In my first cloth diapering post, I discussed what we took into consideration starting out. In this post, I plan to detail what we decided to use! And when I say detail, I mean detail. This post turned out to be much longer than I anticipated...
We chose to use cloth diapers and diaper covers. It's a two part system that consists of a cloth diaper (not at all waterproof) to absorb moisture, and a separate cover (waterproof) to keep the moisture in. Depending on what you use, this can be the most economical option, since you need 18-36 cloth diapers (which cost anywhere from $1 to $20 each, depending on what you use) and 4-6 covers (roughly $3-$40 each). This is assuming 2-3 days between washings.
Personally, I prefer the versatility of separate diapers and covers, for the same reason I prefer tops and skirt to dresses! Not only does it allow me to experiment more with what I have (maybe the cover is fine, but I don't like my liner or cloth diaper), but I can also replace just one part of the diaper system when it wears out, rather than the whole thing. With an AIO, the whole diaper is useless if one part malfunctions. After over 18 months of diapering (as of September, 2012), I can definitely testify that being able to tweak your system is a huge bonus.
After lots of trial and error, I've simplified our diapering system, and found what I believe is the most economical way to cloth diaper (without sewing, buying second-hand, etc.)
So, here's the whole shebang:
Let's get started!
~ Diapers ~
Mainstays Flour Sack Kitchen Towels
I know, I can't believe it, either! Walmart towels as diapers? However, after reading a number of reviews (including reviews for the towels themselves!), I found this to be the cheapest option for flat diapers. They're 28x29 inches unfolded (big enough to diaper toddlers), and are ridiculously cheap. Plus, every Walmart I've been to seems to have oodles of them in stock. Of the five packs I purchased, some packages were softer and slightly thinner; I haven't noticed a difference in absorption. We currently have 25 of these for our toddler, which seems like the perfect number for us. We don't run out between washes, but don't (usually) have a ton left over. Even better, when the new baby arrives, we can simply add to our stash -- because the diaper is folded by the user, it can be customized for any size baby (larger toddlers might need two layers, or an added doubler/soaker), so we don't need separate sized diapers for separate children. To me, this is one of the big advantages of a flat diaper over a prefold. Not having to keep track of multiple sizes (or store sizes not currently in use) makes everything easier.
Flat diapers do require folding, but I've found that it's easier than it sounds. I spend five minutes folding them into quarters when they come out of the dryer. Then they're ready to fold into thirds or origami fold, depending on my mood. *wink*
I'm totally in love with flat diapers! Not only are they inexpensive, they're also extremely easy to launder -- since you're only washing one layer of cotton fabric, detergent residue and odor build-up are not as likely to be a problem. They dry in a flash, not even requiring a full cycle in the dryer (my old diapers would sometimes still be damp after a full cycle). I haven't had the chance to line dry them yet, but I don't think it would take long at all.
Also, after over a year of using bulky fitteds and inserts, I was shocked by how trim flat diapers are. Granted, my toddler needs two for overnight and long outings -- but two flat diapers have about the same bulk as my previous fitted diapers with inserts! One flat with a cover is hardly bulkier than a disposable.
There are a few drawbacks, as with anything. With my little guy, the front of the diaper will be soaked while the back is totally dry -- in other words, the cotton doesn't "spread" the moisture very effectively. We had a few major leaks as I was figuring out how many towels to use and how long a single towel would hold, but we seem to have that well under control now. Also, there is a little bit more work involved when you have to fold the diapers (although I'm not convinced that it's any more work than stuffing inserts into fitted or pocket diapers!). The last "drawback" is that wet cotton can cause diaper rash or waterlogged skin. However, we've actually had fewer rashes with these flats than with our previous cloth diapers, so that hasn't been a problem -- plus, the single layer means that diaper creams and barrier ointments wash out (which can be a problem for prefolds and fitteds -- especially if they're synthetic). And, of course, a thin microfleece liner could always be used to wick moisture away from the skin.
