Eco Bum: Cloth Diapering Basics
I've been cloth diapering full time for 13 months, and I'm very proud of it! I consider myself an expert at this point, mainly because I haven't had to use any disposables. It was my personal goal not to. However, you don't need to be all in with cloth diapers, but if you want some useful information, keep reading!
Cloth diapering can be a challenge. If it weren't, everyone would be doing it. I made it work while living off-grid and when I became a full-time van lifer. There's plenty of information out there filled with guilt-inducing statistics, but this will just give you a straight idea of where you can start.
What are pocket diapers? Pocket Diapers are my favorite. They're a complete diaper with a waterproof cover, fast-dry pocket sewn in the layer, and an absorbent, reusable insert.
Inserts? These are "inserted" into the pocket. They can go on top, but I find my son's bum stays too wet, and thus redness occurs.
How many diapers/inserts do I need? It depends on if you're part-time or all in, and how often you plan on washing (more below). Part-timers can start with any amount, and for full time, try 24. (I have 27.)
You can get a set from Amazon. Sets typically come in 4 or 6 diapers alongside one to two liners per diaper depending on the brand. Double down on inserts at night unless you plan on frequent changes. You'll need a handful of extra liners if you double down.
How often do I change diapers? About every 2 hours. I follow this guideline myself. This helps you decide how many diapers you'll need. For example, my son sleeps 10-12 hours a night. I put him in a double inserted diaper at the beginning and another around halfway in the night. That's two diapers. He's awake 12-14 hours. Changing him every two hours means 6-7 diapers. In total, I use 7-9 daily. Averaging eight diapers for three days, that's 24 diapers.
How much does it cost? The price ranges depending on the amount and design of each diaper. A set of 4 is around $22, while six starts at about $32 (inserts included). Altogether, I spent less than $200. I do own three diaper covers, but I don't recommend them because the insert sits on the bottom (wetness equals redness and/or rashes).
How do I pick a size? Pocket diapers have three sizes. They're adjustable based on the baby's weight, ranging from 6.6lbs to 33lbs. My son was too small (6lbs) at birth for cloth diapers. I used cotton prefolds and diaper pins to supplement that first month. I eventually repurposed the prefolds as inserts and burp cloths. At 13 months old and around 20lbs, he's using the "large" adjustments perfectly.
And diaper rashes? Experts say diaper rashes are less common with cloth diapers. My son had one "major" diaper rash. It was the first one, and I didn't know what I was doing! Who can relate? The rash itself wasn't bad until I panicked and tried way too many creams!
Since then, he's had a few minor crashes. I feel this only happens when I don't change him about every two hours. When I am diligent again, it heals in about a day. Here and there he gets small red spots, but it goes away the next day. There are various diaper creams explicitly made for cloth diapers, but diaper free time and more frequent changes were the best solutions for me.
Washing Cloth Diapers
Diaper literature suggests washing the newborn's clothes separately. I did in the beginning so my son could get used to our "germs." After a month or so, I washed his diapers and all our clothes together with no issues. Let's break down cloth diaper laundry more specifically.
How do I store cloth diapers? Baby's first few diapers may not smell, but trust me, eventually, they will! I store all our laundry, including his diapers, in a wet/dry laundry bag. These are made from high-quality waterproof material and keep the smell in. Many diaper sets come with a small travel size wet/dry bag. Get a set of two large ones (about 17 x 25 inches), too, especially if you're a full-timer. You'll need one for the incoming diapers while the other is in the wash.
How often should I wash them? Every 1-3 days. I average 3-3.5 days. You'll find many blogs giving very strenuous, time-consuming "wash routines," but I found being straightforward as usual with my laundry worked perfectly.
Do I need a special kind of detergent? I've read plenty of articles stating I should use certain types of laundry detergents. I did for several months before feeling the pressure on my budget. I'm not suggesting you do whatever I do, but I will let you know I haven't experienced any issues using Tide Pods.
What does stripping a diaper mean? It's believed detergent, creams, oils, and fabric softeners (the latter isn't recommended for cloth diapers) can build up on diapers over time. Thus the "stripping" cloth diapers of this culmination. Recent articles suggest stripping was needed because of improper washing, hence a build-up. I agree here, but do what you feel is best.
Okay, so what about… poop? I've never had issues with unclean diapers because of fecal matter. When my son's bowels changed to solids, I merely used a napkin to scope it off. Yes, even the softer messes. You can also get a bidet spray to avoid the "dirty work."
You've been well-armed with cloth diapering ideas and tips! Whether you're curious, dabbling, or thinking of going full time, your intention is in the right place. Don't forget to organize those cute diapers in one of our modern caddies!
In the next few days, watch out for my article on how I keep my entire diapering situation even more eco-conscious.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Nadia Rumbolt
Nadia Rumbolt is a mom of many trades, including creative writing, blogging, van life, minimalism, veganism, the beach, nature, and the occult.