Cloth Diapering, vol. 1: Getting Acquainted with Sh*t

There’s no point mincing my words. If you are going to use cloth diapers (or actually have a baby at all) you are going to have to flush any remaining primness and decency down the toilet right now. There will be shit. It will be disgusting. You will have to deal with it.

I am a pretty stalwart lady. I have gutted and butchered many an animal, trimmed the poop encrusted hairs from around a sheep’s ass, reached up into a hen’s vulva to release a stuck egg, and scraped the maggots from home smoked fish so I could eat it. I have a strong stomach for grossness. But I will admit to you that if I had to wash my toddler’s shitty diapers by hand in a bucket of water, I’d go to Costco and buy Huggies.

Thank god for washing machines! With a machine’s help, I find cloth diapering surprisingly easy. But before you go out and spend a heap of money on cloth diapers I want you to consider that the shit has to be mostly cleaned off before the diaper goes into the machine, and from my personal experience it does not “shake off into the toilet” as they like to say on the label. Fortunately, as parenting often goes, you aren’t handed a toddler with their more or less adult stools, but rather a cute little baby with surprisingly inoffensive breastmilk poop. You get a good 6 months to practice up on your stomach clenching.

Of course, you have to deal with poop no matter what kind of diapers you use. Cloth just ups the anty. And it’s worth it right? Take charge of your baby’s waste stream, etc, etc. In case you need any fact bolstering, here’s a few goodies from the Real Diaper Association:

  • Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills, and represent about 4% of solid waste.  In a house with a child in diapers, disposables make up 50% of household waste.
  • No one knows how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose, but it is estimated to be about 250-500 years.
  • Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby EACH YEAR.

So, think you’re ready? You want to take the leap and commit to shit?

(I ought to clarify right about now that we have always used disposables at night and if we are going out for a daylong outing or on vacation, etc. In other words, we are far from hard core on the cloth issue.)

When I was 3 months pregnant with my first, still coming around to the idea and freaking out about how much baby crap we were already accumulating from well meaning friends and relatives, a woman I knew called on the phone to ask if I wanted some cloth diapers. I took a big gulp and said yes, knowing I would need them and it would be stupid to turn her down. She came by an hour later with three huge boxes of cloth diapers. As she unloaded one after another from her minivan I had a panic attack. It took everything I had not to tell her to pack that shit back up and leave me alone, my baby would pee into a pile of sphagnum moss thank you very much.

When I look back on that moment, and the general disgust I had for the boxes of hand-me-down clothes and toys that poured into our household almost weekly, I am so embarrassed! Of course I ended up using all of those diapers (babies grow fast, don’t you know) which were in pristine condition and would have cost $12-18 a piece if I had had to buy them. I had been given several hundred of dollars worth of high class goods, and I don’t remember if I even thanked her!

Down here in New Orleans I was given two more small sets of diapers. The only thing I ever had to buy was a few extra covers. I am one lucky lady.

If you are not so lucky, and you are in the market for cloth diapers, I have a few things to tell you. One is that there is a dizzying array of choices! And everybody seems to have very different opinions on which ones are good. Two is that, for whatever strange reason, cloth diapers have become something of a boutique (ie: overpriced) item. Be careful if you go shopping on Etsy— you should not be paying $28 for a fucking diaper, no matter how cute.

Because I was given so many different diapers, I have a decent scope of experience. There are three basic types: the so-called ‘pre-folds’ are the flat rectangular ones that our mothers used, bless their heart. (I can’t for the life of me figure out why they call them pre-folds when they come out of the wash flat.) Then there are ‘fitted’ diapers which need a cover put on over the top. ‘Pocket’ diapers have a built-in cover which you insert a wide pad into. And lastly ‘all-in-ones’ have it all, in one.

***Before you experienced mamas click away from this post, will you just scroll down to the comments and add your own experience? I’ll talk about use and care in the next post, right now we are just looking at types of diapers, and the more voices the better.***

I started out with all-in-one Kushies like these:

They are easy, there’s no doubt about it. But they take forever to dry, because they can only dry from one side. And I can tell you they do not last through two kids. The first thing that gives out is the elastic around the leg, meaning more and more leaking problems. Then the plasticy material that they make the cover out of starts to fray around the seams and you lose the whole diaper.

I was also given some Fuzzi Bunz which are a pocket diaper.

They were already well used and maybe they would have worked if they were new, but as far as I can tell they are crap. I keep using them because that’s what I have right now, but they leak like sieves. They are made from some kind of polyester, and from my experience I would say, why the hell would you make a diaper out of a material who’s best property is not getting wet? I understand the concept of keeping baby’s skin dry, and I can see a single layer of polyester maybe, backed my cotton, but that pee has to go somewhere! Anyone with a different Fuzzi Bunz experience please speak up.

