Everybody loves a great cloth diapering basics post right? I’ve been writing about cloth diapering for years now, but mostly just product reviews because that’s simple, easy and fun. Every now and then it’s even more fun to have a how to get started with cloth diapering post that outlines the basics of cloth diapering and maybe can help you know where to even start?
This cloth diapering post was originally published on NorthernBCMoms as Cloth Diapering 101. You can also learn more about cloth diapering styles at Cloth Diaper Podcast or check out my book – now available on Amazon and Paperback to et started cloth diapering.
This cloth diaper post contains affiliate links. I should disclose I’m also an Omaiki brand ambassador for 2018. This post is my truthful and honest opinion and is never swayed by money.
Cloth diapering is super simple.
Cloth diapering is super overwhelming.
There are so many styles, designs, brands, fibres, price points, techniques, and tips. It’s hard to absorb all of that information and figure out what to do with it. I’m going to try to break it down.
Building a Stash
Stash: that’s the term, cloth diaper enthusiasts use to refer to their collection of cloth diapers.
The bare minimum suggested stash size is 24 cloth diaper changes. That’s about 2-3 days of cloth diapers. I would recommend upwards of 30 depending on budget to give you wiggle room when you forget about laundry, life happens, and the world just struggles bus about parenting.
My perfect stash is what I bring on my travels with me. Check out my cloth diaper travel stash.
Cloth diaper parents change their diapers every 2 hours. This is the standard practice of care for diaper hygiene practiced in child care facilities. A cloth diaper is expected to last about 2 hours, with exceptions made for naps and bedtime (that’s when we consider sourcing nighttime cloth diapers depending on your child’s output.
What Do I Buy?
Every cloth diaper has a loyal fan base. If you ask for a mom group or cloth diaper Facebook group, you’ll easily get bombarded with a thousand plus suggestions for this brand or that brand and not much of anything else. Find out more about the perfect cloth diaper stash.
They are all good brands and they all work for some people.
If you are buying new or used, my suggestion is always to buy a few different types of cloth diapers. Never buy an entire stash of pocket cloth diapers with microfibre, or natural fibre all in one diaper, or fitted diapers and wool. Don’t do it because you might learn you hate stuffing pocket cloth diapers, or maybe your baby pees too much for an all in one cloth diaper, or perhaps they have an allergy to the elastics in a certain cloth diaper cover. Buy a little of everything and try it out first. Need some guidance: Here are my three favourite cloth diapers to get you started.
Try a few pocket cloth diapers, a few all in one cloth diapers, and a few cloth diaper covers. Try different options to see what works for you and your lifestyle.
You might consider buying 4-5 pockets, 4-5 all in ones, and maybe 2-3 covers and 6 natural fibre inserts/prefold or flat diapers. If you click that big yellow button at the bottom it’ll give you my start a stash worksheet for the perfectly diverse cloth diaper stash. This should give you a good feel for the experience, it’s then easier to swap, trade, sell and repurpose your stash later on. If you’re on a budget and you honestly don’t have the room to play around with trying out diapers – buy pockets and covers – try a few affordable brands paired with low-cost absorbent materials (repurpose old t-shirts, receiving blankets, flour sack towels, and more to really cut down costs. I cloth diapered a toddler for $100 here.
If you are buying new, my suggestion is always to buy a few different cloth diapers based on the prints and colours you like. I really believe if you think it’s beautiful, you might make time for it. If it brings you joy, then you will make time for it.
If you are buying used, stay on budget but be aware of what is a good deal, and what isn’t. I’m going to cut to the chase and honestly tell you the cloth diaper resale market is trash. I would never pay more than 50% retail for a used cloth diaper, at least in the Prince George market. Even like-new to excellent used condition, 25% off of retail is the bare maximum I’d pay. With cloth diaper sales, clearance, and more, it’s easy enough to buy diapers for cheap straight from the retailer, so why would I pay near retail prices for used? [The exception is in the world of hard to find, limited edition, exclusive prints and solids. Yes, that’s a thing]
- Consider if you have time to repair a cloth diaper. Are you crafty? Elastics can easily go after sitting for months/years, and with regular use.
- Consider if you will need to replace the absorbency of the diaper? Microfibre has an expected lifespan of 2-3 years with the fibres shedding and reducing overall absorbency capacity.
- Check out the condition of the inside of the diaper. Is the PUL breaking, tearing, or beginning to bubble? If so, stay away.
- Connect with the admin of any cloth diaper buy and sell group to further connect about any “deals” you might think exist.
Cloth Diapering at Night: If you want to go 8-10 hours without waking up in the night to change the baby, you might consider some night time cloth diapers. This is really going to vary based on your kids output. Cloth diapering is about learning, experimenting, and problem solving. Mama, I know you feel like you have zero brain cells left, but you can do this. There is an entire cloth diaper community behind you to support you. Find your community online or in person. Visit your local retailer, chat with other moms, and search for Facebook groups related to your favourite brands or even stores – CozyBums has a group on facebook too.
