cloth diapering: what works for us

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I promised a post about cloth diapering, and here it is!

Before Maddy was born, we decided we would rent newborn-sized diapers for her. This is because all of the “one-size” cloth diapers (the type with snaps that adjust the height of the rise) are pretty dang huge on a newborn, so we wanted diapers that would actually fit her, and buying them seemed kinda silly since she wouldn’t be in them long and where would we put them once we were done and all that. What we ended up renting were the BumGenius AIO (that stands for “all in one”, by the way, as in, no separate insert – they function just like a disposable, except you don’t throw them away) in size XS. While we loved having newborn-sized diapers at first, we didn’t actually love those particular diapers.

Why not?

Your mileage may vary, but I had two issues with the AIO-style diapers. One was that I find them more of a pain to wash and dry. You want to dry them hot enough to make sure the inner absorbent part doesn’t take a million years to dry, but you don’t want to fry the outer waterproof part, and that’s always going to be a tricky balance when the two parts are attached to each other. And the inner absorbent part on these was microfiber, which I just don’t like as much as cotton for a whole bunch of reasons, some of which have to do with washing/drying.

The other problem that we had was leaks. Maybe this just has to do with Maddy’s shape/size, but boy did we have leaks. Crazy leaks. I swear, those leg gussets didn’t hold anything in for us. I mean, leaks are gonna happen no matter WHAT kind of diapers you use and no matter HOW perfectly you put them on (accepting this before you have the baby will save you some angst), but this was beyond that.

We also ended up having to transition away from the BumGenius XS much earlier than we expected, once Maddy started outpacing the growth charts. We didn’t have a ton of time to research and play around with various options, so we opted for the most inexpensive investment we could make: Small Prefolds from Green Mountain Diapers (we got two dozen, which was plenty given an every-other-day laundry cycle), plus Thirsties Duo Wrap Snap in Size 1 (we got 6 of these, also plenty). Here are our prefolds all pretty in our drawer:

our drawer of cloth

We use a Snappi to fasten the prefold:

prefold + snappi

It’s that Y-shaped light blue thing in the picture – it has little plastic teeth like the ones you use to secure an ace bandage, and it just sort of holds everything in place (without pins).

Then we put a Thirsties cover over it for water-proofness:

with a Thirsties cover

I like these covers because they have a “double gusset” – an extra little inner gusset inside the leg opening that really holds stuff in. There are other brands that have similar double gussets, too, and I highly recommend them if you’re going the insert + cover route. You don’t always change the cover when you change a diaper, only if it gets really soiled.

I know prefolds sound like a pain in the butt, but (with a major caveat that I’ll get to in a second), I still think they’re a great option for the early stages of cloth diapering. For one, they’re cheap (seriously, you can get a dozen for what you’d spend on like, two AIOs). And for two, they’re super duper easy to wash and dry: you can dry these suckers as hot as you like without worries, since you air-dry the waterproof covers separately. The covers air dry in like, 5 minutes on the drying rack we’ve got. It’s a pretty foolproof system once you get the hang of the Snappis.

But here comes my caveat: Once your baby gets to where they start wiggling and rolling like mad on the changing pad, for the love of all that is good, you don’t want to be trying to Snappi their diaper on. OMG, no. I have no idea how people Snappi toddlers without, like, drugging them first or something. This is where we made a mistake. See, we needed to size up Maddy’s diapers, because she outgrew the Small prefolds and covers pretty quickly (as I’ve said, she’s a giant!), and so we ordered size 2 Thirsties covers and the hilariously-named “Wide Baby” sized prefolds. And then she promptly started rolling around, making it nearly impossible to put a diaper on her. I’ve actually gouged my fingers deep enough to draw blood with the little plastic Snappi teeth because she was moving around so much and I missed the mark. More than once. So much for Snappis being better than pins on that front!

Enter: GroVia

GroVia diapers are what’s called a “Hybrid” or “All in Two” diaper. It’s actually not that different, conceptually, from a prefold+cover, except for one thing: the insert part snaps into the cover, so you can treat it like an all-in-one in terms of how you put it on (but you can also swap out the insert without changing the cover, like you can with prefolds + covers). GroVia in particular have a neat design: the inserts (which are organic cotton – I’ve found I have a strong preference for natural fibers like cotton or hemp as opposed to microfiber against M’s skin) have built-in gussets, and then the shell provides an outer gusset. Anyway, the benefit here is that you can snap the insert into the cover, and then put the whole thing on in one piece like a conventional diaper. Still has all the benefits of having a cotton-based insert with an air-dryable cover, but So. Much. Easier. These are what we are transitioning to now. They’re not super cheap, but we’ve been able to get some covers on huge discount so it’s mostly the inserts that we’re paying out the nose for (they’re about 3x as expensive as prefolds). We’re aiming for 8 covers and 18 inserts which should be plenty (for us, at least!).

Based on our experience, if I had it to do over again, here’s what I’d do: I’d get sized prefolds (Newborn and Small) right from the start from Green Mountain Diapers, because their prefolds are pretty awesome and absorbent, and using prefolds isn’t so hard when baby isn’t so wiggly yet, plus the laundry is fool-proof and that’s nice when you’ve got a new baby. I wouldn’t have rented the AIOs in newborn size because I just plain don’t like AIOs; buying the prefolds doesn’t seem so crazy since they’re just flat pieces of cotton fabric and could be used for other stuff (burp cloths, etc) later. And then once baby gets big enough not to be swamped by a one-size diaper, I’d switch to GroVia right away rather than going any bigger with the prefolds plus covers.

