Cloth diapering

If they didn't have anything else going for them, I could at least say this:
cloth diapers make bums super cute.
Before we brought Arie home I instagrammed this photo of my cloth diapers while I prepped them for use:

 A few friends asked me to follow up with how I liked them once Arie had been in them for a while. While there are a kajillion (no exaggeration) cloth diapering blog posts on the interweb right now, I'd probably guess there are fewer about starting cloth diapers on a two-and-a-half year old. Once you've reached two-and-a-half you're more likely to start potty training than invest in a new diapering system.  Unless you have your eye on using them for a future child(ren) of course.

So here's my how-I-like-cloth-diapering-my-toddler blog post.

Let's start with the what's what. What kind of diapers am I using?

Firstly, with the exception of one diaper, they are all "one size" diapers. "One size" means that they have handy-dandy snaps to make the diaper small enough for an infant and big enough for a 35 poundish toddler. I started building my stash when we began trying to conceive, intending on using them for a baby, which is why I went with the one size, but when we switched paths to adoption I kept buying the one-size diapers with the hope that we'll put a second kid in them someday. And who knows how little our next little blessing will be?  If we ever have a newborn in our home, I would invest in a bunch of pre-folds (I'll explain these below) and infant size covers because one size diapers really don't fit that great until 2-3 months of age.

B) To go with the kajillion blog posts about cloth diapering, there are about half a kajillion different types of cloth diapers. If you are starting to research cloth diapers, I recommend youtube so you can actually see what different types look like.

When you finally decide what type of diaper you think you will like best, stop right there and hold back from ordering an entire stash.  Different diapers work differently on different babies and (as I found out) different diapers wash better/worse in different washing machines.  So here's my best advice in this whole post: Buy only half your stash and buy a bunch of different kinds of diapers before your baby/child is born/comes home. Once you figure out what your favorites are you can round out the rest of your stash with those.

Here's what I have and what I do and don't like about them:
  • Econobum covers and pre-folds: these consist of a waterproof cover and a cotton pre-fold which is multi-layered piece rectangular cloth that you can either tri-fold (like a letter) or secure the old fashioned way with pins or a new-fangled snappi. You can buy pre-folds in different sizes, but the ones that come with the econobums covers are too small to be snappi-ed on Arie so we use the tri-fold. 
    • Pros: super cheap, wash the cleanest out of any of my diapers, you can change the pre-fold and re-use the cover if it's just a pee diaper which means less laundry and more bang for your buck. I like that the insert is made of a natural fiber (cotton).
    • Cons: pre-folds are not very soft next to the skin, the child feels wet in them (which could be a pro as well b/c it supposedly leads to early potty training), and they are bulky under clothes.
    • Overall: If I were trying to cloth diaper on a really tight budget I would go with this system. The website boasts being able to diaper from birth to potty-training for only $100! That's awesome.
Here Arie is fashionably modeling a white econobum diaper.