My favorite diapers so far are an old version of Bum Genius, that it looks like they don’t make anymore. They’re fitted terry-cloth type material with velcro tabs, so pretty easy. They have lasted well. They do need a cover, but I feel like the extra step is well worth it. (The only Bum Genius I can find online now are all-in-ones, anyone familiar with these?They look good.). This Mother-ease Sandy’s diaper looks vaguely similar:

I did have a bad experience with some Thirsty covers that used velcro closures. The velcro was just a straight-up strip (no backing) and over time it started to curl back on itself, exposing the scratchy stuff to my little pudgy boy’s fat thighs. I had to trash them eventually, he was getting welts. I would in general recommend snap closures because of this problem, plus the velcro gets gunked up and has to be cleaned out periodically and just generally wears out faster than snaps. (Although those first all-in-ones I got had velcro, sewed onto a thicker strap, and they have lasted just fine, I still use some of those.) Here’s what my current covers look like, these are Best Bottoms:

Many people have rave reviews of wool diaper covers, called ‘soakers.’ I never had the opportunity to try them, but the idea is that they allow baby’s little butt to breathe and keep the skin healthier. Makes good sense. Wool can be surprisingly water-proof, and supposedly soakers are very soft and not at all abrasive. Ask me about my experience with $24 lambs’ wool nursing pads sometime though. Grrr…

I tried pre-folds for awhile with both babies, and I just didn’t have any luck with them. They never fit right and so leaked or bunched up and were uncomfortable. I have talked to many other mamas who loved pre-folds though, so I would definitely recommend trying them, if you can. They are a fraction of the cost of all these fancy diapers, and last much longer because they have no elastic, snaps, velcro, bells or whistles to wear out. Also they dry way faster, which is not to be underestimated. (If you are going with pre-folds, or some of the fitted diapers that come without fasteners, you will probably want some Snappies. These are a brilliant replacement for safety pins, danger-free.)

I think the reason that everyone has such different diaper opinions is that every baby is different. Mine both had unbelievably fat thighs and needed big ole’ leg holes. If your baby has skinny thighs you will specifically need small leg holes or you’ll have leaks. Then there are differences in quantities of pee, types of poop, etc. Both mine peed a LOT. And a lot at one time, too, which I think is partly why the Fuzzi Bunz didn’t work. Maybe they can hold a cup of pee if it comes in a few tablespoons at a time, but when yer kid dumps the whole load at once, they can’t absorb fast enough. The frustrating thing about buying diapers before you have your baby is how do you know?

If you have a cloth diaper store in your town, check to see if they have any kind of trial program. We have a great shop here that gives a one month free trial with all the brands she sells, so that you can figure out which ones you like. Online, Diaper Junction has a test drive program, but you do have to buy the diapers and then you can return the ones you don’t like. Better than nothing…

There’s one more important decision to make. You can either buy one-size-fits-all, which are supposed to be adjustable for newborn-toddler, or you can buy ‘perfect fit’ diapers for each size. I hate to tell you this, but I haven’t seen the one-size diapers work for newborns. I think they might work fine for age 1-potty training, because their butts don’t actually grow much after 1yo, but on a newborn or even 6 month old, those one-size diapers look pretty ridiculously enormous.

Having said that though I ought to mention that the actual ‘newborn’ size is almost worthlessly small for most babies I’ve known. Mine fit that size for all of two weeks. Then the breastcream started to kick in and the thighs started to bulk up.

Lastly, how many will you need? This would depend on your baby and your wash cycle. You will go through at least 5/day in the beginning. If you do laundry every 3rd day, and they take 2 days to dry on the line, you need 5 days worth of diapers, 5 x 5 = 25, though you will want a few extra as a buffer. If you are going to use the dryer or commit to washing every other day you can get away with fewer diapers. Bear in mind that if you use fitted diapers with separate covers, you will only need 4 or 5 covers. They can be used for several rounds, until the get a shit smear. They also dry super fast.

So, if you are doing some quick math with the prices I have quoted, you are just about freaking out right now. True, even buying two sizes of brand new diapers plus covers will cost you less, in the end, than disposables. But man, that would be an intimidating entry price tag if you had to set yourself up completely.

I would recommend not jumping into that right off. Do a trial of size smalls to see which kind you like and how your baby shapes up. Keep a vigilant ear open when you’re out in the world– once you start looking, you might be surprised to find more cloth diapering mamas than you thought. And they might have a stack of old diapers to share or sell.

Watch Craigslist like a hawk. I doubt they come up very often, but it can’t hurt. Or check out this independent consignment site. I would be careful not to pay too much for used diapers though, unless the people who are selling didn’t really use them (a very common scenario actually, many folks start out with good intentions and then just get overwhelmed). Diapers definitely wear out and if they’ve been used continuously for one kid, they’re probably at about half-life, which means you shouldn’t pay more than 1/3 of the new price.

I’ll go over use and care in the next post, but so far– any questions?

35 thoughts on “Cloth Diapering, vol. 1: Getting Acquainted with Sh*t

  1. We cloth diaper like you do–not often at night or when we are doing long out and abouts–and we are still in the breastmilk only phase. Our chubbo is exactly that, a chubby baby who has always been on the big side.

    We have Fuzzibunz and prefolds with Thirsties wrap with snaps. The prefolds + wraps are great: they leak no more than a disposable diaper at worst (practically never), they aren’t precious so you can wash and dry them without worrying if you are going to ruin them, you can use diaper cream with them (if needed), they are pretty cheap. But, you have to change them much more often and our baby gets a little red even then. We have 20 prefolds and 3 wraps, and that gets us through a day (ok, so we are also using the prefolds as burp cloths and changing pad covers and coasters and lap pads, etc.), Which sounds like a lot, but is about $75.