I’m not entirely sad that we got bigger Thirsties covers, though, because they’re useful over the Kissaluvs Fitteds that we use at nighttime (along with a Babykicks Hemp Doubler – our girl is a SERIOUSLY heavy wetter at night). Ideally I’d like to switch to wool soakers for nighttime diapering, because I’ve read that the breathability of wool is good on that front, but I’m ok with using the Thirsties for now.

Ok, so enough about the diapers we use. That’s only part of the cloth diapering story. Here’s some other parts of the story:

where the dirties go :)

Dirty diapers gotta go somewhere, and we (partly due to space limitations) ended up forgoing a diaper pail, and using a Hanging Wet-Dry Bag instead. This hangs off a (sturdy!) Command hook from the side of the dresser. We use two of them, actually, since the one full of dirties goes in the laundry with the diapers, and with two we can always have one in rotation. We’ve also got a medium size wet-dry bag of the same type that we use when we’re out and about – a few clean diapers in the outer “dry” pocket, and dirties go in the “wet” pocket just like the big bag at home.

Lock 'n Lock w/pre-moistened wipes

Dirty bottoms gotta get clean, and we use cloth rather than disposable here, too. We like our GroVia cloth wipes – they’re nice little terrycloth squares that can serve as a washcloth in a pinch, too. We’ve tried various approaches here in terms of getting them moistened, but our preferred method is what you see above. I fill that Lock ‘n Lock container with water and a little squirt of Witch Hazel, then soak a dozen wipes in it, then dump the container, roll each wipe up into a log and wring the water out, and then seal them up in the container once I’m done. It sounds like a lot of work, but it takes me just a couple of minutes before bed each night to prep the next dozen, and it’s just so nice to have a just-the-right-dampness wipe ready instead of having to spray one with a spray bottle (which is what we did before arriving at this solution). We don’t use a wipe-warmer; Maddy’s never had a warm wipe on her bottom and doesn’t know what she’s missing, anyway!

To make all of this easier now that we’re changing her on the floor, I’ve put together a little “kit” in a fabric basket:

Our diapering kit

Right now it’s got a prefold and a Thirsties cover, as well as a fully-prepped GroVia diaper (in the future, there’ll be extra GroVia inserts in there as well), along with a folded up changing pad and a very small wet bag (to allow for outside of the room changes, if I bring the basket with me – I throw the wipes container in too if I do this). Before I put this together, I was always having to run back and forth between the changing pad (on the floor) and the drawers and shelves where we keep the bulk of the diapering supplies and it was just annoying! So now I just restock the kit while Maddy plays around under her mobile after a change. Much easier!

So that’s how we cloth diaper!

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6 thoughts on “cloth diapering: what works for us

  1. Carla

    Thanks for this! I used prefolds and then flats (!) the first time around, with wool or Thirsties. With the second, we did prefolds again for about 2 months, but the only thing that cured her persistent diaper rash was paper diapers — and I’ll admit I wasn’t all that sad. I can’t imagine using a diaper + cover for her; she crawls away 3 times in the course of trying to change her diaper and clothes. And now that she’s started walking I’ll probably be chasing her through the house and not just across the room. I guess my first was uncommonly cooperative. Now that we’re expecting #3, I’m thinking about cloth again, and I don’t even know what’s out there anymore. I was thinking BGs, but the GroVia sound like they’re worth looking into.

  2. Heh, heh. Some of those things have been around a while. I loved the diaper covers I had when my first was born. We were gifted a diaper service for his first month, and that was pure heaven. I have to say, though, that the cloth diapers really do hold up, and you’ll find hundreds of uses for them. We had lots (just to be safe) and I still have at least 2 dozen hanging around. My oldest is 19, so they’re kind of industrial-strength. Of course, they don’t get washed as much as they once did…

  3. We used prefolds from a diaper service (a gift from my parents) for the first three months, but by the end of that time we would’ve switched to disposables rather than stay with prefolds … H was just too dang wiggly! We use FuzziBunz One Size pocket diapers: they eliminate the problem of washing the absorbent insert and the waterproof shell together (because you pull them apart before putting them in the pail); they’re almost as simple to put on as disposables; and a friend sent me her set when her son potty-trained and H hit 3 months (so we only have to replace diapers as needed). We use cloth wipes, too (also hand-me-down from that friend), and I just fold them all in half, interlocking, and put them in an empty disposable-wipes container with the wash solution of my choice. It allows me to pull one wipe out at a time without having to reach a (potentially very dirty) hand into the box! The box of wipes will also generally last two wash cycles, which is nice.

  4. We’ve been using prefolds and covers (ours have a pocket, but we never use it because we get the same leakage problems you mentioned with the AIOs and it’s less wear and tear on the covers to reuse them a few times before dropping them in the wash bag if the diaper isn’t really sopping wet) for Ada since the beginning, and I’ve found they work perfectly well if I just fold the liner in thirds, lay it inside the cover, and snap it on. This means it’s pretty much set up like an AIO before I ever try to position it under a squirmy bottom. (And oh yes, they do get MUCH squirmier! I usually have to change diapers while performing a comedy routine or a song these days…) Our covers are fleecy on the inside so they’re comfortable against the skin, though — I can’t remember what the Thirsties are like, so maybe this wouldn’t work so well for you.

  5. MHT

    I used cloth diapers when my kids were little and I knit them wool diaper covers and longies. I found they worked much better than any commercial cover and they were fun to knit!

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