All You Ever Wanted to Know (and more) About Cloth Diapers

Upon the request of a friend, I’m working on a review-slash-tutorial on cloth diapering. I know it’s not going to grab the interest of many of my blog readers, so I apologize if you’re just looking for Jonas stories :p – look for a few of those soon.

There are so many options available in cloth diapering these days. If you’re not familiar with it, the DiaperPin is a great place to start your research. This is not your mama’s cloth! Gone are the plastic pants, pins, and soaking in the toilet. There are all-in-one diapers; prefold (old-fashioned) diapers with covers, fitted diapers with covers – which can be a laminated waterproof fabric, wool, or other materials; and pocket diapers.

Why do you cloth diaper?
Cloth diapers are better for the environment, according to quite a bit of research I found. Even though this wasn’t my primary reason for starting CDs, it’s a reason that has grown on me. As a result of making this switch, I started looking at many of the things around us in different ways, and we’ve made quite a few other positive, environmentally responsible choices since then.

When I found information about the study that showed an elevated testicular temperature in baby boys who wore disposable diapers, I was swayed a little further toward the side of cloth. Since his father is a testicular cancer survivor, I’d like to think that eliminating disposable diapering from his list of risk factors will have a positive effect on Jonas’s long-term health, including his future fertility.

When I first started considering cloth diapering, the big appeal was the financial savings. I got to try pocket diapers before I took the plunge and made my own purchase, thanks to a generous friend who boxed up a few FuzziBunz and all the accessories I’d need. After a week of part-time cloth, I was sure it was for us – but I decided to run the numbers for comparison’s sake. A little basic math revealed that I was spending a LOT of money on disposable diapers. (Granted, over the last year and half the sizes & prices have changed, but this gave me a general idea.)

126-ct Huggies Supreme size 2’s $46.95 => $0.37 per diaper
Huggies Supreme wipes => $5.00 (2 boxes lasts about a month) => $0.37 per diaper
9 dipes per day => $3.33 per day

$103.24 each month for diapers + wipes

TOTAL COST for sposies, birth to potty training around 2.5 years: $3,097.20

My figures below are for my startup stash of small diapers. I wanted to do a 2-day wash cycle, and I was diapering a 5-month old, so I planned for 10-12 diapers a day.

20 diapers @ 13.50* each (diaper with insert included) = $270
6 pack of cloth wipes = $6.95
Wipe Solution (“Baby Bits”) $9.95
Hanging diaper “pail” $17.50
Small wetbag for diaper bag $9.95
TOTAL COST for startup stash: $314.35
(will “pay for itself” in 3 months, as compared to disposables)

Of course, these figures were for our specific uses and might not apply exactly to your situation. The type of disposables you use, the number your child goes through most days, the amount of sales tax you pay, are all variables that might make cloth diapers “pay off” sooner or later. Also, I’ll note that if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t buy the wipes solution (because I found that making my own was cheaper and simpler, and eventually I just used plain warm water).

Jonas grew out of his Smalls around 7 months, when I switched him into Mediums. I believe he had about 24 Ms, and I probably spent around $300 on that stash. He wore Mediums until he was 14-15 months, when I put him into Petite Toddlers. (There’s also a size Large, but Jonas is too skinny to fit into those well). He has 20 PTs, which he is still wearing as a 28-month-old who is beginning Potty Learning. I found some great deals on his Petite Toddlers and I believe I spent about $240 on that stash. So overall, I spent under $900 for a “lifetime” of cloth diapers — and the savings is even greater when you consider that I’ll have to buy VERY few diapers for our new baby when she-or-he is born. 🙂

What kind of cloth diapers do you use?
Pockets are not usually the cheapest way to do cloth. I prefer them, now that I’ve tried several other methods. They are so simple to wash and dry (either on a line or in your machine); they come in a lot of colors (a silly reason, maybe, but it’s fun to match diapers to outfits!); the outer layer is waterproof and the inner layer wicks moisture away from baby’s delicate skin and helps reduce diaper rashes (in our experience); they have a range of snaps which allow them to fasten from very small at the leg and waist to much larger, so they fit baby for months (we moved into Mediums at 7 months and they still fit on the next-to-smallest snap setting at almost-11 months).

The diapers we’ve personally tried are FuzziBunz, Swaddlebees, Wonderoos, Baby Blankets, and a single Bumkins all-in-one.

I highly endorse my FuzziBunz – they are mass produced, so they are beautifully well-made. The fleece inner layer is buttery soft when new, though a little pilling is normal after many washings. I have a variety of inserts for my FuzziBunz, since when I bought them it wasn’t mandated that the Mother of Eden company inserts go with them. I am happiest with my Nurtured Family microterry inserts – they are wonderful, super-absorbent, and have not gotten that “stinky insert” problem once.

