How to Use Cloth Diapers

Lauren B. Stevens
April 29, 2015

You've bought the cutest cloth diapers you can find and have them ready to go. But how do you get them on your wriggly baby? Follow these tips for the best fit.

Whether you're out to save a few bucks, protect the environment or just think they're cuter than disposables, you've decided to use cloth diapers. Now that you have them, what do you do with them?

With a little practice, learning how to use cloth diapers is easy -- simply follow these tips from the pros for a perfect, leak-free fit:

Fit It Right
Entering into the world of cloth diapering can often be overwhelming -- there's new terminology to learn and multiple diaper styles to get familiar with. But learning how to use cloth diapers is easy once you jump in. Putting a cloth diaper on your baby is a little different from using disposables, but they can be just as easy to use, explains Maria Moser, owner of the cloth diapering resource site Change Diapers and director of operations for the charitable cloth diaper organization Giving Diapers, Giving Hope. "The back of a cloth diaper should be approximately even with the belly button, and the front should be at or scooping below the belly button. If you pull the back high like a disposable you may end up opening the rise unnecessarily and/or having leg leaks!" Though disposables have high backs to contain the dreaded "blow-out," cloth diapers shouldn't be worn as high. "Don't worry, the rear elastic will keep messes in," says Moser.

If you feel that you've gotten a good fit, but find that your baby's diapers are consistently leaking from the legs, Moser explains that the diaper "should sit in the leg crease where underwear would sit, not low on the thigh or caught in cute baby chub. You want the elastic to sit snugly against baby with no visible gap (make sure you can run a finger underneath -- you don't want it to be too tight!)." Still unsure about the fit of your baby's cloth diaper? "Make the front of the diaper a taco shape by cinching in the area that will fit between the legs while you flatten it against baby's belly. This helps the leg elastic to be in the right place. Smooth the front panel against baby and pull the wings around to secure," Moser explains. This ensures your baby's cloth diaper is fitted securely, no matter how much he wiggles and moves.

Fasten It Tight
The days of safety pinning cloth diapers are a thing of the past. "When you use cloth diapers in 2015, no pins are required," says Moser. There are two basic closures with cloth diapers, whether you're using a diaper cover or any of the more modern cloth diaper styles: fastening strips, like Velcro, or snaps closures.

When you're learning how to use cloth diapers, Velcro closures will be the most similar to a disposable diaper. These have waist tabs that secure the diaper with just the pressure of your touch. Cloth diapers and covers that use snaps require a little more adjustment, since you're securing the diaper with fixed snap locations, rather than just securing the tabs on a Velcro strip across the waistband.

Kim Rosas, owner of the cloth diapering site Dirty Diaper Laundry and executive director of Giving Diapers, Giving Hope, has made a career out of educating the public about cloth diapering, often giving cloth diaper seminars at parenting conventions. She explains, "To get the best and most secure fit using a cloth diaper, choose one side, pull it tightly around the baby's tummy and fasten. With Velcro it is easy peasy -- if the diaper snaps, choose to close the snap furthest away from the belly button first, then secure the rest. Do the same for the other side." Not sure how tight the diaper should fit? "Cloth diapers have elastic and many have stretchy tabs, so pulling tight and securing the tabs when it is snug will result in the optimum fit, and will ensure the diaper doesn't slide right off if they crawl away after!" says Rosas.

It may take a bit of trial-and-error, but you'll soon learn how to use cloth diapers. Though it may seem confusing at first, your little one will make sure you get plenty of opportunity to practice!

For more on cloth diapers, check out Cloth Diapers 101: Is Cloth Diapering Right for You?

When she's not writing about cloth diapers, Lauren Stevens tackles parenting topics (often with humor) and discusses women's issues on her blog.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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