Cloth diapering was my first real jump into the 'green living' world and very dear to my heart! I started out one afternoon just googling information and was instantly lost. There were so many different kinds, so many different places to buy from, so many things I had no idea what were or if they were necessary! But first, if you are wondering, 'Why cloth, you addle-headed hippie?' take a gander here at why this mom thinks cloth is the way to go: http://library.adoption.com/parenting-and-families/why-use-cloth-diapers/article/2317/1.html
The potential for saving money was one of the big reasons I justified getting into cloth- according to what I researched those first few days, the prefolds were the way to go for the maximum in savings. So, with that knowledge in hand the first order placed was the classic 'Try It' prefold package with Snappis and Bummis PUL covers. http://www.cottonbabies.com/product_info.php?cPath=22&products_id=352
And of course, having no clue as to what I was ordering, I ordered the wrong size! I was so excited to get that first package- carefully read the instructions, washed the bazillion times to prep properly. Got one on my baby. And realized this just wouldn't do. Looking back, wish I had thought to take a picture of that poor attempt to put a prefold on my baby, but also the sheer ridiculousness of the giant diaper on my really, really angry baby. She had just figured out how to roll over and just what the heck was Mom doing to her? Off the diaper went and back to the computer to place a new order for the smaller size.
Prefolds ended up just not working for us. CottonBabie's package offers only Infant and Premium sizes. Many love these and swear by them but they may not be the best introduction to cloth for those starting out. If you do want to use prefolds for the economical reasons, I recommend GreenMountain prefolds. http://www.greenmountaindiapers.com/diapers.htm
They have more of the usual NB-XL sizing so you can really get a good fit without a ton of bulk. These are also good quality prefolds, I have a couple dozen in the preemie and newborns myself. 'What, did I read that right, you will still use prefolds?' You read that correctly. Much to my surprise, I discovered those tiny prefolds fit better than anything else on the smallest of tushes. For all future babies, those will be our daytime/at home choice. And while the preemie sizes are outgrown quickly, they make excellent doublers and inserts long after!
There's always the question of 'How many?' Well, that depends. How heavy does your baby wet? How often do you want to wash? Prefolds are generally a one-pee diaper. The number of times a baby wets varies by baby and by age. As a rule of thumb I say to plan on 2 dozen for any diaper you get(but don't get that many right away!). This is on the conservative side for prefolds, some may choose for 3 dozen or even more. But 2 dozen is a good place to start.
Why not get 2 dozen right away? Because cloth diapers are as numerous as there are different cuts to jeans or shapes to shoes. Your baby has an entirely different shape than mine and there is a cloth diaper out there made to fit your baby. When first starting out and after the prefold disaster, my next cloth were 5 Happy Heiny small pockets with hemp inserts off Craigslist. They were perfect, easy to use, absorbant, cute and a great fit. They got me to looking at the rest of the line and I decided again, for economical reasons, to go with the onesize pockets instead of the sized. Ended up purchasing around 2 dozen brand new at 18.95 a piece. Yes, that was a lot of money. And yes, it was very sad when I realized a few months into it, they really weren't working for us. So, moral is, start with one or two of several kinds, wear them for a while and see which ones you really like enough to use for several months.
My first covers were in that basic package from CottonBabies: Bummis. They are a great first cover and I recommend then highly to those starting out and wanting something easy. http://www.greenmountaindiapers.com/covers.htm
Bummis Super Whisper Wraps have a waterproof laminate layer covered by a baby- skin- friendly knit so no laminate actually touches their skin. These are really tough covers! You can wash them in the washer and hang dry. Some covers you can use more than once without a break, these you do need to allow to air out between diapers so you want probably 3 to start out with. The velcro tabs allow for easy on/off and they have several very cute prints.
Another type of cover is wool. I was very intimidated by wool for a long time, and it wasn't until I was running out of options for my 7mo old super duper wetter, that I gave in and tried it. A couple months later, I'd switched entirely to wool and sold off my PUL/Bummis covers save for a couple back-ups. Wool truly is the superior cover for us. It is breathable, so it stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Wool holds a lot of moisture and does not leak easily, making it the best option for long trips, nights, naps and your every day heavy wetter. Most wool has to be washed by hand. This sounds inconvenient, but it really is not difficult and does not have to be done very often. I've gone easily a month between washes. 'Isn't stinky?!' No, wool has natural self-cleaning properties to it and when allowed to dry between uses, can be used over and over. The lanolin in wool is what gives it it's waterproof abilities. Over time, the lanolin wears off. There are products available that will add this back to your wool, often contained in your actual wool wash making it a one step process. But, wool and wool care is a topic deserving of it's own 'part', so we'll get into more specifics at a later. The Covered Caboose and Aristocrat are two great wool covers available at GreenMountain under 'Diaper Covers': http://www.greenmountaindiapers.com/covers.htm#coveredcaboose
We've just barely begun to take a peek at all that is possible with cloth! It is an area that is CONSTANTLY changing. And don't take my word as truth for what will work for you- remember- there are tons and tons of diapers out there because each baby is different!
My favorite Diapers(also constantly changing!):
Prefolds- Green Mountain sized prefolds. These will be all I will use on a newborn save a couple 'picture' diapers. Will probably use them for size small, too, and keep a few fitteds and AIOs on hand for trips out.
Fitteds- Dream Eze. Lucy's Hope Chest. Patchwork Pixies. Muttaquins. Fluff and Stuff. Holden's Landing. Zaney Zebras. There are so many wonderful diaper makers out there! I could keep going!
