Cloth Diapering Basics
By: Jen McKinnon
Cloth diapering often conjures up images of babies poked by pins and messy, leaky bottoms. The new generation of cloth diapers boasts more functionality, ease of use and being more convenient than before. They are as cost effective as 20 years ago. Here is the basic information you will need to know when considering how you will diaper your baby.
What is a cloth diaper?
Cloth diapers are made of natural materials such as cotton, wool, bamboo and hemp. This makes cloth diapers absorbent, cost efficient and better for the environment. These are some of the styles to cloth diapers.
AIO – the All in One diaper have an absorbent strip attached to the waterproof liner. This is most similar to disposable diapers.
Pocket – The Pocket diaper has a pocket for you to slide in an absorbent insert. This gives you the freedom of customizing the absorbency to your baby’s needs.
Prefold – This is a classic style. A large square of fabric is folded and then laid inside a waterproof diaper cover. The advantage to this diaper is being able to switch out a soiled insert for a clean insert without replacing the waterproof diaper cover. Prefolds are the most economical choice.
Fitted – Fitted diapers are similar to prefolds. They require a diaper cover but they do not need to be folded. They are attached to baby by snaps, velcro or the use of a Snappy (a fastener that replaced pins).
How many diapers do you need?
24-36 cloth diapers, 18-24 for an older child
3-6 diaper covers (not required if you use pocket or All in One diapers)
2-3 doublers for naps and bedtime (I recommend 3-6 doublers)
1 Wet Bag for storing soiled diapers
These amounts assume that you are washing your diapers every two to three days. You can have fewer or more diapers which would change how often you have to do laundry. It is suggested that your diapers not sit for more than three days.
Consider spending $50 - $70 every month of your pregnancy. This will give you time to purchase an assortment of cloth diapers without a large cost all at once. Diapers can be purchased online or in store.
Typically cloth costs less because you do not replace them. To cloth diaper a newborn to age two can range from $335 for Bummis Prefolds to $966 for Fuzzi Bunks Pocket. Compare that to the cost of the same number of disposable diaper changes at $1728.
First you need to wash your diapers at least once before using them. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. One of the great things about cloth diapers is that they're made of natural materials. This means that there is natural oils in the diapers which needs to be washed out by a hot water wash in your washing machine. Most manufacturers suggest two to three hot washes before using.
Wet diapers can go directly into your pail or bag for until washing day. Soiled diaper stool can be turned out into the toilet and flushed. For messier bowel movements, use a flushable liner or a sprayer to rinse the liner. Diaper sprayers attach to the toilet line and allow you to spray the diaper down without soaking the bathroom. If your child is breastfed, you will not have to dispose of the stool because the natural waste can be just thrown into the washing pail. However, once baby starts solids, you will have to dispose of the stool.
Wash diapers every two to three days your diapers should be washed. This is a simple and easy process. Take your pail or wet bag to the washing machine and throw the diapers into the wash. Some diapers need to have the liners separated from the inserts. Turn any diapers with velcro tabs inside out so the velcro attaches to the front of the diaper but being inside out it is exposing all of the absorbent layer to the water in the washing machine. You can expect to do two loads per week.
Detergent: Cloth diapers need to be washed with detergent that is enzyme free, dye free, fragrance free and phosphate free. There are several detergents to choose from and we are lucky to have a local diaper detergent made right here in Alberta, Claudia's Choices. You can also use Nature Clean which can be found in most grocery stores and is made right here in Canada. If you want to shop online you can find Nellies Detergent or you can use a natural product e Soap Nuts. Soap Nuts are grown in Nepal and India and contain large quantities of saponin which is a natural cleaner.
Step 1 Washing
Wash in cold water with ¼ (high efficiency machine) to ½ (front loader machines) of the recommended detergent amount.
Step 2 Rinsing
Wash in hot water with the same amount of soap as you used before. Add an extra rinse on this cycle.
Step 3 Drying
Line drying is better for cloth diapers but you can also dry them in your machine dryer.
If you really don't want to deal with cleaning your diapers but you want to cloth diaper you can use a diaper service. A diaper service will cost you about $24/ week or $29/week if you have multiple children in diapers.