When you’re unfamiliar with something, that new “something” often looks daunting and very overwhelming. Cloth diapering is one of those “somethings.” Having cloth diapered all three of my children for a total of 4-1/2 years now, I’ve discovered what
Cloth Diapering Knowledge
Before you get started with cloth diapering, I highly recommend you get Changing Diapers by Kelly Wels. This book goes into detail about the terminology and all the ins and outs of cloth diapering. If you know nothing, a little, or even quite a bit about cloth diapering, you’ll probably still learn something from this book!
If you’re looking to get some knowledge about cloth diapering right now, check out my post all about Cloth Diapering Lingo. This post includes pictures to illustrate a majority of the terms for those of you who are visual learners.
How Many Diapers
Before you begin budgeting or saving up for cloth diapers, you must know how many diapers you’ll need. This number depends completely on these two factors:
- How often your baby poops/pees. Newborns especially poop a lot, but as they grow older, the number of poops (and, therefore, the number of diapers) decreases.
- How often you want to wash diapers. To keep stink at bay, I prefer to wash ours every 3 days. If you don’t mind washing more often than that or if you want a longer span between wash days, then adjust your stash accordingly.
Here are the approximate number of diapers your child will need (they are approximate because every kid is different):
- 0 to 3 months – 8 to 15 diapers per day per child
- 3 to 6 months – 5 to 8 diaper per day per child
- 6 months and beyond – 4 to 5 diapers per day per child
I personally prefer to use disposable diapers until my baby is 3 months old. This is because newborn diapers are so expensive for the short period of time they’ll be using them. Plus, they poop SO much those first 3 months, which means you need even more of those itty bitty diapers. Plus, because I have a physical condition that necessitates c-sections, I am unable to climb up and down the stairs those first 3 months because I’m still recovering. Besides all this, my hubby and I are usually exhausted enough that it’s just easier to use disposables anyway!
Now that you have general knowledge about cloth diapering and you know how many CD’s you’ll need, let’s look at 3 different paths you can take. These paths are based primarily on what you can afford (or want to afford), but can be influenced by preference. For example, you might be able to afford the fanciest modern cloth diapers, but find you really prefer old-fashioned prefolds and covers.
- Flats and Covers: This path is the big money-saver, but it is a bit more work.
- Modern Diapers: This road costs more money, but modern cloth diapers are more like disposable, so they take less work.
- Combo: This is the moderate-priced route where you have a mixture of flats and covers and modern diapers.
1. Flats and Covers. This path is the money-saver, but it is a bit more work. Flats are, quite literally, flat diapers. There are two basic kinds of flats: actual flats and prefolds. Flats are more like what our grandparents used; prefolds are a little friendlier because they have a thicker center panel for more absorption. If you’re really strapped for cash (or don’t like spending much on something that’s gonna get pooped on), you can even purchase flour sack towels at your local discount store to use for diapers.
Here’s what you need per child when traveling down the Flats and Covers Path:
- number of flats recommended above (according to child’s age)
- extra flats or doublers for extra absorption (I’d start with 1 per flat then increase to 2 or 3 based on how heavy a wetter your baby is)
- 1 cover per 5 flats (if baby only pees, toss the flat in the wash then re-use the cover; remember that urine is sterile, so this won’t hurt your baby)
- 2 Snappis (one for regular use and one for back-up in case the first one breaks or gets lost)
2. Modern Diapers. This road costs more money, but modern cloth diapers are more like disposable, so they take a bit less work.
Here’s what you need per child when traveling down the Modern Diapers Path:
- number of AIO’s or AI2’s recommended above (according to child’s age)
- extra inserts or doubles (most AIO’s and AI2’s come with one insert; this might be enough, but if you have a heavy wetter, you may need 1 or 2 more)
3. Combo. This is the moderate-priced route where you have a mixture of flats and covers and modern diapers. It is also a good route to take to see what kinds of cloth diapers you prefer. For this route, just do half flats/covers and half modern diapers.
Overnight diapering is a little different than day time. The goal is to get your kiddo to sleep all through the night, which means fewer diaper changes. If your wee one is a super soaker or a super pooper, it becomes slightly more challenging.
My favorite way to cloth diaper overnight is by using a fitted diaper (this looks basically like a regular cloth diaper, but it’s made completely out of absorbing material), a couple of inserts, and a diaper cover. This gets a little bulky, but does a great job at keeping things in.
Another way to cloth diaper overnight is simply by doubling up. If you use flats, use one or more extra flats (you can fold them so they just lay down the middle for a girl or front for a boy). If you use modern diapers, use more inserts.