  • Bumgenius/Kawaii Baby/Rump-A-Rooz pocket diapers: has a waterproof cover like the econobuns but also has a soft barrier fabric sewn onto it which wicks moisture from baby's bottom and creates a "pocket" into which you slide the absorbent insert.  I bought some with snaps and some with aplix closure. I have not found any difference so far with the three different brands I have.
    • Pros: very easy to use, especially the aplix ones. They are my favorite to travel with. John always reaches for the aplix closure bumgenuis diapers when he's the one changing. I prefer snaps b/c I think the diaper will last longer (the aplix will eventually wear out). I like that Arie's skin is kept dry and that the diaper is fairly trim under clothes.
    • Cons: Microfiber. Holds the stink like no other fabric. I'll write more about this later but it has taken me about 8 weeks to finally get a good wash system down to clean these! 
    • Overall:  For ease of use, these are my favorite.
  • Bumgenius Flip diapers: these are like the Econobums except instead of a pre-fold, you get an "insert" made of microfiber with a stay-dry side.
    • Pros: Super trim. Arie has one particular pair of skinny jeans that won't fit with any other diaper but this one.  Like the Econobum diapers, you can switch the insert and re-use the shell which means you need fewer shells and can save money that way.
    • Cons: Insert can bunch up because there is nothing holding it in place. They also can't be pre-stuffed like the pocket diapers so they take a bit longer to put on which can be a pain when you are dealing with a squirmy toddler. 
    • Overall: I think these diapers are just okay. I wouldn't tell someone not to get them but they are not my favorite. I would not add any to my collection.
  • Thirsties all-in-one diaper: Just like the name says, this diaper is all sewn together: cover, insert, and stay-dry fabric all in one. You just put it on the baby and then throw the whole thing in the wash. No stuffing or putting an insert out etc. 
    • Pros: Easy. I only have one and I keep it in the diaper bag for changes if we're out and about. 
    • Cons: takes forever to dry. Forever. I put in the dryer with my other inserts for 50 minutes and then I have to turn it inside out and line dry for another 2 hours. Also despite the name indicating the contrary, this is my least absorbent diaper. It has a 2 hour life while all my others can go for three hours between changes.
    • Overall: Would not recommend all-in-one diapers. Really the pocket diapers just have one tiny additional step (stuffing), but they wash and dry so much better and faster because they come apart. 
  • Gro-Via snap insert diaper: I don't know if this is the right name for this diaper, but to describe it: this is a diaper witha  shell, a mesh inside, and an "insert" that snaps into place. 
    • Pros: like the Flip system, you can re-use the shell and switch the insert. Unlike the flip system, there are snaps to keep the instert in place so it does not bunch up. The applix on this diaper is the best applix I've ever seen! It is almost hard to pull apart! I don't think it will wear out anytime soon and I don't know if I could say that about my Bumgenuis diapers. This seems to be the most well-made diaper in my stash. 
    • Cons: the mesh. I don't know why the makes of this diaper thought that mesh was a good idea but let me tell you: when poop gets in it, it makes a mess! Gross. 
    • Overall: Love everything about this diaper except the mesh. I've learned Arie's "habits" so I only put this diaper on when I'm expecting only pee. I would not buy this diaper for an infant whose habits are more um, unpredictable. 

Finally- I think we're on III- washing. I'm cloth diapering for the environment. Saving money is nice, but really for me- the motivation is stewardship of the earth.  So you can imagine that I also chose a "green" detergent. I went with Allen's Naturally which gets good reviews. I wanted to love this detergent so badly but I have to admit it just did not get my diapers clean.  I think a big part of the reason is that I have an HE washer and HE washers are not the best for getting cloth diapers clean.  Cloth diapers need a lot of water to not only dilute pee and the little poop that gets stuck on the diaper, but also to wash all of the detergent out of the diapers when they're clean.  Failure to do either of these things can lead to diaper rash.

Thankfully we have not dealt with any diaper rash, but I knew my diapers just weren't clean enough because of the smell. I tried more detergent, less detergent, different wash cycles, and even a couple other green cloth diaper detergents but nothing worked.

Finally, I caved and used a non-specialty detergent that is highly recommended in the cloth diapering world: good old fashioned Tide. Earth killing, ozone opening, heavily scented and chemical ridden Tide. And it works like a charm, of course.

In my mind, using two tablespoons of Tide three times a week (only for cloth diapers) is still better than filling a refuse dump with 40 diapers every week so I'm sticking with Tide for now. Maybe when my box runs out I'll try a green detergent again, but I'm thinking the box is going to last me quite a while.

For those interested, my wash routine with a top loader HE machine is this:

- quick wash on cold (no detergent)
- super wash on hot (with detergent), extra rinse option ON
- rinse and spin

Sometimes I skip the last rinse and spin if I'm in a hurry to dry the diapers but I find it helps get the rest of the detergent out. I dry the inserts in the dryer and hang all the shells.

I LOVE cloth diapering.  I get a huge sense of satisfaction knowing that I'm not sending all Arie's diapers to a landfill and of course I love the $$ savings as well. And even though disposable diapers are considered safe, I can't help but wonder if years down the road we'll hear about negative repercussions from all the chemicals. Sort of like how we formerly used baby bottles with BPA in them, unknowingly exposing our children to harmful chemicals. 

I have to add in here that if you are choosing not to cloth diaper, I promise I'm not giving you the side eye.

