i have had so many questions about cloth diapers over the past two years and am finally here to answer them as best i can. cloth diapering can seem intimidating when you're just getting started. there is loads of information out there complete with unfamiliar words and acronyms that will confuse the heck out of you. here is my cloth diaper why and how, based solely on my experience to help you sort through all of that.

Q. why do you cloth diaper?

A. we chose to cloth diaper before birdie was born for a couple of reasons. to help the environment and to save money. it really does make a difference. we also heard that cloth diapered babies tend to potty train a bit earlier than disposal diapered babies and that helped swing our decision as well.

Q. isn't cloth diapering so much added work to your already busy schedule?

A. no. it's essentially an extra load of laundry every day or two and quickly becomes a part of your regular routine.

Q. can you tell me about how you cloth diaper?

A. we try to cloth diaper as often as possible, but we also use disposables when it's convenient. combo-diapering is often what it's called. we keep a small stash of disposable diapers on hand for when cloth just isn't an option, but we do use cloth most of the time. birdie was cloth diapered 90% of the time until she was nearly two years old. we started to use disposables more frequently out of pure convenience after that, but since sailor started using cloth we have been trying to use them strictly with both kids.

Q. what kind of cloth diapers do you use?

A. we use bumgenius 4.0 cloth diapers. they are a pocket diaper. i have never used any other brand so i don't have anything to compare them to but i have held, examined and researched the reviews of several popular cloth diaper brands and decided that bumgenius was the one for us and still use them two years later.

Q. do they leak?

A. your cloth diapers should not leak. the only times that we have experienced leaks were when the diapers were not put on correctly or if we waited a bit too long between diaper changes. the only other time that we experienced leaks was once birdie became a toddler and needed an extra insert to hold more liquid. the double inserts make for a bulky bottom but will not leak over night.

Q. how many cloth diapers do you need to cloth diaper one baby from infant to potty training?

A. most cloth diaper companies recommend getting 24 one size cloth diapers. that gives you enough for one diaper change per hour which should be plenty. i recommend getting a small supply of newborn sized diapers for the first couple of months. the one size diapers are huge on infant babies and so getting the smaller diapers are worth it, in my opinion. i would also recommend purchasing extra inserts once your baby approaches toddler-hood for more absorbency.

Q. do you use the snaps or velcro?

A. we have both. i like the idea of the velcro because they are easy to open and close like a disposable diaper but they do catch lint and can be a pain in the butt to pick out. i have not yet had problems with my velcro tabs giving out like some people have expressed. i have heard that if they do start to lose their stick that they can be thrown into the dryer on the low cycle and that will help stiffen the velcro prongs and that bumgenius offers free replacement tabs if needed and you can purchase new velcro tabs if needed. the snaps are really great too, just a little harder to open and close. 

3upstairs changing station.

we have two "changing stations" in the house. one upstairs and one downstairs. the one upstairs is a simple changing pad on top of our dresser with an odor free diaper pail, for disposable diapers and wipes, and a basket full of clean cloth diapers and extra inserts. the drawer of the dresser is full of our changing necessities that i talk about a little further down.

our downstairs changing station is a three drawer, wire basket system that we picked up on the cheap from ikea. we keep everything it in the hallway, across from the bathroom, away from the main area of the house. it is fully stocked with everything we may need in one organised space so we don't have to run upstairs each time we need to change a diaper.


13downstairs changing station.


our diaper necessities:

1. prefolds. these are great for added absorbency and they make great burp cloths.
2. extra inserts.
3. a diaper sprayer. we have one in both the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms.
4. waterproof changing pad liners.
5. peepee teepees.
6. badger baby balm. a natural chamomile and calendula cream. great for chapped skin, cradle cap, baby acne and eczema.
7. cj's butter. this stuff is pure magic and will clear up a diaper rash super fast. it is also one of very few cloth diaper safe rash creams.
8. bumgenius newborn diapers.
9. bumgenius 4.0 diapers.
10. diaper wipe warmer.
11. water proof diaper pail liner. it can be thrown into the wash along with the diapers.

