This is a guest post from Calley Pate of The Eco Chic, a cloth diaper and green living blog. If you’re new to cloth, you’ll love my individual reviews of 25 different cloth diapers at this massive cloth diaper review!
You’ve decided to give cloth diapers a try, congratulations for taking a leap and entering a brand new world of parenting. Here are the best cloth diaper tips from cloth diaper types to wet bags!
You may notice that over the next few months you will become a little obsessed with all things diaper related.
Poop and pee have now become topics you actually enjoy talking about. You’re learning a new language that includes words and phrases such as fluffy mail, CD safe, hemp, suede cloth, and microfleece.
Welcome to the world of CLOTH DIAPERING!
Below are some cloth diaper tips that will get you on your way to mastering this new parenting skill while keeping your sanity and not becoming too overwhelmed with all of the new information.
Katie’s notes: Here’s my tell-all post on the first few months of cloth diapering, including laundry routines and learning the vocabulary.
Cloth Diaper Tips: How to Get Started
Cloth diapers can save you money and help the environment (things we’re all about here at KS!). Here are the best cloth diaper tips to get you started.
1. Speak the language
The first few days you may be a little overwhelmed with all of the new terms and phrases but with a little practice and guidance you’ll grasp this new language quite quickly. To help you learn the language here are some of my favorite cloth diaper dictionaries Cloth Diaper Terms and Definitions and Cloth Diaper Slang. If in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask what an acronym or word means (or look it up on your preferred search engine!).
2. Cloth diaper types
Many parents start out their cloth diapering journey by trying to pick one brand and style that they feel will be perfect from birth to potty training. While there is no wrong or right way to start, it is less stressful to start with a sampling of different styles and types to find out which diaper is right for your baby and your lifestyle. What works for the mom who stays at home with their baby might not work for the mom who has to leave their baby with a caregiver.
Try different cloth diaper types with pockets, all-in-ones, flats, and even prefolds. Don’t be scared to try a cloth diaper type that looks difficult, it might just become your favorite system. You can always continue to build your stash as you find out what you like.
Katie’s notes: If the 25-diaper review is a bit much for you, here are my ultimate cloth diaper recommendations, sorted by budget, nighttime, and more.
3. Start cloth diapers at any age
That’s right, with cloth diapering you can start at any age. Most newborn parents are completely overwhelmed with all of the choices to be made that diapering choices might not even be considered until you experience your first diaper rash or until you meet your first cloth diapering parent.
Newborns go through a ton of diapers in the first few weeks and while it would be nice to save all of those disposables from the landfill new parents may just be too tired to manage one more load of laundry.
Don’t be afraid to give cloth diapering a try as you become more accustomed to your routine as a parent. I have friends who have openly accepted cloth diapering (and loved it) once their child turned one, two, and even three once they’ve entered potty training.
Katie’s notes: For us, it was third child, five months old. For real!
4. Embrace the poop
Because all babies do it! Regardless of if your baby is in cloth diapers or disposable diapers your baby is going to poop. You’re going to have to grab a baby wipe and clean that babies bottom. How you handle the poop from there is what matters most.
Poop can take the form of a solid, liquid, and even a gas! Be thankful for those solid poops which will easily dump into the toilet and flush way.
Liquid poops (especially those exclusively breast fed poops) aren’t as difficult to deal with as you think. Most breastfed poops will rinse right out in the wash and don’t even need a pre-rinse (although a pre-rinse is a good idea since stains can happen as your babies are introduced to solids). Parents find that investing in a diaper sprayer that attaches to your toilet helps handle any type of poop – especially the peanut butter sticky poop!
Katie’s notes: I admit similar in the post 7 Cloth Diaper Myths – That are Totally True!
5. Cloth diaper wet bags
Going out isn’t challenging with cloth diapers. Don’t be afraid to take cloth diapers on day trips or even on vacation. The only difference is that instead of leaving that diaper behind (no pun intended) in the changing room you now dump the poop and store the dirty diaper safely within a sealed cloth diaper wet bag. Wet bags will keep your diaper bag dry and keep the smells (yes – even those poop-plosions) hidden safely inside and no one will know what’s inside.
Katie’s notes: I posted some wet bag reviews as well – they make a difference!
