Getting Ready for Baby: Cloth Diapers

This week I decided it was time to take stock of my cloth diaper stash to see what all I will be needing before the new baby comes in a little over 4 months.

Eli wearing a gDiaper.

Initially with Eli I had planned to cloth diaper all the way through until potty training. Then I began to use disposables when we were traveling because keeping a big old musty bag of used diapers in the car for a few days on end just seemed to be a bit much (and the 10 day trip via airplane when he was 5 months old… UNFATHOMABLE!). Once the ‘sposies were in the house I found just how much more convenient they were in certain situations… like being out of the house for more than just a couple of hours. Since we often didn’t use a stroller, and I was already wearing Eli in a carrier I didn’t want to bring along a lot of bulky cloth diapers as unless I was out with my husband I was carrying both baby and diaper bag.

Then Eli hit the crawling stage at 6 months. He was already a very big baby for his age and squeezing the cloth diapers on him under his pants made for a rather mobiley-compromized baby. I was also finding it hard to fit him into his car seat for some reason. Perhaps it was just his personal body shape because I’ve never read anyone else discuss that issue on the cloth diapering blogs. So slowly, but surely cloth was used less and less, really only when we were going to be at home and then only during the day. (With all of the night waking issues we had, as soon as I discovered overnight disposables I was very happy to leave that little bit of early hour baby stimulation behind.) Eventually I found I was not accumulating enough to justify running the washer for a diapers-only load before they would begin to reek on day 3. So (feeling a bit like a crunchy-mama failure) when Eli was about 18 months old I packed all of the cloth diapers away to await our next child.

I had read often enough about the laborious process of stripping diapers when the ammonia smell begins to remain even after washing, but I had never actually done it. My diapers never got smelly. Maybe that’s due to the Charlie’s Soap Powder I use, the fact we have a top loading washer, or because I rarely used the clothes drier for them but let the Southern California sun work it’s wonders instead. What ever the case may be it wasn’t something I wanted to take on if it didn’t seem necessary. But seeing as the diapers had now spent a year in boxes in the garage, and they would be used by a different person it seemed like maybe now was the time.

So I waited until Eli was at preschool, cranked up the temperature on the water heater,

We usually keep this set around 120 degrees, but for diaper-stripping purposes I turned it up as high as it would go.

began filling the tub with diapers,

and as the water filled the tub went online to double check the amount of Dawn dishwashing detergent that I should use. That’s when I found that, unlike the sites I had read before describing boiling diapers on the stove or soaking them in near-boiling water in the tub, I could just do the stripping in my washing machine!

The dreaded day of drudgery turned out to be ever-so-easy as far as the diapers were concerned, allowing me time to sew another baby nightgown before Eli returned from preschool.

For anyone needing to know how to strip cloth diapers here’s a link to the site that saved my day. You’re welcome. 🙂

Now with all of the diapers super clean, I’ve been sorting them by size and trying to figure out if I have all that we will need. Even though these diapers were used by Eli first, I do have a fair amount of girly diapers as when I made these I didn’t know who would be coming our way to use them yet. (Actually for a good portion of my pregnancy we thought that Eli was going to be Elianna 😉 )Between prefolds and the homemade fitted diapers I have about 30 in the smallest size. Figuring about 10 diapers a day and no more than 3 days between washes I should just have enough, but I will probably make a couple more to have on hand just in case.

My complete stash of small handmade fitted cloth diapers.

So little and so cute!

These represent one of my very first sewing ventures away from the realm of quilting. I remember Eli outgrew them so quickly as I made the majority of them with woven flannel receiving blankets repurposed for the outer fabrics. Fuzzy and adorable but they don’t stretch at all!

As for sticking with the whole cloth diapering thing this time around, I have a few ideas that will make things go a bit more smoothly. I will still use disposable (Earth’s Best or Seventh Generation) when traveling and probably for the first couple of weeks home from the hospital, especially if I end up needing another C-section. I am laying in a store of Mama-made pants created specifically for the fluffy-bummed baby. (Posts on those will follow!) Perhaps a better designed diaper bag would help with the schlepping of cloth diapers when we are out and about as once again I plan on wearing this baby.

