Cloth diapering can be really fun- or deadly frustrating if done wrong. I present to you the simplest guide to cloth diapering.
How many diapers do I need?
Ideally, you should count about 12 diapers a day to start. Newborns need more and older babies less. Here is the minimum per day:
- Newborns: 12 to 18 diapers per day (one to two loads if you wash every other day)
- Babies 6 to 18 months: 12 diapers per day (one load if you wash every other day)
- Toddlers 18 months and up: nine diapers per day (one load if you wash every other day)
- Toddlers who are potty training: three to six diapers per day (one load if you wash every other day)
- Source: Babycenter
How will I know if cloth diapering is for me?
The fun part of cloth is to try out different styles until you figure out the best fit and absorbency for your child. A great way to start is to get one pocket diaper and prefolds with a cover. Alternate this and see if you have trouble washing them or getting into a routine. Once you have washed the first time, you will feel more confident that you can do this.
Can I try cloth diapering before I commit to buy?
A great inexpensive way to try cloth diapers is to select a trial package. The most affordable is this one at Jillian’s Drawers for $10. You will need to leave a security deposit, but you will get it back once you ship the diapers back.
Keep in mind that even if you do end up hating cloth, you can always get back some of your money by selling them. That is the best part of cloth diapering… you can sell or donate your used diapers to another mama once you are done diapering your baby.
Ideal stash size
Aim to have at least 50 diaper changes. This will get you through 4 days including laundry day, washing twice a week. You can mix cheaper alternatives with more expensive ones. 50 diapers changes can be achieved with under $300.
“Starter” diaper stashes could begin at under $100 with 2 days worth of diapers and laundry day every two days.
- 36 Flour Sack Towels ($50) +10 PUL covers ($50) = $100 works for 2 days
- 36 Prefolds and 3 wool covers ($150) works 3 days.
- 36 Prefolds and 5 PUL covers ($125) works for 2 days
- 24 kawaii baby heavy duty ($130) works for 2 days
- 20 Alva baby ($94) works for 2 days
Keep in mind that this is a one-time expense and that disposables will cost you over $2000 for two years, around $50 a month for the cheapest brands.
How often do you change?
Ideally every 2 hours. If you pick the right absorbency (bamboo- 3 layers), then you are covered for 2 hours. Cotton should be changed more often (1.5 hour) and hemp less often (3 hours).
It’s not ideal to go past 2 hours because you start seeing rashes, pee is very strong and poo is even more irritating.
The exception is nighttime. You can go 11 hours with two bamboo inserts on a pocket OR a fitted diaper with an extra insert and wool cover. I suggest wool because it’s breathable so there won’t be irritation in the morning.
How do I fix my baby’s mild rash?
– Give a bath in mild baby soap, such as California baby’s sensitive or calendula wash, and give air time without a diaper on. Air time can be given on top of a flat or prefold diaper to avoid messes.
-Put on disposable with desitin cream or Vaseline for bad rashes.
How do I fix bad rashes?
If your baby has more than irritated red, then it’s time to go to the pediatrician. Yeast rash can only be cured with prescription medication.
Ammonia stink and burn issues are caused by dirty diapers. See how to properly clean your diapers on the section below (yes, it involves bleach).
From least expensive to fanciest! Price per diaper, multiply times 12 per day to have an idea of total cost.
1) Flats + PUL Cover
$2 flat + $5 cover = $7
*Snappi can be reused for all diaper changes.
Flats can be inexpensive flour sack towels from Walmart or expensive designer bamboo flats.
You can also use receiving blankets folded inside a cover.
Covers are made of PUL, Polyurethane material that is medical grade fabric and resists high temperatures and is waterproof. It won’t shred on your dryer and the colors won’t fade.
You can find all types of covers with cute prints or solid colors, snaps or velcro. I highly recommend Velcro (called hook and loop or aplix) because it is easier and faster for dads. I also recommend solid colors because it will be easier to match clothes to them.
Brands: Flour Sack Towels (Walmart), Liliane Collection Towels, Sustainable Babyish Bamboo Flats, Bamboo Flats on Etsy or Receiving Blankets + Snappi. PUL Cover Brands: Kawaii, Alva Baby, Sunbaby. Rumparooz, Thirsties
2) Prefold + PUL Cover
$1.5 prefold + $5 cover = $6.5
Quality prefolds are Ozocozy and Green Mountain diapers. Gerber prefolds are not diapers, they are terrible burp cloths that don’t absorb anything.
Brands: Prefold Brands: Ozocozy, Green Mountain Diapers, Nicki’s, Bummis. PUL Cover Brands: Kawaii, Alva Baby, Sunbaby. Rumparooz, Thirsties
3) Prefold + Wool soaker/longie
$1.5 prefold + $20 = $21.50
Wool covers can be more expensive than regular covers, but they are more breathable and easier to wash. You need to lanolize them (leave them rinsing in your sink for 30 minutes with lanolin and eucalan). They last for more diaper changes than regular covers. You won’t get rashes with wool and it is super soft.
