FAQ: Everything You (N)ever Wanted to Know About Cloth Diapers

cloth diaper introduction This is slight departure from our regular weekly Living in Italy FAQ series. This is, nonetheless, something we get asked about all the time. When someone finds out that we use cloth diapers they are always intrigued -- including people who have no interest in kids!

I actually discovered cloth diapers a few years ago via a blog about home remodeling...seriously. Even though we weren't even considering kids at that point I was fascinated by it and bookmarked it for the future. Much like those bloggers did, we've discovered that cloth diapers are actually super easy to use once you get familiar with them. So, in that spirit and after ten weeks of experience, here's our take on cloth diapers.

We chose cloth diapers for three reasons:

  1. They are cost-effective in the long run
  2. They are environmentally friendly
  3. Disposables are more expensive and not as easily accessible here compared to the U.S.

I would love to pretend that we are super eco-friendly and it was our primary reason, but in reality our choice was really guided by much more practical reasons, #1 and #3. Unlike in the U.S., you can't run into a CVS at 2am and pick up a box of diapers. You are typically SOL if you run out at an inopportune time. Similarly, because we don't own a car we don't have a practical way to transport big boxes of diapers, so we'd be limited to smaller packs available closer by in the markets.

Our Supply

We watched this Cloth Diapering 101 YouTube series and it was so helpful. It helped us decide what types of diapers we wanted to use. Be forewarned: the brand names of cloth diapering products are ridiculous. We ended up selecting:

  • 18 Prefolds - aka old-fashioned diapers that you fold yourself. These come in two sizes and we have 18 of each. These are very affordable, at $12 for a pack of six. They require:
    • 6 covers - these covers keep the prefolds from leaking. We have the Thirsties brand and they are amazing. She never leaks in these bad boys.
    • Snappis - are the super cool hooks you use instead of pins. These make using the old fashioned diapers a cinch.
  • 9 Pocket diapers - these are shaped like regular diapers. You put inserts in the "pocket" to absorb. They seem expensive upfront, but typically last for two kids worth of diapering. They pay for themselves with the first one, so the second kid could be a bonus. We have:
    • 3 Blueberry - These are our favorites. They have fit perfectly from day one and are velcro closure.
    • 3 BumGenius - These are also great. We have snap closure ones.
    • 3 FuzzyBuns - Our least favorite at the moment, mostly because the leg opening is just too big. I think once Livia gets bigger they will fit great.
  • 3 All-in-One diapers - these are also shaped like regular diapers. Instead of stuffing the inserts in, these come with the fillers attached (hence the term all-in-one). You can put more inserts in them, but it's not easy! We have:
    • 2 Bambino Mio - We love these! They are velcro closure and never leak.
    • 1 BumGenius - We bought this because it has a cute print on it. Plain and simple. It's a great diaper, too!
  • 2 Wet Bags - we have two large PlanetWise bags and they are fantastic! They get rotated every other wash. When a diaper is dirtied it goes right into the current wet bag. When it's time to wash, the diapers get put into the washing machine, the bag is turned inside out and washed, as well.

The pocket and all-in-one diapers are one size. This means that Livia wears them from day one until she potty trains. How does this work? There are snaps on the front that allow the diaper to be sized small, medium and large. Livia is still on the small setting at 11 pounds.

The pocket and all-in-one diapers come in either velcro or snap closure. Velcro is much easier, but typically doesn't last as long, which is why we have mostly snap closure diapers. We think we will probably have another kid and we want these diapers to last! For that same reason we also bought diapers in only neutral colors.

Important to know about pockets and all-in-ones: the warranty typically starts from date of purchase. Since we bought ours in advance so that people could bring them over to us when they visited, the warranty was expired on them all by the time they were first used. One of our BumGenius diapers had the elastic bust in the first week, but the company was great about replacing it even though the warranty was passed. Not sure that would always be the case!

Keys to Cloth Diaper Success #1: Routine

Without a doubt, the single most important path to success with cloth diapers is to have a routine. We typically use prefolds mostly during the day and the easier all-in-ones/pocket diapers overnight or when we're out and about. We wash our diapers every other night. No exceptions. It doesn't matter if the bag isn't completely full. Having the rountine is what keeps us sane and always stocked on our diapers.

We hear from friends back home that it's trendy to choose cloth diapers, but then people end up switching to disposables anyway. I think a lot of that is due to a lack of solid routine.

Keys to Cloth Diaper Success #2: Start Right Away

Aside from the two days in the hospital, Livia has been in cloth diapers since the beginning. We never ever gave into the early urge to put on a disposble. I think that early determination has paid off because now we wouldn't even consider a disposable -- it just wouldn't be "easier" for us anymore.

Keys to Cloth Diaper Success #3: Stock Up on Liners and Inserts

What we learned only through experience is that liners and inserts are crucial. Liners go on top of either of the folded prefold or on top of the pocket/all-in-one. I'll give it to you straight: they keep the poop from staining or comprosing the fabric. They also make cleaning a cinch. We have twenty of these. They are cheap and worth their weight in gold.

Inserts are what actually absorbs in the diaper. Most all-in-ones/pocket diapers come with 2-3 of these. We also bought extras. At night, you can stuff 3 of these bads boys into a diaper and it lasts all night, which is obviously wonderful.

Keys to Cloth Diaper Success #4: Use Reusable Wipes and Make Your Own Solution

My mom made us a ton of flannel wipes to use. They go into the wet bag and are washed with the diapers. We also make our own wipe solution. We use the "Castille" recipe and it has become Livia's scent for us. She always smells great! Cloth diapered babies typically don't get diaper rash when homemade wipes and solution are used, including Livia so far. It's apparently because the lack of chemicals and the nourishing oils in the homemade solution.

Total Investment

Many of our supplies were bought for us as gifts, so we didn't incur the entire cost. That being said, the initial investment was about $600. This calculator tells us that diapers typically cost $72 a month, plus $20 month for wipes, for a total of $92 a month. Considering most kids potty train at around 22 months, that's a whopping $2,024...meaning we'll save $1,424 with Livia's diapering alone.