We’ve been using cloth diapers for over a year now and have had some troubleshooting! I did endless “research” on cloth diapers from newborn to six months (eating solids) and toddler (walking/bunching cloth diapers!). I also have had some great questions from readers that I have decided to gather up and add to a whole blog post since I found out the answer to many of those questions the hard way. ; D
Below, I have made a list of the top 10 things I wish I knew before using cloth diapers combined with the most common questions from readers and friends:
Cloth Diapers 101, For Beginners – Problems You Can Solve and Avoid!
(Because I learned some of these the hard way! :D)
**Please note if you are new to cloth diapering, to check out The Complete Guide for Cloth Diapers:
1. My diaper pail stinks!
I had a friend ready to give up cloth diapers because she didn’t have a proper pail. This makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE! You can read up on all types of diaper pail solutions but I’ll save you the trouble (because I’ve read lots.) The bottom line is if you buy the right diaper pail and wash your diapers correctly, you honestly will have no trouble with smell. (I know that sounds crazy but it’s true.)
You need a good sized trash can with a pivot lid like this one from Target. Thirteen gallons gives you enough space to fill the pail up for a couple days (up to three but I recommend two: wash every other day) with enough room so your pail wont smell. Most importantly, cloth diapers NEED to breath, so a pivot lid is a MUST. I know it sounds like an oxymoron: some air = less smell while a closed lid = more smell, but it’s very true! Have two nice pail liners like these Planetwise ones that are durable and you can throw in the wash with your cloth diapers each time. If you have a good pail, then make sure to:
1) Wash your cloth diapers every other day using a good wash routine (day 3 pushes it)
2) Remove all solid waste (save some trouble and use a good diaper liner)
3) Use a solid, cloth diaper safe laundry detergent like Allen’s Naturally made specifically for cloth diapers.
Check out my recommended wash routine here:
2. My baby’s bum is red
One thing to remember about irritation in cloth diapers is that it’s pretty rare compared to disposables!
If your little one has a red bum, I have found it usually means the absorbent part of the diaper is not absorbing enough (the insert), you are using detergent that is no good or you may need to change the diaper more often (around every 2 hours unless napping or nighttime).
Upgrade your insert. Alva Baby inserts SUCK. I have even tried doubling them up and still, red bum!
–Newborns: Workhorse is the BEST (+ Blueberry covers)
–After the newborn stage (about three to six months): Nikki’s prefolds are bomb (size small) and you can’t get any better than Blueberry Capris (size 1).
–Walkers: I recommend doing pocket diapers: Alvababy + a large Thirsties insert under the standard Alvababy microfiber insert (that comes with the pocket diaper).
Use the right detergent! I looked up all kinds of lists with grids of detergent listing their pros and cons. I landed on Allen’s Naturally and it is the BEST!
3. My walking baby/toddler’s insert is bunching!
This is pretty common and can be fixed!
1) Make sure your diaper is fitted correctly! Have the smallest rise needed (the rise are the buttons that make the diaper shorter or longer/larger or smaller), make sure there are NO gaps in the leg holes and that the waist line is very secure. The biggest problem usually lies within the rise. If there is too much room there, it allows for folding.
2) Make sure your insert is the correct size. I found that my small size prefolds were now too small for the second rise fit of the diaper cover. Size medium worked the best and the Blueberry Capri size 2 was great. The best diaper solution I have found for this problem is Alva Baby Pocket Diapers + a Blueberry Capri size 2 insert.
3) Consider trying the pocket diaper system. I recommend: Alvababy + a large Thirsties insert under the standard Alvababy microfiber insert (that comes with the pocket diaper). This system takes a little more time to stuff and launder but it doesn’t bunch and it’s great to have the diaper ready to go when changing!
4. The gusset is loose!
And no matter how tight you try to fit the diaper, there seems to be an open gap which is leading to leaks! Oh nos! If you aren’t overstuffing the diaper (leading to a gaping open gusset = leaks) then you’ve been hanging those precious cloth diapers to dry incorrectly! Or you’ve purchased someone’s CD stash who did it wrong.
Hang your cloth diaper covers from the sides (or throw over a wire rack) horizontally, the long way. If you hang them from the tops, the weight of the bottom of the diaper will pull and stretch the gusset. If your gusset is already stretched, you may have to buy new ones! 🙁
5. MY DIAPER IS LEAKING!
This problem is pretty uncommon in cloth but easily can be fixed! There are a couple solutions to this problem:
SOLUTION: Have the correct fit. Make sure the rise is as small as necessary, the gussets have NO gaps and the diaper is snug around the tummy (a small gap here is fine when they stand up).
SOLUTION: You probably have a sucky insert. See 2. MY BABY’S BUM IS RED (above). The SOLUTION lists the recommended inserts.
