Cloth Diapers: 10 Benefits And 3 Drawbacks Of Using Cloth

Benefits and drawbacks of using cloth diapers

You might be thinking that cloth diapers sound…”Um, yeah, no thanks.”

I hear ya’.

Believe it or not, I didn’t swear the solemn oath to start cloth diapering our firstborn right away.

In fact, I had boxes of disposable diapers stacked all the way up to the ceiling in several places of our home well before our first baby was scheduled to arrive. The only diaper concern I had was whether Pampers were really better than Huggies and where to find the best diaper coupons and deals.

But then just a few months later after our daughter was born, my neat towers of disposable convenience had started to tumble.

In 2010, Pampers was put on the spotlight for their new revolutionary technology allegedly causing severe chemical burns on children’s skin. And while we weren’t directly affected by this, it certainly raised a lot of questions and led to researching the process of diaper making.

And I started hearing than nagging voice…

The voice was loud and clear, and I eventually thought, “Why not?!?”

Needless to say, despite of a lot of finger pointing and eyebrow raising, I ended up using cloth with both of my kids and never looked back.

So now, after years of cloth diapering under my belt, I totally consider myself a seasoned fluff pro, worthy of giving useful cloth diaper advice. If you’re considering cloth diapers but aren’t quite sure just yet, here’s my low-down on the reality of cloth diapering.

DRAWBACKS of using cloth diapers

#1 Convenience

At first, cloth diapers may seem like the most inconvenient product ever made in the world of parenthood. But it shall pass.

The following are not major drawbacks but rather a matter of getting used to:

  • Learning to use cloth diapers may take some practice.
  • When you change your baby’s diaper outside of your home, you’ll need to carry the soiled diaper with you.
  • Unless you use a liner that wicks moisture away from baby’s skin, you’ll need to change diapers often.
  • Even if you use something like a fleece liner, cloth diapers will still need to be changed more often than disposables because they’re simply not as absorbent.

#2 Washing diapers

Cloth diapers need to be washed regularly.

Using your own washer is ideal but not always realistic. Some of you may be stuck with shared coin-operated machines, making the idea of cloth diapering sound nearly impossible. The good news, though, is that there are several portable washers on the market that will do the job without the need for a hook-up. (I wholeheartedly recommend the smallest 1-cubic-foot Haier washer that does an excellent job despite its compact size. I’m NOT getting paid for saying that, and Haier has no idea I’m writing this unless there is a crystal ball sitting on Zhang Ruimin’s desk.) You don’t necessarily need to use a dryer though it does significantly speed up drying time and helps keep diapers soft.

The art of washing diapers…

Well, let’s just say that it can most definitely sound like too much of a hassle at first. To begin with, not all detergents are OK. You’ll also need to play around with the right amount of detergent based on the hardness of your water and the size of your load. Last but not least, you’ll need to figure out a wash routine that works for you. Which you may need to change later on because it actually no longer works.

The truth is, you may end up feeling frustrated at one point or another. Your diapers may suddenly feel stiff instead of fluffy. They may become less absorbent over time. You may be dealing with stink issues despite of good washing practices and standing on your head in a silent remedy prayer next to your washer. The ammonia monster may show up. Looking for suds and bubbles in the final rinse cycle with a flashlight in hand may become your new pastime. You may need to start experimenting and, eventually, you might need to strip. Your diapers, of course.

#3 Diaper creams

Once you start using cloth diapers, you can no longer smear just about anything on your babe’s bum. Oily or tacky creams can build up on the diaper, leading to reduced absorbency and stink issues. 

You can either use VERY little cream on the rare occasion, or you can get disposable liners which aren’t expensive and serve as a thin layer between the diaper and skin. The great news is that you may not even need to deal with diaper rash when you use cloth diapers.

On the other hand, the BENEFITS of using cloth diapers are obvious

Cloth diaper benefit #1 – They’re better for the environment!

Cloth diapers largely spare our landfill sites. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that about 27 billion of used disposable diapers get dumped into the landfills each year here in the U.S. alone. The verdict is that unless this planet grows, we’re going to run out of landfill space eventually. If you add the use of resources required during the manufacturing process as well as those related to packaging and distribution, and the chemicals used that are harmful for the environment on top of the colossal amount of waste they produce, the environmental impact of regular use of disposable diapers is more than evident.

