So you’ve done your research about cloth diapers. You’ve asked your friends and family about their experience. And now that the new set you ordered online arrived, what’s next? 

We compiled a couple (or a dozen) of questions we asked ourselves and have frequently encountered about cloth diapering. But first:

The anatomy of a cloth diaper

Shell

Insert

Button

these snap buttons keep the diaper in place and is also used in size adjustment

If you’re curious about cloth diapering our previous blog about why we use cloth diapers might help you out.

1. Where does the insert go?

We asked this ourselves and thought it was silly too, but no! It’s actually a valid question. We had to double check our research about which goes where because putting it inside the shell or on the shell both makes sense and could be a little confusing. For the type that’s widely available in the Philippines, it’s the shell diapers where the insert goes inside. 

Tip: Make sure that the insert is nice and straight inside the shell so it won’t get rolled up between your baby’s thighs and prevent leaks from happening.

2. Does the shell get reused?

Although there are cloth diapers (hybrid) where only the insert needs to be replaced, our pocket diaper’s shell needs to be replaced every time we change. The pee goes through the inner lining of the shell and then onto the insert. 

3. How many diapers should I get?

We recommend trying a few at first. We started with 5 sets. Enough to get us through 1 day of diapering. We still use disposable diapers at night and whenever we go out or travel because: a. Our baby’s sleep is important for us, and we’d like to minimize disrupting it with frequent diaper changing. b. We commute whenever we go out, so bringing dirty diapers along with other baby stuff is too much.

Cloth diapering can be a lot of work compared to disposables and proper care, so it’s not for everyone and we don’t insist on it. Fortunately, it worked for us so after two months, we decided to be a cloth diapering family and added more to our stash with a total of 24 sets to date. It’s good enough (with allowance) for 3 days. 

4. What type of insert should I use?

There are many types of inserts. Listed below are the 3 of the most common ones.

Microfiber

photo from http://www.nickisdiapers.com

The standard set would have the microfiber insert, a light material that dries quickly. It’s usually the cheapest. While this is the most affordable one, we don’t recommend it because it can’t hold much of your baby’s urine and may spill back once it’s subjected to pressure (when your baby sits on it) also, if you’ve ever touched one, you can say that it’s a little hot against the skin and you can imagine how it can cause skin irritation.

Bamboo Charcoal

We use bamboo charcoal insert because it quickly absorbs pee and is more efficient in keeping it in because of its porous surface, making it more effective in removing moisture from your baby’s skin. It also absorbs bad odor and is naturally antibacterial. They can last up to 4-5 hours (depends on your baby’s amount of pee).

Hemp

We have a couple of hemp inserts as well. It’s deemed as a “work-horse” among inserts because of its durability and it can absorb twice as much as other inserts. In our experience, it gets a little lumpy after washing so you might need to soften it up for your baby’s comfort.

Tip: You may also put double inserts for longer use

5. Do I need to pre-wash them before first use?

You will need to wash the cloth diapers before using them. If you’re getting the bamboo charcoal insert, it’s recommended that you wash it at least 3 times with warm water to make sure it’s as absorbent as it should be. 

6. How often should I change my baby’s diaper?

This will depend on how much your baby pees and the insert you’re using. For Tikoy, we change it every 4 hours. When he poops, we change and wash the cloth diaper right away.

7. When can my baby start using cloth diapers?

You can use cloth diapers soon as your baby arrives! However, it can be rather big for your day-old baby even if you’ve adjusted it to the smallest size possible. That’s why there are newborn cloth diapers available for a better fit.

We didn’t use cloth diapers on Tikoy until he turned three months old because he was so tiny that his poop slips off the diaper, and we were a little preoccupied with surviving the first couple of months with sleepless nights and not having too much of a pile of laundry was helpful. 

8. How do I adjust my cloth diapers?

Cloth diapers are amazingly adjustable. They can grow with your baby!

Your cloth diaper should have a series of button rows that you can snap together to fit your baby’s size. Here’s how we adjusted them for Tikoy’s first few months (3-6 months).

the top rows are for adjusting the length on the waist, while the rows below are for the crotch area.
snap on the buttons on the crotch area to fit your baby.
put on the side snaps on the waist area to secure the diaper
for newborns, you can adjust the waist length further using the right side snap buttons

9. Where do I store dirty cloth diapers?

There are cloth diaper pails that can help control the odor, as well as waterproof bags. Do we have one? No. We found that our regular timba-with-cover will do. We just toss the dirty diapers inside and wash them every two days. No need to soak. 

For diapers soiled with poop, scrape off the poop immediately, and wash.

Tip: knock off poop from diapers on the toilet bowl using a bidet. You can also station a brush and soap where you wash soiled diapers for sticky ones that water alone can’t remove.

10. How do I wash them?

Other advocates recommend hand washing cloth diapers, but your trusty washing machine does the work as well. My dream washing machine is the industrial type that does everything from rinse-to-dry in a press of a button, but our conventional two-tub with spin dryer is just as good. 

  1. First, rinse the soiled diapers with tap water, and then drain.
  2. Wash with detergent twice. You will need to choose a detergent that works for you. Ours is a powder detergent that takes off stains, germs, and odors easily. It starts with an “A” and ends with “riel”. We find that using a regular detergent for cloth diapers is the most cost-effective option because a little goes a long way. But if you prefer special baby detergents, go ahead!
  3. Rinse it twice or until the soap is gone. 
  4. Spin dry. The bamboo charcoal inserts are super absorbent. Thus, you will need to wring out the water thoroughly. To avoid hurting your hands and for quicker drying, spin dry it.
  5. Dry. Let Mr. Sun work his magic for you, or if you have, use the dryer but not on maximum heat.

Important: you mustn’t use bleach on your cloth diapers because it shortens its life span by destroying the fibers. You also don’t need to use fabric conditioners on them because it will coat the shell and inserts and reduce its absorbency.

11. I’ve been using the cloth diapers for a while now and it smells of ammonia. How do I remove it?

After using cloth diapers for a few months, I wondered why they smelled of ammonia even though we wash them thoroughly and are dried under the sun. Apparently, it’s only natural for the cloth diapers to accumulate ammonia since it’s their job to absorb urine and poop. But it’s very easy to eliminate: 

  1. After your initial rinse, soak your diapers in warm water with a cup of white vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of baking soda. 
  2. Wash and rinse as usual

12. Do I need to use nappy cream on my baby?

During the first few months, we used nappy cream to protect our baby’s skin from irritation. Later on, we held it off because we observed that our baby doesn’t get rashes at all, and the cream was being accumulated on the diapers.

13. Where should I keep my cloth diapers?

Find a spot where you can station your diaper changing stuff that’s convenient for you. 

It’s been almost three years since we used cloth diapers on our baby and we never regretted it. Tikoy never had a diaper rash! Even though he’s potty trained, he still wears them at night for the added security.

It may be a lot of work but we’ve learned how to manage it. If you want to start your cloth diaper journey with your baby, it helps to try a few and getting your husband and family on board because it will make the load easier for you from washing the diapers to folding them. 

There is also no shame in deciding to not get into cloth diapering. It’s not a crime not to, and it’s not for everyone.  🙂

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