We have been using cloth diapers since my first daughter was 4 weeks old and we have only looked back a couple times.
We have saved SO much money in diapers over the years and we couldn’t be happier with our choice to go with cloth. Now that we have 2 kids and a 3rd on the way, a more hybrid approach to diapering makes sense for us, so we use cloth at home and disposable at daycare, at night time and whenever it’s more convenient for us. Some daycares are open to using them too!
Here was our thought process on cloth diapers, once we got over the initial ick-factor of considering having to actually touch poop:
- They’re good for the environment to save the landfills from disposable diapers that don’t break down
- They save money otherwise spent on disposables
- They save hassle from having to stop for disposables all the time (since you always have them on hand)
- Disposable diapers contain chemicals that can be irritating to our babies’ little bums.
- Cloth diapers are cute
- You can use them as swim diapers (if you have stuffables, you can remove the liners and use just the shell).
- When approaching potty training, they don’t wick away moisture like disposables do, so your child can feel when they’re wet
Not all cloth diapers are created equal, and in our experience, you get what you pay for. By far my favorite brand has been Bum Genius. We have their all-in-ones and their pocket diapers (pics below) and we love them both. The all-in-ones have a sewn-in double flap that we find to be the most absorbent of the diapers, but with the pocket or stuffable ones, you can buy additional inserts to suit your baby’s absorbing needs as they grow.
We also have a few Mama Koala brand ones which have such cute patterns and do work, but also tend to leak sooner than Bum Genius brand bc it seems the lining just isn’t as water proof. I’ve heard good things about Alva Baby as well. I wish Bum Genius was more available on Amazon, but the other brands are. BG really are the best, but they also cost about double some of the other brands. Decide for yourself whether the extra cost is worth it- if you don’t mind checking the babe a little more often it could be totally worth it to get the less expensive ones. I actually recommend getting a few of 2-3 different brands and seeing for yourself!
How they work:
Most cloth diapers come in “one size,” and all those snaps you see in the pictures are for adjusting the size. When the babe is on the littler side (8-10 lbs) you’ll have to snap to the smallest size and the diaper will be a bit bulkier. This is partly why we wait until they’re a month old to start using them, but you can get even smaller newborn ones if you wish. You place the diap on the babe just like a disposable, and fasten the side snaps as snug as the baby needs for their size. As they grow, you just adjust the snaps! FYI- since they are bulkier than disposables, your babe may need to size up in pants when wearing them.
- 1 Bum Genius diaper = $20; 25 BG diapers = $500 (on their website, you can get a 24-pack for ~$450)
- Alva Baby diapers (6-pack)= $35-$55 depending on patterns; 24 AB diapers = $140-$220
- Mama Koala diapers (6-pack) = $35-$40; 24 MK diapers = $140-$160
- Average 7 diapers/day (anywhere from 4-10 depending on the age) means washing about every 3 days
- The average child uses 7,000 Diapers in their lifetime (of course there are many factors here, this is an average).
- That’s about $1,200 of LUVS ($1243), which is one of the most affordable brands.
- Newborn- 31 for $23 need 420 ($311)
- Size 1- 252 for $30 need 637 ($63)
- Size 2-384 For $50 need 595 ($78)
- Size 3- 168 for $25 need 805 ($123 to cut off the first year) + 1800 after that ($387)
- Size 4- 172 for $30 – 1500 ($262)
- Size 5- 148 for $30 need 700min ($142)
At most, you pay off the cloth diapers within the first year of the first kid (And that’s only if you get 25 of the most expensive ones). You can pay them off within a few months if you go with a less expensive brand, and you can definitely get by with as little as 18. At the lowest cost that’s just over 100 bucks! Also, we registered for them so we didn’t pay for them anyway! (You can check FB marketplace too.)
Do they hold up?
Short answer- Yes, but not forever.
At the time of writing, we have been using them constantly for 4 years (over 2 kids so far), meaning they’ve been used and washed an average of every 3-5 days for that entire time. The pictures below are current, not when they were new. The pocket/stuffable diapers tend to hold onto stains less in our experience. At this point the double flapped ones are starting to get stains that aren’t fully coming out, but they were stain-free for at least a couple years.
Most kids use them up to 3 years and you can pass them down to siblings.
Maybe about 3-ish years in, the ends of the all-in-one kind (with the sewn in flaps) started to curl, and after a while it started to get annoying and bulky in the diaper. I just (4 years into using them) snipped off the ends of those flaps and my mom sewed them so they wouldn’t fray. Problem solved, but the pocket/stuffable diapers remain in perfect condition structurally if that changes your mind about all-in-ones. The inserts are a little stained, but you don’t see them and they can be bleached or replaced.
Tips for Washing
- An exclusively breastfed baby’s poops do not need to be rinsed prior to throwing in the washer. They are water soluble. Once formula or food is introduced, rinse or scrape off into toilet first.
- Spray stained diapers with Oxyclean or another spot cleaner before washing
- Add powdered Oxyclean to machine along with detergent for better stain-fighting
- Every month or so, “strip” the diapers, which means removing any potential buildup of detergents, diaper creams or other junk. Here is a website that takes you through several in-depth methods, but honestly if you just run your diaper laundry load a second time using just hot water, it’ll do a pretty good job without having to soak them for hours in the bathtub. If they start to smell, though, use one of the methods from the site I linked.
- Don’t use excessive diaper cream, it’s not good for the diapers to be covered in it. If they get like that, you’ll have to strip them with Dawn in the bathtub (see link above).
- Buy dryer balls and put a few drops of essential oil of choice (I like purification or some kind of citrus) and put them in with the diapers in the dryer. Don’t use dryer sheets, they contribute to buildup on the diapers.
- When it’s nice out, lay the diapers outside to dry. It helps them smell fresh and direct sunlight can bleach stains out! I have heard that the diapers hold up best when not placed in the dryer at all, but that was not gonna work for us! It’s been fine and hasn’t destroyed any of them.
- Grab yourself a box of plastic disposable gloves (if you can find them in a pandemic!) and the ick-factor of doing diaper laundry will improve greatly.
- If your baby’s poop is more peanut-buttery consistency than solid, you might want some bamboo liners so you don’t have to scrape poop, especially when they’re a little older. You just place them right in the diap and flush them with the poop (check that your plumbing can handle this. They’re biodegradable, but I’d make sure.)
What accessories do I need?
You will need some wet bags and a receptacle to hold them in once they’re dirty, as well as additional liners if you choose. We bought a plastic trash can with a foot pedal to hold the dirty ones in before washing. It’s 40 liters and the perfect size for all of our 27 diapers. There are more items that make cloth diaper life easier, but don’t feel like you need them all to get started! Below you will find links to all the products we love!