6 Things to Know about Cloth Diapers (When You’re Starting Late in the Game)

Hi, there!  I’m Sara, a recovering lawyer addicted to DIY projects and babywearing.  When I’m not doing diaper laundry, you can find me gabbing over at my blog, Embrace My Space, where I share my love for bold color, the coast and just a bit of quirk.  Please feel free to stop by to join me in my journey of falling in love with my home, one space at a time.

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I recently posted a question on my Facebook page about a brand of environmentally friendly disposable diapers. One friend caught me off guard with her response: “I’m surprised you haven’t switched to cloth!” Cloth diapers, what!?! So, yeah, I babywear, breastfeed, blend my own baby food and string Baltic amber beads around my son’s neck. But I had yet to consider cloth diapering, an activity of many moms with parenting mindsets similar to my own. After some research I got really excited about giving cloth a try! Despite this enthusiasm, I was reluctant to start because I worried about how my already unpredictable schedule as a first time mom would be disrupted by this new method of catching my baby’s poop.

If you’ve stumbled upon this post, you’re probably intrigued by the benefits of cloth diapering –environmentally friendly, easy on your wallet, gentle on your baby’s bum and undeniably cute – yet hesitant to give up the convenience of disposables. After eight months of using disposables, I’m happy to say I jumped head first into cloth and haven’t looked back. Like any new parenting venture there’s a learning curve at the beginning, but switching to cloth won’t turn your world upside down if you start out with the right mindset! I’m here to share a few things I learned as a cloth diapering latecomer to help prepare you to switch to cloth with fewer growing pains!

Pick a diaper, any diaper! Remember the overwhelming number of options when you were trying to select a car seat? Well, multiply it by 100 and that is what you’ll be faced with if you type “what’s the best cloth diaper?” into your search engine. I’m a big fan of conducting extensive research before trying something new, but in the case of cloth diapering this can be counterproductive. Instead of being paralyzed by the overwhelming number of available styles and brands, seek out one or two people experienced with cloth diapering and rely on their knowledge to get you started. This could be a friend, baby specialty store owner or even a cloth diapering blogger. The key is to keep your options limited as you begin your journey. Try the diapers recommended by your trusted resources. You will learn quickly whether they work for you!

Working with the owner of a cloth diaper store can be helpful because their recommendations are based not only on personal preference but also on sales data. Certain brands are popular for a reason and there’s a great chance that what works for a majority of the store’s customers will work for you, too! Many stores also have risk-free trials that let you borrow a few styles of diapers for a small fee. This is a great way to decide what you like before investing a ton of money on an entire stash of diapers.

Loads of laundry. Unless you choose to use a service to clean your diapers, you’re going to be doing more laundry than you do now. And this isn’t the type of laundry you can nonchalantly toss into a load already in progress like you do when you find a random sock under your bed. As someone who prior to cloth diapering didn’t put much thought into her wash routine, this was an adjustment for me. There’s a real science to washing cloth diapers, which you can learn more about here. Doing your laundry science homework prior to tossing your first load of diapers into the wash will help you keep your spirits high and your diapers smelling fresh!

Um, yeah, about the poop. Get ready for it. I think we all become more accustomed to touching barf, boogers and poop when we become parents, but cloth diapering requires you to get more up close and personal with poop than you are used to if you’ve been using disposables. You can’t just pinch your nose, roll up a poopy cloth diaper and throw it in the trash. The poop has to go before your diaper makes it to the laundry pail.

Not all methods of poop disposal are created equal. Hardcore moms plop the poop into the toilet, flush and then proceed to dunk the dirty diaper in the clean toilet water to clean off the remaining poop. Others use a sprayer attached to the toilet to spray away the leftover poop rather than dunking. I use the poop-lite version of cloth diapering by lining my diaper with a disposable liner that catches the poop. This makes for easy disposal and keeps the diaper clean so there is no dunking or spraying required. No matter what method you choose, setting yourself up for successful poop disposal will make this stinky aspect of cloth diapering much easier!

