How to use cloth diapers and keep your sanity

Before you think I’m all concerned about the environment or that I’m hyper budget conscience, let me state up front that my reason for using cloth goes beyond those two pretty good reasons.

Last night while Dagny played on my new favorite gift to myself, I stood at the counter in my laundry room in quiet reflection on my day while folding diapers. It stirred a memory of my mom.

“When you kids were off to bed, I would sit with the laundry basket on the couch and fold clothes. It was my quiet time, when I could think about my day with you and be alone with my thoughts.”

So I’m a sentimentalist. Sue me.

But I’m also pragmatic and when I shared my desire to my husband not only to breastfeed until our Baby Bird turned one, but also use cloth diapers – he was entirely supportive.

Yet, like weddings (ladies, you know what I’m saying) the research to make this undertaking happen fell on my very capable shoulders.

If you’re considering cloth diapers for your babies, for whatever reason, then feel free to use what I’ve learned:

  1. It’s all about the diaper pail (or a white 12.2-gallon Hefty trash can with an easy one-touch locking lid). Not one cloth diaper pail on the market got the full cloth-diaper mommy seal of approval – they were all too expensive, too small and too faulty. I have a second trash can on the other side of my changing table with odor-locking bags for wipes and other trash.
  2. It’s really all about the diaper pail liner. Toss aside those fears of pre-soaking diapers in the pail. I scooped up one of the best reviewed liners on the market by Blueberry. It’s said to withstand months of hot washes without the liner cracking which just leaks into your trash can (gross) while being affordable and pretty cute. It fits perfectly and snugly in my Hefty trash can with the elastic drawstring. Just dump the entire load and your bag into the wash. Voila!
  3. Smell. Ya, I know you’re worried about smell and so was I. All the “diaper pail deodorizers” also got terrible reviews from some of the most well-known brands. Then, I found these amazing little Citrus Circle Diaper Pail Deodorizing Discs which comes with a couple doo-hickies to adhere to the inside of the lid. I’ve replaced them every three weeks or so. So cheap, smells great.
  4. Diaper covers or all-in-one insert diapers. It’s all about you. We’ve got a couple of the all-in-ones with the inserts, one of which we plan to use for the beach, and they’re very convenient. But the covers can go through 2-3 diaper changes provided they’re just wet. In either case, you’ll also have to decide buttons or velcro. Again, we have both because baby waistlines don’t necessarily conform to the evenly distributed buttons. Just make sure to reattach that velcro to each other before tossing in the pail – it sticks to prefold diapers like… well, you know. Lots of makers to choose from in the diaper-making world – we stayed local with Baby Frenzy in El Cajon. They offer a 15-percent local discount. All diapers are stitched together by hand at the store and if any of the diapers need repairing, they’ll do it for no extra change.
  5. Prefolds – so cheap, so versatile, so not like disposables. It’s amazing, but you can buy three dozen Gerber prefolded diapers online from Babies ‘R’ Us for $53. You use these with the diaper covers and fold them to your liking. When baby needs a change, just replace with a clean one and drop the used into your pail. We also use ours for burp cloths or lay under her whenever she’s on her back to protect against leaks. Unlike a disposable, you will get a little opening in the back when baby moves around no matter how tight you make the waist. Wet leaks probably annoyed us for two days until we got the hang of it. NOTE: You have no idea the power behind those chemicals in disposables. My first wet and dirty changes with Baby Bird amazed me; I realized how much fluid and waste she really passed. It was a lot more than disposables would lead you to believe. But because of the discomfort, we know when she’s wet right away and there’s less fear of a rash.
  6. Laundry, laundry, laundry. It’s unavoidable. You must wash cloth diapers at least every two days, sooner if you have a dirty diaper in need of a soaking. Here’s where I thought cost would really kill us, especially with a baby-bottom friendly detergent. However, I found this highly rated Charlie’s Laundry Soap that sells 80 washes per container for $12.99 on Amazon – and cloth diaper mommy’s love it. You cannot use softener on diapers because, like towels, it reduces absorbancy and Charlie’s is specially made for this reason. We like Charlie’s so much that we now use it on all our clothes. There’s no smell, the clothes get clean and even with my sensitive skin, I’ve had no breakouts.

