Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Squirmy Mom's Guide to Cloth Diapers

This is a post about my (and Whit's, arguably) adventures into the world of cloth diapers. Cloth Diaper Land can sometimes seem like a mystical place where women don't shave their legs and babies smell like hemp, but I assure you it's much more accepting, caring, and (let's face it) stylish than your wildest dreams.

I didn't make the plunge into Cloth Diaper Land until Whit was around 4 months old. See, I believe in doing good to your neighbor and environment, and that the world and people were created lovingly and perfectly in our natural state (for the most part)  but the possibility of poop touching me... Gross. Honestly- I might be the most squirmish person you could ever meet!

So it wasn't until a friend of mine casually mentioned that her daughter (3 weeks younger than Whit) was in cloth diapers and how much she loved it (her opinion after two older kids who wore disposables) that I considered it hard-core. Things just seem different when you know someone who can personally vouch for it, you know? Two months later I believe in cloth diapering like I believe in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: It just makes sense. Why waste $1000s on disposable diapers (for each kid!) when cloth is reusable? Why add hundreds of pounds of non biodegradable waste to the already overfilling landfills when cloth is so sustainable? Why wait for you baby to have "blow out" poops that threaten to ruin his (and your) clothes when cloth diapers contain any mess? Why subject your baby to rough paper on their most sensitive area when cloth diapers are so much better for their skin? And the real kicker: Why buy extra clothing to cover up your baby's disposable diaper when cloth diapers are so darn cute?!?!?!

Seriously, though, the thing that sold me on trying cloth diapers and then fully switching over was the argument that they are better for my baby. Whit has sensitive skin (I think he has eczema, but it hasn't been diagnosed) and acted in torture when wearing a disposable diaper. I was willing to try anything to give him more comfort and save me from changing diapers all day long! These were the answer. Whit never cries from a wet diaper anymore- he actually loves changing time! I can tell he likes wearing his cloth diapers, so it's worth whatever squirmies I have to overcome to make him feel better. Because let's face it- wouldn't you do anything for your child? Plus I'm saving money and he looks simply fabulous in the meantime :)

See what I mean? It just makes sense.

So, after lots of research, many kinds of diapers purchased, and two months of experimenting, here is what I've come up with:

***Cloth Diaper Reviews***

*Very trim, so it's great to fold up for carrying around
*Soft inner trim
*Vinyl outside so there are no leaks
*Super cute designs! 
*Buttons on the front can help you size it for smaller babies
*Has a pocket opening in the back for an extra insert if you'd like

*One-time use, since the top lining layer always gets wet/ dirty (so I put a thin insert on the top of the lining instead of inside the pocket to increase the use.)
*Buttons across the belly can be hard to snap if you have a squirmy baby, and aren't as easy to get perfectly fitted. 

BOTTOM LINE: I love this diaper! I love that it is thinner than most other diapers and I have the choice of if and where to add an additional liner to increase it's use. It's not my favorite, though, because of the snap closures. I find those irritating, unfortunately :( Bumkins makes this design with a velcro closure I haven't tried, but those might just be the answer!

Rearz Smitten Tongue-Style Diaper

*The entire diaper is made out of terry cloth, so it is very soft on baby's skin
*One-piece, doesn't require any extra liners
*Material around leg gussets flares out, which looks cute hanging out of a onesie bottom :) 
*Velcro closure is easy to pull snugly 

*There is no plastic or vinyl material, so if you baby is a heavy wetter or wears this for too long it soaks through. 
*Limited designs

BOTTOM LINE: This is the diaper I use when I know I'll be doing a load of wash soon because it will be dirty and wet in no time, and I don't want a wet rag (basically) lying around. You could add a cover over the diaper, but boy... I am not doing that much work! Which is too bad, since I love the way it feels! But when you're taking an additional step to cloth diaper anyway, you don't want one that will turn into a wet towel in no time. 

Rearz Couture Cover

*Plastic, so no leakage
*Velcro closure is easy to pull snugly 
*Double leg gussets make sure the leg opening is tight

*Everything else. It is just a piece of plastic, so you have to add a liner, close it tightly, and pray the liner stays in place!
*Doesn't fit well

BOTTOM LINE: I never use this diaper. I hate it. If it fits better when Whit gains a few pounds I may take to it more, but now... NO THANK YOU!

*Plastic, so no leakage
*Fun designs
*Slim for traveling
*Double leg gussets make sure leg opening is tight

*Button closure makes a tight fit difficult, and takes longer to put on baby
*Have to add a liner, and it may move around with baby
*It doesn't actually leak, but the PUL fabric feels moist after getting wet. 