    The Fuzzibunz are less my favorite, but they still work–but they need tinkering with. You need to wash and dry them more carefully, can’t use diaper cream (but need it much less), and they are expensive. I had given up on the Fuzzibunz, because of the leak factor, but my husband was determined to figure them out and what works for us is to let baby wear them MUCH looser than you would imagine would work. Once we get them the right size, then no problems–and when we notice the leaking starting up again, we know that he has grown enough to make it larger. And we’ve had success with baby wearing them at night with a doubler insert, although it is still less absorbent than a disposable. We could probably experiment more with the types of inserts and get it working at night, but frankly this is not high on my to-do list.

    We generally alternate days of pre-folds and Fuzzibunz, with a day of disposables in there every week and a half when somehow the laundry schedule got out of whack and every cloth diaper is dirty. I’m still not 100% certain how that happens, but whatever. Probably I decided that the adults needed clean underwear. We use the dryer for the mo, but when we get to our next abode, I am going to experiment with hanging them outside in the desert and see how long that takes.

    This post is further proof that mamas who cloth diaper cannot write less than a zillion words on the subject.

    1. Yep, I too dealt with the random leaking and then not leaking. I’m assuming you are using the one size fits all. I noticed that as the baby grew and the diaper had to be adjusted is when the leaking started or stopped, never quite figured it out. I had a friend that raved about fuzzibunz, so i got them, she never complained of leaking, she also used the perfect size diapers, so that may be the key! I just can’t get myself to spend more money on those diapers.

  2. We use prefolds and covers, and have since our eleven-month-old was about a week old. We use disposables at night. A good friend uses Fuzzibunz, and while they’re cute, they just seem fussy to me. So many snaps! And buttons with elastic? The prefolds are so easy — put in cover, wrap around baby, go. (Incidentally, they’re called prefolds because all diapers used to be flat like these: before some smart lady was like, “I am done folding diapers. Let’s see what I can do.)

    The hardest part for me has been finding pants that go over my little dude’s bediapered butt. I’ve started making all his pants. It works.

  3. I love the start of your article. So true.
    I’ve cloth diapered two and now work a few hours a week in a bricks and mortar cloth diaper store, so adding my experience:
    I agree about one-size diapers– they generally don’t fit well until 10 lbs. If you cloth diaper a newborn with prefolds and covers (my preference), you can use those small prefolds to stuff any pocket diapers you might get later on. I mostly use my old prefolds to stuff our pocket diapers now. Microfiber can be a bitch to get clean after a while.
    I like a two-size system and think that can work well for newborns as well as bigger babies– I am very fond of Thirsties– they have a 6-18 lbs, 16-35 system for covers, etc., that I really like. They are made in the US and work very well for Sam (who I would describe as a very average baby– not skinny, but not super plump). Nice leg gussets and a good fit for most leg sizes, I think.
    I have had generally good experiences with pocket diapers, including fuzzibunz– I wonder if the ones you got were just too old? Sam has two right now, mediums, that he has worn straight for the last year with no issues.
    I like a good fitted for overnights, too. A thick, non-synthetic fitted with a wool cover is good for a heavy wetter overnight.

  4. I only have Fuzzi Bunz and I’ve used them on three babies now, and passed them on to a fourth (the ones Cora’s grown out of anyway). They were great for my first and my third who were (are) very chubby, but they tended to leak more for my middle guy who was a string bean.

    I read reviews about Fuzzi BUnz and jumped whole hog into them, so I didn’t try many others. Like the other commenter, if they are leaking, I know it’s time to go up a size. The other key is what you are stuffing them with. I’ve used the micro-terry inserts and prefolds. The micro-terry can get smelly over time and need to be stripped somewhat regularly to keep that from becoming a problem. Otherwise, leaking has been minimal for us.

    Perhaps the elastic around the legs in yours were shot? Some of the larges I have are getting pretty close – I’ll probably have to replace elastic on those before Cora gets out of them.

    With Emmett I got he chance to try Kushies and Rump-A-Roos for a couple of weeks. I did a review of them here: Basically, I thought the Kushies were crap, but I did like the Rump-A-Roos.

  5. We cloth diapered both kids. We did eventually move to disposables at night. Our first set of diapers were pre-fold hand me downs and my DD was the third kid to wear them. We had to buy our own covers. We had a mix of bummis and Thirsties. For my DD when she was 0-6mos the bummis fit better but at 6mos she got much longer and leaner and then the Thirsties were much better. We had the occasional leak but for the most part we didn’t have many problems. Until we started using disposables at night, we used wool doublers which were great when she was under 6mos or so but after that the volume of pee was just too much and she would flood the diaper. With DS we had to buy new pre-folds. The bummis covers never fit him very well and he wore almost exclusively Thirsties and Imse Vimse covers with some bum genius all in ones for when grandparents and others were watching him. We had a hard time getting the all in ones to fit him properly but they were good enough for occasional use. Our local cloth diapering/natural parenting store had a gift package where you could choose a variety of different covers for a reduced price. I think it was six or eight. We used that to try a few different types of covers and decide which we liked best. We found that it was really hard to predict ahead of time which we were going like the most. My little guy had very sensitive skin and HAD to have crap free diaper cream, and cream every change. This made the Bum Genius far more difficult because you really didn’t want to use the diaper cream with them. We washed them on super hot because he also had a tendency toward yeasties and then when the weather permitted hung them out in the sun to dry.

