Clothing Diapering Part 2: Lots of Details


I got a comment from a visitor to my blog today regarding cloth diapering.  Her question is the same that I hear over and over again from friends and acquaintances that hear that I use cloth diapers on my daughter.  You can read her question in detail, but in essence, her question or comment is “Help!  I’m overwhelmed with the choices.”

While I can’t say that I have tried every brand of diapers, I have tried a lot, so I will give a run down of what I do for my cloth diapering system.  I would say that my philosophy behind cloth diapering is that I want cloth diapering to be economical (definitely cheaper than paper diapers!) but I also want some convenience and fun, too.  So, hopefully if you’re new to cloth diapering, this will help you understand everything a little better.  I know that I wouldn’t have understood cloth diapering if my friends hadn’t walked me through everything first.

To start, let’s talk about how many diapers you’ll need on an average day.  Well, that really depends on how many diaper changes you’ll do.  A newborn may go through 10-12 diapers a day (sometimes more!).  We didn’t start cloth diapering until Isabella was 4 months old, so we missed experiencing the really runny poop stage with cloth diapers.  But I’m estimating that you’ll still need probably 10-12 diapers per day.  With older babies, you  need probably 6-8 diapers per day.  How many diapers you want to buy totally depends on how frequently you can commit to washing your diaper load.  If you can wash every day, then you can probably get away with about 14 diapers.  But if you are like me, and you want to wash every other day, then you need about 24.  I don’t recommend going too much longer than 2-3 days between washings, since that will cause your diapers to stink worse, and you’ll run the risk of stained diapers.

All About Prefolds

Now let’s talk about types of diapers.  The first kind is the prefold and cover.  A prefold is essentially a giant cotton rag.  You can also buy a flat fold, which is a huge, thin cotton rag that you fold over and over again until you get it to the right size for your baby.  This is the old fashion style of cloth diaper.  Some people love these, and some prefer the prefold, which as the name implies, is a flat fold diaper that has already been folded and then sewn together.  A prefold is folded around your baby’s bottom and then fastened together in the front.  You can use special safety pins available on diapering websites.  Or you can use something called a “snappi” which is a rubber stretchy band with claws on the ends that grab the diaper and hold it in place.  This is what I use.  They are convenient, and they don’t poke the baby. 

Prefolds are not waterproof.  They are very absorbent, but they will leak if not covered.  So, you must buy a diaper cover to go over them.  There are many brands of diaper covers.  You can get them with velcro closure or snap closure.  Snaps are superior, in my opinion, because they don’t get caught on the other diapers in the wash, like the velcro does.  However, velcro is so much easier to close on a wiggly baby.  I personally have all velcro closure diaper covers.  My personal favorite brand is Bummi super whisper wrap and Bummi super brite.  I think they are the most generously cut/roomy diaper covers that I have tried. 

The benefits of diapering with prefolds and covers are several.  First, this is definitely the most economical way to diaper.  Secondly, although prefold/covers have a reputation of being “old fashioned” and inconvenient, they really are quite simple, and they hold up really well.  Prefolds are heavy duty, so they can withstand a lot more washing than other kinds of diapers.  There are drawbacks to this system.  The main one is that since you have to be familiar with how to fold and fasten the diaper properly, this may not be the best solution for kids that go to daycare, church nursery, etc.  Also, you have to buy bigger sizes as your child grows.  The good thing is that at least they are not super expensive. 

If you choose to do only prefolds, you’ll need probably 24 prefolds in each size.  And then you just need 2-4 covers.  At each diaper change you switch covers out.  You hang up the wet one to dry out and then use it at the next diaper change.  You continue to alternate covers until they stink or get poopy.

