What to put in is easy, breast milk or formula; dealing with what comes out is less pleasant and can be somewhat more complicated. When my husband first suggested cloth diapers, I was horrified. I just wanted to get the dirty work done as quickly as possible and deal with excrement as little as possible. I warmed up to the idea as my pregnancy progressed, and now I am as happy with cloth diapers as one can be with expensive pieces of cloth that contain smelly bodily fluids.
We have tried: fitted diapers, all in ones, pockets, and pre-folds. These are essentially all of the types of cloth diapers as far as I can tell. A fitted diaper looks like a disposable and is entirely made of absorbent material. You must use a cover with fitteds and they are expensive $15-$25. All in one diapers are probably as close to disposables as you can get. Just put it on, then take it off and throw it in the wet bag or pail. I have one, a Bumgenius Elemental. It is made of organic cotton, and it is pretty absorbent. I like to use it for running errands, and would probably have more if they were cheaper. Pocket diapers have pockets that you stuff absorbent inserts into. I have some Fuzzibunz pocket diapers and one Bumgenius. I hate them. I think that this is mainly because the synthetic liners will repel from time to time with buildup. I have boiled them, stripped them with dishsoap and all the other tricks floating around the internet. They leak every single time. I am over it and plan on sticking to natural fibers. Cotton and hemp have been working great.
This brings me to what actually works for us. We have a sizeable collection of Flip diaper covers, 12 large Osocozy prefolds, 12 small prefolds, about 6 Flip inserts (the synthetic “stay dry” inserts), and a variety of hemp Joeybunz doublers and Thirsties prefolds. We just fold the prefolds in three and place inside the cover. Unless there is a large amount of excrement, this protects the cover and we can generally get through a day with two or three covers. This is the most economical option. Covers cost $15-$20, and you can get 6 pre-fold diapers for the same. You can also get organic inserts or pre-folds if you prefer. I also like to use the Flip inserts throughout the day (when I am pretty sure there will be only urine). They are super trim, and I have had no problem with leaks. They just don’t contain liquid poo all that well, and it gets on the cover. I would like to try the organic Flip inserts, but have all I need for now. (I got the “stay dry inserts” for $30 with two Flip covers on sale at Babies R Us).
For night, we use a hemp pre-fold with a hemp doubler, or the fitted with a cover. This works for now with our 20 pound, 5 month old son who will sleep up to 11 hours. No leaks. No rash.
When using the cotton or hemp pre-folds, we also use a fleece liner to help wick moisture away from our son’s precious pampered bottom. These are about $1 a piece and are worth it.
A few months ago, I decided to go for cloth wipes as well. I love this. It’s easier than disposable wipes, since we already have the wetbags, and there is nothing to buy once you are set up. We just bought a bunch of little flannel wipes and keep them in the wipe warmer with water. I have various sprays, Kissaluvs diaper lotion potion, and California Baby sensitive area wash. We spritz a little on the boy’s bottom and wipe away. No chemicals, nothing to throw away, not much to buy. People use Dr. Bronners, baby soap mixed with water, their own potion with essential oils, or just water. These things also tend to smell better than disposable wipes, which I like. I’m not sure if we need it, but we will either use coconut oil, or the Grovia Magic Stick to protect from diaper rash, particularly at night. The Magic Stick is great because you don’t have to touch anything, and you can call it the “magic butt stick.” These are safe to use with cloth diapers without having to worry about getting into the whole ‘stripping’ situation. Google it, I don’t have the energy to get into it here.
As for laundry: We have two wetbags, and throw them into the wash with the diapers as well. Pretty easy, just another load of laundry. I highly recommend Charlie’s soap. We ended up buying the massive bucket of it and now use it on all of our laundry. Everything comes out soft and fresh with no smells or residue. You also use a tiny amount, it is pretty darn cost effective. We have hard water, so also use the Charlie’s hardwater treatment. Works as far as I can tell.
* update after 18 months of cloth diapering: just use tide free and clear. Everything else we’ve tried doesn’t get out the stink.
You are not supposed to use fabric softener with cloth diapers as the buildup can cause the diapers to repel liquid, so we use wool dryer balls. They work great for static and seem to reduce drying time. Also, you don’t have to buy more every month. Oh, we also use Biokleen Bac Out to spray on stains. It works great, and if you combine that with some sunshine, everything is clean as new.
So that is it, the quick and dirty on the dirty work. All in all, I really enjoy the fact that we don’t have to buy diapers, wipes, or fabric softener. I also like reducing our contribution to landfills. Finally, I can rest easy knowing that my son’s precious bottom isn’t swimming in chemicals. If you are on the fence, I say buy a Flip ‘daypack’ and give it a shot. I am considering doing the same for my sister who is completely sold on disposables. She is pretty stubborn, so you never know.