What I’ve learned about cloth diapering in 3 years

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We decided to use cloth diapers before Red was born. It just felt right for us (and here are our reasons), so we jumped in with both feet. (We are very good at diving into things.) We chose the kind of cloth we wanted to use and compiled a stash. We researched and prepared as much as possible for the diapering process, but as with anything there are some things you just can’t know until you experience it. So now, three years into being a cloth diapering (CD) family and preparing to put our third into comfy cottons, I’m realizing there is much we didn’t know at the beginning. For those of you just starting out or those of you who are shocked that people.still.do.that?!, here are 12 things I’ve learned about cloth diapering over the past three years, in no specific order:

 1. Find the right detergent that best fits your water/baby’s skin/diapers and stick with it.

Before we settled on Rockin’ Green for our diapers (and most of our clothes), we tried several different soaps with which to wash our prefolds and covers. We experimented with Allen’s Naturally and even made our own liquid detergent for several months. The other detergents were either too harsh for our baby’s sensitive skin, or just didn’t work well with our water, or stinks occurred too often…they just didn’t work right for us. And making homemade detergent, well, that was a fun experiment but let’s just say I probably won’t be doing it again ever. Some things are worth the extra work and mess and saving a couple dollars; I didn’t think that homemade laundry soap was one of those things. 🙂 But definitely try several detergents until you find one that works best for your family, and then stick with it. It will be worth the search and worth the peace of mind once you settle on something that doesn’t cause rashes and achieves your level of cleanliness.

2. Go with snaps for covers or All-in-Ones. Velcro just doesn’t hold up.

When we first bought our stash of cloth diapers, we invested mainly in the good ‘ol fashioned cotton prefolds (in two sizes) and Velcro-enclosed covers. We also had one or two covers that fastened with snaps. Now, three years later, we’re throwing all the Velcro covers away but the snap covers are still going strong. Velcro may be easier to get on baby during changing time, but it doesn’t hold up to the rigors of use over the years. Spring for snaps.

3. It’s OK if you use a disposable diaper every once in awhile.

I used to feel so guilty if we had to use ‘sposies. I’m not quite sure why. I guess I was so caught up in the whole “I use cloth diapers to keep disposables out of landfills” thing that I’d just hate it when we would have to strap a plastic diaper on my kid for whatever reason. And those reasons surface periodically: use them overnight to get rid of a rash, or for going on a trip, or when (heaven forbid) all your cloth are gridlocked in the wash-dry process. So give yourself some slack. You may have chosen cloth diapers as a life style, but it’s OK if you have to buy a pack of Huggies every once in awhile. Don’t freak out about it.

4. Not everyone appreciates cloth. Keep ‘sposies in your diaper bag for their sake.

As an extension of tip #3… it’s OK to keep disposable diapers on hand. If not for you, then for your care givers. I have really great, supportive friends who love my children and have been wonderful sports about learning how to use cloth for when they watch them. But they have all told me that there’s no way they’d ever CD their own kid. So honor the people who care for your kids by keeping disposable diapers on hand for them. They’ll love you for it.

5. It’s smelly.

We’re dealing with human waste, people. And waste stinks: there’s no way around it. You’ll find your own methods of keeping the room’s air clear and aroma-free, but just expect that there will be days when you wonder when the giraffe moved in and why the zookeeper hasn’t shoveled all that crap yet. It’s nothing a good diaper wash and opening the window a bit won’t fix. Of course, if you have persisting ammonia-like stinks, then you’ve got a problem and might need to strip your diapers… but that’s another post for another time. Just don’t expect your kids’ room to smell like daisies all the time. 

6. It’s worth it.

Seriously. Three years in, we still like using cloth diapers. And once you figure out your own system and groove, it’s easy as pie.

7. It’s so cute. Disposable diapers have nothing on this:

Baby in cloth diaper


8. It’s worth investing in several good pail liners and/or wet bags.

You will always use them and you never want to be caught without somewhere to put that soiled diaper. My favorites are from Planet Wise.

9. You’ll figure it out.

In those early weeks of trying to find our CD groove, there were times when I wanted to pull my hair out in frustration. We didn’t know how to get rid of that yeast rash or we didn’t have a good system of when to wash the load. My advice? Hang in there. You’ll figure it out. Find some trusted crunchy friends nearby or a helpful shop owner and pick their brains. One day you’ll realize that you’re rocking the cloth system, and you’ll love it.

10. It’s gets a little stickier when they’re older… literally & figuratively.

At first we liked the idea of using a diaper sprayer to wash off solids into the toilet. It turned out that as the boys grew, the best way for us to deal with turdlets was to just wipe them off with a disposable wipe and plop them in the trash. (We take that trash out every day.) Also, there comes a point (about one year) when one single diaper just hold all the nighttime pee. So you’ve got to up the absorbancy. We simply put another diaper inside the cover and that works for us. You can also get super-absorbent inserts to help with nighttime leaks. Just like anything with kids: phases change, stages pass and you adapt. In the long scheme of things, this season of scraping poop-a-doop off cotton diapers will seem like a blur.

11. It’s way easier than it seems at first.

Sure, you do more laundry. Sure, it might take a bit to find your right system and which diaper method you prefer. But once you get the hang of it? Piece of cake.

