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#ClothDiapers: The Good, The Bad – The Honest

Cloth Diapers

If you’ve looked around the internet for information on cloth diapers, you’ve likely found many articles and posts that read something like the land of unicorns, rainbows and smiling puppy dogs.  Cloth is cute, there’s really no denying it.  Cute patterns, fluffy butts and let’s face it, fabric is just prettier than plastic.  Though it’s cute, it must be washed, and that comes with many reservations for parents new to the idea, and to those who haven’t tried cloth.

Many often have one of the following first reactions:

#1 Reusing something that your child poops in is just gross!
#2 Putting dirty diapers in the washing machine is gross!
#3 Touching poop is gross!

Okay, so I think we see a pattern forming here, and honestly I can relate.  I was there once, but I didn’t really know what cloth was all about.  After the initial thought of “gross” these thoughts typically follow:

#4 It’s more laundry.
#5 Cloth diapers are expensive and/or won’t really save me money.
#6 Cloth diapers aren’t convenient and/or are too much work.
#7 Cloth is so new to me, I just don’t know where to start or what to expect.

I’m sure there are more too, if you have one that you’d like covered, leave it in the comments section and I’ll do a follow up!  For now, let’s tackle this list.

#1, #2 & #3 – It’s gross!

The beautiful baby that you gave birth to, the one that lights up a room with his beautiful smile and sweet giggles… yea he poops and pees… a lot.  So here’s the deal, you’re going to have to deal with bodily waste, no matter what diapering method you choose, it’s as simple as that.  Disposables are known for blowouts!  Before I knew more, I just assumed that blowouts were one of those funny things that parents all had in common and joked about.

Mom #1: “Janie had the most insane blowout!”
Mom #2: “Oh my gosh, my Jack did too!  You should have seen it!”
*mommy laughter ensues*

If you’ve had a baby and have not dealt with many poop explosions, you are one very luck individual (or you use cloth!)  Seriously, I have never had to clean up so much poop in my life, as I did when I used disposable diapers.  I was constantly, desperately scrubbing clothing, blankets, swing covers, car seat covers, and many other items trying to keep them from being permanently stained and ruined by mustard yellow poops.  It was terrible, and sadly, this is just one of the realities of disposable diapers.

Bottom Line?
With cloth you know where the poop is going to go, and you don’t have to touch it or scrub it out.  When your child starts solid foods you will need to plop, scrape, or spray poop into a toilet, but that’s far better than hands-all-in and praying that it doesn’t stain the too-cute outfit you just bought for your bundle of joy!  Want an easier option?  Try flushable liners for a truly easy cloth diapering + poo experience.

#4 – Laundry

Parents already have plenty of laundry to do, right?  I mean we’re washing ours, his and now baby’s too!  The last thing most people want to do is wash more laundry.

So here’s the deal.  You will have to wash diapers if you use cloth.  Most cloth diapering parents wash diapers 2 times a week.  Some do less, some do more, but twice a week works well for most families.  Unlike standard laundry, diapers don’t require a lot of attention.  Your baby’s bottom won’t care if they are wrinkly and you don’t even have to fold them if you don’t want to!

Also consider that cloth diapering will save you time!  

  • With cloth there is no running to the store just to get diapers.
  • Cloth diapered babies tend to get rashes less, which means you won’t be running out for rash creams or to the doctor as often for rashes you have no clue what to do with.
  • Cloth diapered babies learn to use the potty an average of 12 months sooner than their disposable diapered playmates.  Babies in cloth know when they go because they can feel when they are wet.
  • As mentioned in our 1st point, you’ll also spend less time scrubbing fecal matter from items that you really don’t want it on, like clothes, blankets, car seats, swings and more.
What about those that only have access to community laundry facilities?
It can be done!  Many families do use cloth with limited access to washing machines.  I recommend going with a simpler diaper like prefolds and/or a hybrid system like Flip.  The covers can be wiped out or hand washed easily and the durable inserts may handle being washed just once a week better than more complex diapering systems.

If a laundromat is out of the question, you might check out this great video that shows how to make a camp style washing machine suitable for washing small loads of diapers.  It’s not the ideal set up, but it is affordable and makes cloth possible for someone in a tight spot.

Bottom Line?
Cloth diapers do come with washing laundry, but it more than makes up for it the other areas discussed above.  When there are times that laundry isn’t an option, consider a hybrid system or other type of healthier disposable option.

#5 – Expense

When parents are first interested in cloth, an $18 or $25 price tag can throw them for a loop.  Money doesn’t come easy and even a $10 diaper cost can really add up.  Consider this, the average baby is changed just over 6 times per day over their diapering career.  If a baby is potty trained by 30 months (the average) that baby will have gone through approximately 5,600 diaper changes.  If the average disposable costs $0.25 that’s $1400 for one child.  Keep in mind that disposables can cost up to twice that and many children potty train far beyond a year and a half!

