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How to Cloth Diaper in Three Steps

I'm a Cloth Diapering Advocate. What does that even mean?

Anyone who knows me, probably knows that I cloth diaper my babies. I'm happy to explain the benefits of cloth diapering to anyone who is willing to listen. I'm a fan of cloth diapering and I'll try to convert any parent.

Often times, I have new parents who are interested in cloth diapering but are unsure of where to start or doubt whether they can afford to.

(Insert my "cloth diaper elevator speech here") Just kidding.

Here are three steps to getting started:

Step 1 - Familiarize yourself with the different kinds of cloth diapers.

Pockets. Covers. All-In-Ones. All-In-Twos. Fitteds. Prefolds and Flats.

These aren't your grandma's burp cloths anymore (though you can certainly still use those). With the modern cloth diapers, you have plenty of options -- each fitting your lifestyle and budget. Choose one or a few different ones and try them out!


Known as the "modern cloth diaper," these diapers have a "pocket" made of a stay dry material that keeps baby feeling dry. An absorbent insert or prefold must be stuffed inside of the pocket before using.


These are most similar to a disposable diaper since there is no stuffing or folding and are a "one wear, one wash" type of diaper. These typically are sold in newborn sizes and one-size.


This is a two-piece system doesn't require any stuffing and typically has a snap-in insert that attaches to the waterproof cover. The soiled insert can be removed and the cover can be used again without washing each time.


These diapers are made of many layers of absorbent material (cotton, bamboo, hemp, fleece) and are ready to be affixed to the baby. However, these are NOT waterproof and require a cover.


Think "burp cloths" or "what your mother and grandmother used" for cloth diapers. They are rectangle, absorbent layers of cotton, that require you to fold around the baby and fasten with a closure or fold into thirds and lay into a diaper cover. You will need to buy the correct size as baby grows and a cover is needed to make them waterproof.

Brands - Osocozy

Flats / Flour Sack Towels (FSTs)

Flats and FSTs are similar to each other and also similar to prefolds (they're sometimes folded and fastened onto baby too), although not bulky, since they are made of a large, thin, single-layer piece of cotton (or cotton blend). They are one of the cheapest diapers you can find and can be folded down in various ways and sizes then fastened onto baby. A cover is needed for these, as well.


A cover is just the waterproof outer layer of a cloth diaper. It has no pocket or no insert attached to it. This makes it an easy option to snap around a fitted, prefold or flat diaper...and reuse over and over without washing (unless you get poop on it)!

Step 2 - Figure out how many diapers you'll need

How many diapers you need will depend on how often you want to wash, or can wash. Use the below numbers to estimate how many you'll need per day and multiply by how many days you'd like to go in-between washes.

Newborns: 12 - 16 diapers/day

Infants: 10 - 12 diapers/day

Toddlers: 8 - 12 diapers/day

**Remember, you'll need a few clean diapers on hand while you wash

Step 3 - Storing dirty diapers and washing

Baby poops in a disposable, you toss in the garbage. Baby poops in a cloth diaper, you toss in a waterproof pail. Honestly, it's that simple. The kind of pail you choose will depend on your setup. Purchase a pail liner (it looks like a kitchen garbage bag with an elastic top), and place it inside of an open kitchen garbage pail. Yes, open! The air flow helps to keep the diapers from smelling. Some prefer a hanging pail can be placed on the back of a door in various rooms. Either way, you'll toss the dirty diapers and pail liner into the wash, so more than one would be beneficial.

Washing diapers is easier than you think.

If baby is exclusively breastfed (no other foods or formula are being fed)...

  • Take the wet or poop diaper and toss into the pail, no need to rinse

  • On wash day, do a quick rinse cycle (so you're not washing the diapers in poop and pee water)

  • Then, do a long hot wash with a full amount of mainstream detergent. Don't skimp, and don't use any special cloth diapering detergent.

  • Line dry or toss into the dryer

If baby is NOT exclusively breastfed...

  • Remove any poop from diaper by scraping, spraying, dunking, however you'd like...into the toilet, then toss into the pail. The goal is to remove as much poop from the diaper as you can.

THAT'S IT! Sounds simple enough, right? If you're still overwhelmed, feel free to comment and ask any questions below.

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