It’s time for the Real Diaper Association’s School of Cloth! A whole month dedicated to teaching the world all about cloth — what could be better?! When I last wrote about cloth diapering, I was still diapering a baby. That baby is now a full-fledged toddler and we’re expecting our second, so I think now is the perfect time to revisit the basics.
There are oodles of benefits to cloth and that information is pretty easy to find and understand. Cloth can save money, is better for the environment, and better for your baby. Ok, but what is needed? What’s the difference between a pocket and an all-in-one and what on earth do you do about the poop?!
Diapers. Obvious enough, but how many? Most cloth diapering families plan to wash diapers every other day, so you will need to have at least two days’ worth of diapers (half for day one, half for wash day). Newborns tend to go through a dozen or more diapers each day, so I recommend having at least two dozen diapers, as well as a few extra just in case. Older babies and toddlers generally use fewer diapers, so a smaller number may work at that time. When our daughter was a newborn, we had 36 diapers in rotation and she would frequently use 15 or so each day. She now uses 6 – 8 diapers daily at 15 months. Since newborns are tiny and one-size diapers may not fit their scrawny legs right away, many people choose to have two separate stashes; one stash for the newborn stage and one one-size stash. You can sell your newborn diapers when your baby outgrows them or save them for the next baby, or opt for prefolds and covers instead — prefolds can be folded into thirds and used as an insert when your baby is bigger.
Dirty diaper storage. There are several options for storing used diapers until laundry day. I use a hanging wet bag for home, but others prefer a pail with a liner. I also use a travel sized wet bag for outings, but even a plastic grocery bag will do the trick. I do recommend having two of whichever storage you choose — that way, you will have a clean bag to use while the other is in the wash.
Wipes. Since you’ll be washing diapers anyway, it makes sense to use cloth wipes as well. They offer many of the same benefits as the diapers themselves and are washed with your diapers and wet bags. Plan on 2 per poopy diaper and add a few to spare. You may need more or less each day, but two dozen is a good place to start. In a pinch, you can always grab a wash cloth. You can of course still use disposable wipes if you prefer.
When shopping for the necessities, you’ll find that there are tons of extra items for using cloth. Keep in mind that these items are not necessary, but can be very helpful in making your diapering journey easier.
Snappis/Boingos: fasteners for fitteds, prefolds and flats that replace pins. I have used both types of fastener (as well as pins) and prefer the Boingo. Save your fingertips and opt for these easy to use fasteners, or just pad fold/trifold instead. Some people also skip the fastener and just use a snug-fitting cover to hold their fitted in place.
Liners: a protective barrier between your baby’s bottom and the diaper. Disposable and flushable liners are handy for especially messy diapers. Simply place on top of the diaper when you change your baby and dispose of the liner (along with any stinky gifts) at the next change. Microfleece and other non-disposable liners are usually used to offer a stay-dry feeling when using a natural fiber diaper. Both types of liner can also be used to keep diaper rash creams from coming in contact with the diaper and potentially causing a buildup issue. Keep in mind that reusable liners that have come in contact with creams that aren’t cloth safe should be washed separately from your diaper laundry.
Doublers: additional absorbency that is added to a diaper. Doublers come in a variety of sizes and materials but they all serve the same purpose. They aren’t meant to be the main source of absorbency, they simply add a boost to the existing absorbency. Heavy wetting babies may need a doubler but more often than not, the doubler is not a necessity for average wetters. Inserts can also be used as an even more absorbent doubler.
Diaper sprayer and Spray Pal: a combination of tools used for spraying soiled diapers before placing them in dirty diaper storage until wash day. A diaper sprayer connects to the water supply of your toilet and the Spray Pal creates a splash barrier around the diaper as you spray it clean. Although these tools are very helpful, it is perfectly acceptable to forgo the extra expense and simply dunk dirty diapers in the toilet or use a designated spatula to scrap poop out of the diaper and into the toilet.
Cloth safe rash cream: an alternative rash treatment designed to sooth the rash without damaging the diaper. Most commercial rash creams will cause buildup in your diapers and cause them to repel, so a special cloth safe cream is nice to have on hand. Cloth safe creams don’t require you to use a liner to protect the diaper. On the other hand, they can be costly and usually aren’t found in your average baby shop. Coconut oil is a cloth safe alternative that won’t cost as much but still offers soothing and healing benefits for your baby’s bottom.
Cloth safe detergent: natural detergent designed for use on cloth diapers. There are many studies about detergent and diapers. Some say that additive free, natural detergent is the only safe detergent for cloth while others say that your regular detergent will do the job. I have had success with both types. Tide, Ecos, Charlie’s Soap, bumGenius detergent, Crunchy Clean and more have done just fine washing our diapers with no damage whatsoever.
Have you hit an information overload yet? I hope not! I’ve covered the necessities and many of the extras, so let’s tackle the laundry basics.
Before using your cloth diapers, you will need to prep them. This isn’t the daunting task that it would seem. Natural fibers (cotton, bamboo, hemp) will require 3-5 washes to strip the natural oils from the fabric. Without this step, your natural fiber diapers will not reach full absorbency. You will need to dry the diapers between each wash. PUL and TPU diaper covers and pockets, microfiber inserts and all-in-one diapers with a microfiber soaker only need one wash to prep. Once your diapers have been prepped, they’re ready for use.
Dirty diaper laundry is pretty easy as well. Breastfed baby poop can go directly in the washer since it is 100% water soluble. Formula fed baby poop should be rinsed off before the diaper is put in the dirty laundry, but some moms say they have no trouble with treating it the same as breastfed poop. When your baby starts eating solids, the poop needs to be emptied into the toilet. It isn’t difficult, especially if you have a sprayer or the aforementioned poo spatula. I prefer to wash my diapers every other day, but some families wash daily and others have enough diapers on hand to wait 3-4 days to wash. Place your diapers and wet bag or pail liner in the washer and do a cold rinse. Follow up with a hot wash with detergent, then two rinses. In your final rinse, check to be sure there are no soap bubbles left. For the best results, check your diaper manufacturer’s guidelines for water temperature and soap usage. Some diapers can be dried in the dryer and other manufacturers will recommend that you air dry only. Once they’re dry, they’re ready for use!
Cloth diapering doesn’t need to be a complicated and difficult task. The basic information I have provided here should give you a good place to start in your journey towards becoming a cloth diaper guru. Be sure to read up on the topics to come this month for more information and troubleshooting tips!
Bio: Lauryn is a stay at home mom in love with all things crunchy.
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