Daycare Centers and Cloth Diapers

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Cloth diapering isn’t just for stay at home moms! Many working parents successfully cloth diaper full-time. Check out these tips for using cloth diapers at daycare.

In a nutshell

  • Cloth diapers are legal to use in daycares in almost every state.
  • AIOs or prestuffed pockets are generally easiest for daycare providers.
  • Using liners can make it easy to clean up soiled diapers that have been sitting in the wetbag.
  • Don’t forget to send wetbags, cloth safe rash cream, and wipes.
  • Make sure your childcare provider understands how to use the diapers

Are cloth diapers at daycare allowed in your state?

It’s common for daycare centers to believe that cloth diapers are prohibited by state law in childcare facilities unless you have a doctor’s note. However, very few states still have these prohibitions. Two states in which cloth diapers were previously prohibited in daycare, Maine and Michigan, both began allowing them as of 2014. Louisiana also has no current prohibitions against cloth diapers in daycare. The only two places in which cloth diapers do seem to require a doctor’s note for daycare use are Washington, DC and New Hampshire. Additionally, military parents report that most base daycare centers prohibit cloth diapers.

Of course, just because cloth diapers are legal to use in daycare centers, that doesn’t mean the center has to use them. Sometimes, that can take a little convincing on your part.

Getting your daycare to accept diapers

While some daycares are very accepting of cloth diapers, others are hesitant to use them, or prohibit them outright. Many daycare providers don’t know how simple and easy cloth diapers are. If your daycare of choice is hesitant, ask if you can show them how easy cloth diapers are to use. Once they realize that modern cloth diapers go beyond flats, diaper pins, and rubber pants, they might be willing to use your cute AIOs. Explain to the daycare that cloth diapers aren’t any more difficult or less sanitary than disposables. And if you have other options, tell them (nicely) that you’ll only consider sending your child to a daycare center that accepts cloth diapers.

Be clear about how the daycare will handle soiled diapers. For many daycares, the answer is, “not at all.” Most daycares will simply put poopy diapers into the wetbag, or into a separate plastic bag. Most will not tip solids into the toilet, and virtually no commercial daycare center will spray poopy diapers. However, some daycare centers may be willing to dispose of soiled liners in a trash can. Talk ahead of time about what the center is willing to do, and respect their limits.

What type of diapers should you send to daycare?

Generally, daycare providers want cloth diapers to be easy to use, and to be as much like a disposable as possible. This usually means all-in-one (AIO) or pre-stuffed pocket diapers. Additionally, many daycares won’t reuse covers, and require all parts of the diaper to be changed each time. This rules out AI2 systems, prefolds, or padfolded flats, unless you have enough covers to send a new one for each change. Some daycares also prefer aplix (Velcro) closures because they find them easier to use, although many daycares have no problems with snaps. Talk to your childcare providers about what styles they feel comfortable using before you buy your daycare stash. You also want to make sure that your chosen daycare diapers work without excessive leaks.

Remember that anything that you send to daycare might not make it home at the end of the day. If you know that you would shed real tears over losing your Bumgenius Jules with the perfect trifecta bum, or your amazingly blue and green Ragababe Oasis — then don’t send it to daycare. Some popular choices for daycare stashes include inexpensive brands of pocket diapers or AIOs like Alva, Sunbaby, Happy Flute, and Kawaii.

Daycares generally change diapers every two hours or when the diaper is soiled. As a rule of thumb, 6 – 8 diapers per day is a safe number for fulltime daycare. Very young babies may need a few more.

What if you have a nanny or send your child to an in-home daycare ?

If you have a nanny or babysitter who is caring for your baby in your home, or if you send your child to a small daycare located in someone’s home, you may have more options. For example, an in-home daycare may be more willing to use prefolds and covers. Some lion-hearted nannies may even be willing to spray soiled diapers. Talk to them about what your options are; however, be respectful of their limits. Most parents with nannies ask them to simply set soiled diapers aside for the parents to spray later.

What other cloth diapering supplies should you send?