This is what 5,600 unused disposable diapers looks like.
Image them expanded to many times their own weight!

Now you may be wondering what 5,600 cloth diaper changes look like.  Let me share my stash!

You can’t see them all, but there are approximately three dozen bumGenius Elemental diapers in there (these are their old style, you can find their new style here.)  They are a favorite of ours from Cotton Babies.  You can buy these in dozens to save money, making them approximately $22.08 each.  That’s $795 for three dozen diapers, or just $0.14 per diaper change, based on 5,600 changes.

Want to save some real change?!  Use a diapering system like Econobum and slash that cost to just $147 for 3 dozen diapers, which is just less than $.03 per diaper change!  WOW.  Can it really get any better than that?!

Yea, it gets better.
Cloth is reusable right?  You can use the diapers you buy for not only your first child, but for any after that!  They might need repairs along the way, like elastic or new velcro (though I recommend snap diapers for durability!).  If you don’t want to hang on to your diapers until the next baby comes, you can even sell them!  Sites like DiaperSwappers and HyenaCart make it easy, even Ebay!  Most used diapers sell for 50-75% of the price new.  That is an amazing return, making your savings that much sweeter.

Bottom Line?
There’s just no comparison, cloth wins this one hands down, head over heels, etc. etc.  Cloth is a money saver!  Not thrilled about the initial investment?  Buy what you can afford, as you can afford it.  It’s well worth the effort!

#6 – Cloth Is Work

Take a look at questions #1-5.  Cloth does require work, but so do disposable diapers.  It’s all about learning a new system, but once you’ve got it down, you’ll see that cloth is actually easier.

Diapering in any form comes with potential ‘problems’.  When babies have poop and moisture against their skin rashes can occur no matter what diapering system you use.  Cloth requires a little bit of relearning as you’ll want to use creams that are safe for cloth diapers (and really better for your baby’s bottom too!)  I’m a huge fan of salve type rash ointments.  They heal quickly and are generally safe for cloth diapers.

You may have even heard scary terms like “ammonia” or “yeast”.  I promise that your diapers aren’t ruined and everything is fixable!  It would take a lot to truly ruin cloth diapers, so have no fear.  In most cases a hot wash with original Dawn dish soap will fix the issue (followed by several no-soap rinses).  This is called stripping.  Worst case, you use a little bleach.  I’m not a fan of bleach in general, but sometimes it can come in handy and you do what you’ve gotta do, right?

If full time cloth is just too much to jump into, try a hybrid system that gives you the option of cloth or disposable pads.  You’ll be surprised by how easy it really is.

Bottom Line?
You can do it, and chances are you’ll be thrilled that you did.  I know a lot of cloth diapering parents, and very few say that it just didn’t work for them.  Also, cloth can be flexible, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  Even using cloth part time saves you money and makes a big impact on the environment!

#7 – The Unknown

Trying something new can be a hard hurdle to jump.  We all like familiarity, it’s comforting and predictable, but just because it’s familiar doesn’t mean that it’s the best way for us.  Trying new things is a great way to explore the world around us and discover what works for us and our families.

Thanks to the internet there are so many amazing resources.  I offer a Cloth Diaper FAQ, but there are so many more great sites.  Try the following for a great start!

Dirty Diaper Laundry: Not sure what diaper brand might work for you?  Kim offers wonderfully detailed reviews and even a handy Cloth Diaper Finder to narrow your search based on the features you want.

The Cloth Diaper Whisperer: This is a great resource for all sorts of cloth diaper information, tips on great diaper deals and fun cloth diaper giveaways!

#ClothDiapers Twitter Chat: This isn’t a website, but each Monday night at 9pm EST Cotton Babies hosts a cloth diaper chat for new cloth users and old to spark conversation, share information and answer questions.  It’s always an enjoyable chat and open to everyone, so feel free to stop by and join the conversation.

Want something on paper?  Try this free, handy printable guide or pick up a copy of Changing Diapers: The Hip Mom’s Guide to Modern Cloth Diapering.

Have a favorite resource? Leave it in the comments for others to discover!

Bottom Line?
I love cloth and can’t imagine it any other way.  I used disposables with our first child and then to start out with our second.  I used cloth exclusively on our third, who is nearly fully potty trained (with the exception of nights).  Life with three children is infinitely hectic, but using cloth is just one way that I can simplify and help keep everything manageable, affordable and under control.

This blog post was inspired by Jennifer Labit’s blog post “All I want for Christmas… is to tell the world about cloth diapers!“.

I hope that you have found this post helpful and I encourage you to share your cloth diapering stories and experiences in the comments section (remember, if I win you might too!)  Share on your own blog or Facebook page too.  Sharing your story may inspire others to try cloth as well! 

Together we can make a HUGE impact!


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