Hey Laura, what do I need to get started cloth diapering?

Carissa writes:

Hey Laura!

Now that you’re on child #2 in cloth diapers, what types and brands do you recommend? Also, are cloth wipes a given if you’re using cloth diapers? Finally, do you have a favorite soap for cleaning the diapers?

So far, I think the AI2 is the diaper for us, and I want to try five types: Thirsties Duo, FuzziBunz, BumGenius 3.0, Flip, and SoftBums.

One more question: the one-size diaper would definitely be the most cost-effective, if it really fit for three years. Has this been your experience?

Now, Carissa is already planning on cloth diapering, so I’m going to spare you the story of my own conversion and my own cloth diapering evangelism speech. But if any of you still need to be pushed off the fence, the Read Diaper Association has an excellent article outlining why “If your diaper’s not cloth, it’s garbage.”

And remember - it’s against World Health Organization standards to dispose of human feces in the garbage, so cloth or disposables - you ought to be dumping the poop into the toilet. If you’re going to be scraping poop off a diaper, it might as well be a cute reusable one, right? :)

If you’re looking for some help with the environmental reasons to cloth diaper, jump over here to my article discussing the water usage issue.

Cloth diapering is almost always a more economical choice than even the inexpensive disposable brands. Check out comparison spreadsheet drawn up by Granola Babies.

I’m going to be tossing out a bunch of cloth diapering lingo, so if you’re not already speaking the language, you can refer to Diaper Jungle’s Cloth Diaper Terminology page.

Let’s get started!

One-size? Really?
Do one-size diapers truly last “from birth to potty”? A very qualified Maybe.

Most people find that the one-size diapers start fitting well between 10 and 12 pounds, depending on the build of the baby. If you have enormous babies like I do, that could mean you’re into your one-size stash in the first week. But if you pop out a 6-pounder, it could take a while before you can start using your diapers!

On the other end, those enormous babies often turn into enormous toddlers and outgrow their diapers before they’re developmentally ready to potty learn. Or, the tiny babies stay lean little toddlers that never grow out of their diapers before potty training time. It all depends on the build of the child. You’ll probably recoup your losses on either the “birth” side or the “potty” side.

Also remember that you might want a different diapering solution for the time you take building up to potty training. Cloth trainers are an excellent stand-in for disposable Pull-ups. I have no personal experience with these, but here’s a huge list of cloth trainers options to bookmark.

What I can tell you is that one-size diapers will last you a whole lot longer than sized diapers. You will not have to be buying a new stash every time your baby changes pants size. However, since sized diapers don’t get used as long, they have a higher resale value. And if you are like me and get totally addicted to trying out new diapers, you’ll have the luxury of justifying new diaper purchases on a regular basis…so, it’s really up to you!

I have mostly one-size diapers. My babies are born big and grow fast, and I’m really not that into wheeling and dealing online, so the sized diaper route just wasn’t for me. That’s not to say that I stopped buying diapers once I got a decent stash, though! ;)

Cloth Wipes? Ew?
My first time around, I was totally grossed out by cloth wipes. I started diapering with a toddler and was well into the “peanut butter poo” stage. I used flushable liners so I wouldn’t have to deal with it too much on the diapers, and the thought of having to scrape that stuff off cloth wipes was too much for me!

So I stock-piled plastic grocery bags and tied up a little knot of dirty disposable wipes every time I did a diaper change. So much for the environment!

Right now I’m using cloth wipes and love them. They are way more effective - I hardly ever use more than one wipe per change! And, it makes sense to toss the diaper and the wipe into the same place. Don’t be scared of cloth wipes; they are fantastic.

How do I wash these things?
Diaper Jungle has a chart that rates detergents based on their safeness for cloth diaper washing. However, the chart is based on analyzing the ingredients that are not recommended by cloth diaper companies (enzymes, brighteners, bleach, etc.). Anecdotally (on the DiaperSwappers.com forum), Tide has some of the best reviews for cloth diaper washing while it gets one or two stars on the Diaper Jungle chart.

