Cloth Diapering for Dummies (START HERE)
1) I've been researching cloth diapers online, and I'm so confused! Give me the basics.
First, you need to decide what types of diapers to try. The main types are: prefolds, fitteds, pockets and AIO's (all in ones). You can of course try a selection of these, but these are the pieces you will need to make your diapers work--
For prefolds and fitteds, you need the diapers themselves, and covers or wraps. For pockets, you need the pockets and inserts. For AIO's, you only need the AIO diapers.
Ok, but which one's best? There are advantages and disadvantages to each system. That's why most people have a combination of different types.
Advantages -- Cheap and multifunctional without dealing with a ton of sizes. Disadvantages -- Can be a bit unweildy to fold and a bit scary for non-cders like daycare and your in-laws.
Chinese Prefolds: Just flat "old timey" diapers. Good for newborns thru toddler (you can get all sizes). They require covers. Extremely durable and withstand washing well. You can get them bleached (white) or unbleached (brown/tan). Can be used with or without a snappi. I would definitely recommend at least a dozen of these in the newborn size because that will be the only thing that is a guaranteed fit. Newborns are hard to fit.
Advantages -- Easy to put on and wash. Disadvantages -- Most don't come with a stay dry liner. They do take much longer to dry than pockets.
They need covers, so however cute they are, they still have to be covered up. BUT for newborns, fitteds don't HAVE to be covered if your baby doesn't wet them faster than she needs to be changed. It is possible to use newborn fitteds without covers for a little while, but probably just at home.
There are so many different kinds!! The favs that I know people really like are Proraps, Bummis Super Whisper Wraps, and Bumkins are super cute. You just have to find what works well.
Another great thing to use as a cover is wool or fleece. They are both wicking fabrics, so you can cover up a prefold or fitted diaper with pants or shorts or even skirts made of wool or fleece and you don't need a regular cover. They are called longies or shorties. They are super breathable and very good for babies with rash issues. They are kind of pricey, but you get the function of a diaper cover and pants to boot. Plus they really don't have to be washed very often at all. They do require some special care, but, I think they are totally worth it!!!
Advantages -- Easy to change absorbancy and easy to put on. Disadvantages -- Can be harder to wash and need stripping and a bit more expensive than other options.
Pockets are the easiest and most preferred diaper of everyone by far, especially passed infancy. They are a waterproof exterior with a fleece or other non wicking interior (like suedecloth, or minky) that makes a pocket. You stuff the pocket with an absorbant insert. The most popular "big" brands are Fuzzi Bunz (snaps), Happy Heinys (velcro), and Swaddlebees (side snapping or velcro), Blueberries (snaps or velcro). There are TONS though.
For inserts you can use microfiber inserts or towels (can be bought at walmart in the automotive section) or hemp inserts. Prefolds (GOOD absorbant prefolds) can also be used for inserts....either doubled with another insert for added absorbancy or alone for a trimmer fit.
Inserts go inside the 'pocket' of pocket diapers and are the absorbant part. 'Insert' is a term for anything you stick in a pocket. Doublers add extra absorbancy. For instance, for overnights you can use pockets stuffed with an insert and doubler. You can also lay a doubler in your fitted diaper or cpf for overnights or naps.
Advantages -- Wash and wear. Anyone can use these; they're as easy as disposables. Disadvantages -- They're the most expensive and take FOREVER to dry.
This is just like it sounds. It is a cover and the absorbant material and the stay dry liner all together in one diaper. Just like a disposable, except cloth. Just take of baby and into the wash.
Liners can be used with any diapers--prefolds, fitteds, pockets or AIO's. They come in disposable or washable forms and are used for two reasons: they help with solid waste clean-up and/or provide a stay-dry barrier against baby. Disposable liners only help with waste clean up; reusable liners made of microfleece or suedecloth do both.
2)So when I change my child, what gets reused and what do I put in the wash?
Almost nothing is 'reusable' without washing in between. The only exception are covers. They are used with fitteds or prefolds. It's recommend to air out covers between uses.
3) How do I wash these things? Is it icky?
Everyone has their own washing techniques. Breastfed poops are water soluable and dissolve in the wash. "peanut butter" type poops or harder stools need to be dumped in the toilet and rinsed or sprayed with bac-out or stain remover to keep from staining. You can either use a pail (lined or unlined) or a wetbag. Wet pails are also used, but please be cautious of little ones as it is a drowning hazard.
Every mom has their own "concoction" of detergents, etc that they use. Baking soda and vinegar combo is popular, as are the "free and clear" detergents. It is recommended that you start by researching what is available to you and seeing what works for you
Here is a great resource to finding what can/will work for you
Stripping...What is it? When and How often?
Stripping is done to remove detergent and extra 'junk' from the diapers. PUL and microfleece/suedecloth are the biggest offenders and they just LOVE to hold on to anything they can. If you find that urine is rolling right off your diapers and not being absorbed, or that it's soaking right through everything, try stripping. First, wash like normal. Then do a heavy wash with about 2 or 3 tbsp of Dawn dishsoap. Then hot rinse until there are no more suds (usually 2-4 rinses). Voila, sparkling clean yummy diapers.
5) The start-up cost seems kind of expensive, how many of these things do I really need?
It depends what kind of system you use as to how expensive it is to start. See the first post to find out more, but in general, prefolds are the cheapest with All-in-Ones are the most expensive. Either way, you can re-use with future kids and you can sell them when your child potty trains.
Most people wash every other day and a good sized stash for babies who are still getting changed throughout the night is approximately 22-26 diapers. For older babies who only use one or two diapers at night, 18-22 is a good estimate. You don't need to find the 'magic number of diapers' before your baby is born. If you don't buy quite enough, you'll have to do laundry a bit more until you buy a few; no biggie. Buy a few more until you have enough to make you comfortable.
6) My baby has a diaper rash. What can i use on his bum that is compatible with the diapers??
Basic rash creme isnt good for cloth diapers. Check here for cremes that you can use