Cloth Diapers -- How?

Considering cloth diapers and wondering how the logistics of them work? Park Slope Parents member share advice from what brands to use, what happens at daycare, how laundry works (especially in multi unit complexes in NYC), and special diaper services.   

In this article:

What system should I use?

How to home launder? How to home launder?

On home laundering in an apartment coop

Benefits of Cloth Diapers

Negatives to Cloth DiapersNegatives to Cloth Diapers

Weighing up cloth diapers vs disposables

Cloth Diaper Life (member stories)Cloth Diaper Life (member stories)

 

What system should I use...?

“We use Bum Genius Freetime, all-in-one, one size.  When I researched cloth diapers I wanted the easiest possible diaper so that I wouldn't be tempted to go to disposable.  No inserts, liners, or covers. They are really just as easy to take on and off as a disposable, and the are better at preventing leaks.  The only work is washing them daily, which would be a huge pain without access to a machine in your place or building.”  

“We have been using seventh generation disposables.  We need to order more g diapers.  It's just that she's kind of between sizes and I hate to spend the $$ on smalls when she is so close up growing out of them.  I think that is the one downside to that brand.  Most others grow with your baby.”

“I've been using GroVia diapers for my newborn, to help defray the cost of disposables. I work at home so didn't feel that the convenience of exclusive disposables was a necessity. I don't have other diapering systems to compare to but am very happy with GroVia … I also saw that GroVia got great reviews online, which helped me decide which brand to go with.”

“I've used a few different covers and my favorites are wool ones by Lovey Bums. I also use gDiapers with a prefold inside, and the additional benefit there is when we travel we just use their biodegradable inserts. (I know some people travel with cloth but wow- that's dedication!)”

“I have tried a few, but certainly not all. I will start by saying that we both work, so we have chosen a system that is a bit more expensive than prefolds, but almost as convenient as disposables. I recommend Bum Genius one size pockets. My son has used them since he was born (almost 7 months ago) and they keep fitting him well as we make the size adjustments. We do not have many leaks, even at night. Only when he has them on for too long. Thirsty's is a brand of AIO with pockets. You would think this would be the best of both worlds, but we find them to leak very quickly. We also tried fitteds with covers. They do not wick the liquid away from the baby's skin like pockets or AIOs do, so I didn't like them. Same problem with prefolds.”

“I second the vote for pocket diapers, they dry fast and the absorbency can be adjusted as needed. I have even used them as covers for pre-folds. The Bum genius have worked for us, we have also tried the fuzibuns, but they seem to leak more. I haven't noticed any odor really, other than a faint ammonia smell after a couple of days but we also keep an extra large container of baking soda next to them and sprinkle on as needed. I do rinse out the poo ones in the sink before putting them in the pail with the rest. We wash about 2-3 times a week whenever it is sunny because we line dry the diapers, which kills germs, bleaches out stains and hey, its a free, wind-solar powered dryer! We also use diaper liners that look like dryer sheets so that any poo solids can be flushed or tossed. In addition, we use flannel wipes with a spray bottle that has a couple of drops of Dr. Bronners Soap (lavender and tea-tree mixed). We use 7th generation disposables when we are out and at night sometimes. We have been very happy and glad that we chose to use cloth. Babies that use cloth diapers are potty trained faster and don't have as much diaper rash (ours hasn't had any), not to mention all the chemicals in disposables and the impact on the environment, and the cost.  We invested about $150 in diapers and plan to use them for future children.”

“I have a 4 1/2 month old and we've been using Fuzzi Bunz since she was big enough to fit in them (maybe 7 or 8 weeks old? maybe sooner.) I knew I wanted to do some sort of pocket diaper system because I was intimidated by regular cloth diapers with covers, and because I knew I'd never get my husband to learn how to fold them properly, etc. Pocket diapers are almost exactly like disposables that you wash, so it's easy for babysitters, grandparents, etc., to get the hang of it. I tried several brands (Happy Heinys, Swaddlebees, and a couple others) but the Fuzzi Bunz seemed to fit best on my baby. I'd be happy to sell you the ones we don't use - I think I tried them twice at the most and they're clean and washed - and you can try them out for yourself!"

“I use the Fuzzi Bunz when I go out - I just bring a plastic grocery bag and toss the old one in there, throw it in the laundry bag when I get home. I haven't used them for travel however, because it's too much of a hassle. I say the key is getting enough so you're not having to wash every other day, which it feels like I usually do. Oh - and it's nice if you have somewhere you can hang the diapers and inserts in the sun to bleach out any stains. (I have a mini-line on our fire escape.) I'd be happy to talk to you about them more. I also found that Inge at www.diaperware.com was very helpful, though www.fuzzibunzstore.com has the best prices, and offers starter packages. Oh - we use cloth wipes, as well, that we keep in a wipes warmer, and wash with everything else. It's really quite simple!”

