If you’ve ever thought about cloth diapering, you know there are countless options out there.  There are so many choices (prefolds, fitted diapers, pocket diapers, all-in-ones  - to name a few), it’s pretty confusing.  In fact, I became so overwhelmed when I first started looking, that I quit and decided to stick with disposables for a month or two.  I wish I’d had a guide to help me along the path.  Consider this your guide.  After cloth diapering for about two years (give or take), I’d say I know my way around a diaper pail.

Why cloth diaper?

There are many reasons to use cloth diapers – they’re environmentally friendly, they are chemical-free and safer for your baby’s bottom, they save tons of money, and they’re really cute!

How much will they really save you?  On average, cloth diapers will save you over $1,500.00.  The cost of the average disposable diaper is $0.28 per diaper.  If you change a baby’s diaper, on average, eight times a day, that comes out to over $2,800.00.  On average, cloth diapering only costs between $400-$1,300 (including the cost to clean them) and will depend on how much you spend on the initial diapers.


What are the different types of diapers?

Cloth diapers aren’t about pins and plastic anymore.  That’s certainly a good thing, but while there was only one option in days of old, there are countless options in today’s world.  Let’s explore them one by one.


Prefolds are the traditional cloth diapers that have been used for years, but they have a thick, absorbent strip down the middle. They are worn with a diaper cover and come in three sizes – Preemie, Infant  & Premium.

There are quite a few different kinds of prefolds, but the most popular are the Chinese Prefold and the Indian Prefold.  Chinese Prefolds are made of twill, and hold up to intense washing.  Indian Prefolds are softer than Chinese Prefolds and are made of gauze, but they do not hold up as well.

Diaper covers

Prefolds need to be used with waterproof diaper covers.  You can fold the prefolds inside of the diaper cover (or use a  and it will acts as a waterproof barrier.  Diaper covers aren’t crunchy plastic anymore and are actually really cute!

I ended up purchasing a package of prefold diapers and diaper covers that I really liked.  They’re called Econobum and made by the makers of BumGenius.  They’re pre-folds, but instead of having a fitted diaper cover, it’s a one-size cover (meaning its adjustable).  And they’re so cheap!  I started with these when I was initially unsure about cloth diapering.  I figured I could spend the $49.00 (on 12) and not feel guilty if cloth diapering wasn’t for me.  I ended up loving them and purchased another package.

Fitted diapers

Fitted diapers are another option that can be used with diaper covers.  Fitted diapers have elastic around the legs and snaps for closure.  The diaper cover simply goes right over the fitted diaper.  Although fitted diapers are more expensive than prefolds, they get an A+ in convenience, especially if you can’t figure out how to wrangle a prefold (It’s not always as easy as it looks).

Pocket diapers & inserts

Pocket diapers are have two layers of fabric that form a pocket that you can place an absorbent insert.  The outside layer is waterproof, so you do not need an additional diaper cover.  Inserts come in many materials – terry cloth,micro-terry cloth, or hemp.  You can easily double up on inserts at nighttime to discourage leaking, with minimal bulkiness.


All-In-One are just what they claim to be – a cloth diaper that has a waterproof cover and an absorbent inner liner that is all in one piece.  They usually have snap fasteners or velcro (though the snaps typically last longer).  The ease of convenience of these diapers cannot be beat, although they are far more expensive than prefolds.  The most popular all-in-ones are Bumgenius and Fuzzibunz.

One-size diaper

If you’re going to make the investment for an all-in-one diaper, you should look into a one-seize diaper, that will fit the baby from day one until they about thirty-five pounds. These diapers  have snaps that go across the diaper (making it wider or narrow) and up and down the diaper (making it shorter or longer).


How to wash them


Washing dirty diapers is not as bad as it sounds!  For the first six months or so, if your child is exclusively breastfed (or almost exclusively breastfed), then the diapers do not have to be rinsed before you throw them in the wash.  Just throw them in a pail with a waterproof liner, transfer to the wash, and you’re good to go.  After solids are introduced, things become a little trickier as you will need to dispose of the solid waste before washing.  You can just shake the solids into the toilet.  You can also use a diaper sprayer, which attaches to your toilet.  Another option is to purchase disposable diaper liners which act as a barrier between the diaper and the solids.

Once the diapers are in the washer, run a cold rinse cycle.  Then, add detergent (I usually use 2 tablespoons of my regular detergent) and run a hot heavy-duty wash cycle.  As for drying, prefolds and diaper liners can just be thrown in the dryer.  Diaper covers, pocket diapers and all-in-ones should be line dried.  You can even line them out in the sun to avoid stains.

Don’t use any kind of fabric softener with your diapers as this will cause them to be less absorbent.


Can you use cloth diapers for nighttime?

Of course!  As I mentioned before, it’s easy to double up on liners in pocket diapers for nighttime.  Other moms swear by wool covers that wick away the moisture from the baby’s bottom due to any leakage in the night.  It usually takes some trial and error to find out what works for you and your baby, but it is definitely worth it once you find a winning combination.


How many do I need?

The number of cloth diapers you will need depends on the age of the baby and how often you plan on washing them.  I’d say you need somewhere between 16-24 all-in-ones or pocket diapers.  If you’re using prefolds or fitted diapers, you can get by with fewer diaper covers as these can be reused a few times.

You will also need a diaper pail, waterproof liners, and a small wet bag for your diaper bag.



That’s it.  Cloth diapers aren’t really so overwhelming, if they’re broken down step by step.  Just give it a shot – it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  You can use disposables if you’re going away, at nighttime, or if a babysitter is watching the baby.  Don’t feel like you always have to use cloth diapers if you decide to purchase them.  Even using just a few a day will save you money in the long run.


How about you?  Have you had success with cloth diapering?  Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share?


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4 Responses to Cloth diapering for beginners

  1. Jodi says:

    Great tips! I found it best to throw in a tablespoon or two of vinegar in the wash to keep the dipes smelling fresh.

  2. [...] Frugal ways to give back Cloth diapering for beginners [...]

  3. Not only is glass baby bottle back, but it seems cloth diapers are making a comeback as well. People nowadays are more environmental friendly and economical. So if it takes a bit of your labor of love to be washing these cloth diapers than polluting the earth with disposable ones, then do so. Save mother earth, save up on expenses as well.

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