Q. how do you wash your cloth diapers?

A. we spray any solids off into the toilet with our sprayer. then into the lined diaper pail until wash time. do a cold soak over night with no detergent. you can add distilled white vinegar and a 1/2 cup of baking soda to the soak if the ammonia smell becomes an issue. (it has been brought to my attention that bumgenius does not recommend using vinegar and baking soda with their diapers. they recomment using a 1/2 cup of bleach in the wash once a month to fight stains and odors.) then in the morning wash in hot water with a double rinse cycle. we have used several different kinds of detergent from the bumgenius brand, to soap nuts to our regular laundry detergent. to be honest, they all seem to work pretty well for us. i have heard wonders about biokleen and have been meaning to try it. apparently it's great at keeping odors away. we tumble dry our inserts on low and line dry the diaper covers. for stains on diapers, a good sun soak will do the trick. sunning not only helps with stains but is also a natural way of killing bacteria and it works in cold weather too. do not use baby detergents such a dreft on cloth diapers. they contain fabric softeners and will leave a film on your diapers making them less absorbent.



here are few other helpful cloth diapering hints that you should know:

- cloth diapered bottoms are big and bulky. don't be surprised if you have to go up a size in clothes.

- line dried cloth diapers can be a little stiff. toss them into the dryer for ten minutes after they are dry to soften them up.

- cloth diapered babies need to be changed more frequently than disposable diapered babies. disposable diapers keep the moisture away from baby's bottom, making it more comfortable for them to sit in their potty. cloth diapered babies will feel uncomfortable when they are wet and will want to be changed more often. this is also the reason why so many cloth diapered babies potty train earlier. because they can feel when they're wet.

- we have never had diaper rash with cloth, in fact birdie has only had two diaper rashes and both times it was when we were out of town and using disposables for a few days. i am not saying that babies will not get diaper rash when using cloth diapers but it is less common. studies have shown that only 5% of cloth diapered babies experience diaper rash as opposed to the 50% of disposable diapered babies.

- often you can buy gently used cloth diaper stashes on sites like diaperswappers.com for a fraction of the cost. thanks beth for the heads up.


i know that cloth diapering is not for everyone. in the end every parent has to make a decision that fits into their lifestyle. i hope i helped answer some of your questions.


*update: as noted above, apparently you can purchase new velcro tabs from bumgenius, they do not replace them free of charge. bumgenius recommends washing your diapers with 1/2 cup of bleach once a month to fight stains and odors. they do not recommend using vinegar and or baking soda with their diapers.

also, we have been using the biokleen spray that i mentioned above on our dirty diapers for the past few days and so far it's great. i will be sure to note if my opinion changes.


  • Sarah

    Fantastic post! I’m studying to be a midwife so this is super informative to me :) We don’t really discuss this stuff in nursing school! Thank you for sharing :)
    xoxo missdottidee.blogspot.com

  • Hayley

    Helpful post! I too cloth diaper my daughter : ). Xx

  • brooke elyse

    Thanks!! This was very informative. I’m no where close to marriage and having children, but it’s nice to get some ideas.
    brooke elyse

  • Becca :: Making Room in Sicily

    This is a fabulous post! You did such a good job, James, of distilling all the information and making it straightforward… and look so organized! I have been cloth diapering for awhile and still picked up some tips.
    I did my own post on cloth diaper with BumGenius 4.0 on my blog recently: http://makingroomwithus.blogspot.it/2012/03/becoming-stay-at-home-mom-cloth.html

  • Lyndsay Buchanan

    What a helpful post! I plan on using cloth diapers when my little babe is born.
    I was wondering, you’ve mentioned before that you use disposables until the umbilical cord drops off, is there a specific reason for doing this?
    Lyndsay X

  • Jenna

    I too use cloth (nappies in Australia :P) Have you discovered pretties yet? This is one Aus pretties maker- http://www.facebook.com/HoneybumsNappies but there are heaps out there

  • Erika Lee Sears

    I use a combo :)
    I just saw soap nutz on Shark Tank and now I have to try them out!