Brands: Prefold Brands: Ozocozy, Green Mountain Diapers, Nicki’s, Bummis. Wool soaker/longie: Grovia, EcoPosh, Sustainable Babyish, MyEcoBaby, SoSimpleNatural on Etsy. I do NOT recommend: Disana
4) Prefold/flat + Fleece Cover
$1.5 prefold + $7 = $8.5
Fleece cover are an alternative to PUL or wool. They can be significantly cheaper if you make your own. Here you can learn how to make a no-sew fleece cover
Brands: Prefold Brands: Ozocozy, Green Mountain Diapers, Nicki’s, Bummis. Fleece cover: BananaBottoms, AliyasHopeChest on Etsy.
5) Pocket diaper + insert (Velcro or snaps)
Kawaii Baby Newborn Reusable Cloth Diaper Pure & Natural 6 – 22 Lb. With 2 Microfiber Inserts ” Monkey “
*Pockets have an opening where you put the insert. The perfect insert is bamboo. Cotton doesn’t absorb enough for a heavy wetter and hemp takes too long to dry. Bamboo is the perfect middle, soft enough to put near babies skin and absorbent enough to last more than 2 hours.
Pockets have a stay-dry top layer which is either micro fleece or suede-cloth. They both work well and allow baby to feel comfortable until it is time for a diaper change.
Brands: Pocket diaper: Kawaii Heavy Duty Velcro, Alva Baby, Sun baby. Inserts: Kawaii Bamboo inserts
6) Branded pocket diaper (aka Bumgenius, Applecheeks)
BumGenius 5.0 Pocket Cloth Diaper – Mirror – One Size – Snap AppleCheeks 2-Size Envelope Cloth Diaper Cover (2, Irrelephant)
*Pocket diapers that have american brands are over $15 per diaper. If you have a $700 budget for few diapers, then this solution could work for you. However, it is best to have more diaper changes with a lower diaper cost to be able to spend on other areas (such a baby gear).
Most of this diapers come with microfiber, which you should avoid, so you would have an additional cost to replace the inserts to natural fibers, to avoid rashes and stink issues.
Brands: Charlie Banana, Bumgenius, Applecheeks
7) Fitted diaper + PUL cover
Cloth-eez Workhorse Fitted Diaper White Snap (Small) + Rumparooz Newborn Cloth Diaper Cover Snap, Clyde
$20 + $10 cover = $30
*Fitted diapers are very absorbent. They have several layers of fabric and can last longer than other diapers. Make sure to look for fitteds that have a stay-dry top layer, such as fleece. Most babies understandably complain when they feel wet. The top fabric helps them feel dry for longer so that the diaper has a chance to absorb the elements before baby wants a diaper change. Fitteds generally are over $20 each.
You need to use a cover with a fitted to provide a waterproof barrier. Without this barrier, you would find pee and poo all over your floor and furniture. A one-size PUL cover works well for this, some covers might not be big enough for a fitted since they tend to be bulky.
Another great thing to try is Zorb, which is far more absorbent than hemp and more trim. TwinkleToesDiapers in Etsy has some great diapers with zorb.
Brands: Fitteds: Kissaluvs, MotherEase, Bumkins, TwinkleToesDiapers, Ozocozy, Nickis, Clotheez workhorse on GMD. PUL Cover Brands: Kawaii, Alva Baby, Sunbaby. Rumparooz, Thirsties
8) Fitted diaper + Wool cover
Cloth-eez Workhorse Fitted Diaper White Snap (Small) + Merino Wool Cloth Diaper Cover, Single Layer (62-68 / 3-6 months, Natural)
$20+$20cover = $40
An alternative to a PUL cover is to use a wool cover. A wool type of cover works best with a fitted because it has more stretch, and fits easier by sliding as a pant. There is also no need for an extra pant if you get longies. Wool covers are breathable, as opposed to PUL covers.
Brands: Fitteds: Kissaluvs, MotherEase, Bumkins, TwinkleToesDiapers, Ozocozy, Nickis, Clotheez workhorse on GMD. Wool soaker/longie: Grovia, EcoPosh, Sustainable Babyish, MyEcoBaby, SoSimpleNatural on Etsy. I do NOT recommend: Disana
Imagine Baby Products Newborn AIO Bamboo 2.0 – Snap – Which Way
$25 per diaper
A diaper to avoid hassle while compromising some versatility. All-in-one diapers are ready to put on baby. They do not require any stuffing or work on your part. However, there are many downsides to this type of diaper. The first pitfall is that it is more expensive than a pocket, costing $25 or more. The second downside is that it takes longer to dry than a pocket with an insert, but not more time than a fitted. The third downside is that you cannot modify it, so if you need extra absorption, you will need to get another diaper instead of stuffing it with an extra insert (the term for this is a “doubler” because you double the absorption).
