Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cloth Diapering 101: A list of bare essentials

This one is for my friend "B" who is contemplating using cloth diapers and feeling pretty overwhelmed at all the choices available and just wondering in general if it is the right choice for her:

To my dear friends in this situation:

First understand that Cloth Diapering IS easy but it is NOT as easy as disposables. It is a commitment. However, it is more chic, more fun, healthier for baby and way more green than disposables. Be a trend setter: Go Cloth!

To get started can be very  expensive. Solution?... add the cloth diapers to your baby registry! There are so many choices and it can be overwhelming to decide what system to use. This is my simple guide based on hours and hours of research and personal experience on what to add to the baby registry. (remember you can use all of these diapers with your next baby for even more savings!)

Quick Guide: (for laundry every 2 days)
For the newborn period (up to 10 pounds)
24 prefolds
3-4 diaper covers for the prefolds size xtra small or small 6-15 pounds.
If I could do it all over again, I would use environmentally friendly disposables (grovia biodegradable disposable or seventh generation chlorine free) until my baby was big enough to fit into the one size fits all covers.

After 10 pounds:
8 - "one size" diaper covers from various "all in two" or "pocket" diaper systems with at least 2 inserts per diaper and 1-2 "boosters" per diaper cover (or 16 all in one diapers). 
or 16 "all in one diapers" (no inserts, you just throw the whole diaper in the wash when dirty)

1 package of Snappis if you are using prefolds
2 large Planet Wise wet bags for dirty diapers  if you want to zip and unzip (good for odor control) OR
2 antibacterial pail liners if you will use a sealed garbage pail (easier) and diaper pail deodorizing discs that sticks to the pail.
1 small wet bag for diapering on the go.
Fleece liners if you use all cotton diapers and you want to wick moisture from baby skin (at night or naps)
1 Grovia Magic stick (diaper ointment you can use with cloth).
10-20 cloth wipees or thin washcloths 
1 bottle of diaper area wash spray (you can make your own)
1 diaper sprayer for the toilet (I got mine brand new on ebay for $19, works fine).
Country Save Laundry Detergent

Now to explain:

At least 24 Prefolds:  I used the Gerber brand and Kissaluvs prefolds. Gerber are super cheap (about $1 each or $2 each for organic) and do the job just fine. You can find these at Walmart or Target too. There are bamboo prefolds that are more absorbant but I don't think it is worth the extra money. Here's why:

**Most "diaper systems" come with "booster liners" (a small extra insert for more absorbency).  You can add these to your cheap prefolds if you need extra absorbency if you will be registering for or buying one size diaper systems too (see below).

Diaper Covers and Diaper Systems (cover plus inserts):
You will need about 4 covers per day. So how many covers you register for should equate to how often you want to do laundry. If you want to do laundry every two to three days, you will need about 8-12 covers. I would start with:

3-4 size extra small or small diaper covers (6-15 pounds) to use with the prefolds during the newborn period.
These are usually cheaper than the "one size" covers and you can use them when the baby is in the newborn period as the one size fits all diapers work better when the baby is about 10 pounds or more. I used Thirsties brand extra small and they still fit my 15 pound baby. These covers are cheaper but do not seem to hold up as well as the more expensive covers. However, they did the job (and got the best reviews online for use with a newborn) and I have had no leaks using these covers with prefolds.

8-10 covers from various one size diaper system brands. I much prefer the "one size fits all systems" that grow with the baby. Just seems more practical to buy one diaper that will grow with the baby than to try to figure out all the different sizes and have yet another item your baby will grow out of.  Since the good covers are about $20, you want to be able to use it for 2 years and for more than one child.

If I had unlimited funds I would have loved to just use an "all in one" diaper (no inserts, you change the whole diaper at every diaper change). This would have been the most easy, but this was not financially practical for us. However, I am going to invest in some now that she needs less diaper changes and has other people caring for her (easier for grandma and auntie to figure out).

Many of the "one size" diapers come with brand specific inserts. Try to get 2-4 inserts per cover and 1-2 "booster liners" per cover. You can interchange some of the inserts with covers from different brands but I find they work best when used with inserts that are made specifically for the cover.