For the most environmentally-friendly option, opt for natural fibers like cotton, bamboo or hemp in their unbleached state. Conventionally-grown cotton is typically heavily sprayed, so it’s best to choose organic. Bamboo and hemp, on the other hand, are fast growing plants that require no pesticides to grow. All fabrics may be processed with harsh chemicals, depending on specific procedures and certifications. Indisputably, there ARE obvious resources that go into the making of a cloth diaper. But the same diaper gets reused many times over, making the environmental impact much less severe.

Some people argue that regular washing of cloth diapers doesn’t make them eco-friendly.

The truth is, large amounts of water are used during the manufacturing process of a single disposable diaper. Water is a renewable resource (I’m not advocating for wasting water) and, thankfully, HE washers are becoming more common in the U.S. Electricity is used one way or another, much more so during the manufacturing process of all disposable diapers that will be used until a child is potty-trained

Cloth diaper benefit #2 – Do you love recycling?

The great news is that cloth diapers can be used over and over. They should last through more than one child if you take good care of them. You can repurpose them when they’re no longer needed, donate them, or sell them to recuperate some of the costs back.

Cloth diaper benefit #3 – Health aspect

Cloth diapers are healthier for your child. Period.

Modern cloth diapers allow for better airflow. They contain fewer chemicals that could irritate baby’s sensitive skin. As a result, diaper rashes and allergic reactions are typically much less frequent when using cloth diapers. (If you experience recurrent rashes that go away every time you switch to disposables, you may need to adjust your wash routine, switch to a different detergent, or strip your washer and/or diapers.)

Cloth diaper benefit #4 – Cost

Unless you have a major cloth addiction problem, cloth diapering tends to be much cheaper than using disposables.

You can typically recoup the initial cloth-diaper investment within the first year, or even in as little as few months (depending on your choices). You can then re-sell diapers later on if they’re in good condition. And if you have more children later on, you’ll be diapering them just for the cost of running the washer/dryer and the price of detergent from the very beginning. Woohoo!

Cloth diaper benefit #5 – Variables

If diapers aren’t absorbent enough or if they’re not holding up through the night, you can experiment with different cloth inserts or combinations. If you’re on the go and can’t check your baby’s diaper very often, I highly recommend using fleece liners which help keep skin dry. At home where there isn’t as much need for using liners, natural fiber can be all there is next to your baby’s skin.

Cloth diaper benefit #6 – Easier and earlier potty training – supposedly!

It’s been said that children often potty train earlier when cloth diapers are used because they’re aware of the discomfort as wetness happens. Unlike disposable diapers where moisture is wicked and locked away, the immediate feedback of wetness helps children connect the dots. On the other hand, moms might be motivated to potty train their cloth-diapered kids earlier. Because who loves doing laundry?

Cloth diaper benefit #7 – Solid waste goes where it’s supposed to

The solid content of ANY diaper is supposed to be flushed down the toilet. This is the only appropriate way to dispose of human solid waste. In reality, not many disposable diapers are emptied up in this manner. When you use cloth diapers, there is no way around it and the vast majority of solid waste gets properly treated.

Cloth diaper benefit #8 – No diaper emergency runs to the store

Running out of something at the most inconvenient time is NEVER a good thing. And running out of something at the most inconvenient time with a baby in tow is even WORSE. Thanks to cloth diapering, I’ve never ran out of diapers. Or wipes.

Cloth diaper benefit #9 – Reliability

You know the annoying blowouts that happen way too often in disposable diapers? The kind that turns half of your living room in a mustard-colored disaster? The kind that ruins the cutest outfits and never really washes out? Hands down, cloth diapers win over disposables in their ability to contain poop. Really, it’s true. It’s not to say that a blowout will never happen in a cloth diaper. But as long as diapers are the right fit and size, the frequency will be much, MUCH lower.

Cloth diaper benefit #10 – It helps spread the word

I can’t even recall the number of times I’d been asked, “Is that a cloth diaper?” When you use cloth diapers, you help promote awareness and conversation on this topic. It’s easier for parents to give cloth diapering a try if they see others happily using cloth.

What do you think? Do you want to try cloth diapering? You never know…  You might just fall in love the same way I did!


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