The Busy Mom’s Guide to Cloth Diapering

cloth diapering

Ever since my twins were born in July of 2013, I’ve been really busy. Not just with their constant needs (which haven’t slowed down as they’ve aged – they’ve just changed!), but also with my two hyper dogs in my little tiny house. Oh, and I’m also a full-time fifth grade teacher to 24 little lovelies. I’m busy. But with all of that, my husband and I decided to cloth diaper our twins at 6 months of age, and we haven’t looked back. It’s been one of the best decisions we made for our family.

A little history: I grew up in an “earthy-crunchy” family. I was raised as a vegetarian until I was five, and my mother had a natural birth even though I was three weeks late (and over 9 pounds). She exclusively breast-fed me and my parents slapped those cheap, soft, white squares on my behind. As a child and teenager talking about being a mother someday, I dreamed of natural births, exclusively breast-feeding and yes – cloth diapering my children.

cloth diapering

This all changed when I became pregnant with twins, was put on bedrest at 23 weeks, was rushed into an emergency c-section at 34 weeks, and was unable to breast-feed more than an appetizer-sized amount of milk for my little ones. The one thing I felt I had control of was the way I diapered my twins. However, for the first six months I walked around in a haze, unable to see which way was up. With the level of exhaustion all new parents face, I couldn’t imagine folding those white squares again and again and attempting to pin them to my children (As a baby, I almost swallowed one of those diaper pins – true story.) Who has TIME for that? So we used the disposables we had been gifted and waited for the fog to lift from our sleepy brains.

Right when the twins turned 6 months, the fog lifted – and our disposable diaper supply ran out. If I ever wanted to switch to cloth, now was the time. After much research, my husband and I made the commitment, and we’ve never looked back. Honestly, it was a super easy switch to make (and don’t worry, we skipped the pins!) To each their own – but this is why we did it:

cloth diapering

To Save Money

It’s the first thing anyone asks about. I have to be upfront here: we’ve never completely figured out how much money we have saved. It depends on so many factors: if you were buying store-brand disposables, if you bought cheap cloth versus pricier cloth, if you have an HE washer. For us, even cheap store-brand diapers ran anywhere between .25 and .40 a diaper, and we were changing each twin 7-10 times a day. It seemed like a huge waste to me. Not just in money, but in the amount of waste we would fill a trash can with, the local dump with, etc. We believe we’ve saved money, considering that we’ve been putting our twins in the same cloth diapers for almost two years now. Not only that, but people buy used cloth diapers, which I get, because upfront they’re expensive. We plan to sell ours someday – you can’t beat that!

To Save the Environment

The next question people ask is, how bad ARE disposables for the environment? Well, when you’re a sleep-deprived parent, you can’t even brush your teeth, not to mention give a crap about the environment. That said, many disposable diapers take a very long time to break down. I’m not a scientist, but I’m aware of the many chemicals used in a disposable diaper. One being dioxin – a highly toxic carcinogen. I don’t know – chemicals like that just kind of scare me. The actual poop itself is not supposed to be thrown into the trash – it typically says so on the disposable diaper box. And yes, I know that baby poop isn’t considered “hazardous waste” and is therefore allowed in the trash, but poop, in my opinion, is meant for the sewage system, not the landfill.

cloth diapering

For Convenience and Efficiency

If you are a twin parent thinking about cloth diapering, this would be my major selling point. While it might actually seem to be the opposite, cloth diapers are SO convenient. Why? Well, there’s no blowouts, for one thing. The elastic at the top of the diaper keeps those nasty poops in, where the smooth edges of the disposables had me changing baby outfits regularly. I can’t tell you how many times a disposable diaper ripped while I was putting it on and on the rare occasion my twins wear one now, they can yank that sucker off in a second. Our cloth diapers are toddler-proof and can never be ripped. Lastly, if you have multiple children in diapers, you (obviously) REUSE them. My son doesn’t need to have his own diapers and neither does my daughter. I bought 24 of them and they SHARE! And if I ever have another child, that little one’s getting the hand-me-down diapers too! I find this very convenient, efficient and, frankly, my favorite part.

To Avoid Rashes

My twins were getting diaper rash often. When you think about it, disposables trap in a lot of moisture, which the kids were sitting in. Instead of constantly fighting diaper rash, with cloth diapers we rarely deal with it at all. In fact, using a little dab of coconut oil every few changes keeps both of their bottoms rash-free. (Note: coconut oil is safe for cloth diapers, but Vaseline, Desitin, and other diaper rash creams are not!)

cloth diapering

This is how we did it, and yes, how we managed the poop.

The Diaper

There are the cutest designs and colors out there for cloth diapers and it’s tempting to buy many different kinds just for the patterns alone. However, our goal was to save money and time. I couldn’t spend my free minutes discovering which type of cloth diaper worked best for us (and there are many types). When we made the initial upfront purchase, we needed one day diaper that we could buy a whole bunch of and be done with it.

