Formula Feeding and Using Cloth Diapers

The other night, I was wasting time on Facebook.  I like to do that when I’m not chasing after my kids or trying to be mom of the year.  A question that I thought was kind of funny popped up.  She asked who was formula feeding and brave enough to use cloth diapers.

Wow.  Obviously, my formula feeding days are long over since Eudora is approaching two and Norton is approaching four… but I certainly do have experience with formula feeding and using cloth together.  I didn’t get the bravery part of it.  It was just… how I did it.

Then I read through more comments as they came in.  The thought process was that somehow formula fed poo was more difficult to deal with than breastfed baby poo.  Go figure.  Some also shared that they had friends who were reluctant to cloth diaper because of formula feeding.  I’m going to do a little mythbusting.  Granted, it’s all going to be 100% anecdotal since it’s based on my own personal experiences, but still, the point stands.

Formula Feeding Makes Gross Poo

I’ll be direct here.Formula Feeding and Cloth Diapers (They go together better than you think!) - Cloth Diaper Addicts

It’s poo.

Poo will stink.  It doesn’t matter how cute the baby or beast is that’s producing it.  Even the cutest baby in the entire world will produce some disgusting things.  You deal with it either way.  I have to say, when I was exclusively pumping for Norton, I found the seedy quality of exclusive breastfeeding poo to be maybe even a bit more disgusting.  It’s still poo.

How to Cope

Well, there are a few ways to cope with formula fed poo.

1.) Dunk and swish.  This is my least favorite method.  It’s just… gross.  And I almost flushed a diaper down the toilet doing that once because I’m awesome like that.

2.) Flushable liners.  Flushable liners can be great.  They (sort of) contain the poo and make for easier clean up.  They’re biodegradable.  They’re (relatively) cheap.  If your wee little poop machine is regular, then you can put in the liner at the right time, flush it, and be done.  However, they can also cause blockages.  (Anecdotal feedback alert.)  Two ladies in my local cloth diapering community have had blockages related to those flushable liners that resulted in a plumbing bill to the tune of $600.  Each.

3.) Microfleece liners.  They keep your diapers less poo stained.  They can protect when you use creams or whatever, even if the creams are “CD safe.”  And if you get poop that doesn’t just plop right off (and let’s be honest, newbie poo generally doesn’t), you can always just hold a corner of the microfleece, dunk and swish, and flush .  If it gets too gross, you can just toss it.

4.) Diaper sprayer.  I love my diaper sprayer.  I use it to spray diapers (obviously).  I use it to clean out the deep cleaning brush head on my Bissell SpotClean Machine.  I’ve used it to spray out other things, like my crock pot inner.  The adjustable pressure means that I can get the right amount of force to de-gross anything.  But be careful: it’s easy to forget and crank the pressure too high.  I’ve come across many a story of poo being on the bathroom ceiling for a person using it on max pressure the first time around.

5.) Scrape it.  Some people keep a spatula in the bathroom just for scraping poo.  I find that even more repellent than dunking and swishing.  If you can’t have a sprayer and don’t like to dunk and swish, the Scrubadoozy is a nice, low cost option.

Some people do it a little differently: they treat the formula poo just like water soluble “ebf poo” and throw it in the wash as is.  I’m too neurotic for that, so I haven’t ever tried it, but to each’s own.  Really, poo is poo.  It doesn’t matter what’s eaten to produce it.  It never smells like roses (and if it does, please let me know what you’re feeding your kid) and it always has to be cleaned up.

Did you think that cloth diapering with formula fed babies would be harder?

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. I didn’t know there were so many creative ways to clean cloth diapers! I only even knew of the dunk and swish and throw it in the washer.
    Winter recently posted…02/03/14 Pictures on Gold Locket GiveawayMy Profile