(I am also becoming interested in Elimination Communication, but haven’t made any decisions about that either way at this point. Who knows? Perhaps in the end we might go diaper-free all together?! Not too sure about that one… But intrigued. Definitely intrigued.)



  1. 312east5th said,

    October 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    oh, i too can see what you mean about the diaper issue and car seats… i suppose i never put two and two together though! But you are right! I always have to really put a lot of effort into the buckling and I bet the diapers are to blame. I find that I never needed as many diapers as I carted around. I had two in cloth for about 8 months and I would just grab two diapers in a backpack and a small container of wipes. Good luck!

  2. October 19, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I never did diaper only loads of wash. I threw everything in together and washed a load daily. We did mostly cloth up until the end when we started on overnights. She has never been bothered by diapers and night so there were no overnight diaper changes.

  3. October 20, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Thanks for the great tip about stripping the cloth diapers in the washing machine! I’m totally trying that tomorrow! As for finding Dawn dishsoap in Japan, maybe I won’t be trying that tomorrow….

    • October 20, 2012 at 8:50 am

      I wonder what it is that makes Dawn specific for the task? I know in the US there are other products sold especially for stripping diapers. Perhaps there are in Japan too? Is cloth diapering prevalent there?

  4. ReStitch Me said,

    October 20, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Your baby nightgown with the bird is adorable! Did you repurpose a shirt with the bird already on it, or is that new embroidery? So cute!

    • October 20, 2012 at 9:36 am

      It was a thrifted men’s extra large shirt. The white is actually marking a bike route and the blue hiking routes, but I think the photo’s too small to see the symbols designating them as such. I fell in love with it in the store almost a year ago and was so happy to find the perfect project for it.

  5. Ajaire said,

    October 21, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    One on the go tip I’d lend is the grovia (or maybe there are other brands too) inserts which are disposable but go into a cloth cover. I used these on a few trips and loved them for the convenience. In the end, most of the trips we took had a washing machine available to us (visiting family) so I didn’t use them as much as I thought. But I was very pleased when I did. 🙂

    • October 22, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      I have some gDiapers that I used a bit with Eli, using cloth inserts at home and the flushables when out, but I found that with Eli at least they leaked a LOT and the velcro really irritated him. I’ve held onto them thinking that the new baby’s body shape may be a bit different and they will be useful with her. I hope so because it seems like it will be the perfect solution for the on-the-go diapering issues I’ve had. I didn’t know Grovia had a similar product. If the gDiapers don’t work out for us I think I will look into giving them a try. Thank you so much for the suggestion. 🙂

  6. Maysem said,

    October 22, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Diaper free?! Yikes! I do have a friend that is all about the cloth diaper, but first I hear of diaper free. Curious of how that one works exactly. 😉 I too love the nightgown… the bird is adorable. All people need to do to to see a larger version of the image is to click on the image… a larger version of the image will open up and you can zoom in. 🙂

    • October 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      From what I’ve read going diaper free is all about watching and learning the baby’s cues then holding her over a pot of some sort while she does her business. I guess at first if you say “pssss…” when she goes #1 she’ll learn to associate the sound with going so that later when you make the sound while holding her over a pot she’ll go at that moment. With #2 you learn the bay’s usual schedule and are ready and watching closely around that time(s) everyday to have them in place when the time comes. Eli never really fell into a schedule for elimination so I think this would have been very difficult to have done with him even if I had known about it. I guess if you do this then you never really have to potty train because they never learn to go anywhere but in a potty and once they are walking can take themselves to the potty. I really don’t know if it will work for us as I will be distracted with Eli and it could be cumbersome when out of the house, although other families make it work just fine. I’d like to give it a go and experiment to see if it will be possible as the thought of the financial, environmental savings is attractive as well as the though of the baby never sitting around wet or soiled until I notice if I’m caught up in other activities. If you are curious to learn more just google “elimination communication”.