 All About Pocket/All in One (AIO) Diapers

The alternative to prefolds and covers is a diapering system called pocket diapers.  All in one diapers are very similar to pockets, so I’ll discuss them both here.  Pocket diapers look like a prefold cover, and they have a waterproof shell.  The difference is that the inside is lined with a soft fabric–usually fleece or flannel.  And there is a pocket in the back.  The pocket diapers usually come with special inserts that are essentially layers of terry cloth sewn together.  You stuff the pocket with the insert.  Pocket diapers are great for babies that are heavy wetters (like my wonderful child, the Super Soaker Queen Herself).  You can put as many inserts in the pocket as you need.  So, overnight, you can put several inserts, or one heavy duty insert in the pocket.  But, if you want a trimmer fit during the day, you can just put one insert in the pocket.  All in One diapers are like pocket diapers in that they have a waterproof shell and a soft inner lining.  The difference is that the absorbent stuffing is already inside, and there is no pocket.  So, you can’t change the absorbency.  These diapers, like the prefold covers, come in either snap or velcro.  I have some of each, and I like them both.  The velcro does tend to snag the diapers more in the wash.  But the snaps are a little more difficult for me to get on my squirmy 10 month old.

The benefits of using a pocket/all in one diaper is that they go on very much like a disposable diaper.  So a babysitter, dad, or church worker will be more willing to try to change the diaper.  Also, as I said before, with a pocket diaper, you can adjust absorbency for a heavy wetter.  A final benefit is that if you choose these diapers in a one size style, then you can use these diapers from birth to potty training by modifying the snaps in the front of the diaper.

The drawback with these kinds of diapers is their price.  If you must really watch your wallet with cloth diapers, you might feel that these kinds of diapers stretch you too much.  Another drawback with the all in one diapers is that they can take a long time to dry.  (These diapers should be hung out to dry.)

If you use only pocket diapers or AIO’s, then you would need 24 diapers, since the diaper cannot be reused until it is washed.

I have Bum Genius 2.0 and 3.0 one size diapers, Fuzzi Bunz (the older version), a BlueBerry minkee side snap pocket, and a Happy Heiny (not the one size.)  The winner for me is definitely the Bum Genius 3.0.  I like the way it fits and it has stretchy sides.  Fuzzi Bunz are great also, and these diapers are definitely still in the best condition since they have snaps instead of velcro.  The Blueberry minkee diaper is great and is very trim.  But in my honest opinion, it’s not superior enough to warrant the price.  The Happy Heiny is not my favorite.  We have major leaking problems with it.  But that may just be us.  It clearly has great reviews online, and I have friends that have no problems with theirs. 


There are obviously a lot of choices you can make with diapers.  I personally use a mix of the different kinds.  I own 18 prefolds and several accompanying covers.  And the rest of my diapers are pocket diapers.  We use the pocket diapers for overnight, for church, and for long car rides.  But the rest of the time we use the prefolds.

On to Accessories

There are a few accessories that I recommend in addition to the foundational diapers. 

First, I recommend doublers.  These are essentially a small version of a pocket insert.  It’s several layers of microfiber or terry cloth sewn together.  You lay this in the crotch of whatever diaper you’re using to add some extra absorbency.  It’s great for overnight.  If you only use them for overnight and nap times, you probably need 4-6 doublers.  If you have a really big wetter, you might consider doublers and pocket inserts made of hemp rather than cotton.  They are pricey, but we finally broke down and bought some, and Isabella isn’t leaking overnight anymore.

I also recommend diaper liners.  These are thin sheets of a biodegradable material that remind me of dryer sheets.  Some people think these are too rough on babies bottoms, but I have not had any problems whatsoever.  You lay a liner in the crotch of the diaper, and when your baby poops, the solid matter sticks to the liner, while the liquids soak into the diaper.  When you change the diaper, you just lift the liner out and flush it.  This eliminates the need for having to wash or spray the poop off.

You’ll also need a diaper pail and a waterproof bag to line the pail.  The bags are usually made out of the same PUL fabric that the diaper covers are made out of.  You just put the dirty diapers in the lined pail, and every couple of days you dump the whole thing–bag included–into your washing machine.

I already mentioned this, but if you use prefolds, you’re going to need pins or snappis.

Also, you’ll need to consider how you want to store dirty diapers when you’re out of the house.  We use little plastic bags meant for disposing of disposable diapers.  We just put the dirty diaper in the bag to bring it home, and then we dump the diaper into the pail and throw away the little baggie.