I use Rockin’ Green and really love it. It took me a bit of tinkering to get my washing routine worked out, but I’ve only had one case of stinky build-up and an overnight soak in Rockin’ Green solved it for me. My diapers come out smelling totally neutral every time, now. I’ve been tempted by all the Tide lovers, but I’m afraid to rock the boat!

Update: I use Tide now. I kept getting stinky buildup with Rockin’ Green and I was tired of all the maintenance. I switched to Original Tide powder and haven’t had any issues for over 8 months.

What types and brands are best?
This is an incredibly subjective question! It all depends on the parent’s preference and the baby’s build. Some people find they hate velcro and love snaps - or change their minds depending on the age of the child (toddlers have a harder time undoing snaps!). Some babies have skinny tummies and fat thighs, or chicken-legs with buddha bellies…Different diapers will work better on different babies.

So, how do you decide? There are several online diaper stores that offer trial packages. Nicki’s Diapers allows you to try any diaper in her store for 15 days, even wash them, and then return for store credit (less shipping costs). Jillian’s Drawers has a couple 21-day trial packs with an actual refund (not just store credit) when you return them. And Squishy Tushy has many different trial kits available, but they keep more of your money after the return.

The brands that Carissa has chosen are good ones with a solid reputation and excellent customer service scores. Even if she ends up not liking some of her diapers, she will be able to get good resale value on CraigsList or eBay. Luckily for you, Carissa, I have first-hand experience with all of the diapers you are thinking of trying! Here’s my take:

Thirsties DUO Diaper
The DUO Diaper is a pocket diaper that has a fantastic feature - the pocket is actually a sleeve; open at both ends. This means that the insert will agitate out independently in the wash - no unstuffing poopy inserts!

The DUO Diaper comes in either Aplix (like velcro) or snaps and has a beautiful array of juicy colors and cute prints. It’s a two-size system, which hopefully means both a better fit at both ends of birth/potty as well as the relative savings of not sizing up multiple times.

I loved the size 1 DUO Diaper that I had, but it did not last clear until 17 pounds as advertised. It barely lasted to 13 pounds (about 8 weeks!). But…my babies have the most phenomenal thunder thighs! I’m sure this would fit a skinnier baby much longer. I wouldn’t invest in a whole stash of these until I knew what kind of baby I was going to be diapering.

I feel like the size 2 DUO Diaper is sized too big to make a smooth transition from size 1 to size 2. Maybe it’s just the build of my baby, but the size 2 was way too big at 18 pounds. Even at 25 pounds, she’s still wearing it at the lowest rise setting, and the Aplix is cinched as tight as possible. That means longer wearability, of course, but what do you do if you’ve got an entire stash of Thirsties and baby has outgrown the size 1s and is waiting for size 2 to stop leaking due to fit issues? Hmm.

My concern with Thirsties is the quality of their Aplix. It just does not hold up, in my experience. I used (and loved) Thirsties covers the first time I cloth diapered and the Aplix barely lasted through my baby, let alone the one I handed down to! I also can’t really recommend the snap version, because it is a single snap - this causes the wings to flare up oddly. It would be hard to get it to look right under clothing.

Bottom line: I do really like the fit - they don’t leak, they’re fairly trim (the cotton/hemp + microfiber “duo” insert is great). I think they definitely have their place in an eclectic stash like mine; I just would not recommend an entire stash of them.

I’m assuming you mean the FuzziBunz one-size pocket diapers. When I first started buying diapers this fall, I was convinced that these were going to be my favorites. I have about 12 of them and….they are not my favorite.

Here’s the thing: they wick. I used to think that little wet lines on the baby’s pants was part of the cloth diapering territory; that if you went for more than a couple hours between changes, wicking along the leg holes was a downside you had to put up with. Not so. I have discovered that there are other cloth diapers that do not wick like the FuzziBunz do.

Don’t get me wrong - they are good diapers. The fit is very customizable and I’ve certainly never had a blowout or major leak. But the wicking - little wet lines…it bothers me a lot as an advocate of cloth diapering. When I’m trying to sell people on the cause, the last thing I want is for my diapers to appear to be leaking! My FuzziBunz are my “at-home” diapers; I have others that I trust more for going out!