Brands: Grovia, Bumgenius, Thirsties, Swaddlebees Simplex
What I love: Nicki’s Diapers Bamboo All-in-ones and Imagine Bamboo All-in-one Diapers
10) All-in-2 (cover + hybrid insert)
GroVia Hybrid Part Time Package: 6 Shells + 12 Stay Dry Soaker Pads (Girl – Hook & Loop)
$20+$10 inserts = $30
An all in two is a system that has two parts. One part is a shell, which is basically a waterproof cover with snaps or velcro. The second part is the insert that snap into the shell. The inserts sometimes have a stay-dry layer of fleece and are absorbent. If you find the inserts too expensive, you can stuff the shell with a cheaper flat, receiving blanket or prefold. However, the covers are more expensive than simple stand alone PUL covers, and sometimes they have an inner lining that holds in wetness.
The Hybrid means that this system can work with disposable inserts as well. This types of disposable inserts are very expensive compared to just using a disposable diaper (less than 0.50 cents) inside your cover to avoid leaks or poop blowouts.
The upside to this system is that you can reuse the shell (cover) if your baby only peed. However, I found that there was a lingering smell after a diaper change and it just didn’t feel higienic to reuse a shell that has an inner mesh cotton lining that would hold in wetness. I concluded that all-in-two systems are too expensive and not worth the investment.
Brands: Covers: Grovia, Flip, Best Bottoms. Inserts: Grovia soaker pads, Flip daytime inserts, Best Bottoms, gDiapers
11) Wool soaker/shortie/longie upcycled
Engel 100% merino wool terry pants longies organic (3-6 mo, Hibiscus red)
Etsy has the lowest priced, while Grovia and Ecoposh are the most expensive.
Although wool needs something inside it like a flat, receiving blanket, prefold or fitted, I thought I would comment on its versatility to understand the difference with the next system. A wool soaker, shortie or longie is made like a pair of pants, you pull them up instead of snapping or sticking the velcro.
The upside is that the snaps don’t leave red marks on your baby, and there’s very few adjustments to make. The downside is that you will need to get new ones every 3 months as your baby grows because they are made to measure.
Brands: Wool soaker/longie: Grovia, EcoPosh, Sustainable Babyish, MyEcoBaby, SoSimpleNatural on Etsy. I do NOT recommend: Disana
The wool all-in-2 is a two part system. The wool cover is made similar to that of a PUL cover, which is one-size with snaps and allows for growth in your child. It is breathable material, but the snaps might still leave marks on the skin. There is a need for an absorbent part to the diaper, most likely a snap-on soaker that has either cotton, bamboo or hemp.
Brands: OneDiaperCo in Etsy
-Avoid microfiber if you want to avoid stink and leaking issues. You can use it combined with natural fabrics. It’s better that you start with the right fabrics rather than spending extra after months of frustration.
-Natural fabrics from least to most absorbent: Cotton- Bamboo- Hemp
-Hemp has a rough texture after the first wash.
-More washes= more absorbency
-Unbleached fabric is more absorbent and softer, but it becomes white if you use bleach. You can start with it and end up in white.
Resource for How to lanolize your wool cover (simplest):
Resource for How to make cloth wipes and make them pop-up:
The diaper pail
Pail liner + Trash can
Brands: Planet Wise Reusable Pail Liner,
After trying different options, I conclude the easiest way to go is a reusable diaper pail liner and a trash can or laundry hamper.
I tried large hanging zippered dry/wet bags. The first downside to this type of bag is that it has a cotton print, which fades over time with washing. The second downside is that it is hard to stuff a dirty diaper in there, which leaves you with dirty hands. Take a poopy diaper in the mix and the zippered bag opening will leave you feeling frustrated. The third downside is that it is hard to throw it in the washer, even if it has a zipper underneath, because you have to turn it inside out so that it gets clean.
A regular pail liner is more cost effective and it has a bigger opening so you can throw the dirty diaper inside without a hassle and without fidgeting around with an additional zipper. It’s easy to dump the contents on the washer and then turn it inside out without touching the dirty side.
Washing cloth diapers should be as easy and simple as possible.
Step 1: Get your diapers ready.
Take out inserts from pockets, undo all snaps and Velcro. If you do this at every diaper change, it makes your life easier.
Step 2: Wash your diapers
In Hot/Warm/cold water with detergent. Use any mainstream detergent, such as Tide.
Step 3: Wash you diapers again
Wash again with detergent. It helps to add octclean or any other stain remover. You can use other additives like borax or water softeners. Try out different things and see what works for you.
Step 4: Check diapers. If there are stains, wash again.
If your diapers still have stains you have two options. Separate the stained diapers to wash by hand, or wash all the diaper once more. If washing on the machine, use Hot water and detergent. If washing by hand just to get the stain out, use dishwasher soap in a containe. Let soak for 15 minutes and the stain will disappear. You can also try putting it on the sun.
Step 5: Dry your diapers.
Use the high heat setting in the dryer. The heat will effectively remove bacteria and virus, as is done with hospital linen.
Step 6: Fold and store your diapers.
You can pre-stuff pockets so that they are ready to use at each diaper change. Store them whichever way is easiest for you.
Warnings (aka common sense)
-If you have stains, your diapers are not really clean, that is just my opinion. Some moms don’t really mind, it’s up to you.
-If you use cloth diaper safe detergent, your diapers will be stinky and be dirty.
-if you wash less than twice, your diapers are not getting clean (if you rinse it counts as a wash).
Resource for washing: