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How to Use Cloth Diapers

Published January 17, 2012        by Sarah

Every parent wants the best for their baby, and for many, that means opting to use cloth diapers.  Why?  What are the benefits?  One of the biggest is expense: a typical family will save over $2,600 by using cloth over disposable. Many times, family members or friends will sneak cloth diapers into diaper cakes or diaper bags because they're firm believers and it's no wonder why!

The benefits for your child are equally important to saving money: cloth diapered babies tend to have less diaper rash and skin irritation and they will probably be potty-trained before their disposable diaper-wearing peers.

If you are hesitant to use cloth because you fear sticking your baby in the hip with a big diaper pin or you wonder if you'll be able to wrap them correctly in order to prevent leakage, don't worry. Today's cloth diapers are much more parent-friendly and easy to use.

There is no doubt about it: diapering technology has advanced.  While it means drier bums, it can also mean intimidation for new parents.  How do you start?  Which fabric is best?  Do you need liners, doublers, or both?  And what in the world is an AIO or an AI2?

The first step is to learn about the different kinds of cloth diapers.  This isn't your grandma's square of linen anymore; you have incredible options, including:

  • All in One (or AIO).  This diaper includes all the parts you need, such as an inner soaker and waterproof cover.  They are relatively easy to use and do not require additional supplies.  Many people consider them just like disposable diapers in terms of ease – the only difference is you wash it instead of throw it away!  On the con side, these take longer to dry and they can cost between $16 and $30.  Remember, though, you can use the same diaper for years.  BumGenius is a highly recommended brand, particularly their organic AIOs.
  • All in Two (or AI2).  Because AIOs take so long to dry, AI2s can be a great choice.  They come apart to speed up drying times.  You simply fasten the soaker, or the inner absorbent part of the diaper, to the outer cover.

The downside to both AIOs and AI2s is that they are quite expensive because you have to have enough on hand to last until you do washing next.  Having 10 – 20 $30 diapers is a big upfront expense.  But there are some other options.

  • Prefolds. These are the least expensive option.  They look like squares of cloth but have prefold seams to help make diapering a bit easier.  You fold them into a rectangle and put them inside a diaper cover (which are inexpensive and can be reused between changings). You then fasten the cover, and you are done.  You can also skip the cover and fasten the cloth diaper with a Snappi. Prefolds can be used throughout your child's diapered life – and beyond.  They can be used as diapers, liners, and soakers, as well as baby bibs (or mainly burp cloths) when thoroughly cleaned.
  • Pocket diapers.  These have a waterproof outer layer and then a layer of suede cloth or microfleece inside.  In between the layers, in the pocket, you can put whatever you want for lining and increase absorbency if you need to.
  • Fitted diapers. These have elastic and fasteners built in so you do not need snaps or Snappis. You will need a separate cover.  These are like a combination of prefolds and pockets.

Most parents use a combination of these options.  For instance, they may use prefolds at home and then use AIOs, AI2s, or pocket diapers for going out or when a babysitter or less experienced diaperer is watching the baby.  ClothDiapersMadeSimple has a convenient chart to help you determine how many diapers you need, depending on which option(s) you choose.

The “how” is slightly different with each type of diaper.  AIOs, for instance, work just like regular disposables.  Prefolds are probably the most intimidating at first, but you just need to practice – and invest in a few great covers and a diaper pail with liners. You can find some great video tutorials on YouTube, like the one shown below.

The most important tip is do not be intimidated.  You will soon find that it is easy to use cloth diapers, even prefolds.  You may have some new parent mishaps at first, but everyone does – even those who use disposable diapers!

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1 thought on “How to Use Cloth Diapers”

  1. Although cloth diapers can be a pain in the butt, they really do save money and the environment (unless you buy the eco-friendly disposables that are even more expensive). The new options are so much better than what they had 20 years ago when I was changing lots of diapers. Great post!

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