12. It’s a sure-fire conversation starter.

If I had a penny for every time a stranger struck up a conversation about cloth diapering with me, I’d be able to fund the rocking horse at the grocery store for a year. It always starts like this: I’m in the bathroom at a restaurant, wrestling with those awkward plastic changing trays. Stranger approaches with a glittering line: “Oh, so that’s how it works!” or this: “People still do that?” or this: “You cloth diaper toooooooo!” And I just made a new friend. Know this: CDing is an open invitation to discuss human waste solutions with just about anyone. Expect that by putting cloth on your child, you are an automatic ambassador for the cloth diapering movement.

So there you have it, 12 things we’ve learned about cloth diapering over the past three years. Have you been doing this for a while? What have you learned that you wish you knew at the beginning? Or, are you considering joining the CD crew? Got any questions for us? Comment below to discuss big baby bottoms and poo.

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  • Heather
    September 9, 2013

    I just traded a blanket for a stash of new-to-me cloth diapers. I am on my 4th kid and though he is 6 months old, we have had enough of disposables. I am so excited but I have to say, one can get overwhelmed by the vast amount of options. Everything from AOI’s and covers, to pre-folds and inserts…there are so many options for cleaning, stripping and so forth. It can be scary to know what to choose but I have a friend who has a VAST knowledge in cloth diapers and she has been a true help! At the end of the day, we chose cloth because A. We need to save money and B. it is a true help to the environment. I had never realized how many of my friends are using cloth diapers for their kids and it made me feel less “radical” and more the norm! I am so glad I can now pick your brain if I have questions!!!!

    • Evelyn
      September 9, 2013

      HI Heather,
      Good for you for switching! I think you’ll enjoy it once you wade past the plethora of varieties to choose from. You’re right– it IS totally overwhelming at first. I’m glad you have a friend to turn to. I think you’ll be surprised how many people you know who use them. CDing is raging in popularity right now, so there’s no shortage of support networks. 🙂 Absolutely feel free to send me a message if you have any questions. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Liz S
    September 15, 2013

    I’ve never cloth-diapered any of my children, so I am not one to talk. But I THINK it was Jessica from The Abundant Wife blog (I found her blog thru a comment on Money Saving Mom) wrote a post on how they converted the velcro to snaps, instead of throwing them away. Not sure if that would be a less-expensive option for some people out there who still have velcro ones and are about to toss them, but just thought I would throw that out there. 😛

    • Evelyn
      September 18, 2013

      Hi Liz,
      Thanks for the tip! That is a great idea. (And for those of you who are interested, here is one step-by-step of how to do it: http://hippiehousewife.blogspot.com/2013/04/diaper-cover-conversion-velcro-to-snaps.html). If I was crafty and enjoyed sewing, I would totally go for that. Unfortunately, while baking de-stresses me, sewing winds me up the same way math does. 🙂 It would probably take 3 cakes, 4 batches of cookies and a couple dozen scones to undo the affects of a project of this magnitude! 😉 So glad you stopped by, Liz! 😀

      • Erryk
        September 29, 2013

        I love cloth wipes! I use flannel sruqaes surged around the edges in plain old water, but they work really well. I actually prefer them to disposable wipes, ESPECIALLY for #2 s, because it takes a lot less to get baby’s behind really clean.

        • Evelyn
          December 11, 2013

          I love-love-love our cloth wipes and solution WAY more than the store bought wipes too. My kiddos’ skin just love it! 🙂

  • PergiLah
    September 29, 2013

    Potty training is how I first got setrtad on cloth!! I didn’t want to buy pull ups. Then we switched to cloth for our son, too. Now #3 is on the way and I’m adding to the stash!

    • Evelyn
      December 11, 2013

      Great! Yeah, cloth definitely helps with potty training. So far, our boys have been able to tell us by 18 months if they have a wet/dirty diaper. It’s great for communication and learning! 🙂

  • Megan
    February 27, 2014

    I’m so envious of you guys! I tried cloth diapering and bought a bunch of the snap button cute nappies that were meant to be a great brand. I washed them before-hand several times so they would be more absorbent but even with liners they were soaked through every hour? I gave up and switched to biodegradable disposables. Although i better alternative i would still have preferred to go cloth. Maybe next time I’ll do some more research!

    • Evelyn
      March 8, 2014

      Megan, cloth diapering definitely has a steep learning curve, and if you don’t have a solid support group it can be really easy to throw in the towel at the beginning. For sure give it another go. You can do it!! 🙂

  • Joy
    January 12, 2017

    I started out using cloth diapers on my first child way back in 1977. I like the idea of them being better for the baby’s skin (my opinion) and more natural. I quickly realized that cloth was a hassle when traveling so I switched to disposables (for traveling), and totally used disposables with the second baby. If I had to do it all over again, with all the options now for cloth diapers, I’d use cloth completely and my number one reason for that is cost…. wow, spending all that money over a few years for something that you just pitch. One thing though, I always dunked poopy diapers in the toilet, didn’t dump human waste in the trash. And yeah, you do have to keep up with the laundry— hanging the diapers on the line in the sunshine is a good option. It’s all just part of the season of your life of being a mom. They’ll soon be out of diapers and you’ll miss all the things about those early days. (P.S. with that first baby in 1977, my mom gifted me 6 weeks of diaper service… a delivery truck would come around to pick up dirty diapers and drop off a bag of clean ones. I wonder if such a thing is still available…)

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