Tight pants and fluffy bums.  One thing I wasn’t prepared for when I switched to cloth diapers was the size of my son’s cloth diaper-induced bubble butt. Although you’d be hard-pressed to find anything cuter than a fluffy cloth diaper bum, the increased bulk may require you to go up a size in your baby’s clothes. This isn’t a big deal. Just be sure your baby’s fluffy bum can fit a particular size before you go on a shopping spree and remember not to buy too much since the best thing about cloth diapers is they are so cute you won’t want to cover them up!

My son in a Best Bottoms diaper cover stuffed with a Best Bottoms hemp & cotton insert:

1-cloth diaper

Time for a change (again!). I may catch some flak for this, but when I was using disposables I really didn’t change my son all that often. He could go for 12 hours overnight in a disposable diaper with no issues so during the day I wasn’t all that concerned with changing his diaper right away unless it was poopy. Because they don’t contain all the chemicals that make disposable diapers so absorbent, cloth diapers need to be changed frequently. Although I believe he could go longer without a leak, in order to prevent any chafing or irritation I like to change my son’s diaper at least every two hours.

The frequent changes are a bit of a pain when you have a wiggly baby. I use cloth diapers that snap around the waist, making a change on even the calmest baby more difficult than it would be with a disposable. If you have a baby who thrashes during diaper changes, be prepared to brush up on your alligator wrangling skills when you switch to cloth. You’ll be using them quite often!

Don’t be afraid of the dark. There have been hundreds of blog posts and I’m sure a doctoral thesis or two written about cloth diapering at night. Other than laundry, this is probably the issue that cloth diapering families spend the most time troubleshooting. As I mentioned above, cloth diapers need to be changed frequently to prevent leaks. I hope for your sake your baby is sleeping 11-12 hours at night. If this is the case you can understand how using cloth at night might put you in a bit of a pickle. Nothing, not even the cutest cloth diaper on the planet, is important enough to mess with my baby’s sleep!

Families that cloth diaper round the clock likely use different diapers for day and night time. You might strike gold and find an overnight system that works for you on the first try. If not, you might enjoy experimenting with different diapers until you find the one that keeps your baby dry! If you don’t want to rely on luck or put in the time to figure out what works, the challenge of using cloth at night doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. The solution is simple for many – use disposables. You will still see significant savings and your contribution to the landfill will be much less if you are only using seven diapers a week! This is also a great way to use up the disposables you have left over from before you switched to cloth.

Now that you know what changes to expect as a latecomer to the game, I hope you’re ready to ditch those disposables and start building your own colorful stash of cloth diapers!

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Comments

  1. sherry says

    When I first heard that my daughter was switching to cloth diapers my first thought was why?!?! I pictured the long rectangular cloth (great for washing windows) and the big nasty pins. I could just picture my squirming little grandbaby getting poked! Oh my was I ever surprised to learn how far the cloth diaper has evolved. I love them. They are easy to put on, so much better for the envirnment and so darn cute! Now when I go shopping I buy cute little shirts to wear with the diapers instead of onsies.

    • says

      My mom cloth diapered my sister and myself in the 70s, and I began cloth diapering the same way; old school with flats and prefolds! We gradually added some all in one diapers, and definitely love the convenience :)

  2. says

    Great and detailed information. I always remember the days when my grandmother babysat kids who used cloth diapers. It was a pain because you had to use the plastic pants and safety pins. That sounds like so much fun, not. I always chose to use disposables but I really wish I would have done a few cloth with my youngest, he still isn’t potty trained and it is kinda frustrating. My son’s dr did reassure me that only 30% of boys are potty trained by age three.

    • says

      I know – my mom cloth diapered us with flats, prefolds, diaper pins and plastic pants! Diaper pins would have made me SO nervous, thank goodness for the Snappi!

      Boys are notoriously difficult to potty train, hang in there!

  3. says

    I have been cloth diapering for 13 months and disagree with all of your points. We asked friends about their cloth diapers, visited local boutiques that carries them to test them out and read online reviews to find out brand. We wash them every 2-3 days per the recommended wash schedule of the company we bought, don’t have to worry about leaks as we hardly ever have leaks (change every 2-3 hours during the day but we go 12-13 hours at night with a booster.) We also don’t worry about poop AT ALL as we use a bioliner that flushes and is biodegradable.

    Literally the only thing I read that’s accurate to any cloth diaper family I know is the “booty” they get from a cloth diaper. Truly my kid is in the size that is appropriate for her age and aside from swim suits I’ve never had to worry about clothes not accommodating her cloth diaper butt.

