So you have fallen in love with those adorable fluffy butts on instagram and pinterest and want to take the journey into cloth. Congratulations! Now, if you are anything like me you have so many questions. Caring for cloth diapers usually falls near the top of the anxiety pile. We will tackle the basics here: precautions for wearing, diaper change, and storing soiled diapers. For laundry tips, check out Part Two.
1. Precautions for wearing
Cloth diapers serve the same function as disposables, they catch urine and feces, I would argue cloth is better at this than disposables, but I guess you know that already. Cloth diapers have a few initial precautions to think about, however. One of these is fastening. Fasteners are of two kinds: hook and loop (velcro) and snaps. Hook and loop are great for first timers as they are easily adjusted and quite similar to disposables. Hook and loop do present a few initial challenges, first is being sure that the fit is correct, check the leg holes to be sure they are snug but not too tight against baby's legs and that the waist is not folded over anywhere. Second is to be sure the hook and loop are not in contact with baby's soft skin, which can cause irritation.
Snaps are a great option and most brands have multiple snaps on the hip and front to be sure there is no droop which can cause leakage around the legs or back of the diaper. One-size diapers will also have a series of snaps which adjust the rise (height) of the diaper to be sure the fit works for baby as they grow. When selecting diapers pay extra attention to the quality of the snaps and give them a couple tries to be sure you can operate them with some confidence.
Another precaution is to preserve the integrity of your diapers and their absorbency by using only cloth diaper friendly creams and ointments. No one wants a baby with an irritated or painful bottom, but you also do not want your adorable diapers to leak urine on your furniture. Take extra care when selecting skin care items to be sure they are compatible and do not contain petroleum as it can not only coat the diapers and cause leaks but can also stain. Coconut or tea tree oil products work well to keep skin soft and rash free, but if you need to use a product that can have an adverse effect on diapers, I suggest using a diaper liner between baby's bottom and the diaper, flushable and cloth versions are available and can be a real diaper saver during cold season or while teething (when diaper rash can be just plain out of control).
2. Diaper Change
Cloth diaper changes are more frequent than with disposables and are slightly different in character as well. You can plan for a maximum of 3-4 hours between changes, less for younger babies; Getting to know your baby's habits will make it easier over time. There is no "droopy crotch" with cloth, and there tends to be less smell, so you just need to be diligent and check often. For your diaper changes you will want to have ready: a wipe (or two), a clean diaper, and a place to store your soiled diaper.
I recommend cloth wipes (baby wash cloths are perfect for this) because they can be washed right along with the diapers rather than needing to be disposed of separately, making another step to the change. I washed quite a few disposable wipes by accident before I finally switched to cloth wipes. When using cloth wipes you may want to wet it a bit with either a nearby faucet or a small spray bottle, particularly helpful if you are dealing with sticky poop.
For each change I like to have a clean diaper ready and set up just the way it will go on, with the insert, cover, liner, etc. all in place. I wipe baby's bottom and place the wipe right inside the soiled diaper before replacing it with the clean diaper and fastening. If using hook and loop closure diapers you will want to be sure to fasten the hook side to the laundry tabs to minimize any chance of it catching on the other diapers in the wash or gathering up all the lint in the machine.
If baby had a wet diaper only the diaper can go straight into your storage receptacle or into the wash. If it is more than pee present you may need another step.
If baby is 0-12 months old and exclusively on breastmilk - the diaper can go directly into the receptacle or wash. Breastmilk and excrement created from it is completely water soluble and can be washed without worry.
If baby is over 6 months old, eats solid foods, or foods other than breastmilk- any solid matter needs to be dumped into the toiled and the diaper should be rinsed before storing or washing. (I recommend using diaper liners to keep solids off diapers and make this process a bit easier.)
There are two basic ways to deal with solids: spraying and dunking.
Several companies sell diaper sprayers that attach to the water line on your toilet and work similar to dish sprayers. You can also use little mitts (diaper dogs) to hold your diaper in a plastic tube (spray pal) over the toilet to be sure you are not in contact with any of the material or spray that may come off the diaper. There are several tutorials for these systems online, and instructions are sent with a sprayer.
I am a bit more old school and prefer the dunking method. It requires less apparata and can be done at any toilet without fail. To properly dunk, you first flip the diaper inside out to make a u/v shape with your hand holding the front and back of the waist. the solids are then dunked into the water and given a little shake (if you used a diaper liner there may be little to nothing left on the diaper). Here comes the pro-tip: hold the diaper in the water and flush the toilet, the water should pull any stubborn material of the diaper and flush it away. Be careful in public restrooms as some of their toilets have quite powerful water propulsion and you don't want to flush the diaper away.
The diaper can now be stored or washed immediately depending on the day.
3. Diaper storage
Storing diapers prior to washing can be broken down into two categories: away from home and at home. When away from home you will want a waterproof bag that will keep diapers and any water or urine off of your other belongings. A good sturdy wetbag is a great investment. Be sure it has a reliable zipper and a loop you can hang it from in public restrooms. Wetbags come in several sizes and fantastic patterns. For one baby a bag that holds 3-5 diapers will get you through most outings without trouble.
At home its important to store diapers in a container that can breathe. A sturdy waterproof diaper pail liner in a trashcan with a lid will be plenty to keep diapers for 1-2 days between washes. If you are looking to reuse items you already own, a thick laundry bag hung on the back of a door is great and can go right into the wash with the diapers on laundry day.
If you are storing diapers in a restroom or near your favorite chair, a bit of baby powder or baking soda in the bottom can help keep smells at bay.
You do not need to soak your diapers or store them in a wet bucket, though it was common in the past, these can create dangerous drowning hazards.
If you are using a diaper service, your diapers will be picked up and clean diapers dropped off according to your contract. If you are not that lucky, continue to Part Two.
I am a highly opinionated and sassy mother of three and wife to one. I hope you enjoy reading about my efforts to tackle the infuriating obstacles of life using straight talk and humor. If I say it, I mean it, or maybe I am being sarcastic. I like to focus on topics from my everyday life: parenting, cooking, crocheting, and a whole list of other things that inspire my rage.