When Laurelin was born, I was pretty determined to try cloth diapering but I was so intimidated. There are so many methods to cloth diapering, ranging from the old school, cost-effective pre-folds to the more modern but expensive all-in-ones. With the many different methods of cloth diapering, there are also varying degrees of learning curve. Since I was gifted a few packs of disposable diapers when Laurelin was born, I happily used them while counting down how many I had left before I had to start using cloth diapers. Finally, when she turned 1 month, I used up our last disposable diaper, gave up cold turkey, and switched over to cloth.
My main motivation to do cloth diaper actually was less about sustainability and more about the cost-savings. We plan on having 3 children, and we will spend around $600-700 on cloth diapers and one-time accessories (the diapers we are using have two sizes, and so far we’ve purchased only the first size). But when you consider the cost of this against the average parents spends on disposable diapers through potty training (around $2000-3000), this would be around $6000-9000 for 3 children. So we could be saving upwards of $8000 over the span of having all of our children. While this savings doesn’t include water that goes into laundering the diapers, after using cloth diapers for around a month, we haven’t noticed a difference in our water bill with the 2 extra loads of laundry per week.
A lot of moms recommend buying a variety of different cloth diapers to see what they like. But I knew I didn’t want to do that. Since I had to do some convincing to get Ian on board with cloth diapering, I knew I had to streamline this, and making him learn 5 different ways of doing something just seems like something he would not be happy with. So after researching a bunch of different brands, I bought all of my cloth diapers and accessories through this company called Esembly. It’s a fairly new (est. 2019) company, but it has already garnered a good reputation of being a cloth diapering brand that combines both form and function. After a few weeks of cloth diapering with Esembly diapers, I started telling my friends that this is basically Cloth Diapering 101 for Dummies. They seriously figured everything out and made it so easy for any parent to handle on top of the many other things you already have to do. Unlike pre-folds and flats, you don’t need to perform origami at every diaper change. And unlike all-in-ones, it presents itself as a more economical option. What also sets them apart from many other companies is how they thought of everything beyond the actual diaper – they sell skincare and laundry products so it’s a one-stop shop that makes it super easy for cloth diapering newbies.
You start by taking a quiz about your baby, and they’ll give you a personalized shopping list of what you need. For us, we initially bought 24 inners, 6 outers, 1 diaper pail pouch, 1 day bag, 3 sets of wipe-ups, 1 petite pouch, 1 set of agitators, washing powder, everyday balm, and wipe-up kit. The washing powder, everyday balm, and wipe-up kit are things that you can totally buy from different brands.
Because Laurelin is still exclusively breastfed, cloth diapering is a breeze since I don’t need to any prep work in pre-cleaning the diapers. I usually have 2 outers in rotation, and I just line a fresh inner with each diaper change. At the end of the day, I’ll switch to new set of outers. Since Laurelin is sleeping longer stretches at night, I recently bought the overnighters, which is an extra absorbent layer to help keep her dry. That has been super helpful in prolonging the time between diaper changes.
I installed a hook for the diaper pail pouch in our bathroom linen closet instead of buying a separate diaper pail. It actually does a fantastic job in containing all the smells in there before laundry day. If it gets a bit stinky, I just sprinkle some baking soda straight into the pouch to neutralize the odor. I strictly follow the laundering instructions given on the website. The diapers come out really fresh and clean. I do a bleach refresh maybe once a week to get rid of any stains. Since I live in the northeast and it’s getting quite cold to be line drying outside, I’m relying on bleach to get rid of stains. But once spring rolls around next year, I will try to line dry the diapers, as I read that sun bleaching works better than chlorine bleach!
Esembly has truly thought about everything and made cloth diapering more approachable for the newbie. When Laurelin switches to solids, her poop will no longer be water soluble. Most cloth diapering parents get a diaper sprayer and spray the poop down the toilet before putting it in a diaper pail. Esembly instead sell these disposable bamboo liners called tossers. Essentially, you line the diapers with it, toss the liner along with the poop (we will compost the disposable liner when that time comes), and wash the diapers as usual (in theory, the diapers should be really clean as only pee will seep through).
Here are some things, good and bad, that I learned after cloth diapering for a few weeks –
1. I’m not sure why I didn’t anticipate this, but as opposed to disposables, when you change cloth diapers, you will touch a wet diaper. It is a really odd feeling. It’s not dripping by any means, but it’s just like handling a damp towel. So you will want to make sure that you don’t set the dirty wet diaper on clean linens as it can transfer the moisture over.
2. Since cloth diapers absorb instead of wick moisture, it is important to change diapers every 2-3 hours to avoid skin irritation and discomfort for baby.
3. Cloth diapers does a way better job in being blowout-proof! We experienced 2 blowouts using disposables in the 1st month and none since switching to cloth.
4. Cloth diapering is probably not the best option when traveling longer than a day trip. One con to cloth diapers is that it takes up way more space than a disposable. Lugging around that many diapers would take up precious luggage space. Additionally, if you were to do cloth diaper while on a trip, you would need to make sure that wherever you go has reliable access to a washer/dryer. We haven’t traveled anywhere far since Laurelin’s birth, but we’re pretty certain that we would switch to disposables when taking trips longer than a day.
5. It is important to dry your baby’s bum between diaper changes. I like to use the cloth wipe ups to dab her butt dry before putting on a clean diaper.
6. Cloth diapers are about 2x more bulky than disposables. No matter how trim a cloth diaper claims to be, it’ll never be as trim as a disposable. Take this into consideration when choosing clothing for your baby. This usually won’t affect onesies and sleepers since they have more slack. But maybe consider sizing up for tighter pants.
7. For babies with sensitive skin, cloth diapers significantly reduces diaper rashes.
8. Cloth diapers take a LONG time to dry. For me, I usually am running 2 full dry cycles to dry the diapers.
9. Like your favorite t-shirt, cloth diapers get softer and more pliable the more you wash it.
10. You need to get good at timing when to do the diaper laundry. I like to start the laundry when we’re down to 2-3 diapers. This allows me plenty of time to wash and dry everything, ensuring we won’t run into a situation where she’s sitting in a soiled diaper and there are no dried, clean diapers for her.