The biggest decision to make around the topic of diapering and changing is what kind of diapers to use. You might be like me and just assume you were going to use disposable and that’s that—which is fine of course. Or you might be open to considering cloth—either way I’ll outline the basics of both as well as things like where to change the baby and what to do with the diapers once you’re done.
Disposable diapers are convenient and easily available. Each brand fits a little differently and you just don’t know what size or shape baby you’re going to have in advance, so I would advise buying a package or two of newborn size in a couple different brands so that you can experiment and find out what seems to work best for you. I think it’s fairly typical to start-off with a name-brand like Pampers or Huggies and then as the baby gets older switch to something that’s generic and a little cheaper. Newborns typically go through 10-12 diapers a day and that slows down to 8-10 after a bit (maybe 3-5 months or so) and then down to 6-8 after their first birthday (those are really big generalizations, but just to give you an idea). You can get Huggies in bulk at Costco as well as the Costco brand of diapers which we’ve had really good luck with. At least in the Costco brand they don’t have newborn sizes though so you’ll have to wait a bit before you can save a little money that way. The primary disadvantage to disposable diapers is cost. Based on some rough estimates I ran, disposable diapers could run you from $500 to $800 in the first year, depending on what brand you buy.
Not as many people use cloth diapers so you might not know that much about them or think they seem difficult (i.e. pins and rubber pants). Luckily cloth diapers have come a long way and they’re actually pretty straight-forward now once you understand your options. Although there are three main variations (which I’m happy to expand upon if anyone is interested) cloth diapers today consist of an inner “diaper” that actually absorbs everything and an outer cover that is generally layers of cloth with a laminated layer between them to hold the wetness in. You can pretty much only buy cloth diapers on the web (the stuff you find at stores are really just good as burp cloths). Keep in mind that you don’t have to go whole hog one way or the other. We used disposables with Henry until he was 9 months old and then switched to cloth. We still use disposables when we go out, travel and at daycare. Still the cost is less. Based on my estimates a year of cloth diapers (not including washing costs) would be about $380 for the cheapest cloth option.
There are all number of different diaper crèmes on the market. They generally fall into two categories—the ones that are petroleum based and the zinc-based ones. The petroleum based ones are some version of yellow and are used as a preventative. The idea being, you slather a layer on the baby to keep the wetness from making contact with their skin. A&D is a pretty reliable standard. The second kind which is zinc-based is for healing diaper rash once you already have it. Zinc-based creams are white just like the lifeguard nose stuff. We’ve had good luck with A&D and Burts Bees.
The decision here is first whether you want to have a specific piece of furniture to use as a changing table or if you are more of a “change anywhere” kind of person. Changing tables can definitely be had inexpensively and some people really like having the extra two shelves for storage of all kinds of baby stuff. They generally come with a changing pad that is on the top “shelf.” The downside to changing tables is that they take up a lot of room and some people wind up switching to the bed or the floor if their baby is particularly wiggly, once they’re bigger.
Another option is to use a low-dresser or other piece of furniture that you already have as a changing table. You can buy the foam changing pads to go on top of the piece of furniture and then if you’re no longer using it as a changing table anymore, you just use the furniture for it’s original intent. Of course this way there are no railings around the baby and if it’s true that you can’t leave the baby on a standard changing table without a hand on them—you absolutely can’t leave your baby when they don’t even have that inch tall lip around them.
There are also baby dressers that are now sold with a changing table top (i.e. there are wood railings around the sides) so you combine two pieces into one.
Other people prefer to just use the floor, couch or bed and find it more convenient to be able to change wherever rather than having to go to a dedicated place to change diapers. One thing to consider is that babies sometimes make messes while you’re in the middle of changing them—you’ll want to make sure you have some kind of good water-proof protector on any surface you’re using to make clean-up easier.
Assuming you’re using one of those foam changing pads (either on your changing furniture or on the couch) you’ll need a few covers that go with the pads. I found these got washed pretty frequently and we’ve been really happy to have the 4 pads that we have. I would say that at least two are pretty necessary.
I’m not sure what it is about diaper pail marketing but before I knew anything about changing diapers, I had heard of the Diaper Genie. There’s also the Diaper Dekor, and the Diaper Champ rounding out the top of the diaper pail market. We chose the Diaper Champ because I liked that it used regular trash bags (with the other systems you have to buy their refill bags which are pricey) and was easy to use—some of them are actually a little confusing or just physically hard to use until you get the hang of it.
