Frugal Cloth Diapering

September 21, 2009

What is the least expensive way to cloth diaper?  How about cloth diapering for free?  I’m not talking about signing up for every free giveaway you see for name brand diapers and crossing your fingers, hoping to win.  I’m not talking about begging for help from friends or neighbors.  I’m not even suggesting you run out and buy an expensive sewing machine and a snap press to make your own fitted diapers.  You can cloth diaper for free with supplies in your own home.

One of my favorite diapers is actually a receiving blanket.  You read that right, a receiving blanket.  What household with a baby does not have dozens of these floating around?  If you can fold this in half twice on the diagonal to make a triangle and you have a wonderful newborn size “flat-fold” diaper.  It’s that simple.  Newborn babies usually need to be changed often, so there is not a lot of liquid in their diapers.  If you think the baby would be more comfortable with a stay-dry layer, you can easily lay in a cut piece of wicking fabric (more about fabrics below) to keep his or her skin nice and dry.  Need some extra absorbency?  Try adding to the center a folded washcloth or towel.  The least expensive way to close these is with big safety pins, or you could “splurge” and buy for less than $2 a Snappi.  In my experience, Snappis work great with the flannel receiving blankets. 

For the older baby, I love the origami fold … it sounds very intimidating, I know, but I am able to add an extra absorbency layer and a cover and use this diaper for my 1-year old overnight.  I learned how to do the fold watching this YouTube video.  It has long wings for longer babies and the extra absorbency is only in the center which means there is less bulk between the legs … much easier for a baby who’s walking to get around.  There are dozens of ways to fold a receiving blanket or flat fold diaper, but these are the only 2 I have personally used.

In addition saving money using blankets for diapers, you will also find these are the cleanest to wash.  Since none of the layers are sewn together, the washing machine will clean every layer of fabric, unlike diapers that have the layers all sewn together which soap only touches the top & bottom layers.  Another advantage, these are so easy to carry!  They fold so small; you could have 3 of them in a regular size pocketbook and be gone for the day.  No need for you to have a bulky diaper bag! 

I put these diapers on my daughter in the daytime at home without a cover, usually under a dress.  I may feel some dampness on the outside of the diaper when I pick her up … this is my queue it is time for a change!  Cloth diapers are not all or nothing like disposables.  With disposables, if you have a leak, it is a flood.  It is a failed diaper that did not fit right on the legs or was being worn too long and started to deteriorate.  With cloth diapers, you have a lot of middle ground.  As long as there is a proper fit, the wetness will be contained.  The diaper will get damp on the outside, but the wetness will only be transferred by compression, so when she’s walking around, she does not leave a trail behind her.  Her legs don’t get wet.  I can just feel when my hand is pushing against the diaper and I am holding her that it is time for a change.  If she was wearing pants, you would be able to see a wet spot.  If she was sitting for a long time, the same thing would happen.  There is no outer waterproof layer, which is why when we go out or she is wearing pants we cover them up.

Now you probably think I’m going to tell you to go out and buy some diaper covers for $10 - $20 each … but you don’t have to!  Do you know how to knit or crotchet and already have a supply of wool yarn?  Or do you have a needle and thread and some old wool or fleece sweaters, blankets or coats?  Then you are on your way to creating beautiful custom diaper covers!

I had never picked up a crochet hook in my life before I saw the beautiful wool “longies” and soakers that are used for diaper covers.  Bought new, these can cost up to $100 each.  I could not afford the hefty price tag and asked my mom how to crochet.  In just a few months (while working full-time and volunteering for several local organizations) I had made 2 wool soakers, 1 was even functional!  Patron’s or Lion’s Brand wool is usually around $5 a skein and available at many retailers (I found some at Wal Mart.)  I used a free pattern from Little Fire and loved the results!  I may attempt some longies next …

If knitting or crocheting just isn’t for you, Katrina’s Quick Sew Soakers may prove to be an easy way to make your own diaper covers.  The instructions are for machine sewing, but many people have reported hand sewing the simple pattern with great results.  It is also very easy to cut the sleeves of a wool sweater and sew them together to form long pants that will function as a diaper cover.

Both fleece & wool are very breathable fabrics, making it great for your baby’s skin, but not always for car seats because they can wick moisture to the outside when compressed for substantial periods of time.  You may still want to purchase 1 or 2 PUL covers if you plan to travel with baby.  Even if you do spend $20 - $30 on new diaper covers, you may be able to make that money back selling the diapers when your baby has outgrown them.

Check out these additional resources below!

