What I Have Learned About Cloth Diapers


Home made cloth diapers means Baby J and Daddy can match when they go for boy’s night out at the Stable.

I have come to the realization this week that my (all of our?) world is WAY too controlled by fear.  There are so many things that I (we?) want so very badly to do but I (we?) allow my fear to rob me (us?) of these experiences.

This is just one tiny example: I used disposable diapers for years because I feared the unknown.  I stood in the Babies R Us Superstore, surrounded by thousands of square feet of things my baby “needs” and I opted for disposable diapers because I was overwhelmed and they were familiar.

Finally, 3 or 4 months ago, I read an article about “hybrid” diapers (gdiapers) that pushed me to check out the other side of things and I have found that my baby and I are both much happier for having explored this brave new (well… actually OLD) way of diapering. We have all heard that it’s cheaper, better for the environment, yada yada yada. But there are a few things you may have not heard.  This is what I have learned:

1) Cloth diapers make your baby’s butt huge.  None of his pants will fit any more and you’ll have to go a size (or even two) larger to get his poofy bum into his jeans.

2) Fancy flushable liners are glorified paper towels.  Laying a 1/2 sheet of paper towel inside the diaper will be just as effective, softer, cheaper, and easier on your sewer system.  Viva are particularly soft and sturdy, but I’ve heard Scott Naturals are good too and more eco-friendly.

3) You may have to change detergent.  Anything with additives (bleach, fabric softener, etc) will ruin the absorbency of your cloth diapers and/or make them smell especially bad when they are wet.  I started making my own and have been very happy with it.

4) You really need hot water to get them clean.  I have always done my wash in cold water, unless it was especially soiled, to save energy and it’s been just fine. With diapers, they don’t really smell fresh unless I use hot water.  Some people do multiple rinses and soaks and so forth.  I do not.  I wash them on a regular hot water cycle and they look and smell great.

5) In a pinch, you can wash your diapers with other items, but it’s not a good idea as a routine.  I did this for a month or so and everything was fine but then I started to notice that my clothes smelled like ammonia.  GROSS! So now we wash seperately.

6) Disposables are better overnight and on long trips.  There are lots of mamas out there who disagree with me so you’ll have to decide for yourself.  My experience is that, in order to avoid overnight leaks, we had to really stuff my baby’s diaper cover with pads etc which was uncomfortable for him PLUS when he wets the cloth he can feel it more so he wasn’t sleeping as well.  That made us all grouchy.  As far as long travel – cloth meant a bag of stinky diapers in the car, taking time during vacation to do laundry and bulkier luggage.  I’ll take disposables next time I travel.

7) Cloth can be insanely expensive.  There are beautiful hand knit diaper covers out there for as much as $100 or more.  It’s possible to spend $20 a piece on the insert (the part that gets peed or pooed on). It CAN be much much cheaper to cloth diaper than to use disposables.  You can get a package of 12 Gerber prefolds for about $15 and a package of 3 pull-up vinyl covers for about $3.  This means you can diaper your baby almost forever for less than $40 – or the cost of 1 large case of disposables.  If you can sew, you can make them pretty much for free from old receiving blankets, terry towels, flannel shirts and other re-purposed items.  BUT…

8) Not all prefolds and covers are created equal.  I have never used the Gerber stuff so I can’t comment on it’s quality.  I have used gDiapers, Rumparooz and Econobums.  Each brand fit differently and has different pros and cons.  I have heard from moms that like one brand for one child and a different for another SO… before dumping a whole bunch of money into a single brand that seems great in a magazine ad, buy a few used and try them out.  Same thing with inserts.  Keep in mind that some fabrics, like microfiber, lose their absorbency with time and use and others, like bamboo, are more resistant to smells and germs.  Again, try a few and see what works for you.  Some stores will let you pay a deposit and try any and every brand you want over a set period of time.  This may be PERFECT if you’re looking to explore.

9) Sort of along the same lines, some people spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars buying mountains of adorable covers.  There are a lot of cute covers out there, but all you REALLY NEED are about 6 covers and maybe 2 dozen diapers or inserts.

10) It’s not rocket science.  100,000 years ago moms were wrapping their baby’s bums in fur and stuffing dry grass in there as padding.  Apparently those children survived because they are our ancestors.  All mommies have common sense.  If your baby is wet or dirty, put him in something clean and dry.  If his diapers stink wash them.  You know how to take care of your baby better than anyone.  Be empowered to explore and ask questions and go with your instincts.  My favorite lady to ask? Theresa at Squishy Tushy.  She knows more than I ever want to and she is kind and generous with her advice.


4 responses »

    • Yes. We used to live in and near Tucson and it was so common for babies to be cloth diapered and breastfed. Oddly, here in the Midwest, home of sturdy farm wives who can their own veggies and slaughter their own chickens, it’s considered weird. Go figure!

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