Megan Holdham

How to get started with cloth diapers cloth diapers for beginners

HOW TO GET STARTED WITH CLOTH DIAPERS (COMPLETE GUIDE)

Are you interested in cloth diapers? Do you not know where to start? You’ve come to the right place! I am going to tell you everything you need to know to get your foot in the door with cloth diapers.

Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using my link. Please see my disclosure for more information.

What you REALLY need to start cloth diapering.

Diapers

How many diapers should I start with?

Well, that might depend on your situation. Are you starting with cloth diapers, or are you switching to cloth diapers from disposables?

I’m switching to cloth diapers from disposable diapers.

If you have the ability to, I highly recommend trying some different styles and brands of diapers before building a whole stash. This way, you kind find out exactly what you like, and what fits your baby well, so your stash is full of the diapers you love.

Once you know what you like, I recommend starting with at least 12 diapers (or rather, 12 diaper changes). If you’re planning on using something like prefolds or flats, you will need fewer covers because regular cloth diaper covers can be used more than once (usually) per wash cycle.

If you’re planning on using pockets or all-in-ones, the number of “diaper changes” is the same as the number of diapers you have, because each diaper is always used only once per wash cycle. This is because these styles have absorbent material sewn into the diaper cover, and therefore will become soiled once your baby does his or her business in the diaper.

Keep in mind that if you only have 12 or so diapers, you will need to do diaper laundry every single day. A new baby goes through somewhere between 10 and 14 diapers per day. If you’d rather wash every other day, you will want at least 24ish diapers.

The number of diapers you go through each day will vary, of course, depending on your baby.

I’m planning to start using cloth diapers with a brand new baby.

As I mentioned just above, you will eventually want AT LEAST 12 diapers if you plan on washing every day, or 24 diapers if you plan on washing every other day (“diaper changes” if you are going to be using flats or prefolds).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with building a stash before your baby is born.

However, just keep in mind that some brands may not fit your baby as well as others. So, you may not want to build a very large stash of all one kind of diaper. Just a tip! You do whatever you want, of course.

If you are able to, I always recommend trying a few different diapers so you can figure out what works the very best for your baby. This way, most of the diapers in your stash will fit great!

Another option to keep in mind is diaper trials. Many companies offer diaper trials, in which you can purchase diapers, try them, wash them, and then send them back within a certain time frame if they aren’t working for you. Here is a link to one example of a diaper trial program that I know of.

Think about what kind of diapers you want to try.

There are SO MANY different cloth diapers on the market. Check out my post all about the different cloth diaper styles. Diapers can be either “One-size” or “Sized”.

One-size cloth diapers

One-size cloth diapers generally are said to fit between 8-35lb. These are great because they will fit on your baby for a long time, ideally from birth to potty training.

The quality of the fit will really depend on your baby’s body shape. 8-35 pounds is really more of an estimate than a guarantee. Keep that in mind.

Sized cloth diapers

Sized cloth diapers are great because they are meant to fit for a shorter time frame than one-size diapers, so the fit is more tailored for your baby. This means the fit will likely be a lot better with a sized cloth diaper than it will with a one-size.

The obvious con to using sized cloth diapers is that it is an extra expense to have to buy multiple sizes of cloth diapers. For this reason, you really have to weigh the pros and cons of the different diapering options when deciding which features are most important and best for your family.

Here are some options for sized cloth diapers:

Newborn sized cloth diapers

I like to think of these as a great option to go with one-size cloth diapers. They generally fit pretty small, from about 5-13ish pounds. However, keep in mind that this is just a rule of thumb.

We have a couple of brands of newborn diaper covers that fit our son all the way until 6 months of age (about 18 pounds). The length of time your baby spends in a sized diaper cover will really depend on his or her body shape too, and not just weight.

Size 1 and Size 2 cloth diapers

Some brands of cloth diapers have a “size 1” and “size 2” system. As I mentioned above, this works really great if you want your diapers to have a really good fit on your baby for whatever stage he or she is in.

Keep in mind that fit will also depend on your baby’s body shape and the brand of diapers, as I mentioned above.

Choose which style or styles of cloth diaper you want to use.

There are also a variety of cloth diaper styles. I have a whole blog post about the different styles of cloth diapers. Check it out if you aren’t sure which style you want to go with.

If you aren’t 100% sure which diaper style you want to use, I recommend trying at least a couple different ones before you invest a lot of money in a giant stash.

Decide if you want to buy new or used.

The last thing you need to consider before purchasing diapers is if you want to buy new or used diapers.

If you’re interested, I can write a whole separate blog post with some tips for choosing used cloth diapers. There is just so much information to cover on that topic, so I will just give an overview here.

New diapers

If you are buying new diapers, I highly recommend buying them from a cloth diaper specific website, such as Nicki’s Diapers (as opposed to Amazon or something) because they offer AMAZING rewards/points systems for making purchases.

Once you buy new cloth diapers, they will need to be prepped. This process will be slightly different depending on the diaper and material it is made of, so follow the directions from the manufacturer.

