My friend Amy is interested in starting with cloth diapers, and she's been asking me some questions. I know it can be really overwhelming when you first see all the options that are available! So, I thought I would post a bit of what I shared with her.
I'll start with my daily routine type stuff. It's really very simple. If Bria has a wet or dirty diaper, I take it off, wipe her, put a clean diaper on her, and then deal with the soiled diaper :) Wet ones go straight into my wetbag, and dirty ones get shaken in the toilet. I don't dunk or swish. I just make sure that there is nothing solid left on the diaper. Then it joins the other diapers in the wetbag :) You can use a pail too, but I prefer being able to throw the bag in the washing machine with the diapers. Much less mess!
The next thing that can overwhelm newbies is how on earth do you get those diapers clean?! This can be a bit of a problem, with all the new fabrics and options available. They certainly are harder to get clean than the old flat diapers our mothers used. It doesn't have to be too hard though. Here is my wash routine:
When my wetbag is full, it is time to wash diapers. That, or when I run out of overnight diapers. I only have 2 that I use right now, so I end up washing diapers every other day.
First, I put all the diapers and covers in the washer for a cold rinse. This gets everything semi clean, and gets all the extra solid bits off ;) I often add 1/4 cup vinegar.
Then I wash the diapers with a full hot cycle. I add detergent and sometimes oxyclean.
After the hot wash, I usually do another cold rinse. Hot would be better, but my machine only does cold rinse. This gets any extra detergent out of the diapers. Detergent can build up over time, and cause serious ammonia stink! Not good.
Then I either throw everything (except my wetbags and covers) in the dryer on low, or hang it all to dry outside if it's nice out.
See, not that hard! If you want to save more water, just do your rinses at a lower water level.
Now is the complicated part. What style of diaper to pick?! There are hundreds of moms who make and sell diapers, so as you can imagine, it can get very confusing.
There are a few different types you can chose from though.
Flat diapers: These are the old style large square diapers that our mothers probably used on us! They are usually around 27 inches square, and only one layer thick. You fold them to fit whatever size your baby is. These diapers need a waterproof cover over them. They are the most economical in all areas. They wash the cleanest, dry the fastest, and cost a fraction of the price of any other diapers! If you are looking to save money, this is the best option for you.
Prefold diapers: These are a bit of a spin-off of flats. They still have no shape or elastic or velcro. They are simple layers of fabric sewn together into a rectangular shape to make folding simpler. There are Chinese prefolds and Indian prefolds. At least, those are the main types. Some moms are starting to make flat/prefold diapers out of fabrics like bamboo and hemp. These diapers are also very cost effective, though not as cheap as flats. They need a waterproof cover as well.
Fitted diapers: These diapers are shaped to fit your baby. They usually have elastic around the legs and at the back. They close with velcro or snaps. My preference is definitely snaps, since they don't wear out or snag on anything. You can get fitted diapers in specific sizes to fit your little one, or in a one-size diaper that needs to be folded down in front to fit a smaller baby. They come in all types of fabric, often with cute prints on the outer fabric. These diapers can be very cheap, or as expensive as $80! No joke on that. Crazy, I know. These diapers also need a waterproof cover.
Pocket diapers: These diapers are essentially like a diaper cover, with a pocket that you put your absorbent insert into. They snap or velcro shut. You can adjust how much absorbency you want by adding more or less fabric to the pocket. They come in different sizes, or one size. The waterproof cover is on the outside, and the inside usually has a fabric that helps to keep your baby's bottom dry. Fleece and suedecloth are popular.
All-In-One diapers: These would be the simplest system, since everything is sewn together. So, they have a waterproof outer layer, and then all the absorbent layers are sewn onto that cover. The disadvantage is that they do not wash well, and they take a long time to dry.
So, that's it for the actual diapers. Now on to covers :)
PUL covers: These are usually a cotton or polyester fabric with a laminated coating on one side. They are extremely leak proof. You can get them with either velcro or snap closures.
Fleece covers: These can be especially cute! They look kind of like little fleece shorts. They have to be made out of the right kind of fleece to be water resistant though.
Wool covers: You can get many types of wool covers. Wool is a great natural fiber that is naturally a bit water resistant. It can absorb a ton, so it doesn't feel wet on the outside for a while. You can find wool wrap covers, knitted covers/pants/shorts, and covers/pants/shorts made from wool interlock. Many moms love wool because of its breathe-ability. I'm not a huge fan, but that's just my personal preference.
So, now that you have the down-low on what kinds of diapers are available, you can decide what your goal is with cloth diapering. Do you want to save money? Do you want convenience? Do you need it to be easy for your husband to help you out? These are all things you need to consider.
How many diapers will you need? Well, that depends a bit on the age of your child. Think of how often you changed your newborn... probably every hour or two! So, if you plan on cloth diapering a newborn, I would recommend around 36 diapers, plus 6-8 covers. This gives you some extras for wash day.
For an older baby, you will need less, but please remember to change your baby when they have a wet diaper! It really grosses me out when I see disposable diapers hanging down to a child's knees! How comfy do you think that would be, to wear a saggy, wet diaper? EWWW!! Even if you use disposables, please change your child when they are wet. Anyway, back on topic :) I think Bria probably goes through around 8 diapers per day. I would be comfortable with around 24 diapers plus 4-6 covers for an older baby.
I hope this is a bit of a help for any of you who are interested in cloth diapers. If you have any questions, please email me :) I would love to help you have a great experience with cloth diapers.