Cloth Diapering Confidential

by Daisy on 01/27/2010

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I’ve been doing cloth diapers for two years and have made a few observations along the way.  Anyone wanting to hear my reflections on the subject of infantile excrement management is so in luck.

1.  I am humbled by the incredible transformative miracle of the modern washing machine.  It actually cleans the dipe I’ve been pretending not to smell, the one I’m hoping my better half swoops in and rescues me from, the one with the poop ground into the very cell walls of the cotton fibers.  That one.  Maytag, I salute you.

2.  A two-day-old diaper pail in the middle of the summer, opened, may cause dizziness, upper respiratory distress and a permanently horrified facial expression.

3.  The old wives’ tales of the sun bleaching laundry are actually true.  It will also turn diapers into stiff little pup tents ideal for “imaginative play,” or what we used to call “play.”

4.  Diapers wear out.  Washing (for two cycles) every other day will eventually decimate the cotton fabric of a Chinese prefold.  I don’t know why this surprised me.  I was counting on ending up with unadulterated dust rags after potty training was over.  Not going to happen.  My rags will be in rags.

5. What started out as a perpetually neatly folded pile of pristine, fluffy diapers evolved into a laundry basket tumble of stringy (see #4 and photo, top), unfolded prefolds and the occasional sock.  And they work just as well as the neat pile.  Huh.

6.  The above basket is also a wonderful toy.  Dump it out, fill it up. Dump it out, fill it up.  Better than Disneyland.

7.  The diaper pail is also a wonderful toy.  Great googly moogly NOOOO!!!

8.  In spite of the overwhelming options and information overload, you don’t need an advanced degree in textile conservation to cloth diaper.  All you really need is an itty bitty person and a lot of diapers, any kind.  I whole-heartedly recommend it.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

rowena___. January 27, 2010 at 6:17 am

this post needs to be required reading for anybody who is worried about cloth diapering. 🙂 we used cloth for the entire three years of our child’s diaper “career” and i have no regrets.

Maria in CT January 27, 2010 at 6:21 am

We used cloth diapers too. It is not as bad as people think (except for #2 above!), BUT, it sure saved us hundreds (probably thousands of dollars) when I had two kids within a year!

Stefani M. January 27, 2010 at 7:33 am

Wow, and I thought my cloth dipes were looking shabby. Now, I think they look pretty good. Haha. I only wash every 2-3 days, though, and I recently switched to low heat in the dryer in hopes of prolonging their life. I do not know how people can do pockets or aios… if prefolds begin dying within 2 years, I hate to see how quickly fitteds, pockets or aios or even covers with velcro start showing their age. (We use Cloth-eeze Indian prefolds with Kissaluvs Marvels covers for daytime and Bummis whisper pants at night.)

Carla January 27, 2010 at 8:27 am

I am many years past diapering babies. In fact, most of my GRANDCHILDREN are past diapers. However, as one who has been there and done that, I wholeheartedly agree with this post. Thanks, T.L.

Oh, I will also put in my two cents worth about the sun. Instead of using a million paper towels like Alton Brown recommends to store lettuce I have a couple of cloth flour sack towels, dedicated to the job. They absorb colors from the lettuce, but a day in the sun bleaches them right out. Sweet.

Sage Norbury January 27, 2010 at 8:38 am

Great post. I’m in full agreement. I just cloth dipes on my son, and he and his wife used them on both of their kids. However, my daughter-in-law’s mother made diapers for the 2nd kiddo and, except for a bit of fading, they are still in great shape. Made of flannel and pre-folded and sewn.

Parents, see if you can find a local person making diapers, or, if sewing-able, find a pattern and craft some of your own. Cheaper, sturdier and much prettier if you find cute flannel on sale!

Myrnie January 27, 2010 at 8:40 am

—and if you think they’re not terribly absorbent, dunk a dirty diaper in the toilet a few times and marvel that there’s practically no water left to dunk it in! (At the least, that’s been my experience with fitteds.)

kari January 27, 2010 at 9:20 am

Thank you!!!!

My CPF look just like yours and I thought I was the only mama on the planet who would continue to put those on a little bum. 🙂

Jaspenelle January 27, 2010 at 9:30 am

Hey the pile looks awfully familiar… Sure you didn’t sneak into my house to take that picture? 🙂

I like using cloth diapers, my newborn is in small chinese prefolds at the moment. My son was in the next size up for awhile but then we were lucky enough to get some pocket diapers. And we’ve had the washing machine repair man out too making me grateful for that extended warranty!

Jennifer W. January 27, 2010 at 10:09 am

I switched to cloth with my second, and my 4 month old has been cloth diapered the whole time (except for when we were in the hospital). Mine were pretty cheap. I made several one-size fitteds (from old flannel sheets, no less) and one-size pockets, bought the prefolds second-hand, made some covers, and got some covers from the baby shower. I wash about every 3 days. They look good, even with staining…I don’t have a clothesline (my husband doesn’t like how they look outside, but he’s agreed to let me put one up in our laundry room), so they’re dried in the dryer and don’t get the benefit of sun. I’ve also given up on folding them 🙂

ranch101 January 27, 2010 at 11:02 am

I’ve done just about every diaper option with my kids. For my first, some friends hired a couple months of diaper service as a shower gift. We kept that up for several years, until long after #2 was born.