Who wants to see a blog post devoted to prepping cloth diapers? (Hint: comment down below!)

Used diapers

If you looking to buy used cloth diapers, you can search for cloth diaper resale or swap sites. Or, there are groups on facebook devoted to cloth diaper resale and swap.

You can also check places like Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, or even garage sales for used cloth diapers.

Wherever you decide to look to find used cloth diapers, make sure you thoroughly inspect the quality and condition of the diapers before you purchase.

Don’t just trust the seller, unless they are someone you know personally. Make sure you don’t get ripped off! Used cloth diapers can have great resale value, but if they have holes in them or the elastics are shot, they’re not going to do you any good.

When you buy used cloth diapers from anyone, you are going to want to strip the diapers before you use them on your baby.

I will be going into a lot more detail on the stripping process in a future blog post, but for now, check out the recommendations on Fluff Love University’s website. They are a great resource for a lot of the scientific stuff with cloth diapering (especially laundry related queries!)

Wipes

Next, you’ll need to decide what you want to use for wipes. While it is just fine to use disposable wipes, many parents opt for cloth wipes with their cloth diapers.

Disposable wipes

You may decide that you want to use disposable wipes with your cloth diapers. This is fine, but keep in mind that you will need to put these wipes in the trash can.

You may not like the idea of having disposable wipes just sitting in your trash can without a diaper wrapped around them. They may get a little messy or at least a little stinky.

Cloth Wipes

Cloth wipes

Most parents who decide to use cloth diapers also decide to use some form of cloth wipes. When it comes to cloth wipes, you have a few different options.

Purchase cloth wipes

Many companies make cloth wipes that you can buy. These work great.

You can also find homemade wipes on Etsy or a cloth diapering Facebook group that are available for purchase. These usually come in a variety of cute prints!

Use baby washcloths

Fun fact: they make little washcloths that are marketed towards babies! These are usually very soft and work great as cloth wipes.

Especially if you’re like us and realize that regular adult-sized washcloths work just fine for babies.

Make your own

This is what we do!

I’ve made cloth wipes out of old receiving blankets, and I’ve made them out of flannel from the craft store. Who wants to see a tutorial on how to do this?

Be creative

You aren’t limited to these options. I’m just trying to give you a good idea of what some of the popular options are. If you have another idea for what you want to use for wipes, go for it! Get creative!

Somewhere to put dirty diapers

Once your baby soils his or her diaper, you will need somewhere to put it until it is time to wash. You have several options; here are a few.

A pail with a liner

A diaper pail is a great place to keep dirty diapers. While you can purchase a pail specifically marketed for cloth diapers, know that a regular trash bin works just as well.

If you decide to use a diaper pail, you will want to use a diaper pail liner (unless you want to clean out your diaper pail every wash cycle).

A diaper pail liner is made of the same material that diaper covers are made of. This means that the fabric or the pail liner likely has either PUL or TPU, making it waterproof. Want to know what these acronyms stand for? Keep reading.

You want your pail liner to be waterproof so you don’t end up with a big mess on the inside of your diaper pail.

PUL

PUL stands for Polyurethane Laminate.

This means that the fabric has been treated with solvents and chemicals to form a waterproof layer that is still malleable.

TPU

TPU stands for Thermoplastic Polyurethane.

TPU is bonded to the fabric using heat. No solvents are used.

A hanging wet bag

If you don’t feel like buying a diaper pail or trash can, you can actually just hang a large wet bag or pail liner from either a set of hooks or a doorknob (when I am cleaning my diaper pail that goes next to my changing table, I just hang a pail liner from my changing table.).

A “to-go” solution

If you’re planning on ever leaving the house, you are going to need somewhere to put your dirty cloth diapers on the go.

I highly recommend investing in at least one small/medium-ish travel wet bag. I have three, but sometimes I wish I had more! I suppose the amount you buy depends on how much you go out in between washes.

Cloth diaper safe laundry detergent

What makes a detergent cloth diaper safe?

A cloth diaper safe laundry detergent will not have any fabric softener in it. It also won’t contain anything that is going to coat the fibers of the cloth diapers to create absorbency issues.

An appropriate detergent also won’t contain anything that is going to cause damage to your diapers or cause burns or irritation to your baby.

The detergent also needs to contain enough surfactant to get the diapers really, really clean. Cloth diapers are basically heavily soiled clothing. You need to make sure your detergent can handle it.

I very highly recommend checking out the detergent index on the Fluff Love University website. They are an incredible resource, especially if you are interested in the science behind cloth diaper laundry.

Extras

There are so many cloth diapering extras/accessories.

Some examples include diaper sprayers, spray guards, diaper safe creams, fastening solutions, wipe solutions, and more.

All of these things are meant to make cloth diapering easy. However, none of these are required in order to use cloth diapers.

I would like to write an entire blog post about all of the cloth diapering accessories, so stay tuned if you’re interested in diving into that with me. There are just so many available!