BOTTOM LINE: This is the one I keep in our diaper bag. I almost never have to change Whit away from home, so if a diaper is going to get the least use I'm glad it's this one! I'm always carrying extra pre-fold liners, anyway, so this slim cover is perfect to not take up any undue space. Needless to say, I avoid it when I can because I don't like that the liners can move around. But, hey, it is called a COVER, not a diaper, for a reason! I should have known. 

*Has a snap-in plastic liner which cradles the cloth insert in place
*Plastic liner can be cleaned or replaced if poops soils it
*Cotton outside is soft, and colors stay bold after washing
*Has velcro closures that are easy to pull snugly 
*Available at Babies R Us, in case you don't want to wait for diapers to arrive in the mail and don't have a cloth diapering store nearby. 

*The plastic liner loses it shape slightly after repeated washing, so the Little G Cloth Inserts don't fit very well and end up sliding around, leaving the diaper exposed to soiling. 
*This is the only cloth diaper that has shown some wear after repeated washings- there is more velcro on the inside to close tabs so they don't stick on other cloth (all these diapers have that extra velcro), but they somehow come undone and end up sticking to the cloth. Mine all have spots were the velcro has stuck and been pulled off, which looks cheap. 
*Velcro around the back, not from back to front. They are the only we use designed that way, so I always get confused about which side is front or back!
*Only come in solid colors. They are good colors, but I love patterns!
*Leg openings are somewhat large. Whit has never leaked, but they don't feel tight. 
*Expensive, in my opinion.

BOTTOM LINE: These are great. I love that they have the plastic liner so cloth inserts can come in and out if Whit is only wetting his diapers. I wish the plastic liner was tighter, though, so the insert couldn't move around. I have to be careful which liners I use- I only use tri-folds that I fold into thirds, then down a third, to fit inside because the folding adds bulk. The Little G cloth liners are too thin to fill out the plastic insert. And I hate that they velcro across the back! I can feel the velcro un-stick when I hug or play with Whit sometimes, because it closes around the part of his waist that gets the most action. 

*Velcro closure so they fit snugly
*Attached plastic liner to make it re-usable; just switch the dirty inserts! Plus, the plastic liner keeps it's shape really well. 
*ADORABLE patterns!
*Vinyl outside keeps it leak-free
*Smallish leg openings fit smaller babies perfectly (may still fit larger babies, but I have a smaller baby and this one is perfect!)

*Come in S, M, and L sizes instead of one-size-fits-all. I'm bummed that I'll have to reinvest in another pair when Whit grows out of his M! 
*Velcro closure has started to flare up a little bit after repeated washings

BOTTOM LINE: This is my favorite diaper! I have literally used this diaper for days on end (when poor Whit gets constipated or his poop doesn't land on the plastic liner) just by switching out the liner because I love it so much. I have to force myself to put it in the hamper :( I love that I can switch out the inserts, the plastic liner has stayed nice and tight so any size insert fits well, the leg openings have great elastic so there is no leakage, and  I LOVE HOW IT LOOKS!!!!! I wish this brand were easier to find, though :( I only have one and I wish I had 5!

*Tongue-style, so it's all one piece. No messing with an extra insert.
*Very soft material!
*Water-resistant outside
*Button closures on the front let you snap down to make it smaller, but they still have velcro across the belly to pull it snugly. Best of both worlds for a perfect fit!
*Amazing designs. So cute! 

*One-time use
*The lining material is bamboo, which is very soft and probably great, but it's hard on Whit's (and other babies with sensitive skin) skin. If he wears this one too long his skin gets red and bumpy. 
*Bulky, since it's a tongue-style. Fine for home use, but not to carry around (unless you're the type with a huge diaper bag. I'm not.)

BOTTOM LINE: I really, really like these diapers. They fit perfectly, are really well made, have soft yet water-resistant outside... they really are a great diaper! The reason they aren't my favorite is because it's a one-time-use, and because Whit has a sensitivity to the fabric. Darn! But, since they are SOOOO CUTE (I have the red and London  print, which is my favorite) this is the one I put him in when I know other people will see him in cloth diapers :) Yes, I admit, I like to show off once in a while! 

Cloth Insert Guide

Gerber Pre-Folds
These are the standard in our house! I love keeping these around. I prefer the tri-fold to the plain version. The sides tuck around the middle for the perfect width to put inside a diaper. They are a little long when folded, though, so the top third (more or less, depending on how much space the plastic liner has) gets folded down and the whole thing goes inside the plastic liner, folds down. 

