What To Consider When Cloth Diapering

Cloth Diapering

While I had originally planned on this being an all-encompassing post about cloth diapering, I realized that there is a lot to soak in (haha!) when it comes to this topic! Rather than overwhelm my friends with it all, I’m going to break this discussion down into a couple separate posts.

Grab some tea, take a seat and start learnin’ up on all there is about cloth diapers!  This is a topic I’m very enthusiastic about and am so pleased with our decision to use cloth diapers with our little one! Even better, my husband has become an even bigger fan of cloth diapers than me! And he typically finds the negative in most things (which balances out my always-optimistic perspective).  So ladies – you can totally get your partners on the cloth diaper train, too!

Cloth Diapering Basics

Cloth diapering isn’t what it was back when our moms did it with us.  They used to have to use safety pins (I still remember the cute little pink plastic turtles on the closure of my diaper pins), they would leak and were cumbersome.  Now, there are types that go on and off as easily and quickly as disposables!

I’d like to thank my friend Andrea who owns a darling boutique in town called Pirates & Pixies.  You can purchase new and gently used cloth diapers in a variety of types, styles, sizes…it’s great if you’re starting out and want to try a couple options first hand.  She’s been cloth diapering for many years and has an awesome Webinar that goes over all the details of cloth diapering.  She was kind enough to let me swing by and take photos of the different styles of diapers so I could show you here!

Cloth Diapers At Pirates and Pixies
A sample of all the pre-loved diapers available at Pirates and Pixies.

Please note that this post contains Affiliate Links.  You can learn more about those here.

The Benefits of Using Cloth Diapers over Disposables

When I first began researching all the things moms-to-be tend to look into when they’re planning the idyllic first few months of their child’s lives, cloth diapering was certainly one of the first.  My mom had used cloth diapers on both my sister and I.  My mother in law used them on my husband and his younger brother.

I was familiar with the concept but had no idea about different types, how to clean them, or what the cost would be.  After all, when you’re welcoming this incredible little gift into the world, you realize this gift has a decent sized price tag and I wanted to be as smart about my dollar as I could be.   There were many people who, even still, give me these giant eyed stares when I tell them we use cloth diapers. “What?! Like, you reuse your diapers?  You put the poop in your wash? That’s so gross.”  Trust me, when dealing with a baby, dirty diapers in your washing machine aren’t the worst things you’re going to come across!

Plus, there are so many benefits to using cloth over disposables.

Benefits of Using Cloth Diapers

Overall Cost

While there is an upfront investment with cloth diapers (All In Ones average about $20/ea), the long-term cost over disposables is nearly one third! Figure 100 Pampers Swaddlers would run you $25.00 and those may last you 10-14 days.  Over the course of two and a half years, you’d spend over $1800.00 in diapers.  And that doesn’t include the wipes.  Add another $650.00 to that tab. With All In One cloth diapers being the most expensive, you’d probably need about 25-30 on hand to have a three day wash cycle.  At most, you’d be spending $600.00 on brand new All In Ones.  However, there is a great market for resale on cloth diapers and you can find great opportunities on places like Facebook Marketplace.  I was able to snag 14 of them for $100 total!  Plus, with Buy Buy Baby 20% off coupons and sales, you’re certainly able to get deals on them.

And I LOVE GroVia’s cloth wipes .  They are incredibly soft and absorbent.  We use one wipe per diaper change and one has proven to handle even the messiest of situations!  I find they ‘grab’ the poop, whereas disposables tend to smear it around.  Gross, I know.  But that’s what I’ve experienced! Twelve wipes will run you $10.99 so two packs of those is all you really need to be set!  We have 32  Bum Genius All In One diapers and 36 GroVia Wipes  on hand to diaper our little girl and wash diapers about every 2-3 days – which is about as long as you’d want soiled diapers sitting around for.  I have spent a total of $325.00 for the 36 wipes and 32 diapers we have – and that is all we’re going to need to spend on diapering our daughter until she is potty trained!  While yes, this is an upfront cost – it is clearly significantly less expensive in the long run!  Even better? Those same diapers can be reused and passed down to the next littles we add to our family.  Or we can resell them.  This becomes an even more cost effective option for diapering your babies!