Update: Two things have helped me like my FuzziBunz better. Switching to Tide reduced the detergent buildup and improved the absorbency of the microfiber inserts dramatically. Also, getting rid of microfiber entirely and using hemp inserts has eliminated the “compression leakage” for which microfiber is notorious. I still reach for something different if I’m heading out the door.

BumGenius 3.0
Wait! Wait! Before you buy BGs, just be aware that these diapers are being discontinued and a new product (perhaps an 4.0 upgrade??) will be unveiled on June 29th. This could mean that a lot of diaper-crazy mamas will start selling off their old BGs in order to buy the latest/greatest and online stores will probably be putting them on clearance. Which means you could score some awesome deals on some really great diapers. Or, you could get crazy yourself and check out the new product!

I like the BumGenius…es that I have, but my caveat is that they are all hand-me-downs. They’re a little ratty but still holding up - much better than the Thirsties I’ve inherited. I use the BGs exclusively at night. The suede-cloth that the pocket is made of is extremely stay-dry, so I don’t have to worry about rashes if I don’t do a change overnight (which I don’t, anymore; yay!). The crotch is a little wide for my liking and they get bulky fast. I don’t think they’d fit a newborn until about 12 or 13 pounds, and they barely squeezed on to my 32 pound 16 month old.

That said, I’m not wild about them. There’s nothing wrong with them - they’re very good diapers (and most users really love them). They just don’t excite me. I find their color range especially boring. Personally, I’d give these a pass and buy more Thirsties even though I know they won’t hold up as well! The aesthetic experience of cloth diapering is one of the things that keeps me on the wagon, so good colors and prints is important to me!

Update: I caved and bought a BG 4.0 Artist Series (the black and white “Jetsetter” pattern, with snap closure, if you must know!) and I really like it - so much so that I’m planning to finish off my Artist Series collection very soon. I like the snaps especially. I wouldn’t recommend the velcro closure; even my newer BumGenius AIO will catch on the inside of my baby’s jammies and open itself up overnight. Not cool!

The Flip is technically a “hybrid” diaper because the system offers both reusable and disposable insert options. Essentially, though, it’s a cover (shhh! don’t tell anyone; it’ll scare them away!).

I love. LOVE. love the Flip. I have three covers now (only one of the stay-dry inserts, which are a bit weird in their “one-sizeness” - the insert folds down which makes weird bulges when it’s on). Every time I use the Flip, I wonder why on earth I am not selling off my other diapers in order to get more.

It’s a one-size with snap closures, so you can’t crank it quite as tight as an Aplix closure. I found that it started fitting right around when the BGs did, though. The leg openings are super gentle - no red marks on those sweet baby thighs. It doesn’t leak; even with leg holes that aren’t squeezed tight, somehow - magically - it does not leak. I seriously don’t know how they engineered this diaper! I’ve accidentally left a Flip on the babe for 6 hours (we were out, she fell asleep in the car and had a long nap after we go home, then she was due for a poop and there was no way I was going to put a clean diaper on her just so she could poop in it!). The hemp insert I was using was completely saturated and there was even a bit of moisture collecting in the cover itself, but it didn’t leak. I fell in love.

It’s really easy to get the Flip very trim. I use a hemp insert with a fleece doubler (since hemp doesn’t absorb fast enough to use by itself) and it basically looks like a disposable - you can hardly tell you’re using cloth!

Softbums are a true AI2. I must confess, I don’t really “get” AI2s. There is so little distinction between a cover/insert system! Maybe I’ll feel differently when I have a toddler and the AI2 insert isn’t shifting around.

I have one Softbums cover and three of the bamboo velour inserts. Oh my, those inserts are cushy and soft! They are enormous for newborns, however, so if you want to use this system from birth (and you can - it gets so very teensy!), you’ll want to invest in some of the small doublers.

The sizing mechanism of the Softbums is pure genius. The elastic on each leg runs through a toggle, so you can get an absolutely flawless fit. It also cinches way, way small. This is a diaper I question fitting well into the “potty” end of the sizing spectrum, but we’ll see!

