I get a lot of questions about my choice to cloth diaper my baby. “How much do the diapers cost? What brand do you recommend? How to do you wash them? Are you some sort of crazy tree-hugging hippie??” The idea of cloth diapering can be mystifying, and many new parents have no idea where to start. There are so many variables, from the type of material used to the number of diapers bought, storage and washing routines. If you asked a hundred parents the details of how they cloth diaper, you'd probably get a hundred different answers. Here's what works around our house – our own little Cloth Diapering 101!
We bought BumGenius cloth diapers, which have convenient snaps to change sizes so they grow with your baby from 7 to 35+ pounds. We use “version 4.0,” which simply means that they're the 4th cloth diapering system that BumGenius has put out. These diapers feature a soft, waterproof outside with a fleece pocket inside that holds a microfiber insert. Liquids in the diaper go through the fleece pocket and are absorbed by the microfiber insert, so the liquid doesn't stay pooled up against your baby's skin. We have a supply of 30 cloth diapers, which cost $20 a piece. They are some of the most expensive cloth diapers on the market, but they have a reputation for being the easiest to use.
BumGenius cloth diapers have two rows of snaps along the top and two sets of snaps in the front. The top snaps are used for closing the diaper, and it can be closed loosely or more tightly by snapping these shut closer together or further apart. The snaps in front by the crotch area are used to cinch the diaper into a smaller size. When the highest snaps are used, the diaper fits a newborn baby. On the lower set of snaps, the diaper fits approximately 13-20 or 25 pounds, and the diaper can be unsnapped in front altogether to fit larger babies.
Inserts are easily slipped into an opening at the top of the diaper. Each cloth diaper comes with two inserts: a newborn size and a regular size. The newborn size is shorter, and fits until they're 12 or 13 pounds. The regular size is used for bigger babies, and can also be folded down for babies in the “middle” stage of the diapers. The newborn inserts come in handy as “doublers,” which are extra inserts to be used at night. It's a bit bulky with two inserts in one diaper, but it gives the diaper more absorbency that comes in really handy when babies start sleeping through the night.
Some Boy goes through about eight to ten diapers per day, so our 30-diaper supply gets washed every three days or so. We wash our cloth diapers separately from our clothing with Rockin' Green Hard Rock Bare Naked Babies detergent. It's generally recommended to use a detergent that's free of dyes or harsh chemicals, as these will build up on the fabric over time and make diapers less absorbent (I'll admit, though, I have used other detergents on occasion and haven't noticed an absorbency issues). Very little detergent is necessary to get the diapers clean, and they usually come out totally unsoiled. We occasionally hang ours outside and let the sun bleach them if there are any spots remaining.
The clean diapers get folded up for storage in baskets and we stick the dirty ones in a Diaper Champ (which uses any 13 gallon trash bag as a liner), with the inserts removed from the outer shell. Easy peasy. Since he's still exclusively breastfed and there isn't any solid waste, we don't worry about cleaning the diaper off before putting it in the Diaper Champ. Later on, we'll need to shake solids into the toilet first. There are convenient diaper sprayers that hook right up to the toilet water line to make this a hassle-free, sanitary task.
In case you're wondering, we chose to use the snap BumGenius diapers instead of the ones with velcro because they last longer. We'll probably be able to use these same diapers for our next child.
Speaking of diapers lasting longer, you're not actually supposed to use any diaper rash cream with cloth diapers because it seeps into the cloth and makes it less absorbent. An easy solution to this is to use cloth diaper inserts. You can buy them, or simply make your own by cutting thin fleece into diaper-sized strips. That way, you can use Vaseline or rash cream without fear that it will harm the diaper (but don't use Desitin, it distributes into the diapers when you wash them and makes them smell weird). Liquids go right through fleece but any solids get trapped on top of the insert, so a lot of people like to use these inserts to make waste disposal easier when babies start eating solid foods.
Anything I missed? Feel free to leave questions in the comments!