I've been meaning to write all this down because I've had people ask about clothdiapering in the past. There seems to be so much information I find important to share that it's not a simple two sentence answer.
I want to start by saying this is just my experience. You will get a completely different opinion from every other person who does clothdiapering. This is what makes it challenging but also unique and exciting! It's something we can get passionate about (or at least feel good about). For me, I decided to clothdiaper because it seemed the most economical decision and I felt like I was doing our family and baby some good by saving money and keeping my little guy's bum in good health.
It's easy to get overwhelmed in the beginning when you're doing preliminary research, but once you get some hands-on experience -- and lots of it ;) -- it will soon feel more natural and comfortable as you get settled in a routine and find what works for you and your baby. I hope this information is a good jumping-off point for your journey into clothdiapering! I'm still a bit of a newbie and learning little by little as I go, but if anyone has more questions, I'll do what I can to help!
Basic Reasons to ClothDiaper
Saves money: if you average $40+/month on disposables, times 12 months, times 3 years, that's almost $1500. Average conservative cost to completelyclothdiaper from 0-3+ age: $250-$350
Using average of 20-25 clothdiapers total for 3 years, or throwing out 150+ diaperseach month... that's a lot of diapers NOT in a landfill
Cloth is much easier on the skin - little to no diaper rash (especially those with sensitive skin).
Yes, you will do a few more loads of laundry a week, but it's not a huge cost for extra water and electric. *Maybe* $5-$10/month if you do 2-3 loads a week.
Types of diapers
All-in-one - these are no-fuss diapers. no inserts or pockets, just a diaper all ready to go. the downside to these are they aren't very customizable to your needs, and take a long time to dry.
All-in-twos (covers and inserts separately) - there's the cover, which contains the wetness, and then the insert, which absorbs everything. you can also use disposable inserts or prefolds with most covers. this is the most customizable and requires less folding/stuffing like with the pockets. these also tend to dry the fastest.
Pockets - this is a diaper with a lining that has a pocket where you slip the insert inside. this is probably the easiest system for beginners (or dads/babysitters), because you can stuff them ahead of time so they're ready to go. they are also customizable so you can add a 'doubler' (a second smaller insert) for heavy wetters or overnight. you pull out the inserts for washing so they dry faster.
Prefolds - this is the 'old school' diapering with the square cloth you fold around the baby. you can use the rubber elastic pants or the more modern covers. most people use a 'snappi' to hold the cloth together (much safer than a 'safety pin'). some people love this system and it is probably the cheapest route if you're on a tight budget.
Velcro ('hook and loop')
One size: usually fits birth-3 years (though it's hard to find clothdiapers that fit really well on a tiny newborn). I usually get one-size because I feel it's less hassle and probably a bit cheaper in the end, but sometimes it's hard to get a good fit.
Multiple sizes: depending on the brand, you'll have two to three different sized diapers, usually by weight. (for example, Thirsties has a size one: 6-18lbs and size two: 18-28lbs - those aren't the exact weights but you get the idea) you'll get a better fit, spend a little less per diaper, but won't get quiet as much use once the baby outgrows that size, so you'll have to buy more over the three-year span (but if you plan to have more kids may be worth buying because they'll last longer).
NEWBORNS: From experience, I'd recommend doing either a one-size cover and insert or a small-sized pocket diaper for newborns if you plan to start with cloth right away (one-sized pockets and all-in-ones are likely to be too bulky). Some brands offer a lower rise setting for the umbilical cord too. However, I did disposables for a while just for convenience and because you're changing so frequently... with a newborn the last thing you want to think about is more laundry ;)
Brands I've used
Fuzzibuns - Pocket diaper - A bit expensive so wait for a sale if you can (or buy used). nice features are adjustable/replaceable gussets (elastic around the legs). good for skinny-legged or small babies. also super soft and trim.
Econobums - Cover and pre fold - The most inexpensive cover I've found that works really well. if you're on a budget I recommend these to start if you want to do covers and inserts separate. the covers are really trim. the prefold inserts are pretty bulky, though. I hardly ever used them. I'd recommend either just buying the covers only and buying inserts somewhere else, or cutting down the prefolds and sewing them so they're smaller. Wait for a B1G1 sale and they're $5 each with free shipping at www.cottonbabies.com
Bumgenius - Pocket - Hold up well over time. velcro tends to get worn after 3-4 years of constant use. very soft and absorbent. this is a good brand if you like pockets.
Kawaii - Pocket - Great for the cost, inexpensive. it's a good starter if you want to try pockets. they are a bit bulky and tend to leak if left on for overnight or heavy-wetting.
Flip - Cover - I just have a few used ones. They are comfortable and trim.
Grovia - Cover - I just have a few used ones. These are also comfortable and trim.
Thirsties - Cover - These are my new favorites because of the inner additional gussets around the leg. the only brand I've found with that feature, which helps with leaks. they are trim and the velcro holds well over time, not too expensive either.