The Swaddlebees are a good pocket diaper. They are narrower through the crotch and have a lower rise, which makes them a good choice for a skinny and/or petite baby. One downside to the SB is that it requires a special tapered-through-the-middle insert, so if you have a mix of SBs in your stash you have to pay attention when you are doing the stuff-and-fold part of your laundry day!

The Wonderoos pocket diaper is billed as a one-size diaper. It has an arrangement of snaps to control the waist and the rise of the diaper from teeny-tiny to pretty large. My one complaint about the Roos is that there are not snaps just for making the leg openings tighter. My little guy has always had skinny thighs, so we sometimes had a problem with a gap at the leg (and thus, some little leaks). I think this would be less of a problem if the diaper were snapped way down for a tiny baby, or opened all the way up for a larger baby.

I was given five Baby Blanket diapers by a friend who has outgrown the cloth diapering stage of motherhood. They have been well-used, but are still in great shape, which is a testimony to the work(wo)manship of these diapers. Unlike the FBs, SBs, and Roos, these BBs do not have a fleece inner layer. The inner layer is suedecloth, which is very soft and smooth. Some babies have a reaction to suedecloth, but it never bothered Jonas. I do find that suedecloth doesn’t “give up” the poo when I shake it into the toilet as easily as fleece, but it’s not enough of a problem to make me give up on these diapers. After a couple of shakes, I usually have to swish the diaper in the water to get rid of the clingy bits. (Sorry if that description grosses you out. I promise, it’s not that bad!)

The all-in-one diaper was another gift, and it’s the only item in my stash that I don’t recommend to others. The outer waterproof layer is crinkly and plasticy (though it does have a cute puppy print). The inner layer is cotton, which was incredibly soft brand-new but is now stiff. Because all the layers are stitched together, it takes a very long time to dry. It is fastened with Aplix (velcro, to all you other gen-Xers out there), the edges of which have left red rub marks on my baby’s skin.

How do you take care of your cloth diapers?
When I change a wet diaper, I pull the absorbent insert out of the pocket diaper and put it all right into a hanging wetbag that stays on our bathroom doorknob. If it’s a dirty diaper, I shake the poop into the toilet (did you know that ALL poop, whether it’s in a cloth diaper or a disposable diaper, should be shaken into the toilet and flushed? It’s actually ILLEGAL to throw human waste away in landfills. So remember: PLOP THE POOP) and then put the diaper, insert, and wipes into the wetbag.

Every other day, I wash the diapers. I just carry the whole wetbag downstairs to the laundry and dump everything, bag included, into the washer. I run a cold/cold cycle on my washer’s shortest setting with no soap (it’s just to rinse). Then I run a hot/cold cycle on the longest setting with 1/2 teaspoon of All Free & Clear detergent. (You don’t have to use that particular brand, but you do need to choose a detergent without perfumes, dyes, and fillers which would cause buildup on the fleece.) On my new washer, I then do a second hot/cold cycle at a medium length setting because my new machine doesn’t seem to rinse out as well as my old machine did. Finally, I do a cold rinse, and I’m done.

You can dry your diapers in a dryer (just remember not to use fabric softener/dryer sheets, because it will put a waxy buildup on your diapers and then they won’t absorb liquids, they’ll repel!) or outdoors on a line or drying rack. For that matter, you can do a drying rack inside, if you want!

How many cloth diapers do I need?
It depends on what you want to do with them and how often you want to wash! General rule of thumb is:
6-9 pocket diapers — enough for part-time CDing
12 pocket diapers — full time, 1-2 days between washing
12-18 pocket diapers — full time, 2 days between washing
18-24 pocket diapers — full time, 2-3 days between washing (2 days for a newborn)
24+ pocket diapers — enough for siblings to share (depending on sizes!)

Where do you buy cloth diapers?
If you’re looking to buy new, first try doing a Google search to see if there’s a local natural family living or natural parenting store near you. That’s a great way to get to see & feel the diapers in person before making your purchase, and it lets you support a local business!

If you don’t have a brick-and-mortar nearby, then I highly recommend the following websites:
Nurtured Family
Nicki’s Diapers

And — I know this may sound strange — you can also consider purchasing gently used cloth diapers through DiaperSwappers! It’s sort of the eBay of the cloth diapering world. 😉 The women on that forum are knowledgable about every facet of cloth diapers and willing to answer questions 24/7, so it’s a great resource no matter what. But one of the fringe benefits of CDing is the resale value – if you take care of your diapers, then even after months or years of use, you can usually reap between 60-75% of the amount you spent on your stashes! Of course, this means that if you’re starting out with used, you can GET a stash for 60-75% of retail value! You can often find diapers that have only been used once or twice – cloth diaper obsessed mamas are notorious for trying out every single type of diaper they can find, then selling them off after one or two tries if it’s not a good fit for their wash style or their baby’s body.

