I want to cloth diaper but…..

Talking to other parents in real life or online, the response I often hear is “I want to cloth diaper but….”  fill in the blank.  There are obvious hurdles to beginning cloth diapering.  This is an attempt to dispel some of those potential road blocks.

… I don’t want to prick my baby with pins.”

Although some parents still use (and love) pins, modern cloth diapers fasten in a variety of ways:  Velcro, snaps, ties, plastic “s” hooks, and an alternative to the pin- a Snappi or Boingo’s.

… I don’t want my baby to get too hot in plastic pants.”

The waterproof material for cloth diapers is far from vinyl or plastic!  Polyurethane Laminate (PUL) is a breathable yet impermeable waterproof barrier used for diaper covers {watch this impressive video that PROVES how breathable PUL really is!}.  This material is also used in Pocket Diapers, All in Ones, and various other modern cloth diapers.  In addition, Fleece is an alternative for babies with sensitive skin.  Fleece is waterproof and can be worn as a diaper cover, or used to make pocket diapers.  Wool is another option.  Although expensive and intimidating, it is am amazing solution to keep your baby dry overnight.  The lanolin in wool (along with an extra lanolizing process at home) makes it waterproof {read more about wool here}.

… I don’t want to deal with the mess.”

Fact: all babies and toddlers are messy.  Saying you don’t want to use cloth diapers because it is “messy” is laughable since every day you are faced with chunky spit up, poop explosions (which usually do not happen in cloth btw, click here for proof), drool, and messy food fights.  The only difference between cloth and disposables is that you dump the solid waste in the toilet.  This can be done a number of ways, including shaking, scraping with toilet paper, and using a handy diaper sprayer.  Your hands don’t need to touch poop!

… I don’t have the time to wash diapers!”

Frankly, neither do I!  Or my other clothes.  Washing diapers is something that gets added into your routine.  In total, washing my diapers takes me less than 10 minutes of actual effort.  The washer and dryer do all of the heavy lifting!  And to put away my diapers takes all of 5-10 minutes, including stuffing them.  I much prefer cloth diaper laundry to regular; it is easier, and if I let it sit in the washer or dryer a few hours, it doesn’t matter.  I even like to start washing them late at night and have diapers ready in the morning.  There are also cloth diaper services which will wash diapers for you {learn more about thr resurgence in popularity of the cloth diaper service}.

… it sounds way harder than disposables.”

What seems hard in the beginning just takes a little research or attendance at a local cloth diaper workshop.  Changing the diapers isn’t hard, it is picking one.  It is true that there are way more varieties of cloth diapers than disposables.  I won’t go into the ins and outs here, but to learn all about the different types I highly suggest Mothering Magazine and their recent article on Cloth Diapering or viewing the videos on each type of cloth diaper in my “Introduction to Cloth Diapers Series”.  Once you have an idea of what will work best for your family, you just need to find them.  Buying used can save you a lot of money, especially if you are still wavering in your commitment.  Not to mention, when you are done with your own diapers you can resell them.  Cloth diapers hold their value very well, and you can sell yours and recoup 50-90% of your investment in most cases!  Try selling your disposables back to Target.  Yeah….  didn’t think so!

… I am afraid I will try and not like it.  So why waste my money?”

There are some fabulous trials out there for people who want to dip their toes in the water.  My favorite is Jillian’s Drawers “Try Cloth for Ten Dollars.”  You are sent a few of the most popular one size diapers to try.  You can buy them if you decide you love them, or send them back.   If you decide to send them back you are only out 10.00.

… I heard they smell.”

Ok, sometimes the stank might build up.  Imagine what is going into those diapers.  Yep.  Not pretty.  That is why finding a detergent that works for you is very important.  Washing cloth diapers might take some getting used to.  Then when you find your routine hopefully the smell will never build up or return.  However it is important to note that you can wash these diapers every 2-3 days and the smell is usually contained within a pail or wet bag.  With disposables the used diapers, especially those containing poop (techinically you can and SHOULD still remove solid waste and flush it from disposable diapers however the fact is most people do not), start to smell and can really stink up a room.  With cloth diapers you never have stinky poop sitting in a pail since it is put into a toilet and flushed away!