  7. October 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Wow, I’m impressed that you HANDMADE your cloth diapers! We use cloth diapers too, though right now with our newborn we are using disposables until she is a bit bigger (we have one-size cloth diapers and I tried them on her and it’s HUGE). I like Seventh Generation disposables too.

    You are certainly NOT a “crunchy-mama failure”! You have to do what works best for your situation. I wrote a post about it how we cloth diaper here ( if you’re interested. I’m not looking forward to the poopy diapers again but think it did help a lot with potty training though (she was potty trained for the daytime around 18 months).

    Did you use a wetbag to keep the soiled diapers in when you were out? Maybe you could just carry that for short trips as there is a pocket big enough for diapers and a few necessities? All the best for your new little one and the cloth diapering! 🙂

    • October 24, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      Wow! Potty trained during the day at 18 months! I think my first may still be in diapers when the baby is born as at 2 1/2 he still shows very little in the way of readiness. At least there won’t be such a readjustment to make (although the frequency of changes will be greatly increased… but it’s not so hard when you don’t have to negotiate for cooperation!) I have wet bags for both home and when out. It was more a question of the bulk of the diapers filling up my bag. The newborn diapers aren’t such an issue as they are so small, but the diapers I made for the larger sizes are a bit thick and bulky… but we really can’t afford to be investing in professionally made diapering systems, especially since we already have a stash. Maybe if I just use prefolds when out… but then I change more often which isn’t always helpful when one is out. I think I’m going to seriously think about what would be a more intelligent bag design this time around and that may help tremendously. Also as a second time around parent I may not feel the need to carry so many other things as I did with the first. I’m heading over to read the post you linked up now. 🙂

      • October 24, 2012 at 4:47 pm

        We must be online at the same time! A friend was making fun of me and calling me an overachieving mom trying to potty train her “early,” but I do believe that it was just the right time specifically for my daughter and if I had ignored it then it would just be more difficult for her to learn later. Who knows how it will be with my second? I love baby carrying, so I do hope you find a solution. I hear you about probably carrying less stuff around with a second– with my first I was constantly trying to figure out what to take out of my super heavy diaper bag but kept refusing thinking, “But what if I NEED it?!” Haha. Good luck and let us know what you end up doing!

  8. November 3, 2012 at 3:55 am

    Karen, I can relate vicariously to cloth diaper issues – my niece has a baby in El Salvador and down there they use just a flat piece of cloth which leaves big GAPS even if they try to wrap them well. You made it most of the way with Eli wearing them at home, and the ones you made are so cool with elastic and velcro – wow!

    • November 3, 2012 at 7:36 am

      If it is as humid in El Salvador as it is in Costa Rica where our passports curled up and our clothing never dried I can understand why they have to use the flats… the thick diapers I made would NEVER dry! Thank you for the compliment. 🙂 I read about 4 random posts on your blog this morning and can’t wait until I have time to go back and read some more. Very interesting!

  9. November 5, 2012 at 5:47 am

    Hopefully gDiapers will work better with your second child. We’ve been loyal gMum and gDads from the beginning, mostly using the gRefills and composting but using cloth for extra absorbancy overnight. Our daycare even uses gDiapers since they can toss the insert like a sposie.

    • November 5, 2012 at 6:38 am

      I’ve held onto them because I’ve heard so many positive experiences from other families I know our past problems with gDiapers have to have been just an individual thing. I do love how they look! I also have a whole supply of cloth inserts I sewed up using the first set I bought as a pattern. I wish we could compost the diapers here, but the condo association is rather disapproving of my little compost bin that I have and the neighbor children are always knocking the top off. I know if it was discovered we had diapers in there we’d be in really hot water! I am curious, how long does it usually take before you see the refill break down in there? Thank you so much for your comment. I think it’s great you found a diapering alternative that the daycare will go along with!

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