We used disposables for travelling and emergencies (like running out of diapers before delivery day – #1 could and did go through more than 20 diapers a day!). I eventually switched to disposables for #2 because she got a rash in the cloth but not (certain brands of) disposables. (Strange. Even stranger, #1 & #2 got rashes from different brands of diapers.)

For #3, I bought Indian prefolds. Nice thick ones. Even doing diapers every other day on top of regular laundry for a family of 5 wasn’t that much work. (Especially after I figured out they were just as absorbent right out of the laundry basket 😉

But about the time we moved (near her first birthday), she stopped liking diaper changes and I switched to disposables because the one piece was a lot easier to manage than the cloth, snappy clip and wrap. (Have you ever diapered a kid while they were standing on their head? Or had to get them in a Professional Wrestling body lock to do a diaper change?) I’m just grateful that she’s starting to be interested in using the toilet!

Kat January 27, 2010 at 11:16 am

From an economic standpoint, cloth diapers are way better. Two years of disposable diapers is more than the cost of a brand new stackable washer and dryer (the kind frequently used in apartments or small homes, not the newer fancy fullsize washers). That’s the main argument I use when people try to convince me that disposables are better. I think the fact that we never had diaper rash, were fully trained right around two, and never once wet the bed were just “extra perks.” What lovely lovely lovely extra perks!

Kari January 27, 2010 at 1:25 pm


I have a question…we were fully intending on cloth diapering our daughter, but among other reasons, found that the thick bulky diaper hanging down to her knees would make her little legs stick straight up when she would sleep especially as a newborn (super uncomfortable and her legs would turn colors). Then when she was big enough to sort of squeeze the bulk between her legs, the diaper didn’t fit anymore. How do you avoid all the bulk? How do you do cloth diapers on a newborn? How do you get clothes to fit over a bulky cloth diaper?

Wanting to try again in June with baby #2, but I want it to work too!

Melanie January 27, 2010 at 4:20 pm

We’ve cd’ed both our boys. The oldest is 32mths and potty trained and the baby is 16mths. Used prefolds for both, and made my own wipes as well. Sure, it’s a bit more work than slappin’ a disposable on, but the $$$ saved is well worth the extra effort. And I agree with you about the restorative powers of the sun. I’ve even sunned the dipes in the middle of winter.. you definitely have “stiff little pup tents” when you bring them inside when it’s below freezing outside 🙂

Robin January 27, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Very nice post. i clothed both daughters & MUCH prefer cloth to pamper/type diapers. my eldest decided to go the ‘plastic’ route. (he is two now) and in the last 6 mo he has developed what i believe to be at minimum an extreme sensitivity to wearing them. he literally has to have medication to keep his skin from ‘burning’ if he wasnt so close to potty trained she would start over with the cloth.. ANOTHER reason for sticking with the BETTER way to diaper!!

I found one thing u said most interesting.. about the longevity (or lack of) of the prefolds. i didnt use prefolds – (after working at a state hospital i can fold a yard square of cloth into a diaper of ANY size from newborn to a 56yr old pt) so i saw no reason to spend the extra $$ at the time. tho now with the new Bamboo fabric ones i might change my mind.
are all the prefolds you use the same brand or is it how its made. is very interesting
& you are so right – yea washing machines 🙂
have a great day

Cori January 27, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I’m a bit surprised at your prefolds falling apart actually because I have some that were handed down to me by a mom of 3. I wash them every 2 or 3 days too. Maybe it does matter a little bit what type you get afterall!

Cathy January 27, 2010 at 9:15 pm

We have Kissaluv fitteds for the first 6 months or so (depending on chubbiness of baby)…they’ve held up through 3 babies so far (bought them used from a friend) and are getting ready to do duty on baby #4.

For the next stage, we use Fuzzi Bunz pocket diapers. So far they’ve been through 2 of my children and are still going strong, getting ready for the next. For the lady who asked about bulk, these are the perfect solution…just about as slim-fitting as a disposable if you use microfiber inserts.

And yeah, we often use them right from the basket. Now, my wipes, on the other hand, are looking pretty shabby…time for a few new ones for this little one.

ranch101 January 27, 2010 at 10:16 pm

For Kari: Our old diaper service has videos on diapering at One thing that my Mom told me that wasn’t in the videos was to put a twist in the diaper as you pull it up between the child’s legs, particularly when they’re tiny. That not only keeps the fabric from pushing the legs apart quite as much, but concentrates the fabric right where absorbency is most needed. Best of luck and congratulations!

