There are MANY ways to do cloth diapers and if you are anything like I was, you might be a bit overwhelmed at the thought of cloth and where to start -- but don't worry!! You are not alone, and it's much less scary when it's broken down. This post highlights our personal experience with cloth along with what has worked best for our family so far. I'm a big fan of "doable", so you're in good hands.
We started cloth about 2 weeks in with our now 7 month old. Using disposables for the first couple of weeks allowed me to feel somewhat normal again after the birth and then when I could wrap my head around the cloth process, we dove in. Some people start cloth straight away, and we may do so if we have another, but if you're feeling apprehensive, feel free to give yourself a break and some time to adjust, especially if you're first time parents.
Let's start with the TYPE of diaper that has worked really well for us. We have tried almost every type available; all-in-ones, pocket diapers, flats (or inserts/pre-folds with shell) and hybrids you name it...But we settled on a simple rotating combination of cotton pre-folds and bamboo or hemp boosters/inserts with a shell (see photo above). We like this because it didn't require us to throw the entire diaper in the wash after one pee - like you'd have to with an all-in-one or hybrid - plus the insert switch-out is quick and easy. This also allows us to pack lighter when we go out. Avoid all synthetic fabrics as this will surely result in a rash and absorbency is nowhere near as high - which we obviously found out the very hard way with microfibre inserts - thank goodness for coconut oil and lots of diaper free time.
We keep an old kitchen garbage pail (with a step to open lid) next to our change table to hold the dirty diapers. For solids, we plunk into the toilet first and put the insert into the pail, we have found no need to soak the diapers unless we are washing less frequently than 2 days so they just go into the pail as-is and we haven't had an issue with smell so far.
For detergent, you want to be aware that you are using an all natural detergent that rinses well. If not, you will start to get a buildup on the diapers and will lose absorbency (and that's sure to kink up your game). We use a natural laundry powder from our local refillery but most detergents will work fine like these popular brands here, just make sure you are avoiding bleach and fabric softeners. I personally always suggest a natural formula to avoid any irritation to baby.
When we started, we were running 2 washes/load but quickly realized this was unnecessary and wasteful as the diapers were coming clean in the first wash (note that formula-fed baby poop may be a little more stubborn so wash as it makes sense for you). You can choose to run a cold rinse at the beginning of your cycle and/or a second rinse at the end - we just run a deep wash in hot or warm water and add a second rinse cycle. Hang diapers to dry as much as you can as this will help keep the fibres in tact. When using the dryer, opt for warm vs the hottest setting for the same effect. Side note for drying diapers outside: the sun works like a natural bleach and will make sure they come out extra sparkly.
Side note: We have yet to buy a toilet sprayer though this is one item I thought we would need for sure. Breastfed poop rinses clean and now that she's on solids, the poop just falls into the toilet, no need to rinse in most cases.
What you need to get started with cloth diapers
25 cotton/hemp/bamboo pre-folds or inserts (or a combination) + 5-10 waterproof shells - buy online, at a baby store or second hand from a consignment store or Facebook Marketplace.
A pail with a lid (preferably step or auto open). A regular diaper pail will work fine too.
Natural laundry detergent
An open-mind and patience
That's it - you've so got this! Though there will most likely be a bit of a learning period, but don't give up. Month 1-2 is where we decided we couldn't go back to disposable even after a few attempts and one offs. But if you decide to supplement and do a combination, go for it, there are no rules as long as it works for your family and lifestyle.