Here are my general tips when deciding on which diaper system (brand) to buy:

The first month the baby poos ALOT, about 5 times a day or more, especially if you are breast feeding.  I think using prefolds is the way to go because they are cheap and can be folded to fit under the umbilical cord stump.  You will go through alot of diapers per day the first month (about 12 per day). So prefolds are the most economical. 

Do not commit to one cloth diaper system. Cloth diapers are like bottles. You don't really know which one is going to be the perfect fit for your baby! If you go with one brand and that system doesn't work, it is a waste of money and you wont be successful with cloth diapering.  My favorite brand/system for my daughter changes every few weeks as she is growing, it is nice to have a variety to choose from. Don't go crazy reading all the reviews, all babies are different and go through different phases when they grow. Pick one or two diaper covers from each reputable brand and pick ones that have cute designs so you will have fun when choosing which one the baby will wear for the day. Sometimes in the hot months, the cloth diaper is the baby's whole outfit for the day! 

Snaps vs. velcro closure on diaper covers:
Velcro tabs are easier than snaps (especially when baby starts to wiggle) but apparently the velcro can wear out.  The velcro is a little annoying in the wash as the velcro sometimes sticks to other things. Snaps are easier to wash, last longer but look a little more bulky on baby. Get some of each. I can't say I personally prefer one over the other. Snaps are easier to wash, velcro is easier to apply. It's a toss up.

Natural Fibers vs. Polyester:
I prefer natural fibers as it is gentler on my babies skin but you will have to change these more often than polyester fleece liners. I grab for the fleece especially when she is going down for sleep because she wont wake up from being wet. Bamboo absorbs more than cotton but cotton is less expensive. My daughter's skin does better with the all natural cotton fibers. This may be because she fusses more to be changed when in cotton so she doesn't sit in the diaper as long.  Again, unless you really don't want to put any synthetic fabrics on the baby's skin, I would recommend trying some of each. I personally prefer organic cotton and will no longer buy polyester for my baby.

My favorite diaper systems: 

My favorite system is Grovia. The organic cotton is the best for her skin. She tends to get more red with polyester.  These work well for my chubby baby girl. My recommendations may be different if she was a lean little boy. Experiment! Here are all the ones I have tried so far:

1. Grovia: There are two types: Shell Set (velcro) and Snaps. I LOVE the soft velcro on the shell set, it holds up well and makes for a nice fit on my baby.  The covers are beautiful and very good quality.  Keep in mind, if your baby poos, you will have to change the cover. The Grovia diaper covers that have snaps are also great and very sturdy. These covers look brand new even after 5 months.  The diaper inserts are more absorbant after 10+ washes so be patient in the beginning. After about two months of washes, I was able to use these for nighttime (10+ hours) with no leaks (using a booster and fleece liner). All inserts are made of 100% organic cotton. If you want to stick with all natural fibers, this is a wonderful system.  I just wish they came in more colors (esp. all white). This system also has a biodegradable disposable insert to use for traveling or when you just want to use a disposable insert. It is a fabulous option to have. 

2. Soft Bums:  These are somewhat more absorbent than Grovia but I find that the drawstring system in this diaper is a little hard to get an exact fit and tends to leave more marks on my baby. I have had leaks with this diaper if I am not careful about getting a good fit around the leg. It is slightly more bulky than the Grovias. With that said, I like this diaper because it will absorb more pee and the poo tends not got on the cover as much as the Grovias. I also LOVE the color selection. They have a bamboo option for an insert which is very soft and I prefer this over the polyester.  However the polyester fleece is nice to use at night or for outings. Great diaper overall. 

3. Blueberries: I have not used these yet but they were a favorite of a friend. The color selection is awesome and I can't wait to try these. (the cow print one is on my wishlist). 

4. Fuzzibuns (pocket diapers): These are nice because the polyester fleece pocket diaper makes it so that the baby can't really feel it when she/he pees but I find them to be a bit bulky. These are great for nighttime, because they do absorb alot of liquid and keep it off the baby so she won't wake up from being wet. These are sold at our local baby boutique as well. I have a feeling these would be great for boy babies, they absorb alot and they look more boyish to me.