  2. My kids both had some amount of formula (either to supplement breast milk or on it’s own) and I was super confused at first how to handle the poop – people always tell you that EBF poop can go in the washing machine directly, and once you start solid the poop needs to be disposed of first, but nobody EVER addresses where formula poop falls on that scale! I ended up deciding that the distinction was really between liquids and solids, not breastmilk versus everything else. We put anything that came from a baby not eating solids directly into the diaper pail and the washing machine (without spraying or scraping or using liners) and never had any issues. Is that the “official” stance? Nope, because there isn’t one! 🙂 But it worked out totally fine for me! (And the only time I’ve actually found pieces of poop in the washing machine was when I didn’t rinse out a diaper used by a baby eating solids. So if the formula hadn’t been rinsing away properly, I believe I would have noticed it!) 🙂 I do wish there were more laundry instructions like this that cover what to do with formula poop, because it would be a shame to scare away potential cloth users who just aren’t sure what to do (not to mention, doesn’t it feel like just another way to “shame” or belittle those who use formula? “If you EBF your baby you can use cloth …. otherwise you can’t?”)
    Carolyn recently posted…Norwex Fluff And Tumble Dryer Balls Review And ExperimentMy Profile

    • It kind of does, honestly. I don’t get the “formula vs. breastfeeding” thing. Is the kid fed? Is the kid growing effectively? If the answer to these questions are both “yes” then who cares?

    • I do the same. My baby is now exclusively on formula now that I am back to work :-(…I treat his diapers the same as when he was EBF…meaning toss in the pail and then in the wash…no spraying or dunking step…my MIL who used cloth diapers with her two kids, was surprised how clean they come with no pre-rinse…I too believe it a solids/liquids thing and you don’t need to rinse before the solids phase…one less thing for us busy moms!!

  3. Anastasia says:

    Funny my first had issues with nursing (actually he has Autism so he had issues with being held for feedings) so I formula fed him. He was my first cloth diapered baby as well. I just washed. I don’t remember it being any harder or difficult or special or anything. His ALLERGIES were a pain but not the formula part of it. Gosh the rumors that go around, I’ve never even heard of this & I’ve been around this for almost 16 years.

  4. Man, this post makes me miss our diaper sprayer (it leaked in our rental and I was reluctant to reinstall). I don’t think this is a surprising question – it’s sort of like asking what to do once solids are introduced.
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  5. Melissa Siebenthal says:

    I cloth diapered my 2 formula fed babies. My first baby had very runny formula poo so I just through the diapers in the wash, poo and all. There were stains, but the diapers got clean, no problem! My second daughter has less runny formula poo, probably because she doesn’t have BM’s as often, so I use liners, but a lot of it still ends up on the diaper. I still just throw it in the wash. I sun out the stains, and it’s once again not an issue. I always read articles that say you have rinse off any poo other than EBF poo, but I disagree.

  6. I’ve always found it mildly amusing that the poo of breastfed babies is frequently lauded as being “sweet smelling.” I get the impression that breastfeeding advocates consider the heady fragrance of those seedy, yellow mustard bombs as a marketing ploy! LOL

    Yes, I realize it might not be as pungent as formula poo, but it’s poo nonetheless. I’ve done formula with my first two, and breast milk for my last five, and to me it’s all just poo. Maybe there’s just not much of a poet in me. It all smells weird, and it all belongs in the potty.
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  7. I can’t help but wonder how these rumors get started/where some people get these ideas from. To be honest, I’ve always heard the ebf poo is worse to deal with than formula fed baby poo. But, I’m totally with you: Poo is poo. We ended up formula feeding our daughter, but this thought never would have crossed my mind if I had bf. I don’t get it. lol
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  8. I am always late when it comes to cloth diaper knowledge. We are over with cloth diaper when I have learned that there already flushable liners, microfleece and so on. My son is formula fed so most of the times his poop is formed. That’s maybe the reason why most breastfeeding moms are hesitant to try cloth diaper since the poop are not that formed.
    Maye Domencil recently posted…A Weekend without House HelpMy Profile

    • Usually breastfeeding moms have no problem because they can just throw the whole thing in the washing machine, poo and all.

