Cloth diapering shouldn’t be complicated. Unfortunately there are so many different styles, folds, and covers it can feel a bit overwhelming.
I’ve put together a quick primer, followed by the solution I used for both my children.
Cloth Diaper Styles
There are various styles of diapers, and if you want to get nitpicky you can read all about them online. (Here is one article on styles of cloth diapers with a pro/con list). I highly recommend choosing your top five diapers and ordering one of each, then testing them out beforehand. It’s difficult to find brick and mortar stores that have all the styles on hand, and you’ll thank yourself later before you drop a big investment into a large order of them. I describe the top two styles in my book below.
First you’ll need to decide if you want to go with an all-in-one diaper or not. These diapers have the liner sewn right into the cover, and often have snaps to make the size adjustable as your baby grows. There are various styles and types of these diapers, and they make putting diapers on fast and easy.
We decided against them for two reasons. First, the disadvantage of these is that if the diaper gets even a little wet, you have to wash the entire thing. That means you’ll need a substantial number of them clean all the time. Second, we used a baby diaper washing service that required we have our covers separate from the liners.
Cover with Insert Style
The alternative to the all-in-one diapers is to have a cover and insert as two separate pieces. The waterproof covers are super cute these days and available with velcro or snaps. Our favorite brand was Thirsties, until they started making their velcro band wider which was too rough on baby’s tummy. I ended up sewing a piece of flannel over half the velcro band. I also liked the Bummies Super Brites.
For liners, there are “hybrid” diapers that come with precut inserts, or you can go with the good ‘ol fashioned prefold like we did. There are also “fitted cloth diapers” with elastic that purportedly keep things in a little better, but that still require a waterproof cover over the top. We used prefolds that were provided by our washing services, which was perfect because when we needed to size up we just exchanged them for a bigger size. I also bought about ten of them online to have at home between deliveries and to keep on hand during potty training.
How to Fold Cloth Diapers
This is how we folded our diapers. It might not be the “right” way but it worked well for us for four years of diapering… Keep in mind that with smaller prefolds, you may need to double them up, especially at night. These pictures were taken with a toddler-sized diaper.
1. Take your prefold and fold in the sides. Then turn up the front.
2. Flip the diaper over and lay it in your waterproof cover.
3. At this point I like to flare out the front so that the bulk of the diaper isn’t digging into my toddler’s stomach. When she was smaller I used to skip this step because the bulk was helpful in catching more liquid, but now that she is mostly potty trained I prefer to flare it out.
4. You can skip this step if it seems too complicated, but like to bring the front part that flares to meet with the back part that flares before I velcro it shut. It seems softer against baby’s skin.
5. Seal one side of the velcro
6. Seal the second side of velcro, and you’re all done! Baby is ready to pee all over again. (And she or he probably will in about five minutes!)
How to Wash Cloth Diapers
If you live in a major metropolitan area that offers a diaper washing service, do it! It will make life so much easier after baby comes. We used Baby Diaper Service here in Seattle. If not, don’t sweat it. Check out this awesome helper sheet from Bummies, they even have a list of detergents.
Cloth Diaper Accessories
We’re low maintenance at our house so I didn’t have much in the way of extras, but I found having waterproof bags to be invaluable. I carried around two small ones in my diaper bag (to store soiled diapers or wet clothes), and a large one at home. Search “cloth diaper bag” on Amazon and you’ll get tons of cute results.
Why Cloth Diaper?
Whether you are worried about chemicals near your baby’s skin or the impact of diapering on the environment, moms choose cloth diapers for many reasons. For us a major motivation was knowing that for us, cloth diapers sped up the potty training process. Because our kids could feel exactly when they were wet, they begin to connect the dots and use the toilet around age 2. (We also worked hard to provide the potty chair to them at a very early age.)
Keep in mind that cloth diapering isn’t an all or none proposition, even if you use an organic disposable when you travel, go on long car trips, or need a night of good rest without waking up for a diaper change, you can still use cloth for the majority of the time, remembering that every cloth diaper you use will cut down on what goes into the landfill.
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