Sewing for baby: Cloth Diapers

I am a Cloth Diaper Mama. I used cloth diapers for both Elliot and Clementine and found it to be a great experience. However, my babies both came out like long and skinny little birds, so the majority of the cloth diapers I purchased (these and these) were too big for them for the first few weeks. As a result I ended up using other newborn-sized cloth diapers that weren’t as cute (YES. BIG BUMMER THERE). So I drew up a pattern for a newborn diaper in the 6-8 pound range or so and sewed up a few before Clementine was born. This time around I wanted a bunch more. Cuter ones even. So I made a few more. I love the happy colors.

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I mention the appearance of these diapers because while issues like LESS WASTE, LOWER COST, LESS POO ALL OVER (yes really) and FEWER WEIRD CHEMICALS TOUCHING MY BABY definitely played into my decision to use cloth diapers, the thing that really sells me on cloth diapers is that they are FAR CUTER than disposables. Shallow, yes, but I find the Cloth Diaper Debates that always seem to spring up whenever the topic is brought up pretty tiresome. I suppose this is largely because I too used to participate in said conversations to the point where I finally realized, this is not fun anymore, this is actually….annoying. Here. Let me give you some examples:

Typical Cloth Diaper conversation #1:

New mom: I’m thinking of cloth diapering, can anyone tell me what they use?

A BAJILLION CLOTH DIAPER MAMAS: “Me! Me! Let me overload you with so much information you won’t know what hit you!!”

Typical Cloth Diaper Conversation #2:

Mom who chose not to cloth diaper: “I just can’t stand the thought of all that poo in my washing machine. (or the more commonly-used: “my husband can’t stand…”)

Cloth Diaper Mama: “Well actually, you get more poo all over everything with disposables because of how poorly they’re designed, and I use liners to toss the poo before they go in the wash, and there’s this diaper sprayer thingy that hooks up to your toilet…blah blah BLAH BLAH…”

Typical Cloth Diaper Conversation #3:

Mom who tried cloth diapers: “I just couldn’t get my cloth diapers to stop leaking so I gave up!”

Cloth Diaper Mama 1: “Have you tried X?”

Cloth Diaper Mama 2: “Have you tried Y?”

Cloth Diaper Mama 3: “Have you tried “Z?”

Typical Cloth Diaper Conversation #4:

Mom who chose not to use cloth diapers: “Well actually, if you look at the overall energy costs of doing all that extra laundry and manufacturing the cloth diapers in the first place, the energy comparison is kindof a wash…”

Cloth Diaper Mama: *world crumbling around her* “That is simply NOT TRUE!!”

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See what a crotchety old grump I am!?!  The truth is, it’s hard for Cloth Diaper Mamas not to feel at least a teensy bit morally superior, and we just wish that we could convert every mom over because in our heart of hearts we know that the only reason NOT to use cloth diapers is sheer ignorance. As a result, those who chose the disposable route can’t help but feel defensive around us. And that’s not cool. So I’d rather just sew sew sew away on my diapers and not be the Poster Child for Cloth Diapering, but then of course if you blog about them, it’s hard not to invite that in.

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So all that to say, I’m no expert on cloth diapering, but it’s worked well for me through two children now, so I’ll be using them again with this baby. And I might even manage to do a follow-up post or two on my cloth diapers and maybe even how I sew my own diapers, we’ll see what I have time for.

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For now, I’ll say this: these are pocket diapers, so they have a waterproof (PUL) outside, a soft microfleece or suedecloth inside layer (I use either), and they have an opening in the back between the two layers so you can stuff in a removable cotton or hemp insert(s) to absorb all the moisture. And yes it is quite a bit of work to make them rather than buy them. I would never encourage someone to sew their entire cloth diaper stash — that is craziness — this is something I do because I enjoy it, not because I want to avoid buying them. The cost you pay for this kind of thing in the store is totally worth the labor and time it takes to sew one, but like I said, I find it to be pretty fun.

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If you want to read more about these little pocket diapers, you can also read this post that I wrote about our cloth diapers four and a half years ago before Clementine was born.

Anyway, they’re CUTE.

51 thoughts on “Sewing for baby: Cloth Diapers

  1. Those are adorable. I’ve tried sewing my own, and I completely agree that I’d rather buy them. I’ll spend my sewing time on quilts and dresses.

  2. I cloth diapered my son until he was 8 months old, and I stopped because of untreated thyroid issues that presented with pretty nasty depression, and the antidepressants I went on weren’t working and screwed up my brain chemistry.

    I wish I had known it was my thyroid and gotten help for it sooner, because I’m fairly certain I’d still be cloth diapering, or at the very least, he’d be potty trained at this point. But I did get my sister to cloth diaper, and I gave my entire stash to my friend, so they are getting used.