And be honest…how many of us try NOT to change our babies until we’re ready to leave the mall (or destination of choice) so you’ll only be carrying the dirty diaper for a few minutes until you get back to your car. You may enjoy these Tips for Traveling with Cloth Diapers for longer trips and vacations.
6. Try cloth wipes with your cloth diapers
Because traditional wipes are full of chemicals that can dry and irritate your babies skin. I know disposable wipes are nice to have for those extremely nasty messes and I admit that I keep a pack on hand for my husband when dealing with the poopy messes. Don’t rule out cloth wipes though because that rash that popped up on your babies bum might be caused from the alcohol and added ingredients in the package of wipes you just opened.
Cloth wipes are easy to use and can be thrown in with the load of cloth diaper laundry you already do. Grab a spray bottle of wipes solution (you can even make your own) and spray your babies bum before gently wiping away with a velour, cotton, hemp, or fleece wipe. With 8-12 diaper changes a day your baby will thank you for giving their bum some extra gentle love. Toss the wipe in your wet bag and wash just like you do your diapers.
Katie’s notes: I reviewed some purchased cloth wipes and made my own – totally for free! Guess which ones I like better... You might also want to make your own diaper cream and more – check out the My Buttered Life – Baby Edition eBook for how-to recipes and the DIY kit for all the ingredients you’ll need.
7. If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again!
Accidents happen whether you choose disposable or cloth diapers. In your struggle to wrestle your wiggly little baby (usually while you are half asleep) you might not have put the diaper on correctly and the pee has found a place to escape. While that place is normally on your babies bed, car seat or your favorite outfit, don’t let it get you down.
Leaks can happen but you will quickly learn the tricks of the trade! Before long you will become a pro and you’ll know all the secrets. Don’t forget though that cloth diapers aren’t filled with those little gel crystals that absorb 10 times their weight in liquid – once cloth is full it will leak! To be safe remember to change your baby every 2-3 hours (or more frequent as needed) and remember that what goes in your baby eventually has to come out!
Bonus Cloth Diaper Tip:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are forums, blogs, Facebook pages, manufacturers and retailers out there ready to help you with your cloth diaper questions and problems.
Katie’s notes: We’re still using cloth diapers one year later. Read 5 Cloth Diaper Problems that Haven’t Sent Me Running Back to Disposables (and One That Might), supporting the cause along with some laundry problems you’ll want to know about! Don’t forget to check out the full cloth diaper review to find the best cloth diaper for you!
Update 2015: Find out the best cloth diaper I bothered buying for baby #4!
SaveUnless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.
23 thoughts on “7 Tips For the Cloth Diapering Newbie”
I have 3 kids, and haven’t tried cloth diapers yet. But after researching, the argument is very compelling! And another mom on Weecare.co’s Community also mentioned that diaper wet bags had been a “lifesaver” for her. Here’s the link: https://weecare.co/post/are-cloth-diapers-worth-it-8.
Moms would love this article… Specially the new ones! Thanks for sharing.
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A great cd freindly dipe ointment is coconut oil. Very cheap a large jar costs about $5 and lasts forever. You can use it every diaper change, it works great on rashes! It’s anti-yeast, anti-inflammation and it smells great.
I’m having leaking issues. Especially out the back at nights, even though I’m using a double insert with my pockets or a hemp liner. Sooo frustrating.
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Oh…my comment wound up at the bottom…I meant to reply to Elizabeth Figueroa’s comment about the flushable liners.
Anyway, thanks for publishing this great article! Lots of helpful info in it and in the comments.
Yes! We were big fans of flushable liners. I raved about them in my article about our cloth diapering system One great thing about them is that if they’ve only been peed on, they can be machine-washed and used again.
My number one tip would be that cloth wipes are AWESOME! They get so much more off, and you need far fewer. I find that with disposable wipes, you have to use so many and you spend so long just smearing the poop around. There is no need to add any kind of detergent or lotion to the wipes, just water will do. Even if cloth diapering seems too big a task, I highly recommend using cloth wipes.
I second this, Becca! While traveling we used disposable diapers and wipes, and while I don’t have any complaints about the diapers, both my husband and I missed the cloth wipes. Everything wipes up so much better and more quickly with the cloth. We use birdseye cloth type wipes that we bought from green mountain diapers – they were cheaper than a lot of the fancier cloth wipes, not too thick, and work wonderfully.