    My 2p- If you wouldn’t buy nasty chlorine processed disposable diapers for your baby, don’t buy bleached cloth diapers. (Why the hell they’re even available is beyond me). Get a variety pack of covers if you’re doing pre-folds and decide which you like best. You’re going to need more mid sized covers than newborn sized.

    Brain frozen. Must clean. Bwahahahahahaha. Okay so yeah I actually do have to clean. After weeks of everybody being sick the house looks, to my decidedly lax eye, disgusting.

  6. We used cloth in combination with EC. I could never get prefolds to work for me at all, I used Gerber flat diapers, which are like the flat diapers Beth linked above, but more rectangular than square. I love love love them! They are cheap, work for any size or shape baby (you just change to different folding patterns), are easy to wash and quick to dry, work well through multiple babies, and then can be used as rags or even kitchen towels when the babies are done with them. If you’re thinking of using them, there are folding tutorials online, and you should look at the Snappi ( ) which is the best fastener I’ve ever seen. With it, I was able to literally change my kids (at any age once they could hold their heads up) on my lap while crouching in a bathroom stall. Unfortunately I’ve no advice about buying covers, as I’m insanely lucky and have a mom who decided to knit covers for me. If you’ve a lot of spare time, or a friend/relation who knits well, there are soaker knitting patterns online as well. They can be knit from standard knitting wool, and work more of less fine, but they work much much better knit from partially-washed wool. Failing that, wash your normal wool in Eucalan, which gives it some lanolin back. The best part about wool soakers is you almost never need to wash them, as they’re naturally anti-bacterial. With wool soakers, you can feel from the outside when it’s wet, which made some of the grandparents unhappy, but it’s never really _wet_. My kids didn’t really get diaper rashes, but I don’t know whether it was the cotton/wool combo, or less pee in the diaper because of EC, or a combination, or dumb luck. Two isn’t a great statistical sample. :)

  7. It is true, we all have our own experience and opinion about cloth diapering based on our babe’s size and output. Before my little girl joined us I bought one of each kind I was considering (prefolds with thirsties cover, Bummis cover, Fuzzibunz, Bumgenius 4.0’s, and Kissaluvs for newborns). Here is what worked for us:

    From week 2-6 — used prefolds and thirstie covers & kissaluvs with a cover. I did not like the kissaluvs even though they fit fine…they just took FOREVER to dry which is a waste of my time these days. The prefolds worked great (with the snappi to keep them closed) and the thristie covers w/ snaps worked like a charm too. You have to make sure that none of the prefold is peeking out so they don’t start wicking on to the clothes but otherwise they work great. I also had one Bummis cover with velcro which was my husbands favorite (snaps are a bit harder in the dark) and would equally support them as the Thirsties.

    From week 6-10 weeks (and counting) — tried the Fuzzibunz and hated them. Too fussy with all the elastic for sizing, they are really hard to stuff the profolds as the inside is something sticky, and they consistently had blowouts on the leg holes. This could have been a user error issue with the elastic settings but I honestly didn’t have the mind to care about “working it out” and set them asside. I also was trying out the Bumgenius 4.0’s with snaps and loved them. Easy to stuff, have room for an extra liner for naptime/nighttime and so far no blowouts! And they are even a little roomy around her leg so I am extra impressed we haven’t had any leaks.

    All of our prefolds are now perfect burp clothes and I will save the Thirsties covers for the next kid. It was nice to not have to do disposables for too long.

    Another tip — use cloth wipes! It is so much easier to wipe the butt and then throw the whole system into the laundry pail rather than also having to have a trash can near by. Green Mountain Diapers has some nice cheap cloth wipes.

    I bought all my Bumgenius diapers at Cotton Babies. They often have “seconds” that have some sort of flaw which I have never been able to figure out for about $4-5 cheaper than a “perfect” one.

    So far I am really enjoying cloth diapering and don’t find it that much of hassle to deal with all the laundry and stuffing of diapers every other day. It is kind of theraputic to sit and stuff diapers for 15 mins. I have 22 diapers and we do laundry every other day and so far have never run out.

  8. I diaper with SmartiPants, which are a one-size snap pocket made in the US. I got a batch of 24 (enough to go the distance) for less than $300 with shipping. I love them. When I have leaks I know I need to strip. I know people who adore their FB, so maybe that’s your issue? You might consider doing a couple hot, HOT water passes to strip any soap residue out of your diapers and see if the leaking is better. I find the microfiber inserts in the SmartiPants will clog from residue if I get a little trigger happy with the enviro-soap from Costco.

  9. Thank you for posting about cloth.
    Here are my thoughts – I’ve been cloth diapering for 8 weeks now, since my baby was born in December.
    I use prefolds. I like them a lot. I use Thirsties and Bummis covers.

    I have both velcro and snap closures. The snaps will last longer but I find them to be a pain at night. So we use the snap covers during the day and the velcro covers at night.
    I also use Snappis (elastic grabbers) on the prefolds to keep them in place inside th covers.

    I do laundry once a week, so I use 5-6 snap covers and 3-4 velcro covers during the course of a week.
    I also have trend lab and KaWaii Baby covers that have the fleece lining inside. I use those as my back up covers. I don’t like using those as much baecause when we have a blow-out (which happens sometimes) I don’t like washing the slimy baby poop out of the fleece.