  • mackenzie

    do you use cloth pads for yourself?

  • Chiquita Muñeca's mama

    really the best post about cloth diaper ! good job bleubird fam

  • Irene

    We have a 20 month old and a newborn! We’ve been thinking about clothed diapers but didn’t even know where to start. This post helps a lot. Diapers expenses can add up quickly… Thank you for this post. It’s very thourough and knowledgable!

  • dolly

    I’ve often wondered about a diaper sprayer- are they a good investment?
    Now Pudding is on solids the messier side of cloth nappying is more manageable as we use totsbots biodegradable laughable liners with our washy nappies but I still think a diaper sprayer looks handy.
    I also used a tip I read on the cloth nappy group on a website to cut your own washable liners from a cheap fleece blanket to line each nappy and am amazed with how dry that keeps Pudding’s bum. It has also kept the nappies from some of the worst staining. Pudding is now 10 months and his nappies still look like new.

  • DollyMackay

    Oops -flushable, not ‘laughable’!

  • Leyla

    Hi James! Thank you for this post. It might be useful to some to know that there are also disposable inserts on the market, and cloth diapers that don’t need to be thrown in the washing machine completely. I want to try out ‘Flip’ cloth diapers (also from bumGenius) which have inserts (disposable or cloth) that you can take out without having to wash to “outer shell”. (You can just wipe the outershell if it’s dirty) There is another brand that works like this, BestBottoms (and a few more that are somewhat similar but these are the ones that I have chosen after some “research” lol) To me, having to wash the entire cloth diaper and the inserts everytime they get dirty doesn’t seem convenient, compared to this system of only having to change the inserts. I hope this is useful to some in their decision making. :)

  • Vanessa (Lady Grey)

    thank you! That was very, very helpful indeed!

  • Marietje

    Great post! I use Bumgenius too, als wel as Totsbots and Rump-a-rooz. I don’t use a sprayer, but I use paper liners for the poop. When she only did a pee, I just wash them with the diapers and use them again. At night I use disposals, because my daughter gets a red bum when she wears a cloth diaper for 12/13 hours. And we use disposals when we’re going out. I don’t want to take an extra bag with me! I have a 18 and a 2 month old in cloth diapers and I wash once in Theo days.
    Greetings, Marietje from The Netherlands

  • Beth Grushkin

    My boys are 4 and 6 now and I used cloth when my younger son was born and LOVED it. We did use disposable overnights to stop them from waking up. I would do it all over again and highly rec. it!! You can often get gently used diapers on diaper swappers.com to save even more money!!!

  • Mel

    This is a great post! I don’t have babies yet, but I’m bookmarking this for the future :)

  • Pimenta e Limão

    Helped a loooooooooooot :)

  • Christine

    Loads of information that I wish I’d had earlier. I couldn’t figure out the entire process for our newborn — partly because I was researching it with a one-year-old underfoot and partly because nowhere is it written out step by step like you’ve done here. We ended up doing disposables for our kiddos, and I’m guessing you’re right about them having a tougher time telling whether they’re wet. Oh well.
    I may start doing as Beth says above, cloth during the day and disposable overnight, for my four-month-old, who has a lot of diapers ahead of her.

  • Fenn

    I’m a professional nanny with over 20 years of child care experience, and I can tell you that I prefer cloth diapers to disposable. Strictly speaking as a person who has changed about a half a million diapers, cloth were always better in every way! I haven’t found a situation where I needed disposable. I just kept some plastic grocery bags with me so that I could put the cloth diapers in them and tie them up when I’m out on the road.
    I’ve also found that the soaking is unnecessary. When I wash cloth diapers, I just wash them twice…either I do two loads in a row or I put the cloth in with other clothes loads and simply keep the cloth in for one more load. I also never had a problem with Dreft or any detergent causing them to lose absorbency…but I generally use homemade detergent.

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