Cloth diapering has seen a resurgence in popularity lately, and not just for environmental reasons. Gone are the days of our grandmothers, sticking babies with safety pins and practicing the fine art of cloth diaper folding for hours on end. These days cloth diapering your little ones is easy, financially rewarding, and can even help with the potty-training process. But before we give you the resources you need to start your cloth diapering adventure, you’ll need to forget everything you think you already know.

Recalls and Retail Prices: Reasons Why Cloth Diapering Beats Disposable Diapers

Disposable diaper and baby wipe recalls happen all the time — just do a quick search of the FDA Recall Archives. Big brand diaper companies and baby wipe manufacturers like Pampers, Huggies and Nutek have had their products pulled from retail stores in the past for causing things like chemical burns, bacterial contamination and infections.

If the ease of disposable diapers is still too tempting to pass up, perhaps the fact that it takes 500 years for a single disposable diaper to decompose will convince you that cloth diapering is a better practice.

But if you’re like the majority of parents, it’s the immense cost of disposable diapers that has likely got you thinking about cloth diapering your child. And the more children you have, the bigger the cost of disposable diapers. Consider this: the average cost savings of parents who use cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers can save between $80 and $100 each month. Keep in mind that cloth diapering is slightly more time consuming and works best when the caretaker is well informed.

Perhaps the best reason to cloth diaper instead of use disposable diapers is that using cloth diapers can help kids with potty training. Because the diapers are made of cloth, the children will feel wetter quicker.

So How Does Cloth Diapering Actually Work?

There are thousands of opinions on what types of cloth diapers are best. Some swear by cotton cloth diapers while others push hemp diapers, gauze diapers and wool diapers. The truth is, when it comes to cloth diapering, you need to buy and try different styles to figure out which type of cloth diaper works for you best.  There are plenty of fancy gadgets and inventions advertised out there that you don’t really need. All you need to get started with cloth diapering is the actual diaper, a wet bag, and a cloth diaper pail.

That being said, there are two basic types of cloth diapers: pocket diapers and all-in-ones.

Pocket Diapers

Cloth pocket diapers consist of three parts: the diaper cover or diaper shell, prefold, and Snappi (pinless cloth diaper fastener). You can buy generic or branded diaper covers in all types of cute patterns. Thirsties diaper covers, cloth diaper covers, ruffled diaper covers, wool diaper covers, etc. The cloth diaper inserts or diaper liners, also called prefolds, look like burp pads and fit snugly inside. After the prefold is wrapped around the baby and secured with a Snappi, the entire diaper gets covered with a cute diaper cover.

Pocket Diaper Tips:

  • Buy a pocket diaper starter kit. It should give you a couple diaper covers, four prefolds and a Snappi — enough for about one day.
  • Try out different kinds of prefolds to find what works best for you and your child. For instance, you may find that Flip inserts leak out the side and that prefolds work better.
  • Make sure to buy extra prefolds, keeping in mind you will be changing diapers every 2-4 hours during the day.

All-In-One Cloth Diapers

 All-in-one diapers are just like disposable diapers except they’re reusable. All-in-ones are cloth diapers with waterproof covers and absorbent inner liners that usually fasten by snapping or with a hook and loop.

They’re great because they’re easier to deal with if you’re away from home because you can just stuff them in a wet bag, but you need a lot more of them because they have to be cleaned all at once — no interchangeable parts or inserts here.

All-In-One Diaper Tips:

  • All-in-one (AIO) diapers come in different styles and fits, but are usually best for children who weigh up to 35 pounds.
  • AIO diapers are popular with daycare centers and with babysitters because they are so convenient.

What You Need to Know About Wet Bags & Cloth Diaper Pails

Ah, wet bags — those great little pouches that keep dirty cloth diapers out of sight and out of smell. Wet bags are designed to keep what’s in in and everything else clean. A good wet bag is a necessity if you’re hell bent on using cloth diapers. Wet bags should be emptied every 4-6 hours depending on how full they get. The idea is that with a wet bag, you and the little ones should be able to enjoy a day away from home. For extended trips, you’ll need a better game plan. Whatever you do, don’t leave a full wet bag in your car after you arrive home!

Cloth diaper pails or soak buckets are the cloth diaper’s last stop before getting washed in the washing machine. There are two schools of thought on the diaper pail; one prefers their diaper pail dry and the other wet. We recommend keeping a wet diaper pail next to your washing machine, filled with water and your choice of cleaning agent. There are plenty of special (read: expensive) diaper detergents on the market today, but the truth is all you need is baking soda, Borax, vinegar, or a combination of the three. After tossing your dirty diapers into the soak bucket, let them soak for at least a few hours before dumping and washing.

Now that you’ve got the quick and dirty cloth diapering explanation you should feel equipped to get out there and start diapering! If not, there are plenty of resources out there to check, but remember: cloth diapering doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Try out a starter pack, try different kinds of inserts, try cloth diapering part time in the beginning…just don’t run out and spend a fortune before you know what works best for you and your child.

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Author

As a former nanny and oldest child, Alex recognizes the many challenges that both families and sitters face on a daily basis. As a Sittercity team member, she's thrilled to use her skills and experience to make child care finally work.