  3. my kiddos are long out of diapers (I totally blame cloth for easy potty training). I never made my own as I didn’t really start sewing till they were a bit older…My hubs always laughs about the fact that we can’t have another baby cuz I’d spend all my time sewing a knitting for him/her.
    I have to say I was a fan of wool soakers, loved that big wool baby bum! Yours are so stinkin’ cute! Go mama.

  4. Wow, I remember your last post about making diapers for Clementine so well. Has it been that long? Where does time go?

  5. long time reader, first time commenter here! love the blog, love the patterns, love your styles. love this post! bless you for your honesty. I feel like so much of motherhood could just be done away with if we just all agreed that we made our choices BECAUSE WE WANTED TO. I chose to breastfeed until 17 months because I wanted to. I chose to wean her, because I wanted to. I cloth diapered because I wanted to. I chose to go back to work because I wanted to and my daughter went to an awesome daycare that did a great job with her! I get her wooden toys (usually from goodwill) because I like them. I cook because I like to. I bake because I like to eat. This doesn’t make me selfish, and I have no interest in hashing out every last rationale for every last decision I made so, there. I agree, these conversations can be so dull! and invasive! so thank you. and cloth diapers are the bomb and super cute. But I’m not going to sew them because I don’t want to. 🙂

  6. This reminds me of my own Clémentine and her cloth diapers. I felt isolated at that time because everyone thought I was completely crazy!
    By the way, I love reading your blog and I like your patterns! My babies are not babies anymore but I think I’ll try your baby patterns for my sister-in-law´s twins. Thank you for your blog!

  7. Aww, those are really cute! I esp. love the whales!

    We had cloth diapers for both of our kids. Our first kid was a boy, and our second was a girl… and I bought new pretty diaper covers for her. It was totally unnecessary, but they sure were cute!

  8. Loved your take on cloth diapering. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that 75% of my choice to cloth diaper was based on the cuteness factor and the fact that I love real fabric more than crinkly rough disposables. And it’s worked out so far!

  9. I use fold your own towelling nappies but I am seeing these groovy pre-folds everywhere!
    I love them, but do they take an age to line dry? I don’t have a tumble dryer….

  10. I love this post. So very sensible! I CD’d, but got pretty tired of all of THE INTERNET EMOTIONS people had about the extremely low stakes involved… so your conversations made me laugh.

  11. Rae, I think those are adorable. I Cloth diapered, for the most part, all three of my children using old school prefolds and the regular plastic pants you had to pull down. My daughter is a total cloth diaper mom and I just love all the awesome covers she uses. She asked me to make her some covers and I bought a book, but to be honest I feel a little overwhelmed by the process. Thanks for your post on covers, I may just have to try one out just to say I did.

  12. Great post! I try to curb my cloth diaper evangelism habits. A lot of parenting is just surviving and doing the best you can. Everyone has to figure out what makes sense for their own situation. I do love cloth diapers……although it doesn’t seem to be helping my 3 1/2 yr old son with potty training. More importantly, where did you find the polka dot and whale print PUL? Darling. There is absolutely no reason why I couldn’t gift a new baby with a homemade “swim diaper” right?

  13. Rae,
    How cute!!! I am cloth diaperin my 2nd child and in August will have a newborn to start from the beginning with. Id love to know where you get your PUL or whatever you used for waterproof layer if you get a minute to share. Super cute!

  14. Ahhh, they are so cute. I fondly remember cloth diapering (sigh). I always felt like I was beating “the system”, whatever that system may have been. Granted, I was perfectly happy shelling out the cash for someone else to do the sewing.

  15. this is hilarious to me, because i totally chose cloth diapers mostly for the cuteness factor. i barely give a hoot about any of the other reasons people love to site (and love to feel indignant about) – they were just so freakin adorable, they made me happy!

  16. This whole post resonated with me, especially the conversations about cloth nappies – I’ve been one of those cloth mamas in every single one of those situations!

    I agree with you that the cuteness factor is a huge win — it’s much easier to put up with the — frankly gross! — parts of child-rearing if you can do it with super colourful nappies. 🙂 I use coloured flats inside wool covers and the colours keep me going!

    I hope your soon-to-come experiences with these nappies are smooth sailing for you 🙂

    Jess

  17. I echo the sentiments of some of the above commenters by saying that these are super cute! I’ve been needing to make my daughter a few more PUL covers and was wondering where you sourced the polka dot and whale prints. TIA

  18. I LOVE this post! I can totally relate! I too wish all mums would give them a go. They are so easy (so much easier than I ever thought!) and oh so cute. I also made some before baby was born, for those skinny bums and legs. Baby turned out to be on the larger side so they didn’t fit. I’m glad I didn’t make too many, buying them was worth every cent!

