Amazingly, something that seemed so simple and old fashion, has become vogue and more complicated. Buying and setting up a cloth diapering system can be a little overwhelming to a new parent or even a veteran parent venturing into cloth diapers for the first time.
The best source of information is someone who's already doing it. You can located cloth diapering parents through your local play group, cloth diapering sites and and even Yahoo! groups. The only thing cloth diapering parents love more than a cute cover is converts. Most of these parents wouldn't hesitate to give product reviews, advice, and even a demo. Just ask!
But what if you don't know anyone that's CD'ing? Well, that's what this guide is for! So let's get started.
There are many reasons for using cloth diapers. The benefits are basically its environment friendly, cloth diapers contain less chemicals, its better for Baby’s skin, and cloth diapering will save you money in the long run (more on that later).
Diaper lingo is a little overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s no big deal. There are more products out there than what I have listed, but these are the basics.
CD- Cloth diapers.
Stash- Cloth diaper layette.
Flat Folds- Flat folds are what people typically think of when they think of cloth diapers. They are a large piece of square material that you have to fold and fold and fold before you put on baby. Not many people use them anymore.
Prefolds- These are what people most often use. The middle layer is extra thick so it can absorb better. There's a couple of different ways you can fold prefolds and you just have to choose one that fits you and your baby. With prefolds, you have to have an outside cover or wrap for them.
Fitted Diapers- These are cloth diapers that look just like disposables. They have Velcro tabs and fasten just like disposables and these are probably some of the most convient ones. They need an outside cover too. They're a little more expensive than flat folds or prefolds. When baby wets, you unfasten the fitted diaper and put it in the diaper pail. Put a new one on the baby, and replace the cover.
AIOs (All In Ones)- These are the most convient. They look just like disposables and fit just like them. They have an inner layer that absorbs all the waste and a waterproof outer layer that keeps it from leaking outside of the diaper. They do not need a cover. When baby wets, you take the AIO off and put on a new one. They're really convient, but take longer to dry in the dryer and are more expensive.
Covers and Wraps- Covers and wraps are what you put over the cloth diaper to keep anything from leaking onto baby's clothes. They're typically made of waterproof material and have Velcro or snaps. They fasten just like disposables. They also come in really cute patterns.
Doublers- You'll often see people advertise doublers. These are basically long pads you put into the diaper to add extra absorbency for overnight or if you were going to be out for a while. When its time to change baby, you remove the diaper and doubler and put them in the diaper pail.
Liners- Liners come in different materials. Some people use disposable liners or flushable liners (make sure it says flushable on the box before flushing to avoid having to call a plumber). The disposable liners are made of gauze like material. You place them in the diaper so they are between diaper and baby. The urine passes through the liner into the diaper, but the liner stops the solid waste (aka poo) from sticking to the diaper. When its time to change baby, you remove liner and diaper. Take the liner and any solid waste and either throw it away or flush it. Lines make removing solid waste much easier before washing the diaper. Parents of smaller children sometimes use fleece liners. Fleece is a very soft material that lets the urine pass through onto the diaper, but keep the baby from feeling as wet so not to irate a newborn's skin.
The diaper pail- Almost anything with a tight fitting lid can be used as a diaper pail. There are many on the market now. You can find a very basic and cheap one for $10 at BabiesRUs that has a foot pedal that raises the lid for you when you step on it. Most diaper pails have a place near the lid for a small disk to help deodorize the pail to keep the smell down between washings. I do a dry pail (which means I don't put water in it and soak the diapers). I don't recommend putting off washing the diapers for more than a day or two because of the ammonia build up and smell. :)
Wet bag/tote- A wet bag is a water proof bag that you carry in your diaper bag so you have some place to put soiled cloth diapers in until you get home. Some moms use plastic Ziploc bags for this purpose.
DSQ (Diaper Service Quality)- DSQ items are items that are made to stand up to the heavy washing commercial washers put them through. They are typically made with high quality material and last longer.
Seconds- Seconds are products that have slight flaws in them. It might be something simple like fabric turned inside out or the wrong thread. Responsible companies sell seconds that only have visual flaws and do not affect the performance of the item. Seconds are like dented cans at the supermarket.
Show me the money.
Okay, I said early that you could save money by using cloth diapers. Let's examine that possibility.
Let's say you were really frugal and bought your disposable diapers at a warehouse club like Sam's club. In my area (your prices may vary, but not by much) a box of size 3 "Smile" Sam's club brand diapers with a 192 count cost $19.86. That's basically $.10 a diaper. That's a really good deal considering buying a package of Huggies or Pampers from the grocery store will cost you $.20 when they are on sale. Keep in mind that as your baby gets bigger the price per diaper goes up. But for sake of simple calculation lets pretend baby is going to live in size 3's. Typically, a baby will go through 8,000 to 10,000 diaper changes before potty training is complete. So, that's $800-$1,000 dollars on just diapers if you always go the cheap route.(Name brand diapers could cost up to $1,600-$2,000.) And then you spend another $150-$250 on wipes. And that's not counting the Diaper Champ or Diaper Genie, refills, and etc. So even a frugal parent will spend about $1,000 on diapers for junior.
