Changing a cloth diaper – step by step

For those who are still considering cloth diapering, but haven’t taken the plunge, it can be hard to envision what the whole process will look like. Do you have to use pins? How are you going to get all those snaps fastened on a squirmy baby? How do you deal with poop?

They’re all very good questions, so I thought I’d take you through the very simple diaper changing system I used with my kiddos. As mentioned before, after much experimentation, we ended up with a system of prefolds and velcro covers. For me, this was the sweet spot of affordability, effectiveness and simplicity.

So how did the average diaper change go? Here’s the process in 7 steps:

Step 1: Remove soiled diaper and wipe up

I would have pre-moistened cloth wipes ready to go. I’d remove the diaper and wipe up any messes as needed. I found that having wipes sitting in a wipes warmer was impractical, so I just remembered to run a few wipes under the faucet before beginning the diaper change.

Wipes and diapers that were just wet would go directly in the diaper bin, which I had set up next to the changing table. Poopy diapers would get set aside to be dealt with later.

Step 2: Fold prefold and lay in wrap

Actually, I would typically have had this already set up before the diaper change. The less time the baby’s on the changing table, the happier everyone is 🙂 Here are pictures of a prefold in a Bumkins wrap and a Prorap

Step 3: Place diaper and cover under baby’s bootie

I would just lift up the baby’s legs and place the diaper and cover under his / her booty, just like a disposable diaper:

Step 4: Pull up the center of the diaper / wrap

Again, like a disposable, I’d pull up the diaper and wrap between the baby’s legs, making sure it was nice and snug against the baby’s belly.

Step 5: Fasten the tabs

You’re probably starting to see why this was my favorite system from a simplicity standpoint. At this point, I would just fasten the velcro tabs, just like ‘sposies. I’d be sure that the corners of the center portion were smoothed out so they didn’t fold back and scratch the baby’s waist.

And then, of course, I’d fasten the other side:

Step 6: Quick check around the edges

I’d do a quick check to make sure none of the diaper was hanging outside of the cover (surefire way to get leaks), and also that there were no big gaps around the legs.

Step 7: Take care of the dirty diaper

This is where I would release the child back into the wild and deal with the dirty diaper. As mentioned earlier, only-wet diapers would go straight in the diaper pail. Then I’d leave the diaper cover to air out. I’d tend to re-use covers until the got pooped in or damp from pee.

For kids on solids, I’d dump the BM’s into the toilet. Typically, it was easy enough to get most of it off with TP. Breastfed BM’s can go straight in the diaper pail.

See, not so hard, right? I also sent cloth diapers to daycare with the kids and the daycare providers had no problem working with this system. Hope this is helpful to anyone who has been on the fence about cloth diapering 🙂

Trim cloth diapers – trimmed prefolds

When I was cloth diapering the kiddos, my favorite diapering system involved prefolds and wrap covers. Prefolds are absorbent, quick drying, store neatly, and are affordable. I most preferred laying folded prefolds in their wraps as it was simple and quick, both for me, and babysitters / day care providers. However, the dimensions of most prefolds weren’t very cooperative. If I folded them vertically, there was too much length, so there was a wad that either got folded over in the front or back. If I folded them horizontally, there was a big wad right in the center, which was super bulky and made the kids somewhat bowlegged.

I pondered how to maintain the absorbent and quick-drying properties of my prefolds while distributing the bulk better when laying in a wrap.

I finally came up with the idea of trimming my prefolds.

I cut off one end, leaving about 14″ for the main body of the diaper, but reserving the cut off portion to sew in as a doubler. I don’t have a serger, so I straight stitched the raw-edge about 1/4″ in from the edge, then went back and zig-zagged in the 1/4″ space. I sewed the cut-off “doublers” in on one side so that the prefolds’ absorbency and quick-drying abilities were preserved.

After this edit, the prefolds fit perfect in any standard wrap (like Proraps and Bummis):

This system is super-trim and super-easy. Here’s a pic of my 21 month old toddler in a trimmed prefold and Bummis wrap:

With this system, I found that clothes fit better and my children could walk normally 🙂

I also found that storage was more compact and easy:

As I cloth diapered the kids, I experimented with just about every system under the sun, but ultimately, this is the system we landed on and the one that saw them through to potty training. It was the trimmest cloth diaper system as well as the easiest and most affordable 🙂 So if you have similar requirements, consider giving your prefolds a trim.

Why cloth diaper?


Why cloth diaper?

Even though it has been over a decade since my kids were in diapers, I still get this question if the topic comes up.  I’ve found that the best answer, the one that is the most true for me, and also eliminates and defensiveness the asker might fall into during the discussion, is simple — it’s just nicer to use the real thing.

Then I make an analogy: what if the paper plate and plasticware industry did an analysis and concluded that the environmental impact of washing dishes was the same as using and disposing of one-time dining-ware? Gosh, wouldn’t it be easier to never to dishes again, and just use paper plates, and plasticware and just throw it away at the end of a meal?

But here’s the thing — people don’t like eating off of paper plates and using plastic utensils. Sure, we’ll do it for a picnic and once in a while, but we wouldn’t want to do it all the time? Why, because it’s just nicer to use the real thing.

We like the solidity of metal utensils — they can cut, spear, and handle any food, no matter how tough (on the flip side — ever tried to cut a tough piece of steak with a plastic knife? It’s no fun.) Metal utensils feel good and solid in our hands. They look nice. Same for the dishes. They don’t bend under heavy or wet foods. They’re weighty, solid, and we know we can depend on them.

It’s exactly the same for diapers. I always felt good putting a nice, substantial, clean, soft and absorbent diaper on my babies. I loved patting and holding that fluffy baby butt. Disposable diapers, by contrast, felt flimsy, paper-y, and… well… disposable. We used them when it was more convenient (just like plasticware), but otherwise had no use for them.

I find this approach sometimes opens the door to further conversation. Then we can talk about other cloth diapering questions like,

  • Isn’t it really hard and a lot of work? (well, I guess you could say any laundry is work, but I always enjoyed diaper laundry.)
  • Isn’t it gross and stinky? (well, poop and pee are always going to be gross and stinky at some level. I don’t think disposable diapers really help there 😉 )
  • Isn’t it expensive? (I suppose the up-front seems high, but there are inexpensive ways to cloth diaper and man, have you ever added up the cost over a child’s diapering life – it’s scary.)
  • Isn’t all that washing just as bad for the environment? (the analyses here are so biased it’s insane. A life cycle analysis has so much subjectivity to it, you can make it come out however you want. I just leave it at the plasticware argument and stop there.)
  • Isn’t it just drudgery? (here’s a point where you can give a glimpse into the delightful world of fluff and amazing handmade cloth diapers that is out there 🙂 )

Of course, the point is not to win a debate or convert a diaperer (although that’s always an amazing feeling), it’s just to approach the conversation in a way that gives a new perspective.

What about you? How do you handle these conversations?