Cutting Costs with Cloth Diapers | our approach

Chances are, if you are a cost-conscientious parent-to-be, you have considered going the cloth diaper route. It’s no secret that using cloth over disposables can save you **thousands** of dollars long term (see this article). Not to mention, some experts think putting kids in cloth diapers might help them to potty train sooner!

We have diapered our one-year old son in cloth since he was 1 month old and have had a great experience so far! Today’s post will cover our approach to cloth diapers, including:

  • What we use
  • Our routine
  • General tips for success

I hope this information will be helpful to those of you who are considering going the cloth diaper route!

This post is the first of a three-part series on cloth diapers. Keep an eye out for the second (here!) and third installments, which will cover hard numbers as well as tips for building a cloth diaper stash on a budget.

Cloth Diaper 101

Pockets, prefolds, all-in-ones — there are so many options out there! If you’re new to the cloth diaper scene, I recommend checking out this article, which explains the five major types of cloth diapers.

What We Use

In general, people seem to advise getting at least 24 diapers for a complete stash. I have 27 cloth diapers:

Until our kiddo was 10 weeks old or so, we also used prefolds with covers. We used:

Here is my experience with each:

Bum Genius All-in-Ones. These are hands down my favorite! If I could only buy one type of cloth diaper, it would be this one. The main advantage is that the diaper inserts are sewn inside the diaper, so **no stuffing** required! After you wash them, you just hang them up to air-dry and you’re good to go. Now that my little guy is going through fewer diapers in a day, I try to use these exclusively. One disadvantage: it can take up to 24 hours for them to completely dry (it really varies depending on the temperature and humidity level of the room). So in the early days when your baby is going through 10+ diapers a day, you’d probably need about 36 all-in-ones in order to have a enough while you’re waiting for your latest laundry load to dry.

Bumgenius 4.0 Pockets. Because you go through so many diapers in the early days, it’s nice to supplement your stash with some pocket diapers. The microfiber inserts are safe to go in the dryer, and the shells air dry very quickly (usually about 2 hours), so you can have clean dry diapers within a couple hours of finishing your washer load.

Alva Pocket. I’ve been quite impressed with my Alva diaper — it seems to perform as well as the Bum Genius 4.0 pocket diapers for for a third of the price. The quality of the shell does look a little “cheaper” when directly compared to a BumGenius, and I personally don’t think the colors/patterns of the Alvas are as cute as those offered by BumGenius. But overall, our diaper has held up extremely well so far and I can’t say that I vastly prefer my BumGenius pockets over my Alva pocket. A major con: Our little guy was born 6 pounds 2 oz, 21 inches long with teeny tiny little thighs. I started experimenting with cloth diapers when he was 2 weeks old, and while the Bum genius diapers fit him PERFECTLY, the Alvas had **enormous** gaps around his thighs — and even though he grew very quickly (about twice the average rate), it still took him over two months to get enough chunk around his thighs to fit into the Alva. As a result, we didn’t purchase any additional Alvas. But if you have a bigger or older baby, I definitely recommend checking them out!

Gently-used Off-brands Pockets. These definitely leak more than the Alva and the Bumgenius, but it’s so nice to have extra diapers during those crazy weeks when I run a little behind on laundry.

Green Mountain Prefolds with Rumparoo covers.My sister very kindly lent me her Rumparooz diaper covers, and I used these SO much during the the early days. There are all sorts of fancy folds you can use, but we had great success with a simple trifold — you just fold the prefold into thirds and lay in flat in the cover, no pins or snappish required! (You can see a visual here). However, there were two big drawbacks:

  1. My son is a “heavy wetter,” so after a couple of months, he would completely soak through the prefolds in a very short period of time, which was quite uncomfortable for him!
  2. Unlike the Bumgenius and Alvas, covers and prefolds are not one size fits all, which means you have to periodically buy a new set in the next size up, which makes them less cost effective over time.

