Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Cloth Diaper System

I didn't cloth diaper my first child. I had never really given it much thought, to be honest. But by the time my second baby came along I knew that it was going to be an important choice for our family. Diapers produce a huge amount of landfill waste each year and they cost so much money on top of that- it just didn't seem like a reasonable choice.

Still, I was so overwhelmed with the cloth diapering options! How could something so simple as poop-catching be so very, very complicated?! Everywhere I looked there were different companies, different choices, different acronyms and I felt completely lost. As it turns out, there are four types of cloth diapers (and I have tried them all at one point or another): prefolds, pocket diapers, all in ones, and hybrids. 

I started out with prefold diapers and rubber covers. This is the oldest method around- when you think of your grandmother hanging diapers that looked like big napkins out on the line to dry, this is the method you're thinking of. I used them for about two weeks, at which point I gave up because they were so bulky my daughter had a hard time moving her legs (who could blame her- the diaper went down to her little knees!), and they were leaking. I have plenty of friends who love prefolds for their simplicity, so maybe I just never caught on.

Next I tried pocket diapers. These worked better for me than the prefolds, but I had one big issue with them that I could never get over: when my daughter pooped I had to reach into the dirty diaper with my hands to pull the liner out of the pocket. Ewwwww... Again, I have many friends who really like these diapers, especially because you can adjust the size of them just by using a built-in snap system, but I sold mine on Craigslist and used the capital to buy a different type of diaper.

Here is an all in one Kushies diaper and extra liner. As they come out of the wash I put an extra liner in each of them and fold them so that they are ready to go. (With the Kushies system you wash all of it, every time so you can pre-fold all of them.)
Next, a friend turned me on to the All In One (AIO) variety. She used Kushies brand, and after taking care of her daughter several times I knew I could do this. I bought a starter kit and we used Kushies almost exclusively for Ava until she potty trained. I purchased the extra liners for them and I added the biodegradable paper liner as well because it made my life easier with "number twos" (you can throw or flush the thin liner and most of the poop comes off with it so it makes laundering easier). There are a couple of drawbacks to the AIO's, however. Since they are all in one, you wash everything, every time. This means a little bit of extra laundry for some (not for me, but I soon had two kids in diapers and I wasn't keeping track). Also, you can't take the liners out to soak them separately, so sometimes the outside of the diaper gets bleached and looses color. Since I don't really care about the fashion statement my kids' diapers make, this also didn't bother me. Last, many families have to buy two sizes as the baby grows because these diapers aren't adjustable. Ava is such a peanut and she potty trained so early however, we only ever used the infant size.

This is a Kushies diaper assembled and ready to put into the basket for quick use. 

By the time our third baby came along another friend was done with her hybrid diapers and gave them to me. I was thrilled with these new G-diapers! This style uses a cloth outer cover, a plastic insert to keep wetness locked in, and your choice of insert: either hemp terrycloth or biodegradable disposable. This made it more manageable for me to cloth diaper on the go- I could just use the disposable liners and flush them (you can even compost them... but I don't). It just plain was the most flexible option- and with three young kids that fit the bill perfectly. The drawbacks to the system are simply that they cost more (on a continuing basis if you purchase the disposable liners), and because there are so many parts you may find that others aren't as willing to use them (when our baby goes to a friend's house or a grandparents house I usually use Kushies or disposables still).

Today, with only one child in diapers again and her being old enough to only use 4-6 diapers per day, we are mostly using the G-diaper hybrid option. I keep Kushies on hand because I still really like them, but when we got a new front-loading washing machine I found it much more difficult to soak my Kushies diapers, and for some reason they seem to really need it. (It's difficult to soak diapers with a front-loader because it's a pain to transfer the soaking diapers into the front of the machine, whereas before I could just dump in the whole pail at the top and set it on the spin cycle to drain the water.)

Here's how it works for me:

This the set up in my bathroom. Each basket houses a different batch of supplies, and a small pail is kept behind the door for dirty diapers.

Basket One holds most of my G-diaper stash. The colored items are the outer covers, the white terrycloth items on the left are the inserts, and the folded white items in the center (that look like paper) are the disposable inserts.

Here are the plastic liners for my G-diapers. I keep them in a separate basket because they don't fold neatly so it's easiest to keep them in their own place.

I keep one basket with wipes (I use disposable), diaper creams, and the disposable diapers that I use on my kids at night. (I use coupons for whatever diapers I can get cheapest, and if I have no coupons I buy earth-friendly diapers.)
UPDATE: Since a friend gave me her old size large Kushies diapers, we've kicked the disposable habit completely and now use Kushies diapers for both girls at night, with an extra liner.

This is my Kushies diaper stash, folded and ready to use.

Washing diapers is easy: you wash them like clothes. Into the washer with a natural detergent (no perfumes or other yucky things because the soap will stick to the fibers and make your diapers less absorbent... which you really don't want) on hot with some white vinegar to disinfect. Done! Line dry the suckers to get them white again (ah, the power of the sun) and you're good to go.


  1. I use pockets. You know...I just throw the diapers in the wash and the liners agitate out! I have never used the kind you do! I may need to try one just because ;)

  2. Oh where were you two years ago? :) I kept reaching in to pull out pockets... how did I never know that there was another (far superior) way to handle that? I think pocket diapers are the most popular in general, so I always kind of wondered what I was missing... :) Now I know!

  3. What kind of detergent do you use? Don't have kids yet, but planning one and looking into cloth diapers. Did not know perfume detergents make them less absorbable

  4. I make my own detergent using natural, household ingredients (that are cheap!). Here's the link if you're interested:
    Before I made my own, I used this chart a lot- it discusses the pros and cons to every brand out there. So great!

  5. I am so with you on the darn front loader and cloth diapers. Had I known I would cloth diaper, I never would have bought a front loader. Why on EARTH do they make it so you just cannot soak in the thing? Anyway. I only pull out inserts in pockets when I double stuff for night and it works out fine. Have you tried cloth training pants for using at night for your older kids? Grovia and Bum genius just came out with some that look nice.

  6. Jen, I will have to try the training pants. This is the next frontier for me, and I think I was just lacking a direction- most folks I know use disposables at night once their child potty trains during the day, but I would love to use cloth at night as well. Why not? I'm going to check into your recommendations and try some out- thank you so much!

  7. I have two boys, and with both of them, we have used cloth diapers. We have all kinds, let me tell you. :) the ones with pockets and inserts, all-in-ones, diapers without pul-covers to be used with wool soakers. the latter ones I'd say are the most ecological. No plastic used what so ever.

    I'd never use these compostable refills in cloth diapers. (we have used all-compostable diapers when it has been impossible to use cloth diapers though..) the reason is methane: when you dont have a compost yourself - and for many many of us, we don't have backyards for that and compostable diapers should be left for 3 years so that you can use the compost in a garden.. :), and where there are no bio waste collecting arranged by the city, or when there is forbidden to throw bio-degradable diapers and nappies the collected bio waste, the result is a lot of methane gas forming at the waste management plant, aka the dump. and these diapers take a long time to melt away! when there are bio-degradable waste mix with non-degradable and plastic waste, the result is not composting as it should be, it is methane inducing rotting. and that my friends, is not green, that's a greenhouse gas.

    1. I had not heard of the methane gas issue until you posted this comment, so thanks for the tip! For anyone who wants to know more, you can check out this link for a discussion of the breakdown of a compostable diaper
      So it's back to straight cloth for me! Actually, since summer's on it's way it's going to be outside, naked bums for me more often than not. :)

  8. I use pockets but I've got a clothespin handy to pull out the inserts.
    Great blog! Thanks for the great info!

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