First off, a little terminology
There are basically 4 types of cloth diapers, ordered from least to most easy to use and also cheapest to most expensive:
- Prefolds, also called "Chinese prefolds". If you are of an age where your mother cloth diapered you, these are probably what she used and they are probably what you think of when you think of cloth diapering. They are rectangular and have extra padding in the middle. You fold them up a certain way, pin them, and put a plastic cover on over them. They run $20-$30 per dozen plus the price of covers which vary widely.
- Pocket dipes. The most popular brand of these is probably Fuzzi Bunz. They are fleece diapers that have the back cut out to make a "pocket" where you can stuff in extra linings. These usually close with snaps or velcro and they usually require a cover. I see on the Fuzzi Bunz site now though that they are making a version with a built-in waterproof outer layer that doesn't require a cover. Brand new, they will run you about $15.
- Fitted dipes. These diapers are shaped like a disposable and usually close with snaps or velcro. They require a cover.
- All-in-ones (AIOs). The cadillacs of cloth diapers. These are basically a fitted dipe with a built-in waterproof on the outside. Kushies are my favorite brand and new ones will run you about $10 each.
What's the best option to use?
Hard to say as it's rather a personal preference. Some people swear by prefolds. I personally was never able to get the darn thing folded right. I have about 2 dozen prefolds and I swear by them only for wiping up puke and stuff like that.
Other people will swear up and down by Fuzzi Bunz. I will admit, the new ones with the waterproof cover look great. They are fleece whereas the AIOs tend to be cotten. I personally didn't like the idea of stuffing in the liner. Also, my daughter for some reason cannot tolerate fleece: it gives her a terrible diaper rash.
My diaper stash consists mainly of Kushies AIOs with some Bumkins (very similar to Kushies; cute designs; new cost around $15). I also have a fair number of Kushies fitted diapers and a good stash of covers. I bought some Fuzzi Bunz in my research stage and they are really cute but, like I said above, I thought stuffing the inserts would be too much work. Plus, the Kushies are cheaper so I was able to buy more for my money.
Sizes vary widely by brand. Kushies has 3 different sizes:
- Newborn up to 10#. I have a handful of these but I wouldn't really recommend them unless you get a good price. Depending on your baby's size, you may or may not even use them and then maybe for only a few weeks. They do look really cute though and you will get a lot of comments on them! My advice is to use disposables until the next size.
- Infant 10-22#. This is where the bulk of you diapering will be and I would suggest buying as many as possible. The Little Miss is average size and she wore these up until around 20 months.
- Toddler 22+#. Depending on when you decide to potty train, these may or may not be useful. What I personally found is that not too long after she went into this size, the diaper changes got to be more of a chore and a fight. After a while it was just easier to use a disposie so she could stay in them 3 or 4 hours rather than 1-2 with the cloth.
This is always the big question: How hard are they to clean?? When I first started using cloth, I did all the recommended things: I rinsed them off in the toilet, I presoaked them, I boraxed them, and I line dried them. After a while reality set in! Now I use throw-away liners to catch the poop and then I just throw them in the dry diaper pail. When wash-time comes along I just dump the whole thing in the washer and run it through a sanitary cycle. I will say that my front-loading washer does a hell of a job getting them clean - much better than the top loader and with less wear on the diapers. Then I throw them in the dryer on the very lowest heat setting. The heat in the dryer will ruin your waterproof outer layer faster than anything. I will usually put them in the dryer and let them sit overnight. Then I go through and hang up the ones that are still wet. Line drying them in the sun will take care of most stains but staining has never been a big problem for me.
The key to making laundry easy is to have a big stash. When my daughter was in cloth exclusively, I only washed one load of diapers every 5-6 days.
How Many to buy?
It kind of depends on how often you want to do laundry. With cloth, plan on changing the diaper every 2 hours or so during the day.
Where to buy?
I did all of my buying on ebay. Probably 75% of the diapers I bought were used. I'd get them home, run them through the washer, and they were ready to go. If you go this route, just read the descriptions and ask questions about staining and also about how good the velcro is. I bought all my cloth diapers on ebay for less than $1000. Obviously if you are only planning to have 1 child, cloth diapers are not going to be financially rewarding. But if you have 2 or more kids, they will easily pay for themselves.
If you want to buy brand new, there are a plethora of sites out there that sell them. Just google "cloth diapers" or something similar and start researching the best prices.
What about nighttime?
For a couple of months I experimented with nighttime options but I never found something that didn't have me changing clothes and sheets halfway through the night. In the end I decided to use a disposable at night and never regreted that decision.
The last word
These days my Little Miss is in disposies almost exclusively. Diaper changes every 2 hours are just not feasible with a toddler in my mind! I will sometimes pull out a cloth diaper in the morning when her night diaper is full but I know she's going to poop soon. I am also recently using them more in the afternoon to see if I can get her more used to the feeling of wetness as a prelude to potty training.
I hope someone finds this information helpful. When I tell people I cloth diaper, I get and have gotten many disparaging remarks. Most are from people who have misconceptions about how easy it is to do and they have no clue as to the wealth of options offered these days. Those options didn't exist even 10 year ago probably. I do not regret for one second my decision to cloth diaper and I hope more people will investigate it as an alternative. If anyone has any questions please don't hesitate to ask. Just don't ask me to count the diapers in my stash! Most of them are in boxes with all the baby stuff and I am just not ready to go there!