… I am afraid they will leak more than a disposable.”

Disposables use super absorbent polymer (SAP) gel, which can hold a ridiculous amount of liquid.  It is too good to be true.  That gel is also toxic and if exposed to skin or ingested can have terrible results.  I have heard of two dogs that died from eating a disposable diaper.  Cloth diapers rely on a variety of materials to absorb wetness: cotton, bamboo, hemp, microfiber, microterry, and ZORB. These all vary in how much they can hold.  Hemp and ZORB are the most absorbent, but I have had success with them all.  The main point is, they hold urine.  Depending on how often your baby pees and how much, you might change more than a disposable.  If you are having leaks, it could be due to a washing problem.  I have an entire post dedicated to leak troubleshooting.

… “I can’t afford it.”

It is true that even the most expensive cloth diapers will save you money in the long run.  Long run being the key word.  Disposables are a constant expense that is spread out equally over the years your baby wears them.  Cloth diapers cost as little as 100 up to about 500-1,000 for a complete stash.  If you are truly in financial distress there are many cloth diaper lending banks.  Some are local and there is one national foundation- Giving Diapers, Giving Hope.  Find a list of cloth diaper lending organizations.  You can apply and see if you qualify for free cloth diapers.  Buying used can save money as well.  Or, keep your eyes peeled for great sales.  Kelly’s Closet always has a great sale going on!  Also enter cloth diaper giveaways on blogs like mine.  Truth is- you can’t afford NOT to use cloth diapers.  

… No one I know uses them.  I am afraid of how people will react.”

No one I knew in real life used cloth diapers either, when I started.  But a few people ended up converting just after seeing my diapers and talking with me about how easy it can be.  You can be your baby’s advocate.  If people tell you cloth diapers are bad for your baby, explain that in fact, they are better because they have no chemicals in them.  If they laugh and say something about how long that will last, be the bigger person and do as you wish.  Use them for however long you like.  As long as your baby is happy and you are happy, who cares?  Be a trendsetter!  I guarantee you will have the numbers of moms using cloth rise.  We multiply!  Oh, and don’t be surprised if you are treated like a hero if you are caught changing your baby into a cloth diaper in public.  An ego booster for sure!  Plus, there is a huge online community of support in the form of message boards, blogs, websites, and Twitter.  These are great for getting your questions answered if you have a problem.

…I don’t want my baby to be wet or uncomfortable.”

Would you want to wear paper underwear?  Your baby probably doesn’t either.  Cloth diapers are available with liners that wick away moisture, like suedecloth and microfleece.  Unfortunately, a small percentage of babies have an allergy to one or both of those materials, but this is rare.  Other parents prefer organic fibers to touch their baby like cotton and super soft bamboo.  My son does not show a preference for any material, but I like stay dry diapers for nights at least.

… I have multiple children in diapers.”

That is all the more reason to use cloth diapers!  Imagine spending less than 1,000 to diaper 1, 2, 3 kids or more!  And never running out of diapers and having to run to the store last minute, lugging 2 babies inside.  Using one size diapers give you some flexibility to change the sizes to fit two different babies.  And you can still wash with the same frequency, just larger loads.  Easy as pie.

… my baby is in daycare, so I can’t.”

This is a tough one.  Unfortunately, many daycares do not allow cloth diapers.  Those that do often want you to have easy to use diapers with velcro that are all one piece.  These are the more expensive diapers as well.  Simply showing how to use a modern cloth diaper may change their mind, as well as providing your own wet bag for the dirty diapers.  You may also want to let the care provider leave any solid waste in the diaper for you to dump out later.  The Real Diaper Association has a tip sheet for daycares and cloth.  Even if your daycare won’t use them, there is no rule stating it is all or nothing.  Use cloth when you can.

