Cloth Diaper Basics: Tips for Getting Started

At first glance, cloth diapers can feel so intimidating with all of the different types and lingo. This article will give you the basics of getting started with cloth diapers.

As with many new experiences in postpartum and early motherhood, trying something new can feel intimidating and overwhelming. But, I’m all about keeping things as simple and straightforward as possible, including how to get started with cloth diapering.

cloth diapers drying on clothes line

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The different types of cloth diapers

At first, I was confused by it all, so I created a different way to categorize cloth diapers. There isn’t a “best” diaper; they all have their pros and cons, so I teach clients to try a few different types and see what works best for their baby.

1. Diaper and Cover

This type of diaper has two parts: an inner diaper that absorbs liquids and an outer cover that makes the diaper waterproof.

These are known as flats, pre-folds, and fitteds.

2. Diaper and Insert

This type of diaper also has two parts: an insert (anything put inside a diaper to absorb liquid) and the outer diaper that has snaps or a hole to put the inserts into.

These are also known as hybrids, pockets, and all-in-twos.

3. Complete System

This type of diaper is one entire piece that is absorbent and waterproof.

These are known as all-in-ones.

What about inserts?

Cloth diaper inserts can seem especially intimidating because they have so many names, such as inserts, doublers, liners, overnights.

Simply put: an insert is any fabric that absorbs liquid.

Some people even use old burp cloths or tee-shirts. As your baby grows, you’ll need strong inserts; I recommend ones made out of hemp, bamboo, and cotton.

pile of cloth diaper inserts

How many diapers do I need?

Just like there isn’t a perfect diaper, there isn’t a perfect size “stash.” How many cloth diapers you need in your stash depends on a few factors.

1. Your baby’s age

If you have a newborn, you’ll need more cloth diapers because they need more diaper changes in those early days. For older babies, you can get away with fewer diapers.

2. The diaper’s washability

The second is how quickly your diaper can be washed and dried; diapers with more pieces need more time to dry, which means you might need an extra diaper or two.

3. When you plan to launder

Finally is how often you’ll wash your diapers; this can range from every day to every three days, depending on your schedule and support around the home.

Choosing your cloth diaper stash size

For a small stash of diapers, choose the number of diapers your baby uses in two days. For a larger stash, multiply the number of diaper changes you do each day and multiply it by three.

But, again, the right number is different for everyone; wait and see how many you really need before buying a huge number. If you really want a number to guide you, aim for eight to ten cloth diapers and adjust as needed based on the variables mentioned above.

Read next: Four Surprising Reasons to Use Cloth Diapers

baby in tie dye cloth diaper

How to wash and dry diapers

I might sound a little like a broken record here, but there’s no perfect way to wash and dry diapers either. It’ll take time to find the right combination of cycles, water temperature, and detergent that works for the cloth diapers you end up using.

To sum it up, you should have a simple wash routine with two wash cycles where one is hot and at least one hour long. You must use the recommended amount of detergent, using even more if it’s plant-based.

Many companies will recommend hang-drying covers; you can put the rest of the diaper in the dryer or hang dry it. Learn more about cloth diaper wash routines.

Final thoughts on cloth diapering

As you dive into the world of cloth diapering, remember that it takes time and experience to learn and be comfortable, but the benefits of cloth diapering are worth it. Like all things in motherhood, don’t be afraid to dive in and learn as you go.

Gigi Vera Vincent

Postpartum Doula

As a postpartum doula, teacher, and mother, I’m here to streamline the newborn learning curve and help birth parents, partners, and other family members. There isn’t one way to have and raise a little human. I’m here to guide parents to find their way to become confident parents.

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