No Allergy Concerns or Chemicals to Worry About

No matter what type of cloth diaper you choose to use (I’ll go over all the different types later in this post), all are made from either 100% cotton, they even have organic cotton options, polyester or hemp.  You won’t have to worry about the chemicals they’re using to absorb the fluids like in disposables, either.  Every so often, a post circulates on Facebook about a little one developing a chemical burn from a disposable diaper and warning other moms. It’s truly horrifying to think how painful that could be.  And that is something you will never have to be concerned about when using cloth diapers!  All that comes into contact with your baby’s sensitive skin is fabric – natural cotton or hemp, no dyes, no chemicals, no drying agents.

Less Diaper Rash 

As noted above, with the absence of chemicals and variables for your baby’s tender skin to react to, the likelihood of developing diaper rash diminishes.  We are going on 4-1/2 months without even a hint of one!  Also, cotton is breathable and naturally absorbent.  It’s going to pull the wetness away from your baby all because of how it naturally behaves.  It’s easier on little one’s skin which leads to a happier baby!

Quicker Potty Training

Today’s disposable diapers tout about how great they are at absorbing liquids which is kinda awesome, but then again, can be kinda not.  You see, when the wetness is absorbed so well that baby has no idea that going to the bathroom results in soggy & uncomfortable pants, they’re less motivated and lack the understanding of the need to learn to use the toilet!  While the cotton in cloth diapers will absorb their fluids, they will feel the heaviness & dampness of the diaper.  Since my daughter is only 4 months old, we have a while before we cross this bridge.  I, however, have many friends and have read from many other mothers who have successfully potty trained their tots as young as 18-20 months old!  How nice is it going to be when we are DONE with diapers?!

They’re so much cuter! I mean, really – how CUTE are these patterns from bumGenius?  And your tot’s tiny toosh looks so darling with a ‘fluffy’ bottom when wearing cloth!                                                                                                     

The Different Types of Cloth Diapers

So now that you’re totally sold on cloth diapers because of their economic, health & style benefits, let’s go over the different types of cloth diapers.

There are four major types of cloth diapers:

  • Pre Folds & Covers
  • Pocket Diapers (AI2s)
  • All In Ones (AIOs)
  • Fitted
Prefolds and Covers

If you’re looking to get into cloth diapering with as little upfront cost as possible, prefolds and covers are the way to go!  They are comprised of a single cotton cloth (the prefold) that you will fold into thirds and lay into a waterproof cover or shell.  I prefer these over AIOs when your baby is brand new (10lbs or less).  They’re less bulky and fit more snug around their tiny little legs.  You will want to use the Newborn size if your baby is under 10 lbs, and knowing how quickly they’ll grow out of them, this is an effective and less expensive route to go.  Thirsties Brand has awesome covers with velco that go on lickety split! They come in a variety of colors and patterns, too!

Thirsties Duo Cover Charlie's Soap

For the prefold, the cotton cloth that goes between your baby and the cover to absorb things, we’ve had great success with the Oso Cozy prefolds.  They come in a few different sizes based on baby’s weight, but again – go with the smallest during the newborn period.

Prefold & Cover Cloth DIaper

They’re cotton and thick without being bulky and have been effective with blow outs I swear would have been totally up my baby’s back had she been in a disposable!  As I think about it, the worst we’ve ever had in her 5 months of existence is leaks through the legs.  She’s never had poop go up her back in cloth diapers!  …I’ve totally jinxed myself now, haven’t I?

Prefold and Cover

So, with these types of diapers, you’ll probably be able to get through 2 to 3 diaper changes with the same cover, and just need to swap out the prefold.  As long as the cover stays clean, you can reuse it, just place a clean prefold in it at diaper change.  So, with a newborn, you’d only need about 2 dozen prefolds and 8-10 covers at best to get you going through those first few weeks, washing every couple of days.  While this option is the most labor intensive I’d say, out of the four types, it has the least upfront cost.  And really, it’s not even that hard!

Pocket Diapers  & All In 2s (AI2s)

These types of diapers are a bit of a hybrid (and some are referred to as ‘Hybrids’)- they have the ability to switch out the inner liner (similar to swapping out the prefold while the cover stays clean) and reuse the outer shell, but the liner snaps into the cover to make it one piece.

