Most families probably researched and considered using cloth diapers for months before they actually started using them, whether that be because they were pregnant when making the decision, or because they were currently using disposables and not sure when/if they wanted to make the switch.
Sometimes, all the planning and research can be a lot of fun, and you feel very prepared…until it’s time to get started! Then all of a sudden you’re second-guessing if you know how to do this, if you can actually keep on top of the laundry, if you can even get them clean at all, and if they will really work or if they will just leak all over your house.
First of all…take a deep breath.
Sometimes getting started on a cloth diaper routine that works for your family involves some trial and error. That’s perfectly okay.
It’s okay if you don’t get it right immediately! You will figure it out.
If you don’t even know where to start with cloth diapering, I recommend you check out my Cloth Diapering 101 series. That will introduce you to all the basics and point you in the right direction.
However, if you have been researching cloth diapers a bit already and have a general idea of what you need to do, then you will find this post helpful. Here I will give you the encouragement you need to get started and help you to know what to expect the first couple weeks of using cloth diapers.
Here are some things to do and consider right before you get started:
1. Have Your Materials Ready To Go
Make sure you have all your diapers and accessories ready to go. Know where they are and have them prepped. Here is a quick checklist of what you need to get started:
- 18-24 diapers
- Wipes (cloth or disposable–up to you!)
- Diaper Pail and/or Wet Bags
- Pail liner (if using a diaper pail–you can just use wet bags if you choose, but pails hold more which is nice for home use)
- A good laundry detergent recommended for cloth diapers
- Access to a Washing Machine
If you have the above things, you have everything you need to get started.
2. Make A Plan For When You Want To Start
If you are currently pregnant and planning on using one-size diapers in your stash, you will need to decide if you want to cloth diaper right from the start, or use disposables right away until the baby is big enough to fit the one-size. Here is a post that might help you with that decision.
There is no right or wrong answer there, and the answer will depend a lot on your budget and the style of diapers you want to use on your baby.
If you plan to just stock up on one-size diapers, then you will need to have some newborn and/or size one disposable diapers on hand for when the baby is born and you get home from the hospital. Plan to use disposables until your baby is at least 10 pounds, if not 12 pounds.
Unless you have newborn-sized cloth diapers, you will find cloth diapers INCREDIBLY frustrating to use if you try to force one-size diapers to work too early. The last thing you want to do after you invested a good amount of money and emotional energy/commitment into your diaper stash is create a bad experience for yourself.
There is nothing wrong with trying out your one-size cloth diapers earlier than 10-12 lbs if really want to see if they work yet. Just have reasonable expectations when you try them. Many people that give up on their cloth diapers do so because they first tried them on their baby when he/she was too small, had issues with them not fitting properly and leaking, and then they think they don’t work. Even if you do wait until 10 lbs and have issues when you try them, your baby may just need to put on a bit more weight to make them work.
One-size diapers are awesome budget savers and are very practical, but they are very difficult to fit on newborns. If you go into it understanding that, you will have much more success overall!
If you do plan to use newborn cloth diapers, just make sure you have them all prepped and ready to go. Assuming they have a dip on the front to accommodate the umbilical stump, you can get using them right away! If they don’t have that dip or they are rubbing on the stump, you will want to wait until it falls off to start using the cloth diapers. Here is a post that will help guide you to some newborn diaper selections.
3. Make A Plan For Overnight
Overnight clothing diapering can be frustrating. You will most likely need to look into some options for more absorbency at night. If your baby is waking up to eat a few times per night, you can just plan on changing him/her at that time. However, some people do not want to do diaper changes at night at all–depending on how good the baby sleeps, they worry about waking them up too much with a diaper change.
So make your plan! Here are some options:
Option 1: Change your baby each time they wake up, and don’t do anything different for diapering at night for right now (this may not be the best option if you have a fabulous sleeper for a baby…they will go too long without a change and out-wet their diaper).
Option 2: Try some more absorbent inserts for nighttime use (this will work for pockets or all-in-twos. Some all-in-ones have the ability to add an insert, too).
Option 3: Look into specific overnight diaper options.
Option 4: Use disposables at night.
4. Don’t Freak Out Over Your First Load Of Diaper Laundry
After a couple days of using cloth diapers, it’s time to do your first load of diaper laundry. Here is some advice: 1) don’t overthink it, and 2) don’t give up if what you tried to do for washing them didn’t work–just try again!
Write down what you did for a laundry routine each time while you are getting it down so that if you have any issues, you know exactly what might have caused them. After you have successfully washed your diapers without any issues a couple times, you will know what routine works best for you and your specific washing machine and detergent type and you will no longer need to write anything down.
Start with a simple routine and tweak if necessary. Starting with something overly complicated is probably overkill and will make it harder to troubleshoot if something goes wrong. I recommend:
1) Pre-rinse or Pre-wash with a little bit of detergent (This gets the bulk of the nastiness out so that the diapers aren’t swishing around in dirty water during the main wash. I do a light wash with up to line 1 of Tide Original powder detergent)
2) Main Wash- full amount of detergent (use what is recommended by the manufacturer for a soiled load your size–for example, I use my regular wash setting and between line 2 and 3 of Tide Original powder for about 2-3 days worth of diapers. You should adjust the amount based on your load size).
3) Extra rinse at the end–this is optional. My washer has a setting I can turn on to do an extra rinse, so I like to do it to make sure all the detergent residue is gone. If it involved me going to mess with the washing machine a third time for one load of laundry, I’d probably skip… or if water conservation is a concern, you can go without. It’s up to you. It’s not a big deal for me to add it, so I do.
**These recommendations are for regular top-loading washing machines. If you are using an HE machine, check out these posts:
- Front Loader Washing Tips For Cloth Diapers- Get Them Clean!
- Cloth Diaper Wash Routine – HE Top Loader
5. Don’t Freak Out Over The Poop
If you have just started cloth diapers and your baby is on breast milk alone (or formula alone–most of the time, formula poops will also completely rinse away), you do not need to do remove the poop from the diapers before washing. I know that may seem gross to some of you, but assuming you have enough agitation in your load of laundry (less of an issue for machines with agitators, but can be harder for HE machines sometimes if your load is too small and/or you’re using too much water) the poop will rinse away.
Some people feel more comfortable rinsing all poop off right from the start. If you want to do that, have at it. But just know you don’t need to.
You also do not need to soak dirty diapers in a wet pail in between washings. Not only do you not need to do this, you shouldn’t do this. It is unsanitary (that bucket is just breeding bacteria) and it is hard on the elastics to soak for so long. This used to be common practice for cloth diapers back before disposables took over, but it is no longer recommended.
Just store dirty diapers in a dry pail or wet bag and wash every 2-3 days.
You Will Do Great!
You will do great cloth diapering your child. Most likely, you won’t have any troubles at all. If you do, they will probably just be little hiccups that you will fix and move on from. If not, there are so many amazing resources out there (Rocking the Cloth included! ;)) that can help you troubleshoot.
There are so many awesome reasons to choose cloth diapers. Just know you are doing a great thing for your family, regardless of your main motivation for doing it.
If you haven’t started cloth diapering yet, do you have a plan to get started? How confident do you feel? Cloth diaper veterans–what advice would you add? Let me know in the comments.