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How to Use Cloth Diapers

The choice to use cloth diapers is an easy one for some parents, while others are more hesitant. And we’ve heard it all from the unsure parents:

  • Cloth diapers seem like a lot of work.
  • I don’t know if I want to spend that kind of money upfront.
  • I don’t think I can dump or rinse off dirty diapers in the toilet.

Whether you’re a yes or a ‘maybe,’ you probably have questions about how to use cloth diapers. We’ve got the answers.

How do you choose cloth diaper and absorbency types?

There are numerous types of cloth diapers and absorbencies to choose from. Below are the common types of each, as well as their pros and cons.

Prefolds are a flat, rectangular-shaped diaper that you fold into the shape you want and then fasten on your baby and use with a waterproof cover on top. Prefolds aren’t the most convenient and they can be bulky, but they’re also inexpensive, versatile, and easy to wash.

Fitted Cloth Diapers

This cloth diaper type is very absorbent, making it a good nighttime choice. It has an hourglass shape and leg elastics to keep messes contained. The cover isn’t waterproof, though, so you have to get one of those. You do have your choice of closure—snaps or hook and loop—and both are easy to fasten.

Pocket Diapers

Pocket diapers were the first modern cloth diapers, but they’ve become more outdated as newer cloth diaper types have been made. They have a simple waterproof cover with a sewn-in inside pocket, which is where you stuff your absorbency layer. You can add different types or amounts of absorbency layers. They’re usually a one-size design made with rise snaps, so they grow with your baby. The biggest disadvantages are pocket diapers can be bulky and leak, and because you have to stuff, you also have to unstuff before laundering.

All-in-Ones, or AIOs, are a one-piece cloth diapering system, which means no folding or stuffing. The absorbency layers are sewn together with a waterproof outer shell. This simple design makes for quick diaper changes, while the trim fit means fewer or no leaks. The all-in-one convenience of these cloth diapers does mean they can take longer to dry after washing, and they are often pricier than other types. But AIOs can fit babies up through potty-training, so you’ll get your money’s worth.

Hybrid diapers, sometimes called all-in-two diapers, can seem tricky to use at first, but they’re really not. They’re made up of a waterproof outer shell and an absorbency layer. You can use a reusable or disposable absorbency layer, and you have your choice of closure. Some are sized, while others are a one-size diaper made to grow with your child. Families love the flexibility of hybrid diapers, as well as their mid-level pricing. Really the only downfall is that some designs can leak.

The absorbency level of soaker pads ranges from medium to high. You can get organic cotton soaker pads that require prepping, which means you wash several times before using, and no-prep soaker pads that you only need to wash once before using. Both types snap into a shell.

GroVia BioSoakers are a great on-the-go, disposable absorbency option. Simply lay or stick a BioSoaker to a cloth diaper cover or shell, fasten the diaper to your baby, and then unfasten the diaper and remove and throw away the BioSoaker. There’s no prepping, the absorbency is high, and ours are made from renewable and compostable materials.

As mentioned above, prefolds have to be folded and laid inside a shell, cover, or pocket diaper before fastening on your baby. They are soft, have a high absorbency level, and clean easily. Prefolds have to be washed three or four times before first using them, and you have to buy different sizes as your child grows.

Cotton boosters add more absorbency to a cloth diaper when you need it. Some parents use them during naptime, bedtime, or long car rides. Simply lay the booster on top of another soaker pad and then fasten the diaper on your baby. Like organic cotton soaker pads, boosters have to be washed several times before you first use them.

We suggest trying different kinds of cloth diapers and absorbencies until you learn what works with your baby and lifestyle. Then, you can start building your cloth diaper stash.

Changing a cloth diaper is like changing a disposable diaper. You need a changing area, wipes, and a clean diaper. But you also need a wet bag or dry pail, instead of a trash can, to store the dirty diaper. Here are the basic cloth diaper changing steps:

  1. Lay your baby down and take off the dirty diaper.
  2. Wipe your baby off with moistened wipes.
  3. Slightly lift your baby’s legs and bum off the changing pad or floor and slide the clean diaper underneath your baby. If using an unattached soaker pad or booster, snap or stick it in place on the diaper before sliding the diaper under your baby.
  4. Place the top of the cloth diaper over your baby’s hips (about two fingers below the baby’s belly button) and fasten the diaper. If using a cover, double check that the absorbent layer isn’t coming out of the back or legs of the diaper. And if using a one-size diaper, make sure the rise fold of the fabric is pointing up so you create a nicer fit rather than adding extra bulk.
  5. Flush any solids into the toilet and then put the soiled diaper in the pail or wet bag.

When people are wondering how to use cloth diapers, some ask how often you should change a cloth diaper or how to know when the diaper is wet. We suggest changing cloth diapers every two hours. Obviously, if your baby poops, change the diaper immediately, and you can go longer as your baby sleeps. Change times can also vary based on how much your baby pees and poops. You’ll know the cloth diaper is wet if it droops a little, and if the diaper is cotton, it may stiffen since natural fibers tend to do that when wet.

How do you wash cloth diapers?

When it comes to laundering cloth diapers, we refer to a mnemonic:

  • S — Simple wash routine

  • U — Use enough detergent

  • D — Duration

  • S — Stay away from additives

You should wash your cloth diapers every two to three days using hot or warm water and the full amount of recommended detergent.

Wash cloth diapers separately from other clothes, and put them through a wash cycle for at least 45 minutes, with a pre-wash cycle at the front if your machine has a ‘pre-wash’ button. Make sure to not use any fabric softener or additives, like baking soda or essential oils, and like with your clothes, follow the care labels on the cloth diapers. We also do not recommend stripping cloth diapers as it causes unnecessary wear and tear on the diapers.

How do you travel with cloth diapers?

At some point, you have to leave your house. When you do, your cloth diapers can come with you. When you have the right diapers and amount, it’s just as convenient as disposable diapers, but cheaper to use.

What types do you bring?

Bring cloth diapers that are simple to use and that you’re used to using. Many parents like our Hybrid Cloth Diapers because you can use our disposable BioSoakers with them. Our disposable, single-layer BioLiners are another favorite because they make it easier to clean up soiled diapers.

How many do you bring?

The number of cloth diapers you need to bring depends on how long you’ll be gone, your luggage space, and if you’ll be doing laundry. Some people like to travel with at least a two-day stash, while others pack more than they think they’ll need if they have space so they’re prepared for anything. You’ll also want to bring a wet bag and detergent.