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A Quick Guide on How to Use Cloth Diapers with Ease

I remember the reactions I got from my mom and grandmother when I told them I wanted to cloth diaper my 7 year old. I was met with a lot of skepticism and confusion. After all, why would I make a choice to do this when disposable diapers were an option. Admittedly, I let their opinions shape the way I chose to diaper my son and ultimately ended up using disposable diapers.

When I became pregnant with my 4 year old, I decided I was going to cloth diaper her, no matter what. I had regretted not sticking to my guns with my son and wanted more than anything to make it work for my last child.

The decision to use cloth diapers is a personal one that comes from a multitude of variables. We considered everything from cost to ease to environmental concerns to finding a safe choice for our rainbow baby. There are many factors to consider before you ultimately make this choice for yourself and your little.

cloth diapers on a shelf

If you’ve never tried cloth diapers before, the thought of learning how to use cloth diapers can seem overwhelming in the beginning, but once you have taken the time to educate yourself, you’ll find it isn’t as scary as it seems.

Cloth diapers are easier than you think. I mean, these are not the same cloth diapers our parents and grandparents used. This is a whole new breed of diapers that are designed for ease, functionality, and aesthetics. Yes, that’s right. I said aesthetics. Y’all, cloth diapers are CUTE! Seriously. My daughter had the cutest tooshy around.

It’s time to embrace that old school mentality and enjoy the process of using cloth diapers for your baby. You will enjoy it when you see that learning how to use cloth diapers is all about preparation and planning. Plan as much as you can in advance, and by the end of your first week you will have it down to a science.

We’ll walk you through everything you need to help get you off on the right foot to begin your journey of how to use cloth diapers.

Initial Costs With Cloth Diapers

Honest moment: There is a bit of sticker shock when you first start exploring the world of cloth diapering. The initial investment is something you shouldn’t let scare you away. The expense with cloth diapers is greatest at first. It’s an investment up front that you don’t have to pay for every day or every week down the road. After all, once you buy all the cloth diapers you need, you won’t have to buy another diaper again unless you just want to. And trust me, you may just want to.

Costs and affordability are another leading reason parents are choosing cloth diapers today. While the initial investment may seem pricey, if you factor that against the number of disposable diapers you would buy in your baby’s lifetime, you’ll understand why the choice to use cloth diapers is a far more economical choice.

You’ll want to have enough diapers on hand to last a few days so you always have backups and aren’t doing diaper laundry every day. Most babies will go through around 12-15 diapers daily in the beginning. This number will decrease some as your baby grows, but you’ll still average close to 10 diapers daily for the next two years.

So, lets do some diaper math. If a 198 count box of diapers costs $50, and you are using 15 a day, that means one box will last you roughly 13 days out of 365. Now, lets divide 365 by 13 and you’ll get 28. This means you’ll have to buy a box of diapers 28 more times that year. 28 x $50 = $1400.00. And that’s just one year. Multiply that by two and your looking at spending a minimum of $2800 on disposable diapers in your baby’s first two years. Yikes!

The initial cost to use cloth diapers could be as high as $500 to $800, depending on the brand and style of diaper you buy. This means you’ll ultimately be saving yourself anywhere from $1500-2000 by choosing to use cloth diapers vs disposables.

You can also spread this expense out over several month, especially if you have just found out you are expecting and are looking to plan ahead. By buying your cloth diapers bit by bit over the next nine months, you can spread out that initial cost so it isn’t as intimidating, and you’ll still have everything you need ready to go when your little bean arrives.

Don’t panic if you are making this decision a little later in the game. You can still easily work on growing your diapers stash over the course of a few months without having to bust your budget all at once. And just because you may not be prepared to cloth diapers exclusively when your baby arrives, you can work towards that goal in the first few months after baby is born.

use cloth diapers to save money over disposable diapers

What does a good stash size look like?

This is a great question. The short answer is – I don’t know. The long answer is, it depends on what you want your wash routine to look like.

I personally wanted to be able to go 3 days between washings, so I had an average of 50-60 diapers in my stash. I wanted enough to last three days, plus wash day (so technically 4 days).

But if you don’t mind washing more often, you can easily cloth diaper successfully with as few as 25-30 diapers. It just means your wash routine will be every other day, versus every three or four days.

Some people choose to do a mix of cloth and disposable diapers, so if this is the route you are choosing, you could easily succeed with as few as 15-20. Most people I know who do this choose to cloth while at home and use disposables while on the go.

So, if you are like me and don’t want to have to wash your diapers as often (which there are benefits to), then shoot for roughly 45 or more. Sticking with the 15 a day mentioned before, this means 45 will give you enough for 3 full days of diapers.

And remember, as your baby gets older, you’ll be using less diapers per day, so your smaller stach will eventually be enough to extend your wash days.

cloth diapers in a variety of solid colors.

What do I Need to Cloth Diaper?

In all honesty, cloth diapering isn’t a whole lot different from disposables in terms of supplies. You many need one or two extra things to do it successfully.

