Cloth Diapers 101: For the VERY Beginner

I started looking into cloth diapering my daughter when she was about one month old but it took me until she was almost five months old to begin. The reason why it took me so long? I simply couldn't understand how it worked. I had SO many questions and no blog post I could find really simplified it with definitions and pictures like I am about to do today. I hope you enjoy and I hope this helps you.

Why cloth diaper my child?

It is healthier for baby. Disposable diapers are full of toxins and even have carcinogens in them. That diaper rash your baby has may not just be because she sat in a wet diaper for too long. Many rashes can be a direct result of the chemicals used in diapers. Read about them here.

It is healthier for the environment. Disposable diapers sit in landfills for yearsssss as they are not biodegradable in the environment. Some chemicals in these diapers even harm our water if it comes into contact. 

It is so much cuter. I mean seriously you can have any color imaginable and so many fun prints. 

It is SO much cheaper. This is perhaps the biggest reason to cloth. On average it costs around $2,000-$2,500 to diaper your child from birth to potty trained in disposables whereas it takes anywhere from $100-$480 to diaper a cloth baby from birth to disposables. Not to mention that if you take care of your diapers, many of them can be used again for another baby. 

{I'm sharing four types today--there are more -- these seem to be the most common}

All in One (AIO) Diapers

This is the simple, modern cloth diaper. All of the inserts are connected to the diaper and it is just like a disposable. You put it on the baby and you take it off the baby and place it in your wet bag to wash later. That's it. This is great for daddy, grandma and daycares. 

Pocket Diapers

This is similar to an AIO except the insert (you can use more than one) is stuffed into the "pocket" on the diaper. The baby will potty on the diaper and the insert that was stuffed will help absorb it. Once the diaper is dirty, you simply take it off and place it in your diaper pail or wet bag. The insert must be pulled out before you wash so I usually take mine out as I put it in my pail.

Covers and Inserts (or Flips) 

This is a great diaper because it is more cost efficient. With a Flip you have just the outer, waterproof cover and inserts. You simply lay the insert in (almost like a maxi pad) and then put the diaper on the baby. The great thing about this is that when you change your baby you can resuse the cover a few times and just keep changing the insert. This really only works if the baby has only teeteed rather than pooped. Poop may get on the cover so then the cover isn't reusuable until it is washed. I love these because my baby doesn't poop a whole lot, so I get about four diaper changes out of each Flip cover. 

Prefolds and Covers

This is the old school way. You can either take the prefold (which looks like a burp cloth) and fold it around the baby then snap with a snappi (or pin it). Then you simply cover it with the waterproof cover. The other way to use prefolds is similar to a Flip, you just fold the prefold and lay it in the cover and place that on the baby. I have found the second option works better for us. Why do this? Because like a Flip, you can keep reusing your cover and just change your inserts. Prefolds seems to be the most cost efficient route. 

Common Questions 

What is a shell? This is just another term for a cover. A cover is simply the cute, waterproof part that is on the outside of the diaper.

How often do you wash? Most people wash every other day. And no the poopy diapers don't stink sitting there in the pail; but there are ways around that if it happens.

What is a wet bag and a pail? A waterproof bag that you carry in your diaper bag for dirty diapers and you can use one at home in your pail. A pail is basically a container to store them in at home until you wash. You can buy a diaper pail or do like I did and use a container with a lid. We have both for purchase in The Mushy Mommy boutique online!

How do you clean poop? Babies who are only on breast milk don't have diapers that need to be cleaned over the toilet. Those poop diapers just go straight in your wet bag or pail and then straight in the wash when it is laundry day. For other types of poop you can swish around in the toilet (that's more old school) or purchase a diaper sprayer that hooks to the toilet. We love ours and couldn't survive without it. 

But I hate the thought of dealing with poop, what to do?
Purchase a pack of liners that are flushable and biodegradable. These are simply laid on top of the diaper (between baby's bottom and the diaper) and when you change them you take that and flush it down the toilet. This eliminate's cleanup with poop. A pack of 100 is around $10 and there are all sorts of kinds available. This is also great for going out in public. There are also diaper systems that come with disposable inserts rather than cloth inserts.

How do you wash them? When you get your diapers you should wash them and the inserts 3-5 times in hot water to make them softer and more absorbent. To wash a dirty load the norm is cold rinse first, a hot cycle with detergent and then another cold rinse. Everything goes in at once so it is only one load (wet bags included).

What about poop stains? Believe it or not -- if your diapers still have a little discoloration after you wash them the sun will remove the stain! I've seen it happen and it's great. Line drying your diapers is the best thing anyway but you can dry them on low if needed.

What's my favorites? Most mamas have different favorites, as different diapers fit differently on babies. My favorite diaper is Funky Fluff which is a three in one system. The diaper can be used as an All in One, All in Two or a pocket diaper. We have them for purchase in our online shop. I also love Bumgenius, regular prefolds and covers (several different types in our shop), and Rumparooz are another favorite of mine (especially their prints!).

What are all of the snaps for on the diapers?
These snaps help you adjust the diaper to fit your baby. This is how they can make it from 8lbs to about 35lbs.

How many diapers do you need? The standard is that you need 18-24 diapers to have from birth to potty trained. This amount also allows for laundry every other day. The trick is that if you have one cover and three inserts, that can actually count for three of your diapers right there. I have 9 prefolds and two covers -- that's technically nine diapers with a cover to spare.

What's the best brands? Different brands work best for different babies -- I can already attest to that. What works for us doesn't work as great for my best friend.

What detergent to use? There are different cloth diaper detergents to use -- Charlie's Soap is what we use. Just make sure your detergent is cloth diaper safe.

How can I cloth my child for around $100-200? Covers and prefolds is the way to go!

What can I do for diaper rash? You should only use cloth diaper safe creams such as Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm, Motherlove diaper cream or Balm Baby. All of these can be found for purchase in my shop.

Where can I buy? You're in luck, I own an online natural baby boutique and can ship products straight to you! Shop here.

How hard is it really? Really, truthfully - honestly - no harder than disposables. There's a few things you just have to remember: grab your a wet bag when you leave, do your laundry, etc... But the actual process of putting the diaper on and off is no different. And let's face it...we ALL deal with poop. I've had poop on my face before from a disposable and hubby had it on his hands recently. So really, poop is just a factor in any case. The hardest part is just to learn about it all.

For website shopping: Shop online at my store,

Good luck with your cloth adventures and feel free to email us questions at 


Sasha Savoy

Sasha is the owner and founder of The Mushy Mommy, a natural mother and baby boutique and The Mushy Mommy Village. She is a SAHM who works hard at living as minimal and unprocessed as possible, but never claims perfection. Her mission is to inspire, encourage, enlighten and empower mothers all over to feel good about their choices, to make healthy choices and to enjoy motherhood and all of its beauty and chaos.