Flat Fold instructions:

Cloth Diaper Patterns:

How We Diapered Brad for Free (Blog):


Recycled material uses:

Receiving blanket, sheets, shirts            Flannel                          Flat fold diapers

Towels, washcloths                               Terry                             Absorbency layer (doubler)

Auto shop towels                                  Microfiber                     Absorbency layer (doubler)

Sweatshirts, sweat socks                      Cotton                          Absorbency layer (doubler)

Athletic clothing                                    Polyester                      Stay-dry layer next to skin (liner)

Lightweight fleece blankets                    Polyester                      Stay-dry layer next to skin (liner)

Shirts or sheets                                    Silk or bamboo jersey    Stay-dry layer next to skin (liner)

Sweaters, Blankets, Shirts                    Wool or Fleece              Cover              


Camping with Cloth Diapers

August 7, 2009
It can be done!  This summer, my family went on a camping trip for 2 nights (I wouldn't attempt longer than that for any 11 month old baby) and 3 days at a state park (with rest room, showers, playground, lake, and no washer / dryers.)  We were about 10 minutes from a shopping center and fully intended on spending all 3 days at our campsite or on the lake.  We were lucky to have beautiful weather our whole stay.
Many people I know would have used disposable diapers for such a trip.  Why carry ...
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My Journey to Discovering the Perfect Diaper

July 21, 2009

According to there are 15,434 US Patents & Patent applications relating to diapers and 5,646 relating to diaper patterns.  Add to that the many combinations of fabrics to choose from and anything is possible.

So why couldn’t I find just what I was looking for when searching on the World Wide Web?  Search engines often directed me to E-Bay or some of the most popular Cloth Diapering websites that carry brand names.  Many people use all Bum Genius, Fuzzi Buns or Happy Heinys a...

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My Mistakes Ordering Cloth Diapers Online

June 25, 2009

I have made my share of mistakes when ordering cloth diapers online.  It can be difficult to tell when first starting out, just what to look for when purchasing cloth diapers.  Here are some of the mistakes I have made, how I made the most of it and how I avoided the same mistakes in the future.

1.     I purchased all-in-one diapers with flannel or cotton fabric over the waterproof PUL layer.  This caused “wicking” of urine to the outside of the diaper.  The diapers were cute, but this w...

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Velcro, Snaps, Snappis ... or All Three? How I close my diapers without pins ...

June 23, 2009
With disposable diapers, there is only 1 way to keep them closed - a thin strip of tape.  This thin strip often ripped in my hand when I was trying to put it on my wriggly son causing it to be useless and thrown in the garbage before he even wore it.  If I stuck the tape to the wrong place & tried to re-adjust it, it sometimes tore the diaper, again, making it useless.  Then, he could unfasten it himself, more thrown away without their purpose being served. I never really thought about how li...
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My Journey with Prefold Diapers

May 31, 2009
Prefold diapers.  The old stand-by.  A flat piece of cloth folded in thirds and stitched.  Why did this strike panic in my heart when I first started using cloth diapers?  I thought: 
  1. They had to be folded in some sort of complicated origami fashion.
  2. Only certain prefold diapers would fit in certain covers.
  3. I would need to use pins or a Snappi to make them work.

I was wrong.  On all 3 assumptions.

It wasn't until I puchased an All-in-2 diaper that I realized how easy it all could be.  Th...

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The Newest Cloth Diaper Circle

May 5, 2009
I got approval today to start my own Real Diaper Association circle group!  In preparation, I added 2 new pages to this website.  One is the "Local Advocacy" section which will house our meeting notes.  The second is the Calendar which I will use to update the meeting times & events.  I have shared my vision, and it remains unchanged.  I look forward to meeting local moms & dads using cloth diapers in person and hopefully spreading the word about cloth diapers throughout the community!...
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Plop it, dunk it, scrape it or spray it ... how the poop gets to the potty

April 26, 2009

    I got this question during a tabling event for Earth Day and it seemed very timely.  Where does the poop go?  More importantly, how does it get there?
    Human waste should always be treated by a sewage or septic system.  Whether it is first contained in a disposable or cloth diaper is irrelevant.  Dumping human waste has the ability to perpetuate disease and is illegal in most states.
      Think about the food chain ... bugs eat garbage, bigger animals eat bugs, we eat bigger animals.  

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My Love-Hate Relationship with Pocket Diapers

February 5, 2009
Pocket diapers are constructed with a waterproof outer layer and a wicking inner layer.  One side of the diaper (usually the back) is left open so the user can "stuff" the center of the diaper with any soaker they would like.
When I first saw this design, I thought ewww.  You mean I have to pull a cloth out of the center of the diaper that has soaked up baby pee?  What if there is poop at the back of the diaper?  No thanks.
I bought all all-in-one diapers when I started using cloth diapers.  I ...
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How I knew I was committed to cloth

December 24, 2008
It's no suprise one of my major motivations to start cloth diapering was the cost savings.  What is a suprise was the day I walked into the second hand children's clothing store, and saw FREE disposable diapers in my daughter's size ... and LEFT THEM THERE.  I gave up something free that could be used.  I walked away.
What would you do?
I debated it for quite a while as I walked around the store.  I thought, what if all my cloth diapers need to be washed and my husband's home?  What if he decid...
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