    One of the best ways to find cloth diapers for a good price (I’m tlaking about pre-folds here) is to find a diapering service in your area and contact them about buying their discards. Often times they will have discards that they can’t use anymore because of stains or moderate wear and tear. If you don’t care about stains from a previous baby – then this can be a really good deal for you. And at least that way the diapers will be quite fluffy and absorbant from all of the previous washing.

    As for performance, we have the occasional giant #2 blowout. But for the most part the only time we have leaking issues is when the diaper isn’t put on properly, otherwise the mess is usually very well contained.

    For sizing issues – I had a 9+ lbs baby. I couldn’t use the newborn stuff. The one sizes work ok, but the extra snaps in the crotch area, used to shorten the diaper, are bulky. Right now I’m using the larger size prefolds because the smaller size ones wouldn’t fit around his waist and I find that the extra bulk that I fold down is great at soaking up extra pee. The larger covers will completely encase the prefolds, if you use the smaller covers with the larger prefolds you have to be really careful about tucking in all of the cloth so that wet diaper doesn’t touch your baby’s clothes and therefore leak.

    The only time we use disposables is when we are travelling – because really, who wants to cart around a bunch of stinky diapers for a week. G pants aren’t terrible for travelling if you’re still looking for an alternative to disposables.

    Just a side note about diaper cream. You’ll want to avoid any cream or ointment with fish oil in it (like regular A&D) because it causes staining in the diaper and is harder to wash out. Destin Creamy works better.

  10. So much could be said here: I want to make a plug for the most inexpensive way to do cloth, for those folks who do need to buy some, and that’s prefolds with pro wrap covers. Super cheap, quick to dry, and last forever. The covers lasted 3 years for us. But when they died, I wanted to buy a natural fiber cover, so yes, I bought a $28 wool cover, after much procrastination. 3 of them, in fact. I’m still learning, but I do think wool is pretty great — few leaks (even at night), not much harder to deal with, and adorable. That was a steep learning curve, though.
    My sister-in-law, while sailing across the Atlantic, saw many a disposable diaper floating there. Some inspiration/small consolation for us doing the extra work.

  11. We’ve used cloth diapers with all four boys at different times of their development. We had a skinny boy first, then a super chunky, then a skinny, then a chunky bum again. Because we didn’t know we’d have four kids when we started out, we passed on two sets of washables to friends, but didn’t necessarily get them back in time to use ourselves. I must say that by the time Alf came along I got lazy (well…. as lazy as you can call homeschooling four bouncy little boy kiddos all day long) and we used eco disposables a fair bit, but used all-in-one training pants when he was toddling. My advice would be ignore the look of them and close your eyes and feel them as if you were a blind person. Try one before buying a whole pack. See how they fit on the leg fold because that will make a difference to how leaky (or not) they are…seriously leaky nappies are really no fun for anyone – more washing of bedsheets, clothes etc….therefore NOT very eco friendly. My (pretty obvious I know) advice would be to void anything that bunches up round the leg in a really itchy way or your baby will be seriously grumpy and sore there. Look at the temparament of the child too – are they crazy bouncy or generally pretty still? Sounds silly but that might influence what type you go for too.

  12. I’ve got 2 boys in cloth diapers. We didn’t make the switch ’till boy # 2 was a couple months old, so we budgeted $ each pay period, bought a few at a time, and used disposables as needed. I’ve got enough diapers so that I wash them every other day.
    We also use disposables at night as we’ve struggled a bit with diaper rash and the disposables just stay drier next to the skin. No 2 ways about that.
    Here’s what I’ve figured out…
    Natural fibers (cotton, hemp, bamboo) are a lot more absorbent than synthetics. But they take a lot longer to dry.
    Cotton prefolds work just fine, are cheap, and easy to use. There are really small ones for newbies.
    I was a sucker at the beginning and did buy some expensive Soft Bums diapers. They are awesome. You could buy several inserts for each cover and reuse the cover several times before it needs washing.
    I struggled with leaks when boy #2 was a newborn, so didn’t really start full time with cloth until he was about 8 weeks old.
    Here’s something else I’m just now realizing. By the time boy #2 is out of diapers, the resale value of those expensive diapers is gonna be next to nothing. Velcro wears out. If you want to re-sell, consider snaps. Elastic wears out too. It seems to me cotton prefolds would last forever…
    As far as my favorite diaper type, I think the winner would be one size pocket diapers. My preferred brand is Tiny Tush, as they’re made right here in Wisconsin.

  13. whoops! i forgot to review pre-folds until after i had published this post, by which time my writing window had passed and i had to go do things like really change real diapers, and make breakfast, clean up, etc, etc. ahh the glorious life of mother blogging.
    anyway, i have added it now (during the nap!) as well as a bit about wool soaker and snappies. thanks for reminding me ladies. after reading all y’all comments so far, i feel vastly unqualified to have written this post at all. can you believe i had never heard of this thing called “stripping?” ah ha! does that only need to be done with polyester? can’t wait to try it.
    this is what happens when you never buy new diapers, and therefore don’t get the ‘care instructions’ and also generally think everything should have the same washing routine, goddamn it, which is cold water, homemade detergent, and a day on the line. no fuss.
    then complain about how it doesn’t work.