  9. I didn’t cloth diaper, but it never would have crossed my mind that formula-fed baby poop would be harder to clean. Like you said, it’s poop.
    Mandi recently posted…Grammy’s Beef Stew RecipeMy Profile

  10. My son was breast fed when he was first born and we later had to switch to formula. I can say, I didn’t really look closely enough to tell if there was a difference. LOL Poo is poo and it’s never fun to deal with!
    Tonya Bangart recently posted…{Swagbucks} Earn More from Your New Referrals — for LIFE!My Profile

  11. I’ve fed both ways – it’s all poop. Poop is poop is poop. Never even thought about it when choosing to CD. Just spray it off and wash it!
    MabeWithLove recently posted…This Is LifeMy Profile

  12. I hope I am lucky enough to breastfeed with my future baby… because I do plan on using cloth diapers thanks to my sisters insane stockpile and don’t really want to deal with extremely messy poo. LOL
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  13. Great information to know. I would definitely try if I have another baby.
    Michelle F. recently posted…DIY Abby Cadabby Birthday Party: Boutique Style Birthday Hat #TutorialMy Profile

  14. I didn’t use cloth diapers until my 3rd child and I seriously regret not using them with my older two kids. As, for formula, I only breast feed because I wanted to build that bond, but I have to say that poop is poop no matter what! LOL
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  15. I have never heard of this before. But I breast feed all my children so maybe that is why.
    Colleen Busch recently posted…A jar of Coffee Body Butter Lotion from Moody Sisters Giveaway / Review $10 ValueMy Profile

  16. I used to work in a nursery , and formula poo was so bad it would almost gag me. We used a diaper sprayer for our own kids’ CDs.

  17. My middle child has a disability and at 8 years old still wears diapers.. he was being fed solid diet and using cloth. Poop is poop.. it will all stink.. and it will all wash out too! But, I do agree that breastfed poo was easier than solid poo
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  18. I use the bucket method. I drape the diaper– poop side up, over the edge of a 5 gallon bucket. Using the hand held shower head set to “jet” I spray the poop into the bucket. When the diaper is clean, I dump the poopy water into the toilet and flush. No mess, no touching, no interaction with the toilet.

  19. I have used cloth diapers with both EBF & formula fed babies and I really didn’t see much of a difference. I found liners worked best for me.
    Patti Barnes recently posted…It’s True – Size Doesn’t Matter & It’s What you do with it that counts!My Profile

  20. Brittany Shaw says:

    Thanks for this article! I have always wanted to try cloth diapering and my daughter is formula fed.

  21. I don’t know that *personally* I could handle scraping diapers…but if it works!
    heather recently posted…How To Hold a Clothing SwapMy Profile

  22. I agree, we formula feed because I didn’t have much success breast feeding. Honestly, even the days where he was EBF and I was using cloth, I still washed the poop off before putting it in the washer, it still smelled and was still poop. I will say that some formulas we’ve tried on our son have had grosser poop than others, so we’ve settled on the least offensive (Enfamil), I’m sure every kid is different though. But honestly, dealing with poop is just part of being a parent. I’m glad we finished our laundry room before the baby arrived, because I’ve spent a fair amount of time in there (but the cost savings is HUGE).

  23. Theresa L says:

    I agree with most commenters either breastfed or formula fed, it’s poop. rinse it off (or if it’s runny enough, don’t) and throw it in the washer or your diaper pail.
    With my second we CD’d in the newborn stage (our first we started around 1 year) and when I found out that I can’t exclusively breastfeed past a few weeks I still didn’t rinse the poopy ones (and EVERY one was poopy) until they started to get slightly solid and wasn’t sure if I could still throw it straight in the washer without the washer getting gross. Which is nice b/c the first few weeks you are so tired that you probably won’t remember to rinse them anyways!

  24. Abbey R. says:

    This is so funny. I had to supplement with formula for my daughter and this question actually went through my head because at the time being new to cloth all I heard was something like this, “You don’t have to do a thing to the poo until you start solids because BF poo is water soluble!” or something like. I just treated her dipes like bf poo dipes and never had an issue.

  25. Lol @ “it’s poo. Poo will stink.”

  26. Amanda Young says:

    We’ve done both, and with the formula poo I’ve usually just been able to pick it up with a wipe, but if it was messier I’ve never had a problem just tossing it in the wash as is.

  27. I had no idea that people were more squeamish about formula poo than breastmilk poo until I read this post. My first daughter was partially formula fed for a variety of reasons, but my second baby is exclusively breastfed. In all honestly, I have not noticed a difference in cloth diapering them!


  1. […] vastly different opinions. But we can still be friends. Cloth Diaper Addicts made the decision to formula feed her babies. Although acknowledging that sometimes formula is the only option, I promote […]

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