While pregnant, I studied all the different types of cloth diapering and saturated myself in the cloth diapering world. Eww. But I don't say 'world' lightly. There is a lot of information out there and it can all be quite intimidating for sure. Each time I learned about a different cloth diapering system, I would start spamming Dave with links announcing each to be the perfect solution for us!
But the system that ended up working for us turned out to be the old standard prefold---well a diaper service quality, unbleached indian prefold, if you want to get specific. I bought these after I found out how small North was in utero and realized he wouldn't fit into the Fuzzi Bunz pocket diapers or the Bumgenius one-size diapers I found for him gently used on craigslist. (To anyone that is grossed out by the thought of used diapers, I want you to know they were not crusted in other baby feces. They were not rank with the hundreds of layers of previous poop that came before we enveloped them around our kid's bottom, thanks.) But seriously, nothing about cloth diapering is what you've heard it is. Either that, or I'm chugging my own kool-aid over here.
It is not my intention to get into all of the different types of cloth diapers out there. I've linked to this guide several times now and I'm becoming worried they think I want sponsorship or something at this point. But it is a good site that can get you quickly well-versed. I'm no encyclopedia, but I'd like to list a brief explanation of why I chose each style. This may get pretty boring, but I'll try to use the word poop a lot to keep it fun.
Fuzzi Bunz Pocket Diaper---I snagged a good deal on craigslist for 12 small pocket diapers that fit 7-18 pounds early on in my search. The train print on a few of them caught my eye. They sell new for $15 - $20 per diaper, but I got mine for $10 each. Pocket diapers require a bit more work in the laundry department because you have to stuff the absorbent insert into the pocket of the waterproof shell before putting it on your baby. But once that's done, it's much like changing a disposable diaper. They have adjustable snaps to help fit your baby as it grows. And they help wick the moisture away from your baby's skin and therefore help to prevent diaper rash too. But you have to buy a bigger size as your baby grows. (Edited to add, Fuzzi Bunz now makes one-size diapers like the Bumgenius ones discussed below.)
Bumgenius One-Size Pocket Diaper---As the one-size implies, this is a diaper that will supposedly fit your baby from 7 to 35 lbs. In theory, it should be the only diaper you should ever need to buy and maybe that is true for some babies. They sell new for $17 - $25ish per diaper depending on your organic needs. Again, I found mine on craigslist for $12 per diaper and they were still in the packaging. Used diapers of the Bumgenius variety sell for roughly about 75% of their retail value depending on wear and tear. But even that can add up to quite a chunk of change when you need about 20-30 diapers. There is also the option of reselling them down the road too. Although expensive, for a one-time purchase, this system can provide significant savings over time.
I also bought some all-in-one diapers that are the most like disposables of all the different cloth diapering methods. The absorbent insert is sewn right into the diaper and no prep work stuffing is needed. They take longer to dry because they are one big cushy piece. Currently, they work great for an overnight diaper for Sir Peesalot.
And finally, our favorite current method: prefolds and waterproof covers. They are only an average of $1.75 to $2.50 per diaper, whereas the covers are about $11-13 each. We use a $2 - $3 snappi to hold the diaper in place and the covers have velcro closures. This site has some packages that come with your choice of 6 or 12 prefolds, 2 covers and 1 snappi, plus free shipping (Click prefold diapers, then click diaper packages) They work well for daytime use. The prefold diapers get washed every time they are soiled obviously, but the covers can be swapped out at each diaper change until your next laundry day.
We keep our cleaned-up but old stainless steel garbage can by the diaper changing station lined with a pail liner. Each prefold is thrown poop and all (currently anyway) into the dry diaper pail. Once his poops become more formidable opponents, we will have to address elimination methods for them before the diaper goes in the washer. When it's time to wash, we just gather up the full waterproof pail liner and carry it to the washer. Since we have to wash the diapers, I decided to use cloth wipes too. I made mine out of flannel and terry cloth a few weeks before North arrived. You can easily buy them online too.
Currently, we do diapers and light clothes laundry about 2-3 times a week. The washing is not nearly as involved as I was afraid it would be. In fact, I actually enjoy the process of cleaning North's diapers. First, I throw the wet bag filled with diapers into my front loader washing machine and sprinkle with 1/4-1/2 cup of Borax. I run them through a quick rinse cycle. Once the poop and pee has gone through the initial rinse, I add other laundry to the load. Then I add cloth diaper friendly soap (All Small and Mighty) and 1/4 cup of vinegar (no fabric softener!) to the load. I add an extra rinse cycle at the end too.
Since it is summertime, I gather up all the freshly washed cloth diapers and sun them outside for a few hours. Once they are sunned and dry, I add them to the other laundry patiently waiting in the dryer. This softens up the cloth diapers and helps to quickly dry the other wet laundry in a more green manner.
No system is a perfect system though and we've had leaks and poop explosions (hi this morning!) with cloth diapers. That has more to do with us not putting them on properly and the awesome power of my child's butt than any failure of the diaper though. As long as I don't have to fork over countless bucks every month to support my kid's pooping habit, I'll gladly do a little laundry. Plus, I like that we're keeping some crap out of the landfills too.
To all the naysayers I spoke to about cloth diapers while still pregnant that uhh...naysaid, "yeah, you say you'll use cloth diapers now...just wait until that kid gets here."
Hi. I'm still cloth diapering my kiddo. Dave and I actually enjoy it. But I appreciate your support about what we let North defecate upon nonetheless.