overly thrilled with the idea, you may want to look into purchasing some pre-owned diapers to keep your initial costs down. Buying slightly used diapers is also an excellent opportunity to try out different brands or types before committing too much of your diaper stash budget on a diaper that either doesn’t fit your baby well or you do not overly love. Check out eBay for some great deals.

Building Your Cloth Diaper Stash

This is the fun part. Your personal diaper stash will be something you will want to brag about. It might even surpass your shoe or handbag collection in terms of your love and affection. (At least during the baby years.)

So how many diapers do you really need? The actual number is highly debatable. Your tolerance for laundry and your motivation for cloth diapering in the first place will factor in to your final count. As well as how diaper crazy you become. Sounds far-fetched now, but you’ll see.

Here are my recommendations:

12-15 Diapers = Once a Day Laundry

24-30 Diapers = Every Other Day Laundry

Simply double the number for each additional child. I have about 60-80 pocket diapers in my working stash for our twins.

Keep in mind that no self-respecting diaper stash should be born overnight. You will find that some diapers that worked for you in the beginning, may be completely useless as your child ages, and vise versa. Just remember that building your stash is part of the fun.

Finding the best diaper for you and your baby takes some time, which is why it is never wise to invest all your money too soon in one brand of diaper just because it worked best for someone else. In the beginning spread your money around as best you can. Spend a few weeks using them on your baby and then once you pinpoint some brands that you love, sell the ones you don’t, and fill out your stash with your favorites.

Cloth Diapering Systems

Prefolds, Covers, Fitteds, Pockets, AIOs, AI2s…. huh?!

To begin I suggest keeping it simple. Stick to the easy ones, and buy either the AIO’s or Pocket diapers – the Pockets being my personal favorite as the absorbency can be customized as your child grows, and the price is right. Here is a description of the differences.

Prefolds: These are the kind your Grandma used and are essentially a cotton rectangle. I bought about 60 of these prior to the birth of our twins, and used them extensively as burp cloths. At a dollar a piece these are a steal, and are my absolute favorite cloth diaper “accessory”.

Covers: This is a waterproof shell that you place over your prefold to keep the wetness contained. A cover alone does not make a diaper.

Fitted Diapers: Typically cotton, hemp or velour these can be fastened to your baby with snaps or aplix (velcro) and usually have elastic to conform to your baby easily. A cover is needed to contain the wetness since the layers are not waterproof.

Pocket Diapers: These are my personal preference in a diaper type. They do not require a cover since this feature is built-in. The outer layer is waterproof. There is an inner pocket that you stuff with an absorbent material prior to use. Typically the inserts are sold along with the diaper. The diaper fastens with either snaps or aplix (velcro).

AIO (All In One): This is the simplest diaper system. Everything is built-in to the diaper. You simply wash and wear. The downside to these diapers is higher costs and extended drying times.

AI2 (All In Two): These are essentially the same as an AIO; however the inner soaker material can be removed to allow for shorter drying time.

Snaps vs. Aplix

So which one? Again, get some of each.

When the babies were little, and we were starting out, I loved the aplix (velco) fasteners. It was easier, faster, more like a disposable diaper. Then as the babies grew bigger, and the aplix started to fray, I found the diapers floating unfastened within their onesies in the middle of the night. That was the moment we switched our loyalty to snaps.

On the other hand, I have had several snaps pop off our diapers, and have spent an agonizing week fastening diapers after injuring my hand. Bottom line – don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Hopefully, if nothing else, I have hammered that advice into the ground. Diversify.

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

Modern washing machines are able to handle whatever your little one can throw at it. The tricky part here is figuring out what washing routine works best with your particular machine and water type. You will need to use a “diaper safe” detergent, but this is fairly easy. Essentially any clear or sensitive detergent will be fine.

cloth diaper wash routine

The Wash Routine can be as simple or as complicated as you like. Play around with your settings. Don’t be afraid. See what works. Here’s how I wash mine.

  • Cold/Warm Soak & Rinse
  • Hot Wash
  • Cold/Warm Rinse
  • Medium Heat Dry

Cloth Diaper Accessories

Really – this section could be an entire post in itself. Minimally I recommend getting yourself these three items.

  • Flip Top Kitchen Trash Can
  • Pail Liners to hold your dirty diapers. Any pail liner will work, but I have all Planet Wise Pail Liners and have found them to be fabulous.
  • A Diaper Sprayer will also make your life a lot easier. I hooked ours up to the toilet myself. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, the poop and all can be thrown into your washing machine. So this item won’t be necessary until you start in on solid food.

The Trial Period

After our kids were born, we were given several cases of disposable diapers, and we used them. This helped us to ease into cloth. If you are starting out with a newborn, you may be tempted to give up. Remember, your baby won’t need a hundred diaper changes a day forever. If it seems overwhelming, wait a month, and then try again. You may find the cloth love once you are less sleep deprived.

Have doubts? Here are some reasons to cloth diaper.