If you decide to use cloth diapers, your first experiences may feel a little daunting. Cloth diapers look complicated and take more time to get used to than disposable diapers. A little practice diapering a doll the size of a newborn will give you all the experience you need to become an expert user of cloth diapers before your baby arrives!
Cloth diapers come in a variety of fabrics, styles, and sizes. They are unbleached, dye-free, and untreated cotton gauze, bird's-eye, flannelette, or terry cloth.
Gauze diapers are typically lighter, softer, and more absorbent. Gauze is more porous than other fabrics, allowing air to circulate around your baby's bottom, which in turn helps prevent diaper rash. Bird's-eye diapers are a little more durable and less expensive than gauze. Flannelette is warmer, but not as absorbent. Terry cloth will absorb the most liquid, but will also keep the skin wet unless changed frequently.
Cloth diapers are available in flat, pre-folded, shaped, fitted, or all-in-one styles. Flat diapers are the least expensive, most complicated, and most time-consuming to use. They are squares or rectangles of fabric that can be folded in various ways as your baby grows. Flat cloth diapers are more commonly used as burp cloths than diapers. The ease of use and similarity of many cloth diapers to disposables have rendered flat cloth diapers obsolete.
Pre-fold cloth diapers are divided into three sections: a thick middle section and two thinner side sections that fold in to create a thin rectangle that fits into a diaper cover.
Shaped and fitted diapers are shaped like disposable diapers, do not need to be folded, close with snaps or Velcro, and slip into diaper covers easily. Fitted diapers have elastics around the waist and leg openings. All-in-one cloth diapers are like disposables made of cloth: they are a fitted diaper and diaper cover in one piece.
Most cloth diapers also require liners and diaper wraps or covers. Diaper liners create a protective layer between your baby and the cloth diaper, keeping your baby drier. Liners also prevent stool from touching the diaper, making clean up much easier. Disposable liners can be flushed down the toilet; reusable liners can be machine washed and dried. Diaper doublers are extra thick liners that are great for overnight diapers.
If you need to use diaper pins, use a good quality pin and always keep your finger between the pin and your baby to avoid pricking your baby. Throw out dull or broken pins.
Start-up costs for cloth diapers can range anywhere from $200 to $400 and more, depending on the style of cloth diaper and how many you buy. You should have at least 36 cloth diapers in each size, but may prefer closer to 48 or even 72 so you are not doing laundry every other day.
The start-up cost sounds prohibitive until you compare the cost to disposable diapers over the next two years. Cloth diapers also reduce the cost of diapering your second, third, or fourth baby, making them the most economical and environmentally friendly choice.