Last week's cloth diaper discussion was a complete success! I know I'm sold and am going to try cloth diapers on baby girl due in Aug. We have another reader, Alicia, who is sharing part 2 with us! Here is her take on cloth diapers:

Thank you for that excellent post last week, Kami! I’m excited to share with you another way to cloth diaper. There are many systems and it gets confusing really fast, so I want to tell you about a simple option that has worked for us.

How did you get started cloth diapering?

About 3 months before my son’s third birthday, I started to feel like he should have been potty trained already. I knew he was capable, but what he really lacked was a desire. The disposable diapers were wicking away all the moisture and stored so much liquid that wearing a diaper didn’t bother him. We tried pull-ups and other diapers that became “cool” when wet, but he still didn’t care. That’s when I switched him to cloth so he could really feel it* (see below for stay-dry options).

I went out and purchased pins, plastic pants, and Gerber prefolds. I originally wasn’t planning on cloth diapering long term, so I went with the absolute cheapest and convenient options.

It worked. Within a week, my son wanted out. He became potty trained (very little help needed) after two months, even through the nights. I know if we hadn’t switched to cloth it would have been a much more drawn out and painful process. It made me wonder how much sooner it could have happened had we been cloth diapering all along.

Now I cloth diaper my 9 month-old daughter, and I love it! I still use a diapering concept similar to the basic “the way grandma did it” system that I started with. We use prefolds and covers; it’s a little more refined than using plastic pants and pins. The concept is the same, but the method is much easier than it used to be- and nearly as inexpensive! Plus, it works great.

There are three parts to the system we use: the liner, the prefold and the cover. In order to save more money, I decided to get crafty and make a lot of my diapering supplies. I have made my own liners, covers, wipes, and a few prefolds. There are great resources available for sewing your own cloth diapers on the cheap. We have been able to save money this way and I enjoy producing something that I know is healthy for my child, the environment, and my pocketbook.

Liners

*Though I first switched to help my son potty train and feel how wet his diaper was, you can create a stay-dry liner between the diaper and your baby that wicks the wetness away from the skin. You can purchase disposable liners, reusable fleece liners or make your own. One of the great things about liners is that #2 comes right off, so clean up is easier.

You will need to use a liner if you use diaper cream or ointment, as it can create a water-resistant barrier on your diapers that is nearly impossible to clean off. I purchased ½-1 yard of anti-pill fleece from my local fabric store and cut it into rectangles, about 4” by 10”, no sewing necessary! The fabric doesn’t fray. When I want to start potty training my daughter, I can just skip the liners in the diapering process so she can learn what it feels like to be wet.

Prefolds

A prefold is a piece of fabric sewn into a rectangular shape so there are more layers in the center for extra absorption. You usually see them advertised as burp cloths these days. The very first prefolds I purchased were Gerbers on sale at Babies R Us for buy one get one half off, but they weren’t the best quality. Gerber does make some decent prefolds- just make sure you don’t purchase any with polyester filling as it is not absorbent.

Better quality prefolds are made out of many materials, but the most popular are hemp, bamboo, or cotton. I would recommend purchasing some that are diaper service quality (DSQ) for longevity. They usually come in three sizes, either preemie, infant or premium/toddler. I use premium except at the newborn stage and fold it down to fit.

Prefolds are available for purchase from most diaper service companies, like this one in Salt Lake. Find one in your area to purchase from and you won’t have to worry about shipping!

You can make your own prefolds, if you’d like. Any absorbent material will work. You can convert old receiving blankets, t-shirts or sheets by cutting them into the right shape and filling them with terry or microfiber towels (they are usually in the automotive section of the store and are the same filling as the microfiber inserts you would buy from a diaper company). I was able to purchase very absorbent microfiber towels on clearance for .60 each! Here’s one method with flannel and terry cloth and here’s another made simply by folding fabric and sewing it in place.

You can fold a prefold in a variety of ways, depending on your diapering concerns and your preferences. I like to fold my prefolds into thirds lengthwise as they come out of the dryer to save time. I find it is easier to purchase prefolds in a larger size and fold it down for extra absorbency, putting the extra fold in the back for girls and the front for boys.

The Trifold – super easy!

The Twist – great for catching newborn stools

Angel Fold or the “Poo Catcher” – my favorite

An alternative to using prefolds is to use flats, which I have only recently stumbled on. This is my new favorite method. A flat is a large, square piece of surprisingly thin fabric (or any absorbent material you have around the house) that you fold into a diaper shape and turns out to be much trimmer than a prefold. They are very adjustable for fit (one flat can fit a 9 lb baby or a 25 lb toddler) and very inexpensive- about $1 each! To save even more money, you can use old receiving blankets instead. There are a few variations to folding, but my way is the origami fold. I fold all my flats after they’re clean so they are ready to go when it’s time to change.