    It’s not long until these cute nappies will get used!

  19. This made me laugh! I totally agree that this is one of those issues that brings out the claws… my reason for cd-ing? I’m super cheap! I did sew all mine, but again, because I’m cheap! Yours are so cute!

  20. I’ve had all of those conversations! I cloth diapered with baby boy 1, stopped when we had baby boy 2 and moved all at the same time, and now I’ve started again with baby boy 3 and toddler boy 2 as he is potty training and I can’t bear to buy paper diapers any longer but he is NOT ready for underpants.

    Making diapers…seems really complicated! Yours are great.

  21. These are adorable. There’s another reason parents I know don’t cloth diaper: we are working parents and daycare doesn’t allow them. I lucked out with my first kid, but by the second daycare no longer allowed them.

  22. ha! welcome to the ‘i have more than one kid (or two) club.’ i honestly think it’s mostly only 1st time parents who like to debate that stuff. everyone else just rolls their eyes… and finds it annoying, just like you do now. and i’m saying this as someone who did cloth diaper as well. i mean, really, who cares? there are a million more issues that are a million times more important than what you put on your baby’s bum.

  23. I have grandchildren older than your kids. I used cloth diapers with my first child born Dec 24, 1973. That is all I knew from baby sitting. We couldn’t afford disposables. We were still in school (high school). He worked & went to school. No really cute covers. I used cloth diapers when keeping my niece. I rinsed many a diaper in our toilet. My m-i-l helped in tha am & my mom picked up baby & diapers in pm & I folded diapers & changed them. When I had my second child in 1984, friends thought I was crazy. For me it was the only way I knew for 15 years. I had took care of infants so I knew how to clean poo & the diaper then scrub my hands. No liners. Fast forward 2009. Started out youngest grandbaby in cloth. They don’t hold as much since are prefolded. I used those long ones triple folded into a diaper. Regretfully my health won out. But I still love the thought of cloth diapers. It makes sense. For me it was always budget for my family. Personally, IF YOU USE CLOTH DIAPERS YOU ARE EXTREMELY SMART! Ladies if I was still having babies I would use CLOTH! Rae you are an awesome woman, wife, & mommy!

  24. Sooo cute! Planning to cloth diaper my first (due in August) and totally overwhelmed by all the info out there. Thanks for a truly enjoyable post! Would love to buy a pattern for these (all the babes in our families seem to be of the long and slim variety too)!

  25. Oh, please, please if you have time (in all of your spare time, I know), I’d love to know how you do your diapers. I want to make a few sets for a friend. I cloth diapered both of my kids, and it was great. I love the pocket style. I didn’t really sew at the time, so I bought all of my diapers.

  26. i bought some (crappy leaky made in china) diapers from this gal that sort of hoodwinked me when i was pregnant with Em. since they never worked very well but i’d already spent a bunch of money and didn’t want to get others, i didn’t end up using them much with her…and i used them even less with O. funnily, he’s using them more now as nighttime pull ups because i’m sick of buying those for the rare occasion he actually needs them. it’s also hard to CD when you have kids at daycare – but hey, even doing it just at home helps cut way down on disposables used. annnnyway i’d be totally willing to give CDing a try again if the ones i had were as cute as these! your conversations scenarios were hilarious. so true. HA.

  27. Great post. Altough my kids wear (did wear) disposable diapers, I understand the choice for cloth diapering. I did breastfeed my kids (one for 10 months and the other one for 6 months) and then you tend to have the same type of disscusions with non-breastfeeding mothers. I think, as moms we should support each other and not judge each other becouse we make different choices. By the way, those cloth diapers are very cute! 🙂 Enjoy the last weeks of your pregnancy.

  28. This is brilliant. I have such a soft spot for passionate opinions held and expressed within a tolerant environment. Why not, eh? People are complicated and people looking after people is even more complicated. Makes sense we should be infinitely diverse. And it also makes sense that we can each do our thing without detracting from anyone else’s way. beautifully written. really hits the right tone, for me.

    In return, I have a handy flow chart I made up which I’d like to share which helps me decide if parenting debates are worth entering into. It goes like this:
    Are we talking about humans —> yes—> are there only two camps in this debate—> yes—> do you instantly, whole-heartedly and under all circumstances agree with one camp or the other?
    —> yes —> nice to meet you, but I’m off to make some tea instead.
    —> well, it depends really —> congratulations, use your ruffler foot to make yourself a rosette, your certificate for a phd in real life is in the mail.

    They’re beautiful, btw. Amazing sewing this week. Loving the baby stuff.

