Welcome to the Baby Gear Series! When you’re getting ready for a baby, long lists of “must haves” can be overwhelming. Here’s what you ACTUALLY need (and all the stuff you don’t). Click here for an introduction, links to the complete series, and a FREE baby gear checklist and e-book!
As in feeding, there are multiple ways to diaper: cloth, disposable, both (or part-time cloth), and diaperless (sometimes known as Elimination Communication, or EC). EC is very common in some cultures (notably East Indian and Chinese), but has been becoming increasingly common in the U.S. I know absolutely nothing about how to do it, so I won’t be covering it here, but searching “How to do EC” should help you out there. The majority of Americans still use diapers, and the cloth vs disposable debate has become one of those oddly hot-button topics. My goal in this blog is not to start online riots, so I’ll just explain what we do and why. Before I do, though, let me just say: it is your baby’s behind, and you are the one changing the diapers. Therefore you, and you alone (well, you and your spouse), have the right to decide what to cover that little tush with. Okay? Okay. At our house, we do cloth at home during the day (to save money and help care for the environment) and disposables at night and in public (because Man cub is a super soaker with sensitive skin and cloth overnight leads to leaks, rash or both for him. Also, no way am I toting around soaked cloth diapers. I do have limits). Sometimes we do disposables for a while at home if Man Cub has a bad rash (they seem to help) or if Mama just needs a break. We also did disposables until his cord fell off because I didn’t like the newborn Rumparoos we had (newborns need a space for the umbilical cord, cloth or disposable), and I was sleeping in 2 hour increments as it was- extra laundry was not happening. Again, that isn’t the only or best way, just what works for us. Find what works for you.
- 8-24 Cloth Diapers. Go figure. There are a variety of kinds (I’ve used waterproof shells with inserts that you set inside, all-in-ones, and pockets- waterproof shell on one side and cloth that wicks away moisture on the other- that you stuff with absorbent cloth). I’m planning a cloth diaper post, so I won’t go into too much detail now, but I can recommend Econobum (the cheapest way I’ve found- you can get all the diapers you need for $50-100 [depending on how often you want to wash]- and super easy to use) and Bumgenius 4.0/5.0 (Pocket style & particularly good for sensitive skin). In my very official research (I asked other moms on Facebook), my friends also recommended Growvia, Kawaii, and Little Nickis. I recommend trying one of each kind/brand you’re interested in (see if you can get it used or borrow) for a while until you find what you like, then stock up! I have found that Cotton Babies has consistently low prices and runs frequent sales. Get it used? Absolutely! That’s the beauty of cloth! Just wash well first. If they have stains, sun bleach them (wash, then lay out to dry in the sun). Oh, and since cloth diapers often have natural fibers and are on baby’s skin for a long time, it is important to use a good soap, like my homemade laundry soap.
- 10-40 Cloth Wipes. If you’re doing cloth diapers, you may as well do cloth wipes. You can certainly buy them, or you can do what I did and cut up flannel. You can edge the fabric with a sewing machine, but honestly I didn’t and after a year and half, they have barely frayed. One note though- flannel works well but don’t use cotton, I tried cutting up an old T-shirt and the ends tend to roll up, making it not terribly helpful as a wipe (good for cleaning up little spills and toothpaste dribble, though). Get it used? Yep!
- Spray Bottle. Since cloth wipes aren’t pre-moistened, you’ll want a spray bottle handy. I use water only, but you can add a very small amount of witch hazel (1tsp) or rosemary essential oil (1-2 drops) to help clean & disinfect. A drop or two of lavender essential oil will help soothe diaper rash. Get it used? No, start with a new one.
- Diaper Rash Cream. I’m not sure if any baby has ever gone through diapering and never gotten a rash. Diaper rash cream is a must. With cloth, there are special considerations. Natural Rash cream is best, so as to not strip the fibers of their absorbency. The absolute best diaper rash cream we’ve used is coconut oil. Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, Natural (the green tube) also works well. It does stain the diapers sometimes (which can be fixed with sun bleaching, if you care. I don’t so I just let it be stained.) but they are still absorbent. Get it used? I wouldn’t, because of bacteria.
