The world of cloth diapers can be overwhelming, to say the least. Because they aren’t mainstream (anymore/yet), it feels like you have to do some serious research to find out how to do cloth diapers for beginners. I wish I’d had a Cloth Diapers 101 class when we started 6 years ago, so I’m hopeful that this “how to cloth diaper” guide can help those behind me use something that I truly believe is better for the planet, your budget, and, most importantly, your baby.
I know it sounds ridiculous to some to be so passionate about cloth diapers, but there are SO many reasons why I not only fell in love with cloth diapers, but so did my sweet husband. The truth is, cloth diapers have been game-changers for us, especially when my husband didn’t have a job (or had one that didn’t pay nearly what we needed it to) between the Air Force and his legacy airline. It was one less thing I’d have to budget for, but it didn’t make us feel like we weren’t providing. In fact, we felt like we had made the best decision we could have for our babies, even without taking into account the finances. Why? Well, let’s start with the benefits of cloth diapers and you’ll see!
Benefits of Cloth Diapers
There are SO many benefits that I can hardly list them all, but I’ll start with these (and I’ll elaborate on most below):
- Cost– It’s SO much cheaper to cloth diaper than use disposables!
- Fewer diaper rashes– if you have a good washing routine (don’t worry– I tell you how to get one below), your baby’s bottom will thank you. After all, wouldn’t you be more comfortable with cloth against that soft little bottom instead of paper? Plus, think of all the diaper rash cream you won’t have to use! (But if you DO need it, this is my recipe for a cloth diaper-friendly, natural one that my babies’ bottoms love)
- Environmentally friendly– The average first year of a baby’s life will send 2,700 non-biodegradable diapers to the landfill. Y’all, that’s a huge number of diapers that don’t have to go sit for eternity somewhere on our planet. Add in the water, chemicals, and materials required to make each disposable diaper and you have a recipe for disaster long-term. Our kids deserve to have as pretty an Earth to live on as we did growing up!
- Ease– There’s no running to the store at midnight because you’re out. You just throw them in your washer and you’re good to go again! (I PROMISE the laundry really isn’t hard– see below)
- Adorableness Factor– Yeah, that’s a thing. They’re just so pat-able and the patterns are SO much cuter! You don’t even need pants for your kid to look super cute running around the house. (See? I’m already saving you laundry!)
What types of cloth diapers are there? How do I choose?!
There are basically 9 different types of cloth diapers, which I’ll go into in a post next week (to keep this one from being a novel, so I’ll link it when it’s ready!). Just know that you can’t choose wrong– they’ll all keep poop contained. It’s just a matter of preference!
How much does cloth diapering cost?
Choosing to cloth diaper Matthew (our first) was one of the best financial decisions we’ve made as parents. Not only is there nothing cuter than a cloth diaper butt, but it’s saved us hundreds of dollars in diapers. We’ll be using the same diapers we used on Matthew and Mason with Maddox (with a few added while we cloth diapered Mason, simply because I found new patterns I couldn’t live without). I added up our stash and came to about $400 for all of our diapers for three kids– a combined 6 years of diapering so far, with probably another 3 to go.
We use cloth wipes as well because they’re easier on a baby’s bottom (you truly just need water, but I like to add a little lavender essential oil to it for the soothing properties). I just went to TJ Maxx, Marshalls, or Ross and found the cheapest, thinnest washcloths I could– $10, maybe, for 20 of them. I tossed them into a big jar with some water, lavender essential oil, and melaleuca essential oil (for the antimicrobial properties). When we’re out, I’ll use disposable wipes because they come in convenient packages, but otherwise, it’s cloth wipes all the way!
As far as storage goes, I just found some small cube shelves to hang on the wall, but with Matthew, I used the top drawer of the dresser we used as a changing table (I don’t like having single-use furniture in our home if I can help it, so a changing table was out with babies 1 and 3). I grabbed a few wet bags– extra large ones for at home and smaller ones for on the go– which probably cost a total of $40.
If you’re keeping track, that’s $450 for 9 years or so of diapering. The average first year of a baby’s life costs $800 in diapers alone. Y’all, I literally cut the cost in half in one year of one child’s life! If you’re counting, you’re looking at $1600 per kid in diapers alone (assuming they cut the number of diapers they use in half each year and potty train at age 3)– we saved $4350 on the cost of diapering our kids! Is it a bigger investment up front? Yes, BUT you can slowly add to your stash during your pregnancy and the first couple months of life, or you can just make do with a smaller stash. It really is doable; I just hate laundry so I do as large a load as possible at a time.
But… the laundry!
I think the thing that freaks people out the most about cloth diapering is the laundry aspect. Is it gross? Is it hard? Am I going to mess it up? HOW DO I DO IT?!
No, it’s not gross. No, it’s not hard. No, you’re not going to mess it up (and even if you did, it’s easy to fix!).
As far as the gross factor goes, if you’re breastfeeding, the poop is completely water soluable so you literally just have to throw the diapers into your washer. I know, this sounds gross, but it ALL washes away and it’s no different than washing a towel/clothes/pillow/rug (trust me… it’ll happen.) your kid just threw up on. Your washing machine was built to clean stuff, so let it!
My washing routine basically consists of starting a load of diapers in the morning, doing the second wash around lunch when I’m back near my laundry room, throwing them in to the dryer while my kids have afternoon snack, and then stuffing the diapers while I watch TV at night. We’re talking 30 seconds to a minute the first three steps. The last step can be avoided if you don’t use pocket diapers, but even if you do, I can sit and be social with my husband, watch TV, or listen to a podcast while I do it, so it doesn’t FEEL like it’s taking any time out of my day.
How you wash your diapers depends on your water, your washing machine, and your detergent. Because all those factors change it significantly, my recommendation is to go to the Fluff Love & CD Science Facebook group or website (both linked). The website will have routines for you to start with, but the Facebook group can look at your water hardness, washing machine, and detergent and help you create a routine that will keep your diapers clean, fresh, and pretty for years to come.
Okay, I’m sold– now, what do I REALLY need?
A Cloth Diapering for Beginners Shopping List
What you “really” need is super subjective and depends mostly upon how often you want to do laundry. I usually wash long before we run out of diapers (we’re sitting at 54 non-seasonal diapers– more, if you count the Christmas/winter ones), probably around 20 at a time. So, with that said, my shopping list would include:
- Your choice of cloth diapers/inserts– 20 minimum, but you can get away with even fewer than that once baby is bigger and going through fewer of them each day.
- Cloth wipes
- Cloth safe diaper rash cream (check out my recipe for a super cheap, beyond effective one)
- 2 large wet bags (so you can be using one while one is being washed)
- 2 medium wet bags (for in your diaper bag)
Questions? Comments? Commiseration?
If you have more questions I didn’t answer or just want to chat about accidentally crunchy mom goodness, hit me up in the comment section or on my Facebook page or Instagram where I’m sharing all kinds of awesome tips, tricks, and general mom hacks for surviving life with tiny humans ruling your home!