All In 2 Hybrid

I’m not a huge fan of this system just from a cost standpoint.  If you’re going to be spending $20ish on each diaper unit, you might was well get All In Ones and use their convenience.  If you like the idea of reusing a shell and just replacing the liner, save a few bucks and go with Prefolds and Covers.

Pocket Diaper

Pockets are a great idea when you’re able to pre-stuff them.  And they have the flexibility of adjusting absorbency in using different types or quantities of liners.  However, who wants to deal with stuffing a liner in the middle of a diaper change?

All In Ones (AIOs)

All In Ones will be the most equivalent to a disposable diaper when it comes to use.  These are a cover and the absorbant layers…you guessed it! All. In. One! Ha!  You replace the entire unit at each diaper change. This means you do have to buy more, as you will go through one at each change and not get to reuse a portion of the unit a few different times.  However, you gain an ease of use and efficiency at each diaper change.

Also, if your little one is going to daycare or will be watched by family at any time, AIOs are the easiest to explain and get them on the cloth diaper train.  Once my little one outgrew the newborn prefold/inserts we migrated over to All In Ones because they are the quickest/easiest and also because I scored a killer deal on a lot of them through Facebook Marketplace.  Seriously! Go search ‘cloth diapers’ in your marketplace – you will be surprised at how many listings there are!

Another great thing about All In Ones is they will grow with your child.  There’s adjustable snaps at the rise of the diaper, that you adjust as your baby gets bigger.  So while each diaper costs roughly $20, that single diaper will be with your child from the time they are as little as 8lbs up to 35lbs.

We love the BumGenius FreeTime All In Ones. They have three

All In One Quick Dry
Three layers of absorbency – loose to speed drying time

absorbent layers that are only sewed on one end and overlap.  These free layers allow for quicker drying time!!! I can’t tell you how important this is! When you’ve got all this laundry with a new little one, the faster you can move through loads, the better!  And you’ve obviously gotta make sure they’re dry – we can’t be putting a damp diaper on a little bottom!

All In One Prepared
The layers stacked and ready to be put on a baby bottom

And if you’re little one is a super soaker overnight, the flip flop manner in which these pads lay allows you to add another layer or insert if need be to increase absorption!

Fitted Diapers

Fitted diapers are an all cloth, absorbent diaper.  This will totally surround all of your babies bits with cotton material and will grab ahold of whatever comes its way.  Note that these are not waterproof, and for that you would still need to place an outer, waterproof shell around the fitted diaper.

Also, when you go to change this diaper, you’re going to be getting your hands dirty as the entire diaper is an absorbent layer.  Fluids will be soaked in at every angle.  Personally, since I’d be needing a waterproof cover anyways, I’d just go with the prefolds & covers.

How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need?

Well, this depends.  What type of cloth diapers are you going to be using?  And how old is your little one?  If you’re planning on starting at birth, I would recommend beginning with prefolds and inserts.  Prefolds are the least expensive option and newborns it seems are constantly in a state of peeing or pooping.  You can typically get 2-3 diaper changes (pre folds) to one cover.

Additionally, the AIOs or AI2s start at 8-10lbs.  Most newborns are anywhere from 5-8lbs so if you planned on using AIOs/AI2s from the get go, but had a 6lb baby, you’ll be scrambling coming up with a way to diaper your little one in a hurry!  “So my baby will be a little small.  It can grow into the diaper, right?”  Well, yes.  But with there being wiggle room, that pee and poop will find their way wiggling right out of that diaper and onto whatever adorable outfit you JUST put them in!

You also need to consider how frequently you want to, or are willing to, wash the diapers.  Most folks recommend two, no more than three, days’ time between wash.

So here’s how the numbers break down:

Cloth Diaper Washing Cycle

As you can see, the type of diaper and the frequency with which you plan to wash play a big role in determining how many diapers you need.  I’d recommend planning on a 3-Day wash cycle.  If that gets to be too much and you want to stretch it another day or two, just buy a few more and add to your ‘stash’!

Next post:

Is There Anything Else I Need With The Diapers?

