“Cloth Diapers” The Series – Part 3: When cloth sucks

Okay, we can’t all be 24/7/365 Cloth Diaper Nazis. There are certain situations where you can’t, or might not want to use cloth diapers, or it’s just not working out. Here are some examples, and some suggested solutions. Of course, in any situation, disposables might be the easiest answer, a few disposables a week is still a lot better then a hundred! If using disposables, please avoid Pampers with Dry Max.

During the Newborn stage

Issue: You’re afraid things will be hectic enough having a new baby, you don’t want to have to worry about laundry or learning something new
Solution: Some people are lucky enough to have friends and family offer help during the first couple weeks of life with a newborn, so helping with the laundry is on their list of things to expect to do for you. As for “learning something new” there’s really not that much more to learn between cloth and disposables, it’s a diaper – not rocket surgery.
Issue: Meconium, no one wants to deal with that stuff!
Solution: Unless you want to wipe, soak and scrub the diaper, disposables. Another solution would be to buy inexpensive (used, low quality, or a different method such as prefolds) cloth diapers that you won’t mind it staining.
Issue: You don’t want that precious belly button stump to get soggy or infected
Solution: Um, roll the front of the diaper down and change before it’s like sitting in a water balloon… You’ll even have to do this if you use disposables…
Issue: You feel your one-size diapers are too big and bulky for newborns
Solution: This is where prefolds are the best cloth answer! Small prefolds are very inexpensive, so it’s not going to dent the wallet as deeply as buying newborn sized all-in-ones. You may only use newborn sized diapers for a month, so spending a lot of money on them would be silly. If you use diapers that are too big on your baby (at any age) it will most likely result in leaks.

When you can’t do laundry
Sometimes you run out of clean cloth diapers before you can do laundry, but you can’t just turn it inside and backwards like a tshirt can you?

Issue: You forgot to, or feel like you’re washing diapers too often and are exhausted
You may not have enough, it might be wise to purchase about 4 more diapers, but you need to be washing dirty diapers at least after 3 days, leave them sitting any longer and they can rot. It may also be helpful to have a stash of “back ups”, maybe you don’t like them as much, they’re bulkier or you were given a pink diaper for your son (god forbid!) Having a few diapers that aren’t in regular rotation at the back of your shelf will come in handy every once in a while.
Issue: You ran out of detergent
Solution: It’s not going to kill you to use a different detergent once in a while. Things to try to avoid in detergents are: enzymes, optical brighteners, built-in softeners or bleach, heavy fragrances, and literal “soap”s. These things used frequently can clog up your diapers, creating a film or barrier and causing the liquids to roll right off the fabric instead of soaking into it… obviously a leak. If you think your diapers may be doing this, strip them (I’ll cover this later). Bleach wont clog diapers, but will deteriorate the fabric. A lot of the new “eco-friendly” and “biodegradable” detergents are great for diapers.

When you’re away from home

Issue: You are on a long trip or vacation.
Solution(s): Try to plan your trip so you can wash a load of diapers at the destination, usually family members don’t mind. Hotels will wash your laundry if you ask (for a price) but having them use the same technique/cycle and a soak might be difficult. You could also schedule it so you wash all your diapers the night before you leave, then if your trip is only a few days wash them as soon as you get home. If you use disposables, you won’t have to worry about laundry somewhere else or lugging the dirty bag around.
Issue: You’re planning a lot of shopping and don’t want your baby to leak accidentally because you’re so busy.
Solution: Double up your absorbency, hemp works wonders by keeping it thin yet absorbent. Using disposables would eliminate the need of carrying the dirty ones around with you (but with a wet bag this shouldn’t be an issue).


Issue: Your baby pees so much you have to change more often then they wake up or else they’re swimming in Lake Urine by the morning.
Solution: Add extra absorbency! Again with the hemp, microfiber is also very absorbent. It might take numerous layers and make your kid’s trunk have more junk then J-Lo, but they’re sleeping – who cares!? Unfortunately, by the time they’re toddlers their bladders may have grown so much that it’s unavoidable (we’ve switched to GoodNights).
Issue: Your baby is sensitive to wetness and wakes up when they get too wet.
Solution: Try adding a fleece liner (even if you think your diaper is already lined with micro-fleece), it allows the liquid to pass through to the absorbent layer but not back up to the skin and should help baby stay dry feeling. This is simply a rectangular sheet of fleece fabric (save money and purchase it from a fabric store, you wont need to sew anything) placed on top of the inside of the diaper, so it’s the layer closest to your baby’s skin. Thicker fleece isn’t always better, if it’s too thick the liquid can’t penetrate it and will run right off to the closest opening.

You’re not my mommy!

Issue: Someone other then the main caretaker (day care, grandparents, dad, baby sitter) is changing a diaper. They don’t know how to use your cloth diaper.
Solution: Show them… If they can use a disposable diaper, they can use a fitted diaper and cover, a pocket diaper or an all-in-one. Pre-stuffing your pocket diapers makes it an easy one-step application that they can’t screw up. If they’re a parent over the age of 40, they’ve probably used a cloth diaper before, especially prefolds.

Fat Ass Syndrome

Issue: Cloth diapers inevitably add extra bulk to your babies bum, this can cause them to grow out of pants, sleepers, and onesies faster then usual. Your baby might only wear a size 3 month shirt, but need size 6 months bottoms.
Solution: Suck it up. Disposable diapers are squished flat and expand once they’re wet, cloth diapers are made of layers and layers of fabric, but it doesn’t usually get any bigger then it was to begin with. There are brands or fabrics that can help keep the bulk minimal. Thirsties are one of my favourite brands to use when being concerned about being fashionable – the Duo Diapers come with an ultra absorbent hemp insert and even though it’s 5 layers in total, it’s super thin. They’re also great colours so if you don’t want to wear pants, it still looks better then Elmo’s goofy face.

Next up in this series: Part 4: A dictionary of different designs

See other entries in this series here.

3 Responses

  • Kat Says:

    Our nighttime routine (for my 3.5 month old) is a pocket stuffed with 2 microfibre inserts. She totally gets J-Lo butt but I think it’s adorable!

  • Jodi Says:

    another good blog! thanks Ashley.

  • blindcavefish Says:

    A fat overnight baby butt is the best!!

    After interviewing daycares I would never expect them to use cloth diapers tho, its a sanitary issue, a space issue and a time issue. I’m going to buy some chlorine free disposables when we start daycare