Before I start, let me say there are a TON of cloth diaper options out there. If you ask people which ones they use/like, you're bound to get a myriad of answers. Having ten different cloth diaper brands thrown at you at once is overwhelming and discouraging. So, two pieces of advice for those looking to make their first purchases:
1. Don't buy everything at once. Get a couple of top recommendations and try those first. You'll probably have some disposables from showers/gifts that you can use intermittently while you figure out what works best for you.
2. Sign up for giveaways. There are always a ton of giveaways going on on Facebook and Twitter. For example The Cloth Diaper Whisperer gives away something cloth diaper every Friday on their blog. If you follow @cottonbabies, @diapershops, etc. on Twitter, they also do giveaways, especially if you RSVP and attend one of their cloth diaper Twitter parties. (There's one (#clothdiapers) I know of on Monday nights at 8 PM CST.) If you follow me (@EditorJoy) on Twitter, you can look at my lists to find more cloth diaper handles--my list is called "cloth-diapers."
Okay, FAQ time:
1. Do you recommend cloth diapers, and if so, how should I get started?
Yes, I recommend them, but . . . there are some factors to consider because they are not for everyone. First, your husband should really be on board with you about the diapers. While the mama may be doing a majority of the changing and the washing, there are times when he will be involved. If he always complains about it, it's really easy to let that drag you down. And, when there's a phenomenal blowout worthy enough to write home about, you're gonna want a cheerleader to keep you on track. Second, you will be touching poop. It's not always going to happen, and it's not nearly as bad as some would have you think (more about that later), but if someone's been telling you that cloth diapering is so easy and you won't even notice the poop, they're lying. There will be some spectacular blowouts (there would be with disposables too), and poop will get on your hands (if you're lucky, it'll just be your hands).
Okay, getting started. I am a penny pincher, so when it came time to buy cloth diapers, I opted for all one-size options. This is great once your child reaches about 14 pounds, but before that, one-size diapers look pretty clownish (and they're tricky to stuff into those cute newborn outfits).
You have two options for a successful start: 1) Start with disposables and transition to cloth diapers as your baby grows. For me, I've been showered with enough diapers with both girls that I was covered until they were big enough to fit in their one-sizes. If you're concerned about what's touching your baby's bum, I highly recommend Seventh Generation disposables. They've worked the best for me, and they're reasonably priced. I don't like any of the other chlorine-free options (I think I've tried almost all of them). 2) If you start from day-one with cloth diapers, go ahead and invest in some XS and S sized diapers. You want to get a good fit around your baby's legs and waist, or else you'll be in leak central and wanting to chuck those diapers across the room.
2. Okay, so what about the poop? (Well, I've never had the question phrased this way, but essentially that was what they were asking).
How to clean your cloth diapers:
1. Have a bucket for wet diapers and a bucket for dirty diapers. We bought a plastic bucket with a sealing lid from Lowes and set it next to the toilet--dirties go in there. We now have a big bucket with a filter on it and lined with a huge wet bag in our nursery for the wet ones, but I started with another Lowes bucket; so either works great. When the baby poops, we take the dirty diaper to the toilet and flush the poop. In the beginning, I just swirled the diaper around in the water until it was sufficently clean of all chunks. Now I have a diaper sprayer. I love my diaper sprayer and would highly recommend one, but it's not a guarantee that you won't touch poop or poopy water--I'm just being real with you--our sprayer has jet-force power, and if it's not aimed properly, all the angles you learned in geometry will be illustrated for you as poop ricochets off the diaper and onto the wall, your pants, the toilet, etc. It's gross. You need to know that.
2. After a couple of days (or when your supply is getting down to one-day's worth of diapers), both buckets get dumped into the washer. I run a large cold cycle with a tiny bit of detergent (more on detergent later)--you want as much water as possible in this cycle. Then, I run a hot cycle with more detergent. After that, I run one more cold rinse with no detergent.
3. Any cotton parts are inspected, and if they're white, they're thrown in the dryer. If they're stained, they go out to the clothesline and bask in the sun until they're naturally bleached white. Actually, it doesn't have to be a sunny day. Apparently, it's all about the UV rays. I read a post about a person in Portland who bleaches her diapers in the rain all the time. Also, all covers are hung to dry. DO NOT dry the covers. I've made this mistake. They will leak if you dry them in the dryer.
Detergent: I used to use Seventh Generation Free and Clear detergent to wash my diapers. I didn't see the need to buy a specific detergent for just my diapers. I figured it was a marketing ploy, and I refused to get ripped off (see, I AM a penny pincher). BUT then I found out "free and clear" detergents actually cause buildup on the diapers and cause them to leak. Since then I got some Rockin' Green detergent, and I LOVE it! There are giveaways for detergent all the time. Rockin' Green is on Twitter--so you can follow them to find out where the newest giveaway is.
I have never had to wipe poop residue out of my washer. I've heard people talk about that, but that's never been a problem for me. Maybe they don't rinse the diapers in the toilet first? Who knows. That's gross. Also, I have never used bleach on my diapers. Bleach creeps me out (which probably means I now creep out all my germaphobe readers, sorry). The sun is enough for me. If I ever have smell-problems with my diapers, then they get extra tanning time in the sun. Presto chango. All good again.
