Wednesday, June 21, 2017

6 Simple Steps to Start Using Cloth Diapers

I remember being a little kid and looking into the bathroom to see my mom cleaning a dirty cloth diaper. I said something like, "Mom, that's so gross!" and she just laughed. Luckily there are now somewhat improved ways of cloth diapering.

I also remember having the distinct thought as an older person, "I won't ever use cloth diapers, they seem like a lot of work for no reason." Now here I am!

I've now been using cloth diapers for a year now and am still really happy with them.

After starting solids at 6 months, I switched to only using them at home and using disposables for when we go out. We are at home a lot so I haven't had to buy a lot of disposables, which was my main reason for cloth diapering (to save money). I also use disposables for overnight. So basically I just use cloth diapers in a way that suits me!

I became interested in using cloth diapers when I was pregnant with Rose but found the many options and the entire process quite daunting.

I did a lot of research and talked extensively to my friends who use cloth diapers until I had a rough idea of how it all worked, then dove in and figured out what worked for me through a bit of trial and error.

Using cloth diapers isn't complicated, there are just so many different options, styles, brands, and ways of doing it that it can come across as overwhelming and complicated for someone looking into it.

I am someone who likes to know a lot about what I'm getting into and like to scope out all my options, making an informed choice. This is fine, however, I think that doing too much research and putting too much emphasis on the decision making can sometimes stop us from taking action. I am going to go into a bit of detail about all the different types of cloth diapers, etc. but I just want to start by saying that it doesn't actually matter that much. Cloth diapering can work perfectly well if you just pick any type, buy the few things you need, stick the diaper on the bum of your baby, wash it and repeat! It really is that simple. For the people who like more information, though, I wrote this post!

Here are the steps needed to be taken to use cloth diapers. If you're interested in trying them out, then read on :)

1. Decide if it's really for you

It's hard to know whether you'll like using cloth diapers until you've tried them, but I think determining why you want to use them and if that reason is worth the extra effort and work they require is a good idea.

Extra effort required:

  •  Initial time spent purchasing the diapers and learning how to use them.
  •  Putting the poop into the toilet (this begins after 6 months if you are exclusively breastfeeding).
  • Extra load of laundry a couple times a week (this varies a lot depending on how many kids you have in diapers, if you use them full time, etc. I have about one extra load a week).
  • If using pocket diapers (like I do), time spent folding the insert and half and stuffing it into the cover. I find this step pretty simple, I just do it quickly about once a week. If you are someone who detests folding laundry, though, this may be more of a pain for you. Flats and Prefolds also need to be folded (more on that in a bit).
  • There is also the initial cost of the cloth diapers that you have to pay right at the beginning, as opposed to the cost of disposables that is spread out over time.

Possible reasons for using cloth diapers:

  • To save money (this is why I use them!).
  • For the environment (according to this site it takes between 250 and 500 years for a disposable diaper to break down. Crazy!).
  • Because they're cute - maybe you just like all the fun colours and designs!.
If you think your reason for using them is worth the extra effort required, then continue reading!

2. Decide which type of cloth diaper you'd like to use

Once I had decided that I thought I would probably like to use cloth diapers to save money and that I didn't think I would mind the extra work too much, I read a few articles on Google and realized that gone were the days of the cloth diapers our parents used. They had come up with new and improved (more convenient, fewer leaks, etc.) ways to cloth diaper. The only problem was, they had come up with a lot of new ways!

There are now about 5 main types of cloth diapers. I will list the main types here with a very quick description of each (and reasons why you may prefer this type of diaper) and put a link to a site that explains each type in depth if that is the type of diaper that you think you would most prefer.

The different kinds of cloth diapers and why you may prefer each kind:

1. Flats & Prefolds: Flats and Prefolds are essentially the styles of cloth diapers that our grandparents (and their parents) used with a few added options. A Flat is what it sounds like: a flat, square piece of cloth (it could even just be an absorbent towel). You fold it, put it on your baby (you can fasten it with pins or a Snappi) and then put a waterproof cover over it.

Prefolds are Flats but come pre-folded with extra padding where it's needed. They also require a waterproof cover.
  • Pros: Least expensive cloth diapering option (you can cloth diaper this way for super cheap), customizable, easy to use (you just have to learn how to fold them) and wash.
  • Cons: Arguably not as convenient or "new and improved" as other types, you have to fold them.

2. Fitted diapers: These diapers look like a disposable diaper but are made entirely out of absorbent material (and have snaps or velcro on the tabs). Because they are so absorbent, they are a popular choice for overnight diapers. They require a cover to be completely waterproof. They are a similar choice to flats/prefolds, just more convenient (no folding) and more expensive.
  • Pros: Don't require folding, very absorbent, great for overnight.
  • Cons: A more expensive choice.

I personally prefer how the following types of cloth diapers work - just personal preference!

