Cloth Diapering Adventures

By Aneesah, 17 Jan 21

I am writing this entry because I think I would’ve loved to have such a guide for myself! Cloth diapering is overwhelming when you start researching; I just wanted to know what people use and what works with reasonable costs.

Warning: lots of mum-speak and technical jargon.

Why have we not cloth diapered before?

Hey, we already have three babies! What took us so long to convert? Although I went through the whole “research”/YouTube/join-all-the-Facebook-groups phase for Baby #1, I think we just weren’t ready. Specifically, my husband wasn’t keen on the process of having to experiment to find out what works, and the upfront investment. Looking back, being a new parent is already hard enough! Same with Baby #2, it was a tough time transitioning to shift work (husband) and staying home for long hours with a toddler and a baby (me). For our first two kids, it was disposable diapers all the way.

So what changed?

  • I was determined to do it this time for the environmental factor. The guilt of disposing so many diapers already! At this point we were using cloth grocery bags, stainless steel straws, and composting, so cloth diapers (CDs) seemed like a good next step.
  • The financial factor is a strong pull, too. You know when the baby poops immediately after changing into a fresh diaper? Yeah–that’s the sound of money being flushed down the toilet.
  • I think the platforms for obtaining CDs (pre-loved or new) and CD-related information are more available and accessible now.

When did we start?

I believe we started when Fuaad was three weeks old, after my mum returned home (she kept us company beginning a week before my due date). I needed the space to learn CD-ing: buying them, preparing them, laundering them, cleaning the messes from leaks…

How did we start?

I bought pre-loved diapers via Facebook posts, and a few new diapers and inserts on Shopee. Only a few were purchased before he was born, and the stash slowly grew after the experiments started. We didn’t do 100% CDs full-time; some days we decided to use up the newborn-sized disposables before he grew too big. And initially we also used disposables when going out.

In fact we didn’t have enough CDs in rotation for once-a-day laundry until very recently (baby is three months old now). So we had to either use disposables, or do CD laundry twice a day: once in the morning, once in the evening and left to dry overnight.

drying CDs
In the old house, we always hung laundry indoors! Totally works for CDs too.

What kind of diapers do we use?

Pocket diapers

pocket diapers
Insert goes inside the diaper through a pocket!

Most were bought pre-loved. In my opinion, these are the most beginner-friendly. As long as the fit is good, inserts are good, and you’re not over-stuffing, chances are the system will work great. The con is the time it takes to stuff and un-stuff the pockets. And no one likes to touch soiled inserts!

Covers

Snaps help to keep the insert in place. The sheep print is a fleece liner.

Purchased a couple of these new, on Shopee. I didn’t realise they were covers, honestly, I thought I was buying pocket diapers. Basically covers are single layer only: no fabric lining. And believe it or not, it took me like a week to notice the existence of snaps on the front and back of the cover: these are for inserts that have snaps to snap/stick onto the cover! No wonder I felt that just laying inserts on the diaper seemed fussy and impossible with a newborn.

I then proceeded to install snaps on some of my inserts so I can use them this way. Compared to pocket diapers, covers with snap-on inserts are easier to tuck into the wet bag (just a small tug un-snaps the insert for proper cleaning in the washing machine).

We use covers with inserts for daytime diapers. I’ve read that people use fitted diapers with covers, but the homemade fitted diapers I made seemed way bulky and hot for our baby so I haven’t gone the fitted route yet.

All-in-twos (AI2s)

all-in-twos
My hacked AIO-turned-AI2.

These were purchased as pre-loved diapers and I didn’t really know what I was getting. Truthfully, they were all-in-ones (the end of the soaker was sewn onto the diaper) and I decided to cut them out of the diapers. Reason: we had trouble with fit on the smallest rise. Basically the soaker when folded short to fit in the diaper, gave a belly gap and caused leaking. Also, I didn’t like the material of the soaker (likely microfibre). Now that the diaper is more like a cover-with-lining, we use a separate hemp insert just laid on the diaper, followed by a fleece liner.

I feel that AI2s are more comfortable and effective than covers or pocket diapers because the diaper itself (without a separate insert) has absorbency built into the layers. Whereas the lining of pocket diapers is merely a stay-dry (non-absorbent) layer and covers don’t come with any fabric lining at all.

And of course, the fact that the insert is not attached to the diaper means you get to just chuck the whole thing in the wet bag without any disassembling. #convenience

What kind of inserts do we use?

types of inserts
There are various more inserts unpictured, inherited from pre-loved sales.

Hemp

My favourite! Hemp is a miracle. It’s so trim but absorbs lots. Bought quite a few on Shopee. Cons: relatively pricey, takes awhile to dry, and dries stiff.

Cotton

Good all-rounder. Can be trim or thick depending on how many layers are stitched to become one insert.

