Photo and Story By Rita Chavez

The first year of a baby’s life has so many expenses. I remember how big our diaper and formula budget was through my first child’s first year.  She thankfully didn’t need any special formulas, but she drank A LOT, and she was sensitive to many diaper brands and would react to all but one particular brand’s sensitive baby wipes.  When I became pregnant with baby #2, my husband and I started brainstorming on how we could rearrange our budget to help save money. We discussed breastfeeding and possibly trying to cloth diaper, but, being pregnant, tired, and constantly running after an active 3 year old, I couldn’t even think of doing MORE laundry than I already did.  We requested diapers in lieu of other gifts from friends and family, and Adeline’s diaper supply was set for the first 3 months of life. 

Different types of cloth diapers

About a month after Adeline was born, my best friend mentioned that she attended a cloth diapering class; she was considering it for her three-month-old daughter.  She told me about the different diapers she learned about, and my interest was sparked again.  I started doing research online during late night breastfeeding sessions, and found that cloth diapers have come a long way from pre folds, safety pins, and plastic covers.  From flats, to fitteds, to all-in-one diapers, there were so many styles and brands, but since I was interested in cloth diapering for financial reasons, I looked into the least expensive options I could find.  I settled on going “old school” with flour sack towels (FST), Snappis (the less sharp version of a safety pin), and PUL brand covers. FST could be folded around baby’s bum like a pre fold, and were extremely inexpensive (found in the kitchen aisle of most stores!).  A cover could also be used multiple times through the day if it wasn’t soiled with stool.  This sounded like a system I could work with, and I purchased a few packages of FST and a couple of unbranded covers.  Pocket diapers were also a popular, cost efficient option; a PUL cover lined with a soft fleece inner, with an absorbent insert stuffed in the “pocket” between the liner and the cover. The whole diaper must be changed even when urinated in, but they seemed convenient for use out of the house since it was only one piece as opposed to two, so I also purchased a handful of these.

How to wash cloth diapers

Once I got my diapers and learned how to properly wash them, I was ready to start. We started our cloth diaper journey when Adeline was about 2.5 months old.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that exclusively breastfed baby stool is water soluble, so it doesn’t need to be rinsed off diapers before going into the washer. Also, doing a few extra loads of laundry a week was barely noticeable.  FST and covers became a fast favorite; there are so many ways to fold them to get absorbency where needed and they were easy enough for my husband to learn to use if he didn’t have to do any of the major folding!  I found that I’m not a huge fan of pocket diapers; I don’t enjoy stuffing them, but it’s still a very convenient “out of the house” option and it’s nice that I can adjust absorbency by stuffing the pocket with an extra insert.  As Adeline was starting to sleep longer stretches, I invested in some fitted diapers with PUL covers to use strictly at night for heavy absorbency.  I also took all of Adeline’s old flannel swaddle blankets and cut and sewed them into 8x8 cloth wipes, and used a spray bottle with a pump of baby soap mixed with water to wet the wipes for diaper changes.

How to store dirty cloth diapers

Once Adeline started solid foods around 5.5 months, I had to start rinsing soiled diapers before putting them in the washer, as her stool was no longer water soluble.  Since we were preparing to move, I decided not to get a diaper sprayer (it’s like the sprayer attachment on a kitchen sink, but attached to the toilet and higher pressure), and just swished them in the toilet and used the pressure from the flush in the bowl to get the solid waste off the diaper.  I stored soiled diapers in an open diaper pail for air flow by the changing table, and stool rinsed diapers in an open pail in the bathroom by the toilet, and there weren’t any noticeable smells.

It’s been 17 months since we first started cloth diapering, and during that time we purchased our last package of diapers and wipes last June, during our month long cross country move.   Cloth diapering has been so helpful financially, and it has been nice to reduce waste. I still don’t have a diaper sprayer, I’ve become accustomed to swishing diapers, and I usually wash diapers twice a week. If you’re considering cloth diapering, I would recommend trying a few of each diaper you’re interested in before purchasing a whole supply in case it doesn’t work for your lifestyle or baby’s needs, or finding a cloth diaper class or service near you.  Whatever your reasons are for considering cloth diapering, there is definitely something to fit every budget and every bum, and it’s a great way to help save money and save the earth!

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Rita is an Army wife of ten years and a mom to two little girls.  She graduated from University of Hawaii: West Oahu in 2010 with a Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Public Administration, but has a passion for helping animals and most recently worked for the oldest no-kill animal shelter in San Antonio, TX.  As a recent military move led her family to bid goodbye to San Antonio, she now volunteers with The Carrying On Project in Fort Drum, NY, where she shares her love and knowledge of babywearing with other caregivers.  When she is not volunteering, Rita enjoys taking photos of her daughters and dogs, and her hobbies include cooking and crafting.

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