Have you ever considered cloth diapering your child? Maybe you’re just curious about the advantages of cloth diapers, or trying to save some extra money. Whatever your reason, you’ve come to the right place to learn about how to use cloth diapers! This post will walk you through everything you need to know to start cloth diapering – it’s easier than you think.

1. Ditch the disposables

It’s important to first understand the advantages of cloth diapers so you can make the best decision for your family. Before you can dive in to learn about how to use cloth diapers, there’s a few reasons on why you should make the switch.

Environmental Impact

According to the EPA, the estimated generation of disposable diapers in the United States in 2017 was 4.2 million tons. Nearly 3.3 million disposable diapers were sent directly to the landfill – with only 810,000 able to be combusted with energy recovery. Since 1960, this number has skyrocketed with the increase in disposable diapers as an option for parents.

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Source: https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/nondurable-goods-product-specific-data#DisposableDiapers

Wallet Impact

Cloth diapers aren’t cheap – but they can help save in the long run. According to an article published by The Bump, a typical family can spend between $2,000 and $3,000 per baby for two years on disposable diapers. The average investment of cloth diapers is around $800, if you launder the diapers in your home. If cleaned properly, you will be able to reuse the diapers with multiple children and save your family quite a bit of cash.

2. Types and how to use cloth diapers

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In 2020 we have many different options of cloth diapers. Trust me, these are not the cloth diapers that your grandma used! The first step in understanding how to use cloth diapers is understanding the types of diapers out there. Check out this article for a ranking of different diapers and a brief description on how to use cloth diapers.

Don’t be afraid to buy used diapers! This can help save even more money in the long run. As long as the previously owned diapers have been well-cared for, they will work perfect for your little one. Also, some people start cloth diapers and unfortunately give up shortly after starting. You may be able to find diapers that we’re hardly used at a fraction of the price.

Diaper Covers

Diaper covers are the simplest way to cloth diaper. They are basically an absorbent shell that you add the pads to. Unlike pocket diapers (discussed below), the absorbent pads go right into the bottom of the diaper cover – not tucked into anything. You can adjust the amount of pads to adjust the absorbency with these diapers. They are easy to clean (everything comes out when you take the diaper off), and easy to store. They are also the cheapest option. Nora’s Nursery makes several great diaper cover options.

Pocket Diapers

Pocket diapers work by providing a waterproof exterior shell, and inside pockets where you can insert pads to adjust the amount of absorbency needed. Some brands like Thirsties and bumgenius have created pocket diapers that agitate out in the wash. This means that you don’t have to remove the pads prior to throwing in the washing machine. The disadvantage of pocket diapers is that they need to be reassembled each time you wash. You will finish the load of laundry with pads and diapers, and will need to re-stuff them prior to using again. These are my personal favorite!

All-in-One Diapers

Lastly, there is an all-in-one option that leaves all the guess work out of choosing the right kind of diaper. Although these are the most expensive option of cloth diaper, they are the easiest to use and clean. All-in-one diapers come with the absorbent pads already sewn inside, and with the option to add more if needed. To clean, just take off the diaper and throw it in the washing machine (until your baby starts eating solids – I’ll get to that below). bumgenius is the favorite for the all-in-one diapers.

Here’s a great video comparing all three and how to use cloth diapers:

3. How many diapers do I need?

Switching to cloth diapering can seem intimidating, especially if this is your first child. Understanding how to build your cloth diaper stash is important in understanding how to use cloth diapers. You probably don’t know how often or when you baby will need to have their diaper changed. Don’t worry! You can start a small stash and work your way up once you’ve have some experience. Here’s some tips on how to get started:

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According to an article by BabyList, newborns dirty an average of 8-10 diapers per day. Some parents will chose to use disposables for the first month or so of baby’s life. Don’t be afraid to use a combination of cloth and disposable – the important thing is that you baby is clean! Most cloth diaper sizes also start at around 8 lbs., so your newborn may not fit into them right away.

I would recommend having around 25-30 cloth diapers in your stash. We have a mix of cloth diapers, including the pockets, covers and all-in-ones. This number really depends on how frequently you are willing to wash diapers. At this number, we’re washing diapers about every two days. Start slow, and once you’ve established your routine you’ll be able to identify how many and which types work best for your baby.

4. Washing your diapers

This is everyone’s least favorite topic and one of the reasons people chose disposables! Establishing a solid wash routine is a key part of understanding how to use cloth diapers. Here’s a few tips on how to get started:

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Use the right detergent

You want your cloth diapers to last – especially if you’re using these diapers for more than one child. One of the key ways to keep diapers looking like new is by using the right detergent. Try to pick a detergent that doesn’t have harsh additives or chemicals. Some parents use Dreft (infant specific laundry detergent). I use Tide Oxi Clean. Although this detergent is on the stronger side, Tide provides a guide on how to use their detergent to effectively wash your cloth diapers. You can check it out here.

Wash frequently

We talked about how many diapers you need in the above content, and this will really determine how frequently you need to wash your diapers. I wouldn’t recommend going more than 3 days without washing diapers. The smell will likely get to you by then, but more importantly the diapers are building up ammonia that is difficult to treat in the wash. If there’s too much residual ammonia on your diapers, it can lead to a rash or reaction on your baby’s skin. I haven’t experienced this yet, but if you’re having trouble with a skin reaction, you can try to strip your cloth diapers. Here’s a great blog discussing how to do this.

How to wash and dry your cloth diapers

Once you’ve got the right supplies and established your cleaning schedule, you’ll need to know how exactly to wash before you can learn how to use cloth diapers. If you are giving baby breast milk, there’s good news for you! Breast milk waste is water soluble, meaning you don’t have to rinse it out prior to throwing into the washing machine. This is only until you start feeding baby solids (usually around 6 months old).

If you’re formula feeding, or feeding your baby solids, you’ll need to rinse out the diaper prior to throwing it into the washing machine. You can do this by dunking in the toilet, rinsing out in the shower, or buying a spray hose that attaches to your sink. You only need to rinse the diapers with waste, not with urine. I would suggest doing this right after you change baby’s diaper so you’re not fussing with it before you go to wash a load.

Once you’re done washing, you’ll need to dry the diapers on a line (preferred method, in the sun), or you can throw them into the dryer. Line drying is preferred because the dryer can tend to break down elastics in the diapers, but using a dryer is fine too!