I've only been using flats for a few months as of September, 2012, but something would have to go seriously wrong for me to lower my current enthusiasm for them! I could have made flat diapers myself, but I actually can't buy diaper-appropriate fabric as cheaply as I can purchase the Mainstays towels.
I'm still interested in trying some "real" flat diapers, and have my eye on these OsoCozy flats. They're only $1.67 each, so not *too* much more than the flour sack towels. I think I'll get some when the new baby comes and see how they compare...
PROS: Inexpensive (!); absorbent; fit from birth through potty training; natural fiber
CONS: Require folding; don't wick moisture efficiently
COST: $5 for a pack of five
~ Diaper Covers ~
1. Little Flower One Size Diaper Cover Highly Recommended!
I'm really excited about these diaper covers, which I found a few months ago! Actually, I'm excited about this website (AssuntaStore.com -- Disclosure: this is a referral link, so any purchases made add points to my account; all other links in this post are not referral links) in general.
I'm comparing these covers to the Thirsties Duo Wraps (see my review of those below), because they seem to me to be almost identical in terms of size and general construction.
So what do I love? Just about everything! The cost is absurdly low, and the quality is amazing -- even better than the Thirsties in my opinion. The snap system is great (it even has the extra snap on the right tab, which allows the tabs to overlap if needed). Also, the leg gussets are edge in the same fold-over elastic as the rest of the diaper. One of my biggest peeves about the Thristies Duo Wraps is that the leg gussets are bound in a narrow knit elastic that stains terribly and looks worn out very quickly.
The covers I purchased (the solid color covers) are not "wipe clean" covers, since they are constructed with sandwich PUL -- basically, the material is waterproof, but doesn't look or feel slick on the inside like most PUL diaper covers. However, I just handwash them in my bathroom sink with a splash of Dr. Bronner's soap and wring them out (assuming it was a wet diaper; messy diapers always go in the wet bag after a quick spray in the toilet). Assunta also offers these covers in minkee fabric for an extra 50 cents per cover, and those covers are wipe clean. However, I haven't tried them yet, so I can't comment on their quality or durability. Presumably the fit is the same!
Basically, I prefer them to my Thirsties covers, and they're considerably less expensive. Not only that, the website offers free shipping for orders over $25 on most of their products, and the coupon code LITTLEFLOWER takes 10% off your order! Their products are made in and ship from China, but the company is run by a missionary couple and all proceeds go to a ministry that helps abandoned and special needs children in China -- so while I usually prefer "Made in America," I can't really complain in this case! *wink*
This cover also comes in a Tiny Diaper Cover size, which seems to be the same size as the handful of Thirsties Duo Wraps Size 1's that I've purchased for the new baby. I haven't tried the tiny covers I purchased yet, as baby hasn't arrived yet!
PROS: Extremely economical; great quality; great fit; multi-sized; very effective
CONS: I really have no complaints!
COST: $5 per cover; two sizes for birth through potty training
2. Thirsties Duo-Wrap Diaper Covers Recommended
After my Econobums failed, I went ahead and bought five of the Thirsties Duo-Wrap Covers. These were the diaper covers I was most interested in before I started, and I wish I had just bought them in the first place! I've only used the larger size, as Little Man was already in the higher weight category by the time I made the switch.
They do come in two sizes, but two sizes means less wear and tear per cover if you're going to be using them for multiple children -- and if you have babies close together, you'd need to buy extra covers if you're using a one-size cover, anyway. Also consider that one-size covers rarely fit babies from birth, even if they claim to!
I purchased the Aplix version because you can customize the waist fit better and it's supposedly easier, but in less than a year the velcro was in horrible shape. And that was with careful washing (always using the laundry tabs) and indoor line drying! Plus, lint would get snagged in the velcro, requiring me to periodically clean it out with a toothpick. Rather than fool with the warranty, I removed the velcro myself and installed snaps (using a diaper snap press and snaps from JoAnn's, purchased with coupons). This totally voided my warranty, of course, but it was less hassle and provided a quick fix. Plus, I'm glad I have the snap press! Now that the covers snap, I'm much happier with them.