***There is a big difference between the package you find at Wal-Mart and Target!***
The exact same package of 10 pre-fold birdseye clothe diapers from Gerber is very different quality between stores. The Target version has a higher thread count so it is a little thicker and softer. The Wal-Mart ones have visible gaps between threading in the cloth, so they aren't as absorbent or soft. Take it from me, they are worth the extra $3! 

Little G Cloth Inserts

We got these to fit the Little G Pants, which I hate using them with (ironically.) They are multi-layer with a soft side which wicks away moisture and a rougher side to lock moisture in. The soft side goes against baby's skin. It is a great length (unlike the Gerber pre-folds that have to be folded in and then down to fit inside a diaper), but very thin. The problem with the thickness is that they don't fill in the plastic liners on Little G Pants! I only really use these as a thin barrier layer in the other cloth diapers, never for the ones with plastic liners, because it wrinkles towards the center as baby moves, leaving the sides exposed to messes. Darn. But it is nice to have these thin ones on hand to line the Bummis since the bamboo material irritates Whit, or to go on top of the Bumkins instead of inside them to make the diaper last longer.

Most cloth diapers (except all-in-ones) come with their own inserts. They typically work great, so don't be afraid to use them!

***I love having so many cloth inserts around! I have found tons of uses for them including diapering, washcloth, kleenex, pot holder, etc.*** 

How a squirmy mom changes cloth diapers:

The question I get most often from friends is "What do you do with poopy diapers?" And it's a good question, because I am so squirmy! We actually avoided the messy, runny baby poop stage by waiting until Whit was on solid foods at 4 months to transition to cloth diapers. At that point his poop was much thicker (sometimes hard or clay-like), so it was easier to take care of. In the best circumstances I can just flip the diaper and a ball of poop falls right of into the toilet. A lesser-best circumstance is being able to rub thick poop off with some toilet paper (without touching it, of course.) When he has runny poop I just throw the whole thing in the washer without a second thought! I always add a little splash of bleach to the wash, though, so no fecal matter remains on the diapers. I have never had poop remain on any diapers that come out of the wash!

We do have a pack of gCloth Liners, which are dryer sheet looking papers that can lay on top of the cloth diaper. They are flushable, so if Whit has one over his diaper we could just take the paper off the diaper and throw it right in the toilet. We don't use them, though. I think the idea is great and really helpful for squirmy people, but Whit only poops every two days or so, so I'd rather not put the paper in every diaper when he would hardly need it! One of the reasons I switched to cloth diapers was so Whit would be more comfortable in something softer than disposable paper, so I don't want him in these all the time. Oh, well. 

When changing wet diapers I usually pop a back corner of the insert out of the diaper cover and hold that to pull it out, since the back corner usually stays dry. Then they go immediately into the washing machine! 

The downside to using cloth diapers
When Ben reads this I know his reaction will be, "You're admitting to the world that cloth diapers are anything but amazing?!?!" and the truth is, yes. I am. Because cloth diapering isn't for everyone, so I want to help you make an informed decision! 

1. You can't deny that there is more work involved when changing diapers. You have to have liners and covers (unless you only use all-in-ones), instead of just diapers, which adds bulk to a carrying bag or diaper station. 

2. You have to prepare each diaper  (even the tongue-style all-in-ones require you to fold the tongue inside an opening.). I do this as soon as they come out of the washer and dryer, but that only lasts for it's first use. This may be a downside if your baby immediately wets himself when he's diaper-free. 

3. You carry around dirty diapers when he needs a diaper change in public

4. Keeping track of which diapers you like/dislike or serve which purpose (I have specific diapers just for night time, for example.)

5. They have to be washed! I do a load of only diapers about twice a week. I don't consider that a huge deal, but it is a factor. 

6. You might get dirty (but that shouldn't really count since you would probably get poopy a lot more often when using disposables. I know I did!)

All of that being said, I still choose cloth diapers hands-down for all of the positives listed earlier. And I'm a no-fuss-down-to-business-volunteering-work-at-home-mom  with a full-time-working-MBA-night-school-studying husband who doesn't really have time for unnecessary hassle.

To be honest, I like the "hassle". Going through this sort of extra effort makes me feel like a good mommy. Being a mom is tough- there are a lot of hurdles that can wear you down and tear at your self-esteem. I may wonder if I'm always doing what's best for my baby, but when I go through the effort to wash, prepare, and put a cloth diaper on him (especially when I'm tired or feeling lazy, AKA "selfish") I know that I am at least doing one thing purely for his benefit. It just feels good to put the extra effort into him, you know? 

