Now that we are nine months into our cloth diapering journey, I feel like I have enough experience to write this post! The hardest part about cloth diapering is just starting out. It’s a little trial and error before you can confidently know what works for you / your baby. Plus, every baby is different so there really is no way to know before you try! However, there’s a lot of best practices I’ve gleaned about cloth diapering that I wish I knew right from the beginning. Some I’ve learned from others and some I’ve learned from my own experience. I hope that passing on this knowledge is beneficial to you and your own cloth diapering journey!
- Flats and pre-flats are totally the way to go for newborns. They provide full protection and with a good fit, you shouldn’t experience any leaks. I learned this the hard way… I actually did not own any flats when my son was a newborn. I thought I could use the pocket style for newborns but had trouble finding newborn sized inserts (probably because they don’t really exist!) We ended up having lots of leaks and so I didn’t get to reuse the covers before needing to wash them. Fitteds, on the other hand are great for coverage but I didn’t own many and personally felt like it would be a waste if they weren’t super soaked. When you have a newborn, you are changing diapers frequently, so I like how flats are trim and quick & easy to switch out, and you can reuse the covers a few times before needing to wash them.
- Don’t use non-cloth diaper safe cream no matter how good your washer machine is. Petroleum jelly based diaper creams are technically not cloth diaper safe. The petroleum jelly will coat your cloth diapers and make them less absorbent / make it harder to clean out the urine. Some say that if you’re using natural fiber inserts like cotton, bamboo, or hemp, then the petroleum jelly will wash out in a hot wash cycle. This was probably true for me, but half of my stash at the time was microfiber so the diaper cream on those was definitely not coming out! We had a terrible time with rashes and leaks for awhile until I figured out what the problem was. In retrospect, I probably should have switched my non-cloth diaper safe creams for cloth safe ones early on.
- Check your fit. I did not know that there was a proper way to tuck cloth diapers to make sure you had a good fit on your baby. A good fit prevents leaks and doesn’t leave elastic marks on your baby, even if he or she has chubby thighs! It took me months to realize this one.
- Ditch the microfiber. You’ll find that many cloth diapering parents aren’t fans of microfiber and will tell you to get rid of it. I think I wanted to give microfiber a chance when I first started out so I ignored this heeding initially, but I now agree that they aren’t great and mostly avoid them now for a couple of reasons; Microfiber is not made from natural fibers so they cannot touch your baby’s skin directly. If they do, then it will irritate and pull out moisture from your baby’s skin and create a rash. While they can absorb quickly, they are prone to compression leaks. They can also be super bulky! I didn’t know any better when I first started my cloth diaper stash so a good amount of my inserts were microfiber based. If you can, try avoiding cloth diapers that come with microfiber.
- Wool is amazing for overnight diapering! Taking care of wool may seem a little daunting at first, but the benefits totally outweigh the separate cleaning routines! My favorite part is that it is more comfortable for baby, they leave no elastic marks, and it’s breathable and naturally self deodorizing! Also, no leaks! The best part is that you don’t need that many if you’re only using them at night. I only have 2, mostly so I can rotate one for the other when I need to clean them.
- You can buy used cloth diapers for a lot less. If money is tight or you want to reduce your carbon footprint even more, you can consider buying used cloth diapers! I know what you’re thinking, that sounds unsanitary and dirty! There are ways to thoroughly sanitize it with bleach! If you have a favorite brand, check Facebook groups to see if they have a B/S/T (buy, sell, trade) group. I also see several on Mercari or Facebook marketplaces. I have purchased a used wool cover from Mercari that was basically like-new; it was a steal!
- Join a cloth diapering Facebook group! There are several of these groups on Facebook. It’s a fun way to learn alongside others’ cloth diapering journeys and a great place to ask specific questions you may have. When my son kept getting rashes, I was able to ask for advice and learn tips from these groups. Plus, many smaller cloth diaper brands have reps with discount codes that you can easily find in these groups! Some of my favorites include: Petite Crown Family Chat, Cloth Diapering Mamas Group, & Cloth Diapers Anonymous!
- Dawn dish soap for stripping does not work. This one probably sounds SO random but if you ever find yourself needing to strip diapers, don’t use Dawn! It’s dish soap and should be used for dishes. Some mamas swear by it and there’s a lot of youtube videos out there — I was doing research and thought it was worth a try at the time, but it did nothing for me. (If you’re wondering what worked for us, the most effective solution was using RLR).
- You can try before you buy! I didn’t know this when I was first starting out, but some cloth diaper brands and retailers will rent out cloth diapers so you can try before you buy! A good friend shared this tip with me when she was figuring out what types of cloth diapers and brands she wanted to use for her newborn. A quick google search of cloth diaper rentals will bring up a few options. (My friend used The Green Tot). This is also a great option if you are hesitant at purchasing cloth when you only want to try it out.
- Fleece liners are amazing. Fleece liners are a staple in our cloth diapering journey! I first started using them because fleece can help give your baby’s bum that “stay dry” feel, but they also make cleaning super easy when paired with a bidet hose. You won’t have to worry about staining your inserts if you have a newborn and if when your baby starts solids, fleece liners make it easy to plop the poop and keep your cloth diapers clean. Fleece liners are super cheap and easy to make yourself. (We bought fleece from the fabric store and cut into the same size as our inserts. No sewing required!)
Cloth diapering parents, what are some things you wish you knew before starting your cloth diaper journey?