All in Ones(AIOs)- Dream Eze. Lucy's Hope Chest. Green Acre Designs. Drybees Hybrids(although they take a while to dry) Bumgenius. Again, so many to choose from!
Night Diapers- Green Acre Designs(GADs) fleece pockets. With hemp inserts, hands down my favorite.
My favorite Covers:
PUL- Bummis Super Whisper Wrap. A lot of people also love Thirsties.
A. Interlock-Wild Child Woolies(WCW). Sustainablebabyish(SBish). Luxe. Kiwi Pie.
B. Anything handknit
Longies(pants), shorties(shorts) skirties(skirts) soakers. Love them all! Check out hyenacart.com and etsy.com for some truly talented ladies and their hand-knit products!.
I'll have to take a couple pictures of my babe in her cloth and wool so you can see just how fun it is! One thing to keep in mind as you get sticker shock from some of the prices, well, make that two things to keep in mind. One, you can resell items as your baby grows out of them. Craigslist, Diaperswappers(be careful of the net bugs) and Spots Corner on HyenaCart are a few options. You cannot sell used cloth diapers anymore on Ebay. But you can sell used socks. Go figure. Oh yeah, I forgot to try that for some extra income! *Smacks head* Second thing, you can buy used. Yep. Sounds gross? Well, it isn't any more gross than reusing the same diaper over and over anyways. A light bleach wash is great for those that are a little squicky about using used, or the sanitization cycle on my washer works just fine for me. Another benefit to buying used: a better return of your money most likely which means greater savings! And who doesn't like a few extra bucks left under the mattress?
After all of the cloth diaper information on what to consider, now on to how to care for it and accessories needed!
First up, all detergents are not created equal. Cloth diapers must be absorbant, or you will have a wet mess. Most detergents over time leave a build-up on the cloth, creating a not so great barrier to moisture. (Think, the Mississippi on a half pipe with nothing holding it back- eee!) The biggest rule of thumb to follow is choose something fragrance and dye free. Personally I tend to use Planet or Purex Free and Clear. Some use Charlie's. Do not not use the Baby Drefts. Here is an awesome chart of the different soaps ranked by the star system: http://www.diaperjungle.com/detergent-chart.html
Also, less is more. You do not need to use a full scoop of detergent. I probably average 1/3 or so.
I am also a big fan of oxyclean. Some people complain of their diapers being smelly. Mine have only been once- when I ran out of oxyclean. Some people say not to use this as it is hard on your diapers, I personally have not had any trouble with it and we've been at it for... 3 years.
Fabric softeners are another no-no. (Unless you use Ecover fabric softener, that's the only one I'm aware of that doesn't build up like traditional softeners) Some choose to use fabric balls, too.
For stains? Sun them! Seriously, it works wonders. You can also try soaking in oxyclean overnight.
My care routine:
Wet- into the wet bag until wash day
Dirty- into the wet pail in the basement safely away from baby until wash day. I do not spray but if some will easily fall off into the toilet, do that.
Dirty first- rinse cycle in cold. If they're bad, put through a quick wash on cold with just detergent and oxyclean.
Then add in your wet diapers. Around 10-12 a load is all you want to do. Quick wash cycle again with detergent and oxyclean on Hot. If available, next use your sanitization cycle or just wash on Hot and Heavy dirt. This time also add in a cap of Ecover fabric softener if you are going to use it.
And that's it! Please note, this works for me. It might not work for you due to different water qualities and washer options. In general, rinse, light wash, heavy wash. That should do it. From here you can hang or throw in the dryer on medium heat.
**If you notice your diapers repelling water, they need to be stripped and your care routine reviewed. You may be using a bad detergent or just too much detergent. To strip diapers, simply wash on hot 3 times with no soap or until you don't see soap bubbles in the water as they are washing. Some add a teaspoon of dawn, too(I have never done this).
--There are a ton of things you can buy. But what do you need? Sprays to take the stink out of the diaper? Eh, not necessary. But sometimes nice if you are out and would have to carry the wetbag around with you.
--Fancy 'diaper pail'? Nope. Don't waste your money, just get a regular trash can with a lid. Or better yet, skip the pail and use hanging bags. They work much better and don't smell. The only 'pail' I use is an empty kitty litter bucket next to the utility sink in the basement- dirty diapers soak in water until they can be washed.
--Wetbags? Definitely. All sizes. I like small ones for quick trips, medium for longer and large for at home in place of my 'pail'. We probably have 6 or 7 now. The zipper ones are the best for trips- the drawstring for home.
--Cloth wipes? Do it! It took me several tries but we’re converts now. Make your own or buy them, there’s not much to it. Just a square of cloth to wipe a bum. We have about 2 dozen for bums only and that seems plenty.
--Snappis? If you are using prefolds, yep. Easier than pins. I'd suggest 3-4 if using mostly prefolds!
--Babylegs? I love them. We have a large collection.
--Diaper Liners? Probably a good idea. The flushable ones work great for people that would rather put as much dirty in the toilet as possible and keep it off the diaper. They have thin fleece ones that work awesome, too. Those you obviously wash, but at least the mess is kept off the diaper. They are also necessary when using diaper rash cremes. You DO NOT want to use a regluar creme with cloth. It will ruin your diaper by both staining them and stopping all absorption. There are cremes out there for cloth diapers if needed.
That's about all I can think of at the moment. If anyone has any questions, I'm always willing to help. Cloth can be tricky at first but really, it is a lot of fun. I know it lessens our impact on the environment in a huge way, can help save money and is healthier for our babies.
See Organizing our cloth diapers for a couple ideas on how you can keep the fluff tamed!
See Organizing our cloth diapers for a couple ideas on how you can keep the fluff tamed!