…my husband/ SO doesn’t want to.”

Husbands can be the hardest ones to convince.  Mine was very skeptical at first.  I showed him how much money we would save, and explained the benefits to our baby and the planet.  You can also let them know that not having bags of stinking diapers to take out means less garbage duty for him.  Show him a modern diaper and how easy it is to change.  He may just need a visual.  Or, do it anyway.  He will come around!

…won’t it make my baby’s clothes not fit?”

There are some very trim cloth diapers out there {see “Trimmest Cloth Diapers” post.  And even some of the fluffier ones have little impact on my own son’s pant size.  If you are worried their butt will be so big you have to move up to the next size, which will be too long, I doubt it, but anything is possible.  Conversely, if your child is a skinny minny cloth actually helps pants fit better!  Bonus: cloth diapers cushion the booty as toddlers begin learning to walk.

… my baby is too old.”

Late bloomers need not worry.  It is never too late to start.  By starting late you avoid newborn cloth diapering, and can skip to a one size diaper or a size Medium or Large right away.  Most children are in Mediums the longest, and some never even wear a large.  And if you plan on having more children the diapers you buy will still get plenty of miles.  You can also resell your diapers when finished with them.

… how will I travel?”

Very sneakily!  I have snuck my cloth diapers onto flights by stuffing my carseat and carseat bag (which check for free!) with a bag of cloth diapers.  Don’t want to travel with cloth diapers?  No one is holding a gun to your head.  I typically do, but there have been times I couldn’t.  I wouldn’t hate disposables so much if they were used in situations like traveling only.  In fact, that is why they were invented!  To allow mothers to leave the house with ease.  Back then the diapers were larger and harder to travel with too.

… I don’t own a washer and dryer.”

Ouch.  That is important.  You could find a cloth diaper service in your area, which will deliver fresh diapers to your door and pick up the dirty ones.  This costs about the same or slightly less than buying disposables.  It is possible to hand wash or use a laundromat, but it is understandably more difficult.  To those interested in learning more about how to handwash I have done so myself using a camp style bucket washer and have instructions on how to make a camp style washer and how to wash cloth diapers in a camp style/bucket washer.

… I have terrible memories of cloth diapers as a kid.”

Believe it or not I have seen this excuse quite a few times.  Since the old cloth diapers were heavy fabric rectangles, relied on pins, and used plastic covers, many people have bad memories.  Not to mention, they recall their mothers washing them or bleaching the crap out of them, which left a noxious odor and lingering sense memory.  Even when I say they have changed and people no longer use wet pails (for the most part) the bad taste in their mouth is hard to overcome.  If this is you, I assure you that washing and changing cloth diapers is nothing like the old days.  And no scrubbing or dunking and swishing diapers in the toilet.  There are more modern methods.

…I don’t want to be one of those ‘Crunchy’ parents.”  

Cloth diapering is not reserved for tree-hugging, granola eating, birkenstock wearing hippies.  All kinds of parents use cloth diapers for all kinds of reasons.  Being crunchy doesn’t even mean you have to use cloth and using cloth diapers doesn’t automatically put you into the “crunchy” category (although it often leads to to change lifestyle choices as a gateway drug to crunch).  Techie parents, yuppies, poor, rich, middle class, famous, nerdy, frugal, and trendy parents have all used cloth diapers.

… I actually don’t want to!”

Well then, why are you here?  But seriously, no one is making you.  I do want to see more parents using cloth, but it just isn’t meant for everyone.  As long as your baby is happy and safe, that is all that matters.  But if you change your mind, you know where to find me!

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  • You can now add another dog to your list. My dog died of cancer and liver disease (two medical problems linked to dioxin which is a hazardous chemical found in disposables) within a year of eating a disposable diaper.