And I didn't just say that so I could use this picture of my cat. Promise. While cloth diapering isn't hard, it does does take an initial investment and a commitment to keep up with the washing (though it is my favorite laundry because there is no folding! Yay!). I get that some parents are just at the end of their rope already. I'm not here to heap any guilt on you. We're all making the parenting decisions that we think are best for our family, right? If you've thought it over and stuck with disposables, no shame.

I think that about sums up my cloth diapering journey so far! Any tips or advice to share with me? Laments? Joys? Confessions? Poop stories?

I'm off to stuff some diapers,



  1. Anonymous2/07/2013

    the ultimate combo for us a 4year old girl night time wearer and my 18month old son is a fuzzibunz perfect size with a Thirsties duo hemp prefold stuffed into it. I haven't had a nighttime leak since I have switched to this combo and its not nearly as bulky as three microfiber inserts. It also works well with a Rump a Rooz if I follow the scrunched and pull method of the company( they have a you tube video) .

    1. Anonymous2/07/2013

      Also, I don't have an he machine but the only thing that has worked for soap is Rockin Green soap.

  2. Yay! We also LOVE cloth diapering! :-) We also have an HE top-loader. I haven't tried Rockin' Green like the above poster, but I do always do the first cold wash with the pre-soak option and I recommend it. And I agree about sinky microfiber inserts. Sometimes the smell just likes to stick! :/

  3. Oh, I liked you before sista Russian Mama, but now that I know you love CDing too... BFF please!!
    We too started CDing him when he came home at 22 months. Our biggest challenge was leaking because of skinny orphan chicken legs. I know that's not such an issue for Arie. So I've been through 4 different stashes before finding BGs work best for us.
    Pipsqueak is our 3rd kid to CD. I first did it 15 years ago, and then prefolds and covers were the only options. A couple suggestions for ya if you like.
    -BG Freetimes & Elementals are our 90% stash and Flips with prefolds when we're around the house & the others are washing. I pad fold all the prefolds and just stick it in the FLip before I change, sitting ready (we have 3 Flips). So they're almost as easy as the AIOs.
    -Sustainable Babyish (or S'Bish) are THE BEST nighttime leakproof solution. We use them with a wool cover (Loveybums wrap or Disana soaker) so his bum breathes happily all night.
    -CDIng is cheapest when you buy 2nd hand. It's also the easiest because you don't have all the prepping wash loads. So if you haven't already, check out diaperswappers.com *warning* it's big time addictive
    -lastly, detergent. A couple that work awesome for us are Ecover (Amazon subscribe & save) and Method. Both are plant based, so you don't have a hard time getting residue out, but they work awesome in a HE machine. Ecover also makes a cloth safe softener in case your dipes get crunchy.

    Happy CDing!!

  4. I'm a CD-er too, and I found the same thing with Tide. I tried Seventh Gen and Rockin' Green, but nothing keeps my Rump-a-rooz smelling neutral like Tide! My advice after 21 months of CDing is to never machine dry your covers if possible. My elastic is wearing out from all the heating, even though I always dried them on delicate. Now I toss my inserts, cloth wipes, and liners into the dryer and hang all my covers on a drying rack. Crossing my fingers that they'll last until DD is potty-trained!

    1. And now I see that you said you already do that. Not sure how I missed that line the first time. :)

  5. We love our Rumparooz and Fuzzibunz. Trying Charlie Banana with this new baby too :)

  6. I prewash with a splash of vinegar in my loads. It really helps us with the stink (we use Charlie's Soap). The diapers don't smell like detergent, but they don't smell like anything (hot cotton? I dunno...). fwiw

  7. Thanks for this post! Super helpful and I'm planning to pin it for reference for later. ;-)

  8. I am so happy to hear you are a cloth diaper family! Here is my big tip that I have discovered:

    If you do ever experience any diaper rash (too many oranges or other high acid foods can do it) you can use what ever diaper cream you wish with out compromising the absorbancy of your diapers. Simply use a baby washcloth to line the diaper directly against babys skin. This means the diaper cream never touches the diaper at all! I keep a small stack of washcloths in the drawer for this reason. You can then wash them with your non-diaper laundry. Some of the "cloth diaper safe" diaper creams just don't work well. (we like Bordeauxs Baby Butt Paste)

    Oh! And an overnight soak in your washing machines hottest water does wonders for the funky smell every month or so.