I was actually pretty happy with the Diaper Champ until somewhere after a year. It still held the smell inside well, but heaven forbid you had to open it and change the bag. No amount of bleaching, baking soda, sunlight, or scrubbing could get rid of the absolutely disgusting smell that just imbues the plastic. So, we took a note from our cloth diaper experience and bought a small trash can with a lid and a foot lever. It was about $12 at home depot and works great. It holds the smell in just as well as the Diaper Champ, cost a LOT less, and even if the plastic winds up smelling as bad we can easily replace it without losing any sleep.
I feel like diaper bags are similar to slings—there’s absolutely too many makers to give any sense of what’s really out there. You can find all manner of them at boutiques, at Target, online, at Babies-R-Us, etc. The main thing is to find one that a) you like the look of, b) both Mom and Dad won’t mind carrying, c) it’s got the kind of straps you want and d) you think the design of it (i.e. pockets and zippers, etc) seems like it makes sense for what you’ll need to carry.
I think elastic pockets on the outside are great because you can stick a bottle or a sippy cup in them and be able to access it easily. I consider it a must to have either back-pack straps or a courier-type strap so that the bag isn’t falling down my shoulder when I’m trying to balance the baby on the opposite hip. I also tend to pack light so I don’t want something that I could plan a week’s camping trip with. Many diaper bags come with portable changing pads—if the one you like doesn’t definitely plan on registering for this item as well. If it holds some wipes, even better.
Another thing to consider is just finding a bag, any bag that you like and that looks like it would work to carry around the stuff you’ll need. You can add your own portable changing pad and it doesn’t have to be sold as a “diaper bag” for it to work.
At the beginning you’ll need space for more stuff. When you go out you’ll need the changing pad, several diapers, wipes, a pacifier if your baby is taking one, bottles and formula (if you’re not breastfeeding), as well as a change of clothes and at least one light blanket.
Q: Do you put the diaper creme on every time you change the diaper or just at night? I haven't changed many diapers, so the whole process is new to me. Also, how many cloth diapers are you starting off with?
A: I think it depends a lot on the baby how much diaper crème you’re using. Henry doesn’t have particularly sensitive skin and I don’t think he ever had a diaper rash until he started eating solids. We probably used the A&D regular ointment occasionally when he was itty bitty but then since there was never any diaper rash didn’t keep it up. Once he started eating solids and the poop gets worse to have against your skin, he did get some diaper rashes. In that case we would use the A&D zinc ointment every time we changed him (to help heal what he had) and would use the A&D regular ointment anytime his bum started looking a little red.
I know some Docs will tell you to use the regular petroleum jelly preventative kind every diaper change and you’ll never get a rash, but it seems like it just depends a little bit on your baby.
One important note—any kind of diaper crème, but especially the zinc kind can ruin your cloth diapers. If you’re using diaper crème you have to make sure to use paper liners between the diaper and their bum and it also helps to have a little strip of fleece in there as well—just to make sure the crème doesn’t get on the diapers. I can explain this in more detail in person if you’d like.
As far as how many cloth diapers to have. If you are going with the cheapest “system” which is pre-folds (the diapers) and separate covers, I believe they advise 2-3 dozen diapers and 6-8 covers so that you’re doing laundry every other day or so. If you’re not using cloth exclusively you could probably get away with closer to 1-2 dozen diapers, but I would still have the 6-8 covers just to make your life easier.
I would recommend having some disposable diapers on hand even if you’re pretty sure you want to go with cloth for two reasons—the first few days of their life babies’ poop is called meconium and it’s completely disgusting—thick, black and tar-like. I would really suggest using disposable diapers until you’ve moved on to the much less offensive normal stuff that comes next. Also, there’s a lot to adjust to when you have a newborn and you just might not feel up to learning the inns and outs of cloth diapering. That doesn’t mean you should just give up on the idea altogether, but it’s perfectly reasonable to want to get the basics of babycare down before you move on to cloth diapering (which isn’t to say it’s hard really, it’s just probably something you haven’t already done and need to learn a little about.)
A: In the beginning, especially I think if you breastfeed, they really do not need diaper rash cream, although mentally it may make us feel better:). Their pee/poop is not as acidic as when they are older and eating more solids and even then, it depends on what they eat and sensitive their skin is.
There is a really good diaper rash powder called Caldesene, it's not talc based and it has great drying properties without drying out the skin and the risk some say talc powders have. When you reach the point that your baby is eating solids and you are using diaper cream, highly recommend this powder in addition to the cream especially if you find your baby is really sensitive to wet skin and wet/poopy diapers. You can get it at Walgreens only though.
A: One final note on diaper rash creme: A friend of mine with a two year old raved about a product called Boudreaux's Butt Paste. It has garnered much online acclaim as well. They sell it at Target. If nothing else seems to work, it seems to be the stuff to try.