I can’t help but find this article funny in some ways since I am *old* compared to most of you on here as I grew up in 60’s and 70’s and I used traditional diapers on my 8 kids~meaning the prefold and had to be fold kind from Gerber and Birdseye. These diapers were the kind where you used diaper pins and rubber pants. I could not afford to buy Pampers or other disposable diapers for my kids.
I also used to handwash my diapers in the bathtub every night of my life. Yes, handwash! I was too broke to go to the laundromat, and where we lived did not allow washers/dryers, and had they, again, too broke to buy them.
I cloth-diapered from day one with my first two kids, round the clock, and never thought anything about it as many people cloth-diapered. I have to admit that the first 6 weeks are an ideal time to use disposables as all baby does for that first 6 weeks is poop. pee, eat, cry, and sleep, for the most part.
I was able to use disposables for the first 6 weeks with babies number 3 up, but went right back into cloth diapers after this time period for cost savings.
All poopy diapers were rinsed in the toilet (I kept the toilet scrupulously clean!), then placed in a diaper pail (mine was tall, about 3 feet, with a lid, which I still own and now store things in) with water and some white vinegar to help cut the urine. Pee diapers were rinsed in the bathroom sink very well (and the sink was then washed out with a spray solution of bleach water), then put in the pail to soak till I could get to them that night to wash, rinse, and wring them out to be hung around house to dry overnight for use the next day. Depending on how many kids I had in diapers (at one time 3) depended on how many diapers I washed by hand every night. I often washed 3-4 dozen diapers by hand. Once a month I would wash all diapers in a washing machine.
Even back then (1980’s/early 90’s) many of my contemporaries considered this ‘gross’, but the handwashing of diapers bought bread and milk for the week, which helped in my budget, which allowed me to stay home and raise my kids instead of having to go to work. It was one of the small sacrifices I paid in order to stay home with my kids.
It is funny how so many things have come around full circle. I have a daughter who cloth diapers (with the new ones that look like the one pictured on here), and she home births (how she and her siblings were born).
I am so glad to see so many young women going a more natural way with their children~ home birth or natural birth (hospital/birth center), nursing their babies for at least one year or more (which also protects the mom from breast cancer in later years), cloth diapering, and feeding babies real food instead of baby food from a jar.
I still run into young women who find the idea of cloth diapers to be one of the more ‘grosser’ things in life, to which I think how spoiled women are today as they never grew up in a time when it was the norm.
Pampers were sold in 1961, but most people could not afford them, hence myself and my siblings were also raised in cloth diapers. (I was born in 1959) It was not unusual in my youth to see diapers happily waving from clothes lines to dry.
Anyway, I had to comment because I am always amused by how ‘new’ of an idea cloth diapering is in today’s culture. Twenty-Five to thirty years ago, I would have never dreamt that one day I would be reading articles on the merits of cloth diapers. But back twenty-five to thirty years ago (and more), cloth diapers were a normal part of life and sold in all department stores in one dozen packages.
I did buy some new diaper pins a year ago and I do not like them! They are not made as well as the ones we had. Not as cute either. The ones we had often had little duck heads (cartoonish ones), dogs, cats, and other cute things on them in a variey of pastel colors of pink, blue, green, and yellow.
We also had convenient diaper holders that hung with a small (chid’s size) hanger. I still have mine, though it is packed away somewhere. It would not be very feasible for the new-fangled diapers of today as they would be too bulky.
Thanks for letting me ramble. 🙂
A couple more tips:
NOTHING takes care of breastfed baby poo stains like the SUN! I can’t tell you how many hopelessly-stained looking diapers I’ve wasahed and hung out on the line, to come out to them perfectly clean a few hours later.
The easiest “cloth wipes solution”: plain ol’ warm water! If you’re over 25, chances are this is what you mom used on your tush. Wipes were around, but the cheap ones were nasty (ever buy wipes at the dollar store? like those) and the nice ones were very pricey. Moms used wet washcloths on bottoms at home and wipes out. If you’re over about 35, there weren’t any wipies when you were a baby. My diaper dresser is in the bathroom, and I just wet a cloth wipe at the sink. Or a few, if it’s a poo diaper. When my diaper dresser was far from the bathroom, I kept a squirt bottle full of water handy.