I definitely recommend these covers, though after having found our current Little Flower covers, I don't plan to purchase more Thirsties in the future. I still think they're an economical way to get a high quality multi-size cover, just not the most economical way.
PROS: Trim, but fit nicely over either prefolds or fitted diapers; well made; leg gussets help keep "stuff" inside the diaper *wink*; the two sizes cover a huge weight range, eliminating the need for special newborn covers (unless your baby is really tiny); they come in a ton of cute colors and prints, which is totally unimportant but undeniably fun!
CONS: The Aplix/velcro is horrible (so stick with the snap version); a tad bulkier than the Econobums; the knit elastic on the leg gussets stains badly
COST: $12.75 per cover; two sizes for birth through potty training
~ Accessories ~
I'm please with the quality of materials for this wet bag, and it's worked well for storing my soiled diapers. However, twice I had to go through a rather lengthy and annoying warranty claim process, since the poorly designed zipper installation allows the zipper pull to come completely off the tracks. The first time the company sent me a new bag within a few days. The second time they repaired the bag and reinforced the zipper (which was fine), but it took over a month to get the bag back!
In terms of size, the bag barely holds two days of cloth diapers, and probably would not work for AIOs. When the new baby comes, I'll have to find something larger.
PROS: Well made (except the zipper); convenient shape/size for hanging
CONS: On the small side; zipper requires reinforcing
I initially tried homemade flannel wipes, but quickly gave up on those and reverted to disposable wipes. Purchasing cloth wipes was out of the question, considering how ridiculously expensive they are (though I dare say I spent far more on disposable wipes over the course of 18 months than I would have on cloth wipes). When I switched to flat diapers a few months ago, I decided to give cloth wipes one more try. I purchased an 18-pack of Mainstays washcloths, cut them in half, and serged the edges. This left me with 36 terry wipes in a convenient size. And wow, what a difference between these wipes and my flannel wipes! I like them even more than disposable wipes. I keep an 8oz. peri bottle filled with filtered water by the changing table, and just squirt some onto each wipe before use. I've even started using these for messy diapers, which were my main reason for using disposable wipes before. I wipe away what I can with the diaper itself (since it will be sprayed, anyway), and clean up the rest with the terry wipes. 36 wipes are really more than I need, so I don't think I'll need to buy extra when the baby comes.
These wipes will never win an award for softness, but they seem to do the job! The plastic under the wipe in the picture is actually the lid to an oatmeal container; I use it as a tray to keep water off my dryer while I'm wetting the wipes. The corresponding oatmeal container is in the background, covered with craft paper -- I use it to store my wipes! It just fits all 36.
PROS: Absorbent; inexpensive; extremely effective
CONS: One more thing to wash/dry/fold
COST: $4 for a pack of 18 washcloths (makes 36 wipes if you have a serger)
I purchased one of these inserts because it brought my order total high enough for free shipping (which would have cost as much as the insert!). You can see it sitting under the diaper cover in the first picture -- well, half of it, really. The insert is made up of two parts, tacked together at the top. Since I use it as a liner more than an absorbent insert, I un-picked the stitching so I had two separate pieces (which are identical). I was curious to try a hemp product, and so far I'm pleased with it. However, the cost is too high for me to consider purchasing more.
