Cloth diapering 101: The why & how
May 12, 2011
Little Mia, proudly sporting her Flip diaper
I knew long before I was ever pregnant that I wanted to attempt to cloth diaper. While writing an article for another mom website years ago, I read that over 27.4 billion disposable diapers end up in landfills across the U.S. each year, and it is estimated that it takes 200-500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose. That means that your grandchildren’s grandchildren will still be living on an earth that is filled with your child’s disposable diaper waste... um, gross. I felt compelled right then and there to do my "duty" (pun intended) and reduce the number of disposables that end up in landfills.
Once I actually had my child, life quickly became about saving money. I was shocked at the price of disposable diapers, and equally as shocked at how quickly my newborn daughter went through them. Even with coupons, I was spending anywhere from $50-100 a month on diapers.
I already had some supplies in place to begin cloth diapering, but soon realized that they were too big and a little impractical for my little newborn. I will admit, I hadn't done enough research about the types of cloth diapers available (thank God I now know that they make tiny ones for newborns!). I had naively assumed that I could cloth diaper the way my mother had, using prefolds and plastic underpants; after all, it had worked for her, so it should work for me, right? Um, not so much.
I had registered and received a dozen unbleached prefolds, as well as the plastic underpants, so I thought I was ready to go... and then I put them on her. Have you got any idea how huge a newborn's bottom looks wrapped in a prefold? None of her newborn pants would fit over them and she could practically sit up on her own thanks to the bottom-heavy support...
Hello huge diaper... (That's Mia in a big ol' prefold)
I also attempted to use some leftover g-diapers that a girlfriend had given me; it sounded simple: put in flushable liner, baby poops, liner goes in toilet, flush. Turns out, my daughter's skinny legs wouldn't allow for a tight fit, and her runny newborn poop ran right out the sides. Laundry and clothing changes were happening 3 times a day; and I was slowly losing my sleep-deprived mind. In addition to leakage problems, the flushable inserts for the g-diapers were actually slightly more expensive than disposable diapers, so they weren't really a viable option.
Mia in a g-diaper
I specifically remember feeling so defeated about my foray into cloth diapering. I had so been looking forward to doing it; I was prepared for the mess I knew it would make, but I was happy about saving the environment and saving our family some money. My daughter, Mia, was a couple of months old by this point and I knew I had to decide either way what we were going to do. So I hopped on the computer and starting doing all the research that I should have done before she was born. Since all-in-one cloth diapers can cost up to $20 a piece, I knew these were a no-go, so I began looking into other options. I stumbled across a Flip Diaper starter pack from Kelly's Closet that included 2 waterproof diaper covers and 6 washable inserts. They were all designed to grow with your baby, and only cost $49.95. I hadn't realized that there were diapers with washable inserts available, and was eager to try it out. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
My daughter is 16 months old now and we still use that same Flip Diaper system; although, I have added to it and adapted it as we've gone. As soon as we used the diapers and discovered how much we loved them, I immediately made more of my own inserts instead of buying them. They are a simple rectangular shape and made of three layers of terry cloth and one layer of poly-sueded cotton (to wick away moisture). I also use the flip covers with my prefolds; I just tri-fold the prefold and lay it inside the cover. I ended up buying two more waterproof covers online, and had a couple of other hand-me-downs that worked well with the inserts. This means that I created a cloth diapering system for my daughter for around $100. That's about one month of newborn disposable diapers...
My homemade inserts next to the Flip inserts - very similar, don't you think?
So there's the quick “why” and “how” of my cloth diapering adventure. Stayed tuned this month for more on this series where I will go more in depth on the “how,” including: cloth diapering tips, making your own cloth diapering system, getting started with cloth diapers, and maintaining your cloth diapers.