cloth diapering a year in: tips and caveats

When I wrote this post way back in March when Baby Genius was still a little baby, I fully anticipated revisiting this subject from time to time. Alas, I have been a less-than-present blogger in recent months, and as a result, very few diapering updates have happened. Once in awhile, I do get questions about cloth diapering from readers, and while I by no means feel that I’m an expert, I do have my experience through trial and error to share. Therefore, I think I’ll share with you some of the things we have learned after cloth diapering our son for around fourteen months:

  • In the beginning, try a lot of different kinds of diapers. My sister took it upon herself to buy us all kinds of different diapers, from diapers made by work-at-home-moms to well-known brands. We started off mostly with covers and really cheap prefolds, but through our experimentation with what we had, we learned that if were to use prefolds, they needed to be high quality (diaper service quality chinese or indian prefolds). Later, we learned that we really preferred the ease of pocket diapers and AIOs and that hybrid diapers were really great too. All of this was simply through trying varieties of diapers. Many diaper shops online have trial packages that allow you to check out either a variety of brands or a variety of styles of diapers. If you don’t want to just put together your own sampler, I highly recommend doing something like this.
  • Do your research. We had a favorite inexpensive pocket diaper, of which we bought maybe two dozen. We now have about a dozen of these still in rotation because the rest failed in major ways (the polyurethane lining meant to keep them leak-proof began peeling!). Had I really done my research on these, especially at places like diaperpin.com, I would have learned that lots of others had this problem and that the company was no longer in business. Yeah, not cool.
  • A few different people I have known have stopped cloth diapering because their diapers have developed an odor. This happens with pocket diapers especially. More than one friend has said they planned to just throw those diapers away because they stunk and weren’t usable. If your pocket diapers or AIOs stink or become leaky, they more than likely need to be stripped; they aren’t ruined, so don’t give up! We have had to do this once or twice, and it simply involves washing the diapers back to back three or four times in very hot water and throwing in a bit of white vinegar (we use a Downy ball for this). It’s magical. Most detergents will at some point build up on diapers keeping odors in, so this does have to be done once in awhile, but now we just do a super-hot wash ever few loads, and we throw in the Downy ball with a small amount of vinegar for most loads, and this tends to do the trick. Based on our experiences so far, stripping is only necessary every three or four months.
  • There is no need for crazy washing rituals. We wash our diapers in hot water with some baking soda and scent-free, dye-free detergent (and the aforementioned Downy ball with vinegar). When the weather is good, we line dry the diapers and covers. When we have limited time or bad weather, we dry them in the dryer. Some people double wash, some run a second rinse, but in most cases, it is perfectly fine to run a normal wash.
  • Don’t be afraid to cloth diaper on the go, at night, or as you’re traveling, but don’t feel bad if you can’t. There are great hybrid diapers out there to make it easier to semi-cloth diaper, but there are times when even that just won’t work out. That said, it is far easier to cloth diaper on the go that one might think. With pocket diapers, especially, one usually doesn’t need to change the diaper but every couple of hours, which can be plenty of time for errands or going out to eat.
  • Be flexible. Realistically, there won’t be one system that works for every scenario or every person. Don’t let anyone tell you that one system is the right system because only can know what works for your family and your baby. You may have to mix and match to find diapers that work for all situations, or you might find that just one simple system like prefolds and covers is what’s best. And you may find that you can only cloth diaper on the weekends.
  • It’s never too late to start (unless, of course, your child is already out of diapers). In fact, many people start cloth diapering their toddlers to make potty learning a little easier (they do feel the moisture far more than with disposables)

I know that the world of cloth diapering can be totally overwhelming and even discouraging, but if you’re pursuing it, stick with it. Like so many aspects of parenting, this is expertise one gains in the thick of the job.

That said, for those of you who have cloth diapered, do you have any tips for those just getting started or thinking about it? For those of you who are considering cloth diapering, feel free to leave any questions too!

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “cloth diapering a year in: tips and caveats

  1. so helpful! our cd stash is completely different from when we started and i couldn’t agree with you more on each point. i wish we had been more open to trying out more in the beginning. now i’ve sold off most of my original stash for fitteds and wool covers, keeping some prefolds and pockets. you just never know which option is going to work best for your situation until you try! i appreciate how you’ve emphasized how accessible cloth can be – i know it can be daunting at first, but like you, it’s more than worth it to us. can you share what diaps you’re loving now? i’m trying a few new: http://shop.thegoodmama.com/, http://www.woollybottoms.com/, the sos diapers at http://sosdiapers.wahmweb.com/store/, and http://sloomb.myshopify.com/.

    • reproducinggenius

      Oohh, I’ll definitely be checking these out! I have wanted to try wool covers, especially for nighttime, but I have yet to work up the courage to try them since BG is a pretty heavy wetter at night (and I know wool is supposed to be good for that). I’m going to have to just dive in and try some!

      We are always trying new things, but pockets and AIOs tend to be our favorites. We have a bunch of Monkey Doodlez AIOs that we really love. They’re nice and trim, and they come in the greatest colors, and some come in bamboo blends, which we love. The recent pockets we’re trying are Smartipants, and so far, we love these. They are U.S. made and just a slightly different design than some pockets (their inserts actually come out in the wash!). So far, so good with these, and they’re really quite inexpensive!

  2. K

    Great post! I agree with all of your tips.

    We line dry all of our covers and pocket shells (in our basement) but we also have a bunch of AIOs for daycare, and those almost always have to go in the dryer due to time constraints. We’ve found that tossing a couple of dryer balls in with our AIOs and inserts cut the drying time WAY down.

  3. N

    I agree to all of the above! It’s possibly almost time for us to do a diaper post again. Of course, we’re on the cusp of a disposable-only weekend, since we’re flying and can only check one bag each, and need our space for other baby-related things. oy.

  4. Schroedinger

    Thank you so much for all this info! I am definitely going to try some different pocket-styles once Speetus comes out and we have a better idea about what styles we should look for!

  5. J

    I’m sure T will be along to elaborate, but I just wanted to jump in and add a few items:

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned about cloth diapering it is the point about flexibilty, open-mindedness, and commitment. When we first started, we only cloth diapered during the day–never while on the road or at night, but slowly our situation changed, our diapering system changed, and now we exclusively CD (except for the occassional hybrid). For people who do daycare or travel a lot, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can cloth diaper part time.

    Also, if you take good care of your diapers, line drying whenever possible, stripping out stains and odors, the resell value on them is pretty good. We’ve sold even our damaged diaper covers on ebay for a decent price, so your investment is definitely worth it.

    Happy diapering, mammas!

  6. So you don’t prewash and then wash….oh I am going to give that a try especially since her diapers are only pee. She is doing number 2 on the toilet.

  7. giggleblue

    i agree with the wash routine stuff. i hear so many people talking about their elaborate washing techniques, and we keep it simple. although we do wash twice, that’s the extent of it.

    we can’t even use disposables on trips because she gets horrible rashes. if that’s your case, and you have to daycare, get a doctor’s note if your daycare is hesitant to take your cloth.

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