One of my dear friends from back in Chicago is having a baby and had asked me to give her my tips/thoughts on cloth diapering. I spent quite a bit of time writing her about my experience, so I thought this info might be useful to other parents or parents-to-be and decided to throw it up on the ol' blog.
I'll start off by saying that when I was pregnant with Collin, I was kind of freaked out at the idea of cloth diapering. It sounded messy and stinky and like a lot of hard work. Now, as we finish off our stint in cloth diapers with Collin and prepare to cloth diaper baby #2, I can honestly say all of my fears were unfounded! Cloth diapering now is nothing like the cloth diapering that our moms talk about. No safety pins or plastic pants or dunking fabric into the toilet!
The second thing you should know, from the start, which I will reference throughout this post, is that we are not purists. I don't feel and ounce of guilt putting Collin in a disposable to go out or using overnight disposable diapers. It's the flexibility of the combo approach that has made this sustainable and do-able for our family!
You can start cloth diapering right away, BumGeniuses snap to adjust to even the smallest little newborns, but we chose to wait until he was about a month old since we had received a good stash of disposables in the newborn size from baby showers and whatnot. Plus, when you are figuring out nursing and sleeping and not sleeping and all that fun stuff, it's nice to not have to also figure out cloth diapering for a few weeks.
Diapers: We use BumGenius diapers and can't say enough good things about them. I can't say we are 100% purists about it. We do use disposables when we go out to run errands, to church or on trips-- so as to not have to tote around wet cloth diapers-- but if you consider how often we are just at home using cloth, we save so much money! I know people who are more hardcore than us and even do cloth diapers when they are out and about. They sell smaller, zip-up, wet-dry bags that can fit in your diaper bag for when you are on the go.
The cool thing is that, even though spending roughly around $600 up-front feels like a lot, you are paying half-- if not a third-- of what you would normally be paying if you only did disposables for two years and these diapers can be re-used for future babies! Plus they are more environmentally friendly and who doesn't like a cute, colorful baby bum?! Babies R' Us has BumGenius diapers on their website, so you can add them to your registry if you'd like to get some help purchasing them. We got ours from http://cottonbabies.com. They have good deals on there all the time.
We went with the BumGenius Elemental Diapers with Snaps. They are a one-size, adjustable diaper that grows with your baby. They have two sets of terry cloth-like inserts that come with each diaper-- a newborn insert and a bigger baby insert. By the time your baby is 8 months or so, you may want to start using both inserts in each diaper to prolong each diaper use during day or night. At about 10 months we found that Collin would wet so much during the night that it was just worth it to put him in an overnight disposable diaper, which was a good decision for us and saved the sheets and our sanity!
We purchased 18 cloth diapers total and that has been plenty. Any less and you'll be doing laundry all the time, any more and you'll be tempted to slack on washing and that can get really rancid, really fast. We divide the diapers into two groups of 9 so that while one set of 9 is washing, the other set can be used.
Liners: What really makes cloth diapering a lot easier than it used to be is being able to put these fiber liners in them, similar to dryer sheets, that you can lift out and flush. These liners and pretty cheap and SO worth it.
We didn't bother buying a diaper sprayer. If he has a blowout and the liner doesn't catch it all, we just flick as much as we can into the toilet and then take the diaper to the utility sink the basement and hose it off down there. Are you grossed out yet?! ;)
Diaper Pail: Be sure to buy a big diaper pail with a good lid. We use something like this trash can with a foot pedal.
To save yourselves the trouble of having to dig through a gross pile of poopy diapers come wash time, we recommend pulling the inserts out as you drop them into the diaper pail during each diaper change. ;)
Wipes: You can buy reusable wipes and a cleaning spray and just toss them into the pail as you go OR you can use normal wipes and throw them into a diaper genie (which is what we did).
Diaper Pail Liners: We purchased two of these wet/dry bags to use as can liners. When one set of 9 diapers is dirty, we turn the bag inside out and throw this whole bag in the wash with them.
Washing: Like I said, We purchased 18 total and that has been plenty. Any less and you'll be doing laundry all the time, any more and you'll be tempted to slack on washing. I found we did about a load every day at the beginning and that morphed into a load every other day as he got older and started only pooping once a day.
We divide the diapers into two groups of 9 so that while one set of 9 is washing, the other set can be used. Around the time Collin was born, our second-hand washer was nearing the end of its life, so we purchased a high efficiency washer and dryer. This has, in the long run, also saved us money since we don't have to use so much water for each load. We typically run each load through a cold cycle and then a hot cycle.
Any free and clear detergent works great! I wouldn't get into buying specialty detergent unless you find your baby is sensitive to normal, unscented soaps.
I line dry the diapers on an accordion drying rack with a fan trained on them. In the summer, you can line dry them outside. The added bonus is that the sun actually whitens them up if they are looking dingy.
Unrelated to Cloth Diapering:
Diaper Genie: If you are planning to occasionally use disposables and/or normal wipes (which cannot be flushed down the toilet like the liners), I high recommend getting a diaper genie like this one.
Trash Can: It's nice to also have a small, normal trash can on hand to dispose of Q-Tips, cotton balls, misc plastic wrap from meds, etc. I know! So many receptacles!
So, that's our story with cloth diapering! I'm sure there are other ideas/tips/tricks that we haven't caught on to. Please chime in if you have further thoughts or questions! It takes a village!