As a new mom, everything is new and can easily be overwhelming. Preparing to be a mom, I knew I wanted to use cloth diapers to reduce waste, but all the options were so overwhelming. I spent hours researching how to use cloth diapers and what type to use. One night I even dreamed about cloth diapers! Then once I had my baby, just keeping him dry, with a rash-free bum was overwhelming until I got the hang of it. Today I want to share with you all the helpful things I’ve learned and discovered about cloth diapering and well…diapering in general.
As I write this, my son is 14 months old. I feel like I am just beginning to process everything I learned in the past year-plus about…so many things! The practicalities of keeping a baby alive, what I’ve learned about myself, what it means to be a working mom, and on and on.
WARNING: There is so much valuable info here if you don’t have time to read now, then Pin this for later!
Cloth Diapering General
From what types of cloth diapers to use, to what brand to use, how to clean them, how to travel with them, how many you need, and on and on …there are a ton of questions. I will do my best to provide helpful answers and tips to all your cloth diapering questions.
What are the various Types of Cloth Diapers?
There are many types of cloth diapers. With the exception of the All-in-One (which is altogether in one piece), most are two pieces with an outer shell and some sort of absorbent insert.
There is the Pocket diaper which you stuff an insert into an inner pocket (but you still have to wash the whole thing every time). Then you have the Prefold, which is most similar to old-school cloth diapers. There is a large absorbent fabric that gets wrapped around the bottom and fastened together then covered with an outer shell. Next, there is the Fitted one which has a base layer that looks like a complete diaper with velcro or snaps but you cover it with a waterproof shell. Lastly, my favorite, the one I’ve landed on using is the All-in-Two. This one has a waterproof outer shell that you simply lay a fabric insert onto and then put on like a typical diaper.
The All-In-Two seemed the easiest to me because you can mix and match shells and inserts if needed. You also can re-use the shell throughout the day, alternating use so it can dry, meaning you don’t have to buy a ton of shells.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I (hopefully) make a small commission at absolutely no extra cost to you.
How often do I need to change a cloth diaper?
In general cloth diapers should be changed every 2 hours or so. Whereas disposable diapers can typically go a little longer. That is the general word, but it will vary depending on your child and their age.
Some children are more sensitive to poopy or wet diapers and will fuss or cry. My son is not so sensitive or fussy about them which can be both convenient and frustrating. Frustrating because I forget to change his diaper or because he’s sitting in poop, his bum is getting red and I don’t know it until later. (No, you can’t always smell when it is a poopy diaper. Especially in the early months on a milk-only diet.)
It’s best to aim for 2 hours during the day. But at night you can use different inserts that absorb more and can last for 12 hours. In the early days, you’ll change their diaper at night when you get up to feed them. At three months my son dropped all his middle-of-the-night feedings and was in one diaper from 7 pm to 7 am. See my sections below on specifics of daytime and nighttime diapers.
How many cloth diapers do I need?
If you follow my recommendations for types of diapers (see the section on my favorites below), then you will need:
- 8 to 10 Diaper shells
- 20 Daytime inserts
- 4 nighttime insert combos
This video is super helpful for a quick look at these products.
Can I use Diaper rash cream with cloth diapers?
Yes, but you should aim for an all-natural one. Some will even say they are cloth diaper safe on the packaging. I’ve read that zinc oxide can cause some problems in cloth diapers but I have never experienced that.
Initially, I tried making my own with bentonite clay using a recipe I found online. But I found it hard to use and felt it didn’t work super well. Also, my son’s bum was really red at the time and he was fussy because of it so I was desperate for something that worked well. Otherwise, I may have stuck with my DIY for a while longer.
I landed on Burts Bees Diaper Rash Ointment which is 100% natural and I find works really well. It lasts a long time. Over a year later I’m still using the same bottle.
Should I use Cloth Diapers on my Newborn?
I did not. But if I’m blessed to have another baby, I will.
There are cloth diapers made specifically in newborn size. Some companies (like Thirsties) even rent newborn diapers to you because you may only need them for a couple of weeks.
Why I didn’t
I had read that meconium (babies poop for the first 24-48 hours) can be harder to get out of cloth diapers. It is waxier and clay-like. Most of the meconium may pass by the time you leave the hospital where you’re likely using disposable diapers they give you anyway.
I was planning to use cloth diapers after a week or so, but it all just felt so overwhelming. I finally dove into the cloth diaper routine when he was 3-4 weeks.
Why I will next time
I will next time because I am now familiar with the process of diapering and specifically cloth diapering. Also, my son leaked out of the newborn disposable diapers all the time. It felt like I was constantly changing his outfit and the bassinet sheet. I had to buy two additional bassinet sheets (so soft!) because of this!