  9. Yay! Another cloth diaper mama! I'm a huge fan of Rockin' Green as well, and even have had good luck with in using HE machines. An extra pre-rinse and post-rinse has kept my diapers clean.

  10. Just another idea - if Tide is working well but you don't like using it, I've always wondered if you might be able to mix two detergents (maybe half Tide and half Allens or Charlies or whatever else you use!) It probably wouldn't work for all water conditions, but you might be able to get just enough of the stink-fighting factor from Tide but at a lower concentration (again, I haven't personally tried this, but it SOUNDS like it could work well!) :)

  11. That's awesome that you are CDing!! I have found throwing in a bit of Baking Powder and Vinegar helps get them clean and scent free!

  12. Anonymous2/09/2013

    We CD here, too, and I agree about the Tide! During Noelle's first year, we lived where we had soft water, we used an older style washer, and had good results with bumGenius and Country Save detergents. Once we moved to a town with hard water and began using a front loader HE machine, my fave detergent has been Tide. I tried Rockin' Green for hard water, and it left TERRIBLE ammonia smells in her dipes. So, I think water quality has as much to do as anything!

  13. precious photos!!! I love cloth diapering!!! we use bum genius. I love them! ;)

    Arie looks so happy and loved. You are such a great mama!!!

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  15. Great post - very helpful! I looked in to CD when we were pregnant, but was SO overwhelmed - I gave up. Now (that he's almost 2) I just started working for a CD delivery/washing service - funny, eh? Well, we still aren't CDing it, but I think I might start when we get back from Africa :) This was very helpful post!

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  17. We have been cloth diapering for 4 years now (2 kids since newborns) and we love it. The only "green detergent" I have found that works is EcoSprout... it's been wonderful! Also, the HE machines do stink (pun intended!). I found adding extra water (through a hose or bowls in the detergent tray) until you could see the diapers mostly submerged in water for at least the last rinse helps a TON! One last thing... They are more expensive, but you must try a Ragababe diaper... they have the BEST All in One system (drys super fast, and they are amazing!!!). Great job, Mama!

  18. Anonymous2/12/2013

    This post has been ridiculously helpful. I am seriously considering switching to Eco bums for my 15 month old. $100 for the rest of the time she is in diapers? That sounds amazing! And my family and I are on a quest to live more simply and be more eco friendly, so this sounds absolutely perfect. If I do end up making the switch I'll be sure to post about it on my blog and link back here so others can glean more info too!

  19. Thanks for the post!! I'm pregnant and have been toying with the idea of using cloth diapers for my baby. I just bought a bunch from gogonatural.com, and can't wait to try them out on my new little one!!

  20. wonderful post, jillian! we've been cd'ing since ours was 5 weeks old, but we're a strict prefold & cover family! we do want him to feel wet, for the sake of potty training, but have no issues with him being uncomfortable in his diapers, so i suppose that's a win for us. he wears a flip organic nightime insert or a BG freetime stuffed with a hemp insert at night, but that's the only time. i actually find that he is bulkier in AIO's and much more trim in prefolds. i do hate econobum covers though. we have one and it is strictly his laundry day cover, otherwise it never gets used. we're big fans of sweetpea covers. my husband likes his aplix thirsties duo (i do not, i don't feel they are a very good quality, but i keep a couple on hand for him to use). i also use some vinegar to my pre wash and do several rinses after the detergent wash to get all of the detergent out. i haven't stripped any yet or added a touch of bleach, but should do the latter soon. our lo has yet to have any diaper rashes so i haven't had to purchase a cd safe cream (i always mean to keep cj butters on hand, but never do). i do have a homemade barrier cream that i will put on if he's looking a little dry or red, but usually just give him some naked time to let the redness cool down. i personally despise stuffing diapers, so we are not a pockets family. when i have to use our fuzzibuns for some reason i am reminded how much i hate stuffing and how much i hate fuzzibuns pockets. at least the BG pocket we have is a bit easier to stuff. but i'm not all about pulling pee soaked inserts out of diapers, i'd rather plop a prefold or AIO in to the wet bag and be done with it! :)


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