3. Pocket Diapers: Pocket diapers are made up of two parts. The waterproof outer shell, and the
inserts (pieces of cloth made of absorbent material) that you fold and place inside the shell (called "stuffing" the diaper). They are called pocket diapers because you stuff the inserts into the pocket. They are lined with a stay-dry material, so the pee passes through the material and is absorbed by the insert, so the diaper feels dry on baby's bum. They either have snaps or velcro on the tabs for snapping the diaper onto the baby.
  • Pros: When you want to use them they are as convenient as a disposable to put on (you do the work of stuffing them beforehand), amount of absorbency is customizable (trade-off for more absorbency is more bulk).
  • Cons: Require "stuffing."
Here is a site explaining pocket diapers. I also have a post on How I Cloth Diaper with pocket diapers.

Bum Genius Pocket Diaper

4. All-In-Two Diapers & Hybrids

All-In-Two's (called this because there are two parts to the diaper) come with a waterproof outer shell and an absorbent insert that you either lay on top of the shell or snap onto the shell. You also have the option of reusing the cover by wiping it and simply replacing the insert.

Hybrids are similar, but also include the option of using disposable inserts (a hybrid between cloth diapers and disposables) for situations when you want to have less laundry.
  • Pros: Less laundry than the other types because you can use the outer cover for multiple diaper changes. Cheaper option because you don't have to buy as many covers (as you can reuse them).
  • Cons: Small added step of placing the insert on the diaper or snapping it on.
Here is a site explaining AI2 diapers.

5. All-In-One Diapers

These diapers come all in one piece! The absorbent insert is sewn onto the cover.
  • Pros: Really convenient, there are just as many steps to putting them on the baby as a disposable.
  • Cons: Absorbency is not as easily customizable, take longer to dry, most expensive style of diaper.
Here is a site explaining AIO diapers.

So at this point in my cloth diaper research, I was a little overwhelmed by the number of options and didn't know how to decide which type to use!

There are cloth diaper stores that allow you to do a test run, trying out the different types of diapers and allowing you to see if cloth diapers work in your life. I think this is a good idea but is a small added cost. However, it is much less expensive than buying a bunch of cloth diapers and realizing you don't want to use them! These stores will also often offer cloth diaper classes that teach you about the different types and how to use them. This could also be really helpful for people who feel a little lost.

Another option is simply choosing the type that you think sounds best suited to you based on a list like the one above, buying a few of those diapers and trying them out. If your intuition tells you that one type sounds preferable, go with that! It's probably right.

Here's how I narrowed it down: 

I thought the options of pocket diapers, all-in-twos or all-in-ones sounded like they would suit me best. I decided against all-in-ones because I wanted to absorbency to be more customizable, in case my baby was a heavy wetter and leaked through.

I had a hard time deciding between pocket diapers or all-in-twos. I liked the idea of less laundry and less cost associated with the all-in-twos but liked the idea of having the diaper completely ready to go when I needed it in the case of the pocket diapers.

In the end, the deciding factor was the popularity of pocket diapers in the city I lived in. I was buying all my diapers used on a Facebook cloth diaper buy and sell page, and for whatever reason, pocket diapers were significantly more popular than all-in-twos (I think pocket diapers are the most common type used). It was really hard to find all-in-twos for sale, and they also weren't as easy to sell afterward as they weren't as popular.

I just want to add one more thing about the all-in-two option. It has been highly reccomended to me and though I can't personally vouch for it, I think if I were to start my cloth diapering journey over I would really consider going this direction as the initial cost is less and the laundry is also less.

With that being said, though, I am super happy with my pocket diapers and can say from experience that they work super well :)

One more thing to note is that with most types of diapers there is the option of buying One-Size Diapers, where there are snaps that allow you to adjust the diaper into one of three sizes so that it fits your baby as they grow (usually around 8 lbs to 35 lbs+). You can also buy two or three different sizes, but that is a more costly option as you'll need to buy more diapers in total.

Here are two one-size diapers at the smallest and largest sizes:

3. Decide which brand you'd like to use

Once you've determined the type of cloth diaper you would like to use, the next step is determining which brand to go with.

If you are planning to sell your cloth diapers when you are done with them, I would suggest going with a popular and well-known brand as they are much easier to sell. Some lists of the popular brands for each type of diaper can be found on this site, or by doing a scan of your local cloth diaper Facebook buy and sell page.

The reason different moms prefer a specific brand over another is generally because of the fit on their little ones (skinny legs vs. chubby legs, etc.), as well as quality. With that being said, though, if you go with a popular brand you can't really go too wrong.

Cheaper brands are a great option and can also work well, especially if you can't afford the "boutique" brands. With cheaper brands you may sacrifice a bit of quality - the elastics could stretch out more quickly, and the using and washing could cause them to wear out a bit faster. However, some cheaper cloth diapers hold up even better than the more expensive brands!

I tried a few of the cheap brands and found the ones I tried didn't work quite as well as the well known brands, but they would definitely have been usable had I not wanted to spend as much! There are varying levels of cheaper options if you want to go this route (people sometimes call the the super inexpensive ones you can order from China "China cheapies").

For pocket diapers, I love BumGenius pocket diapers. Here is a video on why to choose Bum Genius. They are really great quality and work super well. Buying them used is an option for making them more affordable.

