Cloth Diapering for Beginners

I remember the look on my husband’s face when I said I wanted to try cloth diapering. I’m far from what you’d call a “crunchy granola mom”, but when I thought about the environmental impact of diapers in the trash, I thought that it could be one of my small efforts to help the environment.

It wasn’t that long ago that cloth diapers were pretty standard. I have vague memories from when my sister was a baby and my mom using cloth diapers. The kind with the safety pins. That was the first thing I thought of when hearing the term “cloth diapering.”

But cloth diapering has come a long way. Before the Nappy Shoppe in Plano closed, I attended their cloth diapering class with my husband. After the class, I looked at my husband and said, “I think we can totally do this.” He was cautiously optimistic about it.

While the idea of managing baby poop can feel intimidating, cloth diapering really isn’t that difficult if you have the right supplies.

How to Cloth Diaper for Beginners

Which Cloth Diapers Are Best?

As I mentioned, cloth diapering is a whole new ballgame from when our moms and grandmothers did it; there are so many kinds and brands to choose from. There are a few things to consider before you begin your cloth diapering research that will aid your decision-making process:

  • Why do you want to cloth diaper (cost, health, environment)
  • How much can you spend/want to spend (different styles have different price points)
  • How long you plan to use them (one child, multiple children, etc.)
  • Where will the baby be most of the time (at home, daycare, traveling, etc.)

Thinking about these points at the beginning will help narrow down the pool of options and make it easier to choose.

Choosing a Cloth Diaper Style & Brand

You can do a lot of research on the different styles of cloth diapers, and I think this can add to the overwhelm of trying to tackle them. There are flats, prefolds, pocket-style diapers, hybrids, and all-in-ones.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law gifted us with a starter set of Best Bottom brand cloth diapers, so my experience is based on using these diapers.

A friend of mine who also cloth diapers is a huge fan of Mama Koala brand diapers which are pocket-style diapers.

Other popular brands include BumGenius, GroVia, Thirsties, and Smart Bottoms.

How Many Cloth Diapers to Buy

With a diaper/cover system or a hybrid system, I would recommend 24-36 diapers with six covers for the infant stage, and 18-24 diapers with four covers for a toddler. The more diapers you have in your rotation, the less wash and wear each one receives; therefore, the longer they will last. I have at least 36 diaper inserts in my stash and I plan to use these diapers for any future children.

So, for example, if you plan to wash every three days and your infant will need to be changed every three hours, you will need at least 24 diapers. Be sure to buy a few more than you figure because you don’t want to be stuck without a diaper while the others are washing. Basically, determine how many diapers your child wears in a 24-hour period and multiply it by however many days you will go between washing. And keep in mind that cloth diapers need to be changed slightly more frequently than disposable diapers.

Plus, you’ll need these cloth diapering supplies:

  • a diaper pail (we use a 13-gallon trash can from Target with a diaper pail liner),
  • diaper sprayer for messy poops,
  • a wet bag for on the go,
  • cloth wipes,
  • scent-free detergent (Rockin’ Green Diaper Detergent is my favorite)

What to Do With Dirty Cloth Diapers

Wet diapers can go straight into the diaper pail as can all diapers from exclusively breastfed babies. Soiled diapers from formula-fed babies and those children who have started solids will need to be scraped or sprayed off into the toilet before they are tossed in the pail.

I promise it’s not as gross as it sounds. I mean, there are days when the poo is especially gross, but really, it’s not that bad. In fact, did you know that you’re supposed to shake solid waste out of disposable diapers? It says so on the box. In the case of an extra messy poo, diaper sprayers are great to help with clean up.

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

Perhaps the most intimidating part about cloth diapering can be washing and maintenance, but I was surprised by how simple it is.

Your washing schedule will be determined by the number of diapers you have. If you have 24 diapers, you’ll likely be doing laundry about every other day in the early days. Once your baby is older, this frequency may change to once every 3-4 days depending on how many diapers they go through.

Rinse cycle on cold.
Hot cycle + detergent.
Rinse cycle.
Dryer on medium for diaper inserts. Air dry covers.

If the weather is nice and sunny, you can also dry diaper inserts in the sun. The sun will naturally “bleach” and reduce the appearance of stains.

Yes, we use disposable diapers on occasion

I’m not a die-hard, “I WILL ONLY USE CLOTH DIAPERS OR SO HELP ME” kind of mom. When we travel or if we’re going to be gone all day long, we’ll use disposable diapers. I think disposable diapers are great AND useful.

I’m really happy that we decided to take the chance on cloth diapering our son. It was not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be. In fact, it was way easier than I thought. My son is now 21 months old and still rocking the cloth diapers. I have read that cloth diapers can encourage earlier potty training—we’ll see if that theory holds true!

Catie is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, went to college in San Diego, and moved to North Texas after getting married in 2009. They have lived in Collin County since 2017 and welcomed their son to the world in 2018. She likes to call herself a "naptime entrepreneur" working during her toddler's naps as a personal branding photographer - creating visual content and branded images for creative entrepreneurs and small business owners. In her limited spare time, you'll find her reading a mix of fiction, parenting, and business books, daydreaming about traveling to Europe, giving some attention to their dachshund named Kevin, and watching classics on Disney+ with her husband.