Some other brands I've heard good reviews from: Charlie Banana, Rocky Mountain Diapers, gDiapers, Bummis, Kissaluvs, Happy Heiny
There are a ton of different brands as well as homemade ones. I would steer away from homemade for now only because they are usually more expensive and may not hold up well over time.
some brands come with guarantees (as long as you use them properly - read the fine print).
You can find a lot of instructions of washing your diapers online. These tips have helped me:
Hot water rinses before and after washing
A small amount (a few tablespoons at most) of free-and-clear (no perfumes or dyes) detergent or cloth-diaper-specific detergent
Sunshine! It's true that line-drying in the sun will actual reduce smells and stains!
Baking soda, occasionally
White vinegar, occasionally
I like the Rockin' Green ammonia-bouncer "Funk Rock" for when the diapers build up an ammonia smell on occasion. It's a bit expensive but really does work.
What I do is put all my dirty diapers in a lidded pail, with a pail liner (a waterproof bag that stretches around pail). some people like to soak them immediately and wash more frequently, but I usually only do about two loads a week. If the diaper is soiled, I have a diaper sprayer hose attached to the toilet, and I spray off the poo into the toilet. some people just use rubber gloves and wash off in the toilet water. either way works, but I love the sprayer!!
Other accessories and tips I've found useful
Coconut oil - When diaper rash does surface, be careful not to use mainstream diaper cream. it will cause build-up and leaking in your diapers. I use organic coconut oil (from the grocery store)... that's it! it clears up in just a few days. Coconut oil is great for many other things - skin, hygiene, cooking, and yes, even for intimacy ;)
Diaper Sprayer - check ratings before buying - some are cheaply made. I have a bum genius sprayer that was used when I got it, so it's been working for about 5 years with just a minor leak that was fixed easily.
Wet bags / pail liners - Great for travel and containing the diapers without a mess. www.planetwise.com is a good brand.
Cloth wipes - I go back and forth between using these. it doesn't add much to the laundry when I do, but it's nice to just wipe and toss disposables, too. withcloth wipes (I made my own by cutting up fleece/flannel fabric from goodwill clothing), I mix a solution of water with a spoonful of baby wash and a spoonful of baby oil, but water works fine by itself, too. change out the water once a week or so to keep it fresh. I keep mine in the little squirt bottle they give you at the hospital for postpartum needs... but a little spray bottle from the travel section of walmart or target would work too. you can either put a stack of wipes in an old plastic wipes tub and pour the solution over them so they are already wet, or spray as you need them.
Disposable diaper inserts - if you're interested in more of a 'hybrid' diapering system, some people use these when they travel or if they have a busy lifestyle. it can make clean up a little easier and less laundry to do, or if you're not ready to commit to full-time clothdiapering this could be a happy medium.
Drying rack - I have one that folds up- you can also find them used. there's quite a variety out there. you *can* dry diapers on low heat in the dryer, but I like to think they'll last longer and work better by line drying (and it doesn't have to be outside) - keep in mind that you can dry inserts on low heat in the dryer.
Rubber gloves - For prepping diapers to wash - pulling out inserts, etc. Or, if you don't have a sprayer, rinsing them off in the toilet.
sometimes even websites like zulily will have a deal on clothdiapers
Harrisonburg and surrounding area retailers:
Simple Little Baby - Harrisonburg
Abbys Lane - Manassas
On the Turtles Back - Harrisonburg
Sugar Snap Consignment - Charlottesville
Nature's Child - Charlottesville
Queen City Diapers (Diapering Service) - Staunton
there are TONS of websites out there... these are just the ones I used most frequently.
"like" different clothdiaper stores on Facebook and wait for sales! it could save you quite a bit if you're patient :) *cottonbabies often has free shipping, B1G1 free, or buy 4 get 1 free on certain brands.
find a local clothdiaper store or retailer so you can see things in person and talk with someone who is familiar with the different brands and has a lot of experience. if you don't have one local, I'd encourage you to visit a mom or two to see her routine and explore her 'stash' of diapers to get an idea of what you like best. You're welcome to visit and change Judah's diaper any time! ;) haha!
Helpful websites for troubleshooting and more info
every family's needs are different. what works for one family may not work for another. a lot of factors can change the type of diapers you use. travel, babysitters, dads ;), daycare, housing arrangements, etc.
every baby is different, too! and it is likely they will change and grow and you'll have to adjust your diapering habits with them. one brand/style may work for a newborn, but not work well 3 months later. legs get skinnier as they start crawling, etc.
try a variety of brands and styles before committing to anything. it's ok to start of slowly and use disposables too for a while until you find something you like. what you think you might like may not work at all... I discovered I liked covers and inserts separately, even though I thought for sure I'd like pockets best. I have quite a few different brands I've tried. some I like more than others, some work better during the day than overnight.
cost does make a difference when buying diapers, but you CAN clothdiaper on a budget. buy used/pre-loved or 'seconds' (minor manufacture defects), borrow, buy a 'trial' pack to see what you like and return what you don't. buying used or borrowing will also give you an idea of what the diaper would look like after some wear and tear. it can show you its 'true colors' of whether or not they're worth investing in.