I’m ordinarily suspicious of velcro, but Softbums uses some fantastic quality hook-and-loop. The tabs are big and square, so they don’t run the risk of curling (like Thirsties and even BumGenius 3.0s inevitably do), and the laundry tabs are very effective as well.

I feel like I should be way more excited about this diaper than I am. I totally trust it not to leak (or wick, despite the similarities of the leg holes to FuzziBunz) and happily use it on outings. The insert is deliciously soft; everything is very well thought out and executed. I just don’t grab for it. Right now it’s in the diaper bag in my car and I haven’t missed it at all. I just don’t get the rush of gratitude about it like I do the Flip! But that shouldn’t deter you from checking out the Softbums; they are an excellent diaper.

Update addition: GroVia Hybrid
I have since added to my stash two GroVia shells and one of the Organic Soaker Pads. I like these diapers quite a bit; probably #2 after the Flip.

I like how stretchy the elastic is around the legs and back of the diaper. They are easy to get on and easy to get a good fit. The velcro is great. It’s not like typical hook-and-loop; it’s more like touch-tape. It stays in place, doesn’t curl, and so far is holding up better than any of my other aplix diapers (Softbums included, even though I use and wash the GroVias probably twice as often). Actually, if I have any complaint about this diaper it’s that the velcro tabs are so strong they’re hard to unpeel from the laundry tabs when you’re putting the diaper on!

The soaker pad snaps into the shell, so you don’t have a shifting issue. It also has little gussets to help prevent blowouts. I like leaving this diaper out for my mom to use when she is babysitting; it’s pretty fail-proof for putting on - probably the closest thing to a disposable in my cloth diapering world!

I also have a package of the GroVia BioSoakers - a “flushable/compostable” (or disposable) insert for the GroVia shells. The BioSoakers adhere quite strongly into the shell and are super absorbent. You have to open up the plastic exterior to flush the insides (and this is hard to do), and composting rules differ by state and city ordinance. I just chuck mine in the trash because I use them only very occasionally for outings. They are great to stash in your purse if you don’t want to take a huge diaper bag with you. I wouldn’t recommend frequent use of them, though; too annoying to fiddle with the flushing/composting aspect.


What else do I need?
Okay. So, here are a bunch of items you’re going to need the likes of for getting started cloth diapering! I like using KellysCloset.com. You can sign up for rewards points and earn gift certificates for future purchases. They also have a really active twitter and Facebook feed with tons of giveaways. Plus!! I’m a Kellys Closet affiliate, so if you click through this Kelly’s Closet affiliate link (although not the links below, sadly) and go shopping, I’ll earn store credit for my cloth diaper addiction! :)

Hemp inserts
These are THE most absorbent, trimmest insert! I love the Premium JoeyBunz, too. As my baby and her bladder grow, I’m gradually moving away from microfiber to an insert stash made up of the Premiums.

You’ll need a couple of wet bags. First, get a cheap plastic 13 gallon kitchen trash can from Target. I have the step-on flip top and it works perfectly. You’ll want a liner (or two) like this.

Or, if you don’t want the whole trash can thing, get a large hanging wet bag from PlanetWise.

You’ll also want a wet bag for the car, or diaper bag. I just use the PlanetWise wet/dry bag as my diaper bag. I put a change of clothes and a clean diaper in the dry side, ready to go.

If you’re cloth diapering, you might as well be using cloth wipes! It’s much easier than fishing used disposable wipes out of the cloth diapers before laundry time, or picking lint out of your diapers if you missed one! I like two-ply wipes like Thirsties Fab wipes But if you aren’t picky, you can just use cheapie Gerber washclothes from Target!

You can use water, make your own solution, or buy this foaming wipe solution.  I got this the first time and have since filled it with a homemade recipe that I found in a google search. Easy peasy. :)

Remember, if you click through this banner and go shopping that way, you’ll be funding my cloth diaper addiction and I will be forever grateful!

Updated on 1/8/11.

Hey Laura, I think... Hey Laura, what do I need to get started cloth diapering?

comments powered by Disqus