Pros: very affordable and eco-friendly.

Consumer Reports estimates that disposables can cost around $2,500 by the time kids are potty-trained. All told, we’ve spent about $250 so far. The only thing we could expect to buy more of that’s aside from other related costs before she’s trained is wipes and deodorizing discs.

Cons: not as convenient and time consuming.

If you don’t have a private laundry room, that could make the washing process a bit more complicated and two working full-time parents probably cringe at the idea of more laundry.

One final thought: Some believe, as my mom does, that a little inconvenience now leads to less inconvenience later.

It’s a controversial debate in the cloth vs disposable world: Do cloth diapers speed up the potty-training process?

Some say yes believing that the discomfort and awareness of being wet or dirty help connect the dots faster for kids.

We’ve all seen how the disposable diaper industry has expanded their lines from diapers to pull-ups and variations therein seemingly to keep kids in some form of their product longer.

After a couple months with cloth, I can tell you that’s a very convincing selling point for parents.

So perhaps the contributing factor of earlier potty training for cloth parents is wanting to be done with the whole diaper scene.

I’m not going to tell you it’s the most magical experience ever or that every parent should stop buying disposables today. Do what’s right for you and your family.

But if you’re interested, for whatever reason, it’s not only possible but can be a very rewarding experience and with just a few tricks of the trade, you can do it and keep your sanity.

Got some cloth diaper tips of your own? Please share your tips or blog posts in the comments below.

10 thoughts on “How to use cloth diapers and keep your sanity

  1. What about diaper services? My mom used these. Has anyone done a cost comparison between cloth dipes w/diaper service and disposables?

    • Hi Erin:

      Diaper services definitely still exist.

      Services used to be used more widely used and therefore, more available for a good price. Today, there’s fewer and so the cost plus travel time didn’t pen out for us.

      However, what’s wonderful about them is that they will help you get started with all your basic needs and give you great tips on making your diapers last longer.

      If you find one in your area, please share your experiences. I’d love to compare!

      Love, E

  2. I never even considered cloth diapers when my son was a baby. Now, being in the mommy industry for a few years, I will use cloth diapers with my next child. Thanks for sharing such great information!

  3. I used cloth diapers for my six kids (who are now 7-18) very successfully. I did (finally) learn to use disposables when we were out so I wouldn’t have to lug around dirty diapers.


  4. I used a cloth diaper service until about a year and a half. Down side: as a working parent most day cares won’t deal with cloth diapers. Ours did luckily, we switched to diapers when we weren’t seeing cost benefits and straight to pull ups when we start potty training. Our kid didn’t care if he was wet (or dirty) so that thought about speeding up potty training just depends on the kid.

    Some thing you (may have) forgot in your costs is the the cost will be a little more as she changes sizes.

    A pro that i like on cloth vs disposables (especially at a young age) is the reduced blow outs. Disposables just don’t hold up.

    • Dear Sara:

      Great information! Thanks for sharing your experience especially with the service. Which one did you use?

      We’re using the one-size adjustables for 8-pound to a 35-pound kids. Right now, we’re on the smallest notch.

      Though we might need more prefolds if we have to double up or just wash everyday.

      Best, Erica

  5. I use a combination of diapers too. I was given about 25 secondhand Bum Genius 3.0 all-in-ones and have 2 new Flip covers+inserts (which I love love love) but tend to use disposables when we’re out and about b/c I don’t like to carry soiled diapers around. Also hubby and my mom who’s visiting tend to grab for the disposables unless I have diapers all stuffed and ready to use. I currently have time to do all the diaper laundry, sun bleach covers and inserts and help stuff diapers now, but will not sure about when I go back to work in less than a month. I just discovered Agana Baby on Clairemont Mesa which carries additional Flip inserts and even 18-pk disposable inserts for only $5. This may change my world.

    • Hi Amelia:

      Great tips! Thanks for the new lead.

      Now that I’m nearly four months into this experiment, I know what I like and don’t like about cloth.

      The disposable inserts sound nice. I do like the all-in-ones, but the one-time use is a bummer.

      Keep me posted on what you think of them.

      Best, Erica

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