    I have since changed to 100% cloth diapering. After reading about the dangerous chemicals in disposables the other issues of using cloth weren’t important anymore.

    My daughter also goes to daycare so I use the bumgenius velcro diapers, bring my own wet bags, and clean the diapers when I get home. Before she started I went in to teach the childcare provider how to use them.

    This was an excellent, informative post. Thank you!

  • I’m 100% cloth and we even use them at daycare, but I’m having a tough time with “PUL is breathable”. I use all pul (tried wool, but didn’t work and won’t work with daycare) and I don’t have a problem with it, but it does not seem breathable.

  • As always what a great post fron you. I have a friend who has Triplets and I showed her my stash of Cloth . I even bought her some . She recived lots of disposiables at her baby shower and is still using them. Pretty soon she will run out and maybe take the plunge in The Wonderful World of Cloth. Can you imagine the money wasted on 3 triplets in sposies?
    .-= Carly Klaus´s last blog ..Why do you Blog? =-.

  • Great article, well written! I will be forwarding this on to mom’s I know! 🙂 Thanks so much!

  • betsy

    shared this & some other information on my FB page. A very great article. Thanks for sharing

  • Laura

    Even sposies should have the poo dumped into the toilet before tossing in the trash- it says so right on the package! It’s actually illegal to put human waste in your trash. It bothers me so much when people say they switched from cloth to sposies once their baby started solids because they couldn’t deal with the poo changes… you’re supposed to deal with it no matter what type of diaper!

  • I just started to cloth diaper! Literally like..yesterday. Haha. I got a set of Rumparooz (24 of them) and about 10 extra dipeys, all different brands. I’m so excited to try it, but I must say, it was very intimidating to get started.

    Now when I tell people that I’m cloth diapering…they usually give me a funny face. I just can’t resist that bottom in a cute cloth diaper 🙂

  • This is an excellent post! Thanks for sharing some great ideas here. I will be teaching a lesson to my high school leadership class on cloth diapers (as an example of how to teach a non-academic subject using effective teaching methods) next Monday and will probably refer to this post and to your blog! Keep up the good work!
    .-= Rose´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

  • Regina

    This is great! My hubby and I switched to cloth when my son was 10 months old. I wanted to do it all the way through, but I had several of those excuses up there and disposables were so convenient. I took a pay cut at work, and I needed to cut corners somewhere so took the initial plunge. We were able to find a very good economy package online that consisted of 3 dozen Indian prefolds and 4 medium diaper covers, and that works great for us – being able to reuse the cover throughout the day was a plus for us. Eventually we got 10 all-in-ones for travel, and after a month or so – we got completely switched over. It was HARD at first, but worth it – and now we have a routine and it’s no big deal at all. He NEVER has blowouts in cloth, but always did in disposables. Now I am finding out about how the average potty training age has increased from 18 – 24 months to 3-5 years! Diaper companies KNOW this and WANT your child in diapers longer so they can make more money, and there’s nothing I hate more than lining the pockets of a major corporation that cares nothing for our children. Prolonging potty-training can cause medical problems and bedwetting for years after training finally takes place. So a child FEELING wet is normal, healthy, and can teach them to potty train sooner – which is better for everyone! Our next baby, we will be all cloth! Thanks for your post.

    • Smarterthanu

      Lol sorry but I need to say-
      I was not a easy potty trained kid. I was Potty trained fully about the time I was 4. I was in disposables. But- I was in the gifted program and I never bedwet. So..
      Your welcome tO be proven wrong!

      • Megan Joy Colussy

        Your story is anecdotal evidence… She didn’t say every person everywhere who potty trains late has issues. You did not prove her wrong.

