Considering cloth diapers? When my little girl was barely a month old, we attended our first birthday party. My cousin’s boy was turning 1 year old and he received as a present, a kit of reusable cloth diapers. That’s an awkward gift, I thought. But apparently something caught my attention because I started doing some research on the topic as soon as I got home. I am sure you are now as overwhelmed as I was, when I tried to see how this all worked. But don’t panic, just take a few minutes, go through this article and find out what you really need to know to get you started.
The number of cloth diapers you will need depends on your baby’s age and on your frequency of doing laundry. You change your newborn’s diaper every 2 to 3 hours, so a newborn baby less than a month old is probably using between 10 and 12 cloth diapers a day. Based on these numbers, you will need to invest in approximately 20 to 24 cloth diapers, if you do the washing every day. Then you just need to do the math: Simply add 10 to 12 cloth diapers for each day you do not want to do the laundry. It all depends on your family’s lifestyle.
Consider also, that a baby between 1 and 5 months usually uses 8 to 10 cloth diapers per day. And once your baby becomes 5 months old, he or she may require up to 8 cloth diapers per day.
Your baby will need less cloth diapers per day the older they grow. In the case of my 11-month-old nephew, for instance, he generally uses 7 cloth diapers a day and my sister does the laundry every three days, so she needs 28 cloth diapers. (7 daily diapers, multiplied by 3 days between washes, plus an extra day of diapers, which in this case is 7)
How long can a baby wear a cloth diaper?
Some people suggest that you can let your baby sleep during the night and change them when they wake up, but you should surely change your baby’s cloth diaper as soon as they soil it or get it wet during the day. Some cloth diapers allow you to add more absorbency, so for the night you may want to do that to avoid leaks.
Depending on your budget, you might want to buy an extra 3 or 4 cloth diapers to the number you come up to, just in case of an emergency. This is always a good idea because a larger number of cloth diapers in rotation will reduce the overall wear and tear on an individual diaper and without a doubt, this will lengthen the life of your entire collection.
I know from first-hand experience that the initial investment of cloth diapers may be heavy for some families but it is surely wise and worthwhile. In case you cannot afford to invest in the amount of diapers you need all at once, you can then start with just a few, or a day’s worth of diapers and get some more the following month.
Even if you use only a few cloth diapers a day, you will be saving money already compared to disposables. After a couple of days, you can reinvest those savings into more cloth diapers until you get to the number you need to become a full-time cloth diapering parent if that is your intention.
Some people try cloth diapers and they give up before the time it takes to just love them. So, perhaps buying an expensive kit should happen only after you verify it is something you can handle and feel comfortable with.
Do I need newborn size cloth diapers?
There are newborn-sized diapers and one-size diapers. One-size diapers are supposed to fit all babies right from birth, but the truth is that depending on your newborn size, you may need a newborn-sized stash for the first 2 or 3 months.
Most brands offer a one-size option, typically fitting somewhere between 8 and 35 lbs., and give parents the capability to adjust the sizing on your child by using different levels of rise, waist, and hip snaps, or a hook and loop.
Some parents, decide to use disposables for newborns and start experiencing cloth diapering when babies are big enough to use the economy of a one-size diaper.
Which cloth diapers are right for you?
Apart from deciding on the size of the cloth diapers you will go for; you may want to have an idea of the different types of cloth diapers you will find in the market.
This seems like another tough decision to make, so let’s keep it simple: There are two main components in every cloth diaper (a waterproof outer and an absorbent inner), which are combined in different ways depending on the type of cloth diaper.
Pocket diapers consist of a waterproof cover with a pocket inside where you stuff an absorbent insert. Every time a pocket diaper is soiled, you change the whole thing. You will have to pull the insert out after each use, and then put it back in after everything is washed and dried. This style of diapers allows parents to easily customize absorbency by using a variety of inserts.
Some pocket diapers are sold without inserts, and you must purchase your inserts separately. The good thing about this is that after some time you can combine different brands of pocket diapers and inserts, based on your experience and preference.
Pocket diapers are the most popular modern cloth diaper. There’s a bit of extra work involved, but everything is pretty uncomplicated and they are more cost-friendly than all in ones.
All in ones (AIOs)
The entire diaper is one piece that goes on and the entire diaper comes off for each change. In this type of diapers, the waterproof exterior is connected to the absorbent components.
They are a one-step diaper that requires no parts or pieces or stuffing or folding. One diaper per change and that’s it. You don’t have to assemble all the different diaper pieces together after doing the laundry. One piece means less fuss, however, AIOs usually take longer to dry.
All in ones are most like disposables but, instead of tossing, you wash. This is the main reason why all-in-ones are usually the most expensive cloth diaper option. Really simple to use.
Prefolds and All in twos (AI2)
In the case of prefolds, or all-in-twos, you’ll change the absorbent part of the diaper that catches liquids and solids but you will not need a new cover (generally a waterproof material to hold in possible leaks) or diaper fastener for every change.
Prefolds and all-in-two diapers are similar to the ones our moms or grandmothers used.
They are the most basic, require a bit more effort and therefore, tend to be the most inexpensive options when it comes to cloth diapers.
How much pee can a cloth diaper hold?
Because cloth diapers do not contain super absorbent polymer gel, which is what disposable diapers are made of, some people tend to think that they are less absorbent and that babies can be prone to diaper rash.
No matter what style of diapers you use, pockets, AIOs or prefolds and AI2, it is always best to change your baby’s diaper as soon as you notice that it is wet or soiled.
Even if you stay with the traditional disposables, do not leave your baby in a soiled or wet diaper for too long.
The bottom line
The truth is that not every day is the same and every family style is different, so there is not one magical answer or one right number.
The amount of cloth diapers you actually need, will vary depending on the different factors mentioned above: your baby’s age, how often you plan on washing your cloth diapers, and the types of cloth diapers you chose to use. If you are new to cloth diapering, I suggest starting out with just a few and slowly start adding more as you find out what works best for your economy, lifestyle and your baby.
Deciding whether to use cloth or disposable diapers really depends on your personal preferences. I would not recommend asking for your grandma’s advice for this; modern cloth diapers and the cloth diapers they used in the past are worlds apart. I personally can’t imagine ever going back to disposables now. It is something worth trying.
I’m certain you will find the cloth diapering experience an exciting one and I would love to hear all about it in the comments below. And if it just does not work for you, don’t feel bad about it, you are already a much better mom for trying it out.