Now What? Cloth Diaper Prep
You need to get your cloth diapers ready for use.
If you bought new then you need to wash your cloth diapers at least once, just like you would with clothing. Some natural fibre cloth diapers need to be washed more than once to be absorbent, best to check with your retailer for brand specific information. Just wash on hot with detergent, like you would wash towels or other clothing.
If you bought used, then you need to sanitize your cloth diapers with a quick bleach wash, or if you’d prefer an alternative Bummis Mini Kiwi Sanitizer is a great disinfectant. This keeps any potential yeast away, and peace of mind more than anything.
After a quick and easy wash, dry and assemble. Everything can go in the dryer at a low to medium heat, but you might find your diaper covers and pocket last longer if hung to dry. I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to hang diapers, but this is heavily disputed. You do you.
Assembling diapers might get confusing and this is really specific to the brand and style of cloth diaper you choose.
- Rise Settings: This is going to take some playing around as you figure out which rise setting is best for you kid. It’s not straightforward because it depends on the size of your kid and the diaper (and absorbency) you are using.
- Start small, and work your way bigger – if you can’t get the flaps over the thighs then you probably need to go up a size. If you have bum crack, then you probably need to go up a size. If you have leg gaps, then you maybe need to go down a size.
- Just experiment, and trust in yourself and your problem-solving skills.
- Reach out for help if you need it.
- Absorbency: Absorbency either goes inside a pocket cloth diaper or on top of the shell of a cloth diaper cover.
- Microfibre ALWAYS goes INSIDE a pocket. Microfibre is super good at wicking away moisture and can cause rashes and irritation when not used correctly.
- Prefold and flat cloth diapers need to be folded to fit. If you are folding onto a baby take a look on google or youTube for suggestions, otherwise fold into a pad and call it a day.
- Finding the right absorbency combo? Start with the basics, and tackle it as you go on. You need more absorbency if the diaper is SOAKED and leaking. If the insert is dry and the clothes are leaking, then we probably have some fit issues.
Store them however you want whether it’s a fancy IKEA cart, a dresser, plastic bins, a change table, or just left in the laundry basket. Cloth diaper storage is simple.
Getting Ready for the First Change
Now it’s time to change the baby, and guys, it’s easy. I don’t even take pants off to change my baby’s bum.
- Get baby.
- Take off the old diaper.
- Put new diaper under babies bum. It’s suggested to line the back of the elastic with the belly button (keeping in mind the diaper will shift some in the next few steps).
- Pull the front of the diaper up and between the legs. You might need to squeeze the centre of the diaper to ensure the diaper elastics fall in the crease of legs like underwear.
- Holding it place, pull the tabs over.
- If there is a hip snap, snap the hips in place, and then the regular snaps. The diaper shouldn’t be so tight, but it shouldn’t be soo lose. You should be able to wiggle a finger in the waistband.
- And done. Dirty diaper goes in the garbage if disposable, but in a wet bag or pail if cloth. It’s key to have an open container because it breaks down smells. Oxygen is pretty incredible at keeping the stink at bay.
Laundry is my least favourite subject. I rarely ever touch the topic on my own blog, and I desperately hate talking about wash routines. Why? Because I don’t believe in “approved” and I believe in making it work for you.
Ask locally. Talk to your local moms and find out what works for them with their experience in cloth diapering.
Wash your cloth diapers every 2-4 days.
- Poop = toilet. Unless it’s breast milk poop.
- Use any detergent you want (but not soap – detergents are mainstream and contain enzymes. Soaps can work when handwashing, but detergents are the modern day answer to modern washing machines.) and nothing with sodium bicarbonate.
- Be efficient, wash full loads, and feel free to add other gross things to your laundry (but keep it small, no massive towels).
- Rinse out the pee and poop with a short wash on cold or warm.
- warm is helpful for toddler pee and keeping the stains from setting.
- cold is economical.
- add a little bit of detergent (like one line) to help with the initial rinse out of pee and poop.
- Wash the diapers with a long, hot wash with a rinse cycle and a full amount detergent you would use for any other heavily soiled load of diapers.
- If the diapers are slimy with detergent, do a rinse cycle.
- you used too much detergent, next time try a little yes.
- If the diapers still smell, do another wash.
- you didn’t use enough detergent, next time try a little more.
- Toss in the dryer, and/or hang to dry.
That’s it. It’s that simple. If you have problems, make adjustments as you need. Sometimes you need more detergent with a poopy week of diapers, and sometimes you need less detergent.
Questions, Comments, Concerns?