You might be thinking that cloth diapers sound…“Um, yeah, no thanks. People still do that???“
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.
It wasn’t until a few months later that that my towers of disposable convenience had started to tumble. Back in 2010, Pampers was put on the spotlight for their new technology allegedly causing severe chemical burns on children’s skin.
We weren’t directly affected by this, but it certainly raised a lot of questions and steered me towards a lengthy research on how diapers were made.
I started hearing that nagging voice…
And, well, one thing led to another, and I eventually thought, why not?!?
Despite of a ton of fingers pointed at me, I ended up using cloth with both of my kids and never looked back.
Now, after years of cloth diapering under my belt, I totally consider myself a seasoned fluff pro, worthy of giving useful cloth diaper advice. So if you’re considering cloth diapers but aren’t quite sure just yet, let me tell you what I think about the reality of cloth diapering…
We’ll start with the bad first.
DRAWBACKS of using CLOTH DIAPERS:
Cloth diaper drawback #1 – Convenience
Cloth diapers might seem like the most inconvenient product made in the world of parenthood, right? However, this 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. (I know…)
- 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.
Cloth diaper drawback #2 – Washing diapers
Obviously, cloth diapers will need to be washed. And we all have better things to do.
It sounds much worse than it really is!
If you have your own washer, perfect!
If you don’t and are stuck with a coin-operated washing machine, I’d honestly think twice about cloth diapering. Washers tend to harbor built-up gunks of products you really shouldn’t be using on cloth diapers…
But listen up!
There is a fix!
You may be able to solve this problem by getting a portable washer that doesn’t require a hook-up! I honestly didn’t even know that anything like that existed before we started using cloth diapers. But we had to think of a solution because we had no hook-ups in our then-apartment, and I didn’t want to use the shared washers. Technically, I don’t think we were allowed to use a portable washer in the unit, but it is exactly what we got. An instant life saver!!!
I wholeheartedly recommend this small 1-CUBIC-FOOT HAIER PORTABLE WASHER in the affiliate link below that does an EXCELLENT job despite its very compact size!
This Haier washer is easy to operate, very quiet, and incredibly efficient. It does a superb job at washing, and the spinning cycle on this thing is amazing! It’s actually perfect for apartments with no hook-ups whether you use cloth diapers or not! We used ours for years and never had any issues with it. When we moved, we sold it and recuperated about a half of the cost back while keeping the lowest price on Craigslist.
As for drying diapers, you don’t necessarily need to use a dryer though it does obviously speed up drying time and also makes diapers softer. I believe that Haier makes a portable dryer as well, but I have no experience with using one.
The art of washing diapers…
So this is where it get a little tricky.
- To begin with, not all detergents are OK for use with cloth diapers. It’s nothing a quick Google search can’t fix though. (We used COUNTRY SAVE detergent. Loved it.)
- You’ll need to play around with the right amount of detergent based on the hardness of your water and the size of your load. This will take a few tries and hopefully not too much frustration. Once you’ve figured it out, you will no longer need to hang around the washer when doing diaper laundry.
- You will also need to figure out a wash routine that works for YOU. Which you may need to adjust later on if it stops working suddenly…
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 have to deal 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 even show up, the worst of them all. Armed with a flashlight in hand, watching suds and bubbles may become your new pastime. You may need to start experimenting and, eventually, you might need to strip. Your diapers, of course.
However, all of this CAN be figured out. I promise! Once you’re back on track, washing cloth diapers is – again – only a push of a button away.
Cloth diaper drawback #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 don’t want that.
You might be able to use a very little amount sparingly. I did and didn’t have issues.
There are also inexpensive thin disposable liners for cloth diapers that you can buy which will serve as a layer between the diaper and the skin if needed. The good news is that you may not even need to deal with diaper rash when you use cloth diapers.
On the other hand…
There are many CLOTH DIAPER BENEFITS!
Cloth diaper benefit #1 – Cloth diapers are better for the environment!
The EPA reports that about 27 billion of used disposable diapers get dumped into the landfills each year here in the U.S. alone. You know what that means, right? Unless this planet grows, we’re eventually going to run out of space. If you add environmental pollutants that disposable diaper-making creates and the resources required in the manufacturing process as well those related to packaging and distribution, the impact of using disposable diapers is quite significant.
When it comes to cloth diapers and the environment, there are GOOD and BETTER choices.
Ideally, you’ll want to get unbleached versions regardless of which fibers you end up with.
With regards to cotton, I’d suggest getting organic since cotton plants are so heavily sprayed. On the other hand, bamboo and hemp are fast growing plants that require no pesticides to grow.
Obviously, there are also resources required to create and distribute cloth diapers. However, by using the same product over and over (for several of your children in a row if you wish), you’re making the environmental impact much less severe.
Some people argue that regular washing of cloth diapers doesn’t make them eco-friendly.
Maybe you’ve heard that. I know I have. Several times.
In reality, large amounts of water are used during the manufacturing process of a single disposable diaper, but not many people realize that. 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 – Reduce, reuse, recycle…
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 (which definitely does happen!), 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. 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. Awesome, right?
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 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 – honestly – 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.
In reality, it hardly ever happens when using disposables because it’s just not very convenient. 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. 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 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 minimal.
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.