- Optional: Diaper Sprayer. There are a variety of cloth diaper accessories, like the diaper sprayer. It looks like a small hose that attaches to your toilet. You use it to spray poop off the diaper (because you don’t want to put it in the wash with a lot of poop on it. I have never used one; I use the “Dunk & Swish” method, which works quite well for us. Get it used? I think that would be fine, if it was clean.
- Diapers. Another brilliant insight. Seriously, though, my best advice here is don’t get hung up on a brand name. Find what works for you. We use Up & Up (Target) diapers- regular and overnight (if you have a heavy wetter the overnights are SO worth the extra price), because they work well and are cheap. We tried at least seven brands (including Pampers, Huggies, and some pricey “eco-friendly” ones that had awesome reviews), and these worked the best and were the second cheapest (only Parent’s Choice [Walmart] beat on price, but they leak). My friends also recommend Kirkland (Costco) brand. Start with 1 box Newborn size (and any you can get for free); the hospital will also give you some newborn size. After that, you can see what size you need. Get it used? Well, not used, but I wouldn’t pass up an opened bag of diapers in any brand.
- Wipes. Try a variety until you find a consistency you like (my mom friends were quite divided on this). We like Nice-Pak from Walmart (the brand isn’t on the package, but they have blue dots), they are thin but effective and you can fit a lot in a ziplock because they are so thin. Parent’s Choice (Walmart brand) are thicker, which is more effective on solid diapers, but they tend to tear. I am going to try Up & Up (Target) next. Get it used? Again, unused but open.
- Diaper Rash Cream. For a bad diaper rash, Aquaphor is amazing. Coconut Oil or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste will work, too. Get it used? Not so much.
- Dirty Diaper Receptacle & Liners. You’re going to need to put those dirty diapers somewhere. For cloth diapers, you’ll want a “wet bag” (a large bag that is waterproof on the inside). Actually, two- so you always have one even when you do laundry. You can put the bag in a diaper pail or even a lidded trash can to cut down on smell, or you can be super classy like me and just hang it on the wall/door knob or set it on the changing table. Closing the bag and/or adding baking soda helps with the smell. For disposables, you can use an actual diaper pail (I’d find one what you can use plain trash bags for; our Munchkin one was okay but requires special liners, I have had a number of friends who did not like their Diaper Genies), or just a trash can. Since we only use up about 7-10 disposables a week, we just use a trash can. You will want to line it with a bag, though. Oh, and if it doesn’t lock, put it up high. You do NOT want your toddler playing in it. Get it used? As long as it still works.
- Rattle or Small toy. I’m not even going to list this as optional. Unless your child actually enjoys diaper changes (if so, please tell me your secret!), you’ll need something to entertain them while you change them so they don’t spend the whole time trying to escape. We rotate between a small music player, small stuffed animal, and teething toy. Be sure it is lightweight and soft for little ones who can’t always control their arms. I once handed Man Cub the music player when he was too young for it, and he promptly dropped it on his face. Get it used? Yep!
- Hand Sanitizer. While washing your hands is best, sometimes there’s just not time. Hand sanitizer is for those times. Just be sure baby does not ingest it (even homemade alcohol-free versions).
- Optional: Waterproof Liners. I covered changing pads in nursery, but I wanted to mention that I LOVE Munchkin Waterproof Changing Pad Liners. They come in a three pack; we got two. You can use them on a changing table/pad, or on a bed, out in public, even under a swaddled baby to catch diaper leaks. Just be sure to wash on cold or they fall apart. Get it used? Sure.
- You probably don’t need: Wipes Warmer. Some brands have been recalled as a fire hazard, and it’s an extra cord to watch out for. If a warm wipe is important to you or your baby, you can always hold it in your hand for a few seconds or blow on it. But honestly, no baby ever died from a cold wipe.
And there you have it. I’m not going into potty training gear, partially because this guide is only about the first year and partly because we haven’t crossed that particular bridge yet. I’ll let you know when we do!