Where to buy cloth diapers

There are a lot of resources out there for cloth diapers! I bought my first set, Little G Pants, on impulse from Babies R Us. I don't suggest doing that, though, because they have such a limited selection! Do some research into how you want to cloth diaper, then go dig for deals on the brands that you think will fit your needs :) Personally, I choose Amazon. We have free 2-day shipping, and I get so excited about new diapers that I want them as soon as possible! The prices are really comparable to other websites I've researched, so I always choose Amazon because of the quick shipping. 

***Get a subscription to ecobabybuys.com, though!***

 They offer a deal a day on ecological baby products, and often have deals on cloth diapers and covers. I have used that website to get great deals on new brands when I don't want to shell out the full amount somewhere else, since I never know what style Whit will respond to. 


  1. This is awesome! I want to remember that this is here so I can go over it when I get a washer and dryer and it's more practical to get cloth diapers. They _do_ just make sense! and they're so much easier than cloth diapers were 15 years ago.

    PS. I think pretty much everyone's squeamish around poo :)

  2. Yeah, cloth diapers are pretty amazing.

    I'm so glad that you made the distinction between the Wal-Mart and Target Gerber prefolds. I got both kinds at my shower, and I've tried to figure out how to tell people which kind I like (from this, it looks like the Target brand). I've wanted to get some more, but I didn't want to risk getting the flimsy ones.

  3. Seriously amazing post. THANK YOU for going through and putting so much thought and detail into this! LOVE IT! I'm going for it!!

    1. Let me know if you have any additional questions! As you can tell I'm pretty big but fair fan, so I want to give you as much info as you need :)

  4. This is awesome - so glad I found it through Ashley! The problem I have with cloth diapers, after considering and researching it thoroughly, is that my son poops 3-4 times a day, and has done this since he was born. Wait, no when he was born, he pooped everytime I changed his diaper... so with his metabolism and poop power (and they are not all solid even though he's 20 months! it's frosty freeze most of the time and he rarely gets constipated, but that's the only time I get solid poops), I just can't imagine wiping off the poop and then washing it that often. I unfortunately don't care about the environment enough to switch, but I am so glad you put so much thought and detailed info into this. It is so much more helpful than all the other cloth diaper blog posts I have seen!

    And...It makes me want to reconsider it for number two if he doesn't poop as much. The other thing to consider, which I hope you'll blog about when it happens, is how difficult diaper changes become when your kid gets older like around 9-12 months. This is when they start to decide they don't want to lay still for a change, when they start flipping and trying to get out of it, at that point, I wonder if cloth is harder than a normal diaper since you said there are so many parts to it and so many things to take with you when out. I am seriously considering it again though, against my husband and family's wishes hahaha, so thanks!!

    1. So true, poopy diapers can be awful! Like I said, cloth diapers may not work for everyone! Whit was really poopy for the first few month, but it started to taper off a while after starting solid foods. At first he still pooped almost every diaper and it was really runny, and I just took the whole diaper off and immediately threw it in the wash with some bleach! I was way to squirmy to try washing out that stuff first. Now I only clean out the poop that comes off REALLY easily- it doesn't bother me to throw a poopy diaper in the wash! One thing I really liked about the cloth was that my son would have blow out poops every time that would go through and up his diaper (no matter what brand we tried). I felt like I was always covered in poop, and always doing his laundry, anyway, so it wouldn't stain. Taking care of poopy cloth diapers is definitely gross sometimes, but he has NEVER leaked poop since we switched! For us it was a miracle :)

      He is starting to get really wild during diaper time and try to flip over. I'm trying to distract him with special diaper time toys, but I know that won't last long :( I like your idea to update the blog in a few months- I will definitely do that! Thanks for stopping by, I really appreciate hearing about your experience!

  5. I love the review. You need to try Grovia's.....they are awesome for so many reasons!

    1. I've looked into Grovia just because you said you like them so much! I'm hesitant, though, because I don't want any more with snaps, but the only velcro ones I found are shells. I haven't liked shells or covers- I prefer ones that at least have a plastic liner to hold an insert. We have a cloth diaper store, though, so I'm going in next week to ask about them and see first hand how the liners work in the shells before making a decision :)

  6. I saw this floating around pinterest (that last picture with a nakey baby and all the diapers) and I immediately thought "that looks like Susannahs baby!" I clicked on the pin and, sure enough, it brought me here. And I'm pretty sure you don't know these friends of mine- so you should know this post is circulating pinterest well! :)

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