I’ve gotten a lot of questions about parenting stuff since Juniper made her arrival, but no topic has been as asked about as cloth diapers. Who knew folks were so interested in fluffy bum covers?
I know cloth diapering isn’t right for a lot of families, but we knew we wanted to try cloth diapering with JuneBug for quite a few reasons. We’re fortunate that it has worked out for us wonderfully. We love, love, love cloth diapers!
We’re closing in on seven months using cloth, and we’ve definitely put our diapers through the ringer, but obviously, a half a year of cloth diapering on kid doesn’t make me an expert. So I figured instead of giving you a how-to guide, I’d just tell you about our experience with cloth diapers—what has worked for us, what hasn’t, and what’d we’d do differently if we had to do it all over again. I’m gonna go ahead and apologize that this is the longest post known to man. I really tried to keep it as brief as possible—there is just a lot to talk about! I’m also going to promise you that there are absolutely no pictures of baby poo in this post. Not a one.
We did a lot of research about cloth diapers. A lot. There are about a million different ways you can go about cloth diapering, and a lot of it depends on what you want in a diapering system. We decided that convenience and ease were most important to us, so we went with an all-in-one diaper—the BumGenius Freetime All-in-One diapers.
What we loved about these diapers is that they are the closest to ease of a disposable diaper, but cloth. There is no folding things or stuffing liners or safety pins or any of that confusing stuff that scare people off of cloth diapering. They work exactly like a disposable diaper. Put bum on diaper. Close. Done.
We adore these cloth diapers. They’ve made it a breeze to get the hang of cloth diapering. They are a great option for parents who have other child care providers who maybe aren’t as keen on cloth (like grandparents who remember the “old” way of cloth diapering, or daycare providers who think cloth is too difficult). They really are just like using disposables.
And we love that they work from eight pounds all the way up until she’s out of diapers, and they come in super fun colors! Which makes me happy.
There are a few cons to these diapers. First and foremost, they can be expensive. One criticism with cloth diapering is that it can be expensive to start-up—and that can be true (although, they more than pay for themselves over the life of the diapers), but there are cloth diapering systems that really aren’t that pricey at all—that isn’t the case with these diapers. Brand new, these guys run about $25 a pop. And considering you’re changing diapers 12 (or more!) times in the early days—that is a serious chunk of cash to plop down.
We ended up getting 24 diapers before Juniper arrived, which isn’t at all what most cloth diapering experts recommend. Most recommend you try out a bunch of different types before settling on what you like for everyday use—we’re rebels and just chanced it and went with the Freetimes from the get-go.
I didn’t end up paying full price for a single diaper. A large chunk of them I bought secondhand from a friend who decided cloth-diapering wasn’t for her family (they were just barely used). A few we got off our registry. And the remainder I ended up getting from a small cloth diapering shop in Houston, Texas (random, right?). I refused to pay full price for her diapers, so, quite literally, every single day of the second half of my pregnancy, I searched on Google Shopping for Freetimes until I landed on one heck of a deal from Nurtured Family—they were offering certain colors of Freetimes for $17 each, plus free shipping and a $15 off coupon code if you signed up for their mailing list. Score!
Two dozen cloth diapers has been plenty for us. During the newborn days, we were doing laundry every other day, and now that we have stretched out diaper changes a bit, we do them every third day. You could get by with fewer diapers if you were willing to do laundry a little more frequently.
Another con of the Freetimes is their drying time. Because they are an all-in-one diaper, it means that all the absorbent material is…well… all in one place. Which means it takes forever to dry! BumGenius recommends that you line dry their diapers, but I have to be honest, they take so long to dry, we hardly ever do that. In fact, I think if we did line dry our diapers, we’d have to buy another 24 just to have enough while the first batch were drying! We’ve had no problems drying our diapers in our dryer (and we went with the snap kind—because folks said the velcro kind was very easy-to-use, but the velcro eventually gave out). In the summer, we did line dry them more frequently, because the sun and heat made them dry pretty quickly, but the majority of the time, it’s the dryer.
I might revisit this post in a year and kick myself for putting our diapers in the dryer, but for now, we’re happy with it! More about how we wash our diapers in a sec. Spoiler alert: we break the rules with washing, too.