“We use Fuzzi Bunz too! We also have a Happy Heiney and Swaddlebee and Wonderoo, but I hate the latter two (always leak for us). My baby has chubby thighs and we've found we had to switch sizes earlier than others. The HH, on the other hand, is still in use. That just has a thick strip of velcro. It takes a little more adjustment than the FBz, but you don't have to invest in new sizes. I have a small bag with a snap that I take in my diaper bag. It's a small version of the hanging diaper pail we use. In a pinch. I just grab a plastic bag. When we go to the beach, I use 7th Gen. Traveling with FBz hasn't been terribly difficult either.”

“We have been using cloth diapers for about 2 1/2 months. We use Fuzzi Bunz and Bum Genius. I must say the Bum Genius are really amazing!! They never leak, they don't stain and the fit is good. The Fuzzi Bunz aren't terrible- but my vote is for Bum Genius. I have 8 Bum Genius and 8 Fuzzi Bunz and I do a load of diapers every other- every third day. I must say, without a washer and dryer in your place would be making a lot of trips to the laundry mat. Have you looked into Tender Care diapers? They are non-toxic and you can buy them online.”

 

How to home launder…?

“I switched to laundering my own - its definitely more work but also definitely cheaper. (Also, I never used disposables full time but in my limited experience they are easier, but not ridiculously so.) I bought used prefolds really cheaply at Caribou Baby in Greenpoint and the rest for a pretty good price from DiaperKind. Actually before I go into too much detail l should just say that if you haven't decided between prefolds and all-in-ones (AIOs) or a hybrid, prefolds are the least expensive and they work well for us, but I know people who love AIOs - I imagine they fit really well. You could borrow some of my prefolds/covers to test out with Zachary to see if they work for his body type.”

“We keep a small trash can (the kind that has a removable bucket insert and a lid that lifts with a foot press) next to his changing table. Inside that we keep a waterproof cloth bag (available where cloth diapers are sold). This is called the "dry pail" method, I guess. Safer and more sanitary than the "wet pail" method. We can also tape a natural air freshener to the inside of the lid, but we have not had a problem with the smell. We dump any solids right into the toilet before we put the dirty diaper into the can. We have to wash a load of diapers every other day. Wait any longer and smell will be a problem. It is a bummer to have to stuff inserts back into the pockets every other day, but the AIOs (all in one) do not hold nearly as much liquid, in my experience, as the pockets. Also, AIOs take a lot longer to dry. The label says wash once in cold and once in hot, then do an extra rinse. We have a washer and dryer in the house (that has a double wash and rinse cycle), so this is easy for us. If we didn't, it would be a real hassle. Also, you have to use detergent with no additives, such as Charlie's Soap or BioKleen. I hope this helps! I think I made it sound like a hassle, but it is really SO easy. We keep some biodegradable disposables (nature baby care) on hand for trips, babysitters, daycare, and other times.”

 

Waterproof liners and inserts are a must….

“We have tried g diapers but don't use them exclusively.  My advice would be to make sure you have extra waterproof liners.  Other wise you have to change the whole thing with each poop. We use the flushable inserts and they seem to be pretty absorbent.  We definitely feel like we are producing a lot less trash on the days we use them.I would like to invest in a few more diapers so we can get away from the disposables all together.”

“As one poster mentioned, you can put disposable inserts in to catch the solids (we're not there yet) and reduce the laundering mess. I got an eco- friendly diaper pail liner from Amazon that all the nappies go into, & the direx said you can just throw the full bag into the washer, which helps insulate the person doing laundry from the dirty nappies.”

 

On home laundering in an apartment coop….

 

“We don't have a w/d in our unit (we live in a coop and have shared w/ds in the basement), otherwise I would've home laundered. I home laundered our cloth diapers every summer when on vacation, and it is so much easier than I ever would have thought (Diaperkind allows you to take your Diaperkind diapers with you while away, and they give you home laundering instructions to follow).

 

On type of cloth diapers and prefolds…

 

“We used prefolds with plastic covers and laundered at home.  I concur with what others have said -- they're easier than you think, economical, last for multiple babies, etc. I recommend the plastic covers with adjustable sides with velcro fasteners.  We started out with the old-fashioned kind with elastic leg holes that don't adjust, and my daughter's legs were so skinny that they leaked. You can find lots of tutorial info on cottonbabies-dot-com.”

