Beginners Guide to Cloth Diapers

Posted by Jason Rector on

Diapers are a crucial part of raising a baby. But choosing new diapers for your little one can be a daunting experience. The diapers you select primarily depend on your lifestyle and budget. With many options in the market, you need to consider factors such as comfort and ease of movement.

For most new parents, deciding between disposable and cloth diapers is challenging. Disposables generate over 3.5 million tons of waste annually. Disposable diapers also take hundreds of years to decompose, making them unfriendly to the environment.

Are you worried about the expense of disposable diapers?

Then consider making the switch to cloth diapering. Cloth diapers come in various designs and offer many benefits. While they require more time and a larger initial investment, cloth diapers have many advantages.

Read on to explore all you need to know about cloth diapers and how to use cloth diapers.

Advantages of Cloth Diapering

Cloth diapering today is very different from the way our grandparents did it. Thanks to advanced fabrics, designs, and washing machines, it is easier to use cloth diapers.

Below are the top reasons why you should consider cloth diapers:

1. Save Costs

Some of the highest costs for new parents are diapers and daycare. On average, a baby may go through eight diapers a day. That translates to almost 3,000 disposables annually, costing over $584 for the first year only.

Most cloth diapers feature cotton and wool fabrics. Others come with a unique cotton and hemp blend for longevity and versatility. Cloth diapers can last your baby from newborn to potty training, saving diapering costs. They are washable, reusable, and eco-friendly.

If you hate laundering cloth diapers, consider using a diaper delivery service. These diapers last for years, and you can reuse them for future children.

2. Reduce Carbon Footprint

The primary components of disposable diapers are a nonwoven fabric and an absorbent pad. Embedded with synthetic chemical polymers and nonwoven plastic resin fabric, they take a long time to disintegrate.

Using all-natural cloth diapers helps reduce your carbon footprint and the environmental strain on the planet.

3. Reduce Landfill Waste

Landfills house an enormous amount of garbage, raising environmental concerns. They release harmful methane gas into the environment, contributing to global warming.

With billions of disposable diapers ending up in U.S. landfills annually, disposables worsen the landfill problem. The toxic components from disposables may leak into water resources and deplete the drinkable water supply.

4. Avoid Toxic Components    

Chemicals in most disposable diapers are potentially harmful to babies. Some components are linked with health concerns such as cancer, obesity, and endocrine disruption. Absorbent polymers like sodium polyacrylate may aggravate diaper rashes, while phthalates disrupt endocrine activity.

Other issues linked to disposable diapers include high scrotal temperatures in boys and respiratory illnesses.

5. Simplify Potty Training        

It's fun seeing your little one grow up, more so saying goodbye to the diapering phase. Ditching diapers will save you costs and eliminate the need for cleaning up after messy diaper changes.

When wearing disposables, babies remain dry after peeing, thanks to an absorbent polymer core. However, children wearing cloth diapers can feel wetness on their skin, prompting them to try and use the potty.

6. Reduce Diaper Rash  

As a new parent, you may be unaware of how diaper rash looks. But rashes on the diaper region are common because of many reasons, such as:

  • Excess moisture on the skin.
  • Infrequent diaper changes.
  • Skin sensitivity.
  • Reaction to chemicals.
  • Food allergies.

Yeast infections can also cause diaper rash.

Since cloth diapers require frequent changes and don't contain harmful chemicals, they lower the risk of irritation. These diapers are more breathable than disposables and feature natural fibers like cotton, wool, and hemp.

7. Gentle on Fragile Baby Skin           

It is hard to tell when your little one is uncomfortable until they can talk. Cloth diapers are lightweight and breathable, making them comfortable for babies. The natural fibers feel smooth and soft on your baby's bum.

8. Multiple Uses             

Cloth diapers usually outlive your baby's diapering phase. When your little one graduates from wearing underwear, you can find many other users for cloth diapers. The most obvious idea is storing the cloth diapers for your next baby or donating them to another family.

Old cloth diapers can also come in handy as bibs or burp cloths. If you choose to dispose of them, go green and recycle them.

Types of Cloth Diapers

Depending on your baby's body type and activity level, there are various cloth diapers to choose from. Here are the most popular options.

Prefold Cloth Diapers            

Prefolds are rectangular cloths you picture when you think of traditional cotton diapers. They come folded and stitched with added middle layers to create a thick center. These diapers come in varying designs and fabrics. Choose from different sizes to match your baby's age.

You must get a waterproof diaper cover when using cloth diapers to prevent wetting clothes. Most diaper covers mimic the shape of disposables and have snaps or Velcro securing mechanisms. When it's time for a change, you can replace the prefold diaper and reuse the cover, cutting down on laundry.

Fitted Diapers                        

Fitted diaper designs feature a contoured shape and elastic legs that fit snug on your baby. They are easy to use and help avoid messy leaks. These diapers also need a diaper cover to contain wetness.

Pocket Cloth Diapers            

These diapers comprise an outer waterproof layer and a stay-dry inner fabric, sewn to form a pocket. You then stuff the pocket with an absorbent liner made from cotton or microfiber. Pocket-style diapers feature elastic legs and a built-in closure system.

Hybrid Diapers                       

Hybrid cloth diapers blend the pros of cloth diapers with the convenience of disposable ones. They comprise a waterproof cover and an inner absorbent layer. Choose between a cloth inset and a disposable one.

Disposable inserts are single-use and convenient when going out or traveling. They are compact and generate less waste than full disposable diapers. Some disposable inserts are biodegradable and organic.