PROS: Absorbent; works well as a barrier/liner
CONS: Very expensive
Knickernappies Diaper Sprayer:
I bought this to replace my Diaper Duck after it broke. I chose the Knickernappies Diaper Sprayer, which installed pretty easily (thank you, Pablo!). This thing is amazing! I no longer have to worry about diapers soaking in the toilet when we have guests over, and it really does the job, if you know what I mean... it can be a bit messy, but I don't mind wiping a little water off the toilet rim -- and sometimes the floor, if I'm not careful. *wink*. It's not really necessary for breast-fed infants, but for older babies and toddlers it's a huge blessing! The new Blueberry FLO sprayer has the water control valve right on the sprayer handle, which looks convenient -- but I've never tried it, as it only come out after I purchased my sprayer in August 2011.
Almost a year after purchasing my sprayer, water started leaking out of the spray head. While the leak was not continuous, it would leave a puddle on our tile after every use. I contacted Knickernappies, and they immediately e-mailed me a shipping label and instructions to include the sprayer head. They sent me a new sprayer head within a few days. Great customer service! Apparently this is a common problem (and I don't know if my new spray head will eventually break, too), so you may want to take that into account if you're comparing sprayers.
PROS: Makes clean up a breeze; adjustable spray power;
CONS: Can be a bit messy; sprayer head developed a leak (though customer service was great)
The Snappi is a T-shaped elastic band with little plastic teeth on the ends that "bite" into cloth diaper fabric, eliminating the need for diaper pins. It was difficult to use with my original flannel fitted diapers, as it really needs a more open weave fabric. It's fantastic for the flat diapers that I currently use, and also works well for prefolds. Either a Snappi or pins are necessary if you want to do a fancy diaper fold.
PROS: No sharp pins; keeps diaper secure
CONS: None that I can think of!
COST: About $3-$5 for one, cheaper in multi-packs
Flushable Diaper Liners
These flushable liners are such a help when cloth diapering on the go! They make it easy to get the mess into the toilet, and are supposedly septic safe (we've not had an issue with our septic). And, if the diaper is only wet, they can be washed once or twice and re-used. Assunta Store has the best price I've seen, and the quality is great (they're quite soft). I don't use these for every diaper, as that would get quite expensive and the diaper sprayer makes them somewhat unnecessary at home. But I love to have them on hand for outings, or when I'm feeling lazy and suspect there's a messy diaper in my future. *wink*
PROS: Very helpful for messy diapers (especially for outings); relatively inexpensive & can often be reused
CONS: Technically unnecessary
COST: $4.99 for 100 ($0.05 each)
Here's where the rubber meets the road for the frugal diaperer. After all, as committed as I am to keeping chemicals off my babies' bums as much as possible, finances are also a consideration. So here's a breakdown of what our current system costs. I've included a few luxuries (the sprayer and the flushable liners), and based my costs on the Little Flower covers. We've (unfortunately) spent a little more than this total, since we've tried a few things that haven't worked (see Part 4 for more on that), but hopefully we're done with experimentation, and our current stash will hold up well.
Cloth Diapering for One
ITEM COST # NEEDED TOTAL COST
Flour sack towels from Walmart $1 each 25 $25
One-size diaper covers $5 each 7 $35
Tiny diaper covers $5 each 6 $30
Flushable diaper liners $5/100 1 $5
Diaper sprayer $40 1 $40
Snappi $4 2 $8
Wet Bag $25 1 $25
GRAND TOTAL: $168
Cloth Diapering for Two
ITEM COST # NEEDED TOTAL COST
Flour sack towels from Walmart $1 each 45 $45
One-size diaper covers $5 each 13 $65
Tiny diaper covers $5 each 6 $30
Flushable diaper liners $5/100 2 $10
Diaper sprayer $40 1 $40
Snappi $3.33 3 $10
Wet Bag $25 1 $25
GRAND TOTAL: $225
As a note, I've included 13 of the larger diaper covers in the Cloth Diapering for Two -- this is because I'm anticipating needing to move the new baby to a larger size of diaper cover before Little Man is potty trained. If the older child potty trains before the baby is too large for the tiny covers, the cost of diapering for two goes down to $195.
For the other posts in this series, go here: Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4.