How to start using cloth diapers

Making the switch from disposable diapers to reusable cloth diapers seems very daunting at first. However, it can be a very painless process if you take the right approach. Follow these tips on how to get started using cloth diapers—and get ready to save your wallet as well as the environment.

Pile of rightly colored cloth diapers
How to start using cloth diapers

Start Slow, Build Momentum

If you are currently using disposables, I would recommend making the switch slowly. Start with one cloth diaper a day (that is still 365 disposables diapers per year saved!), and work up to just using cloth diapers during the daytime, then switch at night-time too.

Try a few before you stock up

Before you rush out and stock up on cloth diapers, it is worth trying out a few different options to find what’s best for you and for your baby. The most popular kinds of cloth diapers are:

  1. Pre-fold diapers: Rectangular shaped diapers that are folded lengthwise in three sections and can be enclosed in a Velcro- or snap-fastened diaper cover, or secured with safety pins. They require a bit more preparation than the other types of cloth diapers since you have to fold them ready after they have been laundered.
  2. Fitted diapers: These are like a pre-fold, but without the folding. They are fastened with either Velcro or snaps, and need a waterproof diaper cover.
  3. Pocket diapers: These consist of a waterproof outer layer, a stay-dry inner layer, and a pocket opening in which to insert a soaker. They are easier than a fitted, but still need to be put together.
  4. Two-in-one diapers: These are similar to a pocket diaper, but the absorbent bit snaps into the waterproof outer layer. The idea is that when it gets soiled you can just remove the inner and reuse the waterproof cover, though in my experience 9 times out of 10 you need to replace the outer cover too.
  5. All-in-one diapers: All-in-one diapers are fitted diapers with an outer waterproof layer. They are the most similar to disposables, and are the easiest to use for newbie cloth diaperers. They can take a little longer to dry after laundering than the other types, since they don’t come apart, but some brands fold out for quicker drying.

Even if you know which type you want, there are a lot of different brands of each type available, so it is worth just buying one or two to try when you are getting started and then expand your stash when you know what works.

Buy the right size

Some brands of cloth diapers are size-adjustable and will last from birth to potty training, where other brands have different sizes and you will need to buy new diapers as your baby grows – be sure to check this before you buy as this can affect how cost-effective they are in the long run.

Buy the right amount

Once you decide which type is going to work best for you all, you will need to figure out how many diapers you’ll need. Keep in mind that newborns and infants generally need 10 to 12 changes a day, while toddlers need 6 to 8. Invest in enough diapers so that you only have to do a wash every couple of days – I wouldn’t recommend leaving them for any longer than that without washing anyway!

If you are planning on cloth diapering full-time I would suggest starting with around 20-30, if you are planning on cloth diapering during the day only, then you can probably get away with 15-20.

Check and change regularly

How often your baby’s diaper needs changing depends on how much and how often he pees and poops, but as a general rule a baby shouldn’t be in a diaper longer than 2 to 4 hours (unless they are sleeping). This is true for disposables as well as cloth diapers, but disposables will usually last longer because of all the moisture-absorbing chemical goop in them. Newborns and infants wet more frequently so changing every 2 hours is a good idea.

Get your laundering system sorted

Different brands have different washing requirements, some need to be rinsed, or pre-soaked in a pail, others can be stored in a waterproof bag until washing time and then just thrown in the machine.

It is definitely worth checking the fine details of washing instructions prior to buying your stash of cloth diapers, especially if the ick factor is something that has been putting you off making the switch.

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