All-in-One (AIO) Cloth Diapers      

AIO diapers are easy to use. They resemble pocket diapers but have a permanently attached absorbent layer. AIOs are similar to disposable diapers, making them suitable cloth diapers for beginners and daycare. They are available in many cute and decorative designs.

One-Size Cloth Diapers         

With one-size diapers, you can potentially use the same diaper on your newborn until they are ready for potty training. Their adjustable size and swappable inserts can accommodate the changing needs of your growing baby.

Getting Started with Cloth Diapers

Although it may appear challenging, ditching disposable diapers is easier than you think. Once you buy new cloth diapers, running them through the laundry is best. Some materials require multiple washes to maximize absorbency.

Before getting started with cloth diapers, consider the following factors:  

How Many Cloth Diapers Do You Need? 

The number of diapers you'll need depends on factors such as your baby's age and wetting frequency. Here's a breakdown of daily diaper usage based on age:

  • Infants and babies: 10 to 12 diapers daily.
  • Toddlers: six to eight diapers daily.
  • Kids undergoing potty training: one to four diapers daily.

With these estimates in mind, consider getting:

  • Two to three dozens of cloth diapers, plus six diaper covers for an infant.
  • Two dozen cloth diapers with four covers for a toddler.

Two or three dozen are enough when using AIO or pocket-style diapers. The more diapers you have in rotation, the less your laundry needs. Buy a few more than you think you need for added safety.

Essential Cloth Diaper Accessories           

For a smooth cloth diapering process, you might need a few accessories, including:

  • Contours and doublers for added absorbency.
  • A diaper pail to store diapers.
  • A wet bag for outdoor changes.
  • Pins for your prefolds.
  • Cloth diaper wipes.
  • Laundry detergent.

Other accessories like diaper belts and diaper liners simplify changing.

How to Change a Cloth Diaper

Here are the basic steps to changing cloth diapers:

1. Prepare the changing area

Prepare a fresh diaper and choose a comfortable changing area. Protect the changing area from messes using a waterproof changing pad or underpads. Also, have all essentials like wipes and baby powder close by.

2. Prepare the child

Bring the child to the changing area and lay them down with their bum at the center of the changing pad. Remove baby's clothes and waterproof pants to access the diaper.

3. Remove the dirty cloth diaper

Unfasten the securing mechanism and pull the diaper away from the child's stomach. Clean the baby's genital area with a wet cloth or baby wipe and apply diaper cream or baby powder to the diaper region. Swap out the old diaper with a new one.

4. Secure the new diaper

Using the built-in mechanism or pins, secure the fresh diaper in place to avoid messy leaks.

5. Wind up and clean up

Put on the diaper cover if needed and dress your child. Finally, remove the baby from the changing area and clean up.

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

Caring for cloth diapers is easy to learn. You need to know how to store and wash soiled diapers to keep your home smelling fresh.

Store Soiled Cloth Diapers in Diaper Pails           

There are various ways to store soiled cloth diapers while waiting for laundry. Wet pails, soak the diapers in water until you wash them. On the other hand, dry pails are mid-sized trashcans lined with cover materials.

Pails usually have lids that keep wondering young ones at bay. But leaving the top off dry pails allows the diapers to dry and become less stinky. Consider lining such buckets with a waterproof liner.

Handling Soiled Cloth Diapers       

Wet cloth diapers or diapers from exclusively breastfed babies can go directly into a pail. If you have introduced your baby to solid foods or baby formula, scrape or spray off the solids into a toilet before tossing the diaper in a pail.

Disposable diaper packages also recommend shaking solids off into a toilet. A diaper sprayer will help remove any solids easily before washing or storing them.

Washing Cloth Diapers         

Keep your home smelling fresh by washing your diapers every two to three days. Various factors come into play when deciding which washing method to choose. They include:

  • Water composition.
  • Diaper type.
  • Your child's age and diet.
  • Washer design.

Follow the steps below to launder cloth diapers:

  1. Remove inserts, if any.
  2. Use the highest water level on your washer.
  3. Pre-rinse diapers on cold.
  4. Rub a regular wash cycle on hot using detergent.
  5. Follow up with a rinse on cold to eliminate residual detergent.
  6. Dry the diapers on hot.

Remember to read the manufacturers washing instructions thoroughly. Some products need regular treatment with lanolin for increased water resistance.

Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable Diapers

Cost savings or convenience, laundry or landfill: Making the choice between disposables and cloth diapers is a significant decision. Cloth diapers offer a wide range of benefits, making them popular.

Some babies are allergic to ingredients used in disposable diapers, like adhesives and fragrances. But disposables have highly absorbent cores that keep baby skin dry. Since reusable diapers need frequent changes, they also ensure that your little one's fragile skin stays moisture-free, reducing the chance of diaper rash.

Cloth diapers are durable and reusable, generating minimal waste. Made from natural fabrics, they are also friendly to the environment. Take care when washing them to reduce water wastage.

Diapering is among the most significant expenses for new parents. Cloth diapers may be costly initially but save you money in the end.

The Bottom Line

It isn't easy to go against the grain, and cloth diapering presents that challenge. But making that first step to make a difference paves the way for others to join in. Small steps like choosing eco-friendly diapering can significantly impact the planet and your child's health.

You don't need to be a hardcore environmentalist to switch to cloth diapering. After all, some parents begin with disposables for a few weeks before transitioning to cloth diapers. Others use cloth diapers at home but use disposables when on the move.

Connect with us for valuable information on cloth diapers for beginners.

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