Switching to cloth diapers

While some families begin cloth diapering from the first days, there are many who come to cloth diapers later—even much later. If you are one of these families, we offer a few thoughts and considerations on making the switch.

It isn't an all-or-nothing choice

Even among those who use cloth diapers from the beginning, it can often be a part-time commitment. It's OK to make it a transition, even a slow one. If you're ready to buy a full set and switch immediately you can, but don't feel that it's the only way.

If you're unsure, go part-time

You can begin by just using cloth diapers on weekends, a few days a week when you're at home, or in the evenings and at night. This also allows you to grow your stash of diapers slowly, as you make the switch.

Use cloth diapers most similar to disposables

All-in-one diapers will be the most familiar to disposable users, and can be particularly effective if you are trying to convince uncertain partners to switch to cloth diapers. There are also several diapers (including Flip and GroVia) which have a regualr cloth diaper cover but can use either a cloth or special disposable absorbent insert.

Use flushable liners and/or a diaper sprayer

Taking care of the "big stuff" is often a concern for people with older babies who are switching to cloth diapers. By using flushable diaper liners, however, poop can be easily removed from a diaper with minimal mess. Diaper sprayers, which connect easily to most toilets, are mini power-washers which make pre-cleaning a breeze (and are often the key to convincing reluctant dads).

Take advantage of our trial program

Our Experiment to Own program is a great way to help you learn about cloth diapering and sample brands and styles before you commit. Why guess when in two weeks you can know for certain?

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Learning about diaper styles

All-in-One

All-in-one cloth diapers most closely replicate the disposable diaper. In an all-in-one diaper, the waterproof outer cover, the absorbent middle layer, and a soft inner layer are sewn together as one unit, and fasten together with Velcro or snaps. Changing these diapers is as simple as taking off the dirty diaper and putting on a clean one.Shop Now »

Diaper Lab Results:

This style of diaper can often convince reluctant spouses that cloth diapering is not going to be difficult. All-in-ones are also great if you're worried about your babysitter or mother-in-law trying to sneak in a pack of disposables.

 

Pocket

Similar to an all-in-one diaper, pocket diapers consist of a waterproof outer cover and a soft inner layer. The difference is that the absorbent layer is not sewn into the diaper, but inserted into a pocket between the inner and outer layers. These inserts can be anything from a prefold or washcloth to inserts designed specifically for the diaper, and are available in differing levels of absorbency.Shop Now »

Diaper Lab Results:

Pocket diapers are very flexible! Many people use them at night, because you can use a more absorbent insert for heavy wetters.

 

Diaper Cover

Diaper covers provide the waterproof outer layer for fitted, contour, and prefold diapers. Usually made from polyurethane-laminated cloth (commonly called PUL), cover styles include pull-ups, which are elasticized around the waist and legs, or wraps, which are fastened with Velcro or snaps. Covers are also available in wool, a naturally water-resistant fiber. Because diaper covers are made in specific sizes, a baby might require two or more sizes of diaper covers over the course of diapering.Shop Now »

Diaper Lab Results:

A collection of covers is always helpful to have around, whether for prefolds on infants or with a big fitted at night with a toddler. You can never go wrong!

 

Fitted

Fitted diapers are held snug by elasticized waist and legs and secured by hook-and-loop (Velcro) or snaps. They consist of absorbent material covered with a soft layer (often microfleece) that touches the skin. Fitted diapers are not waterproof; these diapers require a separate waterproof cover. Because fitted diapers are made in specific sizes, a baby might require two or more sizes of fitted diapers over the course of diapering.Shop Now »

Diaper Lab Results:

Fitted diapers are another great addition to have on hand. They are particularly useful for infants at nights or with other caregivers, as well as providing extra absorbency at night and naps for older babies or heavy wetters.

 

Prefold

Prefold diapers consist of a rectangular absorbent cloth, such as cotton, with a thicker, more absorbent middle section and two thinner side sections. Prefolds are often what people think of when they picture a cloth diaper. This type of diaper requires a cover.Shop Now »

Diaper Lab Results:

If you received a package of this type of diaper at your baby shower, you might have been intending to use them as burp cloths. However, with the addition of a few diaper covers, prefolds become the perfect solution for cloth diapering (and our most popular) during the first two months!

 

Contour

Contour diapers fall in-between prefolds and fitted diapers. Shaped like an hourglass, these diapers do not need to be folded to fit, but they also do not have any of the extra features (elastic, Velcro, or snaps) found with a fitted diaper. Because of their shape, a baby might require two sizes of contour diapers over the course of diapering.Shop Now »

Diaper Lab Results:

Countour diapers are a nice compromise between the excellent value of a prefold and the ease-of-use of a fitted diaper.

 

Training Pants

As with cloth diapers, there are different styles of cloth training pants. The traditional training pant resembles cotton underwear with a thick absorbent panel. This style is not waterproof, so accidents will occur. Pocket training pants pull up and down like underwear, but have a pocket for absorbable inserts, similar to the pocket diaper. Finally, there are waterproof training pants that consist of thick cotton underpants combined with a waterproof cover.Shop Now »

Diaper Lab Results:

Many people find that cloth-diapered babies potty train more easily than babies in disposables. Cloth Training Pants are also a great way to save money (and trips to the store!) when you still have a few accidents occurring!