“We loved using prefolds. It took awhile to figure out what worked best for us, in terms of covers and doublers (especially for nighttime), and I think what makes the most sense differs for different kids/families.”

 

Not into home laundering?

Consider a pick up service.

Read member reviews

 

Benefits: Cloth diapers save you money:

 

“Having your own cloth diapers and covers and laundering them at home will save you the most money. Honestly, you will only be doing about 3-4 loads more a week which is nothing when you realize how many extra loads you do with a new baby in general. Plus, you can reuse them with your next kid. ($3000 a pop to diaper a child for 3 years in disposables verses $500 is a lot of savings.)”

 

Negatives:

“The only negatives came from my lack of experience.  I didn't realize that you couldn't use standard diaper rash creams/ointments because the oil stains the cloth and eliminates the absorbency (I think most people know this, but I did not).  We ended up having to "strip" our diapers with Dawn and bleach.  The other issue was a tough time getting rid of a fungal diaper rash.  Sometimes yeast can get into cloth diapers and live there.  My son had a fungal rash that kept coming back, so it meant a week in disposables to really, really clear it up, and meanwhile I had to bleach and wash the diapers in very hot water.  What we plan to do going forward is use the cloth all day, and put a 7th Generation disposable on at night.  I LOVE my cloth diapers, but they really can't keep a baby dry for 12 straight hours of nighttime sleep.”

 

There are local resources out there:

“If you have continuing questions, we have a local group, brooklyn cloth diapering families on facebook where we post items we're looking for (ISO), items FS and ask questions along our cloth diapering journey.”

 

Cloth diapering vs. Disposables…

 

“We have used both. One advantage of cloth diapering is that babies often potty-train earlier, as they are better able to recognize when they are wet. On the downside, they may be more prone to diaper rash because of the wet cloth against their skin. (However, when baby gets diaper rash wearing disposables, a loose fitting cloth diaper helps air them out, so...) Also, cloth diapering is more time consuming and the cost of constantly doing laundry is high (time-wise, financially and can be environmentally). Like many moms at the time, my mom used cloth diapers exclusively and hand-washed everything. I originally thought we would do this as well, but it is hard to do on the go and requires time and space to dry. And disposables fit him better. G-diapers are a good combo option. I feel be flexible and agree that whatever works best for mama and baby at the time is the way to go.  

 

On pickup service…

“Diaperkind is fantastic. They make it so easy [...] We did Diaperkind with my first kid (we didn't have a w/d in our apartment at the time), and we're home laundering now with the second. I loved Diaperkind but it is SO MUCH CHEAPER to home launder. You have to be willing to run a load of laundry basically every day, and I got a lot less precious about washing (pee, not poop) diapers with other clothes. We buy everything from Diaperkind; used prefolds, covers, snappis. 30 diapers is enough to get us through about 48 hours (with cloth diapers you basically have to change the diaper after every single pee, so it's a lot more changes, but a whole lot less diaper rash).”

Read other reviews and experiences about Diaperkind on PSP Recommendations pageRead other reviews and experiences about Diaperkind on PSP Recommendations page

 

On cloth diaper life:

“We have used cloth diapers for both of our daughters who are currently 4 years old and 1.5 (the younger one is still wearing them). When I was pregnant with my first we were clear we wanted to do cloth diapers for many reasons (environment, financial) but I was overwhelmed with all the choices. At the suggestion of a close friend, I decided to buy a set of prefolds (the flat piece of fabric that is folded and then a plastic cover is put on) at first and then once things had settled with the baby she suggested I could try other brands. 4+ years later we are still using prefolds - they couldn't be easier, more simple or more affordable. They come in two sizes - the first size lasts from 0-6 months and the second size lasts until potty training (2+). We own 24 of each kind. We also own about 6 plastic covers which either come in different sizes (just like baby clothes) or in a one-size fits all that has multiple ways to snap them. The diapers have absolutely lasted through our second child. I am currently pregnant with our third (due in February) and we will continue to use them with the next one.

We have always laundered at home. The key is to use a natural organic detergent (which comes in bulk and isn't expensive) that we buy online and this prevents a chemical build-up on the diaper that would make their absorption deteriorate.

I haven't done a price comparison with diaper services, but have done the comparison to disposable diapers, and even with the cost of electricity/water these are so much cheaper than buying disposable. On the environmental front lots of people say "oh but you are using so much water and electricity, they couldn't be better environmentally than disposable diapers." But when I was originally doing the research 4 years ago there were studies that showed the enormous amount of electricity and water (not to mention oil, plastics, etc) that goes in manufacturing disposable diapers. And then they sit in a landfill somewhere. No comparison environmentally.

