cloth diapering: the basics

A few weeks ago I wrote an article for the Community Co-op newsletter about cloth diapering and the basics of where to begin.  It’s a good intro and gives you the basics on what’s what and the choices we made with Beckett and baby #2.   Here is a direct link to the article and the whole thing is below.  By the way – I am a huge cloth diaper fan and I’ll shout it from the rooftops!!!

Babies are on the brain in our house with our second little one due in early October.   One of our largest monetary investments with our daughter and firstborn, Beckett, was the endless stream of disposable diapers.  The bill ran us between $35 and $40 per month depending on her age.  Babies are excrement machines and practice their craft all day and night for months on end.  It is no coincidence that they are also eating machines.  When Beckett was around a year old, we made the switch to cloth diapers.  I firmly believe that it was one of the best decisions we ever made.  And, truly the “biggest bang for our buck” transition of this greener lifestyle – it was both easy-peasy and incredibility beneficial for the environment.

With Beckett now fully potty-trained we are out of the diapering routine, but readying ourselves to bring out the inserts, covers and cloth wipes.  This article is intended to give you a basic introduction to cloth diapering.  It is both an encouragement to try and an outline of where to begin and what you’ll need.

When it came to diapers, we had already spent large sums of money on throwaway disposables, so I was looking for affordable that bordered on cheap when it came to cloth diapers.

Basic Cloth Diapering Vocabulary:

PREFOLDS: Prefolds are what I refer to as the “good ‘ol basics” – what my parents used for me.  They are fabric rectangles with a multi-layered portion down the middle.  Prefolds work with a variety of different diaper covers and are easy to double-up and layer for heavy wetters.

DIAPER COVERS:  In its most basic form, the diaper cover is for keeping leaks and messes in and containing what the insert is absorbing.  Options vary from one-size-fits-all to fitted by weight, waterproof lined to all-natural wool and Velcro to snap closures.  I think that these are the best bang for your buck and the easiest way to find an option that fits your lifestyle and material preference.

AIO’s or “All In One”: Both a diaper cover and absorbent lining in one, but an expensive investment.  The options and manufacturers available abound.

POCKET DIAPERS:  A diaper cover with a preformed absorbent lining that can be removed, either from a pocket or with snaps.  Investment cost and available options are similar to AIOs.

SNAPPIS: A glorified safety pin that pulls the prefold or fitted diaper together in front.

Tips: Tried & True

LAUNDRY DETERGENT:  An important part of the cloth diapering experience.  Detergents must be diaper friendly and not leave residue behind that will prevent adequate absorption and encourage diaper rashes.  The options are countless and many are available locally with eco-friendliness in mind.

CLOTH WIPES:  Seriously one of the cheapest and best investments we made after we finally used up our warehouse-sized box of disposable wipes.  Cloth wipes are a cinch to use, great for messy clean-ups and easily thrown in the wash bin with the diapers.

DIAPER CREAM:  Diaper creams that are cloth diaper safe are clearly labeled as such  and will not leave a residue on the diaper that prevents absorption.  Diaper creams that are not cloth diaper safe can still be used, but a washcloth or dry wipe will need to be used to line the inside of the diaper.

WET BAG:  A reusable and washable wet bag is worth getting for throwing the dirty, soiled diapers in that happen on the road, at the doctor’s office or out at the park.

DISPOSABLE DIAPERS & DISPOSABLE LINERS:  Disposable diapers still played a very small role in how we diapered Beckett.  They were what we used for weekend road trips when I didn’t want to lug around stinky, soiled cloth diapers.  We went through so few of them that we were known for squeezing her cheeks into a diaper a few sizes too small because it wasn’t worth stocking up on more in the correct size.  Disposable liners are something I plan to use with this new little one.  They are flushable liners (think, heavy duty toilet paper) that lay on top of the cloth liner and can be tossed away.  I am hoping that they will be a lifesaver when it comes to the newborn poops of tar-like meconium.

My go-to source for our starter set was Mothering Grace in Seattle, Washington.  They are a local, family-run company who is all about cloth diapers.  They sell a beginner set called “Cloth on the Cheap” that is priced at around $50 and is enough for getting started.  It includes a dozen prefolds and three Thirsties brand waterproof/leakproof diaper covers.  We have now expanded to about one dozen covers and thirty-six prefold liners.

When the numbers are all crunched and I take into account that we are completely set for our second little one – our total investment for 100% of our cloth diapering needs has been about $230.  At an average of $35 per month over a 30-month span of diapering per child, we have a cost savings of $820!!  That’s incredible.  Another added benefit for cloth diapering was the remarkably easy transition to potty training.   Cloth diapers allow the child to feel the wetness and begin drawing the conclusion between the sensation of peeing and the end result.

The health benefits that result in fewer diaper rashes and smoother potty-training in addition to the drastic decline in landfill waste and budget friendly nature of reusable cloth all add up to a choice worth making.


Mothering Grace, Seattle, WA;
Red Wagon Diaper Service, Bellingham, WA; 360-961-3710;

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