This one is for you, Lauren! I’m going to tell you the nitty gritty of starting cloth diapering.
Choose a system
If you don’t know what systems are available, don’t be intimidated! Just click HERE to read my last post about what is available in the cloth diapering world, then come back here.
How many diapers do you really need?
If you do any research on this question you will come up with a handful of answers, I will suggest no less than 24, and really you don’t need more than 30. I started out with prefolds and have never had more than 24 which lasts two and a half days, so I do laundry at least every two days. I like this setup because it keeps me from leaving her diapers soiled for too long. Plus, prefolds and flats tend to be sold in packs of 6 or 12. Since you have to change this part of the diaper with each soiling, this “magic” number will work for any other diaper you choose (All-in-1, All-in-2, etc…). So there, 24 is my minimum!
As far as covers, I have a total of 8, but I could honestly do fine with 6. The great thing about covers is that most are made to be wiped down and reused a few times before you have to wash it. The problem is poop…if the poop leaks out of the prefold you can’t come back from that, you have to wash the cover too…Violet’s poop always escapes. Always. There was a time when Violet would poop a couple times a day, now it’s more like twice a week, so poopsplosions are not as big a deal.
Ok, I may have given some of this away in the above section, but I’ll put it all here together. My 24 prefolds last about two and a half days, so I put on a wash every two days or so. You won’t want to leave your diapers sitting more than three days because mold and mildew can set in and then you have extra work on your hands.
You should ALWAYS refer to your manufacturer’s washing guidelines so you don’t ruin your diaper, but here’s what I do. Keep in mind that I use 100% cotton prefolds and covers lined with PUL. I wash the prefolds with a cold pre-rinse, then a warm wash, and every so often I run a 2nd rinse. I use the ECOS Free and Clear because it is one less thing to irritate my girl’s bum (cloth diapering is fantastic for kids with sensitive skin!).
After I am sure they are clean (I just sniff to make sure there’s no smell left), I toss them in the dryer on medium heat and it takes about an hour to dry completely. BUT! With the warm weather comes the ability to line dry! What takes an hour to dry in the dryer takes about 20 minutes in the sun. Want to hear something else amazing? You can “bleach” any stains out by sunning them while they are still wet. I tried it the other day and it worked well! Just avoid the urge to sun your diapers too much because direct sunlight will slowly break down the fibers, as will the heat of a dryer.
Ok, so there are a few variables that affect the cost of the prefold, such as size and the material. I chose organic cotton, but you can get cotton in bleached and unbleached as well. They also offer a variety of bamboo blends now, but I haven’t tried them and will most likely stick to my organic cotton diapers.
Prefolds – For newborn size prefolds you can get 12 for around $25-30 depending on the material you choose. Keep in mind that you must continue to go up in size as baby grows, and you may do this 4-5 times before baby is potty trained.
Flats – You can get 6 size Large organic flats for about $9. This is by far the most economical of diapers. Some mothers have said that large is too big for a newborn, so you may have to buy smalls for that season of your little one’s life, but only having to purchase two sizes for your diapering duration is so much easier and cheaper (although as your baby grows they may need added absorbancy by way of a soaker).
Covers – The average price for a cover is $12-20 for a one-size. Most sit around $15. Remember that the point of cloth is to reuse and if you buy cheaper diapers they will not last as long and you will need to spend yet more money to replace them sooner. Think long-term.
All-in-1 – These things vary quite a bit, but I’d say the range is $20-32. Bum Genius is on the cheaper end of the spectrum, and many people love them. Smart Bottoms is at the higher end and also has a very loyal following….it’s all down to your needs and the shape of your baby.
All-in-2 – The cover part runs about $16-20 and inserts can be anything from $3-15. Like the covers, these can be wiped down and reused before a wash so long as the cloth outer has not been soiled, so it’s not as expensive as it seems, but it is much more costly than flats/prefolds.
Pocket – Most of this type sit around the $15-20 mark. $15-ish for the shell and $23-ish for shell + insert. Pockets are a great option because most of them will take any insert, so you can really keep up with your little one’s absorbancy needs. Because the liner of the pocket diaper gets soiled you have to change the whole diaper each time, unlike covers, so you need enough of the pocket shells and inserts to make it through to laundry day.
Fitted – These range from $6-20-ish and you need a cover over them. I love these for overnight, but can’t afford to use them exclusively.
Soaker/Doubler – $3-10 is typical. They are cheaper in a pack, typically, and you will definitely need more than one. These add extra absorbancy to your existing diaper setup. I use two inside a fitted diaper for overnight and it works great. Again, I use 100% cotton and love it, but now they have hemp, bamboo, and even charcoal blends.
Other necessary objects – Yes, you do need a few other things to make your diapering arrangement complete.
- Diaper pail and two liners. The pail could just be a regular trashcan (Cheaper), but I recommend a metal (not so cheap) one since it won’t take on the smell. I highly recommend the Planet Wise pail liners because that’s what I have and can tell you they are great, very well made, and I’m confident will last for our diapering duration. I say you need two because one will be in the wash and one will be in the pail.
- Cloth wipes. Yes, really. It’s not gross or weird, it’s economical and easy! I have 48, I think, and I am never out of wipes, so really I think you could get away with something like 36 (mine come in packs of 12). You can keep a few in a container already damp. Approx. $12/dozen (However, you can make your own from receiving blankets…). These can last the duration of your diapering.
- Wet bag. This is a smaller, waterproof bag that you keep in your diaper bag to store soiled diapers in. You can throw them in the washer with the diapers (follow manufacturer’s recommendations), just turn it inside out. Or you can wipe down the interior like you would a cover. Approx. $15-20.
- Sprayer. Some people are cool with the dunk and swish method, but I am not so yes I call this a necessity. If you are industrious you could go to the hardware store and build a sprayer yourself, or there are several on the market for purchase. Whatever you do, do not cheap out on this. That is what I’ve read in all my researching and talking with cloth diapering mothers. This thing is how you deal with poop. You put the sprayer in line with your toilet plumbing and spray the poop off the diapers into the toilet. Easy. If you are worried about it spraying poop all over your bathroom there are bucket-type gadgets for that, but most moms get by without it. If your babe is exclusively breastfed the poop will dissolve in the wash, so no worries about poop lingering in the washer (yay!), but as soon as baby has solids you’ll need to have a different plan (hence the sprayer).
Well, there you go, the nitty gritty of cloth diapering. I hope this has been useful to you and please leave me a comment if you have any questions or suggestions. I’d love to hear from you.