How to get a good fit with cloth diapers.

Does your diaper have a rise?

If your diaper has rows of snaps down the front, then you have a rise.

If you’re new to cloth diapers, it may take some trial and error to figure out which rise setting fits your baby best.

If you have several brands of diapers in your stash, know that the rise setting that you need may be different between diaper brands. This is because some diapers “run large” and some “run small”.

It can be frustrating at first when you’re trying to figure out which rise setting to use, and how to get a diaper to fit your baby (and how to even use the dang things!). Especially if you’re dealing with a crying or super wiggly baby.

YOU CAN DO IT.

I know it can be hard at first; cloth diapers do have a learning curve. But seriously, you can do it. Once you get used to them, your diapers will be easy for you to use.

Check the fit.

Once you get the diaper onto your baby, you’ll want to check the fit to make sure you aren’t going to experience any leaks.

If you have the rise snapped, make sure the folded fabric in between the snaps in pointing up by sticking your fingers inside.

Check for gaps.

It’s okay to have a slight gap in the belly area, but you want to really make sure that there are no gaps in the legs. If you have leg gaps, you are very likely to have leaks out the side, or worse, poop escapes.

Finally, you’ll want to check to make sure that you don’t have any absorbent material sticking out from the cover. If you do, liquid can leak out at that point. This is true no matter what style of diaper you are using.

Figure out a good cloth diaper wash routine.

I can (and will) write a whole blog post going really, really in-depth about wash routines, and diaper laundry, and how it all works. Because this is such an expansive and complex topic, I’m not going to get into it here. I will just give you a brief overview of what you need to know.

If your baby is exclusively breastfed

If your baby only eats breastmilk, you will not need to rinse the diapers before putting them into the wash. Breastfed poops are water-soluble and will do no harm to your washing machine.

If your baby is formula-fed

There is some debate in the cloth diapering community over whether or not you need to rinse formula-fed baby poops before washing.

I would say, you can do what you want. The cloth diaper police aren’t going to come to haul you away. That being said, oftentimes formula-fed poops can be a bit more “solid” and stronger smelling than breastfed poops, so personally I would rinse my diapers if that were the case. But, you can use your best judgment.

If your baby is eating solids

If your baby has started eating solids, you will want to rinse his or her poopy diapers before putting them into the washer. You can do this either by using some sort of diaper sprayer, or by following the “dunk and swish” method.

Find your perfect wash routine.

Your wash routine might be a little bit different depending on your washing machine type and brand, and the kind of water you have.

I’ve mentioned it many times already, but I’ll say it again. Check out Fluff Love University, because they are a great resource for finding your ideal wash routine.

Generally, a wash routine for cloth diapers consists of a pre-rinse with just water, followed by a hot, heavy wash with detergent, and then a 2nd main wash without detergent.

Finding a wash routine that works for you may require a little bit of trial and error.

Decide how you want to dry your cloth diapers.

When you dry your diapers, make sure you don’t use too much heat on the covers. This will shorten the life span of the diaper covers. This includes any diaper cover pieces that have PUL or TPU, making them waterproof (including all-in-one diapers!).

A lot of heat will shorten the life of your diapers because it affects the elastics and the TPU or PUL lining. If the elastics become stretched out or lose their spring, you won’t have a good seal around baby’s waist or legs. If the PUL or TPU gets worn out or holes in it, your diapers will not be as waterproof as they were when they were new.

Here are just a few of the options you have for drying your diapers:

Hang dry them

You can hang dry your diapers from hooks, on an inside or outside clothesline, on a drying rack, or many other ways.

Hang drying is a great way to dry diapers because it requires no heat, and can really help to extend the life of your diapers.

It does, however, oftentimes take a little more time for your diapers to dry this way than if they were to go through your dryer (unless you have amazing weather!).

Dry them in the dryer (very low heat)

Drying your diapers in the dryer on a very low heat setting is a good idea if you don’t want to (or aren’t able to) hang dry your diapers. Because there is no high heat, you are at a lower risk of damaging your diapers over time.

Dry them in the dryer (medium or high heat)

You can, of course, dry your diapers in the dryer on a medium or high heat setting. This is the quickest way to dry your diapers.

Be aware, using a lot of heat to dry your diapers may shorten their use. This is because heat can (usually over time) cause damage to the PUL or TPU, or cause the elastics to become defective.

If you do choose to use heat to dry your diapers, make sure you wait until the diapers have cooled off before stuffing any pockets. This is so that you don’t stretch out the elastics. 🙂

Keep practicing, and stick with it.

Give it a little practice. Cloth diapers can definitely be intimidating if you aren’t sure what you’re doing. There is a learning curve.

I would say, for me, the hardest part to really nail down was my wash routine. But I got it figured out, and now we’re all good!

Just remember the reasons why you chose to use cloth diapers. With a little bit of practice, you’ll become a pro in no time. You can do it!

How to get started with cloth diapers complete guide #clothdiapers #makeclothmainstream

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