Before I ever had children, I hoped to use cloth diapers with my babies – and now, having cloth diapered four babies so far, I have a bit of experience with them! Not only are they much more cost-effective than buying disposables, they also are better for babies’ skin since they don’t contain all the toxins linked with cancer, reproductive health problems, etc. that most disposables do. (When I do use disposables for diaper rash, traveling, etc., I have been using Simple Truth brand from our local Kroger store as they are chlorine-free.)
Cloth diapering does take more time than disposables, but I’ve found it to be very manageable. I wash every two to three days, and since folding is minimal (I fold them in half and store in a basket or diaper stacker), my five and three-year old children are able to do the folding themselves during part of our scheduled half-hour of house cleaning/laundry activities.
My favorite place to buy diapers is Nicki’s Diapers. They have a great selection of well-known favorite brands, plus their own product line (which – as you will see below – are my favorites). Their customer service is fantastic; I’ve emailed with them about my needs various times and felt they gave me honest and helpful information. If you’d like to, you can click through this link or through the banner in the sidebar when you order and I will receive a small affiliate commission. Note – if you have adblock, the banner may not appear in your browser.
As you can see from the banner, Nicki’s offers a 15-day try, wash, love, or return policy. This enables you to try out diapers and return them if you find they’re not the best for your family. See the details on their site. They offer free shipping on orders over $49, but many of their prefolds, covers, and pail liners have free shipping anyway, so look for that when you’re on their site! They have good warranties and great customer service, which is one of the reasons I like them so well. Also, you can use coupon code FIVE to receive a 5% discount on your order.
I researched diapers like crazy when I was pregnant with our first baby. Now, having cloth diapered for three years with three children, I made a list below of my go-to products. I won’t go into all the pro’s and con’s of each diapering system (prefolds and covers, pocket diapers, etc.) since you can read that on the Nicki’s page. We have found we like the prefolds and covers most of the time because they really do work well, are easy, and are economical. Do bear in mind that they aren’t a lifetime investment as they do wear with heavy use. Our smalls have been used for about six months on three babies now and they are looking pretty worn – though I think they’ll still work when Baby #4 arrives. I would say I think the larger sizes, which get more extended time of use, hold up well (enough) for at least two children.
A note about Imagine SmartFit and Nicki’s Great Fit prefolds: I have used both because the GreatFit were not yet available when I bought our first diapers. The SmartFit have free shipping and the GreatFit do not. However, if you’re starting your stash you will probably reach the $49 minimum for free shipping anyway. Nicki’s is doing a really neat charity program where for every Nicki’s brand diaper you buy, they give one to a child in need, so your purchase of GreatFit diapers can help others. Other than brand name and the charity aspect, I don’t know of differences between SmartFit and GreatFit, but you could always contact Nicki’s and ask. Both are the same dimensions according to the charts on their site – wider and shorter than regular Chinese or Indian prefolds, and designed to be able to fit in a cover without having to be folded down, creating a trimmer fit. The least expensive prefold option is the Indian Prefold which is narrower and longer than the SmartFit and GreatFit, but I have found I really like having the right size without folding it down to make it fit. Our kiddos have sensitive skin, and we were getting problems with the diaper corners on their hips where the folded down “hump” rubbed. Not so since using only the correctly sized ones that do not need to be folded down! Besides, it sounded in my communication with Nicki’s like they are closing out the Indian Prefolds anyway.
Personally, I like the unbleached cotton ones; I tried bamboo and they shrank terribly, but I found out I was also washing them too hot and drying them too hot, so that may have been the only problem. Just know that you do want to be careful to follow the Nicki’s washing instructions (posted on their website)!
And a note about covers: I made my own (see below) and liked them. Nicki’s didn’t have their covers available yet when our first baby was born, I had a cover pattern, and it fit well with my nesting to sew them. The downside is that they don’t work well for overnight since the fold-over elastic does wick (especially a problem with onesies/bodysuits and pants) if the diaper gets thoroughly soaked. Now with the new Nicki’s one size covers available for a very reasonable price, and with less time for sewing than I had before our first baby was born, I got a few of those recently and have been pleased with them. I haven’t tried many other brands (although I will say I like the Nicki’s brand much better than an Imagine brand one I got a while ago) so I’m certainly not an authority on the subject. I just like to find things that work and are economical. Honestly, the Nicki’s ones work so well that I think I really would skip sewing them and go straight for those, if I were just starting out, along with Rumparooz newborn covers (see below for more detail).
As far as timing orders: I would order the prefolds in advance so you have time to prep them before your baby is born. With covers though, I think I’d make a list of which ones I wanted to try and then order as soon as the baby is born (I’ve always used disposables for the first few days anyway). That way you can utilize the 15 day try, wash, love, or return policy from Nicki’s.
So, this is my list of what I think I would get if I were just starting out now:
- 2 dozen small Great Fit diapers (Newborn size hasn’t worked for any of our babies, as they soaked through them immediately. I’d go straight for the small. However – our babies haven’t been less than 9# so far, so maybe that would make a difference!)