I’ll suggest all the other accessories that will help you cloth diaper like a pro! These include:

  • Cloth Wipes
  • Cleaning Spray
  • Diaper Pail
  • Diaper Liner
  • Wet/Dry Bag
How Do I Clean My Diapers?

It really is quite simple to clean cloth diapers.  I’ll go through all the tips and recommendations to keep your diapers, and your washer!, clean & smelling fresh!

Pro Tips

Now that I’ve been cloth diapering for a few months, I’ll share with you some handy tricks and lessons I’ve learned along the way!

21 thoughts on “What To Consider When Cloth Diapering

  1. This is such a fantastic article! I’ve considered cloth diapering, but had sooo many questions. This answered all my questions, and ones I didn’t know I had! Thank you!

    1. I’m so glad it was helpful for you! It can be a little overwhelming at first glance – many styles, many brands. But talking with other mommas about what works for them, and weighing what is important to you in making this easy, helps a lot! Look for me next post about the other ‘accessories’ that help with cloth diapering and the wash routine!

  2. I am a mom of one and trying for number two….I honestly never considered cloth diapers because I didn’t think I could handle the “work”. After reading this I am starting to reconsider. Thank you for all of this info!

    1. So glad to hear! It really only adds a couple more loads of laundry to my weekly tasks. Certainly something I’m willing to manage for what I see are a ton of benefits! I’m glad you found this helpful! Stay tuned for my next post on the washing routine and how I handle out and about errands with a baby in cloth!

  3. Wow this is such very detailed post about cloth diapers! I wanted to try it ever since but I’m afraid I won’t have time to wash them all with 3 boys lol Great post!!

    1. Hi Em! Don’t be afraid! I’m sure the laundry with three little boys is nuts! ha! but it only adds 2-3 loads per week for me, if that helps… thanks for reading!

    1. Well, I live on a well so I don’t have a water bill! I belong to a few cloth diapering FB Groups though and haven’t heard of anyone talk about a dramatic increase in water usage. If you consider it’s 2-3 more loads a week, some folks figure it’s around $5-$8 more per month – water and electricity. If you live in an area where they charge a lot of water usage – like California – it would probably be more. But it seems like everything costs more in those places!

  4. We did cloth diapers! We loved it! Our favorite brand was Blueberry. One thing that I would add is there are these hand showers that conect to your toilet that are perfect for the first “spray” into the toilet. One time we were stuck with disposable one (cause we had to fly to a funeral last minute) and within minutes (serously WTH?!?!) our kid broke into a rash, and we had to run out an get her fancy expensive organic ones! Never again!! She’s 4 now… 😉 Great post!

    1. Thanks for the great feedback, Susie! We are starting our little one on foods next week, so I will be doing a follow up post on liners, sprayers and the ‘dunk and swish’ method. We had to use disposables a couple weeks ago while I took our cloth diapers in for a deep clean with a professional diaper launderer. They felt like tissue paper! Not a fan at all…

  5. Great post! My son is 6 months old (he is my first) and I got scared away from cloth diapering from family with him due to the “extra work”. After having him though, I would love to try it with my next baby.

  6. There is so much information I didn’t know. It always seemed so complicated to me, but the way you describe it makes it seem easier.

  7. I love all the info in this post. It can be so overwhelming for new moms (and dads) using cloth, this breaks it down perfectly!

  8. I did both cloth and disposable with my son and almost all cloth with my daughter when she was little. I loved all of the benefits but sometimes disposable was more convenient. We had a delivery service with my daughter which made it so much easier. Thank you for sharing this. I am sure it will help a lot of new parents.

  9. Wow! What an awesome resource! This is amazing and covers any questions people may have about cloth diapers! I never thought about cloth being an easier transition for potty training! Great post!

  10. This is such a thorough and informative post! I wish my husband had been on board with cloth diapering. Maybe with the next baby. Fingers crossed!

    1. Thank you! If your husband is leery of cloth, which mine was at first, too, I’d really recommend watching the webinar I’ve linked to thru Pirates and Pixies website! Andrea does a great job of going over the different types, brand recommendations and uses her daughter to show how cloth diapers go on/off. There’s this idea that they’re the same types of diapers that our moms used 30+ years ago and they’ve come SO FAR since then! Best of luck 🙂

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