You’re going to also need to consider buying a special detergent that is additive free.  This is so important because the additives can build up on the diapers and reduce their absorbency.  Of course, you would never use fabric softener, either.  There are 3 main brands of laundry detergent that I have heard are best on diapers:  Charlie’s Soap, Country Save, and Allen’s Naturally.  I have had experience with all of them, and Country Save is my favorite.  There are people who use major detergent brands like All and Tide on their diapers with success.  I haven’t tried these, since they are not recommended by diaper companies, and I’m not much of a rule breaker. 🙂  You just have to figure out what works for you and with your water with a little experimentation.

To wash, I do a cold rinse first (2 cold rinses if they are especially yucky!).  Then I do a hot wash with 1/2 the recommended detergent.  Then I do another cold rinse.  I hang the covers and pocket diapers up to dry.  The prefold and terry cloth inserts and doublers are dried in the dryer.


To close, I wanted to share some resources that I have found helpful, or that I think that might be helpful for you readers out there! 

Both blogs that are mentioned in my blogroll are written by cloth diapering moms.  They have had several articles on different aspects of cloth diapering in the recent past.  You might peruse their sites and see if you find anything that is helpful for you.

Diapering Definitions and Helpful Information(this site is also my favorite online diaper store.)

A Work at Home mom that sells just the basics.

Prefold Diaper Folding Techniques.

Well, that’s all I have for now.  If you have any specific issues that I haven’t discussed, please leave a comment, and I’ll try to address those.  Also, some of my readers are my friends who actually taught me how to cloth diaper.  If you have anything to add, please leave a comment, too.


4 Responses to “Clothing Diapering Part 2: Lots of Details”

  1. Liz Says:

    I’m due to have my 1st baby in 3 1/2 weeks, and I have a ~delightful~ cloth diaper (prefolds/BSWW covers) stash just waiting to be pooped on 🙂 I am going to try using All F&C though because that is the detergent I currently have, and unless I experience leaking or wicking, I’ll stick with it. My friend Karen uses 1 Tbsn original Dawn in her wash though, have you ever tried that?

  2. Nancy Says:

    Thank you so much for posting all this information. I truly appreciate your time and input! I think I’ll buy prefolds and Bummi’s covers with a few Bum Genius 3.0 to try out.

    You have helped me out BIG TIME!

  3. Pollyanna Says:

    Great info. We recently starting cloth diapering too. May I just add that we use a smaller wetbag for the dirty dipes when we go out (I just *really* try to avoid any more plastic than necessary…I feel so guilty anymore when I use it!) The smaller wetbag has been working great. Also, instead of the liners (we have septic, so not the best idea) we got a diaper sprayer. It took a bit of getting used to (oh no! poop water on the floor!), but now I love it.

    Have you tried the new Thristies AOI? It is a pocket AOI diaper. It is really cool. You can use it as-is, or you can add an additional liner. Very cool idea. I also find it dries faster than my BGs.

    Love your website!

  4. Amanda Says:

    Wow! I’m so proud of my work spreading the cloth diaper cult around here! 🙂 I would like to add for those who are extremely overwhelmed still….the great thing is you can start small and then build your collection. I started with 6 prefolds and 2 covers and a snappi. this way you can decide if you even like cloth or prefolds without investing alot. to start you can use whatever detergent you have or get something without added bleach, etc. As long as you use very little and RINSE like crazy you’ll be fine. also you can just use trash bags for wet bags and disposables when you go out….few people can commit a few hundred dollars up front. You can also buy used on some websites and try out different brands for less money. if that skeeves you out, just think how often they get poop on their clothes and you’d probably get those used without thinking about it! You can also resell diapers if they don’t work for you for 1/4-1/2 the value usually. I always read diaper reviews on first, keeping in mind diapering is highly individual…like I actually like happy heiny better than bumgenius currently and I don’t like bummis b/c they are bulkier than thirsties covers. But you learn as you go, which makes it a fun adventure!

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