cloth diapering

Cloth Diapering – The Good, The Bad, and The Messy

Considering cloth diapering? Excellent! Though some parents may find the prospect intimidating or old-fashioned, using cloth diapers has never been easier. And they’re so darn cute.

Over the years, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about our cloth diapering journey. Find out the answers to which brand we use, what to do with poopy diapers, how we built our stash affordably and more below!

Note: This article contains affiliate links. 

Why use cloth diapers?

There are many reasons.

They’re good for the environment. An average child will use over 6,000 diapers before being potty trained. Even irregular use of cloth diapers will make a big difference in your family’s ecological footprint. Plus, they can be reused from child-to-child.

They’re good for baby. Disposable diapers use toxic ingredients. When you use cloth diapers, you don’t need to worry about chemicals or dyes against that sweet little bum.

They’re good for your wallet. This is the main reason we chose to cloth diaper. Knowing I was going to be a SAHM, I considered washing and reusing our diapers a sort of “part-time job” to save us money in the long run.

bumgenius cloth diapers
Also, they’re seriously adorable.
Is cloth diapering really cheaper?

Hands down.

Say you change your baby’s diaper 7 times a day (and we all know it’s more than that in the early days!). Over the course of two and a half years, that’s 6,388 diapers used. You can count on spending around 20 cents per diaper (more for organic or eco-friendly brands). That’s $1,277.60 per child. Then there’s wipes, diaper cream, and more on top of that.

Cloth diapering has a higher up-front cost, but is extremely more economical. You can get 18 top quality diapers, 24 flannel wipes, and wet bags for about $500 (and that’s if you choose the most expensive ones). Let’s say you an average of $2.50 a month on laundering expenses. Over two-and-a-half years, that comes to $575, less than half the amount of what you’d spend otherwise. And the beauty of it is, you can reuse it for additional children, adding only the cost of laundering. So, really, you could diaper four children for less money than using disposable diapers for one child.

bumGenius cloth diapers
Half of our stash.
How has cloth diapering worked for you as a family?

Really, really well!

We used cloth consistently with Levi until he was fully potty trained at around two and a half years old. I still use a double-stuffed diaper on him for bedtime sometimes, as an alternative to a Pull-Up. We used cloth a bit less with Lucy (as I hear is common with a second child). Levi was still using them when she was first born, and I didn’t feel like washing diapers every day to replenish our supply. She also got really horrible diaper rash and thrush earlier on and it was just easier to load her up with Butt Paste and stick a “sposie” on her. After she turned one, she used them regularly and we began potty training. These days, she spends most of her days in panties, and still uses cloth diapers for naps and bedtime.

Using and cleaning cloth diapers and wipes has became second-nature. Sure, it takes more time than disposables, but I’ve gotten used to stuffing diapers while watching a show or chatting with my husband about his day.

They’ve definitely, totally been worth the investment.

bumGenius cloth diapers
L and L, both in bumGenius Original diapers we’ve owned and used for 4 years.
Which diapers do you use?

I did a lot of research before we registered for cloth, and I heard a lot of positive reviews for bumGenius diapers. Even though they were more expensive than some of the brands, I thought they sounded awesome. Made by Cotton Babies, they are soft, cute diapers that adjust so the same diaper can fit an 8-pound baby and a 35-pound toddler. And boy, do they last.

bumgenius cloth diapers
Here are the all-in-one diapers snapped differently to three different sizes.

I have six bumGenius Freetime All-in-One diapers and twelve bumGenius Original 4.0 Pocket Diapers (they’re up to 5.0 now). Four and two kids later, I can totally say they’re worth the investment. They have some stretch-marks (just like me), but that’s more because of using them occasionally in the dryer than anything (see below on how I launder them). They’re still functioning great. I can’t recommend them enough.

Read more about our experience with bumGenius diapers.

Before choosing a brand, I recommend going to The Green Nursery or Fluff Love University and doing some research on what will work best for you. If you are looking for a budget-friendly option, I’ve heard good things about Nora’s Nursery diapers. You can get seven diapers and a wet bag off of Amazon for $60.

How do you change the size of cloth diaper?

Almost all cloth diapers are adjustable to grow with your child. Our bumGenius diapers have a row of snaps across the top of the diaper that allow you to adjust for the size of your baby. Similarly, the inserts have snaps so you can adjust their length to match the size of the shell. Once snapped, leave them snapped until your baby grows.

cloth diaper on toddler
cloth diaper on baby
L and L each have their “own” diapers set to their individual size.
Do you exclusively use cloth diapers?

No. We were recommended to hold off on starting cloth until our babies were 1 month old, and I pass that recommendation along (the cloth diapers fit better, newborns need way more diaper changes, and you don’t want to spend your first weeks with a new baby worrying about washing diapers).

We also used disposable diapers overnight (so we didn’t have to change them until morning), in the case of the occasional GI bug and diaper rash (see below for more on that) and occasionally when we traveled.