  1. Diapers. This one is obvious. But, when I say diapers, I include everything that entails – shells, covers, inserts. (I’ll explain what all this means further down)
  2. Diaper Pail. There is no need to overcomplicate this process or buy some expensive fancy pail. Honestly, I used an open-aired hamper with a waterproof bag in is as a liner. With me wanting a longer wash routine, I opted for something that breathed so my diapers wouldn’t sour while between washes. You can opt for a pail with lid if you have a shorter wash routine.
  3. Waterproof bag for travel. Also known as wet bags, these travel -sized waterproof zipper pouches are perfect for diaper changes on the go. The will keep your cloth diapers safe until you get home and protect everything else in your diaper bag from getting wet or smelly till you get home.
  4. Diaper Sprayer. While this isn’t a must have, it is DEFINITELY a time saver and convenience. A diaper sprayer makes cleaning messy diapers so much easier. You attach it to your toilet and use the sprayer to spray the waste off the diaper and into the toilet. And if you opt for a diaper sprayer, I highly recommend you just go with this next combo.
  5. Spray Pal. While not necessary, the Spray Pal became one of those life saving products for me. I LOVED my diaper sprayer, but hated that I would end up getting wet and, sometimes, a little gross in the process of spraying off my diapers. This became my best friend and helped keep poopy water from spraying everywhere all over my toilet. Some people may say it is a waste of money. It is one of those TOTALLY OPTIONAL accessories that I chose to splurge on as part of our diapering experience and I don’t regret having it for one minute.
  6. Wipes. Another one that seems obvious, but you also have choices here. If the reason you chose to use cloth diapers was because you wanted to be more environmentally friendly, then you also have the option to go with cloth wipes as well. You simply wet the cloth wipe with warm water, wipe your baby clean, then toss it into your diaper pail with your diapers and wash as a part of your diaper washing. Or you can choose to use disposable wipes. Either way, wipes are always a must.
diaper sprayer attached to bathroom wall.

Is There Anything I Should Avoid Using with Cloth Diapers?

This is a GREAT question! And one that should be asked more often than it is. There are certain things you should avoid when you use cloth diapers. It isn’t a long list, but it is an important one.

  1. No Fabric Softener or Dryer Sheets. When you wash your diapers, you want to avoid using any type of fabric softener or dryer sheets. You may be tempted to do this because your inserts and diapers will sometimes feel a little stiff when you wash them, but please don’t do it. Why? Fabric softener and dryer sheets contain chemicals that will cause a build up on your diapers that, over time, will effect their affectiveness. This will eventually cause them to repel liquid instead of absorb it like they should.
  2. No petroleum-based diaper creams. One of my favorite benefits to cloth diapering is the decrease in diaper rashes. You will see a lot less happening when you use cloth diapers vs. disposables. But they may still happen. When they do, you want to make sure you have a diaper cream that is cloth diaper safe. This means any with petroleum are going to be a no-no for the same reasons that fabric softeners and dryer sheets are. The oils in petroleum will cause a waterproof barrier to form on your diapers, rendering them useless. Make sure you look for labels that say ‘cloth friendly,’ ‘petroleum free,’ or you can choose to use coconut oil, which is cloth diaper safe.

How to Use Cloth Diapers

More than likely, you have diapered a child at some point in your life, be it a sibling, cousin, niece, nephew, someone you babysat, etc. Chances are, you are not completely oblivious on how to put a diaper on a tiny human.

For the most part, cloth diapering is really no different. Most of the cloth diapers you can find online work just like a regular disposable diaper does, just with a little prep work beforehand.

Depending on the style of cloth diapers you choose, you can use cloth diapers just as easily as disposable. Check out our post on the different types of cloth diapers here.

Learning how to use cloth diapers is easier than you might expect, and the process isn’t as overwhelming as you think it might be. Even the, seemingly, most challenging style (pre-folds) can be mastered in just a few tries, even with the most squirmy of babies.

Remember when I told you this wasn’t your grandmother’s cloth diapers? Here’s why. Most cloth diapers nowadays have snap or velcro closures making them incredibly easy to use. Even those that don’t no longer require safety pins, but can be fastened with snappies instead. And most of the styles now require you to prep them ahead of time, so that when diaper changes happens, its as simple as removing one diaper and putting on another, because you’ve already done the prep work. The hardest part in the beginning is figuring out how tight to fasten the snaps/velcro to prevent gapping which causes leaks, or being too tight around baby’s waste.

But overall, using cloth diapers is just as easy as using a disposable one.

When you change a wet diaper, simply pull out any inserts from the pockets (if using a pocketed diaper) and throw the insert and shell into the diaper pail. Then put a fresh diaper on your baby.

With a poopy diaper, you will want to take the diaper into the bathroom and dispose of the waste in the toilet once you have finished changing your baby’s diaper.

This is where the diaper sprayer and Spray Pal come in handy. There’s no polite way to say this, so here’s the bare bones of it. In the early months, you will want to spray as much of the poop off the diaper and into the toilet as possible. This will make washing so much easier and reduce staining exponentially. After you have sprayed the diaper off, remove any inserts and place both insert and shell in the diaper pail until laundry day.

PRO TIP: Always remove any inserts right after changing. No one wants to dig through a pile of dirty diapers two days later to pull out all the inserts from pocket diapers. TRUST ME.

cloth diapers on a shelf with stuffed animals sitting on top of them.

Conclusion

Cloth diapering doesn’t have to be a scary endeavor. In fact, once you get into it, you’ll wonder why you were ever worried about it to begin with. As you continue to explore this world (trust me, its a world all its own), be sure to check back with us often as we help break down more of the dos and don’ts of cloth diapering. We’ll be sharing everything you need to know about prepping and washing your diapers soon, so be sure to subscribe to our site to get the latest info on all things cloth diapers.

If there is a topic about diapering you are interested in knowing more about, tell us about it in the comments below. We’ll be sure to add it to our list of topics to discuss.

Baby in a diaper