  14. Another plug for industrial strength pro-wraps for covers, I bought mine as seconds. I used pins, or no pins, and pro-wraps covers for 3 babies, and still passed some on, although the size med were well worn. For cheap wool soakers, look up felted sweaters as soakers. For really cheap covers, or cover doublers, ive used slightly stretchy plastic, almost like throw-away table cloth material, cut in basic, but bigger than diaper shape, that gets bunched, tucked, and tied. Got the idea from south American cloth diaper moms, where cloth is decidedly *not* boutique.

    1. Meant pins or no-pins with pre-folds. I also like flats, but one flat was never enough for my copious producers.

  15. My youngest is turning 5 this year so nappies are a fond memory! But I clothed with both – the first one using prefolds (we call them flats in NZ) and covers and gave up because of the rash problems. They were just wet against his skin all the time.

    Second baby I discovered pockets with microfleece on the inside and PUL on the outside. I bought one secondhand one (off Trademe, NZ equivalent of eBay) of all the brands I could find to trial them. I ended up using a homemade brand that is no longer available I think.

    I found using a combination of hemp and microfibre inserts worked best and I could buy the fabric and make them myself so that saved a bit of money. I usually used unbleached disposables at night. I had about 22 pockets and that worked fine for me.

    Cloth nappies aren’t that much work, you just gotta get your routines happening with them. Even the husband found them easy as long as I had prestuffed the covers for him! And they were in pretty good nick when I had finished and handed them down to my nephew.

  16. I haven’t changed a baby for about 20yrs now. Back in the day disposables were only just coming out. Here in Australia we called the rectangular squares of white hemmed toweling “nappies” and there was an accepted way to fold them from the line so they fit into the co-ordinated nursery fabric (hand made don’t you know) “nappy stacker”. There were certain folds one performed; for newborns and for greater than 3mths, folds for boys and folds for girls. A nice neat nappy was a badge of honour. The “kite fold” was the most commonly used after baby was 3mths. Nappy pins as you would imagine were also a vital item. To make it easier to insert through so many folds, people would either run the point through their hair along the scalp picking up head oils or use cakes of soap as “pin cushions”.” Pilchers” were the other common accessory and I even remember them being used for me and my brothers 40 odd yrs ago. Pilchers were an over pant made from thin plastic elasticised at the waist and legs. They were designed to prevent damp seeping onto clothing and bedding. Very effective BUT can you imagine, they were like little mini saunas in there so you had to be a really superlative mummy and change nappies very frequently to prevent nappy rash. Technology did come along in the form of fluffy over pants instead to replace the plastic making them much more comfortable for baby but they were a lot more expensive. There was also another invention too along the way and these were liners that looked like thin Chux wipes (dish cloths) that you put in the nappy to “catch” the poo so it was simpler to remove from the nappy prior to washing. I personally found these to be next to ridiculous and wasteful resources (even in those days we thought of that stuff) Then there were proper “nappy buckets” for soiled nappies to go into to soak before the daily wash time. These were filled with “Nappy-San” to sanitise and pre-soak. Basically there was only white but sometimes you could get coloured nappies but they just looked leery on a baby in those days because nobody had babies in colours brighter than a pastel. Babies wore white, lemon, pale blue, pale pink and sometimes pale mint green till they were about 1yr old or when they started walking, then they became toddlers and their colour palette expanded. Pilchers also came in those appropriate colours. For the first few months of my first baby I didn’t have a washing machine and I washed everything by hand. That took up a lot of precious nap time hours. It was expected that you would go through 12-14 nappies a day if your baby was properly hydrated and less than that was an early warning sign that they might be coming down sick. When you think about it nappies are very intimate ways of indicating a babies health.

    1. me too all of that except I never washed a diaper by hand praise God. And I called stuff different names here in WA state. Things are both easier and harder these days. I’m so glad someone is telling the new group of mommies to relax. Carry on!

  17. Boy does this post take me back. My last baby is now 25 years old and I just last month had to throw out the last diaper. I actually felt a little sad (just a little).
    I used a combination on mine, cloth for daytime and disposable at night or long trips. I found I could get just a little more sleep at night with the disposable. Reading your post, I’m again amazed at the choices now available. We had flat and pre fold diapers and old rubber pants. When my daughter was a baby, they came out with a different diaper cover, but I can’t remember what they were called.
    There was always a certain satisfaction on laundry day with dozens of diapers flapping on the line.

  18. You lent me diapers…thanks!

    I made up a new system with the G-diapers (I have friends who swear by them but I couldn’t get the paper liners to hold pee well–they leaked all over the place). They sell a cloth insert (cotton on one side, I think, and wool the other) but I found they didn’t absorb enough either). What I did instead was buy the old school tri-folds and fold them up to fit in the plastic part. The benefit there is that I washed the G-diaper cover when it stank or was stained (and I’m not that picky so maybe 1-2x a week) and the tri-fold line-dry waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay quicker than any of the others.

    The missing part of the diapering calculus, however, is if in your kid is in daycare. If they are, the state has health standards and such so each diaper you provide has to be unique. Hence the all-in-ones. According to the rules you can’t re-use covers and that’s a whole lot more laundry (every day, pretty much) and at least 10-15 diapers.