Our Cloth Diaper Accessories

  • Liners. The poop of a breastfed baby washes out of diapers extremely easily, but after they switch to eating solids, you need to remove most of the poop before you wash the diaper. We use these flushable liners by Grovia — all you have to do is lift the liner out of the diaper and throw or flush it away.
  • Diaper Cream. People generally agree that it’s best not to use mineral oil or petroleum-based diaper creams on cloth diapers with microfiber inserts, as cream cause build up over time. There are lots cloth diaper friendly options out there (see this article for a list), but our favorite so far is the Aveeno Baby Eczema Therapy Night Balm. It works wonders to heal and prevent diaper rash, and as a bonus, it has the National Eczema Association’s seal of approval, which means it’s a particularly great option if your little one struggles with eczema.
  • Cloth wipes. We use a few store bought (these) but we mostly use homemade wipes made from flannel and terry cloth. Honestly, you’re looking to cut costs, you can definitely get away with snipping up old cotton and flannel shirts.
  • Wipes solution. We use this solution in this glass spray bottle. We love it! It cleans up baby’s bottom easily and with zero irritation. You can either spray your baby’s bottom directly with the solution or spray it onto the wipe first.
  • Diaper Pail & 2 Reusable Pail Liners. We use this diaper pail (the opening is large to easily accommodate the bulk of a cloth diaper) with this reusable diaper pail liner, alternated with a waterproof laundry bag I’ve had since high school arts camp. I don’t notice any difference in performance between the “real” liner and my old waterproof laundry bag.
  • Detergent. We use this detergent by Allen’s Naturally. One pump of soap cleans our diapers perfectly with zero odor and very, very little staining! We love it so much we actually use it for all of our laundry needs now. It seems a bit pricey, especially once you factor in the $5 pump and $16 shipping (if you can’t find it at a store near you) — but one gallon of detergent will wash 512 loads of laundry. Also, allensnaturally.com has sales from time to time (e.g. Cyber Monday and Earth Day), so you can try to time your purchase to take advantage of a sale. Lastly, they sell 2 oz samples for about $5 (once you add shipping), so you can test drive it before committing to a full gallon.
  • Wet bag. When youare on the go, it’s nice to have a wet bag of some kind to store a soiled diaper (although I do know people who just throw their diaper into a gallon size ziplock bag). I find that the waterproof compartment of this changing clutch is sized perfectly to hold a couple of soiled cloth diapers.

Our Routine

We wash our cloth diapers every two days. After each diaper change, soiled diapers and cloth wipes go directly into the diaper pail. Note: there’s no need to unstuff the pocket diapers, since the inserts will agitate out in the wash.

As a general rule, it’s a very good idea to follow the washing directions provided by your diaper manufacturer. Conveniently, our HE washer’s “stain wash + extra rinse” cycle generally follows the directions provided by Bumgenius, so that is what we do. This cycle takes 3 hours to compete.

After the washing cycle finishes, wipes and inserts go in the dryer, and all-in-ones and diaper shells are line dried. It usually takes the all-in-ones between 12 and 24 hours to dry, depending on the temperature and humidity level of their drying location. Shells generally only take a few hours to dry.

Per advice from Cotton Babies, we also bleach our diapers once a month to keep them sanitized.

General Tips for Success

  1. Consider location. Try to set up your changing station as near as possible to your washer and dryer. Our laundry room is conveniently located right off of our kitchen (and is on the roomy side), so we actually put our downstairs changing station **in** our laundry room. This makes washing a breeze!!
  2. Test drive a couple before committing to a full stash. As I mentioned above, the Alva pocket didn’t fit my baby until he was over 2 months old, so I’m glad I didn’t buy a full stash of Alvas!
  3. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. We used disposables exclusively for the first two weeks of my son’s life and for two weeks after that while I was figuring out which type of cloth diaper I liked best. We also use disposables at night, while traveling, and occasionally for church outfits (disposables are less bulky than cloth, which can be nice for dressier outfits). However, by using cloth diapers 90% of the time, we still save a significant amount of money every month!

Do you have any cloth diaper questions? Let me know in the comments below!

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