JavaLady January 27, 2010 at 11:38 pm

I love this post ! I cd’ my two youngest and wish I’d done all three. I made many of my own diapers, covers, and doublers, as well as washable wipes, wipe solutions, and even mama’s own luna pads. All this saved me tons of moola ! And I wasn’t really any more trouble to do a load of diapers every couple of days than when we didn’t use cloth. I actually felt PROUD to be using cloth and not throwing my hard earned money away on disposables. The only disposable item that I felt was a Must -Have was the roll of flushable liners for inside diapers of toddlers… just peel that liner off when it is covered in poo, flush it, and drop your cloth diaper in the pail. No scraping poo off ever again ! LOL Sunlight is wonderful for bleaching out stains. I remember pinning diapers to a dog gate and leaning it up against the house on the front porch (no porch cover) to sun dry my diapers — because my subdivision didn’t allow clothes lines so I had to improvise a way to get them in the sunshine but still out smart the neighborhood patrol car and the neighborhood Miss Busy Body. LOL
There are plenty of patterns on line if you wanna sew your own diapers and some great breast feeding accessible clothing patterns too. (one of my favorite sewing patterns for bf clothes is )
Happy times Mommas!

Foxmom January 28, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I was all set to do the cloth diapers but hubby was having none of it. I figured I could make it work and maybe we’d have some of the other as standby for him. A compromise, you know? Yeah.
And then we found out we were having twins… and I contemplated that job x2. uh huh… LOL I failed the environmentally “good” test. So sad.
Am (unrealistically) potty training said 16month olds now. So far we have managed actual sitting on it. and that’s about it. LOL
sigh… 😉

marielle January 28, 2010 at 2:38 pm

LOL – totally agree. I’ve been cloth diapering continuously for the past six years, some of those years with two in cloth. I can’t imagine the amount of money we would have had to spend to use paper diapers. Now I also use cloth for myself and I wouldn’t do it any other way. 😉

becca January 29, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I’ve been using mine for 9 months now and they are getting a bit stringy too. I just snip the threads off every once in a while. I’m really looking forward to summer and hanging them on the line. Some of them are looking pretty bad. (I’ve had a few rounds of antibiotic-red poop to deal with. That stuff stains like the dickens.) To deal with the stiffness, I usually tumble mine in the dryer on no heat/ air only cycle to make them a little softer for the babe. She doesn’t seem to mind either way.
And I will admit, I do still fold mine, mostly because we have a tiny house and I like to get things put away. But we have #2 coming in a few months, which means double (or triple) the dipes and more washings, so I may not continue folding. I’m glad I have your permission not to. =)
We use an open-top diaper pail (trash can with waterproof bag liner) and sprinkle in some baking soda every few dipes. But boy, the bottom of that thing still reeks of ammonia when you dump it on wash day. I’ve left the laundry coughing from it. But luckily it all comes out in the wash.

Lawanda January 30, 2010 at 4:34 pm

LOVE this post!!!! ♥

Tomato Lady January 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Kari–Have you looked into the fitted’s? They have an hourglass shape. If you don’t want to buy them there are many patterns and tips for making your own. Here’s one tutorial:
And, I’m sure if you’ve been researching you’ve run across The Diaper Pin, but if you haven’t yet, it’s a great place to find questions and discussions on all things CD.
Hope it works out this time!

Ashley March 24, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Weighing in late, but I think all cloth diapers get a ringaround when it comes to the amount of use and washings they endure!

We’ve been using fitteds/AIOs/Pockets and a few prefolds occassionally for 2.5 years now and they’re holding up well. I’m glad to see this, because I hope to use them for #2 eventually!

We love our cloth, and I second the last person’s suggestion to check out for some great advise and reviews!

LaRee November 9, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I am going on baby #7! I haven’t considered cd for any of my children, I remember having to scrub them out for the younger children when I was small, probably even my own. I remember the great ‘revolution’ of disposable diapers. My mother had her children very close, 9 by the time I was 17 years old, and I am the oldest. So I can see how the disposables were a super convenience. I am considering making some for baby # 7 though. I have started my own laundry and dish soaps and many other household things I need to buy each month. I just hope I can save enough to actually buy something I want, like a piano!

stefanie baker August 22, 2011 at 8:34 am

I read an article you wrote about cloth diapering in the Knoxville New Sentinel and I have been trying to find the ebay seller you wrote about because I have had trouble finding affordable cloth diapers since I was laid off in May. Can you please pass on any information you have regarding the company that sells the babyland diapers.

thank you
Stefanie Baker

Kay T January 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm

I cloth diapered my 4 kids. I just figured that Iwould not like to wear paper underwear! It’s true. Thought they were much more clean and comfy than the babiies in diposable that really need to get soaled before mom could feel it was wet.
My “baby” will be21 in a couple weeks. Guess I am the original “green mom”, Though I did it out of comfort for them mainly!

Kay T May 5, 2012 at 12:50 pm

I used Coth diapers for my four kids because I just figured I would not want to wear paper underwear myself. Really!
I also learned a tip for severely stained whites (LIKE DIAPERS),is to lay them on the ground on a very grassy (and LOW TRAFFIC) place. Something about the interaction of grass and the cloth. Whitens thing the way bleach never could. Anyone else try this also? It works so well. every time!

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