Once upon a time, in a vacation land far south of here, a set of normally cloth-diapering new parents splurged on a shiny pack of chlorine-free, dye-free, scent-free, all-bad-things-free disposable diapers to protect their daughter’s precious newborn bum. The new mom was enjoying a life of leisure, sashaying across the marble floors to the wall of windows overlooking the ocean – when the new dad busted in, out of breath, holding a paper-towel-wrapped baby out from his clothes, all of which were dripping with poo, and yelled, “I HATE DISPOSABLE DIAPERS!”
And a disposable diaper never touched the little girl’s precious bum again.
Except for the rest of that trip. And the next trip. And for all air travel. And when they stayed anywhere but Grandma and Grandpa’s. And during occasional long road trips. And a few days at daycare. And when, for whatever reason, it was just less gross.
My husband and I have rocked our nearly nine months (and counting) of cloth diapering because we realized something important amidst that dizzy feeling you get when you google “cloth diapers” and stare, blinking, at the nine gazillion results: You don’t need to know everything about cloth diapering – you just need to know enough to make it work for you.
You don’t have to to get a bunch of different kinds of diapers and creams and laundry detergents and liners and sprayers and pails and to see what you like best. You don’t need to experiment with different systems and combinations and ratios until you settle on your ideal 12-piece diapers and a 47-step wash-and-dry-and-fluff routine. By all means, I salute you if that works best for your family, but also know it’s OK to start with one simple routine, like it and stick with it.
Starting there and making tiny tweaks along the way has saved us many hours of reading, lots of money and a ton of stress. Cloth diapering can be simple and flexible, while staying true to the reasons most people embark on the journey in the first place – to save money, the earth and a certain precious bum.
Here’s our lazy-ish method:
Get the Simplest, Most Dummy-Proof Cloth Diapers Money Can Buy
Your kid will get an estimated 3,800 diaper changes. (Yes, I’ll wait while you sob/gag silently.) You really, really want them to be as easy as possible. Really.
For us, that meant sticking to diapers that are one piece and one size. We bought just one kind of diaper. All its components are attached (called “all-in-one” in cloth-diaper speak) – no extra covers or pads or clips. It is adjustable and will adapt to our munchkin’s size until she’s out of diapers. And it is a champ. Its nearly-20-bucks-a-pop price tag is not for the faint of heart, but we thought dishing out a little extra cash for the Cadillac of diapers would pay for itself in sanity in no time. We were oh-so-right.
It also meant admitting that despite our diapers’ “one-size” claim, they likely wouldn’t fit like a glove for the first couple of weeks, months or pounds. We needed a newborn plan. Using disposables at first is easy. It’s clean(er). It’s completely respectable. Do it if it works for you, and don’t for a second second-guess yourself! But we were worried if we didn’t jump into cloth with both feet at the beginning, we might chicken out, so we opted to rent newborn-size cloth diapers for a couple months. If you can spring for an early-days diaper service (or add it to your baby registry), I am so jealous of you right now, and forever.
Get Good Gear and Skip the Extras
We started with a relatively short list of high-quality basics to help us do this dirty job a little easier and have skipped the fancy diaper pails, toilet sprayers and stripping routines thus far. Here’s my comprehensive cloth diaper shopping list, along with the products/brands* in our rotation:
- [rented] Newborn-size all-in-one cloth diapers // Blueberry Simplex via My Sweet Pickles**
- One-size, all-in-one cloth diapers // BumGenius Freetime
- Cloth wipes – We toss them right into the pail with the diapers and wash it all together. // Just One Designs on Etsy (but you can cut up scraps of flannel yourself)
- Spray bottle and homemade wipes solution – We fill it with distilled water, a squirt of mild soap and and a bit of coconut or olive oil. // Bronner’s Baby Mild
- Diaper cream – Make sure it’s cloth-diaper safe, as some conventional creams can damage cloth diapers; but we’ve had so few rashes with cloth we hardly use it. // Earth Mama Angel Baby
- Fleece liners – We have a few cheapo liners on hand to protect the diapers, just in case we need to use medicated rash cream (which we haven’t yet!). // Malden Mills via Green Mountain Diapers
Storing and cleaning
- Regular step trash can // from Target
- Waterproof pail liners – Dump ‘em right into the washing machine with the diapers. // Kanga Care
- Wet bags in assorted sizes – We keep these in the diaper bag, send them to daycare, etc. I’m sure there’s one at the bottom of my purse right now… // Planet Wise
- Laundry detergent – I basically did eeny, meeny, miny, moe to pick a detergent that was cloth-diaper safe and didn’t have extra stuff it that might irritate baby’s genetically cursed sensitive skin (although I know many people use straight-up Tide with no problems). We stick to a super-simple, every-other-day wash routine recommended to us when we rented our newborn diapers: cold rinse, hot wash with detergent, cold rinse, line dry. Every month or so, I give ‘em an extra few hot washes in a row to get off any lingering detergent gunk. // Rockin’ Green
* None of the companies mentioned are sponsoring, influencing or even aware of this post, and we’ve purchased all products/services ourselves at full price – I just want to give you a concrete snapshot of what our routine looks like!
**We rented our newborn diapers – and purchased our long-haul diapers – from My Sweet Pickles and can’t say enough great things about the company. From their competitive prices and rewards program to surprise gifts in our shipments to phenomenal customer service (think answering late-night emails about washing machine settings), they’ve been a great source of both products and information throughout our journey.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
It is OK for a disposable diaper to touch your kid’s butt. Really. And sometimes it’s way more convenient. We use disposables for air travel, for example – because the only thing more nerve-wracking than flying with an unpredictable baby is flying with a carryon full of poopy diapers. Some people always use disposables at night, or at daycare, or every time they leave the house. Do what works for you and own it.
We keep tabs on our critter’s size in disposables and buy a pack when she jumps a weight class so we always have some on hand – and while we give ourselves full permission to use them any time, for any reason, I don’t think we’ve ever made it through them all. We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to use cloth when we’re out and about, how routine it’s become to search for a wet bag instead of a garbage can and how 99 times out of 100, we’ll dig right past the disposables in the diaper bag and go for the cloth.
Because in our house, a fluffy butt is a happy butt.
Learn more about cloth diapering – the lazy way and less-lazy ways! – here:
- Not your Grandma’s Cloth Diapers: Modern Cloth Diapers 101
- What About The Poop?! Modern Cloth Diapers 201