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Cloth diapers were never in my parenting plan. I actually went to a local cloth diaper class many years ago with my cousin who was interested in cloth diapering, and I made fun of her for it. It just seemed so…weird!
Then I had a baby, joined a natural parenting group and the peer pressure got to me. Everyone else was doing it and the diapers were so cute so I figured I might as well give it a try. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with them ever since.
Cloth diapers can be super intimidating to newbies and I was no exception. There are so.many.options when it comes to cloth diapers. My mom used cloth diapers when we were kids, but I’m pretty sure prefolds, white covers and safety pins were the only option back then. Now, there are pockets, all-in-ones, all-in-twos, hybrids, fitteds, wool, and more. It’s hard to know where to start!
When I decided I wanted to jump on the cloth diaper bandwagon, I sat down with a friend and had her tell me all about her cloth diapers. It’s so much easier to understand when you can see how a real person actually uses cloth diapers!
So now that I’ve had five years of cloth diapering with three babies under my belt, I want to be that friend and tell you how we’ve used cloth diapers. There are plenty of experts out there who can tell you all about the different types of diapers, how to wash them and why they are so amazing, but I’m just going to share my story of cloth diapering three babies.
Getting Started with Baby #1
Cloth diapers are a no-brainer when it comes to positively affecting the environment and besides the cuteness factor, that is my main motivation for using cloth. The idea of saving money was motivating too, so when I set out to buy my first diapers, and since my baby was already 6 months old when I started, I knew I didn’t want to spend a lot.
I wanted to test the cloth diaper waters with just a couple of diapers at first so I bought four secondhand Alva Baby pocket diapers with microfiber inserts from a local swap page. Alva Baby diapers are some of the cheapest diapers out there, but had great reviews. I used those diapers for a couple weeks around the house and washed them in a load by themselves each night with Charlie’s Soap. So inefficient, but I got the confidence that I actually could cloth diaper.
I ended up buying a few more Alva Baby diapers and bamboo inserts, some secondhand and some new from an online co-op. I had about 12 diapers and enough inserts to double up and washed them all each night.
We frequently had leaks, and I had to change diapers constantly so we usually went through all of my diapers in a day even though I only cloth diapered at home. If we went out of the house, I always used a disposable.
My daughter had been pooping once a day since she was about 6 months old so I would usually try to anticipate that with a disposable liner in the diaper. Liners are pretty awesome because they help with cleanup. We didn’t have a diaper sprayer and the “dunk and swish” method completely grossed me out, so I started out by hosing off the diapers in the backyard. Liners saved us and were the only reason I could continue cloth diapering.
At nighttime, we tried lots of different combinations of diapers including using wool, which was completely intimidating. It was probably user error, but none of the wool or nighttime combos worked for us and since we bedshared, leaks were a huge hassle and I eventually made peace with using a disposable at night.
We were done with diapers just after her second birthday, and I was not at all sad to see them go!
Finding what worked with Baby #2
When I found out we were having a boy, I knew my stash of girly diapers wasn’t going to work. I also wanted to be more committed to cloth diapering this time and wanted to have a bigger stash. I opted to look at different brands and types of diapers because I really disliked having to take the insert out of the pocket to wash it each time, especially when it was a poopy diaper.
I didn’t buy a lot of diapers before baby was born because I wanted to try a few different brands/types on him before committing. I had one or two of a few different diapers and once he arrived and we were settled at home after a tough delivery and NICU stay, I started trying them out.
I really liked using the Grovia Hybrid system. The fit was way better than Alva Baby diapers and seemed a lot less bulky. Grovia hybrids use a waterproof shell with inserts you snap into the diaper. The shell (hypothetically) doesn’t get dirty each time so you only need a few shells and then lots of inserts. Breastmilk poop is basically a watery mess, so I found that more often than not, the shell needed to be washed too.
I had a friend give me her whole stash of Grovia so I tried out all of their different inserts and liked them all. I used Grovia unless my son was about 6 months old and started solids. When babies are exclusively breastfed, you don’t have to rinse the poop at all; it can go straight in the washer.
Once they started eating solids, you’ve got to wash off all those chunks. We invested in a diaper sprayer and a spray pal this time and used it three times before deciding that the waste created from a disposable liner was better than the waste from a disposable diaper so I wasn’t going to feel bad about using them.
It was at this point that the idea of having to use my bare hands to pull out a poop-covered snap in insert to rinse off started getting to me and I started thinking about using a different kind of diaper.
A friend sold me her whole stash of Tots Bots which I really loved. They were super trim and weren’t even noticeable under clothes, which is a big deal because I usually had to go up a size in clothes for other diapers.
Tots Bots are a mix of an all-in-one and a pocket diaper because the insert is attached to the diaper, but you still have to stuff it in the pocket. These were nice because I could add additional inserts as needed, which I frequently had to do for riding in the car or naps.
My son was prone to diaper rashes from the very beginning, and this was a big struggle for us because you aren’t supposed to use certain diaper creams with cloth. His rashes could get pretty terrible and Destin Extra Strength was the only thing that would clear it up so every time he had a rash, I had to use a disposable until it cleared up. He got diaper rash in disposables and with cloth so I was never quite sure how to help remedy the cause.
We used these diapers for about a year before we had an issue with our front-loading washing machine that was causing stink with the diapers and our clothes. We were in the middle of a move, lived in an apartment for several months and were building a house, so I ended up switching to disposables to make like a little easier.
By the time I was ready to switch back to cloth, I had an opinionated two year old on my hands who was not interested in wearing cloth diapers so I accepted that our journey had ended.
Appreciating balance with baby #3
Cloth diapering wasn’t a given with baby #3. Going from two to three kids was no easy task, and this would be my first time with two in diapers, so I gave myself plenty of grace to stick to the easy route if necessary. And that’s exactly what I did for several months. We happily used disposables for the first four months and then I got the itch to start using cloth again.
My stash of Tots Bots was mostly “boy” colors (which I know is totally un PC to say these days, but I like pink!) and I wasn’t really thrilled with having to stuff the pocket of the diapers anyway, so I started looking for an easier option. With three kids, I really needed cloth diapering to be easy if it was going to work.
I have a friend who gave me her stash of Bumgenius Freetimes, and they were exactly what I was looking for. They are all one piece and the flap insert just lay into place. It’s so easy to fold them that my 3 and 5 year olds do it for me.
I went and bought several more because I don’t have time to wash every night or even every other night now. I have about 30 diapers and usually wash every 2-3 days. Baby is almost 8 months old now and I feel like we have found a cloth diapering groove.
We use mostly Freetimes, I use Viva paper towels as disposable liners, a disposable at night and usually a disposable for car rides because she tends to have blowouts in her car seat. I don’t have a diaper sprayer, and I wash with regular Tide powder to avoid any issues with stains and stink.
It’s taken me many years, many diapers and three babies, but I feel like cloth diapering this way is my best balance between minimizing our impact on the environment and maximizing my sanity.