We also had other concerns:

1) Will we be able to manage the laundry with our busy lives? - With 24 diapers we do diaper laundry about every 4 days. It becomes routine and hasn't been a big deal.
2) Where will we keep the dirty diapers until we wash them? Will our house smell? - There a special washable bags that you line a diaper pail or large garbage pail (with lid) and there is absolutely no smell.
3) What do you do with the poop? - We easily attached a sprayer to our toilet (in all three rental apartments we have lived in since our daughter was born) and you just spray the poop into the toilet.
4) Will our baby get diaper rash? No. Obviously you have to change the diapers regularly, but that's true of disposable diapers. In fact, the only time our youngest got diaper rash was when she had the stomach flu and I won't go into details but we ended up using disposable diapers for a few changes. As soon as we saw what had happened and switched back to cloth, the rash cleared up.
5) What happens when you go out? - Again, like for the diaper pail, there are special washable "wet bags" that you buy to put in your diaper bag so that you can carry a dirty diaper home without odor or wetness.
6) Childcare - our older daughter was potty trained by the time she went to preschool and until then (and with our younger daughter now) we had a nanny so we haven't dealt with the daycare issue. But all of our nannies with the exception of one (who was particularly needy) were very willing to do cloth diapers and all say "oh wow, this is so easy."”

 

More on cloth diaper life…

“With my first (5 years ago! Ack!), I felt the same as some of you - so much waste with the disposables! So I got g-diapers. They were cute, they worked well and didn't leak (mostly), and swishing the inserts with a swish stick before flushing was pretty easy. However, I still had the occasional dreaded blowout-up-the-back. (Some of our babies may not be doing that yet. Some definitely are. And it's awful.) Then I found out that I could get cloth inserts for my gdiapers. Woo! In no time I was laundering our inserts happily, and using a hanging wetbag for the soiled inserts (and, when needed, liners and covers). It was super easy.

 And then the velcro gave out. I'd hated the velcro edges and the loud sound it made when I was changing a sleeping baby who became a startled baby. The pocket diapers - all cloth - seemed pretty easy, like g diapers... but they had snap tabs instead of velcro, which were far les startling and allowed for a good fit as baby grew (no new covers for bigger babies). The biggest brands seemed pretty expensive, but I found (and fell in love with) Kawaii Baby, which were the same as the expensive stuff but from a lovely little Canadian company at a much lower price. My baby had the cutest butt ever, and the diapers worked great.

My first kid was potty trained before #2 came along. He happily wore her old cloth pocket diapers, and we washed a load of laundry - just inverted the bag into the washer and tossed it (and our cloth wipes) in, no rinsing, nothing - every three days. #2 started solids and our handy diaper sprayer kept things easily manageable. Then we had to move, and our new place had recessed plumbing behind the toilets: no sprayer. Hubby, barely on board with cloth in the first place, wasn't into soaker pails. Sadly, our cloth saga came to an end.

#3, my little April baby who came in March, was a cloth guy, too. Since newborns don't need any spraying, he could jump right in to the old stash of diapers. I happily laundered every 3 days again. But then we had to move... and the current place has no laundry at all.

I've tucked away my stash for now, but we are using DiaperKind (the service). Simply for financial reasons I chose to try the prefolds (the rectangular ones our moms likely used on US as babies - the name prefold is misleading because they are not folded at all - that's your job as you put it on the baby) and a few covers a local nearby mom gave to me (she also gave me the diaperkind pail, which you otherwise must buy). I was really surprised that it is definitely no more work (maybe less so!) than a pocket diaper + insert, and the reuse of the cover - much like a g-diaper liner and cover in one - is simple. They are PHENOMENAL when it comes to customer service and I am delighted. I am actually finding they keep baby's clothes drier than my old pocket diapers do, and fit more trimly. I'm only sad I didn't use prefolds before! Both prefolds and pocket diapers prevented up the back blowouts nearly 100%. We plan to continue this as long as we live where we do, using Honest company or 7th Generation diapers as our disposeable backups when we need.

So, the take-home: if you have laundry, go for it! You can try different styles and brands via Jillian's Drawers, a great online cloth diapering resource. THey send you a bunch, you try them, and return them before you invest in a bunch of stuff you end up hating. Consider prefolds; they are the cheapest option, and in my experience so far the most absorbent, with few or no leaks. And we love DiaperKind.”