 

Swim Diaper

Swim diapers are designed to hold in solids, not liquids. Pocket diapers can transition into swim diapers easily—just pull out the absorbent insert. Or there are cloth diapers made specifically for the water. Many are made out of swimsuit material and resemble underwear. Some manufacturers make girls swim tops in matching material. There are also swim diapers designed for boys that resemble swim shorts.Shop Now »

Diaper Lab Results:

Not only are they cute and fun, but many pools now require a diaper cover like these!

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An easy overview of cloth diapers

The basic design and construction of all diapering systems—including both disposables and cloth—comes down to only two important features:

  • An external barrier, which servers as a waterproof layer and containment shell to keep solids in.
  • Internal absorbent material, which soaks up and retains liquid.

How these functions are met give cloth diapers their amazing diversity of design and styling. The styles of diapers differ primarily by how the external barrier and internal absorbent material are put together.

The most modern and convenient diapers, known as All-in-Ones (AIOs), combine both components in one package, and are as easy-to-use as a disposable. While not as simple, the most economical approach to cloth diapering uses prefolds, which are the flat, rectangular cloth diapers which most people know from the original days of cloth diapers, and a simple, waterproof cover.

While some people will choose a single brand or style of diaper, many find that they like to have a variety of diapers in their stash, depending upon when, who, and how the diapers will be used. Some special situations which you might consider include:

  • during nighttime or for long naps;
  • for babies who are heavy wetters;
  • if you have twins or multiples;
  • for premature or other special-need infants;
  • for daycare providers, sitters, and other frequent caretakers;
  • for reluctant or uncertain spouses or family members.

Regardless, for full-time cloth diapering of an infant you will need 24 to 30 diapers, while for older babies and toddlers you should have 18 to 24 diapers. With this many diapers, you will only need to wash every two to three days.  Newborns will typically go through 10 to 12 diaper changes a day, while babies six months and older tend to only need 8 to 10 diaper changes each day. Because of this, and since newborns grow so rapidly, many people who begin cloth diapers with their newborn will use prefolds and covers initially, and switching to one of the other styles when their baby is three to six months old.

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Why should I use cloth diapers?

That's really the first question we hear from people when they begin to look at cloth diapering. While there are many different reasons, there are a few we think you should consider. Some you've probably already thought of...but others might surprise you!

Cloth Diapers are Good

Most people begin to look at cloth diapers for one of three major reasons: environmental, financial, and health. To many people, these are the simplest reasons for using cloth diapers, and we feel strongly about each of them.

Environmental Benefits

Disposable diapers generate 3.7 million tons of solid-waste in this country every year¹, with one baby in disposable diapers creating about one ton of refuse while in diapers². While there are tradeoffs which result from washing cloth diapers, many people strongly believe that cloth diapers are the most "earth-friendly" option.

Financial Benefits

Most babies use between 5,000 and 6,500 diapers from birth to potty training, at a typical cost of between 20 and 40 cents per diaper. Total expense into the garbage: $1,000 to $2,500. Switch to cloth diapers and your total cost, including laundry, can be as low as $400, with even the most deluxe set of diapers costing only about $1,000. If you use your diapers for a second—or even third—child, you save even more! With cloth diapers, it's easy to save $1,000!

Health Benefits

While some parents are concerned about long-term health impacts from Super Absorbent Polymers (SAP) and other chemicals used in making disposable diapers, more typical concerns for parents who use disposables are diaper rash and other skin irritations. While there have not been any exhaustive studies, many parents who switch to cloth diapers describe fewer problems with diaper rashes.

Cloth Diapers are Easy

A surprise many people find when they start to consider cloth diapers is the new modern styles are very easy to use and care for. Many are as easy to use as disposables, and the extra laundry is only a few loads a week. In fact, cloth diapers are so easy that many daycare providers and centers will support parents who cloth diaper. And who thinks endless trips to buy more disposables is convenient? With cloth, you'll always have your diapers at home.

Cloth Diapers are Fun

Have you ever looked at a disposable diaper and through it was cute? Didn't think so! With a rainbow of colors and an unimaginable range of prints, patterns, and designs, you'll actually enjoy your diapers! Though your head (and your partner) might like all of the logical reasons, it's hard not to like something this fun.

Cloth Diapers…It Just Feels Right!

Many people start to use cloth diapers for very particular reasons, or decide it's important even if they aren't excited or fully committed. But we keep hearing one thing when we talk to people after a few months: it's a decision they were so glad they made, and so much more rewarding than expected. They may have started just to save money or be green, but they find that it brings so much more in unexpected ways and it just feels right!

It's Simple to Start

With so many reasons why, what's stopping you from learning a little more? Read on to discover more about the exciting world of cloth diapers!

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