  • Wetbag — Ask the daycare center how they prefer to store dirty diapers. Most will request that you send either a hanging wet bag or pail liner. They will probably also require you to wash the wet bag or pail liner after each use, so make sure you have several spares.
  • Cloth safe diaper cream — Daycares generally require parents to send a diaper cream to keep at the daycare in case of sudden rashes. If you’re using synthetic fabric fibers, send a cloth safe cream. Make sure you let the daycare know that other types of cream can damage the diapers.
  • Wipes — Send a supply of either cloth or disposable wipes. Cloth wipes should be pre-moistened (a zip-lock freezer bag is good for storage). Many parents who use cloth wipes at home prefer to send disposable wipes to daycare.

What if you have to label diapers?

Many daycares require all personal items to be labeled, cloth diapers included. The easiest (laziest) way to accomplish this is to simply write your child’s initials on the diaper tag with a permanent marker. However, this will lower the diaper’s resale value, and future children may have different initials. Another easy option is purchasing a set of washable clothing labels such as Tag Mates ($21 for 70) or Name Bubbles $22 for $84. You can also sew in labels, but make sure you’re only sewing through the liner, and not through the PUL.

Tips for making things easier for your childcare provider

  • Show your daycare teachers how to use cloth diapers — Some childcare providers are practically professionals when it comes to whipping on and off a cloth diaper, but others may have never used them before. Sit down with the teacher and show her how cloth diapers work and how to properly put on the diaper. Answer any questions she may have.
  • Snap blockers — If you worry that your childcare provider will snap diapers too tightly or too loosely, consider buying snap blockers. These will close off the incorrect snaps and leave only snaps open that correctly fit your baby. Some parents will also use a sharpie to mark the correct snaps.
  • Make sure the diapers that you send to daycare are ready to go — pocket diapers stuffed, liners in place, rise snaps properly adjusted, etc. You want to minimize the work on the daycare teacher.
  • Keep an open line of communication and address problems as they come up — If the diapers are leaking, having blowouts, smelling bad, or causing other issues, talk respectfully to your childcare provider about it and work to come up with a solution.

Tips for making things easier for you

  • Use liners — Once your baby is on solids, liners make daycare cloth diapering so much easier. Disposable liners are thin sheets that keep poop off of the diaper. You can use specific cloth diaper liners, or make your own with the purple pack of Viva paper towels. Generally, you can toss the liner and the solids with it, eliminating the need to spray dirty diapers. These are especially great if you don’t get around to unpacking the wetbag for a day or two. Some daycares will even tip poopy diapers in the trash can for you, although others won’t handle dirty diapers in any way. (Note: We generally recommend against flushing disposable liners, as they can clog plumbing. If you do flush them, do so at your own risk, and let them soak in the toilet for as long as possible before flushing.) 
  • Alternately, you can make your own reusable liners out of microfleece. Reusable fleece liners are fantastic because they’re very efficient at keeping soil off of the diaper, and they’re also very easy to clean, even if you don’t have a sprayer. To make reusable liners, buy some microfleece from a fabric store (don’t forget to look for coupons) and cut into rectangles (about 6″ x 11″ is a nice generous size). Microfleece doesn’t fray, so there’s no need to hem them. You can get microfleece for about $5 per yard on sale, and since they’re reusable, they wind up being much more cost effective that disposable liners.
  • Have a separate bag for poopy diapers — If you don’t want to use liners, or if your daycare provider won’t dispose of them, send a separate bag to hold poopy diapers. This will keep wet diapers from getting soiled, and will also help you quickly identify which diapers need to be sprayed.
  • Have a large stash — The last thing a busy working parent needs to worry about is washing cloth diapers every other weeknight. If you can afford it, having a large daycare stash makes cloth diapering much easier. Ideally, you can drop off a week’s worth of cloth diapers on Monday and not have to worry about them until Friday.
  • Use AIOs — Many parents love pocket diapers for daycare because they’re affordable and it’s easy to adjust the absorbency. But several new styles of AIOs are absorbent and affordable, such as the Alva charcoal bamboo AIOs or the new-style Happy Flute overnight AIOs. Not having to stuff pocket diapers can be a big time saver. And if you run out of diapers on Friday morning, it’s easy to grab AIOs out of the dryer on your way out the door.


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