I think that’s it. Any other questions about CDing? Please ask away in comments!

*Since I purchased my first diapers, the price of FuzziBunz have gone up. There were changes required by the FuzziBunz company for all retailers, so now FBs will run you $17.95 each.

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MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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11 thoughts on “All You Ever Wanted to Know (and more) About Cloth Diapers”

  1. Wow…what if they started locking people up for illegally putting poop in the landfill? There would be lots of folks in jail, for sure! We used disposables, and there are times when there is no way that stuff is “coming off” into a toilet!
    I never went to the cloth diaper thing….although I highly respect anyone who makes such a great decision! Enjoyed all the info!

    Reply
  2. Oh my goodness! I can’t believe one stinking diaper costs $17.50!! That seems like a lot. I really don’t understand the whole “insert” thing either. Maybe one day, I’ll look at a pack in the store when I go to buy a baby gift. I had no idea that it was illegal to put human waste in a landfill. I am sure that NO ONE shakes the poo into the toilet from a disposable diaper. That kind of defeats the purpose! Anyway, I thought that your post was very informative and I appreciate that you took the time to write it!

    Reply
  3. Dang Michelle.

    I’m a few years from even needing this info, but youn presented it so well that I read the whole thing. All week long I’m going to be spouting off diaper wisdom to my friends.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Thanks for posting that. We are actually making a partial switch to CDing. I have been on diaperswappers.com and will be purchasing a small stash this week. We still have packs of disposables left from our baby showers, however, Emma will be able to use them during the day when I go back to work in August. I plan on still using CD’s while at home in the evenings and on the weekends. I was wondering, what are your experiences with CDing when going around town or to church? Was it a problem for anyone who kept Jonas? Hope you are feeling well. Have a great week.

    Reply
  5. Great info- We’ll be using disposables thanks to our work schedules, but it is nice to see a comparison. It is also painful to see how expensive diapers add up to be- I think we’re going to start buying them now as they are on sale and we have coupons that match up. Thank goodness for breastfeeding- at least we can save a few thousand there!

    I meant to ask you guys if you made Jonas baby food from fresh veggies- we are actually thinking about doing that just b/c it is cheaper and healthier to do it ourselves!

    Reply
  6. Christina, Oh, good question! I should add that to the main post. 😉

    For when we are around town, I usually keep Jonas in CDs. I have a small wetbag to keep used dipes in, and I just empty them into the main wetbag in the bathroom when we get home.

    We rarely have babysitters, so that hasn’t really been an issue. My dad watched Jonas one afternoon while my mom & I hit the mall, and he just left the used diaper on the bathroom floor because he wasn’t sure what to do with it, exactly. 🙂 He also did the snaps a little differently than I did, so the diaper was a little looser than usual, but it wasn’t falling off so it worked for a short time like that.

    Jonas didn’t go to church nursery until he was 14 months old – so in the beginning, I just put him in cloth and changed him myself. When he first started at nursery, I did send him in cloth but I found that it really depended on who was in the nursery that week – some of the older “grandmotherly” types loved it and it didn’t faze them a bit. The younger women and youth had no idea what to do when they pulled his pants down and saw a bright orange diaper 🙂 so I’d get called to the nursery to do it. We have ended up compromising a bit – we now buy about one pack of disposables every six weeks or so, and use those on Sunday for church. That way, his teacher can change his diapers without paging me out of church or Sunday School. I’ve decided that the slight additional cost is worth it to me for my peace of mind and those beautiful two hours of adult spiritual time.

    Mary,

    I can understand that – with work schedules. Of course, you could do cloth part time while you’re at home, and just use disposables during childcare time! 😉

    We actually did make all of his baby food, pretty much up until he started eating regular table food with the rest of us. Maybe that should be the next post in this series!

    Reply
  7. Michelle,

    I’m really glad that you posted this, too! We’re using disposables on Liam but considered cloth before he was born. To be honest I was just very intimidated by the cloth ones (especially since my first diaper change ever was in the hospital after he was born!!) What would your opinion be about absorption – Liam has VERY sensitive skin. Do they pull the moisture away from baby’s skin just as well as disposables?

    Also – would LOVE a post on homemade baby food!!!

    Thanks!!!

    Reply
  8. HI- I dont know if you will remember me ,but this is your cousin,Whitley, Audrey’s daughter. I read your blog from time to time. I am having my third baby next month- she is due on the 27th. I will be cd’ing as well!!
    I enjoy your blog 🙂

    Reply
  9. Hi,I don’t know if you will remember me.I am Whitley,Audrey’s daughter.I read your blog from time to time. Great blog by the way.
    I am having my third child next month and I will be cd’ing as well.

    Reply

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Ephesians 2:8-9

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