  29. Just think, to every one of those conversations, you could be the cloth diaper mama who responds: “But cloth diapers are so much cuter!” A truly reasonable response that short circuits any argument.

  30. LOVE your freshly sewed ones. The PUL is adorable…where did/do you find such awesomeness? I am a cloth diapering mama and my absolute favorites are Charlie Bananas.

  31. My Sister used cloth diapers for all of her four daughters. Cloth diapers are great you save money it’s good for the enviroment. I love your cloth diapers. BTW you new website is very nice.

  32. I totally do it for the $$$ since I am on my third with the same boring flats and solid thirsties (how they have remained functional is short of a miracle). I purposely avoid the cute ones because I know how addicting they could be!!! my husband has talked about buying some new covers but I am holding out!

  33. I think you making some of these for clementine way back first inspired me to cloth diaper my son! It’s been 3 years now and I adore cloth diapering my kids! I was sad then that you didn’t have a pattern for it, but this past year I made my own pattern (and they look very similar to yours, style wise)! : )

    For sale here:
    https://www.etsy.com/listing/178205493/cloth-pocket-diaper-pdf-pattern?

    I hope you don’t mind me saying so : )..I admire your work so much. You have been one of my biggest inspirations these last four years!

  34. Adorable! I love that you make newborn!
    Do you sell your creations? I’m looking to expand the cloth diaper collection in my baby boutique and if you’re cpsia compliant, would love to work with you!

  35. We decided we wanted to do cloth diapers, mostly because it did work out a bit cheaper, and we’ve ended up with a mix of pocket diapers that we bought (or were given money for, which was awesome), and some other styles of cloth diapers that are diaper + separate cover that a friend whose kid is out of diapers passed on to us so they’re no longer taking up space in her home. They work really well for us. I very briefly considered sewing some, and then changed my mind when I took a look at how much the components cost and how much work it was going to be. We ended up with some really fun prints in pocket diapers. My personal favourite has skulls with heart-shaped eye sockets and pink bows. Girly and badass at the same time. I get what you mean about cloth diapers being more fun. I mean, we have diapers with duckies on them. And owls. And foxes. And then just a bunch of brightly coloured ones because those were cheaper. Disposables don’t come in orange. We don’t have a lot of the extra paraphrenalia, like a diaper sprayer and disposable liners, but haven’t needed them.

  36. I LOVED THIS POST. Your conversations are hilarious and true! I used a combination of both with my three kids. I started out using disposables mainly with #1, but by the third I preferred the cloth much more. However when travelling, or when at church (where the nursery helpers looked at me with deer in headlights when I mentioned my baby wearing cloth) then we would use disposables. Yours are adorable. Oh how I wish wish wish I could have another wee one and diaper their little bums and put them in big butt baby pants again. Those pants were staples with my third. Oh how i miss those days!

  37. Other reasons not to use cloth diapers: 1) daycare will not accept them, 2) no laundry inside the home, 3) personal choice.

    I love the idea of cloth diapers, however reasons 1 & 2 above were the main reasons I decided not to go with them, especially because I work 40+ hours a week outside the home. While others in a similar situation might be able to make it work, I was not. I can barely keep up with our regular laundry, let alone adding in more laundry that I have to haul to the laundromat *with* the baby. I don’t think that I could let the diapers pile up for a whole week in between loads as is done with the regular laundry.

    I think it is great if you cloth diaper, I think that it is fine if you do not.

    Ultimately I wish that there was less judging going on all around when it comes to child-rearing. Not to situations are the same, and you need to be respectful of others’ choices.

    That said, the diapers you made are cute and I am sure that they will work very well for your baby.

  38. You can make these?!?!? Oh my god so cute. Loving the different colors and patterns is the only excuse I can give on buying a few more diapers two months before my youngest (and last) was potty trained. I was going so well… The there was a clearance sale and… Couldn’t help myself. The first time I used disposables when my first was five months (?) there was poo up the back and I was like, “what the hell is going on here??? Why do people use these????” I could never get them figured out and afterwords just traveled with the cloth. These are so cute. Had I known you could make these I think I would have been in serious trouble (like I would have bought way too much cute PUL!).

  39. Love your diapers! Both my husband and I are the cloth diaper mama in each of those conversations – ha! My kids diapers weren’t nearly as cute though. We definitely went for economical and at the time I didn’t have the sewing chops. If we do it again (big if), I might try to sew some of my own. Then again, I might just make some as gifts… If you teach us that is. 😉

  40. 29 years ago I used cloth nappies and all those argument were around then. We didn’t have the lovely bright ones that are available today. I hope to be a grannie soon so I will be making some bright colourful one as you have. I am so looking forward to it.

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