If we use disposable, we generally use Seventh Generation disposable diapers. I like their company as a whole, their diapers are good for baby, and their prints are also adorable. We’ve also used Honest diapers which are a bit more expensive, but are beautiful and so soft.

Seventh Generation Diapers
Seventh Generation Size 3 diapers. My sister wishes she made them in her size.
What do you do for wipes?

We almost always used flannel wipes, with Levi. We figured if we’re going through the trouble of washing the diapers, may as well just throw the wipes in as well. You don’t need any special formula for getting them wet, just a little water will do. Often, I would tuck a dry flannel wipe into a clean diaper. When time came for a diaper change, I wet the wipe in the sink and used it to clean off the bum. Then, I folded the wet wipe in with the wet diaper and tossed it all in the wet bag.

I did use disposable wipes more often with Lucy, just as a convenience. But flannel wipes are the best, non-toxic, economical way to go for sure!

Do cloth diapers leak?

Sometimes. But all diapers leak. I’ve actually found I’ve had fewer up-the-back blowouts with using cloth than disposable, but more pee sneaking out around the legs. It’s important to make sure that the diapers are snug around the legs. Using an extra diaper liner helps a bunch.

Can you still use cloth diapers if your baby has diaper rash?

If your baby has diaper rash and you want to use diaper rash cream, you will need to use a disposable liner to create a barrier between the diaper and bum. Because diaper rash cream is water repellent, it can make the cloth diapers less effective at absorbing. The good news is, disposable liners are cheap, and you can also use them to make cleaning up poo easier. More good news: cloth diapers are so gentle on baby’s skin that they are actually less likely to cause diaper rash.

Is using cloth diapers gross?

Sometimes. It’s not fun to scrape poop out of a toddler’s diaper, but when is poop ever fun, disposable or not? Really, though, if you take care of them and launder them correctly, cloth diapers hold up great and don’t stink.

So, how do you clean them?

Cleaning cloth diapers isn’t all that much more difficult than cleaning anything else. They key is to have a cloth-diaper approved laundry detergent.

When laundry day comes, usually every three days or so, I separate the liners from their shells and toss everything — the diapers, wipes, wet bag and all — into the washing machine. I do a hot/cold, double rinse wash and hang them up to dry whenever possible, outside ideally. The sun is a friend; it naturally bleaches diapers and liners and keeps them fresh. The heat of the dryer can really wear down diapers, so I only do that when in a total rush or when it’s the dredges of winter.

Since each cloth diaper, washing machine, and detergent is different, I recommend checking out Fluff Love University, which is, in general, a great resource for cloth diapering, but especially for keeping diapers clean.

bumgenius cloth diapers drying
Cloth diaper shells and liners hanging out to dry.
What do you do with poop?

Fun fact: If your baby is exclusively breastfed, poopy diapers can go in as is (breastmilk is water soluble and clean up nicely without any extra work). It sounds gross, but honestly, your diapers come out perfect.

If your child is not exclusively breastfed, you can shake off the solids, dunk the diaper in the toilet, or use a diaper sprayer to prepare it for wet-bag storage. Some parents use a disposable liner in their child’s cloth diaper and toss it if a poop occurs. I relied on the shake or dunk methods myself.

How did you manage the up-front cost of cloth diapering?

Honestly, I hardly bought any of our diapers. I convinced my husband to ask for cloth diapers for Christmas the year before Levi was born; we got seven. I also registered for them at Babies R Us (RIP). Unfortunately, I only got two as shower gifts, so I ended up exchanging some non-essential baby items for cloth diapers and flannel wipes. I also picked up a few for free from friends. All in all, I think I’ve spent about $100 and have 20 cloth diapers and 24 flannel wipes. Not bad at all.

I think the key to affording a good stash of diapers is planning ahead. Budget for them ahead of time. Ask for them as gifts. Borrow or buy them used. It’s easier than you think! And, remember, it’s going to cost you significantly less in the long run.

What do I need to start cloth diapering?

A good rule of thumb is to have at least 18 cloth diapers. You can get away with fewer, but will need to wash more often. Additionally, you need a place to store wet diapers: at least one wet bag or a diaper pail for home, and at least one travel-sized wet bag to take in the diaper bag. You need access to a washing machine, an approved detergent without fabric softener, and a place to hang your diapers dry (I recommend a portable drying rack).

Other things that are optional but can be useful are cloth/flannel wipes, cloth wipe solution, extra/overnight liners, disposable liners, and a diaper sprayer.

Are there any downsides to cloth diapering?

Sure. They are certainly less convenient than using disposable diapers. They’re absorbent, but not as absorbent as disposables. They take up more room in a diaper bag. Some caregivers may find cloth diapers intimidating. Some day-care centers may not allow cloth diapers or have certain requirements for cloth diapering families that may put extra burden on you as the parent. There are so many options on what cloth diapers to use and how to care for them that it may seem overwhelming.

There’s a lot to consider, and it’s definitely not for everyone.

But can I do it?

Absolutely. I totally hate cleaning and doing laundry. If I can do it, anyone can!

Interested in learning more about bumGenius diapers? Click here! 

Leave a Reply