My one issue with the Freetimes is that even though they say they can work from newborn (if your baby is above eight pounds) and up, they really aren’t best for that small of a baby. Cloth diapering a newborn is a bit tricky. Most of the bigger diapers (like our Freetimes) don’t fit itty bitty babies, but you obviously don’t want to buy a whole stash of newborn diapers just to use them for a few weeks—or maybe not use them at all if you give birth to a chunkier kid. A lot of people just use disposables until their baby is big enough for cloth diapers, but we really were all gung-ho with the cloth thing, so we went with a rental service.
We signed up for a cloth newborn diaper rental through Earthy Crunchy Mama. It was nice, inexpensive (we ended up spending about $75 for six weeks worth of diapers), and made sure that our little nugget was in cloth from the get-go—we only used about a week’s worth of disposables while it was important to monitor her outputs to see if my milk was coming in (which is much easier to do in disposables). I really loved working with ECM—they were super responsive to my questions and were there to help me with any issues we had. They also sent us a really nice variety of diapers—and we ended up finding some we loved and some we loathed (thankfully the BumGenius newborn diapers were some of the ones we loved—which boded well for our Freetimes).
Tangent: I also ended up using my store credit from Earthy Crunchy Mama to buy my absolute favorite carrier—an Olives and Applesauce soft-structured carrier. It’s pricey, but amazing. I still use it almost everyday. And I would have never found it if it wasn’t for ECM! I’m forever indebted.
We pretty quickly realized that our little June Bug was a pretty heavy wetter. A lot of it was due to the fact that she bedshares with us, and can basically eat all night long. Once she was old enough to not need a diaper change in the middle of the night, we started to have some leaking problems—the Freetimes had just met their maximum capacity. They were so incredibly heavy when we took them off in the morning!
We decided to start researching liners—additional pads that you can put into cloth diapers to up their absorbency. After lots of research, I ended up ordering two packs of Thirsties Hemp Liners because they were so well-reviewed. They’ve worked out really well for us! We just layer them in the Freetimes for her nighttime diaper, and most of the time we’re totally leak-free. I would say that about one night a week, Juniper still leaks a little bit, but it’s nothing to be concerned about. And considering we never, ever had a single newborn poop-spolosion that I heard so much about—I’ll take it!
These hemp liners are so absorbent, that we’ll wash them with our diapers, and then put them in a dryer cycle, and they come out still wet. To get them really dry, they’d probably need two full trips in the dryer! They don’t look like much, but they hold so much liquid.
My goal was to not have a trash can or diaper pail in the nursery at all—I wanted Juniper to generate the least amount of trash as possible. With that in mind, we knew it was going to be cloth wipes for us, too. I did a lot of research about what makes the best wipes, and, just like with the diapers, it all depended on what was important to you. For us, I wanted something that would easily pop out of a wipe dispenser, and I wanted something that would clean well.
I ended up sewing us a bunch (like, a bunch, maybe four or five dozen?) one-ply flannel wipes (and I wrote a tutorial about how to do it). These clean really well, and they pop out of our wipe container with no issue.
Speaking of a wipe container, we originally went with this wipe container, and it’s great (works wonderfully), but we quickly realized that cold wipes would shock Juniper awake in the middle of the night. Cold wipes turned middle-of-the-night diaper changes into scream fests! So we invested in this wipe warmer, and there were no more tears during diaper changes! We love, love, love that wipe warmer (and it’s totally something I thought was a ridiculous purchase pre-baby).
As far as wipe solution, we make our own solution, wet the wipes, and then place them in our warmer. We use boiled water, witch hazel, a few drops of tea tree essential oil, and a squirt of Kissaluvas Diaper Lotion Potion concentrate. One bottle of that concentrate lasted us six months! It smells great, cleans well, and keeps our baby girl’s bum happy.
Oh, and if you’re wondering how to fold cloth wipes so they pop out of the container one-by-one like disposables, this video is what taught us. Now both Craig and I can fold wipes like champs!
The Other Gear
There isn’t a whole lot else that goes into cloth diapering, but there are a few essentials. Here are the other items we use daily:
We have two hanging wet bags; these are what we use as our diaper pail. Craig screwed a hook into the side of our changing table, and one bag is hanging from it at all times. The other is either in the wash, or waiting to be hung up when the current bag goes down to the washing machine. These have been great! No complaints.
Diaper Rash Stick
With cloth diapers, you don’t have to worry about diaper rash nearly as much as with disposables, but it does still creep up sometimes. To protect the absorbency of cloth diapers, you have to use special diaper rash cream that is water-soluable—meaning it will wash away in the washing machine, instead of sticking to the diaper. There are tons of options out there, but we ended up trying the GroVia Magic Stick the first time around and have stuck with it. It goes on smoothly and keeps her bum protected. I love that there is no messy cream. Just roll it on and go!
