Megan is an Expert on cloth diapering, baby wearing, and doulaing (is that a word?!) She is a fantastic resource who has a lot of experience both with laboring women and postpartum care. I have seen her in all her roles and she knows her subjects thoroughly. Lucky for us, she is going to be guest blogging for us twice a month and sharing her wealth of knowledge. A lot of parents want to use cloth diapers but are intimidated by it, (and grossed out perhaps) by doing it themselves. Megan makes it sound easy with her instructions below. I don’t use cloth diapers (though I wish that I did every time I throw a disposable one in a diaper pail) but I love her suggestion for a diaper shower. We could use one of those in our place just for messy accidents!
Please note: This article (originally from 2009) is has been updated with some new links not provided by Megan to replace websites no longer in operation.
Cloth Diapering Without A Diapering Service
by Megan Davidson
Brooklyn seriously lacks for a diaper service (they have one good one now called diaperkind) and many people who would like to try cloth diapering with or without a service, but they may find themselves frustrated and choosing disposables. While cloth diapering without a service is not the right solution for all families, it is a viable option (and one that I have chosen with both my kids). Here are some tips to help you make it work:
1. Assess your laundry situation. Do you have a washer/dryer available in your house/apartment? Does it dry well/quickly? Do you have laundry in your building but not your apartment? How easy is it for you to get things to the laundry room (stairs, an elevator)? Do you currently take your laundry elsewhere and wash it yourself or have it washed for you?
Your answers to these questions will help you pick the right diapering solutions for your family. If you have a washer and dryer in your home that work well, then you have unlimited choices for cloth diapering. You can choose to use wraps and prefolds, all-in-ones, wool and fitteds, pockets, or any of the other options available! I love Bummis and prefolds available at Amazon or LovelyBums for wool wraps, and BumGenius makes a very popular all-in-one.
If you only have a washer or you have a washer and dryer but the dryer is very weak/slow, then you need to consider options that dry very easily, such as pocket diapers with microfiber inserts. I like FuzziBunz and Happy Heineys (solids, not the prints, they leak) also make a great pocket. Made with synthetic fibers, these diapers dry very quickly if hung or in any dryer available. Prefolds and all-in-ones dry much more slowly and while it is possible to hang dry them, I have found that prefolds end up very stiff and all-in-ones sometimes dry so slowly that they develop a moldy smell when hung.
For those without laundry in your home but easy access within your building or for those who will need to take their diapers to a laundrymate to wash, a primary consideration will be the size of your diaper stash. If you know that you will only want to be making trips to wash every few days or once a week, you’ll need even more diapering options to make it through that many days. I usually tell clients that they will need at least 18 diapers (such as 18 prefolds and 4 covers or 18 pockets with liners, for example) in order to make it through the typical wash cycle of every other day or every third day (less often as your child gets older). The least expensive method for cloth diapering is prefolds and covers, especially if you find them used through a local store or online communities dedicated to buying and selling used diapers such as http://diaperswappers.com
2. Set up your cloth diapers. Based on the above considerations, as well as other factors like cost, desired fabric types, ease of use, and ecological considerations, you can get to the work of finding the best diapers for you. Above are a number of links available for finding great cloth diapers and I also encourage you to find local resources for new diapers and also for gently used diapers.
3. Get a couple accessories. In addition to the diapers (remember that you want at least 18 diapers, or more if you want to clean them less often), you will also want to consider getting a wet bag, such as the Bumpkins wet bag , to line a diaper pail (I use a plastic garbage can from Home Depot but anything that looks good to you and is non-absorbing will work well). Pick a place for you diapers to be stored (I prefer the bathroom but this is up to you) and put you container there with the wet bag in it. I also highly recommend getting a diaper sprayer– a handheld sprayer that easily attaches to your toilet and makes cleaning poop off of diapers much, much easier. (added by Shelly in 2017 – you will also need these Snappie things)
You can also buy cloth wipes, which can easily be washed along with your diapers. Nickis Diapers carries a great supply of them, but you can also just cut up some old t-shirts or any soft fabric if you’d like to save yourself the money. I do not advise buying the various potions made for cleaning baby bums nor do I recommend any barrier creams or butt pastes. You can use a little coconut oil or olive oil if you need to (and you should for those first few meconium poops to help them not get tarred to their bums), but otherwise I find most babies do really well with just cloth diapers, warm water washes, and a little fresh air from time to time. For traveling you can buy smaller wet bags, like those discussed above but smaller. These are designed to hold 2-3 diapers usually. I personally have always just used a bag from the corner store or a ziplock bag, whatever I have around.
4. Pick a laundry soap. There is MUCH debate about what one should wash their cloth diapers in and the advise is inconsistent. Some people will rave about one soap as the only soap to use and then others will write about their horrible experiences with that soap. My opinion is this (just to add to the chorus!): wash in whatever you feel comfortable using on your clothing and your baby’s clothing. Avoid fabric softeners, they tend to clog up diapers and make them less absorbent, and I would not use heavy fragrances. For myself, I use brands like Ecos or Planet, but on vacation I have used whatever was available, such as more commercial options like Arm & Hammer. If you find something does not work well for you, switch! Never use too much soap – I find about half the recommended amount is usually plenty to keep the diapers clean and nice.
5. Start putting cloth on your baby’s bum! Check out sites like http://mothering.com/discussions for great forums where you can find answers to all your questions about cloth diapering. Email or call me if you hit a wall ~ I am always happy to help people who want to cloth diaper and are hitting stumbling blocks.
Also see Cloth Diapering Vs. Disposables
Megan Davidson, PhD, is a professionally trained labor and postpartum doula who works with new parents through pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and the early days of newborn care. She teaches babywearing and cloth diapering classes at several Brooklyn stores, as well as in-home consults, and has a passion for helping new parents master these practical parenting skills. Megan lives in Clinton Hill with her husband, Shawn Onsgard, a local piano teacher and composer, and their two children.