4. Learn the basics

There are a couple basic things to learn about cloth diapering that you'll want to know before you start! These include:

5. Buy your cloth diapers

If you feel a little unsure about whether or not you will like using cloth diapers, one option is to only buy a few and try them out. You can try to re-sell them if you decide to go with disposables.

If you are pretty certain that you will stick with cloth diapering, go ahead and buy everything you need! You do always have the option of selling them back and if you haven't used them then you can most likely sell them for what you paid for them, you just sometimes have to be patient and wait for the right buyer to come along and may have to post certain diapers multiple times (this was my experience with selling some I didn't want). However, if you are buying them new then their value will definitely depreciate even if you barely use them.

I was fairly certain I would stick with cloth diapering so I just went ahead and bought everything I would need while I was pregnant with Rose.

Options for buying them are:
  • New diapers online - You can buy any brand online through a quick Google search
  • New diapers in store - Popular stores like Toys R Us have really limited choices, but more specialty or "natural" baby stores generally carry more variety. 
  • Used diapers through Facebook buy and sell pages - People sell used cloth diapers for many reasons, sometimes because they try them for only a few weeks and realize they don't like them! It may seem gross to use cloth diapers that have already been used on another baby, but you can wash them really well and in addition strip them which is essentially a very intense way to clean them and strip everything out of the fabric, resetting them in a way. You will be able to tell if the diaper looks very worn out, and most of the time the seller will be honest with you (if not you can tell from the picture or when you go pick them up). One thing to watch for is that the elastics aren't stretched out, and just that the diapers seem to be in generally good condition. I had great luck buying all my cloth diapers this way! 
  • Used diapers from sites like Kijiji, etc. - It's possible to find used cloth diapers on sites like Kijiji but I found the Facebook buy and sell group to work much better for me!

What you will need to buy in addition to the cloth diapers:
  • Inserts if you are using a style of cloth diaper that requires them. Microfiber inserts are the cheapest option but bamboo, hemp, cotton, and charcoal inserts tend to work better and absorb more. 
  • Cloth wipes make things easier as you can simply throw them in the wet bag or diaper pail with the dirty diapers. I just use dollar store baby washcloths that I keep in a disposable wipes container.
  • This isn't necessary, but I bought a carousel dryer at the dollar store for a couple dollars and find it works really well for hanging my diapers to dry.
  • Once your baby is eating solids you may want to buy something to help dispose of the poop such as flushable liners or a diaper sprayer. I simply turn the diaper upside down and let the poop "plop" off (sometimes requires a little shake), and if a bit stays on I use a little toilet paper or a designated metal flipper to get it off. A little gross but it works well for me!
I found my wet bags for super cheap, again, on the Facebook buy and sell page. Buying everything new would add up a bit but it is pretty easy to find these things used at very affordable prices.

If you are using one-size cloth diapers (these didn't fit my little girl until she was about a month old, I just used disposables up until this point rather than buy newborn cloth diapers for such a short period of time), you will probably want to buy around 20-25 diapers. This number will vary depending on how consistently you are using them, and how often you want to do a load of laundry to wash your diapers.

I found the sweet spot by buying the minimum I thought I might need, then purchasing about five more so that I wasn't ever pressured to wash the diapers (because I was running out of clean ones). I like to only have to do a load of cloth diapers about once a week!

I actually found this part so fun! I'm not even kidding, I loved it. I loved scouring the buy and sell page for cute colours and the brands I wanted, it was completely justified shopping and the colours and designs are so cute!

Cloth wipes
Bamboo insert (folded in thirds for smaller sized pocket diapers and in half for larger sized pocket diapers)

6. Live happily ever after in cloth diaper land!

Hopefully you find cloth diapering to be worth the bit of extra work! I am definitely glad I decided to give it a try and a year later I am still happy with my decision. Let's be honest, the extra work is worth it for the cute designs and colours ;)

When you no longer want to cloth diaper (or your last baby is potty trained),  you can sell them or give them away to another mom who wants to use them. Quality brands of cloth diapers last a long time, and some moms even replace the elastics in them to make them last longer. There are lots of people willing to buy used cloth diapers, and I'm sure there are lots of moms who would greatly appreciate the gift of a cloth diaper stash (I have some friends who were the beneficiaries of a used cloth diaper stash and they definitely appreciated it!).

Two articles that I have found helpful when starting to cloth diaper are:

Cloth Diapering 101: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started - Mama Natural

Cloth Diapering Cheat Sheet - Fluff Love University

However, I find that reading too many different articles on cloth diapering can actually make the process more confusing and complicated because there are so many variations in the way you can go about it. So I would say that if you find a system that you think will work well for you - stick to it!

The best site I have found for all the information you need to cloth diaper is Fluff Love University - they are a great go-to if you are wondering about anything cloth diaper related.

Good luck with your cloth diapering adventure!

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Please leave a comment if you enjoyed this post! What were your greatest hurdles with beginning cloth diapering, or biggest worries if you haven't yet started?

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