The Origami Fold

I chose not to use fitteds (though they are very popular) which are essentially prefolds sewn with elastic by the legs and Velcro tabs for fastening. They tend to be expensive, but if you research these at all, you’ll realize that they are made from cute prints and are absolutely adorable. These are a bit more dad-friendly and trimmer than prefolds, but you need to buy more of them because the sizing is not as versatile. You can, however, sew your own.

Pins

After you put your baby into the diaper you need to hold it in place somehow. Some moms choose to use pins because they are cute and come in different shapes and colors. I don’t usually use them, but when I do I slide my fingers between the diaper and my baby to avoid unnecessary stabbing and fasten. We mostly use a Snappi fastener (see image above). It has plastic teeth to grip the fabric and hold it in place. As long as the fabric of the diaper has a loose enough weave for the teeth to grab, it works great and is relatively inexpensive ($2-$5). Sometimes we don’t use a fastener at all because a cover can hold the diaper in place.

Occasionally I let my kids go coverless at home, but all of the above options need a waterproof cover if your child is going to wear clothing over the diaper. If you are doing a folding technique that needs a Snappi, you absolutely need a cover to prevent your child taking the diaper off (if they’re old enough to do that sort of thing).

So, the really great thing about using diaper covers is that you can just wipe them out and keep using them. One cover can be used all day! Barring any accidents, of course.

As far as brands go, if you were to use a diaper service you will usually be given Proraps diaper covers or Bummis. They are pretty affordable, but less adjustable, so you’d need to purchase many sizes for personal use. I like Thirsties Duo Wraps covers because they come in only two sizes, small and large, and are very trim and adjustable. You only need two sets of covers for the entire span of time your child is in diapers. Oftentimes one-size diapers will not be small enough for newborns or large enough for some toddlers, but these fit great. The large size cover fits my 3 year-old and my 9 month-old. These covers are made from a fabric called PUL (polyurethane laminate), a polyester fabric coated with 1-2 mm of urethane that is BPA safe and latex-free. If you’re looking for a more natural option you can choose to use wool (though they are expensive and need a lanolin treatment).

I decided to sew my own so I could get more bang for my buck on covers. It has absolutely been worth the savings for us. If I were to purchase, say, 5 covers of each size of Thirsties, it would cost about $130. I spent about $60 for the supplies- that’s half the cost, I get to choose the prints and the fit, plus the supplies were enough to make twice that amount of covers! Not only have I been able to supply my daughter with custom covers, but I have learned a skill that will last through all my children and save me even more money.

If you’re interested in making your own, you can find an in-detail tutorial on my blog. I am all about convenience and avoiding shipping fees, so I called around and was able to find all the materials I needed at my local Joann’s. You could also knit-your-own wool covers, though I am not crafty that way and don’t know how these patterns would turn out (especially if I tried to make them). There are a LOT of resources on the web that make sewing diapers a much less daunting task. Here’s a website that’s a great place to start.

How much does this type of diapering usually cost?

If you were planning to wash every three days, it could cost anywhere from $45 (using 30 flats, 9 plastic pants and pins) to about $500 (using 30 organic fitteds and 3 wool covers) for your initial investment. It all depends on your preferences and your family’s needs.

Why use this system over an all-in-one?

I prefer this system for two reasons. First, it costs less. Being able to reuse the same cover through the day is a huge savings because it means buying a smaller stash. I also can buy prefolds and covers locally and avoid shipping costs (Can you tell how much I dislike paying for shipping? I hate paying for something I don’t have to) by finding a local diaper service. They will sell them to you!

The second reason is that it saves time and gives me peace of mind (that’s kind of two, but they’re related). Flats have the ability to open up completely so their entire surface is exposed while washing. There is no doubt that they get very clean and no gunk is stuck inside an area that is sewn shut. Also,
because they have more surface area open to the dryer, they get dry a lot faster. Prefolds only take a little bit longer.

One more reason I like this system is because doing my diaper laundry is almost therapeutic for me. Folding the diapers is relaxing and I feel good doing it.

Do you wash these any differently?

Nope. Most diapers require the same type of washing cycle: cold rinse(s), hot wash with detergent, followed by 2 cold rinses. The only time I’ve ever had any residual smell problems is if the detergent isn’t rinsed out of the cloth. When you take your diapers out of the wash, they should smell like nothing. If there’s any kind of smell, throw them back in for another rinse.

However, I wouldn’t recommend putting covers in the dryer. The heat can sometimes mess with the laminated material and the elastic will lose its stretch faster. Hang dry your covers. They will last longer in their original condition. One of the best ways to dry diapers is in the sun, as it bleaches out stains and helps to sanitize them. Prefolds and flats, however, can definitely go into the dryer and putting them on a high heat cycle for at least 25-30 minutes will help sanitize them as well.

I know that’s a lot of information, but I hope it helps you decide if you’d like to give cloth diapering a  try!

Before you invest in any system, I recommend that you do a lot of research. I spent 2 months looking at different brands and reading reviews before I fully invested. I’m glad that I did, as I am very happy with what we’ve chosen to do.

Happy diapering!

Thanks Alicia, for teaching us all on this friend-feature friday!