This series of posts is dedicated to dear little S., due in September. Her parents’ questions about cloth diapering are what inspired me to share what I’ve learned.
Interested in (or at least curious about) cloth diapering, but not sure where to start?
The good news is that since so many more people are choosing to do cloth diapering, so there are tons of resources available. The bad news is that because so many more people are choosing to do cloth diapering, there are tons of resources available – as if you didn’t have enough decisions to make with a new baby coming soon!
I do not claim to be an expert on all the myriad kinds of cloth diapers available. I will admit right now that I have never tried pocket diapers, for example, only pre-folds and covers. The truth is that after a minimal amount of research I decided to just go with what my sister used. After all, she loved pre-folds, and I trust her opinion, plus I knew I would always have a resource close at hand!
So what follows in this new cloth diapering series reflects my experience with pre-folds, although many of the observations will apply to all cloth diapers. I hope to have a guest post soon giving an overview of all the cloth diaper options available, so stay tuned!
Still Making Up Your Mind?
Not sure whether you want to use cloth or disposables? Here are some arguments in favor of cloth diapering:
1. Better for the environment (except for, you know, all that water…) There have been a few times when traveling that we’ve used disposable diapers exclusively, and the amount of waste generated was incredible. Yes, you do use a lot more water with cloth because of all the extra laundry, but don’t they use a lot of water making the disposable diapers? Plus, the truth is that with a child we waste a lot more water generally. Think of summertime sprinklers and playing at the sink! The extra water seemed less of a problem to me than the extra waste.
2. Better for your wallet – Again, you could argue that you will have a higher water bill because of the extra laundry, but we did the calculations once (unfortunately I didn’t save them!) and it was still much cheaper to use cloth diapers. According to Whole Living magazine (April 2012 issue), the cost per child is $170 for cloth vs. $725 with disposables. You will have some sticker shock because of the cost of the initial investment in the diapers, but if you think that’s bad, wait until you realize how many packages of disposable diapers you will go through in a week! I used disposables exclusively once when traveling, and it seemed like we were buying more diapers literally every other day.
3. Better for your baby’s bottom – I have read arguments both ways about whether cloth or disposable diapers lead to more diaper rash. I can only say that my little Monkey does much better with cloth. The evidence? Whenever we travel and he exclusively uses disposable for a few days, he ends up with a rash. I suspect that a large share of the blame goes to the disposable wipes, which I dislike more than the actual disposable diapers, but the diapers certainly don’t help. My little boy has inherited my sensitive skin, and it definitely reacts to the disposable materials.
(A couple tips, if you do have to go with disposables for a time: Invest in better, more natural diapers. They are more expensive, but easier than combating a bad case of diaper rash. Plus it will give you less heartburn over not using cloth during that time. Seventh Generation is perhaps the best known brand and probably the most environmentally friendly, though I have heard mixed reviews about performance. I personally love Huggies Pure & Natural. And if you have to use disposable wipes, make sure to dry off the diaper area afterwards with a soft cloth. More than anything, this step helped with our diaper rash problem).
But in the bigger picture, I also worry a great deal about the long-terms effects of having all those chemicals from disposable diapers get up close and personal with my little Monkey’s special parts. And in the end, that was what sold me on cloth diapers, hands down.
4. Better for potty training – Although we haven’t quite gotten to this stage ourselves (just beginning!), the idea is that cloth diapers allow your little one to actually feel when he is wet or messy and so help him know when he needs to be changed, the first step in helping him be aware of his bodily functions. In fact, many disposable-wearing toddlers are switched into cloth training pants when it comes time to potty train for this very reason.
Before you jump in…
So now you know why I love cloth diapers. But I am going to spill the beans on some of the downsides of cloth diapering, at the risk of driving some people away, just because I think it is better to know what you are getting into.
1.It is messier. No way around it, cloth diapers are more messy. Unless you opt for a cleaning service (we decided not to after learning that the one in our area would return any old kids’ diapers to you, so you were essentially sharing used diapers with a wide range of other kids out there), you will be dealing with a whole bunch of soiled diapers. Diapers in general are messy, but with cloth you have the added bonus of needing to rinse out the poopy ones in the toilet. (Although to be honest I never started doing this until my little Monkey really started eating solids – breastmilk poops are so runny and less smelly that there’s not really a need for this extra step).
2. It can be stinky. If you have a sensitive sense of smell, beware. Fortunately I don’t, but unfortunately, other members of my household do, and we have had to take extra steps (lots of baking soda, washing frequently, adjusting our diaper pail) in order to deal with the smell. Having said that, I should also mention that we also have to take extra steps with disposable diapers (double bagging before tossing), so the smell is definitely there with those, too. The main difference is that disposables you can bag and toss whenever you feel like it, while the diaper pail full of dirty diapers has to sit and wait a few days until it is time to do another load of laundry. There are steps you can take to lessen the smell, however, which I will address in a future post.
3. It is more time-consuming. Again, this mainly applies to the clean-up after your baby starts eating solids. The actual changing takes no more or less time than with disposables. But once baby starts eating solid foods, you will have to take some time to rinse out the diapers in the toilet before throwing them in the diaper pail. Also, you will have to change your baby more frequently, since, unlike disposable diapers, the diapers still feel wet after they have peed. (Doesn’t that make you wonder, though, what’s in those diapers that allows your baby to feel dry even after peeing?) And all time needed to do all that extra laundry can add up. Since I am at home full-time, however, it really doesn’t take much extra effort to wash the diapers, which I typically do every third day.
4. Your baby will have a super-butt. I guess you could consider this an advantage or a disadvantage 😉 but wearing cloth diapers will definitely change your little one’s silhouette. Cloth diapers are just bulkier, and my little Monkey has to wear pants up to a size larger when he’s in cloth than he does when he’s in disposables. Of course, all that extra padding came in handy when he was first learning to walk!
So where does this leave you? In the end, every family must choose what is best for its particular situation. One thing parenthood has taught me is the danger of judging other people’s choices. Raising kids, especially when you are trying to do it in a conscious, conscientious way, is just plain hard. So make your decision something that you can live with, regardless of what others tell you to do.
I chose to do cloth diapers, and I have no regrets. In fact, it is one of the choices of which I am most proud. I’d like to think my little Monkey’s bottom will thank me for it one day.