Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with or necessarily endorsing any of the companies mentioned in this series. I am providing my own experience to help you think through cloth diapering because reading others' experience is what helped me take the plunge.
Somewhere in my second trimester, I began to research cloth diapers. It was one of those things I thought I could never do, but since I was working hard for a natural birth, I thought, "Why not?"
The cloth diapering options were completely overwhelming, and the lingo made the cloth-diapering folks seem like an elite crowd. Prefolds, AIOs, pocket diapers--what did all of these things mean? Which were best? While AIOs and pocket diapers claimed to make cloth diapering just as easy as disposable diapering (and can be so cute!), the price per diaper made a whole set seem like a huge investment. However prefolds seemed like going back to the prairie days. Though the Snappi claimed to be better than pinning, all that folding with a squirmy baby--and then adding a cover!--seemed complicated.
I finally discovered a 21 day trial option. Jillian's Drawers sends several diaper brands and options for $10. You initially pay for all the diapers, but when you send them back, you are refunded for those you send back (minus the $10 for the trial). I was skeptical that this would be complicated (especially not knowing the exact day my baby would be born!). However, the company sends you the diapers weeks in advance and allows you to start the 21 days on the baby's birth date or shortly afterward. This was wonderful because that first week or so, I didn't have any desire to work with the cloth diapers.
They sent the diapers (in baby boy colors!) in May, and I was so excited! I washed the diapers and practiced with them. I initially knew two things. First, the prefolds seemed incredibly complicated. Second, the diapers that were supposed to fit from 8 lbs. to toddlerhood seemed like they would be huge on a tiny baby! I thought I would end up choosing between Gdiapers (see below) and one-size pocket diapers.
Shortly after I discovered Jillian's Drawers, I discovered Gdiapers. I LOVED not only the idea of Gdiapers (and the fabric outside!) but also their company. Both Jillian's Drawers and Gdiapers are companies that seek to balance work and family life (something I am passionate about!). Both companies also have small, family-based beginnings. I decided to splurge on the Gdiapers when they had a sale. We ordered the newborn package. I could not believe how cute (and tiny!) the Gdiapers were.
After Monkey Baby was born, I immediately began using the Gdiapers (newborn size) with the disposable inserts (as the company explains, the cloth inserts are not great in the newborn size). I loved them! I had a pack or two of Pampers from the hospital and from a baby shower. But I used the Gdiapers the vast majority of the time. They were simple, I could flush the inserts, and I loved how cute they looked. The stretchy elastic tabs were fabulous!
Monkey Baby outgrew the newborn Gdiapers quickly (as he was 9 lbs. at birth). I began using the size small. However, though the small Gdiapers were wonderful with the disposable insert (or with a cloth and disposable insert at night), I could never get by without changing him within an hour with the cloth inserts. Sometimes even within a hour, we would have a leak. Doubling up the cloth inserts helped, but he outgrew this system within a week or two. Plus I had only ordered a pack of 6 cloth inserts which meant I could only use the Gdiapers 3 times before doing laundry.
During this time, I was researching and experimenting with the trial from Jillian's Drawers. While I loved the cute newborn pocket diapers, they never came out of the wash smelling as clean and fresh as the prefolds. I initially wanted to go with the AIOs or one-size pocket diapers, but they were so expensive, and I never got all the smell out. Plus Monkey Baby went through diapers so quickly in a day. I would be doing laundry all day long to keep up or making a huge initial investment in the diapers.
I came across Alphamom at this point and read through Amalah's cloth diapering column. I loved her sense of humor and her practicality. Since she wasn't selling a product, she gave honest opinions about what she had and about what worked. Through Amalah, I found Green Mountain Diapers. While I had stumbled across it in my early phase of research, the website had not seemed easy to use. But this time, I really researched (during my extended feeding sessions, I had plenty of time). And I fell in love with the concept of cotton prefolds with waterproof covers.
In the coming weeks, I will chronicle what we bought, why we love cloth diapering, how they work (on a day-to-day basis), and any problems we run into. For now, if you are interested in cloth diapers, here are my tips:
- Read through Jillian's Drawers' "New to Cloth Diapers?" article: This will compare costs, explain different options, and detail laundering. So helpful!
- Look up reviews on Amazon and on cloth diapering websites. This was helpful as many parents would take the time to explain why the system did or did not work.
- Go to Green Mountain Diapers and read through Karen's diapering story and New to Cloth info. Karen is honest about what worked for her, and she also takes some of the fear out of cloth diapering by explaining that it is a very personal trial-and-error system. You'll also find this out by reading Amalah's column.
- Try a free/low cost trial. Many companies (in addition to Jillian's Drawers) offer these. Compare options. However, do remember that the trials are not the same as actually having enough diapers to go through a day of cloth. So find out what works, and then bite the bullet. The trial helped me know what was meant by all the cloth diapering lingo (I mean, in forums, everyone even knew that CD stood for cloth diapering. Quite an elite crowd!). It also helps to have a trial because it is one thing to imagine having a pooping baby but another to actually have one. (The moment when I realized, "Oh! A stash of only six newborn pocket diapers would NEVER work!).
- Don't get overwhelmed! It's really not all that hard. Try a few things and see what you like. With the cost (both financial and environmental) of disposables, taking time to wet your feet in the world of cloth diapers--and even making a few mistakes--is totally worth it. The nicer diapers often have a high resale value, and many of the websites offer great return policies if the diapers are stain-free.