Seriously, I really do love changing diapers these days.
Who am I? I’m a mom of three and a fairly recent cloth diaper convert. I dabbled in cloth diapering with my 2nd child and am now full-time cloth diapering my 3rd child. I like it so much that I wish I would have cloth diapered from the start with all of them.
Cloth diapering is not a popular choice in my region. None of my friends currently use cloth diapers, my siblings and I were not cloth diapered as children, there are no cloth diapering stores within a 50 mile radius of where I live. Around here the words “cloth diaper” usually conjure up an image of old school pinned prefold diapers covered by plastic pants. I probably never would have even given it a second thought, but I was sucked in by the cute factor. Whether it is solid colors, stripes, or prints, there is no denying these are cuter than anything Pampers or Huggies have put out there.
Yup, I was sucked in by the cute, but the reasons I keep at it are much better.
Why Choose Cloth Diapering?
1. Soft fibers on my baby’s bum
Scary chemicals aside, I feel better knowing that I’m putting something soft on my baby’s rear end. We’re talking about something that is up against his skin almost 24-7 for at least 2 years (and hopefully not much longer than that if I can get lucky with this kid!). Cloth diapers can be made from a variety of materials, including cotton, bamboo, hemp, and fleece. None of those sound scary to me… just soft! Cotton, bamboo, and hemp are absorbent materials. Fleece is sometimes used for a stay-dry layer.
2. Reducing exposure to chemicals
I’m all for reducing my baby’s exposure to chemicals, especially the potentially harmful kind. Many well-known disposable diaper brands are pristine white inside because of a chlorine bleaching process. Dioxins are byproducts of this bleaching process and are known to be harmful carcinogens. Dioxins can leach into the diapers and into the soil later on when the used diaper sits in a landfill. Sodium polyacrylate, a super-absorbent polymer, is the chemical in diapers that allows them to absorb so much. Though this chemical makes for a super cool demonstration when I’m teaching my chemistry class, it causes skin irritations in some babies. Disposable diapers also contain a number of other chemicals, including perfumes designed to mask odors. Some babies develop rashes because of sensitivities to the materials used in disposable diapers. Whether your baby has a sensitivity or you are just interested in reducing your child’s exposure to chemicals, cloth diapering is an option that will help you do this.
3. One less diaper in a landfill with every diaper change
Cloth diapering helps me feel that I am doing something positive for the environment. A typical baby goes through 3800 disposable diapers in its first 2.5 years. It is projected that those diapers will take 500 years to break down in a landfill. I like knowing that each time I change my baby’s diaper and put a cloth diaper on him that is one less diaper in a landfill.
4. Saving a few pennies doesn’t hurt
Though it is not the main reason I continue to cloth diaper, it doesn’t hurt to know that I am saving some money by doing so. Various cloth vs. disposable diapering cost analyses usually show a savings in the neighborhood of $1500- $2000, depending on what you spend on your cloth diapering “stash.” Of course, your savings increases with each subsequent child your diapering stash is used on. Also worth mentioning here, because I was surprised to discover it, is that there is a significant market for second-hand cloth diapers. If properly cared for, you can recoup up to 50% (in some cases more) of the cost of the diaper by reselling when you are done with them.
5. Experimenting is part of the fun!
The beauty of cloth diapering is that there are such a huge variety of options that there should be something out there that works for every budget, every baby, and every caregiver. This chart, from The Diaper Jungle, shows the four main types of cloth diapers and some further information about each option.
I’ve tried diapers in all of the categories in the chart above and find that I like having variety. I started with a few pocket diapers. I’ve heard that pocket diapers are a good “gateway” cloth diaper and I definitely agree that they are a good place to start. (I learned that I dislike stuffing the pockets, so they are not my primary diaper at the moment.) My son mostly wears Grovia AI2’s with hook and loop closure when we are out and about during the day. These are also the diapers I put him in when I leave my son with other caregivers because they are the easiest to put on. (Well, theoretically, they are the easiest when the diaperer has practice… My husband somehow managed to put it on backwards with the tabs fastened in the back which is why I usually do all the diaper changes around here.) Overnight we use a fitted diaper with a waterproof cover and my son wakes up with dry pajamas even after 11-12 hours. If we are home during the day for longer periods of time I will use a fitted diaper coverless (gives the baby’s bum a bit more airflow) and just change it when it feels damp.
Want to give it a try?
If you are curious about cloth, I’d encourage you to give it a try. It’s not going to take up all your time. All it really means is an extra load of laundry every other day. Plus, no one says you have to do it full-time right from the get go. To get started all you really need are a few cloth diapers, a wet bag (to store your dirties), and a good laundry detergent. Choose a laundry detergent with no added fabric softener. It is not necessary to purchase a special “cloth diaper” detergent, in fact there are some special “cloth diaper safe” laundry formulas out there that contain no actual detergent at all and could lead to stinky diapers.
Other tips and tidbits that I learned along the way:
- Don’t use fabric softener when washing cloth diapers as they can leave films on cloth diaper fabrics that cause them to repel wetness. To keep fabrics soft, wool dryer balls are a nice alternative to dryer sheets.
- Many diaper creams are not cloth diaper safe so make sure you find out before you slather up your baby’s butt. Coconut oil is a great alternative.
- It may take a little trial and error to get a good laundry wash routine down for your cloth diapers. You usually want to start with a rinse/quick wash with no detergent to get the yuck out first, then wash on heavy soil with plenty of detergent. Some like to do an extra rinse at the end. Refine as needed. Experiment with different water temperatures. Water hardness or softness can play a big factor in what detergents will or will not work for you. Cloth diaper manufacturers are usually very willing to help you troubleshoot if you wind up with stinky diapers.
- Stains are normal. Bleach is not usually recommended as it weakens fabric fibers. Try sunning your freshly washed diapers to remove stains instead! The sun is magic.
- Dealing with baby poop is a part of parenthood whether you use cloth or disposable diapers. If this is the only part that scares you about trying cloth diapering, then I say that is not a good enough excuse. Cloth diapers are so much better at containing poop anyway so you have nothing to worry about. What if I told you, you’d have no more up-the-back blowouts? Tempting, huh?
- Still worried about the poop? You feel icky about putting poopy diapers in your laundry machine, right? Get a diaper sprayer and install it by your toilet. You spray all the poop solids into the toilet and flush it. Now you feel better?
*Baby McAvoy 3 stylin’ poolside in an adorable Twinkie Tush cloth cutie*