3. Which diapers do you use?
I love, love, love my BumGenius diapers. A lovely friend sent me one in the mail, and it was love at first poop. I have a lot of 3.0s, and one brand-new 4.0. I love the 4.0. I love the snaps (velcro will wear out--mine is in desperate need of replacement), I love the fit, and I love the resistance to stains. BumGenius diapers always look good. I have their organic, one-size all-in-ones (AIOs), and I love them, too, but they have to be line dried, which takes a long time, and when they're line-dried, they're pretty stiff. My eldest got to the point where she wouldn't put them on unless I made them soft again (usually had to cover with a pre-fold). I have a small fitted AIO diaper (which actually is not available anymore, but the XS are), and I love it! Because it was small, I could use it right away. And, as someone recently pointed out to me, there is some frugality in buying sized diapers. For example, if your idol is Mrs. Duggar, then sized diapers are for you. Since you'll be using the diapers over and over and over again, they will last longer if you use sized diapers for a short time with each kid as opposed to the entire time with each kid.
I also used pre-folds (the old-school cloth diaper you're probably picturing in your head) with Snappis and Bummi Superbrite covers. These are fine, but I'm spoiled by my other diapers, so I didn't replenish my stock when my second child came.
Another reason I love BG 4.0s is they're pocket diapers which means I'm in control of the level of absorbency. I can use the infant insert for the early months. I can use the bigger insert for when they're bigger. I can use both for overnight. And I can add hemp inserts for even more overnight absorbency.
And I almost forgot, I love the Flip system too! I've got the original and organic versions, and I love them both. The best part about the Flip system is you can reuse the covers as long as the diaper was just wet. I usually let my cover dry on top of the diaper pail until the next changing. Flip covers are also ones to keep out of the dryer--learned that the hard way.
4. Where do you buy your supplies?
My two favorite websites are www.cottonbabies.com and www.kellyscloset.com. Both have a great selection of anything you could possibly need. And there's always a coupon or sale to cash in on. Just sign up for their newsletter or follow them on FB or Twitter to stay current on their discounts.
I'm a big fan of supporting local merchants too! Find a cloth diaper merchant in your area and spend lots of money there. If you're in the Tulsa area, I've heard that Gaga on Brookside is going to start stocking cloth diapers and Rockin' Green detergent. Yay!
5. Do you travel with cloth diapers?
Travel can mean two things: 1) Do you ever leave the house with cloth diapers, or do you always switch to disposable? 2) Do you go on long trips with cloth diapers?
The answer to both is sometimes. For my first baby, I was really timid about being out of the house with a cloth diaper and a potential blowout occurring, so I heavily invested in Seventh Generation (Penny Pincher Tip: You can find coupons on Seventh Gen's site and use them in combo with discounts on Amazon Mom (sign up for it on Amazon) or diapers.com to get good prices and have the diapers delivered right to your doorstep--bonus! You can also combo Seventh Gen coupons with bulk pricing at Whole Foods and get a pretty good deal. Babies R Us also has coupons and sales pretty often).
For my second child, I'm all cloth diapers when I go out. I found it's not much different than changing a disposable blowout, so why bother dropping the extra dollars for disposable? Plus, I've found that nursery and childcare workers are being exposed more and more to cloth diapers, so they don't cringe or freak out when you leave one with them.
When I travel long distance, it's all about the accessibility to a washer and dryer (and how long I'll be gone). If I can wash and have sufficient time to dry the diapers, if need be, in the sun, then I'll take cloth. If I can wash but won't have time to dry in sun, or if I can't wash, I don't take them. Or, if I'm trying to save space in my suitcase (read: baggage fees on airlines), I'll take disposable.
6. What are your must-have accessories?
1. Wet bag. Small one (holds 2-3 diapers) to carry with you in your diaper bag. I highly recommend a wool wet bag. It takes up more room, but it naturally filters smell so poopy diapers are not stinking up your car.
2. Two diaper pails. Cheap ones from Lowes work great, but I LOVE my carbon-filter bucket.
3. Cloth diaper detergent
4. Clothesline. My hubby constructed one in our backyard for me, but you can make pretty much anything into a clothesline. A lot of people just lay their diapers out flat on a table and sun them that way.
5. Cloth-diaper-friendly diaper rash cream. I didn't know about this until my baby was well into her toddler years. The most affordable/accessible option is California Baby diaper rash cream available at Target. Other than that, I can only find stuff online.
1. Diaper sprayer. Less poop on your hands. (Plus, it conveniently doubles as a bidet or potty-training-bucket cleaner when your child has the runs or is potty training.)
2. Large wet bag--it lines my beautiful, big bucket so I can just dump the whole bag into the washer if I need to. Plus, if I do travel, I have a bag that will hold a lot of diapers.
3. Cute diapers with fun prints. There are so many options out there. Even discount sites like Zulily sometimes sell cloth diapers. Cloth diapering gets expensive when start buying diapers on a regular basis because they're so stinkin' cute. Control yourself! (But splurge a little sometimes =)
7. Do I really save money?
Click on this link for the most in-depth analysis of what cloth diapers cost versus disposables. I think this even shoots a little high for cloth diapers because you certainly can get away with less than thirty-six at a time. Regardless, you're saving a lot.
8. Where can I learn more?
The Cloth Diaper Whisperer blog is my favorite resource. I've learned SO much stuff there. Cotton Babies has a great blog on their website. And like I've said before, follow your favorite brands/stores on FB and Twitter to get even more info.
I'm sure I haven't covered everything, but that's all the valuable information I can come up with for now. Feel free to post your experiences, advice, favorite resources, links, etc. in the comments section.