5. Anything you can find on sale and/or that looks cute! (Have fun!!). There is a woman on Maui who makes cloth diaper covers and I have heard very good things about them but have not yet tried them. Want to support the local economy and a woman owned small business? Buy some covers from

I do sometimes use prefolds with the above "one size" covers and that works fine too! (If you need to save money on brand specific diaper inserts just use your prefolds).  Grovia diaper covers are the best quality and have the best velcro system.


These are little hooks that help keep your prefold snug to baby, I only used them the first month, after that the diaper cover was enough to keep the diaper in place. But they are cheap so add them to the registry. You only need one package ( 3 in a pack).
Disposable wipes are a main culprit for diaper rash and they are a total waste of money!!!!! Use a spray bottle with plain water and a cloth wipe (or soft paper towel). It is so much better for baby's bottom and way way way cheaper than disposable wipes. If you are using cloth diapers, it is actually easier to use a cloth wipe because you don't have to separate which pail to throw the wipe in from the diaper. It will all go in the same pail.  I only use disposable wipes when out on the town. When using cloth wipes, I highly recommend using the California Baby Diaper Wash  for cleaning up after a poo, it smells wonderful and seems very calming to the skin.  
Grovia Diaper Ointment
In my research, the Grovia magic stick is the only diaper cream you can use with cloth that I can find (other ointments ruin the integrity of the cloth). It is FABULOUS for clearing up and preventing diaper rash (even if you use disposables). It also smells wonderful. I have given to my friends who use disposables and they love it too. Plus it is all natural! If you use another ointment you will need to put a liner between the skin and the cloth (so the ointment doesn't get on the cloth). 
Fleece Liners
The fleece liners wick the moisture away from baby's skin. This is great for promoting longer naps and for nightime use (when using a cotton diaper) because the wet diaper won't irritate the baby. You can buy thin fleece from a fabric store and make yourself, or if you are like me (no time), just put the Bummis brand ones on your registry. 
Diaper Pails and Diaper Sprayer
The sprayer attaches to the toilet for when your baby starts to eat solids and you have to rinse the poo off before washing.  If the baby is breast fed, the diaper can go directly in the wash as breast milk poo dissolves easily in water. This may sound gross but it really is not.

How do you store the dirty diaper? Just throw the dirty diaper into a pail with lid or  a large wet bag and wash diapers when the pail (or bag) is full or when you run out of diapers. The first month, when I had to do a load a day, I just threw the dirty diapers straight into the washing machine (filled with water and soap) and then would run it at the end of the day.

Laundry Tips
You have to use laundry detergent that won't leave residue on the diaper, or irritate the baby's skin. You can check various websites for options on detergent.  In my research I found that:

*Country Save Laundry detergent is the best for washing cloth diapers, it leaves no residue on the diaper. I find  the powder is good but the liquid is the best. Best price is at Mana if you live on Maui. ($10 for 50 loads for the liquid). They say do not use laundry detergent with scent for cloth but the liquid Country Save with a scent seems to be fine for us and it smells so clean. If you want no scent, go with the powder.

Run the diaper through a cold wash first with no soap, then a hot or warm wash with minimal soap. This will keep your diapers fresh. Too much soap causes diapers to smell. You can use oxygen bleach when you need a deep clean.

* If you want your diapers looking nice and white: After you run the diaper through the wash, just put the poo stained diaper in the sun for about 30 minutes, the stain comes right out! Then throw in the dryer if you need it to dry fast or line dry all your diapers. It works like magic. All my diapers are nice and white. 

Websites for buying diapers or getting info: Great info about how to use cloth diapers  This site often has the best prices and free shipping! (great prices and free shipping to hawaii! wonderful for making a baby registry) is beginning to carry Grovias (but I got better price at Abbyslane)

Remember, you don't have to be a purist. We use disposables when we are traveling or on the go or sometimes at night or just when I just know she is going to make a HUGE poo (mother's intuition). Using cloth gives us the financial freedom to buy the non toxic disposables when we need em. 

Hope that helped!

Add your two cents by posting reply, I love to talk cloth.