Getting Started with Cloth Diapers: What You Will Need
So you’ve considered cloth diapers and decided to take the plunge. Where to get started?
First of all, check out the resources listed on our newly updated Natural Parenting Resource Page for some great overviews about getting started with cloth diapering.
Below is a list of items you will need, based on my experience with prefold diapers. While most comments will apply to any type of cloth diaper, please note that some details may vary.
1) The Diapers
While there are many kinds of cloth diapers out there, I have had great success with the prefolds. They are easy to use and clean and adjust easily as your child grows. What are prefolds? Basically, they are the soft cotton insides – the actual diapers themselves – that are folded into diaper covers. The prefolds are the real workhorses of your ensemble, absorbing everything your baby outputs. In the olden days, most moms would have gotten by with just these and some clothes pins.
There is no particular brand of prefold diapers, since they are basically the same no matter where you get them. We bought these Indian Prefolds from Jillian’s Drawers (“Indian” referring to the type of cotton).
How many do you need? Opinions vary, plus it depends a bit on your budget. Green Mountain Diapers has some great buying guidelines based on how much you are able (or willing) to spend. When my little Monkey was a newborn, I started with 3 dozen cloth diapers, but soon found I was able to cut back by about half a dozen. Generally you want enough diapers to last you at least two days in between washings.
As your child grows, you will be able to get buy with even fewer, especially when s/he reaches toddlerhood. Why? Older kids have more control over their bodily functions and are able to go for longer periods without needing to be changed, one of the physical signs of readiness for potty training.
2) The Covers
If you are using pre-folds, you will also need a number of waterproof covers for them. These guys are your last, best defense against having to change yet another outfit for your newborn (can’t help with spit-up outfit changes, sorry!). There are many great brands out there, but I really loved Bummis Super Whisper Wraps when my little Monkey was a newborn. When he got a little older we graduated to Bummis Super Brite covers. These worked really well until he was about a year old and so much more active. At that point we discovered that snap closures (not velcro) did the job better and, well, kept our floors cleaner.
How many do you need? You don’t need as many covers as diapers, since unless you are changing a poopy diaper you can usually just wipe the cover clean and reuse it (more on cleaning your cloth diapers in a future post). We started with about 5 covers but quickly realized we needed more. In the end we had about 10-12 covers when my little Monkey was very young. Today, however, we are back to just 5, which is fine for a toddler.
I think there is a place for disposable wipes: They are easy to use on the road and work well to clean everything from your baby’s bottom to your toddler’s hands to the table at the restaurant (just don’t use the same one for all three! 🙂 ) But when possible I strongly prefer to use cloth wipes. They are much gentler on a baby’s soft skin, plus you automatically eliminate so much waste by making the switch to cloth.
You can make your own cloth wipes (I will be trying it myself soon, so watch for this in a future post!), or you can purchase them online (we have these Thirsties wipes – they are a little pricey, but they are wonderful!)
One thing I would not recommend is using baby washcloths. I tried it, and it was terrible! They worked for the first few cycles, but after too many times going through the laundry they lost all absorbency. To the point that whenever I tried to pour a little water on them to clean my little Monkey’s bottom, the water would bead and roll right off the cloth.
4) The Water Bottle
When I got started with changing diapers, at each diaper change I would first run to the bathroom and wet the cloth wipe and then run back to the changing table to try and find a place to set the wet cloth until I was ready for it. This routine got old very quickly, especially since in my new mother’s haze I would often forget to wet the cloth until the baby was already undressed on the changing table.
So instead I started keeping a little water bottle on the changing table. I actually used the bottle they gave me for myself when I was in the hospital after Monkey was born. (Does that bring back memories for anyone??)
While there are many recipes out there for cleaning solutions, I have found that plain water works just fine, although we also keep a bar of soap in dish nearby to help clean up after poopy diapers.
5) The Diaper Pail
You will need some kind of diaper pail to hold all of your messy diapers until it is time to do laundry. You don’t need anything fancy, just something with a well-fitting lid. We actually had a hard time finding something at the store, since most diaper pails are designed for disposable diapers. In the end we found the Safety 1st Easy Saver pail shown below, which has held up remarkably well after a great deal of use.
What makes modern cloth diapering so much easier than it was for our mothers and grandmothers is the invention of the washable diaper pail liner. Thanks to this remarkable item, when you go to do laundry, you don’t even have to touch the dirty diapers. Simply dump the contents into the washing machine, turning the bag inside out as you go, and then drop the bag in with the rest! Easy peasy!
We have been very happy with our Planet Wise Diaper Pail Liner. It works well and has lasted a long time. Whichever brand you choose, just make sure to purchase two liners, so that you have one to use while the other is in the wash.
7) The Diaper Sprayer
Okay, this one is really optional, but I can’t imagine doing without my bumGenius Diaper Sprayer. You have to install it on your toilet, but it makes rinsing off poopy diapers so much easier than trying to do it by hand. Well worth the investment!
Keep in mind that you don’t have to rinse off the poopy diapers until your baby starts eating solids, especially if you are breastfeeding. Before then the poop is so runny that this extra step isn’t necessary. (Sorry, too much information??)
So there you have it! My recommendations on essential cloth diapering gear. Please note that I have not been compensated in any way for the product recommendations above. Just trying to share the love a little by letting you all know what worked for us.
Stay tuned for the next post in our series on cloth diapering, when we tackle the indelicate topic of cleaning your cloth diapers!
This post has been shared at New Nostalgia’s Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, Milk and Cuddles’ Mommy Club, Quick and Easy’s Healthy 2Day Wednesday and Natural Mother’s Network Seasonal Celebration Sunday.