Do cloth Diapers Leak?
I feel like the cloth diapers I use are more secure than disposable diapers. I did try another brand that leaked a bit on me. And by that, I mean my son’s outfit would be slightly wet around the waistband or leg holes.
With the Thirsties diapers I use, only very rarely does an outfit get damp. In his 14 months, only one time has he ever had a blowout with poop coming up the back. My experience is that the Thirsties Duo wrap shells keep a lot of stuff in where it belongs.
What do you do with dirty Cloth diapers?
We use medium size wet/dry bags like this. I did got purchase a large liner initially because I was overwhelmed and had a small nursery. Now, I find our system works well for us so I have no need to buy a more traditional diaper pail/liner system.
When you change the diaper it is always good to get a clean one set before you remove the dirty one. At first, that is because they can pee anytime, especially boys. Months later that is still a good idea because they squirm all over the place.
Remove and set the dirty diaper aside and put the clean one on. With a new baby, they will just lay there, making it easy to handle the diaper. Remove the insert and drop it into a wet/dry bag. (We use a command hook and have it hanging on the side of the changing table for easy access.) Then see whether the outer shell needs to be washed or if it can just lay out to dry and be re-used next time. If it is poopy or overly smelly, put it in the wash bag or dirty clothes hamper.
We fill one wet/dry bag a day. And once two are full, or after two days worth of diapers, I throw them in the wash. No need to soak the diapers in water or rinse them if you’re going to wash them every other day.
How do you Clean Cloth Diapers?
Soon I will get a quick video posted on how I clean my cloth diapers. But in the meantime, this is what I do.
- Wash the diapers every other day (if you let them sit longer than two days the ammonia may start to break down the material and can damage the inserts)
- I fill a wet/dry bag a day so every load of diaper laundry is two wet/dry bags full. On wash day, I change his diaper when he wakes up and then put all the diapers in the wash.
- We use Dropps unscented/sensitive skin pods. Follow the instructions for your machine. I typically use just one pod unless they are really stinky then I’ll throw two in.
- Run the washer on a Heavy Duty cycle with Hot water, heavy soil, and an extra rinse (the extra rinse is crucial to remove any soap residue so it doesn’t irritate your babies skin)
- Put the inserts in the dryer on medium heat for 75 minutes. If it’s sunny and warm out, I dry them for 30 minutes so the wipes are dry then put the inserts on a drying rack outside in the sun to let them finish drying.
- If there are diaper shells in the wash or the wet/dry bags, those get line dried. We have this octopus hanger from IKEA that hangs above our washer that I hang the shells and bags on. It is very convenient and I’ve even traveled with it for long vacations.
- If the diaper shells are really poopy I toss them in the bags with the dirty diaper. If they just smell like pee after a day of use, I toss them into the baby’s regular laundry. Either option works.
- I wash the wet/dry bags about every other use
Tips and Tricks
How to Handle the Poop
Baby poop before solids washes away easily. You don’t need to do anything different than if it were a pee diaper. Just put the dirty insert in the bag and throw it in the wash as normal.
When they start eating solids, usually around 6 months, the game changes. This is when friends told me they stopped using cloth diapers because they couldn’t handle the poop. However, I was determined to not let that be the case for us. So I did my research. One option is to attach a sprayer to your toilet and spray the poop off the diapers. They even have sprayers and shields like this one. This still seemed overwhelming to me so I kept looking.
A finally found and landed on these natural bamboo disposable cloth diaper liners. You use this in addition to your normal diaper shells and inserts. These are on a perforated roll like toilet paper and you just tear one off to place on top of the diaper insert. When your child poops hopefully all, but typically most, of the poop stays on the liner and you just peel it off and flush it down the toilet. Occasionally a shell gets poopy. In that case, I get as much poop off with toilet paper and rinse the shell in the tub or sink then let it dry.
Yes, it is disposable, but it is also natural, eco-friendly, and sustainably made. I figure if using these will keep me using cloth diapers, then the very small amount of waste is worth it.
Baby Boy Tips
I’m telling you, you can’t control it. The random stream of pee that’s fondly known as the “golden shower”. You think you’ve given them plenty of time to pee, and you even slowly lift up the diaper to make sure they are not currently peeing, but he will still get you! It’s amazing.
My husband discovered these pee-pee teepee covers that are adorable, funny, and they actually work at least in the early months. Just place the little teepee over the little penis and you won’t get an unwanted shower! If he pees the cloth absorbs much of it. You may have to change his outfit or the changing pad cover.
By the way, these changing pads were super helpful to have. I put them on top of my changing cover (not under) so that if he pees during the diaper change, I can quickly remove the pad and replace it without needing to take off the whole changing pad cover. Lifesaver!