There are a lot of laundry detergents out there marketed for cloth diapers, and honestly, I’m sure all of them work pretty darn well. We use Rockin Green Classic Rock, almost entirely because their product names and packaging are fun. Marketing works, kids! I like that it (a) is free of all the yucky stuff that is in normal laundry detergent and (b) gets the diapers clean. Every now and again, we’ll throw in a bit of their Funk Rock, which is a laundry additive to help keep diapers from getting stinky.
The Diaper Bag
One of my biggest concerns when we decided to cloth diaper was how was it going to go when we were away from the house. I’d thought about only using disposables (either diapers or wipes) while we were out or away, but eventually decided if I was going to go in on cloth diapers, I was going all in.
For shorter day trips, we pack up our Skip Hop Duo diaper bag. I love this bag, but I don’t love this bag for cloth diapers. Cloth diapers are big, and this bag isn’t. Four of our Freetimes fills up 2/3 of the bag. Once JuneBug is a bit older and we need to carry around snacks, entertainment, and diapers, we’re going to have to upgrade.
I’m going to write a whole separate post about what I carry in my diaper bag, but as far as actual diapering essentials, we have an extra Magic Stick in there, as well as a spray bottle of our wipe solution. Most of the time, I just pack a stack of dry wipes in a small wet bag (this one), and then spray as we need to. Sometimes, I also just nab a few pre-moistened wipes from our wipe warmer and toss them in the wet bag. It really just depends on my mood.
We also have a medium sized wet bag that stays in the diaper bag for dirty diapers while we’re out. It’ll hold about four diapers.
As far as traveling for a longer time frame, we have enough diapers to get us through a three-day weekend. So we’ll usually just pack everything up (wet bags, diapers, wipes, etc.) and go about our cloth diapering business as usual, and then wash whenever we get home. We haven’t gone on a longer haul yet, but if there is a washer and dryer nearby, we plan on cloth diapering on the go, too.
Alright, everyone is probably wondering about the laundry part. That seems to be the biggest sticking point for people who want to get into cloth diapering—it was for me. I loathe doing laundry, and really had no desire to be a slave to my washing machine. Let me tell you, it isn’t that bad (at least so far). The worst part is going into our not-so-attractive basement everyday.
The poo of breastfed babies is 100% water soluble, so there is no need to rinse or wash off the diapers before you toss them in the wash. Diaper comes off baby. Diaper goes into wet bag. Wet bag contents and bag get dumped into wash. Washer on. Clean diapers come out. You never touch le poop.
Most diaper manufacturers recommend you do two wash cycles—one cold water rinse without soap, and then one hot wash with soap, plus an extra rinse. That’s all well and good, but who has time for that? We did that for about the first two weeks, and then we forgot diapers so many times between the first rinse and wash that we stopped worrying about it. Now, we just set our washing machine to do the grand-daddy of cycles and call it done—it does a pre-soak, then a heavy duty wash in hot water with an extra rinse (it takes over two hours, but hey, when it’s done, it’s done). Close enough, I say. And our diapers are definitely clean.
And then, like I said above, we toss our diapers in the dryer. We have a heat-sensing cycle on our dryer that determines how much heat and time are needed to get something dry. The spin cycle on our washer gets things so dry that the dryer only needs to use low heat for about 45 minutes to get them all nice and dry.
Like I said, neither how we wash nor how we dry is the recommended way (in fact, I think doing it differently from the manufacturer’s instructions actually voids the warranty—so proceed with caution), but we’ve found a method that works for us, and our diapers.
Phew, that was a lot of words on diapers? Did anyone make it this far? Bueller? Bueller?
Now that June Bug is entering the second half of her first year, we’re entering the world of solids (another post on Baby Led Weaning is sure to come your way in the next few months), and with solids comes a whole new set of challenges with cloth diapering.
The poo is no longer water soluble, and it requires a little more handling before the diaper goes into the wash. We’ve installed a diaper sprayer onto the side of the toilet in our hallway bathroom, purchased a spray shield, and are patiently waiting the first evidence that JuneBug is actually consuming solids, and not just mashing them in her hair/on her face/in the dog’s fur. I’ll keep you posted how things change with this new phase of babydom!