By the way, those little cloth wipies do double duty as handkerchiefs to keep your preschoolers from driving you into the poorhouse using up tissues. My kids put ’em in the dirty clothes or in the diaper pail. Either way, they get washed on hot.
Oh my gosh! I just love butt fluff and I get so excited to talk about it! 🙂
This was a really great post and all your points are spot on…especially the one about poop. 🙂 Everybody poops. LOL
We have every single type of cloth diaper (type, not brand), and I enjoy using them all – but fitteds with a cover are my favorite. 🙂
Did I mention that I LOVE butt fluff???
Best tips I received, pre-baby:
1. Give yourself a few weeks as a new parent before you try to cloth diaper. (like you mention above)
2. It’s not an all or nothing endeavor. It’s probably a combo of disposables and cloth and the combo is different for every family. Even though we were only a half-time cloth family, I felt great about each disposable I kept out of a landfill.
We have best bottoms (microfiber) and some Cotton Prefolds. Prior to solid foods, I would do 2 rinses, then add 1 tbsp of Rockin Green, a wet bath towel (to trick the washer) and do a hot wash followed by another 2 or 3 rinses. I did sucessfully strip twice, but haven’t been able to since solid foods were introduces. We have since even switched the hot and cold water to the machine so the cold/cold setting is now hot/hot (this make it hot water wash and rinse) I’m at a loss, but will try stripping again today. I plan to do the soak in our laundry tub with 3 tbsp of the RG and super hot water for at least 8 hours. I have bac out too- do I use this just after rinsing poop away?
Don’t forget about the flushable liners. They make cleaning up the messes soooooo much easier.
@Brenda what kinda of diapers do you use? We are planning (baby due in aug) on using cotton because they are easier to clean in an HE machine then some other fabrics. Also if you have hard water some detergents will not work. I read that doing a cold cycle and then a hot cycle and a cold rinse works, some washers have a blanket setting we unfortunately don’t and I know with blankets I normally have to run a full cycle to rinse them. We are using a homemade detergent I found it works better on our clothing then any of the detergents I found in stores and I have friends using it with an HE washer on diapers loved it. It seems to rinse out cleaner. I also heard of people using bac-out.
@Brenda – You need to make sure you use enough detergent and use the cycle that uses the most water. Sometimes I’ll prewet my diapers to trick the machine to thinking the load requires more water. Usually a bulky cycle or something like that works for me. The Eco Chic
Katie, I would appreciate some advice on washing machines. I have a HE machine and just CAN-NOT get my diapers clean! It is so frustrating! I really want to do this but I’m stuck in a sposie rut right now.
I always start my diaper wash with a cold rinse cycle that gets the diapers nice and wet (don’t use a high spin here!). Then a heavy cycle with hot water, diaper detergent, and vinegar in the softener dispenser. And finally a quick wash cycle to make sure all the soap got out (this step can be skipped when I’m in a hurry). This routine has been working well for flats and prefolds for the last few years.
We cloth diaper with our first son who just turned 1. I am so glad that I didn’t end up getting all wrapped up in cloth diapers. I used them (mostly pockets) and washed them and that was it! I saw a few mothers who made it their hobby and I did not need one more of those. Around 10 months, my son started showing a lot of interest in the potty so now we’re entering into the early potty learning phase and he’s wearing training pants when he’s home with me and his diapers when asleep or out.
I totally recommend cloth diapering, especially if you start early or plan to have more kids (we do), it’s just not cost effective otherwise. My mom who cloth diapered me was appalled that I was paying $15 for 1 diaper, and you can spend a whole lot more than that on the really cute high tech ones.
So great to see you guest posting here! I love to see that you also don’t cloth diaper at night…we are a daytime only cloth family and have yet to find an affordable overnight option.
I always tell people that the cost savings of buying cloth with your first child is so great once you start using them again for baby 2 or 3.
It took me a long time to cloth diaper at night because of the cost. For $22 (2 soakers +2 extra ovals) +shipping, I got hemp soakers for both my kids. I use 1 soaker, 1 oval and a newborn size microfiber for both kids and no leaks. I wish I had found this sooner. I just stuff the hemp into the pocket diapers I already have. Good luck.