If you choose to get your son circumcised, you will need to care for the wound. The doctor will recommend covering it with petroleum jelly to act as a barrier between the skin and diaper so it doesn’t stick. Petroleum jelly can be bad for cloth diapers, it doesn’t wash out super well and causes them to not be as absorbent.
A solution is to use small cotton rounds. Put a pea-size amount of petroleum jelly on a cotton round then place that on the wound with the jelly against the wound and the cotton pad against the diaper. Every time you change the diaper during the healing window discard the cotton round and put on a fresh one.
Make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions for out long to care for the wound.
I never thought about using cloth wipes but I’m so glad I came across them in my research! If you’re washing diapers, it takes no additional work to wash wipes. We just stick them in the small pocket of our wet/dry bag and dump them in the wash with the diapers!
The wipes we use are soft cotton flannel and I have 30 of them. We never run out but we don’t have too many, so I’d recommend 30.
I keep a spray bottle with a natural plant solution made for cloth wipes on the changing table and spray each wipe as we need it. I use disposable wipes in my diaper bag, and I feel that the cloth ones work better to get poop off because the material can grip more.
This is the wipes solution we use. One box has lasted me over a year!
How do you travel with Cloth Diapers?
Daily Outings with Diaper Bag
I keep disposable diapers in my diaper bag. It’s true. Every once in a while I will plan ahead and pack a cloth diaper set. But most days that I am out and about and need to change a diaper, I remove a dirty cloth diaper and put on a clean disposable one. I put the cloth diaper in a wet/dry bag that I keep in my diaper bag. Don’t forget to remove the dirty diaper and put it in your wash! I’ve done that before.
Traveling for several Days
This can be tricky, but not impossible. I’ve traveled with them numerous times. If I have access to a washer/dryer at least every other day, then I use them the whole time I’m gone. If I don’t have access to a washer then I use disposable diapers until the last two days of my trip when I switch to cloth. That way I can wash them when I get home and not have them sitting too long. Of course, your car or luggage may smell like dirty diapers…
What Cloth Diaper Brand is the Best?
There are a lot of good cloth diaper brands out there. Most brands have their own shells and inserts that go well together. You can also mix and match brands. I found this out by experimenting!
My favorite brand
My favorite brand is Thirsties. I discovered Thirsties early on and was intrigued by their clear All-in-Two system. However, I didn’t start with Thirsties. Some GDiapers had been given to me so that is what I started using. But I had only the shells and couldn’t find GDiaper inserts because COVID messed up their supply chain (they are currently piloting a completely compostable diaper!) Originally, I did use some other inserts in the GDiapers. I will link to those below because those also do work with the Thirsties shells and I imagine a number of other shells.
The GDiapers leaked just enough that I wanted to find a new system so I bought a few Thirsties and loved them.
- I prefer the snap but have used the hook and loop (velcro) too
- These work for both daytime and nighttime
- They come in sizes one and two and each size can be expanded or snapped down to make three sizes
Duo Hemp Prefold (do a tri-fold)
Hemp Insert (put this in the middle of the tri-fold)
Geffen Baby Fleece Prefold (I only use this as a tri-fold in the size 2 shells. It’s too big for the size 1.)
All in One Diaper
The only all-in-one diaper I have used is the Thirsties Natural All-In-One. It is convenient for people watching your child because it is more intuitive to use and needs no prep. However, you must put the whole thing in the dirty bag. I purchased a few second-hand on Facebook Marketplace.
Where do I Buy Cloth Diapers?
Like most things, they can be bought in a variety of places. I have heard of brick-and-mortar stores fully dedicated to cloth diapers, but I have never found one near me. But that sure would have been helpful to get lots of my questions answered when I was first exploring them!
You can buy some on Amazon but in this case, I prefer to support and be supported by the smaller online retailers that know what they are talking about. You can also get freebies and typically get free shipping too! This first one is my go-to site:
- This one is mom-owned and operated by several moms in Raleigh, NC. They have my favorite brand, Thirsties, along with a few others. You can rent newborn diapers through them and they have a trial cloth diaper program as well. I’ve also racked up a few free items when my purchases reach a high enough cost!
- Nicki’s Diapers
- I’ve never purchased from them so I can’t speak to their customer service, but I’ve browsed their website a lot. They have a number of diaper brands and they carry other natural home and wellness products.
- You can also go straight to the source, but then you don’t get to look around at other products as well.
So much Info!
Well, if you made it this far I am both impressed and grateful! This post is over 3k words of cloth diaper info. I told you I’d answer all your cloth diapering questions! If you have more questions or suggestions and helpful tips for what you do, leave them in the comments below.
PIN FOR LATER!
I’m a new blogger and saving this image to Pinterest can help me grow! Learn more about my blog HERE.