Bamboo terry

Happened to buy two on Shopee to try. I find them bulky, though absorbency is good. And I read that bamboo may wear out faster than other natural fibres.

Microfibre

My least favourite because I experienced leaks with them, they’re bulky and they retain poop stains easily (probably an incompatibility with the laundry soap we use). So only used in combination with hemp for night diapers.

Fleece liners

(Technically not inserts.) I cut up a fleece blanket into small rectangles to function as liners when we use covers or AI2s. Basically they help to keep the skin-side dry. In the future when baby’s poop is solid, it also helps to make the poop-discarding process easier.

*I always combine inserts for pocket diapers and covers, eg. cotton+hemp, cotton+bamboo, and microfibre+hemp (for nighttime).

How do we wash cloth diapers?

We use homemade laundry soap (went to a soapmaking class by Barakah Organics, so the soap is similar to what they sell). If you search online, you will quickly find out that laundry soap is one of the more controversial issues in the CD world, but so far it’s been working great for us with no build-up problems. And yes, the diapers come out c-l-e-a-n.

AirTurbo function!

I now wash in the morning, following this order:

  1. Dump all soiled diapers, washcloths and wet bags into the top loader.
  2. Press Quick Wash and run a rinse cycle (press Rinse till it displays 1, then Spin till it displays 1), select Water Level at 2 out of 5. This is all only water, no soap. This cycle rinses out the pee and poop so it doesn’t stain our other clothes later on.
  3. When the cycle is done (about 12 minutes), I dump all our other dirty laundry (ie. clothes, towels, sheets) into the washing machine. I add soap into the drum.
  4. Then I run a regular cycle (usually Water Level 4 or 5) and select AirTurbo 15 min which helps to “wring” the laundry better especially in the monsoon season.
  5. Hang outside to air-dry. If by late afternoon there are still-damp inserts, I’ll transfer them onto our towel rack in the bedroom to fully dry.

How often do we change his diaper?

About every 3 hours. Unless he poops: a poopy diaper is changed as soon as possible. One of the things I feared with CDs was that you need to change them more frequently than disposables (I’ve heard people mention 2-hourly changes), but 3 hours to me is reasonable, and works with the number of diapers we have.

Night diapers can sometimes last all night (9pm-7am), but if the baby starts shrieking around the range of 3-5am we usually change him once and it’s fine.

One thing to note is that CDs don’t have magical chemical powers like modern disposable diapers, so you might be surprised at the odours that greet a diaper-changing session!

How much did we spend?

I actually broke down our expenditure in a note on my phone:

washcloths
Lazyman washcloths: squares from old t-shirts
Pre-loved diapers & inserts = RM120
New diapers & inserts = RM211.78
Wet bags = RM39.72
Washcloths (old t-shirts) = RM0

Totaling RM371.50. Some of the purchases turned out to be unusable (read below) so I reckon you can CD a baby for less than RM300. Of course one can also easily go up the scale by opting for better-quality and longer-lasting brands, which gives you the option of reselling the diapers if you wish to.

So far we haven’t noticed any increase in electricity/water bills.

What’s it like cloth-diapering?

Overall it’s been a positive experience! Once you arrive at a system that works, it’s pretty much like regular diapers. Doing CD laundry is actually very satisfying. And I feel that there’s much less diaper rash with cloth diapers; almost zero. One more point: CDs are much better than disposables at containing explosive poop (aka poonami)!

I am conscious of the fact that things might need to be adjusted as baby grows (maybe buying more diapers in case of travel, or coming across new issues to solve), but so far I’m glad I made the jump!

If I had to start over again, what would I do differently?

  1. I would do only daytime CDs to start with, until I learn what type and combination works for us (read: no leaks). Only then would I attempt to do nighttime CDs.
  2. I would ask sellers of pre-loved diapers to check their PUL for cracking/ delamination before considering to purchase their CDs. Unfortunately, I have paid for diapers only to realise the layer is no longer water-resistant. Chucked them. (I do recommend buying pre-loved to start with and to get a feel of what types of diapers are out there, but be aware of the risks.)
  3. I would also be wary of resellers of “China Cheapies” online. I bought pocket diapers from a local seller who advertised their store in a Facebook group, but the diapers were of poor quality: the PUL delaminated after barely a month’s usage! I had to get rid of them.
  4. I wouldn’t bother buying newborn-sized CDs (I have a few pre-loved ones). My babies grow way too quickly for those! Just stick to disposables until the baby fits regular CDs.
  5. I would also probably not bother with microfibre inserts. Just purchase diapers without inserts, then separately purchase the type of insert you like.
PUL fail
Cracking and de-lamination of the water-resistant layer.

Any good reference links?

I’ve read and saved the following for myself:

Hope this was helpful and let me know if you’ve CD-ed, what do you think of it? Any advice for a newbie CD-er?

What do you think?

I think...