6. The night diaper is soaked through!
You may be tempted to cave and slap a plastic disposable diaper on your little one to save the trouble but try this first! I have NEVER had trouble cloth diapering our little one at night! Simply purchasing the correct inserts for nighttime solves this problem in a jiffy!
-newborn: Blueberry Capri Size 1 cover, Workhorse Newborn (orange stitching & then yellow stitching) + one Blueberry Capri Size one liner added in
-six months plus: Alva Baby Pocket Diaper + Blueberry Bamboo Insert + Blueberry Capri Size 2 Insert
7. My baby has a really bad diaper rash!
Diaper rashes and cloth diapering are a little rare. Check 2. above and make sure you are using a good insert. If so, check out some of the solutions below:
If you are working with used cloth diapers that you have not stripped OR if you had been using incorrect non cloth diaper safe laundry detergent, you will need to strip them or sanitize them safely. Fluff Love has a great article on how to safely strip your precious cloth diapers. Check it out here. If that means switching to disposable in the meantime (while you strip your cloth diapers) and your little one already has a rash, you will need to use some extreme measures! Buy A&D Ointment’s Treat Diaper Rash Cream and baby powder. LATHER and CAKE your baby’s bottom in that white stuff. The goal is to have as less wet get to your baby’s bottom as possible. Add baby powder on your baby’s bum and in the disposable diaper. DO NOT DO THIS WITH CLOTH DIAPERS! This is only if you have to switch to disposables to properly rid your cloth diapers of built up bacteria or built up chemicals.
Use Motherlove’s diaper rash cream for cloth diapers. This stuff is amazing. I would also make sure to use a diaper liner even when using cloth diaper safe creams. Many CD mom’s swear that no diaper rash cream (even one made specifically for cloth diapers like Motherlove’s) is completely safe for cloth diapers. So better safe than sorry and use a proper barrier.
If your baby has a rash that looks like a ton of dots, is meaty red and slightly raised, she probably has a yeast based rash. Try using a topical anti-yeast or anti fungal cream, such as nystatin, clotrimazole, or miconazole and if you are using cloth diapers, make sure to double up your cloth diaper liner.
Additional things to try: have your baby go diaper-free for a little while. If you can do so over a hard surface that allows for easy cleanup, this is best. Give your baby a warm (not hot) bath and really clean the area. Try dapping any excess breastmilk (maybe at the bottom of her bottle) with a cottonball onto the affected area.
Again, if your baby is getting bad rashes, this is pretty rare for a cloth diapered baby. Make sure you are using the right detergent, a good amount of water when washing (but not too much – just enough for them to move around), using a diaper liner (or two) when using rash creams and if you bought used that they are properly sanitized through stripping.
8. How do I get stains out of my cloth diapers?
Removing stains from cloth diapers can be a tricky process but there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to do so. The first thing to note is that staining does not necessarily mean the cloth diaper is in any way insanitary. In fact, if you have washed them properly and there is still staining, they usually are perfectly clean! Another thing to note is that if you wash the diapers a few times, usually the stains come out by themselves.
Laying your diapers out in the sun is the safest and most effective way to remove stains. I put ours in a sunny spot next the window. Try a few sunning sessions before reaching for the bleach. If the stain is ridiculously persistent after a few sessions, try adding lemon juice to the cloth diaper. Note that you will have to wash them after adding the lemon juice as it is acidic. Other forms of stain removal aren’t exactly cloth diaper safe. You can do a bleach wash and strip them but doing so seems very excessive for simple stain removal since stains do not diminish the purpose of your diaper and bleach definitely could.
9. Will newborn poo stain my cloth diapers?
Yes. A lot of places say no but the black tar-like meconium can be a booger to get out and further, may leave a hard to get out yellowish stain. The great thing is there is an easy fix for this!
Use a cloth diaper liner for the first week or so(until your newborn’s poo becomes regular). After that, you do not need to use liners again unless adding cloth diaper safe creams or until your baby starts eating solid food.
10. When my baby starts eating solids, do I have to change anything in my cloth diaper routine?
Yes but not much! When your baby starts eating solid foods, she will start to have solid poos. I was dreading this! But actually, with the cloth diaper liner, it was much easier to clean than the liquid-fed poo. It all stays together in one place instead going everywhere and possibly leaking.
Make sure you use a good diaper liner. These are great at staying put until your baby starts doing a lot of walking or if your baby ever gets a sick tummy (diarrhea). You may want to invest in a sprayer then (this is the one that’s been in my Amazon ‘saved for later’ cart if I ever decided to purchase it) but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. I’ve only had to wash off solids on the diaper a handful of times over the past year and a half.
If you have any additional CD troubleshooting questions, please comment below or email me and I’ll feature them here. 🙂