Our cloth diaper of choice was the Bumgenius Freetime. We chose snap diapers, which are impossible for our toddlers to open on their own. My favorite part of these diapers is the fact that they are adjustable from infancy to potty training. I know because my kids are still in them. My son is about 34 pounds at 26 months old. He fits in them fine, just as he did as a baby.

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Finally, these particular diapers have built-in inserts (no “stuffing” a cloth diaper here!) For my son who pees in the front, I fold one of the inserts in half to give him extra padding and for my daughter, I keep both inserts completely open. Because they are sewn in, it’s almost too easy.

After some trial and error, we realized our twins pee a lot more at night and therefore, they needed a super-strength nighttime cloth diaper. For this reason, we bought four additional cloth diapers of another type: Pooters Hemp with the Blueberry cover. The hemp/bamboo material is super strong and we haven’t had leaks with them at night.

The Poop

So many people I talk to don’t cloth diaper out of fear of the poop. Perhaps they picture baby and toddler poop (both are disgusting in their own way) smearing walls and dripping down sinks or something. A scene out of a poop-filled horror movie. Allow me to take this time to tell you – the poop is really no big deal.

My first and best tip to handle the poop is to purchase cheap, discounted microfleece fabric (I got mine at Walmart). I bought half a yard of it for a few bucks, and then cut it into strips to line the inside of our cloth diapers. When someone has a yucky, messy poop, I have a few options: If I’m home, I don’t have to deal with the entire cloth diaper, attempting to get it mostly clean in the toilet. I just simply grab hold the ends of the fleece liner, and either dump or dunk it in the toilet a few times and the poop comes right off. If I’m out and about and the liner is SUPER disgusting? I just throw it out. I can spare ONE liner! I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the microfleece liner. The poop is 95% contained to that liner, meaning I don’t have to deal with a messy giant diaper. Sure, you can buy expensive liners on Amazon, but I bought fabric on sale and cut it while watching TV one night. Way cheaper!

cloth diapering

Now, sometimes the diaper is a messy one. There are lots of tactics out there and some are expensive. I have reusable $3 plastic gloves from Target – you know, the yellow rubbery ones you can buy to wash dishes. They go halfway up my arms! I keep them under the bathroom sink and before dealing with a gross diaper, I pull the gloves on. If I need to dunk a liner a few times, my rubber gloves keep the grossness at bay. They wash clean in a cinch and back under the sink they go. My bare hands never touch a thing! So between the rubber gloves and the fleece liners, the poop is kept to a minimum and always ends up where it needs to be – in the toilet.

The Laundry

Laundry isn’t exactly the most fun, and people assume that when you cloth diaper, you’re doing a crazy amount of it. Not the case. At first, we washed diapers about every day and a half to two days and now it’s sometimes even three, because my toddlers have started to hold their pee. And that’s with two children in diapers. I don’t have some fancy trash can. I have a stainless steel Target brand can, which I can assure you, keeps all odors in. If I ever do have a smear on the actual diaper itself, I spray it first with Biokleen Bac-Out. I’m using a washable trash can liner, and when the diapers fill to the top, it’s laundry time. There’s no water in the trash can (as there used to be in cloth diaper days of yore), so I just pull out the can liner, drag it down the stairs to the basement, and toss the whole darn thing right in the washer.

After much experimenting and research, my diapers wash best when I do a short rinse, followed by a hot water wash with an extra rinse. I use original Tide powder, which while not the most environmentally friendly, cleans the diapers the best, which I decided was a trade-off. No matter the amount of crap that made its way onto the diapers or the liners, it all comes out smelling like Tide every time with not a SINGLE stain in sight: like brand new diapers, every time. During cold months I toss them in the dryer for two 30-minute rounds on low heat. In the summer I hang them outside to dry, where the sun is a natural bleaching agent and gets those diapers so white they’re sparkling.

The fact I keep coming back to is that my twins have worn the same diapers from age 6 months to 26 months. They’re clean, they’re adjustable, they work well, and best of all, they’re EASY. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for our family and our busy lives, this is working for us!

*For an additional money saver, I make my own diaper wipes out of Costco brand paper towels, and they do just as good a job as the real thing! You can read more about them here.

cloth diaperingMegan Champion is a fifth grade teacher and the mother of two-year old boy/girl twins. She and her husband also share their small space with two hyper rescue dogs. After going through infertility treatments, navigating the chaos is exactly what they always wanted. She somehow finds time for her hobbies, photography and writing, and can be found blogging about infertility, DIY and money-saving ideas, and twin topics at twintalkblog.net. She can also be found on Facebook at Facebook.com/twintalkblog.

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