  19. Can I suggest that any mother that is considering cloth diaper try one of the trials to see what they like? One like the $10 trial at and yes they really do refund every single one I sent back. Oh and if it is your first time around do yourself a favor and try cloth diapers AFTER the cord falls off. Give yourself a break to learn all the mothering for two weeks then add to the complexity.

    We did prefolds and home-made ones with covers when he was little and then asked for fuzzi-bunz all-in-ones. Love them, especially if you have a “bigger” baby. i.e. my two year old is already 36 lbs but the fuzzi-bunz have been with him since 15 lbs and still fit just fine. I don’t have any experience with the regular fuzzi-bunz but the all-in-ones are great and I rarely have a leaking issue.

    Also I have to second the comment about daycare. I have friends who saw how easy it was to cloth diaper and wanted to do it but couldn’t find a daycare that was on board. Even with plenty of diapers. As much as they wanted to I told them it wasn’t worth the cost for 3 months of her maternity leave if they were only going to use them on the weekends. We added it up and did the math and sadly I was right.

    Some daycares especially home ones (or grandmothers in my case) are on board but they are really hard to find outside big cities.

    PS. I find I handle a lot of shit regardless of whether we are using disposables on vacation or cloth at home. Babies = handling shit.

  20. OK, I’m a little lost in the lingo, but I think we use pocket diapers with flat diapers as inserts and i don’t care too much which pocket diapers we use, as long as we fit the flat ones into them, which you can always do because you can fold them any which way. We’ve used gDiapers, Thirsties and … something else, I forget right now. From folding them in quarters I fold them into thirds the short way for Thirsties for the newborn, fold them into half the long way for gDiapers for the older kid. Move up a size of gDiapers when they can’t hold the pee anymore, but they hold it surprisingly well, and the removable inner linings mean you get more use out of the cover before you have to wash it.

    Prefolds are for people in warm climates or who have dryers. We live in humid old West Virginia and prefolds take about three days to dry most of the year as opposed to the flat diapers which take 20 minutes on a good day, 24 hours when it’s freezing outside.

    Additionally, related to EC, not sure if this is worth mentioning because the oldest is 2.5 and only just beginning to be potty trained most of the time, but we just left him without diapers whenever he was awake and we’re carrying him around that first summer. Sometime, we didn’t really notice it till some time had passed, he stopped peeing and pooping on us entirely. He’d hold it till we set him down or he crawled or walked off, depending on the age. It just dawned on us one day that we weren’t getting peed on any more. How cool! He could make a quick trip to the store or a fairly long jaunt in the car holding it because he obviously didn’t like peeing in the car seat.

    That did not lead to potty training, just well-timed holding it. He preferred peeing and pooping off the porch. You can do naked all the time, naked walks down the street and pooping on the sidewalk (in our yard) when you live in the country.

    Because of this, we only ever had to buy 4 covers of the large size of gDiapers and used them exclusively on him from, what? 1-2.5? If you can get away with fewer covers like this, the sized diapers totally make sense.

    Someone gave us one of the new BumGenius and we found it useless because it took so long to wash and of course, you could only use it once before you had to wash the whole dang thing.

  21. Thank you for this post! My first is due in July and I’ve got my eye on the bumGenius all-in-ones. My plan is to get the one-size and just use disposables until baby is big enough (I figure I’ll benefit from giving myself that time to adjust to motherhood without all the extra laundry anyway). Of course this is all dependent on finding a way financially for me to be at home. Or maybe finding some sweet old lady with a non-judgemental attitude toward cloth. My hope is to be home, though.

  22. Daamn, woman. Reaching into a hen’s VULVA for a stuck egg?? Can’t. process.

    Quick plug for snaps over velcro. My velcro Bum G’s are on their 3rd baby (they were hand-me-downs from a friend) and–even though I had the velcro replaced once–they are on their way out.

  23. I also used whatever I was given or managed to make myself. The flat terry nappies still work well and can be used for so many things even when the kids are grown (my mum still uses some from us kids to clean with). The older worn ones work brilliantly for newborns as they are not as bulky. Like everyone has said they dry quick and are no fuss (with the snappi).

    I’ve found bamboo works great as an insert on fitted nappies as it can soak up so much more. If the fleece part of the pocket is a bit worn or needs ‘stripping’ I just put the insert next to their skin and forget about the pocket, works great.

    It is the elastic going that I find really annoying, I’ve mended quite a few as nearly all our nappies have been second-hand, but it is a super fiddly job. Because I can sew I’ve used all sorts of covers, wool (from thrifted pre-shrunk jumpers), PUL covers (using free patterns from web), polar fleece covers (which work great if you are using older nappies that shouldn’t leak but DO). I made a stack of newborn pre-folds from old towels/sheets and they worked fine as well.

    I will say that most of the dads I know seem to struggle with having to fold or stuff anything first and preferred the all-in-ones. Also if you use disposables at night, keep them in a different spot or the dads seem to reach for them automatically!

    We do use disposables when we are traveling and for me it is a reminder about why I don’t use them…..we went through so many over Christmas….and it cost us heaps!

    One of the best things about cloth (for me) has been getting the kids toilet-trained faster because I had the incentive to stop washing nappies!

    After 4 kids I’d recommend trying a few different cloth varieties before buying (I’ve happily lent mine to friends to try out for a week to see how they fit/work) but to not leave it too long or it all gets a bit too complicated.

