cloth diapers: one month in

let’s talk cloth diapers. remember back when i was pregnant, & i was totally convinced that pocket diapers were the way to go? i did all this research on cloth diapers & somehow decided that pocket diapers would be the easiest & cutest option. obviously i wanted to diaper my child in the caviar-&-cristal of pocket diapers, & would have loved to lay in a stash of bumgenius or even rumparooz (love the double gusset on the leg), but bumgenius pockets are like $17 a pop & rumparooz cost even more. they’re adjustable, from a seven-pound newborn to an enormous 35-pound toddler on the brink of potty training, so they are an investment that will last for as long as you need to diaper your baby, but the idea of shelling out $400 or $500 just for diapers was really overwhelming to me.

it is, of course, worth mentioning that disposable diapers are exponentially more expensive than $400 or $500 throughout a baby’s diapered years, but because the cost is spread out over a long stretch of time, it seems less daunting.

i registered for the fancy cloth pockets i wanted when i made our baby registry, but very few people leapt at the chance to give us cloth diapers as a gift. even though i tried to stress to people that this is what we really WANTED & NEEDED, most people preferred to give us cute onesies decorated with dinosaurs or fleecy blankets with monkeys on them or whatever. which is fine–we will use all that stuff. (it’s amazing, the sheer quantity of baby gifts that seemed extraneous upon receipt but that have swiftly become part of our everyday baby care rotation.) only two friends gave us diapers, & only two a piece. four diapers is enough to diaper your newborn baby for all of four hours…if you’re lucky. another friend gave us a stash of six prefolds, but they are big, for a toddler.

i asked around among my mama friends, because most of them are into attachment parenting & cloth diapering. the consensus was that prefolds with covers are the most economical cloth diapering option. i was scared. how do you use a prefold? just fold it into thirds, tuck it into the cover, & call it a day? what about the babies you see on the internet, somehow wearing prefolds that have been shaped & pinned into the shape of an actual diaper? how does one do that? must one do that? if you don’t do that, are you risking leaks or some kind of mount crapmore-up-the-back-of-the-onesie situation? bleached or unbleached prefolds? what kids of covers? oh, you say these plain white ones are the real workhorses & the cheapest on the market? but…they’re not all cute & colorful like pocket diapers. what about the fact that prefolds come in multiple sizes? do i have to buy a dozen, two dozen, or even three dozen of each size? & the covers come in multiple sizes too. i like the pockets that are adjustable–i don’t have to keep buying the same thing over & over in increasingly larger sizes.

nonetheless, i had asked for advice, & the advice i received was all about the awesomeness of prefolds & covers. so i added a dozen newborn prefolds, a dozen small prefolds, & eight cuper-cute & colorful adjustable covers to my stash. (i also registered for these items, but no one stepped up to the plate. apparently buying prefolds as a gift is even less appealing than buying pocket diapers. & i had one friend who was like, “yeah! the baby that i nanny for totally rocks pocket diapers & i love them & they’re so easy to use & i will buy some for your baby!” but it turns out that the baby wasn’t in pockets at all & was in some kind of weird cloth hybrid thing that didn’t appeal to me & it just goes to illustrate that when you first dip a toe into the world of cloth diapers, it is OVERWHELMING AS FUCK. even a nanny that changes diapers on a daily basis was unclear on exactly what she was changing, so how was i supposed to make an informed decision?)

i will add that i was predicted a large baby. ramona measured in like the 98th percentile for her gestational age consistently throughout the entire pregnancy. when she was born at 32 weeks & 6 days, she weighed four pounds, eleven ounces (that’s big for that age). now that she is at a gestational age of about 38 & a half weeks, she weighs over seven pounds, probably close to eight. & they grow more slowly outside the womb than in it (provided that there are no pre-existing conditions inhibiting fetal growth–i didn’t have any). had she gone to term, she probably would have been close to or over nine pounds (ie, enormous).

because she came early, she was diapered in pampers preemie swaddlers in the NICU. & then the NICU staff was surprised when she developed diaper rash. they coated her butt in desitin during every change & wouldn’t let me put breast milk on her butt. (desitin provides a waterproof barrier, so supposedly it keeps the butt from getting wet & even more irritated, but it doesn’t treat the rash. breast milk is a natural antibiotic that can both clear up existing diaper rash & prevent a new rash from developing.) once we got her home, we buried the disposables they gave us deep in the closet, doused her behind in breast milk, & put her in a prefold with a preemie cover (by litewraps). when we next changed her diaper, her rashy red butt had been replaced by a rash-free peachy butt–just one breast milk treatment had done the trick! she’s been exclusively cloth diapered ever since & her rash has not returned.

she was too tiny to fit into any of the pockets i had laid in, so i just stuck with the prefolds & covers…& discovered that i LOVE THEM. why did i ever think that pockets would be easier or cuter or whatever the fuck i thought? prefolds are a snap–fold them into thirds, tuck them into the cover, snap or velcro the cover shut & bam. it doesn’t seem like any more work than disposables. sure, there’s laundry, but i love doing laundry–it’s my favorite chore. pulling a load of freshly washed cloth diapers out of the dryer is it’s own weird little pleasure for me. we’re also using cloth wipes, which are great. ours are all soft flannel that gets softer with every wash, & they work great for wiping her mouth after a meal too. we’re using the small prefolds (which are still too big for her) as burp cloths. she is finally starting to outgrow her preemie wraps & is graduating into the exciting printed rockabye booty adjustable covers i bought.

& a note on quantities: everything i read about cloth diapering said to make sure to have a supply of at least thee dozen diapers, & some recommended more like six dozen. that seemed kind of crazy to me. i mean, i was planning to do laundry every two or three days–surely i wouldn’t need six dozen diapers! i split the difference & bought a dozen pockets, a dozen newborn prefolds, & a dozen small prefolds. because i was expecting a large full-term baby, i expected that my baby would be able to wear all of these diapers right out of the gate & i could pick & choose among them to decide what worked/fit best.

instead i got a tiny preemie baby…&, i don’t know, blame the percocet or the plummeting hormones or something, but i totally thought we could get by with only a dozen newborn size prefolds. i won’t go into details, but let’s just say that one night where ramona was going through one diaper an hour on the hour (along with whatever onesie & blanket & bouncy seat cover happened to be near her person) convinced me of the folly of my ways & i put in an emergency order for another two dozen newborn prefolds. she’ll probably be in them for a while, being so tiny (though she’s gaining weight like a sumo wrestler in training for the olympics), & they’re only like $2 each, so it seems like a good investment. we can use them as doublers or burp cloths when she outgrows them–or i can sell them or give them away to a preggo friend who wants to cloth diaper. because if you have a preggo friend who is interested in cloth diapering, cloth diapers are the ultimate gift! (once you check in about what kinds she wants.) yes, the baby poops on them & maybe that doesn’t seem fun or cute, but the sad truth is that i am ten million times more excited about my cloth diapers than i am about even the cutest outfit in ramona’s wardrobe.

ramona in one of her preemie baby diaper covers.
ramona in one of her preemie baby diaper covers.
ramona in one of her big girl rockabye booty covers.
ramona in one of her big girl rockabye booty covers.
ramona freed from society's conventions! undiapered freedom!
ramona freed from society’s conventions! undiapered freedom!

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

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