- 2 dozen medium Great Fit diapers (You could skip this size and go straight to large, but if you’re hoping to use them for multiple children, they’ll all get plenty of use eventually anyway, and it does make a trimmer fit to not have them folded down in front. Honestly, I don’t care as much about “trim fit” as much as the fact that it looks more comfortable for the baby and again, not having to fold them down has solved the rubbing issues we were having)
- 2 dozen large Great Fit diapers
If buying covers (Since shipping is free on covers, I’d start with the least amount I think I would need, then order more if I needed them):
- 6-8 newborn covers My homemade covers wore out by Baby #4, so I tried Nicki’s newborn, Thirsties Small, and the Rumparooz newborn. Rumparooz was my hands-down favorite and actually still fit my skinny eleven-month old (though getting on the small side). The adjustable rise worked great on them. The Thirsties leaked to frequently for me. (through the stitching, not around edges). The Nicki’s one fits well now at eleven months.
- I would not plan to use the one size covers right away; newborn legs are so skinny and you want a good fit. Plus these allow space for the umbilical stump to dry. Initially, I was thinking I would go with velcro on the newborn ones; it’s easier to fasten on a tiny wiggly baby, and I doubt they’ll get that much use before being put away for the next newborn – so wearing out velcro would be less of a concern for me on this size. However, I bought velcro but as long as they are fitting I wonder if I would go with snaps on those after all, although velcro is definitely convenient…
- 6-8 Nicki’s one size covers I have a few of these I use on an approx 30# child and 15# child and I am very pleased with the fit on both of them. These have even worked well with a double diaper and microfleece liner for overnight. I’d go with snaps for longevity. Note they are fairly wide in the legs on a skinny baby though.
OR, if sewing my own covers:
- 6-8 covers each newborn and small, 4-5 medium, 3-4 large – I mostly made my own covers from the La-Di-Da diaper pattern, with an added double gusset that I learned how to do from this tutorial. The main drawback with these covers is that the fold-over elastic does wick when the diaper is very wet. I think if I figured out how to make binding from PUL, that problem would be solved. FOE is easier though! Note: I made my first covers from materials purchased from Diaper Sewing Supplies. Later I bought some Babyville Boutique brand PUL from JoAnn, and I’ve been disappointed that those did not hold up nearly as well. I always air dry covers, and while the first ones are still doing great, the Babyville Boutique ones are leaking and you can see where the waterproof coating is splitting. I used snaps and snap supplies from KAM Snaps and they have held up wonderfully.
- 2 Nicki’s one size covers for overnight – they have material around the edges that keeps them from wicking so work better for overnight than the homemade ones with foldover elastic. They work well with a double diaper and microfleece insert to help wick moisture away from baby’s skin. Although right now I use primarily pocket diapers for overnight, see below.
And then the other products:
- 1 or 2 Snappies or Boingos (I like to trifold prefolds in covers most the time, but I still snappi them on newborns. Later on, I have found that snappi’ing them on works great for overnight with another trifolded as an extra absorbent insert. Boingos are new since I got our Snappies… I might try those.)
- 18-24 cloth wipes (Nicki’s sells them, or you can sew your own like I did by cutting out 8″ squares of flannel and terry cloth, putting them wrong sides together, and serging the edges. I have only used water to moisten them and it’s worked out fine for our kiddos.)
- 12-18 microfleece diaper liners (You can make your own by just cutting white microfleece into strips approximately 5″x14″- no need to finish edges because it doesn’t unravel) I use these any time I use Miracle Salve, coconut oil, Triple Paste, or any other product like that, to protect the diapers themselves as they will become repellent if oils are used directly on them. Also the microfleece helps if the child is very sensitive to moisture as it does help wick it away and keep them drier.
- 1 roll Imagine biodegradable diaper liners – We have used these if using an antibiotic ointment, though we have also ended up just using disposable diapers if trying to heal from a really bad breakout.
- A wet bag, for on-the-go to keep in your diaper bag
- 2 Planet Wise pail liners (to line your plastic trash can, below. It’s handy to have two so you can have one in use while the other is in the wash.)
- Miracle Salve from Beeyoutiful – This is the only thing I’ve found so far that has been very effective with diaper rash besides Triple Paste. When one of the little ones starts to get irritation in their diaper area, I use Miracle Salve and a chlorine-free disposable since those seem to wick better than cloth. If it’s during the daytime and you’ll be changing more frequently, you can also apply Miracle Salve and use a microfleece liner (you don’t want to put salve directly against a cloth diaper or it can act as repellent in the diaper!) but the disposable definitely seem to be best for overnight in these cases.
- Triple Paste – You can get this on Amazon or at Walmart. It’s good to have on hand for if Miracle Salve isn’t enough. If fighting a bad diaper rash that Miracle Salve isn’t working on, we switch to Triple Paste and disposable diapers.
- Plastic trash can with step-opening lid (we got ours from Walmart)
That’s my list, but have fun exploring options as you begin your cloth diapering journey!