Now, I know what you're saying. "Cloth diapers cost money too." And you're right. Depending on the diapering system you choose, it can be costly as well. But consider, once you have bought your diapering supplies you're not going to have to purchase them again. Also keep in mind that most cloth diapering items will last multiple children and have relatively good resell value here on eBay. So, let's examine the costs of cloth diapering.
I am going to be a little more generous with baby's diapering layette than most diapering sites. The average baby needs any where between 8 and 12 changes a day. Let's say we bought the following for baby 3 dozen prefold diapers, 8 covers, 24 washable liners, 2 cloth diaper pail liners, 2 wet bags, 2 diaper pails, 4 AIOs, 8 doublers, 24 cloth wipes and a sprayer.
You can buy prefolds at just about any store that also carries any baby clothes. Prices range from $11/6 at stores to $10/12 on Ebay. For arguments sake let's go with the more expensive. 3 dozen prefolds at $11 for 6 cost $66. Covers can range from $5 used to $15 custom made. 8 covers at $15 a piece cost $120. Now, we have the basics of cloth diapering; diapers and covers. Let's add a couple of convience items. Liners protect the diaper from stains and keep baby feeling dry. They come in washable cloth or disposable. Lets use cloth. 24 custom made (to go with the custom made covers of course) can run $40 for 24. AIOs (All-in-Ones) can cost up to $20 a piece if we really splurge. I recommend 4 AIOs for outings, they just make life easier. So for 4 custom made AIOs you can spend $80. Doublers are great for nighttime or whenever baby is going to go through an extended period of time without changing such as car trips, naptime, outings, or when Daddy is looking after the little tike. Custom made doublers can run about $20 a dozen. Now we get to the diaper pail. You can use any plastic waterproof container with a tight fitting lid as a diaper pail, but let's say you bought a deluxe version. Diaper pails can cost $10-$15. Let's say you bought 2 at $15, so we've spent $30. Some people prefer to use diaper pail liners which can cost about $15 each. We have 2 diaper pails and need 2 liners for each (for when one is in the wash) so 4 custom made (to go with the custom made AIOs, diaper liners and covers) liners can cost around $60. When we're out and about with baby and his custom diapers we're going to need some place to store dirty diapers until we get home so that's where wet bags come in. You can use Ziploc bags for the same purpose. We're going to need two for when one is in the wash. Wetbags can run $10 so $20 for the two that we need. You can use a variety of things as wipes. Plenty of stores sell baby wash cloths that make excellent wipes or you can even use regular wash clothes. But why not buy custom made cloth wipes to match everything else. Let's allow $30. That's really on the high side, but why not have the best for baby? Last but not least, the diaper sprayer. These can be really handy for rinsing our diapers. They can run anywhere from $10 used here on eBay to $40 in an online store. Typically, you can find a new one on eBay for around $20.
So that's it. We have our cloth diaper layette for baby. Of course your diaper layette will vary depending on your lifestyle and baby and there are many more products available than the ones I listed, but the whole point of the exercise was to build up a fairly nice layette to compare costs with. Our total is $456 and then there is shipping and handling of course. Let's add $100 for shipping and handling just to make sure we're covering all the bases. So our grand total is $586.
Let's compare that to the $1,000 spent on disposable diapers, wipes, and etc. We're still $414 ahead.
When looking at these numbers keep two things in mind; 1) we're comparing a very frugal disposable diaper purchases to not so frugal cloth diapering purchases and 2) very few, if any, disposable diapering products have any resell value once baby is potty trained. Cloth diapering items have great resell value.* So the saving can be even more depending on your spending habits or how many children use the layette.
By shopping carefully and getting great deals on used items, you can build the same layette for about half the cost. There are many WAHM (work at home moms) who sew diaper items in their spare time and auction them and there is always great deals on used items.
Eww... I have to wash them?
Washing your cloth diapers is actually pretty easy. Typically, you can toss your diapers into the wash with a little detergent and the hottest water setting and you're done. Occasionally you may have to let the diapers soak for an hour or so if you're washing a highly soiled load or you may have run an additional rinse cycle. Its hardly necessary to dunk diapers into the toilet or have a diaper pail full of nasty water anymore. Always wash according to manufactures directions. You may have to wash new diapering items several times before they reach maximum absorbency and never use fabric softener as it can make diapers less absorbent. There are many websites that have great in-depth articles about caring and washing cloth diapers.
~Update~ Its been called to my attention that I have neglected to figure the cost of washing the diapers. This omission was intended. I have no reliable way to figure what it would cost you to wash diapers. There are some numbers available on the net, but I wasn't sure how they arrived at their figures and chose not to publish them.
I hope this guide has helped you navigate through all the cloth diapering options and helped you make an informed choice. One last piece of advice; do whatever works for you and your baby.
*eBay has recently began to crack down on their used personal item ban. This also includes used cloth diapers. You may have to find a different venue to sell your used CD items.