  24. My two youngest were cloth-diapered, and we were the hard-core type who used cloth day-and-night. We paid $250 prefolds with covers, and used those for two children. So, I think all-in-all we did pretty well and saved quite a lot. It helped that I work from home, and so we didn’t have to deal with babysitters or daycare centers.

    There’s another benefit to cloth diapering and I didn’t see if you addressed it … and maybe it was just my kids … but the two who were cloth diapered were potty trained before they were two – no tears and no problems. My youngest potty trained herself, for the most part.

    I’m not, likely, to have any more children at my age, but if I did, I’d cloth-diaper again. In fact, if I could talk my husband into it, we’d be using cloth toilet wipes instead of the 100% recycled toilet paper we use. It would be healthier for our bums and better for the septic tank, too.

  25. We used cloth pretty much exclusively, including nights, for our first girl (until she was 3), and then again with our twins, but we only lasted with the twins until they turned one – that was when both of us were back at work, and the kids were in care 2 days/week. It just became too much for us (and our washing machine). We were perpetually exhausted and something had to give (I’m pretty sure we would have been ok our second had also been a ‘singleton’, but twin babies means far less sleeping, and twice as much washing). We used a wide range of nappies (diapers) – very keen on hemp and/or bamboo nappies with PUL covers for day and wool covers for night. Fuzzi bunz were great – no real problem, but I stuffed them with whatever I wanted really, and ultimately I think your choice of stuffing has a lot to do with leaking issues. I also found when they started leaking it was time to strip them. Normally I washed the nappies in cold water, with half the rec detergent. When stripping them I’d wash in hot water (not insanely hot) with dish washing liquid and vinegar in the rinse – they’d be fine again after that. Same thing if any nappies started to smell a bit. Because they get washed so much they can build up a residue of soap in the fibers, which seems to make them hold smells more. Actually i think after a while we started throwing half a cup of vinegar in with most of the washes now that i think about it. Also, I can’t say enough good stuff about tots bots cotton nappies (British brand) – fan-bloody-tastic.

  26. We actually used prefolds as an insert or those little flannel receiving blankets as a flat fold, using a modified kite fold with bikini twist with adjustable covers. I got all of my diapers and blankies from thrift stores and freecycle. We only needed 6 covers for the two kidlets, because we only really used the covers when we went out…the rest of the time just pinned ’em up and put a t-shirt on them (kiddos could get out of snappis in a snap). Since both of us were in the military and had to do day care, we had to get disposables also, but at home we mostly used cloth (though, there was a memorable week where all of us had the stomach flu and the Hubby and I said “Hella NO” and used the babysitter reserve stock)…

    There is one thing I recommend, as far as clean-up goes–its a sprayer that connects to your toilet, you just spray off the diaper (and makes cleaning the toilet easy, which is nice, since its my least favorite chore). A bit pricey, but totally worth it, IMO. In the morning I would fill up the washing machine, add some washing soda and borax and then toss the diapers in through out the day, and then run the washer towards the end of the afternoon. While other laundry was going in the evening, I had a bucket with water, washing soda and borax where diapers went until they got dumped into the washing machine the next morning.

  27. My biggest regret with cloth is not getting a “trial” pack before I committed to one brand. Get your hands on as many different brands as you can beg borrow or steal if it’s your first time round. Your baby’s body type and pooping and peeing habits make a huge difference as to which will work best. (Not to mention your own tolerance for folding and drying.)

    My dear mother loaded me up with Bummis organic cotton prefolds and covers the Christmas before the baby came and I can’t say I’ve ever been completely happy with them. They don’t leak, wash up nice and dry quick, but until recently they looked pretty uncomfortable on him, and they were completely useless when he was brand new. The amount of fabric between his legs made him look like he was constantly riding a horse! No good.

    He’s 10 months old now and a big boy and they finally work well, although like another Mum mentioned, I can’t get all of his pants over his gigantic diapered ass.

  28. My youngest is now 22, and I used only cloth and plastic pants. I bought a total of perhaps 4 dozen diapers and I usually had 2 or 3 usable plastic pants (Gerber made them). The diaper pins had little ducks on them. The whole system was very manageable even without a dryer (we live in Vermont and they actually dried faster in the winter over the heater). I’d occasionally give them a vinegar rinse to ease out the soap scum. Same as the other commenter, I found my children very easy to toilet train, as wet cloth diapers were not very comfortabnle.

  29. Wow, nothing gets the mama’s talking like cloth diapers! Dang. Just wanted to say that I have my cake and don’t eat shit, too. Here’s how: Once a year or so we buy a pack of natural but disposable baby wipes. Use them normally, then throw them in the wash with the diapers. Washed and dried, they are perfect little liners. I stick them in the diaper when expecting a poop. If it comes, I usually just throw the whole thing in the trash (I know, shit’s not supposed to go in the trash, but come on. Seriously.) If a liner’s in there, it really does just peel off. If it just gets peed on, back in the wash for another round. Makes a huge difference in my quality of laundry life.
    Good on you for such a thorough post!
    I’m a prefold with wool soaker gal myself, but it took two babies to get here.
    (Ps–did someone else explain the prefold thing? Took me forever to figure out but I guess at one time diapers were just big old bedsheets that had to get folded up to fit.)

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