    Your article seems a bit disparaging for cloth use and could scare people off!!

    • says

      Everyone’s experience with cloth is different, and this was written by a mom who has been cloth diapering for a little over a month; that being said, I do agree with her perspective, as someone who has been cloth diapering for over two years. I see nothing in her post that is disparaging, moreso, realistic, and if it were to scare someone away from cloth, it’s likely because that person didn’t want to make the effort.

    • Elia says

      Marti,
      I have clothdiapered 2 out of 4 children so I can honestly say this article is dead on. Making the switch late in the game is not easy and I think that this article hit the nail on the head. Many people don’t have the luxury of Cloth diaper boutiques like you did, I had to do all by watching youtube videos and reading some great cloth diapering blogs. The poop was scary, it still is! The list goes on and on. I LOVE cloth diapering and have made part of my living, that being said it can be a very scary transition for anyone and thinking it’s going to be all positive can lead to a lot of issues as well. Thanks for the article Lo-wren it’s dead on and fantastic!

    • says

      Did you actually read the post?

      I like that she is upfront about some of the less glamorous aspects of cloth diapering. Pretending that cloth diapering (or any diapering for that matter) is easy breezy all the time sets parents who are new to cloth diapering up for disappointment. Additionally, I have been cloth diapering for about 1.5 years, and I absolutely agree with her points.
      Heather Johnson recently posted…Whooping Cough Rates in Fully Vaccinated Children Point to Need for More Frequent BoostersMy Profile

  4. says

    Hi ladies! I’m glad you enjoyed my post! We are still having fun cloth diapering a few months later! Enjoying a few different brands of diapers and testing the waters with cloth diapering 102, i.e., fitteds and wool!

    Marti – I’m happy you find cloth diapering to be easy and enjoyable all the time, and that your daughter’s clothes still fit over the dipes! Good thing my article was published well after you began using cloth. I may have scared you off!

    As Lauren mentioned, I was trying to keep it real. I adore cloth diapers as much as the next mama (and may or may not be a little crazy about some of the brands I’ve tried!), but it isn’t always rainbows and butterflies for us! We had a rash here or there with cloth (never with disposables), which required me to do some research (was it my wash, heat related, a particular fabric?). We also did a bit of troubleshooting to find something that worked at night.

    My point was to encourage families who dive into cloth after months of using disposables, which, for me at least, required A LOT less thought than cloth. Especially those families who choose to do cloth for reasons other than their baby’s skin sensitivities to disposables. When you choose to use cloth for fun or for environmental reasons v. medical reasons, I think there’s potentially less motivation to stick it out through those early growing pains. I hope my article will equip families new to cloth with this not-so-glamorous information up front so they aren’t taken off guard after they start!
    Sara recently posted…Family Room RevampMy Profile

  5. Lisa Weeks says

    This is totally up my alley my daughter is 7 months old and I have finally set out to purchase my first cloth diaper. ( after the holidays of course!) I have done EXTENSIVE research to be even more confused than before I think I’ll just dive in head first!

  6. Amber Ludwig says

    Love this! So much information! Super fabulous for us newbies who have no clue what to do :) thank you for having all this great info clear and in one place!

  7. Allie Hewitt says

    I wish I had known that I needed to change more often when I first started out. I couldn’t figure out why the diapers were leaking but I was just going too long between changes.

  8. says

    I switched my first daughter at 17 months. The changing more often was an adjustment for me, but really it probably wasn’t great leaving her in disposables so long anyway… :-/ We use a diaper sprayer for that period after they begin solids and before it’s “plopable” and I’m not sure how I managed before I got a Spray Pal! I find diaper laundry more enjoyable than regular laundry, for some reason, so the extra couple loads a week didn’t faze me. These are great things to be aware of if you’re considering the switch, but don’t let them overwhelm you! Cloth is cool! :-D

  9. Carol Johnson says

    My daughter just recently started cloth diapering and it can be overwhelming. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences to help make it easier for all who make this choice!

  10. Sonya Peterson says

    This is a good article, I will be new to cloth diapering once my baby is born and I am a little nervous on wheter I can figure it all out! This gives some good information!

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