I was first introduced to cloth diapering by my good friend Jenny. She is at home with two little ones and started cloth diapering with her oldest after he had been around for a few months. Thank goodness I had her to give me advice, otherwise I would have been L-O-S-T. There is a plethora of information out there, and it does not all make a lot of sense. Ultimately though, like so many other things in parenting, it all comes down to what works for you and your family. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. I can only tell you about my personal experience. If you're considering cloth diapering, I suggest you find as many people to ask about it as possible. I am certain everyone's strategy is a little different.
The primary reason I cloth diaper is to avoid the guilt that I have about using disposable diapers. Don't get me wrong, I do use disposables sometimes - primarily when we travel. But I feel guilty about spending so much money on disposable diapers. There are so many variables to consider, but various other bloggers estimate the cost savings at about $2000 over the diapering lifetime. And, you can use the diapers for multiple children, which results in additional savings. See, for example, http://www.diaperpin.com/clothdiapers/article_howtosave.asp or http://www.babyworks.com/cost-comparisons. Note: you should never pay full price for cloth diapers - there is always a deal to be had. When you pay rent in the Bay Area, you have to look for as many places to save as possible! I also feel guilty about the environmental impact of throwing so many diapers into the trash. Granted, even cloth diapering has some impact on the environment; I do a lot of laundry. However, I ultimately feel a little happier about my decision to cloth diaper. And, I'm even happier that Ben also is happy with this solution.
So, what do I do? And, how do I do it? I have tried a couple different types of cloth diapers, but I prefer the Flip diaper system. Why? Let me count the ways.
- For one thing, they fit babies from 8 pounds to 35 pounds. This means I have been able to use them since Alex was about 2 weeks old and can most likely continue to use them until he potty trains.
- They have both a snaps option and a hook and loop (velcro) option. I have mostly snap diaper covers, but I do have a couple hook and loop covers, too. I've heard that the velcro option wears out faster, but I haven't had to deal with that yet. Plus, I figure I have enough sewing savvy to replace the velcro on my own if I must.
- I also like that I can use the inserts that come with the diaper, or I can use a pre-fold. Pre-folds are a lot cheaper than the inserts. Once Alex got past about 4 months, he needed the regular insert and an additional smaller insert or pre-fold to absorb everything.
- They look cute!
- They are much less prone to leaking than the other kinds I have tried. I'm not sure if it's the shape, size, or material, but these work so much better than the others. There are occasionally leaks, but this usually happens in the morning if Alex hasn't had a diaper change in the middle of the night. The cloth can only absorb so much liquid.
- These are easy to understand, idiot-proof diapers. There is a piece of white fabric (the insert) that lays inside the diaper cover. You put the diaper cover with the insert inside on just like a disposable. That's it. There's really nothing else to it. You don't need to learn any fancy folding techniques (which is necessary with a standard cover), and the insert doesn't get all twisted and bunched up (like it can in a pocket diaper).
I have about 12 Flip diaper covers and Flip diaper inserts. I have a dozen Indian hemp pre-fold diapers, and a dozen cheap pre-fold diapers from Walmart. I have about 8 smaller inserts that I purchased to go with newborn-sized diaper covers. I could probably diaper quite easily with fewer diapers, but this number allows me to take a break from laundry occasionally. I wash diapers every 2-3 days. It was every 1-2 days until Alex turned 4 months because little babies go through more wet diapers every day.
So, here's how it goes:
- Put the diaper on the baby. There are no pins and no fancy folding. Just snaps or velcro. There is, however, a squirming baby boy. I understand that there really isn't anything that can be done about this.
- Take the diaper off of the baby when it's wet or dirty.
- When Alex was purely breastfed, there was no need to use the diaper sprayer. Now, the dirty diapers that contain any mushiness get sprayed with the diaper sprayer. I waited too long to buy this handy little device, which is actually a bidet. The bidet's were about $20 cheaper than the items that were marketed as a "diaper sprayer."
- Everything gets tossed into a diaper pail (i.e. a plastic trash can with a lid). The covers can be reused without washing if there's no poop on them, so they sometimes get their own pile.
- Every 2-3 days, everything in the diaper pail goes into the washing machine.
- I wash everything in a cold/cold cycle with a minimal amount of detergent.*
- I wash everything in a hot/cold cycle with a minimal amount of detergent.
- I line dry the diapers. Thank goodness for that good ol' California sunshine! This saves us money and is easier on the cloth diapers. Plus, it works as a natural whitening agent - all the diapers that have poop stains on them come back bright white after a day in the sunshine.
- I throw the diapers in the dryer for about 5 minutes with my felt dryer balls to make them nice and soft for the baby's tushy!
- The inserts get stuffed into the diaper cover. I use one Flip insert and a small newborn insert in most of the diapers. However, some diapers might get only a Flip insert or an Indian hemp pre-fold if I don't have enough of the preferred combination clean.
- The stuffed diapers go into a drawer.
And that, my friends, is just about everything I know about cloth diapering. I search for deals on the daily deal websites, but I've also had really good luck with Sweetbottoms Baby Boutique. Feel free to ask any questions if you have them!