Beyond just diapers, of course, you’ll need several other items. Here they are:
- Cloth wipes. You can purchase special cloth wipes, you can buy cheap baby washcloths, you can take old towels or washcloths and cut them to size, or you can take old pieces of cloth or clothes and cut then to size. Pretty much any small piece of cloth is fair game for use as a cloth wipe. And, just as with diapers, you’ll need more cloth wipes in the beginning than you will when baby gets older. It also varies between girl and boy (a girl needs more wipes than a boy). For just pee with a boy you don’t need a wipe, for a girl you need 1; for poop for a boy or a girl, you need anywhere from 1 to 4 (depends on whether it’s a squirt or the mother load). Here are the approximates:
- 0 to 3 months – 20 to 30 wipes per day
- 3 to 6 months – 12 to 16 wipes per day
- 6 months and beyond – 10 to 12 wipes per day
- Cloth wipe solution. This is used to spray the cloth wipes to moisten them so they’re more effective at wiping off poop. You can purchase wipe solution or you can make it yourself.
- Rash ointment. Although most cloth diapered babies don’t often get diaper rash, it does still happen. And some babies just simply have trouble with it, cloth diapered or not. So rash ointment is a good thing to at least keep on hand just in case. I’d recommend getting a cloth diaper safe one as non-cloth diaper safe ones can cause build-up on cloth diapers and prevent them from being so absorbant.
- Liners. A liner is placed on top the flat or diaper so that it’s directly against baby’s skin. There are two types of liners: cloth ones and disposable (usually flushable) ones. There are several purposed for a liner. Two reasons are: 1) to put on non-cloth diaper safe rash ointment (the liner protects the diaper); and 2) to catch poop for easier or quicker clean-up (the flushable liners are especially handy for this).
- Diaper pail. This is optional, but pretty handy. I recommend buying a stainless steel kitchen-size trash can with a pedal that lifts the lid. I’ve used plastic diaper pails, but not with much success (it was too floppy and the pop-up lid got to where it would constantly pop up by itself).
- Pail liner. Pail liners are amazing things. They’re waterproof cloth bags. Simply place it inside your pale or get one with a loop/handle to hang it on your door knob if you don’t have room for a pail. Pail liners are so awesome because, after you’ve thrown soiled diapers into it, you don’t need to touch those diapers again until they’re clean. Just pull out the pail liner full of diapers and toss it all in the wash. I recommend you have 2 pail liners so one can be in use while the other is in the wash.
- Laundry soap. You’ll need a cloth diaper safe laundry soap to wash your diapers. My favorite is Molly’s Suds.
- Other laundry products. These are optional and depends completely on what you prefer and how hard your water is. I, for example, have hard water so I’ll occasionally strip my diapers with RLR. I also use Calgon in the wash every once in a while.
- Wool dryer balls. These are optional. They’re balls of wool that you toss in the dryer with your diapers (or any other laundry). They cut drying time down, plus they help the diapers to keep their shape by beating them up a bit while they’re in the dryer.
- Clothesline. Or a drying rack. Also optional items, but if you’re trying to save money, having somewhere to hang your diapers to dry instead of running them through the dryer is a great money saver. Air drying also helps to make your diapers last longer.
- Wet bag. A wet bag is essentially a mini pail liner. There’s typically a zipper to close it. It is used when you go out and about, either on errands or on vacation, to stash soiled diapers in for washing later.
- Flats: I like Diaper Rite’s flats. They’re affordable and work well.
- Prefolds: I really like Diaper Rite’s prefolds. I get them in just size medium because they can be folded to fit tinier babies.
- Covers: I prefer Flip covers with snaps. They’re one-size, which means that they have rise snaps to increase and decrease the rise to cover your baby. Also, I like my cloth diapers and covers to have snaps because hook-and-loop closures tend to wear out pretty fast. A very close second to Flip covers are Thirsties Duo Wrap covers with snaps. These covers come in 2 sizes so they fit baby a little more perfectly.
- Modern diapers: My faves are Thirsties Duo all-in-one diapers with snaps. They fit baby at just about every size, plus they’re a sleeve diaper (meaning there’s a opening on the front and back for insert-stuffing), which makes stuffing easier. A less-expensive but almost as nice diaper is the Diaper Rite one-size pocket diaper.
- Fitted. My favorite fitted is the one made by Mother-Ease.
- Inserts/doublers. I like Diaper Rite’s large cotton diaper doublers. They’re inexpensive and work well. I get large because it can be folded for smaller babies.
- Cloth wipes: I don’t have particular favorites when it comes to wipes. I tend to cut up a bunch of old towels or washcloths and use those. They’re effective and cheap.
- Cloth wipe solution. I like to make my own easy-peasy cloth wipe solution. It’s natural and it’s cheap!
- Rash ointment. I personally just use coconut oil for rashes. It does it’s job well and I always have it on hand.
- Liners. We’ll occasionally use disposable liners for one reason or another. My favorite are GroVia BioLiners.
- Diaper pail. I already mentioned this, but I like the stainless steel kitchen-size trash cans with a pedal that lifts the lid.
- Pail liner. I have a Thirsties pail liner with a drawstring closure and a Diaper Rite pail liner with elastic around the opening. Both work great and I have no preference–they’re equal in my mind!
- Laundry soap. My favorite diaper soap is Molly’s Suds.
- Wet bag. My favorite wet bag was made by Wahmies.