  • I kick myself in the pants for letting my husband make the decision to use disposables for much of my first son’s time in diapers. I did it because I reasoned that I didn’t want to be the only one changing diapers, and I didn’t personally know anyone who thought positively of cloth diapers (it takes a village). That was the only reason (other than the fact that it can be cost-prohibitive to start-up) that we haven’t cloth diapered always. I knew how easy it is, how much money it can save, how awful sposies are, etc. Eventually I came to my senses and realized that as a SAHM I change most diapers anyway, and began cloth diapering despite my husband’s objections. He begged me not to switch, and made threats about never changing a diaper again (I accepted that it may be my fate – I don’t think that changing diapers is that bad now that I’ve been doing it for years), but even he came around to cloth diapering (the money saving part helped) within a couple months. Which brings me to the point of my story: don’t let your significant other be the reason for not cloth diapering. Kim is right, even the most anti-cloth SO’s will come around.
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Joshua at Five Months =-.

  • brandi

    we use cloth and I love it. the poop factor is so not a big deal. You have to deal with poop anyway with babies, who cares about rinsing it out of a diaper. they really don’t smell any worse than sposies, and for our little one they have definitely kept the diaper rash at bay. 🙂

  • Susan Peterson

    I have nine kids, now grown. I used cloth most of the time. Disposables were just coming in when I had my first-believe it or not, they didn’t have tapes and you were expected to pin them! I used up the ones given me at my shower and then switched to cloth. I was given six or seven dozen used cloth diapers by faculty wives (I was pregnant with my first through my senior year of college.) They were the plain rectangular prefolds. I used them through several babies, but at some point they really wore out and I had to buy some. You could still go to any department store or drug store and get cloth diapers then. I did order some “Biobottoms” and loved them, but they were very expensive for me. At one point for six months or so I couldn’t afford to have my washer and dryer installed, while I had two in diapers, and I carried the diaper pail down about twenty outside the house wooden stairs, then carried my infant and toddler down, put the pail in a grocery cart, pushed it through a path through a little woods and across a parking lot to the laundromat, every day. Later on in life I was living very rurally and with not much money, couldn’t afford bottled gas, and so had no hot water for a year, and no dryer since it ran on gas. I heated water on a wood cook stove and dumped it into the washer to wash diapers. (The rest of the wash I washed cold. I heated water on the stove for baths and gave the little kids baths in a tub next to the wood stove in the kitchen.) I hung my diapers on the line. I had to get a hold of a couple dozen un-prefolded gauze diapers because they dried really fast, so I could make sure of having something to use. I do remember a couple of times diapering a baby with a dish towel!
    Obviously, I didn’t have paid employment-I almost wrote “I didn’t work!- and didn’t have day care to worry about. I never had to work while I had an infant so I can’t really judge what those mothers have to deal with. But I think anyone who is home all the time should be able to use cloth. But I admit that I didn’t have to do it in the inner city. Still, when you look at what those disposables cost, you have to believe that they are taking food out of people’s mouths.

    Susan Peterson

  • Heather G

    The no washer and dryer excuse…let me just say that there are ways around that. I have used cloth since my daughter was 9 weeks old( she is 13mos now) and have used a plunger to agitate & empty kitty litter bucket in my bathtub to cloth diaper. I wash every other day and the dirty water is poured out of the bucket right down the drain(no different than cleaning the tub after bathing a messy baby). I keep the bucket under the sink when not in use..it has a lid to so I sometimes use it as a diaper pail too until filled. I dump the solids asap, prerinse everything in the bucket, wash about 10 dipes with four teaspoons of planet powder with hot water, plunge away for about 5 mins, let soak for another 5, dump, rinse with hot water and agitate some more, dump and then rinse everything one piece at a time and wring out. I hang everything on a drying rack in the bathroom with a towel under it…Works well if you are willing to put in effort, and I think my diapers are in better shape since they’ve never been in a dryer or washer.(Also, I do work part time..if I can find time to do this, you probably can too!)

    • Anonymous

      I’ve done the same bucket washer method. I need to update with a link. Amazing how dedicated you are!
      Please excuse typos and brevity. Sent from my iPhone